The WHO report into the origin of the coronavirus

Here’s what happens next, says the Australian doctor who went to China

The World Health Organization (WHO) released its report into the origins of the coronavirus, a report I contributed to as a member of the recent mission to Wuhan, China.

The report outlines our now well-publicised findings: SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, most likely arose in bats, and then spread to humans via an as-yet unidentified intermediary animal. The evidence we have so far indicates the virus was possibly circulating in China in mid-to-late November 2019. We considered viral escape from a laboratory extremely unlikely.

However, the release of the report prompted governments, including in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, to share their concerns over whether investigators had access to all the data. The joint statement also called for greater transparency when investigating pandemics, now and in the future.

So what happens next?

Our report also recommended what research is needed for a more complete picture of the origins of the coronavirus.

The key focus of this next stage of investigations is looking at what happened before people realised there was a clinical problem in December 2019. Not just in China but in other countries with early cases. Such as Italy and Iran. This would give us a more complete picture of whether SARS-CoV-2 was circulating earlier than December 2019.

For instance, if we just focus on China for now, we know there were influenza-like respiratory illnesses in Wuhan in late 2019. In fact, we looked at data from more than 76,000 cases for the WHO report, to see whether these could have been what we now call COVID-19. But work is already under way to re-analyse those data using different techniques, to see if we’ve missed any earlier cases.

Talks are also under way to see whether blood donations in China in 2019 can be analysed to see if they contain antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. This would tell us whether the people who donated those samples had been infected by the virus. These types of investigations take time.

Then there’s what we can learn from molecular epidemiology (the genetic makeup of the virus and its spread). For instance, if we find a lot of variation in the genetic sequence of early samples of SARS-CoV-2, this tells us there had already been transmission for some time. That’s because the virus doesn’t mutate unless it infects and transmits. We can use modelling to say what might have happened up to three or more weeks beforehand.

Although the WHO report has looked at the role of markets in China in the spread of SARS-CoV-2, we need to re-analyse data and look further afield. Roman Pilipey/EPA/AAP

Linking the data

We also need to link those molecular epidemiology data to actual clinical data. Until now those data have largely been separate. Molecular data held in research or university laboratories and the patient data held elsewhere. We need to make those connections to tell us which infections were related. And how far back in time they go.

There are also many biological samples sitting in laboratories around the world that we need to analyse, and not just in Wuhan. So we have to do a bit of detective work to locate them and analyse them to understand the pattern of disease and to help sort out the origin. There is no central database of samples and what antibodies or genetic material they might contain.

For instance, there are SARS-CoV-2 positive blood donations in the US and France, and cases in Italy, and there’s sewage testing in Spain. These are places with early outbreaks of respiratory illnesses that may help us find out if SARS-CoV-2 was circulating earlier than we first thought.

We also need more studies into the role of frozen food products in transmitting the virus. Although we considered the “cold chain” a possible pathway to transmission, we still don’t know how big a factor this was, if at all.

Finally, there’s ongoing sampling of animals and the environment for signs of SARS-CoV-2 or related viruses. Can we find the parent virus (the one that eventually mutated into SARS-CoV-2) in a bat in a cave somewhere? Where do we look? At bats across Southeast Asia, Central Asia, into Europe? We need to look at the range of these bats and where they live. These types of investigations can take ages.

Cooperation needed

Can we find the virus in an intermediary animal, and if so, what type of animal and where? Again, these are difficult studies to set up.

The key here is to keep trying to work together and avoid the over-politicisation of the whole exercise.

Rather than blaming governments, we need to foster cooperation and trust between investigators, between and within countries. This not only helps us during this pandemic; it’s the key to managing future pandemics. The more cooperative we are, the more likely we are to get the best results. We have to make sure politics doesn’t muck that up.


This article was originally published by The Conversation


Comment by Eurasia News Online

The author is calling for avoiding over-politicisation. However, let’s have a look at the list of countries that are “concerned”:

Governments of Australia, Canada, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, United Kingdom, and United States.

What we can see is that four out of the “five eyes” members are on the list. Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and United States.

Nine of these countries are members of NATO.

