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June 09, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-32

Last week saw our biannual request to you, dear readers, to support our efforts with a donation. Many of you thankfully do so. But many more seem to have missed the chance. If you are one of those sinners please click the link below to clean your conscience.

Last week's regular posts at Moon of Alabama:

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on June 9, 2019 at 15:26 UTC | Permalink | Comments (209)

Syria - Western Media Glorification Of Syrian Jihadist Is A Sign That The War Is Far From Its End

Western media currently publish glorifying obituaries for a Syrian 'rebel' who is know for extreme sectarianism and for being a member of a Jihadi group that is aligend with al-Qaeda.

The Associated Press, the BBC, the Guardian and analysts all write of Abdul Baset al-Sarout who yesterday died of wounds he received two days earlier when his group attacked Syrian government forces.


Abdul Baset al-Sarout, 27, rose to fame as a goalkeeper for his home city of Homs and won international titles representing his country. When peaceful protests broke out against Mr. al-Assad in 2011, Mr. al-Sarout led rallies and became known as the “singer of the revolution” for his ballads.

When Syria slid into civil war, Mr. al-Sarout took up arms. He led a unit of fighters against government forces and survived the government siege of Homs.

The Guardian:

A Syrian footballer who became a symbolic figure in the rebellion against the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has died of wounds suffered in a battle with government forces.

Hassan Hassan, an often quoted 'analyst' in Washington DC, tweets:

Hassan Hassan @hxhassan - 4:11 PM - 8 Jun 2019

Some individuals celebrated as heroes make you doubt all stories of heroes in history books. Others, like Abdulbasit Sarout, not inspire of but despite his flaws, make those stories highly plausible. He’s a true legend & his story is well documented. May his soul rest in peace

The BBC:

There were rumours that Mr Sarout subsequently pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State.

He denied this, but admitted he had considered the idea when IS seemed the only force strong enough to combat the government - a sign of how the rebel cause disintegrated.

AP again:

“He was both a popular figure, guiding the rebellion, and a military commander,” said Maj. Jamil al-Saleh, leader of the rebel group Jaish al-Izza, in which Mr. al-Sarout was a commander. “His martyrdom will give us a push to continue down the path he chose and to which he offered his soul and blood as sacrifice.”

The above may leave readers with a few questions.

Q: What 'ballads' did the "singer of the revolution” sing?

A March 2012 video shows al-Sarout taking to the stage at a demonstration in the part of Homs that he and other 'rebels' occupied.


Abdul Baset al-Sarout chants slogans each of which the crowd then repeats:

We ar all Jihadis.
Homs has made its decision.
We will exterminate the Alawites.
And the Shiites have to leave.

Q: What made al-Sarout a "symbolic figure"?

Sarout appeared as a main persona in a pro-Jihadi propagada documentary that mainstream media hyped:

Filmed during two years, from 2011 to 2013, this by turns exhilarating and devastating documentary tracks some key players in the resistance against Bashir al-Assad's regime. The foremost is Abdul Baset al-Sarout, once a goalkeeper for Syria's national youth football team, he is a charismatic character who starts out leading chants in the streets in 2011 and ends up becoming a battle-worn leader for the militia.

Q: What were the 'flaws' the 'true legend' al-Sarout allegedly had?

While al-Sarout did not mind suicide bombings and called for mass murder of people of other beliefs his drug fuelled style of life was not pure enough to be accepted by the Islamic State.


From a 2014 interview (vid) with the 'charismatic character' recorded shortly before the Syrian Arab Army removed al-Sarout and his group from Homs:

Our blame for the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra comes with love because we know that these two groups are not politicized and have the same goals as us and are working for god and that they care about Islam and Muslims.
Unfortunately some among them consider us kafers (apostates) and drug addicts. But god willing we will work with them shoulder to shoulder when we leave here. And we are not Christians or Shia to be scared of suicide belts and car bombs. We consider these things as a strengths of ours and god willing they will be just that.
This message is to the Islamic State and our brothers in Jabhat al-Nusra that when we come out (of Homs) we will all be one hand to fight Christians and not have internal fights among ourselves We want to take back the lands that have been filthied by the regime, that were entered and taken over by Shias and apostates.

Where did those 'rumors' come from that al Sarout pledged allegiance to ISIS?

In December 2014, after he was kicked out of Homs, Abdul Basset Sarout himself said that he was joining the Islamic State:

Joshua Landis @joshua_landis - 17:56 utc - 26 Dec 2014

Star of movie "Return to Homs," Abdul Basset Sarout, announces he joins ISIS -

Machine translation of the Aksalser piece Professor Landis linked:

Sarot had recently published a video clip denying the news of his martyrdom and confirming that he was preparing for a new step soon, in what appeared to be the intention of joining the "Daash".

What is this group Jaysh al-Izza to which the Islamic State wanna-be al-Sarout belonged?

Rejected by the Islamic State al-Sarout's stayed on as a member of Jaysh al-Izza, led by former Maj. Jamil al-Saleh. The group received money, anti-tank weapons and other material from the United States under President Obama's secret Operation Timber-Sycamore. Then as now the 'moderate rebels' of Jaysh al-Izza operate as a 'Free Syrian Army' front group to funnel foreign supplies to al-Qaeda.

Reuters reported in 2015:

Russian air strikes in northwest Syria which Moscow said targeted Islamic State fighters hit a rebel group supported by Western opponents of President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday, wounding eight, the group’s commander said.
“The northern countryside of Hama has no presence of ISIS at all and is under the control of the Free Syrian Army,” Major Jamil al-Saleh, who defected from the Syrian army in 2012, told Reuters via Skype.

Saleh said his group had been supplied with advanced anti-tank missiles by foreign powers opposed to Assad.

Jamil al-Saleh, Abdul Baset al-Sarout's commander who claimed that "the northern countryside of Hama" was "under the control of the Free Syrian Army", recently appeared in another video. His troops wear shoulder patches with al-Qaeda flags.

