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The Chris Hedges Report Podcast with Patrick Lawrence Examines How the Western Press Has Become a Propaganda Tool of the War Industry and Ukrainian Government

The Chris Hedges Report Podcast with Patrick Lawrence Examines How the Western Press Has Become a Propaganda Tool of the War Industry and Ukrainian Government

The war in Ukraine has exacerbated the loss of credibility within the western press, inflicting, journalist Patrick Lawrence argues, irreparable damage.

The Ukraine conflict has plunged the world into a geopolitical crisis. But this is not, as the writer Patrick Lawrence points out, the only crisis. The war in Ukraine has exacerbated the crisis within the western press, inflicting damage that he believes is ultimately irreparable. The press in the U.S. and most of Europe slavishly echoes the opinions of a ruling elite and oversees a public discourse that is often unhinged from the real world. It openly discredits or censors anything that counters the dominant narrative about Ukraine, however factual. For example, on August 4, Amnesty International published a report titled “Ukrainian fighting tactics endanger civilians.” The report charged Ukrainian forces with putting civilians at risk by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in populated residential areas, including in schools and hospitals, a violating the laws of war. To call out Ukrainian for war crimes, however well documented, saw the press and the ruling elites come down in fury on Amnesty International. The head of Amnesty International’s Kyiv office resigned, calling the report “a tool of Russian propaganda.” In one of the many broadsides the Royal United Services Institute in London wrote that “The amnesty report demonstrates a weak understanding of the laws of armed conflict, no understanding of military operations, and indulges in insinuations without supplying supporting evidence.” It is nearly impossible to question the virtues of Ukraine’s government and military. Those that do are attacked and banned from social media. How did this happen?  Why is a position on the war in Ukraine the litmus test for who gets to have a voice and who does not? Why should a position on Ukraine justify censorship? Joining me to discuss these questions is Patrick Lawrence who a correspondent and columnist for nearly thirty years for the Far Eastern Economic Review was, the International Herald Tribune, and The New Yorker. He is the author of Somebody Else’s Century: East and West in a Post-Western World and Time No Longer: America After the American Century.

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PATRICK LAWRENCE: Empire with a Human Face

PATRICK LAWRENCE: Empire with a Human Face

The Biden people are unlikely to speak of a new cold war with China, but they appear likely to wage one all dressed up as a sophisticated trans–Pacific strategy.

A portion of China’s Great Wall at dawn. (Hao Wei, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Those boneheaded Trump people explained their hostile, xenophobic, fated-to-fail policy toward China by telling  the rest of Asia that America stood for “a free and open Indo–Pacific.”

No, no and no, say the big shots President-elect Joe Biden has named to shape and execute his foreign policy. Instead, they mean to tell Asians to line up behind their hostile, xenophobic, fated-to-fail policy toward China in the name of “a secure and prosperous Indo–Pacific.”

Way different.

It is simply remarkable to watch as the party that howled in response to everything the Trump regime attempted on the foreign-policy side adopts one Trump-era strategy after another more or less intact but for the cosmetics.

The sin of those egregious hawks who commandeered the outgoing regime was to conduct the business of empire imperially. This new crew offers what we had better recognize now as nothing more than empire with a human face.

Of all the Biden regime’s failures in the making one can already see in prospect that none will be greater than its insistence that the U.S. must continue to treat China as a predatory competitor and strategic adversary.

As Mike Pompeo failed to enlist Asians in his crusade against the mainland — and our baboon secretary of state has flopped spectacularly, if you have not noticed — so will Antony Blinken, his successor at State, and Jake Sullivan, Biden’s nominee for national security adviser.

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PATRICK LAWRENCE: Iranian Tankers & the Age of Interdiction

PATRICK LAWRENCE: Iranian Tankers & the Age of Interdiction

Two forms of interdiction — the steady expansion of U.S. sanctions and our stunning drift toward  unmasked censorship — have begun to intersect. 

Over the weekend, a sixth Iranian cargo ship entered Venezuelan waters and is due to dock shortly. It follows a convoy of five Iranian tankers laden with gasoline to supply Venezuelan refineries. The freight this time, according to the Iranian embassy in Caracas, is humanitarian aid — food. There are unconfirmed reports the ship also carries spare parts for refineries in need of repairs.

Earlier last week, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced that Mexico would sell gasoline to Venezuela for humanitarian reasons were Caracas to ask for assistance. The Maduro government has so far made no such request.

Iran is acting in open defiance of extensive American sanctions against Venezuela. The Islamic Republic, of course, is already burdened by the most extensive sanctions regime the U.S. has ever imposed.

AMLO, as the Mexican leader is commonly known, has just put his hand up to follow Tehran’s example. He acts with forewarning: Last week the U.S. sanctioned Mexican companies that provided water to Venezuela under a previously agreed oil-for-food arrangement.

These events deserve careful consideration. So does the stunning new drift toward open, unmasked censorship in the U.S. Sanctions and censorship are not unrelated. They are two forms of interdiction. Is ours the Age of Interdiction, then? If so, why do we find ourselves in these circumstances and where will this new age lead us? These are our questions.