Japan and Republic of Korea are effectively occupied territories pretending to have independent foreign policies.

There is no one country from Africa or from South America.

With all respect towards Australian doctor who was part of the investigation, I find it hard not to compare this with the WMD investigation in Iraq. It all sounds like – we will “investigate” till we create certain public perception.

What do you think? Let us know in your comments.

Former OPCW Chief Says His Office Was Bugged While USA Pushed Iraq War

Caitlin Johnstone

In an important new interview with The Grayzone’s Aaron Maté, the first Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has revealed new insights into the way the US exerted control over the Organisation in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion and the suspicious way pro-US narratives appear to be dominating controversies in the supposedly impartial OPCW to this day.

The most significant piece of new information revealed in this interview with the acclaimed former OPCW chief José Bustani is his assertion that while the US was orchestrating his 2002 ouster due to the risk he posed of derailing the Iraq war agenda with successful negotiations, his office was packed with hidden surveillance equipment and that his American head of security vanished immediately after this was discovered.

After noticing suspicious phenomena and leaks coming out of his office, Bustani reports that he sent for a trusted security expert from outside the Organisation to investigate over the weekend.

“The fact was that the wall behind my desk, the wall behind the desk of the Director-General was full of equipment, listening equipment,” Bustani reported. “He broke the whole wall and removed everything, and there were bugs in the drawer, my desk, phone. I was shocked I must say. But he did it immediately. It took him the whole of Saturday, half of the Sunday, he took it [away], he removed everything and nobody realized except me and my wife. On Monday when people came to my office, they were shocked with the way the wall was. It was a big hole.”

“And interesting thing is — and I never said this before — is that I had then a person that was the head of the security of the Organization,” Bustani said. “He used to be an American. He had a large office full of equipment. I called him, the Monday after that happened, I called his office to check with him how come he didn’t know, he was in charge of security of the building, how come he didn’t know that there was such bugging equipment behind me. And he wasn’t there. And I was told that he was traveling to Germany, and I asked then, ‘Who allowed him to go to Germany? I am his direct boss. He was my subordinate, he was directly subordinate to me.’ Nobody could say anything. So I said ‘As soon as he returns tell him I want to have a word with him.’ This was the Monday. You will not believe it Aaron, but on Tuesday as I got to the OPCW I am told that I should go up to the head of security office and when I got there the office was empty, and this person disappeared and never showed up again. Never showed up again.”

This is a major revelation. When you’ve got an American infiltrator covertly surveilling a foreign official to advance US foreign policy agendas, what you have is a US spy. We don’t know what agency that spy would have worked for, but what Bustani is describing is US espionage targeting an international watchdog organisation.

Bustani gave additional insights into the ongoing OPCW scandal surrounding the extremely suspicious practices that were implemented in the investigation of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria in 2018 which preceded airstrikes against the Assad government by the US, UK and France. He stated emphatically that as Director-General he would “never” have allowed the Douma investigation team to be replaced with a “core team” who never went there or permitted a team of inspectors to meet with US officials during an active investigation, as reportedly happened after the Douma incident.

“This would have never happened if I were Director-General,” Bustani said when asked if he’d have allowed a US delegation to lobby them to come to a specified conclusion in their investigation. “The Inspectors know themselves that they cannot. They cannot. They are not supposed to meet with delegations on issues like inspections in particular. I don’t know how it happened, maybe they were forced to or they were led to by… I don’t know how it in practice happened because if I were Director-General this would never happen.”

“Absolutely not,” Bustani said when asked if he’d have permitted a team of investigators to be replaced mid-investigation with another team who never visited the crime scene. “It would have never happened to me, unless there was a serious violation of the code of conduct on the part of the inspectors. Which fortunately never, never happened.”
Bustani said he knew the whistleblowers who sparked the OPCW scandal from his time at the Organisation, and decried the way they are being smeared, silenced and their anonymity removed for simply voicing objections to an investigation’s methodology in the interest of protecting the OPCW’s legitimacy. He voiced a great fondness for the Organisation and a grave concern for the suspicious abnormalities in its investigative practices involving the United States, and he expressed shock at the way the US, UK and France recently blocked him from offering comments to the UN about those concerns.
Maté pointed out that one highly suspect common denominator in both the current OPCW scandal and Bustani’s 2002 ouster is John Bolton. As US ambassador Bolton is known to have been actively involved in arranging Bustani’s removal as Director-General to such an aggressive extent that he reportedly threatened Bustani’s children, and Bolton’s stint as Trump’s National Security Advisor began immediately before the 2018 airstrikes on Syria after the Douma incident. Bolton claims to have played a role in planning those airstrikes and was active at the highest levels of the US government’s executive branch throughout the entirety of the OPCW Douma investigation.

