Glenn Greenwald
Politics • Writing • Culture
Warmongering Neocons Smitten with Biden, Havana Syndrome Conspiracy Theory Crumbles
March 05, 2023
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Note From Glenn Greenwald: The following is the full show transcript, for subscribers only, of a recent episode of our System Update program, broadcast live on Wednesday March 1, 2023. Watch the full episode on Rumble or listen to the podcast on Spotify

One of the most fanatical neocons in American media, The New York Times Bret Stephens converted his column today into a homage to the greatness of Joe Biden – his moral courage and clarity, his strength of character, his steadfast support for what is right when it comes to the war in Ukraine. Stephens favorably compared Biden not only to French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz – he said Biden was far better than even Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Stephens’s hatred for Donald Trump, shared by most neocons, is too well-known for him to have even bothered to argue that Biden is superior to Trump. For neocons, everyone is superior to Trump. And most amazingly of all, Bret Stephens in The New York Times essentially endorsed Joe Biden's reelection in 2024, directing him on how to ensure that he wins the second term, which this neocon extremist believes this country desperately needs. 

If it were just an example of a single neocon kind of losing his mind temporarily and writing a baseline to the greatness of Joe Biden, it would be worth noting more for entertainment purposes but this is something far more significant. All of this illustrates one of the most important yet under-discussed political transformations of the last decade, namely, the full-scale union between the country's most fanatical neocons on the one hand and the Democratic Party on the other. And while many liberals like to tell themselves the pleasing fairy tale that this happened only due to their common contempt for Trump, the reality is exactly the opposite. The migration of neocons back to the Democratic Party was well underway long before anyone even imagined such a thing as President Donald Trump. And more importantly, this alliance is based not on shared hatred for any one individual, but on the perception of the neocons, the very well-grounded and accurate perception, that the Democratic Party is now far more hospitable to core neocon values of endless war and sacrificing the lives and well-being of ordinary Americans for an agenda that serves foreign nationals and a sliver, of American elites and nobody else. We will examine in depth this ever-deepening alliance and what it means for American politics. 

Plus, the corporate media suffers yet another humiliating debacle, this time by having their melodramatic script about what they called the Havana Syndrome blow up in their faces in the most humiliating possible way. We would love, I promise, to be able to have just one episode where we don't have to cover the systemic rot at the heart of the U.S. corporate media, but their constant embarrassments, errors, and deceit make that very difficult for us to accomplish. 

As a reminder, System Update episodes are now available on every leading podcast platform, including Apple and Spotify the day after they air, live, here on Rumble. Simply follow System Update, if you like, while listening to episodes in podcast form. 

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



One of the surest ways to know that your country's political discourse is irretrievably broken is when the most important news events, the ones that matter most, are the least discussed. Such is the case for the radical political transformation that I regard as the single most important in the last decade: the re-migration of neoconservatives back to the Democratic Party, where they began decades ago, and the resulting full-scale enduring alliance between the most fanatical neocons and Democrats, the unholy alliance that I would argue, has become the single most dominant political faction in the United States. 

Like many commonly used political terms, neocon lacks a very precise and universally accepted definition. But – as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about the long failed attempt by the Supreme Court to define obscenity, “I know it when I see it” – we are able to use that standard to recognize many neocons. And while we will, in just a few minutes, spend some time defining neoconservatives and reviewing their lowly and destructive trajectory in American public life, one of the people who is indisputably a neocon using the Justice Stewart standard, someone who exudes its core values and tactics from every pore of his body, is New York Times columnist Bret Stephens. 

Prior to being hired by The New York Times, in 2017, as a columnist, Stephens has spent almost two decades as a foreign policy columnist at The Wall Street Journal, and for a few years as editor-in-chief of the Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post. His writings throughout all those years were of along classic neoconservative ideology: he was an ardent supporter of the invasion of Iraq; he was a very vocal cheerleader for the most extreme abuses and civil liberties assaults carried out under the banner of the War on Terror – someone whose only criticisms of Bush-Cheney militarism was that it failed to go far enough by failing to carry out regime change operations in Syria and Iran, for instance; and he has always been driven by a virtually binding, absolute allegiance to the government of Israel – that translates not only as an endless demand for always greater U.S. financial and military aid to Israel but also as a reflexive defense of virtually everything that that foreign nation does. 

Among American liberals, it has become one of their favorite pastimes to explode with indignation every time the Times publishes a new column by Bret Stephens, complaining that the paper is giving him a platform, something they regard as proof of the New York Times tolerance for or even the support of far-right-wing fascism and white supremacy or whatever their favorite insult of the week is. Every time there's a Bret Stephens column, liberals react that way. 

When the Times announced its hiring of Stephens in 2017, the rage-driven reaction of liberals surprised even me. While accustomed as I have become to the liberal belief that newspapers should only hire journalists whose views perfectly adhere to liberal pieties. Watching that orgy of outrage over his hiring, I actually wrote an article that very week, the week of Stephens’s hiring, trying to warn liberals that the far more significant hiring that week by the Times was not Bret Stephens, but his Wall Street Journal colleague and protégé, Bari Weiss, whose hiring was announced just two days after his. But few had heard of Bari Weiss at the time and they were far too fixated with collective rage over Stephens and his hiring to hear anything else. 

Here, for example, is an Intercept headline accompanying an article by reporter Zaid Jilani that reflected the typical liberal anger over Stephens’ hiring “New York Times Promises Truth and Diversity, Then Hires Climate-Denying Anti-Arab White Guy”. The subheadline: “Readers have flocked to the New York Times after it reasserted its principles in the Trump era. Then it hired the Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens”. 

The left-wing media watchdog group, FAIR, published an article during that week headlined “Three Reasons Bret Stephens Should Not Be a New York Times Columnist”. Their  reasons: 1) he's a climate denier; 2) he advocates crimes against humanity, meaning the War on Terror abuses such as torture and the due process for the imprisonments of the Bush-Cheney era, and – no left-liberal article would be complete without it – 3) he's a racist, citing a long line of derogatory statements that Stephens had written over the years about Arabs and their culture as a means of defending Israel, such as, “The Arab world's problems are a problem of their mind or, to be more specific, the “disease” of their mind”. 

As so often happens, the liberal script when it came to the rage over Bret Stephens’s hiring, was nearly identical. Here, for example, is the headline from Vox that reads “The New York Times Should Not Have Hired Climate Change Bullshitter Bret Stephens' '. 

Here, from The Huffington Post: “The New York Times Publisher Writes To Those Who Ditched Subscriptions Over Bret Stephens” – because liberals were canceling what the Huffington Post said was a mass exodus, but really just a few hundred or a couple of thousand ditched subscriptions, in protest. 