Within Syria @WithinSyriaBlog - 10:09 utc - 4 Jun 2019

New video released by Jaysh al-Izza supporters shows the group's commander Jamil al-Saleh visiting his troops, one of them is wearing a batch of al-Qaeda. Jaysh al-Izza was always a proxy of al-Nusra Front\HTS. Yet it received US support, now Turkish support.


A new video, published yesterday, shows 'moderate rebels' with similar al-Qaeda shoulder patches beheading a Syrian soldier they had earlier taken prisoner.


That the 'western' mainstream media and their sectarain analysts continue to glorify al-Sarout, despite all that is known about him and his group, is a sure sign that the war the 'west' wages through its Jihadi proxies against Syria is far from over.


Posted by b on June 9, 2019 at 14:50 UTC | Permalink | Comments (50)

June 07, 2019

We Are Happy To Announce 40 Million Lifetime Pageviews!

Over the last week there were several meta-post about the Moon of Alabama blog itself. This is another happy one.

A week ago we announced some minor renovations of this blog's functionality. Smaller linking issues were fixed and the 'search' feature is now again available. The best though is that Moon of Alabama is now -thanks to Philipe- perfectly readable on mobile devices. Try it out and bookmark it on your smartphone!

Yesterday your host explained how this blog gets made. It may be astonishing that the typing up of a post is actually the least time consuming task. But it is only a lot of reading and research that allows for Moon of Alabama's exceptional thematic breadth.

Today we can all see the result of this work. Moon of Alabama just passed the mark of 40 million lifetime pageviews!

Here is a screenshot of the blog's statistics page taken today at 18:48 UTC or 2:48 PM EST.

This blog was created on June 30 2004. As it says on its About page:

This site's purpose is to discuss politics, economics, philosophy and blogger Billmon's Whiskey Bar writings.

Some time ago the commenting at Billmon's Whiskey Bar became a bit excessive. Billmon therefore closed the comments at his place on June 29, 2004. The community of commentators was left behind to search for a new place.

Moon of Alabama was opened as an independent, open forum for members of the Whiskey Bar community.

Bernhard started and still runs the site. Once a while you will also find posts and art from regular commentators.

Billmon since closed his Whiskey Bar and Bernhard, aka b, became an accidental blogger.

The first post on Moon of Alabama was headlined KISS for 'keep it simple stupid'. I still stick to that principle and therefore keep the original design. Don't expect any nifty updates or features.

Throughout the first years this blog was called up only a few dozens times per day. The "7332.37 Pageviews/Day" in the above statistics are thereby a bit misleading. Currently a page of this site is called up and viewed some 25,000 times per day.


Compared to some other sites the 25,000 pageviews per day are a small number. But it means that there are more than 10,000 people who visit the Moon on any average day.

During its first 12 years this blog was run as a private hobby. It is now one authors full time activity. He depends on the generosity of the reader of this site to keep it going. Please consider to donate to him.

Email - MoonofA @ - (take out the blanks) to receive my mail address and bank transfer data. Or use the Paypal button below to send whatever you think is appropriate down my way. (The Paypal account is in Euros. 1 Euro is currently about US$1.15.)

Thanks! - b.

Posted by b on June 7, 2019 at 20:04 UTC | Permalink | Comments (38)

U.S. 7th Fleet Cruiser Ignores Rules At Sea - Nearly Collides With Russian Destroyer

The accident prone U.S. 7th fleet is again in trouble.  CNN sensationally reports of a near collision of a U.S. navy ship with a Russian navy one:

The United States and Russian navies are at odds over an apparent near collision in the Pacific Friday with each side blaming the other. The US and Russian warships came somewhere between 50 feet and 165 feet of each other, according to the two opposing reports, with both sides alleging their ships were forced to perform emergency maneuvers to avoid a collision.
"A Russian destroyer .... made an unsafe maneuver against USS Chancellorsville, closing to 50-100 feet, putting the safety of her crew and ship at risk," US Navy spokesman Cmdr. Clayton Doss told CNN in a statement.

"This unsafe action forced Chancellorsville to execute all engines back full and to maneuver to avoid collision," Doss said.

The US guided-missile cruiser was traveling in a straight line and trying to recover its helicopter when the incident occurred, he said. "We consider Russia's actions during this interaction as unsafe and unprofessional," Doss said.

There are international nautical rules that apply to any ship at sea. Those rules give no special right to any ship that is traveling in a straight line or tries to recover a helicopter.

The Russian navy says that its ship had the right of way and that the U.S. ship hindered its passage:

Russia has voiced a protest to the US command after its guided-missile cruiser hindered the passage of the Admiral Vinogradov anti-submarine destroyer some 50 meters in front of it, forcing the vessel to perform a dangerous maneuver, the Pacific Fleet’s press service told reporters on Friday.

The incident occurred at 6.35 a.m. Moscow Time in the southeastern part of the East China Sea, when a task force of the Russian Pacific Fleet and a US carrier strike group were heading in parallel directions. "The US cruiser Chancellorsville suddenly changed its course and crossed the Admiral Vinogradov destroyer’s course some 50 meters away from the ship. In order to prevent a collision, the Admiral Vinogradov’s crew was forced to conduct an emergency maneuver," the press service said.

The U.S. Navy provided CNN with a picture of the incident taken from a helicopter. It clearly shows that U.S. ship was in the wrong and that the Russian view of the incident is the correct one.


The picture shows both ships with their bows towards the camera. The ship seen on the left is the Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov. The ship seen on the right side of the picture is the U.S. cruiser Chancellorsville. The stern waves show that the Russian ship was on a straight course and made a last-minute maneuver by taking a sharp turn to its right to avoid an imminent collision.

To judge the situation one must take the view of both bridge crews at the time before the emergency maneuver happened. The crew of the U.S. cruiser saw the Russian ship coming up on its right or starboard side. The crew of the Russian ship saw the U.S. ship coming up on its left or port side. The rules for such a crossing of courses at sea are clear.

