At elite gala with ex-Bush official, Obama implores Wall Street to thank him for making them so much money

“Just say thank you, please,” former President Obama told a room full of bankers, and boasted of making the US the world’s largest oil producer at an opulent gala with James Baker.

By Ben Norton

Barack Obama urged bankers to thank him for helping make them so much money during his tenure as president. He also boasted of turning the US into the world’s largest oil producer, while surrounded by wealthy Republicans in tuxedos.

Obama made these appeals for elite adulation at a lavish gala hosted by former Secretary of State James Baker. His comments came just a few hours after he met with former Republican President George H. W. Bush at his home in Texas.

If there was any single event that captured Obama’s centrist, neoliberal capitalist politics, it was the former Democratic president’s oligarch lovefest in Houston on November 27.

At this sumptuous black-tie gala, Obama talked the 1,100 elite guests into raising a staggering $5.4 million, in just one night (at an average donation of nearly $5,000), for Rice University’s centrist, pro-corporate Baker Institute for Public Policy, the honorary chair of which is James Baker.

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Ben Norton is a journalist and writer. He is a producer and reporter for The Real News, and a contributor to the Grayzone Project and FAIR. Ben co-hosts the Moderate Rebels podcast with Max Blumenthal. His website is BenNorton.com, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.

Presenting The Syria Deception: Al Qaeda Goes to Hollywood (VIDEO)

An exclusive Grayzone investigative documentary rips the cover off of the most sophisticated and expensive campaign of humanitarian interventionist propaganda in modern history.

By Dan Cohen

For decades, Western governments, corporate media and Hollywood have engaged in a project of mass deception to manufacture consent for military interventions. Waged in the name of lofty ideals like freedom, human rights and democracy, US-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya wound up bringing death, destruction and even the return of slavery to the African continent. As the wounds from those catastrophes festered, Washington embarked on its most ambitious project yet, marketing another war of regime change, this time in Syria.

This investigative mini-doc exposes the cynical deceptions and faux humanitarianism behind the campaign to sell the dirty war on Syria. It will also demonstrate the lengths that the US and its allies have gone to develop new ploys to tug at Western heartstrings and convince even liberal minded skeptics of war that a US intervention was necessary — even if it meant empowering Al Qaeda’s largest franchise since 9/11 and its theocratic allies among the insurgency. Big lies and little children have formed the heart of what is perhaps the most expensive, sophisticated, and shameless propaganda blitz ever conducted. Welcome to the Syria Deception.

Hollywood’s role in promoting war is nothing new. The American film industry has collaborated over the years with the State Department, the Pentagon, and the intelligence services to produce an array of films burnishing the military’s image, revising controversial US actions, and propagating official accounts of critical events through action blockbusters. As the American role in destabilizing Syria expanded, so too did the number of high budget documentaries produced on the crisis. This film will examine what is perhaps the most ambitious perception management documentary project of them all: Cries From Syria.

Produced by HBO, debuted at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, and now available on Netflix, Cries from Syria was widely promoted in mainstream Western media outlets and was even screened in the International Court of Justice. The feature length documentary has been also promoted by public figures from the neoconservative Nikki Haley, who as us ambassador to the united nations has agitated for regime change from Syria to Iran, to recently-deceased rock musician Chris Cornell, who included footage from the film in his final music video before he committed suicide. pop diva Cher even composed an original song for the film.

Watch as I attended a screening of the film on Capitol Hill in May 2017 that brought together some of the key lawmakers, pseudo-experts, corporate media pundits, and professional regime change lobbyists behind the Syria deception.

If you want to see more exclusive content like this that confronts and exposes Washington’s dangerous bipartisan foreign policy establishment consensus, become a Grayzone patron here

dan cohen

Dan Cohen is a journalist and filmmaker. He has produced widely distributed video reports and print dispatches from across Israel-Palestine. Dan is a correspondent at RT America and tweets at @DanCohen3000.

Meet the Mystery Fixer Who Negotiated Syria Out of Seven Years of War

How a nearly unknown businessman named Khaled al Ahmad became Damascus’ secret liaison to the West and quietly dealt Syria’s grinding war to a close. 