To be very clear, I am the opposite of a Bret Stephens fan. I agree with a lot of the criticisms I just referenced. I regard neoconservatism of the kind that Bret Stephens advocates as the most toxic and destructive ideological force in America. It's the ideology of Bill Kristol and David Frum and Dick and Liz Cheney, a bloodthirsty and sociopathic mentality that seeks to keep the U.S. in a posture of endless wars, one after the next, for the benefit of everyone and everything except the lives of ordinary American citizens. That they are just fanatical about ensuring that it is other families and almost never their own that have to fight in those wars and die in those wars that they cheer, makes them even more morally repellent to me than ever. And this disgust for neocons has been central to my worldview since I began writing about politics in 2005, largely motivated by contempt for the war-mongering and regime change fixations and civil liberties assaults that this small but very influential faction of neocons had architected for America and deceived ordinary Americans through propaganda into believing that it was in their interest to support it. 

So, my contempt for neocons began very early on and endures to this very day. For decades this intense disgust of neocons was shared by virtually everyone who identified as a Democrat, a liberal or a leftist, or something similar, as reflected by the rage when Bret Stephens was hired by the New York Times. My contempt for neocons and their ideology has never wavered. But now the opposite is true for most liberal pundits and liberal elites who now regard neocons not only as tolerable but deeply admirable, even heroic. Liz Cheney was named one of America's heroes for 2022 by Mother Jones. That the leftwing magazine named after a socialist activist famous for civil disobedience in pursuit of far left-wing causes. Their hero is now Dick Cheney’s daughter, the Wicked Neocon Witch of the West.

The factor that caused liberals and so many leftists to so radically change their views of neocons from unbridled hatred to respect, affection and admiration is the same fact that dictates all of their views, namely whether someone likes or hates Donald Trump. And since neocons viewed Donald Trump almost immediately as a grave threat to their agenda, they converted themselves into Trump's sworn enemy, devoting themselves with a single-minded fixation to doing everything possible to sabotaging, maligning and destroying Trump. That obviously wasn't true of all neocons. People like John Bolton ended up being hired by the Trump administration and working within it, although he eventually got fired, it was certainly true of most. 

And that was all it took for Liberals to immediately abandon their long standing view of neocons as monstrous war criminals with an insatiable thirst for wars that are totally unrelated to the welfare of the American people and almost overnight view them as the opposite, as valued allies and wise thought leaders. That's why David Frum, George W. Bush's speechwriter, who penned so many of Bush's most harmful lies, doesn't write for National Review or Fox News. He writes for The Atlantic. It's why Bill Kristol's social media exploded due almost entirely to new liberal followers and why he regularly has the red carpet rolled out for him as though he's some honored, wise statesman by MSNBC. It's why Liz Cheney lost her GOP primary by a humiliating and record setting 35 points while liberal columnists write pieces to her greatness and moral character. 

While it is the neocons’ hatred for Trump that made liberals revere neocons, that is not why neocons have migrated back to the original petri dish from which they first emerged. What explains that is that neocons tend to be much more shrewd and clever than the liberals whom they have deceived into reversing them. They understood well before Trump's emergence on the scene that the Republican Party was becoming increasingly hostile to their unlimited militarism and their thirst for wars. Wars come at the expense of ordinary working-class Americans who pay for those wars and die in them, that receive no benefits from them. Starting in the second term of the Obama administration, neocons could see through things like the success that Ron Paul had with an anti-interventionist message deep in the primaries of Iowa and South Carolina, and who believed that Hillary Clinton would likely succeed Obama and could barely contain their excitement over the prospect of a Hillary Clinton administration. Neocons, before Trump, began signaling their intention to abandon the Republican Party, which had served as their host body for the entire War on Terror and reinfect the Democratic Party, which they had decided to make their home for the near future at least. 

Despite this union, many liberals who have been trained to love those neocons still do harbor animus toward Bret Stevens. And that's partly due to his heresies on culture war issues, other kinds of religion, liberal religious beliefs, a church that touches his opposition to some planks of gender ideology, and his long-standing skepticism of climate change – though neocons, if nothing else, always know where their bread is buttered, and Bret Stephens recently announced after taking a trip to Greenland that he's now largely on board with the liberal view of climate change, acknowledging that it really is the crisis that liberals have long been insisting it is. So, there are very few reasons left for liberals to hate Bret Stephens other than his occasional opposition to the most extremist planks of gender ideology. At this point, their dislike of Stephens is basically just reflexive, a kind of learned behavior they never unlearned. But all of that is highly likely to change. Stephens may very well now lose his status as one of the very few neocons liberals have not yet ineffectually passionately embraced as a result of his decision today to write what is not so much a political column in the New York Times as it is a homage, a passion to the moral courage and general greatness of Joe Biden. 

To those paying little attention to U.S. politics over the last decade, or for those who have little capacity for thinking critically, it may seem surprising, shocking even, that a lifelong neocon would not only revere Joe Biden as our modern-day Winston Churchill, but basically endorse his reelection as president in 2024, something not even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has yet willing to do when asked. Writing under the headline “On Ukraine, Biden Outshines Macron, Scholz – and DeSantis,” Stephens gushed about Biden with such adolescent fanboy fervor that it would even embarrass Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert or the Washington Post team of fact-checkers. 

We offer you just a few of the most illustrative paragraphs of the reverence Bret Stephens penned today for Joe Biden. He began by condemning French President Macron and German chancellor Scholz for the crime of trying to find a diplomatic resolution to the war in Ukraine, which Stephens finds so glorious and exciting. About those diplomatic efforts, Stephens writes, “These are preposterous suggestions.” And then he unleashes his love and respect and homage to Joe Biden:


That's the point. Those who now argue that President Zelenskyy of Ukraine needs to be “realist” or “pragmatic” – that is, that he should stop short of pursuing a complete Russian withdrawal from all occupied Ukrainian territories – are proposing a solution they would never countenance for their own countries under ordinary circumstances, let alone during a struggle for national survival. That's why, as the war in Ukraine entered the second year, I feel grateful for Joe Biden. Fault him all you want on many issues, particularly his gradualist approach to arming Ukraine, but on the most consequential question of our time, he has the big thing right (The New York Times. Feb. 28, 2023). 


In other words, the one criticism Bret Stephens recognizes as valid of Joe Biden is that he has not armed the Ukrainians enough – not quickly enough or aggressively enough. But, he says, he got what, in Bret Stephens’s mind, is the most consequential question of our time, whether Russia or Ukraine will rule various provinces in Eastern Ukraine or whether they will be independent. That's a real privilege talking. Being a New York Times columnist and believing that the most important issue is who rules various provinces in Eastern Ukraine. For Bret Stephens, the fact that Joe Biden has gotten this right more than any other world leader means that he deserves a second term. He goes on:


As for prudence, musing openly about the need for eventual negotiation harms Ukraine's solidarity and morale, both key factors for survival and success. An overwhelming majority of Ukrainians want to retake all the territories seized by Russia, including Crimea. That political fact should weigh in the mind of Biden's foreign policy team. Public support for Ukraine is eroding, particularly among Republicans and conservatives who know better, including Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, who are shamefully hedging their bets. President Biden likes to say that the United States will support Ukraine for as long as it takes, but that promise can expire on January 20, 2025, if he doesn't win a second term, he owes it to his own legacy, not to hazard what is potentially the most historic accomplishment of his presidency on next year's race. (The New York Times. Feb. 28, 2023). 


