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May 09, 2018

Blumenthal, Norton, Khalek - The Turncoats Deliver A Poor Excuse - by Daniel

by Daniel
lifted from a comment

I see b’s Twitter linked to the "Moderate Rebels" discussion of Blumenthal / Norton / Khalek. I hope y’all don’t mind my posting the below. I originally wrote it as an "open letter" to the above triumvirate, but changed pronouns for this audience.

Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton and Rania Khalek talk about their late “evolution” on the war against Syria in this episode of “Moderate Rebels.”

For those who don’t know, each was pro-"opposition", anti-Syrian government for years, but changed positions sometime in around 2016.

I'm glad to hear Max finally directly address his anti-Syrian stance from 2011 to 2016. He acknowledges that Sharmine Narwani was correct all along. It would be nice to hear him actually apologize to Sharmine and other journalists he disparaged, but especially to the Syrian people who sure could have used the support of a well known Arab/Palestinian Rights advocate with a large audience and influence.

Yes, Max "didn’t take a serious look at what was actually going on" in Syria. And didn't for five more years. He began writing for Al Akhbar in Lebanon in July, 2011. As a journalist, he was obligated to inform himself about what was happening before writing about it. Syrian police and military had already been massacred by then. Post office workers had been thrown to their deaths from the roof because they were "government supporters." The violence of the "protesters" was even being reported in Israeli newspapers.

He says he "didn’t think it was going to become, you know, the 7-year devastating conflict that it became." That is apparent. Libya was already descending into the F-UK-US “Mission Accomplished” with NATO bombers warming up to finish the job. Perhaps Max’s dad had assured him that Syria would follow the same pattern his emails with Hillary Clinton show he had helped plan and define in Libya.

BTW: Has he ever addressed his father's role in the destruction of the once most prosperous country on the African continent? I haven't read or heard anything from Max on Syd Blumenthal's pre-Qaddafi "removal" explanation that Libya had to be destroyed to:

  1. Steal their nationalized oil.
  2. Confiscate the hundreds of tons of gold and silver Libya held.
  3. Prevent Libya from establishing a gold-backed currency and pan-African development bank to compete with the US petro-dollar and IMF, and lift Africa out of neo-colonial subservience.

Yeah. Max was "pretty quiet on Libya and not really - didn’t really make any coherent statements on that either."

That newspaper that Max publicly maligned and quit ("grandstanding" as he now says) "had taken an anti-imperialist agenda." Did that paper ever reject any articles Max wrote defending "the Syrian revolution"? I didn’t think so. Who had "an agenda"? Because it sure sounds like it was Max who was so focused on his new book release and two upcoming book tours that at the least he abandoned journalistic values. Or did he fear that "being associated" with a paper that also published articles critical of "the revolution" could hurt book sales?

After all, he thought it was all going to be over soon anyway.

It would also be nice for Max to explain why, once he changed his position on Syria after Russia had helped turn the tide, he, Ben and Rania scrubbed all their anti-Syrian/pro-"rebel" posts from the internet without explanation. How Orwellian.

But he "just haven’t really had the chance to sit down and write" an apology and explanation.

And once Russia stepped in, Max was "pretty relieved" he didn’t "have to engage in" the Syrian disaster and so he "sort of tapped out." Wait. I thought he just said that was when he finally "tapped in" and began investigating and writing about what had really been going on.

So, he goes on to say that after the "eastern Aleppo operation", he "started to come to" his "senses" "BECAUSE I STARTED TO REALIZE THAT AN INTERVENTION AT THIS POINT BY THE US WOULD BE A RECIPE FOR CATASTROPHE"! Wait! What? It was too late for "intervention", so Max changed horses? And then he finally took a few weeks to read what he could about Syria and do his "due diligence."

Another BTW: Why did Max write those articles on the White Helmets without crediting Cory Morningstar, Vanessa Beeley and other journalists whose work he so obviously relied on? I read those articles, and saw NOTHING that I hadn’t already read at 21st Century Wire. What "independent investigative journalism" did Max and Ben do?

