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Activists aboard the Marianne before it shipped off, Gaza bound. (Photo: Freedom Flotilla)

Activists aboard the Marianne before it shipped off, Gaza bound. (Photo: Freedom Flotilla)

Israel Defense Forces violently intercepted the Swedish boat named Marianne in the early hours of June 29 to prevent it from landing in Gaza, using tasers against unarmed passengers. The 18 passengers, whose mission was to break the siege of Gaza, were taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod and the non-Israelis will be deported from Ben Gurion Airport.

The Marianne was originally part of a flotilla comprised of four boats with 48 passengers, including human rights activists, journalists, artists, and political figures representing 17 countries. Three of the boats returned to ports in Greece.

The passengers are an impressive group. Among them is Dr. Moncef Marzouki, former President of Tunisia who came to power after the 2011 popular uprising, and Dr. Basel Ghattas, a member of the Israeli Knesset from the Joint List, a party representing Israel’s Arab citizens and the third-largest in Israel’s parliament. On one of the boats that returned to Greece are two US citizens: retired US Army Col. Ann Wright and USS Liberty veteran Joe Meadors.

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Earlier this year, US officials announced a plan to set up a State Department office to centralize all government anti-ISIS propaganda on Twitter and Facebook.

The efforts of middle-management bureaucrats to connect to the young people in an anti-ISIS manner, in hopes of countering ISIS’ comparatively successful recruiting on the site was, naturally, a disaster. As with most great government blunders, its one more people want in on.

This time, it’s the British military, as General Sir Richard Barrons cautioned the West is “losing the Twitter battle,” and that the military is therefore going to Twitter to lie.

That’s not a typo, by the way, that’s flat out what Sir Richard said, that British troops need to go on Twitter to spread “lies” to fight ISIS. Military information control at its finest.

But if civilian bureaucrats couldn’t connect with the young people, career military bureaucrats probably aren’t going to do any better. Indeed, the fact that Sir Richard went into the operation by telegraphing (ironically in the Telegraph) his plans to lie to the public suggests just how bad an idea this truly is.

With a 7-day extension hinting at the possibility of a major breakthrough in nuclear negotiations with Iran, CNN turned the tables and instead released a story talking about US bunker-busting bombs being put on standby.

The focus on a “military option” against Iran, the idea that in the middle of key talks the US could just up and attack Iran out of the blue, wasn’t actually based on new anything US officials said. Indeed, the CNN piece relied solely on a single quote from Defense Secretary Ash Carter in an interview from way back in April.

US officials do occasionally make puzzling decisions to threaten to attack Iran, but this was not one of those times, and rather CNN invented this story as a whole cloth exercise in 19th century-style yellow journalism.

There is enough distrust between Iran and the West already, without the media inventing bogus stories about US bombs being readied to launch unilateral attacks.

Two days ago an email came from an Iraqi doctor in Baghdad in response to a brief greeting I sent for the month of Ramadan.

“Thanks so much for remembering us…In fact we are the same if not worse. Our hearts are broken at the organized ruining of our country. We are targeted by those criminals and gangs coming from everywhere, even from the west who are all witnessing this drama and, if not supporting it, are keeping silent. We wonder what sin we committed to face this gloomy black fate. In fact, what is going on is beyond words.”

This courageous woman doctor never left the side of gravely ill children despite the great exodus of doctors due to kidnappings, assassinations and threats to their lives and families. Sadly she reports that another of her siblings has cancer, and she needs to leave the medical students for some days. This happens she says regretfully in “the critical time of final exams.” She herself is a cancer survivor and both her mother and sister had cancer. They have no choice, she says, but to go on and try to survive.

Another longtime friend is working in southern Iraq in a job that will soon end. He is away from his family in Baghdad, and it is dangerous for him in the south, but he has no choice with a wife and seven children to support. There was already an assassination attempt on his life in Baghdad and houses near their own have been bombed. There are nightly explosions and gunfire, assassinations and kidnappings. Approximately 200 people across Iraq have been killed each day in this month alone.

We have been frantically trying to find a safe place for him and his family to escape to. If they could go to Kurdistan they would join the ranks of the already three million IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) within Iraq. If they could get to Turkey, they might eventually get refugee status. But it is expensive there, they don’t speak the language, are not allowed to work and resettlement could take years.

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Last week CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling went to prison. If he were white, he probably wouldn’t be there.

Sterling was one of the CIA’s few African-American case officers, and he became the first to file a racial discrimination lawsuit against the agency. That happened shortly before the CIA fired him in late 2001. The official in Langley who did the firing face-to-face was John Brennan, now the CIA’s director and a close adviser to President Obama.

Five months ago, in court, prosecutors kept claiming that Sterling’s pursuit of the racial-bias lawsuit showed a key “motive” for providing classified information to journalist James Risen. The government’s case at the highly problematic trial was built entirely on circumstantial evidence. Lacking anything more, the prosecution hammered on ostensible motives, telling the jury that Sterling’s “anger,” “bitterness” and “selfishness” had caused him to reveal CIA secrets.

But the history of Sterling’s conflicts with the CIA has involved a pattern of top-down retaliation. Sterling became a problem for high-ranking officials, who surely did not like the bad publicity that his unprecedented lawsuit generated. And Sterling caused further hostility in high places when, in the spring of 2003, he went through channels to tell Senate Intelligence Committee staffers of his concerns about the CIA’s reckless Operation Merlin, which had given Iran some flawed design information for a nuclear weapons component.

Among the U.S. government’s advantages at the trial last winter was the fact that the jury did not include a single African-American. And it was drawn from a jury pool imbued with the CIA-friendly company town atmosphere of Northern Virginia.

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