How To Spy On Foreign Governments

Propaganda is meant to deceive people. If you think much of the news is thinly disguised propaganda, then you belong to the minority of the population that is endowed with the ability to detect horse manure. Now, why don’t you turn that skill in to the fine art of international espionage? No, I do not mean the what-the-butler-saw variety or sift-the-garbage type. This is cooler and you can do it from the comfort of your couch.

Back when I was in school, I was a short-wave radio enthusiast. I listened to everything from the BBC to the NHK Japan to Radio Uganda. One of my favorites was the VOA (Voice Of America). I particularly liked their special English program Words And Their Stories. Those were the good old days. You could listen to FM radio without being interrupted by advertisement jingles or DJ chatter. It was a time when TV was synonymous with Doordarshan and radio with All India Radio (AIR).

When Rajiv Gandhi was India’s prime minister, everytime you switched on the radio, all you would hear was Panchayat Raj. If you switched on the TV, you could see and hear Panchayat Raj. I was tired of all this and foreign broadcasts on short-wave seemed to be a godsend. As I grew older and wiser, I realized that VOA was nothing more than an American version of what Doordarshan had become. They simply repeated everything that the American government said. Later, when I read Victor Marchetti’s heavily redacted The CIA And The Cult Of Intelligence, I came to know that VOA was actually a progaganda outlet of the Central Intelligence Agency.

One of the most irritating aspect of VOA news was their choice of commentators. For every region or topic in the world, the VOA had an expert who would be called in to provide an objective opinion. He/she ineveitably toed the line of the American government. When Mahathir Mohammed was elected Prime Minister of Malaysia, VOA had only bad things to say about him. When a new prime minister was elected in Thailand, VOA did it again. It happened every time some new leader who was not perceived to be pro-U.S. was elected in another country. It seemed ridiculous that the U.S. could not reconcile to the fact that these leaders have been chosen by the people and it did not really matter what the U.S. government thought about them.

MAP_Caspian_PipelinesThe Americans were most upset when Vladmir Putin was named by Boris Yeltsin as his successor. On the air, they were so unconsolable that I started feeling sorry for them. When everyone else in the world felt relieved that Russia finally had a strong leader in charge, Americans seemed to be the only ones feeling otherwise. But, when Yeltsin was gutting Russia, the VOA made no complaints.

Under Boris Yeltisin, Russia was virtually ruled by the World Bank.♥ World Bank-approved economists were put in charge of the Russian economy. These guys initiated the so-called reforms that almost brought the country to total ruin. Western plants in the Yeltsin’s government also tried to break up the Russian federation* itself. Thanks to their work, Chechenya became independent. The Chechen terrorist Aslan Maskhadov became its President.

Chechnya has some oil and gas resources of its own. But, more importantly, it had several oil & gas pipelines passing through its territory. Traditionally, oil extraction in this region was dominated by Russia and Iran. Pipelines either went to the north into Russia or to the south into Iran. Russia offered the United States a share in the spoils but the United States had other ideas. It was bent on creating a an East-West axis by running pipelines in that direction. So, a pipeline was laid to Turkey via Georgia.♣

Georgia was a former Soviet Republic. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Georgia became a client state under its leader Eduard Shevardnadze. Leaders of several Central Asian republics went under the payroll of the US. Joint military excercises were conducted and the US took over some military bases left behind by the Soviets. While American oil companies were trying to build pipelines, several aspiring terrorists in these countries underwent training in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This was a time when the U.S. and Al Qaeda were friends. When these terrorists came back, they started creating trouble in Chechnya. When Russia reacted with force, the U.S. urged Russia to give “sufficient autonomy” to Chechnya. By holding up IMF loans, the U.S. ensured that Chechen warlord Maskhadov came to power.

When Vladmir Putin became Russian President, all this changed. He sent the Russian army back into Chechnya and soon Maskhadov was on the run. Putin also put the Russian economy on the mend. The oil and gas companies that were privatized by Yeltisin were made to pay taxes and royalties. A new pipeline bypassing Chechnya was built. He also made peace with a Chechen rebel leader and helped him to power. He prevented Anglo-American oil companies from buying up Russian oil conglomerates.

