On Monday, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) repelled an attack of pro-Turkish militants in the direction of Ayn Daqnah in the northern part of Aleppo province. According to pro-Kurdish sources, the attack was supported by Turkish artillery units. The artillery shelling also targeted YPG positions in Herbel, Sheikh Issa, and Tel Rifat.  The YPG repelled the first wave of the attack and allegedly killed 20 pro-Turkish militants and captured a few vehicles.

On Tuesday, sporadic clashes continued in the area. According to experts, pro-Turkish militants will not be able to break the YPG defense without direct assistance from the Turkish army.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed up by the US-led coalition airpower, recaptured the whole Yarmouk district from ISIS and entered the Nezle Shihade district in the city of Raqqah. At the same time, US military sources denied reports that the SDF had allegedly halted its operations against ISIS because of tensions among Arab and Kurdish units of the group.

The Syrian Army Tiger Forces and Tribal forces captured the Deilla oil field south of the government-held town of Resafa in the province of Raqqah, according to pro-government sources. The Tiger Forces and their allies are steadily clearing from ISIS key areas south of the Resafa-Ithriyah road.

Numerous pro-government sources are speculating about the expected government push from the Resafa area towards the ISIS besieged city of Deir Ezzor. However, right now, this option looks unlikely.

In turn, government forces are developing momentum in the direction of Sukhna northeast of Palmyra. According to local sources, the army and its allies have captured new points en route to the ISIS-held town.

Reports about alleged government forces progressing towards the ISIS-held T2 pumping station near the border with Iraq are fake. Clashes are still ongoing in the area of Hamimah.

Voiceover by Harold Hoover

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Featured image: Chapter DNR Alexander Zakharchenko. (Source: RIA Novosti / Sergey Averin)

The head of the Donetsk People’s Republic Aleksandr Zakharchenko spoke about the establishment of a new State – Malorossiya. According to him, this decision was made by the former regions of Ukraine (excluding Crimea).

“The situation has reached a dead end. We propose the plan of the reintegration of the country in order to stop civil war, we discussed the situation and came to the conclusion that Ukraine has shown itself to be failed state,” said Zakharchenko.

“We, the representatives of former Ukraine, declare the establishment of a new state, Malorossiya, which is a successor state to Ukraine. We agree that the new state’s name will be Malorossiya because the very name of Ukraine has discredited itself,” it is stated in the Constitution act, presented in Donetsk.

Claimed territory of Ruthenia. Photo: © L FE!

The document notes that Malorossiya is a multinational State, the State languages of which are Russian and Malo Russian, and it recognizes the rights of speakers of regional languages. This is a Federal State with broad autonomy of the regions. The flag of Bogdan Khmelnytsky is recognised as its flag.

Sample Little flag. Photo: © L FE!

The creators of Malorossiya based on the fact that the DPR and LPR were the only territories “of the former Ukraine (not counting Crimea)” where the legitimate authority was preserved. They declare that Malorossiya encapsulates the whole territory of the “former Ukraine”.

Recall that the DPR and LPR were formed in 2014, after the coup took place in Kiev after the events of Maidan. Donetsk and Lugansk didn’t recognize the new government and didn’t adopt a policy of non-cooperation with Russia.

Originally published by NewsFront.Info.

Translated from Russian by  Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard

All images in this article are from the author.

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Morning Consult reported on July 18th, that the 11 U.S. state governors who have the highest approval-ratings in their state are:

1. Charlie Baker, MA, 71%

2. Larry Hogan, MD, 68%

3. Matt Mead, WY, 67%

4. Doug Burgum, ND, 66%

5. Dennis Daugaard, SD, 65%

6. Kay Ivey, AL, 64%

7. Brian Sandoval, NV, 62%

8. Phil Scott, VT, 62%

9. Gary Herbert, UT, 61%

10=11 (TIE): Bill Haslam, TN; & Asa Hutchinson, AR, both 60% approval (and both have 23% disapproval; so, they’re tied).

All 11 are Republican.

The 10 with the lowest approval ratings include 7 Republicans (Chris Christie, Sam Brownback, Mary Fallin, Rick Snyder, Scott Walker, Bruce Rauner, and Paul LePage). Two others are Democrats (Dan Malloy & Gina Raimando). One is independent (Bill Walker). Here they’re ranked, starting with the worst (the highest disapproval-rating):

1. Chris Christie, NJ, 69%

2. Sam Brownback, KS, 66%

3. Dan Malloy, CT, 64%

4. Mary Fallin, 55%, OK

5. Rick Snyder, MI, 52%

6. Scott Walker, WI, 51%

7. Bruce Rauner, IL, 49%

8. Paul LePage, ME, 48% (47% approve)

9. Bill Walker, AK, 48% (42% approve)

10. Gina Raimando, RI, 47%

Republicans include all 10 of the best, and 7 of the worst.

Democrats include none of the best, and two of the worst.

Wikipedia says,

“There are currently 33 Republicans, 16 Democrats, and one independent serving as state governors.”

On that basis, one would expect two-thirds of the worst-list to be Republicans, and 7 actually are, which, of course, fits that statistical (two-thirds) expectation. Also on the same basis, one would expect one-third of the best-list to be Democrats, but none actually are, which, of course, is extremely bad performance for Democrats.

The list of eleven best may be expected to include some future Republican Presidential contenders, but that wouldn’t be until 2024 at the earliest (or if Mike Pence becomes installed soon); so, a lot can change between then and now, and this list, strong as it is for the Republican Party, has no substantial relevance to Presidential politics (unless Pence becomes installed).

However, the lack of Democrats on the ten-best list does suggest that the next Democratic nominee for the U.S. Presidency will come from among the 46 Democratic U.S. Senators (since their governors aren’t performing well).

The ten Senators with the highest approval-ratings within their respective state are not necessarily Presidential contenders, because a very popular Senator in a liberal state such as Vermont, might not perform well in a U.S. national election, and the same is true of a very popular Senator in a conservative state. Each Senator’s Presidential potential has to be considered based not only upon his/her approval-rating but upon his/her state’s “normalcy” or representativeness of the total U.S. electorate. 

One state stands out as being the most representative of them all, and it is Ohio. “As Ohio goes, so goes the nation” is the general rule.

Ohio has one Democratic U.S. Senator: Sherrod Brown. His approval-rating (which might therefore be considered reasonably likely to reflect what his approval-rating nationally would be if he were the U.S. President) is 52% approve, 30% disapprove. This is bettered slightly by his state’s Republican U.S. Senator, Robert Portman’s 53% to 27% rating (and both Brown and Portman have extensive records representing their state nationally, both are well-known to the voters; so, in both cases, these are meaningful numbers). If Trump were to be impeached and replaced by Pence, then Portman (just like some Republican Senators) would be a Presidential contender; but, otherwise, not.

A remarkable thing about Sherrod Brown is the extent to which he is far more progressive than the people whom he represents; whereas Portman is ideologically well-representative of Ohioans, Brown is not — he is far more progressive, and yet he has almost as high approval-rating from Ohioans as does Portman (who ideologically is far closer to Ohioans).

Sherrod Brown is definitely a leader, and not a follower; but even people who disagree with him are approving of him, following his leadership, voting for him. Quite possibly, then, he is the likeliest person to win the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination in 2020, if Democrats want a winner.

However, the U.S. Senator with the highest of all approval-ratings (75% to 21%) is Bernie Sanders, the progressive Democratic Senator from the very progressive state of Vermont — and he has already demonstrated extensively his ability to win votes also nationwide, even from some people who disagree with him on some important issues. He is golden, but he is also very gray (nearly 76 years old); and, so, his likeliest participation in the 2020 Presidential contest will be as the most influential of all potential endorsers of other candidates. Whom, then, might he endorse in the primaries?

Here, again, his Senate colleague Sherrod Brown stands out. He’s 65 years old, and so he’d be 69 entering the White House in 2021, and this fits within established norms. 

Sherrod Brown is golden for progressives, except for one major thing: he’s a leader of the pro-military, NATO-alliance, anti-Russia and anti-Iran, movement in the Democratic Party, and even in the entire U.S. Senate. He would, as President, probably be golden for Lockheed Martin. Right now, his second-biggest source of campaign funds comes from JStreetPAC, “The Political Home for Pro-Israel” meaning pro-Saud, anti-Iran, and thirdly, anti-Russia, U.S. foreign policies. This is also huge for building and selling more U.S. weapons, including more missiles in order to command Russia’s compliance and bring them into the Saudi-Israeli fold — to separate Russia from its alliance with Iran. (The Sauds have tried to do this before, but failed.) Brown’s top funders have been employees from the Ohio State University system, but the highly concentrated JStreetPAC basically owns him right now, at least as regards foreign policies.

Bernie Sanders has a much less narrow contributor-base. His “Top Contributors, federal election data for Bernie Sanders, 2016 cycle” is very diverse but slightly dominated by Silicon Valley, high-tech, and that’s not obsessively pro-military-industrial-complex (or “MIC,” which virtually owned his opponent Hillary Clinton, far more than it owns Sherrod Brown via the Sauds and Israelis). But the MIC tried mightily to buy Sanders too, the difference being that he never received much money from the Saudi-Israeli lobby or donors. Furthermore, Sanders’s “Top 20 Contributors to Campaign Cmte” were mainly labor unions, which, nowadays, since industrial labor unions are virtually dead, are mainly government workers. Moreover, Sanders’s voting-record has not been very favorable toward the Sauds or the Israelis, and he has strongly criticized the MIC. He might object to Brown’s sell-outs to the MIC. He might go against Brown. 

Is there anyone outside the U.S. Senate, or governorships, who might also contend for the Democratic nomination? Only one person, a U.S. Representative, member of the House, one of the two who represent Hawaii: Tulsi Gabbard. She’s the person who delivered the nominating speech for Sanders against Clinton at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. On 31 January 2017, I wrote about her being “The U.S. Politician Who Could Become Second Abraham Lincoln”, because one of her similarities to Lincoln is that though she’s only a member of the U.S. House, lots of extremely well-informed progressives are already talking about her as being a serious contender for her Party’s Presidential nomination in 2020, and I explained there why. Moreover (which I didn’t address there), a possibility exists that Gabbard might contend in 2018 in a Democratic primary against current U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono, who (like Hawaii’s other U.S. Senator, Brian Schatz) was one of the earliest people to endorse Hillary Clinton for President, and who stood by Clinton after Sanders entered the race. Both of Hawaii’s U.S. Senators also voted for S. 722, a bill to introduce steps toward war against both Iran and Russia. Sanders voted against it. If it gets to the House, then Gabbard would almost certainly be one of the few Representatives who would vote “Nay” on it. Both of Hawaii’s two Senators are numbers 2 and 3 among all 100 in terms of popularity among the people of their state. However, Bernie Sanders had beat Hillary Clinton in the Hawaii Democratic Caucuses in 2016, by 71.5% to only 28.3% for Clinton.

The 59-year-old Senator Hirono is being treated for a recently discovered stage four cancer of the kidney, which was removed but was found to be a metastacized cancer, but Hirono still insists that she will be running in 2018 for re-election to another six-year term in the U.S. Senate. If the 36-year-old Rep. Gabbard decides to contest Hirono’s Senate seat, Gabbard might win. If that were to happen, then the young Gabbard would enter the U.S. Senate in 2019 on a rocket ship heading toward the White House, just like Obama rocketed into the White House after having served in the U.S. Senate only during the brief period of January 3, 2005 to November 16, 2008, and (unlike Gabbard) no time at all in the U.S. House, nor outside of local politics. (Other than these stated similarities, and the fact that both Obama and Gabbard are cool in temperament and are from Hawaii, they are very different politicians, with very different backgrounds and policies, almost like they’re from different political parties, or maybe different worlds.) But, even if Gabbard runs against the popular Hirono and loses, Gabbard will still be a significant factor in the 2020 Democratic Presidential primaries, especially if Sanders endorses her, as she had endorsed him early in his contest, when he was given little chance of winning.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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All Eyez on Me (2017) is a lavish dramatization of controversial hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur’s brief, tragic, and largely misjudged life. The motion picture’s emergence more than twenty years after his untimely death is especially significant because it purports to accurately depict the biography of perhaps the most important and provocative black figure since Malcolm X, and does so for an entire generation too young to recall Shakur’s impact and, more importantly, the artist’s relatedness to deep state maneuvers against black enfranchisement and probable ongoing US counterintelligence efforts targeting public figures capable of wielding influence over the public mind.

Production of All Eyez on Me began in 2015 after a tentative 2011 settlement of a legal fight that ensued between the film’s producer, Morgan Creek, and Shakur’s estate. The parties continued to battle in court over production decisions even as Shakur’s mother, former black activist Afeni Shakur, died in early 2016. As the project ensued the film’s creators continued to ignore recommendations of Shakur’s family, particularly the eventual selection of music video producer Benny Boom as the film’s director. [1]

“There’s a whole lot of things that they would not have in the movie that actually happened,” remarked veteran director John Singleton, who was originally approved by the Shakurs to head up the film. “They stole the [film’s] rights from his mother. They made the movie they wanted to make, and hopefully one day I’ll get a chance to tell that story.”[2]

Without its powerful soundtrack and an at times moving portrayal of Shakur’s relationship with his mother, the film is a textbook example of how Hollywood enfeebles innately political subject matter. The viewer is invited to revel in a tediously idealized rendering of a celebrity seemingly doomed by his own naivete, personal lifestyle choices, and the inherent violence of hip-hop culture. As Singleton suggests, All Eyez on Me succeeds as a carefully constructed tableau of distortion and omission that misses (perhaps intentionally) the powerful socio-political dimensions of Shakur’s activism and expression while casting aside many uncomfortable yet pertinent factors leading to his demise.

“Prevent the Rise of a Messiah”

A most unsettling facet of All Eyez on Me’s narrative is its glaring isolation of US intelligence involvement in Shakur’s life to his early childhood years, a time when he witnessed surveillance and harassment of both parents due to their political activism. In the same vein, the romanticized depiction of Shakur’s transition from art school dropout to overnight sensation conveniently removes from consideration exactly how Shakur’s combined childhood poverty, black nationalist heritage, activism to quell gang-related violence, and subsequent artistic rise almost certainly made him a target of the very deep state forces then-implicated in the crack cocaine epidemic ravaging black communities.

In the decades following the successful disruption of social movements that began in the 1960s, the targets of US government subversion seldom changed. During this period, however, counterintelligence techniques were steadily refined   To confront various forms of political engagement surging throughout the late 1960s in particular, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s COINTELPRO program “secretly instructed its field offices to propose schemes to ‘expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize’ specific individuals and groups.

Close coordination with local police and prosecutors was encouraged,” attorney Brian Glick observes. Despite COINTELPRO’s exposure and congressional investigations, such programs “persisted throughout the 1980s,” becoming “a permanent feature of U.S. government,” with the Black, Native American, and Chicano civil rights movements all subjected to routine surveillance.

One month before the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. the FBI set out to focus on “Black Nationalist – Hate Groups,” according to the agency’s own Counterintelligence Program files. The US’s foremost national police force specifically sought to “[p]revent the rise of a messiah’ who could unify, and electrify the militant black nationalist movement. Malcolm X might have been such a ‘messiah;’” the document continues,

he is the martyr of the movement today. Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, and Elijah Muhammad all aspire to this position … King could be a very real contender for this position should he abandon his supposed “obedience” to “white liberal doctrines” [nonviolence] and embrace black nationalism.[3, emphasis retained]

While All Eyez on Me depicts the struggle of Shakur’s parents with such abusive forms of law enforcement and surveillance, these experiences are represented as isolated chapters of Tupac’s life that have little-if-any direct relationship to the same forces that appear to have harnessed and misdirected his talents in his last few years. By failing to sufficiently acknowledge how the planned subversion of Black activists and public figures largely defined Shakur’s life path and career, the film succeeds as a classic demonstration of Hollywood whitewash and political miseducation.

Death Row Records: An Intelligence Operation?

Among the most significant and conspicuous features of All Eyez on Me’s depoliticized narrative is its failure to probe the true origins of Death Row Records—the label Shakur contracted with in the months leading up to his death, and its linkages to US intelligence and law enforcement.

In 1995 Shakur had served eight months of a one-to-for year term in an upstate New York prison for a sexual assault charge. Death Row’s director, former professional football player Marion “Suge” Knight, reached an agreement with Shakur to post the $1.4 million bond securing the artist’s release in exchange for his agreement to sign with Death Row.

Careful researchers conclude how thereafter Shakur witnessed his own talents reoriented and depraved under Knight’s tutelage and, more importantly, the darker forces behind Death Row.

Death Row was founded with seed money from Michael “Harry O” Harris, an aide to CIA-linked drug trafficker “Freeway” Ricky Ross, and flamboyant mob-linked Los Angeles attorney Dave Kenner. As the founder and owner of Death Row’s parent company, Godfather Entertainment, Kenner oversaw Knight’s management of Death Row.

Despite a string of serious violent crimes, Knight “seemed untouchable,” historian John Potash observes. “[I]t is most likely that Knight made a deal with police, as they failed to arrest him while he ran Death Row Records, until he completed his most important tasks. These tasks appeared to overlap U.S. intelligence’s agenda.”[4]

Knight’s rapid conversion from easy going and gregarious student and college football player at El Camino College and the University of Nevada Las Vegas to a “remote and serious character” with unusual access to resources suggest that powerful forces had entered his life. “Overnight, he had enough money to rent an apartment by himself and to purchase a series of late-model sedans,” journalist Randall Sullivan notes. “He regularly received visitors from Compton, and developed a reputation as perhaps the biggest drug dealer on campus.”[5]

Indeed, research by Potash and Sullivan point to Death Row’s close involvement with local law enforcement and the Los Angeles Police Department’s enlistment of COINTELPRO-style tactics to infiltrate and control the label. Veteran Los Angeles Police detective Russell Poole “discovered ‘dozens and dozens of police officers were working’ at all levels of Death Row Records. Det. Poole was told these officers could be considered ‘troubleshooters or covert agents.” The recording label’s head of security was also a former LAPD employee who “admitted to having many LAPD officers working for him.”

Poole’s investigation of Death Row’s potential role in rival rapper Biggie Small’s murder further revealed the label’s drug and weapons trafficking activities, and probable role in

provoking murderous fights between the Bloods and Crips gang members it employed. In doing so, Death Row appeared to aid the U.S. intelligence operation to end the gang-peace truces that were part of the radical politicization of these gangs achieved by Tupac and the Panthers.

All Eyez on Me’s failure to situate Death Row amidst its numerous COINTELPRO-like relationships undermines any meaningful understanding of how Shakur’s talents were sabotaged in his final months. For example, immediately following Shakur’s 1995 release from prison Kenner and Knight got the rapper intoxicated on alcohol and marijuana, thereby causing him to break a public vow to refrain from drug use. Death Row’s owner and director then persuaded Shakur “to enter the recording studio the same day as his prison release, while he was drunk and stoned,” Potash explains.

This resulted in Tupac producing his most negative lyrics. These included a double album of lyrics that almost exclusively promoted smoking weed and selling drugs, and served to increase tensions in the East Coast versus West rap war U.S. intelligence appeared to orchestrate.

The importance of Shakur’s partnership with Death Row was lost on neither himself or other politically conscious Black figures. For example, after Shakur confided to New African People’s Organization leader Watani Tyehimba, “I know I’m selling my soul to the devil,” the latter excommunicated the rapper.[6]

Lacking such crucial information All Eyez on Me invites its audience to partake in an almost mocking ritual of mass deception in which difficult political and historical truths are suppressed alongside Shakur’s lyrics that sought to highlight the array of social and political hypocrisies defining US race and class relations.

All Eyez on the Messenger

The US film industry’s influence on this important chapter of popular memory is further suggested in a study of contrasts between the subject matter and degree of resources afforded All Eyez on Me versus 2014’s Kill the Messenger, a much more modest Hollywood dramatization of an equally significant figure from that very era, investigative reporter Gary Webb, whose career was without question undermined by establishment forces.

The shared terrain might end there, if not for the fact that Shakur and Webb chronicled the calculated subversion and decimation of black urban experience from within and without its borders; each transcending if for a moment the conventional worldview prescribed and enforced by the US news media and entertainment industry. The deep state’s condemnation of their efforts in this regard is evident in the degree of resources and de facto censorship afforded each of their stories by that very industry.

One month before Shakur’s September 7, 1996 murder, Webb’s exposé of CIA involvement in the crack cocaine epidemic led to his eventual expulsion from the journalistic profession. Kill the Messenger provided an overall historically accurate rendering of how Webb’s most important work was received, the repercussions it had on his career and personal life, and unabashedly pointed to the US government’s role in the journalist’s downward trajectory. The film cost $5 million to produce, grossing half that amount during a very limited release in 374 theatres nationwide.

All Eyez on Me had a $40 million production budget, debuted at 2,471 theatres, and as of this writing has grossed close to $45 million in less than one month.[7] In addition to its many clear factual errors (pointed to by Shakur’s fandom, e.g. here and here) the film reduces the CIA’s crack cocaine assault on black urban America to a personal struggle borne by Shakur’s mother that is eventually conquered through her placement in rehab.

Along these lines, most filmgoers with even a modest understanding of Shakur’s contributions and biography recognize the degree of license taken by All Eyez on Me’s producers in depicting the artist’s tragic death in a hail of gunfire—an episode that has given rise to numerous theories of what parties may have been behind the event and how it actually played out. As with so many political assassinations in the latter twentieth century, improper investigation of the crime, missing information and unanswered questions has rightly fostered such conjecture.

For example, in contrast to the film’s narrative, Shakur was hospitalized for almost one week before his death. Despite these ambiguities at the time the US news media essentially blamed Shakur for his death by framing the murder as yet another casualty in a “war” between east and west coast-based rappers—a war that Death Row’s leadership actively provoked.[8]

One should not anticipate from the US film industry an honest interpretation of an historical phenomenon’s many jagged edges, especially in the event of a story as politically explosive as Shakur’s. All Eyez on Me is nevertheless a fitting title for a production that succeeds as an assemblage of mesmerizing music videos productions in which Shakur’s likeness and intellectual property are hijacked to at once define and depoliticize his message for an entire generation. The film does so in ways so egregious that the protests of Shakur’s survivors, including his own mother, were legally assaulted and ultimately ignored. Thus it is not unreasonable to suggest that powerful forces lurked behind the film’s production in much the same way they likely played a role in the final chapter of Shakur’s short life.[9]

Notes

[1] Eriq Gardner, “All Eyez on  Me’: The Legal Battle Over Bringing Tupac’s Life to the Screen,” Hollywood Reporter, May 15, 2017.

[2] Yohance Kyles, “John Singleton Says ‘All Eyez on Me’ Filmmakers Stole the Movie Rights From Afeni Shakur,” All Hip Hop News, June 21, 2017.

[3] Brian Glick, War At Home: Covert Action Against U.S. Activists and What We Can Do About It, Boston, MA: South End Press, 1989, 9, 19, 78.

[4] John L. Potash, Drugs as Weapons Against Us: The CIA’s Murderous Targeting of SDS, Panthers, Hendrix, Lennon, Cobain, Tupac, and Other Activists, Walterville OR: Trine Day, 2015, 358.

[5] Randall Sullivan, Labyrinth: A Detective Investigates the Murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., the Implications of Death Row Records’ Suge Knight, and the Origins of the Los Angeles Police Scandal, “ New York: Grove Press, 2002, 50.

[6] Potash, 358-360.

[7] Kill the Messenger, Box Office Mojo, n.d.;  All Eyez on Me, Box Office Mojo, n.d.

[8] Deborah Hastings, “Suge Knight Has a Very Long List of Bitter Feuds,” New York Daily News, January 30, 2015.

[9] See, for example, Tricia Jenkins, The CIA in Hollywood: How the Agency Shapes Film and Television, Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013, and James F. Tracy “The CIA and the Media: 50 Historical Facts the World Needs to Know,” Centre for Research on Globalization, December 1, 2016. The Shakur estate is now supporting a documentary to be produced by Steve McQueen. Unfortunately, documentary films typically command a much smaller audience—and particularly a much older one—than does a slickly produced dramatization, even if the former may seek to truly inform the popular memory by closer adherence to the facts.

Bring Hassan Diab Home! The Incarceration of an Innocent Canadian

July 18th, 2017 by Hassan Diab Support Committee

Dear Friend and Supporters,

Let me begin with a BIG “Thank You” to all of you who donated to the “Bring Hassan Home” 2017 Fundraising Campaign. Thank you for your generosity and thank you for the heartwarming notes we received from so many of you. Be assured we pass these on to Hassan.

Yes, we are getting closer to our goal of raising CAD $40,000 for Hassan’s legal defence in France.

We are now at the CAD $28,260 mark — 71% of the way. Can we count on your support to help us reach our goal?

For more information on how to donate, please visit:
https://justiceforhassandiab.org/donate

***

It is hard to believe that Dr. Hassan Diab has been languishing in prison in France, since November 14, 2014 (2 years and 8 months!), despite evidence of his innocence and despite the fact that he has been ordered released on bail six times. 

In total, Hassan has spent the last nine years of his life either in jail or under draconian bail conditions (in Canada).

Such a shame. How can our Canadian Government allow the incarceration of an innocent Canadian to continue?

You may have seen the July 10th Op-Ed piece in the Toronto Star:

“Ottawa must seek justice for Hassan Diab”
By Bernie M. Farber and Mira Sucharov

http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2017/07/10/ottawa-must-seek-justice-for-hassan-diab.html

We need to put more pressure on Prime Minister Trudeau, as well as the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Justice, and demand that they work to get Hassan back home to his family in Canada.

Here are suggestions about what you can do. 

1. Talk to PM Trudeau: As you may know, in the coming two months, Mr. Trudeau will be criss-crossing the country, participating in community breakfasts, BBQs, etc. What if Hassan’s supporters make sure to be there and ask the Prime Minister some potent questions like, “What are you doing to Bring Hassan Diab home?” You might offer the PM some background information, for example the Op-Ed in the Toronto Star mentioned above. It will not be easy to find out where Mr. Trudeau will be at any given time, since apparently his itinerary is not revealed until the day before. So keep an eye on your local news to find out where Mr. Trudeau will be.

2. Talk to your MP: Most Members of Parliament organise public events during the summer. This is an opportunity to ask your MP questions regarding what they know about Hassan’s case and urge them to take action. You can check your MP’s personal web page, and request to join his/her mailing list so you would receive information on upcoming events they are organising.

To find out who your MP is based on your postal code, please visit:

https://lop.parl.ca/ParlInfo/Compilations/HouseOfCommons/MemberByPostalCode.aspx?Menu=HOC

3. Write letters to PM Trudeau and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Justice. In your letters, please urge the PM and the Ministers to bring Hassan back to his home and family in Canada. Address your letters to:

Any action you take can bring Hassan closer to freedom. Pressure on our Government is the most important thing we as Canadians can do.

Can we count on you?

With much appreciation, and wishing you a happy summer.

Featured image from Justice for Hassan Diab

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On July 7th, 2017, the United Nations (UN), in a historic decision, approved a legally binding instrument to ban nuclear weapons, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Months of negotiations involving over 130 countries began in March of this year, culminating in a final draft endorsed by 122 countries. The treaty marks a significant milestone to help free the world of nuclear weapons.

The treaty emphasizes “the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons.” It forbids participating states “to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” Additionally, it explains that the complete elimination of nuclear weapons from international arsenals “remains the only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons are never used again under any circumstances.”

In keeping with a history of being unwilling to relinquish its massive nuclear arsenal, the U.S refused to enter treaty negotiations and used its status as the sole remaining international superpower to organize a boycott that influenced approximately 40 countries.

U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki R. Haley defended the absence of the U.S. from the negotiations, stating,

“There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic. Is there anyone who thinks that North Korea would ban nuclear weapons?”

Veterans For Peace (VFP), a nonprofit working since 1985 to abolish war and nurture peace and the only veterans non-governmental organization (NGO) represented at the UN, released a statement in response, strongly criticizing the U.S.’s refusal to participate, noting that the discussions were a “series of missed opportunities by the United States to use its position as the world’s undisputed military power to change the course of history … and end the danger and peril that nuclear weapons pose to the world.”

Humanity has been at the brink of a nuclear exchange on multiple occasions since the end of World War II, including times when the decision to launch was seconds from happening. An urgent question, then, is why these close calls, as well as the brutal and unnecessary annihilation of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that preceded them, failed to convince all governments that nuclear weapons represent an existential threat to humanity, thus nuclear disarmament must be a top priority?

Source: Veterans for Peace

The Doomsday Clock, maintained since 1947 by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, is a symbol of the risk of a human-caused global catastrophe, specifically of the rate of climate change and the potential for a nuclear exchange. It is reset periodically depending on global conditions. Presently, the Clock is at 2 minutes and 30 seconds, the closest to midnight it has been since 1953, the start of the arms race between the U.S. and former Soviet Union.

Certainly, the possibility of nuclear war was heightened with the unpredictable brinksmanship of President Donald Trump, who, in reference to nuclear weapons, once asked,

“If we have them, why can’t we use them?”

This is the sort of irrational thinking to which Albert Einstein, whose theory of relativity gave rise to the atomic bomb, may have been referring when, in 1946, a year after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he warned the world of the tragedy nuclear technology would bring:

“The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

Previous global action to prevent the use of nuclear weapons has included the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) of 1963, which curtailed nuclear testing but did not eliminate it. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) of 1996 would have prohibited “any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.” However, despite signing the treaty, the U.S. and other nations, such as India, North Korea and Pakistan, never ratified it. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968, which was signed by nearly all nations, including the U.S., mandated that all participants pursue nuclear disarmament “in good faith.” Despite the relative effectiveness of the NPT and the end the Cold War of reducing a sizeable portion of the global stockpile, an estimated fifteen thousand nuclear warheads are still held by nine nations. Two of these nations — the U.S. and Russia — possess over ninety percent of the total.

The world now has the first-ever treaty to ban all nuclear weapons, and the U.S. remains steadfast in their contempt of the possibility of peace. In a statement released by the U.S., UK, and France, the three nations asserted that they “do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it” alleging that “this initiative clearly disregards the realities of the international security environment.”

The most significant threat to human survival and the biodiversity of our shared planet, apart from climate change, is a world in which nuclear weapons continue to exist. Yet, instead of negotiating in good faith to reduce and eventually eliminate its nuclear arsenal, the U.S. continues to develop new, more accurate, and more lethal nuclear weapons, while deploying “missile defenses” that make a nuclear first strike more possible and more likely.

The ongoing U.S. wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, particularly in Syria, along with the confrontational U.S. military posture toward Russia, China and North Korea, are creating conditions that could all too easily trigger a catastrophic nuclear war. Veterans For Peace remains committed to transforming U.S. nuclear, military and foreign policy from global dominance to global cooperation. This work includes convincing the U.S to recommit itself to the UN Charter which forbids military intervention and requires respect for the sovereignty of all nations.

One of the founding principles of Veterans For Peace is a call to end to the arms race leading to the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons. VFP’s Nuclear Abolition Campaign is a feature of this effort. Several notable manifestations of this campaign include a statement released last year calling for nuclear disarmament in our lifetime. Earlier this year, VFP endorsed the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017, introduced by Sen. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Lieu (D-Calif.). Support for the historic Golden Rule antinuclear sailboat, a national project of VFP, continues with the boat’s current voyage down the West Coast, which is dedicated to supporting the UN Treaty. VFP also participated in the Women’s March to Ban the Bomb, held last month in New York City and worldwide.

The next hurdle, getting all remaining nations to sign and ratify the treaty. The treaty will be open for signature to all States on September 20th, 2017 at the UN General Assembly. It will go into effect within 90 days of ratification by 50 countries.

These are dangerous times indeed, but such dangers can focus the collective mind and create new possibilities for real change, if activists and organizers are prepared to seize the moment.

Let this be the generation that will finally ban nuclear weapons. It’s not just about peace and justice; it’s about the survival of all life on earth.

Brian Trautman and Gerry Condon serve on the Board of Directors of Veterans For Peace (VFP) and Samantha Ferguson is Program and Event Coordinator with VFP’s National Office. To learn more about VFP, visit https://www.veteransforpeace.org/.

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Forget everything you’ve ever been taught about free speech in America. It’s all a lie. There can be no free speech for the citizenry when the government speaks in a language of force. What is this language of force?

Militarized police. Riot squads. Camouflage gear. Black uniforms. Armored vehicles. Mass arrests. Pepper spray. Tear gas. Batons. Strip searches. Surveillance cameras. Kevlar vests. Drones. Lethal weapons. Less-than-lethal weapons unleashed with deadly force. Rubber bullets. Water cannons. Stun grenades. Arrests of journalists. Crowd control tactics. Intimidation tactics. Brutality.

This is not the language of freedom. This is not even the language of law and order.

Unfortunately, this is how the government at all levels—federal, state and local—now responds to those who choose to exercise their First Amendment right to peacefully assemble in public and challenge the status quo.

Recently, this militarized exercise in intimidation reared its ugly head in the college town of Charlottesville, Va., where protesters who took to the streets to peacefully express their disapproval of a planned KKK rally were held at bay by implacable lines of gun-wielding riot police. Only after a motley crew of Klansmen had been safely escorted to and from the rally by black-garbed police did the assembled army of city, county and state police declare the public gathering unlawful and proceed to unleash canisters of tear gas on the few remaining protesters to force them to disperse.

To be clear, this is the treatment being meted out to protesters across the political spectrum.

The police state does not discriminate.

As a USA Today article notes, “People demanding justice, demanding accountability or demanding basic human rights without resorting to violence, should not be greeted with machine guns and tanks. Peaceful protest is democracy in action. It is a forum for those who feel disempowered or disenfranchised. Protesters should not have to face intimidation by weapons of war.”

A militarized police response to protesters poses a danger to all those involved, protesters and police alike. In fact, militarization makes police more likely to turn to violence to solve problems.

You want to turn a peaceful protest into a riot?

Bring in the militarized police with their guns and black uniforms and warzone tactics and “comply or die” mindset. Ratchet up the tension across the board. Take what should be a healthy exercise in constitutional principles (free speech, assembly and protest) and turn it into a lesson in authoritarianism.

Frankly, any police officer who tells you that he needs tanks, SWAT teams, and pepper spray to do his job shouldn’t be a police officer in a constitutional republic.

All that stuff in the First Amendment sounds great in theory. However, it amounts to little more than a hill of beans if you have to exercise those freedoms while facing down an army of police equipped with deadly weapons.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There are other, far better models to follow.

For instance, back in 2011, the St. Louis police opted to employ a passive response to Occupy St. Louis activists. First, police gave the protesters nearly 36 hours’ notice to clear the area, as opposed to the 20 to 60 minutes’ notice other cities gave. Then, as journalist Brad Hicks reports, when the police finally showed up:

They didn’t show up in riot gear and helmets, they showed up in shirt sleeves with their faces showing. They not only didn’t show up with SWAT gear, they showed up with no unusual weapons at all, and what weapons they had all securely holstered. They politely woke everybody up. They politely helped everybody who was willing to remove their property from the park to do so. They then asked, out of the 75 to 100 people down there, how many people were volunteering for being-arrested duty? Given 33 hours to think about it, and 10 hours to sweat it over, only 27 volunteered … and were escorted away by a handful of cops. The rest were advised to please continue to protest, over there on the sidewalk … and what happened next was the most absolutely brilliant piece of crowd control policing I have heard of in my entire lifetime. All of the cops who weren’t busy transporting and processing the voluntary arrestees lined up, blocking the stairs down into the plaza. They stood shoulder to shoulder. They kept calm and silent. They positioned the weapons on their belts out of sight. They crossed their hands low in front of them, in exactly the least provocative posture known to man. And they peacefully, silently, respectfully occupied the plaza, using exactly the same non-violent resistance techniques that the protesters themselves had been trained in.

As Forbes concluded,

“This is a more humane, less costly, and ultimately more productive way to handle a protest. This is great proof that police can do it the old fashioned way – using their brains and common sense instead of tanks, SWAT teams, and pepper spray – and have better results.”

It can be done.

Police will not voluntarily give up their gadgets and war toys and combat tactics, however. Their training and inclination towards authoritarianism has become too ingrained.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, if we are to have any hope of dismantling the police state, change must start locally, community by community. Citizens will have to demand that police de-escalate and de-militarize. And if the police don’t listen, contact your city councils and put the pressure on them.

Remember, they work for us. They might not like hearing it—they certainly won’t like being reminded of it—but we pay their salaries.

We must adopt a different mindset and follow a different path if we are to alter the outcome of these interactions with police.

The American dream was built on the idea that no one is above the law, that our rights are inalienable and cannot be taken away, and that our government and its appointed agents exist to serve us.

It may be that things are too far gone to save, but still we must try.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at [email protected].

Featured image from TruePublica

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One of the most under-discussed yet consequential changes in the American political landscape is the reunion between the Democratic Party and the country’s most extreme and discredited neocons. While the rise of Donald Trump, whom neocons loathe, has accelerated this realignment, it began long before the ascension of Trump and is driven by far more common beliefs than contempt for the current president.

A newly formed and, by all appearances, well-funded national security advocacy group, devoted to more hawkish U.S. policies toward Russia and other adversaries, provides the most vivid evidence yet of this alliance. Calling itself the Alliance for Securing Democracy, the group describes itself as “a bipartisan, transatlantic initiative” that “will develop comprehensive strategies to defend against, deter, and raise the costs on Russian and other state actors’ efforts to undermine democracy and democratic institutions,” and also “will work to publicly document and expose Vladimir Putin’s ongoing efforts to subvert democracy in the United States and Europe.”

It is, in fact, the ultimate union of mainstream Democratic foreign policy officials and the world’s most militant, and militaristic, neocons. The group is led by two longtime Washington foreign policy hands, one from the establishment Democratic wing and the other a key figure among leading GOP neocons.

The Democrat, Laura Rosenberger, served as a foreign policy adviser for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and chief of staff to two Obama national security officials. The Republican is Jamie Fly, who spent the last four years as counselor for foreign and national security affairs to one of the Senate’s most hawkish members, Marco Rubio; prior to that, he served in various capacities in the Bush Pentagon and National Security Council.

Fly’s neocon pedigree is impressive indeed. During the Obama years, he wrote dozens of articles for the Weekly Standard — some co-authored with Bill Kristol himself — attacking Obama for insufficient belligerence toward Iran and terrorists generally, pronouncing Obama “increasingly ill suited to the world he faces as president” by virtue of his supposed refusal to use military force frequently enough (Obama bombed seven predominantly Muslim countries during his time in office, including an average of 72 bombs dropped per day in 2016 alone).

The Democrats’ new partner Jamie Fly spent 2010 working in tandem with Bill Kristol urging military action — i.e., aggressive war — against Iran. In a 2010 Weekly Standard article co-written with Kristol, Fly argued that

“the key to changing [Iran’s thinking about its nuclear program] is a serious debate about the military option,” adding: “It’s time for Congress to seriously explore an Authorization of Military Force to halt Iran’s nuclear program.”

Fly then went around the D.C. think tank circuit, under the guise of advocating “debate,” espousing the need to use military force against Iran, spouting standing neocon innuendo such as “we need to be wary of the Obama administration’s intentions” toward Iran. He mocked Obama officials, and Bush officials before them, for their “obsession with diplomatic options” to resolve tensions with Iran short of war. The Kristol/Fly duo returned in 2012 to more explicitly argue:

“Isn’t it time for the president to ask Congress for an Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iran’s nuclear program?”

Beyond working as Rubio’s foreign policy adviser, Fly was the executive director of “the Foreign Policy Initiative,” a group founded by Kristol along with two other leading neocons, Robert Kagan and Dan Senor, who was previously the chief spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. That group is devoted to standard neocon agitprop, demanding “a renewed commitment to American leadership” on the ground that “the United States remains the world’s indispensable nation.” In sum, as Vox’s Dylan Matthews put it during the 2016 campaign,

“If you want a foreign policy adviser with strong ties to the neocon world, it’s hard to do better than Fly.”

When it comes to this new group, the alliance of Democrats with the most extreme neocon elements is visible beyond the group’s staff leadership. Its board of advisers is composed of both leading Democratic foreign policy experts, along with the nation’s most extremist neocons.

Thus, alongside Jake Sullivan (national security adviser to Joe Biden and the Clinton campaign), Mike Morrell (Obama’s acting CIA director) and Mike McFaul (Obama’s ambassador to Russia) sit leading neocons such as Mike Chertoff (Bush’s homeland security secretary), Mike Rogers (the far-right, supremely hawkish former congressman who now hosts a right-wing radio show); and Bill Kristol himself.

 

In sum — just as was true of the first Cold War, when neocons made their home among the Cold Warriors of the Democratic Party — on the key foreign policy controversies, there is now little to no daylight between leading Democratic Party foreign policy gurus and the Bush-era neocons who had wallowed in disgrace following the debacle of Iraq and the broader abuses of the war on terror. That’s why they are able so comfortably to unify this way in support of common foreign policy objectives and beliefs.

DEMOCRATS OFTEN JUSTIFY this union as a mere marriage of convenience: a pragmatic, temporary alliance necessitated by the narrow goal of stopping Trump. But for many reasons, that is an obvious pretext, unpersuasive in the extreme. This Democrat/neocon reunion had been developing long before anyone believed Donald Trump could ascend to power, and this alliance extends to common perspectives, goals, and policies that have little to do with the current president.

It is true that neocons were among the earliest and most vocal GOP opponents of Trump. That was because they viewed him as an ideological threat to their orthodoxies (such as when he advocated for U.S. “neutrality” on the Israel/Palestine conflict and railed against the wisdom of the wars in Iraq and Libya), but they were also worried that his uncouth, offensive personality would embarrass the U.S. and thus weaken the “soft power” needed for imperial hegemony. Even if Trump could be brought into line on neocon orthodoxy — as has largely happened — his ineptitude and instability posed a threat to their agenda.

But Democrats and neocons share far more than revulsion toward Trump; particularly once Hillary Clinton became the party’s standard-bearer, they share the same fundamental beliefs about the U.S. role in the world and how to assert U.S. power. In other words, this alliance is explained by far more than antipathy to Trump.

Indeed, the likelihood of a neocon/Democrat reunion long predates Trump. Back in the summer of 2014 — almost a year before Trump announced his intent to run for president — longtime neocon-watcher Jacob Heilbrunn, writing in the New York Times, predicted that

“the neocons may be preparing a more brazen feat: aligning themselves with Hillary Rodham Clinton and her nascent presidential campaign, in a bid to return to the driver’s seat of American foreign policy.”

Noting the Democratic Party’s decades-long embrace of the Cold War belligerence that neocons love most — from Truman and JFK to LBJ and Scoop Jackson — Heilbrunn documented the prominent neocons who, throughout Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, were heaping praise on her and moving to align with her. Heilbrunn explained the natural ideological affinity between neocons and establishment Democrats:

“And the thing is, these neocons have a point,” he wrote. “Mrs. Clinton voted for the Iraq war; supported sending arms to Syrian rebels; likened Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, to Adolf Hitler; wholeheartedly backs Israel; and stresses the importance of promoting democracy.”

One finds evidence of this alliance long before the emergence of Trump. Victoria Nuland, for instance, served as one of Dick Cheney’s top foreign policy advisers during the Bush years. Married to one of the most influential neocons, Robert Kagan, Nuland then seamlessly shifted into the Obama State Department and then became a top foreign policy adviser to the Clinton campaign.

As anti-war sentiment grew among some GOP precincts — as evidenced by the success of the Ron Paul candidacies of 2008 and 2012, and then Trump’s early posturing as an opponent of U.S. interventions — neocons started to conclude that their agenda, which never changed, would be better advanced by realignment back into the Democratic Party. Writing in The Nation in early 2016, Matt Duss detailed how the neocon mentality was losing traction within the GOP, and predicted:

Yet another possibility is that the neocons will start to migrate back to the Democratic Party, which they exited in the 1970s in response to Vietnam-inspired anti-interventionism. That’s what earned their faction the “neo” prefix in the first place. As Nation contributor James Carden recently observed, there are signs that prominent neocons have started gravitating toward Hillary Clinton’s campaign. But the question is, Now that the neocons has been revealed as having no real grassroots to deliver, and that their actual constituency consists almost entirely of a handful of donors subsidizing a few dozen think tankers, journalists, and letterheads, why would Democrats want them back?

The answer to that question — “why would Democrats want them back?” — is clear: because, as this new group demonstrates, Democrats find large amounts of common cause with neocons when it comes to foreign policy.

The neocons may be migrating back to the Democratic Party and into the open embrace of its establishment, but their homecoming will not be a seamless affair: Duss, for instance, is now the top foreign policy adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders. After spending little energy on foreign affairs as a candidate, Sanders’s hiring of Duss is a sign that he sees a rejection of interventionism as ascendant with the populist element of the party.

He will have allies there from whatever is left of the faction within the Obama administration which willingly took so much heat from the foreign policy establishment for its insufficient aggression toward Russia or other perceived enemies; Sen. Chris Murphy, for instance, has been vocal in his opposition to arming the Saudis as they savage Yemen. But now that hawkish rhetoric and belligerent policies have subsumed the Democrats, it remains to be seen how much of that anti-interventionism survives.

FOR MANY YEARS — long before the 2016 election — one of the leading neocon planks was that Russia and Putin pose a major threat to the west, and Obama was far too weak and deferential to stand up to this threat. From the start of the Obama presidency, the Weekly Standard warned that Obama failed to understand, and refused to confront, the dangers posed by Moscow. From Ukraine to Syria, neocons constantly attacked Obama for letting Putin walk all over him.

That Obama was weak on Russia, and failing to stand up to Putin, was a major attack theme for the most hawkish GOP senators such as Rubio and John McCain. Writing in National Review in 2015, Rubio warned that Putin was acting aggressively in multiple theaters, but “as the evidence of failure grows, President Obama still can’t seem to understand Vladimir Putin’s goals.” Rubio insisted that Obama (and Clinton’s) failure to confront Putin was endangering the West:

In sum, we need to replace a policy of weakness with a policy of strength. We need to restore American leadership and make clear to our adversaries that they will pay a significant price for aggression. President Obama’s policies of retreat and retrenchment are making the world a more dangerous place. The Obama-Clinton Russia policy has already undermined European security. We can’t let Putin wreak even more havoc in the Middle East.

In 2015, Obama met with Putin at the U.N. General Assembly, and leading Republicans excoriated him for doing so. Obama “has in fact strengthened Putin’s hand,” said Rubio. McCain issued a statement denouncing Obama for meeting with the Russian tyrant, accusing him of failing to stand up to Putin across the world:

That Putin was a grave threat, and Obama was too weak in the face of it, was also a primary theme of Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign:

And even back in 2012, Mitt Romney repeatedly accused Obama of being insufficiently tough on Putin, prompting the now-infamous mockery by Obama and Democrats generally of Romney’s Russiaphobia, which they ridiculed as an ancient relic of the Cold War. Indeed, before Trump’s emergence, the hard-core pro-GOP neocons planned to run against Hillary Clinton by tying her to the Kremlin and warning that her victory would empower Moscow:

Even through the 2016 election, McCain and Rubio repeatedly attackedObama for failing to take Russian hacking seriously enough and for failing to retaliate. And for years before that, Russia was a primary obsession for neocons, from the time it went to war with Georgia (at the time headed by a neocon-loved president) and even prior to that.

Thus, when it came time for Democrats to elevate Putin and Russia into a major theme of the 2016 campaign, and now that their hawkishness toward Moscow is their go-to weapon for attacking Trump, neocons have become their natural ideological allies.

The song Democrats are now singing about Russia and Putin is one the neocons wrote many years ago, and all of the accompanying rhetorical tactics — accusing those who seek better relations with Moscow of being Putin’s stooges, unpatriotic, of suspect loyalties, etc. — are the ones that have defined the neocons smear campaigns for decades.

The union of Democrats and neocons is far more than a temporary marriage of convenience designed to bring down a common enemy. As this new policy group illustrates, the union is grounded in widespread ideological agreement on a broad array of foreign policy debates: from Israel to Syria to the Gulf States to Ukraine to Russia. And the narrow differences that exist between the two groups — on the wisdom of the Iran deal, the nobility of the Iraq War, the justifiability of torture — are more relics of past debates than current, live controversies. These two groups have found common cause because, with rare and limited exception, they share common policy beliefs and foreign policy mentalities.

THE IMPLICATIONS OF this reunion are profound and long-term. Neocons have done far more damage to the U.S., and the world, than any other single group — by a good margin. They were the architects of the invasion of Iraq and the lies that accompanied it, the worldwide torture regime instituted after 9/11, and the general political climate that equated dissent with treason.

With the full-scale discrediting and collapse of the Bush presidency, these war-loving neocons found themselves marginalized, without any constituency in either party. They were radioactive, confined to speaking at extremist conferences and working with fringe organizations.

All of that has changed, thanks to the eagerness of Democrats to embrace them, form alliances with them, and thus rehabilitate their reputations and resurrect their power and influence. That leading Democratic Party foreign policy officials are willing to form new Beltway advocacy groups in collaboration with Bill Kristol, Mike Rogers, and Mike Chertoff, join arms with those who caused the invasion of Iraq and tried to launch a bombing campaign against Tehran, has repercussions that will easily survive the Trump presidency.

Perhaps the most notable fact about the current posture of the establishment wing of the Democratic Party is that one of their favorite, most beloved, and most cited pundits is the same neocon who wrote George W. Bush’s oppressive, bullying and deceitful speeches in 2002 and 2003 about Iraq and the war on terror, and who has churned out some of the most hateful, inflammatory rhetoric over the last decade about Palestinians, immigrants, and Muslims. That Bush propagandist, David Frum, is regularly feted on MSNBC’s liberal programs, has been hired by The Atlantic (where he writes warnings about authoritarianism even though he’s only qualified to write manuals for its implementation), and is treated like a wise and honored statesman by leading Democratic Party organs.

