Glenn Greenwald
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Using bin Laden's 9/11 Defense: Erasing the “Civilian” Category. PLUS: Reckless Abuse of the “pro-Hamas” Label to Justify Censorship & Stigmatize Criticism of Israel
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October 17, 2023
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Good evening. It's Monday, October 16. 

Tonight: in the aftermath of 9/11, the leader of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, adamantly denied having planned the attack or played any role in it. He did, however, offer theories as to why it was morally and legally justified to target American civilians with violence. Because American citizens choose their leaders, he argued, and then choose them again, when deciding to reelect them, Americans are directly responsible for those leaders' actions, including when they bomb civilians, impose sanctions regimes that starve and otherwise kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people, including children; when they destabilize other countries or work to engineer coups in other countries and when they invade and attack other countries as they did with Iraq. 

Indeed, after George W. Bush and Dick Cheney invaded Iraq and then bombed multiple other countries and tortured detainees, and implemented a program of kidnaping called “renditions,” Americans reelected them in 2004 – knowing that – and ratified all of that violence, including violence that ended up killing innocent people. Under bin Laden's theory, American civilians are not really civilians. By ratifying the violence carried out by their government, they became actively complicit in it and thus became legitimate military targets for those seeking to bring reprisals for violence by the United States against innocent people. 

Bin Laden's theory at the time provoked worldwide indignation and revulsion. After all, the category of civilian that he sought to erase was central to the entire post-World War II framework that was implemented by numerous international bodies to prevent the Holocaust or to prevent other civilian targeting atrocities that came to define that war. One reason that the 9/11 attack provoked so much anger and unity around the world was due to the consensus that civilians are civilians in all cases and can never be justifiably targeted by violence. That's called terrorism. Civilian lives are sacrosanct and they can never be deliberately targeted. This has been the consensus, the legal framework in Western morality since at least the end of World War II. 

While bin Laden's theory was widely and vehemently denounced, it has become popularized over the years and all with the same goal that he had: to find a way to justify killing civilians in large numbers, either by deliberately targeting them or dropping bombs and using violence in reckless disregard for their lives. In all wars, especially with the way they're now fought, civilian deaths are inevitable in large numbers, and we all learn the name in order to dismiss that: “collateral damage.” But what bin Laden did – as well as many others who have since followed in his footsteps – is something entirely different: it's a way of justifying either the failure to safeguard those innocent lives or to justify their targeting. If a theory can be offered as to why civilians are actually part of the military or a legitimate military target that one can legitimately destroy, then the responsibility to avoid killing civilians disappears. 

When Hamas launched its horrific attack on Israeli civilians last Saturday, they did so based on the premise that there's no such thing as an innocent Israeli civilian because they elect their governments, which then occupy or blockade Palestinian land, or because they support the killing of innocent people in Gaza, or because they serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. The category of civilian is blurred or even erased when it comes to Israel under the worldview of Hamas. That's what drove what they did in Israel on Saturday. But it's not only Hamas that has embraced this view to justify their targeting of civilians and other atrocities. Over the last week, there have been explicit statements from Israeli officials and their American supporters that promulgate a quite similar theory, namely that because the people in Gaza elected Hamas – they did so the last time an election was permitted – 16 years ago – back in 2007 when most of the population either hadn't been born yet or were far too young to vote – then it means, however, that those so-called “Palestinian civilians” are not quite civilians since they either implicitly or even expertly endorse the violence of their Hamas leaders. The growing invocation of this theory to erode and erase the concept of civilian is quite dangerous and alarming, and we think it merits a good deal of thought and analysis. 

Then: we have heard many accusations over the last week of people who are said to be “pro-Hamas,” namely, people who are said to have justified the massacres carried out against Israeli civilians or who, even worse, in general, are people who are calling for and cheering and advocating the murder of Jews. This rather pernicious label, “pro-Hamas” is often used to vilify anyone questioning, let alone opposing the actions of the Israeli and American governments – close your ears to all of that, we're told because those people are “pro-Hamas” – it's not just used to smear people's character, but it also justifies all sorts of cancel culture campaigns and even the kinds of censorship we have been reporting are now pervading the West in the wake of this new war. Echoing the left-liberal theory to justify censorship, we are told by those supporting such measures of repression: “Now about this war, we're not talking here about free speech. This is different. This is hate speech. This is incitement to violence. These people are calling for the murder of Jews.”

