Combating terrorist infiltration and brainwashig in “The War in the Shadows: Challenges of Fighting Terrorism in Xinjiang”

“The War in the Shadows: Challenges of Fighting Terrorism in Xinjiang” (China Global Television Network, 2021)

Part of a series of documentaries produced by China Global Television Network on the history and nature of terrorism in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in western China, this exposé examines the ways in which people, usually children, teenagers and young adults, are exposed to and radicalised by extremist religious networks linked to the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) / Islamic Party of Turkistan which preaches a fundamentalist Wahhabi ideology and urges young people to wage “jihad” against Xinjiang authorities with the aim of overthrowing the government in that region and establishing an independent East Turkistan based on a strict interpretation of Shari’a law. The documentary is structured in four parts: the first part “The Networks” outlines how various terrorist incidents that have occurred in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, over several years are linked as they have been carried out by people adhering to the same ideology and who are part of the same underground networks; the second part “Enemies Within” looks at how individuals affiliated with the ETIM infiltrated Xinjiang’s police and security forces; the third part “The Textbooks” examines how the ETIM infiltrated school textbook publishing in both the Uygur and Mandarin languages; and the fourth part “The Black Hands” details how the ETIM attracts young people’s attention through social media and websites.

Based on interviews with senior police, education officials and former jihadist fighters (some of whom have come to regret their radicalisation and involvement with terrorist groups), the documentary provides much detail into the sophisticated methods used by the ETIM and affiliated groups to manipulate youngsters’ thinking and lure them into their ranks to carry out bomb attacks or to travel overseas to train and fight as jihadis with ISIS, with the aim of returning to Xinjiang and fighting the authorities there. At times the documentary goes very deep into particular business and other schemes cooked up by individuals seeking power or influence over others and which initially appear not to have much relation to the overall themes and messages of how the authorities found and eliminated, or are still eliminating, separatist jihadi infiltration and influence.

Astute viewers cannot fail to notice that the people fighting ETIM infiltration and influence themselves are Uygurs loyal to Beijing, and that they believe very strongly in using reconciliation and trust to reconnect lost young souls with society through psychological counselling and other methods in a prison setting. One may presume that prisons are also providing young people with education and work skills. By emphasising what the authorities are doing to combat religious extremism, separatism and the brainwashing of young people, and how they are bringing former jihadis back into society, the documentary ends with a positive (if a bit sappy) outlook.

The documentary says very little about ETIM itself, how large the organisation may be and where and how it formed. Viewers wanting to know the history of the organisation, how global it may be and where it gets its funding and other resources, are directed to read F William Engdahl’s article “The Truth behind China’s ‘Uyghur Problem'” at this link, and this report posted online by The Grayzone Project exposing the ETIM’s links to Al Qaeda and the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington DC, no less.

Reforming Australia’s financial industry in “Japan Post Bank: The great postal banking success”

“Japan Post Bank: The great postal banking success – Interview with Daisuke Kotegawa” (Citizens Insight / Australian Citizens Party, 15 February 2021)

In this informative interview conducted by Robert Barwick with Daisuke Kotegawa (Research Director at the Canon Institute for Global Studies, and former Deputy Director at Japan’s Ministry of Finance and representative of Japan to the IMF), the case is made for the separation of commercial banks and investment banks and for Australia to reintroduce a savings bank for individual deposits. First of all Barwick stresses that the main aim of the interview is to emphasise the need for Australia to have a savings bank separate from the Gang of Four banks (Australia & New Zealand Banking Group, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, Westpac Banking Corporation) if the country is to restore and rebuild its manufacturing capabilities and national and state infrastructures. He then allows Kotegawa to give a history lesson on how having a savings and commercial bank for individual depositors and businesses played a large role in stimulating Japan’s rise as an industrial power during the late 19th century under the Meiji emperor and beyond. This financial foundation helped fuel the resurgence of Japan as an industrial powerhouse after the devastation of World War II.

Barwick and Kotegawa do not discuss how Australia might go about creating a savings and commercial bank from scratch – Citizens Insight / Australian Citizens Party has previously touted the possibility of Australia Post taking on the role of a savings bank in the way the Japanese postal system acts as a savings bank in other presentations – but they do discuss the consequences of not separating savings and commercial banks from investment banking, or what they refer to as “Glass-Steagall” separation. “Glass-Steagall” is the popular term referring to the provisions of the 1933 United States Banking Act (the so-called Glass-Steagall act) separating savings and commercial bank functions from investment bank functions. This act was repealed by the Clinton government in 1999, paving the way for investment banks to take over commercial and savings bank functions to plunder their deposits, thus helping to set the scene for the 2008 Global Financial Crash.

At one point in the interview Barwick and Kotegawa discuss how a public savings bank and investment banks operate: generally investment banks are looking for financial returns which are usually short-term in nature, requiring projects to generate profits quickly, whereas public banks invest for the long term in projects that generate financial returns many years, even decades, later. Such long-term projects usually involve large amounts of spending upfront and tend to involve infrastructure construction and maintenance. It is apparent then that investment banks are not interested in funding projects that have a nation-building and uniting aspect and which would generate benefits more intangible and abstract than what investment banks can conceive of. The interests of investment banks can be predicted to lead them into supporting projects that appeal to their directors or shareholders’ interests, and we can surmise that they will have an agenda premised on immediate reward gratification.