By Rania Khalek

This is part one of a two part series on the reconciliation process in Syria.  

BEIRUT, LEBANON – After seven years of grinding war, the Syrian government has achieved victory. According to current and former international officials and diplomats as well as UN officials, credit or blame for the Syrian government’s recent victories in East Ghouta and then in the south — along with the tacit acceptance these sweeping military successes received — can be placed on one man.

He is Khaled al Ahmad, a Syrian government emissary and businessman who masterminded the Syrian government’s reconciliation strategy. Al Ahmad is the secret diplomat who has exerted exceptional tolls of energy building bridges with the enemies of Damascus. Despite his central role in bringing one of the worst conflicts since World War Two to an end, he remains almost totally unknown in international media and has scarcely been discussed even among expert Syria observers.

Bashar al Assad’s victory was made clear by the middle of July of this year, when multiple Israeli outlets confirmed that Israel’s government was cooperating with Russia to facilitate the return of Syrian forces and UN observers to the pre-2011 border with the occupied Golan Heights. Prime Minister Netanyahu himself stated that he had no objection to Assad’s rule while his defense minister even allowed for the possibility of diplomatic relations between the two countries. These statements were met with embarrassed silence by the Syrian government and its allies like the Lebanese political party and militia, Hezbollah, but they marked a striking shift in Israeli policy.

With Russian support, Syrian armed forces initiated a march to the southern borders of Jordan and Israel this July. The operation turned out to be a cakewalk. This success followed the recapture of East Ghouta and northern Homs, themselves relatively easy taken compared to the grinding battles of previous years. The reassertion of Syrian government authority over the south has as its final target the reopening of the Naseeb border crossing with Jordan and full restoration of the pre-2011 situation in the south. The US has not objected, and in fact, has even sent a message to its former anti-Assad proxies in Syria informing them that they were on their own. Israel and Jordan, for their part, made it clear they had no objections either, as long the operation was strictly Syrian, with no visible Iranian or Shia militia role in the battles.

The battles in this phase were limited and not as brutal as they have sometimes been elsewhere. Many towns or rebel groups were not involved in the fighting and others quickly agreed to deals. This may have surprised some observers unfamiliar with the events that took place on the ground in 2015 and 2016, when tens of deals were struck secretly with rebel groups in the south. These deals helped thwart the 2015 Southern Storm operation launched by rebels when one of the main factions called Ababil Horan betrayed its allies. It was through this process that al Ahmad laid the foundation for the end of Syria’s war.

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Rania Khalek is an independent journalist living in Beirut, Lebanon. She is the co-host of the Unauthorized Disclosure podcast.

US Ambassador Confirms Billions Spent on Regime Change in Syria, Debunking ‘Obama Did Nothing’ Myth

The US government spent at least $12 billion in Syria-related military and civilian expenses in the four years from 2014 through 2017, former ambassador Robert Ford disclosed in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

By Ben Norton

The United States spent at least $12 billion in Syria-related military and civilian expenses in the four years from 2014 through 2017, according to the former U.S. ambassador to the country.

This $12 billion is in addition to the billions more spent to pursue regime change in Syria in the previous three years, after war broke out in 2011.

This striking figure provides a further glimpse of the exorbitant sums of money the U.S. spent trying to topple the government in Damascus. It also bluntly contradicts claims by Syrian opposition supporters that the former administration of President Barack Obama “did nothing” in Syria, or that it supposedly did not seek regime change fervently enough.

Former U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert S. Ford disclosed this information in written testimony prepared for a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on February 6.

“The cost of US military operations in Syria between FY 2014 and the end of FY 2017 was between $3 and $4 billion,” Ford said. “In addition to the cost of those military operations, the FY 2017 budget request included $430 [million] to build local security forces and the FY 2018 request was for $500 million.”

Continue reading “US Ambassador Confirms Billions Spent on Regime Change in Syria, Debunking ‘Obama Did Nothing’ Myth”

Ben Norton is a journalist and writer. He is a producer and reporter for The Real News, and a contributor to the Grayzone Project and FAIR. Ben co-hosts the Moderate Rebels podcast with Max Blumenthal. His website is BenNorton.com, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.