TBR News June 17, 2017

Jun 17 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., June 17, 2017:”The American public supports the government with its involuntary income taxes and, once in a while, votes on its representatives. Aside from that, they are of no practical use to the leaders who move in well-trodden insular circles in a corrupt national capital. In the past, the public was mollified by carefully planned media campaigns but now, with the advent of the Internet and a wide reportage of news, actual, fictional and very often, delusional, the public no longer is controlled by what they read in an increasingly useless print media and an even more useless television media. And the public is becoming disillusioned and angry with the greed and incompetence of their leaders. But if they rose up in their wrath and threw all of them out, trust it, within a decade, it would all be just the same again. But a, hopefully, change of scene, might be of great benefit to a pubic tired of manipulations, control by business oligarchs and the endless wars our declining empire deems so vital to its existence.”

Table of Contents

  • The Toxic State of America
  • Iraq says troops recaptured key border crossing from ‘Islamic State’
  • What is the difference between the Kurds and the Turks?
  • Germany threatens retaliation if U.S. sanctions harm its firms
  • British PM May tries to quell public anger after deadly London fire
  • The Virginia shooting fallout was predictably partisan. Can this ever be fixed?
  • Brad Pitt’s “War Machine” Offers an Absurd and Scathing Critique of America’s Delusional Generals
  • Advanced CIA firmware has been infecting Wi-Fi routers for years
  • The Great Rice Disease Plot
  • The CIA’s Frank G Wisner: A study

The Toxic State of America

The attack on Republican members of Congress in the United States this week is a product of America’s increasingly toxic political climate. Democracy is at stake in a country where two, deeply divided sides are no longer capable of reasonable debate.

June 16, 2017

by Christoph Scheuermann


Washington, D.C.- Once the attacker was dead and the injured cared for, once quiet had returned to Congress and the investigation had begun, a hint of harmony briefly descended over Washington. Democrats said prayers for Republicans, adversaries found warm words for each other and even Donald Trump acted like a statesman. America is strongest, he said, “when we are unified and when we work together for the common good.”

This, from Trump — arguably America’s most divisive figure.

It sounded as if he had forgotten recent months — the tirades and hate-filled speeches. As if there were no gaping rift between the opposing political camps, right and left, long since unbridgeable. For a moment, it seemed the president had swept aside all the rage — and the nation was thankful.

What happened on Wednesday in Alexandria, a Washington suburb, was not Donald Trump’s fault. The attacker opened fire on Republican members of the House and Senate. It was not an attempted political assassination, but it was an act that was at least partly motivated by politics. The perpetrator, James Thomas Hodgkinson, was a disturbed Bernie Sanders supporter who considered Trump to be a “traitor.” It was an attack on democracy, but above all provided evidence of just how toxic the political environment in the United States has become. And of course, this president, both directly and indirectly, bears his share of the blame for this climate.

A political battle is raging in the United States in which the competing camps are no longer engaging in debate. Instead, each side is denying the other’s right to participate in the democratic process. Both sides are raising the specter of treason as a way of justifying violence. The rage against elites has become impossible to contain, with ring leaders on the right speaking of “war” and those on the left of “resistance.” The two sides are united by the thirst for confrontation and by the occasional repudiation of their opponents’ humanity. Eric Trump, one of President Trump’s sons, recently said that critics of the American leader are “not even people.”

Debates have often been shrill in the United States. And violence has reared its head in political life before — and not just since the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

Profiteering from Polarization

But today, a man is sitting in the White House who profits from the polarization and is further fanning the flames. It is not the language of moderation that is spoken in Trump’s Washington — it is one of revolt, revenge, rage and cynicism, and that isn’t by chance. Journalists have become “enemies of the state,” judges are ridiculed, government prosecutors getting too close to the president are threatened with dismissal and the head of the FBI is fired.

But Trump isn’t sowing the seeds of rage on his own. His opponents are also doing a fine job of escalating this rhetorical arms race with talk of street battles, as if guerilla warfare were the solution. Comedienne Cathy Griffin had herself photographed recently holding Trump’s fake decapitated head by the hair. At the point in a debate when the physical well-being of one’s opponent is no longer sacred, there are no boundaries left.

The ideological divide between Democrats and Republicans has never been as wide as it is today. The most dangerous aspect of this development is that the two sides are no longer able to agree on basic facts. One wonders whether Republicans and Democrats could even agree that the sky is blue. If everything is relative and nothing is certain, when a president lies so openly, then who can you trust? When the language of this government is so corrupt and misguided, what is one to do?

There are few institutions left that both sides accept as being nonpartisan. At the moment, Trump’s helpers are busy casting aspersions at independent special counsel Robert Mueller, who has been tasked with investigating Russian influence on the presidential campaign and potential ties between Moscow and the Trump team. Until his appointment, he had been accepted by Republicans and Democrats alike as an independent official with integrity. The campaign against Mueller is destroying any possibility, at least on this question, that one side’s version of the truth might ultimately be accepted.

The harmony following the attack in Alexandria didn’t last long. The next morning, Trump tweeted he was the victim of a “WITCH HUNT.” He was referring, of course, to special counsel Mueller.

Debate is one of the foundations of democracy, but in the U.S. it’s hardly possible anymore. And when the people of a country are no longer capable of speaking to each other, when they constantly believe their opponents are involved in a conspiracy, then a country’s institutions are also imperiled. And with them, democracy itself.

Iraq says troops recaptured key border crossing from ‘Islamic State’

The Iraqi military has said its troops recaptured the al-Waleed border crossing with Syria from the so-called “Islamic State” militant group. The capture also removes IS fighters the vicinity of a US base in Syria.

June 17, 2017


Sunni tribal fighters and the Iraqi army retook control of a major border crossing that had been held by self-styled “Islamic State” militants following an offensive in western Iraq, the military said in a statement on Saturday.

The al-Waleed crossing, located in the far west of Iraq, fell under IS control in 2015 and gave the militant group full control of the Iraq-Syria border. At the time, they vowed to get rid of the border as part of the group’s goal to build a “caliphate.”

The Iraqi Joint Operations Command added that the operation had been backed by fighters from local clans, border police and US-led coalition aircraft.

The military statement did not comment on casualty figures or say when the operation began.

The recapture of the border crossing also means that fewer IS fighters are in the vicinity of a US base that is located on the other side of the border in Syria.

Al-Waleed is located close to Tanf – another strategic border crossing located on the main highway between Syria and Iraq – where US forces have been assisting Syrian rebels fighting to recapture territory on their side of the border from IS.US troops have been stationed at Tanf since last year, effectively blocking Iranian-backed forces that support Syrian President Bashar Assad from receiving heavy weapons from Iran via the Baghdad-Damascus highway.

What is the difference between the Kurds and the Turks?


There is a difference between the Kurds and Turks. They are linguistically, ethnically and culturally totally different people. There is a lot of books about the Kurds and Turks and their history.