The most significant part of the interview comes late where indeed Kotegawa points out that the lack of separation between savings and commercial banks on the one hand and investment banks on the other encourages financial gambling and instability in the entire financial system leading to the 2008 GFC and forcing governments to bail out investment banks using hundreds of millions, even billions, of taxpayer money that could have been invested in improving infrastructure and social welfare so as not to lose the confidence of ordinary savers and businesses in the financial system. In addition Kotegawa points out that Australia still has significant industries in the mining and agricultural sectors that could benefit from the existence of commercial banks whereas nations like the United States and the United Kingdom no longer have very significant industries for which a viable commercial banking sector is needed.

Viewers may have some trouble understanding Kotegawa while he speaks and perhaps some subtitling for both him and Barwick could have helped as the topic is quite specialised and requires some general knowledge on the part of viewers of how banks operate and the history of banking in Australia and the United States. One criticism I have is that the interview does not address how a public bank in Australia, once established, does not eventually go the way of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in being privatised and coming under the thumb of Wall Street. Perhaps that is a topic for another Citizens Insight interview.

Interestingly this interview caught the attention of African Agenda, a website that focuses on socialist development and positive change for Africa and Africans.

Loyal Citizens of Pyongyang in South Korea: how South Korea and the US use North Korean defectors as propaganda tools

David Yun, “Loyal Citizens of Pyongyang in South Korea” (2018)

Made by then UCLA undergraduate student David Yun, this short terse documentary challenges the Western narrative on North Korean defectors living in South Korea as reliable first-hand witnesses to the supposed brutality of the North Korean government and reveals the insidious role of South Korean intelligence, known as the National Intelligence Service (NIS) in kidnapping, coercing or tricking North Korean citizens into living in South Korea against their will, and then manipulating, even brainwashing them and paying them to denounce North Korea publicly. Yun also exposes the role of the United States, its agencies and private organisations like the Atlas Network in propping up an elaborate disinformation scheme that demonises North Korea and generates public support around the world to support the overthrow of the North Korean government.

In its first ten minutes Yun’s documentary relies on interviews with South Korean human rights lawyer Jang Kyong-ook who tells him of how North Korean individuals are initially incarcerated in special defector detention centres where they are subjected to solitary confinement for as long as three or even six months, after which time they are desperate to leave and will say or sign anything – even accept South Korean citizenship – to get out. They are then sent to a special school to learn how to live in South Korea and cope with day-to-day life in a capitalist society; during this period of re-education, they are bombarded with propaganda and falsified histories of North Korea. Defectors may also be used as spies by the NIS.

In much of the rest of the documentary Yun meets with two defectors, Mr Choi and Mrs Kim, who arrived in South Korea separately at different times. Mrs Kim’s story is especially tragic: wishing to travel to China as a tourist, she was tricked by human traffickers into going into South Korea and fell into the grip of the NIS who then tricked her into signing an agreement. After discovering the NIS’ deception, Mrs Kim tried various options to return to North Korea, all of which were blocked. This unwilling defector despaired and attempted to take her life twice before becoming a representative for the defector community in South Korea. Mr Choi initially left North Korea due to his rebellious, non-conformist nature which ironically was to stand him in good stead when he ended up in South Korea and was subjected to the heavy psychological manipulation and disinformation that among other things denigrates past Korean resistance against Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula in the early 20th century.

Yun provides some necessary background information to explain why starvation was widespread in North Korea during the mid to late 1990s: as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact, many of North Korea’s markets dried up. Sanctioned by the US since the 1950s, North Korea could not find new buyers or sellers and the country endured starvation and poverty for many years. (The sanctions also mean North Korea cannot mechanise its agriculture and must rely on a large labour force to grow most of its food. These labourers are also the nation’s army reservists – hence the joint US / South Korean military drills known as Operation Foal Eagle that take place during sowing and harvesting seasons each year.) Many young people born during that time in North Korea who later defected to South Korea have now become eager participants in a reality TV show that screens monthly in South Korea that repeats and reinforces the lies and misinformation about North Korea. Some of these young people have now become celebrity “activists” who go on jaunts around the world decrying the North Korean government and are supported by right-wing thinktanks and organisations and government agencies in the US. Some of these think-tanks and organisations are also active in demonising the Maduro government in Venezuela.

The theme that arises during this powerful if very dry documentary is that North Korean defectors are a tool and a weapon used by South Korea and its puppet masters in Washington DC and elsewhere to destabilise the North Korean government with propaganda and lies. The defectors themselves are valuable only as long as they continue to cooperate with the authorities and any information they have is valuable. One has the impression that the South Korean and US governments do not really care about them. How defectors like Mr Choi and Mrs Kim survive in a society brainwashed with lies about the country they are still loyal to, remains unknown. Perhaps the surprising part of the documentary is Mr Choi’s continuing loyalty to Pyongyang and his admiration for former leader Kim Il Sung as a wartime resistance fighter against Japan even after he admits to being a maverick.