The mountains of evidence that the US has been meddling in an investigation of an incident which led to an act of war by the United States and its allies keeps stacking higher. The way the US power alliance has been actively suppressing and avoiding that evidence is appalling, and the way the mass media have refused to report on this fact is even more so.


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Originally Published by Caitlin Johnstone

Yellow Vests: No Coincidence Macron, Merkel and May are in Dire Straits

Ekaterina Blinova10240

The ‘yellow vest’ upheaval has exposed longstanding problems in France’s economy, Christine Bierre, French journalist and chief editor of Nouvelle Solidarité, has told Sputnik, adding that to heal these wounds, the French need to get rid of Brussels’ diktat and take back control of their financial system.

The ‘yellow vests’ protests are continuing to gain momentum in France, with about two thirds of the French supporting the unrest, according to the latest OpinionWay poll.

Speaking to Sputnik, Christine Bierre, French journalist and chief editor of Nouvelle Solidarité, shed the light on the nation-wide upheaval.

‘Over a year, diesel prices have increased by 23 per cent and those of gasoline, by 15 per cent. These hikes [in prices] hit those who live in rural areas and who need energy not only for their cars, but for tractors if they are farmers, boats if they are fishermen, trucks for transporters, fuel for construction workers and for heating’, the journalist said.

She noted that those who cannot afford living in big cities and who live in small towns and in the peripheries had also found themselves between a rock and a hard place, since they have to use their cars to get to megalopolises.

‘Concretely, expenses for energy have gone from 12 per cent per household in the 1960’s, to 30 per cent in 2018’, Bierre stressed. ‘For a couple with two kids using a diesel car and fuel to heat, taxes increased last year by 600 euros; the price of diesel for tractors went from 50 cents a litre to 87 cents, so a farmer using 20,000 litres per year, will pay 7,400 euros more in taxes on energy’.

She pointed out that in general, ‘the middle and the lower middle class and also part of what one calls the “working poor”‘ had fallen prey to the Macron cabinet’s measure.

According to the journalist, the rapid growth of the ‘yellow vests’ movement, which mobilized 300,000 people, ‘revealed, however, that energy prices were just the last straw that provoked the social explosion.’

TICPE and Its Consequences

However, President Emmanuel Macron and his policies are not the only reason for the impoverishment of the French middle class and the current crisis, ‘even though his favouring the richer against the poor has been the most indecent’, the journalist opined.

‘Along with the energy price increases on international spot markets, the real culprit behind the huge rise in energy prices is the tax on energy products, TICPE (Taxe Intérieure de Consommation sur les Produits Energétiques), created in 2000, and used by the state to heavily improve its tax revenues’, she elaborated.

Bierre explained that today this tax ‘represents 57 per cent of the price of diesel and more than 60 per cent of the price of gasoline, mainly because since 2014, the TICPE includes a tax to finance the costs of the energy transition.’

‘This is a progressive tax that grows every year according to a supposed price of carbon per ton of CO2, which is to reach 100 euros in 2030!’ the journalist remarked. ‘In 2015 it was at 14.5 euros, in 2017 — 22 euros in 2017, in 2018 — 44.6 euros and so on.’

She stressed that Macron’s predecessors relied heavily on the taxation of their population to finance their programmes and lately the energy transition, but the incumbent French president ‘is, no doubt, the most outrageous.’