 Are there some people who have justified the attack by Hamas and generally endorse the killing of all Israelis? Yes, of course, there are. You can find people advocating literally any idea if you look hard enough, but as we documented last week at length, the reason it was necessary to highlight people whose names nobody knew until last week – a stray speaker at a DSA rally or some local chapter of a Black Lives Matter group or a non-tenured assistant professor no one had ever heard of – is precisely because this “pro-Hamas” view was actually quite marginalized, really reserved only to the outermost fringes Very few people – almost none with any position of power or influence – did anything other than act with disgust at what Hamas did.

The reason this phrase “pro-Hamas” is being used so indiscriminately – applied to everyone who expresses any criticism about or opposition to the acts of the Israeli and U.S. governments in response, or who insists that the lives of Palestinian civilians have the same value and worth as anybody else's – is the same reason that the people who questioned the Bush-Cheney War on Terror were called “pro-terrorist” and those who opposed the invasion of Iraq were “pro-Saddam,” those who opposed the regime change wars of the CIA in Syria and Libya stood accused of being “pro-Assad” and “pro-Gaddafi” and those who now oppose the U.S. war in Ukraine are vilified as “pro-Putin” or “pro-Kremlin.” It's all designed to create a simple-minded dichotomy – in the words of George W. Bush: “You are either with us or you're with the terrorists.” 

Exactly as it was done back in 2001 and 2002, this rancid propaganda framework is used to justify the imposition of authoritarian powers. As long as you can successfully pin the label “pro-Hamas” to the foreheads of those who dissent from the current war policies, who cares if they're censored, put on a blacklist, fired, made unemployable or worse? After all, they're “pro-Hamas,” who would possibly care what happens to such people? 

The Biden administration announced just a few hours ago – as The Wall Street Journal reported – that “The U.S. military has selected roughly 2,000 troops to prepare for a potential deployment to support Israel, U.S. defense officials said." Don't worry, though they “are not intended to serve in a combat role,” the official said. This war is already more dangerous than the war in Ukraine, and that's a very dangerous war. It's between the U.S. and Russia, the two largest nuclear powers on the planet. In this new war, regional escalation is highly possible, if not likely. The U.S. is already heavily involved, deploying aircraft carriers, providing bombs and money, deploying more aircraft carriers, and now designating troops that might be deployed. Any tactics that are designed to vilify aid, vilify good faith dissent, or worse ones that are designed to justify official state censorship – such as France's banning of all pro-Palestinian protests while still allowing all pro-Israel protests because those are aligned with the government policy – any such tactics like that deserve our scorn and our attention. So that's what we're going to give it tonight as we explore the latest developments in this war between Israel and Gaza and how it is being discussed and exploited in the United States and the West more broadly. 

For now, welcome to a new episode of System Update, starting right now.

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We are grateful to The Soho Forum and Reason for hosting the spirited debate. You can listen to the full debate here: https://reason.com/podcast/2024/05/24/glenn-greenwald-and-alan-dershowitz-debate-bombing-iran/

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FAUCI’S COVER-UP ON DOG EXPERIMENTS
How NIAID, with key help from the Washington Post, turned a true story into a “right-wing conspiracy theory”

By Leighton Woodhouse

On the morning of October 25, 2021, Dr. Anthony Fauci dashed off an email to eight of his colleagues, asking them to look into an experiment conducted in Tunisia in 2019. It was urgent. “I want this done right away,” he wrote, “since we are getting bombarded by protests.”

The experiment Fauci was referring to was the one that Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene asked him about this week in a heated Congressional hearing. Holding up a photograph on poster board of two beagles with their heads locked into mesh cages, she said, “As director of the NIH, you did sign off on these so-called ‘scientific experiments,’ and as a dog lover, I want to tell you this is disgusting, and evil.”

 

 

Greene is to liberals what Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is to conservatives: an easy target for partisans to mock. Her questioning of Fauci predictably inspired the usual derision. MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, referring to Greene as “the consistent frontrunner for stupidest member of the House of Representatives in history,” sneered, “No one knew what she was talking about.”

