Born in London and raised in County Cork, Andrew Cockburn moved to the U.S. in 1979. He is a journalist, an author and a filmmaker. He is also the Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine. His books include: Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship and The Threat: Inside the Soviet Military Machine. His most recent book is Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins. His latest articles include The New Red ScareReviving the art of threat inflation; and Acceptable LossesAiding and abetting the Saudi slaughter in Yemen. You can read his latest articles for Harper’s here.
Donald Trump nominates Betsy DeVos to be his Secretary of Education. We discuss the topic with Diane Ravitch.
News or Propaganda? What is happening to the news and what is the “Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act” about? We discuss the topic with Rick Sterling.
More about this week’s guests:
Diane Ravitch is an historian of education and Research Professor of Education at New York University. She was born in Houston, Texas, attended the Houston public schools from kindergarten through high school, and graduated from Wellesley College in 1960. She received her Ph.D. in the history of American education in 1975. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Ravitch is author of many books, including Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools and The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. She served as Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to the Secretary of Education from 1991-1993 under the George H. W. Bush administration. She now blogs at dianeravitch.net
Quote: “Betsy DeVos should not be approved by the Senate committee or confirmed by the Senate as U.S. Secretary of Education. She has no experience or qualifications for the job. She is a lobbyist for alternatives to public schools. Eighty-five percent of the students in the U.S. attend public schools. Her only plan is to weaken and destroy them by diverting public money to charter schools and vouchers for religious schools. DeVos is a billionaire who has never worked in a public school, never attended a public school, never sent her own children to public school. She has lived in a billionaire bubble of privilege. She has no understanding of the needs of our nation’s public schools, and she is in fact actively hostile to them. This is unacceptable. She is unacceptable. Our public schools are one of the cornerstones of our democracy. We have never had a Secretary of Education who was opposed to public schools. We should never have one.”
Rick Sterling is a retired electronics / aerospace engineer turned independent investigative journalist. He just wrote the piece “The War Against Alternative Information” for ConsortiumNews.com — which states: “The U.S. establishment is not content simply to have domination over the media narratives on critical foreign policy issues, such as Syria, Ukraine and Russia. It wants total domination. Thus we now have the ‘Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act’ that President Obama signed into law on Dec. 23 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017, setting aside $160 million to combat any ‘propaganda’ that challenges Official Washington’s version of reality. The new law mandates the U.S. Secretary of State to collaborate with the Secretary of Defense, Director of National Intelligence and other federal agencies to create a Global Engagement Center ‘to lead, synchronize, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests.’ The law directs the Center to be formed in 180 days and to share expertise among agencies and to ‘coordinate with allied nations.’The new law is remarkable for a number of reasons, not the least because it merges a new McCarthyism about purported dissemination of Russian ‘propaganda’ on the Internet with a new Orwellianism by creating a kind of Ministry of Truth — or Global Engagement Center — to protect the American people from ‘foreign propaganda and disinformation.’ As part of the effort to detect and defeat these unwanted narratives, the law authorizes the Center to: ‘Facilitate the use of a wide range of technologies and techniques by sharing expertise among Federal departments and agencies, seeking expertise from external sources, and implementing best practices.’ (This section is an apparent reference to proposals that Google, Facebook and other technology companies find ways to block or brand certain Internet sites as purveyors of ‘Russian propaganda’ or ‘fake news.’) Justifying this new bureaucracy, the bill’s sponsors argued that the existing agencies for ‘strategic communications’ and ‘public diplomacy’ were not enough, that the information threat required ‘a whole-of-government approach leveraging all elements of national power.’ The law also is rife with irony since the U.S. government and related agencies are among the world’s biggest purveyors of propaganda and disinformation…”
Robyn O’Brien is a former financial and food industry analyst. She has been called “food’s Erin Brockovich” by Bloomberg and the New York Times. She is the author of The Unhealthy Truth published in May 2009 by Random House, which reveals the alarming relationship between the manipulation of our food and both the increase in dangerous allergies in our children as well as the increase in cancers in our families—and offers a road map to healthy living.
From a conservative Texas family, Robyn earned an MBA on a full scholarship, graduating as the top woman in her class before going to work as a financial analyst that covered the food industry. For ten years, she has led a food awakening among consumers, corporations and political leaders. Armed with data and analytics, food companies now responding to Robyn’s work include Bloomberg, Compass Food Group, Kraft, Coca Cola, Burger King, Chipotle, Nestle, Target and others. She sheds light on how the changing landscape of food and health are impacting the food industry and our economy. You can follow her on Twitter here: @foodawakenings
Michael Beer has been the Executive Director of Nonviolence International since 1998. Michael is a global activist for human rights, minority rights and against war and casino capitalism. He has trained activists in many countries, including Burma, Kosovo, Tibet, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, India, USA and Zimbabwe. He is a frequent public speaker on nonviolence and has been broadcast on CSPAN, CNN, and other major media. Michael is the co-parent of two children along with his life partner, Latanja.s the director of Nonviolence International.