Ask The Experts (Covid-19 Vaccine): over 30 medical experts warn of the dangers of Covid-19 vaccines

Ask The Experts (Covid-19 Vaccine)(Oracle Films, 7 December 2020)

Banned on Facebook and Youtube, this film features over thirty doctors plus a nurse, a pharmacist, an acupuncturist and a journalist all advising caution to the public in accepting COVID-19 vaccinations or urging people to avoid them outright. The medical experts who speak out against the vaccines are based in North America and various European nations. Each doctor introduces himself or herself, provides a little background information about himself/herself and then explains why s/he opposes the vaccinations. The doctors are very eloquent and appeal to people’s ability to reason and to make choices. Several doctors say that the SARS-CoV-2 virus has never been isolated and proven to exist, and that the PCR tests used to determine if someone has had contact with the virus are flawed. A few claim that the COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax.

With well over 30 health experts all expressing their opinions on the disease, the virus, the lockdowns and restrictions that have been invoked by governments around the world to deal with the pandemic, the film is bound to be rather repetitive. Several doctors verge on sounding very much like conspiracy theorists. We do not learn their views on vaccination itself as a tool in disease prevention or mitigation strategies. One doctor (Barre Lando) tells of his experiences in dealing with children affected by vaccination injuries and the pharmacist Sandy Lunoe warns that pharmaceutical companies developing vaccines have taken out legal indemnities with law courts to block any future litigation attempts against them over the COVID-19 vaccines.

Perhaps the most alarming opinions expressed are those of Dr Hilde de Smet who says that pharmaceutical corporations have been trying to develop coronavirus vaccines for 20 years and have tested them on animals with the result that many animals end up with symptoms similar to those of COVID-19, and of Dr Elke de Klerk who states that the vaccines may cause sterility in women and girls, and change people’s DNA. Professor Konstantin Pavlidis believes the vaccines may result in neurological side effects. Throughout the film doctors express reservations about the speed with which COVID-19 vaccines, several of which are based on very new technologies, are being rushed and approved by governments in spite of several trials generating unusual and sometimes severe side effects or the trials themselves being of dubious worth because of suspect research design.

The film may need to be played few times for audiences to digest the most important information in several of the interviews. Some doctors are not too clear and a few could have been advised to take some elocution lessons! In spite of its repetitive nature, the film does express viewpoints that are beyond the pale for mainstream news and specialist media, and a message throughout the film is that people can find and do research on the topic of COVID-19 and how it is spread.

Magnitsky Acts are dangerous laws based on a hoax – Interview with Lucy Komisar: how human rights legislation is being degraded

Glen Isherwood, “Magnitsky Acts are dangerous laws based on a hoax – Interview with Lucy Komisar” (Citizens Insight / Australian Citizens Party, 28 October 2020)

In light of news that politicians Andrew Hastie and Kimberley Kitching are pursuing a bill through the Australian Parliament that would empower Canberra to target and impose sanctions on officials and individuals for supposed human rights abuses – the so-called Magnitsky legislation – Australian Citizens Party researcher Robert Barwick interviews US investigative reporter Lucy Komisar on the work she has done exposing such legislation using supposed human rights abuses to target and blacklist nations such as Russia, China, Iran and Venezuela and set them up for strategic confrontation and regime change. This interview is very detailed if selective (mainly due to time constraints), starting with Komisar’s early work as an investigative journalist and human rights activist across three continents in the 1960s through to the 1980s and then jumping to her work investigating the activities of Bill Browder in Russia through his Hermitage Capital Management Fund in the 1990s to capitalise on the privatisation of Russian state corporations under the Yeltsin presidency.

Taking the form of a conversation in which Barwick allows Komisar to explain at length what Browder did over the 1990s and the early 2000s, setting up shell companies for the purposes of transfer pricing (originally a legitimate practice in which two related companies in different taxation jurisdictions exchange goods and the price at which the exchange takes place is settled by the tax authorities in those jurisdictions according to rules and methods those authorities agree upon; companies may take advantage of such rules and methods to reduce the amount of tax they pay) and taking advantage of and abusing legislation in Kalmykia (an administrative region in Russia where the major ethnic group is Buddhist Kalmyks) in which companies got tax concessions if they employed people with disabilities, the bulk of the interview can sometimes be hard for viewers to follow unless they are already familiar with the history of Browder’s activities and of Magnitsky himself. The truth is Magnitsky was arrested and jailed for tax evasion as Browder’s accountant, and that Browder himself was being pursued by Russian authorities for stealing millions through the shell companies he set up with Magnitsky’s advice and assistance. The notion that Browder and Magnitsky are or were human rights champions keen on uncovering and exposing corruption in Russian politics in the 1990s and beyond – a notion that Browder promoted in the US and the EU, and is now promoting in Australia – proves to be a smokescreen covering up Browder’s own venality which as Komisar explains extends back in time even further than his adventures in Russia with Hermitage Capital Management Fund.

The more interesting part of the interview comes late in its second half when Barwick and Komisar discuss how her submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade – Human Rights Sub-Committee exposing Browder as a human rights fraud and that the Magnitsky sanctions legislation is based on lies was redacted and virtually ignored by the sub-committee. (As a result of her submission, Komisar was accused by Browder of being allied to or working in some capacity for the Russia government.) This leads among other things into a discussion on how the weaponisation of human rights in the form of sanctions legislation can be an attack on the concept of human rights itself, in that sanctioning individuals for supposed human rights crimes makes a mockery of human rights legislation and can be used to attack genuine human rights activists. If the bill backed by Kitching and Hastie were to be passed in Canberra, people targeted by the legislation would have no right of due process if they were to try to challenge it. (Even Australian citizens themselves might fall foul of such legislation, if they were to try to send money or gifts to relatives linked to sanctioned individuals or relatives living countries whose governments have been sanctioned.) The Human Rights Sub-Committee is deliberately ignoring submissions like Komisar’s submission in driving the new Magnitsky sanctions legislation, and the reason for doing so is purely political: to persecute and isolate individuals, organisations and even entire nations that follow policies or agendas that the US, the UK and their allies disagree with. Australia is expected to follow what the US and the UK decree, even at its own expense.

