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.
"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..."
“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 have confirmed the @nytimes scoop: A Russian military spy unit offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to attack coalition forces in Afghanistan. From @nakashimae @missy_ryan me and @shaneharris https://t.co/R9tQf89L7G
— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) June 27, 2020
“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.
"The Washington Post and the WSJ were called up by the same unnamed 'officials' as we were.
They were told the same evidence free fairytale.
Their stenographers, like ours, wrote it dutifully down.
All of us proudly published it!"#confirmation https://t.co/bEZ2OYgsxb
— Moon of Alabama (@MoonofA) June 27, 2020
None of this should be happening. The New York Times has admitted itself that 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. A proportionate response would increase the costs to Russia of its military presence in Ukraine & Syria and, using sanctions & cyber, to challenge Putin at home. https://t.co/c0Mc7sLriO
— Richard N. Haass (@RichardHaass) June 27, 2020
“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 Times story. “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,” tweetedjournalist 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.”
We're seeing in real time how Western intelligence agencies are derailing peace talks aimed at ending the nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan.
First anonymous US spies spread this rumor. Now anonymous European spies are doing the same. And the corporate media eats it up like candy https://t.co/l6Rze37MZx
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) June 27, 2020
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.
Seriously, Get The Hell Out Of Afghanistan
With overwhelming bipartisan support, the House Armed Services Committee has added a Liz Cheney-spearheaded amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which throws severe roadblocks in the Trump administration’s proposed scale-down of US military presence in Afghanistan and Germany.
As The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald notes, both parties advancing the amendment cited in their arguments the completely unsubstantiated intelligence leak that was recently published by credulous mass media reporters alleging that Russia has paid bounties to Taliban fighters for killing the occupying forces in Afghanistan. Yet another western imperialist agenda once again facilitated by unforgivably egregious journalistic malpractice in the mass media.
House Democrats, working with Liz Cheney, restrict Trump's planned withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Germany https://t.co/WZEjALgJHH
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 2, 2020
Every aspect of this development is enraging.
The mass media have continued to add to their mountain of Gish gallop fallaciespromoting this narrative with a new Daily Beast report citing former senior Taliban figure Mullah Manan Niazi who asserts that “The Taliban have been paid by Russian intelligence for attacks on U.S. forces—and on ISIS forces—in Afghanistan from 2014 up to the present.” The Beast’s own article admits that its source has severe conflicts of interest and is believed to be a CIA asset by Taliban leadership, and that Niazi provided no evidence of any kind for his claim or any further details whatsoever.
These flimsy, poorly-sourced allegations are being hammered into mainstream liberal consciousness on a daily basis now in the exact same way the discredited Russiagate psyop was, and just like with Russiagate the narrative they are being used to shape helps advance military expansionism and new cold war escalations which just so happen to fit perfectly into pre-existing geostrategic agendas of planetary domination.
The way mainstream news outlets consistently refuse to account for a fact so obvious and indisputable as intelligence agencies being known liars should by itself be enough to discredit the entire institution of mass news reporting. Yet here we are with these reports being treated as established fact throughout the entire political/media class and down through the entire population of propagandized rank-and-file citizenry.
The Afghanistan Papers established conclusively that the occupation has been unwinnable and without a clear picture of what winning would even look like from the very beginning, and that this fact has been hidden from the world by systematic deceit for two decades. The revelation was in the news for a day and then quickly memory holed without having any meaningful impact on the dominant narrative about Afghanistan, and now the mainstream consensus is that even trying to reduce the number of troops there is a hazardous and outlandish notion.
This is because the mainstream consensus is shaped not by facts, but by narrative. We see this in the way the fact-filled Afghanistan Papers have played no role in shaping the dominant narrative about what should be done about the nineteen-year occupation, and we see it in the way the fact-free “bounty” narrative is shaping public opinion and determining US foreign policy. The propagandists who manufacture consent for imperialist agendas understand that truth and facts play far less of a role in what the propagandized consider important than does mindless repetition and emotion.
The Empire Files has an absolutely phenomenal mini-documentary on the Afghanistan occupation which came out the other day, and everyone should watch it. Abby Martin quickly breaks down the geostrategic, resource control, and military-industrial complex agendas which are advanced by this interminable war, the deceit and depravity which went into initiating and maintaining it, and the devastating toll it has taken on the Afghan people. I strongly encourage my readers to give it a view when you get the chance.
The continued Afghanistan occupation is like if the police stormed a house, shot a bunch of people, realized they got the wrong house and they’d never find the guy they were looking for by staying there, stayed anyway, moved in, and then years later said they can’t move out because they heard a rumor that the neighbors are trying to make them leave.
In a sane world it would be the violent invasion and occupation of sovereign nations which elicits outrage and opposition from elected officials and intense skepticism and critical reporting from prominent journalists. In today’s propaganda-maddened society we get the exact opposite: the invasions and occupations are treated as the normal default position and any attempt to end them is regarded as outlandish.
This cannot continue. We must find a way to awaken from the brainwashing and force it to end. Anyone who works to prevent this from happening is an enemy of human progress.
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This is a dispatch from our ongoing series by Caitlin Johnstone
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