Quote: “Turkey has invaded Syria without the support of the Assad government nor the United Nations nor the Arab League. This is another damaging blow to international laws meant to prevent war. Given hundreds of years of Turkish/Ottoman dominion over Arabs, this Turkish invasion is unlikely to gain much support in Syria or the Arab world. The timing is remarkable just as the vice president of the U.S. arrived in Turkey. The U.S. cooperated, in part, because the U.S. already has troops in Syria in violation of international law and the U.S. constitution and has no credible platform to protest. International protest has been slow to emerge: No attempt to bring this to the UN; the media refusing to label this an invasion/violation of international law. European governments support it, and the Iranians refuse to release a public statement. We are seeing more and more countries follow the U.S. and Russia’s example of using military force outside of international law. This is a dangerous direction for the future security of planet earth.”
Toby C Jones on America’s Oil Wars and the military-energy complex in the Persian Gulf
Kani Xulam on Turkey’s “Dirty War” Against the Kurds
More about this week’s guests:
Toby C. Jonesis associate professor of history at Rutgers University, New Brunswick where he also directs the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the M.A. program in Global and Comparative History. He teaches courses on global environmental history, energy, and the modern Middle East. Jones has traveled and worked extensively in the Middle East, including in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. His more recent work examines the global history of oil, including the recent energy boom in the United States. During 2008-2009 he was a fellow at Princeton University’s Oil, Energy, and the Middle East project. From 2004 to early 2006 Jones worked as the Persian Gulf political analyst for the International Crisis Group.
Jones is the author of two books. The first, Desert Kingdom: How Oil and Water Forged Modern Saudi Arabia was published by Harvard University Press in 2010. The second, Running Dry: Essays on Energy, Water and Environmental Crisis, published by Rutgers University Press, appeared in 2015. He is currently working on a third book, America’s Long War, which is under contract at Harvard University Press. He has written for both scholarly and general audiences, including at the International Journal of Middle East Studies, Journal of American History, Middle East Report, Raritan Quarterly Review, The Nation, Foreign Affairs, The Atlantic, the London Review of Books, the New York Times, and elsewhere. In 2015 Jones was recognized as a Rutgers Chancellor’s Scholar for distinguished scholarship.
Jones appears regularly on local and national media discussing political developments and challenges in the Middle East, including at NPR, the BBC, Democracy Now!, and others.
Kani Xulam is director of the American Kurdish Information Network and a native of Kurdistan.He studied International Relations at the University of Toronto, holds a BA in history from the University of California Santa Barbara and an MA in the International Service program at American University. At the University of Toronto, he represented Kurdistan at the Model United Nations, which passed a nonbinding resolution recognizing the right of the Kurdish people to self-determination.At the University of California Santa Barbara, he was part of a group of peace activists who protested the first Gulf War by taking part in a sit-in at Chancellor’s office in January 1991. Everyone was arrested. Mr. Xulam pled not guilty, defended himself, and was sentenced to 18 hours of community service to plant saplings in Santa Barbara. In 1993, at the urging of Kurdish community leaders in America, he left his family business in Santa Barbara, California to establish the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN) in the nation’s capital. AKIN is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering Kurdish-American understanding and friendship.
In 1997, he took part in a hunger strike on the steps of the Capitol urging members of Congress to use their good offices on behalf of their imprisoned Kurdish colleagues. 153 members signed a letter urging President Clinton to intervene on the matter. Mr. Xulam, on the advice of his physician, ended his fast on the 32nd day.
Kani Xulam recently wrote the piece “A Kurdish Girl’s Lonely Death,” for CounterPunch and is continuing a vigil outside the Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C. — now in its eleventh week — protesting Turkish attacks on Kurds.
You can follow here on twitter here and read her articles about Syria here. The interview attempts to dissect the divergent narratives presented about Syria in the media and to get an eyewitness account from somebody who has actually been there. It is sure to cause some controversy.
Edward Djerejian is a former United States diplomat who served in eight administrations from John F. Kennedy to Bill Clinton (1962–94.) He served as the United States Ambassador to Syria (1988–91) and Israel (1993–94), Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan and Deputy Press Secretary of Foreign Affairs (1985-1986), and was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (1991-1993.) He is the director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University and is the author of the book Danger and Opportunity: An American Ambassador’s Journey Through the Middle East. You can read his full bio here and follow him on twitter here
The main focus of the interview is Ambassador Djerejian’s policy brief on ISIS titled A STRATEGY TOWARD DEFEATING ISIS in which he argued that recent attacks were an opportunity for a U.S.-led coalition to come together to defeat a common enemy. Full text available online in English (CME-ISIS-111915) and Arabic (CME-ISIS-Arabic-122115).
