The Saudi-led coalition is waging total war on Yemen in a bid to defeat the guerrilla group, the Houthis or the Helpers of God. The Houthis took power in Sanaa in fall of 2014 and consolidated it in early 2015. By March-April, Saudi Arabia’s Muhammad Bin Salman, now the crown prince, had ordered air strikes on the country that have continued to this day. These strikes have been indiscriminate, hitting schools, hospitals, apartment buildings and key civilian infrastructure like ports, bridges and roads. Any one of these strikes is a war crime. In the aggregate they become crimes against humanity.

The Houthi gang is also guilty of war crimes, and of severe human rights violations and cannot be held blameless in the unfolding devastation of Yemen. But the Saudi-led war and the various forms of blockade Riyadh is imposing on Yemen are far worse. The Houthis are a radical group deriving from Zaydi tribes in Saadeh and other towns in rural north Yemen, who as Shiites deeply resent Saudi proselytizing for hard line Salafi Sunnism in Yemen. Houthi leaders have vowed to overthrow the House of Saud and have tried to imitate the rhetorical style of Hizbullah in Lebanon. However, Houthis are a local indigenous protest movement in Yemen, and are not a proxy for Iran. Houthi weaponry is mostly American and Iran does not give them much money or other support. The Saudis try to blame Iran for the Houthi revolt in order to shift blame from their own aggressive policies.

These political considerations should not allow us to forget what is being done to Yemen children.

Save the Children writes,

“Severe acute malnutrition is the most extreme and dangerous form of undernutrition. Symptoms include jutting ribs and loose skin with visible wasting of body tissue, or swelling in the ankles, feet and belly as blood vessels leak fluid under the skin.”

*130 children die every day in Yemen from extreme hunger and disease–one child every 18 minutes. The Saudi blockade on ports such as Hudeida will increase this death toll.

*This year, at least 50,000 children are expected to die as indirect casualties of the war (if food cannot be off-loaded at ports, and bridges are knocked out, children will die of malnutrition).

*Nearly 400,000 children will need to be treated for severe acute malnutrition in Yemen in the next twelve months. Aid organizations are being actively interfered with in this work by the Saudi blockade and bombing strikes.

*As a result of the Saudi blockade, aid organizations like Save the Children will be out of food and medicine stocks in the next two to three months.

*If left untreated some 20 to 30 percent of children with severe acute malnutrition will perish every year.

*It should be remembered that famines usually do not kill people because there is no food at all. What happens is that the food becomes too expensive for the poor to purchase. This situation now obtains in Yemen and obviously the Saudi blockade, by obese princes who are obviously getting three square meals a day, is driving up the price of food for Yemenis.

*A shocking 10,000 children are likely to die in Taiz district and another 10,000 in the Hodeidah district this year.

The aid organization concludes:

“Save the Children currently has five shipping containers full of life-saving food for sick and malnourished children stuck in Aden because of road closures. Our staff cannot reach communities to provide life-saving care and much-needed supplies and relief workers cannot enter the country. Essential medicines, fuel and food stocks could start running out in a matter of weeks. It’s utterly unacceptable to let children die of neglect and a lack of political will. Without urgent action the future looks bleak.”

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US Wants to Divide Pakistan and Iran

November 20th, 2017 by News Desk

Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan Mehdi Honardoost has said that United States wants to divide Pakistan and Iran.

In an exclusive interview with The Nation here, the envoy said there was a huge potential of cooperation between the two powers of the region, “with good neighbourly ties and whole history of friendship and fraternity.”

He said Iran and Pakistan were determined to boost the relationship, which was “completely opposite to the Western apparatus, creators of division among Muslim societies, which unfortunately has been evident in recent years. The Muslim societies have been under fire of division, which exactly being pursued by foreign elements.”

Honardoost said Afghan issue was very important as well as complicated.

Afghanistan is since long victim of terrorism, and international powers of trans-region by their secret and open support to the terrorist groups, for their interests have been furthering their designs. Afghan problem has no military solution and peace and durable stability could be achieved in that country through dialogue and discussions,” he added.

Honardoost said through cooperation Pakistan and Iran could help resolve the Afghanistan issue.

“Iran and Pakistan as two important neighbours of Afghanistan and through the support of central government in Kabul can find a solution,” he maintained.

Honardoost said presence of foreign countries and specifically the US was not the only factor, which was disturbing security and stability in the chaos-ridden Afghanistan.

“Regional problems like terrorism, human trafficking and narcotics trafficking should be solved by the regional countries, which have common perception, common interests and common concerns,” he remarked.

Undoubtedly, the envoy said, Iran and Pakistan had an effective role in bringing of peace and stability in Afghanistan.

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Dissent Under Attack by Government and Corporations

November 20th, 2017 by Kevin Zeese

It is often hard to tell how close popular movements are to success or whether they are even a threat to the status quo power structure. Despite vigorous protests, it is common to worry whether or not movements are having an impact. One tell-tale sign is when government and big business interests take action to stop or silence a movement.

These days, there is a lot of push back against resistance movements in the United States. While it may be riskier for us when they fight back, it is a positive sign and means that the movement needs to escalate, build power and increase its pressure.

One absurd example of suppression came from Los Angeles where police are enforcing an ordinance that makes it a crime to speak longer than your allotted time when testifying before the city council. When someone goes 20 seconds more than the time they are allowed, police arrest the citizen.

Escalating Punishment for Protesters

This week, the trial of nearly 200 people arrested at the inauguration of Donald Trump began. Each person going to trial is facing 60 years in prison. Their collective sentence, if convicted, would total 12,000 years.

Those going to trial were kettled by police during the J20 protest. The US Attorney for Washington, DC (since DC is not a state, it does not have a district attorney, but is prosecuted by the federal government) is prosecuting everyone, even if they were a legal observer, medic or reporter, in a collective punishment conspiracy.

registered nurse, who came from Pittsburg to use her medical skills to support people, now finds herself facing 60 years in prison for being part of an alleged riot conspiracy. Press freedom groups have called on the prosecutor to drop charges against journalists.

The police response against the J20 black bloc protests was extreme violence. The DC police deployed weapons on 191 occassions during the Trump inauguration, including 74 sting-ball grenades (explosive ‘rubber-ball’ style grenades), firing six 40 mm Stinger rubber bullets, five foam batons, and one 40 mm Exact impact round and spraying large amounts of pepper spray. Even after protesters were captured in a kettling operation, body cam footage showed the police continued to fire tear gas at them.

A video obtained by Democracy in Crisis shows officers tossing grenades into the crowd. Some of the more than 70 grenades thrown hit people. Those arrested also described sexual assault by police.

The ACLU and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund have filed civil suits against the DC police. The DC City Council hired the Police Foundation, a group of police criticized as having a bias in favor of police, and even they found that the DC police may have violated their own rules. The Police Foundation has been criticized for its reports on police violence and abuse in Ferguson, MO and Charlotte, NC.

In another example, Standing Rock Sioux tribal member Chase Iron Eyes is being prosecuted in South Dakota for his role in the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. He is being charged with starting a riot. Iron Eyes is lead counsel at the Lakota People’s Law Project (you can donate to their defense of #NoDAPL resisters at the Lakota People’s Law Project website.)  He and others charged in the protests plan to use a necessity defense because of the imminent threat to their only source of water and the ways the pipeline and actions of the Trump administration undermine the law. It was necessary for them to protest because there was no alternative.

It is not only criminal prosecution that protesters face, the #NoDAPL protest is also facing a civil case alleging racketeering and filed by the law firm founded by Marc Kasowitz, Donald Trump’s personal attorney.  Energy Transfer Partners hired a security firm that also gathered information for a massive conspiracy lawsuit that was filed later against environmental groups. The suit alleges that defendants like Greenpeace and others’  “objective was not to protect the environment or Native Americans but to produce as sensational and public a dispute as possible, and to use that publicity and emotion to drive fundraising.”

The DC #J20 protest and #NoDAPL prosecutions are two egregious examples of many. As protests increase and impact business interests and government policies, the people in power will use whatever tools they can to try and stop the resistance movement. This should not stop activists, but it is something to consider when developing protest tactics so that we are positioned to defend ourselves while still protesting effectively.

Free Media equals Free People

Attacks on the Media and Internet

Critical to the success of movement actions is drawing public attention to them. A goal of popular movements is to grow by attracting more people to the movement, and especially to divide power holders (e.g. political parties, elected officials, business people, the media) and bring them to support the movement. A key ingredient to accomplish these goals is the public knowing about the protest, which requires media attention.

The corporate mass media has always been a problem for movements seeking transformational change. At times, movements have been able to break through corporate media blockades and get their message out, but this is becoming increasingly difficult as mass media is further concentrated and controlled by government and big business. The Internet has been the great equalizer allowing people to create their own media through video, websites, and live stream and share them through social media. Now, that is under attack.

The founder of the Internet, Tim Berners-Lee’s vision for an “open platform [is one] that allows anyone to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographical boundaries.” Today he sees the Internet going into some “nasty storms,” including the erosion of Net Neutrality, which will allow Internet providers to be gatekeepers and determine where people can go, what they can see and how quickly they can see it. He also notes the use of algorithms to control what people can find in web searches and he worries about click-bait advertising pushing fake news, which is sometimes done by artificial intelligence.

Berners-Lee writes that “Net neutrality, which some have described as the ‘first amendment of the internet,’” is being threatened by Verizon employee Ajit Pai who President Trump nominated to be FCC chairman. Pai just announced the FCC plans to vote on December 14 to remove Net Neutrality rules that were won in 2015.

Join our Protect The Internet campaign and take action at this critical time. Sign up here if you can come to DC to protest the vote.

Berners-Lee believes “the internet should remain a ‘permissionless space for creativity, innovation and free expression.’” ISP’s should not be able to pick winners and losers or throttle services that they oppose or who do not pay enough money, rather they should be treated like public utilities that provide equal service to everyone.

In addition to mass media being more concentrated, Russiagate is being used as an excuse to weaken alternative media, like Russia Today (RT), the US-based Russian network. Chris Hedges describes RT being required to register as a foreign agent as a horrendous blow to press freedom. Hedges puts it into the context of the clamp down on dissent, writing it is “driven by RT America’s decision to provide a platform to critics of American capitalism and imperialism, critics who lambast a system of government that can no longer be called democratic. And it is accompanied by the installation of algorithms by Google, Facebook and Twitter that divert readers away from left-wing, progressive and anti-war websites . . .”

Popular Resistance has been affected by the new algorithms, with a decline in our readership by 60 percent since they were instituted. That’s why we need you to share our articles on social media so we can reach more people.

Congress is playing its role in heightening fear in order to quiet criticism of the government on social media. At a recent hearing, Clint Watts, a retired Army officer who purports to be an expert on Russiagate, testified that there needs to be a government-imposed censorship of the media. He demanded that “government news inquisitors drive dissident media off the internet.” No elected official responded negatively to his call for censorship.

In fact, Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate used hearings focused on social media outlets to call for censorship. They used extreme language to describe social media with Senator Feinstein calling it “cyber warfare.” Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, after describing Russian influence in the media, went on to say “its not just foreign” accusing Facebook and Twitter algorithms as having the “consequence of widening divisions among our society.”

Google testified that they fact check labels to spot fake news testifying, “at Google search, we have updated our quality guidelines and evaluations to help surface more authoritative content from the web.” He was describing the new Google search algorithms that result in sites like ours being undermined by suppressing our articles when people search terms.

The “fake news” meme is being used to curtail foreign media, independent media and social media even though we know that the most common source of false news comes from the corporate mass media. They put forward the news from the perspective of the government and big corporations to support the concentration of wealth and militarism, among other issues. Part of our job as activists is to point out their lies and falsehoods. Responding to the attack on RT, peace activist and former Green Party vice presidential candidate Ajamu Baraka wrote that CNN, the New York Times and Washington Post should be required to register as “agents of capitalism.”

Responsibility of the Movement

These attacks on dissent in court and in the media are reasons for the movement to escalate. The popular movement is having an impact and both government and businesses are noticing it. While they continue their policies of concentration of wealth, as well as environmental destruction and war, they know people are organizing, responding and resisting. The conflict must continue to be heightened and we must stand clearly for equal justice under the law, freedom of speech for all, and continue to urge economic, racial and environmental justice as well as peace.

Now that we know that government and business are concerned about movement actions, we must expect infiltration where they try to build legal cases against movements. Infiltration has been a common tool used against movements. When we plan our actions, we must expect criminal or civil prosecution and use tactics that protect us while still allowing the movement to proceed with aggressive, strategic and sustained actions.

When fellow activists are under attack, the movement must come to their aide, which is why we provided links to support #J20 and #NoDAPL protesters facing prosecution. Everyone in the movement should know that they will not be alone when the power holders go after them.

And, with the attacks on the media, it becomes an important political act to re-post an article from Popular Resistance and other sites. It becomes a political act to tweet or forward social media posts. Our job has always been to spread the word and actions of the movement, now that becomes even more important.

Let these attacks by government and big business become reasons to grow and unify the movement. There are people in the government, including in law enforcement, as well as people who work for corporate interests, including corporate media, who will recognize these actions as going too far and defect. We must pull these people into the movement, urge them to join us and to use their position as an insider to expose what is occurring.

Every attack on the popular movement is more reason for us to join together, grow and mobilize. Every attack must be turned into an opportunity for us to build the strength of people power. We do not know how close we are to victory, but there is no question if we use political judo to turn their abuse of power against them, the movement will be stronger.

Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers are co-editors of Popular Resistance.

All images in this article are from the authors.

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Is Bitcoin Standing In for Gold?

November 20th, 2017 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

The Bitcoin is once again on News headlines. First published by Paul Craig Roberts and Global Research on May 31, 2017, this article sheds light on the impacts of the Bitcoin on the gold and silver markets

In a series of articles posted on www.paulcraigroberts.org, we have proven to our satisfaction that the prices of gold and silver are manipulated by the bullion banks acting as agents for the Federal Reserve.

The bullion prices are manipulated down in order to protect the value of the US dollar from the extraordinary increase in supply resulting from the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing (QE) and low interest rate policies.

The Federal Reserve is able to protect the dollar’s exchange value vis-a-via the other reserve currencies—yen, euro, and UK pound—by having those central banks also create money in profusion with QE policies of their own.

The impact of fiat money creation on bullion, however, must be controlled by price suppression. It is possible to suppress the prices of gold and silver, because bullion prices are established not in physical markets but in futures markets in which short-selling does not have to be covered and in which contracts are settled in cash, not in bullion.

Since gold and silver shorts can be naked, future contracts in gold and silver can be printed in profusion, just as the Federal Reserve prints fiat currency in profusion, and dumped into the futures market. In other words, as the bullion futures market is a paper market, it is possible to create enormous quantities of paper gold that can suddenly be dumped in order to drive down prices. Everytime gold starts to move up, enormous quantities of future contracts are suddenly dumped, and the gold price is driven down. The same for silver.

Rigging the bullion price prevents gold and silver from transmitting to the currency market the devaluation of the dollar that the Federal Reserve’s money creation is causing. It is the ability to rig the bullion price that protects the dollar’s value from being destroyed by the Federal Reserve’s printing press.

Recently, the price of a Bitcoin has skyrocketed, rising in a few weeks from $1,000 to $2,200. Two explanations suggest themselves. One is that the Federal Reserve has decided to rid itself of a competing currency and is driving up the price with purchases while accumulating a large position, which then will be suddenly dumped in order to crash the market and scare away potential users from Bitcoins. Remember, the Fed can create all the money it wishes and, thereby, doesn’t have to worry about losses.

Another explanation is that people concerned about the fiat currencies but frustrated in their attempts to take refuge in bullion have recognized that the supply of Bitcoin is fixed and Bitcoin futures must be covered. It is strictly impossible for any central bank to increase the supply of Bitcoins. Thus Bitcoin is standing in for the suppressed function of gold and silver.

The problem with cryptocurrencies is that whereas Bitcoin cannot increase in supply, other cryptocurrencies can be created. In order to be trusted, each cryptocurrency would have to have a limited supply. However, an endless number of cryptocurrencies could be created that would greatly increase the supply of cryptocurrencies. If entrepreneurs don’t bring about this result, the Federal Reserve itself could organize it.

Therefore, cryptocurrency might be only a temporary refuge from fiat money creation. This would leave gold and silver, whose supply can only gradually be increased via mining, as the only refuge from wealth-destroying fiat money creation.

For as long as the Federal Reserve can protect the dollar by bullion price suppression and money creation by other reserve currency central banks, and as long as the Federal Reserve can keep the influx of new dollars out of the general economy, the Federal Reserve’s policy adds to the wealth of those who are already rich. This is because instead of driving up consumer prices, thus threatening the US dollar’s exchange value with a rising rate of inflation, the Fed’s largess has flowed into the prices of financial assets, such as stocks and bonds. Bond prices are high, because the Fed forced up the price by purchasing bonds. Stock prices are high, because the abundance of money bid prices higher than profits justify. As the US government measures inflation in ways designed to understate it, the consumer price index and producer price index do not send alarm systems into the markets.

Thus, we have a situation in which the Fed’s policy has done nothing for the American population, but has driven up the values of the financial portofilios of the rich. This is the explanation why the rich are becoming more rich while the rest of America becomes poorer.

The Fed has rigged the system for the rich, and the whores in the financial media and among the neoliberal economists have covered it up.

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The Hidden Smoking Gun: The Deletion of Clinton’s Emails

November 20th, 2017 by Paul Thompson

Since April 2016, I’ve worked with a team of people to put together the most detailed timeline on the Clinton email controversy. With this in-depth knowledge of the issue, one recently revealed event stands out as the most important “smoking gun” so far that isn’t getting nearly the attention it deserves: the deletion and wiping of Clinton’s emails in March 2015. This essay draws on the timeline to put together what is publicly known, revealing aspects that have been completely overlooked. The evidence points to destruction of evidence by people working for Hillary Clinton.

To understand the 2015 deletions, we have to start further back in time, in June 2013. Clinton had ended her four-year tenure as secretary of state earlier in 2013, and she hired the Platte River Networks (PRN)computer company to manage her private email server. This was a puzzling hire, to say the least, because PRN was based in Denver, Colorado, far from Clinton’s homes in New York and Washington, DC, and the company was so small that their office was actually an apartment in an ordinary apartment building with no security alarm system. The company wasn’t cleared to handle classified information, nobody in it had a security clearance, and it hadn’t even handled an important out of state contract before.

RN assigned two employees to handle the Clinton account: Paul Combetta and Bill Thornton. In late June 2013, these two employees moved Clinton’s server from her house in Chappaqua, New York, to an Equinix data center in Secaucus, New Jersey. They removed all the data from the server, moved it to a new server, and then wiped the old server clean. Both the new and old server were kept running at the data center. At the same time, PRN subcontracted Datto, Inc., to back up the data on the new server. A Datto SIRIS S2000 was bought and connected to the server, functioning like an external hard drive to make periodic back-ups.

Clinton’s emails get sorted

Fast forward to the middle of 2014. The House Benghazi Committee was formed to investigate the US government’s actions surrounding the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, and soon a handful of emails were discovered relating to this attackinvolving Clinton’s [email protected] email address. At this point, nobody outside of Clinton’s inner circle of associates knew she had exclusively used that private email account for all her email communications while she was secretary of state, or that she’d hosted it on her own private email server.

The Benghazi Committee began pressing the State Department for more relevant emails from Clinton. The State Department in turn began privately pressing Clinton to turn over all her work-related emails.

Cheryl Mills (left) David Kendall (center) and Heather Samuelson (Credit: public domain)

Cheryl Mills (left) David Kendall (center) and Heather Samuelson (Credit: public domain)

Instead of turning over all her emails, Clinton decided to have them sorted into work-related and personal, and then only turn over the work-related ones. She gave this task to three of her lawyersCheryl Mills (Clinton’s former chief of staff), David Kendall (Clinton’s longtime personal lawyer), and Heather Samuelson (a relatively inexperienced State Department staffer during Clinton’s tenure). It seems Samuelson did most of the sorting, even though she had no experience for this task nor any security clearance.

It was decided that over 30,000 emails were work-related, and those were turned over to the State Department on December 5, 2014. These have all since been publicly released, though with redactions. Another over 31,000 emails were deemed personal, and Clinton kept those. They were later deleted in controversial circumstances that this essay explores in detail.

It has become increasingly clear in recent months that this sorting process was highly flawed. Clinton has said any emails that were borderline cases were given to the State Department, just to be on the safe side. But in fact, the FBI later recovered about 17,500 of Clinton’s “personal” emails. It is probable no government agency has yet gone through all of these to officially determine which ones were work-related and which ones were not, but FBI Director James Comey has said that “thousands” were work-related.

We can get a glimpse of just how flawed the sorting process was because hundreds of emails from Huma Abedin have been released in recent months, as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. Abedin was Clinton’s deputy chief of staff and still is one of her closest aides.

When Samuelson described the sorting process in her FBI interview, she said that her first step was to find all the emails to or from Clinton and the people she regularly worked with in the State Department, and put all of those emails in the “work-related” category.

But from the Abedin emails released so far, about 200 are previously unreleased emails between her and Clinton. Anyone who looks at these can see that the vast majority, if not all, of them are work-related. Many involve Abedin’s state.gov government address, not her clintonemail.com private address, so how on Earth did Samuelson’s sorting process miss those? It has even come to light recently that a small number of emails mentioning “Benghazi” have been found in the 17,500 recovered by the FBI, but Samuelson told the FBI she had specifically searched for all emails using that word.

A sample of an email between Clinton and Abedin using her state.gove address. (Credit: public domain)

A sample of an email between Clinton and Abedin using her state.gov address. (Credit: public domain)

The Abedin emails released so far are only a small percentage of all her emails that are going to be released on a monthly basis well into 2017. It is likely that Clinton’s supposed 31,000 “personal” emails contain thousands of work-related emails to and from Abedin alone. Consider that only about 15% of the 30,000 Clinton emails released so far were between her and Abedin. If the rest of her deleted emails follow the same pattern as the Abedin ones, it is highly likely that the majority, and maybe even the vast majority, of Clinton’s deleted “personal” emails in fact are work-related.

Why was the sorting effort so flawed?

Clinton in a home video recording on June 9, 2000. (Credit: public domain)

Clinton in a home video recording on June 9, 2000. (Credit: public domain)

FBI Director Comey has said he trusts that Clinton had made a sincere sorting effort, but the sheer number of work-related emails that keep getting discovered suggests otherwise. Furthermore, logic and other evidence also suggest otherwise. For instance, in home video footage from a private fundraiser in 2000, Clinton talked about how she had deliberately avoided using email so she wouldn’t leave a paper trail: “As much as I’ve been investigated and all of that, you know, why would I? I don’t even want… Why would I ever want to do email? Can you imagine?”

Practical considerations forced her to start using email a few years later. But what if her exclusive use of a private email address on her own private server was not done out of “convenience” as she claims, but so she could retain control of them, only turning over emails to FOIA requests and later government investigators that she wanted to?

Note also that in a November 2010 email exchange between Clinton and Abedin, Abedin suggested that Clinton might want to use a State Department email account due because the department computer system kept flagging emails from her private email account as spam. Clinton replied that she was open to some kind of change, but “I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible.” It is further worth noting that these emails were not handed over with the rest of Clinton’s 30,000 work-related emails, despite clearly being work-related, but were somehow uncovered by the State Department inspector general‘s office. Those very emails are good examples of the kind of material Clinton may have tried to keep secret by controlling the sorting process.

The Clinton Foundation logo (Credit: The Clinton Foundation)

The Clinton Foundation logo (Credit: The Clinton Foundation)

Consider that out of the relatively small number of deleted emails that have been made public due to the Abedin monthly releases, a handful of them have created headlines about possible conflicts of interest between Clinton’s secretary of state job and the Clinton Foundation. How many more headlines like that would there be if all 31,000 deleted emails became public before the November 2016 presidential election? It’s easy to imagine a political motive for Clinton wanting to keep some work-related emails secret.

The deletions begin

This essay will explore this possibility more later. But if it is the case that she wanted to keep those 31,000 “personal” emails out of the public eye, she had obstacles to overcome. In 2014, PRN had managerial control of both Clinton’s new and old server. Thus, in July 2014 and again in September 2014, PRN employee Combetta had to send copies of all the emails to the laptop of Clinton lawyer Cheryl Mills, and another copy to the laptop of Clinton lawyer Heather Samuelson, to be used for the sorting process.

With the sorting done, if Clinton didn’t want the public to ever see her deleted emails, you would expect all these copies of those emails to be permanently deleted, and that’s exactly what happened. According to a later FBI report, “on or around December 2014 or January 2015, Mills and Samuelson requested that [Platte River Networks (PRN) employee Paul Combetta] remove from their laptops all of the emails from the July and September 2014 exports. [Combetta] used a program called BleachBit to delete the email-related files so they could not be recovered.”

The FBI report explained, “BleachBit is open source software that allows users to ‘shred’ files, clear Internet history, delete system and temporary files, and wipe free space on a hard drive. Free space is the area of the hard drive that can contain data that has been deleted. BleachBit’s ‘shred files’ function claims to securely erase files by overwriting data to make the data unrecoverable.” BleachBit advertises that it can “shred” files so they can never be recovered again.

With the emails of Mills and Samuelson wiped clean, and the old version of the server wiped clean, that left just two known copies of the emails: one on the new server, and one on the back-up Datto SIRIS device connected to the new server. Mills was interviewed by the FBI in April 2016. She claimed that in December 2014Clinton decided she no longer needed access to any of her emails older than 60 days. Note that this came not long after the State Department had formally asked Clinton for all of her work-related emails, on October 28, 2014. Mills told the FBI that she had instructed Combetta to modify the email retention policy on Clinton’s clintonemail.com email account to reflect this change. Emails older than 60 days would then be overwritten several times, wiping them just as effectively as BleachBit.

Clinton essentially said the same thing as Mills when she was interviewed by the FBI. According to the FBI summary of Clinton’s interview, she claimed that after her staff sent the 30,000 work-related emails to the State Department on December 5, 2014, “she was asked what she wanted to do with her remaining [31,000] personal emails. Clinton instructed her staff she no longer needed the emails.”

So although the retention policy change sounds like a mere technicality, in fact, Clinton passed the message through Mills that she wanted all her emails from when she was secretary of state to be permanently wiped.

Think about Clinton wanting to delete all her old “personal” emails. As a politician with a wide network of contributors and supporters, the information in them could be highly valuable for her. For instance, if a major donor contacted her, she probably would want to review their past correspondence before responding. She’d preserved these emails for nearly two years, but just when investigators started to demand to see them, she decided she didn’t want ANY of them, and all traces of them should be permanently wiped.

But there was a problem with deleting them. Combetta later claimed that he simply forgot to make this change.

More than two months passed, which meant all of Clinton’s deleted emails should have been permanently wiped already. Meanwhile, the House Benghazi Committee and others were making more requests to see her emails. In January 2015, a reporter even filed a FOIA request in court for all of her emails.

A snippet from the front page of the NYT on March 3, 2015. (Credit: NYT)

Then, on March 2, 2015the headline on the front page of the New York Times was a story revealing that while Clinton was secretary of state, she had exclusively used a private email address hosted on her private server, thus keeping all of her email communications secret. This became THE big story of the month, and the start of a high-profile controversy that continues until today.

On December 2, 2014the House Benghazi Committee had asked Clinton for all Benghazi-related emails from her personal email address. But one day after the New York Times blockbuster story, the committee sent Clinton a letter asking her to preserve ALL her emails from that address.

Then, a day after that, on March 4, 2015the committee issued two subpoenas to her. One subpoena ordered her to turn over all emails relating to the Benghazi attack. The committee had already received about 300 such emails from the State Department in February 2015, but after the Times story, the committee worried that the department might not have some of her relevant emails. (That would later prove to be the case, given the small number of Benghazi emails eventually recovered by the FBI.) The second subpoena ordered her to turn over documents it requested in November 2014 but still had not received from the State Department, relating to communications between Clinton and ten senior department officials.

If Clinton had already deleted her emails to keep them from future investigators, these requests shouldn’t have been a problem. On March 9, 2015Mills sent an email to PRN employees, including Combetta, to make sure they were aware of the committee’s request that all of Clinton’s emails be preserved. One might consider this a CYA (“cover your ass”) move, since Mills would have believed all copies of Clinton’s “personal” emails had been permanently deleted and wiped by this time. The Times story and the requests for copies of Clinton’s emails that followed had seemingly come too late.

But that wasn’t actually the case, since Combetta had forgotten to make the deletions!

