From Consortium News
Barack Obama's chance for a transformative presidency ended when he bowed to Official Washington's foreign-policy establishment of neocons and liberal interventionists and bought into the elitist notion that the American people should be guided by propaganda, not informed by facts.
Although he began his presidency by promising transparency, Obama instead undertook an unprecedented crackdown on national security whistleblowers, prosecuting more than all other presidents combined. Meanwhile, he authorized partial and misleading releases of information about key events. Instead of an informed public, his administration sought maximum propaganda advantage, such as with the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack outside Damascus, Syria, and with the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine.
But Obama's anti-democratic approach to information, i.e., treating Americans like mushrooms in a darkened cellar, creates an opportunity for President-elect Donald Trump to do the opposite, reinvigorate U.S. democracy by arming citizens with facts. By doing so, he also can counter his reputation as someone hostile to reality.
Once in office, Trump could use his power over pardons and commutations to reverse Obama's punishment of truth-tellers -- the likes of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden -- and Trump can authorize as full a release of evidence about turning-point events as possible. There's no justifiable reason for the U.S. intelligence community to continue to withhold its assessments on the Syria-sarin case, which killed hundreds of civilians, or on the shoot-down of MH-17, which killed 298 people.
I've been told by intelligence sources that there is a great deal more evidence regarding each incident than the Obama administration has shared even with official inquiries, although holding back this information has allowed guilty parties to escape while sending investigators off in wrong directions. [See here and here.]
Instead of pursuing justice, the Obama administration exploited the atrocities to demonize geopolitical "enemies." The sarin case was pinned on the Syrian government and the MH-17 shoot-down was blamed on Russian President Vladimir Putin -- all the better to gin up the New Cold War and justify massive new armaments spending.
Official Washington's foreign-policy establishment, aided and abetted by the mainstream U.S. media, also concealed or played down other relevant facts about Syria and Ukraine. Regarding Syria, the Obama administration hid the degree of collaboration between U.S.-backed "moderate" Syrian rebels and radical jihadists, including Al Qaeda's affiliate, Nusra Front. On Ukraine, Obama concealed American complicity in the violent putsch that overthrew Ukraine's elected President Viktor Yanukovych and threw Ukraine into a nasty civil war with the pro-U.S. side relying on neo-Nazi storm troopers to kill ethnic Russian Ukrainians. Those realities had to be whitewashed because they didn't reinforce the desired narrative.
Opening the Records
On his first day in office, President Trump could order his CIA Director Mike Pompeo to review these cases and release all information that does not compromise sensitive sources and methods. The order could extend to other intelligence-related mysteries, including some that may reflect poorly on Republicans such as the October Surprise mystery of 1980, whether Ronald Reagan's campaign went behind President Jimmy Carter's back to undermine his hostage negotiations with Iran and thus ensure Reagan's election.
By demonstrating a readiness to tell it like it is -- regardless of where the partisan chips fall -- Trump could reassure nervous Democrats and progressives who view him as a demagogue who disdains facts and exploits emotions for political gain. He could reverse that negative image by doing what Obama promised -- but failed to deliver on -- a transparent government that trusts the people.
Trump also could put mainstream U.S. media outlets in a bind since they would have to admit that much of what they have reported about Syria and Ukraine amounted to either propaganda or disinformation. As much as the big newspapers have decried Trump as a purveyor of "fake news," they would have a hard time arguing against the release of information that gives Americans a fuller understanding of the world around them.
After opening up these intelligence files, Trump could explain why he believes neocon/liberal-hawk "regime change" strategies are unwise and how relations with Moscow could be improved based on a clear knowledge of what the Kremlin has and has not done, rather than a slanted and selective presentation of propaganda designed to manage the perceptions of the American people.
Advice to Obama