But in fact, Fauci knew exactly what Greene was talking about. Three years ago, the experiment in question was at the center of an entire crisis communications response within NIAID (the institute within NIH run by Dr. Fauci). Fauci claimed that it had provoked so many angry calls that his assistant had to stop answering the phone for two weeks. The day before Fauci sent his email about being “bombarded by protests,” one of his colleagues had advised him, “It might be wise to hold off on TV until we have a handle on this.” The story had become a full-blown publicity crisis for Fauci and NIAID — until the Washington Post came to his rescue, turning a legitimate news story into “right-wing disinformation,” based on flimsy evidence that was literally concocted by Fauci’s team.

In 2019, under the auspices of a microbiologist at the University of Ohio, researchers in Tunisia placed the heads of sedated beagles in mesh bags filled with starved sand flies. This was the image Rep. Greene had held up at this week’s hearing. Later, the beagles were placed in outdoor cages for nine consecutive nights, in an area dense with sand flies infected with a parasite that carries the disease with which the researchers were trying to infect the dogs.

In his paper, the Ohio microbiologist, Abhay Satoskar, along with his research partner, acknowledged funding from NIAID, which added up to about $80,000, alongside the grant number. The grant application read:

“Dogs will be exposed to sand fly bites each night throughout the sand fly season to ensure transmission…Dogs will be anesthetized…and for 2 hours will be placed in a cage containing between 15 and 30 females…”

The description fits the experiments in Tunisia perfectly.

In August of 2021, White Coat Waste Project, a non-profit group that advocates against federal funding of animal experimentation, exposed NIAID’s support for the experiment in a blog post. In October, based on White Coat Waste’s revelations, a bipartisan group of Congressional representatives released a letter expressing concern about cruel NIAID-funded experiments on dogs, drawing particular attention to the fact that some of the dogs had had their vocal cords severed to keep them from barking and howling in pain and distress. The story generated a maelstrom online, leading to the angry phone calls Fauci claimed to have received.  “#ArrestFauci” trended on Twitter.

NIAID staff went into damage control mode. Within hours of Fauci asking his staff to look into the experiment, Satoskar emailed NIAID, following up on a phone call. Satoskar now claimed that the acknowledgment of NIH funding was a mistake. “This grant was mistakenly cited as a funding source in the paper,” he wrote.

Later, NIAID would claim that it only funded an experiment that involved vaccinating the dogs against Leishmaniasis, the disease carried by the parasites in the sand flies. Leishmaniasis is the disease with which Satoskar infected his subject beagles in Tunisia.

There is no way to know what was said on the phone call with Satoskar, but released emails show that this is exactly what NIAID wanted to hear. “Will you forward this to Dr. Fauci or let me know if I should directly forward to him?”, the recipient of the email at NIAID wrote to a colleague (the names in the emails, which were obtained by a FOIA request from White Coat Waste Project, are redacted).

Email obtained by a FOIA request from White Coat Waste Project.Email obtained by a FOIA request from White Coat Waste Project.

Satoskar then hurried to delink the paper from NIAID funding. Less than ten minutes after sending his email to NIAID, Satoskar emailed Shaden Kamhawi, editor of PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, the journal that had published the paper on the experiment. “We would like to request correction of this error,” Satoskar wrote.

He might as well have been asking himself. Kamhawi is a colleague of Satoskar. She is an expert on precisely the subject that Satoskar was studying. “Dr. Kamhawi is a world expert on phlebotomine sand flies,” her curriculum vitae reads, “vectors of the neglected tropical disease leishmaniasis.” Like Satoskar, Kamhawi has conducted research in which she used sand flies to infect beagles with the disease. She has even co-published with him. Indeed, Kamhawi’s own research has been the subject of White Coat Waste Project exposé. On top of that, she is an employee of NIAID: meaning that Anthony Fauci is her boss.

Kamhawi was aware of at least the last of these potential conflicts of interest. “BTW,” she emailed her colleagues at PLOS NTD, “as I am an NIAID employee, “I am not sure if there is a COI [Conflict of Interest] here so please let me know.”

