Lawlessness / Ruined – part 43

“US Military Attack on Venezuela Mulled by Top Trump Advisors and Latin American Officials at Private DC Meeting” by Max Blumenthal (The Grayzone)

An excerpt from the above linked-article follows:

The Washington, DC-based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) hosted a private roundtable on April 10 called “Assessing the Use of Military Force in Venezuela.” A list of attendees was provided to The Grayzone and two participants confirmed the meeting took place. They refused to offer any further detail, however.

Among the roughly 40 figures invited to the off-the-record event to discuss potential US military action against Caracas were some of the most influential advisors on President Donald Trump’s Venezuela policy…

Senior officials from the Colombian and Brazilian embassies like Colombian General Juan Pablo Amaya, as well as top DC representatives from Venezuelan coup leader Juan Guaido’s shadow government, also participated in the meeting.

On January 23, following backroom maneuvers, the United States openly initiated a coup attempt against Venezuela’s elected government by recognizing National Assembly president Juan Guaido as the country’s “interim president.”

Since then, Venezuela has endured a series of provocations and the steady escalation of punishing economic sanctions. President Nicolas Maduro has accused the US of attacks on the Simon Bolivar hydroelectric plant at the Guri dam, which have led to country-wide blackouts openly celebrated by top Trump officials…

The CSIS meeting on “Assessing the Use of Military Force in Venezuela” suggests that the Trump administration is exploring military options more seriously than before, possibly out of frustration with the fact that every other weapon in its arsenal has failed to bring down Maduro.

On April 10, I obtained a check-in list containing the names of those invited to the meeting. It was apparently incorrectly dated as April 20, but had taken place earlier that day, at 3 PM.

I confirmed that the meeting had taken place with Sarah Baumunk, a research associate at CSIS’s Americas Program who was listed as a participant.

“We talked about military… uh… military options in Venezuela. That was earlier this week though,” Baumunk told me, when The Grayzone asked her about the meeting that was wrongly listed for April 20.

When The Grayzone asked if the event took place on April 10, Baumunk appeared to grow nervous. “I’m sorry, why are you asking these questions? Can I help you?” she replied…

The CSIS check-in list not only confirms that the Trump administration and its outside advisors are mulling options for a military assault on Venezuela; it also outlines the cast of characters involved in crafting the regime change operation against the country.

Few of these figures are well known by the public, yet many have played an influential role in US plans to destabilize Venezuela.

“VIDEO: How the Pentagon and CIA Push Venezuela Regime-Change Propaganda in Video Games” by Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton (The Grayzone)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

We often think of video games as fiction, but the US government has weaponized them to advance its agenda around the globe.

Nowhere is this more clear than in Venezuela, where the US military has laundered regime change propaganda through some of the world’s most popular first-person shooter games…

Venezuelan citizen journalists Orlenys Ortiz and Sancocho Power have drawn attention to the similarity between the plot of a 2013 first person shooter game, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and alleged acts of US sabotage against the country this March.

Call of Duty: Ghosts is set in a dystopian future after the Middle East is nuked. A Venezuelan general comes into power, establishing a socialist style federation that spreads across Latin America like a disease, uniting all oil producing nations and expelling US citizens.

You as the player are part of an elite force of US commandos that invades the country, murders the socialist leader, and destroys his federation.

The US Special Operations forces open their assault by launching a rocket at a dam that looks strikingly similar to Venezuela’s Guri dam, an act of deliberate terror that floods the streets of Caracas.

The city is recreated in vivid detail, down to the Chavista graffiti that colors city walls.

The mission ends with the execution-style killing of Venezuela’s leader, who is shot in the back in slow motion by America’s finest. In case you weren’t sure about his commitment to socialism, he’s wearing a red beret – just like Hugo Chavez.

During a follow-up mission, the player returns to Caracas, breaks into a power plant, and inserts a computer virus into the electricity grid, plunging the city into darkness…

Call of Duty: Ghosts is not the only game that gives gamers the opportunity to simulate the destruction of Venezuela.

