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20 Mar, 2014 04:22

New report reveals how ‘American neocons’ stage attacks against alternative media

​The recent on-air resignation by former RT news anchor Liz Wahl was just the latest stunt orchestrated by a neo-conservative think tank, according to a new investigative report shedding light on the group’s role in an ongoing Cold War revival campaign.

An extensive account of the days and minutes leading up to Wahl’s remarks and public denunciation of “propaganda” tactics during her news segment on March 5 by authors Max Blumenthal and Rania Khalek via truthdig has revealed connections with the little known neoconservative think-tank Foreign Policy Initiative.

FPI was founded in 2009 by a group of high-profile neo-conservative figures, including Robert Kagan and William Kristol, founder of the Weekly Standard, who themselves were cofounders of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) -- an organization that played a key role in advocating for the US invasion of Iraq by the Bush administration following the 9/11 terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda.

According to the authors, as well as evidence readily available online via the group’s Twitter feed, FPI was privy to what would take place at RT on-air that day.

Just twenty minutes prior to Wahl’s last appearance on RT, FPI announced that “something big” would be “going down” on RT, and directed followers to RT's live web feed.

#WordOnTheStreet says that something big might happen on RT in about 20-25 minutes. Watch: http://t.co/nHjqi7CD1K

— FPI (@ForeignPolicyI) March 5, 2014

The ensuing tweet-storm linking to RT’s live web feed read like a countdown to a very well coordinated event which culminated in Wahl's much publicized on-air resignation.

Have a few minutes? Tune in RT now: http://t.co/nHjqi7CD1K The #WordOnTheStreet says it'll be worth your while.

— FPI (@ForeignPolicyI) March 5, 2014

Guys, tune in RT: http://t.co/nHjqi7CD1K

— FPI (@ForeignPolicyI) March 5, 2014

Just over an hour later, an exclusive interview with Wahl was posted to The Daily Beast, authored by James Kirchick, a 31-year-old writer who had appeared regularly on the pages of conservative publications such as Commentary and the Weekly Standard.

As the truthdig report points out, Kirchick, a senior fellow with FPI, considered by most beltway insiders as a rebrand of PNAC, had been in contact with Wahl since last August.

But while Kirchick himself appears to be more of neo-con waterboy, the FPI has a deep bench when it comes to Washington insiders at the heart of the current crisis in Ukraine.

It turns out that the husband of Victoria Nuland, the top US diplomat for Europe, is none other than Robert Kagan. Kagan not only serves on the FPI Board of Directors, but was also John McCain's foreign policy advisor during the Arizona senator's failed 2008 presidential bid. McCain, known for his harsh anti-Russian rhetoric, appeared alongside Ukrainian opposition leaders in December, including far right nationalist Oleh Tyahnybog.

The very same week McCain was meeting with Ukraine's opposition, Nuland was on Independence Square, the epicenter of the Kiev protests, handing out cakes to protesters and riot police. The diplomat, however, sparked a media frenzy for a far less saccharine gesture.

While discussing the situation on the ground with US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, Nuland criticized Europe's more cautious Ukrainian policy with her now infamous "F*** the EU" remark. The US State Department said at the time that if if Moscow had been responsible for recording and disseminating the conversation, it was "a new low in Russian tradecraft".

"F*** with the Russians"

Kirchick, who has taken a less than amicable approach to Russia himself, had himself appeared on RT after accepting an invitation to participate in a panel and discuss his recent op-ed calling for Bradley Manning’s execution.

The panel was derailed when Kirchick took the opportunity to denounce recent “gay propaganda” laws ratified by Russia’s government. As Khalek and Blumenthal write, moments after the uncomfortable appearance Kirchick had removed his microphone and remarked “I only go on that station to f*** with the Russians.”

Several days after Wahl's resignation, after she appeared on a number of networks, Kirchick camped out outside of RT’s DC studios, apparently on a self-assigned mission to “find out more about RT.”

Kirchick, after befuddling random office workers with questions on Pussy Riot, was approached by building security, who eventually contacted local police. Though the resulting piece posted by Kirchick for the Daily Beast had denounced “the wannabe thugs” at RT’s DC headquarters who had contacted police, the piece was later quietly updated to clarify that it had been building security who had contacted authorities, not RT staff members.

Beyond the extensive analysis of FPI and James Kirchick’s political purpose, the investigation also delved into Wahl’s tenure at RT. Six employees were contacted by the authors, all of whom professed “qualms with the network’s coverage of Russia-related issues,” though they also portrayed Wahl, who had previously been demoted from anchor to correspondent and suspended without pay, as “apolitical and without any clear principles.”

“Wahl expressed her outrage at co-workers, often berating them, according to her former colleagues, and by ‘screaming’ at management,” write Blumenthal and Khalek.

Other interviewed employees professed knowledge of Wahl’s association with Kirchick.

[Kirchick’s] obviously been trying to charm her into doing this for a while,” said one, adding that Wahl had confided that she had been approached by an unnamed individual to “take down RT.”

Certainly Wahl's and Kirchick's behavior the day of her resignation alluded to a close relationship, evidenced by a photo posted by Kirchick to his Twitter feed the day following her resignation entitled '#freedomselfie'.

Freedom selfie with @lizwahl#screwthehaterspic.twitter.com/SpZbfcijZ1

— Jamie Kirchick (@jkirchick) March 6, 2014

Ultimately, Wahl’s public outcry seemed to echo “the cold warrior themes familiar to neoconservatives like Kirchick” and the FPI, write Blumenthal and Khalek.

The seemingly coordinated stunt appears to have met with some success, winning praise from MSNBC’s prime-time pundit Chris Hayes, who described Wahl as “remarkably badass,” along with conservative writers such as Amanda Carpenter, who noted that the former anchor was “proud to be an American.”

Sorry not sorry pic.twitter.com/FrQw8duXoF

— Rosie Gray (@RosieGray) March 20, 2014