The Handbook of Nautical Rules lists as the International Maritime Organization Rule 15:

When two power-driven vessels are crossing so as to involve risk of collision, the vessel which has the other on her own starboard side shall keep out of the way and shall, if the circumstances admit, avoid crossing ahead of the other vessel.

The book explains further:

Rule 15 requires the vessel that has the other on its starboard side to stay out of the way, and to pass behind. The vessel on the right becomes the stand-on vessel and must follow Rule 17 (Action by Stand-on Vessel). The vessel on the left becomes the give-way vessel and must follow Rule 16 (Action by Give-way Vessel).
The give-way vessel is required (if the circumstances of the case admit) to pass behind the stand-on vessel and so a turn to starboard would be in order. To keep the area to the left of the stand-on vessel clear for the give-way vessel's maneuvers, Rule 17 directs the stand-on vessel to refrain from turning to port.

Rule 16 says:

Every vessel which is directed to keep out of the way of another vessel shall, so far as possible, take early and substantial action to keep well clear.

and Rule 17:

Where one of two vessels is to keep out of the way the other shall keep her course and speed.

It is evident from the picture that the U.S. navy cruiser had the Russian destroyer on its starboard side and that both ships were on a collision course. It was therefore the U.S. ship that had the duty to 'take early and substantial action' to keep out of the way and that it had to avoid crossing ahead of the Russian vessel. The Russian ship correctly kept its speed and course until the situation required a last-minute maneuver to avoid an imminent collision.

In the breathless video report of the incident the CNN Pentagon reporter explicitly says that Russian ship was on starboard of the U.S. ship, but repeats the nonsense claim by the U.S. navy spokesperson that the U.S. ship was in the right and that the Russian ship made an "unsafe maneuver".

The crew of the Chancellorsville should call itself lucky. Russian ships are build with a strong bow to travel in icy waters. Had the Admiral Vinogradov not made the emergency turn to its right, its bow would have cut their ship in half.

The home port of the Chancellorsville is Yokosuka, Japan. It belongs the U.S. 7th fleet which has a record of bad seamanship. Two years ago the Washington Post reported:

The collision of the USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker on Aug 21 — which left 10 sailors dead — was the culmination of more than a decade of nonstop naval operations that has exhausted the service.
In January, the guided missile cruiser USS Antietam ran aground in Tokyo Bay, leading to the commander’s dismissal. In May, the cruiser USS Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing boat. And roughly a month later, the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship in the approach to Tokyo Bay. Seven sailors died and the destroyer’s commanding and executive officers were relieved.
The Antietam, McCain and Fitzgerald are all in the 7th Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan, raising questions over whether there are particular problems in that command. The 7th Fleet is responsible for 48 million square miles in the Pacific and Indian oceans, the Navy said. Swift also dismissed its commander, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin.

All the above incidents were caused by the crews of the U.S. navy ships. When one reads reports of those incidents one finds that the 7th fleet ships are undermanned and badly maintained. Its crews are insufficiently trained. They obviously do not know the basic international rules at sea or how to handle their ships.

It should be CNN's task to point that out instead of blabbering about 'Russian harassment of U.S. ships'.

Posted by b on June 7, 2019 at 14:51 UTC | Permalink | Comments (207)

June 06, 2019

How Moon of Alabama Is Made

In one of the interviews Seymour Hersh gave last year about his life as a reporter he was asked to give advice for other writers. He offered three tips:

  • Read before you write.
  • Know more than you write.
  • Get yourself out of the way of the story.

Moon of Alabama writings try to follow those rules. This though is a meta piece about our writing for Moon of Alabama. The third rule thus does not apply.

To publish five to six original pieces per week, each on a different issue, requires appropriate tools, time, and a disciplined workflow.

The MoA Newsroom


The first half of my days is spent with gathering news. It starts at at 7:00 or 8:00 am with scrolling through the last night's tweets of the 600 Twitter accounts I follow. If there are links of interest they get opened for later reading. Then comes a walk through the major newspapers' headlines and news agency sites. At the end of this process there are 20 or more open browser tabs that require further attention.

After a quick glance they get either closed or saved. The links and headlines will be copied into Notepad++ where each general current issue - Syria, Boeing 737 MAX, China tariffs, etc - has its own file. If there are usable excerpts or quotes they are added too. It is pretty much noon by the time the general reading is finished.

After a quick lunch comes a short check of Moon of Alabama. Comments caught in the spam folder ask to be liberated. The last night's treads might be in a need of a clean up.

Another reading round follows through the dozens of blogs on our Links page. In between more stuff comes up on Twitter that again deserves attention. Now, six hours after the workday began, the information collection phase is mostly finished.

Then comes the big question of the day. What should I write about? What is the issues where I could make an interesting point that others have missed?

At times the answer is obvious. On other day there is absolutely no idea and even a walk through the neighborhood does not help to make that decision.

Luckily there are also days where I  get help from my neighbors and friends.


The writing itself is rather quick. To type up the raw version of an 800 word story takes only about two hours. Most of the details come from earlier research or from previously collected links. The following editorial and production process now often takes longer than that.

The first reading through the raw story checks for the basic logic and completeness of a piece. Does it really make the point it is supposed to make? Are there claims in it that need to be substantiated? Is this or that detail necessary to make the point or is it just fluff? Do the quotes or excerpts make sense? If necessary, details and links get added or cut at this time. Pictures will have to be found, cropped, resized, uploaded and linked.

So far all this is is done in basic HTML directly in the editor the Typepad system provides. Only now follows the switch to the better readable rich text mode that you see here.

The second reading includes style and layout issues. Are there boring repetitions or long nested construct over which a reader might stumble? Does this sentence use the right tense? English is not my first language and I never lived in an English speaking country. I often need help with it. I use to find synonyms or better English expression for whatever meaning I have in mind.

The last reading is abstract from the content and strictly to eliminate typos. Inevitably some will escape.

Time to publish? Not yet. A break is necessary to distance oneself from the text. Filling the cloth washer or running some errant helps with that.