Combetta deletes everything that is left

Sitting behind Combetta is co-founder of Platte River Brent Allshouse (left) and PRN attorney, Ken Eichner. (Credit: CSpan)

Sitting behind Paul Combetta is co-founder of Platte River Brent Allshouse (left) and PRN attorney, Ken Eichner. (Credit: CSpan)

On March 20, 2015the House Benghazi Committee sent a letter to Clinton’s lawyer Kendall, asking Clinton to turn her server over to a neutral third party so it could be examined to see if any work-related emails were still on it. This was reported in the New York Times and other media outlets.

Then, on March 27, 2015Kendall replied to the committee in a letterthat also was reported on by the Times and others that same day. Kendall wrote, “There is no basis to support the proposed third-party review of the server… To avoid prolonging a discussion that would be academic, I have confirmed with the secretary’s IT [information technology] support that no emails… for the time period January 21, 2009 through February 1, 2013 reside on the server or on any back-up systems associated with the server.”

When Kendall mentioned Clinton’s IT support, that had to have been a reference to PRN.

According to a later Combetta FBI interview, he claimed that on March 25, 2015, there was a conference call between PRN employees, including himself, and some members of Bill Clinton’s staff. (Hillary Clinton’s private server hosted the emails of Bill Clinton’s staff too, and one unnamed staffer hired PRN back in 2013.) There was another conference call between PRN and Clinton staffers on March 31, 2015, with at least Combetta, Mills, and Clinton lawyer David Kendall taking part in that later call.

Based on what Combetta later told the FBI, at some point between these two calls, he had an “Oh shit!” moment and remembered that he’d forgotten to make the requested retention policy change back in December. So, even though he told the FBI that he was aware of the emails from Mills mentioning the Congressional request to preserve all of Clinton’s emails, he took action. Instead of simply making the retention policy change, which would have preserved the emails for another two months, he immediately deleted all of Clinton’s emails from her server. Then he used BleachBit to permanently wipe them.

Addtionally, recall that there was a Datto SIRIS back-up device connected to the server and periodically making copies of all the data on the server.  There is no mention in the FBI’s report that Conbetta confessed to doing this, but the FBI found “evidence of these [server] deletions and determined the Datto backups of the server were also manually deleted during this timeframe.” The Datto device sent a records log back to the Datto company whenever any changes were made, and according to a letter from Datto to the FBI that later became public, the deletions on the device were made around noon on March 31, 2015, the same date as the second conference call. (Although the server and Datto device were in New Jersey and Combetta was working remotely from Rhode Island, he could make changes remotely, as he or other PRN employees did on other occasions.)

A recent Congressional committee letter mentioned that the other deletions were also made on or around March 31, 2015. So it’s probable they were all done at the same time by the same person: Combetta.

Combetta’s startling initiate is hard to explain. He didn’t just change the data retention policy, as Mills had asked him to do, causing them to be permanently deleted 60 days later. He immediately deleted all of Clinton’s emails and then wiped them for good measure, and almost certainly deleted them from the Datto back-up device too. It is reasonable to wonder whether, during the conference calls, he was instructed to take these actions.

The FBI’s Clinton email investigation didn’t formally begin until July 10, 2015—more than two months after Combetta took those actions. However, State Department inspector general Steve Linick began investigating Clinton’s email usage in April 2015, and he could have given her an order to preserve all her documents—we don’t know. Furthermore, CNN has reported that the FBI investigation actually began informally in late May 2015, which is less than two months after the deletions. So Combetta’s actions may have prevented the State Department and/or the FBI from easily recovering all the emails in time.

So what actually happened? Did Kendall or someone else working for Clinton ask Combetta and/or other PRN employees if there were any emails still on the server in the March 25, 2015 conference call, just two days before he sent his letter? Did Combetta lie in that call and say they were already deleted and then rush to delete them afterwards to cover up his mistake? Or did someone working for Clinton tell or hint that he should delete them now if they hadn’t been deleted already? If the FBI knows what was said in that conference call or the one that took place a week later, it hasn’t publicly revealed it.

However, despite all these clear signs that the emails should be preserved, not only did Combetta confess in an FBI interview that “at the time he made the deletions in March 2015, he was aware of the existence of the preservation request and the fact that it meant he should not disturb Clinton’s email data on the [server],” he said that “he did not receive guidance from other PRN personnel, PRN’s legal counsel or others regarding the meaning of the preservation request.” Thus, he effectively confessed to obstruction of justice, perhaps in return for legal immunity, though the terms of that immunity have also not been revealed by the FBI.

Investigations and cover-ups

This is perplexing enough already, but it gets stranger still, if we continue to follow the behavior of Combetta and PRN as a whole.

By August 2015, the FBI’s Clinton investigation was in full swing, and they began interviewing witnesses and confiscating equipment for analysis. Because the FBI never empanelled a grand jury, it didn’t have subpoena power, so it had to ask Clinton for permission to seize her server. She gave that permission on August 11, 2015, and the server was picked up from the data center in New Jersey the next day. But remember that there actually were two servers there, an old one and a new one. All the data had been wiped from the old one and moved to the new one, so the new one was the more important one to analyze. But the FBI only picked up the old one.

According to the FBI’s final report, “At the time of the FBI’s acquisition of the [server], Williams & Connolly [the law firm of Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall] did not advise the US government of the existence of the additional equipment associated with the [old server], or that Clinton’s clintonemail.com emails had been migrated to the successor [server] remaining at [the] Equinix [data center]. The FBI’s subsequent investigation identified this additional equipment and revealed the email migration.” As a result, the FBI finally picked up the new server on October 3, 2015.

It was bad enough that Clinton’s lawyer wasn’t forthcoming about this, especially since Clinton and her staff had switched to using new email accounts located on a different server with a different domain name in late 2014, so the servers in question weren’t urgently needed anymore. But who else could have told the FBI about the data getting transferred to the new server? PRN.

A snippet from the invoice published by Complete Colorado on October 19, 2015. (Credit: Todd Shepherd / Complete Colorado) (Used with express permission from CompleteColorado.com. Do not duplicate or republish.)

The FBI interviewed PRN’s staff in September 2015. This almost certainly included Combetta and Bill Thornton, because they were the only two PRN employees actively managing Clinton’s server.

It’s particularly important to know if Combetta was interviewed at this time. The FBI’s final report clearly stated that he was interviewed twice, in February 2016and May 2016, and repeatedly referred to what was said in his “first interview” and “second interview.” However, we luckily know that he was interviewed in September 2015 as well, because of a PRN invoice billed to Clinton Executive Service Corp. (CESC), a Clinton family company, that was made public later in 2015. The invoice made clear that Combetta, who was working remotely from Rhode Island, flew to Colorado on September 14, 2015, and then “federal interviews” took place on September 15. Combetta’s rental car, hotel, and return airfare costs were itemized as well. As this essay later makes clear, PRN was refusing to cooperate with anyone else in the US government but the FBI by this time, so “federal interviews” can only mean the FBI.

The fact that the FBI falsely claimed Combetta was only interviewed twice grows in importance given a recent New York Times report that the Justice Department gave Combetta some form of legal immunity. One other person in the investigation, Bryan Pagliano, was given immunity as well. But his immunity deal was leaked to the media and had been widely reported on since March 2016. By contrast, Combetta’s immunity wasn’t even mentioned in the FBI’s final report, and members of Congress were upset to first read about it in the Times, because they had never been told about it either.

The mystery of this situation deepens when one looks at the FBI report regarding what Combetta said in his February 2016 and May 2016 interviews. In February 2016, he claimed that he remembered in late March 2015 that he forgot to make the change to the email retention policy on Clinton’s server, but that was it. He claimed he never did make any deletions. He also claimed that he was unaware of the March 9, 2015 email from Mills warning of the Congressional request to preserve all of Clinton’s emails.

Then, in May 2016, he completely changed his story. He said that in fact he did make the deletions in late March 2015 after all, plus he’d wiped her emails with BleachBit, as described earlier. He also confessed to being aware of the Mills email with the preservation request.

Paul Combetta (Credit: public domain)

Paul Combetta (Credit: public domain)

It still hasn’t been reported when Combetta’s immunity deal was made. However, it seems probable that this took place between his February 2016 and May 2016 interviews, causing the drastic change in his account. Yet, it looks that he still hasn’t been fully honest or forthcoming. Note that he didn’t confess to the deletion of data on the Datto back-up device, even though it took place at the same time as the other deletions. The FBI learned that on their own by analyzing the device.

Attorney-client privilege?!

More crucially, we know that Combetta has not revealed what took place in the second conference call between PRN and Clinton employees. Here is all the FBI’s final report has to say about that: “Investigation identified a PRN work ticket, which referenced a conference call among PRN, Kendall, and Mills on March 31, 2015. PRN’s attorney advised [Combetta] not to comment on the conversation with Kendall, based upon the assertion of the attorney-client privilege.”

This is extremely bizarre. What “attorney-client privilege”?! That would only apply for communications between Combetta and his lawyer or lawyers. It’s clear that Combetta’s lawyer isn’t Mills or Kendall. The New York Times article about the immunity deal made a passing reference to his lawyer, and, when Combetta showed up for a Congressional hearing on September 12, he was accompanied by a lawyer who photographs from the hearing make clear is Ken Eichner, who has been the legal counsel for PRN as a whole regarding Clinton’s server.

Even if Combetta’s lawyer Eichner was participating in the call, there is no way that should protect Combetta from having to tell what he said to Clinton employees like Mills or Kendall. If that’s how the law works, criminals could simply always travel with a lawyer and then claim anything they do or say with the lawyer present is inadmissible as evidence due to attorney-client privilege. It’s absurd.

For the FBI to give Combetta an immunity deal and then still not learn if he had been told to delete the emails by anyone working for Clinton due to a completely legally indefensible “attorney-client privilege” excuse is beyond belief. It would make sense, however, if the FBI was actually trying to protect Clinton from prosecution instead of trying to find evidence to prosecute her.

Combetta’s Reddit posts

Furthermore, how much can Combetta be trusted, even in an FBI interview? It has recently come to light that he made Reddit posts under the username “stonetear.” There can be no doubt this was Combetta, because the details match perfectly, including him signing a post “Paul,” having another social media account for a Paul Combetta with the username “stonetear,” having a combetta.com website mentioning his “stonetear” alias, and even posting a photo of “stonetear” that matches other known photos of Combetta.

In one Reddit post, he asked other server managers: “I may be facing a very interesting situation where I need to strip out a VIP’s (VERY VIP) email address from a bunch of archived email that I have both in a live Exchange mailbox, as well as a .pst file. Basically, they don’t want the VIP’s email address exposed to anyone, and want to be able to either strip out or replace the email address in the to/from fields in all of the emails we want to send out. … Does anyone have experience with something like this, and/or suggestions on how this might be accomplished?”

July 24, 2014 Reddit post contained this request for advice about “stripping out” the email address of a “VERY VIP” email account. (Credit: Reddit)

The date of the post—July 24, 2014—is very significant, because that was just one day after Combetta sent CESC (the Clinton family company) DVDs containing some of Clinton’s emails, so Clinton’s lawyers could start the sorting process. Also on July 23, 2014, an unnamed PRN employee sent Samuelson and Mills the same emails electronically directly to their laptops.

A response captured in the Reddit chat warning Combetta that what he wants to do is illegal. (Credit: Reddit)

A response captured in the Reddit chat warning stonetear aka Combetta that what he wants to do could result in major legal issues. (Credit: Reddit)

Popular software made by companies like Microsoft have tried to make it impossible for people to change email records, so people facing legal trouble can’t tamper with emails after they’ve been sent. Thus, when Combetta posed his problem at Reddit, other Reddit users told him that what he wanted to do “could result in major legal issues.” But that didn’t deter him, and he kept asking for various ways to get it accomplished anyway.

It isn’t clear why Clinton would have wanted her email address removed from all her emails, since her exact address had already been exposed in the media back in March 2013 by the hacker known as Guccifer. One Gawker reporter even used it to email Clinton on March 20, 2013: “[W]ere your emails to and from the [email protected] account archived according to the provisions of the President Records Act and Freedom of Information Act?” (Clinton never replied, maybe because it’s clear in hindsight that an honest answer would have been “no.”) But the fact that Combetta was willing to at least try to do this raises questions, especially his seeming willingness to do something illegal for his “VIP” customer Hillary Clinton.

Combetta made another important Reddit post a few months later:
“Hello- I have a client who wants to push out a 60 day email retention policy for certain users. However, they also want these users to have a ‘Save Folder’ in their Exchange folder list where the users can drop items that they want to hang onto longer than the 60 day window. All email in any other folder in the mailbox should purge anything older than 60 days (should not apply to calendar or contact items of course). How would I go about this? Some combination of retention and managed folder policy?”

Another sample captured of Combetta as 'stonetear' asking Reddit users for help. (Credit: Reddit)

Another question was captured of ‘stonetear’ aka Combetta asking Reddit users for technical help. (Credit: Reddit)

Again, the timing is telling, because this post was made on December 10, 2014. Recall that December 2014 (or January 2015) was when he deleted and then wiped Clinton’s emails from the laptops of Mills and Samuelson. December also was the month that Mills asked him to change the retention policy on Clinton’s server to 60 days, which is precisely the issue he was asking about in his Reddit post.

Recall how Clinton allegedly claimed she didn’t want to keep any of her deleted emails. It looks like that wasn’t true after all. It sounds exactly as if Mills or someone else working for Clinton told him to make it look like all the “personal” emails were permanently deleted due to the 60 day policy change, while actually keeping copies of emails they still wanted.

Looking at Combetta’s two Reddit posts detailed above, there are only two possibilities. One is that Combetta failed to disclose crucial information to the FBI, despite his immunity deal. The second is that he did, but the FBI didn’t mention it in its final report. Either way, it’s already clear that the FBI has failed to present the full story of Combetta’s actions to the public. And how much of what Combetta has said can be trusted, even in his most recent and supposedly most forthcoming FBI interview?

Remarkably, there is a hint that Combetta was being dishonest even before his late March 2015 deletions. On March 3, 2015, one day after the front-page New York Times story revealing Clinton’s use of a private server, PRN’s vice president of sales David DeCamillis sent an email to some or all of the other PRN employees. The email has only been paraphrased in news reports so far, but he was already wondering what Clinton emails the company might be asked to turn over.

Combetta replied to the email, “I’ve done quite a bit already in the last few months related to this. Her [Clinton’s] team had me do a bunch of exports and email filters and cleanup to provide a .pst [personal storage file] of all of HRC’s [Hillary Rodham Clinton’s] emails to/from any .gov addresses. … I billed probably close to 10 hours in on-call tickets with CESC related to it :).”

First off, it’s interesting that he said he did “a bunch” of “email filters and cleanup,” because what has been reported by the FBI is that he only made a copy of all of Clinton’s email and sent them off to be sorted in late July 2014. That fits with his July 2014 Reddit post where he was trying to modify somebody’s email address.

But also, assuming that there aren’t important parts to his email that haven’t been mentioned by the media, consider what he didn’t say. The topic was possibly turning over Clinton’s emails, and yet by this time Combetta had already deleted and wiped all of Clinton’s emails from the laptops of two Clinton lawyers and been asked to change the email retention policy on Clinton’s server so that all her emails would be permanently deleted there too, and yet he didn’t bother to mention this to anyone else at PRN. Why?

We can only speculate based on the limited amount of information made public so far. But it seems as if Combetta was covering up for Clinton and/or the people working for her even BEFORE he made his late March 2015 deletions!

Who knows about the deletions, and how?

Senator Ron Johnson (Credit: John Shinkle / Politico)

Senator Ron Johnson (Credit: John Shinkle / Politico)

For now, let us turn back to events in the fall of 2015. In mid-August 2015Senator Ron Johnson (R) asked for and got a staff-level briefing from PRN about the management of Clinton’s server, as part of Republican Congressional oversight of the FBI’s investigation. It seems very likely that Combetta was a part of that briefing, or at least his knowledge heavily informed the briefing, because again only two PRN employees actively managed her server, and he was one of them.

Regardless of whether he was there or not, it is clear that PRN was not honest in the briefing. Almost nothing is publicly known about the briefing except that it took place. However, from questions Johnson asked PRN in later letters, one can see that he knew nothing about the March 2015 deletions by Combetta. In fact, just like the FBI, there is no indication he knew anything about the transfer of the data from the old server to the new in that time period, which would be a basic fact in any such briefing.

The dishonesty or ignorance of PRN in this time period can be clearly seen due to a September 12, 2015Washington Post article. In it, PRN spokesperson Andy Boian said, “Platte River has no knowledge of the server being wiped.” He added, “All the information we have is that the server wasn’t wiped.” We now know that not only was this untrue, but a PRN employee did the wiping!

This leads to two possibilities. One is that Combetta lied to his PRN bosses, so in September 2015 nobody else in PRN knew about the deletions he’d made. The other is that additional people at PRN knew, but they joined in a cover-up.

At this point, it’s impossible to know which of these is true, but one of them must be. PRN employees created work tickets and other documentary evidence of the work they made, so one would think the company leadership would have quickly learned about the deletions if they did any examination of their managerial actions to prepare for investigative briefings and interviews.

But either way, PRN as a whole began acting as if there was something to hide. Although the company agreed to the briefing of Congressional staffers in mid-August 2015, when Senator Johnson wanted to follow this up with interviews of individual PRN employees in early September, PRN said no. When Congressional committees began asking PRN for documents, they also said no, and kept saying no. Recently, as we shall see later, they’ve even defied a Congressional subpoena for documents.

Austin McChord, founder and CEO of Datto, Inc. (Credit: Erik Traufmann / Hearst Connecticut Media)

Austin McChord, founder and CEO of Datto, Inc. (Credit: Erik Traufmann / Hearst Connecticut Media)

At the same time Congressional committees began asking PRN for documents and interviews, they made those requests to Datto as well.

Datto expressed a willingness to cooperate. But because Datto had been subcontracted by PRN to help manage Clinton’s server, they needed PRN’s permission to share any information relating to that account. When PRN was first asked in early October 2015, they gave permission. But about a week later, they changed their mind, forcing Datto to stay quiet.

To make matters worse, in early November 2015, PRN spokesperson Andy Boian gave a completely bogus public excuse about this, saying that PRN and Datto had mutually agreed it was more convenient for investigators to deal with just one company. Datto immediately complained in a letter sent to PRN and Senator Johnson that no such discussion or agreement between PRN and Datto had ever taken place.

What is PRN hiding?

The Datto cloud mystery

There is another strange twist to Datto’s involvement. Back in June 2013 when Datto was first subcontracted to help with backing up the server data, the Clinton family company CESC made explicit that they didn’t want any of the data to be stored remotely. But due to some snafu or miscommunication, it turns out that in addition to local back-ups being stored on the Datto device connected to the server, Datto had been making periodic copies of the server data the whole time in the “cloud!” That means back-up copies of the data were being transferred over the Internet and stored remotely, probably on other servers controlled by Datto.

Co-founders of PRN are Brent Allshouse (left) and Treve Suazo (right) (Credit: PRN)

Co-founders of PRN are Brent Allshouse (left) and Treve Suazo (right) (Credit: PRN)

PRN only discovered this in early August 2015, around the time the roles of PRN and Datto had with the server began to be made public. PRN contacted Datto, told them to stop doing this, put all the data on a thumb drive, send it to them, and then permanently wipe their remote copies of the server data.

It is unclear what happened after that. The FBI’s final report mentions a Datto back-up made on June 29, 2013, just after all the data had been moved from the old server to the new sever with the back-up, had been useful to investigators and allowed them to find some Clinton emails dating all the way back to the first two months of her secretary of state tenure. However, it isn’t clear if this is due to the local Datto SIRIS device or the accidental Datto cloud back-up. Congressional committee letters show that they don’t know either and have been trying to find out.

Adding to the mystery, one would think that if Datto was making periodic back-ups either or both ways, the FBI would have been able to recover all of Clinton’s over 31,000 deleted emails and not just 17,000 of them. Consider that when PRN employees sent Clinton’s lawyers all of Clinton’s emails to be sorted in July and September 2014, they simply copied what was on the server at the time, which presumably was the same amount of emails from years earlier than had been there in June 2013, and thus backed up by Datto many times.

It’s likely there are more twists to the cloud back-up story that have yet to be revealed.

What did Clinton and her aides know about the deletions?

Meanwhile, let’s consider what Clinton and her aides may have known and when they knew it. When Mills was interviewed by the FBI in April 2016, according to the FBI, “Mills stated she was unaware that [Combetta] had conducted these deletions and modifications in March 2015.” Then, when Clinton was interviewed by the FBI in July 2016, “Clinton stated she was…unaware of the March 2015 email deletions by PRN.”

This is pretty hard to believe.  Mills was and still is one of Clinton’s lawyers, and even attended Clinton’s FBI interview. So why wouldn’t she have mentioned the deletions to Clinton between April and July 2016, after she learned about them from the FBI’s questions to her? One would think Clinton would have been extremely curious to know anything about the FBI’s possible recovery of her deleted emails.

But more importantly, consider what was mentioned in an NBC News report on August 19, 2015. Clinton’s campaign acknowledged “that there was an attempt to wipe [Clinton’s] server before it was turned over last week to the FBI. But two sources with direct knowledge of the investigation told NBC News…that the [FBI] may be able to recover at least some data.”

Is it plausible that people within Clinton’s campaign knew this, and yet neither Mills nor Clinton did? How could that be? Note that just one day before the NBC News report, Clinton had been directly asked if her server had been wiped. She dodged the question by making the joke, “What—like with a cloth, or something?” Then she said she didn’t “know how it works digitally at all.” Despite the controversy at the time about the cloth joke, her spokesperson claimed one month later, “I don’t know what ‘wiped’ means.”

It’s highly likely the issue had to have been discussed with Clinton at the time, but there was a conscious effort not to have her admit to knowing anything, due to the on-going FBI investigation.

But more crucially, how could anyone at all working for Clinton know about the deletions as far back as August 2015? Recall that this was within days of PRN giving a briefing to Congressional staffers and not telling them, and several weeks prior to a PRN public comment that there was no evidence the server had been wiped.

Moreover, we have no evidence that the FBI knew about the deletions yet. Datto conducted an analysis of its device that had been attached to Clinton’s new server, and in an October 23, 2015 email, told the FBI for the first time that deletions had taken place on that device on March 31, 2015. Keep in mind that even in his February 2016 FBI interview, Combetta claimed that no deletions had taken place in that time frame. Does it make sense that he would have said that if he had reason to believe that PRN had been talking to Clinton’s staff about it in the months before? (None of the interviews in the FBI”s investigations were done under oath, but lying to the FBI is a felony with a maximum five-year prison sentence.)

A sample of the letter sent to the FBI by Datto attorney, Steven Cash on October 23, 2015. (Credit: House Science Committee)

A sample of the email sent to the FBI by Datto attorney, Steven Cash on October 23, 2015. (Credit: House Science Committee)

So, again, how could Clinton’s campaign know about the wiping in August 2015? The logical answer is that it had been discussed in the conference call on March 31, 2015, that took place within hours of the deletions.

Perhaps Mills, Kendall, or someone else working for Clinton told Combetta to make the deletions, possibly during the first conference call on March 25, 2015. If that is the case, there should be obstruction of justice charges brought against anyone involved. Or maybe Combetta did that on his own to cover his earlier mistake and then mentioned what he’d done in the second conference call. If either scenario is true, Mills should be charged with lying to the FBI for claiming in her FBI interview that she knew nothing about any of this. Clinton might be charged for the same if it could be proved what she knew and when.

“Shady shit” and “Hillary’s cover-up operation”

But there’s still more to this strange story. Somehow by October 5, 2015Senator Johnson got hold of a curious email exchange between Combetta and Thornton, and he mentioned it in a letter to PRN that got leaked to the public the next day. (Recall that Bill Thornton is the other PRN employee who actively managed Clinton’s server.)

Just as the email retention policy on the Clinton server was changed on the orders of people working for Clinton, so was the retention policy on the Datto device connected to the server, in the same time period.

In an August 18, 2015 email, Combetta expressed concern that CESC, the Clinton family company, had directed PRN to reduce the length of time backups, and PRN wanted proof of this so they wouldn’t be blamed. But he said in the email, “this was all phone comms [communications].”

The next day, there was another email, this one written by Thornton to Combetta and possibly others in PRN. The email has the subject heading “CESC Datto.” Thornton wrote: “Any chance you found an old email with their directive to cut the backup back in Oct-Feb. I know they had you cut it once in Oct-Nov, then again to 30 days in Feb-ish.” (Presumably this refers to October 2014 through February 2015.)

Thornton continued: “If we had that email, then we’re golden. […] Wondering how we can sneak an email in now after the fact asking them when they told us to cut the backups and have them confirm it for our records. Starting to think this whole thing really is covering up some shady shit. I just think if we have it in writing that they [CESC] told us to cut the backups, and we can go public with our statement saying we have had backups since day one, then we were told to trim to 30 days, it would make us look a WHOLE LOT better.”

Combetta replied: “I’ll look again, but I’m almost positive we don’t have anything about the 60 day cut. […] It’s up to lawyer crap now, so just sit back and enjoy the silly headlines.”

As an aside, it’s curious that Combetta made some unsolicited additional comments in that same email that was supportive of Clinton’s position in the email controversy: “It wasn’t the law to be required to use government email servers at the State Department, believe it or not. Colin Powell used an AOL address for communicating with his staff, believe it or not.”

If we take this email exchange at face value, then it appears that Clinton employees requested an email retention policy change that would result in more deletion of data on the Datto back-up device in the October to November 2014 time range. Keep in mind that the State Department formally asked Clinton for all of her work-related emails, on October 28, 2014, after informally asking starting in July 2014. Then, around February 2015, Clinton employees asked for another change that would have resulted in more deletions. Plus, they did this on the phone, leaving no paper trail. Is it any wonder that Thornton wrote, “Starting to think this whole thing really is covering up some shady shit?”

Details are lacking, but roughly around this time period, one unnamed PRN employee made a joke that they were “Hillary’s cover-up operation.” That may have been much more accurate than they realized.

The FBI speaks up, only raising more questions

News about PRN went quiet for the first half of 2016. Congressional committees kept asking PRN and Datto for more information (including another request for interviews in January 2016), and PRN kept saying no as well as not giving Datto permission to respond.

Then, on July 5, 2016, FBI Director James Comey gave a surprise public speech in which he announced he wouldn’t recommend any criminal charges against Clinton or anyone else in the investigation. In the course of his speech, he said it was “likely” that some emails may have disappeared forever because Clinton’s lawyers “deleted all emails they did not return to State, and the lawyers cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery.” But he said that after interviews and technical examination, “we believe our investigation has been sufficient to give us reasonable confidence there was no intentional misconduct in connection with that sorting effort.”

Two days later, on July 7, 2016, Comey had to explain his decision in front of a Congressional committee. During that hearing, he was asked by Representative Trey Gowdy (R), “Secretary Clinton said neither she nor anyone else deleted work-related emails from her personal account. Was that true?”

Comey replied: “That’s a harder one to answer. We found traces of work-related emails in—on devices or in slack space. Whether they were deleted or whether when the server was changed out, something happened to them. There’s no doubt that the work-related emails were removed electronically from the email system.”

Consider that response. By the time Comey made those comments, the FBI’s final report had already been finished, the report that detailed Combetta’s confession of deliberately deleting and then wiping all of Clinton’s emails from her server. Comey was explicitly asked if “anyone” had made such deletions, and yet he said he wasn’t sure. Comey should be investigated for lying to Congress! Had he revealed even the rough outlines of Combetta’s late March 2015 deletions in his July 5, 2016 public speech or his Congressional testimony two days later, it would have significantly changed the public perception of the results of the FBI investigation. That also would have allowed Congressional committees to start focusing on this two months earlier than they did, enabling them to uncover more in the limited time before the November presidential election.

Despite the fact that the Combetta deletions were still unknown, Congressional committees began putting increasing pressure on PRN anyway. On July 12, 2016, two committees jointly wrote a letter to PRN, threatening subpoenas if they still refused to cooperate. The letter listed seven PRN employees they wanted to interview, including Combetta and Thornton. Similar letters went out to Datto and SECNAP. (SECNAP was subcontracted by PRN to carry out threat monitoring of the network connected to Clinton’s server.)

On August 22, 2016, after all three companies still refused to cooperate, Representative Lamar Smith (R), chair of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, issued subpoenas for PRN, Datto, and SECNAP.

On September 2, 2016the FBI’s final report of their Clinton email investigation was released (along with a summary of Clinton’s FBI interview). This report revealed the late March 2015 deletions for the first time. Combetta’s name was redacted, but his role, as well as his immunity deal, was revealed in the New York Times article published a few days later.