There's a lot packed in there, into those claims, beginning with the fact that he says a majority of Ukrainians, an overwhelming majority, want not only to have the war end but instead want to expel Russia from all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea. The idea that NATO is going to support Ukraine for it to successfully expel every last Russian troop, including from the areas of Eastern Ukraine where overwhelmingly people identify far more with Moscow than with Kyiv, where far more would rather either be independent or under the rule of Putin than under the rule of Zelenskyy is utter madness. But even more unhinged is the idea that Russia would just stand by and allow Ukraine and NATO to take back Crimea. And Bret Stephens’ assertion – and that's all it is, is an assertion – that the vast majority of people support Biden's vision, that they want to fight until the very end, until every last bit of territory is recovered, including in Crimea, you'll note, has no citation. He doesn't say the poll. He doesn't link to a study. That's just something that he wants to believe. It's a nice fairy tale to believe. And so, he just asserted it. All Ukrainians are behind me and Joe Biden: they want to fight this war until the very end. 

It's very hard in a war zone to take accurate polls. It's very hard in a country under martial law, which is what Ukraine is, to get people to speak openly. Even before the war began, when Russia invaded Ukraine, President Zelenskyy had already proven himself very willing to engage in anti-democratic and authoritarian tactics, not in 2022, but in 2021. He had shut down three opposition television stations. He had begun attacking opposition parties and even questioning whether or not they had a right to exist. But one of the pieces of evidence that we can use in assessing whether or not Bret Stephens’s assertion has any remote validity to it, namely, that the vast majority of Ukrainians want to fight this war until the very end, or whether that's something only Bret Stephens wants because he gets to say that while he and his family are far removed from the battlefield, is the fact that President Zelenskyy is not using a volunteer army. He's not using a huge group of Ukrainian men who step forward to say, we want to fight the Russian army until the very end, even if it means risking our own lives to do so. The exact opposite is true. Over the last several months, there has been increasingly compelling evidence of the fact that more and more and more Ukrainian men are unwilling to fight this war. They're unwilling to die in this war. That's why Zelenskyy has to rely on a draft army and a conscription army the way the United States had to do when it wanted to fight a war in Vietnam, that most Americans had a great deal of difficulty understanding what relevance it had to their lives, who ruled the southern part of Vietnam, whether it was going to be right-wing U.S. allies or communist or anyone else. You didn't have Americans lining up around the block to volunteer to fight in Vietnam the way you had Americans lining up to fight after 9/11 when they realized that, in fact, their own country had been attacked, because people are willing to fight for a cause they believe in, in the end, to die for a cause they believe in. But if they don't think the war is worth it, that's when conscription is needed. And not only has Zelenskyy had to rely on conscription, on the draft, on forcing people who don't want to fight to actually fight, it's become increasingly difficult to prevent people from deserting, to prevent people from exploiting the grave corruption that has always governed Ukraine by paying people to get them out of Ukraine. 

Here, for example, is one of the most recent articles on the problems Zelenskyy is facing, from The Economist, on February 26 – so, just a few days ago – and, remember, this is in the context of a New York Times columnist today asserting that vast, vast majority of Ukrainians not only want to fight to get Russia out of the parts they invaded, but to fight to get them out of all parts, including Crimea, which would be a years’ long war, that Russia would do everything in its power to prevent. Why is it that The New York Times columnist is able to make an assertion so dubious without any evidence presented when in fact the evidence strongly suggests that what he said was false? 

Here, for example, The Economist’s headline reads “Ukraine Finds Stepping Up Mobilization is Not so Easy. Military recruiters are accused of rough tactics as they try to boost the headcount”. 

Here's an anecdote that illustrates how aggressive and even violent Zelensky's kind of forces have to be to get people willing to go fight against the Russians on the front line: 

Ruslan Kubay was surprised to receive a draft notice in late January. Registered as seriously disabled since childhood – Mr. Kubay is missing both hands – he falls under a list of automatic exemptions from service. Even more surprising, however, was the reaction of officials at the local registration office in Drohobich, near Lyiv. Far from admitting their error, they doubled down and declared him fit for service. Someone who didn't want to fight and someone who had no hands, Mr. Kubay’s case was an extreme, but far from an isolated incident. 


Ukraine has visibly stepped up mobilization activities in the first two months of this year. For unclear reasons, officials in western Ukraine have been the most aggressive, but the trend is clear across the country. There have been reports of draft notices issued and sometimes violently enforced at military funerals, checkpoints in Kharkyiv, shopping centers in Kyiv and on street corners In Odessa. Popular ski resorts lie deserted despite the first proper snows in the winter – footage of military officials snooping around at the slopes were enough to keep the crowds away. In every town and city across the country, social media channels share information about where recruitment officers might be lurking. Previously, only members of Ukraine's draft commission were allowed to issue notices and only at home addresses. Now a wider group of officials can issue the two-part document, and there is no geographical limitation. Another difference is who is being called up. In the first wave most of the recruits were voluntary; queues outside draft offices where a frequent sight. Now officials are recruiting from a much less enthusiastic crowd. 


In a country like Ukraine, there are inevitably less-than-legal ways to escape the call-up too. “It's a dialectic of nature”, said Colonel Kevlyuk, who worked in the general staff until 2021. “Whenever there is demand, you'll always find someone to supply it”. Some arrange fictitious marriages with mothers of three or four or more children. Others get corrupt military doctors to issue a medical exemption. For a few thousand dollars, one can pay to be smuggled across the border. 

Government officials say excesses are being addressed as they come to light. But with the Army set on achieving a military breakthrough before the summer, recruitment of less-motivated Ukrainians [by “less motivated”, they mean people who don't want to fight] will surely be stepped up and scandals will probably continue. 


The armed forces may respond to legal challenges by improving their bureaucracy, but there are other ways to deal with them too. Informed sources say that at least two lawyers disputing draft orders have abruptly been called up themselves. As the Army well knows, mobilized lawyers are automatically barred from practicing (The Economist. Feb 26, 2023). 


Again, this is not the first time we have heard that Ukraine and Zelenskyy are having a great deal of difficulty in getting their own citizens to fight in a war that people like Bret Stephens keep telling us is of the utmost importance – a very easy thing to say when it's not you or your family who have to go and fight in that war. 