Turkish people are a Turkic ethnic group. Turkic peoples are originally from Central Asia and they believe that the Altay mountains in Mongolia are the birthplace of their people. It is known that Turkic peoples are first time mentioned in the 6th century, where they were called as Turuks. It is believed that the first Turks arrived to the Middle East in the 7th century during the Arab conquest of Transoxiana. According to some historians, the Turks entered the Muslim world proper as servants in the 7th century.

History of the Turks of Turkey is strongly based on the ethnonym “Turk”. This means that the Turks are usually called with different names in books. For example, Chinese called the Turks as Tujues and Arabs called Seljuk Turks as Seljuqians. Another way to say this, they weren’t called as Turks but historians know that they were the Turks, they just used different names.

The Turks, Uzbeks, Tatars, Uyghurs and Turkmens are Turkic people.

Kurdish people are a Iranic ethnic group, which is also known as Iranian ethnic group. Proto-Indo-Europeans split into two groups, those who headed west and those who headed east. Those who headed west are nowadays known as Germans, Spaniards, British, French and other west European people. Those who headed east, split into two groups, Indo-Iranians who headed southwest and Indo-Aryans who head east and southeast. The Kurds are Indo-Iranians. Don’t mix Iranian name with current Iran (country).

Just like the Turks, Kurds are also called with different names in history. Corduene is accepted as proto-Kurdish region. Islamic scholar explained origins of Kurds with King of Solomon in the early Islamic Golden age. Jewish sources describe origins of people of Corduene with the “Jinns”/servants of king of Solomon and his wives. Even though it was clear that Corduene was Kurdish region, some scholars didn’t confirm it until the 20th century.* Recent academic sources finally accepted Corduene as proto-Kurdish. First book related to origin of the Kurds, named Ancestry of the Kurds was published by Kurdish scientist Dīnawarī in 847.

In recent times, a lot of studies has been carried out to find the connections between the Medes and Kurds. It looks like that both linguistic and genetic studies support the theory that the Kurds have mixed with Medes and are perhaps the modern day descendants of the biblical Median Empire.

The Persians and Kurds are Iranian people.


The Turks speak Turkish language, which is a part of Turkic languages. Turkic languages are spoken by Turkic peoples, mainly in Asia. Turkish, Azerbaijani, Turkmen and Gagauz are Turkic languages. According to some studies, more than 170 million people speak Turkic languages, 75 million of them speak Turkish language.

The Kurds speak Kurdish, which belongs to the Indo-Iranian linguistic family, a.k.a Aryan languages. Aryan languages are branch of the Indo-European languages. English, Spanish, French, Hindi, German, Russian, Polish, Persian, Kurdish, Dutch and many other languages are Indo-European languages.


Turkish culture has changed so much that it is impossible to talk about it in brief but only in a few hundreds pages. Islam as affected their customs so much that they slowly abandoned their culture and adopted the Islamic ways. When Ataturk modernized Turkey, he succeeded to get rid of the predominance of the Islamic culture. However, he also fostered the adoption of western values, instead of Turkic culture and what we know as Turkic culture nowadays is actually a very recent mix of other cultures from Ottoman times.

Kurdish culture has been always the same. Although Greeks, Persians, Arabs, Turks and many other peoples have somewhat affected Kurdish culture, they haven’t managed to make the Kurds totally give up their traditions and culture. Traditional clothes and literature are still alive among the Kurds, just like the Persians.

Genetic studies

Some Turkish studies have concluded that the historical and indigenous Anatolian groups are the primary source of the present-day Turkish population. Another way tho say this, the present-day Turkish population is different from their Turkic neighbors.

The Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews are genetically closest ethnic groups to the Kurds. The Sephardi and Kurdish Jews are genetically almost indistinguishable and they both differ slightly from Ashkenazi Jews.

Since Turkey was established, the Kurds are not allowed to get an education in their mother tongue. Kurdish culture is not recognized and supported. Kurdish language and culture is always developed in Europe. The majority of books and studies related to the Kurds are mainly published and written in European countries. It is 2016 and unfortunately, Turkey still doesn’t allow primary education in Kurdish nor does it support the Kurdish culture.

.Germany threatens retaliation if U.S. sanctions harm its firms

June 16, 2017

by Gernot Heller and Alissa de Carbonnel


BERLIN/BRUSSELS-Germany threatened on Friday to retaliate against the United States if new sanctions on Russia being proposed by the U.S. Senate end up penalizing German firms.

The Senate bill, approved on Thursday by a margin of 98-2, includes new sanctions against Russia and Iran. Crucially, it foresees punitive measures against entities that provide material support to Russia in building energy export pipelines.

Berlin fears that could pave the way for fines against German and European firms involved in Nord Stream 2, a project to build a pipeline carrying Russian gas across the Baltic.

Among the European companies involved in the project are German oil and gas group Wintershall, German energy trading firm Uniper, Royal Dutch Shell, Austria’s OMV and France’s Engie.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman described the Senate bill, which must be approved by the House of Representatives and signed by President Donald Trump before it becomes law, as “a peculiar move”.

He said it was “strange” that sanctions intended to punish Russia for alleged interference in the U.S. elections could also trigger penalties against European companies.

“That must not happen,” said the spokesman, Steffen Seibert.

In an interview with Reuters, German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries said Berlin would have to think about counter-measures if Trump backed the plan.

“If he does, we’ll have to consider what we are going to do against it,” Zypries said.

The sharp response from Berlin comes at a time of deep strains in the transatlantic relationship due to shifts in U.S. policy and a more confrontational rhetoric towards Europe under Trump.

The new U.S. president has lambasted European partners for not contributing more to NATO, slammed Germany for running a large trade surplus with the United States and broken with allies on climate change with his decision to exit the landmark Paris agreement on combating greenhouse gas emissions.

Ironically, the part of the Senate bill that targets Russia was introduced by some of the president’s top critics, including Republican hawk John McCain.

They are intent on limiting Trump’s ability to forge warmer ties with Russia, a key foreign policy pledge during his campaign for the presidency, but one he has been unable to deliver on amid investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election.


Under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, Washington and Europe coordinated closely as they ramped up sanctions against Moscow for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

But the dialogue has broken down under Trump, who considered easing sanctions against Russia when he first came into office, according to U.S. officials.

“I regret that the joint approach of Europe and the United States on Russia and sanctions has been undermined and abandoned in this way,” Zypries told Reuters.

France and the European Commission also urged the United States to coordinate with its partners on such matters.

“For several years, we have underlined to the United States the difficulties that extraterritorial legislation spark,” a French foreign ministry spokesman told reporters.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, due to start pumping gas from Russia to Europe from 2019, has been dogged by controversy.

Eastern European and Baltic states fear it will make them hostage to Russian gas and undercut Ukraine by depriving it of transit fees for Russian gas supplies to Europe.

Nordic nations, meanwhile, have security concerns over the pipeline running through territorial waters, where Russia has bolstered its military presence in recent months.

Some EU diplomats fear the threat of new measures out of Washington may harden Germany’s defense of Nord Stream and complicate already difficult talks among EU nations over whether to seek joint talks with Russia over the pipeline.

“This is not helpful now. It tends to stir up desires to protect our territorial space,” one EU diplomat said.