One sees this same dynamic repeated with many other of the world’s most militaristic, war-loving neocons. Particularly after his recent argument with Tucker Carlson over Russia, Democrats have practically canonized Max Boot, who has literally cheered for every possible war over the two past decades and, in 2013, wrote a column titled “No Need to Repent for Support of Iraq War.” It is now common to see Democratic pundits and office holders even favorably citing and praising Bill Kristol himself.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with discrete agreement on a particular issue with someone of a different party or ideology; that’s to be encouraged. But what’s going on here goes far, far beyond that.

What we see instead are leading Democratic foreign policy experts joining hands with the world’s worst neocons to form new, broad-based policy advocacy groups to re-shape U.S. foreign policy toward a more hostile, belligerent and hawkish posture. We see not isolated agreement with neocons in opposition to Trump or on single-issue debates, but a full-scale embrace of them that is rehabilitating their standing, empowering their worst elements, and reintegrating them back into the Democratic Party power structure.

If Bill Kristol and Mike Chertoff can now sit on boards with top Clinton and Obama policy advisers, as they’re doing, that is reflective of much more than a marriage of convenience to stop an authoritarian, reckless president. It demonstrates widespread agreement on a broast range of issues and, more significantly, the return of neocons to full-scale D.C. respectability, riding all the way on the backs of eager, grateful establishment Democrats.

All photos in this article are from the author.

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Tibet Rises From Poverty: Fantasy and Reality

July 18th, 2017 by Caleb T. Maupin

Featured image: A village in Shannan City, Tibet Autonomous Region, China [Xinhua]

As a result of Hollywood and a fascination with Buddhism among certain celebrities and in some bohemian circles, many Americans are deeply misinformed about Tibet.

The reality is that the Tibet Autonomous Region’s position, as part of the People’s Republic of China, has been overwhelmingly good for the population. It has also been good for Tibetan culture and traditions, which are not being destroyed, but rather celebrated and promoted by the central government.

As part of China’s 13th Five Year Plan (2016-2020), the Sichuan-Tibet Railway is under construction to link remote and mountainous parts of the region to the rest of the world. This ambitious project involving well over a thousand miles of railway will cost roughly US$36 billion, and will vastly improve the economic access of the region.

Due to the nature of the terrain, 80 percent of the track will be either cross bridges or pass through tunnels.

The poverty alleviation programs sponsored by the central government have provided modern housing for 236,000 Tibetans, many of whom had previously lived without running water and electricity. The programs form part of China’s goal to completely eliminate such dire conditions by 2020.

Tibetans are seeing their living standards increase without the disappearance of their traditional religion or culture. On the contrary, the Tibetan Medical and Astrology School, founded in the eighth century, is flourishing. At the ancient school, students study traditional Tibetan medicine while being exempt from tuition fees. The school also provides students with education in mathematics, politics, the Tibetan language, as well as modern medicine.

Tourism is booming, and millions of tourist dollars are going directly into the pockets of the indigenous Tibetan population. Many of the travelers are visiting Tibet because of their deep interest in its history and culture.

Many Westerners who believe China is “oppressing” Tibetans draw their knowledge from the 1952 book entitled “Seven Years in Tibet” written by Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer, and made into a Hollywood movie in 1997, that glorified the old feudalist regime in Tibet before its liberation by the PLA.

It is not disputed that Harrer was a member of Hitler’s SS who ended up in Tibet after escaping from internment in India.

During the 1930s, fascists and far-rightists in Europe had a particular fascination with the Tibetan Kingdom. Despite its rigid feudal hierarchy, enforced with torture, mutilation, and liberal use of capital punishment, they saw it as a possible antidote to class struggle and other social conflicts plaguing the West.

Nazis measured the skulls and bones taken from Tibetan graves hoping to prove that Germans were their modern descendants. Hitler adopted the swastika, a symbol associated with the caste system and ancient civilizations in India, for similar reasons.

If Tibet had remained under feudalism, it would most likely have continued to be a deeply impoverished, remote, isolated society. Furthermore, if Tibet had not become part of the People’s Republic of China, it would most likely still have a political system of harsh theocratic repression.

The Chinese Communist Party has confirmed that errors were indeed made during the Cultural Revolution, when many religious sites and artefacts were vandalized by youth “Red Guards,” and that the policies of the “Gang of Four” toward religion were deeply harmful, not only in Tibet, but throughout the country.

However, as Tibet rises from poverty, gains a modern infrastructure network, and sees its tourism industry boom, it should be obvious that Tibet’s existence as part of China has not been harmful.

Hollywood film stars and adherents to Westernized interpretations of Buddhism should not be considered experts on the region and its history, or on contemporary Chinese politics. The reality of poverty alleviation, flourishing culture, tourism, and railway projects should refute the mythology preached by certain demagogues.

Caleb Maupin is a journalist and political analyst who resides in New York City focusing on U.S. foreign policy and the global system of monopoly capitalism and imperialism.

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The Logic in North Korean ‘Madness’

July 18th, 2017 by Colonel Ann Wright

Despite the rhetoric from the Trump administration about military confrontation with North Korea, the common theme of many U.S. experts on North Korea is that the U.S. presidential administration must conduct a dialogue with North Korea — and quickly. Military confrontation is not an option, according to the experts.

And most importantly, the new President of South Korea Moon Jae-in was elected in May 2017 on a pledge to engage in talks with North Korea and pursue diplomacy to finally officially end the Korean conflict. Nearly 80 percent of South Koreans support a resumption of long-suspended inter-Korean dialogue, according to a survey by a presidential advisory panel showed in late June.

On June 28, 2017, six former high-level experienced U.S. government officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations over the past 30 years sent a letter to President Trump stating that

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (Source: Consortiumnews)

Kim Jong Un is not irrational and highly values preserving his regime. … Talking is not a reward or a concession to Pyongyang and should not be construed as signaling acceptance of a nuclear-armed North Korea. It is a necessary step to establishing communication to avoid a nuclear catastrophe. The key danger today is not that North Korea would launch a surprise nuclear attack. Instead the primary danger is a miscalculation or mistake that could lead to war.”

The experts:

William J. Perry, 19th U.S. Secretary of Defense under the Clinton administration,

George P. Shultz, 60th Secretary of State under the Reagan administration and now Distinguished Fellow, Hoover institution, Stanford University,

Former Gov. Bill Richardson, U.S. Secretary of Energy and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under the Clinton administration,

Robert L. Gallucci, former negotiator in the Clinton administration and now with Georgetown University,

Sigfrid S. Hecker, nuclear weapons expert and the last U.S. official to visit the North Korea nuclear facilities and now with the Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University,

— Retired U.S. Sen. Richard G. Lugar, R-Indiana, now President of the Lugar Center,

They wrote:

“there are no good military options, and a North Korean response to a US attack would devastate South Korea and Japan. Tightening sanctions can be useful in increasing pressure on North Korea, but sanctions alone will not solve the problem. Pyongyang has shown that it can make progress on missile and nuclear technology despite its isolation. Without a diplomatic effort to stop its progress, there is little doubt that it will develop a long-range missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the United States.”

The experts ended their letter to President Trump calling for quick action:

“Today there is a window of opportunity to stop these programs, and it may be the last chance before North Korea acquires long-range capability. Time is not on our side. We urge you to put diplomacy at the top of the list of options on the table.”

Off Ramps to War

Two weeks earlier, on June 13, former Secretary of Defense William Perry and University of Chicago Korean War historian Bruce Cumings both strongly advocated for dialogue with North Korea at the Korean Peace Network’s conference “Off Ramps to War” at the Partnerships for International Strategies in Asia, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University in Washington, DC.

“North Korean leadership may be ruthless and reckless, but they are not crazy,” Perry said, adding, “Why do we have a double standard for North Korea? We accept Saudi Arabia as it is with its human rights violations, but we do not accept North Korea as it is – a nuclear power. Refusing to listen to the North Koreans about their goals and needs has meant that in the seventeen years since the last relevant dialogue, the North Koreans have developed and tested nuclear weapons and intercontinental missiles.”

President George W. Bush’s naming North Korea as part of the “Axis of Evil” in January 2002 and the Obama administration’s “Strategic Patience” policy were not forms of diplomacy, but instead were “miserable policy failures,” according to Perry, who noted that the lack of a U.S. negotiating strategy has allowed North Korea to do what the U.S. and other major powers do not want it to do — test nuclear weapons and missiles.

Perry said that the North Korean government has three goals: staying in power; gaining international respect; and improving the economy. Perry emphasized that the North Korean government will sacrifice the last two goals — gaining international respect and improving the economy — to achieve the first goal of staying in power.

Because of the lack of listening to and acknowledging North Korean objectives on what its goals are — which include signing a peace treaty to take the place of the 50-plus-year armistice, signing a non-aggression pact, and reducing U.S.-South Korean military war games — Perry believes that the best outcome available to negotiators is to freeze the nuclear weapons and the ICBM programs, not their elimination.

Perry said he believes North Koreans would never use nuclear weapons as those weapons “are valuable only if they DON’T use them. They know the response from the U.S. would be devastating, should North Korea explode a nuclear weapon.”

Bruce Cumings, Korean War historian, author of The Korean War: A History and University of Chicago history professor, said at the symposium that the Clinton administration achieved very important goals with North Korea, including

“North Korea freezing its plutonium production for eight years (1994–2002) and, in October 2000, indirectly working out a deal to buy all of North Korea’s medium and long-range missiles — and signing an agreement with North Korean General Jo Myong-rok in a meeting in the White House stating that neither country would bear ‘hostile intent’ toward the other.”

Neocon Truculence

But the George W. Bush administration — led by Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Undersecretary of State John Bolton — “actively sought to torpedo the Agreed Framework” and succeeded in pushing aside the agreements negotiated by the Clinton administration thereby destroying the 1994 freeze and refusing to acknowledge the Clinton-Jo pledge of “no hostile intent,” particularly since the pledge was made by allowing a North Korean general inside the White House.

President George W. Bush pauses for applause during his State of the Union Address on Jan. 28, 2003, when he made a fraudulent case for invading Iraq. Seated behind him are Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Dennis Hastert. (White House photo)

With President Bush’s January 2002 State of the Union speech, in which he linked North Korea to Iran and Iraq as an “axis of evil,” the Bush administration turned its back on North Korea, abrogating the “Agreed Framework” and halting shipments of American fuel-oil permanently. In response, the North Koreans withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and restarted their plutonium-producing reactor.

Historian Cumings wrote,

“The simple fact is that Pyongyang would have no nuclear weapons if Clinton’s agreements had been sustained.”

Sheldon Richman, executive editor of The Libertarian Institute and the former senior editor at the Cato Institute, agreed with Perry that North Korean leader Kim Jung Un is not crazy. Richman wrote,

“Let us dispense, once and for all, with the idea that Kim is a madman. Brutality is not madness, and a madman wouldn’t be expected to capitulate to economic pressure. He shows every sign of wanting his regime to endure, which means he would not want the US military or nuclear arsenal to pulverize it. Assuming rationality in this context asserts only that Kim’s means are reasonably related to his ends.”

Richman underscored the rationale for the North Korean government to develop nuclear weapons against the will of the U.S. “Kim shows every sign of having learned the lesson of recent US regime-change policies toward Iraq and Libya, neither of which were nuclear states. Same with Syria, whose regime has been targeted by the U.S. government. The lesson is: if you want to deter a U.S. attack, get yourself some nukes.”

Robert E. Kelly, Associate Professor of International Relations in the Department of Political Science at Pusan National University, wrote,

“This is not a suicidal, ideological, ISIS-like state bent on apocalyptic war but rather a post-ideological gangter-ish dictatorship looking to survive. The best way to guarantee the North’s survival is nuclear deterrence. … It is a rational decision, given Pyongyang’s goals to, 1) not change internally, and 2) not be attacked externally. This is not ideal of course. Best would be a de-nuclearized North Korea. But this is highly unlikely at this point.”

Backchannel Contacts

Track 2 Diplomacy with North Korea continues Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported recently that Robert Gallucci and Leon Sigal, director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project at the Social Science Research Council, held nuclear and missile discussions in October 2016 with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The North Korean envoy said North Korea had relayed its desire to negotiate directly with the U.S without involving China, to whom 90 percent of its exports go.

Another Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun wrote that North Korea originally demanded Washington send to North Korea a former U.S. President as a special envoy to resolve the case of Otto Warmbier, an American student who recently died after detention in North Korea.

According to the newspaper, Choe Son-hui, head of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s U.S. affairs bureau, notified the U.S. through its United Nations mission in May 2017. But North Korea released Warmbier in a coma after Trump refused to send a former President and sent Joseph Yun, State Department Special Representative for North Korea Policy to North Korea instead.

North Korean missile launch on March 6, 2017. (Source: Consortiumnews)

Another Track 2 group met with a North Korean delegation in early June 2017. Sue Mi Terry, a Korea expert who has worked at both the CIA and the National Security Council and now is with the Bower Group Asia spoke on June 28 to National Public Radio about meeting with North Korea officials to try to get nuclear talks back on track.

Terry said that to North Koreans, their nuclear arsenal

“is a matter of survival. North Koreans have told us even in the recent meeting – and they’ve specifically brought up Libya – Gaddafi’s case in Libya and Iraq – and said this is – nuclear weapons is the only way for us to absolutely guarantee our survival, and this is why we’re not going to give it up. We’re so close to perfecting this nuclear arsenal. This is our final deterrent against the United States. Ultimately it’s about regime survival for them, and nuclear weapons guarantees it.”

Terry said the North Koreans demand that the United States accept them as a nuclear power and there is  “absolutely no flexibility or willingness to meet to talk about ending their nuclear program.” In contrast to other experts, Terry believes it is “unrealistic for us (the U.S.) to go from where we are to talk about peace treaty and discuss formally ending the Korean War.”

She believes the solution is “continuing with maximum pressure with sanctions and trying to get China to do more. And if China does not come through, then we’ll have to pursue secondary sanctions against Chinese banks and entities and see if that can get China to rein in North Korea a little bit more.”

Ann Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel.  She was a U.S. diplomat for 16 years and served in U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.  She resigned from the U.S. government in March 2003 in opposition to Bush’s war on Iraq.  She is the co-author of Dissent: Voices of Conscience.

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The Logic in North Korean ‘Madness’

July 18th, 2017 by Colonel Ann Wright

Despite the rhetoric from the Trump administration about military confrontation with North Korea, the common theme of many U.S. experts on North Korea is that the U.S. presidential administration must conduct a dialogue with North Korea — and quickly. Military confrontation is not an option, according to the experts.

And most importantly, the new President of South Korea Moon Jae-in was elected in May 2017 on a pledge to engage in talks with North Korea and pursue diplomacy to finally officially end the Korean conflict. Nearly 80 percent of South Koreans support a resumption of long-suspended inter-Korean dialogue, according to a survey by a presidential advisory panel showed in late June.

On June 28, 2017, six former high-level experienced U.S. government officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations over the past 30 years sent a letter to President Trump stating that

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (Source: Consortiumnews)

Kim Jong Un is not irrational and highly values preserving his regime. … Talking is not a reward or a concession to Pyongyang and should not be construed as signaling acceptance of a nuclear-armed North Korea. It is a necessary step to establishing communication to avoid a nuclear catastrophe. The key danger today is not that North Korea would launch a surprise nuclear attack. Instead the primary danger is a miscalculation or mistake that could lead to war.”

The experts:

William J. Perry, 19th U.S. Secretary of Defense under the Clinton administration,

George P. Shultz, 60th Secretary of State under the Reagan administration and now Distinguished Fellow, Hoover institution, Stanford University,

Former Gov. Bill Richardson, U.S. Secretary of Energy and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under the Clinton administration,

Robert L. Gallucci, former negotiator in the Clinton administration and now with Georgetown University,

Sigfrid S. Hecker, nuclear weapons expert and the last U.S. official to visit the North Korea nuclear facilities and now with the Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University,

— Retired U.S. Sen. Richard G. Lugar, R-Indiana, now President of the Lugar Center,

They wrote:

“there are no good military options, and a North Korean response to a US attack would devastate South Korea and Japan. Tightening sanctions can be useful in increasing pressure on North Korea, but sanctions alone will not solve the problem. Pyongyang has shown that it can make progress on missile and nuclear technology despite its isolation. Without a diplomatic effort to stop its progress, there is little doubt that it will develop a long-range missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the United States.”

The experts ended their letter to President Trump calling for quick action:

“Today there is a window of opportunity to stop these programs, and it may be the last chance before North Korea acquires long-range capability. Time is not on our side. We urge you to put diplomacy at the top of the list of options on the table.”

Off Ramps to War

Two weeks earlier, on June 13, former Secretary of Defense William Perry and University of Chicago Korean War historian Bruce Cumings both strongly advocated for dialogue with North Korea at the Korean Peace Network’s conference “Off Ramps to War” at the Partnerships for International Strategies in Asia, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University in Washington, DC.

“North Korean leadership may be ruthless and reckless, but they are not crazy,” Perry said, adding, “Why do we have a double standard for North Korea? We accept Saudi Arabia as it is with its human rights violations, but we do not accept North Korea as it is – a nuclear power. Refusing to listen to the North Koreans about their goals and needs has meant that in the seventeen years since the last relevant dialogue, the North Koreans have developed and tested nuclear weapons and intercontinental missiles.”

President George W. Bush’s naming North Korea as part of the “Axis of Evil” in January 2002 and the Obama administration’s “Strategic Patience” policy were not forms of diplomacy, but instead were “miserable policy failures,” according to Perry, who noted that the lack of a U.S. negotiating strategy has allowed North Korea to do what the U.S. and other major powers do not want it to do — test nuclear weapons and missiles.

Perry said that the North Korean government has three goals: staying in power; gaining international respect; and improving the economy. Perry emphasized that the North Korean government will sacrifice the last two goals — gaining international respect and improving the economy — to achieve the first goal of staying in power.

Because of the lack of listening to and acknowledging North Korean objectives on what its goals are — which include signing a peace treaty to take the place of the 50-plus-year armistice, signing a non-aggression pact, and reducing U.S.-South Korean military war games — Perry believes that the best outcome available to negotiators is to freeze the nuclear weapons and the ICBM programs, not their elimination.

Perry said he believes North Koreans would never use nuclear weapons as those weapons “are valuable only if they DON’T use them. They know the response from the U.S. would be devastating, should North Korea explode a nuclear weapon.”

Bruce Cumings, Korean War historian, author of The Korean War: A History and University of Chicago history professor, said at the symposium that the Clinton administration achieved very important goals with North Korea, including

“North Korea freezing its plutonium production for eight years (1994–2002) and, in October 2000, indirectly working out a deal to buy all of North Korea’s medium and long-range missiles — and signing an agreement with North Korean General Jo Myong-rok in a meeting in the White House stating that neither country would bear ‘hostile intent’ toward the other.”

Neocon Truculence

But the George W. Bush administration — led by Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Undersecretary of State John Bolton — “actively sought to torpedo the Agreed Framework” and succeeded in pushing aside the agreements negotiated by the Clinton administration thereby destroying the 1994 freeze and refusing to acknowledge the Clinton-Jo pledge of “no hostile intent,” particularly since the pledge was made by allowing a North Korean general inside the White House.

President George W. Bush pauses for applause during his State of the Union Address on Jan. 28, 2003, when he made a fraudulent case for invading Iraq. Seated behind him are Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Dennis Hastert. (White House photo)

With President Bush’s January 2002 State of the Union speech, in which he linked North Korea to Iran and Iraq as an “axis of evil,” the Bush administration turned its back on North Korea, abrogating the “Agreed Framework” and halting shipments of American fuel-oil permanently. In response, the North Koreans withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and restarted their plutonium-producing reactor.

Historian Cumings wrote,

“The simple fact is that Pyongyang would have no nuclear weapons if Clinton’s agreements had been sustained.”

Sheldon Richman, executive editor of The Libertarian Institute and the former senior editor at the Cato Institute, agreed with Perry that North Korean leader Kim Jung Un is not crazy. Richman wrote,

“Let us dispense, once and for all, with the idea that Kim is a madman. Brutality is not madness, and a madman wouldn’t be expected to capitulate to economic pressure. He shows every sign of wanting his regime to endure, which means he would not want the US military or nuclear arsenal to pulverize it. Assuming rationality in this context asserts only that Kim’s means are reasonably related to his ends.”

Richman underscored the rationale for the North Korean government to develop nuclear weapons against the will of the U.S. “Kim shows every sign of having learned the lesson of recent US regime-change policies toward Iraq and Libya, neither of which were nuclear states. Same with Syria, whose regime has been targeted by the U.S. government. The lesson is: if you want to deter a U.S. attack, get yourself some nukes.”

Robert E. Kelly, Associate Professor of International Relations in the Department of Political Science at Pusan National University, wrote,

“This is not a suicidal, ideological, ISIS-like state bent on apocalyptic war but rather a post-ideological gangter-ish dictatorship looking to survive. The best way to guarantee the North’s survival is nuclear deterrence. … It is a rational decision, given Pyongyang’s goals to, 1) not change internally, and 2) not be attacked externally. This is not ideal of course. Best would be a de-nuclearized North Korea. But this is highly unlikely at this point.”

Backchannel Contacts

Track 2 Diplomacy with North Korea continues Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported recently that Robert Gallucci and Leon Sigal, director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project at the Social Science Research Council, held nuclear and missile discussions in October 2016 with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The North Korean envoy said North Korea had relayed its desire to negotiate directly with the U.S without involving China, to whom 90 percent of its exports go.

Another Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun wrote that North Korea originally demanded Washington send to North Korea a former U.S. President as a special envoy to resolve the case of Otto Warmbier, an American student who recently died after detention in North Korea.

According to the newspaper, Choe Son-hui, head of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s U.S. affairs bureau, notified the U.S. through its United Nations mission in May 2017. But North Korea released Warmbier in a coma after Trump refused to send a former President and sent Joseph Yun, State Department Special Representative for North Korea Policy to North Korea instead.

North Korean missile launch on March 6, 2017. (Source: Consortiumnews)

Another Track 2 group met with a North Korean delegation in early June 2017. Sue Mi Terry, a Korea expert who has worked at both the CIA and the National Security Council and now is with the Bower Group Asia spoke on June 28 to National Public Radio about meeting with North Korea officials to try to get nuclear talks back on track.

Terry said that to North Koreans, their nuclear arsenal

“is a matter of survival. North Koreans have told us even in the recent meeting – and they’ve specifically brought up Libya – Gaddafi’s case in Libya and Iraq – and said this is – nuclear weapons is the only way for us to absolutely guarantee our survival, and this is why we’re not going to give it up. We’re so close to perfecting this nuclear arsenal. This is our final deterrent against the United States. Ultimately it’s about regime survival for them, and nuclear weapons guarantees it.”

Terry said the North Koreans demand that the United States accept them as a nuclear power and there is  “absolutely no flexibility or willingness to meet to talk about ending their nuclear program.” In contrast to other experts, Terry believes it is “unrealistic for us (the U.S.) to go from where we are to talk about peace treaty and discuss formally ending the Korean War.”

She believes the solution is “continuing with maximum pressure with sanctions and trying to get China to do more. And if China does not come through, then we’ll have to pursue secondary sanctions against Chinese banks and entities and see if that can get China to rein in North Korea a little bit more.”

Ann Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel.  She was a U.S. diplomat for 16 years and served in U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.  She resigned from the U.S. government in March 2003 in opposition to Bush’s war on Iraq.  She is the co-author of Dissent: Voices of Conscience.

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Can Washington Prevent the Death of the Gulf States?

July 18th, 2017 by Moon of Alabama

U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson is angry that Saudi Arabia and the UAE rejected his efforts to calm down their spat with Qatar. His revenge, and a threat of more serious measures, comes in the form of a WaPo “leak” – UAE orchestrated hacking of Qatari government sites, sparking regional upheaval, according to U.S. intelligence officials:

The United Arab Emirates orchestrated the hacking of Qatari government news and social media sites in order to post incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, in late May that sparked the ongoing upheaval between Qatar and its neighbors, according to U.S. intelligence officials.Officials became aware last week that newly analyzed information gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed that on May 23, senior members of the UAE government discussed the plan and its implementation. The officials said it remains unclear whether the UAE carried out the hacks itself or contracted to have them done.

That the UAE and/or the Saudis were involved in the hack was pretty clear from the get go. They were the only ones who had a clear motive. Qatar already had specific evidence for the source of the hacking. Congressional anti-Russian sources ignored that and accusedas usual, Russia and Putin.

Tillerson’s real message is not the hacking accusation. The hacks themselves are not relevant to the spat and to Tillerson’s efforts to defuse it. The “leak” sets the UAE and Saudi leadership on notice that the U.S. has sources and methods to learn of their government’s innermost discussions. The real threat to them is that other dirt could be released from the same source.

It is doubtful that this threat will change the minds of these rulers. They believe in their own invincibility. Ian Welsh describes the mindset in his prediction of The Death of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states:

This is fairly standard: all dynasties go bad eventually because the kings-to-be grow up in wealth and power and think it’s the natural state of things: that they are brilliant and deserve it all, when it was handed them on a platter. Perhaps they are good at palace intrigue and think that extends beyond the palace.It doesn’t.

Welsh comes to the same conclusion as I did when the recent GCC infighting broke out:

No matter how the spat with Qatar ends, the GCC unity has (again) been exposed as a sham. It can not be repaired. Saudi “leadership” is shown to be just brutal bullying and will be resisted. U.S. plans for a united GCC under Saudi leadership and U.S. control are in shambles.

The Saudi under their new leadership overestimate their capabilities. So did Trump when he raised their role. The Saudi “apes with Macbooks” do not have the capabilities needed for a serious political actor in this world. Their money can paper over that for only so long.

The step Tillerson and some “intelligence officials” now took may be a sign panic. The “leak” revealed “sources and methods”. Like every other government the UAE senior officials suspect that the U.S. is trying to listen to their internal deliberations. But they now know for sure. The specific date given in the “leak” will help them to take some countermeasures. Leaking “sources and methods” is not done lightly. That it has to resort to such measures shows that the U.S. administration is not in control of the situation.

During the fall of the Ottoman empire Britain created today’s Saudi Arabia. Two world wars exhausted Britain’s power. The U.S. took over the management of the empire including the Gulf states. It needs Saudi Arabia for its fossil energy and the related reserve currency status of the U.S. dollar. Unrest in Saudi Arabia is not in the U.S. interest but such is now in sight. The “leak” is just a tactical measure of an inexperienced administration. It is not enough to defuse or mitigate the conflict and its consequences.

What strategies will Washington develop to counter the foreseeable instability in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states?

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Between a short Introduction that attempts to construct the underlying social science rationale for the outbreak of the Six Day War and a short epilogue that simply highlights the major trend of the Six Day War lies what appears to be a well researched and informative story of political-military manipulations and lies by all parties involved. It remains to the truth that Israel pre-emptively started the war, but attempts to make it look more like the thesis of Barbara Tuchman’s “The Proud Tower” than a more directed enterprise.

The theory

The Introduction carries Guy Laron’s political science interpretation leading up to the war. His first prime initiator was the conflict between the military generals and the civilian governments. The second initiator was a global debt crisis during the 1960s as the Bretton Woods gold-dollar standard weakened.

It is one of the few historical works I have read that accurately ties economic manipulations into the causes of governmental stress leading to war. The U.S. debt problems and the IMF are both noted for their role in that aspect. Unfortunately it was beyond the scope of “The Six Day War” to dig into the deeper reality of the IMFs ‘structural adjustment plans’ that weakened many emerging state economies; further, it did not mention the U.S. war debts that helped create the need for leaving the gold-dollar standard at a later date.

His theoretical model before actually ‘telling the tale’ is a generalization in the social sciences, recognizing that it is “a model that illustrates the causal link between global economic shifts and the rise of military institutions”. He posits that the “human condition,” that the “personal foibles of leaders….were pushed in the same direction suggests that the choices they made were not their own choosing.” Unfortunately that does not eliminate the “human condition” as a cause because the generals, the military leaders, are also presumably human.

These introductory arguments and the book’s subtitle – “The Breaking of the Middle East” – deny a longer, more pernicious and sinister reality – but it is time to begin the tale.

The events

Once into describing and detailing the events leading up to the war, Laron demonstrates a strong research base used to craft an interesting and well written history. It is a story clearly told for all the major players in the region: the Syrians, the Jordanians, the Egyptians and the Israelis. It folds in the Cold War plays of the former USSR and the USA. It outlines the different stories presented by the media contrasted with the reality of the wheeling and dealing behind the scenes of the political and military personnel.

Image result

Author Guy Laron (Source: academia.edu)

As the history wends its way through the various countries administrations, it does not always follow a strict sequential pattern. This helps the reader be more familiar with each aspect of the story as the different countries are dealt with somewhat separately. Obviously they are not separate and some repetition does come into play, but that seems preferable to having the reader attempting to put the back and forth puzzle pieces of war and politics together. It also allows for a stronger development of the characters involved, their weaknesses and foibles, and their strengths and blusters, making history more than a series of dates and events.

Two of the main highlights that are revealed involve the two cold warriors. The USSR is shown to be very reluctant to interfere in anything to create a war, aware that it is no match for the U.S. in military or economic terms and that within the Politburo there lies the same military-civilian clash of interests and ideas. As for the U.S.A., what is highlighted is the change in viewpoint/support from the Eisenhower/Kennedy governments to the Johnson administration, from criticism and restraint, to full if unannounced support. Part of that change involves policies related to foreign aid and how it is to be distributed and used.

As for Israel, its impressive economic build of ten per cent per year was mainly based on ”loans and grants from Germany and the US…channelled to Histadrut factories, subsidized and protected entrepreneurs…and manipulated the Israeli currency to help exporters.” Laron indicates that the debt problems incurred through these manipulations helped determine domestic political outcomes, and from the critics perspective, highlight the eventual outcome that a good war is always good for the economy and the belligerent leaders. Israel is clearly indicated as the pre-emptive leader in wanting a war, for obtaining more of the land for Israel and the side effect of removing some of the Palestinian inhabitants.

Epilogue

As indicated, the epilogue provides a short outline of events of the war. Laron discusses the repercussions of the war, significantly the near defeat in the Yom Kippur War. His last paragraph speaks volumes,

“The Israeli cult of the offensive…still holds strong and the IDF remains the most powerful institution in Israeli society….Like other parts of the late developing world, the Middle East remains in the grip of generals. Perhaps that is the reason why there the sound of gunfire never quite dies down.”

Perhaps….

But perhaps not. There is a longer, more pernicious and sinister reality.

First, it was not just this war that “broke the Middle East.” The Middle East had been broken long before this. Even before the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, the Sykes-Picot secret agreement broke the region into two areas, one of French colonial control, the other of British colonial control. The discovery of huge reserves of oil initiated much larger interest and further broke the Middle East as Saudi Arabia became a power player attached to the gold-dollar come petro-dollar. The CIA and MI6 crafted the rebellion that overthrew Mossadegh’s democratically elected government in Iran setting the stage for future antagonisms. The Wilsonian idealism of giving all people their national choice never saw the light of day in the region. The establishment of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon was all done by western colonialists drawing lines on paper regardless of ethnicities or historical cultural and economic relationships.

More importantly, the Middle East was broken with the British manipulations, not always nor generally honourable, to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine as per the Balfour Letter. Well before this war, hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers had arrived in Mandatory Palestine with the intention of eventually establishing their own state, a theistic Jewish state much more powerful than a ‘homeland’. The antagonism started early, with the Jewish population attempting to create their own independent infrastructure (and a powerful resistance that became the IDF) and the indigenous Palestinian population recognizing that they were losing their land and culture as time passed. And that does not include the severe breakage caused by the nakba of 1948.

Fortunately for Guy Laron, the brevity of his introduction and epilogue allows his strong research to provide an interesting story of the events that occurred during the Six Day War. If his sociological-political science arguments can be put aside (there is truth to his model, but it lacks a larger perspective) “The Six Day War” represents a strong addition to the historical record of the Middle East.

Title: The Six-Day War: The Breaking of the Middle East

Author: Guy Laron

Publisher: Yale University Press (February 21, 2017)

ISBN-10: 030022270X

ISBN-13: 978-0300222708

Click here to order.

 

 

 

Featured image from Amazon

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It has now been incontrovertibly proven that Russia had nothing whatsoever to do with getting the information that was on the computer-files of the Democratic National Committee and of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, to Wikileaks — the entire ‘Russiagate’ scandal (which many Democrats charge had contributed to, or even caused, Trump’s 2016 win) is fake. There’s a very real scandal involved in this, but it is extremely different, and will be revealed here (for the first time anywhere) at the very end. But, first things first — and that’s what the previous investigators have now proven:

On July 9th, was published at Disobedient Media a report that not only disproves the ‘news’ reports that the Russian government (or anyone else in Russia) ‘hacked the election’ — disproves the very core of the Russiagate story — but that proves the ‘hacks’ were instead actually leaks, to Wikileaks, by someone who had physical access to the computers at the Democratic National Committee, and who, in any case, was clearly and incontrovertibly operating only within the time-zone of America’s east coast — not at all in Russia, nor anywhere else outside that time zone. 

In other words: the ‘hacks’ were instead actually leaks from someone who was inside the DNC, exactly as the former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray (who claimed to have picked up the data-recording device from the leaker in DC and brought it to his friend Julian Assange at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London) had said was the case.

So, now we have not only Murray’s testimony about it, and we have not only my own investigation showing that Murray had, in fact, been in Washington DC at the very time he says he had picked up the information physically in DC from the leaker there, but we also now have — as of July 9th — the technical proof of it: the markers on those computer files, proving that this had indeed been a leak, and not at all a ‘hack’. There was no ‘Russia hack’; there was no ‘hack’ at all. It was a purely local operation, a real leak, by someone who was on the inside — a voluntary release of this information.

Consequently, any ‘news’medium, after July 9th, which still ‘reports’ about Russiagate, which so much as even just suggests there to have been possible involvement by the Russian government in ‘hacking’ the computers at the DNC, is, itself, now the lowest order of fake ‘journalism’, not an authentic journalistic operation at all, but pure propaganda. How long will it take for that lie (the Russiagate-myth) to stop being published as truth — or even as being possibly true — by the U.S. (and its allied) ‘news’ media? But it continues to be embellished.

Here then will be presented, first of all, a generally good summary dated July 15th, of this important new information, a summary of what was published on July 9th by Disobedient Media; and I am here publishing a transcript that I have made of this video, which was uploaded to youtube on July 15th, in which, by means of questions and answers, the gist of the findings in the July 9th report and of how the findings had been obtained, is set forth, in that July 15th video, which is titled, “TV Exclusive: Forensic investigator says DNC computer hacked locally”:

A forensics expert has determined that the DNC computers were hacked locally by someone with physical access to the DNC network and not by someone far away like the Russians. This story was broken online by the hot new investigative website called Disobedient Media. The forensic expert handed over the information to the reporter Elizabeth Vos. Joining me this time out of Iowa City Iowa is the managing editor of Disobedient Media.com, Ethan Lyle; Ethan, welcome to the show.

Thank you.

Ethan, no one has been sitting on this story you guys are. Tell us how you got this information and what we know.

Elizabeth Vos, Disobedient Media’s associate editor — a man named Adam Carter reached out to her. And he had an analysis from somebody online named The Forensicator.

Let me ask you: Who was Adam Carter? Adam Carter got this and gave it to you guys; who is he?

He’s an independent journalist [who had, in fact, long been working on this case]. And, so, [as Carter called to Vos’s attention] an anonymous blog of a forensic analyst looked at the data, and he had noticed that because of the transfer-speed and the timing of those transfers [it was actually only one transfer], that they were [the person was on the] east coast, and they [the files] had to have been accessed in the east coast. They were initially copied in the east coast, he guaranteed [the person actually demonstrated, not ‘guaranteed’] that … the likelihood of it [the file] being accessed initially from anywhere but the east coast, is impossible [proven so, by that analyst, “the forensicator”].

So, what that means in layman’s terms is again that the DNC computer network which the media tells us and the DNC tells us was hacked by the Russians, … that it was physically accessed by someone within close proximity of the DNC?

Correct. Given metadata and … the transfer and the stop times in between them, the only likely [actually the only possible] scenario is that it was accessed from inside of the Local Area Network of the DNC or with a USB drive into a computer [in] which you would have to be inside the building.

Now, I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist because there’s a lot more work to be done here, but … those computers were hacked five days prior to Seth Rich’s untimely demise if I’m not mistake, is that not correct?

That’s correct and it’s important to state that this does not indicate that Seth Rich was the person that accessed the files, because they [the DNC] won’t turn over their logs to the FBI. There’s no way to tell which credentials were used to get into the system. 

Since you have broken this story online, has anyone in law enforcement reached out to you?

No, they have not.

Anyone from CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times?

Absolutely not. (3:51) 

At this stage, this cover-up by the government and press is even bigger than the crime by the pro-Clinton DNC insiders (who had used, as I’ll indicate, the chief PR agency for NATO, to do this — to generate and spread this lie) who are trying to provoke even more fear and hatred of Russia than they already have cooked-up and generated. Adam Carter on July 16th, said that “The MSM have kept this hidden from viewers for almost 150 days”, but certainly it has been hidden now, after it was conclusively proven, on July 9th.

Here, then, are the openings of those more detailed sources reporting on this, first being the news-report by Elizabeth Vos, and then the original analysis by The Forensicator (which report Vos was restating well in non-technical terms):

***

http://disobedientmedia.com/2017/07/new-research-shows-guccifer-2-0-files-were-copied-locally-not-hacked/

New Research Shows Guccifer 2.0 Files Were Copied Locally, Not Hacked

9 July 2017, Elizabeth Vos

New meta-analysis has emerged from a document published today by an independent researcher known as The Forensicator, which suggests that files eventually published by the Guccifer 2.0 persona were likely initially downloaded by a person with physical access to a computer possibly connected to the internal DNC network. The individual most likely used a USB drive to copy the information. The groundbreaking new analysis irrevocably destroys the Russian hacking narrative, and calls the actions of Crowdstrike and the DNC into question.

The document supplied to Disobedient Media via Adam Carter was authored by an individual known as The Forensicator. The full document referenced here has been published on their blog. Their analysis indicates the data was almost certainly not accessed initially by a remote hacker, much less one in Russia. If true, this analysis obliterates the Russian hacking narrative completely.

The Forensicator specifically discusses the data that was eventually published by Guccifer 2.0 under the title “NGP-VAN.”  This should not be confused with the separate publication of the DNC emails by Wikileaks. This article focuses solely on evidence stemming from the files published by Guccifer 2.0. …

***

https://theforensicator.wordpress.com/guccifer-2-ngp-van-metadata-analysis/

Guccifer 2.0 NGP/VAN Metadata Analysis

Acknowledgements

8 July 2017: Thanks go out to Elizabeth Vos at Disobedient Media who was the first to report on this analysis; her article can be read here. Thanks also to Adam Carter who maintains the g-2.space web site — the one stop shop for information that relates to Guccifer 2.0. You can reach Elizabeth and Adam on Twitter.

Overview

This study analyzes the file metadata found in a 7zip archive file, 7dc58-ngp-van.7z, attributed to the Guccifer 2.0 persona. For an in depth analysis of various aspects of the controversy surrounding Guccifer 2.0, refer to Adam Carter’s blog, Guccifer 2.0: Game Over.

Based on the analysis that is detailed below, the following key findings are presented:

• On 7/5/2016 at approximately 6:45 PM Eastern time, someone copied the data that eventually appears on the “NGP VAN” 7zip file (the subject of this analysis). This 7zip file was published by a persona named Guccifer 2, two months later on September 13, 2016.

• Due to the estimated speed of transfer (23 MB/s) calculated in this study, it is unlikely that this initial data transfer could have been done remotely over the Internet.

• The initial copying activity was likely done from a computer system that had direct access to the data. By “direct access” we mean that the individual who was collecting the data either had physical access to the computer where the data was stored, or the data was copied over a local high speed network (LAN).

• They may have copied a much larger collection of data than the data present in the NGP VAN 7zip. This larger collection of data may have been as large as 19 GB.  In that scenario the NGP VAN 7zip file represents only 1/10th of the total amount of material taken.

• This initial copying activity was done on a system where Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) settings were in force. Most likely, the computer used to initially copy the data was located somewhere on the East Coast.

• The data was likely initially copied to a computer running Linux, because the file last modified times all reflect the apparent time of the copy and this is a characteristic of the the Linux ‘cp’ command (using default options).

• A Linux OS may have been booted from a USB flash drive and the data may have been copied back to the same flash drive, which will likely have been formatted with the Linux (ext4) file system.

• On September 1, 2016, two months after copying the initial large collection of (alleged) DNC related content (the so-called NGP/VAN data), a subset was transferred to working directories on a system running Windows. The .rar files included in the final 7zip file were built from those working directories.

• The computer system where the working directories were built had Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) settings in force. Most likely, this system was located somewhere on the East Coast.

• The .rar files and plain files that eventually end up in the “NGP VAN” 7zip file disclosed by Guccifer 2.0 on 9/13/2016 were likely first copied to a USB flash drive, which served as the source data for the final 7zip file. There is no information to determine when or where the final 7zip file was built.

Analysis

The Guccifer 2 “NGP VAN” files are found in a password protected 7zip file; instructions for downloading this 7zip file can be found at https://pastebin.com/fN9uvUE0.

Technical note: the size of the 7zip file is 711,396,436 bytes and the MD5 sum is: a6ca56d03073ce6377922171fc8b232d.

This .7z file contains several .rar files – one for each top-level directory, as shown below.

The times shown above are in Pacific Daylight Savings Time (PDT). The embedded .rar files are highlighted in yellow. The “*” after each file indicates that the file is password encrypted.  This display of the file entries is shown when the .7z file is opened. A password is required to extract the constituent files. This aspect of the .7z file likely motivated zipping the sub-directories (e.g. CNBC and DNC) into .rar files; this effectively hides the structure of the sub-directories, unless the password is provided and the sub-directories are then extracted. …

***

Finally, here, is the issue of NATO’s role in this. Elizabeth Vos’s article goes on to say:

This article focuses solely on evidence stemming from the files published by Guccifer 2.0, which were previously discussed in depth by Adam Carter.

Disobedient Media previously reported that Crowdstrike is the only group that has directly analyzed the DNC servers. Other groups including Threat Connect have used the information provided by Crowdstrike to claim that Russians hacked the DNC. However, their evaluation was based solely on information ultimately provided by Crowdstrike; this places the company in the unique position of being the only direct source of evidence that a hack occurred.

The group’s President Shawn Henry is a retired executive assistant director of the FBI while their co-founder and CTO, Dmitri Alperovitch, is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, which as we have reported, is linked to George Soros. Carter has stated on his website that “At present, it looks a LOT like Shawn Henry & Dmitri Alperovitch (CrowdStrike executives), working for either the HRC campaign or DNC leadership were very likely to have been behind the Guccifer 2.0 operation.” Carter’s website was described by Wikileaks as a useful source of primary information specifically regarding Guccifer 2.0.

Image result

Image Source: @DisobedientNews / Twitter

She had gotten that information from the founder of Disobedient Media, William Craddick. However, Craddick’s assumption that Soros was involved in this particular operation is not supported by any evidence he links to or otherwise cites. Craddick’s article, which was published back on 5 April 2017, “Cyber Firm Behind “Russian Hacking” Claims Has Ties To Soros-Supported Think Tank”, simply assumed that the Atlantic Council was a Soros operation. The actual fact is that the Atlantic Council is far bigger than Soros or any other single billionaire who backs it. And, all that Craddick actually shows is that the cyber firm behind the ‘Russian hacking’ claims has ties to the Atlantic Council. That’s a very big difference: this was, in fact, a NATO-connected operation, not merely an operation by one billionaire who is behind NATO. The Atlantic Council is the main PR agency for NATO; it actually was set up in 1961 by founders and associates of NATO for that very purpose. So, to mention Soros’s name as the alleged source for this particular smear-Russia operation is a big mistake, and is importantly misleading. If Soros has had anything to do with this operation (‘Russiagate’), then neither Craddick nor his Disobedient Media has, as of yet, presented any evidence of it. For them to not only state such a connection in their ‘news’ story, but to headline that ‘news’ report with “Soros” instead of with “NATO,” is irresponsible, a major error on their part, especially because their ‘news’ report provided no evidence for that allegation, and also because Craddick and his website appear to be tragically ignorant of the most fundamental fact about the Atlantic Council — its being NATO’s chief propaganda-arm.

Russiagate isn’t merely a fraud and a smear by the Democratic Party; it is a fraud and a smear by NATO. NATO represents the entire U.S. aristocracy — not merely that aristocracy’s Democratic Party contingent, but both contingents (and certainly not just one billionaire, such as Soros).

In order to understand the historical origin of this operation, I have explained that here. In order to understand the economic interests that are behind it, I’ve explained that here.

***

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

Featured image from The Intercept

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Featured image: Australian Journalist Chris Uhlmann (Source: The Sydney Morning Herald)

It’s all well and good to huff at the current President of the United States, who has managed to get under more irritated skin than an army of dedicated leaches. The immersion of the White House into the reality television show of Trumpland has set people on edge, lighting volatile fires and driving some commentators, quite literally, around the bend.

There is much to set the traditional group of political vultures on edge. It could be Donald Trump’s stance on climate change, his indifference to Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential elections or, for that matter, Russia at all. He cares little for institutions – the only one that ever mattered was his family as a brand name.

For Australian journalist Chris Uhlmann, a veteran of the national broadcaster, the G20 summit in Hamburg proved to be the last straw, perpetuating his blast that reflects the Weltanschauung of a wounded traditionalist long accustomed to a conventional spectrum of political reporting.

His piece on the Insiders program on July 9 was termed a “two-minute takedown” of the US president. For Uhlmann, Trump had shown “no desire and no capacity to lead the world”. (Because, naturally, states in an environment of sovereign equals must be led).

When the analyst fails, enter the opprobrium of the ad hominem attack. “Donald Trump has a particular, and limited, skill set…. He is a character drawn from America’s wild west, a travelling medicine showman selling moonshine remedies that will kill the patient.”[1]

For Uhlmann, the Trump performance signalled the decline of US power, and one could almost sense the tear ducts watering. Where was the G20 statement on North Korea, one that would have “put pressure on China and Russia?” Trump was, essentially, in “a unique position” to defend “the values of the West”. And there, you have it.

Some of these views can be attributed to Uhlmann’s background: a former trainee priest deemed by his wife (who else?) a moral figure and senior advisor for the conservative Christian independent Paul Osborne, one with whom he ran on the ACT Legislative Assembly ticket in 1998.

What duly unfolded was a phenomenon that itself characterises the state of a moribund fourth estate: the journalist as instantly minted celebrity, the hot streak of social media that is measured in “hits” and “likes” rather than reflective reading and sober digestion.

The engine room of celebrity, was, as ever, taken as the United States. If you have not made it there, you have not made it at all. Megan Doherty exemplifies the point:

“On Facebook, the original post reached almost 2 million people, most from California and New York. Insiders also scored 4,500 Twitter followers out of the sensation.”[2]

He was tapped by MSNBC for his views, which focused on “what his [Trump’s] priorities are”. If Trump had time to take “issue with a couple of reporters” with a barrage of abusive tweets, perhaps they were elsewhere.

The sense of Uhlmann’s criticism, however, suggests a considerable weakness: the sentiment of the imperial groupie, and a disappointed one at that. For decades, the United States has been the feted guardian of Australian interests (cheaply titled those of the free world), the guarding hegemon ever watchful of interests in the Asia-Pacific.

Since the Second World War, Australian governments have been willing vassals for Washington, for the projection of American power, supplying foreign targeting options from bombers to drones, being a forward supply and training line for war.

This trend was only questioned during the Whitlam years in the first part of the 1970s, when concerns arose about the role played by Australian operatives in the overthrow of the Allende government in Chile, and the possibility that the Pine Gap base was being used to target North Vietnam.

Foolishly, Australian policy makers have tended to think of their own interests as seamless and synonymous with those of their fraternal bully, the nuclear umbrella throwing its reassuring, if sinister shadow across the island continent. (In actual fact, Canberra’s ignorance of its strategic environment, not to mention its neighbours, has been institutionally profound.)

It is only in recent years that the prospect of a military confrontation between Washington and Beijing has thrown some of the security fraternity off guard. China supplies the cash for a commodity-reliant economy; the US supplies the defence for a vast continent that can never be conventionally defended.

Uhlmann’s point returns to a lamentably traditional one that needs no encouraging: there are great powers, and there are small powers who need to find suitable boots to lick, or beds to warm. Better that of a historical “friend” (the term sits artificially in the canon of international relations) rather than traditional foes (Russia and China).

“I guess it struck a chord with fears about Trump that are shared by many. Perhaps for the Americans the added interest was it was an observation from a friendly nation that Trump risks ceding US power to others.”[3]

Trump will hardly care about the sorrowful reflections of an Australian political anchor aggrieved that the empire is misbehaving. Nor will his supporters. As Alice Butler-Short, founder of Virginia Women for Trump explained,

“If America’s strong, if America’s prosperous, if America’s safe then that helps us to help the rest of the world.”[4]

Forcibly, or otherwise.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: [email protected].