Back in early February, we had another Politico article entitled “Ukraine Army Discipline Crackdown Sparks Fear and Fury on the Front. Critics say new legislation that punishes deserters and rule-breakers more harshly contravenes human rights and demotivates military personnel”. The article states:


President Zelenskyy refused to veto a new law that strengthens punishments for wayward military personnel on Thursday, rejecting a petition signed by over 25,000 Ukrainians who argue it's too harsh. “The key to the combat capability of military units and ultimately of Ukraine's victory is compliance with military discipline”, Zelensky said in his written response to the petition. Ukrainian soldiers have stunned the world with their resilience and battlefield successes withstanding a year-long onslaught from Russian troops.


But among Kyiv's forces, made up largely of fresh recruits lacking previous military experience or training, some are struggling to cope. There are those who have rebelled against commanders’ orders, gotten drunk, or misbehaved; others, running low on ammunition and morale, have fled for their lives, abandoning their positions.


Seeking to bring his forces into line, Zelenskyy in January signed into force a punitive law that introduces harsher punishments for deserters and wayward soldiers and strips them of their right to appeal (Politico. Feb 5, 2023). 


For me, this is classic neocon behavior. They feel so powerful and purposeful and compensate for their feelings of lifelong internal weakness, typically as men, by getting to write columns that glorify war and all of the courage that's required, the way in which we all get to be Winston Churchill, not by actually going to the frontlines and fighting, but by publishing columns condemning people whose backbone isn't quite as solid as people like Bret Stevens. 

But that's what neocons have always done. That's what they're notorious for, is they love to send other people's families to war. They love to demand that other people risk their lives in wars while they can find themselves writing articles with pretty language that elevates the cause and, most importantly of all, elevates themselves. And so, Bret Stephens can sit in the New York Times office and claim that a war over who controls the Eastern provinces of Ukraine is the single most consequential question of our time; that Joe Biden deserves reelection for getting this utmost question so correct when the people who actually have to go and fight in that war are seeking increasingly desperate ways to avoid doing so. But that is what neocons have been doing for the last 20 years. Almost none of them or their family members, their children, their siblings, or their relatives volunteered to fight in the wars that they were such fervent supporters of. 

To me, that is a classic attribute of neoconservatism, and few people illustrate that and embody it more than Bret Stephens. So, not only is his claim false, apparently, that the vast majority of Ukrainians are eager to fight to the very end, even to take back Crimea from Russia, but it reflects such a grotesque moral failing that year after year, decade after decade, someone like him uses nothing more than his pen and the safety of his life as a journalist to send people – millions, thousands and thousands and hundreds of thousands after the next – to wars, that they go die. And so that he gets to feel strong and purposeful. 

But note that this is what the Democratic Party, in his view, has welcomed. He realizes that if you look at where resistance to the war in Ukraine is growing, where there's anger over the fact that we're sacrificing the lives of our own citizens, not yet by sending them into the war zone, but by sacrificing their economic future – when people in East Palestine cannot get anyone to pay attention to their crisis when people are without healthcare coverage and the ability to send their kids to college or treat Fentanyl addiction, that we're sending hundreds of billions of dollars to this foreign war that not even the people of that country seem willing to fight in so that the neocons of the world can feel good about themselves. And they recognize that there's growing opposition to that mentality over the years in the Republican Party and that is why they've decided, quite wisely, that if you want support for endless warfare, you have to basically go to the Democratic Party. The vote back in May, just three months into the war over whether to send $40 billion to Ukraine, reflected that reality, reflected the correct perception by neocons that the Democratic Party is the place to go if you believe what they believe. 

Every single member of the Democratic Caucus and the House and the Senate voted yes. Not a single one had the courage to vote no, whereas at least seven or eight dozen Republican members of the House and Senate voted no. And there's clearly now growing reluctance, growing resistance among Republicans who now control the House in order to place strong limits on how much more aid we're willing to give to fuel this proxy war. Whereas I don't see any evidence of any resistance, let alone significant resistance on the part of the Democratic Party. And when you go down the list of neoconservative priorities, one after the next, you find exactly the same thing - the desire to change the regime of Bashar Assad, to bomb Libya and remove Muammar Gadhafi all found great support within the Democratic Party. There are a lot of Republicans who supported it, too, but at least there was a lot of opposition in the Republican Party because – going all the way back to Ron Paul, and the success he had, and then this new MAGA movement that emphasizes the need to avoid unnecessary wars – the fact that Trump boasts, as he should, of being the first president in decades not to involve the U.S. in a new war shows how hostile the Republican Party, long the host for neocons, has now become to neocons. And that is the reason that neocons are aligning with the Democratic Party. 

As I said, this is not a new development. This became very obvious from the early moments of the Trump presidency. Back in July of 2017, just six months into the Trump presidency, there was a creation of a new foreign policy group that was designed to essentially promote hawkish policies toward Russia and beyond. And the people who formed this group and the people who were financing it were essentially the who's who of the hawkish wing of the Democratic Party and neocons led by people like Bill Kristol. They were in a complete alliance. And that's why in July 2017, I wrote an article about this new group. It turned out this group was the group that sponsored and created the Hamilton 68 database that purported to be able to identify which themes were being pushed by Russian accounts on the Internet, a device that the Twitter Files just proved was completely fraudulent. But the evidence for me was very clear early on that what we were seeing was this brand new alliance between the Democratic Party and neocons that had to do with things far beyond their shared dislike of Trump. 

The headline under which I wrote was, “With New D.C. Policy Group Dems Continue To Rehabilitate And Unify With Bush-Era Neocons”. And the reason that was so amazing to me was that when I began writing about politics, there was nobody more hated by Democrats, leftists, or liberals. Then these Bush-era neocons. And so, to watch them form groups with these very same people and to cheer them and to buy their books and to applaud them on social media and to formalize this union was amazing to me as somebody who, again, had never watered down my contempt for neocons the way seemingly every Democratic liberal has. The subheadline here is “This union is far more than a marriage of convenience to stop Trump; it reflects a broad-based agreement on U.S. hawkishness toward Russia and beyond”. The name of the group was the Alliance for Securing Democracy. And here you can see the first paragraph of my article where I draw the conclusion that I was seeing,

One of the most under-discussed yet consequential changes in the American political landscape is the reunion between the Democratic Party and the country's most extreme and discredited neocons. While the rise of Donald Trump, whom the neocons loathe, has accelerated this realignment, it began long before the ascension of Trump and is driven by far more common beliefs than contempt for the current president. 

You know, I was constantly being asked by liberals and leftists of this time “What happened to you?”,  constantly being accused of having changed my core views. And I was being asked that and accused of that while I was watching those very same people obviously enter into an enduring and ideologically based alliance with the neocons, who they had long claimed were the most malicious force in American life. So, for sure they were right that someone had changed but it would seem clear to me that it wasn't me since my view of neocons had remained steady and unchanged. 