‘Since his coming to power he “granted” 5 billion euros in tax cuts to rich financiers, transforming the tax on large fortunes into a real estate tax only, and reducing the tax on financial profits to a 30 per cent flat tax’, Bierre outlined. ‘At the same time, he reduced state aid to the poor by the equivalent of 4 billion euros (cuts in aids to housing, public jobs and increase of general taxes).’

Yellow Vests: Neither Far-Right nor Far-Left

The question then arises as to what political forces have jumped on the bandwagon of the ‘yellow vests’ movement. According to Bierre, many politicians would like to capitalize on the upheaval, from the far right to the far left camp.

‘The “yellow vests”… have rejected the participation of all political forces as such, and kicked out far right and far left elements attempting to infiltrate them’, she highlighted, adding that the movement had emerged spontaneously protesting against the austerity policies which originate from the 2008 financial crisis and earlier economic strategy.

The journalist has drawn attention to the fact that Macron has refused to hear the plight of the French population so far.

‘[Prime Minister] Edouard Philippe even repeated [on 28 November] that he won’t eliminate the planned increases of energy costs for 2019 and won’t increase the minimum wage’, she remarked. ‘Will Philippe, a close aide to Alain Juppé, end up like his master in 1995, ousted following the strikes, because he was too rigid to change?  Anything is possible.’

According to Bierre, these protests ‘have the potential of a revolutionary movement.’

‘Will the government resist all the pressure, due to the lack of organizational structures and experience [of the protesters]? Perhaps; but it has definitely become the first serious call to bring an end to the arrogance of the Paris elites of the post-De Gaulle era’, she said.

The Lesson of the 2008 Financial Crisis is Still Unlearned

The journalist believes that it is no coincidence that the leaders of major European powers — Germany, France and the UK — are currently facing economic and political difficulties triggering speculations about their possible resignations or early departures.

‘In fact Europe is suffering from the refusal of the Western world to deal with the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis, and with the inequalities created by the financial globalization of the last 30 years’, she opined. ‘Like in the US, in Europe, the middle classes became impoverished during this process, and the poor became even poorer.’

The situation is complicated by the diktat of Brussels, she underscored, adding that EU member-states’ financial systems are being controlled by the European Central Bank, which exerts its supranational authority on the nations.

‘The situation in Europe is worsened by the fact that by adopting the EU supranational treaty, all nations gave up their sovereignty in all matters and today are like bodies with no heads!  As we see in the case of Italy, a non-elected EU Commission is trying to rule over a duly elected Italian government, to forbid them from carrying a policy of investment to create jobs’, Bierre said.

Seeking a Cure

So, what steps should be taken by the government to fix the current situation?

‘Dealing with the European question is not sufficient however, because to create jobs and rebuild our economies, we must take back control of our financial system’, the journalist responded.

She noted that the looming financial crisis that is being predicted by most financial media at this point ‘sets the obvious context for the financial reforms needed to rebuild our nations in response to the current revolts.’

According to Bierre, first, Europeans need ‘a real Glass-Steagall Act which separates speculative banking completely from commercial banking’; second, ‘the reestablishment of sovereign national banks in every country emitting “public credit” for reconstruction of industrial capacities of the devastated European economies based on the policies of the “30 glorious” [post-war boom] years in France’; third, Europe needs to adopt a ‘policy of cooperation with the great powers of this world, Russia, China, India and the United States, to expand and contribute to initiatives like China’s New Silk Road, the Russian Eurasian Economic Union, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.’

Source: https://sputniknews.com/analysis/201811301070254065-macron-merkel-may-eu/

Hague Tribunal Exonerates Slobodan Milosevic Again

by Andy Wilcoxson, via Strategic Culture

More than eleven years after his death, a second trial chamber at the UN War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague has concluded that former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was not responsible for war crimes committed in Bosnia where the worst atrocities associated with the break-up of Yugoslavia took place.