The danger of the West adopting the Magnitsky laws is that they set a dangerous precedent and model for other governments to target the political opposition and dissidents within their own nations. Laws that purport to uphold human rights are instead twisted into laws that degrade human rights. In addition, adopting Magnitsky laws that sanction individuals, organisations and nations when laws already exist to censure such entities can only result in confusion for governments to enforce and for courts to interpret if the new legislation contradicts current legislation.

The interview deserves to be seen at least twice or three times for viewers to understand the danger that passing the Magnitsky sanctions bill in Parliament poses to human rights activists in Australia. Viewers will need to do their own research on Browder and Magnitsky’s activities in Russia in the 1990s and the early 2000s that resulted in Magnitsky’s arrest and imprisonment. The implication that even in death Magnitsky is being used as a pawn by Browder to escape trial and imprisonment and to enrich himself, at the expense of people living in countries targeted by Magnitsky legislation where it has been passed, and of genuine human rights activists, is not lost on viewers. That Bill Browder can continue to cause havoc wherever he goes, and is seemingly unstoppable, given his history, might encourage some viewers to consider that he may be an intelligence asset.

Is China committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims? Interview with Jerry Grey yields intriguing answers

“Is China committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims? Interview with Jerry Grey” (Citizens Insight / Australian Citizens Party, 28 October 2020)

Here is a very fascinating interview conducted by Research Director Robert Barwick of the Australian Citizens Party with British-Australian citizen Jerry Grey who had a varied life as a police officer and security officer who then retrained as a teacher and found a teaching job, initially for a year, in China. Grey enjoyed living in China so much that he ended up staying there permanently, established a charity with his wife whom he met in China, and began travelling around the country. His cycling travels took him to and through Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Grey is thus in a good position to be able to confirm whether the Chinese government has singled out Uyghur Muslim people for discrimination, harassment and incarceration, including incarceration in concentration camps where they are supposedly forced to perform hard labour in factories or on farms. In particular Uyghur Muslims are supposed to be subjected to cultural genocide, being forced to give up their own language and much of their traditional culture and religion.

Grey describes his experiences of travelling and living in Xinjiang with interviewer Robert Barwick, demolishing as he does so the Western propaganda narratives of Uyghur Muslims being singled out for discrimination. Grey gives an example of how such propaganda may be generated in the case of an Albanian journalist who visits a school in China, asks various questions of the teacher in a class, records the teacher’s answers and then returns to Albania to present the Q&A session with his television station employer in such a way as to remove the context in which the teacher replies to the journalist. Of course religion is not taught in school if the school is not a religious school, yet the journalist presents the teacher’s answer of “No’ to suggest that religious education is banned in China. A second example of propaganda misusing information is the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s use of satellite imagery showing large building complexes surrounded by fencing to insinuate that these complexes are concentration camps when in fact the buildings may be senior high schools with boarding facilities or other major institutions. (Later in the interview Barwick notes that ASPI itself is funded by the US government and corporate sources that employ slave labour in the US.) Since Xinjiang region has been experiencing numerous terrorist attacks – in ten years up to 2017, the area suffered 800 deaths from terrorist incidents – many major building complexes now have elaborate security systems and travellers are subjected to many security checks. While the surveillance may be very intrusive, in the context of terrorist incidents occurring in areas as far apart as Xinjiang and Yunnan, the vigilance is often welcomed by local people. Interestingly in Xinjiang region, the police force is made up of Uyghurs themselves.

On the issue of terrorism in Xinjiang, Barwick and Grey discuss Beijing’s response to preventing more terrorist attacks in the form of a massive poverty alleviation scheme which has reached out to the most remote and / or impoverished communities in China and provided them with access to markets, transport and education for their children. Children of senior high school age are enrolled in city schools with boarding facilities (which media sources hostile to China misinterpret, deliberately or otherwise, as concentration camps) where they learn and study the Mandarin language which will enable them to find work in China. The youngsters are allowed to visit their families on weekends and are brought back to school by bus.

Significantly Grey notes there are no Western journalists on the ground in Xinjiang; furthermore most news about Xinjiang appearing in the MSM can be traced back to three sources, all of which source their information from the US State Department, and thus their information is highly suspicious as the US has an interest in destabilising China and breaking it up. One of these three sources often consulted by the Western MSM is German-American Christian fundamentalist theologian Adrian Zenz who believes in The Rapture (when true-believing Christians will be suddenly and physically drawn to Heaven by God and the rest of humanity will burn on Earth) and regards himself as having been appointed by God to pursue and expose China’s supposed crimes. He is a member of a far-right organisation known as Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation which was founded in 1983 by the US government and had a connection to Ukrainian ultra-right nationalist Yaroslav Stetsko, a former associate of Stepan Bandera, former head of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (Bandera faction) and a Nazi collaborator during the 1940s. The other sources include the aforementioned ASPI and the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an organisation founded by the US government.