It was a very hard thing for liberals to start to justify and explain how is it the people that you most hated are people that you're now embracing and their excuse, the only one they could really offer, was “Look, we're not in agreement with neocons. We don't have any more in common with them than we ever did before. It's just an alliance of pragmatism. It's just an alliance of convenience. So, it's very temporary and that will disappear the minute Trump is gone”. 

The reason I knew that was a lie – and you can see that it ends up being a lie now that it is as strong as ever even without Trump anywhere near Washington – is that the movement toward creating this alliance between neocons and Democrats began well before Trump was even on anyone's mind as a major political actor. 

Here, for example, is an article in the New York Times, in 2014 – so, a year before Trump even announced his candidacy. The headline of it is “The Next Act Of Neocons”. It's by Jacob Heilbrunn, who's one of the most attentive and scholarly students of neocon behavior. And you can see here on the screen two figures: on the left is Hillary Clinton and on the right is Robert Kagan. Robert Kagan is a classic neoconservative. His entire family, the Kagan's, are all neocons, very influential neocons. And Robert Kagan also so happens to be married to Victoria Nuland, another neocon who is also highly influential and who ended up working both in Hillary Clinton's State Department as well as in John Kerry’s State Department, after serving as Dick Cheney's primary advisor on the War on Terror. 

Here is what the article is describing: 

After nearly a decade in the political wilderness, the neoconservative movement is back, using the turmoil in Iraq and Ukraine to claim that it is President Obama, not the movement's interventionist foreign policy that dominated early George W. Bush-era Washington, that bears responsibility for the current round of global crises. Even as they castigate Mr. Obama, the neocons may be preparing a more brazen feat aligning themselves with Hillary Rodham Clinton and her nascent presidential campaign, in a bid to return to the driver's seat of America's foreign policy. Other neocons have followed Mr. Kagan's careful centrism and respect for Mrs. Clinton. Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, noted in The New Republic this year that “It is clear that in administration councils she was a principled voice for a strong stand on controversial issues, whether supporting the Afghan surge or the intervention in Libya. And the thing is these neocons have a point. Mrs. Clinton voted for the Iraq war; supported sending arms to Syrian rebels. likened Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler; wholeheartedly backs Israel; and stresses the importance of promoting democracy (The New York Times. July 5, 2014). 


In other words, Hillary Clinton is and long has been a full-fledged supporter of virtually every key plank of neoconservative ideology. 

So, the article concludes, “It's easy to imagine Mrs. Clinton's making room for the neocons in her administration. No one can charge her with being weak on national security with the likes of Robert Kagan on board”. 

This is exactly what happened. There were all sorts of policies that the Obama administration supported what neocons also supported, including things like allowing the CIA to try and unseat Bashar Assad in a regime change operation, the bombing of Libya in order to remove Muammar Gadhafi and all sorts of other aggressive actions that Obama took in terms of bombing multiple Middle Eastern countries with drones. But one of the most aggressive critics of Obama for failing to do enough inside the administration was Hillary Clinton. And she was particularly scathing when it came to criticizing Obama for failing to confront Russia aggressively enough in Syria and in Ukraine. And the neocons saw that Hillary Clinton and her allies were not just hospitable to their agenda, but in many ways had become the most vocal and effective and devoted, and passionate advocates of the neoconservative worldview. That is when neocons began realizing that their future lay not with the Republican Party with it, but with the Democratic Party. And, again, while the emergence of Trump may have accelerated that – surely it did – it was a much broader and more fundamental shift in the dynamics of what these parties were that led neocons to believe, correctly, that they ought to align most with the Democratic Party. 

Just to give you an idea of how these neocons had been discussed by liberal media outlets, including people like Robert Kagan, who was on board with Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy, here's an article in The Guardian, from April 2008, so, during the Bush years, entitled “A neocon by any other name.” It's basically an article explaining that Robert Kagan, though trying to deny that that neocon title belongs to him, is in fact a classic neocon. The article says, 


Robert Kagan, author, essayist, former diplomat, pre-eminent thinker of what is called ‘neoconservatism’ – and now foreign policy adviser to Republican presidential nominee John McCain – would like it to be known that there are many things that he is not.  A hate figure for large sections of the left, Kagan has been blamed for many things, prominent among them being one of the intellectual authors and cheerleaders for the U.S.-led war in Iraq. So, when it comes to Kagan, the gloves are off. He has been denigrated for being a writer on Middle Eastern issues who knows no Arabic; an expert on military affairs who has not served in the military. Others have been stronger still, accusing him of ‘spewing out one falsehood after another’ about the progress of the war in Iraq.


But these days, Kagan is to be found in Brussels in the house provided by the U.S. State Department to his wife, Victoria Nuland, America's permanent representative to NATO, a pretty place with cherry trees blossoming in the extensive garden. It was these years that would shape Kagan's political thinking, which he would define in a seminal essay, written with William Kristol and published in the influential journal Foreign Affairs, in 1996, calling for a neo-Reaganite foreign policy. Writing in the middle of the Clinton presidency, they argued that U.S. conservatives were adrift. 


“Today's lukewarm consensus about America's reduced role in a post-Cold War world," they wrote, “is wrong." Conservatives should not accede to it; it is bad for the country and, incidentally, bad for conservatism. Conservatives will not be able to govern America over the long term if they fail to offer a more elevated vision of America's international role. What role would that be? Their answer was this: “Benevolent global hegemony. Having defeated the” evil empire” the United States enjoys strategic and ideological predominance. The first objective of U.S. foreign policy should be to preserve and enhance that predominance by strengthening America's security, supporting its friends, advancing its interest, and standing up for its principles around the world (The Guardian.  April 27, 2008). 


That's a really important reminder of how far back this history goes. Remember, as we've shown you before when George Bush ran against Al Gore in 2000. His critique of the Clinton foreign policy was not that it wasn't hawkish enough, but that it was too hawkish, that the U.S. was involved in too many wars, including in places like the Balkans, and that, in the words of George Bush, “a more humble foreign policy was needed’. Obviously, 9/11 changed that radically But this was already a fight going on in Republican Party politics. And people like Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan and his wife, Victoria Nuland, were already deeply concerned back then that Republicans were abandoning this posture of endless war. And we're starting to see in the likes of Madeleine Albright and Samantha Power and Hillary Clinton that, in many ways, Democrats were more hospitable to the neocon agenda. This has been an alliance long in the making. It now clearly culminated in what is very sturdy, and I would suggest a very enduring alliance. And it is based on something very real, which is that if you want to find anti war or anti-interventionist sentiment in Washington among elected officials, you need to go to the right-wing, populist wing of the Republican Party. But if you want to find a party that is a guaranteed vehicle for neoconservative aggression, that place is the Democratic Party. That's the reason why neocons are so closely aligned with Democrats now. It's the reason why people like Bret Stephens write in The New York Times that Joe Biden is one of the greatest moral leaders of our time and that a second term for Joe Biden is so urgent – something unthinkable a decade ago, or even a little longer, has become our reality: that neocons are not just part of the Democratic Party coalition, but when it comes to foreign policy, are its most influential thought leaders. 