Naturally, all this was not good news for the Americans. They were caught napping when the Soviet Union broke up. They were hoping to restore their honour by helping the breakup of the Russian Federation but their efforts were going nowhere. Hence, they asked their IMF stooges to quit and form independent parties and coalitions. Russian oligarchs¤ who became rich during the Yeltsin’s “reforms” started bankrolling these forces. Their popularity was never much in Russia. For the American and British media, these Russian traitors represented the true democratic voice of Russia. Putin was an enemy of “true” democracy.

During the Moscow theatre siege, you could see on the BBC and the CNN how twisted their coverage was. The siege was supposed to be a “challenge” or a “threat” to President Putin. This was against common sense. Whenever there is a big terrorist attack or incident, the population of affected country will rally behind its leader. It was always a mystery how Western commentators and experts could think these events turn into “challenges” to Putin’s position as President. The same media outlets had no qualms in claiming that U.S. President Bush’s popularity soared after the September 11 attacks and that security was his trumpcard over his political opponents!

After Russian special forces killed all Chechen terrorists inside the theater, American officials and media made a big fuss about the human rights of the terrorists and alleged that they were killed in cold blood. During the recent Beslan school hostage incident, the BBC again had commentators claiming that the crisis was a “threat” to President Putin. On the CNN, there were other commentators doing the same thing. Unfortunately, for the Americans, people in Russia don’t watch the BBC or the CNN. Perhaps realising this, some commentators complained that even though Russian TV channels¶ were broadcasting the same pictures as they did but they were not doing a good job as they did of criticising Putin!

For those interested in objective and unbiased news, such coverage will be revolting. But they also provide an insight into their governments’ thinking. This is the age of managed news. British and American governments think that if they repeat a lie several times, it will become the truth. In the process, they reveal their biases, the sides they are supporting, and what sort outcomes they would be happy with in tough situations (that they helped in making.)

Another thing that managed news tend to reveal is the areas of weakness for the American government. On the BBC, you will find reports about attacks by insurgents or by the American military labelled as IRAQ SECURITY. But when odd incidents of violence happens in other places, the word SECURITY will be easily replaced by VIOLENCE or CRISIS. Back in Iraq, US forces expressed displeasure at the media when they labelled Iraqis who attacked coalition forces as “Iraqi resistance.”

One might also see the level of influence that American and British governments have on the media. Whenever American miliary is striking, you will find that the victims are always reported as members of the group behind Zordanian terrorist Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. Recently an American helicopter fired a missile into a crowd of Iraqis celebrating near a burning military vehicle. Immediately, the CNN repeated a military statement that the helicopter pilot identified the crowd as “insurgents” affiliated with Zarqawi. Though American military helicopters are very sophisticated, they are not yet capable of identifying terrorists and their affiliations. The incident however was filmed by a TV crew from Al Arabiya and it clearly showed that crowd consisted of unarmed people. This is the reason why the U.S. government doesn’t like Arab TV channels.

Two British servicemen caught planting bombs in crowded areas in Iraq.
In 2005, two beared British servicemen wearing wigs were were caught by Iraqi police. They were in a car with explosives and approaching a public protest by Iraqi civilians when a police patrol stopped them. They then shot at the police and the civilians but were later caught. British forces stormed the police station and rescued the two men. This incident clearly proved that all the “terrorist attacks” in Iraq are the handiwork of Coalition forces. However, the incident faced a media blackout in the U.S., the leading beacon of democracy and champion of free speech.

Stringers working for the U.S. in the Indian media also provide a great deal of insight in to the problems faced by the U.S government. I highly recommend C. Raja Mohan of The Hindu. In a recent article titled A Meeting Ground In Afghanistan, he floats a trial balloon on behalf of the U.S. and Pakistan.

One proposal that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could offer to President Pervez Musharraf, when they meet this week in New York on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, is cooperation in the reconstruction in Afghanistan†… What sounds heretical today often becomes policy tomorrow.

Stringers like Kuldip Nayyar also reveal what is on the American agenda for India. Gail Omvedt is another stringer working for the U.S. She earned her op-ed page cred by downplaying Indian culture and heritage. Then, one day, I found her doing a public relations exercise for the mulitnational seed company and the creator of the infamous Terminator gene, Monsanto.