Rania says she has Druze Syrian relatives, and somehow that kept her from investigating and reporting on the sectarian "rebels" in Syria. Huh? Everything I hear is that most Syrians don’t really classify people by their religion. Yes, as she says, the Syrian war has engendered the most deluded propaganda. Yes, the reporting (MSM that is) was horrible. But those are not excuses to avoid it. Those are reasons for her to have deeply investigated and reported the truth.

Ben notes that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine always supported the Syrian government against the Zionist-supported "rebels" and wrote that quite clearly by 2013. Ben specifies that one cannot support Palestinian Liberation AND the "rebels" in Syria. Yet, he did. For years. Ben's explanation of his "evolution" on Syria is the least legitimate of this group. But they ran out of time while Ben was talking, so maybe he’ll do better in episode 3.

[Daniel added an additional comment here.]

b says:

Here is an earlier piece on Moon of Alabama which includes evidence for the claims Daniel makes:

Syria - The Alternet Grayzone Of Smug Turncoats - Blumenthal, Norton, Khalek

The most abhorrent issue with their talk is that these folks whine and lament how they are being condemned by supporters of war on Syria for their "brave stand" against the war. This from the folks who for five long years harshly condemned everyone who was pro-Syria in their writings and public talks. From the folks who in two years have found no time to write an apology to those who they condemned or publish an explanation for their deleting of the tweets and blog-posts that documented their former position.

For a further discussion of the turncoats self-serving exculpation in the Moderate Rebel (what a stupid name) podcast see this partial transcript by Red Kahina and these threads (also 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) by her as well as this one by Nyusha.


Posted by b on May 9, 2018 at 19:54 UTC | Permalink

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i'm late in responding since i first read this post a couple days ago and don't know where to begin. i felt i needed to listen to their podcast first but admit thus far i've only listened to the first 15 minutes and also only read the first 25 comments (houseguests!).

in general, i don't like these 'put on trial for your past beliefs' things. it wasn't until about 2003 i found billmon, then morphing into moon and b. i learned everything i know politically here and that wasn't until i was in my late 40's and mostly from everyone in the comments. i will never forget one comment section where no americans had ever heard of the stay behind armies after ww2 and every single european knew exactly what they were. so many of us were so naive. max himself said he was “juvenile and grandstanding”. he was (still is) a kid. he didn't know. he has a huge voice and can really help create a movement and people are concerned he has not gotten on his knees and asked for forgiveness or whatever. so here's the blatant truth of the matter: max, rania and ben didn't get it like we did from day 1. in our perfect world right now everyone would get it yesterday, and if not then, today.

toivo was right on: "good hearted, but absurdly naive” (make that times 1k). everything babyl-on @20. and peter

Its fine to score points against these people for their very real past mistakes, but from an organizing point of view, what matters more is to understand the situation we're in now, and they are contributing.

here's max: "the biggest mistake i’ve made in journalism"-- "foolish” "what they were writing was essentially correct ... they were right and i was wrong” .. what "marginal people had said all along." (that would be me and you i suppose) . can we just move on? sorry, i love max blumenthal. i love his youth, his courage, his blunders not so much but can we not waste energy on someone we wouldn't give a hoot about if he weren't so influential? it eerily reminds me of people targeting code pink for getting real on palestine until oh so late. got it, they were late. but now they are not. embrace that please.

Posted by: annie | May 11 2018 8:20 utc | 101

sorry about my screwup with the italics on my last comment (103). after the quotemarks those were my reflections.

Posted by: annie | May 11 2018 8:28 utc | 102

The trio can not be forgiven because THEY KNEW EXACTLY WHAT THEY WERE DOING...they are smart enough and had enough information. We all can be fooled but not all of us are so relevant as they had been. They have BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS so it's only fair for them to commit suicide as journalists (if not as humans). They are and should be done.

Posted by: vbo | May 11 2018 10:32 utc | 103

"As a journalist, he was obligated to inform himself about what was happening before writing about it."

how quaint.

