Glenn Greenwald
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Is War With Iran—Long-Time Neocon Fantasy—Finally Here? Nancy Pelosi Says Pro-Palestine Protesters Are Russian Agents—or Chinese. Plus: Expert Sal Mercogliano on Houthi Attacks in Red Sea
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January 30, 2024
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Good evening. It's Monday, January 29. 

Tonight: is Joe Biden leading the United States into an even more expanded war in the Middle East, this time targeting Iran? After the October 7 attack by Hamas, the Biden administration pledged full and unconditional American support for Israel, not only proposing to pay for and arm Israel's war, but even deploying military assets to that region, including two aircraft carriers. The objective, they said at the time, was to ensure that there would be no regional escalation. Yet exactly that has happened. 

The Israelis and Hezbollah have been repeatedly attacking one another for months. The U.S. has repeatedly and fatally bombed targets in both Syria and Iraq that it alleges are the home of Iranian-backed militias and has bombed multiple targets in Yemen over the last month, in retaliation for attacks by the Houthi on commercial ships connected to Israel in the U.S. But all of that escalation, though dangerous in the extreme, makes what happens next seem like child's play, as members of both parties are urging, even demanding, that Biden now attack and bomb targets inside Iran in retaliation for the death of three American soldiers at a U.S. base in Jordan caused by a drone attack the U.S. says Iran is responsible for. 

If one looks at this incident in complete isolation—three American soldiers were killed by a drone attack on the U.S. military base—then the question of what the U.S. should do might seem simple. Namely, the U.S. must retaliate, perhaps even aggressively, against whichever country was to blame. But if you pull back the analytical prism just a few inches, much broader and more complex questions arise, ones which complicate that question significantly. 

To begin with, why does the U.S. have military bases and U.S. soldiers deployed all across the Middle East, including in Jordan, Syria and Iraq? Looking at things purely from a pragmatic perspective, what does one expect will happen if the U.S. involves itself in multiple wars in the Middle East, including paying for and arming Israel as it destroys Gaza? Is it reasonable to assume that all these other countries will simply stand by passively, while the U.S. continues to interfere in, and assert its military force in that region? And how far is the U.S. willing to go? What price are Americans willing to endure in the name of protecting Israel and empowering its war in Gaza? 

Such questions regarding the use of force and bombing campaigns and the like had traditionally broken down years ago along left/right lines, but not anymore. After the standard establishment Republican warmongers, people like GOP Senators Lindsey Graham, Tom Cotton and John Cornyn all demanded that Biden strike Iran, the former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, in a mega-viral tweet, proclaimed them to be, and I quote, “fucking lunatics.” 

Other Republican politicians, including Rand Paul and Vivek Ramaswamy, have long questioned the wisdom of trifling with the U.S. war with Iran, something that has long been the goal of Israel's most ardent supporters in the U.S., as well as typical cheerleaders for the military-industrial complex and the doctrine of endless war. We'll report on these latest events involving Iran and examine all of these obviously important and quite grave questions that arise from them. 

Then: former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went on CNN on Sunday and announced her belief that pro-Palestinian protesters in the United States are likely Russian agents or in some other way are tied to the Kremlin. As a result of her suspicions, which she insisted were well-founded, and what she described as her longtime interest in the topic of Russian infiltration, Pelosi called on the FBI to immediately investigate those who are protesting against the Israeli war in Gaza, to find out about their connections to the Kremlin. In an odd turn of events, however, the very same Nancy Pelosi—when pro-Palestinian protesters showed up at her house earlier today to protest her support for Israel's war—screamed at them, “Go back to China. That's where your headquarters are.” She did not appear to realize that only 24 hours earlier, she had claimed that their headquarters were in Moscow, not Beijing. 

It is tempting just to laugh off Pelosi's rantings as the delusions of a deranged elderly lady who has spent her life accustomed to being shown great deference. That is of course true and is undoubtedly part of what is driving her uncontrolled rage against these protesters. There are several revealing aspects to this incident, however, showing not only how reflexively Washington Democrats seek to weaponize the FBI against their political opposition, but also how demented this core Democratic Party tactic is, which has dominated this party's discourse for almost eight years now, of insisting that anyone who questions or opposes them must be controlled by and loyal to Russia. 

Along the same lines, we'll examine the latest campaign literature of Congressman Adam Schiff, who was Pelosi's candidate for the U.S. Senate in California, where he boasts that he proved that Trump and Russia illegally colluded. 