The House of Representatives is expected to debate the Senate bill in the coming weeks but it is unclear whether it will come up for a final vote before lawmakers leave Washington at the end of July for their summer recess.

(Additional reporting by Michael Nienaber; Writing by Noah Barkin; Editing by Andrew Roche)

 British PM May tries to quell public anger after deadly London fire

June 17, 2017

by Alistair Smout


LONDON-British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government sought on Saturday to quell anger over a deadly tower block fire by pledging to support the victims of the blaze after protesters jeered her when she visited local residents.

May was rushed away from a meeting with residents on Friday under heavy police guard as protesters shouted “Shame on you” and hundreds stormed a local town hall calling for justice.

After a botched snap election that lost her party its majority in parliament, May is facing criticism for her response to the blaze which engulfed the 24-storey apartment block of social housing on Wednesday, killing at least 30 people.

Residents of the destroyed tower said May was far too slow to visit the stricken community, that the building had been unsafe and that officials have failed to give enough information and support to those who have lost relatives and their homes.

Asked repeatedly whether she had misread the public mood, May did not answer directly but said the focus was on providing support to the victims.

“What I’m now absolutely focused on is ensuring that we get that support on the ground,” May said in a BBC Newsnight interview.

“Government is making money available, we’re ensuring that we’re going to get to the bottom of what’s happened, we will ensure that people are rehoused. But we need to make sure that that actually happens.”

May on Saturday was due to chair a meeting on the government’s response to the fire. The death toll is expected to rise, as at least 60 people remain unaccounted for.

Alongside both police and fire investigations into the blaze, she has promised to set up a public inquiry.

She also pledged 5 million pounds ($6.39 million) of support, housing guarantees and help with access to bank accounts and cash. Those who lost their homes will be rehoused within three weeks, she said.

One of her closest allies, Damian Green, defended May on Saturday, adding that a team would go to the area to answer questions from residents.

“The Prime Minister is distraught about what has happened,” said Greenwho was appointed May’s deputy in the wake of the general election.

“We’re all desperately sad, we’re all angry, but of course none of us as angry as those who were directly affected. I absolutely get why they’re angry,” Green said.


While the blaze has prompted an outpouring of generosity, with many people donating provisions and clothes, it has also unleashed rage at the authorities as the charred tower was cast as a deadly symbol of a deeply divided society.

Angry protesters chanting “We want justice” stormed their way into the Kensington and Chelsea town hall on Friday.

After a turbulent three months which has seen Britain scarred by three deadly Islamist militant attacks and now the tower blaze, Queen Elizabeth said the mood was deeply somber but that the British people were resolute in the face of adversity.

“It is difficult to escape a very sombre national mood,” Elizabeth said in a message on her official birthday. “The country has witnessed a succession of terrible


“Put to the test, the United Kingdom has been resolute in the face of adversity,” Elizabeth said. “United in our sadness, we are equally determined, without fear or favor, to support all those rebuilding lives so horribly affected by injury and loss.”

Such a direct message from the monarch is rare and indicated the extent of the turmoil in Britain.

Opponents said May’s handling of the fire has thrust her position further into doubt by showing a failure to feel the public mood and act decisively.


After a tumultuous week that pitched Britain into its deepest political crisis since the Brexit referendum a year ago, May’s future was already uncertain due to her failed gamble on a snap election.

Britain is now likely to go into arduous talks on Monday about its exit from the European Union with a weakened leader who is dependent on a small Northern Irish party.

Matthew Parris, a columnist and former Conservative lawmaker, said May’s response to the fire had shown a lack of judgment which made her unsuitable to be prime minister.

“Wallowing in the wash of a general election that stripped our prime minister of her authority on the very eve of EU negotiations, neither common sense nor the evidence suggest she can re-establish public confidence,” Parris wrote in the Times.

“This prime minister is not viable.”

(Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Andrew Bolton)


The Virginia shooting fallout was predictably partisan. Can this ever be fixed?

Some see in the gulf between Democrats and Republicans a parallel to discourse prior to the civil war, while others hope Americans will tire of the anger

June 17, 2017

by Ed Pilkington, Adam Gabbatt and Lois Beckett

The Guardian

It would be hard to imagine an institution more out of tune with the prevailing tone of modern American politics than the annual congressional baseball game. The Republican and Democratic teams play each other to win, but they do so in a spirit of friendship across the aisle that is all but nonexistent on Capitol Hill these days.

Even the running score between them entering the week of the contest was thoroughly bipartisan: 79 encounters since 1909, 39 wins each (plus one draw).

So the Republicans’ practice ground in Alexandria, Virginia, on the day before this year’s engagement made for an especially jarring choice of target when a lone gunman opened fire at 7.09am on Wednesday, critically injuring the House majority whip Steve Scalise and wounding three others. It was as if one of the last oases of civility in American public life had been torn by an outburst of violent hatred.

Partisan violence, at that. When details emerged of the shooter, himself killed in the exchange of fire, it turned out that James T Hodgkinson was a self-styled “democratic socialist” with a track record of assailing Donald Trump on social media. One of his Facebook entries called Trump a traitor and said: “It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”

As news sank in of the attack, and of the Bernie Sanders-supporting leanings of the shooter – he had a Sanders photo slapped across his Facebook page and had reportedly volunteered for the senator’s presidential campaign in Iowa in 2016 – the nation collectively gasped. How would the country and its hyperpartisan leadership, not least the troller-in-chief, react to this heinous act of apparent political loathing?

For a split second, the unexpected happened. When Trump addressed the nation from the White House, he was measured, inclusive, resorting to none of the usual snarky references to “fake news” or “Crooked Hillary”. “We may have our differences”, he said, but “we can all agree that we are strongest when we are unified”.

But that rare moment of comity was all too fleeting. Within hours of the shooting, the wider hostility had renewed with a vengeance.

Conservatives saw an advantage to silence criticism. Republicans lined up to accuse Democrats of having fanned the flames of discord, seemingly oblivious to the fact that by doing so they were themselves fanning the flames of discord. “The rhetoric has been outrageous,” said Chris Collins, Republican from New York, chiding Democrats to “tone it down”.

“America has been divided, and the violence is appearing in the streets, and it’s coming from the left,” said Steve King, the Iowa Republican who has often sparked controversy for making incendiary comments about immigrants and once suggested that “radical Islamists” would see Barack Obama as a saviour.

Some of the most vivid language was aired on Fox News by the president’s counselor Kellyanne Conway, who said that personal rhetorical attacks on members of the Trump administration were bound to lead to further gun rampages. “If I were shot and killed tomorrow, half of Twitter would explode in applause and excitement,” she said.

Such a spiral of partisan name-calling in the week that saw a charity baseball game disrupted by gun violence has left observers of America’s political cacophony aghast. How did it get to be this bad, many are asking – and now that we’re in this mess, how can we get out of it?

Cecilia Muñoz is both an observer and a former sufferer of the phenomenon. She’s now at the New America thinktank, where she’s trying to find ways to transcend partisanship through common solutions to public problems – but until January she was director of Obama’s domestic policy council, where she often experienced the debilitating effects of partisan hostility.