Congressional investigators fight back

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Channing Phillips (Credit: public domain)

Since the report has been released, Congressional Republicans have stepped up their efforts to get answers about the Combetta mystery, using the powers of the committees they control. On September 6, 2016, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote a letter to Channing Phillips, the US attorney for the District of Columbia. He asked the Justice Department to “investigate and determine whether Secretary Clinton or her employees and contractors violated statutes that prohibit destruction of records, obstruction of congressional inquiries, and concealment or cover up of evidence material to a congressional investigation.” Clearly, this relates to the Combetta deletions.

On the same dayChaffetz sent a letter to PRN warning that Combetta could face federal charges for deleting and wiping Clinton’s emails in late March 2015, due to the Congressional request to preserve them earlier in the month that he admitted he was aware of. Chaffetz also wants an explanation from PRN how Combetta could refuse to talk to the FBI about the conference calls if the only lawyers involved in the call were Clinton’s.

Chaffetz serves the FBI a subpoena during a House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee hearing on September 9, 2016. (Credit: ABC News)

Chaffetz serves the FBI a subpoena during a House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee hearing on September 9, 2016. (Credit: ABC News)

On September 9Chaffetz served the FBI a subpoena for all the unredacted interviews from the FBI’s Clinton investigation, especially those of Combetta and the other PRN employees. This came after an FBI official testifying at a hearing remarkably suggested that Chaffetz should file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to get the documents, just like any private citizen can.

On September 8, 2016Congressional committees served the subpoenas they’d threatened in August. PRN, Datto, and SECNAP were given until the end of September 12 to finally turn over the documents the committees had been requesting for year. Datto complied and turned over the documents in time. However, PRN and SECNAP did not.

The next day, September 13, Representative Lamar Smith (R) said, “just this morning…SECNAP’s [legal] counsel confirmed to my staff that the Clinton’s private LLC [Clinton Executive Service Corp.] is actively engaged in directing their obstructionist responses to Congressional subpoenas.”

PRN employees Combetta and Thornton were also given subpoenas on September 8, ordering them to testify at a Congressional hearing on September 13, 2016. Both of them showed up with their lawyers, but both of them pled the Fifth, leaving many questions unanswered.

An FBI cover-up?

In a Senate speech on September 12, 2016, Senator Charles Grassley (R) accused the FBI of manipulating which information about the Clinton email investigation becomes public. He said that although the FBI has taken the unusual step of releasing the FBI’s final report, “its summary is misleading or inaccurate in some key details and leaves out other important facts altogether.” He pointed in particular to Combetta’s deletions, saying: “[T]here is key information related to that issue that is still being kept secret, even though it is unclassified. If I honor the FBI’s ‘instruction’ not to disclose the unclassified information it provided to Congress, I cannot explain why.”

He also said there are dozens of completely unclassified witness reports, but even some of his Congressional staffers can’t see them “because the FBI improperly bundled [them] with a small amount of classified information, and told the Senate to treat it all as if it were classified.” The normal procedure is for documents to have the classified portions marked. Then the unclassified portions can be released. But in defiance of regulations and a clear executive order on how such material should be handled, “the FBI has ‘instructed’ the Senate office that handles classified information not to separate the unclassified information.” As a result, Grassley claims: “Inaccuracies are spreading because of the FBI’s selective release. For example, the FBI’s recently released summary memo may be contradicted by other unclassified interview summaries that are being kept locked away from the public.”

He said he has been fighting the FBI on this, but without success so far, as the FBI isn’t even replying to his letters.

Thus, it seems that Comey failing to mention anything about the Combetta deletions in the July 7, 2016 Congressional hearing, even when directly asked about it, was no accident. Having the FBI report claim that Combetta was only interviewed twice when there is clear evidence of three interviews also fits a pattern of concealment related to the deletions.

Regarding the FBI’s failure to inform Congressional oversight committees of Combetta’s immunity deal, Representative Trey Gowdy (R) recently commented, “If there is a reason to withhold the immunity agreement from Congress—and by extension, the people we represent—I cannot think of what it would be.”

Gowdy, who is a former federal prosecutor, also said on September 9 that there are two types of immunity Combetta could have received: use and transactional. “If the FBI and the Department of Justice gave this witness transactional immunity, it is tantamount to giving the triggerman immunity in a robbery case.” He added that he is “stunned” because “It looks like they gave immunity to the very person you would most want to prosecute.”

This is as much as we know so far, but surely the story won’t stop there. PRN has been served a new subpoena. It is likely the requested documents will be seized from them soon if they continue to resist.

Taking the fall and running out the clock

But why does PRN resist so much? Computer companies often resist sharing information with the government so their reputation with their clients won’t be harmed. But defying a subpoena when there clearly are legitimate questions to be answered goes way beyond what companies normally do and threatens PRN’s reputation in a different way. Could it be that PRN—an inexplicable choice to manage Clinton’s server—was chosen precisely because whatever Clinton aide hired them had reason to believe they would be loyal if a problem like this arose?

There is some anecdotal evidence to support this. It has been reported that PRN has ties to prominent Democrats. For instance, the company’s vice president of sales David DeCamillis is said to be a prominent supporter of Democratic politicians, and once offered to let Senator Joe Biden (D) stay in his house in 2008, not long before Biden became Obama’s vice president. The company also has done work for John Hickenlooper, the Democratic governor of Colorado. And recall the email in which Combetta brought up points to defend Clinton in her email controversy, even though the email exchange was on a different topic.

The behavior of the FBI is even stranger. Comey was a registered Republican most of his life, and it is well known that most FBI agents are politically conservative. Be that as it may, if Comey made a decision beforehand based on some political calculation to avoid indicting Clinton no matter what the actual evidence was, that the FBI’s peculiar behavior specifically relating to the Combetta deletions make much more sense. It would be an unprecedented and bold move to recommend indicting someone with Hillary Clinton’s power right in the middle of her presidential election campaign.

It’s naive to think that political factors don’t play a role, on both sides. Consider that virtually every Democratic politician has been supportive of Clinton in her email controversy, or at least silent about it, while virtually every Republican has been critical of her about it or silent. Comey was appointed by Obama, and if the odds makers are right and Clinton wins in November, Comey will continue to be the FBI director under President Clinton. (Comey was appointed to a ten-year term, but Congress needs to vote to reappoint him after the election.) How could that not affect his thinking?

Comey could be trying to run out the clock, first delaying the revelations of the Combetta’s deletions as much as possible, then releasing only selected facts to diminish the attention on the story.

In this scenario, the FBI having Combetta take the fall for the deletions while making a secret immunity deal with him is a particularly clever move to prevent anyone from being indicted. Note that Combetta’s confession about making the deletions came in his May 2016 FBI interview, which came after Mills’ April 2016 interview in which she claimed she’d never heard of any deletions. Thus, the only way to have Combetta take the fall for the deletions without Mills getting caught clearly lying to the FBI is by dodging the issue of what was said in the March 31, 2015 conference with a nonsensical claim of “attorney-client privilege.”

Unfortunately, if that is Comey’s plan, it looks like it’s working. Since the FBI’s final report came out on September 2, 2016, the mainstream media has largely failed to grasp the significance of Combetta and his deletions, focusing on far less important matters instead, such as the destruction of a couple of Clinton’s BlackBerry devices with hammers—which actually was better than not destroying them and possibly letting them fall into the wrong hands.

The House Benghazi Committee in session in 2015. (Credit: C-SPAN3)

The House Benghazi Committee in session in 2015. (Credit: C-SPAN3)

What happens next appears to largely be in the hands of Congressional Republicans, who no doubt will keep pushing to find out more, if only to politically hurt Clinton before the election. But it’s also in the hands of you, the members of the general public. If enough people pay attention, then it will be impossible to sweep this controversy under the rug.

I believe that criminal behavior needs to be properly investigated and prosecuted, regardless of political persuasion and regardless of the election calendar. Combetta clearly committed a crime and he even confessed to do so, given what he admitted in his last FBI interview. If he got a limited immunity deal instead of blanket immunity, which is highly likely, it still would be possible to indict and convict him based on evidence outside of his interviews. That would help explain why he recently pled the Fifth, because he’s still in legal danger.

Paul Combetta and Bill Thornton plead the Fifth on September 13, 2016. (Credit: CSpan)

Paul Combetta and Bill Thornton plead the Fifth on September 13, 2016. (Credit: CSpan)

But more importantly, who else is guilty with him? Logic and the available evidence strongly suggest that Clinton’s lawyer Cheryl Mills at least knew about the deletions at the time they happened. Combetta has already confessed to criminal behavior—and yet somehow hasn’t even been fired by PRN. If he didn’t at least tell Mills and the others in the conference call about the deletions, there would be no logical reason to assert attorney-client privilege in the first place. Only the nonsensical assertion of this privilege is preventing the evidence coming out that should lead to Mills being charged with lying to the FBI at a minimum. And if Mills knew, can anyone seriously believe that Clinton didn’t know too?

As the saying goes, “it’s not the crime, it’s the cover up.” This is an important story, and not just election season mudslinging. The public needs to know what really happened.

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Canada unfortunately is not just a follower of the U.S. but a strong forward carrier of the British Imperial system as well. Strong racial biases, pro-Zionism, acceptance of colonial settler practices are and were well advanced in Canada without U.S. assistance.

Within the current globalized world, Canada still pretends to be a ‘peacekeeper’, a thin disguise for the maintenance of the failing New World Order advocated by U.S. neocons. Our financial and corporate structures are well intertwined, with Canada’s economy reliant on the U.S. for about seventy per cent of its trade.

The elevation of Chrystia Freeland to Foreign Affairs and the sidelining of Stephane Dion – a much more balanced and nuanced peace seeking minister – demonstrates the domestic requirements of Canada supporting Ukraine for the supposed millions of votes that Ukrainian descendants in Canada represent. It further represents the acceptance of the contemporary anti-Russian xenophobia created by the U.S./NATO/EU governments and media.

Current aspects of international politics highlights the culpability of Canada in creating global tensions that seek out a military solution.

Canada’s Magnitsky Law

The first, as noted above, is Canada’s role in promoting anti-Russian rhetoric and rather immature knee jerk sanctions in order to defend against an artificially created Russian threat. The comments above were in response to an article in Russia Insider, an article written by a Canadian, arguing effectively and truthfully about Canada’s Magnitsky Law. Sure, it’s not really called that, instead given the much more pleasant sounding title “Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act”.

It is also very carefully worded such that, while condemning extra-judicial execution, torture, corruption, bribery, and illicit material support, it only condemns those actions against people who are allegedly exposing illegal actions and/or promoting human rights. Thus the majority of those in the world who are using extra-judicial executions, torture, and who are corrupt and using bribery are not in any way affected.

Therefore war criminals and humans rights abusers, numerous throughout the western political establishment – Tony Blair, George Bush, Obama, Netanyahu, Sharon and all their associates and underlings and various assorted lesser known neocons – are free to continue with their extra-judicial execution, torture, corruption, bribery, and material support of terrorists in order to try and maintain their hegemonic control over the rest of the world.

In short, there are many corrupt foreign officials, but we can’t go after them because they are on our side. There are truly millions of victims of corrupt foreign officials but they are well apart from the concerns of Canada’s Government.

Syria and Ukraine

Associated with this are the current events with Syria, and Ukraine. It is interesting to watch Trump succumb to the deep state at home, yet at the same time shake hands with Putin. I do not like Trump, as he is truly an ignorant megalomaniac, but I cannot but support his contention that the U.S. does not need to be enemies with Russia, regardless of the invented fears of the U.S. deep state and the reactionary eastern European countries.

What the latter seem to forget is that it is Western Europe that has created the three major wars that have changed and decimated their territories (Napoleon, Wilhelm, Hitler). They should be more afraid of NATO starting another war – under U.S. tutelage – than worrying about Russia attacking them. As for the deep state, well, they need an enemy, and without ISIS/al-Qaeda under the rubric of the global war on terror being much of a threat – thanks in a good deal to Russia’s intervention in Syria to stop the U.S./Saudi supported terrorists – then the old bogeyman “Soviet” Russia must be recreated as the latest ultimate threat.

Canada unfortunately is acting as a pawn of the U.S. within these two areas. And more unfortunately, Canada has by its actions abrogated its self-declared role as “peacekeeper” and is following the U.S. ideal of achieving a pax Americana through the barrel of a gun. True, sanctions do not come from the barrel of a gun, but following the U.S. lead of sanctioning whomever in the world one does not get along with – i.e. does not accept U.S. dominance – will ultimately lead to some kind of violent action as is so well documented in U.S. history.

China, Russia, and the House of Saud

What Canada and the U.S. ultimately fear is the decline of the US$. China has openly stated that the term of the US$ as the sole global reserve currency must end, and Russia, while not being quite as verbally open about it all, is moving along the same track. Both are working together in order to make this happen by developing their own financial systems independent of the western establishments (World Bank, IMF, SWIFT, the many card payment and money transfer systems).

The current actions by the House of Saud pose some interesting questions concerning this. Are they aligning themselves up for a new world currency order? Are they going to be pricing oil in yuan for China, especially now that China is buying oil with gold redeemable yuan (to wit the recent visit of the House of Saud to China)? Has Russia made some kind of agreement vis a vis oil prices/currencies with the Saudis (to wit the recent visit of the House of Saud to Russia)? Is Saudi Arabia at all stable politically – and for how long?

Canada will find itself left behind as the Eurasian continent reshapes itself away from western financial and military influence. North America will become a second rate backwater, ruled by its own oligarchs, while the majority of citizens are educated and subdued through the Orwellian attitudes of the governing class.

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What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?

November 20th, 2017 by Gregory Elich

Long-roiling factional conflict within Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF political party exploded last week in a military coup that quickly seized control of the government and state media. The coup was led by Commander of Zimbabwe Defense Forces Constantino Chiwenga, who is closely aligned with former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Emboldened by President Robert Mugabe’s declining mental sharpness and physical health in recent years, Mnangagwa actively maneuvered to ensure that he would succeed the president. Mnangagwa served as one of Zimbabwe’s two vice presidents. From that position, he and his supporters, known as Team Lacoste, became embroiled in a bitter struggle with younger party members who coalesced around Secretary of Women’s Affairs Grace Mugabe, wife of the president, and whose group was known as Generation 40, or G40.

As early as 2015, Mnangagwa began reaching out to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to discuss plans to implement a five-year transition government, in which both men would play a leading role. The unity government would compensate and “reintegrate” dispossessed former owners of large-scale farms. Reuters obtained hundreds of internal documents from Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organization that revealed the plan. “Key aspects of the transition planning described in the documents were corroborated by interviews with political, diplomatic and intelligence sources in Zimbabwe and South Africa,” reports Reuters. The same sources left open “the possibility that the government could be unelected.” In one report, it was said that Mugabe feared that Mnangagwa would attempt to reverse land reform. [1]

According to the documents, senior military officials met with Tsvangirai, many of whom were “saying it is better to clandestinely rally behind Tsvangirai for a change.” Security officials also secretly met with Mnangagwa to discuss Mugabe. “They all agree that Mugabe is now a security threat due to his ill health.”  Not surprisingly, “four people with direct knowledge of coalition-related discussions about post-Mugabe rebuilding” indicated that Great Britain had at least peripheral involvement in discussions, and British ambassador to Zimbabwe Catriona Laing was said to favor “Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe.” [2]

Such behind the scenes machinations did not sit well with G40, and mutual recrimination escalated between Team Lacoste and G40 in recent months. In an explosive politburo meeting on July 19, Minister of Higher Education Jonathan Moyo played a damning video that exposed Mnangagwa’s plans. The video accused him of “working to systematically undermine President Robert Mugabe by capturing the party and state institutions.” The video also revealed that General Chiwenga was deeply involved in those plans. Audio recordings of Zimpapers journalists stated that “they are working to further VP Mnangagwa’s succession agenda and that they work closely with General Chiwenga.”  [3]

The video claimed that Mnangagwa’s allies in government were using their positions “to advance his bid to unconstitutionally and criminally succeed President Mugabe…The objective was to seize control of the party. That scheme is outlined and detailed in a successionist strategy document that was published in 2015 entitled Blue Ocean.” Quoting the Blue Ocean Strategy document, the video said: “Critical positions must be secured in these institutions and the personnel must be given instructions to hoard dossiers on the G40 brass and all echelons of the party.” [4]

The Blue Ocean Strategy sought to use the dossiers “to make it toxic for anyone to be associated with the G40 group.” Other tactics included attacks on the character of G40 members, and infiltrating the group and creating discord.  “Seeds of distrust must be sown in that alliance with the First Lady with immediate effect,” the document urged. [5] The campaign to discredit G40 was intended to clear the path to power for Mnangagwa.

By marshaling an impressive array of evidence, the video made a persuasive case, which the military coup on Mnangagwa’s behalf has amply confirmed.

Mnangagwa did not react with equanimity to the video. Moyo says that he responded to the presentation by “making a shocking statement to the effect that while he was in Mozambique, during the liberation struggle, people who made interventions such as my presentation to the Politburo on 19 July would have ‘their head separated from their shoulders’.” The effect of Mnangagwa’s statement, Moyo continued, “was to threaten me with murder.” [6]

Given the opportunity to answer Moyo’s charges, Mnangagwa delivered an 85-page report to President Mugabe in September. Mnangagwa claimed he was loyal, and without providing evidence, accused Moyo of being a CIA agent and that along with his cohorts in G40, was plotting against Mugabe. Mnangagwa asserted that Moyo was spreading falsehoods about an impending coup. “Professor Moyo concocted a story that his cousin Major Nkosana Moyo who is with the Presidential Guard informed you of a planned coup by the army and [to] install me as the country’s new leader.” [7] Moyo’s warning had been no falsehood.

On October 11, Mnangagwa went on the counterattack in a formal presentation at a politburo meeting. He repeated the allegation that Moyo was a CIA spy, which he asserted the U.S. Embassy in Harare had confirmed — as if the CIA is in the habit of announcing who its spies are. Mnangagwa pointed to Wikileaks documents concerning discussions Moyo held with U.S. officials during the years when Moyo was not a member of ZANU-PF. An official who attended the politburo meeting reported that Mnangagwa “said the whole army was loyal and played two video clips of General Chiwenga pledging loyalty to the national political leadership.” [8]

Mnangagwa accused Moyo of “harbor[ing] an agenda of destroying the party whether from within…or otherwise.” As proof of that intent, he quoted Moyo as having said, “Now, if your uneducated mind translates reform as destruction, to hell with you. That is not my problem, and I want to repeat that very statement that the best way to reform ZANU-PF is from within.” It is odd that Mnangagwa would be so uncomprehending as to choose such a statement to bolster his claim that Moyo was out to destroy the party. Mnangagwa added that he has “been trying to understand how a party as solid as ZANU-PF can at any given time be said to be in need of reform.” [9]

The bulk of the speech was devoted to quoting Moyo from his years outside the party, when he made some critical remarks, and which Moyo has never denied. Mnangagwa argued that Moyo “deceived” the Central Intelligence Organization into telling President Mugabe that “the army wanted to commit a coup,” and that Moyo “knows truly well that all these are lies and fabrications.”

Member of Parliament Shadreck Mashayamombe, Mnangagwa continued, unjustly claimed that the army would carry out a coup “in a brazen and bizarre attempt to tarnish my name. What has happened since then? Why should people believe your coup claims now when you have lied about that before?” [10] How different those questions look now!

In his response, Moyo pointed out that Mnangagwa had failed to address any of the issues he had raised in his earlier presentation concerning Mnangagwa’s plan to topple the government. Regarding Wikileaks documents, Moyo pointed out that there are many more documents referring to Mnangagwa than him. Furthermore, unlike Mnangagwa, Moyo never met a foreign official while he was in government without the presence of foreign ministry officials. [11]

Moyo revealed that when he was an independent candidate in the 2005 election, Mnangagwa helped fund him and other opposition candidates. Indeed, it was Mnangagwa who led the establishment of the short-lived United People’s Movement. “Throughout the planning process, we had several strategizing meetings…but you have not owned up to that. Instead, you have given a presentation that presents you as ‘comrade loyal’ when that is far from the truth.” [12]

The evidence for Mnangagwa’s perfidy was too abundant to ignore, and on November 9 he was expelled from ZANU-PF and removed from his position as one of Zimbabwe’s two vice presidents. Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Saviour Kasukuwere submitted a report to the politburo which listed other members of the plot to overthrow the government. [13]

Soon thereafter, Mnangagwa turned up in South Africa and issued a statement threatening that President Mugabe and those around him would be driven from the party “in the coming few weeks.” Ominously, he added that his supporters “will very soon control the levers of power” and he “shall return to Zimbabwe to lead you.” [14]

Zimbabwe security forces went on high alert following Mnangagwa’s threats. A source close to Mnangagwa said, “This is no longer a game, gloves are now off, and I can tell you he will be back as promised. He arrived in China [to join General Chiwenga during his visit] where he will meet key contacts.” [15]

General Chiwenga issued a statement condemning Mnangagwa’s opponents and warning darkly that due to political instability, “the military will not hesitate to step in.” ZANU-PF chairman Simon Khaya-Moyo responded by saying the statement suggested “treasonable conduct” and “was meant to incite insurrection and violent challenge to the constitutional order.” [16]

The cause of Zimbabwe’s current predicament, Western media inform us, is a simple one. President Mugabe’s wife harbored political ambitions to one day assume the highest office in the land. There is nothing else that one needs to know. Let us leave aside the temptation to wonder why mainstream media, with its near universal adoration of former president Bill Clinton’s wife for her political ambitions, somehow find it reprehensible for a strong black woman in a similar relationship to have political aspirations.

For her part, Grace Mugabe has sent mixed signals on succession, so it is unclear what her exact thoughts were on the matter. [17] What is certain is that President Mugabe blundered in not arranging an orderly transition to a successor while he was in a stronger political position, and that failure left the door open for schemers like Mnangagwa and Chiwenga.

The reality is that Grace Mugabe’s political base was too narrow and she was too unpopular for there ever have been a chance of her winning an election. Much of what support she did have would have evaporated upon President Mugabe’s demise. It is not even clear that Grace Mugabe had any chance of being named to take Mnangagwa’s place as vice president. It would be up to the upcoming party congress in December to choose the vice president, President Mugabe announced. [18] Furthermore, many reports indicate that President Mugabe favored Defense Minister Sydney Sekeramayi as his successor. [19] President Mugabe was well aware of his wife’s lack of widespread support and that her candidacy in a presidential election would be political suicide for ZANU-PF, in that she would be a rallying point for the opposition. [20]

General Chiwenga did not wait long to make good on his threat to launch a military coup. The government attempted to snuff out the rebellion before it started and dispatched a police paramilitary unit to the airport to arrest General Chiwenga upon his return from China. However, military intelligence caught wind of the plan and an army unit blocked the attempt, allowing Chiwenga to evade arrest. According to an official with knowledge of the incident, “When Chiwenga came, a team of soldiers dressed in National Handling Services (NHS) uniforms got inside the airport, while police positioned themselves to seize him. The soldiers reacted and disarmed them. The soldiers took off the NHS uniforms, revealing their camouflage fatigues, resulting in the police fleeing.” The army immediately set its long-planned coup in motion on the night of November 14-15, eliminating opposition by attacking policemen at the Parliament building and seizing the police paramilitary camp and armory. [21]

Armored vehicles and tanks rolled through Harare, taking control of key points. Gunfire was heard throughout the city, as the military hunted down and arrested every Mugabe supporter and member of G40 it could lay its hands on, not shying from the use of violence. According to one source, “The first casualty of the operation was Mugabe’s head of security,” Albert Ngulube. “He was grabbed right at Mugabe’s gate and taken to detention where he was brutally beaten.” Another source reported that soldiers took Ngulube’s “cellphone, watch and gold chain and later detained and interrogated him. He was heavily battered. He has some cracks on his head and could have died.” [22]

As one source reported, “Troops arrived at Kasukuwere’s house and shot their way into the residence before shelling it from about ten minutes…The families then escaped to Mugabe’s house…Moyo’s house was also stormed by soldiers.” Secretary of Youth Affairs Kudzai Chipanga and his wife were forced to strip naked and sit on the floor at a police station, where he was ordered to repeat the criticisms he had publicly made of General Chiwenga. Then he was severely beaten. The military later forced him to appear on television and apologize for having denounced Chiwenga’s threat to carry out a coup. [23]

Two Canadian journalists were falsely accused of working for the Central Intelligence Organization, and told by soldiers to lie on the ground. One of the journalists says, “And then they started beating us up. Anything that they had, with sticks, butt sticks, and at times they were using the guns that they had and someone was even saying ‘Hey, you can shoot them’.” Soldiers also walked on the journalists and the beatings lasted 15 to 20 minutes. [24]

When an army unit attacked the home of finance minister Ignatius Chombo, it shot dead his three guards. [25] Social media rumored that $10 million had been found in his home, but the photos posted proved to be disinformation. One photo was actually taken in Nigeria and the second photo in a police raid in Brazil. As one wag tweeted, juxtaposing a photo of the Brazil stash with the same photo identified as Chombo’s home, “Boxes of cash on the left were first found by police at apartment in Salvador, Brazil in September. Last night, same bags were found at house of Zimbabwe Finance Minister by the army.” [26]

“Basically, there is no government in Zimbabwe,” said an inside source. “Cabinet failed to seat on Tuesday because all ministers chose to stay away, fearing for their lives.” Among those who were arrested was Masvingo provincial minister Paul Chimedza, who failed in his attempt to flee the wave of repression sweeping the nation. [27]

The long-planned coup to install Mnangagwa was underway, but it was important for the military to present a façade of legality to appease the African Union. Enormous pressure was applied on President Mugabe to resign and appoint Mnangagwa as vice president. That would allow Mnangagwa to take over the reins of power in a legal manner. President Mugabe refused to buckle under intimidation, describing the coup as illegal – which, indeed, it was.

Opposition backers predominate in the cities, whereas Mugabe’s support is heavily concentrated in rural areas, where it can have little political effect. Western media portray the demonstration that was held in Harare to celebrate the coup as expressing the united voice of the people. All Zimbabweans, we were told, are happy at the turn of events. The demonstration represented the opinion of some people, but in what nation is there a monolithic political view? It is interesting how demonstrations only represent the “will of the people” when the cause is to the liking of Western elites. That said, economic difficulties – not entirely unrelated to Western sanctions – have contributed significantly to political dissatisfaction.

War Veterans’ chairman Chris Mutsvangwa, an ardent Mnangagwa supporter, revealed that the Army had capitalized on the Harare demonstration in an ugly bid to threaten Mugabe into capitulating. “The army gave the dictator a message earlier,” he said. “Either he steps down, or they will let the people into his mansion to take him. The army is threatening to unleash the people and let Mugabe be lynched. The generals said they will not shoot the people for him. Instead, they will abandon their posts and leave him to his fate.” [28]

The army was eager to install Mnangagwa as president, and Mugabe was not playing ball. The coup had long been in preparation, and as a leading opposition figure divulged, “a lot of talking was going on” between the army and “different factions to discuss the formation of a transitional government.” Discussions between the army and the opposition had been underway over the last several months. [29]

According to a member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the plan by the army to bring the opposition into the government was “a done deal,” and was said to have “tacit agreement from regional powers.” [30]

Following the coup, Mnangagwa returned to Zimbabwe and began preparing to establish a transitional government that he would lead. It appears that South Africa may be playing some sort of role behind the scenes, as one source hinted. “The parties have been asked to prepare position papers ahead of the visit by [South African President Jacob] Zuma’s envoy. [MDC leader] Morgan Tsvangirai will present on behalf of his coalition, while [People’s Rainbow Alliance leader Joice] Mujuru will present on behalf of her coalition.” [31]

On Sunday, in the absence of Robert Mugabe’s supporters, ZANU-PF voted to expel the president from the party, and in his place appointed Emmerson Mnangagwa as head of the party. Mnangagwa and his backers were out for vengeance, and ZANU-PF announced that Grace Mugabe and G40 members would be prosecuted. [32] That still left the coup leaders without the means of “legally” installing Mnangagwa in power, so Mugabe was given a deadline of 24 hours to resign, or he would face impeachment on Tuesday. [33]

Western officials are keen to see the transitional government adopt economic policies to their liking. “It’s a transition to a new era for Zimbabwe; that’s really what we’re hoping for,” acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto said. [34] A European Union spokesperson announced that the EU is “committed to support Zimbabwe in the preparation of credible elections and the delivery of political and economic reforms.” [35] It can be expected that it will not be long before Western economic advisors are paying visits to the transitional government, urging it to enact reforms to liberalize the economy to suit Western investors.