Finally, one of the most inflammatory events driving the conflict in the Middle East has been the attack by the Houthi on U.S. and Israeli-linked commercial ships in the Red Sea. The way that the Houthis have caused so much turmoil and difficulty for commercial shipping is actually quite fascinating, given how little resources and military sophistication they possess. To help us understand exactly what is going on. We will speak to Sal Mercogliano, a former merchant marine and expert in the maritime sector, who is the host of a YouTube channel show entitled “What's Going On with Shipping?” Last week, he produced a very informative video explaining in detail exactly what the Houthis have been doing, why it is far more serious than it has been appreciated, and what the U.S. response has been and still might be in the future. 

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

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UPDATE: Alan Dershowitz vs. Glenn Greenwald at The Soho Forum
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I’m impressed with how well informed and how IFORMING some of the audience here is! Someone offered a list of reports from Al Jesera that includes a report on the current use of the floating aid port and how it’s being received from the perspective of Gaza and the international community. It’s really important to know about! Thanks to who did this!

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As the Daily Wire Publicly Negotiated a Debate with Candace Owens, it Secretly Sought -- and Obtained -- a Gag Order Against Her
Due to a prior restraint order against Owens, the much-anticipated Israel debate with Ben Shapiro appears to be off.

On April 5, Candace Owens publicly invited her former Daily Wire colleague Ben Shapiro to a debate about "Israel and the current definition of antisemitism." It was Owens' criticisms of U.S. financing of Israel, and her criticisms of Israel's war in Gaza, that caused her departure from the Daily Wire two weeks earlier.

Both Shapiro and Daily Wire CEO Jeremy Boreing responded by saying they would like to arrange the debate requested by Owens. That night, Shapiro appeared to accept her offer, writing on X: "Sure, Candace. I texted you on February 29th offering this very thing." The Daily Wire co-founder added: "Let's do it on my show this Monday at 5pm at our studios in Nashville; 90 minutes, live-streamed."

After Owens objected to the format and timing, she and Boreing exchanged several tweets in which they appeared to be negotiating, and then agreeing to, the terms and format for the debate. Owens had suggested the debate be moderated by Joe Rogan or Lex Fridman. Shaprio said he wanted no moderator. They ultimately agreed to the terms, with Boreing offering a series of conditions, including a no-moderator debate, and with Owens publicly accepting

Two weeks later, many readers of both Shapiro and Owens noticed, and complained, that the debate had not yet happened. On April 24, Owens addressed those inquiries by explaining that the Daily Wire had yet to propose dates, while reiterating her strong desire to ensure the debate happened.

But the debate was never going to happen. That is because the Daily Wire -- in secret and unbeknownst to its readers -- sought a gag order to be placed on Owens after she had called for a debate. They did this under the cover of secrecy, before a private arbitrator, at exactly the same time that they were claiming in public that they wanted this debate and were even negotiating the terms with her. To this date, the Daily Wire has not informed its readers, seeking to understand why the much-anticipated debate had not yet happened, that they had sought and obtained a gag order against Owens.

When seeking a gag order to be imposed on Owens, the Daily Wire accused her of violating the non-disparagement clause of her agreement with the company. To substantiate this accusation, the company specifically cited Owens' initial tweet requesting a debate with Shapiro as proof of this disparagement, along with concerns she voiced that Shapiro appeared to be violating the confidentiality agreement between them by publicly maligning Owens's views to explain her departure from the company. While the company claimed before the arbitrator that it did not object in principle to a "healthy debate," it urged the imposition of a gag order on Owens by claiming that the way she requested the debate constituted disparagement of Shapiro and the site.

To justify the gag order it wanted, the company also cited various criticisms of the Daily Wire and Shapiro on X that Owens had "liked." This proceeding took place as part of an exchange of legal threats between the parties after the public agreement to debate about Israel was solidified. Those threats arose from the fact that various Daily Wire executives and hosts, in both public and private, were castigating Owens as an anti-Semite. On March 22, Daily Wire host Andrew Klaven published a one-hour video that hurled multiple accusations, including anti-Semitism, at Owens. The Daily Wire cited Owens' response to that video -- her defense of herself from those multiple accusations -- as further proof that she needed to be gagged.

The initial tweet from Owens not only requested a debate, but also included a video from the popular comedian Andrew Schulz, who had mocked the Daily Wire for firing Owens over disagreements regarding Israel, and specifically mocked Shapiro for his willingness to debate only undergraduate students. The tweet underneath Owens's original debate request included a summary of Schulz's mockery of Shapiro which stated: Schulz now "realizes Ben Shapiro is only good at debating college liberals & can’t win debates against serious competition." 