She recalls how difficult it was for colleagues to find Republicans willing to attend state dinners, so toxic was the mood towards her boss. “Declining an invitation to a formal event honoring the leader of an allied country – that was an indication of how out of control the partisanship had gotten,” she said.

But she has no doubt that it’s far worse today. “The discourse has coarsened tremendously over the last decade, even more so this last year. You see it on the left as well as the right.”

Muñoz’s reflection that coarseness of rhetoric is not limited to either side presents the left with a challenge too: how to respond to the knowledge of the Alexandria shooter’s “democratic socialist” politics and the ensuing calls from conservatives to “tone it down”. Bernie Sanders himself was quick to respond, saying that he was “sickened by this despicable act” and that “violence of any kind is unacceptable”.

His supporters told the Guardian that they resented being tarred with the same brush as a deranged gunman. “The actions of one emotionally and mentally unstable individual cannot stop an entire movement,” said Hannah Zimmerman, who serves on the national coordinating committee of the Young Democratic Socialists of America.

She said that within every sub-group of Americans you will find individuals with problems, but that doesn’t make them representative. The shooter didn’t speak “for the millions of people who supported and voted for Bernie Sanders”, she said.

Moumita Ahmed, the founder of Millennials for Revolution who campaigned across the country for Sanders during the 2016 primaries, said that young progressives should not be cowed into changing their message. “The left doesn’t have to stay quiet because the left is talking about actual individuals who are suffering. We’re not doing it by attacking people. We do it by saying the Republican party is hurting the people, and that’s the truth. Do they want us to stop telling the truth?”

Historians point to parallels between the current malaise and the period leading to the civil war. Joanne Freeman, a Yale historian who has a book out next year looking at political violence in Congress, sees the same shakiness of government and splintering of party loyalties, combined with the destabilising effect of new technology – the telegraph in the 1850s, social media today.

Even this week’s calls to tone down the rhetoric have echoes. “That’s precisely what people said in 1858 and ’59 in Congress. They thought they had been pushing people to go beyond where they would naturally go.”

Freeman is not suggesting the US is on the road to civil war, but she does think the similarities are sharp enough to focus minds. “I don’t have the answers to what will pull us out of this, but it needs to start by taking us into a place of dialogue where we can listen without screaming.”

The week of the Alexandria shooting also took the debate around partisan rhetoric out of Congress and into the realm of the arts.

Bank of America and the airline Delta withdrew sponsorship from a production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in New York’s Central Park because of its portrayal of a Trump-like dictator’s assassination. Hours after the Alexandria shooting, the president’s son Donald Jr saw fit to draw a direct line between what he decried as “glorifying the assassination of our president” by New York elites and Wednesday’s gun rampage.

Companies, it seems, are paralysed – fearful of becoming a target for Trump’s anger, and caught in the middle between activist consumers on left and right who might just as easily punish them for placing adverts during a Fox News show as for supporting an anti-Trump portrayal on stage.

Among the 400 or so people lining up for tickets for the play in Central Park on Friday morning, some from as early as 4am, those aware of the controversywere scornful. Their views reflected the work of a New York design firm which redrew the Julius Caesar poster so that it read: “Cowards.”

Rose, a 61-year-old social worker from Manhattan who did not give her last name, said that she saw liberals as generally behaving so politely that conservatives had to scramble to find examples of them being made the victims. “It’s a play,” she said, disgusted.

Some in the line looked back fondly to the presidency of Republican George W Bush. Despised at the time by liberals, he had at least demonstrated “a certain level of decorum”.

“Decorum is gone,” John Hernandez, a 52-year-old realtor, lamented.

Frank Rich has a singularly pertinent vantage point from which to view the controversy, having been the longstanding theatre critic of the New York Times and now a political columnist for New York magazine. He dismissed as “preposterous” Donald Jr’s correlation between a Shakespeare play performed in front of a tiny audience and acts of political violence.

Rich said the Shakespeare argument was simply another return to the conservative culture wars of the 1980s – a product, he said, of conservatives’ “own cultural insecurity” at that fact that artists are almost uniformly liberal. “They feel left out. Part of it is jealousy that they’re not part of the culture.”

But Rich was also skeptical that things were so much worse today than in the past. At the time that Americans were being sent in droves to be killed in Vietnam, a popular touring theater production was the 1967 play MacBird!, a version of Macbeth that “literally suggested that Lyndon B Johnson assassinated Kennedy – and it was a hit”.

So where does this leave everyone at the end of an exceptional week? Republican congressman Steve Scalise remains in critical condition in hospital, where he awaits further operations on a shattered hip. The congressional baseball game went ahead as planned at Nationals Park in Washington on Thursday night; the Democrats won 11-2, though nobody was gloating.

And the wider public: how are they faring amid all the noise? Muñoz, the former Obama domestic policy chief, believes that if change is to come, it must start with the people.

“My hope is that the American people are becoming exhausted by this,” she said. “It’s exhausting for people to be stuck in their corners, outraged all the time.”


Brad Pitt’s “War Machine” Offers an Absurd and Scathing Critique of America’s Delusional Generals

June 17 2017

by Peter Maass

The Intercept

How do military leaders persuade their soldiers to fight an insane war?

Here’s one way. The setting is a bitter outpost of the American war in Afghanistan. The years-long nightmare has no prospect of ending so long as American troops stay in a country that has a nearly unblemished record of grinding foreign armies to ashes. A bullish general is trying to generate a dose of enthusiasm in the hearts and minds of his unenthusiastic men.

“You boys,” the general says, “are the only things that count. If it doesn’t happen here, it doesn’t happen. End of story.”

“What doesn’t happen, sir?” a Marine asks.

“It, son,” the general responds.

The Marine knows it would be unwise to demand a full explanation.

“Okay, thank you sir.”

The general, who doesn’t know better, bulls ahead.

“Does anyone here know what it is?” he asks.


“Anyone? Anyone?”

This scene is familiar to me — I heard similar calls and responses while covering the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — and at the same time this scene is utterly invented. It comes from the just-released “War Machine,” which is one of the best war movies of the post-9/11 era, yet has been panned by movie critics who know everything about basic cable and nothing about basic training. While the movie is uneven in content and performances (let us resolve that Brad Pitt will never again play a general), it achieves greatness in the way it uses absurdity to assassinate the logic and reality of counterinsurgency warfare.

But you wouldn’t know the movie’s strengths if you read the reviews. “War Machine” has a 56 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has been largely dismissed by film critics whose closest encounter with a warzone is the bar at Balthazar on a Saturday night. They don’t like it because, as one wrote, there is an “absence of intimacy, of psychology, of characters’ self-revelation in thought and desire.” Yes, that particular reviewer graduated from Princeton with a degree in comparative literature, so there you go.

There is one particular group of people who love the film, and we should pay more attention to them, because in the matter of war movies they are the experts who matter the most: soldiers. They now have more skin in the game than usual, after President Trump gave Secretary of Defense James Mattis a green light to send more soldiers into Afghanistan. Helene Cooper, a military correspondent for The New York Times, noted in a podcast the other day that “everybody at the Pentagon is talking about” the movie, and she added, “the guys who you think would be offended by it, love it.” Retired Gen. David Barno wrote with co-author Nora Bensahel that it “should be must-see TV for our current generals and all those who aspire to wear stars.”