Buried in a footnote deep in the fourth volume of the judgment against Bosnian-Serb General Ratko Mladic the judges unanimously conclude that “The evidence received by the trial chamber did not show that Slobodan Milosevic, Jovica Stanisic, Franko Simatovic, Zeljko Raznatovic, or Vojislav Seselj participated in the realization of the common criminal objective” to establish an ethnically-homogenous Bosnian-Serb entity through the commission of crimes alleged in the indictment.[1]

This is an important admission because practically the entire Western press corps and virtually every political leader in every Western country has spent the last 25 years telling us that Slobodan Milosevic was a genocidal monster cut from the same cloth as Adolf Hitler. We were told that he was the “Butcher of the Balkans,” but there was never any evidence to support those accusations. We were lied to in order to justify economic sanctions and NATO military aggression against the people of Serbia – just like they lied to us to justify the Iraq war.

This is the second successive trial chamber at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to conclude that Slobodan Milosevic was not guilty of the most serious crimes he was accused of.

Last year, the Radovan Karadzic trial chamber also concluded that “the Chamber is not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence presented in this case to find that Slobodan Milosevic agreed with the common plan” to permanently remove Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb claimed territory.[2]

The Tribunal has done nothing to publicize these findings despite the fact that Slobodan Milosevic was accused of 66 counts of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by the Tribunal.

Milosevic died in the Tribunal’s custody before the conclusion of his own trial. He was found dead in his cell after suffering a heart attack in the UN Detention Unit two weeks after the Tribunal denied his request for provisional release so that he could have heart surgery that would have saved his life.[3]

Dr. Leo Bokeria, the coronary specialist who would have overseen Milosevic’s treatment at the Bakulev Medical Center, said: “If Milosevic was taken to any specialized Russian hospital, the more so to such a stationary medical institution as ours, he would have been subjected to coronographic examination, two stents would be made, and he would have lived for many long years to come. A person has died in our contemporary epoch, when all the methods to treat him were available and the proposals of our country and the reputation of our medicine were ignored. As a result, they did what they wanted to do.”[4]

Less than 72 hours before his death, Milosevic’s lawyer delivered a letter to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in which Milosevic expressed fear that he was being poisoned.[5]

The Tribunal’s inquiry into Milosevic’s death confirmed that Rifampicin (an unprescribed drug that would have compromised the efficacy of his high blood pressure medication) was found in one of his blood tests, but that that he was not informed of the results until months later “because of the difficult legal position in which Dr. Falke (the Tribunal’s chief medical officer) found himself by virtue of the Dutch legal provisions concerning medical confidentiality.”[6]

There are no Dutch legal provisions that prohibit a doctor from telling a patient the result of their own blood test, and U.S. diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks show that the Tribunal had zero regard for medical confidentiality laws when they gave detailed information about Slobodan Milosevic’s health and medical records to personnel at the US embassy in The Hague without his consent.[7]

Milosevic’s trial had been going badly for the prosecution. It was glaringly obvious to any fair-minded observer that he was innocent of the crimes he was accused of. James Bissett, Canada’s former ambassador to Yugoslavia, said Milosevic’s trial “had taken on all the characteristics of a Stalinist show trial.” George Kenny, who manned the U.S. State Department’s Yugoslavia desk, also denounced the Milosevic trial proceedings as “inherently unfair, amounting to little more than a political show trial”.[8]

The trial was a public relations disaster for the Tribunal. Midway through the Prosecution’s case, the London Times published an article smearing Slobodan Milosevic’s wife and lamenting the fact that “One of the ironies of Slobodan’s trial is that it has bolstered his popularity. Hours of airtime, courtesy of the televised trial, have made many Serbs fall in love with him again.”[9]

While the trial enhanced Milosevic’s favorability, it destroyed the Tribunal’s credibility with the Serbian public. The Serbian public had been watching the trial on television, and when the Serbian Human Rights Ministry conducted a public opinion poll three years into the trial it found that “three quarters of Serbian citizens believe that The Hague Tribunal is a political rather than a legal institution.”[10]

Tim Judah, a well-known anti-Milosevic journalist and author, was dismayed as he watched the trial unfold. He wrote that “the trial of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic at the Hague is going horribly wrong, turning him in the eyes of the public from a villain charged with war crimes into a Serbian hero.”[11]

By late 2005, Milosevic’s detractors wanted the live broadcasts of the trial yanked off the air because it was not having the political effect that they had hoped it would. Political analyst Daniel Cveticanin wrote, “It seems that the coverage benefits more those it was supposed to expose than the Serbian public. [The] freedom-loving and democratic intentions of the live coverage have not produced [the] planned effects.”[12]

Milosevic’s supporters, on the other hand, were emphatic. They wanted the live broadcasts to continue because they knew he was innocent and they wanted the public to see that for themselves.[13]

Slobodan Milosevic’s exoneration, by the same Tribunal that killed him eleven years ago, is cold comfort for the people of Serbia. The Serbian people endured years of economic sanctions and a NATO bombing campaign against their country because of the unfounded allegations against their president.