 

Gregory Elich is on the Board of Directors of the Jasenovac Research Institute and the Advisory Board of the Korea Policy Institute. He is a member of the Solidarity Committee for Democracy and Peace in Korea, a columnist for Voice of the People, and one of the co-authors of Killing Democracy: CIA and Pentagon Operations in the Post-Soviet Period, published in the Russian language. He is also a member of the Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea and Militarism in Asia and the Pacific.

His website is https://gregoryelich.org

Follow him on Twitter at @GregoryElich

 

NOTES

[1] Joe Brock, Ed Cropley, “Special Report: Behind the Scenes, Zimbabwe Politicians Plot Post-Mugabe Reforms,” Reuters, September 15, 2017.

[2] Joe Brock, Ed Cropley, “Special Report: Behind the Scenes, Zimbabwe Politicians Plot Post-Mugabe Reforms,” Reuters, September 15, 2017.

[3] Owen Gagare, “ZANU PF Politburo Video Exposé,” Zimbabwe Independent, August 11, 2017.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTCeSOEotHc

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTCeSOEotHc

[5] Obey Manayiti, “The ‘Secret’ War Vets Document that Rattled Under-siege Mugabe,” Zimbabwe Standard, June 20, 2016.

[6] Everson Mushava, “Mnangagwa Threatened to Kill Me, Says Moyo,” Zimbabwe Standard, August 13, 2017.

[7] Owen Gagare, “Mnangagwa Comes Out Guns Blazing at Moyo,” Zimbabwe Independent, October 6, 2017.

[8] Wendy Muperi, “Fresh Politburo Details Emerge,” Zimbabwe Independent, October 20, 2017.

[9] Speech by Emmerson Mnangagwa, “Full Report: Mnangagwa Exposes Jonathan Moyo’s Ties to the CIA,” iHarare, October 9, 2017.

[10] Speech by Emmerson Mnangagwa, “Full Report: Mnangagwa Exposes Jonathan Moyo’s Ties to the CIA,” iHarare, October 9, 2017.

[11] Wendy Muperi, “Fresh Politburo Details Emerge,” Zimbabwe Independent, October 20, 2017.

[12] “Jonathan Moyo Spills the Beans on Mnangagwa,” Bulawayo 24 News, October 15, 2017.

[13] “Mnangagwa Fired from ZANU-PF,” New Zimbabwe, November 8, 2017.

Farirai Machivenyika, “ZANU-PF Expels Mnangagwa,” The Herald, November 9, 2017.

[14] Kitsepile Nyathi, “Mnangagwa Flees Zimbabwe, Vows to Oust Mugabe,” The Monitor, November 8, 2017.

[15] “Mnangawa Threats Rattle Mugabe,” Harare 24 News, November 10, 2017.

[16] “Zimbabwe ZANU-PF Unfazed by Chiwenga…Raps Him for Treasonous Statements…Reaffirms Primacy of Politics over Gun,” The Herald, November 15, 2017.

[17] Farai Mutsaka, “Wife of Zimbabwe’s Leader Tells Mugabe to Name Successor,” Associated Press, July 27, 2017.

[18] Obey Manayiti, “Mugave ‘Annoints’ Chosen Successor,” Zimbabwe Standard, June 4, 2017.

[19] Obey Manayiti, “Mugave ‘Annoints’ Chosen Successor,” Zimbabwe Standard, June 4, 2017.

Everson Mushava, “Prof Moyo Spills the Beans on Mnangagwa,” Zimbabwe Standard, October 15, 2017.

Wendy Muperi, “Succession Hopefuls Unfit to Govern,” Zimbabwe Independent, October 27, 2017.

[20] Interview with Piers Pigou, “Zimbabwe: Standoff in Zimbabwe as Struggle to Succeed Mugabe Deepens,” International Crisis Group, November 14, 2017.

[21] Bernard Mpofu, “Clashes Between Security Forces,” Zimbabwe Independent, November 17, 2017.

“How Army Takeover was Executed,” Zimbabwe Independent, November 17, 2017.

[22] “Mugabe-Generals Crunch Meeting: the Full Story,” iHarare, November 17, 2017.

Owen Gagare, “Mugabe’s Chief of Security Battered,” Zimbabwe Independent, November 17, 2017.

[23] “Mugabe-Generals Crunch Meeting: the Full Story,” iHarare, November 17, 2017.

“Zanu PF Chipanga Beaten Up by the Army at Borrowdale Police Station Around 03:00 AM, I Chombo, J Moyo, P Mphoko, P Zhuwao All Assaulted and Locked Up by Army at Unknown Place,” New Zimbabwe Vision, November 15, 2017.

[24] “Full Episode Transcript,” The Current program, CBC, November 17, 2017.

[25] “G40 Cabinet Ministers and Other Officials Detained by Military Police,” New Zimbabwe, November 15, 2017.

[26] “Zimbabwe crisis: Reality Check Debunks False Rumours and Fake Photo, BBC News, November 17, 2017.

[27] “Hide and Seek for ZANU-PF’s G40 Faction,” New Zimbabwe, November 17, 2017.

[28] “Robert Mugabe is Sacked by his Party and Replaced by ‘The Crocodile’ – but the reviled Zimbabwean dictator is still president and goes on hunger strike after vowing to die for ‘what is correct’,” Mail on Sunday, November 19, 2017.

[29] Jason Burke, “Zimbabwe: Mugabe and Military Talks Continue Amid Political Limbo,” The Guardian, November 16, 2017.

[30] David McKenzie, Jamie Tarabay, and Angela Dewan, “Mugabe’s Exit is ‘a Done Deal’ but Zimbabwe is Still in Limbo,” CNN, November 16, 2017.

[31] Dumisani Ndlela, “Transitional Govt Planned…as Mugabe is Cornered,” Financial Gazette, November 16, 2017.

[32] “Robert Mugabe Removed as Leader of Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF Party,” Australian Broadcasting Corporation,” November 19, 2017.

[33] “Longtime Zimbabwe Strongman Robert Mugabe Faces Impeachment,” Associated Press, November 19, 2017.

[34] Warren Strobel, “U.S. Wants ‘New Era’ in Zimbabwe: Official,” Reuters, November 16, 2017.

[35] “Statement by the Spokesperson on the situation in Zimbabwe,” European Union, November 15, 2017.

Trump Administration Threatens Palestinians

November 19th, 2017 by Stephen Lendman

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: 

stephenlendman.org 

(Home – Stephen Lendman). 

Contact at [email protected].

US foreign policy favors pressure, bullying and threats over diplomacy – color revolutions and wars launched when other tactics fail.

The Trump administration delivered a double-edged warning to Palestinians – begin no-peace/peace talks with Israel on its terms, and forget about calling on the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute its high crimes.

Otherwise face closure of the PLO’s Washington office and other unspecified harsh actions, likely regime change like Yasser Arafat was disposed of – poisoned to death by Israel.

Under the 2016 Consolidated Appropriation Act, the PLO may not subject “Israeli nationals to an investigation for alleged crimes against Palestinians.”

There’s nothing “alleged” about them, including ruthless persecution, land and resource theft, ethnic cleansing, targeted assassinations, and wars at Israel’s discretion, among others.

Washington continues pressuring Palestinians to begin futile peace talks, failing each time initiated, the greatest longstanding hoax in modern times, dead-on-arrival every time for over 40 years, zero chance of succeeding now.

Israel rejects peace, ending occupation and settlement expansions, Palestinian self-determination, borders, diaspora Palestinians’ right of return, borders, air, water and resource rights, as well as East Jerusalem as Palestine’s exclusive capital.

Oslo left these and other major issues unresolved for later final status talks. Palestinians are still waiting for unattainable justice.

Israeli sincerity for peace never existed. The so-called peace process is a duplicitous fiction. Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir once said he wanted talks dragged out forever so settlements could continue expanding on Palestinian land.

Netanyahu once called talks “a waste of time.” They began in the mid-1970s, little more than a duplicitous slogan from then to now, stalling for time, letting Israel steal all valued Judea and Samaria land it wants – ahead of annexing it.

Haaretz quoted an unidentified State Department official, saying

“(w)e not cutting off relations with the PLO, nor do we intend to stop working with the Palestinian Authority.”

“Our relations with the PLO and PA extend well beyond contacts with the PLO office in Washington.”

“We remain focused on a comprehensive peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians that will resolve core issues between the parties.”

“This measure should in no way be seen as a signal that the US is backing off those efforts. Nor should it be exploited by those who seek to act as spoilers to distract from the imperative of reaching a peace agreement.”

The only deal acceptable to Washington and Israel is unconditional Palestinian surrender to their demands.

On Tuesday, Jerusalem affairs minister Ze’ev Elkin spoke for majority regime Ziofascists, saying “(t)here is no” two-state option. The state of Israel…will be one state.”

That’s how it’s always been since the Nakba, Palestinians tolerated as long as they’re subservient to Israeli demands.

Ethnic cleansing continues, removing them from all land Israel wants exclusively for Jews.

Washington affords Israel one-sided support, partners in its wars, and opposes Palestinian liberation. Claims otherwise are duplicitous Big Lies.

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.”

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The Sahel, which has been devastated by the 2011 NATO war in Libya and the resulting French war in Mali starting in 2013, is facing a new military escalation as France steps up its deployments in the strategic, resource-rich region in its former colonial empire.

The new regional force set up by Paris, the Sahel G5—comprising Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad—carried out its first operation, code-named Haw Bi (“Black Cow”) from October 27 to November 11 in the border region between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. The G5 force operated in coordination with French troops and the MINUSMA, the 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in Mali. It carried out patrols aimed at ethnic Tuareg or Islamist fighters hostile to Paris and the Malian central government in Bamako.

“This operation has the character of a try-out,” said the G5 force’s commander, Malian General Didier Dacko.

According to French army sources, the “territorial control” operation was carried out by 350 soldiers from Burkina Faso, 200 from Niger and 200 from Mali.

Since his election in May, French President Emmanuel Macron has pushed to intensify the war launched by his predecessor, François Hollande, in France’s former colonial empire, amid growing geostrategic tensions between Europe, the United States, and China. On July 2, Macron attended a summit of the G5 states in Bamako. The summit formally inaugurated the new force, which officially includes around 5,000 troops in total furnished by the countries of the alliance.

Macron confirmed that France will not leave Africa and or redeploy its 4,000 troops fighting in Operation Barkhane (the war in Mali), despite the launching of the G5 force. He said France would remain engaged in Mali “as long as it takes” to carry out a struggle against terrorism. He gave no indication of when, or even if, Paris might withdraw its forces.

“I came to Bamako today and went to Gao last month to show you that France will remain engaged as long as it takes,” Macron said in a speech before the French community in Bamako. “Thanks to our engagement, we aim in the long term to accompany and support the national and regional forces,” he added.

Paris faces a significant difficulty, in that it confronts a budgetary crisis. The G5 estimates that its operating costs will run to €423 million in the first year. Macron has announced material and logistical aid from France worth €8 million by the end of the year; the European Union (EU) has promised €50 million, and each G5 member country has committed to contributing €10 million. France is therefore forced to ask for financing from its imperialist allies, principally Germany and the United States.

In the final analysis, the imperialist capitals plan to put the costs of this neo-colonial escalation on the backs of the workers—which Macron made clear by calling for multi-billion defense spending increases while eliminating the special tax on large fortunes. Austerity and slashing cuts to social spending aim to boost financing for wars like the G5 operation in Africa. At the same time, Macron is demanding that the G5 countries, which were already among the poorest in the world even before being devastated by the wars during this decade, to provide large quantities of cannon fodder.

The claim that these sacrifices in blood and treasures are necessary in a struggle against terrorism is a shameless political lie.

The crisis in the Sahel flows from the bloody war for regime change that NATO waged against Libya in 2011, relying directly on Islamist militias as its ground troops. After the fall of the Libyan regime, Tuareg forces that had fought inside the Libyan army returned to northern Mali and backed local Tuareg fighters, including the National Movement for Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) against the Malian army. This provoked a major crisis in Bamako, where a coup toppled President Amadou Toumani Touré in March 2012.

Initially, Paris tried to remove the military junta of Captain Amadou Sanogo, which it forced to hand over power to an interim government. But finally Paris decided to back the Sanogo junta when it launched its own war in Mali in January 2013—which it nonetheless presented as a war to protect democracy from Islamism.

Since 2013, the French war in Mali has aimed neither to fight terrorism nor to create democracy in Mali. Rather, amid increasingly sharp international rivalries, Paris is preparing major new wars in Africa to protect its imperialist interests, including its control of the region’s vast uranium mines that fuel France’s nuclear plants.

These successive wars have devastated the G5 countries. According to the UN, 5 million people have fled their homes and 24 million people need humanitarian assistance in the region. Even Malian officials kept in power by French troops now feel compelled to confess that the war in Libya had horrific consequences for the region. Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop called the Libyan war a “strategic error” whose fall-out was not “well handled.”

As US troops also intervene in Niger and across the Sahel, there are growing differences between the imperialist powers and also with China, whose political influence in Africa is growing in line with its commercial weight. Washington—which is opposed to French demands that African operations function under the aegis of the UN and is reticent to fund French operations—has expressed serious reservations over the G5 force.

Washington has refused to finance the G5 through the UN, particularly under conditions where the Trump administration is trying to slash US payments to the UN, and has announced that it will provide funding directly to the G5 member states. It reportedly plans to provide aid worth €51 million to the five countries and has declared that this money would not go to the UN.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley bluntly criticized the French plans.

“They can’t show us a goal, they can’t show us how they’re going to proceed,” Haley told CNN. “If they go back and they show us a strategy, and if it’s something that General [James] Mattis and General [Joseph] Dunford feel like is moving in the right direction, then yes. We will. But right now they’re not showing that, and so it doesn’t make sense for us.”

Amid these Franco-American tensions, the Chinese regime is providing support, on paper at least, to the new force set up by French imperialism. Chinese permanent vice-representative to the UN Wu Haitao declared that it “would be necessary to support this alliance, while taking into account the leading role of the regional powers and the sovereignty of countries in the alliance.” Beijing has also set up its own aid fund targeting the Sahel countries.

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NATO, a Monstrous Institution

November 19th, 2017 by Karel van Wolferen

Their anxiety about the future of NATO, recently on full display again when the American president was in Europe, could not be bettered as a measure of the incapacity of Europe’s top politicians to guide their continent and represent its populations. Through its provocations of Moscow, NATO systematically helps increase the risk of a military confrontation. By thus sabotaging its declared purpose of serving collective security for the countries on either side of the Atlantic, it erases its fundamental reason for being and right to exist. 

Grasping these facts ought be enough to fuel moves aimed at quickly doing away with NATO. But it is terrible for more and easily overlooked reasons.

NATO’s survival prevents the political entity that is the European Union from becoming a significant global presence for reasons other than its economic weight. If you cannot have a defence policy of your own you also deprive yourself of a foreign policy. Without a substantive foreign policy, Europe does not show anything that anyone might consider ‘a face’ to the world. Without such a face to the outside, the inside cannot come to terms about what it stands for, and substitutes meaningless platitudes for answers to the question as to why it should exist in the first place.

NATO is an example of an institution that has gotten completely out of hand through European complacency, intellectual laziness, and business opportunism. As a security alliance it requires a threat. When the one that was believed to exist during the Cold War disappeared, a new one had to be found.

Forged for defence against what was once believed to be an existential threat, it only began actually deploying its military might after that threat had disappeared, for its illegal war against Serbia. Once it had jumped that hurdle, it was encouraged to continue jumping toward imagined global threats.

Its history since the demise of its original adversary has been deplorable, as its European member states were made party to war crimes resulting from actions at Washington’s behest for objectives that have made a dead letter of international law. It has turned some European governments into liars when they told their populations that sending troops to Afghanistan was for the purpose of assorted humanitarian purposes like reconstructing that country, rather than fighting a war against Taliban forces intent on reclaiming their country from American occupation. Afghanistan did not, as was predicted at the time, turn into the graveyard for NATO to come to rest, next to the British Empire, the Soviet Union and – farther back – Alexander the Great.

Having survived Afghanistan, NATO continued to play a significant role in the destruction of Gaddafi’s Libya, and in the destruction of parts of Syria through covertly organising, financing, and arming Isis forces for the purpose of overthrowing the Assad government. And it continues to serve as a cover for the war making elements in Britain and France. America’s coup in the Ukraine in 2014, which resulted in a crisis in relations with Russia, gave NATO a new lease on life as it helped create entirely uncalled for hysterical fear of Russia in Poland and the Baltic states.

NATO repudiates things that we are said to hold dear. It is an agent of corruption of thought and action in both the United States and Europe. Through propaganda that distorts the reality of the situation in the areas where it operates, and perennial deceit about its true objectives, NATO has substituted a now widely shared false picture of geopolitical events and developments for one that, even if haphazard, used to be pieced together by independent reporters for mainstream media whose own tradition and editors encouraged discovery of facts. This propaganda relies to a large extent on incessant repetition for its success. It can generally not be traced to NATO as a source of origin because it is being outsourced to a well-funded network of public relations professionals.

The Atlantic Council is NATO’s primary PR organization. It is connected with a web of think tanks and NGO’s spread throughout Europe, and very generous to journalists who must cope with a shrinking and insecure job environment. This entity is well-versed in Orwellian language tricks, and for obvious reasons must mischaracterise NATO itself as an alliance instead of a system of vassalage. Alliance presupposes shared purposes, and it cannot be Europe’s purpose to be controlled by the United States, unless we now accept that a treasonous European financial elite must determine the last word on Europe’s future.

An influential policy deliberation NGO known as the International Crisis Group (ICG), is one of the organizations linked with the Atlantic Council. It operates as a serious and studious outfit, carrying an impressive list of relatively well-known names of associates, which studies areas of the world harbouring conflicts or about-to-be conflicts that could undermine world peace and stability. Sometimes this group does offer information that is germane to a situation, but its purpose has in effect become one of making the mainstream media audience view the situation on the ground in Syria, or the ins and outs of North Korea, or the alleged dictatorship in Venezuela, and so on, through the eyeballs of the consensus creators in American foreign policy.

NATO repudiates political civilisation. It is disastrous for European intellectual life as it condemns European politicians and the thinking segment of the populations in its member states to be locked up in what may be described as political kindergarten, where reality is taught in terms of the manichean division between bad guys and superheroes. While Europe’s scholars, columnists, TV programmers and sophisticated business commentators rarely pay attention to NATO as an organization, and are generally oblivious to its propaganda function, what it produces condemns them to pay lip service to the silliest geopolitical fantasies.

NATO is not only terrible for Europe, it is very bad for the United States and the world in general, for it has handed to America’s elites important tools aiding its delusional aim of fully dominating the planet. This is because NATO provides the most solid external support for sets of assumptions that allegedly lend a crucial moral dimension to America’s warmaking. NATO does not exist for the sake of indispensable European military prowess, which mildly described has not been impressive. It exists as legal justification for Washington to keep nuclear weapons and military bases in Europe. It obviously also exists as support for America’s military-industrial complex. But its moral support ought to be considered its most significant contribution. Without NATO, the conceptual structure of a ‘West’ with shared principles and aims would collapse. NATO was once the organisation believed to ensure the continued viability of the Western part what used to be known as the ‘free world’. Such connotations linger, and lend themselves to political exploitation. The ‘free world’ has since the demise of the Soviet Union not been much invoked. But ‘the West’ is still going strong, along with the notion of Western values and shared principles, with ‘the good’ in the form of benevolent motives automatically assumed to be on its side. This gives the powers that be in Washington a terrific claim in the realm of widely imagined moral aspects of geopolitical reality. They have inherited the mantle of the leader of the ‘free world’ and ‘the West’, and since there has not been a peep of dissension about this from the other side of the Atlantic, the claim appears true and legitimate in the eyes of the world and the parties concerned.

In the meantime the earlier American claim to speak and act on behalf of the free world was broadened and seemingly depoliticised by a substitute claim of speaking and acting on behalf of the ‘international community’. There is of course no such thing, but that doesn’t bother editors who keep invoking it when some countries or the bad guys running them do things that are not to Washington’s liking. Doing away with NATO would pull the rug from under the ‘international community’. Such a development would then reveal the United States, with its current political system and priorities in international affairs, as a criminal power and the major threat to peace in the world. I can hear an objection that without this resonation of moral claims the activities serving the ‘full spectrum dominance’ aim would have been carried out anyway. If you think so, and if you can stand reading again what the neocons were producing between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraqi in 2003, subtract all references to moral clarity and the necessity for the United States to serve as moral beacon for the world from that literature, and you will see that preciously little argument remains for American warmaking that ensued.

The spinelessness of the average European politician has added up to huge encouragement of the United States in its post-Cold War military adventurism. With forceful reminders from Europe about what those much vaunted supposedly shared political principles actually stood for, American rhetoric could not have been the same. Strong European condemnation of the shredding of the UN Charter, and the jettisoning of the principles adopted at the Nuremberg trials, would have made it much more difficult for George W Bush, Dick Cheney, and the neocons to go where blind fanaticism and hubris, with imagined economic advantage, took them. Perhaps more importantly, it might have given a relatively weak American protest movement the necessary added energy to rise to the level of effectiveness once attained by the anti-Vietnam activists as they imprinted themselves on the political culture of the 60s and 70s. European dissent might not have halted but could have slowed the transformation of much of the mainstream media into neocon propaganda assets.

As it is, NATO exists today in a realm of discourse in which revered post-World War II liberal conditions and practices are still believed to exist. It is an apolitical and ahistorical realm determined by hubris and misplaced self-confidence, in which powers that have utterly altered these practices and negated its positive aspects are not acknowledged. It is a realm in which America’s pathological condition of requiring an enemy as a source of everlasting profit is not acknowledged. It is a realm in which America’s fatuous designs for complete control over the world is not acknowledged. It is a realm of foreign policy illusions.

NATO is supposed to guard putative Western values that in punditry observations have something to do with what the Enlightenment has bestowed on Western culture. But it deludes staunch NATO supporters, who cannot bring themselves to contemplate the possibility that what they have long trusted to be an agent of protection, has in fact become a major force that destroys those very qualities and principles.

There is a further more tangible political/legal reason why NATO is monstrous. It is steered by non-elected powers in Washington, but is not answerable to identifiable entities within the American military system. It is not answerable to any of the governing institutions of the European Union. Its centre in Brussels exists effectively outside the law. Its relations with ‘intelligence agencies’ and their secret operations remain opaque. Who is doing what and where are all questions to which no clear, legally actionable, information is made available.

NATO has thereby become a tool of intimidation lacking any compatibility with democratic political organisation. An autocrat aspiring to unfettered rule with which to operate anywhere in the world would find in NATO the ideal institutional arrangements. All this should be of our utmost concern. Because all this means that NATO is now one of the world’s most horrible organizations that at the same time has become so politically elusive, apparently, that there is no European agent with enough of a grip on it to make it disappear.

Karel van Wolferen’s book The Enigma of Japanese Power, which has been translated into twelve languages, is generally considered to provide the most elaborate intellectual support of what has been called the “revisionist” view of Japan. His analysis is well-known and appreciated among the most prominent reformist politicians of Japan. He has gained a large Japanese readership with some sixteen books (with a total of well over a million copies sold), on political, economic, and historical issues relating to Japan as well as on problems of political change and global compatibility among economic systems.

Karel van Wolferen is emeritus University Professor for Comparative Political and Economic Institutions at the University of Amsterdam.

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Campaign to Force Out Mugabe Escalates in Zimbabwe

November 19th, 2017 by Chris Marsden

Zimbabwe’s war veterans’ association is staging a march today through the capital, Harare, demanding the resignation of President Robert Mugabe. Tens of thousands are expected to take part after all ten of the country’s provincial Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) branches passed motions of no confidence in Mugabe.

Mugabe refused to step down yesterday and was briefly released from house arrest to make his first public appearance since the army staged a palace coup early Wednesday.

His appearance in the role of chancellor of the Open University at a graduation ceremony in Harare was designed to lend an appearance of normalcy to an enforced transition of power to the faction of the ruling ZANU-PF led by its former vice president, Emmanuel Mnangagwa. The president’s wife, Grace Mugabe, was not present at the ceremony.

Mugabe, now 93, sacked Mnangagwa last week to pave the way for Grace Mugabe, 52, to assume power. She heads the G40 faction of younger bourgeois layers in the ruling elite. The army, under the leadership of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander, General Constantino Chiwenga, moved to back Mnangagwa and call a halt to efforts by Mugabe to sideline or remove from office members of the old guard tied to the military.

The military issued statements via Zimbabwe state media stressing their respect for Mugabe and citing progress in talks “with the Commander-in-Chief President Robert Mugabe on the way forward.” But the talks are being held at gunpoint and a senior member of ZANU-PF warned, “If he becomes stubborn, we will arrange for him to be fired on Sunday… When that is done, it’s impeachment on Tuesday.”

The chairman of the war veterans’ association, Chris Mutsvangwa, a key ally of Mnangagwa, has been at the forefront of demands for Mugabe to go, and go quickly. Mutsvangwa boasted that “the war veterans of Zimbabwe… have the full support of the war veterans of South Africa, the government of South Africa… we are giving a very strong warning to Mugabe and his wife, he is done, finished. He won’t be allowed to continue… He has to make a decision today to leave… If he doesn’t leave, we will settle the scores tomorrow.”

He told the media that three cabinet ministers under Mugabe—Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo, Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and Finance Minister Ignatious Chombo—“are in jail” along with others. Moyo was scheduled to attend the graduation ceremony with Mugabe, but did not appear.

Grace Mugabe’s actual whereabouts are disputed.

According to various reports, Chombo was detained at the King George VI military barracks after a fire-fight that left several bodyguards dead, while Moyo is on the run. The minister of foreign affairs, Walter Mzembi, has not returned from a trip to neighbouring Zambia. Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister, Paul Chimedza, was arrested on Thursday at an army roadblock. Unconfirmed reports say that the Women’s League secretary for administration, Letina Undengem, is also detained.

Central Intelligence Organisation Director Albert Miles Nguluvhe was released on Thursday, with a senior military official stating that he was not a member of the G40 faction and that he had been arrested to “alienate him” from the president.

ZANU-PF National Youth League Secretary Kudzanai Chipanga is in military custody. He made a televised apology to military chief Chiwenga for criticising his earlier threats to intervene to stop purges within the party leadership.

“We are still young people. We are still growing up and learning from our mistakes,” he said.

The army maintains a blockade around key buildings, including the presidential palace as well as Mugabe’s own home—site of current negotiations between Mugabe and Chiwenga, brokered by South African Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and State Security Minister Bongani Bongo. Mnangagwa fled to South Africa after being removed from his post by Mugabe.

Lending its backing to the military alongside the ANC government of Jacob Zuma is China. Beijing said Thursday that its “friendly policy” toward Zimbabwe would not change. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing in Beijing:

“We will continue to develop friendly cooperation with Zimbabwe on an equal, mutually beneficial win-win cooperation principle.”

Several news sources, including CNN and Britain’s Guardian, expressed concern that China was behind the coup and would be its main beneficiary. Noting the visit to Beijing last Friday by Chiwenga, Simon Tisdall listed China’s “extensive investments in the mining, agriculture, energy and construction sectors,” claiming that the “pre-independence guerrilla force led to victory by Robert Mugabe… was financed and armed by the Chinese in the 1970s. Close ties have continued to the present day.”

The general concern is that China has established an economic foothold in Zimbabwe as a result of Western sanctions from 2002 onwards. President Xi Jinping’s government seems to have been persuaded that Mugabe should be removed as a result of the combined impact of measures taken last year—the “indigenisation laws”—directed against overseas investors, including in diamond mining, and by Zimbabwe’s worsening economic crisis, with inflation at 50 percent a month and a government deficit of $1.82 billion.

Chiwenga and Mnangagwa have enjoyed friendly relations with China stretching back decades. Mnangagwa was trained in Beijing and Nanjing in the 1960s. Tisdall cites an interview Mnangagwa gave to the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV two years ago in which he stressed, to clear effect, “We must know that investment can only go where it gets a return, so we must make sure we create an environment where investors are happy to put their money.”

It is this geopolitical threat, rather than hypocritical concerns regarding Mnangagwa’s record of brutality against ZANU-PF’s opponents, or a supposed desire for a “democratic transformation,” that accounts for the cautious reaction of the United States, Britain and other Western powers to the coup.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told parliament,

“Nobody wants simply to see the transition from one unelected tyrant to a next. No one wants to see that. We want to see proper, free and fair elections.”

Members of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Africa subcommittee stated,

“While a change in leadership is long overdue, we are concerned about the military’s actions. We urge the leaders of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces to ensure the protection of all citizens and a transparent return to civilian control.”

US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto told Reuters,

“It’s a transition to a new era for Zimbabwe, that’s really what we’re hoping for.”