These are the implications of today's New York Times op-ed. The reason why I wanted to spend so much time on it is that it sheds light on that history. We do want to turn to another story, which, as I mentioned at the top, is something we almost have to do because it's yet another instance of a very embarrassing media debacle. We just devoted the show last night to the way in which they essentially proclaimed that the lab leak theory of how COVID began was something that was “debunked” to the point where only crazy conspiracy theorists advocate for it. And it got to the point where people who believe in the lab leak theory were banned from even advocating that online only for it to turn out that at least major parts of the U.S. government, their most elite scientific teams believe. Although nobody knows for sure, in their view that the lab leak theory is not just viable, the more likely explanation for how COVID began. 

We have today another similar media debacle where the corporate media spent three years hyping this thing that they called the Havana Syndrome, which began with diplomats in Cuba claiming that their brains were being targeted and harmed by some kind of new sonic weapon that nobody had ever heard of. The media ultimately claimed that it was almost certainly Russia that was behind it in the attempt to pent up American anger and hostility toward Russia only for the parts of the government that actually want to gin up hostility toward Russia, admitting what we've seen evidence of for quite a long time now, which is that the whole thing, all along, was essentially a scam. 

Here we have from The Washington Post a new article today headlined, “Havana Syndrome Not Caused By Energy Weapon Or Foreign Adversary. Intelligence Review Finds”. The Post explains, 


The mysterious ailment known as a “Havana Syndrome” did not result from the actions of a foreign adversary, according to an intelligence report that shatters a long-disputed theory that hundreds of U.S. personnel were targeted and sickened by a clandestine enemy, wielding energy waves as a weapon. The new intelligence assessment caps a years-long effort by the CIA and several other U.S. intelligence agencies to explain why career diplomats, intelligence officials and others serving in U.S. missions around the world experience what they describe as strange and painful acoustic sensations. The effects of this mysterious trauma shortened careers racked up large medical bills and in some cases caused severe physical and emotional suffering.


Seven intelligence agencies participated in the review of approximately 1000 cases of “anomalous health incidents”, the term the government uses to describe a constellation of physical symptoms, including ringing in the ears, followed by pressure in the head and nausea, headaches and acute discomfort. Five of those agencies determined it was “very unlikely” that a foreign adversary was responsible for the symptoms, either as a result of purposeful actions – such as a directed energy weapon – or as the byproduct of some other activity, including electronic surveillance that unintentionally could have made people sick, the officials said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the findings of the assessment, which had not yet been made public (The Washington Post. March 1, 2023). 


Like everybody knows, who watches my show or has followed my journalism, I'm somebody who strongly believes that skepticism is warranted when the U.S. intelligence community makes claims. And this is a case where the Washington Post is reporting the findings of the intelligence community that essentially none of this happened. So, the question could be reasonably posed to me: Why am I willing to place faith in this conclusion of an intelligence community assessment given my long-standing skepticism toward reports by the intelligence community?

I have several answers to that I think is dispositive of the question. First of all, we have to distinguish, as every rational field of discipline does, between assertions that somebody makes that advance or promote their interests versus assertions that they make that undermine their own interests. So, for example, if the CIA makes a claim about an enemy of the CIA – Russia interfered in our elections; Russia was controlling Vladimir Putin; It was Russia that sabotaged its own pipeline – you should have a huge amount of skepticism because that's a case where the intelligence community is making assertions that advance its foreign policy agenda, its interests. 

But when the intelligence community makes statements that undermine their interests, when they admit that there's no evidence for a long-standing theory that accuses a U.S. enemy of some dastardly deed as they're doing here, then it's entitled to a lot more faith and confidence, because this is a case where the intelligence community is making claims contrary to their interests. And as I said, this is a concept that should be self-evident, logically. If someone says something that undermines their interest, that seems more trustworthy than someone making a claim that promotes their interest. But it's also recognized in the law, for example, most of you are likely familiar with the concept of hearsay, which is when a witness or somebody makes a claim outside of the courtroom and is unavailable to testify themselves about whether they said it. Someone is prohibited – under the rules of hearsay – from getting up on the stand and saying, so-and-so said this outside of the courtroom because it's so easy for a party to a lawsuit to make up claims that advance their own interest by claiming that somebody said something when the witness isn't there to say whether or not they actually said it. 

There's an exception, though, for when hearsay is actually admissible. There are several exceptions, but one of them is called a declaration against interest. I won’t delve deeply into the technicalities of what this means but, essentially, it's what I just said, that the law regards a statement by a witness as being more credible if that statement undermines the interest of the person saying it, then if it advances the interest of the person saying it. It's just a very common logical principle that we should be more skeptical of self-interested statements and more believing in ones that undermine our self-interest. 

But the evidence that all of this is fake has been available for years and comes from many more sources than just the U.S. intelligence community. I've been reporting on this story for years now and it's been very clear that there's no evidence for it. 

Here, in October 2021, for example, we did an in-depth video, I believe it was something like 90 Minutes, and the title of it was “The Latest CIA/Media Fraud: Claiming Cricket Mating Sounds Are A Russian Sonic Microwave Attack”. And this was in the wake of a study that had captured some of the noises that these diplomats claim they were hearing that they believe constituted the sonic attack. And they were able to prove that the noises that they were hearing were identical to the mating sounds that crickets make which are commonly found in the Caribbean, in places like Cuba.

In this video, we examined all kinds of evidence, including what became a publicly available, non-classified study that essentially said the reason that so many diplomats began reporting the same symptoms is that they were all hearing the media reports that this danger existed and that the media, by spreading this story, essentially created a form of mass psychosis, kind of a psychosomatic complex where people began believing that they were suffering from this disease, even though it didn't really exist, because the more people who claimed it, the more paranoia they experienced.

The report about the crickets is from the Colorado Spring Harbor Laboratory (Jan 4, 2019). The title of it is a “Recording of sonic attacks on U.S. diplomats in Cuba spectrally matches the echoing call of a Caribbean cricket”.

While the temporal pulse structure in the recording is unlike any natural insect source, when the cricket call is played on a loudspeaker and recorded indoors, the interaction of reflected sound pulse yields a sound virtually indistinguishable from the AP sample. 


The AP, Associated Press, had collected a sample of what these people were claiming they heard, and when they compared it to the cricket sound, it became indistinguishable.