In a more crudely designed 2008 first person shooter, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, a populist billionaire named Ramon Solano takes over Venezuela in a coup and pledges to restore the country’s oil profits to its people.

Gamers get to play the part of Mattias Nilson, a Swedish sociopath who’s willing to kill anyone if the price is right. Under contract from a multi-national oil company, Nilson tears Venezuela apart and ultimately winds up blowing Solano’s brains out inside his palace – which looks suspiciously like the 4F compound where Hugo Chavez worked when he was president.

Like so many first person shooting games, The Call of Duty and Mercenaries 2 were developed with substantial input from America’s military-intelligence apparatus.

“New York Times laments stalled Venezuelan coup” by Bill Van Auken (WSWS)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

It is now over two-and-a-half months since Juan Guaidó, a barely known figure in the right-wing, US-funded Voluntad Popular party, proclaimed himself the “interim president” of Venezuela and was immediately recognized by Washington as the “legitimate” head of the country’s government.

A month later, Washington, working with the right-wing government of Colombia and the US-backed right-wing Venezuelan opposition, attempted to stage a cynical provocation, sending trucks, supposedly loaded with US-supplied aid, in an attempt to crash the Venezuelan-Colombian border. Guaidó and his backers had cast the stunt as the end of the government of President Nicolas Maduro, predicting that Venezuelan security forces would disintegrate in the face of a handful of rations offered by the USAID.

Nothing of the kind transpired, and in the intervening weeks the ability of Guaidó and his US handlers to mount anti-regime demonstrations has visibly waned, while there has been no discernable crack in the country’s armed forces.

The New York Times, which has served as a propaganda mouthpiece for the US-orchestrated regime change operation from its outset, published a perplexed editorial Thursday titled “As the crisis in Venezuela grows, the options narrow.” The newspaper’s editorial board offered a lament over the failure of the CIA and its Venezuelan assets to swiftly topple the Venezuelan government.

“Libya on the brink of all-out civil war” by Bill Van Auken (WSWS)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

As troops and tanks of the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) of “Field Marshal” Khalifa Haftar advance on the capital of Tripoli, the internal conflicts that have been ripping the North African country apart are dramatically intensifying…

Casualties in the latest fighting reportedly include nearly 50 dead and over 80 wounded, while thousands of civilians have been forced to flee their homes. If Haftar’s forces enter the city, there is danger of a bloodbath and massive destruction, as disparate militia groups have vowed to resist Tripoli’s takeover.

Humanitarian aid groups have warned of the threat to civilian lives and called particular attention to the fate of thousands of refugees being held against their will under appalling conditions in detention camps run by the militias that back Sarraj’s regime. The Libyan Coast Guard is lavishly funded and advised by the European imperialist powers, who utilize it in their efforts to halt the flow of refugees to Europe. It turns migrants over to the militias, which subject them to torture, rape, abuse and summary execution, while attempting to extract ransoms from their relatives.

Haftar has enjoyed open support from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, while France has provided covert backing, including military advisers. Italy and Qatar have backed the Tripoli-based regime.

While US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement declaring that “we oppose the military offensive of Khalifa Haftar’s forces and urge the immediate halt to these military operations against the Libyan capital,” Washington has established the closest alliance with the general’s principal backers in the Arab world, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The latter’s dictator, Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, is to receive a red-carpet welcome at the White House today.

On Friday, the United Nations Security Council, following a closed-door meeting, issued a statement to the press calling for Haftar’s LNA to “halt its military activity” near Tripoli. When Britain proposed a formal resolution along these lines, however, Russia opposed it, no doubt fearing that it could become the pretext for a fresh Western intervention in Libya.

The British draft included a passage calling “for those who undermine Libya’s peace and security to be held to account.”

What hypocrisy! There was no such call when the UK joined with France and the United States to overthrow the country’s government and inflict death upon its population and destruction upon its infrastructure. No one, from Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron on down, was ever held accountable for a criminal war of aggression that turned the country into a living hell.