Then follow the last three tasks - find a headline, write a summarizing intro sentence and formulate the end. All three are most important for the attractiveness of a piece to readers and to commentators.

Only after all three are edited and rechecked for mistakes the 'Publish' button gets pressed. The day's work is finally on its way to you, the readers of this site.

It is also you, the readers, who make Moon of Alabama possible.

Your writer and host lives alone and is quite frugal. My apartment is in a small town that has now became part of a big city. Everything I need is within easy walking distance. This is the ideal place to do such time consuming work.

But there is also a need for income. I depend on you who read this to contribute to it. Email 'MoonofA @' for my address and bank connection. Or use the Paypal button below to send whatever you are willing to spare down my way.

Thank you. - b.

Posted by b on June 6, 2019 at 21:03 UTC | Permalink | Comments (43)

Odd NYT 'Correction' Exculpates British Government And CIA From Manipulating Trump Over Skripal Novichok Incident

A piece in the New York Times showed how in March 2018 Trump was manipulated by the CIA and MI6 into expelling 60 Russian diplomats. Eight weeks after it was published the New York Times 'corrects' that narrative and exculpates the CIA and MI6 of that manipulation. Its explanation for the correction makes little sense.

On April 16 the New York Times published a report by Julian E. Barnes and Adam Goldman about the relation between CIA Director Gina Haspal and President Donald Trump.

Gina Haspel Relies on Spy Skills to Connect With Trump. He Doesn’t Always Listen.

The piece described a scene in the White House shortly after the contentious Skripal/Novichok incident in Britain. It originally said (emphasis added):

During the discussion, Ms. Haspel, then deputy C.I.A. director, turned toward Mr. Trump. She outlined possible responses in a quiet but firm voice, then leaned forward and told the president that the “strong option” was to expel 60 diplomats.

To persuade Mr. Trump, according to people briefed on the conversation, officials including Ms. Haspel also tried to show him that Mr. Skripal and his daughter were not the only victims of Russia’s attack.

Ms. Haspel showed pictures the British government had supplied her of young children hospitalized after being sickened by the Novichok nerve agent that poisoned the Skripals. She then showed a photograph of ducks that British officials said were inadvertently killed by the sloppy work of the Russian operatives.

The 60 Russian diplomats were expelled on March 26 2018. Other countries only expelled a handful of diplomats over the Skripal incident. On April 15 2018 the Washington Post reported that Trump was furious about this:

The next day, when the expulsions were announced publicly, Trump erupted, officials said. To his shock and dismay, France and Germany were each expelling only four Russian officials — far fewer than the 60 his administration had decided on. The President, who seemed to believe that other individual countries would largely equal the United States, was furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia.
Growing angrier, Trump insisted that his aides had misled him about the magnitude of the expulsions. ‘There were curse words,’ the official said, ‘a lot of curse words.

In that context the 2019 NYT report about Haspel showing Trump dead duck pictures provided by the Brits made sense. Trump was, as he himself claimed, manipulated into the large expulsion.

The NYT report created some waves. On April 18 2019 the Guardian headlined:

No children or ducks harmed by novichok, say health officials
Wiltshire council clarification follows claims Donald Trump was shown images to contrary

The report of the dead duck pictures in the New York Times was a problem for the CIA and the British government. Not only did it say that they manipulated Trump by providing him with false pictures, but the non-dead ducks also demonstrated that the official narrative of the allegedly poisoning of the Skripals has some huge holes. As Rob Slane of the BlogMire noted:

In addition to the extraordinary nature of this revelation, there is also a huge irony here. Along with many others, I have long felt that the duck feed is one of the many achilles heels of the whole story we’ve been presented with about what happened in Salisbury on 4th March 2018. And the reason for this is precisely because if it were true, there would indeed have been dead ducks and sick children.

According to the official story, Mr Skripal and his daughter became contaminated with “Novichok” by touching the handle of his front door at some point between 13:00 and 13:30 that afternoon. A few minutes later (13:45), they were filmed on CCTV camera feeding ducks, and handing bread to three local boys, one of whom ate a piece. After this they went to Zizzis, where they apparently so contaminated the table they sat at, that it had to be incinerated.

You see the problem? According to the official story, ducks should have died. According to the official story children should have become contaminated and ended up in hospital. Yet as it happens, no ducks died, and no boys got sick (all that happened was that the boys’ parents were contacted two weeks later by police, the boys were sent for tests, and they were given the all clear).

After the NYT story was published the CIA and the British government had to remove the problematic narrative from the record. Yesterday they finally succeeded. Nearly eight weeks after the original publishing of the White House scene the NYT recanted and issued a correction (emphasis. added):

Correction: June 5, 2019

An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the photos that Gina Haspel showed to President Trump during a discussion about responding to the nerve agent attack in Britain on a former Russian intelligence officer. Ms. Haspel displayed pictures illustrating the consequences of nerve agent attacks, not images specific to the chemical attack in Britain. This correction was delayed because of the time needed for research.

The original paragraphs quoted above were changed into this:

During the discussion, Ms. Haspel, then deputy C.I.A. director, turned toward Mr. Trump. She outlined possible responses in a quiet but firm voice, then leaned forward and told the president that the “strong option” was to expel 60 diplomats.

To persuade Mr. Trump, according to people briefed on the conversation, officials including Ms. Haspel tried to demonstrate the dangers of using a nerve agent like Novichok in a populated area. Ms. Haspel showed pictures from other nerve agent attacks that showed their effects on people.

The British government had told Trump administration officials about early intelligence reports that said children were sickened and ducks were inadvertently killed by the sloppy work of the Russian operatives.

The information was based on early reporting, and Trump administration officials had requested more details about the children and ducks, a person familiar with the intelligence said, though Ms. Haspel did not present that information to the president. After this article was published, local health officials in Britain said that no children were harmed.

So instead of pictures of dead ducks in Salisbury the CIA director showed pictures of some random dead ducks or hospitalized children or whatever to illustrate the effects consequences of nerve agent incidents?