Sanctions Since 9/11 

President George W. Bush delivers remarks on Sept. 24, 2001, on his executive order on financial sanctions against terrorist networks. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell at right; Secretary of Treasury Paul O’Neill in middle. (Tina Hager, George W. Bush Presidential Library)

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PATRICK LAWRENCE: Accelerating Imperial Decline

PATRICK LAWRENCE: Accelerating Imperial Decline

Washington’s foreign policy towards Iran is driven by desperation rather than a reasoned understanding of a world in historically significant flux. That can lead only to a continuing succession of failures.

The kinetic events of the past week in Washington, Tehran, and the Persian Gulf were nothing if not revealing. President Donald Trump proved the keeper of the peace, warmongers all around him, when he aborted an airborne attack on Iran Thursday evening. The Iranians continue to act with admirable restraint in the face of incessant provocations.

More such provocations are sure to come. Trump announced over the weekend that he will impose yet another layer of “major new sanctions” against Iran on Monday. After a minor cyber-attack against an Iranian intelligence agency last week, the Pentagon has developed a list of Iranian entities it is considering for a more extensive cyber-war campaign.

Trump: New sanctions and more provocations to come.  (The White House/Shealah Craighead)

But there are more fundamental truths to derive from the swift escalation of Washington’s hostilities toward Tehran. They come to four. Taken together, they offer a snapshot of an imperial power in accelerating decline.

Paralyzed Elites

First, Trump’s determination to avoid pointless new wars of adventure has divided Washington to an extent that is unprecedented at least as far back as the Vietnam debacle. In addition to hawkish factions within the administration and the national security apparatus, an apparent majority on Capitol Hill — liberals as well as Republicans — favors war as the principal instrument of American foreign policy in the Middle East.

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The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 3—The Most Extensive Classified Leak in History

The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 3—The Most Extensive Classified Leak in History

The “Iraq War Logs” disgorged an unprecedented profusion of documents, military reports and videos. 

*****

For WikiLeaks, 2010 was an exceptionally eventful year. In April the transparency organization released “Collateral Murder,” the video of U.S. Army helicopters as they shot more than a dozen Iraqis in Baghdad. That proved a worldwide shock and put the 4-year-old publisher on the global media map.

“Afghan War Diaries,” a cache of 75,000 documents, followed in July.

Three months later, on Oct. 22, 2010, WikiLeaks released an even more explosive trove: 391,831 documents and videos it named “Iraq War Logs.” This superseded “Afghan War Diaries” as by far the most extensive leak of classified material in U.S. history. It shone a stark light on the U.S.–led coalition’s conduct in Iraq after its 2003 invasion, when the nation had erupted into a violent sectarian war. Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, said the Logs “constituted the most comprehensive and detailed account of any war ever to have entered the public record.”

CNN live coverage of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. (YouTube)

The source for the “Iraq War Logs” was once again Chelsea Manning, who by then was in a military prison awaiting trial on charges connected to “Collateral Murder” that wound up including 22 counts of theft, assisting the publication of classified intelligence and aiding the enemy.

The Documents 

With the publication of  the “Iraq War Logs,” WikiLeaks disgorged an unprecedented profusion of documents, military reports and videos.

The Logs cover the six-year period from Jan. 1, 2004, (a matter of months after the 2003 invasion) to Dec. 31, 2009.  WikiLeaks  partnered with The New York Times, The GuardianDer SpiegelAl Jazeera and Le Monde to disseminate the Iraq Logs. 

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PATRICK LAWRENCE: The US Moves on Iran’s Oil Market as an Expression of an Irrational Foreign Policy

PATRICK LAWRENCE: The US Moves on Iran’s Oil Market as an Expression of an Irrational Foreign Policy

Patrick Lawrence gauges the backfiring potential of Pompeo’s withdrawal on Thursday of U.S. sanction waivers from eight major importers. 

A Decisive Defeat in Long-Running Battle with Foreign Policy Minders

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement last week that no importer of Iranian oil will henceforth be exempt from U.S. sanctions is as risky as it is misguided. The withdrawal of waivers as of this Thursday effectively gives eight importers dependent on Iranian crude — India, Japan, South Korea, China, Turkey, Taiwan, Italy, and Greece — 10 days’ notice to adjust their petroleum purchases. This is now a full-court press: The intent is to cut off Iran’s access to any oil market anywhere as part of the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran. “We are going to zero,” Pompeo said as he disclosed the new policy.

Nobody is going to zero. The administration’s move will further damage the Iranian economy, certainly, but few outside the administration think it is possible to isolate Iran as comprehensively as Pompeo seems to expect. Turkey immediately rejected “unilateral sanctions and impositions on how to conduct relations with neighbors,” as Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu put it in a Twitter message. China could do the same, if less bluntly. Other oil importers are likely to consider barter deals, local-currency transactions, and similar “workarounds.” In the immediate neighborhood, Iraq is so far ignoring U.S. demands that it cease purchasing natural gas and electricity from Iran.