“The dictatorial impulse behind Trump’s political purge” by Patrick Martin (WSWS)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

The series of firings of top US security officials over the past few days has brought to the surface a profound crisis within the Trump administration and the national-security state as a whole.

On Friday, Trump withdrew the nomination of Ronald Vitiello, acting head of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, to become the permanent director, telling reporters, “We want to go in a tougher direction.” On Sunday, he fired Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, reportedly because she objected to resuming the policy of forcible separation of parents and children for refugees seeking asylum. On Monday, he fired Randolph Alles, the director of the Secret Service, which supplies the president’s personal bodyguard. Like ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Secret Service is a unit of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the second largest US government department, created as an all-encompassing domestic police agency in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Trump’s principal adviser on immigration issues, the fascistic Stephen Miller, was reportedly the driving force in the purge of DHS officials. Miller previously spearheaded the “Muslim ban” against visitors and refugees from mainly Muslim countries and has developed close relations with the most vicious right-wing elements in American political life. The firing of Nielsen came after demands for such action were voiced by the fascist Daily Stormer publication, by Breitbart News, and by leaders of the Border Patrol union.

“WikiLeaks exposes spying operation against Assange in Ecuador’s London embassy” by Oscar Grenfell (WSWS)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

At a press conference in London yesterday, WikiLeaks detailed a vast and illegal surveillance operation against its founder, Julian Assange, inside Ecuador’s British embassy, where he was granted asylum in 2012.

The material presented by the publisher’s editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson and Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, demonstrated that every aspect of the WikiLeaks founder’s life over more than a year, including medical consultations and private legal meetings, had been spied upon by Ecuadorian officials inside the embassy…

Opening the press conference, Hrafnsson said that the surveillance “entails a total violation” of Assange’s privacy. It covered “everything on the life of Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy,” and demonstrated that since Moreno came to power in 2017, the WikiLeaks founder had been living in a “Truman Show like situation.”

He explained that WikiLeaks became aware of the extent of the spying “several weeks ago,” when it learnt that a group of individuals in Spain was “passing around” material gathered within the embassy. Hrafnsson corresponded with the group and met with them in Spain “around 10 days ago.”

The individuals, who allegedly include a Spanish national previously implicated in extortion, demanded that WikiLeaks provide three million euros for hundreds of thousands of documents, audio recordings, videos and photos taken in the embassy. They showed Hrafnsson samples of the material, which he recorded with a hidden camera and showed at the press conference.

The group is being pursued by an investigative magistrate in Madrid, after WikiLeaks assisted Spanish police carry out a sting operation. It is not known how they came into possession of the material.

From Mint Press:
Julian Assange gives the thumbs up as he is whisked away in a police van en route to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court. Henry Nicholls | Reuters

“Assange Arrest: The Turning Point is Here — Don’t Let Them Win” by Whitney Webb (Mint Press News)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

LONDON (Opinion) — This morning, the London-based branch of Empire made good on its threat and boldly moved to begin dismantling the vestiges of democracy and press freedom that still remain, vestiges that have allowed people throughout the Western world to pretend that their government and politicians still respect their rights and the rule of law.

Julian Assange, the man who has helped expose a litany of crimes and the in-your-face corruption of the world’s most powerful people and governments, was pulled from the embassy of the country where he not only holds citizenship but had been granted asylum. The dangerous precedents Assange’s arrest has set — not just for journalism, but also for national sovereignty and international law — are staggering.

With Assange now in U.K. custody, his fate will mirror our own, as Assange’s fate and that of journalists around the world, as well as the public itself, are increasingly intertwined. After all, those who are after Assange and seek to rob him of his freedom — the U.S. Empire, the “deep state,” the shadow government, the global elite, etc. — are after our freedom as well.

If we remain silent as they jail, extradite, torture or even kill this man, we may expect a similar fate for ourselves. It will not come tomorrow. It will not come next week. It could be years away. But make no mistake, the global empire, whose core is the U.S. government, will now be empowered to charge and imprison anyone it deems a threat to its operations.