Grey talks about his personal experiences with security in Xinjiang, noting that entry into and exit out of the region is monitored closely by Beijing to the extent that the region is locked down against unauthorised entry by outsiders. He notes that his movements around Xinjiang, which included taking cameras with him, have been unrestricted. People curious about his reasons for travelling around Xinjiang turn out to be generous with their time and hospitality when he tells them; no-one tells him he can or cannot travel to particular parts of Xinjiang.

An interesting detour is taken by Barwick when Grey talks about Uyghur expatriates complaining to mainstream Western media that they are not allowed to contact relatives in Xinjiang: Grey says this happens because the expats have broken Chinese law – which explains why they are expats in the first place (they have fled justice by going overseas and finding asylum as “refugees”). Barwick says many Uyghur organisations in Australia have “East Turkestan” as part of their names; in doing this, they declare themselves to be enemies of China, as “East Turkestan” implies that these organisations are encouraging separatism and working towards breaking Xinjiang away from China.

The interview finishes up with Grey describing his experiences of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic in China. He notes that the Chinese government used the lockdown to mobilise healthcare resources in hospitals, relying on government bureaucrats of all levels to lead the response, and to introduce an effective contact tracing and testing scheme which has resulted in the disease being stopped dead in its tracks early in 2020.

While the interview frequently meandered from one topic to the next, it makes clear that allegations of discrimination, harassment and imprisonment of Uyghur Muslims on the basis of their religion and ethnicity are baseless and are part of an agenda to raise support for a US-led war and possible invasion of China among Western publics. Unfortunately the interview does not clearly identify the main sources of disinformation about China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims (incidentally not all Uyghurs are Muslims and Muslims in China are a highly diverse religious community with the majority of Muslims being Han Chinese themselves) though viewers familiar with the issue will be aware that ultimately the US government and the supposedly humanitarian and human rights NGOs it funds feed these sources and in turn rely on them to spread the propaganda.

It would appear that much Western resentment directed at China’s treatment of its Uyghur population stems from Western awareness that what China is doing for its underprivileged is exactly the programs and policies that Western nations should have pursued for their impoverished minorities. Fake narratives such as the concentration camp narrative feed on real facts and distort them into an evil mirror image that exploits Western public guilt over and horror of Nazi German atrocities and genocides of targeted groups like Jews, Roma and Sinti, Slav peoples, homosexuals and people born with mental and physical disabilities. It can be no coincidence that increasingly Chinese Communists and the former Soviet Union are being equated with Nazi Germany through deliberate distortions of the 20th-century histories of China, Russia and Germany.

Vladimir Putin’s Valdai Speech (2020) / Q&A Session

Vladimir Putin’s Valdai Speech at the XVII Meeting (Final Plenary Session) of the Valdai International Discussion Club (Moscow, 22 October 2020) – Part 2: Q&A Session

After his speech (see Part 1), Russian President Vladimir Putin took several questions from Fyodor Lukyanov, the moderator of the plenary session, and various attendees at the Meeting both in person and online. These questions covered a wide range of topics, not all of which had been mentioned in Putin’s speech, and several were general, even abstract almost, while others were specific and covered incidents that were topical at the time.

As moderator, Lukyanov probably had the lion’s share of questions (though he may have been relaying questions from parts of the audience) and one pertinent question was why Russia would not pursue an economic lock-down again if it were hit by a second wave of COVID-19 and if this meant that Russia’s priorities in dealing with the pandemic had changed to favour the economy rather than people’s health. The examples of Sweden and Belarus as nations that did not introduce economic lock-downs were cited. Putin replied that during the lock-down during the first wave in Russia, the government mobilised resources and funding to support individuals, families, small to medium-sized businesses and even companies and industries, and to build up the healthcare system so it has the flexibility (including a reserve of hospital beds) to cope and deal with the pandemic should it flare up again. Putin believes that the funding allocated to support the health sector and other economic sectors was used effectively, and that this will enable the country to ride through a second pandemic wave without having to introduce a second nationwide lock-down that would destroy jobs and threaten distribution networks, and create distress including mental health problems among the public. The President notes also that Sweden and Belarus had their particular reasons for not introducing lock-downs, and that interestingly Sweden did not mobilise its resources to support its economy or its people during lock-down.

Several questions raised the issue of arms control and whether Russia has made too many concessions in adhering to international treaties and limiting its arsenal in the wake of recent US belligerence in refusing to renew treaties or to walk away from them, or even to accuse other nations of violating treaties when in fact those nations had done no such thing. Putin’s response is that arms control treaties are still necessary if the world is to have a future; but if other nations wish to throw their weight around and ignore arms control treaties, the Russians are prepared to build on what has already been achieved in the past, even if it was one step forward and two steps back, and are ready to work with others to achieve arms control no matter what stage or level of global arms control has been reached.