Posted by: pB | May 11 2018 15:09 utc | 104

@anon (100) When I look at the whole body of work by Max, Ben and Rania, I see strong criticism of the Western Empire project. You see only their moments of weakness or misjudgment. Such insistence on absolute ideological purity (as defined by you) is one of the main obstacles to the left ever again becoming a significant political force. Look in the mirror to see the real problem.

Posted by: Rob | May 11 2018 15:27 utc | 105

@101 b... thanks for the link.. the starting comment is fairly strong!!! i quote

"10 May 2018

Rania Khalek, Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton are assets of the US or Israeli governments, or both."

Posted by: james | May 11 2018 15:36 utc | 106

that is a pretty damning thread on pastebin you linked to b.. thanks..

Posted by: james | May 11 2018 15:52 utc | 107


Only an idiot would agree with that quote you were pasting.

Posted by: Anon | May 11 2018 16:07 utc | 108

@ anon - read the the whole thread that b linked to for more insight..

Posted by: james | May 11 2018 16:12 utc | 109

and get back to me after you read it.. thanks..

Posted by: james | May 11 2018 16:14 utc | 110

@Jackrabbit (97) Those who argue for leniency for Blumenthal and the others would have us overlook the MANY betrayals of other so-called progressives. Such betrayals are too frequent to be just a matter of ‘bad apples’ or ‘bad judgement’.

So any difference of opinion amounts to a betrayal. And of course, the only possible response to betrayal is to purge, exile or eliminate. We have seen this movie before on the left, and it always ends badly. Ideological purity and its proponents are of no use to the movement. They are a hindrance. The rest of us must be on our guards against the thought police.

Posted by: Rob | May 11 2018 16:43 utc | 111


Read Rob at 112. This purging and smearing of the left is so splitting. Calling Blumenthal & co are assets of US and israeli, as the quote you pasted is so stupid and factually wrong.

Posted by: Anon | May 11 2018 17:45 utc | 112


Accommodation is a slippery slope. What have been the results of accommodations of the oh-so-practical Democratic Party leadership over the last 30 years?

- financialized economy

- record inequality

- undemocratic elections

- spying and militarized police

- a new Cold War

- continuing failure of education, healthcare, anti-poverty efforts - high real unemployment, drug abuse, etc.

- horrendous misallocation of resources via self-serving neoliberal priorities

- massive propaganda to make it all seem ok

Obama was a practical-minded, neoliberal-oriented “progressive” and remains popular DESPITE his record of failure and betrayal: He bailed out bankers, “foamed the runway” for bank foreclosures, and made the Bush tax cuts permanent in a farce known as “The Fiscal Cliff”. He is credited with an “economic recovery” even though 1) Democrats helped to create the mess; 2) Banks STILL don’t mark-to-market; 2) a large number of jobs during the “recovery” were low-wage or part-time.

He conducted covert and overt “regime change” ops that have made us less safe. He pulled out of climate talks then reached a weak agreement (Paris Accords). He reneged on his promise of a ‘public option’ for healthcare as well as numerous other promises such as his promise to pull troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan and close Guantanamo. (The Iraqis threw U.S. out by insisting that US troops would not have legal immunity). The Iran deal was a bogus delaying mechanism (Syrian ‘regime change’ was taking longer than expected) that US never embraced (US sanctions remained in force). Along the way, he abused his power via lies, half truths, and a failure to hold his appointees accountable.

I could write an equally damning description of Hillary. Most of what passes for “leadership” on the left are craven political operatives rather than the self-styled progressive hero’s they would have us believe. They divide us, deliver minor, sometimes fleeting, gains to some segments of “the base” then declare victory and collect their ‘winnings’ via book deals, speaking engagements, and donations (especially to a Presidential Library).

Posted by: Jackrabbit | May 11 2018 18:21 utc | 113

True progressives saw Obama’s betrayals and complained vorciferiosly. The Democratic Party knew of this anger from the left and found the perfect ‘sheepdog’ to diffuse it: Bernie. To their dismay, the anger was so deep and the desire for new kind of politics so strong that Bernie’s bungling and pulled punches were not enough - DNC had to collide with the Hillary campaign to ensure the proper result.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | May 11 2018 18:39 utc | 114

Where do you draw the line? Shouldn’t we hold public figure accountable? If so, how can we excuse a failure to perform that is so persistent or egregious that millions are affected, many of them severely?