Bridge for Sale

That the children were taken to hospital but unharmed was already reported in British media on March 24 2018, before the Russian diplomats were expelled, not only after the NYT piece was published in April 2019.

Yesterday the author of the NYT piece, Julian E. Barnes, turned to Twitter to issue a lengthy 'apology':

Julian E. Barnes @julianbarnes - 14:52 utc - 5 Jun 2019

I made a significant error in my April 16 profile of Gina Haspel. It took a while to figure out where I went wrong. Here is the correction: 1/9


The intelligence about the ducks and children were based on an early intelligence report, according to people familiar with the matter. The intelligence was presented to the US in an effort to share all that was known, not to deceive the Trump administration. 7/9

This correction was delayed because conducting the research to figure out what I got wrong, how I got it wrong and what was the correct information took time. 8/9

I regret the error and offer my apology. I strive to get information right the first time. That is what subscribers pay for. But when I get something wrong, I fix it. 9/9

Barnes covers national security and intelligence issues for the Times Washington bureau. His job depends on good access to 'sources' in those circles.

It is remarkable that the CIA spokesperson never came out to deny the original NYT report. There was zero visible push back against its narrative. It is also remarkable that the correction comes just as Trump is on a state visit in Britain.

The original report was sourced on 'people briefed on the conversation'. The corrected version is also based on 'people briefed on the conversation' but adds 'a person familiar with the intelligence'. Do the originally cited  'people' now tell a different story? Are we to trust a single 'person familiar with the intelligence' more than those multiple 'people'? What kind of 'research' did the reporter do to correct what he then and now claims was told to him by 'people'? Why did this 'research' take eight weeks?

That the 'paper of the record' now corrects said 'record' solves a big problem for Gina Haspel, the CIA/MI6 and the British government. They can no longer be accused of manipulating Trump (even as we can be quite sure that such manipulations happen all the time).

In the end it is for the reader to decide if the original report makes more sense than the corrected one.

Posted by b on June 6, 2019 at 10:12 UTC | Permalink | Comments (78)

June 05, 2019

D-Day And The Myth That The U.S. Defeated The Nazis

Each D-Day anniversary the same question comes up. Who defeated Germany and its allies? The answer is, without any doubt, the Soviet Union.

But after decades of western propaganda the claims that the U.S. defeated the Reich has taken over many minds. Polls show that such propaganda works. More than half of the French people now believe that the U.S. contributed the most to the defeat of Germany.


The U.S. lost 411.000 people due to World war II, Great Britain lost 450,000, Germany some 7 million and the Soviet Union more than 20 million.

Many people think that the Soviet Union, now "the Russians", were always the bad guys and that Germany was a loyal ally during that war. That is at least what the verified account of the British Royal Family seems to believe.

The Royal Family @RoyalFamily - 10:30 utc - 5 Jun 2019

The Queen was introduced to leaders by the Prime Minister @10DowningStreet - each representing the allied nations that took part in D-Day. #DDay75

(The tweet was since deleted but can still be seen at

The Russian President Vladimir Putin was not invited to the royal reception commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Instead the Queen shook hands with German Chancellor Merkel. Merkel should have rejected to be there unless Putin would also be invited. The leaders from other Soviet countries, Vladimir Zelensky of the Ukraine and Alexander Lukashenko from Belarus, should also be there.

There is of course some truthiness in saying that a few German divisions took part in D-Day. And a few dozens sub-par German division later joined the fight at the Western front. But at the same time some 200 division of German led forces were engaged in the east.

Two weeks after D-Day the Red Army launched Operation Bagration and attacked the German Army Group Centre lines in the east on a thousand miles long front. Within eight weeks the German led forces were pushed back some 200 miles. Most of the 30 some divisions under Army Group Centre's command were destroyed. It was that attack that broke the back of the German Wehrmacht. Cynically said - the U.S. led invasion in the west was a mere diversion for the much larger attack in the east.

Ten years ago Anatoly Karlin wrote in The Poisonous Myths of the Eastern Front:

MYTH I: Heroic Americans with their British sidekicks won World War Two, while the Russian campaign was a sideshow.

REALITY: Although Western Lend-Lease and strategic bombing was highly useful, the reality is that the vast majority of German soldiers and airmen fought and died on the Eastern Front throughout the war.

Rüdiger Overmans in Deutsche militärische Verluste im Zweiten Weltkrieg estimates that from the Polish campaign to the end of 1944, 75-80% of all German armed forces personnel died or went missing in action on the Eastern Front up to the end of 1944. According to Krivosheev’s research, throughout the war, the vast majority of German divisions were concentrated against the Soviet Union – in 1942, for instance, there were 240 fighting in the East and 15 in North Africa, in 1943 there were 257 in the East and up to 26 in Italy and even in 1944 there were more than 200 in the East compared to just 50 understrength and sub-par divisions in the West. From June 1941 to June 1944, 507 German (and 607 German and Allied) divisions and 77,000 fighters were destroyed in the East, compared to 176 divisions and 23,000 fighters in the West. The two pivotal battles, Stalingrad and El Alamein, differed in scale by a factor of about ten.

This is not to disparage the Western Allied soldiers who fought and died to free the world from Nazism. In particular, the seamen who enabled Lend-Lease, at high risk of lethal submarine attack, to transport indispensables like canned food, trucks and aviation fuel to Russia, possibly played a crucial role in preventing its collapse in 1941-42. And the bomber crews massively disrupted Germany’s war potential at the cost of horrid fatality ratios, significantly shortening the war.

Another myth is that it were U.S. forces who led the D-Day invasion:

Andrew Neil @afneil - 11:05 utc - 2 Jun 2019

On 75th anniversary of D-Day, time to debunk Hollywood myth it was largely a US invasion force.
Of 1,213 warships involved, 892 were British/Canadian; only 200 US. Royal Navy in charge of Operation Neptune. Of 4,126 landing craft involved, 805 American, 3,261 British. 1/2
Two-thirds of the 12,000 aircraft involved in D-Day were RAF/RCAF. Two-thirds of the troops landed on the beaches were British/Canadian. Eisenhower was supreme commander but all his most senior officers in charge of land, sea and air were British 2/2

When Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941 the U.S. was ambivalent about what to do. Both countries were seen as enemies. The well know Senator Harry Truman expressed the U.S. position quite succinctly:

“If we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible."