Notes

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-09/did-trumps-g20-performance-indicate-us-decline-as-world-power/8691538

[2] http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/canberra-life/chris-uhlmann-on-being-an-internet-sensation–and-what-hes-got-planned-next-20170713-gxaz8s

[3] http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/canberra-life/chris-uhlmann-on-being-an-internet-sensation–and-what-hes-got-planned-next-20170713-gxaz8s

[4] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-11/donald-trump-chris-uhlmann-americans-defend-president/8696438

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The “Monthly Harvard-Harris Poll: June 2017” is the latest poll in that series, and it scientifically sampled 2,258 U.S. registered voters, of whom (as shown on page 30) 35% were “Democrat,” 29% were “Republican,” and 30% were “independent”). It indicates (page 24) that 37% “approve” and 63% “disapprove” of “the way the Republican Party is handling its job.” It also indicates (page 25) that 38% “approve,” and 62% “disapprove,” of “the way the Democratic Party is handling its job.” So: despite there being 6% more self-described “Democrat”s than “Republican”s, there was only 1% more disapproval of the Republican Party than of the Democratic Party; and, this indicates that there was a substantial disapproval of “the Democratic Party” by Democratic voters (more disaffection by them for ‘their’ Party, than by Republicans for theirs).

The answers to other questions in the poll also help to answer why this is so, and why the voting public don’t hold either Party in high regard — why America’s supposedly ‘democratic’ (small-“D”) politics is currently a contest between uglies, with neither Party offering anything like what the U.S. voting public want their government to do (i.e., it fits what this scientific study — linked there — found actually to control U.S. politics): 

(Page 27) 41% think “President Trump should be impeached and removed from office,” and 45% think “no action should be taken” against him.

(Page 28) 36% think “the investigations into Russia and President Trump” are “helping the country,” but 64% think the opposite: that these investigations are “hurting the country.”

(Page 39) Of listed U.S. government officials, the highest percentage-favorable ratings were: Bernie Sanders (52%), Mike Pence (47%), Donald Trump (45%), Hillary Clinton (39%), Paul Ryan (38%), Elizabeth Warren (37%), Jim Comey (36%), Robert Mueller (34%), Nancy Pelosi (31%), Jeff Sessions (28%), and Rex Tillerson (28%).

(Page 40) The highest percentage-unfavorable ratings were: Hillary Clinton (56%), Nancy Pelosi (51%), Donald Trump (50%), Paul Ryan (45%), Mitch McConnell (42%), Jeff Sessions (41%), Mike Pence (40%), Jared Kushner (39%), Bernie Sanders (38%), Jim Comey (36%), and Elizabeth Warren (36%).

(Page 72) 48% think “President Trump colluded with the Russians during the election over the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta’s emails.” 52% say “No” — Trump did not do that.

(Page 73) 54% say “associates of President Trump” did it; 46% say “No” to that.

(Page 74) 38% say “There is evidence” of such “collusion” by Trump; 62% say “No.”

(Page 75) 54% say this is a “legitimate investigation”; 46% say it’s “fueled to create a cloud over the Trump administration.”

(Page 79) 44% say “Keep the focus on the Russia investigation”; 56% say “Move on to other issues.”

(Page 83) 73% say they are “concerned” that there has been “lost focus and energy by the administration and Congress because of the Russia investigation.” 67% say they’re “concerned” about “future interference by Russia in U.S. elections.”

(Page 95) 54% say “Yes” and 46% say “No” to “Do you think the so called ‘Deep State’ — the collection of intelligence agencies and holdover government workers from the Obama administration — is trying to unseat President Trump?”

(Page 96) When asked “Who do you think is more to blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss of the election?” 67% choose “Hillary Clinton and her campaign team for running a weak campaign” and 33% choose “Forces like the Russians, former FBI director Comey, and the Democratic National Committee not having reliable voter data.”

(Page 124) 74% “Favor” “Offering incentives for electric cars and renewable energy such as wind and solar.” 62% “Favor” Setting much tougher emission standards for cars and other vehicles.” 34% “Favor” “Putting coal, and all coal and clean coal plants, out of business.” Today’s American public take global warming seriously — or at least more seriously than Republican public officials do..

(Page 133) 47% think it was “Right” and 53% think it was “Wrong” for Trump “to pull the United States out of the current version of the Paris Climate Agreement.”

(Page 151) 49% think “the media is being fair” to President Trump; 51% say “Unfair.”

(Page 154) 21% “Favor “raising the U.S. government’s debt ceiling.” 69% “Oppose.”

(Page 155) 36% “Favor” “a government shut down” over the issue; 64% “Oppose.”

What this poll found is basically the same thing that has been shown in many different polls. So: former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who was the last person who was able to win the White House without needing to rely upon billionaries in order to do it, was correct when he said that,

“Now it’s just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or being elected president. And the same thing applies to governors, and U.S. Senators and congress members.”

Anybody who refers to this government as being a ‘democracy’ is way behind the times, because it has been, ever since 1980, controlled by its aristocracy; it is an “oligarchy” instead of a democracy; it is a “regime” instead of a government that represents its public. This regime represents its aristocrats. And that is why the public’s disapproval of this country’s leaders is so high. That happens in a regime, not in a democracy. Both of America’s Parties represent this country’s aristocracy, not America’s public. The latest Harvard-Harris poll simply adds to the already-overwhelming evidence of this. But the basic evidence on the matter was the Gilens-Page study. In their section “American Democracy?” they said:

What do our findings say about democracy in America? They certainly constitute troubling news for advocates of “populistic” democracy, who want governments to respond primarily or exclusively to the policy preferences of their citizens. In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.

One of the aristocracy’s many magazines, The Atlantic, headlined on June 21st, “Is American Democracy Really Under Threat?” and tried to fool their readers to think the answer is no; but, of course, they were pointing, as ‘evidence’, merely to nominal adherence to ‘democratic’ forms, and ignored the actual evidence on the matter, such as Gilens and Page examined in depth, and such as the many polls that have also been referred to in the links here have additionally reinforced. None of this actual evidence was even so much as mentioned. The honest answer to the article’s title-question is not just “Yes” but more than that: their question itself is more like their having asked “Is there a danger of the horse being stolen?” after the horse was already stolen, and has for decades (since at least 1980) already been absent from the barn; so, that article’s very title is a deception, even without its text (which is written for outright fools who can’t recognize what constitutes “evidence” that is suitable for a given allegation). A better question would therefore be: Why do people still subscribe to vapid propaganda-magazines like that? All propaganda should be free of charge. But, of course, in a dictatorship like this, people pay even for the right to be deceived. It’s no longer free-of-charge. That’s just the way things are — really are. It’s shown in the data — not in anybody’s mere platitudes about the matter. People pay to embellish the lies that they already believe. Most people want that, more than they want to come to know the truth. The worse the truth is, the more that people crave the myth which contradicts it — they’ll pay good money to mainline that into themselves: evidenceless reassurances, such as that article. But anyone who takes that type of pap seriously, won’t be able sensibly to understand such findings as were reported in the latest Harvard-Harris poll.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Where US interests are threatened, ISIS coincidentally appears, threatening those standing in the way. What is behind this increasingly transparent pattern of geopolitical coercion? 

As protracted warfare continues in southern Philippines between government forces and militants linked to the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS), fears that the US is leveraging the terrorist group far beyond Syria and Iraq where it was created are rising. Nations opposing or obstructing US interests beyond America’s borders now find themselves likely targets of this covert form of armed coercion.

The United States is increasingly at odds with nations and political orders across Southeast Asia it had once counted among its closest allies in the region. Included is Thailand, a nation of nearly 70 million people, who as of 2014, ousted a US-backed client regime in a bloodless military coup.

Since then, Bangkok has definitively shifted further away from Washington’s influence, toward BeijingMoscow, and virtually any other nation-state that can provide Thailand with alternatives to Washington’s monopoly on geopolitical, economic, and military influence.

Much of Thailand’s military inventory – for decades consisting of US hardware – is now being replaced by a combination of Russian, Chinese, European, and even domestically developed weapon systems. These include orders of Chinese main battle tanks, Russian helicopters, Swedish warplanes, and both armored personnel carries and rocket artillery systems developed by local industry.

More recently, Thailand sealed a significant arms deal with China for the purchase of the Kingdom’s first modern submarines. In total, three submarines will be bought, enhancing Thailand’s naval capabilities across the region – and more specifically – drawing the navies of Thailand and China closer together in both technical and strategic cooperation.

Following Thailand, is a number of other nations including the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and even to certain degrees, Myanmar and Vietnam.

As Thailand and other members of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) pivot East, the US has predictably increased pressure on these states through the use of US-funded fronts posing as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as well as opposition parties created, backed, and directed by Washington.

In nations like Myanmar where the ruling party is already a long-supported US client regime, pressure is placed upon it through the exploitation of human rights advocacy when it is perceived by Washington to be tilting too far in Beijing’s favor.

As these methods of coercion become increasingly futile, the US has also pursued more direct means of coercion – terrorism.

US-Linked Terrorism in Southeast Asia 

In 2015, when Thailand refused to heed US demands to allow Chinese citizens wanted for terrorism to travel onward to Turkey where they would inevitably join US-backed efforts to overthrow the government of neighboring Syria, terrorists detonated a bomb in the center of Bangkok leaving 20 dead and many more maimed. Even Western analysts concluded the likely culprits were members the Turkish Grey Wolves front, created by NATO and cultivated as a means of asymmetrical warfare by the United States itself for decades.

Also increasing across ASEAN is the presence of the so-called “Islamic State” or ISIS.

As Indonesia continues its own pivot East,  it has been targeted by terrorists allegedly from ISIS. An attack in Jakarta in 2016 followed the nation’s decision to favor Chinese firms in the construction of additional national railway systems.

More recently, Malaysian security forces disrupted an alleged ISIS terror cell operating on both sides of the Thai-Malaysian border.

Armed Forces of the Philippines in Marawi City (Source: New Eastern Outlook)

In the Philippines, ISIS violence has transcended mere terrorist attacks and has manifested itself as protracted warfare over the fate of Marawi City in the nation’s south.

And while US and European media sources openly admit the expanding presence of ISIS in Asia – they categorically fail to point out the otherwise illogical nature of how they explain this expansion.

ISIS is State Sponsored Terror, But Which States?  

ISIS is – according to Western narratives – inexplicably able to maintain its fighting capacity in Syria and Iraq against a coalition consisting of Syrian and Iraqi government forces, backed by Iran, Russia, and auxiliary forces drawn from Lebanon-based front, Hezbollah. ISIS is also inexplicably able to project its militancy internationally – carrying out attacks worldwide, and building increasingly capable militant cells across Southeast Asia.

According to Western narratives, ISIS is doing this with funding drawn from hostage ransoms, black market oil, and meager revenue from “taxation” of its quickly shrinking territorial holdings in Syria and Iraq.

In reality, however, ISIS would not exist without constant and significant multinational state sponsorship. To answer which nations are providing ISIS sponsorship, one needs only to read the United States’ own intelligence reports.

The United State’s own Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in a 2012 report that revealed ongoing plans by an American led axis to create what it at the time called a “Salafist” (Islamic) “principality” (State).

In the DIA’s leaked 2012 report (.pdf) it stated (emphasis added):

If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).

To clarify just who these “supporting powers” were that sought the creation of a “Salafist” (Islamic) principality” (State), the DIA report explains (emphasis added):

The West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition; while Russia, China, and Iran support the regime.

Leaked e-mails from presidential candidate and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, also revealed senior US political leaders assigning blame for the state sponsorship of ISIS on America’s closest Middle Eastern allies, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The e-mail, leaked to the public through Wikileaks, stated:

…we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to [ISIS] and other radical Sunni groups in the region.

If ISIS is being used as a proxy by the US and its allies to coerce – even overthrow – the government of Syria and wage proxy war on Russia, Iran, and their regional allies, it stands to reason that ISIS’ sudden presence in Southeast Asia as nations there increasingly pivot away from Washington is no mere “coincidence.”

ISIS finds itself in Southeast Asia because America’s “pivot” to Asia has unfolded as a stumble, even a retreat. Despite bold declarations of primacy over Asia, the US has found itself in an increasingly bitter struggle with not only Beijing, but a number of nations seeking to rebalance power across Asia Pacific in favor of the nations actually residing in Asia Pacific.

Waning American Influence Brings Waxing American Subversion 

Just like a waning American influence in the Middle East has triggered regional attempts by Washington to destabilize, divide, and destroy what it cannot influence and exploit, a similar campaign is underway in Asia Pacific. US meddling extends from the Korean Peninsula, to the South China Sea, across Southeast Asia, and even beyond to the mountains of Afghanistan and the western-most borders of China. The common denominator is conflict – either threatened or incrementally unfolding – either between states the US attempts to pit against one another, or internally between indigenous political institutions and those sponsored by and for Washington.

Understanding and exposing Washington’s use of terrorism as a means of geopolitical coercion and expediency is the first step in removing this abhorrent tool from Washington’s bag of geopolitical tricks. If each and every time ISIS or an associated terrorist organization carries out an attack, it only further implicates Washington and its counterproductive role in the region, it will only make America’s retreat from Asia Pacific that much faster and absolute.

What will be left for Washington is a quickly closing window of opportunity to reestablish its ties with Asian states on equitable terms respecting national sovereignty and ending the concept of “American primacy” anywhere but within America’s own borders.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.

Featured image from New Eastern Outlook

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Where US interests are threatened, ISIS coincidentally appears, threatening those standing in the way. What is behind this increasingly transparent pattern of geopolitical coercion? 

As protracted warfare continues in southern Philippines between government forces and militants linked to the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS), fears that the US is leveraging the terrorist group far beyond Syria and Iraq where it was created are rising. Nations opposing or obstructing US interests beyond America’s borders now find themselves likely targets of this covert form of armed coercion.

The United States is increasingly at odds with nations and political orders across Southeast Asia it had once counted among its closest allies in the region. Included is Thailand, a nation of nearly 70 million people, who as of 2014, ousted a US-backed client regime in a bloodless military coup.

Since then, Bangkok has definitively shifted further away from Washington’s influence, toward BeijingMoscow, and virtually any other nation-state that can provide Thailand with alternatives to Washington’s monopoly on geopolitical, economic, and military influence.

Much of Thailand’s military inventory – for decades consisting of US hardware – is now being replaced by a combination of Russian, Chinese, European, and even domestically developed weapon systems. These include orders of Chinese main battle tanks, Russian helicopters, Swedish warplanes, and both armored personnel carries and rocket artillery systems developed by local industry.

More recently, Thailand sealed a significant arms deal with China for the purchase of the Kingdom’s first modern submarines. In total, three submarines will be bought, enhancing Thailand’s naval capabilities across the region – and more specifically – drawing the navies of Thailand and China closer together in both technical and strategic cooperation.

Following Thailand, is a number of other nations including the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and even to certain degrees, Myanmar and Vietnam.

As Thailand and other members of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) pivot East, the US has predictably increased pressure on these states through the use of US-funded fronts posing as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as well as opposition parties created, backed, and directed by Washington.

In nations like Myanmar where the ruling party is already a long-supported US client regime, pressure is placed upon it through the exploitation of human rights advocacy when it is perceived by Washington to be tilting too far in Beijing’s favor.

As these methods of coercion become increasingly futile, the US has also pursued more direct means of coercion – terrorism.

US-Linked Terrorism in Southeast Asia 

In 2015, when Thailand refused to heed US demands to allow Chinese citizens wanted for terrorism to travel onward to Turkey where they would inevitably join US-backed efforts to overthrow the government of neighboring Syria, terrorists detonated a bomb in the center of Bangkok leaving 20 dead and many more maimed. Even Western analysts concluded the likely culprits were members the Turkish Grey Wolves front, created by NATO and cultivated as a means of asymmetrical warfare by the United States itself for decades.

Also increasing across ASEAN is the presence of the so-called “Islamic State” or ISIS.

As Indonesia continues its own pivot East,  it has been targeted by terrorists allegedly from ISIS. An attack in Jakarta in 2016 followed the nation’s decision to favor Chinese firms in the construction of additional national railway systems.

More recently, Malaysian security forces disrupted an alleged ISIS terror cell operating on both sides of the Thai-Malaysian border.

Armed Forces of the Philippines in Marawi City (Source: New Eastern Outlook)

In the Philippines, ISIS violence has transcended mere terrorist attacks and has manifested itself as protracted warfare over the fate of Marawi City in the nation’s south.

And while US and European media sources openly admit the expanding presence of ISIS in Asia – they categorically fail to point out the otherwise illogical nature of how they explain this expansion.

ISIS is State Sponsored Terror, But Which States?  

ISIS is – according to Western narratives – inexplicably able to maintain its fighting capacity in Syria and Iraq against a coalition consisting of Syrian and Iraqi government forces, backed by Iran, Russia, and auxiliary forces drawn from Lebanon-based front, Hezbollah. ISIS is also inexplicably able to project its militancy internationally – carrying out attacks worldwide, and building increasingly capable militant cells across Southeast Asia.

According to Western narratives, ISIS is doing this with funding drawn from hostage ransoms, black market oil, and meager revenue from “taxation” of its quickly shrinking territorial holdings in Syria and Iraq.

In reality, however, ISIS would not exist without constant and significant multinational state sponsorship. To answer which nations are providing ISIS sponsorship, one needs only to read the United States’ own intelligence reports.

The United State’s own Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in a 2012 report that revealed ongoing plans by an American led axis to create what it at the time called a “Salafist” (Islamic) “principality” (State).

In the DIA’s leaked 2012 report (.pdf) it stated (emphasis added):

If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).

To clarify just who these “supporting powers” were that sought the creation of a “Salafist” (Islamic) principality” (State), the DIA report explains (emphasis added):

The West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition; while Russia, China, and Iran support the regime.

Leaked e-mails from presidential candidate and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, also revealed senior US political leaders assigning blame for the state sponsorship of ISIS on America’s closest Middle Eastern allies, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The e-mail, leaked to the public through Wikileaks, stated:

…we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to [ISIS] and other radical Sunni groups in the region.

If ISIS is being used as a proxy by the US and its allies to coerce – even overthrow – the government of Syria and wage proxy war on Russia, Iran, and their regional allies, it stands to reason that ISIS’ sudden presence in Southeast Asia as nations there increasingly pivot away from Washington is no mere “coincidence.”

ISIS finds itself in Southeast Asia because America’s “pivot” to Asia has unfolded as a stumble, even a retreat. Despite bold declarations of primacy over Asia, the US has found itself in an increasingly bitter struggle with not only Beijing, but a number of nations seeking to rebalance power across Asia Pacific in favor of the nations actually residing in Asia Pacific.

Waning American Influence Brings Waxing American Subversion 

Just like a waning American influence in the Middle East has triggered regional attempts by Washington to destabilize, divide, and destroy what it cannot influence and exploit, a similar campaign is underway in Asia Pacific. US meddling extends from the Korean Peninsula, to the South China Sea, across Southeast Asia, and even beyond to the mountains of Afghanistan and the western-most borders of China. The common denominator is conflict – either threatened or incrementally unfolding – either between states the US attempts to pit against one another, or internally between indigenous political institutions and those sponsored by and for Washington.

Understanding and exposing Washington’s use of terrorism as a means of geopolitical coercion and expediency is the first step in removing this abhorrent tool from Washington’s bag of geopolitical tricks. If each and every time ISIS or an associated terrorist organization carries out an attack, it only further implicates Washington and its counterproductive role in the region, it will only make America’s retreat from Asia Pacific that much faster and absolute.

What will be left for Washington is a quickly closing window of opportunity to reestablish its ties with Asian states on equitable terms respecting national sovereignty and ending the concept of “American primacy” anywhere but within America’s own borders.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.

Featured image from New Eastern Outlook

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The “Deep State” Then and Now

July 18th, 2017 by Edward Curtin

“…since grasping the present from within is the most problematic task the mind can face.” – Frederic Jameson

Have you ever seen a photograph of yourself from the past and laughed or grimaced at the way you were dressed or your hair style? It’s a common experience. But few people draw the obvious conclusion about the present: that our present appearance might be equally laughable. The personal past seems to be “over there,” an object to be understood and dissected for its meaning, while the present seems opaque and shape-shifting – or just taken-for-granted okay. “That was then,” says the internal voice, “but I am wiser now.” Historical perspective, even about something as superficial as appearance, rarely illuminates the present, perhaps because it makes us feel ignorant and unfree. 

This is even truer with political and social history.

In recent years there has been a spate of books and articles detailing the CIA’s past Cold war cultural and political propaganda efforts, from the creation of the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) with its string of magazines, to its collaboration with many famous writers and intellectuals, including Peter Matthiessen, George Plimpton, Richard Wright, Irving Kristol, et al., and its penetration and working relationships with so many publications and media outlets, including The New York Times, the Paris Review, Encounter, etc. These exposés show how vast was the CIA’s propaganda network throughout the media and the world, and how many people participated in the dirty work.

Joel Whitney, in his recently published book, Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers (the word “tricked” ignores the eager accomplices), tells this scandalous story in illuminating detail. His account informs and nauseates simultaneously, as one learns how the CIA penetrated NGOs, television, universities, magazines, newspapers, book publishing, etc., finding willing collaborationists everywhere – scoundrels eager to spy on and betray even their friends as they deceived the public worldwide; how well-meaning leftist writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Garcia Marquez were tricked into lending their names and work to propaganda publications; how leftists were set against leftists in an elaborate effort to sow paranoia and confusion that could be used to put the Soviet Union in the worst possible light; and how many front organizations were created to secretly funnel money to support these endeavors and make and break careers. The story makes your skin crawl.

But that was then. What about now? Whitney doesn’t say, presumably because he doesn’t know; doesn’t have documentary evidence to name names. This is not a criticism. He does say that “we understand vaguely that our media are linked to our government still today, and to government’s stated foreign policy,” and he wonders if the ideology that drove the CIA’s past endeavors “remains with us. (I am reminded of Emerson’s words: “What you do (or don’t) speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”). Despite his use of tepid language about the present, especially that word “vaguely,” it seems that Whitney thinks similar propaganda activities are going on today, which is why a blurb for Finks at his publisher’s website (OR Books) and at amazon.com by James Risen of the New York Times, who has written two books about the CIA, strikes such an odd note. It reads:

It may be difficult to believe that the American intellectual elite was once deeply embedded with the CIA.  But with Finks, Joel Whitney vividly brings to life the early days of the Cold War, when the CIA’s Ivy League ties were strong, and key American literary figures were willing to secretly do the bidding of the nation’s spymasters.

“Difficult to believe.” For whom?

“Once.” When? In the bad old days?

“When the CIA’s Ivy League ties were strong.” Does the CIA now recruit from community colleges?

Are these the good old days? Such language usage makes one wonder: is it just a quickly scribbled blurb or carefully chosen words?

The Future is Now 

No doubt the archives and sealed documents will be pried loose through repeated FOIA requests in thirty or forty years and the moans and groans about today’s bad old days will fill the air. How could they have done such things?  It’s just outrageous! But that was then, not now. It’s different now; we are older but wiser.

It’s hard to suppress a sardonic laugh, so I won’t. Today we are obviously drowning in CIA propaganda throughout the corporate mainstream media, and in the alternative online media as well. One has only to see “what they do, or don’t.” The documentation is in the doing, and it doesn’t take a genius to grasp how blatant it is. It is in no way “vague.” But it does take good faith, and a passion for truth, which is sorely lacking. Why this is so is a key issue I will return to.

Source: 21st Century Wire

As in the past, some propaganda is obvious and other subtler and indirect. Yet it is relentless. There may or may not be a comparable Congress for Cultural Freedom today, but with advanced technology and the internet, it may not be needed. Methods may change; intentions remain the same. What was once done surreptitiously is now done blatantly, as I wrote in January: the deep state has gone shallow. Fifty years ago the CIA coined the term “conspiracy theory” as a weapon to be used to dismiss the truths expressed by critics of its murder of President Kennedy, and those of Malcom X, MLK, and RFK. All the media echoed the CIA line. While they still use the term to dismiss and denounce, their control of the MSM is so complete today that every evil government action is immediately seconded, whether it be the lies about the Attacks of September 11, 2001, the wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, etc., the coup in Ukraine, the downing of the Malaysian jetliner there, drone murders, the looting of the American people by the elites, alleged sarin gas attacks in Syria, the anti-Russia bashing – everything. The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, NPR, etc. – all are stenographers for the deep state.

Denying Existential Freedom 

One of the first things an authoritarian governing elite must do is to convince people that they are not free. This has been going on for at least forty years, ever since the Church Committee’s revelations about the CIA in the mid-seventies, including its mind-control programs. Everyone was appalled at the epiphany, so a different tactic was employed. Just have “experts,” social, psychological, and biological “scientists,” repeat ad infinitum that there is no longer any mind control since we now know there is no mind; it is an illusion, and it all comes down to the brain.  Biology is destiny, except in culturally diversionary ways in which freedom to choose is extolled – e.g. the latest fashions, gender identity, the best hair style, etc. Create and lavishly fund programs for the study of the brain, while supporting and promoting a vast expansion of pharmaceutical drugs to control people. Do this in the name of helping people with their emotional and behavioral problems that are rooted in their biology and are beyond their control. And create criteria to convince people that they are sick.

We have been told interminably that our lives revolve around our brains (our bodies) and that the answers to our problems lie with more brain research, drugs, genetic testing, etc. It is not coincidental that the U. S. government declared the 1990s the decade of brain research, followed up with 2000-2010 as the decade of the behavior project, and our present decade being devoted to mapping the brain and artificial intelligence, organized by the Office of Science and Technology Project and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. How convenient! George H. W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama, Trump — what a difference! But this is science and the welfare of the world. Science for idiots.

Drip by drip, here and there, articles, books, media reports have reiterated that people are “determined” by biological, genetic, social, and psychological forces over which they have no control. To assert that people are free in the Satrean sense (en soir, condemned to freedom, or free will) has come to be seen as the belief of a delusional fool living in the past, a bad philosopher, an anti-scientist, a poorly informed religionist, one nostalgic for existential cafes, Gauloises, and black berets, but being totally out of it. One who doesn’t grasp the truth since he doesn’t read the New York Times or watch CBS television.

The conventional propaganda – I almost said wisdom – created through decades-long media and academic (don’t forget the pathetic academy) repetition, is that we are not free. Let me repeat: we are not free.

Investigator reporter John Rappoport has consistently exposed the propaganda involved in the creation and expansion of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) with its pseudo-scientific falsehoods and collusion between psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry. As he correctly notes, the CIA’s MKULTRA mind-control program has morphed into modern psychiatry, both with the same objectives of disabling and controlling people by convincing them that they are not free and are in need of a chemical brain bath.

Can anyone with an awareness of this history doubt there is a hidden hand behind this development? Once you have convinced people that they are not free in the most profound sense, the rest is child’s play. Convinced that they are puppets, they become puppets to be played. Who would want to get people to believe they were not free?

Terrified to See the Current Truth?

There are many excellent writers who, because they are truth seekers, have used logical analysis to deconstruct the patent propaganda of deep state forces and their media scribes. They do so through close reading (a skill once taught in schools) and historical knowledge without waiting for documentation, though sometimes it arrives from sources such as Wikileaks, FOIA requests, or government leakers like Edward Snowden or Chelsey Manning. While not always definitive, many of these analyses clearly raise disturbing questions that give the lie to the presstitutes’ claims of innocent objectivity. Their arguments are laid bare so the CIA’s and deep-state’s handiwork shines through. Robert Parry, Michel Chossudovsky, Paul Craig Roberts, John Pilger, James Petras, David Ray Griffin, Graeme MacQueen and many others have so demolished the propaganda that the question of why so many liberals and left-leaning people still refuse to accept the obvious echoes in the ears of those familiar with the Congress for Cultural Freedom’s machinations to set leftists and liberals against each other through media manipulation. While left and right-wing disinformation collaborationists are everywhere and the CIA obviously has its people placed throughout the cultural and media landscape, it is clear to me that there is something else involved.

So much of the ongoing propaganda travels under the banner of “the war on terror,” which is, of course, an outgrowth of the attacks of September 11, 2001, appropriately named and constantly reinforced as 9/11 in a wonderful example of linguistic mind-control: a constant emergency to engender anxiety, depression, panic, and confusion, four of the symptoms that lead the DSM “experts” and their followers to diagnose and drug individuals.  The term 9/11 was first used in the New York Times on September 12, 2001 by Bill Keller, the future Times’ editor.

Douglas Valentine, a true expert on the CIA and author of The CIA as Organized Crime and The Phoenix Program, has shown that the CIA’s highly structured assassination program in Vietnam – the Phoenix Program – is the template for “the war on terror.” In other books he has shown how the CIA’s role in drug trafficking is directly linked to the massive increased usage of heroin and other street drugs, another face of the drugging of the country. Thus the “institutional” structure and consequent practices of one of the most ruthless propaganda and terrorist organizations of the United States’ deep-state (the Phoenix program) continues to this day here and abroad. To think that the Agency’s handiwork once carried on under the banner of the Committee for Cultural Freedom does not continue today would take extreme naïveté, the inability to reason, historical ignorance, plain bad faith, or a combination thereof.

Which brings me back to the issue of why so many “liberal” Democrats – those whose bibles are the New York Times, NPR, The Washington Post, Democracy Now, etc. – can only see propaganda when they can attribute it to Donald Trump or the Russians. Why has this group, together with their Republican and conservative fellow travelers, embraced a new McCarthyism and allied itself with the deep-state forces that they were once allegedly appalled by? It surely isn’t the policies of the Trump administration or his bloviating personality, for these liberals allied themselves with Obama’s anti-Russian rhetoric, his support for the U.S. orchestrated neo-fascist Ukrainian coup, his destruction of Libya, his wars of aggression across the Middle East, his war on terror, his trillion dollar nuclear weapons modernization, his enjoyment of drone killing, his support for the coup in Honduras, his embrace of the CIA and his CIA Director John Brennan, his prosecution of whistle-blowers, etc. The same media that served the CIA so admirably over the decades became the media that became liberals’ paragons of truth. Why?

Let me try to answer by referring to two articles that appeared side-by-side in The New York Times Magazine for May 28, 2017. Their content, style, and juxtaposition suggest an answer to the schizoid subtleties of master manipulators, and how cultural/political propaganda works in oblique ways off the front pages.

The cover story for that issue, “Aleppo After the Fall,” accompanied by the words “Life And Loss Amid The Ruins of Syria’s Fractious And Devastating Civil War” and a photo of a demolished Aleppo district, sets the tone, especially the lie in the words “civil war.” The war was started under President Obama in March 2011 by the United States/NATO/Israel with the arming of Islamist “freedom fighters” in an effort to overthrow President Bashar al Assad. But the Sunday morning Times reader is immediately told otherwise, as they have been for the past six years of carnage. Most probably don’t notice the deception as they flip to the table of contents where they see a photo of cream puffs and coffee.

As they sip their morning coffee and think about cream puffs, let’s imagine our readers turning to the first major story preceding the Aleppo piece by Robert F. Worth, a contributing writer for the magazine. It is an article titled “Empire of Dust” by Molly Young, also a contributing writer. It is a title that suggests further disintegration of a most serious nature (no, not the American Empire), yet it is an article about Amanda Chantal Bacon and the rise of the wellness industry. A photo of this “beatific” 34 year old entrepreneurial guru in a flowing white gown in a half-lotus position, seated on a marble kitchen countertop surrounded by some “magical” rocks, takes up an entire page.  The photo, a Barthian signifier if ever there were one, is clearly meant to be deciphered by the Times’ clientele for secrets to the beautiful, luxurious, and peaceful life due to one of means and exquisite taste, one who will spend five dollars on a newspaper and live a balanced, Epicurean life of self-care and sophistication. Bacon’s massive light-filled kitchen with its marble countertops – a sine qua non of today’s “good life” – serves the usual elitist function of drawing in readers with a discerning, moneyed eye.

Alternately fawning and critical, Young begins by telling the reader,

“The amount of time I waste finding and consuming alternative-medicine supplements for ‘brain function’ has made me at least 10 percent dumber, and that paradox is not lost on me. It was that impulse that made me pause last year at a fancy store in Brooklyn when I spotted a glass jar labeled ‘Brain Dust’.”

From there Young takes us to Los Angeles, where she interviews the lifestyle guru Bacon, and we hear about Spirit Dust, Beauty Dust, Sex Dust, vaginal steaming, spirit truffles, and sunbathing the vagina, and to the Hamptons where she again spots Brain Dust in an expensive store that also sells “boeuf-bourguignon-flavored dog biscuits.” Young, having traversed the golden triangle – Brooklyn, L.A., and the Hamptons – tells us how Bacon captures her imagination even as she “was ashamed of its capture.” She drinks Power Dusted coffee with the Moon Juice founder who tells her,

“I was told growing up in NYC that I had learning disabilities and mental illness. That was all the rage in the ‘90s.”

(Presumably they are raging no longer.) After offering mild criticisms’ and writing that after visiting Bacon’s house she “wanted to move to California and eat bee pollen,” Young covertly orders bee pollen from her phone and ends by telling us that the Moon Juice bee pollen she has ordered “would arrive in two to four business days.” The reader is left to wonder who is dumber or smarter despite or because of the Brain Dust.

But if one is feeling brain dead, one can move or jump-cut to the next article, a piece of cosmopolitan gravitas meant to clarify who are the good guys and who the bad in the Middle East, specifically Syria.

Turning to this article on Aleppo, a juxtaposing of pornographic proportions, one is greeted with a two page photo of totally destroyed buildings in front of which walk a woman pushing a toddler in a stroller and a man pushing another toddler in a makeshift wooden cart covered in plastic sheeting. One flips from “Sex Dust” to disgust and heartbreak in a page turn. The reader is walked step-by-step into a piece of political propaganda, as Robert Worth tells us that

“The Syrian tragedy started in a moment of deceptive simplicity, when the peaceful protesters of the 2011 Arab Spring seemed destined to inherit the future.”

This deception is then quickly followed with the claim that Assad used “chemical weapons in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in early April,” an assertion backed by no evidence and clearly refuted by Seymour Hersh, among others. Worth tells us that “the Syrian regime (note the sly use of the word regime, a staple of linguistic mind-control) and its Russian allies repeatedly bombed hospitals and civilian areas,” and that in the United States such actions were “widely deplored as a war crime comparable to the worst massacres of the Bosnian war during the 1990s.” One has to give credit to Worth for a masterful double-deception here, first by accusing the Syrians and Russians but not the United States of repeatedly bombing hospitals and civilian areas, and then segueing to the “Bosnian” war with nary a mention of the U.S./NATO conspiracy to dismantle Yugoslavia through proxies and the subsequent massive bombing of Serbia and Serbian civilians that were clearly war crimes committed by the liberal saint, Bill Clinton. Throughout this piece Worth repeatedly accuses the Assad government of war crimes and atrocities while whitewashing the United States.

Immediately following his assertion of Syrian war crimes, he tells the Sunday Times’ readers that

“the State Department released satellite photographs suggesting that the regime is burning the bodies of executed prisoners in a crematory at the Sednaya prison complex, north of Damascus, in an alleged effort to hide evidence.”

This claim is based on a totally discredited claim  made in February 2017 by Amnesty International, and Worth, knowing that there is no evidence for this, cagily uses the words “suggesting” and “alleged.” But juxtaposed with the war crimes assertions, only a careful reader searching for truth would notice the trick, surely not a Time Magazine reader already predisposed by the daily Times’s constant flow of government lies. Quoting a speech by Assad in which he claimed there was a “huge conspiracy” to dismantle and destroy Syria, Worth dismissively rejects this obvious truth by quoting an anonymous former regime official (a common tactic) who says he was shocked by the speech. If Assad had given a different speech, Worth notes,

“the past six years would have unrolled very differently, and oceans of blood might have been spared.”

This is the imperial mindset at its finest, all rolled into an extensive New York Times Magazine article meant to enlighten and inform its alleged sophisticated readers.

What I am suggesting with these magazine examples is that the old trick perfected by the Congress for Cultural Freedom to juxtapose cultural pieces with political ones is alive and well today, even if the CCF or its equivalent doesn’t exist, since it isn’t needed. Illiteracy has become the norm and stupidity the rule as the electronic revolution has destroyed people’s ability to concentrate or stay focused long enough to realize they are being taken for a ride by propagandists and that they are being purposely overloaded with information meant to create a felt need for “Brain Dust.” This has been going on for so long that to admit one is still being taken for a ride is equivalent to admitting to gullibility so profound that it must be denied. It is one thing criticize the politicians you hate – George W. Bush and Donald Trump for liberal Democrats and Bill Clinton and Obama for conservative Republicans – and to call them liars; but to contemplate the fact that the CIA has been lying to you through all these mouthpieces and your vaunted news sources are stenographers for the intelligence agencies is too much reality to bear. “I might have looked funny in that old photograph, but today I am with it and stylish.”

Sure.

Everything has become style today, and no doubt the CIA has learned that the trick is to hide truthful substance behind the style. Evidence is beside the point. Just assert things in a slick style. Assert them repeatedly, even when they have been proven false or fraudulent. Sex Dust and Power Dust may be absurd con jobs, but they sell. They meet a “need,” a need created by the society that has slyly equated power with sex for a population that has been convinced they have neither and need drugs to endow them with both. A piece about Brain Dust may not have the drawing power of a Paris Review interview with Ernest Hemingway or Boris Pasternak, but then there were no “lifestyle gurus” in those days when people read real literature, not today’s New York Times best sellers. Propaganda was more literary in those days; it had to have substance. In a “wellness culture,” it has to have style. Today the only time you hear the word substance, is in “substance abuse,” which is fitting.

The CIA is in the styling business; they’ve gone shallow.  Everyone looks great that way, or so they think.

Edward Curtin is a writer whose work has appeared widely.  He teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. His website is http://edwardcurtin.com/

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At about 12.00 pm, my telephone rang. On the other end of the phone, Mikhail Gorbachev was speaking, former Russian president and my old friend. He asked: ‘Do you have news about the meeting of yesterday in Hamburg?’

I replied that I didn’t know more than I got from the news agencies.

He interrupted me with a firm voice and a vibrant, unusual pitch.

‘Do you know what the Putin-Trump handshake reminded me of? It reminded me of a dialogue over nuclear disarmament that I started with Ronald Reagan, US President at the time. It was a crucial moment. After the first diplomatic and closed-door meetings, I received information from our Black Sea Fleet. The Command told me that US warships were entering in the Black Sea. They were heading towards our territorial waters at full speed. They asked me what they were supposed to do. I was thinking about that and I understood that we were dealing with a provocation: somebody in Washington – at the Pentagon – didn’t want this dialogue to carry on and was letting us know it indirectly.

Then I replied

“Do monitor them very closely. In case they will enter into our territorial waters, then shoot. But DO NOT TARGET THEM DIRECTLY. SHOOT SOMEWHERE CLOSE TO THEM”.

We didn’t have to fall into the trap. It was very important to keep control. This is what the Putin-Trump handshake reminded me of. I liked it, it is a good sign. When I saw it I thought:

“This is a historic chance, a unique opportunity”.

We will have to deal with many difficulties, but the connection was established and has to be kept in place. We need to take this chance and to look forward further developments. We can get unexpected achievements. We can get something that was unthinkable until not long ago. I suggest you write about it immediately and spread the word’.

While Gorbachev was talking to me, I was thinking that usually, he doesn’t talk much, only on important occasions.

That’s why I understood the relevance of his message. Evidently, this is one of them. A thread has been tied.

It’s still very thin, but it has been tied.

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The International Monetary Fund has again found that Greece’s debt is unsustainable under every scenario, according to the report the Executive Council will be discussing on Thursday to decide on the Fund’s participation in the Greek program, sources say.

The word from Washington is that the Fund’s technocrats have included various scenarios in their debt sustainability analysis (DSA), including one that incorporates the eurozone’s commitments for short-term measures and a high primary surplus, but none see Greece’s debt becoming sustainable.

Washington sources suggest that the Executive Council will tell the eurozone that unless creditors offer more debt-relief measures, the IMF will not be able to participate in the Greek program with funds.

The IMF’s baseline scenario is identical to the one presented in February, with the debt being unsustainable after 2030, as servicing it will require more than 20 percent of gross domestic product. The IMF will also likely warn about weaknesses in the Greek credit system, claiming it will need additional funding of 10 billion euros.

An IMF source said that the chances of the fund disbursing the 1.6 billion euros Athens has requested “are limited.” However, what it seems the Fund is really waiting for is whether a government more amenable to Greek debt relief will emerge from September’s elections in Germany, something that is not at all certain right now.

As things stand, we are probably heading for the worst combination, as Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said in May: that the IMF is heeded only in its demands for more austerity and not for debt relief. This is why, according to IMF sources, the report to be discussed includes no time limit for the review of the debt’s sustainability that would determine the Fund’s definitive participation in the program.

In most other cases of countries with a similar status in the past, with an agreement on “approval in principle,” a one-month period was granted for the IMF to decide whether it would activate a program or not. In Greece’s case it is obvious that the IMF has decided to remain flexible, granting a margin to the eurozone to act as it considers best for the lightening of the Greek debt. It is therefore possible that the IMF remains only as a consultant up to the end of the Greek program in August 2018.

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US Missile Defense Will Protect You From North Korea

July 18th, 2017 by Jim Naureckas

“US Missile Defense Plans to Zap North Korean Threats” was the headline of a USA Today story (7/17/17)—or “US Racing to Quash N. Korean Nuke Threat,” in the print edition.

Strikingly, the piece contains no sources at all substantiating the “N. Korean nuke threat”: “North Korea’s rapid march to develop a nuclear-armed ballistic missile capable of striking the United States” is simply asserted in the lead, and later on the claim that “North Korea may be only a year or so away” from having missiles that “can hit anywhere in the world with a nuclear warhead” is backed up only by “according to US estimates.”

On the “US missile defense plans,” USA Today does have sources—mostly sources with a direct financial connection to the US missile defense program.

USA Today (7/17/17) presents a few words from the missile defense industry.

There’s Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Security and International Studies (CSIS), who tells USA Today‘s Oren Dorell that “Missile defense buys you time and opens windows.”

That’s not all missile defense buys: Three of the biggest military contractors who shared in a $3 billion contract from the Department of Defense to develop missile defense systems (UPI2/10/17) are contributors to CSIS’s national security program, which includes the Aerospace Security Project: Northrop Grumman, which has given more than $200,000 (according to CSIS’s website); Raytheon, which has donated between $100,000 and $199,999; and BAE Systems (formerly British Aerospace and Marconi), which chipped in $35,000–$64,999. (As the New York Times has documented, with CSIS as a prime example, think tank scholars “often push donors’ agendas, amplifying a culture of corporate influence in Washington.”)

“BAE Systems, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and others will design, develop and demonstrate new missile defense capabilities for the US Army.”—UPI(2/10/17) (Source: US Missile Defense Agency)

There’s also “retired Lt. Gen. Henry ‘Trey’ Obering III, a former head of the Missile Defense Agency who is now executive vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton”; later it’s clarified that Obering “heads the directed energy team at Booz Allen Hamilton”—in other words, his business is to sell to the Pentagon the kind of “smaller, more powerful and lighter” laser-based weapons that he tells USA Today are necessary to protect the United States from the North Korean threat. How quickly that protection will be in place is “based on how much money we’re putting into that program,” Obering says to the paper, sounding rather like a sports car dealer assuring a customer that you get what you pay for.

That’s all the quoted sources that the article has, aside from five words from Kingston Reif of the Arms Control Association, who says that building a missile interception system could create “increased risk of arms racing” with Russia and China. It’s the only note in the article that isn’t completely gung ho about missile defense—and it comes, uncoincidentally, from the only source in the article whose paycheck doesn’t at least partially depend upon missile defense contractors.

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One week after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi proclaimed the “liberation” of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, the scale of destruction wrought during a nine-month, US-backed siege is becoming clearer, even as reports mount of collective punishment being meted out to survivors.

Abadi presided over a victory parade in Baghdad on Saturday in which elements of the security forces marched past the prime minister and other officials in the Iraqi capital’s heavily fortified Green Zone. It is a measure of the state of the country that the parade was not publicly announced because of security concerns, with the media learning about it only afterwards and the population of the city excluded.

Evidence of the death toll inflicted upon Mosul’s civilian population during the siege—largely the result of unrelenting US-led air strikes and artillery bombardments carried out against crowded neighborhoods, particularly in western Mosul’s Old City—continues to mount.

Conservative estimates have put the number of civilians killed at over 7,000. The London-based monitoring group Airwars documented the deaths of 5,805 civilians between February and June of this year. There were undoubtedly many more deaths that went unreported, not to mention those killed in the four months preceding this period, as well of those who died in the intense assault waged on the area of the city during the last three weeks of fighting.

Officials in Mosul report that civil defense workers have already dug some 2,000 corpses from the rubble created by US 500- and 2,000-pound bombs as well as heavy artillery shelling and strikes by attack helicopters.

It is clear that neither the Iraqi government nor the Pentagon has any interest in clarifying the scale of carnage unleashed upon the city.

According to a report published in the Washington Post Saturday, the grim task of recovering the dead from Mosul’s rubble has been relegated to a “25-man civil defense unit with one bulldozer, a forklift truck and a single vehicle to carry the corpses.” The Post reports that the unit has “found hundreds of people suffocated under the ruins of their homes” after they were flattened by US air strikes. Most of the victims are reportedly women and children.

The head of the civil defense unit, Lt. Col. Rabia Ibrahim Hassan, told the Post that he had asked the government for more equipment and resources, but had received no response.

While vast resources were expended by the Pentagon on organizing the siege of Mosul and providing the arms and ammunition to lay waste to the city, it is by no means clear that either Washington or Baghdad has any plan to mobilize comparable resources to rebuild it. One Iraqi government official conservatively estimated that the cost of rebuilding Mosul would exceed $50 billion.

The regime in Baghdad was compelled last May to negotiate a $5.4 billion standby loan with the International Monetary Fund, which demanded sharp austerity measures. The country’s economy contracted 10.3 percent in 2016 as a result of falling oil prices and the destruction wrought by war.

The scale of civilian casualties, the massive destruction caused by US bombs, missiles and shells, and the reported use by the American military of white phosphorous, a weapon internationally banned for use in populated areas, all point to a US war crime of historic proportions.

This crime continues, as the survivors of the massacre in Mosul face collective punishment at the hands of US-backed forces. According to the International Organization for Migration, the nine-month siege forced 1,048,044 people to flee their homes. As of last Friday, according to the IOM, fully 825,000 remained displaced by the offensive.

Return for the majority of these internally displaced war refugees is impossible. Many have no homes to return to as a result of the US air strikes. Most of the city lacks access to water and electricity, food is scarce, and schools and hospitals have been destroyed.

Meanwhile, the wreckage of the city is littered with unexploded ordnance. It is estimated that at least 10 percent of the high explosives dropped and fired into Mosul by the US-led “coalition” failed to detonate, meaning there are thousands of bombs and shells waiting to go off, on top of the booby traps left behind by ISIS. Experts have warned that it could take a decade to clear the city of explosives.

Men, women and children who have escaped from the destruction of Mosul have been housed in tent camps, in many cases as virtual prisoners. Women and children suspected of being family members of ISIS fighters killed in the siege are being sent to desolate “rehabilitation camps.”

As for young men found in and around Mosul, there are increasing reports of summary executions, torture and abuse at the hands of the Iraqi security forces and allied Shia militias. A video posted on the Mosul Eye Twitter account, set up by an independent historian in Mosul who has documented the city’s destruction, shows members of the Iraqi security forces dragging men to the edge of a 30-foot parapet, throwing them off it and then pumping automatic weapons fire into their bodies. Other disturbing videos show a gang of soldiers beating a teenager to death and a member of the security forces stabbing a prisoner repeatedly in the face and neck.

The British Guardian reports that unidentified corpses are washing up “with grim regularity on the banks of the Tigris downstream from Mosul,” with the bodies “heavily decomposed, most bound and blindfolded, some mutilated.” Human rights groups have blamed these killings on Iraqi security forces, which operate in close collaboration with US Special Forces “advisors.”

The same US and Western media that endlessly denounced last year’s Russian-backed siege of Aleppo by the Syrian government as a war crime have, for the most part, chosen to ignore crimes of a more massive scale carried out against the people of Mosul.

In the first instance, the media was mobilized in defense of the Islamist militias holding eastern Aleppo because they were fighting as part of the CIA-orchestrated war for regime change in Syria. In the second, the destruction of Mosul was hailed as a “victory” and even “liberation,” because similar Sunni Islamist fighters had challenged the US-backed regime in Baghdad. Nothing could more clearly expose the duplicity and hypocrisy of US foreign policy in the region and the functioning of the corporate media as the obedient propaganda arm of American militarism.

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Japan’s Legacy of War Crimes in China

July 18th, 2017 by Kim Petersen

During World War II, Japan’s imperialist military invaded Northeast China and afterward spread throughout Southeast Asia, then on to an ill-fated attack on Pearl Harbor. Japanese crimes were many during the war and included the coerced services of ianfu (comfort women) for Japanese troops, slave labor, and experimentation on living humans.

Today Japanese right-wingers clamor for a re-expansion of Japanese militarism; prime minister Abe Shinzo pays visits to a shrine venerating Japanese dead — among them war criminals; the Diet demonstrates belligerence toward North Korea, a country Japan had formerly occupied; Okinawans’ (Japanese living on the southern archipelago) call for the removal of US military bases goes unheeded; and Japanese grapple with racism still rife toward ethnic Koreans in Japan. The current status post-WWII is not pretty and does not bode well for a Japan aspiring to a permanent United Nations Security Council seat.