Those operations, including those that Assange helped to expose, often involve the mass murder of innocent civilians — untold numbers of children among them — in order to loot the resources of other sovereign nations. They also often involve the installation of puppet governments by either covert (e.g., election “meddling”) or overt (e.g., regime-change wars) means.

Those responsible for the most egregious violations of international law, for war crimes, for the slaughter of innocent life, are not imprisoned, degraded or tortured — they are rewarded and promoted.

“Requiem for the Fourth Estate” by Ray McGovern (Consortium News)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

With the Fourth Estate now on life support, there is a high premium on the fledgling Fifth Estate, which uses the ether and is not susceptible of government or corporation control. Small wonder that governments with lots to hide feel very threatened.

It has been said: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” WikiLeaks is helping make that possible by publishing documents that do not lie.

Last spring, when we chose WikiLeaks and Julian Assange for this award, Julian said he would accept only “on behalf or our sources, without which WikiLeaks’ contributions are of no significance.”

We do not know if Pvt. Bradley Manning gave WikiLeaks the gun-barrel video of July 12, 2007 called “Collateral Murder.” Whoever did provide that graphic footage, showing the brutality of the celebrated “surge” in Iraq, was certainly far more a patriot than the “mainstream” journalist embedded in that same Army unit. He suppressed what happened in Baghdad that day, dismissed it as simply “one bad day in a surge that was filled with such days,” and then had the temerity to lavish praise on the unit in a book he called “The Good Soldiers.”

Julian is right to emphasize that the world is deeply indebted to patriotic truth-tellers like the sources who provided the gun-barrel footage and the many documents on Afghanistan and Iraq to WikiLeaks. We hope to have a chance to honor them in person in the future.

“Julian Assange’s Nightmarish Future” by Elizabeth Vos (Consortium News)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

While Julian Assange waits for what comes next — sentencing on skipping bail in England and a U.S. extradition request — he is being held in a maximum-security prison in London that has been called the “UK’s Guantanamo Bay” and has been used to detain alleged terrorists, sometimes indefinitely.

The reputation of HM Prison Belmarsh raises natural concerns about the wellbeing of the WikiLeaks publisher there.

“While many prisoners at Belmarsh say it’s difficult to see a doctor or a nurse, these services are available at the facility,” reports Bloomberg News, regarding the possibility of Assange receiving overdue medical attention.

Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh had been used to detain high-profile national security prisoners indefinitely without charge under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act of 2001, passed six weeks after 9/11, until the House of Lords ruled it violated the British Human Rights Act.

Assange was found guilty on Thursday of skipping bail. On May 2 he is scheduled to participate in a court hearing via video link on the U.S. extradition request.

Assange’s name now tops the alphabetical roster of notables who have done time at Belmarsh or who are still there. The list includes notorious gangsters, serial killers and drug traffickers. Ronnie Biggs of the 1963 Great Train Robbery was imprisoned there. Others are subjects of high-profile scandal, such as Richard Tomlinson, imprisoned for six months in 1997 after he gave a synopsis of a proposed book detailing his career with MI6 to an Australian publisher. Andy Coulson, a former press secretary to Prime Minister David Cameron, was imprisoned for a few months for the phone hacking scandal that engulfed News of the World while he was editor there…

There is legitimate concern about how Assange will fare inside Belmarsh. A 2018 survey by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons found that “91 percent of men said they had problems when they arrived at Belmarsh, which was higher than at other local prisons and more than at our last inspection,” Business Insider reported.

In 2009, the same prison authority had found “extremely high” amount of force used to control inmates at the prison.

Detainees were “unable to see the intelligence evidence against them and are confined to their cells for up to 22 hours a day. Their solicitors say they have been ‘entombed in concrete,’ BBC reported in 2004.

related: “Assange’s Arrest Affirms US/UK Speech, Media, and Academic Freedoms Are Null and Void” by Stephen Lendman (StephenLendman)


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