Although the Tribunal eventually admitted that it didn’t have evidence against Slobodan Milosevic, its disreputable behavior should make you think twice before accepting any of its other findings.

NOTES:
[1] ICTY, Mladic Judgment, Vol. IV, 22 November 2017, Pg. 2090, Footnote 15357
http://www.icty.org/x/cases/mladic/tjug/en/171122-4of5_1.pdf%5B2%5D ICTY, Karadzic Judgment, 24 March 2016, Para. 3460
http://www.icty.org/x/cases/karadzic/tjug/en/160324_judgement.pdf
[3] ICTY Case No. IT-02-54 Prosecutor v. Slobodan Milosevic, Decision on Assigned Counsel Request for Provisional Release, February 23, 2006
[4] “Milosevic Could Be Saved if He Was Treated in Russia – Bokeria,” Itar-Tass (Russia), March 15, 2006
[5] Text of Slobodan Milosevic’s Letter to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
http://www.slobodan-milosevic.org/news/sm030806.htm
[6] Judge Kevin Parker (Vice-President of the ICTY), Report to the President of the ICTY: Death of Slobodan Milosevic, May 2006; ¶ 31, 76
http://www.icty.org/x/cases/slobodan_milosevic/custom2/en/parkerreport.pdf
[7] U.S. State Dept. Cable #03THEHAGUE2835_a, “ICTY: An Inside Look Into Milosevic’s Health and Support Network”
https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/03THEHAGUE2835_a.html
[8] “Milosevic trial delayed as witnesses refuse to testify,” The Irish Times, September 18, 2004
[9] “Listening to Lady Macbeth,” Sunday Times (London), January 5, 2003
[10] “Public Opinion Firmly Against Hague,” B92 News (Belgrade), August 2, 2004
[11] Tim Judah, “Serbia Backs Milosevic in Trial by TV – Alarm as Former President Gains the Upper Hand in War Crimes Tribunal,” The Observer (London), March 3, 2002
[12] “Debate Opens in Serbia Over Live Coverage of Milosevic War Crimes Trial,” Associated Press Worldstream, September 22, 2005
[13] “Serbian NGO Opposes Decision to Drop Live Broadcast of Milosevic Trial,” BBC Monitoring International Reports, October 8, 2003; Source: FoNet news agency, Belgrade, in Serbian 1300 gmt 8 Oct 03; See Also: “Serbia: Milosevic Sympathisers Protest Inadequate Coverage of Trial,” BBC Worldwide Monitoring, June 10, 2002; Source: RTS TV, Belgrade, in Serbo-Croat 1730 gmt 10 Jun 02

Western Media – Brief history of Anti Russian propaganda

 

Nikolai Gorshkov


 

The latest spate of allegations by western media and politicians about Russian propaganda is nothing new. The UK Cabinet files from 1980-s just released by National Archives in London reveal the British establishment’s obsession with a propaganda war against Moscow.

Ministers were worried over “the confused state of British public opinion (America seen as a great a threat to peace as Russia)” and “a strong strain of anti-Reagan and anti-American sentiment”. They put this down to “Soviet propaganda” and the gullibility of the British public.

A number of memos to Prime Minister Thatcher recommended countering this with support for pro-government groups in the UK as well as expanded radio broadcasts to the Soviet Union and its “satellites” to “project” western culture and wean the countries of Eastern and Central Europe off their alliance with Moscow.

But the story of anti-Russian propaganda goes far back than last century.