Chinese seem particularly well-informed about the situation in Japan albeit biased.

A few months back, a neighbor in Harbin expressed her disdain for the Japanese prime minister Abe Shinzo. This was in response to Abe having visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, which houses the kami (spirits) of Japanese war criminals. Such is the palpable acrimony still felt by many Chinese people toward Japan. The criticism of Japan is widespread, but seems especially strident among all age groups in the northeastern city of Harbin – understandably so.

Seeking a better understanding for the animosity, I boarded the 338 bus in the Nangang district of Harbin and headed south to Ping Fang on the outskirts of Harbin. I asked the bus driver to inform me when we reached the stop for the Unit 731 Museum, founded on the site where many Japanese war crimes took place. The Japanese dissembled Unit 731 as the Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army (the Imperial Japanese Army of that WWII era), which was set up on secret decree from Japanese emperor Hirohito. [1]

Ruins of Unit 731 boiler room

After alighting the bus, I walked down a side street and came to a gravel field surrounded by barbed wire fencing; in the near distance stood the ruins of Unit 731’s boiler. I crossed the gravel field to see the ruins close up and then proceeded to the Exhibition Hall of Evidence of War Crimes by Japanese Army Unit 731 (Unit 731 Museum). The museum opened to the public on 15 August 2015; admission is free and translations of the evidence are available in English, Japanese, Korean, and Russian.

The museum’s darkened entrance to the exhibits features an imposing spotlighted stone wall informing the visitor that evidence of inhuman atrocities lies beyond.

I was aware of Japanese World War II crimes and atrocities in China, having visited the Nanjing Massacre Hall in 2003. There the number 300000 is on bold display for the claimed number of victims. The memorial hall’s evidence drives home the horrors that the late author Iris Chang wrote of in her book, The Rape of Nanking.

Inside the Unit 731 Museum, visitors will see evidence of biological and chemical weapons experiments that used squirrels, rats, fleas, and humans as guinea pigs. Clearly such experiments constituted insidious forms of torture. The victims were mainly Chinese, but included Koreans and Russians, and even some Americans. To the Japanese, however, their victims were not humans; they were maruta (logs).

Group photo of members from Training and Education Division of Unit 731

The physician-/torturer-in-charge was lieutenant-general Ishii Shiro whose name has not been accorded the widespread infamy of the German SS physician/torturer Josef Mengele. Proceeding further in the museum, a photo captured my attention. There were six rows of people, men and women of the Training and Education division of Unit 731. Much as one might have no difficulty envisioning horns and a piked tail attached to Ishii, the everydayness of these people quite embodies the banality of evil. These Japanese were associated with the freezing, gassing, infecting, and live vivisection of maruta.

The prisoners were infected with 29 major species of bacteria such as typhoid, plague, anthrax, and cholera. Plague rats were bred, as well as plague-bearing fleas, and these were dropped onto Chinese villages and the results recorded. At other times, prisoners were bound to wooden crosses in a clearing to which ceramic, poison gas-filled canisters were dropped from the sky.

Frost-bite experiments were often carried out in the extreme cold of Inner Mongolia

The experiments/tortures included freezing prisoners in various states of undress to determine optimal thawing methods.

Another shocking exhibit was of an airtight cubicle in which two frightened, young girls were clinging to each other. Outside the cubicle stood four Japanese observing and recording the effects of the poison gas experiment. These experiments were repeated until the victims died.

The most grotesque experiments were vivisections performed on living humans, usually without anesthesia. The victims were strapped down and their mouths were stuffed with medical gauze to stifle their screams. [2]

Despite such grotesquerie, the 731 Museum exhibits are displayed in a thoroughly restrained manner. The intent is not to shock or repulse visitors, rather it is to inform. Japanese war criminals have testified to this. Yutaka Mitsuo, formerly with a Japanese military police in Dalian, said,

“The Chinese government has adopted a merciful and lenient attitude toward Japanese war criminals – that is, to hate the crimes rather than the sinners.” [3]

Conversely, the Japanese government has endeavored to cover up the war crimes. Japan has neither acknowledged nor apologized for the war crimes committed by Unit 731.

At the end of WWII, the Japanese were forced to destroy and flee their 100 biological and chemical weapons facilities in 19 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions of China. [4] The razed facilities left behind a ticking time bomb of plague for the Chinese. [5]

The United States was fully complicit in the cover up of Unit 731. In exchange for turning over documentation on Unit 731’s experiments, the US agreed to protect the Japanese war criminals fromEdward Hill prosecution. , an American investigating Japanese biological warfare remarked of the research data obtained from Unit 731:

“Such information could not be obtained in our own laboratories because of scruples attached to human experimentation.” [emphasis added] [6]

Apparently such scruples did not apply to skirting justice to obtain the morbid information. The US cover-up has been criticized for “sacrificing and sabotaging the interests of China and the Soviet Union.” [7]

The Unit 731 Museum serves an educative function. The atrocities are meant to deter future war crimes and promote peace. The Unit 731 Museum is also a testament to a dark epoch in Japanese history for which the country has never taken responsibility. Having lived a number of years in Japan, my experience is that most Japanese are unaware of war crimes committed in WWII. The Japanese government’s elision of this shameful history has been effective. In 2010, a questionnaire given to Japanese medical students in Tokyo found that 62% knew nothing about Unit 731. [8] That is, these students knew nothing of the sordid history in which the Japanese medical establishment was deeply involved.

The present generation of Japanese did not commit the crimes. These sordid crimes belong to their ancestors. However, until Japanese society does what is right and just by its past victims, the war crimes will endure as a historical and present-day blight on Japan. Until Japan deals forthrightly with its unatoned-for militarism, the stain of war crimes will linger. [9]

Conclusion

Unit 731 Museum presents a conclusion, upon which I can not improve:

The exhibits of crime evidences of Unit 731 publically demonstrate the historical facts and crimes of Japanese biological warfare and Unit 731. The objective of disclosing its war crimes, responsibility and post-war damages to a full extent is to arouse awareness and remembrance of the history, from which lessons can be learnt, and deep reflection can be made about the relationship between war and medical science, war and conscience, as well as war and peace. From there, we should also learn how to respect human rights and freedom, in pursuit of peace and a civilized world.

Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Twitter: @kimpetersen.

Notes

1. Yang Yanjun, Japan’s Biological Warfare in China (Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 2016): 13.

2. Ibid, 57.

3. Ibid, 50.

4. Ibid, 109.

5. Ibid, 110-112.

6. Ibid, 133.

7. Ibid, 143.

8. Ibid, 179.

9. I write as a Canadian passport holder who resides in China. The present generation of “Canadians” did not commit the ethnic cleansing and extirpation of Turtle Island’s Indigenous peoples (albeit the racist attitudes and crimes continue on a lesser scale), but the genocide still demands political and societal atonement. For elaboration, see Kim Petersen, “Biological Warfare in the Pacific Northwest,” Dissident Voice, 29 July 2013. See also Robert Davis and Mark Zannis, The Genocide Machine in Canada: The Pacification of the North (Montreal: Black Rose, 1973); Tom Swanky, The Smallpox War in Nuxalk Territory(Lulu Press, 2016); James Daschuk, Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life (University of Regina Press, 2013).

All images in this article are from the author.

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Japan’s Legacy of War Crimes in China

July 18th, 2017 by Kim Petersen

During World War II, Japan’s imperialist military invaded Northeast China and afterward spread throughout Southeast Asia, then on to an ill-fated attack on Pearl Harbor. Japanese crimes were many during the war and included the coerced services of ianfu (comfort women) for Japanese troops, slave labor, and experimentation on living humans.

Today Japanese right-wingers clamor for a re-expansion of Japanese militarism; prime minister Abe Shinzo pays visits to a shrine venerating Japanese dead — among them war criminals; the Diet demonstrates belligerence toward North Korea, a country Japan had formerly occupied; Okinawans’ (Japanese living on the southern archipelago) call for the removal of US military bases goes unheeded; and Japanese grapple with racism still rife toward ethnic Koreans in Japan. The current status post-WWII is not pretty and does not bode well for a Japan aspiring to a permanent United Nations Security Council seat.

Chinese seem particularly well-informed about the situation in Japan albeit biased.

A few months back, a neighbor in Harbin expressed her disdain for the Japanese prime minister Abe Shinzo. This was in response to Abe having visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, which houses the kami (spirits) of Japanese war criminals. Such is the palpable acrimony still felt by many Chinese people toward Japan. The criticism of Japan is widespread, but seems especially strident among all age groups in the northeastern city of Harbin – understandably so.

Seeking a better understanding for the animosity, I boarded the 338 bus in the Nangang district of Harbin and headed south to Ping Fang on the outskirts of Harbin. I asked the bus driver to inform me when we reached the stop for the Unit 731 Museum, founded on the site where many Japanese war crimes took place. The Japanese dissembled Unit 731 as the Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army (the Imperial Japanese Army of that WWII era), which was set up on secret decree from Japanese emperor Hirohito. [1]

Ruins of Unit 731 boiler room

After alighting the bus, I walked down a side street and came to a gravel field surrounded by barbed wire fencing; in the near distance stood the ruins of Unit 731’s boiler. I crossed the gravel field to see the ruins close up and then proceeded to the Exhibition Hall of Evidence of War Crimes by Japanese Army Unit 731 (Unit 731 Museum). The museum opened to the public on 15 August 2015; admission is free and translations of the evidence are available in English, Japanese, Korean, and Russian.

The museum’s darkened entrance to the exhibits features an imposing spotlighted stone wall informing the visitor that evidence of inhuman atrocities lies beyond.

I was aware of Japanese World War II crimes and atrocities in China, having visited the Nanjing Massacre Hall in 2003. There the number 300000 is on bold display for the claimed number of victims. The memorial hall’s evidence drives home the horrors that the late author Iris Chang wrote of in her book, The Rape of Nanking.

Inside the Unit 731 Museum, visitors will see evidence of biological and chemical weapons experiments that used squirrels, rats, fleas, and humans as guinea pigs. Clearly such experiments constituted insidious forms of torture. The victims were mainly Chinese, but included Koreans and Russians, and even some Americans. To the Japanese, however, their victims were not humans; they were maruta (logs).

Group photo of members from Training and Education Division of Unit 731

The physician-/torturer-in-charge was lieutenant-general Ishii Shiro whose name has not been accorded the widespread infamy of the German SS physician/torturer Josef Mengele. Proceeding further in the museum, a photo captured my attention. There were six rows of people, men and women of the Training and Education division of Unit 731. Much as one might have no difficulty envisioning horns and a piked tail attached to Ishii, the everydayness of these people quite embodies the banality of evil. These Japanese were associated with the freezing, gassing, infecting, and live vivisection of maruta.

The prisoners were infected with 29 major species of bacteria such as typhoid, plague, anthrax, and cholera. Plague rats were bred, as well as plague-bearing fleas, and these were dropped onto Chinese villages and the results recorded. At other times, prisoners were bound to wooden crosses in a clearing to which ceramic, poison gas-filled canisters were dropped from the sky.

Frost-bite experiments were often carried out in the extreme cold of Inner Mongolia

The experiments/tortures included freezing prisoners in various states of undress to determine optimal thawing methods.

Another shocking exhibit was of an airtight cubicle in which two frightened, young girls were clinging to each other. Outside the cubicle stood four Japanese observing and recording the effects of the poison gas experiment. These experiments were repeated until the victims died.

The most grotesque experiments were vivisections performed on living humans, usually without anesthesia. The victims were strapped down and their mouths were stuffed with medical gauze to stifle their screams. [2]

Despite such grotesquerie, the 731 Museum exhibits are displayed in a thoroughly restrained manner. The intent is not to shock or repulse visitors, rather it is to inform. Japanese war criminals have testified to this. Yutaka Mitsuo, formerly with a Japanese military police in Dalian, said,

“The Chinese government has adopted a merciful and lenient attitude toward Japanese war criminals – that is, to hate the crimes rather than the sinners.” [3]

Conversely, the Japanese government has endeavored to cover up the war crimes. Japan has neither acknowledged nor apologized for the war crimes committed by Unit 731.

At the end of WWII, the Japanese were forced to destroy and flee their 100 biological and chemical weapons facilities in 19 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions of China. [4] The razed facilities left behind a ticking time bomb of plague for the Chinese. [5]

The United States was fully complicit in the cover up of Unit 731. In exchange for turning over documentation on Unit 731’s experiments, the US agreed to protect the Japanese war criminals fromEdward Hill prosecution. , an American investigating Japanese biological warfare remarked of the research data obtained from Unit 731:

“Such information could not be obtained in our own laboratories because of scruples attached to human experimentation.” [emphasis added] [6]

Apparently such scruples did not apply to skirting justice to obtain the morbid information. The US cover-up has been criticized for “sacrificing and sabotaging the interests of China and the Soviet Union.” [7]

The Unit 731 Museum serves an educative function. The atrocities are meant to deter future war crimes and promote peace. The Unit 731 Museum is also a testament to a dark epoch in Japanese history for which the country has never taken responsibility. Having lived a number of years in Japan, my experience is that most Japanese are unaware of war crimes committed in WWII. The Japanese government’s elision of this shameful history has been effective. In 2010, a questionnaire given to Japanese medical students in Tokyo found that 62% knew nothing about Unit 731. [8] That is, these students knew nothing of the sordid history in which the Japanese medical establishment was deeply involved.

The present generation of Japanese did not commit the crimes. These sordid crimes belong to their ancestors. However, until Japanese society does what is right and just by its past victims, the war crimes will endure as a historical and present-day blight on Japan. Until Japan deals forthrightly with its unatoned-for militarism, the stain of war crimes will linger. [9]

Conclusion

Unit 731 Museum presents a conclusion, upon which I can not improve:

The exhibits of crime evidences of Unit 731 publically demonstrate the historical facts and crimes of Japanese biological warfare and Unit 731. The objective of disclosing its war crimes, responsibility and post-war damages to a full extent is to arouse awareness and remembrance of the history, from which lessons can be learnt, and deep reflection can be made about the relationship between war and medical science, war and conscience, as well as war and peace. From there, we should also learn how to respect human rights and freedom, in pursuit of peace and a civilized world.

Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Twitter: @kimpetersen.

Notes

1. Yang Yanjun, Japan’s Biological Warfare in China (Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 2016): 13.

2. Ibid, 57.

3. Ibid, 50.

4. Ibid, 109.

5. Ibid, 110-112.

6. Ibid, 133.

7. Ibid, 143.

8. Ibid, 179.

9. I write as a Canadian passport holder who resides in China. The present generation of “Canadians” did not commit the ethnic cleansing and extirpation of Turtle Island’s Indigenous peoples (albeit the racist attitudes and crimes continue on a lesser scale), but the genocide still demands political and societal atonement. For elaboration, see Kim Petersen, “Biological Warfare in the Pacific Northwest,” Dissident Voice, 29 July 2013. See also Robert Davis and Mark Zannis, The Genocide Machine in Canada: The Pacification of the North (Montreal: Black Rose, 1973); Tom Swanky, The Smallpox War in Nuxalk Territory(Lulu Press, 2016); James Daschuk, Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life (University of Regina Press, 2013).

All images in this article are from the author.

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The Syrian Army Tiger Forces and Tribal forces have liberated Bir al-Zamlah, Bir Rumaylan, Eastern Zamlah, the Zamlah pumping station and the gas fields of Zalmah and Khala, and Fahed and Dubaysan oil fields from ISIS terrorists in the southern part of Raqqah province.

Meanwhile, 12 Syrian soldiers have been allegedly killed in Hamima village in the eastern Homs countryside as a result of an ISIS attack started with VBIED. ISIS also claimed that it destroyed two SAA tanks with ATGMs and captured a T-62 tank, a bulldozer, 23mm and 12.7mm guns and two Konkurs missiles. A fighting is ongoing in the area.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) claimed on Sunday that its special operation units have managed to detonate a VBIED inside the Al-Mina al-Bida Naval base operated by the Syrian Navy in the northern part of Lattakia province. According to HTS, the attack killed and wounded of a number of Syrian service members. Some pro-government media argued that the photos are fake. However, local sources said that the explosion took place but without significant damage to equipment or personnel.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are still facing significant problems with breaking the ISIS defense inside the city of Raqqah. Almost no gains were made during last few days. According to Kurdish sources, 200 new US servicemen have joined the Raqqah advance in order to help the SDF to overcome these difficulties. A notable number of US Special Operations Forces units had been already involved in the operation, acting as forward air controllers and snipers and overseeing SDF units.

At the same time, the US-led coalition is attempting to solve the growing tensions between the SDF and local Arabs as well as between Kurdish and Arab factions of the US-backed force. They key problem is that nobody on the ground believes in the mainstream media mantra about so-called Arab allies of the coalition that allegedly are the core of the US-backed force. The SDF is almost fully controlled by Kurdish militias that are going to establish a full political and security control over the city and to include it into their self-proclaimed Kurdish-dominated federation after the defeat of ISIS.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said that he opposes the ceasefire deal in southern Syria brokered by the United States and Russia. The reason is that the agreement does not serve so-called Israeli interests. According to Netanyahu, the agreement perpetuates Iranian plans to set up a long-term presence on Israel’s northern border.

Thanks for assistance to Fernando Martinez Arauxo

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Qatar – Problem-Packed Peninsula

July 18th, 2017 by J. Michael Springmann

WHAT. Qatar is a thumb-sized stub of land projecting out into the Persian Gulf from the Arabian  peninsula. Its 11,586 square kilometers (about 4,473 square miles) make it slightly smaller than the U.S. State of Connecticut and half the size of the Canadian Province of Nova Scotia. About 300,000 Qataris live in the country, along with roughly 2,300,000 expatriates, mostly from India and Nepal, with others from the Philippines and Bangladesh.  Only about 10% come from other Arab countries. The total population is clustered in and around Doha, Qatar’s capital.

Prior to the discovery of oil in 1939, Qatar was a land of migrant pearl-fishers. Now, it’s one of the richest countries in the world with an all-embracing welfare state.

Doha City Centre, Source: Global Research,  July 2017

WHY. The peninsula also embraces trouble, historically and also in the eyes of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) lands. (Established in 1981 by the Saudis, they are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman.)

Qatar supports Hamas in Occupied Palestine and has links to the Muslim Brotherhood, detested by Egypt and the Saudis. Qatar, like Saudi Arabia, has ties to Israel. Unlike Saudi Arabia, Qatar has connections with Iran, which the Saudis see as the source of all terrorism in the world. The Kingdom seems to ignore the fact that Qatar and Iran jointly own the largest natural gas field on earth, located beneath the Persian Gulf.

Adding to regional tensions, Qatar believes it is the rightful ruler of the Nejd, the central part of Saudi Arabia. Doha has also suggested that relations with Iran might be better served by diplomacy rather than saber-rattling. The Saudis have contributed to political strains by their 1974 “incursion” into Qatar, and their current demands that the country surrender most of its sovereignty, including shutting down Al Jazeera, the Doha-controlled news network that sometimes criticizes authoritarian states in the area.

 

Trump in Saudi Arabia (Source: The Unz Review)

WHEN. The current contretemps stems from U.S. President Donald J. Trump‘s visit to Saudi Arabia in May 2017. Playing into the hands of the Saudi Wahhabists (a rigorous, highly puritanical form of Islam), Trump said everyone must fight against the “crisis of Islamic extremism” emanating from the region. He added words directed against Iran, the Kingdom’s great rival across the Gulf:

This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations.

This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between good and evil.

For decades, Iran has fuelled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror. It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.

Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.

President Trump thus signaled the untempered, inexperienced Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman to move forward against Shiism, both in Iran and Qatar (where they form 10% of the Muslim population).  Prince Mohammad has been the architect of Saudi Arabia’s disastrous foray into Yemen and its increasing hostility towards Iran. Now, he has added Qatar to his list of major mistakes.

Pushing ahead with astonishing demands for change in Qatar, the Crown Prince has augmented his restrictions on Al Jazeera with whopping fines for those caught watching the channel or hotels showing it on television. He’s pushed the GCC to, inter alia, sever diplomatic relations with Qatar, blockade its economy, and send Qatari workers and students home. He’s also demanded that Qatar close the Turkish military base there, end contacts with GCC political opposition figures, and submit to compliance checks. Additional Saudi demands included that Qatar cut off all relations with Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah (the most effective Lebanese opposition to Israel), and the Muslim Brotherhood.

WHO. However, in a truly astounding case of the pot calling the kettle black, Saudi Arabia insisted that Qatar end its support for terrorism. Certainly, Doha backs extremist violence. It produced fake Syrian passports for terrorists and others migrating to Europe, it sent warplanes to Libya to help overthrow Moammar Gaddafi, and it backed various fanatical groups in Syria, such as Jabhat al-Nusra.

However.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has, since the 1980s, helped recruit and support the most fanatical terrorists in history. Beginning with the mujahideen in Afghanistan and continuing with their re-branding as al-Qaeda and, later, ISIL, the Kingdom sent its boys into the former Yugoslavia where they (including Osama bin Laden) worked with NATO and the United States to destroy the country. Saudi Prince Bandar bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, one-time head of the country’s intelligence service, sent terrorists and weapons into Iraq, drawing loud complaints from the Iraqi government. Prior to his departure from office in 2014, he and the Saudi government had spent 18 months better co-ordinating the supply of weapons to Syrian extremists fighting Bashar al-Assad‘s legitimate rule.

WELL? Qatar’s future seems reduced to three choices.

(1) Winding down the tensions through the GCC abandoning its ill-conceived efforts to pressure the country into submission.

(2) Racheting up the pressures on the constitutional monarchy headed by Prince al-Thani, possibly intensifying the blockade of foodstuffs now supplied by Iran and Turkey.

(3) Another Saudi “incursion”, leading to the overthrow of the real government and its replacement by a puppetry of quislings.

Option 1 appears to be the most sensible. Yet, despite appeals to common sense, Saudi Arabia and its “allies” show no sign of calling off their long-running war on Yemen. Option 2 solves nothing, allows Qatar to use its vast monetary resources to survive, but risks war with both Iran and Turkey, a NATO member. Option 3 would most likely appeal to Prince Mohammad. It would be quick and easy, much like the Kingdom’s 2011 rescue of the repressive government of Bahrain. Qatar, with a military budget of US$ 19.3 billion has 11,800 men under arms. The Saudis, spending US$63.7 billion annually, have 230,000. The Qataris can field about 350 tanks and armored fighting vehicles while the Saudis boast of more than 10,000. Qatar can put slightly more than 100 planes (but no fighters) into the sky, while the Kingdom can launch nearly 900 (including almost 90 fighters.)

Picking Option 3 would crater Saudi Arabia’s already poor reputation in the region and around the world. However, the Saudis, with their new-found courage and independence, acquired in part from Israeli and American support, don’t seem to really care about their image. They can continue to go about their business, pumping oil for the vehicles of America, China, Europe, and Japan.

Donald J. Trump certainly wouldn’t care. He, like the United States, works easily with repressive and repulsive governments around the world. When has there been official American action against, coupled with, criticism of Bahrain, Israel, and Saudi Arabia?

Of course, President Trump might want to give a thought to his massive base at al-Udeid in Qatar. With 10,000 U.S. servicemen there, helping attack Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, Uncle Sam might well wonder what would happen if the Saudis waltzed in. Al-Udeid has some of the longest runways in the Middle East, accommodating B-52 heavy bombers. The base is also the location of the de facto Middle East operational center for the U.S. Central Command.  Organized resistance, guerrilla war, and combat damage might reduce al-Udeid’s abilities somewhat.

Time will tell.

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The Spoils of War: Afghanistan’s Multibillion Dollar Heroin Trade

July 17th, 2017 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

This article was first published in April 2004 and was subsequently incorporated as a chapter in the author’s book America’s War on Terrorism.  published in 2005.

Control of the drug trade was a central objective of the US-NATO led invasion, following the Taliban government’s decision in 2000 to curtail opium production and suppress the trade in heroin, an initiative which was supported by the UN. 

Why was Afghanistan invaded?

War and the Trade in Narcotics are intimately related. The Afghan war going back to the late 1970s was covertly financed by the proceeds of the Golden Crescent drug trade.

The evidence suggests unequivocally that the multibillion dollar heroin trade out of Afghanistan is protected by the US led military alliance.

Michel Chossudovsky, February 28, 2013


Since the US led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, the Golden Crescent opium trade has soared. According to the US media, this lucrative contraband is protected by Osama, the Taliban, not to mention, of course, the regional warlords, in defiance of the “international community”.

The heroin business is said to  be “filling the coffers of the Taliban”. In the words of the US State Department:

“Opium is a source of literally billions of dollars to extremist and criminal groups… [C]utting down the opium supply is central to establishing a secure and stable democracy, as well as winning the global war on terrorism,” (Statement of Assistant Secretary of State Robert Charles. Congressional Hearing, 1 April 2004)

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), opium production in Afghanistan in 2003 is estimated at 3,600 tons, with an estimated area under cultivation of the order of 80,000 hectares.

(UNODC at http://www.unodc.org/unodc/index.html ).

An even larger bumper harvest is predicted for 2004.

The State Department suggests that up to 120 000 hectares were under cultivation in 2004. (Congressional Hearing, op cit):

 “We could be on a path for a significant surge. Some observers indicate perhaps as much as 50 percent to 100 percent growth in the 2004 crop over the already troubling figures from last year.”(Ibid)

“Operation Containment”

In response to the post-Taliban surge in opium production, the Bush administration has boosted its counter terrorism activities, while allocating substantial amounts of public money to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s West Asia initiative, dubbed “Operation Containment.”

The various reports and official statements are, of course, blended in with the usual “balanced” self critique that “the international community is not doing enough”, and that what we need is “transparency”.

The headlines are “Drugs, warlords and insecurity overshadow Afghanistan’s path to democracy”. In chorus, the US media is accusing the defunct “hard-line Islamic regime”, without even acknowledging that the Taliban  –in collaboration with the United Nations– had imposed a successful ban on poppy cultivation in 2000. Opium production declined by more than 90 per cent in 2001. In fact the surge in opium cultivation production coincided with the onslaught of the US-led military operation and the downfall of the Taliban regime. From October through December 2001, farmers started to replant poppy on an extensive basis.

The success of Afghanistan’s 2000 drug eradication program under the Taliban had been acknowledged at the October 2001 session of the UN General Assembly (which took place barely a few days after the beginning of the 2001 bombing raids). No other UNODC member country was able to implement a comparable program:

“Turning first to drug control, I had expected to concentrate my remarks on the implications of the Taliban’s ban on opium poppy cultivation in areas under their control… We now have the results of our annual ground survey of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. This year’s production [2001] is around 185 tons. This is down from the 3300 tons last year [2000], a decrease of over 94 per cent. Compared to the record harvest of 4700 tons two years ago, the decrease is well over 97 per cent.

Any decrease in illicit cultivation is welcomed, especially in cases like this when no displacement, locally or in other countries, took place to weaken the achievement”

(Remarks on behalf of UNODC Executive Director at the UN General Assembly, Oct 2001, http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/speech_2001-10-12_1.html )

United Nations’ Coverup

In the wake of the US invasion, shift in rhetoric. UNODC is now acting as if the 2000 opium ban had never happened: 

“the battle against narcotics cultivation has been fought and won in other countries and it [is] possible to do so here [in Afghanistan], with strong, democratic governance, international assistance and improved security and integrity.” ( Statement of the UNODC Representative in Afghanistan at the :February 2004  International Counter Narcotics Conference,

http://www.unodc.org/pdf/afg/afg_intl_counter_narcotics_conf_2004.pdf , p. 5).

In fact, both Washington and the UNODC now claim that the objective of the Taliban in 2000 was not really “drug eradication” but a devious scheme to trigger “an artificial shortfall in supply”, which would drive up World prices of heroin.

Ironically, this twisted logic, which now forms part of a new “UN consensus”, is refuted by a report of the UNODC office in Pakistan, which confirmed, at the time, that there was no evidence of stockpiling by the Taliban. (Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah. 5 October 2003)

Washington’s Hidden Agenda: Restore the Drug Trade

In the wake of the 2001 US bombing of Afghanistan, the British government of Tony Blair was entrusted by the G-8 Group of leading industrial nations to carry out a drug eradication program, which would, in theory, allow Afghan farmers to switch out of poppy cultivation into alternative crops. The British were working out of Kabul in close liaison with the US DEA’s “Operation Containment”.

The UK sponsored crop eradication program is an obvious smokescreen. Since October 2001, opium poppy cultivation has skyrocketed.   The presence of occupation forces in Afghanistan did not result in the eradication of poppy cultivation. Quite the opposite.

The Taliban prohibition had indeed caused “the beginning of a heroin shortage in Europe by the end of 2001”, as acknowledged by the UNODC.

Heroin is a multibillion dollar business supported by powerful interests, which requires a steady and secure commodity flow. One of the “hidden” objectives of the war was precisely to restore the CIA sponsored drug trade to its historical levels and exert direct control over the drug routes.

Immediately following the October 2001 invasion, opium markets were restored. Opium prices spiraled. By early 2002, the opium price (in dollars/kg) was almost 10 times higher than in 2000.

In 2001, under the Taliban opiate production stood at 185 tons, increasing  to 3400 tons in 2002 under the US sponsored puppet regime of President Hamid Karzai.

While highlighting Karzai’s patriotic struggle against the Taliban, the media fails to mention that Karzai collaborated with the Taliban. He had also been on the payroll of a major US oil company, UNOCAL. In fact, since the mid-1990s, Hamid Karzai had acted as a consultant and lobbyist for UNOCAL in negotiations with the Taliban. According to the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan:

“Karzai has been a Central Intelligence Agency covert operator since the 1980s. He collaborated with the CIA in funneling U.S. aid to the Taliban as of 1994 when the Americans had secretly and through the Pakistanis [specifically the ISI] supported the Taliban’s assumption of power.” (quoted in Karen Talbot, U.S. Energy Giant Unocal Appoints Interim Government in Kabul, Global Outlook, No. 1, Spring 2002. p. 70. See also  BBC Monitoring Service, 15 December 2001)

History of the Golden Crescent Drug trade

It is worth recalling the history of  the Golden Crescent drug trade, which is intimately related to the CIA’s covert operations in the region since the onslaught of the Soviet-Afghan war and its aftermath.

Prior to the Soviet-Afghan war (1979-1989), opium production in Afghanistan and Pakistan was directed to small regional markets. There was no local production of heroin. (Alfred McCoy, Drug Fallout: the CIA’s Forty Year Complicity in the Narcotics Trade. The Progressive, 1 August 1997).

The Afghan narcotics economy was a carefully designed project of the CIA, supported by US foreign policy.

As revealed in the Iran-Contra and Bank of Commerce and Credit  International (BCCI) scandals, CIA covert operations in support of the Afghan Mujahideen had been funded through the laundering of drug money.  “Dirty money” was recycled –through a number of banking institutions (in the Middle East) as well as through anonymous CIA shell companies–, into  “covert money,” used to finance various insurgent groups during the Soviet-Afghan war, and its aftermath: 

“Because the US wanted to supply the Mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan with stinger missiles and other military hardware it needed the full cooperation of Pakistan. By the mid-1980s, the CIA operation in Islamabad was one of the largest US intelligence stations in the World. `If BCCI is such an embarrassment to the US that forthright investigations are not being pursued it has a lot to do with the blind eye the US turned to the heroin trafficking in Pakistan’, said a US intelligence officer. (“The Dirtiest Bank of All,” Time, July 29, 1991, p. 22.)

Researcher Alfred McCoy’s study confirms that within two years of the onslaught of the CIA’s covert operation in Afghanistan in 1979,

“the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands became the world’s top heroin producer, supplying 60 per cent of U.S. demand. In Pakistan, the heroin-addict population went from near zero in 1979  to 1.2 million by 1985, a much steeper rise than in any other nation.”

“CIA assets again controlled this heroin trade. As the Mujahideen guerrillas seized territory inside Afghanistan, they ordered peasants to plant opium as a revolutionary tax. Across the border in Pakistan, Afghan leaders and local syndicates under the protection of Pakistan Intelligence operated hundreds of heroin laboratories. During this decade of wide-open drug-dealing, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Islamabad failed to instigate major seizures or arrests.

U.S. officials had refused to investigate charges of heroin dealing by its Afghan allies because U.S. narcotics policy in Afghanistan has been subordinated to the war against Soviet influence there.  In 1995, the former CIA director of the Afghan operation, Charles Cogan, admitted the CIA had indeed sacrificed the drug war to fight the Cold War. ‘Our main mission was to do as much damage as possible to the Soviets. We didn’t really have the resources or the time to devote to an investigation of the drug trade,’ I don’t think that we need to apologize for this. Every situation has its fallout.  There was fallout in terms of drugs, yes. But the main objective was accomplished. The Soviets left Afghanistan.'”(McCoy, op cit)

The role of the CIA, which is amply documented, is not mentioned in official UNODC publications, which focus on internal social and political factors. Needless to say, the historical roots of the opium trade have been grossly distorted.

(See UNODC http://www.unodc.org/pdf/publications/afg_opium_economy_www.pdf

According to the UNODC, Afghanistan’s opium production has increased, more than 15-fold since 1979. In the wake of the Soviet-Afghan war, the growth of the narcotics economy has continued unabated. The Taliban, which were supported by the US, were initially instrumental in the further growth of opiate production until the 2000 opium ban.

(See UNODC http://www.unodc.org/pdf/publications/afg_opium_economy_www.pdf

This recycling of drug money was used to finance the post-Cold War insurgencies in Central Asia and the Balkans including Al Qaeda. (For details, see Michel Chossudovsky, War and Globalization, The Truth behind September 11, Global Research Outlook, 2002,

Narcotics: Second to Oil and the Arms Trade

The revenues generated from the CIA sponsored Afghan drug trade are sizeable. The Afghan trade in opiates constitutes a large share of the worldwide annual turnover of narcotics, which was estimated by the United Nations to be of the order of $400-500 billion. (Douglas Keh, Drug Money in a Changing World, Technical document No. 4, 1998, Vienna UNDCP, p. 4. See also United Nations Drug Control Program, Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 1999, E/INCB/1999/1 United Nations, Vienna 1999, p. 49-51, and Richard Lapper, UN Fears Growth of Heroin Trade, Financial Times, 24 February 2000). At the time these UN figures were first brought out (1994), the (estimated) global trade in drugs was of the same order of magnitude as the global trade in oil.

The IMF estimated global money laundering to be between 590 billion and 1.5 trillion dollars a year, representing 2-5 percent of global GDP. (Asian Banker, 15 August 2003). A large share of global money laundering as estimated by the IMF is linked to the trade in narcotics.

Based on recent figures (2003), drug trafficking  constitutes “the third biggest global commodity in cash terms after oil and the arms trade.” (The Independent, 29 February 2004).

Moreover, the above figures including those on money laundering, confirm that the bulk of the revenues associated with the global trade in narcotics are not appropriated by terrorist groups and warlords, as suggested by the UNODC report.

There are powerful business and financial interests behind narcotics. From this standpoint, geopolitical and military control over  the drug routes is as strategic as oil and oil pipelines.

However, what distinguishes narcotics from legal commodity trade is that narcotics constitutes a major source of wealth formation not only for organised crime but also for the US intelligence apparatus, which increasingly constitutes a powerful actor in the spheres of finance and banking.

In turn, the CIA, which protects the drug trade, has developed complex business and undercover links to major criminal syndicates involved in the drug trade.

In other words, intelligence agencies and powerful business syndicates allied with organized crime, are competing for the strategic control over the heroin routes. The multi-billion dollar revenues of narcotics are deposited in the Western banking system. Most of the large international banks together with their affiliates in the offshore banking havens launder large amounts of narco-dollars.

This trade can only prosper if the main actors involved in narcotics have “political friends in high places.”  Legal and illegal undertakings are increasingly intertwined, the dividing line between “businesspeople” and criminals is blurred. In turn, the relationship among criminals, politicians and members of the intelligence establishment has tainted the structures of the state and the role of its institutions.

Where does the money go?  Who benefits from the Afghan opium trade?

This trade is characterized by a complex web of intermediaries. There are various stages of the drug trade, several interlocked markets, from the impoverished poppy farmer in Afghanistan to the wholesale and retail heroin markets in Western countries. In other words, there is a “hierarchy of prices” for opiates.

This hierarchy of prices is acknowledged by the US administration:

“Afghan heroin sells on the international narcotics market for 100 times the price farmers get for their opium right out of the field”.(US State Department quoted by the Voice of America (VOA), 27 February 2004).

According to the UNODC, opium in Afghanistan generated in 2003 “an income of one billion US dollars for farmers and US$ 1.3 billion for traffickers, equivalent to over half of its national income.”

Consistent with these UNODC estimates, the average price for fresh opium was $350 a kg. (2002); the 2002 production was 3400 tons.

(http://www.poppies.org/news/104267739031389.shtml ).

The UNDOC estimate, based on local farmgate and wholesale prices constitutes, however, a very small percentage of the total turnover of the multibillion dollar Afghan drug trade. The UNODC, estimates “the total annual turn-over of international trade” in Afghan opiates at US$ 30 billion. An examination of the wholesale and retail prices for heroin in the Western countries suggests, however, that the total revenues generated, including those at the retail level, are substantially higher.

Wholesale Prices of Heroin in Western Countries

It is estimated that one kilo of opium produces approximately 100 grams of (pure) heroin. The US DEA confirms that “SWA [South West Asia meaning Afghanistan] heroin in New York City was selling in the late 1990s for $85,000 to $190,000 per kilogram wholesale with a 75 percent purity ratio (National Drug Intelligence Center, http://www.usdoj.gov/ndic/pubs/648/ny_econ.htm ).

According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) “the price of SEA [South East Asian] heroin ranges from $70,000 to $100,000 per unit (700 grams) and the purity of SEA heroin ranges from 85 to 90 percent” (ibid). The SEA unit of 700 gr (85-90 % purity) translates  into a wholesale price per kg. for pure heroin ranging between $115,000 and $163,000.

The DEA figures quoted above, while reflecting the situation in the 1990s, are broadly consistent with recent British figures. According to a report published in the Guardian (11 August 2002), the wholesale price of (pure) heroin in London (UK) was of the order of 50,000 pounds sterling, approximately $80,000 (2002).

Whereas as there is competition between different sources of heroin supply, it should be emphasized that Afghan heroin represents a rather small percentage of the US heroin market, which is largely supplied out of Colombia.

Retail Prices

US

“The NYPD notes that retail heroin prices are down and purity is relatively high. Heroin previously sold for about $90 per gram but now sells for $65 to $70 per gram or less. Anecdotal information from the NYPD indicates that purity for a bag of heroin commonly ranges from 50 to 80 percent but can be as low as 30 percent. Information as of June 2000 indicates that bundles (10 bags) purchased by Dominican buyers from Dominican sellers in larger quantities (about 150 bundles) sold for as little as $40 each, or $55 each in Central Park. DEA reports that an ounce of heroin usually sells for $2,500 to $5,000, a gram for $70 to $95, a bundle for $80 to $90, and a bag for $10. The DMP reports that the average heroin purity at the street level in 1999 was about 62 percent.”  (National Drug Intelligence Center, http://www.usdoj.gov/ndic/pubs/648/ny_econ.htm ).

The NYPD and DEA retail price figures seem consistent. The DEA price of $70-$95, with a purity of 62 percent translates into $112 to $153 per gram of pure heroin. The NYPD figures are roughly similar with perhaps lower estimates for purity.

It should be noted that when heroin is purchased in very small quantities,  the retail price tends to be much higher. In the US, purchase is often by “the bag”; the typical bag according to Rocheleau and Boyum contains 25 milligrams of pure heroin.\

(http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/publications/drugfact/american_users_spend/appc.html )

A $10 dollar bag in NYC (according to the DEA figure quoted above) would convert into a price of $400 per gram, each bag containing 0.025gr. of pure heroin. (op cit). In other words, for very small purchases marketed by street pushers, the retail margin tends to be significantly higher. In the case of the $10 bag purchase, it is roughly 3 to 4 times the corresponding retail price per gram.($112-$153)

UK

In Britain, the retail street price per gram of heroin, according to British Police sources, “has fallen from £74 in 1997 to £61 [in 2004].” [i.e. from approximately $133 to $110, based on the 2004 rate of exchange] (Independent, 3 March 2004). In some cities it was as low as £30-40 per gram with a low level of purity. (AAP News, 3 March 2004). According to Drugscope (http://www.drugscope.org.uk/ ), the average price for a gram of heroin in Britain is between £40 and £90 ($72- $162 per gram) (The report does not mention purity). The street price of heroin was £60 per gram in April 2002 according to the National Criminal Intelligence Service.

 (See: http://www.drugscope.org.uk/druginfo/drugsearch/ds_results.asp?file=%5Cwip%5C11%5C1%5C1%5Cheroin_opiates.html )

The Hierarchy of Prices

We are dealing with a hierarchy  of prices, from the farmgate price in the producing country, upwards, to the final retail street price. The latter is often 80-100 times the price paid to the farmer.

In other words, the opiate product transits through several markets from the producing country to the transshipment country(ies), to the consuming countries. In the latter, there are wide margins between “the landing price” at the point of entry, demanded by the drug cartels and the wholesale prices and the retail street prices, protected by Western organized crime.

The Global Proceeds of the Afghan Narcotics Trade

In Afghanistan, the reported production of 3600 tons of opium in 2003 would allow for the production of approximately 360,000 kg of pure heroin. Gross revenues accruing to Afghan farmers are roughly estimated by the UNODC to be of the order of $1 billion, with 1.3 billion accruing to local traffickers.

When sold in Western markets at a heroin wholesale price of the order of $100,000 a kg (with a 70 percent purity ratio), the global wholesale proceeds (corresponding to 3600 tons of Afghan opium) would be of the order of 51.4 billion dollars. The latter constitutes a conservative estimate based on the various figures for wholesale prices in the previous section.

The total proceeds of the Afghan narcotics trade (in terms of total value added) is estimated using the final heroin retail price. In other words, the retail value of the trade is ultimately the criterion for measuring the importance of the drug trade in terms of revenue generation and wealth formation.

A meaningful estimate of the retail value, however, is almost impossible to ascertain due to the fact that retail prices vary considerably within urban areas, from one city to another and between consuming countries, not to mention variations in purity and quality (see above).

The evidence on retail margins, namely the difference between wholesale and retail values in the consuming countries, nonetheless, suggests that a large share of the total (money) proceeds of the drug trade are generated at the retail level.

In other words, a significant portion of the proceeds of the drug trade accrues to criminal and business syndicates in Western countries involved in the local wholesale and retail narcotics markets. And the various criminal gangs involved in retail trade are invariably protected by the “corporate” crime syndicates.

90 percent of heroin consumed in the UK is from Afghanistan. Using the British retail price figure from UK police sources of $110 a gram (with an assumed 50 percent purity level), the total retail value of the Afghan narcotics trade  in 2003 (3600 tons of opium) would be the order of 79.2 billion dollars. The latter should be considered as a simulation rather than an estimate.

Under this assumption (simulation), a billion dollars gross revenue to the farmers in Afghanistan (2003) would generate global narcotics earnings, –accruing at various stages and in various markets– of the order of 79.2 billion dollars. These global proceeds accrue to business syndicates, intelligence agencies, organized crime, financial institutions, wholesalers, retailers, etc. involved directly or indirectly in the drug trade.

In turn, the proceeds of this lucrative trade are deposited in Western banks, which constitute an essential mechanism in the laundering of dirty money.

A very small percentage accrues to farmers and traders in the producing country. Bear in mind that the net income accruing to Afghan farmers is but a fraction of the estimated 1 billion dollar amount. The latter does not include payments of farm inputs, interest on loans to money lenders, political protection, etc. (See also UNODC, The Opium Economy in Afghanistan,  http://www.unodc.org/pdf/publications/afg_opium_economy_www.pdf , Vienna, 2003, p. 7-8)

The Share of the Afghan Heroin in the Global Drug Market

Afghanistan produces over 70 percent of the global supply of heroin and heroin represents a sizeable fraction of the global narcotics market, estimated by the UN to be of the order of $400-500 billion.

There are no reliable estimates on the distribution of the global narcotics trade between the main categories: Cocaine, Opium/Heroin, Cannabis, Amphetamine Type Stimulants (ATS), Other Drugs.

The Laundering of Drug Money

The proceeds of the drug trade are deposited in the banking system. Drug money is laundered in the numerous offshore banking havens in Switzerland, Luxembourg, the British Channel Islands, the Cayman Islands and some 50 other locations around the globe.  It is here that the criminal syndicates involved in the drug trade and the representatives of the world’s largest commercial banks interact. Dirty money is deposited in these offshore havens, which are controlled by the major Western commercial banks. The latter have a vested interest in maintaining and sustaining the drug trade. (For further details, see Michel Chossudovsky, The Crimes of Business and the Business of Crimes, Covert Action Quarterly, Fall 1996)

Once the money has been laundered, it can be recycled into bona fide investments not only in real estate, hotels, etc, but also in other areas such as the services economy and manufacturing. Dirty and covert money is also funneled into various financial instruments including the trade in derivatives, primary commodities, stocks, and government bonds.

Concluding Remarks: Criminalization of US Foreign Policy

US foreign policy supports the workings of a thriving criminal economy in which the demarcation between organized capital and organized crime has become increasingly blurred. 

The heroin business is not  “filling the coffers of the Taliban” as claimed by US government and the international community: quite the opposite! The proceeds of this illegal trade are the source of wealth formation, largely reaped by powerful business/criminal interests within the Western countries. These interests are sustained by US foreign policy.

Decision-making in the US State Department, the CIA and the Pentagon is instrumental in supporting this highly profitable multibillion dollar trade, third in commodity value after oil and the arms trade.

The Afghan drug economy is “protected”.

The heroin trade was part of the war agenda. What this war has achieved is to restore a compliant narco-State, headed by a US appointed puppet.

The powerful financial interests behind narcotics are supported by the militarisation of the world’s major drug triangles (and transshipment routes), including the Golden Crescent and the Andean region of South America (under the so-called Andean Initiative).


Table 1

Opium Poppy Cultivation in Afghanistan (1994-2003)

Year                         Cultivation in hectares               Production (tons)

1994                                 71,470                                    3,400

1995                                 53,759                                    2,300

1996                                 56,824                                    2,200

1997                                 58,416                                    2,800

1998                                 63,674                                    2,700

1999                                 90,983                                    4,600

2000                                 82,172                                    3,300

2001                                   7,606                                       185

2002                                 74 000                                    3400

2003                                 80 000                                    3600

Source: UNDCP, Afghanistan, Opium Poppy Survey, 2001, UNOCD, Opium Poppy Survey, 2002.

http://www.unodc.org/pdf/afg/afg_opium_survey_2002.pdf

See also Press Release:

http://www.unodc.org/unodc/press_release_2004-03-31_1.html ,

and 2003 Survey:  http://www.unodc.org/pdf/afg/afghanistan_opium_survey_2003.pdf

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First published in December 2016

When it came to the art of lying to the public, German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels said it best:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.

The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Since World War II, the U.S. government has been involved in numerous wars and orchestrated coups in more than fifty countries based on fabricated lies created mainly by the CIA to destroy or remove governments not subservient to Washington’s interests. Goebbels knew that “the lie can be maintained only for such time.”

And time and time again, the mainstream-media (MSM) has been exposed as an agent of propaganda. For example, at the start of the Vietnam War, the U.S. government was supplying the MSM with information on the Gulf of Tonkin incident and they accepted it without question. On August 5th, 1964, The Washington Post headlined ‘American Planes Hit North Vietnam After Second Attack on Our Destroyers; Move Taken to Halt New Aggression.’ Other MSM sources followed with similar headlines. Washington’s official story was that on August 2nd, the North Vietnamese torpedo boats launched an “unprovoked attack” against the U.S. destroyer Maddox that was supposedly on a routine patrol in the Gulf of Tonkin. Two days later, another so-called “deliberate attack” was committed by North Vietnamese PT boats.

All the claims by the U.S. government and the MSM were based on lies. In fact, the U.S. destroyer Maddox was engaged in an intelligence-gathering mission that also helped coordinate attacks with the South Vietnamese navy and the Laotian air force against the North Vietnamese forces. The result of the lie ended with more than 50,000 U.S. deaths and millions of Vietnamese casualties. According to the Vietnam Red Cross, over 3 million Vietnamese including 150,000 children were affected with Agent Orange chemicals sprayed on the countryside by the U.S. Air Force to eliminate forest cover for North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong troops since the war ended in 1975. Agent Orange was also used to destroy crops that were meant to feed the Viet Cong. Numerous books had been published on the lies that led to the Vietnam War. One of the books, ‘The Uncensored War: The Media and Vietnam’ by Daniel Hallin who said journalists had “a great deal of information available which contradicted the official account [of Tonkin Gulf events]; it simply wasn’t used” Hallin claimed.