Strangely, whenever a negative opinion of an establishment figure is expressed people mysteriously appear to support that person. IMO these are untrustworthy voices of fans, associates, or PR flaks.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | May 11 2018 19:12 utc | 115

There were many reasons to hold Blumenthal to account. Nevertheless, perhaps one should cede that " the quality of mercy is not strained". Because we all make mistakes. "Let he who is without sin.."

Posted by: NeoGrouchist | May 11 2018 20:47 utc | 116

Having said that, voices such as Sharmine's have been absolutely necessary as well as brave.

Posted by: NeoGrouchist | May 11 2018 21:13 utc | 117

@Jackrabbit: There's a difference between accomodating someone whose true position is very far from yours (Obama), and accommodating someone who used to have a different position, but has seen the error of their ways and has changed their position (Blumenthal). I'm not saying the trio should not be criticized, but right now they are working to advance the truth on Syria. I agree that they should explicitly apologize to Syrian people for their journalistic malpractice and invite Beeley, Bartlett, and Narwani to their platforms to give the spotlight to journalists who have been right all along.

Posted by: S | May 11 2018 21:47 utc | 118

S @119: There's a difference between accomodating . . .

Critics of the trio have pointed to statements that show that they have not had a change of heart but have changed positions to better manipulate.

My comment addresses those that say that they should be welcomed back into the fold because they make a positive impact in some macro way. Such a strategic accommodation fails on many levels.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | May 11 2018 23:15 utc | 119

Typo @115: should be collude

Posted by: Jackrabbit | May 12 2018 2:00 utc | 120

i encourage others to read the link that b posts @101.. looks like many still haven't...

@113 anon.. well, i don't agree with the way rob framed any of it.. rob and you come across as apologists to power... not my thing..

Posted by: james | May 12 2018 4:04 utc | 121


Its objective, just look at this thread how incredibly splitting this is, for what reason?

Posted by: Anon | May 12 2018 7:13 utc | 122

From line 55 to 298 of the pastebin linked by b @101 is a lengthy deconstruction of a podcast recorded by Khalek, Blumenthal and Norton on 3 May 2018. First paragraph (which is followed by analysis, with quotes, of what they said in this podcast):

"Red Kahina:

Rania Khalek, Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton do this show where they are purportedly apologizing for their assistance to the US aggression against Syria, but the whole thing is in order to assert that ISLAMISM was the cause of the US aggression. Seriously, not US imperialism, but devout Islamic mishigas is to blame for the destruction of Libya and Syria, according to Khalek, Norton, and Blumenthal. And their own collaboration was due to the cunning of these ikhwan and their victimization is now at the hands of them also."

I think her argument demonstrates that they have not actually changed their ways beyond superficial apology, and continue to produce disingenuous and misleading content. I would encourage anyone who disagrees with Red Kahina to read this section, if not the whole thing, before responding. If one still disagrees after reading it, I would be interested in seeing the arguments against what she is saying. (Legitimately interested, not being sarcastic/dismissive.)

Posted by: anon | May 12 2018 9:00 utc | 123

Thanks b, for the pastebin link to Red Khaina. Seeing the Max/Ben/Rania record collated and contextualized really brought it into focus.

In each instance of their journalism, we find them “exposing” a number of dirty little truths (which are rarely highlighted in MSM), while actually promoting the Big Lie behind each. Classic Controlled Opposition.

Max’s “51 Day War” frames Israeli aggression as an “overreaction” to Palestinian aggression.

Attacks on Gilad Atzmon and Allison Weir set limits ‘ of acceptable/legitimate criticism of Zionism. We should not even look at the pre-WW II machinations by Zionists, and especially are forbidden from even investigating any of the holy dogmas of the HolyCaust/Shoa Business (in many countries, a crime that will put one in prison).