Pompeo joining an Iranian diaspora meeting in Dallas, April 15, 2019. (State Department/Ron Przysucha via Flickr)

Pompeo joining an Iranian diaspora meeting in Dallas, April 15, 2019. (State Department/Ron Przysucha via Flickr)

Insights on Overreach

There are a couple of insights to be gleaned from this unusually aggressive case of policy overreach.

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The Battle for Our Minds

The Battle for Our Minds

There are battlefields in Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, and elsewhere, but given the state of corporate media, perhaps the most consequential battle now being fought is for our minds, says Patrick Lawrence.


After reading The New York Times piece “The Plot to Subvert an Election” I put the paper down with a single question.

Why, after two years of allegations, indictments, and claims to proof of this, that, and the other did the newspaper of record—well, once the newspaper of record—see any need to publish such a piece? My answer is simple: The orthodox account of Russia-gate has not taken hold: It has failed in its effort to establish a consensus of certainty among Americans. My conclusion matches this observation: The orthodox narrative is never going to achieve this objective. There are too many holes in it.

“The information age is actually a media age,” John Pilger, the noted British–Australian journalist, remarked during a symposium four years ago, when the Ukraine crisis was at its peak. “We have war by media; censorship by media; demonology by media; retribution by media; diversion by media—a surreal assembly line of obedient clichés and false assumptions.” Pilger revisited the theme in a piece last week on Consortium News, arguing that once-tolerated, dissenting opinion has in recent years “regressed into a metaphoric underground.”

There are battlefields in Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, and elsewhere, but perhaps the most consequential battle now being fought is for our minds.

Those who dispense with honest intellectual inquiry, healthy skepticism of all media, and an insistence that assertions require supporting evidence should not win this war. The Times piece by Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti—two of the paper’s top-tier reporters—is a case in point: If the Russia-gate narrative were so widely accepted as their report purports, there would have been no need to publish such a piece at this late date.

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Why the U.S. Seeks to Hem in Russia, China and Iran

Why the U.S. Seeks to Hem in Russia, China and Iran

America’s three principal adversaries signify the shape of the world to come: a post-Western world of coexistence. But neolibera and neocon ideology is unable to to accept global pluralism and multipolarity, argues Patrick Lawrence.


The Trump administration has brought U.S. foreign policy to the brink of crisis, if it has not already tipped into one. There is little room to argue otherwise. In Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, and in Washington’s ever-fraught relations with Russia, U.S. strategy, as reviewed in my previous column, amounts to little more than spoiling the efforts of others to negotiate peaceful solutions to war and dangerous standoffs in the interests of an orderly world.

The bitter reality is that U.S. foreign policy has no definable objective other than blocking the initiatives of others because they stand in the way of the further expansion of U.S. global interests. This impoverished strategy reflects Washington’s refusal to accept the passing of its relatively brief post–Cold War moment of unipolar power.

There is an error all too common in American public opinion. Personalizing Washington’s regression into the role of spoiler by assigning all blame to one man, now Donald Trump, deprives one of deeper understanding. This mistake was made during the steady attack on civil liberties after the Sept. 11 tragedies and then during the 2003 invasion of Iraq: namely that it was all  George W. Bush’s fault. It was not so simple then and is not now. The crisis of U.S. foreign policy—a series of radical missteps—are systemic. Having little to do with personalities, they pass from one administration to the next with little variance other than at the margins.

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‘Too Big to Fail’: Russia-gate One Year After VIPS Showed a Leak, Not a Hack

‘Too Big to Fail’: Russia-gate One Year After VIPS Showed a Leak, Not a Hack

One year later, the VIPS memo contending that the DNC emails were leaked and not hacked has yet to be successfully challenged. Meanwhile, the country sinks deeper into the morass of the new McCarthyism, comments Patrick Lawrence.


A year has passed since highly credentialed intelligence professionals produced the first hard evidence that allegations of mail theft and other crimes attributed to Russia rested on purposeful falsification and subterfuge. The initial reaction to these revelations—a firestorm of frantic denial—augured ill, and the time since has fulfilled one’s worst expectations. One year later we live within an institutionalized proscription of proven reality. Our discourse consists of a series of fence posts and taboos. By any detached measure, this lands us in deep, serious trouble. The sprawl of what we call “Russia-gate” now brings our republic and its institutions to a moment of great peril—the gravest since the McCarthy years and possibly since the Civil War. No, I do not consider this hyperbole.

Much has happened since Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity published its report on intrusions into the Democratic Party’s mail servers on Consortium News on July 24 last year. Parts of the intelligence apparatus—by no means all or even most of it—have issued official “assessments” of Russian culpability. Media have produced countless multi-part “investigations,” “special reports,” and what-have-yous that amount to an orgy of faulty syllogisms. Robert Mueller’s special investigation has issued two sets of indictments that, on scrutiny, prove as wanting in evidence as the notoriously flimsy intelligence “assessment” of January 6, 2017.

Indictments are not evidence and do not need to contain evidence. That is supposed to come out at trial, which is very unlikely to ever happen. Nevertheless, the corporate media has treated the indictments as convictions.

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