The German government concurred, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Rainer Breul calling on all parties to work together to reach a peaceful solution. Mindful of how sanctions had benefited China, Stefan Liebich of the opposition Left Party advised against imposing any fresh penalties. According to Deutsche Welle, he suggested that Germany “assert its influence as a creditor, making future loans to Zimbabwe conditional on a peaceful change of power.”

What Washington, London, et al. want from any new regime is the incorporation of forces loyal to themselves and not to Beijing.

J. Peter Pham, director of the influential Atlantic Council think tank’s Africa Centre, wrote on the council’s website:

“Indications are that [Mnangagwa] may seek to form some sort of ‘unity government,’ possibly with the participation of the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) faction loyal to [Morgan] Tsvangirai, with whom he reportedly developed a good relationship in recent years… It will behoove us to wait and see what his first steps are and reserve judgment.”

Tsvangirai was elected secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) in 1998 and founded the MDC in 2000 ostensibly to challenge Mugabe for the presidency. But behind his pose as a workers’ leader stood industrialists, large landowners and the imperialist powers, for whom the MDC still speaks.

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VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: 

stephenlendman.org 

(Home – Stephen Lendman). 

Contact at [email protected].

The following states have laws permitting suspension of professional or driver’s licenses of individuals defaulting on student loans – compounding a deplorable racket:

Alaska, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

Maybe others will join them, part of a great wealth transfer swindle, shifting it inexorably from most Americans to its privileged class, ongoing for years.

The student loan racket is a disturbing government/corporate partnership. Students are exploited for profit. Providers are enriched.

For many, rising tuition and fees make higher education unaffordable. Others need large loans to attend, forced into burdensome debt bondage. For many, it’s crushing.

For too many, it’s permanent, amounts owed unforgiven. Declaring bankruptcy doesn’t end the obligation.

Lenders thrive on defaults. Wages can be garnished. So can Social Security and disability income, along with other retirement benefits. Liens can be placed on property owned. Tax refunds can be seized.

A conspiratorial alliance of lenders, guarantors, servicers, and collection companies profit from debt service and inflated collection fees – a deplorable predatory system.

Principal, accrued interest, late payment and collection agency penalties create enormous burdens to repay.

Once entrapped, escape is impossible. Unless repaid, future lives and careers are impaired.

Outstanding student loan debt exceeds $1.5 trillion, second only to household mortgages – nearly equal to credit card and auto loan debt combined, the amount increasing by an astonishing $3,000 per second, $180,000 per minute, $10,800,000 per hour, over 259,000,000 daily, around $100 billion annually – why it’s so lucrative for lenders and collection companies.

The New York Times addressed the issue, saying

“(f)all behind on your student loan payments, lose your job.”

“Firefighters, nurses, teachers, lawyers, massage therapists, barbers, psychologists…real estate brokers (and others) have all had their credentials suspended or revoked.”

Numbers of individuals affected aren’t known because states don’t keep records. Loss of jobs means lost income, for many desperation, many others unable to work in their chosen field, disrupting their lives and welfare.

Failure to make payments on time affects credit ratings, harming the ability to get future loans.

In 1990, the Department of Education urged states to deny professional licenses to student loan defaulters, or revoke them from individuals having them.

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten called suspending or revoking licenses “tantamount to modern-day debtors’ prison.”

Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts and Washington aren’t using their laws. Oklahoma and New Jersey eliminated earlier ones enacted into law.

Where enforced, the livelihood of anyone failing to maintain repayments as required is jeopardized.

If out of work because of failure to keep up and having licenses suspended, how is future debt service possible without employment providing income?

Congress bears full responsibility for increasing debt bondage. It ended bankruptcy protections, refinancing rights, statutes of limitations, truth in lending requirements, fair debt collection ones, and state usury laws when applied to federally guaranteed student loans.

Millions of graduates and families are harmed, many relegated to years of debt bondage, for some a lifetime – through legalized wealth extraction, a congressionally sanction extortion racket.

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.”

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Selected Articles: US War Crimes

November 19th, 2017 by Global Research News

In an era of media distortion, our emphasis has been on the “unspoken truth”. As an independent site, it is our mandate to challenge the engineered truth by the corporate media. The selected articles below reveal media omission pertaining to  US war crimes across the globe. 

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President Trump Accelerates Drone Strikes in Somalia

By Zero Hedge, November 19, 2017

U.S. Africa Command has conducted fourteen airstrikes since August bringing the year’s total to eighteen. The increased tempo of airstrikes started in September between the Kismayo and Mogadisu region.

Secretary Mattis Is Off Base: US Military Presence in Syria Has No Legal Grounds

By Peter Korzun, November 19, 2017

Although the US has many times stated that its target is IS only, it appears that its intentions may go beyond the stated objective. In fact, Washington is seeking to retain post-conflict zones of influence within the country, where the American presence is illegal.

The US-led War Against ISIS Is Killing 31 Times More Civilians Than Claimed. Report

By Alex Ward, November 19, 2017

It turns out that the military’s assertion is a stunning underestimation of the true human cost of Washington’s three-year-old war against ISIS. An 18-month-long investigation by the New York Times has found that the US-led military coalition is killing civilians in Iraq at a rate 31 times higher than it’s admitting.

America’s Renegade Warfare. Is the U.S. Guilty of Genocide

By Nicolas J. S. Davies, November 18, 2017

Claiming the right to launch preemptive wars and fighting an ill-defined “global war on terror,” the U.S. government has slaughtered vast numbers of civilians in defiance of international law, says Nicolas J S Davies.

Trump and the Nuclear Option: The Fiction of Sanity

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark, November 18, 2017

It had not happened in decades. On Tuesday, members of the US Congress gathered to consider the scope of presidential power in launching a nuclear strike. The state of the mind of the current president was very much at the forefront of the discussion, even if some present preferred not to name him specifically.

Who is Behind “Fake News”? Mainstream Media Use Fake Videos and Images

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, November 18, 2017

These are four examples and there are many more. The manipulation of videos and images is routine. In some cases, these manipulations are revealed by readers, independent media and social media. In most cases they go undetected. And when they are revealed, the media will say “sorry” we apologize: they will then point to technical errors. “we got the wrong video”.

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More About the Great American Tax Cut Swindle

November 19th, 2017 by Stephen Lendman

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: 

stephenlendman.org 

(Home – Stephen Lendman). 

Contact at [email protected].

On November 18, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) explained the “revised Senate Plan would raise taxes on at least 29% of Americans and cause the populations of 19 states to pay more in federal taxes in 2027 than they do today.”

Here are the lowlights of the Senate Finance Committee’s tax cut swindle:

Among the bottom three-fifths of US households, nearly one-third will pay higher federal taxes than currently in 2027.

The top 40% will get a tax cut, the top 1% a huge one.

“(T)he share of taxpayers with a tax hike is likely to be greater than what is estimated here,” said ITEP.

Its estimates don’t factor in Medicaid cuts and higher insurance premiums.

Many low and middle-income households will be worse off than its report estimates.

Corporate tax cuts mostly or entirely benefit owners of common stocks.

“Even in 2019, the Senate plan is not designed to benefit the American middle class,” ITEP explained.

Trump’s proclaimed “middle class miracle” is one of his many Big Lies – championing a plan scamming most Americans, especially its most vulnerable.

Deficit neutrality is out-the-window. It’ll rise substantially.

Foreign investors in US equities will benefit more than most Americans. They own about one-third of US common stock shares. They’ll benefit at the expense of tax increases on most US households, including fewer Americans with health insurance.

“(T)he average net effect for US households would be a tax cut of $8 billion, which is much smaller than the $22 billion benefit to foreign investors,” ITEP explained.

In 2027, America’s top 1% will get an average tax cut of over $9,000.

On average, the bottom 60% of US households will pay around $160 more annually by 2027.

In high tax states like California and New York, low and middle-income households will pay more federal taxes than others in low-tax states.

The Senate measure cuts hundreds of billions of dollars in federal healthcare spending – including repeal of the individual mandate, causing about 13 million households to lose coverage.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, premiums will rise at least 10% more than otherwise for households in non-group health insurance markets.

The Senate bill includes permanent corporate tax cuts, temporary individual ones expiring after 2025 – to comply with budget rules they routinely ignore, why annual deficits increase the national debt each year.

ITEP explained the following:

“(R)econciliation rules allow this bill to increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion over a decade, as set out in a budget resolution already approved by Congress, but this is not sufficient to allow all the tax cuts in the bill.”

“So the Finance Committee senators made some tax cuts temporary and added a provision to cut the federal government’s spending on health care by repealing the health insurance mandate” – uninsured qualifying households no longer getting tax credits to help pay for coverage.

House and Senate bills are designed to benefit corporate predators and super-rich households at the expense of most others.

It’ll continue transferring the nation’s wealth from ordinary Americans, struggling to get by, to its privileged class – a colossal swindle.

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.”

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No One Man Should be Able to Trigger Nuclear War

November 19th, 2017 by Eric Margolis

Amidst the rising clamor in the US over groping and goosing, America’s Congress is beginning to fret about President Donald Trump’s shaky finger being on the nation’s nuclear button. 

The air force officer that dutifully trails the president carries the electronic launch codes in a black satchel that could ignite a world war that would largely destroy our planet. This is rather more serious than groping and pinching.

The inexperienced Trump has talked himself into a corner over North Korea. He thought bombastic threats and a side deal with China could force the stubborn North Koreans to junk their nuclear weapons. Anyone with knowledge of North Asia could have told him this plan would not work.

Trump threatened North Korea with ‘fire and fury’ – a clear allusion to the use of nuclear weapons. The North Koreans mooned the tough-talking president and went ahead with their nuclear programs. So Trump’s big bluff was called. A huge embarrassment for the amateur president who evaded military service in the 1960’s.

On top of that, the wicked North Koreans referred to Trump as ‘old.’ He riposted that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was ‘short and fat.’ It is to this level of kindergarten invective that we have sunk – idiotic kids armed with nuclear weapons.

The problem for would-be warlord Trump is that he has few options left. His least bad are

1. attacking North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure with tactical nuclear weapons, or

2. laughing off the whole business, backing down and hoping that incoming Christmas and more groping furor will divert public attention.

Nuclear war is absolutely unthinkable.  Totally crazy. Yet serious discussion is underway in military and neocon war circles about a nuclear war against North Korea and, even crazier, against Iran and Russia.  Welcome home, Dr Strangelove.

Responsible people in government are increasingly worried that President Trump might ignite nuclear war to salvage his bruised ego and to show the Asians who is boss.  Trump has already ringed North Korea with heavy bombers, strike aircraft, three heavy aircraft carriers and fleets of warplanes in Japan, South Korea and Guam.

A single incident – a naval clash, a mining, an air encounter – could set the stage for war.  Senior US officers have been telling Trump the same message that this column has delivered for years: that North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is unlikely to be destroyed by even a surprise nuclear attack.

The Pentagon admits that a ground invasion of North Korea would be far too costly.  A decade-old Rand Corp study estimated US losses would be in the range of 250,000 men.

North Korea will probably retain enough nuclear-armed missiles in deep caves after a US nuclear attack to riposte against South Korea and Japan, where there are nearly 100,000 US troops and dependents. Japan, the world’s third most important economic power, is totally vulnerable to nuclear devastation.

Nuclear-armed China and Russia are right next door to North Korea.  Trump’s threats to attack North Korea might force them to challenge the US in a major confrontation.  The head of South Korea’s ruling party just insisted that the US must not attack North Korea without her nation’s prior consent – which will not likely be given.

Interestingly, few Americans know that in wartime, South Korea’s powerful armed forces fall under command of a US four-star general. Such is the imperial order in North Asia.

Washington is planning large, new provocative military exercises around North Korea – just the type of sabre rattling that provoked the current crisis.  China urged Washington to call off its warlike actions and, in exchange, for North Korea to stop testing nuclear warheads and missiles.

Sensible, of course, but Chief Crusader Trump rejects such plans and keeps sending mixed messages to the world.  If he really wanted peace with North Korea all he would have to do is fly to Pyongyang, bury the hatchet, and shoot some rounds of golf with Kim Jong-un who would be thrilled to pieces.

This is unlikely to happen.  Meanwhile, senior military officers and some in Congress who actually mastered high school are trying to figure out how to keep the volatile Trump away from the nuclear trigger.

According to the US Constitution, Congress has the power to declare war.  But the president has a residual right to initiate military action in the event of a sudden threat.  The fate of the globe cannot be left in the hands of one man.  Even Russia and China require some checks and balances before nuclear war is unleashed.  The US apparently does not.

Some senior officers say they would refuse to obey an illegal order.  But none refused when it came to the unjustified attack on Iraq and war against Syria. In fact, the US nuclear attack system is designed to thwart interference with any orders to unleash war.

A no-first use pledge would be a positive step, to be sure.  A better way would be for Congress to mandate a collegial decision to use nuclear weapons that would involve the president, vice president, secretary of state, chief of staff and chief justice.  This, of course, would not apply if the US was under nuclear attack.  But even certainty of attack can be uncertain, as numerous nuclear crises during the cold war showed.

The urgent message of the day is: President Trump. Step away from that nuclear button and calm down.

Eric Margolis is a columnist, author and a veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East. Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq. His latest book is American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World.

Featured image is Trump in Cinema/Instagram.

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Featured image: Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal [Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud/Facebook]

Saudi officials are seeking to appropriate billions of dollars from captured princes and businessman in exchange for their release.

According to the Financial Times (FT) the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohamed Bin Salman, is negotiating a settlement with some of the country’s most well-known figures who have been detained under corruption charges since the beginning of the month.

In some cases, Saudi officials are demanding 70 per cent of the suspect’s wealth in exchange for their release.

It was widely suspected that Bin Salman’s anti-corruption purge was part of a wider strategy to raise money for the country’s depleting treasury, which has grappled with a recession triggered by prolonged low oil prices.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the purge, which saw more than 1,200 bank accounts frozen, had their sights on seizing up to $800 billion in cash and assets.

People negotiating the deal with the prisoners are keen to secure their release by signing over cash and corporate assets, reported the FT.

“They are making settlements with most of those in the Ritz,” said one adviser. “Cough up the cash and you will go home.”

Officials investigating the allegations of corruption are looking to seize at least $100 billion though the target is said to be $300 billion.

While the round up has backing from many of the country’s young population, who perceive the older princes and businessman of being corrupt, it has spooked the international business community.

Reports that the detainees are being tortured by Saudi security officials are likely to raise further concerns over the crackdown. Saudi whistleblowers have alerted that Bin Salman, who is personally overseeing the detention, orders the guards to “beat” the prisoners who are being held at the Ritz Carlton hotel.

It is also alleged that two of most high-profile prisoner Waleed Bin Talal and Mutaib bin Abdullah, who is a potential challenger to the throne, are being tortured.

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Israel’s Ploy: Selling a Syrian Nuke Strike

November 19th, 2017 by Gareth Porter

In September 2007, Israeli warplanes bombed a building in eastern Syria that the Israelis claimed held a covert nuclear reactor that had been built with North Korean assistance. Seven months later, the CIA released an extraordinary 11-minute video and mounted press and Congressional briefings that supported that claim.

But nothing about that alleged reactor in the Syrian desert turns out to be what it appeared at the time. The evidence now available shows that there was no such nuclear reactor, and that the Israelis had misled George W. Bush’s administration into believing that it was in order to draw the United States into bombing missile storage sites in Syria. Other evidence now suggests, moreover, that the Syrian government had led the Israelis to believe wrongly that it was a key storage site for Hezbollah missiles and rockets.

The International Atomic Agency’s top specialist on North Korean reactors, Egyptian national Yousry Abushady, warned top IAEA officials in 2008 that the published CIA claims about the alleged reactor in the Syrian desert could not possibly have been true. In a series of interviews in Vienna and by phone and e-mail exchanges over several months Abushady detailed the technical evidence that led him to issue that warning and to be even more confident about that judgment later on. And a retired nuclear engineer and research scientist with many years of experience at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has confirmed a crucial element of that technical evidence.

Published revelations by senior Bush administration officials show, moreover, that principal U.S. figures in the story all had their own political motives for supporting the Israeli claim of a Syrian reactor being built with North Korean help.

Vice President Dick Cheney hoped to use the alleged reactor to get President George W. Bush to initiate U.S. airstrikes in Syria in the hope of shaking the Syrian-Iranian alliance. And both Cheney and then CIA Director Michael Hayden also hoped to use the story of a North Korean-built nuclear reactor in Syria to kill a deal that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was negotiating with North Korea on its nuclear weapons program in 2007-08.

Mossad Chief’s Dramatic Evidence

In April 2007 the chief of Israel’s Mossad foreign intelligence agency, Meir Dagan, presented Cheney, Hayden and National Security Adviser Steven Hadley with evidence of what he said was a nuclear reactor being constructed in eastern Syria with the help of the North Koreans. Dagan showed them nearly a hundred hand-held photographs of the site revealing what he described as the preparation for the installation of a North Korean reactor and claimed that it was only a few months from being operational.

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney receive an Oval Office briefing from CIA Director George Tenet. Also present is Chief of Staff Andy Card (on right). (White House photo)

The Israelis made no secret of their desire to have a U.S. airstrike destroy the alleged nuclear facility. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called President Bush immediately after that briefing and said, “George, I’m asking you to bomb the compound,” according to the account in Bush’s memoirs.

Cheney, who was known to be a personal friend of Olmert, wanted to go further. At White House meetings in subsequent weeks, Cheney argued forcefully for a U.S. attack not only on the purported reactor building but on Hezbollah weapons storage depots in Syria. Then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who participated in those meetings, recalled in his own memoirs that Cheney, who was also looking for an opportunity to provoke a war with Iran, hoped to “rattle Assad sufficiently so as to end his close relationship with Iran” and “send a powerful warning to the Iranians to abandon their nuclear ambitions.”

CIA Director Hayden aligned the agency clearly with Cheney on the issue, not because of Syria or Iran but because of North Korea. In his book, Playing to the Edge, published last year, Hayden recalls that, at a White House meeting to brief President Bush the day after Dagan’s visit, he whispered in Cheney’s ear, “You were right, Mr. Vice-President.”

Hayden was referring to the fierce political struggle within the Bush administration over North Korea policy that had been underway ever since Condoleezza Rice had become Secretary of State in early 2005. Rice had argued that diplomacy was the only realistic way to get Pyongyang to retreat from its nuclear weapons program. But Cheney and his administration allies John Bolton and Robert Joseph (who succeeded Bolton as the key State Department policymaker on North Korea after Bolton become U.N. Ambassador in 2005) were determined to end the diplomatic engagement with Pyongyang.

Cheney was still maneuvering to find a way to prevent the successful completion of the negotiations, and he saw the story of a Syrian nuclear reactor built secretly in the desert with help from the North Koreans as bolstering his case. Cheney reveals in his own memoirs that in January 2008, he sought to sandbag Rice’s North Korea nuclear deal by getting her to agree that a failure by North Korea to “admit they’ve proliferating to the Syrians would be a deal killer.”

Three months later, the CIA released its unprecedented 11-minute video supporting the entire Israeli case for a North-Korean-style nuclear reactor that was nearly completed. Hayden recalls that his decision to release the video on the alleged Syrian nuclear reactor in April 2008 was “to avoid a North Korean nuclear deal being sold to a Congress and a public ignorant of this very pertinent and very recent episode.”

The video, complete with computer reconstructions of the building and photographs from the Israelis made a big splash in the news media. But one specialist on nuclear reactors who examined the video closely found abundant reason to conclude that the CIA’s case was not based on real evidence.

Technical Evidence against a Reactor

Egyptian national Yousry Abushady was a PhD in nuclear engineering and 23-year veteran of the IAEA who had been promoted to section head for Western Europe in the operations division of agency’s Safeguards Department, meaning that he was in charge of all inspections of nuclear facilities in the region. He had been a trusted adviser to Bruno Pellaud, IAEA Deputy Director General for Safeguards from 1993 to 1999, who told this writer in an interview that he had “relied on Abushady frequently.”

Abushady recalled in an interview that, after spending many hours reviewing the video released by the CIA in April 2008 frame by frame, he was certain that the CIA case for a nuclear reactor at al-Kibar in the desert in eastern Syria was not plausible for multiple technical reasons. The Israelis and the CIA had claimed the alleged reactor was modeled on the type of reactor the North Koreans had installed at Yongbyon called a gas-cooled graphite-moderated (GCGM) reactor.

Map of Syria.

But Abushady knew that kind of reactor better than anyone else at the IAEA. He had designed a GCGM reactor for his doctoral student in nuclear engineering, had begun evaluating the Yongbyon reactor in 1993, and from 1999 to 2003 had headed the Safeguards Department unit responsible for North Korea.

Abushady had traveled to North Korea 15 times and conducted extensive technical discussions with the North Korean nuclear engineers who had designed and operated the Yongbyon reactor. And the evidence he saw in the video convinced him that no such reactor could have been under construction at al-Kibar.

On April 26, 2008, Abushady sent a “preliminary technical assessment” of the video to IAEA Deputy Director General for Safeguards Olli Heinonen, with a copy to Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. Abushady observed in his memorandum that the person responsible for assembling the CIA video was obviously unfamiliar with either the North Korean reactor or with GCGM reactors in general.

The first thing that struck Abushady about the CIA’s claims was that the building was too short to hold a reactor like the one in Yongbyon, North Korea.

“It is obvious,” he wrote in his “technical assessment” memo to Heinonen, “that the Syrian building with no UG [underground] construction, can not hold a [reactor] similar [to] NK GCR [North Korean gas-cooled reactor].”

Abushady estimated the height of the North Korean reactor building in Yongbyon at a 50 meters (165 feet) and estimated that the building at al-Kibar at a little more than a third as tall.

Abushady also found the observable characteristics of the al-Kibar site inconsistent with the most basic technical requirements for a GCGM reactor. He pointed out that the Yongbyon reactor had no less than 20 supporting buildings on the site, whereas the satellite imagery shows that the Syrian site did not have a single significant supporting structure.

The most telling indication of all for Abushady that the building could not have been a GCGM reactor was the absence of a cooling tower to reduce the temperature of the carbon dioxide gas coolant in such a reactor.
“How can you work a gas-cooled reactor in a desert without a cooling tower?” Abushady asked in an interview.

IAEA Deputy Director Heinonen claimed in an IAEA report that the site had sufficient pumping power to get river water from a pump house on the nearby Euphrates River to the site. But Abushady recalls asking Heinonen, “How could this water be transferred for about 1,000 meters and continue to the heat exchangers for cooling with the same power?”

Robert Kelley, a former head of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Remote Sensing Laboratory and former senior IAEA inspector in Iraq, noticed another fundamental problem with Heinonen’s claim: the site had no facility for treating the river water before it reached the alleged reactor building.

“That river water would have been carrying debris and silt into the reactor heat exchangers,” Kelley said in an interview, making it highly questionable that a reactor could have operated there.

Yet another critical piece that Abushady found missing from the site was a cooling pond facility for spent fuel. The CIA had theorized that the reactor building itself contained a “spent fuel pond,” based on nothing more than an ambiguous shape in an aerial photograph of the bombed building.

But the North Korean reactor at Yongbyon and all 28 other GCGM reactors that had been built in the world all have the spent fuel pond in a separate building, Abushady said. The reason, he explained, was that the magnox cladding surrounding the fuel rods would react to any contact with moisture to produce hydrogen that could explode.

But the definitive and irrefutable proof that no GCGM reactor had been present at al-Kibar came from the environmental samples taken by the IAEA at the site in June 2008. Such a reactor would have contained nuclear-grade graphite, Abushady explained, and if the Israelis had actually bombed a GCGM reactor, it would have spread particles of nuclear-grade graphite all over the site.

Behrad Nakhai, a nuclear engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for many years, confirmed Abshuady’s observation in an interview.

“You would have had hundreds of tons of nuclear-grade graphite scattered around the site,” he said, “and it would have been impossible to clean it up.”

IAEA reports remained silent for more than two years about what the samples showed about nuclear-grade graphite, then claimed in a May 2011 report that the graphite particles were “too small to permit an analysis of the purity compared to that normally required for use in a reactor.” But given the tools available to laboratories, the IAEA claim that they couldn’t determine whether the particles were nuclear grade or not “doesn’t make sense,” Nakhai said.

Hayden acknowledged in his 2016 account that “key components” of a nuclear reactor site for nuclear weapons were “still missing.” The CIA had tried to find evidence of a reprocessing facility in Syria that could be used to obtain the plutonium for a nuclear bomb but had been unable to find any trace of one.

The CIA also had found no evidence of a fuel fabrication facility, without which a reactor could not have gotten the fuel rods to be reprocessed. Syria could not have gotten them from North Korea, because the fuel fabrication plant at Yongbyon had produced no fuel rods since 1994 and was known to have fallen into serious disrepair after the regime had agreed to scrap its own plutonium reactor program.

Manipulated and Misleading Photographs

Hayden’s account shows that he was ready to give the CIA’s stamp of approval to the Israeli photographs even before the agency’s analysts had even begun analyzing them. He admits that when he met Dagan face-to-face he didn’t ask how and when Mossad had obtained the photographs, citing “espionage protocol” among cooperating intelligence partners. Such a protocol would hardly apply, however, to a government sharing intelligence in order to get the United States to carry out an act of war on its behalf.

The CIA video relied heavily on the photographs that Mossad had given to Bush administration in making its case. Hayden writes that it was “pretty convincing stuff, if we could be confident that the pictures hadn’t been altered.”
But by his own account Hayden knew Mossad had engaged in at least one deception. He writes that when CIA experts reviewed the photographs from Mossad, they found that one of them had been photo-shopped to remove the writing on the side of a truck.

Hayden professes to have had no concern about that photo-shopped picture. But after this writer asked how CIA analysts interpreted Mossad’s photo shopping of the picture as one of the questions his staff requested in advance of a possible interview with Hayden, he declined the interview.

Abushady points out that the main issues with the photographs the CIA released publicly are whether they were actually taken at the al-Kibar site and whether they were consistent with a GCGM reactor. One of the photographs showed what the CIA video called “the steel liner for the reinforced-concrete reactor vessel before it was installed.” Abushady noticed immediately, however, that nothing in the picture links the steel liner to the al-Kibar site.

Both the video and CIA’s press briefing explained that the network of small pipes on the outside of the structure was for “cooling water to protect the concrete against the reactor’s intense heat and radiation.”
But Abushady, who specializes in such technology, pointed out that the structure in the picture bore no resemblance to a Gas-Cooled Reactor vessel. “This vessel cannot be for a Gas-Cooled Reactor,” Abushady explained, “based on its dimensions, it thickness and the pipes shown on the side of the vessel.”

The CIA video’s explanation that the network of pipes was necessary for “cooling water” made no sense, Abushady said, because gas-cooled reactors use only carbon dioxide gas — not water — as a coolant. Any contact between water and the Magnox-cladding used in that type of reactor, Abushady explained, could cause an explosion.

A second Mossad photograph showed what the CIA said were the “exit points” for the reactor’s control rods and fuel rods. The CIA juxtaposed that photograph with a photograph of the tops of the control rods and fuel rods of the North Korean reactor at Yongbyon and claimed a “very close resemblance” between the two.

Abushady found major differences between the two pictures, however. The North Korean reactor had a total of 97 ports, but the picture allegedly taken at al-Kibar shows only 52 ports. Abushady was certain that the reactor shown in the photograph could not have been based on the Yongbyon reactor. He also noted that the picture had a pronounced sepia tone, suggesting that it was taken quite a few years earlier.
Abushady warned Heinonen and ElBaradei in his initial assessment that the photo presented as taken from inside the reactor building appeared to an old photo of a small gas-cooled reactor, most likely an early such reactor built in the U.K.

A Double Deception

Many observers have suggested that Syria’s failure to protest the strike in the desert loudly suggests that it was indeed a reactor. Information provided by a former Syrian air force major who defected to an anti-Assad military command in Aleppo and by the head of Syria’s atomic energy program helps unlock the mystery of what was really in the building at al-Kibar.

The Syrian major, “Abu Mohammed,” told The Guardian in February 2013 that he was serving in the air defense station at Deir Azzor, the city nearest to al-Kibar, when he got a phone call from a Brigadier General at the Strategic Air Command in Damascus just after midnight on Sept. 6, 2007. Enemy planes were approaching his area, the general said, but “you are to do nothing.”

The major was confused. He wondered why the Syrian command would want to let Israeli fighter planes approach Deir Azzor unhindered. The only logical reason for such an otherwise inexplicable order would be that, instead of wanting to keep the Israelis away from the building at al-Kibar, the Syrian government actually wanted the Israelis to attack it. In the aftermath of the strike, the Damascus issued only an opaque statement claiming that the Israeli jets had been driven away and remaining silent on the airstrike at al-Kibar.