It’s unclear whether the journal took that conflict seriously. In any case, the correction went forward. The journal now read:

“There are errors in the Funding statement. The correct Funding statement is as follows: the authors received no specific funding for this work. The US National Institutes of Health and the Wellcome Trust did not provide any funding for this research and any such claim was made in error.”

This was the exonerating evidence that went out to reporters. On October 27th, a NIAID employee wrote to colleagues that “we can at least share with reporters that the journal has made the correction.” Another NIAID staffer emailed colleagues for help fielding a query from an Associated Press “fact checker,” who asked how NIAID could be sure that their funds weren’t used for the Tunisian beagle experiment. “Our evidence is simply the statement of the PI [Principal Investigator], Dr. Satoskar,” came the reply.

In fact, NIAID had no way to be certain that its funds were not used on the Tunisia experiment. Michael Fenton, Director of NIAID’s Division of Extramural Activities, wrote in an email, “It seems to me that the only way to prove that the grant funds weren’t used for other projects is to do an audit of those grant expenditures and invoices. This would not be something that could be done quickly.”  

The next day, NIAID was still putting out fires. “We are still getting clobbered on this,” one wrote in an email. But three days before, NIAID had scored a huge coup: On October 25, the same day Fauci wrote his “bombarded by protests” note, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank wrote a column facetiously entitled, “Why is Anthony Fauci trying to kill my puppy?” The article maligned the story as a product of “the right wing disinformation machine and its crusade against Fauci,” and cited the correction in PLOS NTD as evidence that it was all just an innocent mistake.

In an email to a NIAID employee the next day, Milbank offered further assistance. He wrote, “I might do a follow-up column on the reaction, and the imperviousness to facts. Do you have any more info that could further prove that you didn't fund the Tunisia study involving feeding the anesthetized dogs to sand flies?” Forwarding Milbank’s story to colleagues, the NIAID staffer wrote approvingly, “Dana is being extremely helpful.”

From Milbank’s story came a cascade of “fact checks”: from Politifact, Snopes, FactCheck.org, MediaMatters, Mic, and USA Today. Then came a big story in the Washington Post about the “viral and false claim” that NIAID had funded the Tunisia experiment. The reporters who wrote the story had evidently already reached their conclusion before they began reporting on it. Their email to Satoskar and others asking for comment opened, “I am working on a story about a massive disinformation campaign that is being waged against Anthony Fauci.”

The media re-framing of the story had its intended effect. Three years later, following Marjorie Taylor Greene’s questioning, reporters are once again citing PLOS NTD’s correction as the definitive debunking of the beagle experiment story. The Washington Post effectively banished it from mainstream public debate, though today, the paper published a fact check that contradicts much of the Post’s previous reporting.

After the story came out, Beth Reinhard, one of the reporters on the Post story, emailed Satoskar the link. “Thanks Beth. This is a great article clearing up all misinformation and falsehood,” he wrote.

“Thanks!” she replied.

 

 


Leighton Woodhouse is freelance journalist and a documentary filmmaker currently based in Oakland, California. You can support his work at https://leightonwoodhouse.substack.com

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AIPAC's Singular Ability to Remove and Influence Members of Congress; Senator Rand Paul On More COVID Cover-Ups; PLUS: Media Denies Biden's Decline
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Good evening. It's Thursday, June 20. 

Tonight: AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is easily one of the most powerful, feared, and effective lobbying groups in Washington, if not the single most feared. That assertion is so well documented by now that it barely requires debate. But their power lies not only, or even primarily, in their extraordinary ability to foster close to unanimous votes in Congress for every pro-Israel resolution or bill they wish to see implemented. That is extraordinary enough. But even more amazing is their unmatched ability – and it is unmatched – to simply remove incumbent members of the U.S. Congress who are, in their eyes, insufficiently supportive of and dedicated to the foreign government of Israel. 