The lies perpetrated by MSM are a component of the Military-Industrial Complex. The MSM is a public relations firm that represents the establishment’s hidden agenda disguised as a noble cause to spread “American style democracy” to the rest of the world. Without the MSM, wars cannot be waged. Wars are based on the lies and deceptions provided by Washington and their special interest groups (corporations, lobbyists, etc..) therefore, the MSM’s job is to win the “hearts and minds” of the public with propaganda. Without public support, the U.S. government cannot engage in its imperial wars like they did in Vietnam. On the ‘Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs’ website under the United States Department of State archived the results of the Harris Poll documenting public support for the U.S. government’s bombing campaign against North Vietnam: ‘Memorandum from the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson’ on June 30, 1965 under the subject ‘France in Vietnam, 1954, and the U.S. in Vietnam, 1965—A Useful Analogy? Stated the following:

The latest Harris Poll (June 28) shows that 62% of the public expresses overall approval of the President’s handling of the Vietnam crisis. Well over 70% of the people believe that Southeast Asia will go Communist if we do not stand firm in Vietnam, and they approve the President’s call for unconditional negotiations. Twenty-three percent are not sure about bombings in the North or the sending of more troops during the monsoon season. However, of those with an opinion, almost 80 percent approve of the bombing and over 60 percent believe we should send more troops

The war in Iraq with the “Weapons of Mass Destruction” hoax with help from The New York Times also convinced the public to support the Bush administration’s Neocon agenda to remove Saddam Hussein. The American public fell for another lie and what was the outcome? A disastrous war that left Iraq permanently fragmented. The Iraq war created more terrorist networks that happen to be supported by the U.S. government and its allies ready to destroy other sovereign nations in the Middle East including Syria. The Iraq war also created a refugee crisis and impoverished Iraqi society for future generations.

Goebbels’s claimed that the state can lie and keep that lie going, however, they can only maintain the lie only for so long until the public (with help from the alternative media) can expose their lies. The consequences of MSM propaganda has led to wars of conquest, theft by Wall Street megabanks, demonizing their perceived enemies both foreign and domestic, promoting the phony war on drugs and the list goes on. The MSM has been exposed, they are in panic so what are they to do? Goebbels had said “It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Hillary Clinton recently made it clear that the truth by the alternative media is the enemy of the state. Clinton recently came out from her cave and blames the alternative media for her loss to Donald Trump during a ceremony for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), who is retiring from Congress. The queen of lies said

“The epidemic of malicious fake news and false propaganda that flooded social media over the past year — it’s now clear that so-called fake news can have real-world consequences.”

Clinton actually has the audacity to claim that the alternative news on social media (that has exposed the U.S. government‘s crimes against humanity in the past and present) has “real world consequences.

What does she mean by real world consequences? Does she mean the war she waged on Libya by the US-NATO alliance during her time as Secretary of State under the Obama administration that caused the deaths of thousands of people and displaced millions more who is now flooding the shores of the European Union? Or does she mean the total destruction of one of the wealthiest nations in North Africa that was economically independent with its own money, its own water resources, its own oil reserves and even its own central bank?

Does eliminating the benefits of a nation that once provided its citizens with a free education, healthcare and having a home of your own which was considered a human right has “real world consequences”? How about the real world consequences of the lies that destroyed a once prosperous and stable nation that created a new breed of terrorists which helped form the Islamic State that currently engulfs the Middle East, including Syria? So who’s fake news and lies had real world consequences Hillary? It sure wasn’t the alternative media. Maybe Clinton should ask the Libyan people whose policies have wretched havoc on their lives. Last August, Martin Kobler, the United Nations secretary general’s special representative for Libya said “More than 2.4 million people in Libya are in need of humanitarian assistance.” Clinton and the establishment’s hypocrisy are astonishing. According to an RT News report back in October 28th, 2011 appropriately titled ‘Biggest success? NATO proud of Libya op which killed thousands’ reported on what Bishop Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli had observed during his time in Libya:

Speaking on March 31, Bishop Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli, reported that “the so-called humanitarian air raids have taken the lives of dozens of civilians in various areas of Tripoli.” The senior cleric went on to say “in the district of Buslim, a building collapsed because of the bombing, killing 40 people,” as cited by Agenzia Fedes, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies. However, despite the decision to turn a blind eye to the casualty figures, one of the few instances the alliance could not deny culpability in was a June 19 NATO missile strike that resulted in the deaths of nine civilians.

Attacks of this nature were happening on a daily basis throughout the intense bombing campaign. Speaking in September, the health minister in the new Libyan government estimated that at least 30,000 people had been killed and 50,000 wounded during the first six months of the war. Some, however, have estimated that the real figure could be much higher

Of the thousands of emails released by Wikileaks from Hillary Clinton’s private email server in late December 2015, one in particular stood out it in regards to why Gaddafi was a target for regime change. According to an email sent to Clinton from Sidney Blumenthal, a former assistant and senior adviser to Bill Clinton who worked for the Clinton Foundation from 2009 until 2013 exposed the real reason to remove Gaddafi from power:

On April 2, 2011 sources with access to advisors to Saif al-Islam Qaddafi stated in strictest confidence that while the freezing of Libya’s foreign bank accounts presents Muammar Qaddafi with serious challenges, his ability to equip and maintain his armed forces and intelligence services remains intact. According to sensitive information available to this these individuals, Qaddafi’s government holds 143 tons of gold, and a similar amount in silver. During late March, 2011 these stocks were moved to SABHA (south west in the direction of the Libyan border with Niger and Chad); taken from the vaults of the Libyan Central Bank in Tripoli. 

This gold was accumulated prior to the current rebellion and was intended to be used to establish a pan-African currency based on the Libyan golden Dinar. This plan was designed to provide, the Francophone African Countries with an alternative to the French franc (CFA)

The truth to the matter regarding what Hillary Clinton said about “real-world consequences” regarding social media and the onslaught of fake news is ludicrous. It was Clinton’s lies that led to the death of Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi and the total destruction of Libya, not the alternative media.

The MSM is exposed. They lost control of the narrative. The alternative media is growing with an array of independent news organizations, websites, bloggers, citizen journalists and a public that is sick and tired of the lies who just want the truth. If they (Western governments including the U.S.) were to manage to censor the alternative media which will be difficult to do, there will be other ways to inform the public. Remember the printing press? Then again, the MSM will be in a full-blown panic as their newspaper sales continue to plummet. Viewership for the MSM on basic television and cable has declined dramatically thanks to the internet.

One other important note to consider, instead of being objective, the MSM, particularly in the U.S. had sided with Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump during the elections, since then, it all has been downhill for the MSM. No one can trust the MSM and they never should. Welcome to the alternative world where once, the dinosaur media roamed the earth and are now are going extinct, a new breed of journalism and the quest for truth is here to stay. Throughout my life, people always told me that we can never change the world because it is filled with evil people that will do anything to remain in power even if it means lying to the public. That may be true to a point, but I don’t believe that we as a people cannot change the course of history because the ruling elites from past imperial powers to the present American Empire have always lied to the people to advance their agendas, now we are turning the tide. I have hope in humanity because the truth is the foundation of humanity. My friends, it’s up to us, the people, to tell the truth to power because the lies perpetrated by the MSM have led the world to endless wars, poverty and a self-absorbed society based on useless consumption.

The cadre of MSM organizations and personalities including losers like former NBC Nightly news host Brian Williams (who is laughably in the battle against “fake news”), Hillary Clinton, ABC, CBS, The New York Times, The Washington Post, PBS, NPR, The BBC, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune and others are fighting for their survival. The alternative media is now the enemy. “Fake news” accusations against the alternative media are the only weapon they have as the establishment and their MSM minions move forward in an attempt to censor the “real news.” The ghost of Joseph Goebbels whispers in the ears of the establishment and that is for them to “use all of its powers to repress dissent.” It will be an epic failure because the truth always finds its way.

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According to the document, payments differ depending on the family status of a Daesh militant as well as the number of children in the family. 

Single militants receive the lowest salary, about 72 dollars, or 95,000 Iraqi dinars.

By contrast, Abu Jana, who was born in 1991, married and a father of three children, received 184 dollars in the past month. A militant listed as Abu Nasser, born in 1962, married and father of six children, received 256 dollars.

Salaries of Daesh terrorists

“Salaries” of Daesh terrorists (Source: SPUTNIK/ NAZEK MOHAMMED)

A local source in Mosul told Sputnik that the amount of payments can fluctuate depending on the circumstances. In general, the wages of the militants grow proportionally with the number of their wives and children. At the same time, the salary usually doesn’t exceed 300 dollars.

The terrorist group also paid generous reimbursements to demobilized disabled people who suffered from the attacks of the international coalition, the source said.

At the same time, leaders of the terrorist group received not only their monthly payments, but also the money from the sales of stolen property of ordinary citizens. The salaries of Daesh leaders are assumed to have been 500 dollars or higher, although this year they experienced certain financial problems as the international coalition bombed the banks where they received their money.

Last year, Sputnik published data on the salaries of militants in 2014, when they first took control over the provinces of Nineveh and Anbar. At that time, the salary of a foreign fighter was $1,300. He was also given a house, a car, a wife and fuel, which was a deficit among the local population. Salaries of local Daesh militants were about 600 dollars. Such high payments were related to the fact that the group controlled oil fields and illegally supplied crude oil to neighboring countries.

Featured image from Flickr/ Day Donaldson

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Featured image: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Iranian Foreign Minister has accused Washington’s allies in the Middle East of sponsoring terrorism. Mohammad Javad Zarif was speaking to CNN, commenting on US President Donald Trump’s apparent anti-Iranian policy in the region.

In an exclusive interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Zarif said Trump’s stance towards Iran, which includes accusations of Tehran sponsoring terrorism, represented a “misplaced and misguided policy.”

“We know where the terrorists are coming from. We know those who attacked the World Trade Center were citizens of which countries in the region – I can tell you none of them came from Iran,” Zarif said.

The FM added that

“none of the people who engaged in acts of terrorism since 2001 came from Iran,” pointing out that “most of them came from US allies.” 

Out of the 19 terrorists who hijacked planes on September 11, 2001, fifteen were Saudi Arabian citizens, two were from UEA while the rest were Egyptian and a Lebanese.

“Look at ISIS [Islamic State, IS], look at Nusra [Al-Nusra Front terrorist group], look at Al-Qaeda, look at other terrorist organizations… none of them have anything to do with Iran and all of them receive not only their ideology but their financial assistance, their weapons, their arms from others who call themselves US allies,” Zarif said.

Trump has branded Iran the main sponsor of terrorism during his US presidential campaign.

During his landmark visit to Saudi Arabia this May, the US president said

 “until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran.”

Following the twin IS-linked terror attacks on the Iranian parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in early June, which left 14 dead and 42 injured, Trump went as far to say that it was Tehran’s own fault:

“We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.”

Zarif dismissed the US leader’s remarks as “repugnant,” while saying that

“Iranians counter terror backed by US clients.”

The US accuses Tehran of supporting various Shia militant groups in the Middle East and North Africa – including Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen.

Iran is also a strong ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom Washington wanted to be removed from power. The CNN interview focused on the “endgame” in Syria, which Zarif believes must come with a ceasefire, without preconditions and Syrians deciding for themselves who they want as a president.

Zarif also rejected claims from a group of senators that Iran has violated the nuclear deal, pointing out that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is the monitoring body in accordance with the deal, has verified that Tehran has been in full compliance with the agreed scaleback of its nuclear program.

Zarif accused Washington of violating its part of the deal by calling other states not to do business with Tehran.

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On 7 July 2017 122 countries at the UN voted to approve the text of a proposed international treaty entitled ‘Draft Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.’ The treaty is formally open for signature in September, but it only becomes a binding legal instrument according to its own provisions 90 days after the 50th country deposits with the UN Secretary General its certification that the treaty has been ratified in accordance with its constitutional requirements.

In an important sense, it is incredible that it took 72 years after the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to reach the point of setting forth this unconditional prohibition of any use or threat of nuclear weapons. [Article 1(e) within the framework of a multilateral treaty negotiated under UN auspices.] The core obligation of states that choose to become parties to the treaty is very sweeping. It prohibits any connection whatsoever with the weaponry by way of possession, deployment, testing, transfer, storage, and production [Article 1(a)].

The Nuclear Ban Treaty (NBT) is significant beyond the prohibition. It can and should be interpreted as a frontal rejection of the geopolitical approach to nuclearism, and its contention that the retention and development of nuclear weapons is a proven necessity given the way international society is organized. It is a healthy development that the NBT shows an impatience toward and a distrust of the elaborate geopolitical rationalizations of the nuclear status quo that have ignored the profound objections to nuclearism of many governments and the anti-nuclear views that have long dominated world public opinion. The old reassurances about being committed to nuclear disarmament as soon as an opportune moment arrives increasingly lack credibility as the nuclear weapons states, led by the United States, make huge investments in the modernization and further development of their nuclear arsenals. Even more telling was the failure to seize the window of opportunity in the mid-1990s as the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed to pursue nuclear disarmament with due diligence.

Despite this sense of achievement surrounding the NBT process, it must be admitted that there is a near fatal weakness, or at best, a gaping hole, in this newly cast net of legal prohibition. True, the support of 122 governments lends weight to the claim that the international community, by a significant majority has signaled in an obligatory way a repudiation of nuclear weapons for any and all purposes, and formalized their prohibition of any action to the contrary. The enormous fly in this healing ointment arises from the refusal of all nine nuclear weapons states to join in the NBT process even to the legitimating extent of participating in the negotiating conference with the opportunity to express their objections and influence the outcome. As well, most of the chief allies of these states that are part of the global security network of states relying directly and indirectly on nuclear weaponry also boycotted the entire process. It is also discouraging to appreciate that several countries in the past that had lobbied against nuclear weapons with great passion such as India, Japan, and China were notably absent, and also opposed the prohibition. This posture of undisguised opposition to this UN sponsored undertaking to delegitimize nuclearism, while reflecting the views of a minority of governments, must be taken extremely seriously. It includes all five permanent members of the Security Council and such important international actors as Germany and Japan.

The NATO triangle of France, United Kingdom, and the United States, three of the five veto powers in the Security Council, angered by its inability to prevent the whole NBT venture, went to the extreme of issuing a Joint Statement of denunciation, the tone of which was disclosed by a defiant assertion removing any doubt as to the abiding commitment to a nuclearized world order:

“We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it. Therefore, there will be no change in the legal obligations on our countries with respect to nuclear weapons.”

The depth of disagreement is set forth very aggressively in the joint statement:

“A purported ban on nuclear weapons that does not address the security concerns that continue to make nuclear deterrence necessary cannot result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon and will not enhance any country’s security, nor international peace and security. It will do the exact opposite by creating even more divisions at a time when the world needs to remain united in the face of growing threats, including those from the DPRK’s ongoing proliferation efforts.”

In effect, these leading NATO members, armed with nuclear weapons and enjoying Security Council veto power, are making two interrelated claims—that the NBT offers no practical solutions to such current challenges as those posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile program and by dividing the world between those that have or depend on nuclear weapons and those who want to prohibit and eliminate them there is a loss of the kind of unity that is needed to force North Korea to back down.

It is correct that the NBT will not by itself lead to nuclear disarmament as it is not presently backed by a single one of the nine nuclear weapons states, but the civil society backers of the treaty and the 122 approving governments accept their responsibility to work toward implementation, which means changing the climate of opinion sufficiently so that the states with weapons will later adhere to the treaty.

On the more practical side of the joint statement’s position, it should be obvious by now that coercive diplomacy (sanctions plus threats of military attack) have not achieved results. What seems far more promising is a combination of the norms embodied in the NBT together with what I would call ‘restorative diplomacy,’ that is, an effort to ensure North Korea’s security by means other than nuclear deterrence, via guarantees, economic assistance, and the end of provocative military training exercises and weapons deployments. Restorative diplomacy is not hampered in any way by the NBT, and is likely greatly aided by this comprehensive commitment to reject nuclear weapons and their purported security roles.

The body of the joint statement contends that global security depends upon maintaining the nuclear status quo, as bolstered by the Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968 and by the unprovable assertion that it was “the policy of nuclear deterrence, which has been essential to keeping the peace in Europe and North Asia for over 70 years.” It is relevant to take note of the geographic limits associated with the claimed peace-maintaining benefits of nuclear weaponry, which ignores the ugly reality that devastating warfare has raged throughout this period outside the feared mutual destruction of the heartlands of geopolitical rivals, a central shared forbearance by the two nuclear superpowers and other nuclear powers throughout the entire Cold War. During these decades of rivalry, and subsequently, the violent dimensions of geopolitical rivalry have been effectively outsourced to the non-Western regions of the world, causing massive suffering and widespread devastation for many vulnerable peoples throughout the Global South. Such a conclusion suggests that even if we were to accept the claim on behalf on nuclear weapons as deserving of credit for avoiding a major war, specifically a nuclear World War III, that ‘achievement’ was accomplished at the cost of millions, probably tens of millions, of civilian lives in non-Western societies. Beyond this, the achievement, such as it was, involved a colossally irresponsible gamble with the human future, and succeeded as much due to good luck as to the hyper-rationality attributed to deterrence theory and practice.

This reliance on the NPT to justify opposition to the NBT is at the root of these diametrically opposed views of collective security. The joint statement strongly asserts that the NPT/deterrence approach to collective security is the only way to end the impasse blocking moves toward nuclear disarmament, but extensive international experience suggests just the opposite conclusion. Namely, that NPT/deterrence is a management approach developed by the leading nuclear weapons states, and especially by the three governments issuing the joint statement. For these governments it is a greatly preferred alternative to the disarmament approach that motivates the NBT supporters. This comparison of approaches discloses a fundamental intellectual and political distinction that should be clearly articulated and understood.

NBT does not itself challenge the Westphalian framework of state-centrism by setting forth a framework of global legality that is issued under the authority of ‘the international community’ or the UN as the authoritative representative of the peoples of the world. Its provisions are carefully formulated as imposing obligations only with respect to ‘State parties,’ that is, governments that have deposited the prescribed ratification and thereby become formal adherents of the treaty. Even Article 4, which hypothetically details how nuclear weapons states should divest themselves of all connections with the weaponry limits its claims to State parties, and offers no guidance whatsoever in the event of suspected or alleged non-compliance. Reliance is (mis)placed in Article 5 on an essentially voluntary commitment to secure compliance by way of the procedures of ‘national implementation,’ that is, it specifies no binding constraints on State parties that violate the NBT.

The treaty does aspire to gain eventual universality through the adherence of all states over time, but in the interim the obligations imposed are of minimal substantive relevance beyond the agreement of the non-nuclear parties not to accept deployment or other connections with the weaponry. The NBT proceeds on a basis in which the only truly binding obligations under international law that limit the freedom of sovereign states arise from the consent of their governments, and the clearest expression of consent is a negotiated and ratified international agreement in the form of an international treaty.

The issues are jurisprudentially complicated and conceptually controversial but there are other means than by treaty to exhibit consent, which means that from these other lawmaking perspectives even nuclear weapons states could have been deemed to have ‘consented’ to the prohibition on the use of nuclear weapons. The most general and well regarded of these alternative foundations of legal obligations is associated with what is called ‘customary international law.’ To establish a customary legal norm requires a long established pattern of consistent state practice of which the nuclear taboo might serve as evidence having existed for a period of more than seven decades together with ‘a sense of obligation,’ that is, acknowledging that habitual behavior is not enough by itself but that the taboo was respected because it was felt to be obligatory. In effect, a consistent pattern of practice must be reinforced by the sense that behavior was done with an accompanying sense of obligation. It could be argued, for example, that the nuclear taboo incorporates a strong widely shared sense that nuclear weapons should never be used. To offset such an argument, the U.S., France, and the UK could point to the Joint Declaration as contradicting any impression that a customary norm of prohibition had emerged, and this consideration may help explain why these governments were prepared to antagonize public opinion by claiming discretion to rely on threats and even uses of nuclear weapons on behalf of their version of national and global security.

An even more contested source of law is the related expression of an authoritative world consensus through the action of the UN General Assembly claiming a capacity to act in a quasi-legislative role. The adoption of a series of resolutions, most notably GA Resolution 1653, can be argued to establish a world community norm of prohibition. Such a lawmaking authority for the UN amounts to a rejection of prevailing positivist views that international obligations depend on some show of consent by the individually obligated states to become law.

Still further down the list of alternatives to adherence to a treaty of the sort represented by NBT is the contention that natural law prohibits recourse to such indiscriminate, potentially omnicidal weaponry. Such a view, deriving its authority from the earlier connections between international law and religious and moral beliefs, collides with modern ideas that all valid legal norms are based on the consent of states. There is a neo-natural law view that the objections to nuclear weapons and nuclearism reflect values reflecting universally shared beliefs of humanity. In an important respect, the objections of most people to nuclear weaponry is based more on their religious and ethical beliefs than on whether or not there exists a valid legal prohibition, illustrating the gap between societal consensus and the international legal order as dominated by sovereign states.

Taking an unnecessary further step to reaffirm statism, and specifically, ‘national sovereignty’ as the foundation of world order, Article 17 confers on the parties to the NBT a right of withdrawal. All state parties have to do is give notice, accompanied by a statement of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ that have ‘jeopardized the supreme interests of its country.’ The withdrawal will take effect twelve months after the notice and statement are submitted. There is no procedure in the treaty by which the contention of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ can be challenged as unreasonable or made in bad faith. It is an acknowledgement that even for these non-nuclear states, nothing in law or morality or human wellbeing takes precedence over their exercise of sovereign rights. Article 17 is not likely to be invoked in the foreseeable future. This provision reminds us of the strong residual unwillingness of even anti-nuclear governments to supersede national interests by deference to global and human interests. The withdrawal option is also important because it confirms that national security continues to take precedence over international law, even with respect to genocidal weaponry of mass destruction with regional and global implications such as the danger of nuclear winter. As such the obligation undertaken by parties to the NBT are reversible in ways that are not present in multilateral conventions outlawing genocide, apartheid, and torture.

Given these shortcomings, is it nevertheless reasonable for nuclear abolitionists to claim a major victory by virtue of tabling such a treaty? Considering that the nuclear weapons states and their allies have all rejected the process of treaty making, and even those within the circle of the intended legal prohibition reserve a right of withdrawal, the NBT is likely to be brushed aside by cynics as mere wishful thinking and by dedicated anti-nuclearists as more of an occasion for hemlock than champagne. The cleavage between the nuclear weapons states and the rest of the world has never been starker, and there are no signs on either side of the divide of making the slightest effort to find common ground. Indeed, there may be common ground. As of now, it is a standoff between two forms of asymmetry. The nuclear states enjoy a preponderance of hard power, while the anti-nuclear states have the upper hand when it comes to soft power, including solid roots in ‘substantive democracy,’ ‘global law,’ and ‘natural law.’ At stake here is the tension between the managerial and transformational approaches to nuclear weapons and nuclearism.

The hard power solution to nuclearism has essentially been reflexive, that is, relying on nuclearism as shaped by the leading nuclear weapons states. What this has meant in practice is some degree of self-restraint on the battlefield and crisis situations (the nuclear taboo exists without doubt, although it has never been seriously tested), and, above all, a delegitimizing one-sided implementation of the Nonproliferation Treaty regime. This one-sidedness manifests itself in two ways: (1) discriminatory administration of the underlying non-proliferation norm, most unreservedly in the case of Israel; as well, the excessive enforcement of the nonproliferation norm beyond the limits of either the NPT itself or the UN Charter, as with Iraq (2003), and currently by way of threats of military attack against North Korea and Iran. Any such uses of military force would be non-defensive and unlawful unless authorized by a Security Council resolution supported by all five permanent members, and at least four other states, which fortunately remains unlikely. [UN Charter, Article 27(3)] More likely is recourse to unilateral coercion led by the countries that issued the infamous Joint Declaration denouncing the NBT as was the case for the U.S. and the UK with regard to thei recourse to the war against Iraq. The war was principally rationalized as a counter-proliferation undertaking, which itself turned out to be a rather crude pretext for mounting an aggressive war, showcasing ‘shock and awe’ tactics.

(2) The failure to respect the obligations imposed on the nuclear weapons states to negotiate in good faith an agreement to eliminate these weapons by verified and prudent means, and beyond this to seek agreement on general and complete disarmament. It should have been evident, almost 50 years after the NPT came into force in 1970, that nuclear weapons states have breached their material obligations under the treaty, which were validated by an Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1996 that included a unanimous call for the implementation of these Article VI legal commitments. In effect, the ICJ held that nuclear weapons states were under a legal obligation to pursue nuclear disarmament in good faith, leaving unsaid their implicit breach of duty by failing to do so in the more than 25 prior years that the NPT had imposed such an obligation on parties to the treaty.

Drawing the main conclusion from deeds as well as words, it is evident for all with eyes that want to see, that the nuclear weapons states as a group have opted for deterrence as a permanent security scheme and their version of the nonproliferation regime as its principal management mechanism. In this security system it is hardly surprising that the legal mandate issued by the ICJ to negotiate nuclear disarmament has been totally ignored.

One contribution of the NBT is to convey to the world the crucial awareness of these 122 countries as reinforced by global public opinion that the deterrence/NPT approach to global peace and security is neither prudent nor legitimate nor a credible pathway leading over time to the end of nuclearism.

In its place, the NBT offers its own two-step approach—first, an unconditional stigmatizing of the use or threat of nuclear weapons to be followed by a negotiated process seeking nuclear disarmament. Although the NBT is silent about demilitarizing geopolitics and conventional disarmament, it is widely assumed that later stages of denuclearization would never be implemented unless they included these broader assaults on the war system. The NBT is also silent about the relevance of nuclear power capabilities, which inevitably entail a weapons option given widely available current technological knowhow. The relevance of nuclear energy technology would also have to be addressed at some stage of nuclear disarmament to address concerns about possible diversion to military uses.

Having suggested these major shortcomings of treaty coverage and orientation, can we, should we, cast aside these limitations, and join in the celebrations and renewed hopes of civil society activists to rid the world of nuclear weapons? I think, with a realistic sense of what has been achieved and what remains to be done, that the NBT should be treated as a historic step forward. It gives authoritative legal backing to the profound populist stigmatization of nuclear weapons, and as such provides anti-nuclear civil society forces with a powerful instrument to alter the climate of opinion in the nuclear weapons states. The Joint Statement is helpful, as well, in a perverse sort of way, undermining the tendency for activists to relax after achieving a provisional goal, in this case the NBT. We should all remember that there have been many lost opportunities and unfulfilled hopeful pledges in the past to get rid of the nuclear shadows haunting the human future. The most recent such instance was Barack Obama’s speech of 2009 in Prague envisioning a world without nuclear weapons that was received with great acclaim and earned the new U.S. president a Nobel Peace Prize, but brought the world not one step closer to getting rid of the weaponry.

Nagasaki, 9 August 1945

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Selected Articles: US War in Syria Far From Over

July 17th, 2017 by Global Research News

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US War in Syria Far From Over

By Stephen Lendman, July 17, 2017

Ceasefire in southern Syria was short-lived, discussed in a previous article. On Sunday, Netanyahu said he opposes the Russian/US brokered deal, claiming it “perpetuat(es)” Iranian and Hezbollah presence in the country near Israel’s border.

Brzezinski Wanted NATO to Become the “Hub of a Globe-Spanning Web” of Security Pacts

By Steven MacMillan, July 17, 2017

An Agenda For NATO: Toward a Global Security Web unprecedented risks to global security,” with “extremist religious and political movements” among these risks, movements that he himself helped to empower through advocating giving the Mujahideen US aid.

The US Deep State: Sabotaging Putin-Trump Ceasefire Agreement in Syria

By Federico Pieraccini, July 17, 2017

From the Russian point of view, any military sabotage would once again lay American intentions bare, regardless of Trump’s subsequent moves. However, one thing that is certain is that in the case of sabotage, Trump will be faced with having to make a definitive choice. Either he will surrender to the deep state, returning the situation back to a state of hyper-conflict with a nuclear superpower; or he will confront and overcome the deep state, thereby enabling him to implement his electoral promises.

Photos of Aleppo Rising: Swimsuits, Concerts and Rebuilding in First Jihadi-Free Summer

By Tyler Durden, July 17, 2017

Aleppines and other Syrians are rebuilding – they are optimistically preparing for the future. Welcome to the real Aleppo.

Israel’s Crimes against Humanity: ‘Gaza Will be Unlivable Next Year, Not 2020 as the UN Says’

By Edo Konrad, July 17, 2017

Things have gotten acutely worse in the Gaza Strip over the past month, since Israel and the Palestinian Authority cut the besieged strip’s already inadequate supply of power. But an entire generation of Gazans have grown up without ever experiencing electricity that is available around the clock. Crisis is nothing new.

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The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe won a significant victory today in its fight to protect the Tribe’s drinking water and ancestral lands from the Dakota Access pipeline.

A federal judge ruled that the federal permits authorizing the pipeline to cross the Missouri River just upstream of the Standing Rock reservation, which were hastily issued by the Trump administration just days after the inauguration, violated the law in certain critical respects.

In a 91-page decision, Judge James Boasberg wrote,

“the Court agrees that [the Corps] did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.”

The Court did not determine whether pipeline operations should be shut off and has requested additional briefing on the subject and a status conference next week.

“This is a major victory for the Tribe and we commend the courts for upholding the law and doing the right thing,” said Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II in a recent statement. “The previous administration painstakingly considered the impacts of this pipeline, and President Trump hastily dismissed these careful environmental considerations in favor of political and personal interests. We applaud the courts for protecting our laws and regulations from undue political influence and will ask the Court to shut down pipeline operations immediately.”

The Tribe’s inspiring and courageous fight has attracted international attention and drawn the support of hundreds of tribes around the nation.

The Tribe is represented by the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice, which filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for issuing a permit for the pipeline construction in violation of several environmental laws.

“This decision marks an important turning point. Until now, the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have been disregarded by the builders of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Trump administration—prompting a well-deserved global outcry,” said Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman. “The federal courts have stepped in where our political systems have failed to protect the rights of Native communities.”

The Court ruled against the Tribe on several other issues, finding that the reversal allowing the pipeline complied with the law in some respects.

The $3.8 billion pipeline project, also known as Bakken Oil Pipeline, extends 1,168 miles across North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois, crossing through communities, farms, tribal land, sensitive natural areas and wildlife habitat. The pipeline would carry up to 570,000 barrels a day of crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Illinois where it links with another pipeline that will transport the oil to terminals and refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.

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Yesterday, a meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concluded in Paris. At the press conference after the meeting, PM said that Israel rejected the ceasefire in southwestern Syria brokered by Russia and the U.S., Israeli news site Haaretz reported.

Taking such a strange stance, Netanyahu pointed out that the truce agreement in the de-escalation zones increase Iran’s presence in Syria. Some sources claim that Tel-Aviv is especially displeased with the fact that the agreement removes the Iranian forces 20 kilometers from the border while Iran’s presence in the country is not excluded.

Moreover, Israel’s Jerusalem Post newspaper quotes some diplomatic sources claiming Iran is up to establish air, land and sea bases in Syria and Lebanon. In its turn, Politico stresses that Israeli politicians are wary of a land corridor in Iran allegedly plans to set up to directly support Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Tehran is one of Israel’s main rivals and the recent hysteria about Iran’s military presence near Israeli borders seems quite logical. However, is it wise of Netanyahu not only to confront Russia and the U.S. but also to display contempt for peace in a neighboring state?

Clearly, it’s not the first time Israel assault on Syria. Provocations on the Syria-Israel border have become quite common, and Tel-Aviv has been numerously criticized for supporting the armed opposition. For instance, on June 19, 2016, the Wall Street Journal wrote that Israel secretly aided the militants to maintain the buffer zone on the Golan Heights.

Recently, more and more experts conclude that the situation in Syria is beginning to remind of a post-war period. This is an achievement of Damascus and its allies which reached a fairly stable truce in many areas. One of the main successes of the diplomatic process became the de-escalation zones in southern Syria, and one can only hope that Israel will confine itself to words and won’t star destabilizing the situation for its goals.

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Introduction

Globalisation affects children’s values, self-images and world outlook through targeted marketing of fairy tales, games and assorted media products. This article analyses these effects and proposes a number of measures to counteract them. Pro-active, grassroots approaches on the part of educators, writers, and artists should help produce specially designed storybooks, animated cartoons, and online games that would introduce the young to a variety of cultures, including aboriginal cultures, without, at the same time ‘Hollywoodising’ them. These approaches should be positive and affirmative rather that fear mongering and alarming.

Particular attention should be given to the difficult task of providing models of behaviour for boys, helping them reach maturity and inner harmony. Educators, above all parents, must critically discuss the values of competitiveness and egoism with their children in spite of the messages broadcast by corporate media.

Empowerment of parents is posited as the main motive force of demands to change educational policies and to circumscribe the scope of advertisement targeting children. Parents must promote sensitivity to their cultural heritage, read bedtime stories, and otherwise be there for their offspring. Children should also be given a chance to hear stories that have shaped their ancestors’ culture for generations. Children should acquire what rightly belongs to them: their cultural heritage.This involvement should produce a generation freed from the belief, actively promoted by business interests, that neoliberal globalisation is natural and inevitable. They should become citizens in spite of the massive globalised efforts to reduce them to consumers. This, in turn, should prompt national governments to resume their duty as protectors of children from undue commercial interests and from the values that underlie such interests. But for this to happen, the change has to come from below.

This paper is not about fairy tales adults tell each other outlining the benefits or dangers of globalisation. It is not about the efforts of promoters of globalisation to spread the gospel to the young, emphasising, as does the World Bank, its inevitability (UN). Nor is it about children who grow up in cross-cultural situations, the offspring of colonial settlers, missionaries, military personnel, and other kinds of expatriates (Bell-Villada et al., 2001).  Rather, it attempts to look at the cultural and educational aspects of globalisation as it engages children by means of fairy tales and related activities and products. Alongside economic, technological, and strategic aspects, cultural and educational aspects should interest and concern adults as well, since parents, teachers, and mentors are,after all, adults.

1. Exposure to Globalised Culture

Fairy tales and bedtime stories play a crucial role in the development of the child: ‘For some fairy tales are a gulp of fresh air, for others it is food for thought or a way to go beyond oneself. Still others look for alternative life paths and find answers in their quest for self-growth; they believe that for every life situation there must be a fairy tale. Fairy tales are fundamental for understanding and deepening relations with the outside world’ (Ben Aarsil, quoted in Perrot, 2011: 235). In the Convention of the Rights of the Child, signed in 1989, the United Nations recognised the right of children to play and to participate freely in cultural and artistic activities appropriate for their age as well as encouraging the production and dissemination of books for children. The UN General Assembly adopted this convention at a time when globalisation was gathering momentum. Indeed, a global approach to children’s rights is appropriate, since comparative research has shown that ‘global capitalism creates common problems for youth in different places and circumstances’ (Cole and Durham, 2008: 4). Increased movements of capital and products in the context of the weakening welfare state have reduced the protection of children from the market and its commercial interests.

Parents, often juggling several jobs just to stay afloat, also pay less attention to their offspring. With the exception of relatively wealthy families, children face a decrease in local inputs from public school and family, with fewer visits to local history museums and fewer bedtime stories. They are thus introduced to global imaginations transmitted via sophisticated marketing campaigns trying to increase consumption and create product loyalties, leading occasionally to real addictions: ‘with their engaging, interactive properties, the new global media are likely to have more profound impact on how children grow and learn, what they value, and ultimately who they become than any medium that has come before’ (Von Feilitzen and Carlsson, 2002: 189).

Muchachitas Como Tu Logo.jpg

Teenage Girls Like You (Source: Wikipedia)

‘Children say they “learn a lot” – information, judgments, beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviours – from the cartoons, action series and other television programmes they watch. Even more important: they learn ways to understand reality’ (Ibid.:20). Globalisation affects what children do, watch, read, and wear. It shapes their self-images, their dreams of the future, and their relations with their peers as well as with grown-ups. For example, the hugely successful US-made Spanish-language TV series Muchachitacomotu (Teenage Girls Like You) is ‘filled with stereotypes of dominant views of femininities, social class, race, and power’ (Medina and Wohlwend, 2014: 41).

Fables, stories, and parables have long been disseminated across cultures. Aesop and the Bible are two examples of the world distribution of certain ideas and values, as well as of the virtues they promote. While biblical stories benefited from the institutional support of three major religions, Aesop’s fables did not, and relied at the outset on the spirit of the Renaissance. These initially foreign narratives came to coexist in local cultures with traditional stories and occasionally produced interesting cases of symbiosis and syncretism. These stories, such as La Fontaines’s and Krylov’s renditions of Aesop’s fables, were told or read by parents and grandparents, and quotes from them became part of everyday speech, but they did not invade children’s lives the way new media have done in the last two decades.

A particularly powerful way globalisation engages children has been termed ‘transmedia’. The term ‘describes franchises, anchored by films, television shows, or video games, with a reach that extends beyond multimedia to toys, books, video games, collectibles, apparel, and all sorts of household goods’ (Ibid.: 44). This is a hegemonic global phenomenon promoted by a handful of media giants active across national borders.

One of the more prominent cases of transmedia is the Disney Princess franchise, which packages twelve Disney productions produced between 1937 (Snow White) and 2013 (Frozen). With annual global retail sales of US$4 billion, this franchise operates an empire of interlocking sales. According to its own data (Disney Consumer Products, 2011):

Disney Princess is the number one girls’ license toy brand in the U.S. among all girls and the number one toy brand for dolls ages 2-5.

The National Retail Federation ranks Disney Princess among the top ten most popular holiday gifts for five years running.

More than 142 million books, 81 million sticker packs, and 16 million Disney Princess magazines.

Top ten in books category for The Princess and the Frog read-along app and top five paid book app for Princess Dress-Up: My Sticker Book app.

The breadth and complexity of operation of the Disney Princess franchise is striking. It submerges preschool girls into a veritable flood of pink paraphernalia visible in every aisle of stores catering to this age and gender group. Its products end up penetrating town and country, classrooms and schoolyards, bedrooms and kitchens, clothing closets and lunch boxes. Children look for popular Disney brand names, and complying parents usually oblige (Goudreau, 2012).

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Pokemon (Source: 9Now)

American corporations no longer hold a monopoly on transmedia. Pokémon, created and launched in Japan in 1996, is, perhaps, the most graphic example of the power of globalisation used by a successful company outside the United States. This is how it describes its own success barely two years later:

Children are inundated by Pokémon today. In the morning they eat Pokémon seaweed on their rice; they exchange Pokémon cards with their friends at school; they play Pokémon Game Boy games after school; and they have Pokémon chocolates for snacks. They eat Pokémon curry for dinner, watch the Pokémon anime (cartoon) in the evening, and when they get into their futons at night, they read Pokémon comic books…We’ve had plenty of fads starting after the war with war games and plenty of franchising crazes with, i.e., chocolates and cards. But there’s never been a boom in Japan like Pokémon before. (quoted in Cole and Durham, 2008: 179)

The scope of immersion into this culture is indeed unprecedented, and the experiences of mass education in authoritarian societies in the twentieth century seem to pale in comparison with the success of globalised transmedia to penetrate even the most private nooks of life.

Nothing is left to chance. To achieve such a degree of penetration, transmedia must be science-based and focused:

We do not often enough realize that commercial marketing is the best financed source of media production in our world, and that it is often at the cutting edge of semiotic innovation…Transmedia franchises place co-branded content, and with it their ideological messages and inducements to consumption, throughout our virtual and spatial environment. (Lemke, 2011: 292)

Media companies have managed to obliterate distinctions between content and advertising, which makes regulation by child protection agencies very difficult. ‘Many cartoons, programmes and computer games are a form of advertising in themselves inasmuch as the vehicles for “merchandising”, i.e. the marketing of toys, dolls, clothing, accessories, etc., to youthful viewers’. This, in turn, creates ‘unprecedented intimacies between children and marketers’. Advertising has been shown to grow at twice the rate of GDP growth. TV advertising aimed at American children grew from $100 million in 1983 to nearly $13 billion by the end of the century. Children reportedly influence over $500 billion in purchases in the United States alone (Von Feilitzen and Carlsson, 2002: 9, 21, 25, 28).

2. Values and Ideologies

The ideological efficacy and consistency of transmedia have been widely recognised. Disney Princess succeeds in broadcasting traditional feminine dreams of a happy family and reinforces deference to a more powerful male figure (Lacroix, 2004). Disney film production volume surpasses that of major countries such as France, even though that country has one of the more articulate cultural policy traditions. While this naturally provokes resentment and criticism (Ariès, 2002), one must remember that it was the French government that facilitated the implantation the first Disneyland in Europe, which now successfully competes for tourists with the Louvre and the Notre Dame cathedral and is among the most profitable of the eleven Disney theme parks straddling the world.

Most fairy tales varied from country to country. Snegurochka and Ilya Muromets would populate the world of Russian children, while Astérix and Obélix accompanied French children. Each hero was part and parcel of the national culture and conveyed a certain set of values and principles. In order to be part of globalised children’s media, some of these nationally rooted stories become unhinged and come to reflect mostly American culture and acquire American paraphernalia. For example, it is not certain that French children recognise the local origin of some of Perrault’s stories, notably Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, and Cinderella, when they encounter them in Disney productions.

One ubiquitous feature of globalised children’s entertainment is the body image of girls, which instills in the tender minds of pre-schoolers the concern about being slim. Barbie dolls and Disney princesses, as a tribute to political correctness, may be African or Asian, they may be dressed as an astronaut or a doctor, but they are invariably slender. This contributes to widespread eating disorders, low self-image, and self-hate, an epidemic that, like financial crises, began in the United States but has now affected the entire capitalist world.

Girls are not the only targets of globalised media for children. Boys face a barrage of images, particularly on television, of men who are foolish, less articulate, and often violent. This appears to be a consequence of the otherwise healthy move away from the hitherto pervasive sexist images of women and ‘casually racist sitcoms’ (Utton, 2014). Boys remain largely stereotyped and polarised between those of a meek underachiever and an intrepid hero. In spite of a greater, albeit recent, awareness of boys’ emotions in our society, in child-targeting media, boys rarely cry or otherwise express their feelings. Moreover, the increasing strength of girls’ performance in the classroom, in conjunction with the strongly mediatised ‘meek and foolish man’,may have an effect on young boys’ motivation to succeed in school.

Values and models transmitted by globalised media also touch on the social. Pokémon is a case in point. It offers not only an alternative world of connectedness, but also promotes the values of accumulation, competition, and consumption, and in this sense mimics capitalism (Cole and Durham, 2008: 20, 179). At the same time, ‘because commercialized children’s culture – mass-produced clothing, backpacks, videos, toys – is widely accessible, it tends to obscure class divisions’ (Ibid.: 83).

Yet this role of transmedia, expressed inter alia in the form of fairy tales, must be understood as an effective means of political socialisation of future voters, and not only in the world’s periphery. ‘Social class divisions are more extreme now than at any time in US history, but…widespread consumption of commercial children’s culture…divert[s] children’s attention from these tectonic economic shifts’ (Ibid.: 96). They feel they all belong to the same ‘community’, that of Pokémon players or of Barbie clubs. Thus influence is made as much by omission as commission when issues of economic inequality and social solidarity are mostly avoided. This is another incarnation of neoconservatism, ‘traditional in its functions but innovative in its form and discourse’ (Bruno, 2000: 212). Globalisation has the potential to create a more balanced and just world, but so far it has reinforced fragmentation ‘between rich and poor, between the powerful and the powerless’ (Von Feilitzen and Carlsson, 2002: 7). At the turn of this century, nine out of ten children lived in poor countries, while ‘globalisation-from-above hampers implementation of children’s information rights expressed in the UN convention’ (Ibid.: 16).

Pokémon promotes a view of ‘society based on so-called “friendly” or “brotherly” competition, which is none other than a society of commercialism and an endless rush for power’ (Bruno, 2000: 193). Messages emitted via transmedia to millions of children not only socialise them into capitalist accumulation, but also legitimise and reinforce what is often called ‘millennial capitalism’, with its emphasis on immediate gratification and consumption rather than on labour and long-term investment. The culture of game acquired in childhood is preserved into adulthood as magic get-rich schemes, lotteries, and gambling, which replace hard work and savings as the dominant ethos of the new capitalism. More and more people dream of winning many times the amount of their annual income, as addiction to gambling, particularly online gambling, appears to grow. For example, in Britain the number of gambling addicts doubled in six years to reach half a million in 2013 (Gallagher, 2013).Games have come to be seen as a salvation from financial ruin. While lotteries and online gambling attract mostly the poor, derivatives, futures, and other products of financial engineering embody this ethos for the rich. This ethos constitutes ‘a counterpoint to the spirit of Enlightenment’ and replaces its emphasis on the rational with magic and fantasy (Perrot, 2011: 12). This manifests itself in the transformation of workers and employees into spectators of a small group of privileged elites controlling both symbolic and financial capital (Ibid.: 16).

Sociologists are not alone in levelling criticism against media penetration. A few years ago, Britain’s Archbishop of Canterbury deplored the ‘intrusion of consumerism into childhood’ and singled out Disney for the ‘corruption and premature sexualisation of children’ (Gledhill, 2002). Reactions can be more forceful and even violent; globalisation provokes religious fundamentalism, ethnic nationalism, and racism: ‘the debate is now between two tendencies: on the one hand, commercial consensus and universal commercialisation, on the other, reaffirmation of identities, which is a reactionary and also inefficient barrier on the path of globalisation’ (Perrot, 2011: 429). It is adults who fuel these conflicts. Children may be severely restricted in their access to global and even local media and may become passive victims of political violence or ostensibly ‘active’ victims as underage soldiers.

A potent ideological message is therefore constantly transmitted, whether the child is in the classroom, bedroom, or ‘chilling’ with friends, benefitting corporations interested in maximising profits through increased sales and market penetration. Business logic has replaced pedagogical and moral desiderata that used to be determined not only by the parents, but also by the church, the state, and, ultimately, society. The triumph of neoliberal economic relations has turned books into merchandise targeting, along with toys and other transmedia,a very vulnerable segment of the population: children. Transnational corporations naturally marginalise or even eliminate altogether local providers of traditional fairy tales, puzzles, and toys, even when their products cost several times more than the more traditional local products.

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Frozen, Disney film (Source: Playbuzz)

At the same time, neither children nor their parents or teachers need be passive consumers. The power of values conveyed by transmedia can sometimes be mitigated by active engagement (Appadurai, 1996). Ubiquitous TV series can be invited into classrooms as objects of study, role playing, and discussion. Would Chinese children accept that dragons are villains, as portrayed by American cartoons, while dragons are revered in their own culture? Would girls in Germany accept the meek self-image of a Disney heroine dreaming of marrying a prince, while a firm and assertive woman has run their country for over a decade?

Such active engagement is possible only in the absence of a sense of cultural inferiority. Otherwise, ‘many poorer nations and cultures are excluded from being represented at all, often within their own borders’,and there occurs ‘assimilation of the more powerful by the less powerful’ (De Block and Buckingham, 2007: 22). For example, cultural inferiority had long existed among Soviet elites, which eventually contributed to the cultural submission of post-Soviet Russia to American models and values. Transnational corporations quickly established themselves in the former Soviet republics, currently occupying a dominant position with respect to children’s books and toys (Будай, 2013).

Cultural inferiority can also be instilled by government campaigns, as happened to Arab Jews when they were brought to settle in the recently established State of Israel and forced to shed and even hate their culture as the culture of ‘the Arab enemy’ (Shohat, 1988). Children of these Arab Jewish immigrants to Israel would shun the Arabic stories and lullabies they had grown up on and were forced to learn Hebrew renditions of Russian stories brought in by Zionist pioneers and made into symbols of the dominant culture. They would also throw away lunches prepared at home because the smell of that food would exclude them as carriers of an inferior culture (Forget Baghdad, testimony of Ella Shohat). Nowadays, home-made food is likely to be exchanged for the more desirable Pokémon cards (Thorne, 2005).

3. The Power of Globalisation

Currently, half-a-dozen children-targeting corporations dominate the distribution of media products on virtually every continent. Widespread media deregulation and ‘concerted efforts to defend free commercial speech based on American constitutional interpretations’ have ‘devastating implications for the viability of local production and the local cultural resources for children’. This also leads to ‘an increasing dominance of the English language worldwide’ (Ibid.: 8, 17). No wonder free trade is often called ‘the gospel of the strong’ (Kotkin, 2014: 389).

These dilemmas and challenges are part of the continuing debate about globalisation. Is ‘Coca-colonisation’, i.e., U.S. cultural hegemony, inevitable and irresistible (Wagnleiter, 1994)?Or can there exist multiple sources of global cultural influence (Cowen, 2002), such as Bollywood or Latin American soap operas? Non-US heroes, such as Astérix, have made inroads into the world market, the latter being available in 77 languages. However, all its commercial documentation is usually produced in English, even for literary production,which is subsidised by the French government (Bruno, 2000: 125, 139). At the same time, the Russian animated cartoon Маша и медведь (Masha and the Bear) was translated into 25 languages, reaching children in over one hundred countries. It became the only Russian-language video viewed by over one billion people on YouTube (Сафонова, 2016)

Important changes in modes of reasoning in children have been noted and attributed to globalisation. Thus the spread of Western, mostly American, stories and cartoons reportedly has promoted instant, almost automatic associations as opposed to the more traditional and slower modes of reasoning developed through exposure to folk fairy tales (Almazov, n.d.). This effect may be truly significant in view of the early, often pre-literacy initiation of children to Internet surfing and unsupervised viewing of cartoons and other entertainment products largely produced by transnational media companies. At the same time, national production of storybooks and TV programmes for children continues to shrink under the influence of powerful transnational media giants. The institutions of childhood, including compulsory schooling and child labour laws, were meant to protect the child from the market. Ironically, as a result, children have become a lucrative target market, not as workers, but as consumers (Zelizer, 1985). In other words, globalisation challenges these protective institutions created less than a century ago.

4. Conclusion

Vigorous public debate is needed to ensure public participation in developing media policies of locally produced cultural programming. While global media help children become consumers, national programming should help educate them as engaged and responsible citizens, teach them that freedom is not limited to choosing among competing brands of dolls. Arguably, a commercial system cannot and would not do this. It has therefore been proposed to require commercial media to exit the field of children’s media. However, this kind of proposal goes against the logic of deregulation and neoliberalism that has permeated ruling circles in most countries. Rather than regulating business and protecting citizens from its excesses, governments have largely become agents of the private sector that actively promote the interests of the proverbial one percent. This is detrimental not only to adults, but also to children, who have even less wherewithal to resist the power of globalised corporations.