Abushady told this writer he learned from meetings with Syrian officials during his final year at the IAEA that the Syrian government had indeed originally built the structure at al-Kibar for the storage of missiles as well as for a fixed firing position for them. And he said Ibrahim Othman, the head of Syria’s Atomic Energy Commission, had confirmed that point in a private meeting with him in Vienna in September 2015.

Othman also confirmed Abushady’s suspicion from viewing satellite photographs that the roof over the central room in the building had been made with two movable light plates that could be opened to allow the firing of a missile. And he told Abushady that he had been correct in believing that what had appeared in a satellite image immediately after the bombing to be two semi-circular shapes was what had remained of the original concrete launching silo for missiles.

In the wake of the Israel’s 2006 invasion of Southern Lebanon, the Israelis were searching intensively for Hezbollah missiles and rockets that could reach Israel and they believed many of those Hezbollah weapons were being stored in Syria. If they wished to draw the attention of the Israelis away from actual missile storage sites, the Syrians would have had good reason to want to convince the Israelis that this was one of their major storage sites.

Othman told Abushady that the building had been abandoned in 2002, after the construction had been completed. The Israelis had acquired ground-level pictures from 2001-02 showing the construction of outer walls that would hide the central hall of the building. The Israelis and the CIA both insisted in 2007-08 that this new construction indicated that it had to be a reactor building, but it is equally consistent with a building designed to hide missile storage and a missile-firing position.

Although Mossad went to great lengths to convince the Bush administration that the site was a nuclear reactor, what the Israelis really wanted was for the Bush administration to launch U.S. airstrikes against Hezbollah and Syrian missile storage sites. Senior officials of the Bush administration didn’t buy the Israeli bid to get the United States do the bombing, but none of them ever raised questions about the Israeli ruse.

So both the Assad regime and the Israeli government appear to have succeeded in carrying out their own parts in a double deception in the Syrian desert.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian on U.S. national security policy and the recipient of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. His most recent book is Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, published in 2014.

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President Trump Accelerates Drone Strikes in Somalia

November 19th, 2017 by Zero Hedge

President Trump’s expansion of war is most evident in the skies of Somalia where an acceleration in drone strikes have been reported.

U.S. Africa Command has conducted fourteen airstrikes since August bringing the year’s total to eighteen. The increased tempo of airstrikes started in September between the Kismayo and Mogadisu region.

Earlier this month, we reported on Trump’s administration hitting a new milestone – when U.S. Africa Command launched its first airstrike against the Islamic State-linked fighters – further accelerating the US presence.

Defense One highlights this momentous achievement…

U.S. Africa Command has released data on 18 strikes this year, more than four times the average over the previous seven years. 

The escalation of U.S. Africa Command presence in Somalia was made possible by president Trump’s order in March that ”allows the U.S. Department of Defense to conduct lethal action against al-Shabaab within a geographically-defined area of active hostilities in support of partner forces in Somalia.”

Defense One outlines a majority of the airstrikes have been situated around Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia where a mixture of Al-Shabab attack zones and support zones reside.

Back in October, Al-Shabab blew up a truck bomb in the capital killing 300 making it one of the nation’s worst terrorist attack ever. The devastating bombing was in response to President Trump and Somalia’s newly elected president forming new military efforts to combat the rise in Islamic State-linked fighters in the country.

Drones have been responsible for most of the airstrikes and what the report states it’s impossible to verify how many ‘extremist’ have been killed.

Defense One notes,

The Bureau for Investigative Journalism estimates that the strikes have killed as few as 88 people and as many as 124. The group also says it has tracked nearly 30 strikes for 2017, about a dozen more than the Pentagon claims.

Micah Zenko, a writer at foreignpolicy.com, outlines (dated Nov 09) that in 5+ months Trump has bombed Somalia 17 times verse Obama bombed Somalia 29 times in 7+years. The explanation for Trump’s rapid bombardment is the geographical spread of  strikes in the country is much larger, plus he authorized a new enemy back in March – ISIS.

Earlier this year, the US military reported about 50 US troops were stationed in Somalia providing training and advice for the Somali military, but as of lately the figure now stands at 500.

Before President Trump, the US military has always maintained a small presence in the region. Now it seems with the geographical spread larger and a new enemy in the region defined; the endless wars will most certainly continue further enriching the US-military industrial complex.

Featured image is from Zero Hedge.

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Although the US has many times stated that its target is IS only, it appears that its intentions may go beyond the stated objective. In fact, Washington is seeking to retain post-conflict zones of influence within the country, where the American presence is illegal.

Asked at a press-conference on Nov. 13 if the US military will stay or leave Syria, US Defense Secretary James Mattis stated,

We’re not just going to walk away right now before the Geneva process has cracked.” He stressed the importance of the Geneva settlement process held under the auspices of the UN, saying “we got to get the UN-brokered effort in Geneva to take this thing forward.” Answering a question about the legal grounds for the US presence in the country, the secretary explained “You know, the UN said that ISIS — basically we can go after ISIS. And we’re there to take them out.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry issued a firm warning to the US and other foreign forces in Syria on Nov. 14. According to it,

The presence of US forces or any foreign military presence in Syria without the consent of the Syrian government constitutes an act of aggression and an attack on the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic as well as a gross violation of the charter and principles of the United Nations.”

In September, Deputy Foreign Minister of Syria Faisal Mekdad stated that the US “should withdraw its military; otherwise the Syrian army will consider them as a hostile force.”

So, the US is not going to leave and believes that its military operations in Syria do not run counter to international law. Now what about the legal grounds for maintaining the US military presence there?

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 was adopted unanimously on 28 September 2001 as a counter-terrorism measure passed following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. It does not say a military intervention is allowed. No border crossing is envisaged.

Resolution 2249 adopted by the UN Security Council in November 2015 called on UN member states that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures” and “to redouble and coordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by ISIL [Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL)]” as well as other terrorist groups. However, the document emphasizes that the states are to do so in compliance with international law”. It’s important to note that the resolution in question does not give the right to intervene militarily. It does not mention Chapter VII of UN Charter, which envisages the use of force under certain conditions. The document contains no specific reference to Syria.

Resolution 2254 adopted in December 2015 says it’s up to Syrian people to decide their fate through formal talks and a unity government.

UN General Assembly Resolution 3314 on the definition of aggression explicitly states that an invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of the territory of another State” as well as any military occupation, however temporary” or “bombardment by the armed forces of a State against the territory of another State” is what particularly constitutes aggression.

It has become increasingly difficult for the US to justify its operations in Syria under the pretext of fighting Islamic State (IS). Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has accused the US military of turning a blind eye on IS militants fleeing Syria’s Raqqa unobstructed along with their weapons and ammunition. According to him,

The escaped [IS] members will be the reason for the deaths of innocent people in every corner of the world, including Turkey, Europe, and America.”

He made these comments against the background of the Russian Defense Ministry accusing the United States of “providing de-facto cover” for IS jihadists in Syria “and only pretending to fight terrorism in the Middle East.”

With legal arguments unraveling, the Defense Department’s untenable position has become noticeable, even within its own ranks. General Raymond Thomas, the Commander of US Special Operations Command, acknowledged the US presence in Syria doesn’t have a leg to stand on in terms of international law.

Here’s the conundrum,” he explained. “We are operating in the sovereign country of Syria. The Russians, their stalwarts, their back-stoppers, have already uninvited the Turks from Syria. We’re a bad day away from the Russians saying, ‘Why are you still in Syria, US?”

The establishment of a 55-km closed zone around the US base in the area of the Syrian town of al-Tanf with humanitarian aid to refugees blocked is an example of flagrant violation of international law that should be addressed by the UN Security Council. The establishment of the base near the Syria-Jordan border was publicly justified by the need to conduct operations against Islamic State. However, no information has been received about any US operations against the group conducted from this area. To the contrary, IS has been reported to operate freely in an area abutting the base.

The largest Rukban refugee camp accommodating more than 60,000 women and children from Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor is located in the “safe zone” close to the base. The refugees appear to be used as hostages or a “human shield” to protect the American military stationed at al-Tanf. On and off, militant groups supposedly trained by Americans in the area strike Syria government forces. The more US forces are in-theater in Syria, the greater the chance of conflict between them and Syrian troops.

The United States has many times stated its target is IS only; it is not at war with the Syrian government. It appears that its intentions may go beyond the stated objective of fighting terrorism, while seeking to retain post-conflict zones of influence within the country, where the American presence is illegal. Russia, Iran, and other allied Syrian forces are in Syria legally, at the invitation of the UN-recognized state authority. The United States and its coalition partners are not. This fact is irrefutable. By no stretch of imagination could anyone find a justification for US military operations on Syrian soil.

Featured image is from the author.

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The Pentagon claims that its air war against ISIS is one of the most accurate in history and that it is so careful in who it targets that the 14,000 US airstrikes in Iraq have killed just 89 civilians.

It turns out that the military’s assertion is a stunning underestimation of the true human cost of Washington’s three-year-old war against ISIS. An 18-month-long investigation by the New York Times has found that the US-led military coalition is killing civilians in Iraq at a rate 31 times higher than it’s admitting.

“It is at such a distance from official claims that, in terms of civilian deaths, this may be the least transparent war in recent American history,” Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal report.

From April 2016 to June 2017, Khan and Gopal traveled to nearly 150 sites in three ISIS-controlled areas in Northern Iraq. These were sites where the coalition conducted airstrikes against targets ostensibly linked to the militant group. In the places they visited, they found that the coalition vastly underreported how many civilians had died in the bombing.

The US-led coalition claims that one civilian has been killed in every 157 airstrikes. But Khan and Gopal report that, actually, the rate is one civilian death for every five airstrikes — a rate 31 times as high as what the military claims.

Gopal and Khan tell the story of 56-year-old Basim Razzo, an Iraqi man whose family was killed in an airstrike in September 2015. The coalition later put up a video of the airstrike on Razzo’s home on YouTube. The video claimed to be hitting a car bomb factory. Razzo’s family wasn’t counted among the civilian deaths until Khan and Gopal brought it up to coalition officials.

This raises many troubling issues about America’s air war against ISIS. First, a US-led military campaign is greatly underreporting the number of civilian casualties in Iraq. That also raises questions about how many civilians the US-led coalition might be killing in Syria, the neighboring country where the fight against ISIS is also taking place.

And, worse, killing civilians in ISIS’s territory could be a boon for its own recruitment.

The anti-ISIS war keeps killing civilians

As Vox reported before, the US military has a civilian casualties problem.

For example, on May 26, Al Jazeera reported that more than 106 civilians, including 42 children, died during two days of bombing in Al-Mayadeen, Syria, by the coalition. The planes fired strikes at buildings that housed families of ISIS fighters.

US officials routinely note all the steps they take to ensure civilians aren’t harmed in an attack, such as gathering detailed intelligence and attacking sites during times when few noncombatants are likely to be in the area. However, Khan and Gopal couldn’t find a noticeable ISIS target near half of the strikes they visited.

Still, officials acknowledge, they take the necessary precautions to ensure civilians aren’t casualties of the war — even though they sometimes are.

“We’re not happy with it, and we’re never going to be happy with it,” Col. John Thomas, a spokesperson for the military command that oversees the war, told Khan and Gopal. “But we’re pretty confident we do the best we can to try to limit these things.”

Despite the advanced military techniques the coalition uses, however, it still cannot stop killing noncombatants because the US and its allies choose to fight ISIS primarily from the skies. It was inevitable that civilians would become collateral damage.

America is good at dropping bombs exactly where it wants to, but it can’t control the explosion and those who might get hurt as the dust settles. The Pentagon knows this, of course, but it has historically done a very poor job policing itself and its allies to take all available measures to minimize innocent deaths.

Thanks to Khan and Gopal, we now have statistics showing just how poor a job the military has done — and just how many civilians are paying the price.

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On Sunday, Former CIA Director John Brennan and Former National Intelligence Director (NID) James Clapper appeared on CNN’s morning talk show, State of the Union, to discuss Donald Trump’s brief meeting with Vladimir Putin in Vietnam. The two ex-Intel chiefs were sharply critical of Trump and wondered why the president did not “not acknowledge and embrace” the idea that Russia meddled in the 2016 elections. According to Brennan, Russia not only “poses a national security problem” for the US, but also “Putin is committed to undermining our system, our democracy, and our whole process.”

Naturally, CNN anchor, Jake Tapper, never challenged Brennan or Clapper on any of the many claims they made regarding Russia nor did he interrupt either man while they made, what appeared to be, carefully scripted remarks about Trump, Putin and the ongoing investigation.

There were no surprise announcements during the interview and neither Brennan or Clapper added anything new to the list of allegations that have been repeated ad nauseam in the media for the last year.  The only time Tapper veered off course at all was when he asked Brennan whether he thought “any laws were broken by the Trump campaign? Here’s what Brennan said:

I’m just a former intelligence officer. I never had the responsibility for determining whether or not criminal actions were taken. But, since leaving office on the 20th of January, I think more and more of this iceberg is emerging above the surface of the water, some of the things that I knew about, but some of the things I didn’t know about, in terms of some of the social media efforts that Russia employed. So, I think what Bob Mueller, who, again, is another quintessential public servant, is doing is trying to get to the bottom of this. And I think we’re going to find out how large this iceberg really is.

In other words, after an arduous 12 month-long investigation involving both Houses of Congress, a Special Counsel, and a small army of high-paid Washington attorneys, the only straw Brennan has found to hold on to, is a few innocuous advertisements posted on Facebook and Twitter that had no noticeable impact on the election at all. That’s a very weak foundation upon which to build a case for foreign espionage or presidential collusion.  It’s hard not to conclude that the public has been seriously misled by the leaders of this campaign.

The Intel bosses continue to believe that they can overcome the lack of evidence by repeating the same  claims over and over again. The problem with this theory is that Brennan’s claims don’t match the findings of his own  “Gold Standard” report,  the so called Intelligence Community Assessment or ICA which was published on January 6, 2017 and which supposedly provides rock solid evidence of Russian meddling. The greatly over-hyped ICA proves nothing of the kind, in fact, the report features a sweeping disclaimer that cautions readers against drawing any rash conclusions from the analysts observations. Here’s the money-quote from the report:

Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents.

So, while Brennan continues to insist that the Kremlin was involved in the elections, his own analysts suggest that any such judgments should be taken with a very large grain of salt. Nothing is certain, information is “incomplete or fragmentary”, and the entire report is based on what-amounts-to ‘educated guesswork.’ Is Brennan confused about the report’s findings or is he deliberately trying to mislead the American people about its conclusions?

Here’s Brennan again on Sunday:

I think Mr. Trump knows that the intelligence agencies, specifically CIA, NSA and FBI, the ones that really have responsibility for counterintelligence and looking at what Russia does, it’s very clear that the Russians interfered in the election. And it’s still puzzling as to why Mr. Trump does not acknowledge that and embrace it, and also push back hard against Mr. Putin. The Russian threat to our democracy and our democratic foundations is real.

There appears to be a significant discrepancy between Brennan’s unshakable belief in Russian intervention and the findings of his own “hand picked” analysts who said with emphatic clarity:

Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.

Why is it so hard for Brennan to wrap his mind around that simple, unambiguous statement?

The reason Brennan’s intelligence analysts admit that they have no proof, is because they have no proof. That might sound obvious, but we have to assume that it isn’t given that both Houses of Congress and a Special Counsel are still bogged down in an investigation that has yet to provide even a solid lead let alone any compelling evidence.

We also have to assume that most people do not understand that there is not sufficient evidence to justify the massive investigations that are currently underway. (What probable cause?) Adds placed in Facebook do not constitute hard evidence of foreign espionage or election rigging.  They indicate the desperation of the people who are leading the investigation. The fact that serious people are even talking about social media just underscores the fact that the search for proof has produced nothing.

These investigations are taking place because powerful elites want to vilify an emerging geopolitical rival (Russia) and prevent Trump from normalizing relations with Moscow, not because there is any evidence of criminal wrongdoing. As the Intel analysts themselves acknowledge, there is no proof of criminal wrongdoing or any other wrongdoing for that matter. What there is, is a political agenda to discredit Trump and demonize Russia. That’s the fuel that is driving the present campaign.

Russia-gate is not about ‘meddling’, it’s about politics. And Brennan and Clapper are critical players in the current drama. They’re supposed to be the elder statesmen who selflessly defend the country from foreign threats. But are they or is this just role-playing that doesn’t square with what we already know about the two men? Here’s thumbnail sketch of Clapper written by former-CIA officer Ray McGovern that will help to clarify the point:

Clapper played a key role in the bogus Iraq-WMD intelligence when he was head of the National Geo-spatial Agency and hid the fact that there was zero evidence in satellite imagery of any weapons of mass destruction before the Iraq invasion. When no WMDs were found, Clapper told the media that he thought they were shipped off to Syria.

In 2013, Clapper perjured himself before Congress by denying NSA’s unconstitutional blanket surveillance of Americans. After evidence emerged revealing the falsity of Clapper’s testimony, he wrote a letter to Congress admitting, “My response was clearly erroneous – for which I apologize.” ….

Clapper also has demonstrated an ugly bias about Russians. On May 28, as a former DNI, Clapper explained Russian “interference” in the U.S. election to NBC’s Chuck Todd on May 28 with a tutorial on what everyone should know about “the historical practices of the Russians.” Clapper said, “the Russians, typically, are almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique.” (“Mocking Trump Doesn’t Prove Russia’s Guilt”, Ray McGovern, Consortium News)

So, Clapper concealed information that could have slowed or prevented the rush to war in Iraq. That’s a significant failing on his part that suggests either poor judgment or moral weakness. Which is it?

He also lied about spying on the American people. Why? Why would he do that? And why should we trust someone who not only spied on us but also paved the way to war in Iraq?

And the rap-sheet on Brennan is even worse than Clapper’s. Check out this blurb from Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian:

“Brennan, as a Bush-era CIA official, had expressly endorsed Bush’s programs of torture (other than waterboarding) and rendition and also was a vocal advocate of immunizing lawbreaking telecoms for their role in the illegal Bush NSA eavesdropping program……

Obama then appointed him as his top counter-terrorism adviser…. In that position, Brennan last year got caught outright lying when he claimed Obama’s drone program caused no civilian deaths in Pakistan over the prior year….

Brennan has also been in charge of many of Obama’s most controversial and radical policies, including “signature strikes” in Yemen – targeting people without even knowing who they are – and generally seizing the power to determine who will be marked for execution without any due process, oversight or transparency…..” (“John Brennan’s extremism and dishonesty rewarded with CIA Director nomination”, Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian)

So, Brennan supported kidnapping (rendition), torture (enhanced interrogation techniques) and targeted assassinations (drone attacks). And this is the man we are supposed to trust about Russia?

Keep in mind, the jihadist militants that have been tearing apart Syria for the last six years were armed and trained by the CIA. Brennan’s CIA.

These radical militias have been defeated largely due to Russian military intervention. Do you think that this defeat at the hands of Putin may have shaped Brennan’s attitude towards Russia?

Of course, it has. Brennan never makes any attempt to conceal his hatred for Putin or Russia.

As we noted earlier, Brennan and Clapper are central figures in the Russia-gate story, but their records show we can’t trust what they have to say. They are like the eyewitness in a murder trial whose testimony is ‘thrown out’ because he is exposed as a compulsive liar. The same rule applies to Clapper and Brennan, that is, when the main proponents of the Russia hacking story are shown to be untrustworthy, we must discount what they have to say.

Which is why the Russia-gate narrative is beginning to unravel.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at [email protected].

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Another twist in the farce over the stained treatment of refugees on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island has surfaced. New Zealand has been insisting for some time that it is more than willing to welcome some 150 to its shores. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, much to the irritation of Australia’s Turnbull government, has been particularly enthusiastic.

Australia has remained resolutely cold to the offer, insisting that such an arrangement would undermine its own blunt approach of discouraging boat arrivals and the industry behind it. For the perplexed on this issue, Australia keeps funding alternative camps on Manus, hoping for the remaining refugees to shut up and slide quietly to other destinations. A number are being encouraged to go to the United States in a deal US President Donald Trump deems “dumb”.

Now, New Zealand’s angle has shifted, largely prompted by the crisis following the closure of the Manus Island facility at the Lombrom Naval Base. The PNG government is being asked directly as to whether some arrangement might be reached, thereby avoiding Australian intransigence.

The response from the Australian Immigration Minister was characteristically sinister and appropriate for a former police officer. With barely veiled menace, Peter Dutton suggested that New Zealand “would have to think about their relationship with Australia and what impact it would have”. “They’d have to think that through, and we’d have to think that through.”[1]

Dutton’s playground remarks did not stop there. He also rebuked New Zealand’s announcement that aid money would be offered to those on Manus Island and Nauru:

“Well, it’s a waste of money in my judgment, I mean give that money to another environment somewhere, to Indonesia, for example.”

Found wanting, Dutton has taken to lecturing a sovereign state.

Dutton then did what ever Australian politician glancing across the Tasman does: suggest that New Zealand was somehow benefiting from Canberra’s punitive approach to boat arrivals. Not that New Zealand has been ever openly asked about this take of the unwanted sacrifice.

“We have stopped vessels on their way across the Torres Strait planning to track their way down the east coast of Australia to New Zealand… We have put many hundreds of millions of dollars into a defence effort to stop those vessels… We do that frankly without any financial assistance from New Zealand… If new boats arrive tomorrow these people aren’t going to Auckland, they’re going to Nauru.”

This is a repeated Australian gripe: its small neighbour benefits from having a natural shield to the north; it can afford to be more moral on issues and idealist in its aspirations. Hard, realistic Australian politicians and policy makers must underwrite this. They, goes this straw man reasoning, are the ones making the hard, unsavoury decisions.

To beef up Dutton’s claims, Australian papers have been receiving classified material (or so it is claimed) that New Zealand has become a more attractive “target” for people smugglers in recent weeks. The Queensland based Courier Mail, hardly the high priest of journalistic integrity, has been the grateful recipient of claims that “chatter” on this subject is becoming effusive.

Australian border protection forces have, according to the classified sources, also been busy, intercepting four boats destined for New Zealand, with 164 people on board. This latter point is notable in flying in the face of the military grade secrecy such interceptions supposedly command. Operation Sovereign Borders, as it was termed by the previous Abbott government, was a means of stifling the disclosure, and discussion, of any “operational matters” at sea. Boat arrivals remain mysterious and enigmatic.

The assault on Prime Minister Ardern’s position is assuming tangible form through Australian channels. A conscious and very public effort from Australian government sources is underway to diminish the humanity of refugees who have, for all intents and purposes, become subjects of mental disturbance.

Damaged and psychologically ruined, they have become the subjects of further demonisation, portrayed as opportunistic, rapacious and venal. Leaks have found their way to The Australian Financial Review, timed to ill-effect, suggesting that a group of Manus Island asylum seekers have been wooing underage girls with sexual intent.

The intelligence cable which was the subject of the leaks outlines advice from PNG from early October making a set of claims. “In addition to broader allegations of drug taking and dealing (Marijuana), there were overarching community concerns regarding allegations that some resident were engaged in sexual activities with underage girls.”[2] Certain “residents were renting rooms throughout Lorengau and luring underage girls between 10 and 17 years of age, with money, goods, and food.”

These claims, the report concedes, were never investigated. There were never any formal complaints, and no investigations ensued. No matter – the report goes on to advance the claims of the local provincial health authority concerned by “increased interaction between the residents and the young girls from a health perspective, saying they had seen an increase in sexually transmitted infections and HIV”. In a world of innuendo, anything goes.

The report is clearly an effort to square the ledger, neutralising the concerns by asylum seekers and refugees at their general safety in being in the Manus Island community. Encounters with the local populace have been frowned upon; relations between the men and local females have also triggered the ire of community leaders. The inevitable thrust of such reports is simple: they deserve it, so why care?

The report avoids the obvious point that Australia’s pseudo-colonisation policy – of relocating refugees of considerably diverse background to the homogenous Manus Island community rather than abiding by the Refugee Convention – is itself the problem.

Ardern is also facing local opposition to her refugee stance. Bill English of the Nationals insists that this is a “showpiece”, a dangerous moral binge.[3] The Australians need to be acknowledged. New Zealand, he suggests, ought to take the efforts made by its neighbour to stop boats heading to his country seriously. And so, the wheel turns, the old arguments on power, cynicism and brown nosing, entertain us once more as people suffer.

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

Notes

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The test for gross criminal negligence/manslaughter is:

1.     Was there a ‘duty of care’ owed by the defendant to the deceased?

2.     Did a breach of that ‘duty of care’ lead to the death(s)?

3.     Did the behaviour of the defendant fall so far below the standard that could reasonably have been expected that it warrants criminal liability?

In the Grenfell Tower fire, the answer to the above questions is patently ‘yes’, in every case.  Therefore, why have no indictments been issued, now five months later in what is apparently a prima facie case in which a catastrophic conflagration caused at least 70 residents to be either burned alive or asphyxiated by cyanide gas?

Not one single person has yet been reported as having been prosecuted or indicted for criminal negligence and/or manslaughter in regard to the crime of causing multiple deaths. No chartered architect or surveyor, no building inspector or councilor, no manufacturer or distributor and no contractor has yet been brought to trial for liability in the death of seventy inhabitants in a tower block that had been knowingly clad with cosmetic/ insulation panels containing a fire accelerant, polymer foam that burns with the production of highly toxic hydrogen cyanide gas.

The lethally toxic characteristics of polymer foams have been well known and extensively documented since at least 1960, by professionals in the building design, civil engineering and construction industries and would certainly have been known to whoever specified and installed this highly dangerous cladding that knowingly converted buildings that were designed to be inherently safe, into potential fire traps.

As these actions were clearly criminally negligent, why have those responsible not been already apprehended pending trial but have instead been afforded the opportunity to leave the UK, should they so wish?  No indictments have apparently been issued and no passports have been impounded by the court, meaning that the perpetrators of the criminal negligence that led to the loss of at least 70 lives, are ostensibly being allowed to avoid justice.

The apparent prevarication and inaction by the authorities makes a mockery of the law and confirms that they hold the lives of those who live in tower blocks, very cheaply indeed. And that is an absolute shocking indictment of British government in the 21st century.

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NATO Adds to Turkey’s Chagrin. Turkish Good-Bye to NATO?

November 19th, 2017 by Moon of Alabama

There has long been speculation about a Turkish good-bye to NATO.

The U.S. and its military proxy organization in Europe are doing their best to further such a move:

The image of Atatürk was displayed as a target during the drill at NATO’s Joint Warfare Center in Stavanger, Norway held between Nov. 8 and Nov. 17, while a NATO soldier posted defamatory words about Erdoğan on the social media.

Atatürk is the founder of the secular Turkey. He was designated as “target” during a desk-top drill. NATO’s Joint Warfare Center is not a low level school but an elite officer training institution led by a Major-General. The 40 Turkish soldiers who attended the training course were immediately ordered back home.

Secularists in Turkey have long suspected NATO as promoting “moderate Islamists”. That belief is not without factual ground. U.S. President Obama allied with the Muslim Brotherhood during the so called “Arab Spring”. But the second incident at the very same NATO institution points to a more comprehensive anti-Turkish position:

A Kurdish-origin Norwegian officer signed up to a social networking website within NATO, using a fake account in the name of President Erdoğan and sharing posts against the organization.

To vilify the Turkish secularist hero Atatürk and its Islamist President Erdogan in related occasions is a comprehensive move against the whole country.

NATO’s political spokesperson Jens Stoltenberg, a Norwegian politician, apologized for the incidents. It will soothe no one.

A comparable incident happened in 2006. U.S. Lt. Colonel Ralph Peters published a map with redrawn borders of Middle East in the Armed Forces Journal. The map showed a “Free Kurdistan” and Turkey cut to half its size.

The map was then presented by an American colonel at the NATO’s Defense College in Rome while Turkish officers were attending. An uproar ensued and the U.S. had to apologize.

In July 2016 parts of the Turkish military attempted a coup against Erdogan. Turkish jets which attacked the capitol Ankara had launched from the U.S. and NATO base in Incirlik. When the attempt failed several NATO countries granted asylum to Turkish officers who did not want to return to their home country.

After the failed coup Turkey decided to buy Russian air defense systems. The move makes sense. The alternative U.S. systems are suspected to be ineffective against attacking U.S. planes and missiles. The Russian S-400 systems is designed to counter threats from U.S. weapons.

Turkey is a partner in the U.S. F-35 fighter jet program. It has plans to purchase one hundred of them. Now the U.S. Air Force suggests that the deal could be restricted:

If Turkey moves forward with its buy of a Russian air defense system, it will not be permitted to plug into NATO technology, and further action may be forthcoming that could affect the country’s acquisition or operation of the F-35, a top Air Force official said Wednesday.