Criticism of war against Syria must remain framed within a Ken Burnsian US was “well intentioned” though “mistakes were made” cubicle.

Remember the reason Max gave us for why he changed his view on the war against Syria;

After the “eastern Aleppo operation,” in December, 2016 he “started to come to” his “senses” “BECAUSE I STARTED TO REALIZE THAT AN INTERVENTION AT THIS POINT BY THE US WOULD BE A RECIPE FOR CATASTROPHE!”

Of course, the US/AZ Empire has been “intervening” since before the violence started early in 2011. So a big lie is embedded in a non-excuse/non-apology. CIA documents from 1983/1986 clearly describe how to topple the Syrian government, having learned from their failure of 1980-1982 to rely solely on the Muslim Brotherhood. The US State Department admitted they “steered” the “Arab Spring.”

And may we follow Red Khalani to 9/11? Even Abby Martin - whom I’ve known as a “9/11 Truther” since she first began having a national public voice during Occupy Wall Street in 2011 - is now essentially silent on the event that “changed everything.” Since aligning with Max and company, she even argued against challenging Noam Chomsky on his insistence that the murders of JFK/Malcolm/MLK/RFK were not “conspiracies” and the Official Conspiracy Theory on 9/11 is clearly the truth… and besides, even if the “conspiracy theories” are true, they don’t matter since they were just elements of the elite messing with each other.

Posted by: Daniel | May 12 2018 23:23 utc | 124

BTW: The lesser charge that Max plagiarized Vanessa Beeley and others in his articles “exposing” the White Helmets overlooks the bigger points that:
1. He re-framed WH as "humanitarian first responders" (though with an agenda) and
2. By erasing her from his large platform prevents his readers from looking into her work. That is gate-keeping extraordinaire. As Red notes, Max et al are playing the role of “marginalized truth-tellers” while they are actually walling off the real truth-tellers.

Max goes on Faux Newz to tell that audience that “the left” is denying his truths and trying to silence him. Meanwhile, “Reporters Without Borders” tries to prevent the Swiss Press Club from allowing Beeley/Bartlett/etc. speak publicly and Leeds City Council is bullied into cancelling their “Media on Trial” presentation.

Posted by: Daniel | May 12 2018 23:31 utc | 125

Btw Turncoats are not the ones who begin with and go to the other side. They are not the ones who come around to your way of thinking.

Posted by: K.woods | May 13 2018 22:04 utc | 126

anon | May 12, 2018 5:00:32 AM | 124: Rania Khalek, Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton do this show where they are purportedly apologizing for their assistance to the US aggression against Syria, but the whole thing is in order to assert that ISLAMISM was the cause of the US aggression. Seriously, not US imperialism, but devout Islamic mishigas is to blame for the destruction of Libya and Syria, according to Khalek, Norton, and Blumenthal.

This seems to be agreement about basic facts, but a difference in interpretation. Policies in American empire are driven by lobbies, and not by a central master mind. For example, very complicated and enormously profitable health care complex is controlled largely by lobbies of that complex. Foreign policy is likewise controlled by a web of lobbies, industrialists want fat orders, pro-Israeli American moguls want to adhere to often whimsical demands of Israeli government, and "Islamist" monarch of the Gulf have their own, partially overlapping wishes/demands. Epigons of Bandera have their lobby too, with continuity ever since a large number of them was admitted in the aftermath of WWII as they were linked to anti-Soviet guerilla, and got situated pretty deeply in the "deep state".

My impression is that Americans of the "deep state" have scant inclination and aptitude to handle "culturally inferior" jihadist warriors and they subcontract this task mostly to Islamist government that want to do it. Anti-communist rebels in Afghanistan were assisted by ISI and KSA who were selecting the favorites, in Libya, Syria and Yemen the frontline tasks were performed by Gulfies and Turkey. One can venture opinion that USA plays the role of a mercenary in those places, while Gulfies are paymasters, the opposite point of view would be that Islamists are beguiled by their imperial masters. It is possible that both sides deem themselves to be in charge and each side has its share of delusions.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | May 14 2018 0:52 utc | 127

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