Therefore pro-active, grassroots approaches on the part of educators, writers, and artists appear so far more probable than government intervention (Frère and Jacquemain, 2013). Specially designed storybooks, animated cartoons, and online games should introduce the young to a variety of cultures, including aboriginal cultures, from those of China and Japan to those of Iran and Turkey, from Russia and the rest of Europe to Africa and the Americas, without, at the same time ‘Hollywoodising’ them. Particular attention should be given to the difficult task of providing models of behaviour for boys, helping them reach maturity and inner harmony. Educators, above all parents, must critically discuss the values of competitiveness and egoism with their children in spite of the messages broadcast by corporate media. A pleasant and natural way to do so is to give children a chance to hear stories that have shaped their ancestors’ culture for generations.

For this to happen, parents’ involvement is both crucial and critical. It is easy and tempting to plug the toddler onto interactive media and leave globalised media giants to shape the child. Parents must promote sensitivity to their cultural heritage, read bedtimes tories, and otherwise be there for their offspring. Children should acquire what rightly belongs to them: their cultural heritage.This is not a matter of nostalgia but, rather, of preservation of cultural diversity and education of responsible citizens. This involvement should produce a generation freed from the belief, actively promoted by business interests, that neoliberal globalisation is natural and inevitable. They should become citizens in spite of the massive globalised efforts to reduce them to consumers. This, in turn, should prompt national governments to resume their duty as protectors of children from undue commercial interests and from the values that underlie such interests. But for this to happen,the change has to come from below.

The ball is squarely in the parents’ court. They can demand changes in educational policies and limitations on the power of advertisement targeting children. They can also be more selective in shopping for and with their children. It is equally important to offer their offspring access to alternative educational programmes independent of commercial interests and promote values of inclusiveness and interchange. Some of these programmes are sponsored by UNESCO, thus ensuring both quality and scope (Stepanyants, n.d.).[1]

Prof. Yakov M. Rabkin is professor of contemporary history at the University of Montreal; his recent book is What is Modern Israel? (Pluto/University of Chicago Press, 2016), also available in French, Japanese, and Russian.  

Note

[1] The author thanks Miriam Rabkin for her suggestions and editing of the initial draft.

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It goes without saying that it’s mainly due to the unprecedented courage of certain journalists that go above and beyond to report the truth, we know that that there’s a whole list of Western countries that continue arming such radical terrorist groups as Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS.

On June 15, the UN report would release a report that would state that Israeli authorities are routinely financing and supplying Islamic radical militants fighting against the legitimate government of Syria and its armed forces in the Golan Heights. The report that was penned by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) summarizes the period from March 2 to May 16, noting there’s a number of cases Israel would assist renegade armed groups. In total, there’s been sixteen such instances recorded by UNDOF.

But it goes much further that this. As it’s been reported there’s been at least 350 diplomatic Silk Way Airlines flights transporting weapons to various war zones across the world over the last 3 years. This Azerbaijani state-run company has been smuggling weapons to Syria under the pretext of shipping diplomatic pouches.

The files that were leaked to the members of the press include correspondence between the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Azerbaijan, with attached documents for weapons deals and diplomatic clearance for overflight and/or landing in Bulgaria and a great many countries, including US, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Turkey.

And there’s no need to be surprised over that since it’s been established a long while ago that the most intense weapons trafficking to radical Islamists has been run by Bulgaria. Moreover, a total of fifteen different intelligence agencies, including special services of the USA, Great Britain, France and the countries of the Persian Gulf have joined their efforts in organizing the so-called “Bulgarian Stream”. They’ve been using diplomatic flights run by American companies to supply pro-US forces on the ground with non-NATO weapons, buying them in Bulgaria and then delivering the crates to Saudi Arabia for them to be smuggled to Syria.

In the west of Mosul, more than 500 such crates with various ammunitions delivered from Saudi Arabia were discovered a while ago. It goes without saying that they were used by ISIS to continue their reign of terror. Pictures of those crates were initially published on Twitter by Iraqi Day.

At the same time, one can recall that Iraq has already tried to accuse Saudi Arabia of supporting radical Islamists last year, when Iraq’s permanent representative to the UN, Mohamed Ali Alhakim, said that ISIS was receiving funds from Riyadh that were sent under the guise of charity for the children of the city of Fallujah. According to this official figure, Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, sent a letter to Riyadh with a request to clarify why the Saudi authorities would not stop sponsoring terrorism, thus abiding numerous resolutions of the Security Council.

Yet another channel of arms trafficking has recently been exposed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kuwait. According to this information, suppliers purchased weapons and ammunition for artillery systems in Ukraine and supplied them to ISIS through Turkey. Saudi Arabia has also been using the pretty same route to supply radical militants with US-produced TOW systems. As for MANPADS, jihadists have been receiving those from Libya, those are apparently being stolen from the warehouses built back in Gaddafi years.

The American Conservative notes that the policy of arming military groups committed to overthrowing the government of President Bashar al-Assad began in September 2011, when President Barack Obama was pressed by his Sunni allies—Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar—to supply heavy weapons to Syria.

Additionally, it’s been pointed out that CIA involvement in the arming of anti-Assad forces began with arranging for the shipment of weapons from the stocks of the Gaddafi regime that had been stored in Benghazi. CIA-controlled firms would ship the weapons from the military port of Benghazi to two small ports in Syria using former US military personnel to manage the logistics. The funding for the program came mainly from the Saudis.

It would then state that:

A declassified October 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report revealed that the shipment in late August 2012 had included 500 sniper rifles, 100 RPG (rocket propelled grenade launchers) along with 300 RPG rounds and 400 howitzers. Each arms shipment encompassed as many as ten shipping containers, it reported, each of which held about 48,000 pounds of cargo. That suggests a total payload of up to 250 tons of weapons per shipment. Even if the CIA had organized only one shipment per month, the arms shipments would have totaled 2,750 tons of arms bound ultimately for Syria from October 2011 through August 2012. More likely it was a multiple of that figure.

The single largest Saudi arms purchase was from the United States. In December 2013, would approve the sale of 15,000 TOW systems to Riyadh, the total worth of weapons sold back then amounted to 1 billion dollars. The TOW missiles began to arrive in Syria in 2014 and soon had a major impact on the situation on the ground.

It’s no secret that the flood of weapons into Syria, along with the entry of 20,000 foreign fighters, have largely defined the nature of the conflict. By helping its Sunni allies provide weapons to al-Nusra Front and its allies and by funneling into the war zone sophisticated weapon, Washington can be describe as the actor responsible for the spread of radical Islamists across the Syrian territory.

Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.” 

Featured image from New Eastern Outlook

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US War in Syria Far From Over

July 17th, 2017 by Stephen Lendman

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at [email protected].

All post-9/11 US wars of aggression continue directly or indirectly through proxies – endless unresolved conflicts, trillions of dollars spent for imperial madness, the immense human cost of no consequence.

Since Russia intervened in Syria at Assad’s request, the tide of battle turned in favor of government and allied forces, smashing US-supported terrorists, liberating many parts of the country.

Yet conflict continues raging. Political analyst Jamal Wakeem believes long-range US rocket launchers deployed to al-Tanf in southern Syria may be used against government and allied forces, a convenient pretext used as unjustifiable justification.

Regime change remains Washington’s objective, said Wakeem. It wants control over Syria, first by gaining it in northern and southern parts of the country.

“(T)he Americans are trying to block any possibility of a geographical link between Baghdad and Damascus…to marginalize Iran and (Hezbollah)…in preparation for the future strike against the Syrian Army and also against its allies,” Wakeem explained, adding:

“I believe we will see a further escalation of the situation. The Americans know very well that the stability of the regime relies mainly on the stability of the capital, Damascus” – something it wants changed.

Ceasefire in southern Syria was short-lived, discussed in a previous article. On Sunday, Netanyahu said he opposes the Russian/US brokered deal, claiming it “perpetuat(es)” Iranian and Hezbollah presence in the country near Israel’s border.

Tel Aviv and Washington want regime change, pro-Western puppet rule replacing Assad, Syrian sovereignty eliminated, Iran isolated.

US war plans were long ago prepared against the Islamic Republic, likely just a matter of time until they’re implemented.

Netanyahu lied saying

“Israel is aware of Iran’s expansionist goals in Syria.”

None exist – not now, earlier or likely planned.

Tehran wants regional stability, peace, not war, and the Middle East free from the threat of nuclear weapons along with America’s aggressive presence.

Separately, the Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS) web site reported “tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped inside (the) ISIS controlled” city.

US-supported terrorists posing “Syrian Democratic Forces and the” US-led coalition ignore their safety and welfare.

Residential areas are being indiscriminately terror-bombed, the same US-led aggression inflicted on Mosul.

RBSS estimates around 70,000 defenseless civilians trapped in the city. Severe shortages of food, water and medical aid created a “humanitarian disaster…”

When US-led aggression began weeks earlier, most medical professionals fled the city with other civilians, RBSS explained.

“Several private hospitals are now out of service due to the heavy shelling,” the group said. “(O)nly one operating hospital remain(s) inside Raqqa city, but it is not sufficient to provide adequate health services.”

“People living in neighborhoods near the front lines have been obligated by ISIS militants to abandon their houses and move towards the city center so they can be used as human shields. ISIS wishes to prevent as many civilians as possible from fleeing the city…”

Satellite images show vast destruction and “severe damage to houses, properties and infrastructure.”

The battle for control of Raqqa repeats US-led devastation inflicted on Mosul – on a somewhat smaller scale, but just as harmful to city residents, victims of US imperial viciousness.

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at [email protected].

My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

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Britain’s Brexit Saga: A Political Soap Opera

July 17th, 2017 by Graham Vanbergen

The Brexit saga is now becoming something of a soap opera. It is clear that the infighting for top spot in the Tory camp has not settled weeks after Theresa May’s disastrous election gamble. And not only is this particular Game of Thrones arena brutal, it’s also pretty ugly and extremely dangerous for UK plc too.

Ding-ding: Round One – infighting

Top former civil servants have lined up to warn Theresa May that squabbling cabinet ministers with unrealistic expectations and an overburdened administration risk chaos in Brexit negotiations.

The Chancellor, Philip Hammond is now in the ring punching back at critics as infighting rivals attempt to sabotage his Brexit plans. Scotland’s Brexit minister has weighed in with the constitutional crisis that the Repeal Bill will bring and a whole host of reports emerge that Brexit chaos will bring food shortages, drug supply problems, a shortage of one million chefs by 2029 and no-one will be overseeing Britain’s nuclear energy facilities.

Tim Shipman – Political Editor of the Sunday Times, tweeted (amongst other things) that allies of David Davis are claiming that Philip May wants his wife, Theresa to stand down. Friends of May say this is a ‘black ops’ campaign. Frankly, they should grow up. The immediate future of 65 million people and the generations who will have to suffer this historical debacle is at stake, not the political fortunes of individuals, of whom none had the foresight to see that Brexit would ever happen in the first place.

Summer Holidays

It is almost summer recess for the politicians – time to let their hair down, go on holiday, get photographed displaying their overburdened cardiovascular systems with beer bellies cliff hanging multi-coloured Speedos and enjoying the fruits of their labour (no pun intended).

And yet, Brexit has presented itself as the biggest peacetime challenge that the UK has ever faced, according to business leaders, political commentators, the media and many politicians themselves – but by the time they return, one quarter of the time to negotiate the terms and conditions of our exit from the European Union will have vaporised. You would think, in these most uncertain and extraordinary of times, some would be in the office working for Britain’s national interest.

By September, reports of rising inflation and lost purchasing power in the average household will be rife. The credit squeeze that is already being quietly implemented by the banks, in expectation of a bad EU deal will be affecting the economy.

One thing though will be absolutely clear. The electorate will be thoroughly fed up with the political back-stabbing and juvenile media frenzy whilst these non-negotiations continue to perplex business leaders and our neighbours in the EU27.

There will be nothing else in the news other than the fallout from Brexit as the deadline continues to draw ever closer. The things that matter that is the crisis of every day life for millions in Britain, such as Theresa May’s now forgotten ‘just about managing’ does not go away though. Day-to-day issues such as health, education, policing and the wider economy will be sidelined.

Ding-ding: Round two, the contenders step up the fight

Strutting around the ring is another separate but connected punch-up in waiting. Labour, under Corbyn has been emboldened by its unexpected election success. Will Labour vote down the Repeal Bill in a bid to further destabilise the government whilst fighting off Blairites and centrists in its own ranks. I suspect, that Labour will keep the lid on its own problems and keep punching away at Theresa May, knowing the electorate will blame her and the Tories for the mess this is turning out to be. Corbyn will just keep jabbing as he has so successfully been doing.

In the meantime, business lobbyists haven’t got their teeth into the Brexit negotiations yet, nor have the charities, special interest or citizen rights groups – mainly because they have no idea what deal the government is playing for, but then, nor does the government itself. But the gloves strings are being tightened, mouth-guards at the ready.

As the summer recess comes to an end the political planning and plotting will take shape.

From the FT (Paywall) Conservatives Fear descent into chaotic leadership battle: 

“Some speculate Mr Davis might be given a “coronation” as the leadership candidate best placed to deliver Brexit, but few Tory MPs believe that a transfer of power would be anything other than brutal and protracted. “There won’t be a coronation while Andrea Leadsom is alive,” sighs one Conservative MP, referring to the ambitious leader of the Commons who made a short-lived bid for the Conservative leadership against Mrs May last year.

Meanwhile, Tory MPs recount how other potential contenders are suddenly clearing their diaries to spend more time with colleagues. “[Chancellor] Philip Hammond had drinks the other night in his office,” says one Tory MP. “It’s not like him.”

Some MPs argue Mr Hammond might act as a stopgap leader — perhaps serving for two years to deliver Brexit before standing aside — but the idea of the Conservatives fielding three prime ministers in a single parliament is seen as bizarre by many. “What would be the point of Philip Hammond?” says one Tory MP. “It’s like deciding you want to change your Volvo and you come back from the garage with…another Volvo.”

All this confirms that not a single Conservative politician stands head above shoulders to face a defiant European Union whose current aims are obviously to stem any idea of further exits from the club. This is confirmed by recent betting odds – the line-up is depressing.

Public sentiment will decline even further as we draw closer to a Christmas defined by a lack of shoppers and yet more high street chains going bust. What is left of trust in the political process, already at an all time low, will evaporate. Anger will replace frustration as the soap opera of political infighting takes centre stage and the peoples lot is sidelined further.

I’ve said for some time now that the reason why many of the electorate voted for Brexit, was simply that they felt there was no other choice. They were fed up with a system that had effectively left them behind for decades whilst they saw the few being made rich beyond their wildest dreams. Exactly the same happened when Theresa May expected a huge majority – and lost. Many voters simply didn’t want what they has been offered before – lies.

In the meantime, the mudslinging has already started, demonstrating that this is going to be one long round of slugging it out toe-to-toe.

Audacious briefings will become more frequent and as each day passes, Theresa May continues to see her role as PM eroded as cabinet ministers exploit the power void by publicly announcing their own agenda. One Conservative minster quoted in the FT recently said “there is no plan, no strategy, no direction.”

The reasons why Theresa May has a job right now is three fold. First, the Tory grandees who make the decisions right now, know that any alternatives to take May’s place are worse. The second, is that another leadership contest would simply bring another fight over Europe and third, who would want the role of PM with no mandate whilst inheriting a party in disintegration mode.

Round three – uppercuts

If May survives the summer recess, the Conservative party conference in Manchester will kick off with some new tests. Boris Johnson and Andre Leadsom have both made blatant attempts to show their punching power to the electorate already, just wait until they have a place to speak their minds.

Former chancellor George Osborne, who is clearly using his new role as editor of the Evening Standard to punch Mrs May from underneath, is, at the same time goading David Davis to go for the top job. Osborne has no interest in the welfare of the Conservative party or the country. He will continue to use his ‘insider’ influence to wear down an already embattled leader.

But this is nothing in comparison to what fight the Brexit negotiations will bring – and we will all have to endure it. For months on end.

The knockout round?

October 20th is the date to have concluded the so-called ‘divorce settlement’. “It would be nice to know what this is going to look like” – confided a government insider. The two leaders of the EU – Merkel (assuming she gets re-elected in September) and French president Emmanuel Macron will want answers.

Philip Hammond is pushing for a transition term during which time Britain would retain quite close ties to the EU – or a soft Brexit first. In the meantime, each piece of legislation being proposed to the House of Commons will be endlessly fought over as Theresa May has no real majority to lean on.

The breakdown in cabinet discipline is already prevalent, what is to come, will be worse. And there is already a hint that negotiations might fail. A “good deal or no deal.”

Britain has already been warned of the consequences. Michel Barnier said a chaotic exit would lead to “total uncertainty” for citizens, breakdowns in trade links for consumers and chaos for businesses amongst other catastrophes awaiting us in this uncertainty.

And let’s not forget what the first round of negotiations are about. Reaching a settlement on the U.K.’s financial obligations to the EU is up first – already a political battleground, and then on to resolving the immediate issues related to the divorce, including border issues, such as with Ireland and Gibraltar! You can imagine the headlines right now.

And then, all of a sudden, out comes the news that sentiment towards a second EU referendum is gaining credibility. From Political Betting:

“On the one hand public opinion is still against the concept of another vote on Brexit. However, the gap is now 7 points as opposed to 19 in December. The trend is clear – support for another vote is growing.”

All in all, with ‘no plan, no strategy and no direction’ – this is not going to end well and anything could happen.

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I view Saudi Arabia as a dysfunctional manifestation of Islam. In the same way, I view Israel as a dysfunctional manifestation of Judaism. This is not to mean, I hasten to say, that either Judaism or Islam is inherently at odds with the social, cultural or political lives of its adherents or with universal moral values.

The point I am making specifically refers to political manifestations of certain “impulses”, if you will, in a religion – for example, the “messianic impulse” in Judaism that could lead to the claim of inalienable right to Jewish self-determination or the Islamic historic tradition of spreading the faith “by the sword” that could lead to political repression.

I have the utmost respect for all three monotheistic religions and the civilizations they created in functional “manifestations” that enriched and improved the lives of the adherents of these religions – as they still do in many ways and many different communities around the world.

Both Christians and Muslims regard their faiths as traditions that evolved from Judaism. This is accepted and well known when it comes to Christianity. The commonly-heard phrase “Judeo-Christian tradition” links the two religions as does the Bible; the Catholic concept of “we are all chosen people” – chosen by God as “redeemed” through the love of Jesus Christ – is a direct rejoinder to the ancient Hebrew myth that regards Israelite tribes as “the” chosen or “in covenant with God”.

Not as apparent to many people is the fact that Islam too builds on that same ancient tradition and is derived from it. Thus, for example, Muslims are mystified with the “dispute” around Haram al Sharif compound in Jerusalem where Al-Aqsa Mosque is housed.

As Firas Al-Khateeb points out, Muslims regard the “Temple Mount” site in Haram al-Sharif as one of the foundations of their own tradition.

For Muslims, Islam was not a new religion in the 600s when Prophet Muhammad began preaching in Makkah. Instead, it is seen as a continuation and capstone of the traditions of earlier prophets that are revered by all three monotheistic faiths. The message of Muhammad only continues and perfects the messages of Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), and ‘Isa, which had been corrupted over time. Thus, for Muslims, the Temple of Solomon that was built [on] Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in ancient times was in fact part of their own religious history.

What ignited Jewish Zionist interest in Temple Mount after 1967 is the strange alliance between fundamentalist Jews and evangelist Christians.

Israel-2013(2)-Aerial-Jerusalem-Temple Mount-Temple Mount (south exposure).jpg

Southern aerial view of the Temple Mount, Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem (Source: Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia)

I bring all this up about religion and Palestine (aka the Holy Land), because our understanding of what is going on there is itself a battlefield, one that has confused us all and prevented us from describing the problem of Israel in Palestine accurately. But the first step in solving any problem is defining it accurately.

Does the problem of Israel in Palestine reside in the ideology of political Zionism as divorced from religious Zionism as divorced from Judaism, an ancient tradition whose adherents, for various historic and cultural reasons, were not easily assimilated into other societies until late in the modern era? Or is the problem rooted in 19th-century nationalist movements and settler-colonialism divorced from the particularity of the colonizers as Jews? Or does the problem lie in the uncivilized nature, religion and culture of the native Palestinian Arab?

Since 1948, the struggle for justice in Palestine has been controlled by outright lies and “narratives” meant to put a good face on Judaism and “Jewish identity”, rather than by international law meant to protect the weak against forceful conquest.

The most enduring question Palestinians continue to ask is: “How can it be possible that ‘the world’ is so blind to the justice of our cause?” By “justice of our cause”, they mean justice that moves to redress ethnic cleansing, Apartheid and continuing dispossession and subjugation. By “the world”, they mean primarily Western powers, Christian Zionists and Jews worldwide, most of whom have long supported Israel.

The most difficult answer to tackle is the one related to Jews. One can read a book like Alison Weir’s Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the United States Was Used to Create Israel and quickly understand how US support enabled the creation of Israel and why.

History books like Jonathan Schneer’s The Balfour Declaration or Rashid Khalidi’s The Iron Cage will give one the facts about British involvement in Palestine, but the result of my experience with books on Zionism is confusion rather than clarity.

I am certainly far from understanding exactly how “Zionism is Jewish messianism in process of realizing itself through this wordly-means”, as Arthur Hertzberg defines it (or a strand of it) in the introduction of The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader.

Of the millions of Jews in Israel and worldwide who approve of what has happened to Palestine or disapprove of it but justify it as “necessary for the redemption of the Jews” many would flunk a test with the simple question, “What is a Zionist?”

But, whether from the teachings in their synagogues or their home upbringing as secular Jews, or in Israeli schools or summer camps or “birthright” trips to Israel, etc., many have somehow imbibed Theodor Herzl’s interpretation of the “post exilic history” of the Jews as an insoluble struggle with anti-Semitism, and the Jewish state as the solution to that evil.

What the average Palestinian understands viscerally is the fact that millions of Jews (regardless of their political or religious or nationalist ideology or “identity”) have displaced (and replaced) non-Jewish Palestinian Arabs in their own homeland, claiming it as their own. Millions of Jews worldwide support – no, fiercely demand – the existence of the Jewish state and Jewish supremacy in Palestine, the “Holy Land”.

And yet, there is obfuscation everywhere. The term “Israeli” is used in the mainstream media and even by activists to refer to Israeli Jews — this is because the 20.8 % of the Israeli population that is Palestinian Arab (Muslim and Christian) does not count and there is no such thing as an “Israeli” nationality. The word “Jewish” is never used as a qualifier of the word “settlements” in mainstream media, even though, in fact, they are built exclusively for Jews. Again, “Israeli” is preferred.

Until recently, one couldn’t even say “Jewish State” without first hastening to put it in quotes – i.e., to indicate that Israel has little to do with Jews or with Judaism and everything to do with Zionism, for fear that the designation would implicate “all” Jews.

This is not to say that Zionism, especially in its interpretation as a settler-colonial project, does not accurately describe the driving historical forces and buried Palestinian tragedies that have shaped Israel, but only to say that political correctness is often used, intentionally or unintentionally, to obscure the particularity of the Palestinian Arab – Jewish dynamic that dominates the issue and is always the elephant in the room.

Critics of Israel (Jews and non-Jews) have worked hard to point out the dangers of conflating Zionism with Judaism, mostly in defense of Judaism and “Jewish values”, thus unintentionally derailing the focus from defense of Palestinian rights. But I think it is now time to move this struggle among Jews themselves forward in order to achieve a critical mass of Jewish solidarity with Palestinians, without which, I am afraid, Palestinians are doomed.

As Peter Cohen puts it:

 Zionism is Jewish nationalism and uses Jewish historical, cultural and religious symbols to political ends. Whether or not it is inevitable and implicit in Judaism, it certainly presents itself as such. It may not be so different with Wahabbists and Right-wing Christian supremacists: they’ve hijacked their religions to some degree and out-shouted more tolerant and less aggressively political versions of those religions (this is not an equation, just a parallel). It’s up to Jews to repudiate this aggressive political nationalist variant of Jewish identity linked to settler colonialism, separation and supremacy, and embrace other, more tolerant and inclusive visions.

There is a comparison to be drawn for sure, and moving the conversation/debate forward in this direction can only be helpful to Palestinian Arabs, Muslim and Christian, whose unfortunate destiny is tied to a hijacked “Holy Land”.

Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.

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The end of May marked the death of a man who had been at the center of global affairs for decades. Zbigniew Brzezinski, born in Warsaw in the 1920s, was one of the most influential foreign policy advisers in the US, who also played a pivotal role in the drive towards further global integration.

Brzezinski earned his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1953, and subsequently became a professor at that university, before moving on teach at Columbia University. From 1966 to 1968, he was a member of the Policy Planning Council at the Department of State, and in 1968, he served as chairman of the Humphrey Foreign Policy Task Force for Hubert Humphrey’s presidential campaign.

Brzezinski: The Internationalist

From 1973 to 1976, Brzezinski served as the Director of the newly formed Trilateral Commission, an internationalist organization he himself helped to create. In a 1989 interview, Brzezinski revealed his role in founding the Trilateral Commission along with the elitist American banker, David Rockefeller, before bragging how this organization was the first to propose the idea of holding a G7 (was G8 for a period) summit (emphasis added):

“Not only did I run it [the Trilateral Commission]I helped to found it and organize it with David Rockefeller. So, if any of our viewers are conspiracy minded, here is one of the conspirators… It is a North American, Western European, Japanese organization to promote closer contacts between these three regions of the world. And the commission is composed of private citizens, not government officials, who are leaders in the different sectors of society We’re incidentally the ones who proposed, originally, the holding of the annual summit meeting of the industrial democracies.

Throughout their lives, Brzezinski and Rockefeller worked towards the goal of creating an integrated global system. In David Rockefeller’s book ‘Memoirs,’ he admits that his family has been part of a “secret cabal” working towards building a “one world” system (emphasis added):

“Some even believe we (the Rockefeller family) are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as ‘internationalists’ and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structureone world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it.”  

In addition to playing an instrumental role in founding the Trilateral Commission, Brzezinski was also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and a frequent attendee at the elitist Bilderberg conference, illustrating his position as a high-ranking individual deeply entrenched in the parallel governmental system.

Giving the Soviets their Vietnam War and Encouraging Pol Pot

Brzezinski’s most notable role in public life was when he served as Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor (NSA) from 1977 to 1981. Famously, in this role, Brzezinski was one of the main intellectual architects who advocated arming the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, a scheme that he hoped would increase the probability that the Soviet Union would intervene. In an interview with Le Nouvel Observateur in 1998, Brzezinski recalled this operation (with the translation from French provided by William Blum and David N. Gibbs):

Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs that the American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahideen in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet intervention. In this period, you were the national security advisor to President Carter. You therefore played a key role in this affair. Is this correct?

Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahideen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. But the reality, closely guarded until now, is completely otherwise: indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into the war and looked for a way to provoke it?

B: It wasn’t quite like that. We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against secret US involvement in Afghanistan, nobody believed them. However, there was an element of truth in this. You don’t regret any of this today?

B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, essentially: “We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war.” Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war that was unsustainable for the regime, a conflict that bought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

Q: And neither do you regret having supported Islamic fundamentalism, which has given arms and advice to future terrorists?

B: What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

Also in his role as NSA, Brzezinski and the Carter administration encouraged the Chinese to continue supporting the genocidal Pol Pot in Cambodia. After Vietnam launched a full-scale invasion of Cambodia at the end of 1978, seizing power by early 1979, the US pressed China to continue assisting the Khmer Rouge in their fight against the occupying Vietnamese forces, with Brzezinski admitting that he “encouraged the Chinese to support Pol Pot.”

Obama: Brzezinski an “Outstanding Friend”

In more modern times, Brzezinski remained a pivotal figure in the US, working in a plethora of think tanks and advising numerous mainline political figures. One such figure was the former US President, Barack Obama, who he was very close to. In a March 2008 speech, Obama revealed how intimate his relationship was with Brzezinski, calling him an “outstanding friend:”

“To Dr. Brzezinski; I can’t say enough about his contribution to our country. Here’s somebody who helped to shape Camp David, and bring about a lasting peace between Israel and some of its neighbours. Somebody who has over decades trained some of the most prominent foreign policy specialists, not only in the democratic party, but has trained a number who ended up in the republican party as well… He has proven to be an outstanding friend, and somebody who I have learned an immense amount from. And for him to support me in this campaign, and then come out to here in Ohio, is a testimony to his generosity.”

NATO to be the Global Security Nexus Point?

An Agenda For NATO: Toward a Global Security Web unprecedented risks to global security,” with “extremist religious and political movements” among these risks, movements that he himself helped to empower through advocating giving the Mujahideen US aid (emphasis added):

The basic challenge that NATO now confronts is that there are historically unprecedented risks to global security… The paradox of our time is that the world, increasingly connected and economically interdependent for the first time in its entire history, is experiencing intensifying popular unrest made all the more menacing by the growing accessibility of weapons of mass destruction — not just to states but also, potentially, to extremist religious and political movements. Yet there is no effective global security mechanism for coping with the growing threat of violent political chaos stemming from humanity’s recent political awakening.

Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). hub of a globe-spanning web of various regional cooperative-security undertakings” (emphasis added):

“To remain historically relevant, NATO cannot — as some have urged — simply expand itself into a global alliance or transform itself into a global alliance of democracies… A global NATO would dilute the centrality of the U.S.-European connection, and none of the rising powers would be likely to accept membership in a globally expanded NATO.

NATO, however, has the experience, the institutions, and the means to eventually become the hub of a globe-spanning web of various regional cooperative-security undertakingsamong states with the growing power to act. The resulting security web would fill a need that the United Nations by itself cannot meet but from which the UN system would actually benefit. In pursuing that strategic mission, NATO would not only be preserving transatlantic political unity; it would also be responding to the twenty-first century’s novel and increasingly urgent security agenda.”

Although Brzezinski’s vision seems far from probable at the present time, it will be interesting to see the path the world takes in the years and decades to come.

Steven MacMillan is an independent writer, researcher, geopolitical analyst and editor of  The Analyst Report, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Featured image from New Eastern Outlook

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The most eagerly anticipated meeting of the year, that between Putin and Trump, lasted far more than the scheduled 20 minutes, extending past two hours. This is not too much of a surprise given the points of friction that needed to be discussed, the many outstanding issues in international relations, and the fact that this was the first official meeting between the two world leaders. The results achieved exceeded initial ambitions, and the personal chemistry between Putin and Trump seems to have been sufficient to reach an important agreement in Syria as well as to conduct discussions surrounding cyber security. Trump even asked Putin about the alleged Russian hacking in the US presidential election as a way of appeasing detractors back home.

The statements of both presidents following their meeting underlined their positive intentions. Putin called Trump a very different person from the one portrayed in the media, mentioning that he was reflective and very attentive to details. Trump, for his part, praised the meeting with Putin, stating the importance of dialogue between nuclear-armed superpowers.

The most important agreement concerned a ceasefire in southern Syria along the border with Israel and Jordan. This is a very active area of fighting, and so the ceasefire obviates the possibility of dangerous confrontations between the United States and Russia, as well as between Syria and Israel, which could escalate out of control as seen when the US Air Force shot down a Syrian Su-22 jet as well an Iranian drone. Israel, from its position in the occupied Golan Heights, has repeatedly struck the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), in a desperate effort to halt its gains against al Qaeda and Daesh terrorists.

In their first meeting, within less than two hours, Putin and Trump came to an agreement on potentially the most volatile situation in the region, saving hundreds of civilian lives in the process. The agreement on Syria now has to run the gauntlet of the deep state and all the other interests arrayed against Trump. Just four days following a similar agreement reached in 2016 between Obama and Putin, everything was upended by the US Air Force bombing and killing nearly a hundred soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army in Deir ez-Zor, shredding the ceasefire agreement that had just been reached.

Trump is dealing with the same occult forces that sabotaged Obama’s ceasefire agreement. It is impossible to know how much strategic support the US deep state has for the ceasefire decision. Ever since the SAA reached the Iraqi border north of al-Tanf, the space available for the US and her allies to maneuver has been dramatically diminished. With al-Tanf isolated, Washington’s ceasefire does not change or shift the already heavily altered balance of power in that area of Syria. For all these reasons, the ceasefire does not appear to be a concession by either party but merely a commonsense move to lessen the possibility of a direct confrontation between super-powers.

The military apparatus seems to be focused on the situation in northern Syria, with Raqqa and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) being the central pivot for the US to reach Deir ez-Zor and its associated oilfields. The US State Department, as well as the US military wing involved in Syria, hope to balkanize Syria, dismembering it in different regions and putting Raqqa under the control of a puppet authority in Damascus. However, such American hopes of imposing a Brennan-style governorate as in Iraq is forlorn, as Damascus is the only authority recognized on Syrian territory, and once Raqqa is filled with returning Syrian citizens, such American plans will fall apart.

Moreover, the Baghdad authorities have already made clear on two occasions how reluctant they are to support Americans in their military operations. In the case of Mosul, they reiterated that the US deployment and involvement be minimal, while the Iraqi authorities have already announced that they want to place under their full control their border with Syria, in effect hobbling Washington’s plan to leave chaos and instability along the borders of the two countries. The US deep state finds in chaos the ideal way to channel conflict and foment instability. One of the most important objectives of the Syrian and Iraqi armies is therefore to isolate the borders and control the flow of human traffic from one country to the other, nixing in the process what has hitherto been a strategic advantage for Daesh and other terrorist organizations, where they have been free to cross borders with weapons and whatever else they please.

Trump and all the actors involved in this negotiation are finally able to make an agreement between Moscow and Washington stand. Unlike with previous agreements, the US in Syria is now in a worse situation than it was 12 months ago, having failed to achieve many of its strategic objectives. Cooperation with Turkey in northern Syria was wrecked following the liberation of Aleppo and the clear US support for the Kurds (SDF). Similarly, areas of deconfliction in Syria agreed to in Astana (between Iran, Russia and Turkey) have stopped the gains of terrorists in many active areas of the conflict, leading to zero chances of occupying more towns. Such efforts have been important bargaining chips during the various peace negotiations.

The crux of this strategy seems to be a focus on the only possible solution that meets the interests of the deep state’s military wing, related to the original plan to dismantle Syria once the removal of Assad failed. From a certain point of view, it may make sense to focus on the situation in the north of the country in Raqqa, the only area where the US still has some influence. This may be the contorted vision drawn up by contending factions of American deep state. Certainly from the point of view of Moscow, the strategy in Syria is a mix of diplomatic solutions, seeking to reach multiple ceasefire agreements with major players like Turkey and the United States, but never setting aside the war effort carried out by Russia, Iran and Syria.

The agreement between Putin and Trump will firstly benefit Syrian civilians as well as widening the opportunity for the SAA to liberate more towns and villages from the grip of terrorism. It is a long-awaited agreement and solution that is now met by the predominant wing of the US deep state. In the event of a failure of the agreement, Trump will be obligated to point out to the world the subversion of the Washington establishment and its deep state, which works to frustrate his agenda and replace it with its own terrible policies.

Moscow’s confidence in deriving concrete benefits from this deal increases hour by hour, thanks to the truce continuing to hold. From the Russian point of view, any military sabotage would once again lay American intentions bare, regardless of Trump’s subsequent moves. However, one thing that is certain is that in the case of sabotage, Trump will be faced with having to make a definitive choice. Either he will surrender to the deep state, returning the situation back to a state of hyper-conflict with a nuclear superpower; or he will confront and overcome the deep state, thereby enabling him to implement his electoral promises.

Federico Pieraccini is an independent freelance writer specialized in international affairs, conflicts, politics and strategies.

Featured image from Strategic Culture Foundation

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How Russia-gate Met the Magnitsky Myth

July 17th, 2017 by Robert Parry

Near the center of the current furor over Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 is a documentary that almost no one in the West has been allowed to see, a film that flips the script on the story of the late Sergei Magnitsky and his employer, hedge-fund operator William Browder.

The Russian lawyer, Natalie Veselnitskaya, who met with Trump Jr. and other advisers to Donald Trump Sr.’s campaign, represented a company that had run afoul of a U.S. investigation into money-laundering allegedly connected to the Magnitsky case and his death in a Russian prison in 2009. His death sparked a campaign spearheaded by Browder, who used his wealth and clout to lobby the U.S. Congress in 2012 to enact the Magnitsky Act to punish alleged human rights abusers in Russia. The law became what might be called the first shot in the New Cold War.

Donald Trump Jr., speaking at the 2016 Republican National Convention. (Source: Consortiumnews)

According to Browder’s narrative, companies ostensibly under his control had been hijacked by corrupt Russian officials in furtherance of a $230 million tax-fraud scheme; he then dispatched his “lawyer” Magnitsky to investigate and – after supposedly uncovering evidence of the fraud – Magnitsky blew the whistle only to be arrested by the same corrupt officials who then had him locked up in prison where he died of heart failure from physical abuse.

Despite Russian denials – and the “dog ate my homework” quality of Browder’s self-serving narrative – the dramatic tale became a cause celebre in the West. The story eventually attracted the attention of Russian filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov, a known critic of President Vladimir Putin. Nekrasov decided to produce a docu-drama that would present Browder’s narrative to a wider public. Nekrasov even said he hoped that he might recruit Browder as the narrator of the tale.

However, the project took an unexpected turn when Nekrasov’s research kept turning up contradictions to Browder’s storyline, which began to look more and more like a corporate cover story. Nekrasov discovered that a woman working in Browder’s company was the actual whistleblower and that Magnitsky – rather than a crusading lawyer – was an accountant who was implicated in the scheme.

So, the planned docudrama suddenly was transformed into a documentary with a dramatic reversal as Nekrasov struggles with what he knows will be a dangerous decision to confront Browder with what appear to be deceptions. In the film, you see Browder go from a friendly collaborator into an angry adversary who tries to bully Nekrasov into backing down.

Blocked Premiere

Ultimately, Nekrasov completes his extraordinary film – entitled “The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes” – and it was set for a premiere at the European Parliament in Brussels in April 2016. However, at the last moment – faced with Browder’s legal threats – the parliamentarians pulled the plug. Nekrasov encountered similar resistance in the United States, a situation that, in part, brought Natalie Veselnitskaya into this controversy.

Film director Andrei Nekrasov, who produced “The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes.” (Source: Consortiumnews)

As a lawyer defending Prevezon, a real-estate company registered in Cyprus, on a money-laundering charge, she was dealing with U.S. prosecutors in New York City and, in that role, became an advocate for lifting the U.S. sanctions, The Washington Post reported.

That was when she turned to promoter Rob Goldstone to set up a meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr. To secure the sit-down on June 9, 2016, Goldstone dangled the prospect that Veselnitskaya had some derogatory financial information from the Russian government about Russians supporting the Democratic National Committee. Trump Jr. jumped at the possibility and brought senior Trump campaign advisers, Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, along.

By all accounts, Veselnitskaya had little or nothing to offer about the DNC and turned the conversation instead to the Magnitsky Act and Putin’s retaliatory measure to the sanctions, canceling a program in which American parents adopted Russian children. One source told me that Veselnitskaya also wanted to enhance her stature in Russia with the boast that she had taken a meeting at Trump Tower with Trump’s son.

But another goal of Veselnitskaya’s U.S. trip was to participate in an effort to give Americans a chance to see Nekrasov’s blacklisted documentary. She traveled to Washington in the days after her Trump Tower meeting and attended a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, according to The Washington Post.

There were hopes to show the documentary to members of Congress but the offer was rebuffed. Instead a room was rented at the Newseum near Capitol Hill. Browder’s lawyers. who had successfully intimidated the European Parliament, also tried to strong arm the Newseum, but its officials responded that they were only renting out a room and that they had allowed other controversial presentations in the past.

Their stand wasn’t exactly a profile in courage.

“We’re not going to allow them not to show the film,” said Scott Williams, the chief operating officer of the Newseum. “We often have people renting for events that other people would love not to have happen.”

In an article about the controversy in June 2016, The New York Times added that

“A screening at the Newseum is especially controversial because it could attract lawmakers or their aides.”

Heaven forbid!

One-Time Showing

So, Nekrasov’s documentary got a one-time showing with Veselnitskaya reportedly in attendance and with a follow-up discussion moderated by journalist Seymour Hersh. However, except for that audience, the public of the United States and Europe has been essentially shielded from the documentary’s discoveries, all the better for the Magnitsky myth to retain its power as a seminal propaganda moment of the New Cold War.

After the Newseum presentation, a Washington Post editorial branded Nekrasov’s documentary Russian “agit-prop” and sought to discredit Nekrasov without addressing his many documented examples of Browder’s misrepresenting both big and small facts in the case. Instead, the Post accused Nekrasov of using “facts highly selectively” and insinuated that he was merely a pawn in the Kremlin’s “campaign to discredit Mr. Browder and the Magnitsky Act.”

Financier William Browder (right) with Magnitsky’s widow and son, along with European parliamentarians. (Source: Consortiumnews)

The Post also misrepresented the structure of the film by noting that it mixed fictional scenes with real-life interviews and action, a point that was technically true but willfully misleading because the fictional scenes were from Nekrasov’s original idea for a docu-drama that he shows as part of explaining his evolution from a believer in Browder’s self-exculpatory story to a skeptic. But the Post’s deception is something that almost no American would realize because almost no one got to see the film.

The Post concluded smugly:

“The film won’t grab a wide audience, but it offers yet another example of the Kremlin’s increasingly sophisticated efforts to spread its illiberal values and mind-set abroad. In the European Parliament and on French and German television networks, showings were put off recently after questions were raised about the accuracy of the film, including by Magnitsky’s family.

“We don’t worry that Mr. Nekrasov’s film was screened here, in an open society. But it is important that such slick spin be fully exposed for its twisted story and sly deceptions.”

The Post’s gleeful editorial had the feel of something you might read in a totalitarian society where the public only hears about dissent when the Official Organs of the State denounce some almost unknown person for saying something that almost no one heard.

New Paradigm

The Post’s satisfaction that Nekrasov’s documentary would not draw a large audience represents what is becoming a new paradigm in U.S. mainstream journalism, the idea that it is the media’s duty to protect the American people from seeing divergent narratives on sensitive geopolitical issues.

Over the past year, we have seen a growing hysteria about “Russian propaganda” and “fake news” with The New York Times and other major news outlets eagerly awaiting algorithms that can be unleashed on the Internet to eradicate information that groups like Google’s First Draft Coalition deem “false.”

The Washington Post building in downtown Washington, D.C. (Source: Washington Post)

First Draft consists of the Times, the Post, other mainstream outlets, and establishment-approved online news sites, such as Bellingcat with links to the pro-NATO think tank, Atlantic Council. First Draft’s job will be to serve as a kind of Ministry of Truth and thus shield the public from information that is deemed propaganda or untrue.

In the meantime, there is the ad hoc approach that was applied to Nekrasov’s documentary. Having missed the Newseum showing, I was only able to view the film because I was given a special password to an online version.

From searches that I did on Wednesday, Nekrasov’s film was not available on Amazon although a pro-Magnitsky documentary was. I did find a streaming service that appeared to have the film available.

But the Post’s editors were right in their expectation that “The film won’t grab a wide audience.” Instead, it has become a good example of how political and legal pressure can effectively black out what we used to call “the other side of the story.” The film now, however, has unexpectedly become a factor in the larger drama of Russia-gate and the drive to remove Donald Trump Sr. from the White House.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

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Featured image: Yascha Mounk (Source: @Yascha_Mounk / Tiwtter)

The U.S. borg is vehemently trying to set up Russia as an enemy of the “west”. Their anti-Russian propaganda has become part of the campaign against U.S. President Trump who seeks détente with Russia. It requires intense efforts to denigrate the country, its citizens and its leaders. Here is an example of how such propaganda is fabricated.

Yascha Mounk is:

a Lecturer on Political Theory at Harvard University’s Government Department, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Transatlantic Academy of the German Marshall Fund, and a Nonresident Fellow at New America’s Political Reform Program.

He is a self declared liberal internationalist who has been published and quoted by lots of international media.

Yesterday Mounk tweeted this:

The Mounk tweet is a series of lies:

Need a reminder of the human cost of dictatorship? All these are journalists who criticized Putin–and died under mysterious circumstances

The President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin is duly elected and not a dictator. The Russian Federation may not be a “liberal democracy”, but it is a democracy. The picture is old. It shows all Russian journalists who died during their work since 1991. Most of them died as war- or crime-correspondents and were not involved in politics at all. The death of most of those journalists is not mysterious. Getting blown up by artillery during the wars in Chechnya, Yugoslavia or Ukraine is no mystery at all. Most of these journalists never criticize Putin. They were already dead before Putin had any significant political role.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) lists 82 killed Russian journalists since 1992, most of them died due to war or related to civil crimes or corruption. There are about 80 portraits of journalists in the picture Mounk tweeted.

Two recognizable portraits and names therein are of Vlad Listyev, a TV entertainment producer killed in 1995 over some controversy about lucrative advertisement on public TV. Another portrait is of Dmitry Kholodov, killed in 1994 while investigating mafia connections within the Russian military. At the time of their death Putin was a minor bureaucrat in Saint Petersburg. He did not gain power until he became acting president at the end of 1999.

According to the CPJ numbers more Russian journalists were killed during the eight years of Yeltsin’s presidency (1992-2000) than in the 17 years of Putin’s presidencies since. Mounk claims “All these are journalists who criticized Putin …” when more than half of them were already dead before Putin became known and to power. It was during the time of the “Harvard boys” who robbed Russia blind that most of these journalist were killed. The Russian system, thanks to the Harvard driven “reforms” and criminal privatization under Yeltsin, is a rough terrain for investigating oligarchs and mafia businesses. But there is no evidence, none at all, that Putin was ever involved in the decease of any journalist.

The first original publishing of the Mounk picture may have been as early as 2009. A piece on journalists remembrance in Russia from 2014 already includes the pic. The reverse image search shows that the picture has been has been used by several news-outlets since.

Every aspect of the Mounk tweet is a lie.

But Mounk’s lies have by now been re-tweeted over 22,000 times. Many of those who see it will believe the claims he makes. They will trust a widely publish Harvard academic. But the tweet, as well as nearly all other claims about Russia one sees in “western” media, is pure propaganda. It is like the editorial in today’s New York Times that claims “Russia’s oil-dependent economy [is] in trouble” while all Russian economic numbers turned positive and all indicators point to accelerating growth. It is fake news.

The anti-Russian propaganda campaign is now part of the “liberal” campaign against U.S. president Trump. It is failing. Trump’s support is steady if not increasing despite daily new revelation about his (non existent) “collusion with Russia” and the (non existing) “Russian interference” in the U.S. election.

The purveyors of the propaganda stories are in despair. Each and every new fire they try to stoke dies off within a day or two. The temptation then is to invent and push ever bigger lies about Trump, Russia and their non-existing connections.

The fake news Mounk spits out, and which disqualify him as an academic, is a sign of their accelerating panic.

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“Social Murder” by a London Local Authority

July 17th, 2017 by Anthony Bellchambers

One of the richest local authorities in Britain today stands accused of the ‘social murder’ of over eighty residents in one of its council-owned tower blocks. Grenfell Tower

The allegation is that council officials knowingly authorised, specified and paid for an otherwise fire-safe, high-rise tower block that housed some hundreds of their council tenants, to be retro-clad and insulated with a polymer foam that was inherently combustible and that would emit highly toxic hydrogen-cyanide gas, if ignited.

 Grenfell Tower on fire. Source The New European

In such extreme circumstances, the production and emission of poison gas would immediately disable all those within the affected areas of the building from seeking escape and would consequently lead to them being burnt alive.

Polymer foams have been commercially available for nearly fifty years following their synthesis by the Union Carbide Corporation of America. However, their latent combustibility and toxicity upon ignition have been exhaustively documented for decades subsequent to numerous accidents involving loss of life both in Europe and around the world. Consequently, such foams have been banned in many countries, from being used within buildings, internally or externally. Their legitimate use being confined to the packing and/or thermal insulation of commercial goods, foodstuffs and refrigerated cold stores etc.

The above facts would have been very well-known to those who authorised the use of such inherently dangerous materials in or on council-owned, residential premises and, therefore, those individuals concerned who knowingly acted to endanger life instead of safeguarding it, should be prosecuted on charges of willful neglect leading to multiple manslaughter.

The tragic disregard for public safety and lack of respect for the communities they are paid to serve, which is apparently ingrained in certain local authorities and Town Halls, must now be exposed and excised, once and for all. 

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US-Installed Iraqi Regime: Torture and Murder

July 17th, 2017 by Stephen Lendman

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at [email protected].

During the battle for Mosul, freelance photographer Ali Arkady witnessed and photographed torture, abuse and cold-blooded murder of Iraqi military captives – civilians suspected of ties to ISIS, according to RT.

He was embedded with an elite Iraqi interior ministry emergency response division, witnessed brutal interrogations to obtain forced confessions from suspected ISIS captives or sympathizers.

Arkady later fled the country, taking his photographic and video evidence with him, exposing the brutality of regime practices – as vicious as how ISIS and other US-supported terrorists operate.

Iraqi forces were trained by their US sponsor, America notorious for torture and abuse in its war theaters – notably in the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Bush/Cheney’s 2003 rape and destruction of the country.

Regime and US-led coalition forces indiscriminately slaughtered defenseless civilians in the earlier battle for Anbar province, then Mosul since last fall.