Analysts worry that Turkey operating both the S-400 and F-35 together could compromise the jet’s security, as any data collected by the air defense system and obtained by Russia could help expose the joint strike fighter’s vulnerabilities. For a platform like the F-35, whose major strengths are its stealth and data fusion capabilities, that would be a disaster.[The deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for international affairs, Heidi] Grant, agreed that a S-400 acquisition creates issues for Turkey’s use of the F-35.

Her comments echoed those of Gen. Petr Pavel, chairman of NATO’s military committee. In October, Pavel said that Turkey is free, as a sovereign nation, to make its own decisions in regards to military procurement, but will face “consequences” if a S-400 buy goes through.

Buying a Russian air defense system is not unprecedented for a NATO state. In 1997 Cyprus bought Russian S-300 systems, ironically to defend against Turkish jets. The Cyprus Missile Crisis ensued and the weapons ended up in Greece where they also serve to keep the Turks away. Greece also flies U.S. made jets.

In Syria the U.S. is arming, training and fighting together with the YPK, a sister organization of the Kurdish PKK which is pursuing a guerrilla campaign against the Turkish army and state.

The personal disparaging of Turkish politicians by NATO, U.S. involvement in a coup attempt, restrictions on weapon buys and U.S. cooperation with Turkey’s enemy are amounting to an open affront.

It is obvious that NATO is no longer a reliable ally for Turkey. This view is independent of who holds the Turkish presidency. The strategic situation would not change if Erdogan would be replaced by some secular nationalist figure.

Turkey fields NATO’s second biggest army. With more than 80 million people it is a large emerging military and economic power. It controls the Bosporus and thereby access to the Black Sea. It has influence in the Balkans as well as in the Central Asian “Stans”. It is a crossing point for major energy pathways including the new Russian TurkStream pipeline which will deliver Russian gas to south-Europe.

The is little that hinders Turkey from leaving NATO and from joining a tacit alliance with Russia. Russian fighter jets are as good as the U.S. designed F-35. Even Turkey’s economic interests seem to be better aligned with Russia’s than with north-Europe or the United States. The voices in Turkey that demand a realignment are gaining ground. The editors of the Erdogan friendly Daily Sabah write:

The U.S. is not the enemy, but neither is it acting like a friend. Its actions are against Turkey’s interests as well as its own. Now is the right time for Turkey to formulate its own independent regional policy.Russia and Iran with their sounder anti-Daesh and counterterrorism policies need to be at the center of measures Turkey will implement from now on. After all that’s happened, one thing is certain: The U.S. should definitely be kept out of Turkey’s regional policy concerns.

The Zionist lobby in the U.S. has long argued to kick Turkey out of NATO. Such a separation may indeed come true. But it would be Turkey that would leave NATO and not the other way around. The effects would be quite different than those expected a decade ago.

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Massive TransCanada Keystone 1 Pipeline Oil Spill

November 19th, 2017 by Stephen Lendman

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: 

stephenlendman.org 

(Home – Stephen Lendman). 

Contact at [email protected].

All pipelines spill, when transporting oil or gas, environmental damage to land, waterways and human health is inevitable.

On Thursday, Friends of the Earth issued the following statement, saying:

“Today, TransCanada’s Keystone 1 pipeline spilled more than 200,000 gallons of tar sands – the world’s dirtiest oil – in South Dakota. This spill will contaminate the environment and threaten local communities.”

“This is a sign of what’s to come if Trump succeeds in forcing construction of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. Keystone XL would carry 830,000 barrels of the world’s dirtiest oil every day from Alberta, Canada to the US Gulf Coast.”

“We’ve taken Trump to court to stop Keystone XL. But it’s going to be a long fight. We need to make sure we have the resources to win. Can we count on you?”

Straightaway after taking office, Trump said

“(w)e are going to renegotiate some of the terms. We will build our own pipelines (and) pipes.”

“We’re going to make the process much more simple for the oil companies and everybody else that wants to do business in the United States.”

In March 2010, the Canadian National Energy Board of Canada approved construction of the Keystone XL (KXL) Pipeline. In March 2017, Trump approved it in America by presidential permit.

It risks enormous environmental pollution, passing through hugely ecologically sensitive areas in six states, including the Missouri and Red Rivers, as well as the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest, supplying about 30% of America’s irrigation ground water.

Possible spill damage is enormous. Tar sands oil sinks, making cleanup much harder and extremely costly.

Canadian tar sands oil lie beneath the world’s largest intact ecosystem, Alberta’s Boreal forest.

It’s an important carbon sink, rich in biodiversity and unspoiled bodies of water. It supports large populations of numerous species.

It serves as a buffer against climate change. Extracting tar sands oil destroys forests, endangering indigenous populations.

Big Oil wants it. What it wants, it gets, especially with anti-environmentalist Trump as president.

TransCanada Corp. promised Keystone 1 would leak at most once every seven years. It’s leaked on average monthly, Thursday’s spill one of the worst, much more certain if KXL is built.

Friends of the Earth political strategist Ben Schreiber said “(w)ith their horrible safety record, today’s spill is just the latest tragedy caused by the irresponsible oil company TransCanada.”

“We cannot let the world’s fossil fuel empires continue to drive government policy toward climate catastrophe. The only safe solution for oil and fossil fuels is to keep them in the ground.”

Greenpeace anti-tar sands campaigner Rachel Butler explained Thursday’s spill came days before Nebraska’s Public Service Commission intends approving KXL construction in the state.

With administration backing and Big Oil lobbying, KXL and other oil and gas pipelines will continue being built, ravaging the environment and harming human health for big profits.

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.”

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One may say that the political and military situation in the Asian Pacific is a calm before the storm. The race to prepare everyone to an armed conflict between the “free world” and the “communist totalitarian regime” in Pyongyang that was propagated by the western media has reached its peak.

The US are concentrating their forces in Southeast Asia in order to strike at the military and industrial objects in North Korea. Three carrier strike groups (CSG) are awaiting orders in the Sea of Japan: USS CVN-68 Nimitz, USS CVN-71 Theodore Roosevelt and USS CVN-76 Ronald Reagan. They are accompanied by three air wings. That comes up to 72-108 F/A-18E jets with 36 older F/A-18C Hornet jets for Navy support. The CSGs include up to 18 Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyers, with 540 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles. The Sea of Japan is also being patrolled by USS Michigan (SSGN-727) and USS Florida (SSGN-728) cruise missile submarines, with 300 more Tomahawks. There are six B-1B and B-52 bombers with three nuclear-capable B-2 bombers at the Andersen Air Force Base (AFB) in Guam. All of this striking power is mobilized not only for show.

A real threat of a US nuclear strike reemerged during the Korean war of 1950-1953. The US developed several plans to bomb key objects in North Korea in order to gain a strategic advantage. The top brass did not bring themselves to open the Pandora’s box, but the threat of nuclear obliteration was still present even after the war, although to a lesser extent. Quite possibly this was what spurned Kim Il-sung to start a nuclear program of his own.

Independence tests

In the 60s the initial developments were aided by the Soviets, and later on with the help of the Chinese. Pakistan played a crucial role in the program. In the late 90s Abdul Qadeer Khan — “the father of Islamabad’s nuclear bomb” — handed over to North Korea the uranium enrichment equipment, five thousands centrifuges and the necessary documentation. Khan attracted the public eye after stealing centrifuge projects when working in the Netherlands back in the 70s. According to US intelligence officials, he exchanged the compact disks with key data for missile technologies. In 2005 President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz admitted that Khan supplied North Korea with the centrifuges. In May of 2008 the scientist that had previously claimed of making the exchange by his own volition went back on his word and said that Pakistan’s government had made him a fall guy. He also claimed that the  North Korean nuclear program was already way on its way before he visited.

In the early 80s all of the best physicists in the country were gathered in Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center about a hundred kilometres to the north of Pyongyang. With the help from the Chinese, an experimental 20 MW light water graphite reactor was built there on August 14, 1985. It had been working until 1989, when it was stopped because of the US pressure, with eight thousand fuel rods transported out of the active zone. The evaluations of how much plutonium North Korea generated differ. The US State Department evaluates the amount of plutonium to be from six to eight kilograms, CIA claims it was nine kilograms. According to Russian and Japanese experts eight thousand fuel rods would generate no less than 24 kilograms of plutonium. North Korea managed to reactivate the reactor later: it was working since 1990 till 1994, when it once again stopped because of the US pressure.

On March 12, 1993 Pyongyang stated that it plans of removing itself from the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and refused to grant IAEA access to its objects.

From 1990 till 1994 two more Magnox reactors were built (50 MW and 200 MW) in Yongbyon and Taechon. The former is capable of producing 60 kilograms of plutonium per year, which would be sufficient for 10 nuclear charges. The 200 MW reactor is capable of producing 220 kilograms of plutonium, enough for 40 nukes. Following the UN Security Council Resolution 825 and the threat of US air strikes, North Korea succumbed to the diplomatic pressure and put a stop to its plutonium program. After the suspension of the agreement in the late 2002 Pyongyang reloaded the reactors.

On October 9, 2006 North Korea demonstrated its nuclear capability with an underground test. The explosion had a yield of 0.2-1 kiloton.

On May 25, 2009 North Korea conducted a second underground test. US Geological Survey (USGS) reported that the explosions had a higher yield, estimated from two to seven kiloton.

On February 12, 2013 North Korean central news agency stated that a small nuclear charge with a high yield was tested. South Korean Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources reported that the yield was estimated to be in range of 7.7-7.8 kiloton.

On September 9, 2016 an earthquake vibrations with an amplitude of 5.3 were registered at 9.30 AM local time. The epicenter was in 20 km from Punggye-ri test site. USGS designated the vibrations a nuclear explosion. North Korea later officially stated that it had conducted its fifth nuclear test. The yield was estimated at from 10 to 30 kiloton.

North Korea And Its Missile Program - All What You Need To Know

On January 8, 2017 the first thermonuclear charge device tested was conducted in North Korea. Chinese seismologists registered a strong earthquake. North Korea was confirmed to have a hydrogen bomb in possession last September. Seismologists of various countries estimated the amplitude to be 6.1-6.4, with the seismic center being near ground level. North Korean officials claimed that they have successfully detonated a thermonuclear charge. The yield was estimated to be from 100 to 250 kiloton.

On August 8, 2017 The Washington Post reported that according to US Defense Intelligence Agency North Korea has manufactured up to 60 small thermonuclear warheads which could be mounted on cruise and ballistic missiles. Many western media outlets published photos that demonstrated that Pyongyang was in possession of a 500-650 thermonuclear warhead.

Despite all the efforts in the realm of missile defense during the last 60 years, the media published a lot of expert opinions uncertain of an effective countermeasure against medium-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles. A strategic ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead is an ace in a military deck, an ace many countries desires to have in the political games at the international table.

But mounting a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile is a difficult task. All five members of the “nuclear club” went a long and difficult way from testing a nuclear bomb to mounting it on a missile. It took seven years since the first US nuclear test to mount a 1200 kg nuclear W-5 warhead onto Matador MGM-1 and Regulus-1 cruise missiles, and it took almost nine years to create W-7 warheads for tactical ballistic missiles Honest John M-3 and Corporal. 30 nuclear tests were conducted during this time period. Some of them were conducted in order to improve the mass and size of the bombs. The W-3’s 10,300 pound explosive device was reduced to W-7’s 1645 pound one, with the diameter shrinking from 60 inches to 30 inches respectively.

The second important task was adapting the warhead to high speeds and temperatures that happen during ballistic flight. The first Soviet medium-range ballistic missile, the R-5M (SS-3), with a mounted nuclear warhead was tested in February of 1956. The mounted RDS-4 nuclear bomb had a payload of 1,300 kg. By that time the Soviet Union had conducted 10 nuclear tests. China had had four nuclear tests by the time the DF2 medium-ranged ballistic missile was flight tested.

Starting with Mk-1 Little Boy and Mk-3 Fat Man, all nuclear bombs are divided in two types. The first type bombs are the so-called Gun-type fission weapons, with Mk-1 being the “father” of the method.  Their fissile material is assembled into a supercritical mass by the use of the “gun” method: shooting one piece of sub-critical material into another. The only fitting active material for this is uranium with a high percentage of U-235. The second type is implosion, with Mk-3 acting as prototype: a fissile mass of either material (U-235, Pu-239, or a combination) is surrounded by high explosives that compress the mass, resulting in criticality. Pu239, U233 and U235 may be used as the active material in this case. The former type is simpler to manufacture and therefore more easily available to less scientifically developed countries. The latter type requires less active material, but is considerably more difficult to build and requires advanced technologies. The implosive type devices are made of concentric hollow spheres. The first sphere is made out of the active material (with outer radius of 7 cm in case of U235, 5 cm for Pu239 and internal radius of 5.77 and 4.25 respectively). The second 2 cm thick sphere is made out of beryllium that deflects the neutrons. The third one is a 3 cm sphere made out of U238. The fourth sphere from 1 to 10 cm thick is a regular explosive. The device is covered with couple cm of aluminium. The model did not change much since the Fat Man, except for the obsolete explosive itself — Amatol that weighed 2,300 kg. Nowadays the warheads use PBX — 9501 (W-88), six to eight kg of which proves sufficient. IN 1959 US Atomic Energy Commision developed a universal mathematical model for nuclear and thermonuclear implosive device as a prime module. It is obsolete for contemporary Russian and American devices, but evaluating North Korean ones would be fitting. This model allows to estimate the power of a nuclear device if we know its diameter. 12’ device would have a 10 kiloton yield, 16’ would have 25, 18’ would have 100 and 24’ would be one megaton. The length of the device corresponds with its diameter in the ratio of 5 to 1, i.e. if the device is 12’, it’s length is 60”, and weight is 500 lb.

All Hwasongs represented

Hwasong-5 is a complete copy of the Soviet R-17 Elbrus (Scud-C) missile. North Korea got its hands on them from Egypt by helping them in Yom-Kippur wars during 1979-1980. As relations with the Soviet Union were strained, and the Chinese were unreliable, North Koreans started reverse engineering “Egyptian” R-17. The process was accompanied by building a manufacturing industry, with main effort centered on factory #125 in Pyongyang, Sanum-dong research institute and Musudan-ri launching site.

The first prototypes were developed in 1984. Named Hwasong-5 (designated by the West as Scud Mod. A) the missiles were identical to R-17 received from Egypt. The test flights were conducted in April of 1984, but the first batch was limited because they were only planned for test flights, as a way to ascertain the quality of manufacturing. Mass production of Hwasong-5 (Scud Mod. B) began in 1985. This type had a few improvements over the original Soviet project. The range with a 1,000 kg warhead mounted was improved from 280 to 320 km, and the Isayev engine was slightly modernised. There are several types of payloads: high-explosive fragmenting, chemical and possible biological. During the whole production cycle, until Hwasong-6 was developed in 1989, several upgrades are suspected to have been implemented, but there is no exact data available. In 1985 Iran bought 90-100 Hwasong 5 for $500 million. The deal included the production technology, which helped Tehran establish its own production. The missile was named Shahab-1 in Iran. United Arab Emirates bought a batch of Hwasong-5 missiles in 1989.

Hwasong-6 is an upgrade to the forerunner. It has longer range and is more accurate. It entered mass production in 1990. Approximately one thousand missiles had been made by 2000, 400 of which were sold for from $1.5 to $2 million. 60 missiles were delivered to Iran, where they got named Shahab-2. They were also exported to Syria, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

Hwasong-7 (No Dong) is a medium ranged ballistic missile, which started active use by North Korea in 1998. According to the western experts, it has an operating range of from 1350 to 1600 km and capable of delivering payloads from 760 to 1,000 kg. No Dong was created by North Korean engineers, western experts stipulate, with financial backing from Iran and technical help from Russia. Apparently during the chaos and the economic collapse of the 90s, Russian defence contractors began selling new technologies to all interested parties. It is stipulated that Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau transferred the R-27 Zyb and R-29 Vysota to North Korea. The 4D10 engine, according to the US, served as prototype for No Dong. This is questionable. there is nothing out of the ordinary in the fact that No Dong and R-27 share some technical characteristics, as at least a dozen US, Japanese and European Missiles are also really similar. According to the US Intelligence, the missile is powered by a liquid-propellant rocket with TM 185 fuel (20% petrol, 80% kerosene), with AK-271 oxidizer (27% N2O4 + 73% HNO3). Its pulling power is 26,600 kg (in a vacuum). But 4D10 engines that had been made 50 years ago used a more sophisticated fuel, UDMH, with 100% N2O4 as oxidizer. The time of flight of No Dong while active is 115.23 seconds. Maximum speed is  3750 meters per second. It weighs 15,850 kg, with a separated part during flight weighing 557.73 kg. There are export variations for Pakistan and Iraq. The time of flight depends on range, which depends on the weight of the warhead. A flight for 1,100 km with a 760 kg warhead will take 9 minutes 58 seconds. A flight for 1,500 km with a 557.73 kg warhead will take 12 minutes. This was measured by the US satellites during the test launches from North Korea, Pakistan and Iran.

Hwasong-10 (BM-25 or Musudan) – mobile intermediate range ballistic missile system. It was shown for the first time at a military parade dedicated to 65th anniversary of Workers’ Party of Korea on October 10, 2010, although if western experts are to be believed those were mock-up models. Hwasong-10 looks like a Soviet P-27 Zyb SLBM, but it’s 2 meters longer. According to calculations, thanks to elongating the fuel tanks the range may reach 3200-4000 km as opposed to 2500 of the Soviet prototype. Since April of 2016 Hwasong-10 has been tested a number of times, with two tests, as it seems, successful. North Korea’s inventory is about 50 launchers. With assumed range of 3200 km Musudan is capable of hitting any target in Eastern Asia, including US military bases on Guam and Okinawa. North Korea sold a version of this missile to Iran under the BM-25 moniker. The index reflects the active range (2500 km). Iran designated the missile Khorramshahr. The missile carries 1800 kg of payload for 2000 km (Iran claims that it had deliberately lowered the range to one like a cruise and ballistic missile would have in order to comply with the internal laws). This range is enough to hit not only Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but also NATO members: Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. According to Tehran, the missile may carry several warheads, most likely MRV.

Hwasong-12, judging from the photos of an experimental launch on May 14, 2017, is a project of a single-stage  missile with starting weight of 28 tonnes, powered by four micro liquid-propellant rockets. According to first evaluations, Hwasong-12 will have a maximum range of 3700 to 6000 km. Hwasong-12 was mounted on Chinese-made Wanshan Special Vehicle WS51200 at a military parade in April of 2017. It is likely to replace the unreliable Hwasong-10.

Hwasong-13 (KN-08 No Dong-C) is an ICBM. For some time it was considered an intermediate range missile. The engine tests for the new missile were reported by western observers in the late 2011. The KN-08 system was first demonstrated at a parade in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012. The missiles were equipped with mock-up warheads. Some people speculate that the missiles themselves were mock-ups, as there are doubts whether it’s possible to transport liquid-propellant rockets of such size without a container due to high probability of mechanical deformation of the shell. Another design of KN-08, although similar, was shown at the parade dedicated to 70th anniversary of North Korea on October 10, 2015. It is possible, that in 2012 fake slightly different mock-ups were shown in order to misinform, and in 2015 real missiles were shown. The system is mounted on Chinese WS51200 vehicle.

Hwasong-14 is the newest development. It’s a fully fledged ICBM that’s being finished now, and is being prepared to test launches. It’s designated by NATO as KN-20. It was first shown at a military parade in 2011, but the first test launch was conducted on July 4, 2017. It was fired with apogee of 2802 km, landing 933 km away in the Sea of Japan. According to international classifications it is an ICBM, as its apogee was higher than 1,000 km and distance was 5,500 km. According to analysts, Hwasong-14’s range is estimated to be 6,800 km. It is able to reach Alaska and continental US territory. A second test launch was conducted on July 28, 2017. Fired on a lofted trajectory with apogee of 3,724.9 km, it landed 998 km away in the Sea of Japan. Total flight time was 47 minutes, 12 seconds. According to Russia. Hypothetically such a missile would be able to hit targets in 10,700 km range, making it capable of hitting any target on the US West Coast. Taking Earth rotation into account, Chicago and possibly New-York are in range. The New York Time suggested that Hwasong-14 engines were prototyped from Ukrainian-made RD-250s. Yuzhmash allegedly handed them over to North Korea.  US expert Michael Elleman says that constructor documentation was also bought with some of the engines. According to South Korean intelligence, Pyongyang received from 20 to 40 RD-251 from Ukraine. Kiev denies supplying the engines to North Korea. Joshua Pollak, editor-in-chief The Nonproliferation Review notes that the RD-250 data leak from Ukraine is highly possible, but the first stage of Hwasong-14 was likely developed in cooperation with Iran. Even if North Korea had access to technical documentation or actual 4D10, 4D75 or RD-250 missiles, using them is out of question for Pyongyang. The fact is that North Korea’s chemical production is very weak, and it would be unable to produce one of the heptyl fuel components (unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine UDMH). Pyongyang would have to buy it from Russia or China, which is impossible due to embargoes. North Koreans used a well known trick — they just enlarged the Isayev 9D21 engine to accommodate the power necessary.

Pukguksong-2 (KN-15) is a cold launching solid fuel intermediate-range ballistic missile. It is a ground launched variant of KN-11 SLBM. Its first test flight was on February 12, 2017, despite North Korea testing the KN-11 submarine-launched variant since May  2015. Not much is known about KN-15’s capabilities. In February of 2017 the missile reached an altitude of 550 km and flew a distance of about 500 km, which is almost identical to successful tests of KN-11 in August of 2016. This deformed nonoptimal trajectory give reason to claim that KN-15 i capable of hitting targets in range from 1200 to 2000 km. Solid fuel engine allows for firing the missile right after receiving an order. Such missiles require less auxiliary transport and personnel, which allows its operational flexibility. Currently the only operable ballistic missile in North Korea is KH-02. One of the new things is launching the missile from a transport erector launcher (TEL). This is clearly influenced by Russian technologies. The TEL is made out of thick steel, which allows using the container multiple times. The KN-15 tests are notable because they were conducted by using crawler-tracked launcher platform that looked like old Soviet 2P19 on ISU-152. This differentiates KN-15 from other North Korean missile systems, which used wheeled platforms and therefore are limited to roads. Getting the system on crawler-tracks allows for flexibility that is much needed in North Korea, as it only has about 700 km of asphalted roads.

The launcher is assumed to be based on T-55 tank. This shows that North Korea is capable of developing launchers on its own since it is unable to buy them from Russia and China due to weapon embargoes. KN-15 was also considered similar to JL-1 and DF-21, which raises the possibility that it was made based on Chinese technology. Their shapes are similar, and the speed of KN-15’s development also raises suspicion. Physical similarities are an unreliable method to discern the origin of a missile, considering overall physical similarities between SLBMs and solid fuel missiles.

On May 21, 2017, North Korea conducted a second successful KN-15 test launch. The missile flew a distance of 500 km, reached an altitude of 550 km and landed in sea. The missile’s similarities to US SLBM Polaris A-1 became apparent. Mass and size were almost the same: the missiles in diameter were 1.4m and 1.37 m, in length 9.525 m and 8.7 m respectively. The starting weight of KN-11/15 is probably close to Polaris A-1 too, which is 13,100 kg. But the North Korean missile is a more complete and modern product. The stages of KN-11/15 are made out of composite in cocoon-like manner, while Polaris A-1’s stages are made out of AM3-256 vanadium steel.

North Korea is a tough nut to crack. Try not to hurt your teeth, imperialists.

Originally appeared in Russian at VPK-NEWS

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J’accuse! The Demand for Injustice

November 19th, 2017 by Christopher Black

J’accuse! The phrase of Emil Zola, that shook a nation because it demanded justice for a falsely accused man, the phrase that will ever be remembered, as will the man who wrote it, is a phrase now used to condemn people, without trial, without fair hearing, without right of reply, without justice. The phrase “I accuse” is now not a demand for justice but is considered proof of any accusation that follows it; it has become a demand for injustice.

“I accuse X of this.” “A accuses B of that.”

The Media (suitably horrified) calls out, “Horror! Horror! The social fabric is coming apart. Hang him. Hang her. Hang them all!”

The consumers of this information, the mass of the people who have been robbed of their reason and can react only as unthinking automatons, dutifully react,

“Did you hear that? She accuses him of this! Terrible. Terrible. He should be shot and quartered.”

“Did you hear that the Russians did that? My God, they should be taught who’s who.”

Did you hear that John Doe did this to ….? He has to be punished. Ruin him. Throw him in jail!” as shouts of derision resound.

The lynch mob is back, this time tapping out their calls for punishment on the keys of their computers and the social media. The rumour mills are working overtime. The vigilantes are out everywhere, the watch committees, the informers, the armchair lawyers and judges, the salivating scavengers of other peoples’ lives who lust for revenge, for someone, somewhere, to be punished, for something.

It can be an accusation of a sexual nature from decades before. It can be a political accusation from the present. It can be a campaign of rumours spread through the media, never confirmed, but spread with great indignation accompanied by looks of disgust for anyone who asks, “But is it true? But is there proof? What really happened? How do you know this? If true, what was the context? What is to be learned?” Such people are themselves accused of defending the crime the accused is accused of. And so it goes. Prejudice breeds hatred. Hatred calls for blood. And we call ourselves humane, civilised, reasoned, and good.

The first to join the mob, to call for the immediate revenge are those that consider themselves the most righteous, the most liberal, the most dedicated to justice and “human rights.” But it’s all just the fashion of the time. They pretend to believe in right and good because they have no real conception of what right is, what the good is. An eye for an eye, a tooth of a tooth is their cry and to hell with fairness, with trials. If the accused denies the charge, hang him quicker and higher. If anyone defends their right to be heard, hang them too.

Bertolt Brecht was right. Mac the Knife is back in town and ready to stab and cut and crucify at a whim.

This seems to be a heightened phenomenon in the USA. The past few weeks we have seen allegations of a sexual nature thrown at a series of Hollywood figures. This is nothing new in Hollywood. The scandal sheets have been full of this since the silent film era. But the hunt today seems even more vicious than in the past and reflects the toxic political atmosphere in the entire western world but which is at its most toxic in the United States.

For the past year we have seen absurd accusations made against political figures in the US about connections to Russia. We have seen world leaders standing in the way of US interests accused of war crimes. Assad used barrel bombs, and gas on civilians. Proof to the contrary be damned. Maduro is starving his people. No evidence needed. Kim Il Sung is going to kill us all. War is prepared. One accusation after another made so rapidly our heads are kept spinning trying to keep track of it all.

Entire pages of newspapers and hours of television news time are devoted to things that never happened. Investigative committees pretend to investigate. News anchors pretend to be alarmed. Accusations have been made. If an accusation is made, it must be true. That is the way it is now, the fascist way, to spread suspicion everywhere.

The acceptance without question of the accusations against Kevin Spacey, as one famous example, and the denial of his right to be heard, the acceptance of the destruction of his life and career without trial, without any recourse open to him makes it all the easier to convince the population that the accusations against Russia deserve action, against Syria, against Venezuela, Korea, Iran, against Milosevic, Ghaddafi, Ndindiliyimana, Gbagbo, and the rest of the political victims of these witch hunts. It sets the tone for the whole society. Facts are not important. The story is what is important. Agitate the people and keep them agitated against someone. Pick a target, a scapegoat. Get the people angry with them, just so they forget to ask the bigger questions. Who is making their lives miserable? Who is destroying the economy, the ecological systems the climate? Who is murdering civilians en masse in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan? Who has robbed us of what little democracy we had?

And of course someone like Spacey is an easy target, famous, rich and popular. The people love nothing better than to see the mighty fall. Give them one or two or three. Throw them some bones so long as it keeps them distracted. Besides Spacey deserves it. He was just too good at showing us what criminals the US presidents have become in his role in House of Cards.

Even Martin Luther King has once again been smeared on the BBC and CNN, which have repeated, as news, through the JFK Assassination files, the slanders made against him by the US secret services when he was alive.

As Zola wrote:

The nation is struck into a stupor, whispering of terrible facts, monstrous treasons which make History indignant; naturally the nation is so inclined. There is no punishment too severe, it will applaud public degradation, it will want the culprit to remain on his rock of infamy, devoured by remorse.”

So every time you hear of an accusation and think about taking part in it by repeating it on Facebook or elsewhere in some misguided sense of righteousness and self-vindication of your humanity think about the injustice you are serving. Every time you call for some one’s head based on some one’s mere say so and feel all cozy in your smugness, consider what Emil Zola would think of you.