This provides strong evidence that an echoing cricket call, rather than a sonic attack or other technological device is responsible for the sound and the released recording. Although the causes of the health problems reported by the embassy personnel are beyond the scope of this paper, our finding highlights the need for more rigorous research into the source of these ailments, including the potential psychogenic effects as well as possible physiological explanations unrelated to sonic attacks.

 So, in other words, what they were basically saying was – they were doing it very delicately because there were diplomats who were actually claiming that they were hearing these sounds. They wanted to take it seriously, and they were basically saying that the sounds are exactly the same as the crickets. That almost certainly came from the crickets. 

But let's remember as well just how implausible this whole story was from the start. The U.S. government had within its vast, sophisticated range of knowledge from employing some of the most sophisticated scientists on the planet, but they had no concept of what kind of technology would enable a country like Russia to go around the world with a little portable weapon, a sonic weapon, that would enable it to target the brains of American diplomats and disable and debilitate and cripple these brains. This is like a technology from the 25th century. It would have required a leap of centuries in technological advance on the part of the Russians to be able to do this in a way that the American government not only was unable to detect with their scientists but also with all of the surveillance instruments, they had no concept of how this possibly could have happened. 


Here now is a report from a group that was compiled by the U.S. government that was called JASON. It ended up being declassified. It's entitled “Acoustic Signals and Physiological Effects on U.S. Diplomats in Cuba” and they too essentially concluded the same thing: 

No plausible single source of energy (neither radio/microwaves nor sonic) can produce both the recorded audio/video signals and the reported medical effects [In other words, there's no technology that could do this]. We believe the recorded sounds are mechanical or biological in origin rather than electric. The most likely source is the Indies’ short-tailed cricket. 

The most likely source is a cricket. They have a picture of the cricket. And they go on to say, 


The call of the animal matches, in nuanced details, the spectral properties of the recordings from Cuba once room echoes are taken into account. 


A possible explanation for the reported symptoms is psychogenic illness, in part because the science is weak to declare any causal links from RF or acoustic weapons to brain injury without prior baseline measurements and a control group of similar background. 


It is also worth noting that psychogenic effects on vestibular function are common and the symptoms can be chronic. Although the JAMA paper dismisses such a “dizziness” theory, JASON believes psychogenic effects may serve to explain important components of the reported symptoms. 

Psychogenic effects is very polite - an euphemism for basically saying that these people imagined what it was that they were experiencing as a result of social influences, such as what we're about to show you.

It's hard to overstate how all of this is in the hands of the most fanatical disinformation agents in the country who are not QAnon, members who are not on Fortune, who are not operating within pro-Trump Facebook groups, but who work instead very tragically at the largest media corporations in the world, in their hands, watch what they did with this story that never had any evidence to it. 

Here is the first story. It was from NBC News and it was in 2019. And you're about to hear Andrea Mitchell and other top NBC News luminaries not only give greater credence to this story but place the blame in the lap of a nuclear-armed country. 


(Video 01:14:10) 

MSNBC: The mystery who or what caused American officials living in these Havana homes and several hotels to suffer headaches, dizziness and some serious brain injuries similar to a concussion? Last year, Cuban investigators told us they would never allow their territory to be used that way. But now Russia is the leading suspect, NBC News has learned, according to three U.S. officials and two others briefed on the investigation. Evidence they say, backed up by highly secret communications intercepts collected during a lengthy and ongoing investigation involving the FBI, CIA and other agencies. U.S. officials also tell NBC News investigators now believe the Americans were deliberately targeted. 


Juan Zarate, Senior National Security Analyst: This is not an accident. And those who think this is some sort of rogue operation I think are operating in a fantasy world. 


MSNBC: The State Department says it is still investigating. 


State Department Spokesperson: We have not assigned any blame and we continue to look into this. 


MSNBC: Why would Russia target American officials? [The] leading theory to disrupt President Obama's opening to the Cuban leader Raul Castro? No comment tonight from the Cubans or the Russians.  

I mean, it's – I almost want to play that for you again, because every single sentence is not just false, but incredibly dangerous and inflammatory and sensationalistic. And it's offered with almost no questioning or doubt at all. They acknowledge the CIA and the FBI are telling them this. They do what they always do, which is they take what they're told by individuals inside these agencies who are trying to gin up anger toward Russia. And the subtext always is that Russia is our enemy and President Trump is doing nothing about it because he's the victim of blackmail and can't, he's beholden to Putin. And they – for two straight minutes – just repeated over and over that it was basically proven that the Russians had developed an extremely advanced sonic weapon and were using it to target American diplomats and debilitate their brains. 

I've seen that many times and every time I watch it, it's just amazing, in part because these are the same people who will tell you every day and who really believe that the greatest threat to American democracy and all the values we hold dear in the West is disinformation. And these are the people who go and sit on panels where they talk about disinformation and how evil that is and how we can recognize it and how we can fight it. These are the people who want to censor the Internet and then aim to protect you from disinformation, even though some of these people are just so dumb that they'll believe anything the government tells them with no critical thought of any kind, while others are just malicious. They're purposely disseminating disinformation because it advances their political agenda to do so. 

I could show you clips like this all day, not just from NBC, but from CNN and many other places. But I'm just going to show you one more. Watch how the tone of this clip was manufactured, the kind of urgency of it and the certainty that they invoke, this authoritative tone. Anybody watching this who doesn't deeply distrust these people already would automatically assume it's true, given how authoritative they are in speaking and how little questioning or doubt they include in the report. Let's watch that. 


(Video 01:17:57] 

NBC News: Exclusive new reporting this morning from NBC News. Intelligence agencies investigating attacks on U.S. diplomats in Cuba and China now strongly suspect that Russia is to blame. 26 government workers in Havana had mysterious brain injuries starting in late 2016. And then this year, one U.S. worker in China was diagnosed with similar symptoms. Joining me now with more on this with NBC News intelligence and national security reporter Ken Dilanian. 

And so, this has been a mystery. The CIA, the FBI, other intelligence agencies have all been working to try to figure out what exactly happened here. Why do they suspect Russia now and what's the evidence that they have? 


K. Dilanian, intelligence and national security reporter: Well, it's still partially a mystery, Chris, but they have more and more evidence, they say. Three U.S. officials tell us, pointing to Russia, including communications intercepts that suggest that the Russian intelligence agency was involved now. And really, there were only three suspects from the beginning here, Russia, China and the Cubans. The Russian and Chinese intelligence services operate in force in Cuba. And it's still believed that it's possible that some element of the Cuban intelligence services cooperated with this. The other interesting thing we're reporting here is that one of the technologies used to injure these American spies and diplomats was some kind of microwave weapon that is so sophisticated, the Americans don't even fully understand it. And they've been testing some kinds of aspects of this technology. 


NBC News: So, kind of reverse engineering, is that what they're trying to do? 