War Machine” is directed by David Michod and stars Brad Pitt as a thinly-veiled version of Stanley McChrystal, the gung-ho general who led U.S. forces in Afghanistan until he was fired when a Rolling Stone journalist wrote a revealing article about him and his slightly out-of-control staff. The movie, released by Netflix, is based on the article and book by the late Michael Hastings. What Hastings and the film got precisely right is the impossible strategy behind America’s never-ending ground wars. There is no hero in this movie, and if there’s an anti-hero, it’s the war itself, which is profane, vicious, complex, and a bit naïve. By what I think is design, the war has more character than any characters in the film (attention critics: sometimes it’s not about actors and their self-revelations).

The scene in the desert, with Pitt’s character trying to encourage his unencouragable men, doesn’t end with the initial silence that greets his appeal for someone to explain what “it” is. Pitt goes on to provide a summary that his troops know to be ridiculous: they must protect civilians while killing the enemy. The skeptical corporal who spoke out at first, played brilliantly by Lakeith Stanfield, responds by pointing out the fallacy embedded in the general’s nonsense.

“I can’t tell the difference between the people and the enemy,” Stanfield says. “They all look alike to me. I’m pretty sure they’re the same people, sir.”

“I don’t know, sir,” he continues. “It seems to me that we’re all here with our guns and shit trying to convince these people that deep down we’re actually really nice guys. And I don’t know how to do that, sir. I don’t know how to do that when every second one of them or every third one of them or every tenth one of them is trying to fucking kill me, sir.”

I’m not going to argue that “War Machine” is the “Battle of Algiers” of our time. There is too much exposition, the movie tries to touch too many bases, and did I mention that Pitt is unimpressive? But the film is reminiscent, in its satirical marksmanship, of one of the best war movies of the late American empire: “Three Kings,” directed by David O. Russell and starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Ice Cube as three U.S. soldiers during the Persian Gulf War who steal a secret cache of gold. “Three Kings,” like “War Machine,” was cinematically insane with moments of superhuman lucidity.

“War Machine” isn’t anti-war as much as it’s anti-general. Pitt’s character manifests the willing delusion of senior officers whose egos and ambitions are the pillars of perpetual warfare. He seems to really believe that he can defeat the Taliban. The skewering of this type of general is a timely corrective, because we live in an era of general worship, thanks in part to our general-loving president. We have a retired general as the secretary of defense, another as the head of the Department of Homeland Security, yet another as the president’s national security advisor (actually two — the current one, H.R. McMaster, and his fired predecessor, Michael Flynn, who also happens to be the basis for one of the mad characters in “War Machine”).

One of the movie’s best scenes takes place in a conference hall in Germany, where Pitt is trying to drum up support for more allied troops to fight in Afghanistan. He comes armed with a whiteboard, and he deploys a bewildering flow chart about the dynamics of insurgency and counterinsurgency, but Tilda Swinton, playing a German member of parliament, blows it all to hell. She points out that the reason for invading Afghanistan was to crush Al Qaeda, which was based there with Osama bin Laden, and was pretty much chased out of the country in the first months of the invasion. After so many years of stalemate against the Taliban, what is the purpose of continuing to fight?

“As an elected representative of the people of Germany, it is my job to ensure that the personal ambitions of those who serve those people are kept in check,” Swinton says. “You have devoted your entire life, general, to the fighting of war, and this situation in Afghanistan for you is the culmination of all your years of training, all your years of ambition. This is the great moment of your life. It is understandable to me that you should have therefor a fetish for completion, to make your moment glorious. It is my job, however, to ensure that your personal ambitions are not entirely delusional and do not carry with them an unacceptable cost for everybody else.”

It might sound like a lecture that only an anti-war leftie could write or appreciate, and it might sound unfair to the now-we-know-what-to-do generals who command, with square-jawed authority, the forever wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere, but remember where the movie’s biggest fans are located — in the Pentagon. I met the kinds of officers and diplomats depicted so scathingly in “War Machine,” and while exaggerated in the movie, they are real. They probably mean well but they fail or refuse to see what everyone around them can see, and must pay for in blood. Our delusional leaders finally have the movie their insanity deserves.

Advanced CIA firmware has been infecting Wi-Fi routers for years

Latest Vault7 release exposes network-spying operation CIA kept secret since 2007.

June 15, 2017

by Dan Goodin


Home routers from 10 manufacturers, including Linksys, DLink, and Belkin, can be turned into covert listening posts that allow the Central Intelligence Agency to monitor and manipulate incoming and outgoing traffic and infect connected devices. That’s according to secret documents posted Thursday by WikiLeaks.

CherryBlossom, as the implant is code-named, can be especially effective against targets using some D-Link-made DIR-130 and Linksys-manufactured WRT300N models because they can be remotely infected even when they use a strong administrative password. An exploit code-named Tomato can extract their passwords as long as a default feature known as universal plug and play remains on. Routers that are protected by a default or easily-guessed administrative password are, of course, trivial to infect. In all, documents say CherryBlossom runs on 25 router models, although it’s likely modifications would allow the implant to run on at least 100 more.

The 175-page CherryBlossom user guide describes a Linux-based operating system that can run on a broad range of routers. Once installed, CherryBlossom turns the device into a “FlyTrap” that beacons a CIA-controlled server known as a “CherryTree.” The beacon includes device status and security information that the CherryTree logs to a database. In response, the CherryTree sends the infected device a “Mission” consisting of specific tasks tailored to the target. CIA operators can use a “CherryWeb” browser-based user interface to view Flytrap status and security information, plan new missions, view mission-related data, and perform system administration tasks.

Missions can target connected users based on IPs, e-mail addresses, MAC addresses, chat user names, and VoIP numbers. Mission tasks can include copying all or only some of the traffic; copying e-mail addresses, chat user names, and VoIP numbers; invoking a feature known as “Windex,” which redirects a user’s browser that attempts to perform a drive-by malware attack; establishing a virtual private network connection that gives access to the local area network; and the proxying of all network connections.

All the communications between the FlyTrap and the CIA-controlled CherryTree, with the exception of copied network data, is encrypted and cryptographically authenticated. For extra stealth, the encrypted data masquerades as a browser cookie in an HTTP GET request for an image file. The CherryTree server then responds to the request with a corresponding binary image file.

A decade of hacking routers

In many respects, CherryBlossom isn’t much different from DNSChanger and other types of router malware that have infected hundreds of thousands of devices over the past few years. What sets the CIA implant apart the most is its full suite of features, including its user interface, command-server support, and a long list of mission tasks. Also significant: the documents date back to 2007, when router hacking was less developed than it is now.

CherryBlossom is the latest release in WikiLeaks Vault7 series, which the site purports was made possible when the “CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal.” CIA officials have declined to confirm or deny the authenticity of the documents, but based on the number of pages and unique details exposed in the series, there is broad consensus among researchers that the documents are actual CIA materials.