After the prior restraint hearing sought by the Daily Wire and Shapiro, the arbitrator sided with them and against Owens. The arbitrator agreed with the Daily Wire that Owens' call to debate Shapiro, and her follow-up negotiations of the debate, constituted "disparagement" of the company and Shapiro. The company argued that any further attempt by Owens to debate, as well her suggesting that the debate would expose the Daily Wire's real "priorities," constituted criticisms of the site and of Shapiro, criticisms that the arbitrator concluded Owens was barred from expressing under her contract with the company.

The arbitrator thus imposed a gag order of prior restraint on Owens. Among other things, the order banned Owens from saying or doing anything in the future which could tarnish or harm the reputation of the Daily Wire and/or Ben Shapiro. Given that the Daily Wire had argued, and the arbitrator agreed, that Owens' offers to debate Shapiro about Israel and anti-semitism were themselves "disparaging," the Daily Wire has ensured that the debate with Owens that they publicly claimed to want could not, in fact, take place. Any such debate would be in conflict with the gag order they obtained on Owens from expressing any criticisms of the site or of Shapiro.

When asked for comment to be included this story, Owens replied: I "wish I could comment on this but I can’t." She added: "can neither confirm nor deny."

Boreing said: "your story is inaccurate to the point of being false," though he did not specify a single inaccuracy, nor did he deny that the Daily Wire had sought and obtained a gag order on Owens at the same time they were publicly posturing as wanting a debate with her. The confirmation we obtained of all these facts is indisputable. Boreing added: "I’m sure you can appreciate how fraught a high profile break-up like this is. For that reason, we are trying to resolve our issues with Candace privately."

It certainly seems true that the Daily Wire is attempting to achieve all of this "privately." Nonetheless, Ben Shapiro has constructed his very lucrative media brand and persona based on his supposed superiority in debating, a reputation cultivated largely as a result of numerous appearances at undergraduate schools around the country where he intrepidly engages with students who are often in their teens or early twenties. Both Shapiro and the Daily Wire have also predicated their collective media brand on an eagerness to engage in free and open debate with anyone, and to vehemently oppose any efforts to silence people, especially those in media, from expressing their political views.

It was the imperatives of this media branding that presumably led the Daily Wire and Shapiro to publicly agree to a debate with Owens over Israel and anti-semitism in the first place. Indeed, when it became apparent early after the start of Israel's war in Gaza that Owens had major differences with Shapiro, Boering responded to calls from Israel supporters for Owens to be fired by proclaiming in November: 

[E]ven if we could, we would not fire Candace because of another thing we have in common - a desire not to regulate the speech of our hosts, even when we disagree with them. Candace is paid to give her opinion, not mine or Ben’s. Unless those opinions run afoul of the law or she violates the terms of her contract in some way, her job is secure and she is welcome at Daily Wire.

But a mere four months later, Owens, despite being of one of the company's most popular hosts, was out. The company had concluded that her increasingly vocal criticisms of Israel, opposition to U.S. financing of it, and her views on anti-semitism were incompatible with the Daily Wire's policies.

All of those issues would likely have been the subject of the public debate that Owens sought, and that the Daily Wire claimed to want. Instead, the Daily Wire has succeeded in obtaining a gag order that, on its face, prevents Owens, in advance, from questioning or criticizing both the Daily Wire or Shapiro in any way.

 

 

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SYSTEM UPDATE RECAP: May 13-17
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MONDAY, MAY 13 - EPISODE 269

Jen Psaki's Lies Expose the Fraud of "Disinformation"; Israelis Endanger Americans and Block Humanitarian Aid

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Intro (7:26)

Queen of Disinformation (14:11)

Israelis Block Gaza Aid (47:32)

Outro (1:12:12)

 

TUESDAY, MAY 14 - EPISODE 270

House Prioritizes Israel Over Funding U.S. Government; Seinfeld Commencement Debacle Fuels Antisemitism Panic; PLUS: China and Hungary's Close Ties Explained

Full transcript available for paid supporters: HERE

 

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Intro (10:29)

House Prioritized Israel Over U.S. (16:19)

Media Meltdown (48:28)

Hungary and China Strengthen Ties (57:50)

Outro (1:17:07)

 

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WEDNESDAY, MAY 15 - EPISODE 271

INTERVIEW: Professor Jeffrey Sachs on Ukraine's Failures, Israel's War in Gaza, China, and More

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Intro (6:31)

Interview with Professor Jeffrey Sachs [13:12 - 1:10:23]

  • Ukraine (13:12 - 48:33)
  • Israel (48:34 - 58:40)
  • Columbia Student Protests (58:45 - 1:03:23)
  • China (1:03:24 - 1:10:23)

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