… even after several years of field trials and no evidence of any harmful nature, the Government has still not cleared the new cotton variety for general use. As a result, last October an order was issued that the crops of Gujarati farmers in Gandhinagar district using a variety of cotton seed known as “Navbharat 151” would be burnt on the grounds that it contained the forbidden genes.

American officials sometimes do get their timing wrong. When the Taliban moved into Afghanistan, everyone treated their efforts as a joke. But American officials were alone in expressing hope that they could bring stability out of the situation. That was an indication that the band of “Islamic students” were not alone in their adventure. Soon, they occupied almost the whole of Afghanistan and started massacring the people.

Sometime back, I was watching the CNN when I saw the news anchor accusing Ahmed Chalabi of being a convicted fraud and as someone with no credibility. This was a bit strange because American media and Ahmed Chalabi had formed such a great mutual admiration society. However, it was an indication that Chalabi’s days were over. Sometime later, Ahmed Chalabi was accused of providing secrets to Iran. His offices were raided and he was arraigned on counterfeiting and corruption charges.

UPDATE (5/11/04): Immediately after news reports of PLO leader Yasser Arafat being taken ill came out, many Israeli government officials were seen talking to the media about funeral arrangements. They seem to be pretty sure of Arafat’s imminent death. Makes one wonder if there was any foul play on their part. It is public knowledge that Israel has embarked on a plan of securing their country by systematically assasinating leaders of Palestinian groups. As part of the plan, the frail half-blind quadriplegic Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and his successor Abdel Aziz Rantisi were eliminated. Israeli government publicly talked about including Yasser Arafat in the plan. I saw a PBS dial-in programme where a female correspondent of Jerusalem Post was on the panel trying to extoll the virtues of assasinating Arafat. While Israel publicly dropped the idea international condemnation, they may have covertly pursued the idea. This stomach flu thing that Arafat has may have been the result of a successful poisoning attempt by the Israeli government.

UPDATE (19/11/04): Arafat is dead and reason for his death is still a mystery. Yet, how did Israel know he would be gone for sure?

UPDATE (3/12/04): Kenneth Pollack, the author of The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invasion of Iraq, which was widely regarded as a main justification for Iraq’s illegal invasion, is back with a new book – The Persian Puzzle. This time, he is advocating regime change in Iran. Iran was a pioneer in democracy in the Middle East. Unfortunately, Iran’s Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh was overthrown by the CIA and the British MI6 in 1953. The Shah was then re-established until Khomeini’s 1979 Islamic Revolution finally overthew him. (Khomenie was flown in from London and was suspected as an MI6 agent.)

† – Even though the U.S. has installed its stooge Mr. Hamid Karzai as President, his writ is largely limited to Kabul. The rest of the country is dominated by the Northern Alliance, warlords like Gen. Rashid Dostum and in some places even the Taliban. The Northern Alliance has not forgiven Pakistan for its support for the Taliban. Because the Northern Alliance is backed by Russia and India, the U.S. is hoping India will use its influence in getting the Northern Alliance cooperate with the U.S. and also put Pakistan back in its lost sphere of influence.

‡ – Exit polls were conducted by election monitors coached and paid by US embassy, USAID, the U.S. Democratic Party, the U.S. Republican Party, George Soro’s Open Society, Freedom House and several others.

¤ – After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the IMF allowed several vested interests to become scandalously rich by buying up state-owned enterprises. These men also bought into established names in the news media or created new ones. Television stations such as NTV (Vladimir Gusinsky) and TV6 (Boris Berezovsky) started off as independent platforms but went on an agenda set by the West. During election periods, these media empires promoted candidates loyal to the west and disparaged others. For a sample, visit Novoe Vremya.

¶ – If you don’t trust want the Western media tells you about Russian politics and want a more informed opinion, then subscribe to the Politruk: Russian Political Plots mailing list.

♣ – Read the article Russian oil beats Bush to market by John Helmer.

♥ – Read the article Another Worlf For Russia by John Helmer.