What’s more, researchers from security firm Symantec have definitively linked at least one Vault7 release to an advanced hacking operation that has been penetrating governments and private industries around the world for years. While WikiLeaks said Vault7 was intended to “initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation, and democratic control of cyberweapons,” little or nothing published to date has shown the CIA running afoul of its legal mandate.

Like the other Vault7 releases, Thursday’s installment doesn’t include the source code or binaries that would allow other hacker groups to appropriate the CIA’s router-hijacking capabilities. That makes the leaks significantly less damaging than those by the Shadow Brokers, the name used by a still-unknown group that has been published advanced hacking tools developed by and later stolen from the National Security Agency. April’s release of an NSA-developed tool codenamed EternalBlue resulted in the WCry outbreak that infected an estimated 727,000 computers in 90 countries.

Thursday’s Vault7 release does, however, provide so-called indicators of compromise that targets can use to determine if they were hacked. As pointed out by a researcher who tweets under the handle Xorz, it may allow people to identify CIA-controlled CherryTree servers, since they all seem to use the word “CherryWeb” in their default URLs.

A general defense more technically inclined users can take against router-based malware that monitors and tampers with Internet traffic is to put the router in question into passive mode and connect it to network hub and a trusted router. This allows the person to see all traffic going into and out of the network.

The Great Rice Disease Plot

June 17, 2017

by Harry von Johnston PhD

Ever since the times of the great Malthus, it has been well recognized that since all species must eat to continue living, the existence of food sources is vital to the survival of any species, be it homo sapiens or others.

Food may, in short, be seen as a weapon as effective as a bullet or a bomb in an attack on a perceived enemy.

We therefore now consider the production of food stuffs as a weapon in a war, formal or informal.

I speak now of a growing struggle between the PRC (China) and the United States in which the PRC can clearly be seen as a challenger to the United States both in the military and economic spheres.

For example, the PRC has purchased very large financial holdings of the United States such as official U.S. Treasury bills and then also as holders of billions of American dollars worth of other financial holdings and long term investments.

These acquisitions are not intended for financial gain to the PRC but to be used as an economic and political lever when, and as, needed.

The PRC has also purchased from the U.S. Treasury, billions of dollars worth of gold belonging to foreign entities.

German holdings alone totaled 53 billion dollars and other nation’s deposits greatly increased this amount.

The sale generated capital used to pay down an enormous American national debt, mostly stemming from military development and deployment worldwide.

Also, the PRC has been known to be conducting a form of economic warfare against the United States by the production of counterfeit gold items, such as coinage and, most dangerously, as faked copies of American official U.S. Treasury gold bars. This has the dual purpose of enriching the PRC with badly-needed items such as oil and raw material it cannot, by itself, possess.

It is evident that the United States intelligence organs are entirely aware of these dangerous PRC activities and have been assiduously working both to blunt the economic warfare and then to counter with other methods.

The most important of these latter methods deals with the issue of food.

It is not certainly a secret that China has a number of growing, and potentially fatal, problems with her population and the care and feeding of it.

China’s basic supply of fresh water comes from the glaciers of the Himalayan mountains but these glaciers are not only melting rapidly but renewal of them does not occur due to obvious and growing planetary climate changes. The shrinking of glacial waters also strongly effects the hydroelectric programs of China.

Another of the PRC’s growing problems is the unchecked increase in population; the shrinkage of arable food (i.e. rice) production areas, a domestic and foreign economic “bubble” that is obvious will probably cause a disastrous implosion.

This brief study of the problems of the PRC then moves on to the methodology by which the United States, the PRC’s main global economic rival, can either neutralize or destroy the capacity of the PRC to wage economic warfare and to neutralize her future endeavors.

Let us now consider the basic Achilles Heel of the PRC; food.

The United States is capable of feeding its own people, though with problems of organized production and distribution but the PRC, and most of Asia, is dependent very heavily on a single crop: rice.

Rice is the seed of the monocot plant Oryza sativa. As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world’s human population, especially in East and South Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and the West Indies. It is the grain with the second-highest worldwide production, after corn.

Today, the majority of all rice produced comes from China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Philippines, and Japan. These Asian farmers account for 92-percent of the world’s total rice production

The peoples of the PRC, we then are fully aware, have rice, both domestic and imported, as a basic food staple. Should this stable become seriously interdicted by, let us say, some kind of a disease that would impact not only on the PRC but other Asian areas as well, growing starvation and the attendant civil dissoloution can well be postulated.

Major rice diseases include Rice ragged stunt, Sheath Blight and tungro. Rice blast, caused by the fungus Magnaporthe grisea, is the most significant disease affecting rice cultivation. There is also an ascomycete fungus, Cochliobolus miyabeanus, that causes brown spot disease in rice.

A most serious threat to rice crops would be Rust disease, xanthomonas compesteris pv.oryzae

Xanthomonas oryzae is a species of proteobacteria. The major host of the bacteria is rice

The species contains two pathovars which are non-European: Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae and Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzicola.Host resistance gene, Xa21,from Oryza longistaminata is integrated into the genome of Oryza sativa for the board range resistance of rice blight disease caused by Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae

In the America of today, unpleasant tasks, the revelation of which might redound against the government, are generally made the province of the  United States Department of Defense, the United States Department of Homeland Security, and the United States Intelligence Community, including the National Security Agency, as well as other U.S. Government civil agencies.

These agencies, in turn, look to the civil, business sector for special development and preparation of weaponry, both conventional and bio-weaponry.

One of the main institutions for this development is SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation), which has been headquartered in Tysons Corner in unincorporated Fairfax County, Virginia, near McLean, since September of 2009.

Their Board of Directors has included many well- known ex-government personnel including Melvin Laird, Secretary of Defense in the Nixon administration; William Perry, Secretary of Defense for Bill Clinton; John M. Deutch, President Clinton’s CIA Director; Admiral Bobby Ray Inman who served in various capacities in the NSA and CIA for the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations

Here we can mention, in furtherance of this study, that In January of 1999, a SAIC consultant, one Steven Hatfill and his collaborator, SAIC vice president Joseph Soukup, commissioned William C. Patrick, who was a retired and leading figure in the previous official U.S. bio-weapons program to prepare a report on the possibilities of terrorist anthrax postal mailings in the United States. This also referred to a number of false anthrax mailings in the two years previous. Although this report was later purported to be a CIA contract, it was actually an internal memo. In actual fact, this was a report prepared specifically for the CIA’s bio-weapons division  Mr. Patrick eventually  produced a 28-page report in February of 1999. This was considered by the professional community as a clear blueprint for the subsequent 2001 postal anthranx “attack.”

The report suggested the maximum amount of anthrax powder—2.5 grams—that could be put in an envelope without producing a suspicious bulge. This was just a little more than the actual amounts—2 grams each—in the letters sent to Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. But the report also suggested that a terrorist might produce a spore concentration of 50 billion spores per gram. This was only one-twentieth of the actual concentration—1 trillion spores per gram—in the letters sent to the senators

The “anthrax letters” were clearly used by the Bush Administration as part of their plan to put the American people under tighter observation and control.