A perfect example illustrating how this works is the current primary challenge being launched against the two-term Democratic congressman and former middle school principal, Jamaal Bowman, who represents New York's 16th congressional district. Bowman currently faces an extraordinarily well-financed primary challenger from George Latimer, the corruption-plagued county executive in Westchester Country who, polls now show, has built a substantial lead over Bowman. And it's not hard to understand why. It's not because George Latimer is some beloved figure. It's because his campaign is being fueled by a massive amount of money that comes almost entirely from out-of-the-district funding, the vast majority of which comes from a pro-Israel PAC directed and funded by AIPAC. It's an extraordinary, even unprecedented amount that is being spent on this single primary challenge to a congressional House incumbent: $20 million and counting. 

The reason Bowman faces such a powerfully funded primary challenge is simple and obvious. He sometimes criticizes Israel and has been particularly critical of their eight-month U.S.-funded war that has destroyed much of Gaza. Voters in the district, who are being drowned in anti-Bowman ads on radio, TV, online, everywhere, have little idea that the reason for this overwhelmingly funded challenge to their congressman is due to pro-Israel groups, and that's because the ads that run against him rarely, if ever, even mention the issue of Israel, instead pretending that they are angry with Bowman for his failure to be a good Democrat, that he's not sufficiently loyal to President Biden and his agenda. 

This has been a long-standing and extremely effective tactic for punishing and even removing members of Congress for failure to support Israel with unquestioning praise. In an era where bipartisan systems ensure that congressional incumbents have even a higher reelection rate than Soviet-era members of the Russian legislature, AIPAC appears, as we will show you, to have become the one real threat to the ability of Congress members to win reelection, or even to secure their own party's nomination. 

Then: we welcome back to System Update, the three-term Republican Senator from Kentucky and medical doctor, Rand Paul. Senator Paul has been relentlessly attempting to expose the truth about what happened, specifically in the beginning months of the Covid pandemic, when Doctor Fauci and his associates falsely claimed to the world that they had confirmed that Covid originated from nature and not from a lab leak in Wuhan. That false claim of certainty ended up as intended, shaping discourse about that pandemic around the globe for the next two years and also as intended, caused a full-scale online censorship ban of any questioning or doubts about the official story of Covid's origins. Just as importantly, Dr. Paul has been attempting to demonstrate that Fauci deliberately concealed his attempts to fund what is called gain-of-function research, meaning scientific attempts in labs to manipulate viruses and other pathogens to become even more contagious or more deadly to humans, something that, if leaked, could cause a pandemic of the type that we saw with Covid. 

But now, Senator Paul is also warning about what appears to be bipartisan efforts to approve or defund the exact kind of dangerous gain-of-function research that very likely caused the worldwide Covid pandemic in the first place. I am genuinely amazed at how little interest there seems to be in investigating and finding the truth about what is easily one of the most consequential events in our lifetime, the Covid pandemic. Dr. Paul is one of the few in Washington still demanding just basic accountability and we believe that that work is extremely important and deserves as much journalistic attention as we can possibly give to it. So, we'll speak to him in just a little bit. 

And then finally: videos of Joe Biden frequently surface that confirm what Americans already know about him, as polling data demonstrates, namely, that he is aging in a way that has left him with serious cognitive impairment to the point that he sometimes barely knows where he is or what he is saying. The evidence proving that is overwhelming, from reporting to first-hand accounts to simply comparing his conduct now to what it was even five years ago. And it's worth remembering that the very first-time concerns about Biden's cognitive capabilities were expressed not by Republicans or even Bernie Sanders supporters in the 2020 cycle, it was by DNC operatives and DNC media allies, in 2019, who were very concerned that Biden would get the nomination simply because he was the most well-known candidate. They continuously warned that this was not the same Joe Biden, that he was likely not capable of sustaining the full rigors of the campaign. Once Biden got the nomination, those very same people turned around and said it was immoral to raise questions about Biden's cognitive capabilities, even though they were the ones who first cast doubt on it in the first place. 

Nonetheless, despite all that evidence, most of the U.S. corporate media, as we know, will say or do anything to ensure Trump's defeat, even if that means outright lying. They already proved that in 2016, when they spread virtually every day all sorts of false collusion conspiracy theories about Trump and the Trump campaign and Russia, and then did so again in 2021. They claimed that incriminating reporting about Biden and his family in Ukraine and China was the byproduct of what they called fake documents, meaning Russian disinformation. Now, with that same goal in mind, they insist that the video showing Biden's cognitive decline and incapacitation is somehow fake, as they hope to convince Americans to trust the media’s partisan claims, more than they trust their own eyes and their own judgment. We will examine the latest self-humiliation of the media in pursuit of manipulating another presidential election by trying to disseminate claims that are so recognizably false. 