Because I am familiar with Anatol Lieven as a writer and policy analyst, I took note of the question he asked about what position Russia would take with regard to the outbreak of war in Nagorno-Karabakh, whether Russia would side with Armenia against Azerbaijan and Turkey if ceasefires and other attempts at peace fail, and if this conflict might be an opportunity for Russia to work with France and other western European nations. Putin’s reply is to point out that Russia does not favour Armenia over Azerbaijan simply because of having Orthodoxy in common as a religion, and that Russia’s connections with both countries make it ideal as a mediator. As for allying with France against Turkey’s ambitions in the eastern Mediterranean Sea region, Putin states Russia is not keen on picking sides. While perhaps Putin’s replies might not satisfy Lieven and others who want Russia to take one side or the other, one should understand Russia’s reluctance to take on such roles that could give an opportunity for the US and its allies to aid the opposing side, to sap Russian military power and at the same time create other conflicts that would try to draw in Russia as well and force the Russians to fight on several fronts. It is not Russia’s intention to act as the world’s enforcer or police officer and its stand on potential conflict between France and Turkey, or between Armenia and Azerbaijan, reflects that intention.

A related issue was posed to Putin, as to what Russia’s fundamental foreign policy goals are towards nations around its borders that were formerly part of the Soviet Union. Putin’s reply is that Russia’s foreign policy goals are taking place within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and that all the post-Soviet states will recognise the common interests and overlapping histories and cultures they share which will help to draw them closer and achieve stability.

The issue of Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny and his recent poisoning while flying from Tomsk to Moscow, during which his plane was diverted to Omsk where he received hospital care, later to be transported to Berlin (at the request of his family, which Putin granted even though Navalny was technically under house arrest) where doctors reported he had been poisoned with Novichok, brought into the spotlight the question of whether Germany and Russia still had a special relationship (due to the mixed history of relations between Germany and the Soviet Union / Russia in the past) or whether that relationship had changed. After noting that Russia had opened an investigation into Navalny’s poisoning, in which investigators had asked for information from Germany to assist (and that information had not been supplied), Putin notes that the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev played a major role in allowing East and West Germany to reunite in 1989, that Germany is Russia’s second largest trading partner (after China) and that having mutual interests such as trade and stimulating employment will always be at the heart of Russian-German relations.

Questions on Chinese-Russian relations were dealt with by Putin emphasising the areas in which Russia and China are working together (trade, sharing military technologies, developing infrastructure, holding joint military exercises).

A question from Anton Roux, head of the ADC Forum in Melbourne, on how Putin might wish to be remembered, brought forth Putin’s reply that he is not concerned about his reputation or how future generations of Russians might see him. (A very interesting response indeed, given that many Western leaders seem anxious about leaving a highly burnished reputation behind despite being very mediocre politicians.)

The last question put to Putin concerned the lack of government support for Antarctic research, even though a research station was already under construction with government funding, and Putin promised to bring up this issue with the relevant government department and find out why the research funding is being neglected.

While the range of questions put to Putin covered many different areas, and many related to domestic Russian issues as well as international issues, Putin’s responses generally err on the side of caution, with a conservative attitude that stresses co-operation and mutual agreement, and Russia’s strategic interests. While this means Putin’s answers are not exciting or particularly revelatory, one can understand the caution given that many questions came from people living overseas in countries where anti-Russia propaganda is in full swing among people at all levels of society and some of these questions may have required careful answers.

Perhaps the most significant revelation for Western audiences is that Putin actually approved the transfer of Alexei Navalny to Germany for medical treatment despite knowing that Navalny was a criminal. Amazingly, no-one seems to have asked why he personally intervened and gave permission for Navalny to be flown overseas. Surely Putin’s action casts a slur on the heroic attempts of the doctors, specialists and nurses at the Omsk hospital to save Navalny’s life?

Several of the questions asked were typical of questions Putin gets during his annual Q&A sessions with the Russian public and one might expect that in future Valdai Club Meetings, the moderators perhaps should steer questions away from issues of a domestic nature and encourage people to ask questions relevant to the topics raised in the annual Meetings. The downside of this suggestion though would be to make the Valdai Club Meetings rather less attractive and accessible to the Russian general public and perhaps limit its access to Putin to raise his awareness of important national and regional issues. For his part, Putin may not mind being asked questions concerning domestic issues at the annual Valdai Club Meetings if he is keen on keeping a finger on the public pulse.

It seems very odd that Westerners in Putin’s audience did not press him further on his vision of what constitutes a free, strong and independent civil society with vibrant institutions supported by the state and the citizenry, or challenge him on what he says or insinuates about the United States and its alliesi, or those NGOs and international organisations that act as regime-change agents and creators of instability and chaos. In my view, we have missed an opportunity to learn something from Putin and what his vision of Russia might be.

A transcript of this Q&A forum and of Putin’s speech preceding it can be viewed at this link.

Manufacturing State Propaganda at the BBC: “The Corbett Report (Interview 1587: Vanessa Beeley Debunks a BBC Hit Piece)”

James Corbett, “The Corbett Report (Interview 1587: Vanessa Beeley Debunks a BBC Hit Piece)” (20 October 2020)

Recorded 16 October 2020, this conversation between James Corbett and investigative British journalist Vanessa Beeley can be viewed online or heard as an audio-only version. This interview comes on the eve of a BBC Radio 4 series lasting some 10 weeks on James le Mesurier and the White Helmets, the supposed Syrian civil defence organisation (in reality, a fake humanitarian front supporting regime-change terrorists in Syria) he founded. Beeley had been approached by BBC reporter Chloe Hadjimatheou for an interview that would be broadcast during the radio series but declined the offer when she realised the questions to be put to her were a trap to discredit her.