Since they were attacked by the Germans in 1941 the Soviets had pressed their allies to open a western front against Germany. In 1943, after the defeat of the Germans in Stalingrad and the failure of their counter attack in the Battle of Kursk, it became obvious that the Soviets would defeat the Nazi forces. At the Tehran conference in November 1943 Stalin pressed Roosevelt and Churchill again to finally open a western front. Knowing that the Soviets would win over Germany they agreed to launch their invasion in May 1944.

The U.S. dominated western Europe ever since and quite successfully indoctrinated it with its false version of history.

This is a Moon of Alabama fundraising week. Please consider to support our work.

Posted by b on June 5, 2019 at 17:15 UTC | Permalink | Comments (176)

How Others See MoA: "Politically Neutral And Most Distant To Power"

The Swiss Propaganda Research group is an independent nonprofit organization investigating geopolitical propaganda in international media. Its major articles are available in English language.

One of its recent projects is the Media Navigator. It classifies more than 70 English language news outlets based on their political stance and their relationship to power.

The relationship to power on the X-axis varies for 'Close' to 'Distant', the political stance from 'Conservative' to 'Liberal'.


According to their judgment Moon of Alabama is neutral in its political stance while being most distant to power.

Your host is quite happy with this classification. It reflects our effort to base our analysis on facts and logic, and not on feelings or a personal agenda.


If you believe that a neutral medium with due distance to power is of value, please consider to contribute to this effort.

You send cash or a check to keep Moon of Alabama going. You can also use a bank-wire transfer. Send email to MoonofA @ for the necessary details. To use a credit card or other means please donate through the PayPal button below.

Thanks you very much.

Posted by b on June 5, 2019 at 7:11 UTC | Permalink | Comments (37)

June 04, 2019

Tian An Men Square - What Really Happened (Updated)

Since 1989 the western media write anniversary pieces on the June 4 removal of protesters from the Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The view seems always quite one sided and stereotyped with a brutal military that suppresses peaceful protests.

That is not the full picture. Thanks to Wikileaks we have a few situation reports from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing at that time. They describe a different scene than the one western media paint to this day.

Ten thousands of people, mostly students, occupied the square for six weeks. They protested over the political and personal consequences of Mao's chaotic Cultural Revolution which had upset the whole country. The liberalization and changeover to a more capitalist model under Deng Xiopings had yet to show its success and was fought by the hardliners in the Communist Party.

The more liberal side of the government negotiated with the protesters but no agreement was found. The hardliners in the party pressed for the protest removal. When the government finally tried to move the protesters out of the very prominent square they resisted.

On June 3 the government moved troops towards the city center of Beijing. But the military convoys were held up. Some came under attack. The U.S. embassy reported that soldiers were taken as hostages:


There are some gruesome pictures of the government side casualties of these events.

Another cable from June 3 notes:


In the early morning of June 4 the military finally reached the city center and tried to push the crowd out of Tiananmen Square:


The soldiers responded as all soldiers do when they see that their comrades get barbecued:


Most of the violence was not in the square, which was already quite empty at that time, but in the streets around it. The soldiers tried to push the crowd away without using their weapons:


With the Square finally cleared the student protest movement ebbed away.

Update (June 5)

Peter Lee, aka Chinahand, was there on the ground. He just published his eyewitness account written down at that time.

Western secret services smuggled some 800 of the leaders of their failed 'color revolution' out of the country, reported the Financial Times:

Many went first to France, but most travelled on to the US for scholarships at Ivy League universities.

The extraction missions, aided by MI6, the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, and the CIA, according to many accounts, had scrambler devices, infrared signallers, night-vision goggles and weapons.


/End of Update

It is unclear how many people died during the incident. The numbers vary between dozens to several hundred. There is no evidence that the higher numbers are correct. It also not known how many of the casualties were soldiers, or how many were violent protesters or innocent bystanders.

The New York Times uses the 30th anniversary of the June 4 incidents to again promote a scene that is interpreted as successful civil resistance.

He has become a global symbol of freedom and defiance, immortalized in photos, television shows, posters and T-shirts.

But three decades after the Chinese Army crushed demonstrations centered on Tiananmen Square, “Tank Man” — the person who boldly confronted a convoy of tanks barreling down a Beijing avenue — is as much a mystery as ever.

But was the man really some hero? It is not known what the the man really wanted or if he was even part of the protests:

According to the man who took the photo, AP photographer Jeff Widener, the photo dates from June 5 the day after the Tiananmen Square incident. The tanks were headed away from, and not towards, the Square. They were blocked not by a student but by a man with a shopping bag crossing the street who had chosen to play chicken with the departing tanks. The lead tank had gone out its way to avoid causing him injury.

The longer video of the tank hold up (turn off the ghastly music) shows that the man talked with the tank commander who makes no attempt to force him away. The scene ends after two minutes when some civilian passersby finally tell the man to move along. The NYT also writes:

But more recently, the government has worked to eliminate the memory of Tank Man, censoring images of him online and punishing those who have evoked him.
As a result of the government’s campaign, many people in China, especially younger Chinese, do not recognize his image.

To which Carl Zha, who currently travels in China and speaks the language, responds:

Carl Zha @CarlZha - 15:23 utc - 4 Jun 2019

For the record, Everyone in China know about what happened on June 4th, 1989. Chinese gov remind them every year by cranking up censorship to 11 around anniversary. Idk Western reporters who claim people in China don’t know are just esp stupid/clueless or deliberately misleading

In fact that applies to China reporting in general. I just don’t know whether Western China reporters are that stupid/clueless or deliberately misleading. I used to think people can’t be that stupid but I am constantly surprised...