‘Contempt for the Russian People’

Over 460 years ago an English navigator Richard Chancellor arrived in Moscow via the Russian port of Archangel on the White Sea. He was entertained by Tsar Ivan the Terrible who granted freedom of trade to English merchants, looking for a direct route to China to bypass the monopoly of Venice. Despite this hospitality, the English almost immediately formed a view of Russia as a “barbaric” country.

Anthony Cross, Emeritus Professor at the Department of Slavonic Studies, University of Cambridge is the editor of ‘A People Passing Rude: British Responses to Russian Culture’.

“Among the earliest and most influential Elizabethan accounts of Russia were those collected and published by Richard Hakluyt in two editions at the end of the 16th century, but two other publications, appearing before Hakluyt but then included by him in emasculated form, were influential in establishing a largely negative perception of Russia that extended way beyond intense cold and ubiquitous bears to religious obscurantism, tyrannical rule, and almost willful ignorance.”

Professor Cross took the title for his book from an epistle by the English poet George Turbervile, secretary to Thomas Randolph during his embassy to Muscovy in 1568, who entertained London society with damning depictions of “a people passing rude to vices vile inclin’d.”

In a much more scholarly ‘Of the Russe Commonwealth’ treatise another English Ambassador Giles Fletcher (1588-9) described Russians as ignorant and godless.

The famous author of “Paradise Lost” (and “Regained”) poet John Milton also had a jab at the Russians. In his ‘Brief History of Muscovia’, a compilation of 16th century accounts, published posthumously in 1682  he echoed Fletcher in suggesting that the Russians ‘have no learning, nor will suffer it to be among them’.

Milton claimed his book was based on witness accounts.

But as an American researcher of Muscovia John B Gleason observed:

“No one seems to have asked whether the eyewitnesses were truthfull, well-informed, conscientious. The Muscovia never raises such questions but uses every kind of assertion indiscriminately.”

Another expert on the subject Lloyd E Berry has identified “two ‘thematic’ similarities between Giles Fletcher’s and Milton’s books on Russia:  “pride in the accomplishments of the English people and [their] system of government” and “contempt for the Russian people” and “Russian institutions.”

Russian Spies at the Palace

This western contempt for Russia and its people manifested itself during the Crimean War of 1853-56.

Russia had been putting military pressure on the Ottoman Empire in an effort to force political concessions from Turkey, particularly in regard to the governance of Orthodox Christian populations of the Balkan lands under Ottoman rule. Russia expected support from the Christian rulers of Britain, France, Prussia, and Austria, but both Catholics and Protestants of Western Europe viewed Muslim Turks as a lesser evil than Orthodox Russians.

In a Punch parody of an Orthodox Christian icon, the Tsar is seated on cannon balls, with a ramrod as a crozier, a mortar as a mitre, and a halo of bayonets.

That the Balkan peoples who rebelled against the Ottomans saw Russia as their protector and liberator made London, Paris and Vienna worry more about geopolitics than national aspirations of the oppressed.

It was England, particularly the Home Secretary Lord Palmerston, and the British press, led by The Times and the satirical magazine Punch who pushed hardest for the western powers to declare war on Russia. Such was the war fever brought about by the press that rumours abounded about Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, being a Russian agent. Thousands waited by the Tower of London to see Prince Albert escorted into the infamous prison.

The Bear Season

In a reference to Aesop’s fable about bees defending their hive from an intruding bear a Punch cartoon shows Turkish, Austrian, Prussian, French, and English ‘bees’, protecting the ‘hives’ of Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, against the angry Russian ‘bear’.

The first depictions of Russia as a fearsome beast appeared in the 16th century Poland who was trying to establish its influence over its “less European” brethren. But it was the English who mastered the art almost to perfection. The first ever allegory of Russia as a bear appeared on a series of English engravings ‘The European Race’ started in 1737.

The Punch, established in 1841 made this allegory a household item. From then on the fearsome beast has been invoked each time the West wanted to depict Russia as a savage country.

Even the infamously bungled charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava was used by The Times to belittle the Russians as compared to the English:

“If the exhibition of the most brilliant valor, of the excess of courage, and of a daring which would have reflected luster on the best days of chivalry can afford full consolation for the disaster of today, we can have no reason to regret the melancholy loss which we sustained in a contest with a savage and barbarian enemy.”