The interview ranges over a number of related issues: the radio series is intended as a retrospective damage exercise by the BBC to whitewash the White Helmets; the targeting of Beeley by the BBC and the UK government by insinuating that legal action may be taken against her for stating that the White Helmets are a “legitimate target” for retaliation by the Syrian government due to the organisation’s association and embedment with terrorists, its involvement in child abductions and killings and other atrocities, and its travels with terrorist groups; and the ridiculous way in which the mainstream news media portrays Beeley as a lone-wolf blogger / “non-journalist” on the one hand and on the other a significant influence on Syrian government policy! The interview also covers how the White Helmets is part of a drive by a project known as the Integrity Initiative (an initiative of Scottish-based thinktank the Institute for Statecraft), ostensibly established to combat disinformation and support British foreign policy, but which in fact aims to destabilise nations like Syria by supporting groups like the White Helmets which give terrorists and other regime-change groups and organisations a favourable public image. The White Helmets give terrorists a positive humanitarian touch and support a drive for Western military intervention in Syria, supposedly based on “Responsibility to Protect” principles, which has as its ulterior aim the overthrow of the Syrian government and its replacement by a government favourable to Western political, military and corporate interests. Significantly Corbett and Beeley mention that the Red Cross / Red Cresent in Syria does not recognise the White Helmets as Syria’s legitimate civil defence organisation.

On a positive note, Beeley explains her plan to counter this series by researching the backgrounds of the series producer and others involved in its making, and the sources used, and making her research known publicly. Beeley notes that the BBC’s reputation has been falling rapidly, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and that the general public in Britain and beyond increasingly recognise that the BBC is the propaganda outlet for the UK state, itself becoming a more openly repressive police state with no regard for free speech, democracy or the rule of law.

The BBC’s targeting of Beeley and other independent reporters and organisations, such as the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media, that question how Syria and its war against Western invasion (with terrorist groups like ISIS and Jabhat al Nustra among others acting as a de facto army of mercenaries0 are portrayed in mainstream media, to the extent that it would produce a 10-week (!) series lionising James le Mesurier (who even stole money intended for the organisation he founded) and the White Helmets, demonstrates just how squalid this British institution has become, and by implication, how Britain itself has declined culturally and intellectually in concert with its political and economic decline. By going after Beeley, the BBC shows how its values now mirror those of the UK state itself, and these values surely include cowardice and mean-spiritedness.

No Justice, No Peace: no justice done to Black Lives Matter and George Floyd by shallow news program

“No Justice, No Peace” (Foreign Correspondent, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 16 June 2020)

Remarkable for what it fails to say and do, this episode purports to investigate how the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has galvanised people across the United States to protest institutional police violence across the nation in the wake of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd on 25 May 2020. With voice-over narration by Sally Sara, the program flits across scenes of demonstrations, aided and abetted by a music soundtrack consisting mostly of soul music, and of interviews with black activists of whom only one, Tamika Mallory, is a BLM leader. All scenes make for good viewing, the music is fine (though hiphop and reggae are conspicuously lacking, even though George Floyd himself was once a rapper known as Big Floyd back in the late 1990s), and the interviewees are angry and passionate, but after all is said and done, and the credits start to roll, the viewer realises how very little new information the program relays that the viewer doesn’t already know.

Very little is said about how far BLM has grown and developed since Foreign Correspondent last covered the movement a few years ago, how many followers it now counts, what its current agenda is and what program for social, economic and political reform and for educating people on racism and the history of racism in the US it may have. There is nothing about Mallory herself, what her stance on various issues affecting black people in the US is and what controversies (such as her past association with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan) she has been embroiled in. One thing Mallory could have told Foreign Correspondent is the extent to which police violence in the US is encouraged by both the US and Israeli governments through police training programs conducted by Israeli security organisations of US police officers in Israel itself and in the US. A recent report by UK online newspaper Morning Star found that back in 2012, 100 police officers from Minnesota state attended a police training workshop in Chicago that was sponsored by the Israeli consulate there. The chokehold that Chauvin used on Floyd (and which suffocated Floyd) is one used by Israeli soldiers and paramilitary on Palestinian people.

That Foreign Correspondent omits to say anything about how police violence might be more than just a reflection of historical racism and a legacy of slavery in the US, and how a culture of police violence has grown and spread throughout the country as (among other things) a result of numerous wars the US has waged against countless other nations over the last one hundred years and more to seize their land and natural wealth, in the process exposing generations of US youth to violence, brutality and trauma, and turning some of those youth into traumatised people or sociopaths who either stress easily and resort to violence too quickly or are so inured to committing brutal and sadistic acts that sadism becomes part of their identity as human beings. The Israeli government and its agencies find profit in offering training on humiliating, torturing and even killing people to US police officers, teaching those officers to view people on the bottom rungs of the socio-economic ladder as sub-human and worthless. All too often, those people on those bottom rungs tend to be black Americans or people from poor Latin American countries – and often those Latin American countries that have suffered instability and high levels of drug-related crime as a result of continuous US interference in their politics and economies.