Unknown numbers of detainees were extrajudicially executed. Thousands languish in prison uncharged and untried, held incommunicado without access to family members or counsel – tortured, otherwise mistreated and denied access to healthcare.

Journalists covering the battle for Mosul were warned not to issue negative reports. RT earlier explained

“(o)ne of the biggest and deadliest battles of the 21st century is actually also one of the most censored and suppressed.”

US forces are directly involved in combat operations and their aftermath, aware of the brutality inflicted on detainees, maybe encouraging it, civilians held hostage by ISIS enduring similar or harsher treatment from their Iraqi captors.

Arkady’s material revealed clear evidence of high crimes of war and against humanity – Iraqi forces and their US sponsor fully responsible for the horrors.

In a follow-up mid-July report, RT discussed new videos showing Iraqi forces torturing, abusing and murdering civilians alleged to have ties to ISIS – no evidence proving it, no trials, no convictions, just unrestrained brutality.

In one video, men in military uniforms were seen dragging a captive to the edge of a cliff, executing him in cold-blood, then tossing him over, his corpse likely never to be found or identified.

New videos match what Arkady produced earlier. Britain is involved in virtually all US wars of aggression. UK General Rupert Smith criticized clear revelations of regime high crimes.

He lied claiming

“(i)t wasn’t the government of Iraq, it wasn’t the coalition, it was ISIS. Everybody should be entirely clear what they were doing with the civilians.”

“It went way beyond human shields. They were out and out murdering civilians left, right and center.”

Smith ignored the use of ISIS terrorists as imperial foot soldiers. He was silent about unknown thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of defenseless civilians massacred by US-led terror-bombing, UK warplanes involved.

He said nothing about US and likely British forces embedded with Iraqi troops, likely directly involved in their high crimes of war and against humanity.

Washington, London and Baghdad want horrors they caused suppressed. They want the rape and destruction of Mosul portrayed as a liberating struggle.

They want the myth of Iraqi and US-led coalition forces prioritizing the safety and welfare of civilians reported – not the ugly reality of all US-led imperial wars, noncombatants suffering most.

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When taxi and bus drivers take journalists into Syria via the Beirut-Damascus Highway these days, there’s a common greeting that has become a kind of local tradition as the drivers pull into their Damascus area destinations. They confidently tell their passengers: “welcome to the real Syria.” Local Syrians living in government areas are all too aware of how the outside world perceives the government and the cities under its control. After years of often deceptive imagery and footage produced by opposition fighters coordinating with an eager Western press bent on vilifying Assad as “worse than Hitler”, many average Syrian citizens increasingly take to social media to post images and scenes of Syria that present a different vision: they see their war-torn land as fundamentally secular, religiously plural, socially tolerant, and slowly returning to normalcy under stabilizing government institutions.

As the most intense phase of fighting in Aleppo was unfolding in 2016, veteran journalist Stephen Kinzer took to the editorial pages of the Boston Globe to remind Americans that the media has created a fantasy land concerning Syria. Kinzer painted a picture quite opposite the common perception:

Coverage of the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press… For three years, violent militants have run Aleppo. Their rule began with a wave of repression. They posted notices warning residents: “Don’t send your children to school. If you do, we will get the backpack and you will get the coffin.” Then they destroyed factories, hoping that unemployed workers would have no recourse other than to become fighters. They trucked looted machinery to Turkey and sold it…

The United States has the power to decree the death of nations. It can do so with popular support because many Americans — and many journalists — are content with the official story.

Now, during the first summer of relative calm Aleppo residents have seen in over four years of grinding conflict, the city commonly referred as “the jewel of Syria” is once again rising from the ashes. Foreign journalists are also accessing places like East Aleppo and the heart of the walled ‘old city’ for the first time. Some few honest correspondents, unable to deny the local population’s spirit of hopefulness and zeal with which they undertake rebuilding projects, acknowledge that stability and normalcy have returned only after the last jihadists were expelled by the Syrian government and its allies.

Aleppo orchestra concert, Summer 2017 via Sarah Abdallah

A Western press and political class which generally mourned the liberation of the city from al-Qaeda groups like Nusra (AQ in Syria), calling government actions a ‘massacre’ and ‘genocide’, now finds a reality that can’t be ignored or denied: Aleppines are returning to ravaged parts of the city to rebuild, they are enjoying nightlife, going to music concerts, staying out late at cafes; families are swimming at local pools, women are strolling around in t-shirts and jeans free of the oppressive Wahhabi fighters that once ruled parts of the city.

Kinzer’s Boston Globe piece further concluded that the entire web of assumptions on Syria woven by the media and fed to the public over the years were “appallingly distant from reality” and warned that these lies are “likely to prolong the war and condemn more Syrians to suffering and death.” As new photos continue to emerge of the real Aleppo and the real Syria it is essential to revisit the most destructive among the lies that have helped serve to prolong this tragic and brutal war.

Aleppines didn’t want to live under Wahhabi Islamist rule

Andalusia Swimming Pool in Aleppo, Summer 2017 via Syria Daily

According to multiple eyewitness reports and studies, the story of how war entered Aleppo’s environs was not primarily one of mass public protests and government crackdown, but of an aggressive jihadist insurgency that erupted suddenly and fueled from outside the city. According to then Indian ambassador to Syria, V.P. Haran (Amb. to Syria from 2009 to 2012), Aleppo on the whole was unwillingly dragged into the war after remaining silent and stable while other cities raged. In an interview which detailed his own on-the-ground experience of the opening years of war in Syria, the ambassador said:

Soon parts of Latakia, Homs and Hama were chaotic but Aleppo remained calm and this troubled the opposition greatly. The opposition couldn’t get the people in Aleppo to rise up against the regime so they sent bus loads of people to Aleppo. These people would burn something on the streets and leave. Journalists would then broadcast this saying Aleppo had risen.

Why did it take until July 2012 – well over a year since conflict in Syria began – for Aleppo to see any fighting? Why did residents not “rise up” against the government?

The answer is simple. The majority of Syrians, whether Sunni, Shia, Alawi, Christian, Kurd, or Ismaili, are sane individuals – they’ve seen what life is like under the “alternative” rebel rule marked by sharia courts, smoke and alcohol bans, public floggings, street executions, desecration of churches, and religious and ethnic cleansing of minorities. They recognize that there is a real Syrian national identity, and it goes beyond mere loyalty to the current ruling clique that happens to be in power, but in Syria as a pluralistic Levantine society that rejects Saudi style theocracy.

Rebuilding Aleppo, Summer 2017. Latin Parish of St. Francis via Sarah Abdallah

The kind of religious and cultural pluralism represented in the liberal democracies of the West are present in Syria, ironically, through a kind of government-mandated “go along, get along” policy backed by an authoritarian police state. One can even find Syrian Jews living in the historic Jewish quarter of Damascus’ walled old city to this day.

Syrian urban centers have for decades been marked by a quasi-secular culture and public life of pluralist co-existence. Aleppo itself was always a thriving merchant center where a typical street scene would involve women without head-coverings walking side by side with women wearing veils (hijab), cinemas and liquor stores, late night hookah smoke filled cafés, and large churches and mosques neighboring each other with various communities living in peaceful co-existence. By many accounts, the once vibrant secular and pluralist Aleppo is now coming back to life (and largely never left government-held West Aleppo).

“Moderates” did not “liberate” Aleppo, but gave cover to an ISIS and al-Qaeda invasion

Image: “moderate” rebels mock a Christian government soldier—This photo was originally posted online by a Swedish based terror group in Syria after the Summer 2013 rebel offensive against the Menagh airbase near Aleppo. A rebel fighter mocks a captured Christian government soldier’s cross. Another photo posted in the original set reveals that the soldier was later tortured by being crushed with a large rock on his chest as he lay on his back.

One of the most under reported and least understood events surrounding the history of how all of Aleppo province and the Northern Syria region became a hotbed of foreign jihadists is the fall of the strategically located Menagh airbase near Aleppo. As a Reuters timeline of events indicates:

In early 2012 rebels take control of the rural areas northwest of Aleppo city, besieging the Menagh military air base and the largely Shiite towns of Nubl and Zahra.

After a lengthy siege of Menagh, the base finally fell to jihadist factions under the command of the US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) in August of 2013. This event was key to rebel fighters gaining enough territory to cut off the Aleppo-Damascus Highway, which allowed them to encircle all of Aleppo for much of that year. But a little known yet hugely important detail of the Menagh episode is that rebels only got the upper hand after being joined by ISIS suicide bombers commanded by Omar the Chechen (ISIS’ now deceased most senior military commander). The fall of this government base is what opened a permanent jihadi corridor in the North, allowing terrorists to flood the area. The commander for the operation was US Ambassador Robert Ford’s personal friend, Col. Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi, who was head of the US and UK funded Revolutionary Military Council of Aleppo (FSA). Okaidi worked in tandem with ISIS military commander Omar the Chechen and his crew for the operation – all while being supported by the United States and Great Britain.

Concerning US-backed Okaidi’s close relationship to the ISIS faction in the summer of 2013, there is actually video evidence and eyewitness testimony (US Ambassador Ford himself later admitted the relationship to McClatchy News). Amazingly, the video, titled “US Key Man in Syria Worked Closely with ISIL and Jabhat al Nusra” never had very widespread public distribution, even though it has been authenticated by the top Syria expert in the U.S., Joshua Landis, of the University of Oklahoma, and author of the hugely influential Syria Comment. Using his Twitter account, Dr. Landis commented: “in 2013 WINEP advocated sending all US military aid thru him [Col. Okaidi]. Underscores US problem w moderates.”

The video, documenting (now former) U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford’s visit to FSA Col. Okaidi in Northern Syria, also shows the same Col. Okaidi celebrating with and praising a well-known ISIS commander, Emir Abu Jandal, after conducting the joint Menagh operation. In an interview, this U.S. “key man” at that time, through which U.S. assistance flowed, also praised ISIS and al-Qaeda as the FSA’s “brothers.” Abu Jandal was part of Omar the Chechen’s ISIS crew assisting the FSA. Further video evidence also confirms Omar the Chechen’s role at Menagh. The videos also show Okaidi proudly declaring that al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda in Syria) makes up ten percent of the FSA. The FSA was always more of a branding campaign to sell the rebels as “moderates” to a gullible Western media than a reality on the ground; it was a loose coalition of various groups espousing militant jihad with the end goal of establishing an Islamist polity in Syria.

Foreign fighters flooded Aleppo Province. The U.S. State Department’s own numbers: read the full report at STATE.GOV

In the end, terror groups like ISIS enjoyed a meteoric rise in Syria due to US government and media support for these so-called “moderate rebels” – all entities which collectively sought regime change at all costs – even the high cost of mass civilian death and suffering that inevitably results from unleashing an insurgency in urban areas.

The Syrian Army and government were never “Shia” or sectarian-based

Al Aziziyah neighborhood in Aleppo via Syria Daily

The Arab Spring narrative was the ideological lens through which experts initially pit the oppressive supposedly “Alawite/Shia regime” against a popular uprising of Syria’s majority Sunnis. As Sunnis make up about 70% of Syria’s population, it was simply a matter of numbers, and of time. But this view proved overly simplistic, and according to one little known West Point study, utterly false. It was commonly assumed that the Syrian Army was a hollowed out Alawite institution with its Sunni conscripts apprehensively waiting for the right moment to defect to the rebel side. This was the fundamental supposition behind years of repetitious predictions of the Assad regime’s impending collapse, and predicated upon a view of the Syrian military as a fundamentally weak and sectarian institution. But West Point’s 2015 study entitled Syria’s Sunnis and the Regime’s Resilience concluded the following:

Sunnis and, more specifically, Sunni Arabs, continue to make up the majority of the regular army’s rank-and- file membership.

The study’s unpopular findings confirmed that the Syrian Army, which has been the glue holding the state together throughout this war, remains primarily a Sunni enterprise while its guiding ideology is firmly nationalistic and not sectarian.

The highest ranking Syrian officer to fall victim to rebel attack was General Dawoud Rajiha, Defense Minister and former chief of staff of the army, in a major 2012 bombing of a Damascus national security office. General Rajiha was an Orthodox Christian. Numerous Christians and officers of other religious backgrounds have served top positions in the Syrian Army going back decades – a reflection of Syria’s generally nationalist and religiously tolerant atmosphere.

Mainstream press did not report from Aleppo, but was hundreds of miles away.

Outside the Citadel of Aleppo: life returning to normal, Summer 2017 via Syria Daily

The heavily populated urban areas of Syria continue to be held by the government. But most reporting has tended to dehumanize any voice coming out of government held areas, which includes the majority of Syrians. The war has resulted in over 6.5 million internally displaced people – the vast majority of which have sought refuge in government territory.

The fact remains that there are some popular figures in the establishment media and analyst community who speak and write frequently about Syria, and yet have never spent a significant amount of time in the country. Throughout much of the war they’ve primarily reported from Western capitals – thousands of miles away – or, if they are in a Middle East bureau, without ever leaving the safety of places like Beirut or Istanbul. Fewer still have the necessary Arabic language skills to keep pace with local and regional events. Some have never been to Syria at all. They become willing conduits of rebel propaganda beamed through WhatsApp messages and Skype interviews, which was especially the case when it came to the battle for Aleppo. That much of the world actually considers these people as authorities on what’s happening in Syria is a joke – it’s beyond absurd.

Outdoor concert venue and Aleppo springs back to life, Summer 2017 via Maram Kasem

We are hopeful that the jihadist menace will be fully expelled and that the international proxy war which has taken so many lives and reduced much of a beautiful nation to rubble will finally come to an end. Aleppines and other Syrians are rebuilding – they are optimistically preparing for the future. Welcome to the real Aleppo.

Final national exams just before summer 2017 via Syria Daily

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On September 16, 2013, the UN published its evidence in response to the claim that president Bashar al-Assad of Syria used chemical weapons in an attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. Based on interviews with US intelligence and military insiders, Seymour Hersh, the journalist who revealed the role the United States played in the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, was unequivocal in his assertion that the incident on August 21, 2013, was a false flag attack that was exploited politically by Obama in an attempt to deceive the world in making a cynical case for war.

This assertion was supported in April, 2016, by former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, who argued that the Turkish government, at the behest of Washington, engineered the chemical attacks in Ghouta in order to draw the United States into Syria. McGovern stressed that one of the Turkish journalists who exposed Turkey’s involvement in the alleged false flag attack has (as part of president Erdogan’s crackdown on independent journalism), been imprisoned and charged with treason.

Journalist Serena Shim‘s sources in the Southern Turkish province of Hatay would appear to corroborate the false flag thesis. The journalist cited activists who claimed al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front insurgents transported chemical weapons to Syria from Turkey.

In its report entitled, The Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in the Ghouta Area, the UN did not, as the majority of the corporate media claimed, blame the Syrian president for the August 21, 2013 attack. One day after the incident, on August 22, 2013, the Guardian claimed there was not “much doubt” that Assad was to blame.

In an article for the same paper almost four years later (April 5, 2017), Jonathan Freedland, echoed the near-consensus view among the corporate mass media that Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad’s government was responsible for another alleged chemical gas atrocity, this time in Idlib province in the north of the country the previous day (April 4, 2017):

“We almost certainly know who did it. Every sign points to the regime of Bashar al-Assad”, he said.

What these ‘signs’ are were not specified in the article. Since the alleged attack over three months ago, there has not been a single piece of independently verifiable evidence that has been presented which alludes to Assad’s guilt.

Channel 4 News

Channel 4 News markets itself as a high grade impartial news broadcaster. On October 4, 2016, reporter, Krishnan Guru-Murthy described a rebel (Jihadist terrorist) “victory” in east Aleppo as “rebels fighting back against the forces of President Assad”. Guru-Murthy reported the battle from the narrow perspective of al-Qaeda and it was clear from his general tone to whom he intended his viewers sympathies to be aligned with.

Guru-Murthy’s embedded report also failed to mention that – as evidenced by the logo clearly displayed on a jacket of one of the individuals featured in the film – that the self-proclaimed ‘humanitarians’ depicted were in fact White Helmets inculcated with Harakat al-Nour al-Zenki, one of 22 brigades that operate in and around Aleppo that comprise one of many U.S. State Department-funded terrorist fighters.

Finally, the Channel 4 reporter omitted to mention that a video had surfaced shortly before the broadcast of the report in which Harakat al-Nour al-Zenki members were shown abusing and then beheading a child, Abdullah Issa, from a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Aleppo. Ten weeks later, on December 21, 2016, an observant commentator, Edward Lauranceinquired of Channel 4 News why it pulled its October, 4 film:

“Would be interested to know why this film has disappeared without trace”, he said.

Getting involved

According to the Pew Research Journalism Project, “the No. 1 message” on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and Al Jazeera, is that “the U.S. should ‘get involved’ in the conflict in Syria”. Although propaganda reports from the likes of Guru-Murthy are useful in terms of getting the public partially onside, they are on their own terms insufficient. A high level of public involvement is often achieved as the result of a singularly defining propaganda image or event. In terms of the first Gulf conflict, the event in question was the infamous nurse Nayirah affair. In relation to the 2003 Iraq invasion, it was the WMD debacle, and in Libya in 2011 it was the false claims of rape said to have been committed by Libyan government troops.

The image that probably more than any other captured the public imagination in relation to Syria, was that of a small boy, Omran Daqneesh, photographed covered in dust sitting on a chair which brought a CNN anchor to tears. The pro-regime change broadcaster, Al-Jazeera, produced what was clearly another piece of theatre, albeit far less convincing, in which the news anchor struggled not to laugh out loud live on air while interviewing the absurd figure, Abdulkafi Alhamdo, against a backdrop of a sound recording of explosions. This was reminiscent of CNNs “interview” with fake reporter and Western-funded propagandist, “Danny”.

Liberation

The media propaganda intensified in late November, 2016, following the trouncing of the UK-US and Saudi funded and trained salafist mercenary terrorists by joint Kurdish-Syrian government forces. During this time, these forces began liberating vast swaths of territory in east Aleppo including the Sakhour, Haydariya and Sheikh Fares neighbourhoods.

In the wake of the liberation, at least 120 British MPs backed a petition calling for the UK government to carry out “life-saving aid drops” (euphemism for the implementation of a no fly zone) over eastern Aleppo. Among the MPs demanding the “aid drops” was Labour’s Emily Thornberry, who in the House of Commons cited the White Helmets as the justification for advocating this course of action. On the November 28, 2016 edition of Sky News, journalist Sam Kiley described the re-capture of a third of east Aleppo as a “so-called liberation”, in addition to uttering the trigger phrase “Assad regime”.

The persistent Bana myth

Kiley’s source for his ambivalent statement was Fatemah Alabed, mother of seven year old, Bana Alabed. Bana, in whose name a twitter account was set up in September, 2016, allegedly in an “unknown east Aleppo neighbourhood” – and whose tweets have consistently focused on anti-Assad and anti-Russian themes and the need to be saved from bombing – has been uncritically endorsed throughout the corporate media. Bana has garnered celebrity status, her most notable fan being the author, J K Rowling. Bana and Rowling share the same talent agent.

Bana’s mastering of English idiomatic expressions on twitter is indicative of somebody who is fluent in the language. But her prompted robotic responses to questions by Sky News presenter, Alex Crawford, clearly suggests otherwise. In addition, the various inconsistencies in Bana’s twitter feed narrative reinforce the notion that the seven year old’s account – given the number of tweets – is being run by others out of Aleppo for nefarious purposes. It’s clear that the Bana project, like the White Helmets, is an extremely well-funded propaganda operation. As Dr Barbara McKenzie puts it:

“There can be no doubt that the Bana project is a scam. The tweets are not the thoughts of a little Syrian girl wanting the world to save her from Russian bombs. Rather, they are the product of a sophisticated and well-planned operation designed to shape public perception of the Syrian and Russian operations, in order to justify Western intervention in Syria and facilitate regime change.”

Tormenting the liberated

The media strategy used in order to achieve this has been to depict the Russian and Syrian forces as tormentors rather than liberators. This has been the mass corporate media’s overriding narrative throughout six years of conflict. It’s an inversion of truth that also typified BBC reportage on the liberation of east Aleppo.

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Featured image: Hamdan Temraz, UN security officer who disappeared into maw of Israeli secret police (Source: Tikun Olam)

This is getting old. Israel has once again arrested a United Nations official based in Gaza as he attempted to cross into Israel to attend a work meeting there. An Israeli security source has confirmed to me the linked story above and the Shin Bet arrest. The news is under gag order in Israel and no media there may report the story. This conveniently insulates the Israeli public from the news that their supposedly democratic nation has arrested human rights personnel from the most reputable NGO in the world. It also allows the Shin Bet time to build yet another fraudulent case against yet another Palestinian official doing international humanitarian relief work in Gaza.

Since Israelis can’t know this information, I’m going to tell them here. The arrested man is Hamdan Temraz, 61, who is the deputy director of the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) in Gaza. He was arrested at the Erez crossing on July 12th despite having a valid entry permit.

The Palestinian human rights group, al Mezan released this statement to the Palestine Information Center, protesting the latest Israeli outrage:

The Center explained that such Israeli practices are aimed at blocking the work of the international organizations in the Gaza Strip, pointing out that 8 employees working in these organizations have been arrested since the beginning of 2014.

It affirmed that hundreds of employees are denied the permits required to enter or exit Gaza to be able to follow up their organizations’ work, not to mention the Israeli incitement campaigns they are exposed to.

I find it odd that a UN employee has been in an Israeli prison for four days and there has been no statement from the international body. Is this how they come to the defense of their staff when it’s under threat in a police state? I left a phone message with the UN press office seeking a statement, but have not heard from them so far.

It’s no coincidence that last month, Netanyahu called for the UN to dismantle UNWRA, the major relief organizations in Gaza. He appealed directly to U.S. ambassador, David Friedman aka “The Settler’s Friend.” This rehashes a common Israeli narrative in which evil Hamas co-opts everyone and everything to do its dirty terrorist work in the enclave. The U.S. is far the largest donor supporting UNWRA, providing $350-million annually to support the millions of Gazans who are unemployed and undernourished due to the decade-long Israeli siege. Israel hopes that the new Trump regime will realize its ambitions to restrain or suppress the aid work in Gaza, which serves to remind the world of Israel’s ongoing assault against its innocent civilian population.

Last summer, Israel arrested two Palestinians in Gaza. Waheed Borsh worked for the UN Development Program and Mohammed el-Halabi for the Christian relief group, World Vision. Both were accused of exploiting their NGO status to undertake covert activities on behalf of Hamas. In the latter case, el-Halabi was accused of funneling international relief funds to the Islamist group. In every instance, the NGOs undertook full, comprehensive investigations and uncovered no evidence to support the Israeli charges. But since Israel functions as a police state as far as Palestinians are concerned, guilt and conviction were assured. Therefore, in order not to spend decades behind bars, each copped a plea that offered a lesser sentence. [According to World Vision International in a message to Global Research: “Mohammad el Halabi has pled not guilty to all the charges laid against him. His case remains active in the Israeli court system.”]

This charade permits Israel to bolster its fake claim that the international relief organizations aren’t that at all–but rather thinly concealed support groups for militant international terrorists. This, in turn, satisfies the Israeli government’s core far-right constituency, which can tell itself how much the world hates us and how justified it is in utilizing maximum force in “defending” itself from enemies lurking virtually everywhere.

So here’s how it will go with Temraz. He will be accused of taking advantage of his position directing security for the UN agency by permitting Hamas to do something that somehow jeopardizes Israeli security. Perhaps he allowed the militants to build tunnels under UN facilities. Perhaps he offered materials to Hamas to build tunnels. Or even better: he provided the fake IDs the Haram al Sharif attackers used to gain entrance to the Muslim holy site. Who knows what they can devise? The thing is, these Shabak agents aren’t very imaginative. Nor do they need to be. No one reviews the cases they bring for credibility. No judge cares to do so. He or she would rapidly find themselves on the road to career oblivion if they did. So any half-assed concoction can send a man away for a decade or more simply because some agent has to make his quota and throw the fear of god into both Palestinians and the relief agencies servicing Gaza. What a seamy mess of a national security regime this is.

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Featured image: Palestinians walk past a gasoline-powered generator in the old market of Gaza City, Gaza Strip, June 9, 2017. (Source: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Things have gotten acutely worse in the Gaza Strip over the past month, since Israel and the Palestinian Authority cut the besieged strip’s already inadequate supply of power. But an entire generation of Gazans have grown up without ever experiencing electricity that is available around the clock. Crisis is nothing new.

In addition to sewage that flows into the sea untreated, and hospital ICUs that must rely on gasoline-powered generators, the power shortage also has dire consequences on everyday life in regular households. Without electricity, the pumps that deliver tap water to apartments in high-rise residential buildings stop working.

“Water used to reach these houses between two-to-three hours every few days,” Khalil Shaheen says. “And this is in the summer. Yesterday, my building only had one hour of water.”

Israel pulled its troops out of the Gaza Strip a little over a decade ago, but its military retains effective control over many aspects of life in the coastal enclave. The Israeli army still controls the Strip’s land and maritime borders, decides who and what may enter and exit, blocks basic technologies like 3G cellular broadband from being installed, and has launched three military operations that left thousands of Gazans dead. Israel also sells Gaza the majority of its inadequate supply of electricity.

Shaheen, who is the director of the Economic and Social Rights Unit at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), one of Palestine’s most prominent rights groups, monitors the impact of Israeli, Palestinian Authority, and Hamas policies on life in the Gaza Strip.

“I’m afraid that with the ongoing situation, Gaza will be unlivable by the end of 2018,” he said in a telephone interview earlier this week.

Palestinian children fill jerrycans with drinking water in the Rafah Refugee Camp in the southern Gaza Strip, June 11, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Palestinian children fill jerrycans with drinking water in the Rafah Refugee Camp in the southern Gaza Strip, June 11, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Can you talk about what is happening on the ground in Gaza right now?

I can’t even describe Gaza as a prison, because even prisoners have fundamental rights. Gaza is an isolated area under occupation, where people aren’t allowed in and out. There is an electricity crisis that leaves millions without power for hours every day, 97 percent of Gaza’s water is undrinkable, there is not enough electricity to provide basic sanitation needs. Israel and the Palestinian Authority are trying to prevent patients in need of emergency treatment from entering the West Bank or Israel. There are shortages of medication and treatment.

It’s a catastrophic situation. The Israeli occupation’s policies manifest in our daily life. This is true not only regarding the three last wars on Gaza and the ongoing siege; it includes the policy of splitting West Bank (including East Jerusalem) from Gaza.

What about the current water crisis?

It is so bad that there are people who are live in high-rise buildings that simply do not have access to water. There is not enough electricity to pump water from the ground [level] to people on the higher floors. Water used to reach these houses between 2-3 hours every few days. And this is in the summer. Yesterday, my building only had one hour of water. Meanwhile the municipality is trying to ration water to different areas of Gaza.

Remember that all this is taking place as 60 percent of Gaza’s population are unemployed, and 80 percent is dependent on aid. A week ago Oxfam stopped distributing aid packages due to financial issues, which will affect 30,000 people.

“Gaza in the summer is usually full of life. But nowadays it is all darkness.” Gaza City, June 9, 2017. (Ezz Zanoun/Activestills.org)

“Gaza in the summer is usually full of life. But nowadays it is all darkness.” Gaza City, June 9, 2017. (Ezz Zanoun/Activestills.org)

What is Gaza usually like in the summer?

Usually it is full of life. But nowadays it is all darkness. You walk in the street with darkness. The only solution is the beach, because it is the only area where you can find bits of light from generators. But people are afraid of the sewage. Usually you’ll find thousands of people swimming in the water in the summer. Today you can barely find a few because they are afraid of the toxicity.

Who do Gazans blame for the current crisis?

Both Israeli policies to isolate Gaza and the internal conflict between Palestinian Authority and Hamas have caused this suffering. Gazans pay taxes to both the PA and Hamas, and yet they hardly receive services from either. They believe that both sides have failed to show any political will to end the conflict, reach unity, and give Palestinians access to all basic rights. Meanwhile, the rivalry stokes a culture of fear. PA employees in Gaza are afraid to criticize Abbas, and Hamas employees are afraid to criticize Hamas.

How are people coping?

The poorest and most marginalized are resorting to living off bread and tea only. I’m afraid that with the ongoing situation, Gaza will be unlivable by the end of 2018, not 2020 as the United Nations previously predicted. Gazans cannot enjoy culture, they cannot go to the theater or to the movies. This makes life impossible.

The world must remember that isolation breeds extremism and terrorism. I cannot imagine that the international community supporting isolation while at the same time wanting people to be more moderate and open. The occupation authorities are putting people inside a bottle and closing it, only opening it up when all the air is nearly gone by easing the collective punishment to allow hundreds of people to exit or to allow some goods and commodities to enter into Gaza.

There have been some political changes taking place in Hamas, and I hope the party will change. But there have been no real achievements. Hamas should think about the population in Gaza to allow them to live in dignity.

The people of Gaza are a free and moderate people, they believe in tolerance. This was an underlying current of Gazan culture way before the Palestinian Authority ever existed. But when you prevent people from working or traveling and exploring normal life outside the Gaza, it affects people’s lives and leads them to depression.

The most challenging issue is the fact that Palestinians are losing hope day by day. They want a normal life like all nations and all people worldwide. But the problem is that day by day they are losing hope. And when you lose hope, things becomes very, very bad.

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Moral Corrosion of Drone Warfare

July 17th, 2017 by Ray McGovern

Required by court order to appear before a judge in Syracuse, New York, on July 12, some out-of-towners had already arrived there when the court granted the prosecution’s last-minute request for more time to prepare its case against us, the Jerry Berrigan Brigade, for our nonviolent witness against drone warfare on Jan. 28, 2016. A trial date is likely to be set in a month or two, or perhaps three (so much for our Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial).

Back in January 2016, we stood behind 30 larger-than-life-sized wooden silhouettes of Syracuse peacemaker Jerry Berrigan, who died at age 95 on July 26, 2015.

A widely loved and respected educator, Jerry – like his brothers Dan and Phil – was himself larger than life. Even in his early 90s, Jerry could be seen braving the elements, witnessing against the extrajudicial killings enabled by Hancock drone base in Syracuse.

Jerry was asked at one point if there were anything he would change in his life.

“I would have resisted more often and been arrested more often,” he said.

On Jan. 28, 2016, we – the Jerry Berrigan Brigade – brought images of Jerry to the gates of Hancock as a tangible reminder that this is where he would have been standing that day, putting his body on the line to say a clear, physical “NO” to killing. Jerry’s widow and daughter were there with us, cheering us on.

Most Americans are blissfully unaware that, from states-side drone bases like Hancock, drone “pilots” – with a push of the joystick, a click of a mouse, or simply a keystroke – can incinerate “suspected terrorists,” on the other side of the globe WITHIN THREE SECONDS.

Thanks to a media that is heavily influenced by what Pope Francis (speaking before Congress in 2015) called the “blood-drenched arms traders,” it’s largely a comfortable case of out-of-sight-out-of-mind. However, the more the killing is hidden, the more we feel a moral imperative to bring the killing out into the open and appeal to the consciences of U.S. citizens – including those of drone “pilots” many of whom have moral qualms about what they are being ordered to do and end up with bad cases of PTSD.

Many of us protesters – Catholic Workers and Jewish grandmothers alike – take our cue from anti-war activist Rabbi Heschel, who braced us all with this admonition:

“When injustice takes place, few are guilty, but all are responsible. Indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself.”

Rabbi Heschel got that right. And Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. reassured us that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But how long and how to make it bend?

Seventeen-plus months since our Jerry Berrigan Brigade witness at Hancock, we cannot avoid wondering just how long it will take for our case to find justice. Nor are we sure what kind of “justice” will befall us. Whatever it is, though, it will be a small price to pay, when one considers the price paid by families who slip into the crosshairs of drone-fired Hellfire missiles.

Some well-meaning soul suggested we consider apologizing – a notion far from our minds. Were we to issue an apology, it would be patterned on the one given by Jerry Berrigan’s brothers Dan and Phil and the others of the Catonsville Nine, who burned draft cards with homemade napalm 50 years ago at the height of the war in Vietnam:

“Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise. For we are sick at heart, our hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning Children.”

Good Friday Witness, 2017

“Justice” is likely to be meted out more quickly to those of us who decided that Good Friday this year would be a fitting time to honor the memory of innocent victims of Empire, given what happened to Jesus of Nazareth when he challenged Empire. This time nine nonviolent resisters, including from Upstate Drone Action and Catholic Worker, were arrested at the main entrance to Hancock drone base witnessing against Hancock’s role in drone killings.

Done “pilots” launch an MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle for a raid in the Middle East. (U.S. military photo)

Three hung on large wooden drone crosses representing victims of U.S. drone strikes in seven majority Muslim countries. Eleven others held smaller drone crosses headed by the phrase, “DRONES CRUCIFY,” each followed by one of these: Children, Families, Love, Peace, Community, the US Constitution, UN Charter, Rule of Law, US Treaties, Due Process, or Diplomacy (in all, 14 “Stations of the Cross”). All the crosses were confiscated by Base personnel.

Perceiving a need to explain our Good Friday action we issued a statement, that includes the following: 

“Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus. Recognizing that 70% of our nation identify as Christian, we come to the gates of the Hancock drone base to make real the crucifixion today. As Jesus and others were crucified by the Roman Empire, drones are used by the U.S. Empire in similar fashion.

“In Roman times, crosses loomed over a community to warn people that they could be killed whenever the Empire decided. So, too, our drones fly over many countries threatening extrajudicial killings upon whoever happens to be in the vicinity. On this Good Friday, we recall Jesus’ call to love and nonviolence. We’re asking this Air Force base and this nation to turn away from a policy of modern-day crucifixion.

“What if our country were constantly being spied upon by drones, with some ‘suspected terrorists’ killed by drones? What if many bystanders, including children, were killed in the process? If that were happening, we would hope that some people in that attacking country would speak up and try to stop the killing. We’re speaking up to try and stop the illegal and immoral drone attacks on countries against which Congress has not declared war.”

(A five-minute video of Nativity Scene Action at Hancock, the theme of which was: “If Herod Had Drones, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph Would Have Been Incinerated.”)

Several of those arrested on Good Friday, including me, were the same “perps” awaiting trial for the action of our Jerry Berrigan Brigade action a year and a half ago. But the judge hearing this more recent case told us when we appeared before him on July 13 that he will now set a trial date for us Good Friday protesters.

Other Witness Against Drones

Over the last couple of years there have been many protest actions and arrests at one of the most important drone bases – Creech AFB in Nevada, where many from many parts of the U.S. and abroad have demonstrated against the brutality of drone killing.

Life-size cut-outs of Jerry Berrigan arrayed to blockade at Hancock airbase in upstate New York on Jan. 28, 2016. (Screen grab from YouTube video)

Lesser known are actions in other parts of the country to raise awareness of the expansion of drone bases in localities like Des Moines, Iowa. There the Des Moines Catholic Worker and Veterans For Peace have launched a campaign to call attention to the drone assassinations in which the 132nd Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard plays a role from Des Moines airport. There have been several arrests, trials, and convictions.

The July issue of the Des Moines Catholic Worker community newspaper, Via Pacis, carries the words of Frank Cordaro, a Catholic priest, before his latest arrest in late May at the National Guard drone command in Des Moines. Frank reached back to the prophet Ezekiel to address the imperative to “blow the trumpet,” saying:

“This protest is an Ezekiel ‘Watchman’ witness. Ezekiel was a priest of the First Temple and only became a prophet after he was kicked out of Jerusalem and sent into captivity in Babylon. Once there, he started to have visions: ‘The Lord said to me, when the Watchman sees the sword coming against the land, he should blow the trumpet to warn the people.’

“The Des Moines Catholic Worker community has been a kind of Watchman for the city of Des Moines on the issues of war and peace for the past 40 years. It’s probably because we Catholic Workers have been protesting US-led wars for over 80 years nationally and 40 in Des Moines. And it’s very personal for me too. I grew up on the south side of Des Moines and this airport is just blocks away from the neighborhood I grew up in.”

Needed: more Watchmen and Watchwomen. A drone base may soon be coming to your own neighborhood.

Ray McGovern works for a publishing arm of the Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  He has written about the moral imperative of activism and tries to heed it.  He was an Army officer and then a CIA analyst for 30 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Featured image from Consortiumnews

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For more than a year now, the collective U.S. ruling class, with Democratic Party and corporate media operatives in the vanguard, has frozen the national political discourse in a McCarthyite time warp. A random visit to a July 26, 2016, issue of the New York Times reveals the same obsession as that which consumes the newspaper today: “Following the Links from Russian Hackers to the U.S. Election,” “Spy Agency Consensus Grows That Russia Hacked D.N.C.” A year later, the allegations persist, piled ever higher with innuendo and outright nonsense. However, proof of the predicate act — that Russia, not Wikileaks, penetrated the DNC — remains totally absent.

What is the purpose of this torture-by-media? Clearly, the Trump White House has been crippled by the tsunami that never ebbs, but the Democrats have not been strengthened in the process, and the corporate media’s standing among the public erodes by the day. A poll conducted last month showed majorities of voters want Congress to ease up on Russia investigations and get to work on healthcare, terrorism, national security, the economy and jobs. Almost three out of four respondents to the Harvard-Harris poll said lawmakers aren’t paying attention to the issues that are important to them — including 68 percent of Democrats. Sixty-two percent of voters say there is no hard evidence of White House “collusion” with Russia, and 64 percent think the investigations are hurting the country.

“That two out of three Americans believe the so-called ‘mainstream’ press is full of ‘fake news’ — including a majority of Democrats.”

The non-stop vilification of Russia and Trump has seriously backfired on the corporate media. Another poll by Harvard-Harris, conducted back in May, showed that two out of three Americans believe the so-called “mainstream” press is full of “fake news” — including a majority of Democrats. The Russiagate blitzkrieg, designed to delegitimize Trump and demonize Vladimir Putin, has exacerbated an already existing crisis of legitimacy for the entire U.S. political system. “Every major institution from the presidency to the courts is now seen as operating in a partisan fashion in one direction or the other,” said poll co-director Mark Penn.

The only unequivocal winner is the bipartisan War Party, which has used the manufactured crisis to drench the nation in anti-Russian hysteria – worse than back in the bad old days of the Red Scares. By March, Black Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) was using much the same language as Dick Cheney to describe the Kremlin.

“I think this attack that we’ve experienced is a form of war, a form of war on our fundamental democratic principles,” said the hopelessly brainwashed representative of the Black Misleadership Class.

“Liberal” Democratic Maryland Rep. Ben Cardin called the nonexistent “attack” a “political Pearl Harbor.”

If the U.S. Congress actually took seriously its Constitutional powers to declare war, the human race would already have been exterminated.

Sixty-two percent of voters say there is no hard evidence of White House ‘collusion’ with Russia.”

So insane have the Democrats become, that we are probably better off with war powers effectively in the hands of Donald Trump, than with California’s Barbara Lee, the only member of Congress that voted against the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. She was in her “right mind” then, but no longer. Trump’s willingness to talk with the leader of Russia, in Hamburg, infuriated Rep. Lee, who tweeted:

 “Outraged by President Trump’s 2 hr meeting w/Putin, the man who orchestrated attacks on our democracy. Where do his loyalties lie?”

A better question is: When and where did Lee join the War Party?

The dogs of war at U.S. intelligence agencies have led the charge against Trump since they encamped at Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters, last year. The spoiled oligarch was not trusted to maintain the momentum of the U.S. military offensive begun by Barack Obama in 2011, with the unprovoked war against Libya. The state of war must be preserved, whatever the cost to the empire’s domestic institutions. Skilled in the arts of regime change, the spooks joined with their longtime partners in corporate media propaganda, to foment a “color revolution” at home. Barbara Lee is a recent recruit.

“The Lords of Capital effectively shut the Democrats down decades ago.”

Although the Democrats will ultimately harm themselves with the electorate by folding into the War Party, it suits the purposes of party leadership and the fat cats that finance them. The ruling class has nothing to offer the people except the total insecurity of gig-jobs and austerity. The Lords of Capital effectively shut the Democrats down decades ago. They can campaign as if there really is a clash of ideas about the organization of society, but they must propose nothing that fundamentally conflicts with the steady consolidation of wealth and power by the oligarchy (the American one, not the Russians). That goes for Bernie Sanders, too. Heard anything about single payer from him, lately?

The “all Russiagate, all the time” information regime — which also prepares the public for a wider war scenario – provides the illusion of motion that passes for “resistance” to the rule of the rich, as personified by Donald Trump. But there has been no Democratic program to reorder society for at least a generation. And now, under the New McCarthyism, the only politics that is allowed is war politics, consisting of denunciations of those who threaten “our fundamental democratic principles” – which need not be defined or even proven to exist.

That’s why it has been an empty year, albeit a very loud one. As Gil Scott-Heron sang in “Winter in America,”

“Nobody’s fighting, ‘cause nobody knows what to save.”

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected]Glen Ford’s blog

Featured image from Black Agenda Report.

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It is far from unusual in recent times: a spate of terrorist activity, followed by police seemingly agog, then the call for cavalry, usually in the form of military forces to guard vital installations and furnish the public with a reassuring presence. Unfortunately, such moves tend to take place long after the horse has bolted, an ineffectual measure in terms of combating terrorism but pernicious in terms of dealing with distinctions policing.

Australia’s Turnbull government has promised new powers under a national security review conducted last year that will grant the Australian army powers to kill terrors suspects on sight. This is not all: the actual militarisation of Australian police personnel is set to take place with specialists from the ADF embedded in various teams. Training from elite SAS personnel is also slated to take place.

These measures are far from reassuring, suggesting that the military aspect of policing has been given not just a jolt but a terrific heave ho. The Prime Minister, showing he is far from mellowing in his role on the subject of defusing fear, insists on the authoritarian prerogative of streamlining and trimming the interaction between military and policing functions. Cut the strings, the heavy bound red tape, and the world will be a safe place.

Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull

According to Malcolm Turnbull,

“The overhaul will make it easier for Defence to work together with federal, state and territory police in the event of a terrorist incident. State and territory police forces remain the best first response to terrorist incidents immediately after an attack starts.”[1]

Distinctions between the policing element of a state, and its military, are worth having. One, working within the boundaries of the law, targets and prevents crime; the other, focuses on the defence of the realm. These points are far from being the same thing. But the terrorist genie, floating about with menace, has been used to render these points theoretical, which is more than just a crying shame.

In another conspicuous area, military and defence functions have been obliterated to cope with refugee and asylum seeker arrivals by boat. Civilian functions more akin to traditional policing and processing have become the purview of the military, a move that was significantly advanced during the years of the Howard government. The signalling shot there was the deployment in August 2001 of the SAS against the Norwegian vessel, the MV Tampa. Its apotheosis is Operation Sovereign Borders.

Theories on how the Australian military interact with policing functions are far from sophisticated. There is, for instance, no equivalent Posse Comitatus Act, an 1878 US initiative passed by a Democratic-led Congress after troops were deployed two years prior ostensibly to maintain order at various polling places in southern states.

The Democrats were convinced that the measure was designed to fix the election for Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and pushed for provisions that would limit the role of the US military in terms of operating in civilian spaces, or to “execute the laws”.

This did not mean, of course, that the PCA would not be assailed with grubby hands indifferent to civil liberties. President Bill Clinton did his very best with the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Act of 1996, part of an omnibus of crime statutes that effectively pulled the carpet of law enforcement from under the GOP law-and-order hawks.

While Clinton did not get his wish initially (the final version did not contain an abolition of Posse Comitatus in terms of working with police), the writing was left to dry on the wall. The sheer power and pseudo-military aspects of much in current US policing has arguably rendered neat distinctions redundant.

The Australian constitution does provide for the following:

“The Commonwealth shall protect every state against invasion and, on the application of the Executive Government of the State, against domestic violence.”

Once declared by the Governor-General, “Permanent Forces” may be called out, with “Emergency Forces and Reserve Forces” sought in the event that numbers are insufficient.

In the past, Australia’s military has become the fall-back option for authorities, called upon as a grand clearing house to supply substitute civilian functions. At points, the authorities in Canberra have been cautious to blend military matters with civilian disputes.

In 1997, the National Farmers Federation urged Prime Minister John Howard to use troops to forcibly “reform” the waterfront and keep the docks running during a strike.

“I don’t contemplate,” came Howard’s response, “the use of the military in civilian disputes. I’ve never advocated the use of troops.”[2]

The NFF’s request was perhaps understandable, given that a Labor prime minister, Bob Hawke, had used military personnel and material to replace lost manpower during the famed wage dispute of Australian pilots in 1989.

What is being contemplated in these new measures by Turnbull is the deployment of lethal measures and military control over civilian spaces. The ADF, as with other military arms, can provide heavy lifting in the event of natural disaster, emergencies and the like, but deploying it as a de facto police force is setting a vicious cat amongst the pigeons.

Conflating police and military functions is not only an insidious overreach, but blurs assumptions about justice and law enforcement. As a US federal court put it,

“Military personnel must be trained to operate under circumstances where the protection of constitutional freedoms cannot receive the consideration needed in order to assure their preservation.”[3]

Even in the absence of a Posse Comitatus provision in Australia, the tendency to throw the book of evidence and prosecution out and favour summary rough handling, even execution in such cases, is genuine. In this sense, the Australian government risks pushing its domestic arena further down the pathway of a militarisation with grave consequences.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: [email protected]

Notes

[1] http://www.news.com.au/national/australian-army-to-take-terror-attack-lead-not-local-police-under-malcolm-turnbull-overhaul/news-story/6d4301a99b44a4d004db0a43a5e4f9ea

[2]http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/RP9798/98rp08#APPENDIXF

[3] https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/what-posse-comitatus

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Public Transit, Privatization and the Canada Infrastructure Bank

July 17th, 2017 by Canadian Union of Public Employees

The Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) will create a pipeline of privatization for our public transit systems. Corporations will be able to extract long-term profit from public transit fares and public subsidies. 

Our governments subsidize public transit because it’s critical infrastructure for our communities: to get us from place to place, to reduce traffic congestion, and to green our environment. When we allow corporations to plan, finance, operate, maintain and own public transit, we funnel ridership fares and government funding into corporate coffers.

The CIB will give unprecedented control and decision-making power over our public transit infrastructure to private sector investors. This means the public interest will take a back seat in transit planning and development.

Many of our public transit systems in recent years have been built using public-private partnerships (P3s). The CIB will open the door to even further privatization, allowing profit to drive public transit planning and decision-making.

Transit Privatization

Almost one-third of the $81.3-billion in new infrastructure spending promised in Budget 2017 is for transit infrastructure over 11 years. This includes $20.1-billion through new public transit bilateral agreements between the federal government and provinces and territories and $5-billion through the new CIB. Canadian and foreign investors are expected to put in up to $4 in private funds for every public dollar in the CIB.

The Liberals have played a privatization shell game. While the mandatory P3 screen will end, which had forced all large infrastructure projects through a P3 evaluation process, the CIB is explicitly designed to promote privatization. And 20 per cent of federal public transit funding will be funneled through this privatization bank in addition to the expected private sector investment.

The privatization of public transit systems will likely mean long-term P3 contracts where the private sector finances, operates and maintains the service – all at a cost.[1] No public transit system in North America has been able to cover all its operating costs through transit fares. Governments provide ongoing funding to help residents get from place to place. With public transit privatization, private companies extract long-term profits while governments continue to subsidize the service.

Transit Privatization Hurts CUPE Members and the Public

Pushing public transit projects through the ‘privatization bank’ will hurt the 9000+ CUPE members who work in the sector. It will also hurt citizens particularly lower or middle-income earners who will have to pay for this higher cost public transit either directly through transit fares or indirectly through our tax system.

A majority of CUPE members in the transit sector – over 7,100 – are bus drivers employed by 19 municipal transit authorities in Quebec. CUPE also represents workers who do maintenance work on public transit systems that can be outsourced in many transit privatization projects.

Privatization hurts workers by putting downward pressure on wages and working conditions. Contracting-out and low-waged precarious work are key ways private corporations can profit from infrastructure like public transit. This hurts workers but it also affects public services. Private sector ownership, operating and maintenance shift public transit from serving the public good to supporting private profit.

Privatization also hurts the public. Transit users may face higher transit fares or have to use systems where decision-making on routes has been guided by private profit rather than the public interest. Privatization projects may also limit community involvement and participation in key decisions. Furthermore, broader societal priorities such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions are easily ignored in privatization projects.

Privatization Gone Wrong: Réseau électrique métropolitain (REM)

There are many examples of transit privatization in recent years that can give us some indication of the dangers involved. One example, which may receive funding through the CIB, is the $6-billion Réseau électrique métropolitain (REM) light rail project in Montreal.

This project to connect Montreal’s south shore, the airport, the city centre and Deux-Montagnes has been designed and partially financed by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which manages the funds of the Quebec Pension Plan and other public pension funds. Decisions about the route, technology and compatibility with existing transit lines have been driven by what suits the profit interests of the Caisse and private developers rather than the public.

The rail line will be maintained, operated and even owned by the Caisse – at significant extra cost. A La Presse investigation estimated the REM will operate with a funding shortfall of approximately $240-million per year. It’s possible public transit fares across the entire city will increase in order to generate these profit levels.[2] Regardless, the public will pay for the higher costs through subsidies from municipalities or the Quebec government or higher fares for transit users.

With the REM, the Quebec government has outsourced public transit planning, design, operation and maintenance to the Caisse. They’ve even sold off segments of their core public transit infrastructure. This will make it difficult to further expand Montreal’s public transit system, integrate it with other transportation networks such as Via Rail and properly oversee the service. This privatization scheme has resulted in a public transit plan that maximizes private profit at the public’s expense.