K. Dilanian: Absolutely, Because, you know, the U.S. military has worked on microwave technology and tried to deploy it as weapons over the years. Apparently, the Russians have as well. And it can make people think they're hearing sounds. That's why initially this was thought to be a sonic attack of some sort, Chris.


NBC News: What do we know about the people? Were individuals targeted? Was it just a group that was targeted? And do we have any idea about a motive why these people – 


K. Dilanian: And then, again, these are only theories. But what our sources are telling us is that this was an intentional attack because initially people thought it could be a byproduct of some spying technology gone awry. But it's now believed that this was meant to hurt these spies and diplomats, some of whom have suffered serious brain injuries. And if this is confirmed that it was Russia, Chris, it would be a game changer because the sort of unwritten rules of the spying game are you don't go after the other person's spies and diplomats. You don't try to hurt them. You. I'm out of the country. But you don't. 


NBC News: So where are they in this investigation? I mean, are they close? Do they feel like they're at a place where they will have a definitive answer? 


K. Dilanian: They do believe that eventually they will be able to go down the track of possibly even indicting people. But they are far from that right now. They're not even willing to say within the U.S. government that they are 100% sure it was Russia. 


I mean, where do you start? None of that ever happened. They spent two and a half minutes talking about something that did not exist. And not just that, but they were explaining in great detail the evidence that proved that Russia did it, even though the “it” was made up and fabricated. 

And they're so dumb too. Did you see when she said, “So it's like kind of like reverse engineering, the microwave oven”? And he's like, “yeah, I mean, essentially that”. As I said, I really wish that there were times when we could just not have to talk about these people and not have to dissect the propaganda that they spew. But it's impossible because of how often they do it and because of how destructive it is when they do. NBC News is one of the most influential media outlets on the planet, even though nobody watches MSNBC primetime shows, NBC News itself has all sorts of gigantic ways of influencing not just American discourse, but discourse globally. And so the fact that they are spew – you could just watch them in real-time with the most serious and earnest faces spewing outright lies about things that don't even exist. 

You know, you run out of words at some point to just describe the contempt that they deserve. But to me, what it always comes down to is the same thing, which is if they had gone on the air yesterday and said, Hey, do you remember when we spent the first 18 months of the COVID pandemic mocking the people who were wondering whether this came from a lab leak, who thought that perhaps it's more than a coincidence that the exact lab where these kinds of viruses are studied and manipulated happens to be the exact place in the world where the virus began and maybe there's a connection… And we told you that the only people who were suggesting that were people who were insane conspiracy theorists because that had already been debunked and disproven and that scientists knew for sure that this had come from a zoonotic cause by leaping species. Do you remember when we told you that night after night after night and ruined the reputations – or tried to – of the people who were suggesting the lab leak might be viable only for us to now learn that even the most elite scientific units inside the United States government, at least some of them, not only believe that that lab leak theory we mocked and told you had been disproven is, in fact, not just viable but the most likely explanation. Well, we want to tell you we're really sorry for having misled you, so fundamentally misled you in the world. Here's what happened. Here's why we did that. Here are the steps we're going to take to ensure it doesn't happen again. We're, of course, retracting everything we said, and we apologize profoundly for having done so. And here's the accountability that is being brought to those most responsible. 

Or if they were, then the next day, go on the air and say, hey, do you remember when we were telling you for three years that Russia was way over every conceivable ethical line when it comes to international relations because they had developed a 25th-century sonic weapon that was beyond anyone's comprehension and they were using it to go around the world, destroying the brains of our diplomats? And then we learned today that even the aid agencies that we told you were the ones confirming this for us now have concluded and admitted that all along it was false, that everything we spent day after day after day after day telling you is a complete fairy tale and was total fiction. And we would like once again to apologize because this is now the 430th time in the last two years that we did exactly this. And here are the steps we're going to take. 

It's the fact that, of course, they don't do any of that. That is what causes the deepest form of my contempt because what that shows is not that they're so embarrassed about their failures that they want to pretend that it didn't happen, something they get away with because they live in a completely closed and insular system where the only people they care about and to whom and for whom they speak are liberals who want them to lie this way. It's not just that. It's something much more nefarious. It's that this kind of lying is their job. They're actually doing their job successfully and effectively by doing all of this. So that they know that's their job. So why would anyone ever apologize for having done their job well? Why would you implement steps to change the way that you're doing something when in fact you're doing exactly what it is that you're paid to do? This is another way of saying that the real agents of disinformation, the real people whose job it is to use the resources of the richest and most powerful corporations, are not the people that they claim are the disinformation agents. It's these people right here. And so, the fact that polling shows that the public holds these people in contempt and doesn't trust them and has come increasingly to see them as malicious influences in the world is something that I cheer that's urgent, that they're seen for what they are. And that's why I say that more of that is necessary. So, the reason we spend time dissecting these stories is in part because, as I said last night, it's a very important form of journalism to debunk journalistic deceit and journalistic propaganda. But another major reason is that it is healthy and important to identify the malicious actors in your society and to assemble in contempt for them and in opposition to them. And I think that is one of the most important functions independent media serves, is that independent media and only independent media have the ability to do that. And that's the reason why they are so intent on maligning and discrediting any of us who have large audiences in independent media, and if that fails, ultimately trying to use the power of the state and big corporations to have people in independent media censored because they know that their ability to get away with what they're doing depends upon their ability to either discredit dissent or – if that doesn't work as it's not working – to stamp it out altogether. And that is the war over information that is currently underway. 

And the thing that gives me the most optimism is the ability that independent media has, as evidenced by the success of our show after just two months, to have a very large audience that grows each week and each month and other shows in independent media as well. There clearly is a shift in power and influence out of the hands of these large media corporations and into the hands of the people who want to debunk propaganda rather than fortify it. And that's the reason why I decided to do this show, notwithstanding the fact that it's not easy to produce a show every single night, live, at a quality that I feel is necessary to do. It's because I believe this work is really necessary as the only real way to undermine people like this and to get the public to really regard them with the contempt that they so richly deserve and have really earned through their behavior. 


So that concludes our show for this evening. Thank you, as always. To those of you who watch, as we remind you, every Tuesday and Thursday, we have our aftershow live on Locals where we take your questions and feedback from our audience and comment on what it is that you have to say in reaction to our show. We take your ideas as well about topics to cover and guest interviews. And the fact that our journalism is now appearing there exclusively is all the more reason for you to join. It also helps the show, the more members that we have. So, the join button is right underneath the video on this page. It's in red, and if you click that, you'll be able to join our community. It helps strengthen the reporting that we're doing. It allows you to be a part of all the other things we're doing as well. 

Thanks, as always, to everybody who has watched. I hope to see you back tomorrow night and every night. 7 p.m. EST, live, exclusively here on Rumble.


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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.”

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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,, 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

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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
Video Transcript

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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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