Neither does Foreign Correspondent ask why the murder of George Floyd should have suddenly inflamed and motivated people across the US and other parts of the world to demonstrate against their governments and to pull down statues of past historical figures known to have benefited from the exploitation of Third World nations and peoples as slave traders or colonial administrators. The impoverishment of people across First World nations, and the speed with which that impoverishment has increased since the First World entered lock-down after the appearance of COVID-19 and the panic and hysteria the disease generated, apparently was missed by the program producers and reporters. For many years since neoliberal economics became the dominant political, social and economic ideology under Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher’s leadership of the Anglosphere in the 1980s, people’s living standards and quality of life have steadily eroded, social inequalities have increased, the forces of law and order have become more militarised and antagonistic towards the general public, news and information have turned into propaganda, and old problems once thought to be dying out, such as bigotry and racism, are rearing their heads again.

Identity politics, dividing people on the basis of what identifies them instead of uniting them, is used by elites to weaken popular movements by setting people against one another. By presenting George Floyd’s murder as yet one more example of police racism and violence, and not considering the wider context in which US police violence against black Americans (and other underprivileged folk) occurs, Foreign Correspondent shows itself as a propaganda mouthpiece for the elites controlling governments in the Anglosphere and beyond.

A whistleblower’s insider knowledge and shocking revelations in “MH-17: In Search of Truth”

Vasily Prozorov, “MH-17: In Search of Truth” (UKR Leaks, December 2019)

Currently gaining a lot of attention on alternative news websites is this minimally made and straightforward documentary by Ukrainian ex-SBU security officer and whistleblower Vasily Prozorov. The documentary plays like an extended news report with one shocking revelation after another about what really happened to the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-17 on 17 July 2014 while flying over eastern Ukraine. Initially the English-language dubbing which has a strong Slavic accent is hard to follow but after some minutes of being accustomed to it, listeners can follow the narrative fairly easily.

The first half of the documentary concentrates on dismantling the lies and disinformation that has built up around the Boeing passenger jet’s shoot-down almost as soon as it hit the ground. Apparent leaked recordings of Donbass rebel fighters rejoicing over the shoot-down came out almost straight away on social media, in itself suspicious as such information, if true, would have been classified information by the SBU straight away and not released for a long time. Considerable attention is paid to demolishing Ukrainian government claims that the Ukrainian army did not have any military units, especially units with BUK missile delivery systems, in the area close to where MH-17 fell. Prozorov also points out evidence suggesting that Kiev was planning a provocation in the area that would be blamed on the Donbass rebels, in particular noting that the airspace over eastern Ukraine was not closed to civilian air traffic and that a radar station in Artemovsk in the east was shut down a month before the shoot-down. He considers he may have been privy eavesdropping into a conversation in which a Ukrainian Defense Ministry representative and a security official were discussing possible Russian military intervention in the Donbass region to assist the rebels there and the security official tells the other fellow that something will happen which will stop the Russians from interceding; nine days later, the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet fell from the sky. Prozorov also shows how Western governments assisted Kiev in shaping its narrative of the Donbass rebels having brought down MH-17 by (the US) refusing to release satellite images of the area on the day the plane fell; and by (the Dutch) cherry-picking evidence provided by the Donetsk People’s Republic from the crash site and not showing any interest in collecting the actual wreckage from the crash site for several months.

It’s in the later half of the documentary that Prozorov delivers the most shocking evidence of British and possibly Australian intelligence involvement in setting up the scene for the shoot-down and British intel agents’ close association with two men whom Prozorov regards as the main plotters of the shoot-down, Lieutenant Colonel Vasily Burba and Major General Valery Kondratiuk. Prozorov also fingers Bellingcat (partly funded by The Atlantic Council and the National Endowment for Democracy among others) as a disinformation agency working with British intelligence since the so-called citizen-journalism organisation was founded a few days before the shoot-down and after the incident quickly became the main source of supposed information about the disaster for Western mainstream news media.

Prozorov summarises the main points of his documentary by showing how they fit into an apparent framework of a plot by British and Ukrainian intelligence agencies to create a provocation and distraction that would smear Russia and prevent that nation from militarily intervening in the civil war in eastern Ukraine, and to control and shape the narrative and distort the information about the investigation of the incident.

There is a lot of information to absorb from the documentary and some parts are very detailed and probably not entirely relevant to Prozorov’s investigation. Prozorov does not pursue the theory that two Ukrainian fighter jets shot down the Malaysia Airlines jet though he does refer to Ukrainian eyewitnesses’ accounts of having seen two fighter jets flying very close to MH-17. (At the same time, those eyewitness accounts didn’t include any mention of a BUK missile system, the launch of an SA-11 missile and the noises and characteristic trail of jet-stream smoke such a missile would have left behind.) The role of the US and its agencies (in particular the CIA, the US State Department and other organisations such as the National Endowment for Democracy and The Atlantic Council) in overthrowing President Viktor Yanukovych back in February 2014 and encouraging neo-Nazi extremism in the government that replaced him gets short shrift. Prozorov says nothing as to why a Malaysia Airlines jet should have been shot down when it is known that an Air India jet and two Singapore Airlines jets passed within half an hour of the Malaysia Airlines jet in the same airspace corridor.

Nevertheless this is a very valuable documentary on MH-17 from a former Ukrainian intelligence officer with much insider knowledge of how the SBU operated in 2014, and of some of the personalities involved in the plot to bring down a civilian jet.