For now, welcome to a new episode of System Update, starting right now. 

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The Pentagon's Secret Disinfo Campaign Discrediting China's COVID Vaccine Unveiled; France's Unprecedented Elections, China, Ukraine, and More with Commentator Arnaud Bertrand
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Good evening. It's Wednesday, June 19.

Tonight: the biggest media story by far in U.S. politics in 2016 was focused on Russia. Not only did they falsely insist that the Trump campaign had colluded with Moscow to hack the email accounts of the DNC and of John Podesta, but even more media indignation was focused on the fact that Russia had engaged in unprecedented and incomparably evil interference with our sacred democracy by using a few Twitter bots and Facebook pages to disseminate what our media called “disinformation.” What made this reaction so mystifying was the obvious belief that the United States and other freedom-loving democracies would never, ever engage in that kind of treachery. Instead, this kind of interference and trickery was the sole provenance of the Kremlin under Vladimir Putin. 

Anyone who knows even the most minimal amount of American history should have instantly scoffed at that claim. It is beyond any reasonable doubt that the U.S. has “interfered” in the internal affairs of countless other countries, including Russia, for decades, and the U.S. has done so with methods that included clandestine disinformation campaigns as well as tactics a bit more extreme and far worse than a few online bots. It was just embarrassing to watch so many corporate media employees express what appears to be earnest rage that Russia would do such a thing. 

Late last week, Reuters published a genuinely good and important piece of investigative journalism – credit where due – the type of journalism that we rarely see anymore. Rather than bravely denouncing the bad acts of America's enemies on the other side of the world, Reuters actually revealed a secret and morally repugnant online disinformation campaign conducted in secret by the Pentagon. That online campaign was designed to spread fears, doubts and resistance to the COVID-19 vaccine that China was offering impoverished countries and impoverished people for free. That was being done at the very same time that the U.S. government was arguing that anyone spreading vaccine skepticism and encouraging vaccine hesitancy was guilty of killing large numbers of people. Indeed, they not only mandated that Americans take the vaccine they were given upon threat of losing their jobs or their freedom of movement, but the government coerced Big Tech outlets to censor and ban anyone expressing doubts about the vaccine's efficacy or its safety, all at the very same time that the same U.S. government was using an army of online bots and fake social media accounts to spread vaccine doubt in the poorest countries, the poorest populations of the world. 

It is worth reviewing these revelations and then putting them in the historical context of American behavior, as well as the claims the government was making about how nobody about Russia does such a thing, as well as the moral calculations that drove this clandestine campaign against China's COVID-19 vaccine. It really is remarkable when one delves into the details of what the U.S. government did here, and therefore, that is exactly what we will do. 

Then: as we reported two weeks ago, with the help of a professor who was a specialist in the EU, the European-wide elections for the EU Parliament provided major shocks and surprises for EU elites everywhere. Many countries saw a decisive rejection of pro-establishment parties, replaced by a mass surge of support for what is called far-right populist parties. That happened in Germany, Holland and elsewhere but especially in France. In response to the devastating defeat of his party at the hands of Marine Le Pen, French President Emmanuel Macron shocked even his own allies by dissolving the French parliament and calling for snap elections, a move that could very well result in the first-ever French prime minister from Le Pen's party. 

All of this has caused extreme chaos in EU politics, especially in French politics. Many of the trends that drove the EU election are, of course, visible and clearly present – if not dominant – in modern-day American politics as well. So, to help us sort out everything happening there, we will speak to the French political analyst and commentator Arnaud Bertrand. While he is French by origin, Bertrand has lived for quite some time in China. He is an expert in Sinology, which is a study of all things Chinese, and he has, in my view, been one of the most informed, enlightened analysts on the Washington-Beijing relationship, along with both wars that the U.S. is currently funding, the one in Ukraine and the one in Gaza. We are excited to talk to him and I think you will enjoy hearing from him as well. 

For now, welcome to a new episode of System Update, starting right now. 

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