Carl Zha @CarlZha - 15:42 utc - 4 Jun 2019

This Image was shared in one of the Wechat group I was in today. Yes, everyone understood the reference


Carl recommends the two part movie The Gate To Heavenly Peace (vid) as the best documentary of the Tiananmen Square protests. It explores the political and social background of the incident and includes many original voices and scenes.

Posted by b on June 4, 2019 at 19:00 UTC | Permalink | Comments (105)

June 03, 2019

Trump Meets British Humor

U.S. President Donald Trump is currently visiting Britain. He is not much liked in that country. A recent poll shows that only 21% of the British people have a positive a opinion about him.

Some young man even prepared a special welcome message for Trump:

A teenager has mowed an anti-Trump message, complete with a giant penis, into the grass of his family home ahead of the US president’s UK state visit.
The A-level student hopes that the US president will spot his creation as Air Force One approaches Stansted Airport, which is near Hatfield Heath, on Monday morning.

It is unlikely that Trump saw that picture from the air.

But the British security that escorted Trump from Stansted into London seems have borrowed the idea.

Stansaid Airport @StansaidAirport - 9:32 utc - 3 Jun 2019

Well done our security escort team! The President is now arriving at the U.S. Ambassador's residence off Regent's Park. Good work people.

Stansaid Airport is a humorous account. There are several other pictures that play with the theme. We can not vouch for their veracity.

Posted by b on June 3, 2019 at 18:01 UTC | Permalink | Comments (47)

Fundraiser - Please Support Moon of Alabama

Dear Reader,

Moon of Alabama provides news and analysis which other media cover late or not at all. It offers original thought and no-nonsense writing on a nearly daily basis. That is not an easy feat and it requires a lot of effort. This site is free. The comment section is open and lively. All this is the effort of this single person.


Your continued interest and your feed back keep me going. But I also need to eat and pay rent. There is no other income to rely on. Thus every donation to this Poor Poet, be it $5, $50 or $500, is welcome and needed. A recurring contribution or sponsorship would be great.

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Thanks you very much

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Posted by b on June 3, 2019 at 7:05 UTC | Permalink | Comments (32)

June 02, 2019

MoA Week In Review - Various Issues - OT 2019-31

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:


Other issues:

Reuters headlined today: U.S. prepared to engage with Iran without pre-conditions: Pompeo

Reading the very first sentence one immediately learns that the headline is lie:

BELLINZONA, Switzerland (Reuters) - The United States is prepared to engage with Iran without pre-conditions about its nuclear program but needs to see the country behaving like “a normal nation”, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday.

What does Pompeo mean when he uses the phrase "a normal nation"? We can discern that by reading his May 2018 speech, After the Deal: A New Iran Strategy. In it Pompeo lays out twelve "requirements" that the U.S. wants Iran to fulfill. Together they are a demand to Iran to 'regime change' itself, to lay down and play dead. Pompeo then goes on to say:

So we’re not asking anything other than that Iranian behavior be consistent with global norms, ...

"A normal nation" is one that behaves "consistent with global norms". Pompeo will only talk with Iran after it fulfills all the "requirements" he set out a year ago. How Reuters can sells that as "without pre-condition" is a mystery.


The New York Times has a long new piece on the Boeing 737 MAX: Boeing Built Deadly Assumptions Into 737 Max, Blind to a Late Design Change

Apart from some new quotes I find no fact in there that was not mentioned in on of the 737 pieces on this site. Meanwhile not one mainstream outlet has written about the safety problems of the 737 NG trim which we extensively discussed here. That piece also noted that it will take quite some time for the 737 MAX to be allowed back into the air.  Other agencies than the FAA will want to check it out and that will take some time. The president of Emirates Airline agrees with that view:

Boeing Co.’s 737 Max will likely not be back in the skies before the end of this year because of a fall-out in cooperation between the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and other national regulators, according to Tim Clark, president of Emirates.

“You’re going to have a bit of a delay in terms of regulators, Canada, Europe, China,” Clark told reporters at the IATA annual meeting in Seoul. “It’s going to take time to get this aircraft back in the air. If it’s in the air by Christmas I’ll be surprised.”

The proven FAA failure to appropriately check Boeing's designs will have additional consequences:

Clark also said regulators are now set to take a more stringent view on Boeing’s next plane, the 777X, which is targeted to begin commercial flights in 2020. Boeing is seeking regulatory approval for the jet which, just like the 737 Max, is an update of an existing model.

The Trump administration wants to discourage all those nasty foreigners who want to spend their vacation money in the United States:

The State Department is now requiring nearly all applicants for U.S. visas to submit their social media usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers. ... In addition to their social media histories, visa applicants are now asked for five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses, international travel and deportation status ...

The new rule will affect some 15 million visa per year. That is a lot of new data for the NSA to crosscheck.


Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on June 2, 2019 at 16:15 UTC | Permalink | Comments (169)

CNN Sees Saudi Success In Disunited Gulf Summits That Made No New Statements

Last week Saudi Arabia hosted three international summits in Mecca. The first was an emergency meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which includes six Arab countries of the Persian Gulf. It was followed by an Arab League meeting of its 22 countries minus Syria which is currently suspended. The third summit was of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which has 57 member states.

The Saudis had hoped that they would be able to use those summits to demonstrate a united position against Iran. Saudi Arabia had accused Iran of ordering the recent drone attacks from Yemen on its trans-Saudi pipeline. The U.S. accused Iran of being behind the recent attacks on tankers near the UAE.

The Saudi King opened the first summit with an attack on Iran:

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman told an emergency Gulf Arab meeting on Thursday that Iran’s development of nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities threatened regional and global security.

He said Tehran’s actions threatened international maritime trade and global oil supplies in a “glaring violation of UN treaties,” following attacks this month on oil tankers off the United Arab Emirates and on oil pumping stations in the Kingdom.

If one is to believe CNN's Nic Robertson, the Saudis succeeded in uniting all countries behind their position:

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has pulled off in Mecca what many had thought unlikely -- getting 20 or so disparate Arab nations to unite in a common position against Iran.