Here, also, it should be noted that SAIC operates NCI-Frederick, a National “Cancer Institute” research facility located at Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Maryland, which is located in conjunction with the U.S. Army’s bio-weapons research center.

This entity, we must say, has nothing to do with “cancer research” and everything to do with bio-weapons development. About half of the 3,000 employees of NCI-Frederick are hired through the SAIC-Frederick subsidiary, paid out of a competitive $320-million contract.

The initial development of the bio-warfare organization designed to develop a so-called super “rust” agent for designed for a specific attack on the Asian rice crops came from a Presidential Directive signed on February 10, 2004 by then-President George Bush. The power was given to the American Central Intelligence Agency which then contracted with SAIC.

A special, well-hidden laboratory was established in Vancouver, Canada with the express purpose to hide from possible domestic scrutiny in the United States. The sub-agency was, and is, called NOICOM which is under SAIC International Subsidiaries.

NOICOM is under the nominal direction of one Dr. Binymin I. Zeloc, an Israeli citizen employed by the American Central Intelligence Agency and many of the staff are also CIA members or associates.

There are also direct and specific connections with SAIC development centers in Noida and Bangalore, India. Scicom Technologies Noida was acquired by SAIC in September 2007.

A particularly strong strain of  xanthomonas compesteris pv.oryzae has now been developed that has the ability to spread throughout the rice crops of Asia with, as the report says, ‘lightening speed’ and it is estimated that in the course of one year and interacting with the rice growth pattern, to “fully infect” most, if not all, of the Asian rice crop. Also, the developed strain of xanthomonas compesteris pv.oryzae is such that re-infestation of a following crop is almost certain.

But I must also note that rice is now also grown in all parts of India, Northern and Central Pakistan and that with a certainty, this new disease would certainly spread to these areas.

There was, as we remember, the great Bengal famine of 1942 in which over three millions of Indians perished through starvation

The Bengal Famine may be placed in the context of previous famines in Mughal and British India. Deccan Famine of 1630-32 killed 2,000,000. One of the foundations of the CIA program is based on a corresponding famine in northwestern China, eventually causing the Ming dynasty to collapse in 1644.

The official famine inquiry commission reporting on the Bengal Famine of 1943 put its death toll at about 1.5 million Indians. Estimates made by Prof.P.C. Mahalanobis, of the Indian Statistical Institute said, at least 5 million died directly and another 4-5 million died subsequently in famine related diseases.

In 1974, W.R. Aykroyd, who was a member of the Famine inquiry commission and was primarily responsible for the estimation, conceded that the figures were an underestimate.

It has become very evident to me, in reviewing both the laboratory results and some of the control papers connected with the bio-weapons project (called ‘Evening Storm’), that the disease is planned to be introduced by CIA agents working out of India, into Burmese rice fields. Burma has been chosen as the start point because of extensive, on-going PRC infiltration of that country, the extensive borders with the PRC and the flow of trade between the two countries.

However, the project has not taken into account that this disease will certainly spread to other countries, notably India, with terrible consequences but nowhere can this ‘Collateral Damage’ be found in any paper or study.

My experience, over the past five years, is that the American CIA and, in fact, other American agencies, have no interest in ‘Collateral Damage’  nor consider the consequences to innocent entities and, in this case, friendly states.


The CIA’s Frank G Wisner: A study

Operation Mockingbird/Nightingale

While working for the OSS during the Second World War in Bucharest, Wisnrt  became friendly with King Michael of Romania. Wisner became an informal adviser to the royal family. OSS agents penetrated the Romanian Communist Party and Wisner was able to discover that the Soviets intended to take over all of Eastern Europe. Wisner was disappointed by the US government’s reaction to this news and he was forced to advise the Romanian royal family to go into exile.

Wisner was transferred to the OSS station in Wiesbaden. While in Germany he served under Allen W. Dulles. Wisner also met Arthur Schlesinger, an OSS sergeant serving in Germany. He later claimed that Wisner had become obsessed with the Soviet Union: “He was already mobilizing for the cold war. I myself was no great admirer of the Soviet Union, and I certainly had no expectation of harmonious relations after the war. But Frank was a little excessive, even for me.”

During the war William Donovan as head of the OSS, had built up a team of 16,000 agents working behind enemy lines. The growth of the OSS brought conflict with John Edgar Hoover who saw it as a rival to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He persuaded President Harry S. Truman that the OSS in peacetime would be an “American Gestapo”. As soon as the war ended Truman ordered the OSS to be closed down leaving a small intelligence organization, the Strategic Services Unit (SSU) in the War Department.

Wisner began having trouble with J. Edgar Hoover. He described the OPC as “Wisner’s gang of weirdos” and began carrying out investigations into their past. It did not take him long to discover that some of them had been active in left-wing politics in the 1930s. This information was passed to Joseph McCarthy who started making attacks on members of the OPC. Hoover also passed to McCarthy details of an affair that Wisner had with Princess Caradja in Romania during the war. Hoover, claimed that Caradja was a Soviet agent.

Hoover did not realise what he was taking on. Wisner unleashed Operation MB on McCarthy. Drew Pearson, Joe Alsop, Jack Anderson, Walter Lippmann and Ed Murrow all went into attack mode and McCarthy was permanently damaged by the press coverage orchestrated by Wisner.

In August, 1952, the Office of Policy Coordination and the Office of Special Operations (the espionage division) were merged to form the Directorate of Plans (DPP). Wisner became head of this new organization and Richard Helms became his chief of operations. The DPP now accounted for three quarters of the CIA budget and 60% of its personnel.

At this time Wisner began plotting the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran. He had upset the US government by nationalizing Iran’s oil industry. Mossadegh also abolished Iran’s feudal agriculture sector and replaced with a system of collective farming and government land ownership.

On April 4, 1953, Wisner persuaded Allen W. Dulles to approve $1 million to be used “in any way that would bring about the fall of Mossadegh.” Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, was put in charge of what became known as Operation Ajax. According to Donald N. Wilber, who was involved in this CIA plot to remove Mossadegh from power, in early August, 1953, Iranian CIA operatives, pretending to be socialists, threatened Muslim leaders with “savage punishment if they opposed Mossadegh,” thereby giving the impression that Mossadegh was cracking down on dissent. This resulted in the religious community turning against Mossadegh.

Iranians took to the streets against Mossadegh. Funded with money from the CIA and MI6, the pro-monarchy forces quickly gained the upper hand. The military now joined the opposition and Mossadegh was arrested on August 19, 1953. President Dwight Eisenhower was delighted with this result and asked Wisner to arrange for Kermit Roosevelt to give him a personal briefing on Operation Ajax.

Wisner’s other great success was the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz. He had been elected as President of Guatemala in March, 1951. Arbenz began to tackle Guatemala’s unequal land distribution. He said that the country needed “an agrarian reform which puts an end to the latifundios and the semi-feudal practices, giving the land to thousands of peasants, raising their purchasing power and creating a great internal market favorable to the development of domestic industry.”