The British were equally disdainful towards their Turkish allies whom London purported to “save” from the Russian “bear.”

Varying Degrees of Ignorance

In 1921, after the end of the Russian Civil War and military intervention by Britain, the United States and a dozen other western countries, a group of American journalists went to Moscow. Their task was to report on the changes happening in Soviet Russia. The Soviet government lent them rooms at the Savoy Hotel free of charge. Much later, in a book by an American journalist Whitman Basso ‘The Moscow Correspondents: Reporting on Russia from the Revolution to Glasnost’ they reminisced about the challenges they faced.

They admitted they did not know the language, the history, the politics, or very much about the men who shaped the momentous events. Among the inhabitants of the Savoy Hotel there were no Soviet experts, nor even, as British journalist Paul Winterton later put it, people with “varying degrees of ignorance.” What little they knew about Soviet Russia they probably learned from their own newspapers.

British journalists appeared to be a lot more knowledgeable than their American colleagues at the time but many used their knowledge of Russia in a peculiar way.

In 1924, the Daily Mail published a forgery that threw Anglo-Russian relations off-course for a long time. The Daily Mail made the most of a fake letter allegedly written by the head of Comintern Zinoviev to the British Communists, calling it “Moscow’s orders to our Reds.” Following the publication of the forged letter London reversed its decision taken earlier that year to recognize Soviet Russia and cancelled a treaty with Moscow that was meant to move the East-West relations from confrontation to cooperation.

It could be argued that it was this letter and not Churchill’s Fulton speech 22 years later that laid the foundations of the Cold War. It is not widely known that Churchill borrowed his famous — or infamous — reference to the ‘Iron Curtain’ from no other than the ace of Nazi propaganda Goebbels who had used the metaphor to justify war on communism.

The relay was swiftly picked up by the American press. “Every Communist is Moscow’s Spy” was the battle cry of Senator McCarthy’s ‘Un-American Activities Committee’ in the 1950s.

Even Hollywood wartime films about the anti-Nazi alliance with Moscow, commissioned by the White House, were declared pro-Soviet propaganda. The Russian bear leaped from the British onto of the American pages. In time for the Olympic Games in Moscow the top-selling Rider’s Digest magazine called on the Americans to “Stand Up to the Russian Bear.”

The US athletes boycotted the Games, but the rest of the world saw a different kind of bear — a huggable Olympic mascot Misha The Bear who shed a tear of sorrow at the Moscow Olympiad’s closing ceremony.

Since then Russia has shed its communist past but the West does not appear to be ready to drop its propaganda war.

Summing it up in 2014 Roger Cockrell wrote in Slavonic and East European Review:

“Time and again we are reminded of the ambiguities in British attitudes towards Russia and Russian culture, covering the spectrum from extravagant praise to profound distrust, and embracing purely negative traits such as ignorance, fear, stereotyping and condescension. How many would argue that such reactions and attitudes belong simply to the past?”

Two years on such attitudes are stronger than ever…

Source of the original article: http://sputniknews.com/analysis/20160812/1044174982/uk-anti-russian-propaganda.html


 

The Exoneration of Milosevic: the ICTY’s Surprise Ruling

This all gives rise to well-founded suspicion that powerful geopolitical interests would rather Milosevic die before the end of his trial than see him acquitted and have their vicious lies exposed. U.S. State Department cables leaked to Wikileaks confirm that The Tribunal did discuss Milosevic’s medical condition and his medical records with U.S. Embassy personnel in The Hague without his consent.[20]  They clearly didn’t care about medical confidentiality laws when they were blabbing about his medical records to the American embassy.

It’s an unsatisfying outcome that Milosevic has been quietly vindicated for the most serious crimes that he was accused of some ten years after his death.  At a minimum financial compensation should now be paid to his widow and his children, and reparations should be paid to Serbia by the western governments who sought to punish Serbia in order to hold Milosevic “accountable” for crimes that their own Tribunal now admits he wasn’t responsible for, and was in fact trying to stop.