And while this achievement came without bellicose threats or new red lines, it is an important milepost on a road that may yet lead to regional conflict. In middle-of-night, back-to-back summits at Islam's holiest of sites, the aging but still-attentive Saudi monarch got a double endorsement of his claims that Iran is destabilizing the Middle East and a backing of his call for "the international community to shoulder its responsibility.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council and 21 Arab League nations present called for Iran to stop "interfering in the internal affairs" of its neighbors and denounced Tehran's "threat to maritime security" in the Persian Gulf.
What we saw in Mecca was a mark being set, that the status quo with Iran will no longer be tolerated by Saudi and its allies. What happens next is in Iran's court. Talks are an option, but terrorism, insofar as it is perceived as such by Tehran's neighbors, is not.

The Saudis must have bought Nic Robertson some of their rose-colored glasses. In fact each of the three summits failed to take a new position towards Iran. The GCC summit communique does not blame Iran for the recent attacks and uses only general language to note its concern:

The Council emphasized the positions of the Supreme Council and its firm decisions on relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, stressing the need for Iran to abide by principles based on the Charter of the United Nations and international law, the principles of good neighborliness, respect for the sovereignty of states, non-interference in internal affairs and the non-use of force.

The Council also called on Iran to stop supporting, funding and arming militias and terrorist organizations, and refrain from feeding sectarian conflicts, calling on the Iranian regime to exercise wisdom, staying away from hostilities and destabilizing security and stability.

While Anderson claims that the Iran's behavior "will no longer be tolerated by Saudi and its allies", the GCC statement does not make any such threat at all. The GCC members know that they can not do anything against Iran as their countries are vulnerable to retaliation. They thus call on others to do something about their problems:

The resolution called on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities to maintain international peace and security and to take firm action against the Iranian regime and more effective and serious steps to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities and to impose stricter restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program.

In total the general language of the current GCC summit statement is not significantly different from the one used in previous GCC summit communiques:

They also urged Tehran to revise its policies in the region by means of honoring relevant international conventions and treaties, and stop harboring terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, on its soil.

The Arab League Mecca summit communique is somewhat similar to one the GCC issued. But its language is also no different than the one used in previous Arab League statements. It condemns Iran for supporting the Houthis and for supporting Syria but issues no threat whatsoever. Iraq did not sign off on the Arab League communique.

The OIC communique of the third Mecca summit does not mention Iran at all. It focuses on Palestine and rejects the ever delayed U.S. 'deal of the century' that is supposed to buy off Palestinian rights for some meager economic promises.

Of the six GCC countries Qatar and Oman have friendly relations with Iran. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are still hostile to Qatar and both countries fail in their war on Yemen. The Arab League is as dysfunctional as ever. Its north-African member states are busy with interior trouble and the Arab League country with the most effective military, Syria, is still suspended. The OIC condemned the Kushner plan which Saudi Arabia's clown prince Muhammad bin Salman and the UAE support. Turkey's president did not take part in the OIC summit because of the Saudi hostility to the Muslim Brotherhood. Iran's president was not invited. Qatar's Prime Minister al-Thani was only allowed to join the summits because the U.S. had pressed for it.

Said differently - the two summits Anderson is so exited about were nothingburgers. Their statements were similar to the once made before and the GCC and the Arab League still lack the capacity to act together on any serious issue. That they call on outsiders to tackle Iran says all one needs to know. The OIC summit was outright hostile to the U.S. and Saudi plans for the destruction of Palestine.

As long as U.S. media deliver such bad 'analysis' of foreign state positions, the policies derived from it will continue to be unrealistic.

Posted by b on June 2, 2019 at 11:21 UTC | Permalink | Comments (44)

June 01, 2019

Blog Housekeeping And Minor Renovations

Your host spent the last days fixing some minor issues with this blog.

Typepad, the hosting company for this blog, said that some of the software features used when I built this blog 15 years ago have now "depreciated for security reasons". That is their euphemism for "we screwed those up when we converted all blogs to use SSL." It took them seven month and some persistent niggling from me to come up with that excuse.

But using Typepad is the most convenient and cheapest way to run a blog. Their systems are reliable and the help desk, which one rarely needs, is generally responsive. If you want to run a blog I strongly recommend to use them. Their new web design system for blogs is also easy to work with.

Unfortunately I do not use new web design system. This blog uses the older software layer below those new design tools. That requires me to dig through stylesheet and templates coded in an incompletely documented control language. That is why it took me days to fix some minor issues.

You will not notice most of those changes. There are five issues though that you might want to know about.

  • Half a year ago this blog received the Serena Shim Award for 'uncompromised integrity in journalism'. It is an encouragement to continue what we are doing. Click the award logo on the upper left of the homepage to read more about it.
  • The blog should now resize properly for devices with smaller screen resolutions. Unfortunately I have no way to test this on multiple devices. If you find that it does not work properly on whatever you have please use the comments below to let me know.
  • The commentators name, email and web-url can no longer be stored as a cookie to be re-used during the next visit. Most web-browser will now use 'autofill' to put in the values that were used during your last comment. (Using Firefox you can double click within each input field.) I preferred the old solution but it is no longer available.
  • In long threads the permalinks for comments on subsequent comment pages were broken. That problem is fixed. The permalink to a comment is under its sequence number. All comments can be directly linked from anywhere.
  • The 'Search' on the homepage of this blog finally works and also has a readable layout. The original search used here was based on a Google feature which that company unfortunately terminated a few years ago. The makeshift that replaced it was a crappy version of Typepad's old search feature which one of their people squeezed into the homepage layout of this blog. It was mostly unusable. The new search has its own template and uses a newer underlying engine. It works for blog posts and for the comments. Check it out.

If there are any additional layout or functional issues that need to be fixed please let me know so in the comments.

Are there features missing that I should think of to add?

Posted by b on June 1, 2019 at 18:25 UTC | Permalink | Comments (107)