Understanding Middle East Power Struggles – Moving Beyond the Notion of Sunni-Shi’i Conflict with Najam Haider
More about this week’s guests:
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. He is the founding editor of Consortium News (founded in 1995) as the Internet’s first investigative magazine. He saw it as a way to combine modern technology and old-fashioned journalism to counter the increasing triviality of the mainstream U.S. news media. Robert’s best known stories about Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare (CIA manual provided to the Nicaraguan contras) and the CIA and Contras cocaine trafficking in the US scandal in 1985 continue to be very important and you should read them NOW if you have not already done so. He was awarded the George Polk Award for National Reporting in 1984. He has written six books:
Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, The Press & Project Truth (1992)
Trick or Treason: The October Surprise Mystery (1993)
The October Surprise X-Files: The Hidden Origins of the Reagan-Bush Era (1996)
Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq (2004)
Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush (2007)
America’s Stolen Narrative: From Washington and Madison to Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes to Obama (2012)
Najam Haider, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion, completed his PhD at Princeton University (2007), M.Phil. at Oxford University (2000), and BA at Dartmouth College (1997). His courses bridge the gap between the classical and modern Muslim worlds with a particular emphasis on the impact of colonization on Islamic political and religious discourse. Prof. Haider’s research interests include early Islamic history, the methodology and development of Islamic law, and Shi‘ism. His first book entitled The Origins of the Shi‘a was published by Cambridge University Press in 2011 and focused on the role of ritual and sacred space in the formation of Shī‘ī identity. His second book (Shī‘ī Islam – Cambridge 2014) offered a comprehensive overview of three branches of Shī‘ī Islam – Zaydī, Twelver, and Ismā‘īlī – through a framework of theology and memory. His current project focuses on the link between early Islamic historical writing and Late Antique and Classical Rhetoric.
This week’s episode of The Monitor features two guests discussing issues related to the Middle East. Our first guest, Amr Hamzawy, discusses the Egyptian political scene. Our second guest, PaulGottinger, talks about the impact of the “War on Terror” on the number of terrorist attacks around the world.
More about this week’s guests:
Amr Hamzawy is a visiting scholar at Stanford University, and associate professor of Political Science at Cairo University. He is a former member of the People’s Assembly in the Parliament of Egypt and the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights. He previously served as a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His research focuses on democratization processes, political movements and civil society in Egypt as well as contemporary debates in political thought and governance in the Arab world. He holds a B.Sc. in political science from Cairo University, M.A. degrees in developmental studies from the University of Amsterdam and the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, and a Ph.D. in political science from the Free University of Berlin. You can find him on Twitter: @HamzawyAmr
Amr spoke at Rice University’s Baker institute last week. You can watch the talk and Q&A session below.
PaulGottinger is a journalist based in Madison, WI, USA. He can be reached onTwitter @paulgottinger. He recently wrote an analysis of the”war on terror”: “Despite 14 Years of the U.S. War on Terror, Terror Attacks Have Skyrocketed Since 9/11,” which states: “Terror attacks have jumped by a stunning 6,500 percent since 2002, according to a new analysis by Reader Supported News. The number of casualties resulting from terror attacks has increased by 4,500 percent over this same time period. These colossal upsurges in terror took place despite a decade-long, worldwide effort to fight terrorism that has been led by the United States.
“The analysis, conducted with figures provided by the U.S. State Department, also shows that from 2007 to 2011 almost half of all the world’s terror took place in Iraq or Afghanistan — two countries being occupied by the U.S. at the time.
“Countries experiencing U.S. military interventions continue to be subjected to high numbers of terror attacks, according to the data. In 2014, 74 percent of all terror-related casualties occurred in Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Syria. Of these five, only Nigeria did not experience either U.S. air strikes or a military occupation in that year.
“The U.S. invasion of Iraq destabilized Iraq and Syria, creating the conditions for the emergence of ISIS, which now controls large parts of the two countries. The invasion of Afghanistan has not been able to wrestle large sections of the country from the Taliban, leaving Afghanistan in state of perpetual war. And the air war to oust Muammar Gaddafi has left Libya in a state of chaos.
“The instability caused by these wars, along with the atrocities perpetrated by U.S.-led forces, which can be exploited for terrorist recruitment, have played a significant role in the increase of terrorism worldwide.”