Unfortunately, we have many cases of public transit privatization gone wrong across the country. The Canada Line P3 in Vancouver, British Columbia went overbudget, lacked innovation and integration with the broader transit system and undermined public accountability. The Ontario Auditor General review of P3 projects, including six transit projects, found that P3s cost $8-billion more than if they had been delivered publicly due to increased private-sector financing costs and a lack of risk transfer. Furthermore, a review of Edmonton’s P3 LRT development indicated that savings were likely going to be found through poor labour practices. Unfortunately, more transit privatization blunders will be coming our way through the privatization bank.

Conclusion

We need to build the public transit infrastructure that reduces traffic congestion, helps the environment and gets us from place to place. This infrastructure helps grow our communities and our economy. But building our public transit infrastructure through the Canada Infrastructure Bank will lead to a pipeline of privatization. Our infrastructure needs to be built in a way that benefits communities, not private investors. It needs to be built in the most cost-effective way – through low-cost public financing. And it needs to include good green jobs for transit workers.

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is the largest union in Canada, representing some 650,000 workers in healthcare, education, municipalities, libraries, universities, social services, public utilities, transportation, emergency services and airlines. This article was first published on their website.

Notes

1. Dachis, B. Commentary No. 473, New and Improved: How Institutional Investment in Public Infrastructure can Benefit Taxpayers and Consumers, C.D. Howe Institute, March 2017.

2. Schepper, B. “CDPQ et le REM, un projet qui démantèle le réseau de transport en commun de Montréal,” IRIS, février 2017.

Featured image from Socialist Project

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SYRIA (Analysis)– In Part I of independent analyst Sarah Abed’s three-part analysis for MintPress News, Abed began exposing the modern day Kurdish/Israeli alliance that both parties have tried to keep hidden in order to avoid drawing the public’s attention to their ultimate plan, as well as the U.S.’ use of Kurdish factions in destabilizing the Middle East. The Kurds have engaged in such relationships in part because of internal divisions and disunity, which have also made it difficult to fulfill their goal of establishing a fully autonomous Kurdistan spanning over the four countries they currently occupy.

We also examined the Syrian government’s attempts at keeping the country united by addressing and implementing constitutional changes that benefit the Kurds – attempts that have still failed to convince separatist Kurds to abandon their goal of Balkanizing and illegally confiscating parts of Syria at the cost of the people who reside there.

Read Part I below

The Kurds: Washington’s Weapon of Mass Destabilization in the Middle East

By Sarah Abed, July 14, 2017

***

Part II examines this topic in greater depth in hopes of raising awareness of this little-known but imperative part of the Syrian puzzle. Abed will analyze the Kurds’ link to apartheid Israel and why the country has taken such a strong interest in the group, as well as the strange phenomenon of Western military veterans traveling to Syria to fight alongside the Kurds.

The Kurdish link to Daesh (ISIS) will also be covered, as a number of Kurds have chosen to fight on their side. Kurdish alliances with armed terrorist groups in Syria – particularly Daesh – are very telling signs as to what extremes Kurds will go to in order to bring their ideological manifestation of an independent, autonomous Kurdistan into existence.

Washington and Tel Aviv’s geopolitical plans for dominating the Middle East can only be dismantled if the majority of citizens understand the intricate behind-the-scenes mechanisms that are driving their plan. Ultimately, their goal is not only to destabilize Iraq and Syria and divide them into statelets, but also to weaken Iran’s global presence – objectives that are being pursued with the help of the Kurds.

Kurdish ties to Israel

The Kurdish-Israeli relationship has matured significantly. Since at least the 1960s, Israel has provided intermittent security assistance and military training to the Kurds. This served mostly as an anti-Saddam play – keeping him distracted as Israel fought two wars against coordinated Arab neighbors – but mutual understanding of their respective predicaments also bred an Israeli-Kurdish affinity. All signs point to this security cooperation continuing today. Israeli procurement of affordable Kurdish oil not only indicates a strengthening of economic ties, but also an Israeli lifeline to budget-starved Erbil that suggests a strategic bet on the Kurds in an evolving region.

The people closest to the Jews from a genetic point of view may be the Kurds, according to the results of a recent study by Hebrew University.

The Kurds are allied with Syria’s fiercest enemy – Israel – whose planned Greater Israel project coincidentally aligns almost perfectly with the Kurds’ plans for “Kurdistan.”  In the Oded Yinon plan, which is the plan for a “Greater Israel,” it states the imperative use of Kurds to help divide neighboring countries in order to aid in their plans for greater domination. Interestingly enough, Kurds brush this alliance off as being just another step in achieving their ultimate goal of creating an autonomous Kurdistan.

Every major Kurdish political group in the region has longstanding ties to Israel. It’s all linked to major ethnic violence against Arabs, Turkmens and Assyrians. From the PKK in Turkey to the PYD and YPG in Syria, PJAK in Iran to the most notorious of them all, the Barzani-Talabani mafia regime (KRG/Peshmerga) in northern Iraq. Thus it should come as no surprise that Erbil supplied Daesh (ISIS) with weaponry to weaken the Iraqi government in Baghdad. And when it becomes understood that Erbil is merely the front for Tel Aviv in Iraq, the scheme becomes clear.

Israel has reportedly been providing the KRG with weapons and training even prior its military encounters with Daesh. On the level of economic strategy, Israel granted critical support to the KRG by buying Kurdish oil in 2015 when no other country was willing to do so because of Baghdad’s threat to sue. KRG Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami even admitted to the arrangement, saying that Kurdish oil was often funneled through Israel to avoid detection.

In January 2012 the French newspaper Le Figaro claimed that Israeli intelligence agents were recruiting and training Iranian dissidents in clandestine bases located in Iraq’s Kurdish region. By aligning with the Kurds, Israel gains eyes and ears in Iran, Iraq and Syria. A year later, the Washington Post disclosed that Turkey had revealed to Iranian intelligence a network of Israeli spies working in Iran, including ten people believed to be Kurds who reportedly met with Mossad members in Turkey. This precarious relationship between Israel and Turkey persists today.

Western veterans take up the Kurdish cause

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and its Syrian spinoff, the YPG, are cult-like radical movements that intertwine Marxism, feminism, Leninism and Kurdish nationalism into a hodge-podge of ideology, drawing members through the extensive use of propaganda that appeals to these modes of thought. Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the PKK, took inspiration from American anarchist Murray Bookchin in creating his philosophy, which he calls “Democratic Confederalism.”

The PKK spin-off group YPG represents most of the SDF in Syria. With Western political support, they have gained popularity and garnered an impressive amount of support from many military veterans in the West, some of whom have left the comfort of their home countries to fight with the group. One of their most productive marketing tools has been to use young, attractive female fighters as the face of the guerrillas. During their fight against Daesh, the PKK has saturated the media with images of these young female “freedom fighters,” using them as a marketing tool to take their cause from obscurity to fame.

Watch a BBC report on female Kurdish fighters in Syria, featuring Kurdish singer ‘Helly Luv’:

But what doesn’t get reported is how the movement has carried out kidnappings and murder – not to mention its involvement in trafficking narcotics.

Kurdish families are demanding that the PKK stop kidnapping minors. It started on April 23, the day Turkey marked its 91st National Sovereignty and Children’s Day. While children celebrated the holiday in western Turkey, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) kidnapped 25 students between the ages of 14 and 16 on the east side of the country, in the Lice district of Diyarbakir.

Although the PKK has kidnapped more than 330 minors in the last six months, the Bockum family was the first in the region who put up a tent near their home to start a sit-in protest, challenging the PKK and demanding that it return their son. Sinan was returned to the family on May 4. Al-Monitor reported this incident from the beginning in great detail.

As Bebyin Somuk reported in her article, the PKK and PYD still kidnap children in Turkey and Syria. She states:

“As I previously wrote for Kebab and Camel, the PKK commits war crimes by recruiting children as soldiers. Some of the PKK militants that surrendered yesterday were also the PKK’s child soldiers. The photos clearly show that these children are not more than sixteen years old. The Turkish army released video of the 25 PKK militants surrendering in Nusaybin.”

SouthFront reported on female PKK fighters who have killed Turkish soldiers.

“The women fighters command of the Kurdistan Worker Party (PKK) have released a statement, claiming PKK female fighters killed 160 Turkish military servicemen in 2016. According to the statement, the women fighters command of the PKK carried out 115 operations against Turkish government forces in 2016. The group also vowed to ‘proceed the struggle during the new year for a life of freedom and until victory is achieved.’”

The PKK is also killing Kurds under the guise of protecting their rights.

“Senior PKK leader Cemil Bayık, in an interview with the Fırat News Agency (ANF) on Aug. 8, said, ‘Our war will not be confined to the mountains like it was before. It will be spread everywhere without making a distinction between mountains, plains or cities. It will spread to the metropolises.’ Terrorist Bayık’s statement signaled that the PKK would take increasing aim against civilians, targeting civilian areas more than ever. And it is happening. Since July 15, the day when the Gülenist terror cult, FETÖ, launched its failed military coup attempt to topple the democratically-elected government, the PKK perpetrated dozens of terrorist attacks, killing 21 civilians and injuring 319 others – most of them Kurdish citizens.”

According to The Washington Institute

 “On November 18, FBI Director Robert Mueller met with senior Turkish officials to address U.S.-Turkish efforts targeting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), also known as Kongra-Gel. A press release from the U.S. embassy in Ankara following the meeting stressed that U.S. officials ‘strongly support Turkey’s efforts against the PKK terrorist organization’ and highlighted the two countries’ long history of working together in the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime.

These discussions are timely. Despite Ankara’s recent bid to alleviate the Kurdish issue — a bid referred to as the ‘democratic opening’ — the PKK is one of a growing number of terrorist organizations with significant stakes in the international drug trade. In October, the U.S. Treasury Department added three PKK/Kongra-Gel senior leaders to its list of foreign narcotics traffickers. The PKK, along with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), is one of only a few organizations worldwide designated by the U.S. government as both a terrorist organization and a significant foreign narcotics trafficker.”

Drug smuggling is reported to be the main financial source of PKK terrorism, according to the organization International Strategic Research, whose detailed report can be seen here.

Their exaggerated triumphs against Daesh have helped them evolve from a radical militia to an alleged regional power player. Have they been successful in fighting against Daesh in Syria? Yes – but while the Syrian Arab Army has been more effective, it does not receive a fraction of the praise or recognition that the PKK does.

Pato Rincon, a U.S. military veteran, recently wrote about his experience training with the YPG in Syria. Although initially interested in their desire for autonomy, he soon got to know a different side of the group:

“While they are a direct ideological descendant of the Soviet Union, their take on Marxism has a much more nationalistic bent than that of their internationalist forebears. At their training camp that I attended, they constantly spoke of their right to a free and autonomous homeland–which I could support. On the other hand, they ludicrously claimed that all surrounding cultures from Arab to Turk to Persian descended from Kurdish culture. One should find this odd, considering that the Kurds have never had such autonomy as that which they struggle for. All of this puffed-up nationalism masquerading as internationalism was easy to see through…not only was their idea of Marxism fatuous, their version of feminism was even worse.”

Accounts such as this will certainly not make it to mainstream media, as they do not fit the narrative that the Kurds and their sponsors promote.

In another example of Western support for the YPG, Joe Robinson, an ex-soldier and UK national, recently returned to the UK after spending five months in Syria fighting with the group. He was detained and arrested by Greater Manchester Police officers on suspicion of terrorism offenses as soon as he returned. He joined the British military when he was 18 and toured Afghanistan with the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment in 2012.

He left the UK when an arrest warrant was issued after he failed to appear in court. Robinson is pictured here in Syria with YPG fighters.

Joe Robinson Kurds Syria ISIS

Robinson is on the far left, holding his weapon while his fellow YPG comrades are holding a Daesh flag.  The writing on the wall speaks volumes about the relationship between Israel, the Kurds and the United States.

SDF working with Daesh

The most evident contradiction to be noted is that the Kurds in the SDF are working with the U.S. through its so-called “Operation Inherent Resolve,” which is the official name for its anti-Daesh operations. But at the same time, the U.S.-led coalition, including Kurdish armed units, lets “militants of the Islamic State terrorist group leave Raqqa instead of killing them,” according to Sergey Surovikin, the commander of Russia’s force grouping in Syria.

“Instead of eliminating terrorists guilty of killing hundreds and thousands of Syrian civilians, the U.S.-led coalition together with the Democratic Forces enters into collusion with ringleaders of ISIL, who give up the settlements they had seized without fighting and head to the provinces where the Syrian government forces are active,” he said.

Sputnik Arabic was able to talk to Husma Shaib, a Syrian expert on armed groups in Syria who explained why the SDF is comparable to the al-Nusra Front and what the actual aim of their operations in Syria is.

The loosely-knit coalition of Syrian rebel groups known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), are armed, trained and backed by the U.S. The group is currently engaged in the early stages of battle in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria.

The loosely-knit coalition of Syrian rebel groups, including Kurdish factions, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), are armed, trained and backed by the U.S.

“In Syria, we regard these forces as unlawful military formations which operate outside of the legal environment. They are the same a terrorist units like al-Nusra Front and Daesh. The Syrian Democratic Forces do not coordinate their activities with the Syrian Army. We regard them as terrorists,” Shaib told Sputnik.

The SDF is mostly comprised of the Kurdish YPG militia, which unanimously declared the “federalization” of what they call “Rojava,” or “Western Kurdistan,” in March 2016.

The leaders of the SDF announced that they’ll try to annex the majority-Arab city of Raqqa if they manage to liberate it.

The Kurds are ethnically cleansing Arabs from Raqqa en masse in order to pave the way for the city’s annexation to their unilaterally declared “Federation” after its forthcoming capture.

Hostility against SAA forces

On June 18, a U.S. jet shot down a Syrian Su-22 fighter-bomber near the city of Tabqa. The U.S.-led coalition said the Syrian aircraft attacked SDF positions, adding that the coalition downed the Syrian jet as part of “collective self-defense of coalition partnered forces,” according to Sputnik News.

However, the SAA stated that they were, in fact, attacking Daesh, not the SDF. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) then sent in a rescue mission to retrieve the downed pilot. Al Masdar News (AMN) reported that they encountered intense resistance from the SDF, which would imply a serious escalation between the two.

The Syrian Army General Command responded with an official statement that the flagrant aggression undoubtedly affirms the US’s real stance in support of terrorism which aims to affect the capability of the Syrian Arab Army- the only active force- along with its allies that practice its legitimate right in combating terrorism all over Syria.

The fin and rear fuselage of a Syrian Airfore Su-22M, The same type of aircraft shot down by US forces while engaging ISIS targets fleeing Raqqa , Syria. (Photo: A.V.)

The fin and rear fuselage of a Syrian Airforce Su-22M, The same type of aircraft shot down by US forces while engaging ISIS targets fleeing Raqqa, Syria. (Photo: A.V.)

“The attack stresses coordination between the US and ISIS, and it reveals the evil intentions of the US in administering terrorism and investing it to pass the US-Zionist project in the region.” The statement added.

It affirmed that such aggressions would not affect the Syrian Arab Army in its determination to continue the fight against ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations and to restore security and stability to all Syrian territories.

Earlier in the week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Sputnik that the U.S. strikes on SDF aircraft are aiding terrorists.

“In the case of strikes [by U.S. forces on the aircraft and drones of the Syrian Armed Forces], we are dealing with an open complicity with the terrorists operating on Syrian soil,” Ryabkov said.

CIA-armed Kurds in Syria

The U.S.-led coalition has on numerous occasions stated that it is working with the SDF to try to defeat Daesh in Syria. However, there have been numerous reports of U.S.-led airstrikes targeting Syrian civilians, military and infrastructure. These deadly and avoidable mistakes clearly illustrate how the US-led coalition’s presence in Syria has had a harmful impact on civilians. On June 26, the SDF cut off water supplies to 1 million civilians in Aleppo. Some sources stated that this was out of spite, whereas others stated they were unaware of the reason(s) behind such a destructive and deliberate against innocent civilians.

On July 5, 21st Century Wire reported on U.S. efforts to establish a greater military presence in Syria.

“The U.S. is setting up its military bases in the territories that were liberated from Daesh by our fighters during the fight against terrorism,” a senior SDF representative stated.

“The number of U.S. military installations in Syria has increased to eight bases according to recent reports, and possibly nine according to one other military analyst,” 21st Century Wire reported.

The Syrian government considers separatist Kurds to be just as dangerous as Daesh and other terrorist groups in the country. Their plans to destabilize the country are more dangerous than those of Daesh, especially since the West provides them with moral support, weapons, training, financial aid, armed vehicles and even air support.

“We’ll be recovering [weapons] during the battle, repairing them. When they don’t need certain things anymore, we’ll replace those with something they do need,” stated U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis in late June.

Kurds selling weapons given to them from Germany to fight against Daesh

Reporters from German broadcasters NDR and WDR found several G3 assault rifles and a P1 pistol, all engraved with the initials “BW” for Bundeswehr – Germany’s military – in the northern Iraqi cities of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier pledges German military support to the Kurds in northern Iraq during a meeting in Erbil with Masoud Barzani, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier pledges German military support to the Kurds in northern Iraq during a meeting in Erbil with Masoud Barzani, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

The weapons apparently came from stocks that the German government delivered to the Kurdish autonomous government in northern Iraq. The weapons were intended to be used in the fight against the Daesh. Several members of Germany’s Green and Left parties have long raised concerns in parliament that arms delivered to Peshmerga fighters could fall into the wrong hands.

There have been several credible reports since the U.S.-led military alliance formed to help combat Daesh in Syria and Iraq of American-supplied weapons falling into the hands of unallied militias and even Daesh itself.

The U.S. has armed the Kurds and supported their efforts since helping them establish the Syrian Democratic Forces on Oct. 10, 2015. The U.S. needed to fund a group within Syria that was fighting against Daesh, but that was not as extremist as the Free Syrian Army, which was outed as being affiliated with al-Qaeda. The U.S. has stated that its main reason for being in Syria is to fight Daesh, but its actions have proved otherwise. Its true mission is to destabilize the country by assisting the Kurds through the SDF and other armed opposition forces in liberating land that can be used as a bargaining tool in future negotiations.

Ron Paul explains why arming the Kurds was a dangerous idea: 

Washington has repeatedly brushed aside Ankara’s irrefutable evidence that the YPG is an extension of the outlawed PKK terrorist organization, which has terrorized Turkey for more than three decades. U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has sent a letter to his Turkish counterpart Fikri Işık pledging that the United States will retrieve the weapons it sent to the YPG immediately after Daesh is defeated.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Defense will supply Turkey with detailed lists of the military materials and equipment dispatched to the YPG, implying that the U.S. aims to guarantee transparency in their bilateral relationship. This itself is an attempt to backtrack on a terrible decision that the U.S. may or may not believe they have made. If the reality hasn’t sunk in yet, it most certainly will when the Kurds refuse to give back the weapons or decide to sell them. Washington will then have to deal with an even more disgruntled Turkey.

Why Are Kurds Joining Daesh?

For over a year, Kurdish forces have united in defense against bloody Daesh attacks. So how has Daesh still managed to recruit hundreds of young Kurds to fight for the caliphate against their own families?

“There are Kurdish families in Halabja whose sons are in IS [Daesh] and their hearts are broken, but I’ll never go to their funerals,” said the grieving mother of Kaihan Borhan, a Kurd who died fighting with the Peshmerga against Daesh.

Her family is distraught that the people responsible for his death could well be Kurdish nationals.

“I have a friend whose brother died fighting for ISIS,” said Kaihan’s brother. “I never grieved for him and my friend cannot bear to look me in the eye.”

Here, we can see the path to extremism that many Kurds have taken. Dissatisfaction with the Kurdish intelligence service, Asayish’s persecution of Muslims and domestic grievances are being skilfully exploited by Daesh through the use of propaganda, led by Khattab Al-Kurdi and his Saladin Brigade.

“With God’s permission we will sow the seeds of the Caliphate throughout our land,” said Khattab, who has been one of the most persuasive forces in luring Kurds towards the caliphate.

Even with Khattab’s reported death in April 2015, the threat of more Kurds joining Daesh seems unlikely to diminish, with a new Kurdish imam carrying the rhetoric forward.

Kurds being used to destabilize Iran

Documents leaked by WikiLeaks in 2010 suggested that Israeli Mossad Chief Meir Dagan wanted to use Kurds and ethnic minorities to topple the Iranian government. The Israeli spy service was aiming to create a weak and divided Iran, similar to the situation in Iraq, where the Kurds have their own autonomous government, the spy chief told a U.S. official.

The Partiya Jiyana Azad a Kurdistane (PJAK), a militant Kurdish nationalist group based in northern Iraq, has been carrying out attacks on Iranian forces in the Kurdistan Province of Iran (Eastern Kurdistan) and other Kurdish-inhabited areas. Half the members of PJAK are women. The PJAK has about 3,000 armed militiamen. They represent yet another example of the Kurds finding themselves in the middle of a conflict and being used as a pawn by the West.

The party is closely linked to the PKK. Iran has often accused PJAK and other Kurdish nationalist groups from Iran of being supported by Israel. Journalist Seymour Hersh has also claimed that the U.S. supported PJAK and other Iranian opposition groups. However, both the U.S. and Israel have denied supporting PJAK. In fact, the U.S. Treasury branded PJAK as a terrorist organization last year.

As Hersh noted in 2004:

“The Israelis have had long-standing ties to the Talibani and Barzani clans [in] Kurdistan and there are many Kurdish Jews that emigrated to Israel and there are still a lot of connection. But at some time before the end of the year [2004], and I’m not clear exactly when, certainly I would say a good six, eight months ago, Israel began to work with some trained Kurdish commandos, ostensibly the idea was the Israelis — some of the Israeli elite commander units, counter-terror or terror units, depending on your point of view, began training — getting the Kurds up to speed.”

Why are the so-called Kurdish “freedom fighters” willing to get in bed with any and every group that has an interest in destabilizing Syria? The provocative manner in which the SDF has teamed up with terrorist organizations during the war in Syria is a blaring contradiction to the “revolutionary” public relations image that they have fought hard to establish in recent years.

Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran, continue to oppose the notion of having their borders and sovereignty divided by the U.S. for yet another U.S./NATO-dictated social engineering experiment in the Middle East.

Attempts to rewrite geographic history

An estimated 30 million Kurds reside primarily in mountainous regions of present-day Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. They remain the world’s largest nomadic population without a sovereign state. The Kurds are not monolithic, however, and tribal identities and political interests often supersede a unifying national allegiance.

Some Kurds, particularly those who have migrated to urban centers, such as Istanbul, Damascus and Tehran, have integrated and assimilated, while many who remain in their ancestral lands maintain a strong sense of a distinctly Kurdish identity. A Kurdish diaspora of an estimated two million people is concentrated primarily in Europe, with over a million in Germany alone. These migratory wanderers never possessed their own country at any point in their history, but were always part of a larger country or empire that took them in and provided them refuge.

The version of events that the Kurds present is in staunch contrast with the account that is supported by most historians. This has proven to be a point of contention between the Kurds and the citizens of other countries.

The Kurds claim to have been conquered and occupied throughout their history, for instance. Here is an example of their attempt to rewrite history to fit their narrative:

“The Kurdish region has seen a long list of invaders and conquerors: Ancient Persians from the east, Alexander the Great from the west, Muslim Arabs in the 7th Century from the south, Seljuk Turks in the 11th Century from the east, the Mongols in the 13th Century from the east, medieval Persians from the east and the Ottoman Turks from the north in the 16th Century and most recently, the United States in its 2003 invasion of Iraq.”

In Part III of MPN’s Sarah Abed analysis of the Kurds’ role in helping the U.S. and Israel destabilize the Middle East, she will cover human rights violations, both past and present, committed by the Kurds against Arabs and Christian minorities, as well as address misconceptions as to why the Kurds remain stateless.

Sarah Abed is an independent journalist and political commentator. Focused on exposing the lies and propaganda in mainstream media news, as it relates to domestic and foreign policy with an emphasis on the Middle East. Contributed to various radio shows, news publications and spoken at forums. For media inquiries please email [email protected].

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Ever since the tragic and stupid launch of 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria by the United States took place in April, the entire incident has been represented as a one-man show by the corporate and even by the alternative media. The corporate press, which virtually never gives Trump a break on any issue real or imagined, was strangely approving of The Donald after his war crime while his detractors in the alternative media were presenting the act as that of a madman who is frighteningly close to the red button.

On June 25, veteran journalist Seymour Hersh released a bombshell article revealing a number of facets regarding the alleged chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria and the resulting volley of Tomahawk missiles fired by the United States at the al-Sha’aryat airbase in response. Hersh’s article provides the reader with what many of us already knew and wrote about at the time; i.e. that the Syrian military did not conduct a chemical weapons attack and that the United States was fully aware of that fact. Still, the U.S. government opted to use the attack as a justification for launching 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase that resulted in the deaths of Syrian soldiers, civilians, and children from the nearby village.

Hersh’s article shows that not all key personnel were on board with the decision to launch Tomahawk missiles at al-Sha’aryat or even of the whole Syria/Iraq mission. The article reveals real concerns amongst knowledgeable personnel that the Russians will not continue to act as the cooler heads and that Russia has long wanted peace in the region. Most notably, it reveals the fact that there is a “secret agenda” moving forward in regards to Syria, Iraq, and Russia. Hersh’s article also points to the President as the individual who made the decision to launch attacks in Syria, against the advice of the military and intelligence community. In fact, Hersh’s article makes the entire incident appear as if it were the Trump show from beginning to end.

While Hersh’s article provides valuable information, it is becoming more and more evident that what Hersh came across was either an intentional leak or, perhaps even more accurate, only part of the story.

I wrote at the time that what is most likely here is not the situation that Hersh presents. It is more likely that the U.S. military and intelligence apparatus colluded with their corporate media department and capitalized on this incident and Trump’s narcissism and perceived political necessity. It is more likely that “advisors” like Trump’s rabid Zionist son-in-law who has been given frightening levels of access to the President and the government in an official capacity as Trump’s senior advisor, simply told the President that launching missiles was what he was expected to do by the Deep State and Trump complied. Trump could also have been told by advisors that the story was already out and the narrative already accepted and therefore he had to do something to appease the pro-war leftists, Democrats, and Republicans.

In this regard, Hersh’s article is possibly a limited hangout operation, not on the part of Hersh, but on the part of the intelligence community who wish to do more damage to the President’s public support and his ability to act independently of the “deep state.” It is their ability to announce the tragic massive fraud of Khan Sheikhoun while looking like the level heads and the good guys of the situation. Trump, of course, comes off looking like the lone assassin, the lone madman so eaten up with narcissism that he is putting the country at risk. But while Trump is undeniably a narcissist and he is undeniably putting the country at risk, it is the fact that he is listening to and obeying the deep state apparatus that is the danger, not that he is ignoring them.

While most of the above is informed speculation, it is also put into proper historical context, not only in the Trump administration but also in the history of other administrations over the past several decades, most notably that of Kennedy and Nixon, neither of which point to a promising end for Trump.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo

Backing up my own suspicions is the current Director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo. In a recent speech to the INSA Leadership Dinner on July 11, Pompeo was giving a typical dinner speech about the harrowing world of the intelligence community, how tough it is to have his position, the importance of it, etc. During the course of the speech, however, Pompeo let a very interesting tidbit slip. Pompeo said:

I got a call from the President one afternoon back in April. He wanted to talk about some disturbing images that were coming in from Syria. I’m sure you saw many of them yourselves—scenes of innocent civilians writhing in agony, the apparent victims of a chemical weapons attack.

The President had a very direct message for me: Find out what happened. So we immediately assembled a crack team of Agency experts. They began piecing together the evidence, working closely with some outstanding partners from across the Intelligence Community.

The next day the President called his cabinet together. As we sat down, he turned to me and asked what we had learned. I told him that the IC had concluded that a chemical weapon had indeed been used in the attack, and that it had been launched by the Syrian regime.

The President paused a moment and said: Pompeo, are you sure? I’ll admit that the question took my breath away. But I knew how solid the evidence was, and I was able to look him in the eye and say, Mr. President, we have high confidence in our assessment.

The President never looked back. Based on the Intelligence Community’s judgment, he made one of the most consequential decisions of his young administration, launching a strike against the very airfield where the attack originated.

So I can assure you that when it comes to having the confidence of the Commander in Chief, CIA and the Intelligence Community are in great shape.

In other words, Pompeo is directly contradicting Hersh’s sources, saying it was not Trump who led the show but the intelligence community. Of course, Trump, being President is ultimately responsible for making the wrong decision but notice that, according to Pompeo himself, Trump demanded answers as to whom committed the attack. It was the intelligence community that came back to the President with assurances Assad was responsible.

Obviously, given all of the evidence surrounding Khan Sheikhoun, the idea that Assad committed a chemical weapons attack is ludicrous. It simply did not happen. The United States has no evidence that the incident was what it claims and all of the evidence produced by the Syrians, Russians, and independent researchers points to the contrary, even toward the fact that the entire incident may have been planned to set up the Syrian government so as to provide justification for an attack on Syria by the United States.

So what Pompeo is admitting to is, at best, providing the President with faulty intelligence. However, we know from the Hersh leaks that the intelligence community was already well aware of the fact that the Syrian government did not commit a chemical weapons attack. With that in mind, it appears that Pompeo has admitted to lying to Trump regarding the guilty party in Khan Sheikhoun and the existence of chemical weapons. At the very least, he managed to create a paper trail that leads right to the door of the CIA.

Is anyone surprised?

Brandon Turbeville – article archive here – is the author of seven books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom7 Real ConspiraciesFive Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 andvolume 2The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria, The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President, and Resisting The Empire: The Plan To Destroy Syria And How The Future Of The World Depends On The OutcomeTurbeville has published over 1000 articles on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s radio show Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST atUCYTV. His website is BrandonTurbeville.com He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com.

Featured image from Activist Post

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Featured image: Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya (Source: The Inquisitr)

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at [email protected].

The phony accusation is all about trying to denigrate, weaken and undermine Trump, along with intense Russia bashing to prevent improved relations – the notion anathema to bipartisan Russophobes.

What’s going on is part of a diabolical plot to remove Trump from office for unjustifiable reasons, not legitimate ones, replacing him with an easily controlled Pence, a deep state puppet in waiting.

Or if removal fails, assure his geopolitical agenda continues longstanding dirty business as usual, including no change in US hostility toward Russia.

The ugly scheme makes reality seem like a Jean le Carre espionage thriller – the deplorable way Washington works.

Image result

Donald Trump Jr. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The latest tactic suggests Trump Jr.’s meeting with private citizen/Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya proves a Russian connection to his father.

The June 2016 meeting attended by Russian national/US citizen/lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin is offered as further evidence.

He has no Kremlin connection. Yet he’s called a “former Soviet counter-intelligence official” because he earlier served in Soviet Russia’s military in a counter-intelligence capacity.

It was long ago. There was nothing unusual or improper about his service. The Soviet Union no longer exists – dissolved in December 1991.

Akhmetshin has no connection to the post-Soviet Russian Federation’s government. Yet he and private citizen Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya meeting with Trump Jr. last year has been blown way out of proportion.

It’s being used by anti-Trump US political and media elements as possible “smoking gun” evidence of a nefarious Russia connection.

AP News reported the following about his presence at the Trump Jr./Veselnitskaya meeting, saying:

“In his first public interview about the meeting, Akhmetshin said he accompanied Veselnitskaya to Trump Tower where they met an interpreter.”

“He said he had learned about the meeting only that day when Veselnitskaya asked him to attend. He said he showed up in jeans and a T-shirt.”

“Veselnitskaya brought with her a plastic folder with printed-out documents that detailed what she believed was the flow of illicit funds to the Democrats, Akhmetshin said.”

“Veselnitskaya presented the contents of the documents to the Trump associates and suggested that making the information public could help the campaign, he said.”

“‘This could be a good issue to expose how the DNC is accepting bad money,’ Akhmetshin recalled her saying.”

“Trump Jr. asked the attorney if she had sufficient evidence to back up her claims, including whether she could demonstrate the flow of the money.”

“But Veselnitskaya said the Trump campaign would need to research it more. After that, Trump Jr. lost interest, according to Akhmetshin.”

“‘They couldn’t wait for the meeting to end,’ he said.”

“Akhmetshin said he does not know if Veselnitskaya’s documents were provided by the Russian government. He said he thinks she left the materials with the Trump associates.”

“It was unclear if she handed the documents to anyone in the room or simply left them behind, he said.”

The above account shows Trump Jr.’s explanation of what took place during the meeting is accurate. Nothing improper or out-of-the ordinary occurred – no evidence of a devious, covert, unacceptable or illegal Trump/Russia connection.

Law Professor Jonathan Turley called the Trump Jr.-Veselnitskaya/Akhmetshin meeting the “worst spy story ever,” adding “the overheated rhetoric on possible (if not imminent) criminal charges is bizarre.”

Claims about possible espionage and treason are “facially weak (without) foundation.” Nothing suggests a “Russian intelligence operation…”

“Russians do not usually set up meetings at places like Trump Tower with an unknown number of persons to discuss secret operations.”

Not a shred of credible evidence suggests an improper or illegal Trump team Russia connection.

A Final Comment

RT interviewed Denis Grunis, international cooperation department head of Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office.

According to a 1999 treaty, Moscow sends information on relevant criminal activity to the Justice Department through established communication channels, he explained, stressing:

“It is insane to think that the Prosecutor General’s Office would use a private lawyer to transfer information.”

Separately, Sergey Lavrov said

“(i)t is amazing how serious people are making an elephant out of a fly.”

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at [email protected].

My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

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The manipulation of news and the distortion of reality are the most powerful weapons in the hands of power. They can make a whole reality disappear.

Yemen’s, for example.

A child dies in Yemen every ten minutes from preventable causes, UNICEF reported in June. These deaths are only part of a humanitarian catastrophe, among the worst in the world, including a rampaging cholera epidemic, to which the witness of the overwhelming majority of the West’s warmongering Goebbelist media pretends to be deaf, mute, and blind.

Nevertheless, information is accessible. There are sporadic exceptions to the conspiracy of silence in officialdom and the media. The week of July 10, The Independent published in the “Voices” section the appeal of Wael Ibrahim, an aid worker in Yemen:

“It is going to take years to restore any infrastructure like health services, and rewire the city [Sana’a] for electricity. We need more people to talk about Yemen.”

Saudi Arabia, backed by the US and Britain, began bombing Yemen, the poorest country in the region, on 23 March 2015—without a Security Council resolution, as has been the tradition for launching western wars since Bill Clinton’s 1999 Kosovo War (the bombing of Serbia).

The stated objective of the Anglo-American backing of the Saudi attack was the restoration of Yemen’s US-supported government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi’s, which fled to Saudi Arabia under the mounting pressure of the Houthi Shia rebels, accused by the United States of being pawns of Iran, or, dismissively, plain Iran-supported.

Boggles the mind to think of the blithe moral logic that justifies the support of the United States for a (largely faked) uprising in Syria when Iran is not allowed to assist Houthis in Yemen, fighting an authentic civil war, unlike the so-called Free Syrian Army and their hordes of 80% foreign al-Qaeda and Isis allied invaders of Syria’s sovereign state in 2011.

The hypocrisy of empire, one supposes: supporting rebels in one case and the legitimate government in another.

For this reason—Iran’s backing—the Saudis blockade the air and the ports of Yemen to check the flow of Iranian arms shipments to the rebels, adding to the infamy of the war the infamy of an economic siege—infamy because the largest number of victims in this tactic to encircle Iran are civilians, which is another tradition respected by the sorry, deceptive War on Terror.

The blockade also checks the “flow” of food and medicines and other health necessities, with devastating consequences, as we shall see.

Few honest observers doubt that the war in Yemen, instigated by the Obama administration and their British junior partners in the Cameron cabinet, is a war of strategy in which the real target is Iran. As in Iraq in 2003, the British partnership is invaluable because of its long experience in the “management” of former colonies the likes of Iraq and Yemen, when the port of Aden was a central and crucial traffic point in the business of running the British empire, which consisted of two thirds of the planet.

Claiming that Iran destabilizes the region, against the evidence of a chronic history of interference and aggressions there by the US & Co., Trump’s national security advisor asserted in a statement in January:

“As of today, we are putting Iran on notice.”

Yemen, thus, is the unfortunate country inconveniently placed by geography between Iran and Western objectives, bombed, economically besieged, its currency in collapse—the war tactics of the feudal Middle Ages.

Since March 2015, 3.2 million Yemenis have been displaced; 13,000 civilians have been casualties (UN official count); 2 million children cannot attend schools; nearly 15 million people have no access to basic medical care.

Last October, a Saudi bomb struck a funeral in Sana’a, killing 114 people (in some reports, 140) and injuring 613 out of 750 mourners in just one such civilian massacre of many—including in marketplaces and refugee camps—prompting United Nations experts to say the Saudis had violated international law, among other reasons because they attacked twice, while the funeral hall was still littered with wounded from the first attack, killing the wounded and first responders. In March, a Saudi airstrike killed 40 Somali refugees in a boat, fleeing the war torn country; more recently a market on the Saudi border was struck, killing six children.

Saudi airstrikes have destroyed schools, hospitals, and vital infrastructures such as electric grids and water supplies all classic crimes against humanity and war crimes.

King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KS Relief), founded by the lately departed King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud in 2015, claims categorically that Saudi Arabia “has no intention of killing civilians.” Instead, they intend to “regain the will of the Yemeni people, taken by force” by Houthi rebels.

 

Image result for King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre

 KSrelief Launches Food Distribution Project in Al Jawf, Yemen (Source: ksrelief.org)

KS Relief has hired a British PR firm to spread good tidings about Saudi humanitarian assistance to Yemen: “We’re here to help,” Indeed, KS Relief has allocated more than $3 billion for assistance to Yemen: “number one donor for aid and development in Yemen,” KS Relief boasts. But, though they deny it, the aid is distributed through various filters, including UN agencies, with secret restrictions as to whom, where, and when. At any rate the campaign for “hearts and minds” in Yemen, sounds as grotesque as its erstwhile precedent in the American war in Vietnam: bomb first, then supply a bandage.

Andrew Smith, for the British Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), told The Independent, a propos Saudi aid to Yemen,

“Any aid that is helping people is to be welcomed, but the best thing that the Saudi regime can do for the people of Yemen is to stop the brutal bombing campaign that has killed thousands and brought millions to the edge of starvation.”

Out of 27 million people in Yemen, 20 million are food-insecure, famished in other words. Wael Ibrahim refers to statistics released by UN and other  agencies:

“As the conflict goes on I’m seeing more and more poverty. There are 20 million people needing help in a population of 27 million people. I’ve seen famine-like conditions such as children with red streaks in their hair – a sign of malnutrition, and an alarming number of people at therapeutic feeding centres.”

Yet, we hear hardly a whimper of protest against this immense suffering among that portion of the American public—the radical left included– which so exercises the vocal cords on behalf of human rights when and where alleged violations coincide with Western intentions of regime change and occupation.

It is puzzling indeed why officials are not instructing the media to manufacture consent for a crusade of human rights in Yemen as they did for Libya and Syria to cover their real intentions. Can they not find a “demon” to raise righteous indignation? An ethnic group, whose human rights are hideously violated by the “demon”? Why is the war in Yemen such a low-profile conflict?

Pardon my cynicism, but the absence of instrumental justification feels like a ghost that refuses to do the job of haunting. Possibly, something too embarrassing could become public knowledge. Possibly a lucrative alliance could suffer.

Possibly.

The American and British weapons industry profit from the war in Yemen—as do, no doubt, all the members of the NATO alliance and beyond. The Obama administration sold on the world’s weapons market $200 billion worth of arms over eight years, the largest US weapons sale since WW II–over $100 billion to Saudi Arabia alone. The Trump administration has also distinguished itself for a vulgar display of fetishistic attachment to the kingdom of satraps. In June, the US Senate approved (53 for; 47 against) Trump’s April arms sale of $110 billion to Riyadh: $500 million in precision-guided munitions.

Britain’s war industries thrive on the suffering of Yemen. British Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) reported in The Independent in July:

“The UK has licensed £3.3 bn worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia. Right now, UK made fighter jets are being flown by UK-trained military personnel and dropping UK-made bombs on Yemen. The UK is not just a bystander in this war, it is an active participant.”

“Partners in crimes” would be more accurate: as mentioned, the British government is training the Saudi Air Force for airstrikes in Yemen, at the same time that Theresa May is withholding a report-study of Riyadh’s “ties to extremism.” The Saudi pilots are being trained to drop cluster bombs, “precisely” in theory, made in and sold by Britain. Cluster bombs are WMDs if used on civilian centers. They are allowed only for maiming and killing enemy soldiers. The beauty of recent wars is that “army” has become a nebulous concept. So, anything goes.

In the last few days, the British High Court has denied a request by CAAT, calling for the government’s suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen, “pending the [judicial] review into if the sales are compatible with UK and EU arms export law,” as Andrew Smith wrote for CAAT in The Independent, following the denial.

Apparently the arms and military equipment sales to Saudi Arabia–aircraft, helicopter, drones, cluster bombs, and missiles–DO violate the laws of Britain and European Union, otherwise why would the court reject the request for a Judicial Review of the government’s practice?

Such is the absent zeal of western institution for protection of human rights that we should remember this infamous decision when next we are being seduced by the bloodhounds in the media into supporting the faux-crusades for random and selective human rights in the world by heartless and mercenary paladins.

To be fair, two thirds of the British public opposes arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Jeremy Corbyn agrees with the majority, calling the petro-monarchy’s intervention in Yemen “an invasion,” in an interview with Al Jezeera English.

While the crimes in Yemen are being assiduously ignored by the media and covertly aided by governments, their effects are accumulating. An outbreak of cholera is claiming more lives. One person per hour is dying of the water-borne disease. Wael Ibrahim laments in his Independent piece:

“These are the appalling conditions that caused the cholera outbreak in Yemen – I should know, I live here. There is untreated sewage on the streets of Sana’a. Driving near the airport I simply cannot breathe because of the stench.”

This situation carries the horrifying echo of what happened in Iraq in the 1990s, under the sanction regime inflicted by the senior Bush and continued by Bill Clinton, for a total of thirteen years. After bombing Iraq’s water-supply installations during the Gulf War, the US effectively (and possibly deliberately) poisoned the water by sanctioning the importation of purifying chlorine. As is notorious by now, 500,000 children under the age of five perished. Clinton’s ghoulish Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, admitted on CBS that such deaths had been “worth it.” The sanctions on Iraq had been pronounced on an August 6th, the month and day of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. Many noted this sadistic coincidence, denouncing the sanctions as a second Hiroshima bomb—this time dropped on Iraq.

The cholera infection, marked by violent diarrhea, is caused by ingestion of water contaminated by fecal matter. The outbreak in Yemen first manifested itself in October 2016, but between April and June of 2017, it became rampant. According to the United Nations’ World Health Organization, 300,000 Yemenis are already infected. 1,500 people have died, 55% of them children. Hospitals are full with patients showing symptoms. Clean water, sanitation, and healthcare—the means to check the epidemic—are woefully scarce.

And no one yet asks, “Is it/was it worth it?” Perhaps the question will come up later, when counting the dead will do no harm to the progress of that virtual crime, officially known as the “foreign policy” of the United States in the “Middle East,” an abstract map to the planners—not a territory within which people live and will suffer from the plans.

Me? Oh, I turn to literature when speechless at the horror of it all. Who better than Sartre? Without ellipsis, synthesized, from the long passage in his first novel, Nausea:

“The nausea is not within me. I feel it out there. I am within it. I feel it out there in the wall, in the suspenders, everywhere around me. A monster? A giant carapace? Sunk in the mud? A dozen pairs of claws or fins laboring slowly in the slime? The monster rises. At the bottom of the water.”

Sources

Wael Ibrahim’s report on cholera in Yemen

http://www.independent.co.uk/author/wael-ibrahim

Britain training Saudi pilots

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/saudi-arabia-yemen-conflict-bombing-latest-uk-training-pilots-alleged-war-crimes-a7375551.html

US Senate Backs Trump’s Weapon Sale to Saudi Arabia

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/13/world/middleeast/trump-weapons-saudi-arabia.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FSaudi%20Arabia&action=click&contentCollection=world&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=25&pgtype=collection

Life Beneath Bombs and Blockade

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/27/opinion/yemen-houthis.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FSaudi%20Arabia&action=click&contentCollection=world&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=collection

Cholera Epidemic in Yemen

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/yemen-war-deaths-cholera-epidemic-dying-every-hour-a7782341.html

Britain’s High Court Decision on Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/saudi-arabia-yemen-campaign-against-the-arms-trade-lost-case-a7833766.html

Trump’s Weapons’ Sale to Saudi Arabia

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/13/world/middleeast/trump-weapons-saudi-arabia.html

Jeremy Corbyn’s Stand on Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-saudi-arabia-arms-sales-yemen-famine-civilian-killed-a7818481.html

Luciana Bohne is co-founder of Film Criticism, a journal of cinema studies, and teaches at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. She can be reached at: [email protected]

Featured image from Felton Davis / CC BY 2.0

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The French energy giant Total just clinched a 50.1% stake in a $4.8 billion deal to develop Iran’s South Pars gas field alongside China and Iran’s national energy companies. This represents the first major post-sanctions investment by a Western company, and Reuters quoted experts who analyzed that it could also give France a unique opportunity to expand its investments in neighboring Qatar, which shares the world’s largest gas field with Iran and calls its South Pars-abutting offshore deposits the North Dome. Qatar, which is already the world’s largest LNG exporter, just announced that it wants to increase its gas exports by 30%, so it’ll clearly need some more investment to do that and France’s Total might be the perfect partner for it.

While all of this is going on, India also offered Iran $11 billion in what it called its “best offer” for the Farzad-B gas field. Although Iran has yet to accept or decline the deal at the time of this recording, it nevertheless sets the benchmark price that Tehran will eventually receive for this, whether from New Delhi right now or someone else who might come in with a higher offer.

Altogether, it can be expected that the LNG price will eventually drop in the future once Iran and Qatar’s latest large-scale gas investments hit the market and contribute to a glut. Moreover, Papua New Guinea and Mozambique, both of which have enormous LNG potential, are also supposed to enter the marketplace in the coming years too, as will Russia’s own Yamal and Sakhalin LNG projects, all of which will drive down the price for this resource. However, the processing and transport expenses are still unusually high for LNG, so unless the costs fall due to the introduction of some new technology or industrial scaling, then it’s almost certain that prices will eventually bottom out at some level or another. The opposite is true for oil, however, because that commodity has a price ceiling which can’t be passed without kicking the US’ costly shale gas extraction back into operation and forcing the price down again. What’s most interesting in all of this is that the prices for oil and gas are indexed with one another, so each resource is affected by the price floor and ceiling of the other, despite the opposite dynamics.

The oil price has relatively stabilized because of OPEC and the deal that its members and most important partners agreed to last year, but no similar organization or coordination exist between the world’s largest natural gas players, though the predictable resource glut and price drop that’s set to hit the LNG marketplace might compel them to form their own “gas OPEC” and initiate cooperative price-fixing measures with one another. The main takeaway here is that the multibillion-dollar Iranian gas deals that have been reached or are under negotiation stand to completely upset the market fundamentals for this commodity by provoking a glut of LNG which could crash the price and compel the formation of a “gas OPEC” between Russia, Iran, and Qatar to stabilize it.

The post presented is the partial transcript of the CONTEXT COUNTDOWN radio program on Sputnik News, aired on Thursday Jul 13, 2017:

 

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare.

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While the latest figures confirmed over 320,000 cases of cholera in Yemen, the World Health Organization announced that it would be canceling the planned shipment of nearly one million cholera vaccines to the country torn apart by a Saudi Arabia-led bombing campaign, citing security and logistical concerns in the decision to cancel the shipment.

An initial shipment of 500,000 doses are currently in Djibouti, ready to be shipped, however WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told reporters that the doses might be rerouted to several countries in Africa instead.

WHO’s latest figures indicate that there have been around 320,000 cases of cholera, a disease that causes uncontrollable diarrhea and severe dehydration that can be deadly without treatment. The conditions in Yemen in the midst of a Saudi-led, U.S.-sponsored war have led to a spread of the disease on an epidemic scale. Lack of access to clean water, famine, and destruction of health-infrastructure resulting from the war have been the primary drivers of the outbreak.

United Nations officials placed blame for the crisis squarely on those parties involved in perpetuating the conflict.

“This cholera scandal is entirely man-made by the conflicting parties and those beyond Yemen’s borders who are leading, supplying, fighting and perpetuating the fear and the fighting,” U.N. aid chief Stephen O’Brien told the U.N. Security Council Wednesday.

He called for greater international pressure to end the conflict.

“Yemen is facing critical stoppages of hospitals and a lack of doctors and nurses. The health system has essentially collapsed, with an estimated 55 percent of facilities closed due to damage, destruction or lack of funds. Some 30,000 health care workers have not been paid in nearly a year and no funding has been provided to keep basic infrastructure such as hospitals, water pumping and sanitation stations operating,” O’Brien continued.

A Saudi Arabia-led coalition began a bombing and blockading campaign against Yemen in 2015 in an effort to back the government ousted by Houthi rebels. In addition to targeting civilian buildings, such as hospitals, the Saudi coalition has also nearly entirely closed off Yemen’s air and seaports.

The Saudi-led coalition is heavily backed by material and financial support from the United States and the United Kingdom.

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