In March 1953, 209,842 acres of United Fruit Company’s uncultivated land was taken by the government which offered compensation of $525,000. The company wanted $16 million for the land. While the Guatemalan government valued $2.99 per acre, the American government valued it at $75 per acre. United Fruit main shareholder, Samuel Zemurray, United Fruit Company’s largest shareholder, organized an anti-Arbenz campaign in the American media. This included the claim that Guatemala was the beginning of “Soviet expansion in the Americas”.

The Central Intelligence Agency decided that Arbenz had to be removed from power. Wisner, as head of the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), took overall responsibility for the operation. Also involved was Richard Bissell, head of the Directorate for Plans, an organization instructed to conduct covert anti-Communist operations around the world. The plot against Arbenz therefore became part of Executive Action (a plan to remove unfriendly foreign leaders from power).

Jake Esterline was placed in charge of the CIA’s Washington task force in the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala. Tracy Barnes was field commander of what became known as Operation Success. David Atlee Phillips was appointed to run the propaganda campaign against Arbenz’s government. According to Phillips he initially questioned the right of the CIA to interfere in Guatemala: In his autobiography Phillips claims he said to Barnes: “But Arbenz became President in a free election. What right do we have to help someone topple his government and throw him out of office?” However, Barnes convinced him that it was vital important that the Soviets did not establish a “beachhead in Central America”.

The CIA propaganda campaign included the distribution of 100,000 copies of a pamphlet entitled Chronology of Communism in Guatemala. They also produced three films on Guatemala for showing free in cinemas. Phillips, along with E. Howard Hunt, was responsible for running the CIA’s Voice of Liberation radio station. Faked photographs were distributed that claimed to show the mutilated bodies of opponents of Arbenz. William (Rip) Robertson was also involved in the campaign against Arbenz.

The CIA began providing financial and logistic support for Colonel Carlos Castillo. With the help of resident Anastasio Somoza, Castillo had formed a rebel army in Nicaragua. It has been estimated that between January and June, 1954, the CIA spent about $20 million on Castillo’s army.

The Guatemalan Foreign Minister, Guillermo Toriello, asked the United Nations for help against the covert activities of the United States. Toriello accused the United States government of categorizing “as communism every manifestation of nationalism or economic independence, any desire for social progress, any intellectual curiosity, and any interest in progressive liberal reforms.”

President Dwight Eisenhower responded by claiming that Guatemala had a “communist dictatorship.. had established… an outpost on this continent to the detriment of all the American nations”. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles added that the Guatemala people were living under a “communist type of terrorism”.

On 18th June, 1954, aircraft dropped leaflets over Guatemala demanding that Arbenz resign immediately or else the county would be bombed. CIA’s Voice of Liberation also put out similar radio broadcasts. This was followed by a week of bombing ports, ammunition dumps, military barracks and the international airport.

Guillermo Toriello appealed to the United Nations to help protect Guatemalan government. Henry Cabot Lodge tried to block the Security Council from discussing a resolution to send an investigation team to Guatemala. When this failed he put pressure on Security Council members to vote against the resolution. Britain and France were both initially in favour but eventually buckled under United States pressure and agreed to abstain. As a result the resolution was defeated by 5 votes to 4. The UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold was so upset by the actions of the USA that he considered resigning from his post.

Carlos Castillo’s collection of soldiers now crossed the Honduran-Guatemalan border. His army was outnumbered by the Guatemalan Army. However, the CIA Voice of Liberation successfully convinced Arbenz’s supporters that two large and heavily armed columns of invaders were moving towards Guatemala City.

The CIA was also busy bribing Arbenz’s military commanders. It was later discovered that one commander accepted $60,000 to surrender his troops. Ernesto Guevara attempted to organize some civil militias but senior army officers blocked the distribution of weapons. Arbenz now believed he stood little chance of preventing Castillo gaining power. Accepting that further resistance would only bring more deaths he announced his resignation over the radio.

Castillo’s new government was immediately recognised by President Dwight Eisenhower. Castillo now reversed the Arbenz reforms. In July 19, 1954, he created the National Committee of Defense Against Communism and decreed the Preventive Penal Law Against Communism to fight against those who supported Arbenz when he was in power. Over the next few weeks thousands were arrested on suspicion of communist activity. A large number of these prisoners were tortured or killed.

The removal of Jacobo Arbenz resulted in several decades of repression. Later, several of the people involved in Operation Success, including Richard Bissell and Tracy Barnes, regretted the outcome of the Guatemala Coup.

Wisner managed to get a copy of the speech that Nikita Khrushchev made at the 20th Party Congress in February, 1956, Khrushchev launched an attack on the rule of Joseph Stalin. He condemned the Great Purge and accused Stalin of abusing his power. He announced a change in policy and gave orders for the Soviet Union’s political prisoners to be released.

Wisner leaked details of the speech to the New York Times who published it on 2nd June, 1956. Khrushchev’s de-Stalinzation policy encouraged people living in Eastern Europe to believe that he was willing to give them more independence from the Soviet Union. Over the next few weeks riots took place in Poland and East Germany.

In Hungary the prime minister Imre Nagy removed state control of the mass media and encouraged public discussion on political and economic reform. Nagy also released anti-communists from prison and talked about holding free elections and withdrawing Hungary from the Warsaw Pact. Khrushchev became increasingly concerned about these developments and on 4th November 1956 he sent the Red Army into Hungary. Wisner expected the United States would help the Hungarians. As Thomas Polgar later pointed out: “Sure, we never said rise up and revolt, but there was a lot of propaganda that led the Hungarians to believe that we would help.”

Wisner, who had been involved in creating this propaganda, told friends that he felt the American government had let Hungary down. He pointed out that they had spent a great deal of money on Radio Free Europe “to get these people to revolt”. Wisner added that he felt personally betrayed by this behaviour. During the Hungarian Uprising an estimated 20,000 people were killed. Wisner told Clare Boothe Luce, the American ambassador in Italy: “All these people are getting killed and we weren’t doing anything, we were ignoring it.”

In December, 1956, Wisner had a mental breakdown and was diagnosed as suffering from manic depression. During his absence Wisner’s job was covered by his chief of operations, Richard Helms. Wisner’s friends believed the illness was triggered by the failure of the Hungarian Uprising. A close friend, Avis Bohlen said he “was so depressed about how the world was going… he felt we were losing the Cold War.”

The CIA sent Wisner to the Sheppard-Pratt Institute, a psychiatric hospital near Baltimore. He was prescribed psychoanalysis and shock therapy (electroconvulsive treatment). It was not successful and still suffering from depression, he was released from hospital in 1958.

Wisner was too ill to return to his post as head of the DDP. Allen W. Dulles therefore sent him to London to be CIA chief of station in England. Dulles decided that Richard Bissell rather than Richard Helms should become the new head of the DPP. Wisner arrived in England in September, 1959. His work involved planning a coup in Guyana, a country that had a left-wing government.

In April 1962 Richard Helms recalled Wisner to Washington. Four months later he agreed to retire from the CIA.

Frank Wisner killed himself with one of his son’s shotguns on 29th October, 1965.













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