For it is a crime of the corrupted press to destroy people without the means to defend themselves. It is a crime that injustice is celebrated by the high and the low, that injustice triumphs while fairness, law and simple probity are spat upon. It is a crime to distort the public opinion, to pervert it to the point of delirium. It is a crime to poison the small and the humble, to exasperate passions of reaction and intolerance, while taking shelter behind the odious mask of injustice masquerading as justice by which they are destroying all sense of decency, of reason, in order to exploit the peoples fear, anger and hatred of the system in which they are forced to live, for the interests of the those that oppress us.

Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto. He is known for a number of high-profile war crimes cases and recently published his novel “Beneath the Clouds. He writes essays on international law, politics and world events, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

Featured image is from the author.

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Our collective denial of the obvious, in the setting up of Oswald and his transparent silencing of Ruby, made possible the Dallas cover-up. The success of the cover-up was the indispensable foundation for the subsequent murders of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy by the same forces at work in our government – and in ourselves.” – James W Douglass [1]

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Fifty four years ago, this week, at 12:30pm on November 22, 1963, John F Kennedy was shot while riding in a presidential motorcade in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas.

According to the commission of inquiry launched to investigate the assassination, the blame for the murder officially lay solely with Lee Harvey Oswald. Public opinion polls have consistently revealed wide-spread skepticism about this explanation. Speculation of a conspiracy of some kind involving multiple accomplices flourished. A popular alternative view was that Oswald, who was later shot while in police custody by Jack Ruby, was used to divert attention away from the real assassin(s).

Multiple books on the assassination have been released over the last five decades. Persistent doubts about the official JFK narrative drove Congress to call a House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1976. The final report concluded that “President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy” albeit without specifics relating to the identities of other conspirators or the extent of said conspiracy.

In 1991, JFK, a blockbuster movie by Hollywood director Oliver Stone detailed many of the anomalies in the official story of the Kennedy assassination. The interest generated rekindled the JFK controversy and led to the passage of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Act of 1992 with the goal of collecting at the National Archives all known records of the assassination and eventually making them publicly available.

According to the terms of the 1992 Act, every assassination record was to have been disclosed in full “no later than the date that is 25 years after the date of enactment of this Act, unless the President certifies, as required by this Act, that continued postponement is made necessary.”

Yet in spite of President Trump’s earlier comments suggesting he would not block the release of the remaining records, he apparently succumbed to pressure from the CIA, FBI and other federal agencies and delayed the full release of documents.

Despite their differences in temperament, policy and popular acceptance, both President Kennedy and President Trump appear to have one characteristic in common: a foe in the CIA and other elements within the US intelligence apparatus.

If John F Kennedy was assassinated by this ‘Deep State’, a commonly held belief, then what are the implications for democracy-aspiring citizens in 2017, and a president who may have the audacity to believe that he can ‘take charge’? This question forms the core focus of this week’s JFK anniversary edition of the Global Research News Hour.

James W. Douglass is a longtime peace activist and writer. He is author of one of the most celebrated works on the subject of the assassination, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why it Happened and Why it Matters. In a twenty minute conversation with the Global Research News Hour. Douglass talks about Kennedy’s turn toward peace as a motive for the assassination, the role played by Lee Harvey Oswald, and the significance of the crime in providing direction for a new president and a new generation seeking to avoid being consumed by the ‘Unspeakable.’

Ray McGovern is a former CIA analyst with 27 years in the field. He is also a co-founder of the group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. McGovern is convinced that there is likely very little to be gleaned from the new releases of JFK documents (there have been three since the October 26th deadline.) In this interview with the Global Research News Hour, McGovern explains that the real story is in what is being withheld from scrutiny, and how the delay suggests another front in the Deep State’s siege against a sitting president.

Paul Zarembka is Professor of Economics at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has been General Editor since 1977 of the annual hardback Research in Political Economy, published by Emerald Group. He edited the 2006 work: The Hidden History of 9/11, and in 2015, authored a paper about the weaponization of the term ‘conspiracy theory’ in relation to the Kennedy assassination, 9/11, and similar alleged ‘state crimes against democracy.’ In the final interview of the program, Zarembka accounts for the resistance of some on the Left, including Marxists, to confront the very notion of government conspiracies, and addresses the dilemma of misinformation not only within the mainstream but also within supposed ‘alternative’ news sites.

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The Global Research News Hour airs every Friday at 1pm CT on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg. The programme is also podcast at globalresearch.ca . The show can be heard on the Progressive Radio Network at prn.fm. Listen in everyThursday at 6pm ET.

Community Radio Stations carrying the Global Research News Hour:

CHLY 101.7fm in Nanaimo, B.C – Thursdays at 1pm PT

Boston College Radio WZBC 90.3FM NEWTONS  during the Truth and Justice Radio Programming slot -Sundays at 7am ET.

Port Perry Radio in Port Perry, Ontario –1  Thursdays at 1pm ET

Burnaby Radio Station CJSF out of Simon Fraser University. 90.1FM to most of Greater Vancouver, from Langley to Point Grey and from the North Shore to the US Border.

It is also available on 93.9 FM cable in the communities of SFU, Burnaby, New Westminister, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Surrey and Delta, in British Columbia, Canada. – Tune in  at its new time – Wednesdays at 4pm PT.

Radio station CFUV 101.9FM based at the University of Victoria airs the Global Research News Hour every Sunday from 7 to 8am PT.

CORTES COMMUNITY RADIO CKTZ  89.5 out of Manson’s Landing, B.C airs the show Tuesday mornings at 10am Pacific time.

Cowichan Valley Community Radio CICV 98.7 FM serving the Cowichan Lake area of Vancouver Island, BC airs the program Thursdays at 6am pacific time.

Campus and community radio CFMH 107.3fm in  Saint John, N.B. airs the Global Research News Hour Fridays at 10am.

Caper Radio CJBU 107.3FM in Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia airs the Global Research News Hour starting Wednesday Morning from 8:00 to 9:00am. Find more details at www.caperradio.ca

RIOT RADIO, the visual radio station based out of Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario has begun airing the Global Research News Hour on an occasional basis. Tune in at dcstudentsinc.ca/services/riot-radio/

Notes:

  1. James W Douglass (2008),p. xvi, “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters”, published by Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA), Hezbollah and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are storming the Syrian border city of al-Bukamal from 3 directions after having liberated Tal Salasse, the village of Hamdan and the airstrip and reached the Euphrates River north of it.

According to pro-government sources, the SAA and its allies made notable progress against ISIS inside the city, where despite strong resistance, ISIS is a no-win situation.

Meanwhile, ISIS terrorists have ambushed a column of the SAA Tiger Forces near Al-Kashma south of the city of al-Mayadin. According to the ISIS-linked media outlet Amaq, at least 10 SAA members were killed and a T-90 battle tank destroyed.

Earlier in November, the Tiger Forces started advancing towards al-Bukamal from the direction of al-Mayadin. However, they have not yet been able to reach this strategic city.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have advanced towards the Syrian-Iraqi border from the town of al-Suwar in northern Deir Ezzor. The SDF has also launched an advance along the Euphrates Bank.

According to pro-Kurdish sources, 34 members of ISIS were killed and a vehicle was destroyed in the advance. Amaq claimed that 10 members of the SDF were killed, 8 injured and a Humvee vehicle destroyed.

SDF spokesman Talal Silo defected from the US-backed force to the area in northern Aleppo controlled by pro-Turkish militants. The SDF accused Turkish Intelligence of forcing him to do so. Pro-Turkish sources say that the defection is an indication of growing tensions within the SDF.

52 years old Talal Silo is a Syrian Turkmen. He became widely known for his strong pro-US and anti-government attitude. He was one of the key public SDF figures and played a key media role allowing the US-led coalition to claim that there were some non-Kurdish persons in top SDF positions.

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America’s Renegade Warfare. Is the U.S. Guilty of Genocide

November 18th, 2017 by Nicolas J. S. Davies

Seventy-seven million people in North and South Korea find themselves directly in the line of fire from the threat of a Second Korean War. The rest of the world is recoiling in horror from the scale of civilian casualties such a war would cause and the unthinkable prospect that either side might actually use nuclear weapons.

Since the first Korean War killed at least 20 percent of North Korea’s population and left the country in ruins, the U.S. has repeatedly failed to follow through on diplomacy to establish a lasting peace in Korea and has instead kept reverting to illegal and terrifying threats of war. Most significantly, the U.S. has waged a relentless propaganda campaign to discount North Korea’s legitimate defense concerns as it confronts the threat of a U.S. war machine that has only grown more dangerous since the last time it destroyed North Korea.

The North has lived under this threat for 65 years and has watched Iraq and Libya destroyed after they gave up their nuclear weapons programs. When North Korea discovered a U.S. plan for a Second Korean War on South Korea’s military computer network in September 2016, its leaders quite rationally concluded that a viable nuclear deterrent is the only way to guarantee their country’s safety.

What does it say about the role the U.S. is playing in the world that the only way North Korea’s leaders believe they can keep their own people safe is to develop weapons that could kill millions of Americans?

The Changing Face of War 

The Second World War was the deadliest war ever fought, with at least 75 million people killed, about five times as many as in the First World War. When the slaughter ended in 1945, world leaders signed the United Nations Charter to try to ensure that that scale of mass killing and destruction would never happen again. The U.N. Charter is still in force, and it explicitly prohibits the threat or use of military force by any nation.

It was not just the scale of the slaughter that shocked the world’s leaders into that brief moment of sanity in 1945. It was also the identities of the dead. Two-thirds of the people killed in the Second World War were civilians, a drastic change from the First World War, only a few decades earlier, when an estimated 86 percent of the people killed were uniformed combatants. The use of nuclear weapons by the United States raised the specter that future wars could kill an exponentially greater numbers of civilians, or even end human civilization altogether.

War had become “total war,” no longer fought only on battlefields between soldiers, but between entire societies with ordinary people, their homes and their lives now on the front line. In the Second World War:

–Fleets of warplanes deliberately bombed cities to “dehouse” civilian populations, as British officials described their own bombing of Germany. “As I write this,” George Orwell wrote from London in 1941, “Highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.”

–Submarines sank hundreds of merchant ships in an effort to starve their enemies into submission. General Carter Clarke, who was in charge of interpreting Japanese intelligence for President Truman, said in a 1959 interview that Japan surrendered because it faced mass starvation due to the sinking of its merchant shipping, not because of the gratuitous U.S. nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was estimated that 7 million more civilians would die of starvation if Japan fought on until 1946.

–Genocidal mass extermination campaigns killed civilians based only on their political affiliation or ethnicity. Under cross-examination by a young American prosecutor, Benjamin Ferencz, SS Gruppenfuhrer Dr. Otto Ohlendorf explained patiently to a courtroom in Nuremberg why he found it necessary for the “preemptive defense” of Germany to order the killing of hundreds of thousands of civilians. He explained that even children had to be killed to prevent them too becoming enemies of Germany when they grew up and found out what happened to their parents.

Despite the U.N. Charter and international efforts to prevent war, people in countries afflicted by war today still face the kind of total war that horrified world leaders in 1945. The main victims of total war in our “modern” world have been civilians in countries far removed from the safe havens of power and privilege where their fates are debated and decided: Yugoslavia; Afghanistan; Iraq; Somalia; Pakistan; Yemen; Libya; Syria; Ukraine. There has been no legal or political accountability for the mass destruction of their cities, their homes or their lives. Total war has not been prevented, or even punished, just externalized.

But thanks to billions of dollars invested in military propaganda and public relations and the corrupt nature of for-profit media systems, citizens of the countries responsible for the killing of millions of their fellow human beings live in near-total ignorance of the mass killing carried out in their name in these “red zones” around the world.

People in ever-spreading war zones are living under the very conditions of total war that the world recoiled from at the end of the Second World War. Like Orwell in London in 1941, they hear highly civilized human beings flying overhead trying to kill them, human beings who know nothing about them beyond the name of the city where they live and its strategic value in wars that offer them, the victims, nothing but death or destitution.

In the case of drones, the human beings trying to kill them from the other side of the world are so highly civilized that they can hop into cars and drive home to have dinner with their families at the end of their shifts, while another “team member” efficiently takes over the “joy-stick” and carries on killing.

People in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya have been subjected to hunger and starvation under sieges and naval blockades that are as brutally effective as German and American submarines were in World War Two. Millions of people in Yemen face an imminent danger of starvation under the U.S.-backed naval blockade and Saudi and Emirati bombing of Yemeni ports.

In retaliation for one missile fired at Riyadh, the Saudi capital, last week, the U.S.-backed coalition completely closed all Yemen’s ports, tightening the blockade on millions of starving people. The requirements of necessity and proportionality, which have been basic principles of customary international law since the Nineteenth Century, lie buried in the graveyards of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Is the U.S. Guilty of Genocide? 

The U.S. military occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq quickly adopted “divide and rule” strategies that targeted Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Sunni Arabs in Iraq. When I pointed this out to a friend who teaches military history in 2005, he asked only, “How else can you do it?” I reminded him that “you” don’t have to “do it” at all.

American military police pose with naked detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

U.S. and allied forces in Iraq have killed at least 10-15 percent of Iraq’s Sunni Arabs and displaced about half of them. Sunni Arabs have been relentlessly targeted for detention, torture and summary execution since 2004, when ex-Drug Enforcement Administration intelligence chief Steven Casteel, retired Colonel James Steele and a CIA team reportedly based on the eighth floor of the Iraqi Interior Ministry recruited, trained and equipped “Special Police” death squads to conduct a reign of terror that tortured and killed tens of thousands of men and boys in Baghdad and elsewhere.

After training by James Steele’s Special Police Training Teams, each Iraqi Special Police unit worked closely with a U.S. Special Police Transition Team (SPTT), and their operations were commanded and controlled from a high-tech command center staffed by U.S. and Iraqi personnel. An SPTT assigned to the notorious Wolf Brigade in Baghdad was from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the “Nightstalkers,” who usually provide helicopter transport for U.S. special operations but in this case appear to have used their helicopters mainly to fly detainees to their deaths.

After the exposure of their Al Jadiriyah torture prison in November 2005, the Special Police were rebranded as the National Police (and the Wolf Brigade, incongruously, as the Freedom Brigade).  But their torture and killing raged on, under cover of an official narrative of “sectarian violence” which scrupulously ignored the command and control of these forces by the Iraqi Interior Ministry, the CIA and the U.S. military.

At the peak of this campaign in July-October 2006, supported by the U.S. Operations Together Forward I & II, National Police death squads flooded the main morgue in Baghdad with up to 1,600 bodies per month. Thousands more Iraqis were killed and buried elsewhere or just disappeared, while 2 million people were displaced inside Iraq and another 2 million fled the country.

This ethnic cleansing campaign has continued under the U.S-backed Shiite government and has kept driving Sunni Arab Iraqis into armed resistance groups, of which Islamic State is only the latest, creating pretexts for endless violence against them. Kurdish military intelligence reports have estimated that 40,000 civilians were killed in the recent U.S.-led assault on Mosul, by tens of thousands of bombs and missiles dropped by U.S. and “coalition” warplanes, U.S. Marine 220-lb HiMARS rockets and U.S., French and Iraqi heavy artillery. This is still only an estimate, and the true number of civilians killed in Mosul was probably higher.

From 2004 on, the ethnic cleansing of Iraq’s Sunni Arabs has been a deliberate, calculated element of the U.S.’s “divide and rule” policy in Iraq, with the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” That is the legal definition of genocide in Article II of the 1948 Genocide Convention. The working title of my book about the U.S. invasion and destruction of Iraq was From Aggression to Genocide.

As for the killing of “enemy” children, President Obama justified the murder of 16-year-old American Abdulrahman al-Awlaki in Yemen in October 2011, two weeks after the assassination of his father, the Yemeni-American preacher Anwar al-Awlaki. In one of Donald Trump’s first acts as president, he authorized a U.S. special operations attack that killed Abdulrahman’s 8-year old sister Nawar and other family members in January 2017 – after Trump, on the campaign trail, had vowed to kill the families of suspected terrorists.

Benjamin Ferencz, the by then 81-year-old American lawyer who prosecuted SS Gruppenfuhrer Ohlendorf and his accomplices at Nuremberg, was interviewed by NPR eight days after the mass murders of Sept. 11, 2001.

“It is never a legitimate response to punish people who are not responsible for the wrong done,” Ferencz insisted. “We must make a distinction between punishing the guilty and punishing others. If you simply retaliate en masse by bombing Afghanistan, let us say, or the Taliban, you will kill many people who don’t approve of what has happened… I say to the skeptics, ‘Follow your procedure and you will see what happens.’ … We will have more fanatics and more zealots deciding to come and kill the evil, the United States.”

But in the courtroom of American politics, hopelessly corrupted by the CIA’s politicized intelligence and manufactured crises and the “unwarranted influence” of the Military Industrial Complex, our leaders chose Ohlendorf’s logic over Ferencz’s. Neither the millions of people killed in 16 years of war, nor its legacy of ruin and chaos in country after country, nor the utter failure of the “war on terror” on its own terms have led to any change in this illegitimate, criminal and, in the case of Sunni Arabs in Iraq, genocidal U.S. policy.

The Geneva Conventions

As well as the unfulfilled promise of peace in the U.N. Charter, the post-World War II effort to prevent the future mass slaughter of civilians led to a major revision of the Geneva Conventions in 1949. That included a brand new convention, the Fourth Geneva Convention, dedicated entirely to the protection of civilians in wartime or under military occupation.

High-ranking Nazis on trial at Nuremberg

Two additional protocols were added to the Geneva Conventions in 1977, to adapt them to the changing nature of war and to provide even greater protections to civilians.  The First Additional Protocol has been signed and ratified by 174 countries and the Second by 168 countries. The United States has not ratified either of the Additional Protocols, but it is legally bound by them because treaties that have been ratified by large majorities of countries automatically become part of customary international law, which is universally binding.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the 1949 Conventions in 1999, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) conducted a survey of 17,000 people in 17 countries to see how well people around the world understood “the rules and limits of what is permissible in war” under the Geneva Conventions. The study was titled People on War – Civilians in the Line of Fire.

The 17 countries surveyed included 12 where wars had recently been fought, four of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and Switzerland, where the ICRC is based. The introduction to the People on War report noted that 90 percent of the people killed in recent wars were civilians and that, in today’s world, “war is war on civilians.” But the report went on:

“…the more these conflicts have degenerated into wars on civilians, the more people have reacted by reaffirming the norms, traditions, conventions and rules that seek to create a barrier between those who carry arms into battle and the civilian population… Large majorities in every war-torn country reject attacks on civilians in general and a wide range of actions that by design or default could harm the innocent.”

People interviewed in Switzerland and the four Security Council permanent member countries were asked to choose between a firm statement that armed forces “must attack only other combatants and leave civilians alone,” and a weaker statement that, “combatants should avoid civilians as much as possible.”  About three-quarters of respondents in the U.K., Russia, France and Switzerland chose the first statement, which correctly summarizes the rules of the Fourth Geneva Convention, while 26 percent in the U.K. and 16-17 percent in Russia, France and Switzerland chose the weaker one.

When it came to the United States, though, a very different pattern emerged. Only 52 percent of Americans understood that attacking civilians is strictly prohibited, while 42 percent chose the weaker option, twice as many as in the other four countries. The ICRC report noted that, “Across a wide range of questions, in fact, American attitudes towards attacks on civilians were much more lax.”

The survey also asked whether it is lawful to attack “enemy combatants in populated villages or towns in order to weaken the enemy, knowing that many civilians would be killed.” Once again, while only 20-29 percent of people in the other four countries thought this was allowed, that increased to 38 percent among Americans. Since 1999, this question has arisen again and again across America’s war zones, most recently in the U.S.-led massacres of Iraqi and Syrian civilians in Mosul and Raqqa.

During the U.S. occupation of Iraq, U.N. human rights reports repeatedly reminded U.S. officials of their duty as an occupying power to protect civilians, and notified them that U.S. military operations in civilian areas were routinely violating international humanitarian law. John Pace, who headed the U.N. Assistance Mission to Iraq during the U.S. occupation, compared U.S. efforts to police Iraq by military force to “trying to swat a fly with a bomb,” a fitting metaphor for the entire “war on terror.”

The People on War survey also found large discrepancies in attitudes to the Geneva Conventions themselves. In countries that had recently experienced war, only 28 percent of people agreed with a statement that the Conventions “make no real difference” to the brutality of war.  But in the U.S. (57 percent) and U.K. (55 percent), twice as many people agreed with that statement.

U.S. War Crimes

We could speculate on why Americans are so exceptionally “lax” in their attitudes toward protecting civilians in wartime. But in practice, the real-world impact of these exceptional attitudes could be overcome if Americans who joined the armed forces received serious training in their responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Tragically, they do not.

U.S. military recruits receive only a 50-minute class on the laws of war, focused mainly on the Third Geneva Convention and the rights of POWs, and a refresher of the same 50-minute class before deployment. A retired JAG officer who taught law of war classes and veterans who have sat through them have all told me that the Fourth Geneva Convention and the rights of civilians as “protected persons” were barely mentioned, if at all.

The lax attitude of Americans toward the killing of civilians and the poor training of U.S. troops in their responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions have combined to make invasion and occupation by American forces especially deadly, dangerous and terrifying for civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq and wherever U.S. forces are deployed.

In practice, U.S. forces operate under much lower standards than those of the Geneva Conventions, and civilians whose countries have fallen prey to U.S. aggression do not enjoy the protections guaranteed to them under the laws of war. As I wrote in an article in 2016, this is a classic case of the “normalization of deviance,” a sociological term for the way that powerful institutions like the U.S. military tend to develop weaker, looser norms of conduct than the formal or legal rules that officially apply to them.

Illegal U.S. rules of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan have included: systematic, theater-wide use of torture; orders to “dead-check” or kill wounded enemy combatants; orders to “kill all military-age males” during certain operations; and “weapons-free” zones that mirror Vietnam-era “free-fire” zones. A U.S. Marine corporal told a court martial prosecuting one of his men for “dead-checking” a wounded Iraqi civilian that “Marines consider all Iraqi men part of the insurgency,” nullifying the critical distinction between combatants and civilians that is the very basis of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

When junior officers or enlisted troops have been charged with war crimes against civilians, they have often been exonerated or given light sentences because courts martial have found that they were acting on orders from more senior officers. But the senior officers implicated in these crimes have been allowed to testify in secret or not to appear in court at all, and have almost never been charged.

To make matters even worse for civilians in Iraq, U.S. military and civilian officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, misled the troops they sent to kill and die in Iraq with lies about shadowy connections between the people of Iraq and the young Saudis who committed the crimes of September 11th. In 2006, three years into the war, a Zogby poll of U.S. troops in Iraq found that 85 percent of them still believed that their mission in Iraq was to “retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9/11 attacks.”

A million Iraqis have paid with their lives for these American lies and the war crimes they have served to justify, while the U.S. officials involved are still walking free, and in many cases still climbing the twisted ladder of success inside the U.S. Military Industrial Complex. Colonel Jeffrey Buchanan, who headed a Special Police Transition Team in Iraq at the time of the exposure of the Al Jadiriyah torture prison in 2005, has been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and is currently in charge of hurricane relief to Puerto Rico.

A New Body of Research

After 16 years of ever-spreading and intractable war, a significant body of research is finally emerging to clarify who exactly the U.S. is fighting in its ever-expanding war zones and what drives civilians to join armed groups like the Taliban, Al Qaeda or Islamic State.

Barack Obama and George W. Bush at the White House.

In the looking-glass world of U.S. propaganda, U.S. forces are “fighting them there” so that we don’t have to “fight them here.” But researchers are learning that, like the Iraqis who rose up to resist the illegal U.S. invasion and occupation of their country, most of the people joining armed groups across Africa and the Middle East are only fighting at all because U.S. and allied forces are “fighting them there,” in their countries, cities, villages and homes.

Researchers have interviewed people who have joined armed resistance groups in countries across the world to ask them about what drove them to join an armed group and take part in guerrilla warfare or terrorism. In 2015, the Center for Civilians in Conflict published the results of interviews with 250 people who joined armed groups in Bosnia, Somalia, Gaza and Libya in a report titled, The People’s Perspective: Civilian Involvement in Armed Conflict. One of its main findings was that,

“The most common motivation for involvement, described by interviewees in all four case studies, was the protection of self or family.”

If most of the people fighting U.S. forces and their allies across the world, from Niger to Ukraine to the Philippines, are just trying to defend themselves and their families against our “counterterrorism” operations, that turns the whole basis of the U.S. “war on terror” on its head. The most effective way to reduce violence and terrorism would obviously be to stop putting them in such an intolerable position in the first place.

Also in 2015, Lydia Wilson, a researcher for the Center for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Oxford University, was allowed to interview a number of captured Islamic State fighters in Kirkuk, Iraq. Wilson’s fellow researchers included retired U.S. Major General Doug Stone, who managed U.S. military prisons in Iraq during the U.S. occupation and did some of the first serious Western research into the motivations of Iraqi resistance fighters.

It was hard for Wilson to find captured Islamic State fighters to interview, because Kurdish and U.S.-backed Iraqi government forces summarily execute Islamic State fighters that they capture. But the police in Kirkuk were at least putting prisoners on trial before killing them, so Wilson got permission from the police chief to talk to some prisoners who were awaiting execution.

The first prisoner Lydia Wilson interviewed was captured, tried and sentenced to death for exploding at least four car-bombs and a scooter-bomb in Kirkuk. But his interview was not exceptional – Wilson found that his account of his motivations was repeated by every other prisoner. He explained that his first loyalty was to his wife and two children, and that he joined ISIS (as Islamic State is commonly known) to support his family. He told Wilson, “We need the war to be over, we need security, we are tired of so much war… all I want is to be with my family, my children.”

At the end of the interview, Wilson asked the prisoner if he had any questions. By then he knew that General Stone, one of Wilson’s colleagues, was ex-U.S. military, and, instead of asking a question, he just exploded in anger at him,

“The Americans came. They took away Saddam but they also took away our security. I didn’t like Saddam, we were starving then, but at least we didn’t have war. When you came here, the civil war started.”

General Stone was not surprised.  This was the same outraged speech he had heard from nearly every prisoner since he started interviewing his own prisoners in Iraq in 2007, identifying the poisonous and blood-soaked legacy of the U.S. invasion and occupation as the driving force behind their actions.

Lydia Wilson summarized what she learned about the prisoners in Kirkuk in an article for The Nation: “They are children of the occupation, many with missing fathers at crucial periods (through jail, death by execution or fighting in the insurgency), filled with rage against America and their own government. They are not fueled by the idea of an Islamic caliphate without borders; rather, ISIS is the first group since the crushed Al Qaeda to offer these humiliated and enraged young men a way to defend their dignity, family and tribe. This is not radicalization to the ISIS way of life, but the promise of a way out of their insecure and undignified lives; the promise of living in pride as Iraqi Sunni Arabs, which is not just a religious identity, but cultural, tribal and land-based, too.”

The recent killing of four U.S. soldiers in Niger surprised many Americans, but the U.S. has 6,000 troops in 53 countries in Africa, so we should be ready to welcome home flag-draped coffins from seemingly random countries across the continent. But before our deluded leaders reduce the entire continent of Africa to a new U.S. “battlefield,” Americans should take note of a new report published by the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), titled Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping Point for Recruitment.

This report is based on 500 interviews with militants from across Africa. As its title suggests, the interviewers questioned the militants specifically about the “tipping point” that decided each of them to actually join an armed group such as Boko Haram, Al-Shabab or Al Qaeda. By far the largest number (71 percent) said that some kind of “government action,” such as ”killing of a family member or friend” or “arrest of a family member or friend,” was the final straw that pushed them over the red line from civilian life to guerrilla war. By contrast, religious ideology was generally not a decisive factor in that decision.

The report concluded,

“State security-actor conduct is revealed as a prominent accelerator of recruitment, rather than the reverse.”

In its section on “Policy Implications,” it added,

“The Journey to Extremism research provides startling new evidence of just how directly counter-productive security-driven responses can be when conducted insensitively.”

Across the world, it is obvious, and now well-documented, that U.S. aggression and militarism are causing the very problems they claim to be trying to solve. By design or default, U.S. policy is confusing cause and effect to justify military operations that turn civilians into combatants, fueling an ever-escalating, ever-spreading cycle of increasingly global violence and chaos.

As the world confronts critical problems and demands on its resources, from climate change to poverty and inequality, it can no longer afford to follow the pied piper of American “leadership” that leads only to war and chaos.

U.S. leaders often raise the specter of “appeasement” to guilt-trip reluctant allies into supporting U.S.-led wars. But maybe it is time for world leaders to recognize that the real appeasement they have been engaged in is the appeasement of the United States, by actively or tacitly encouraging it in an illegal policy of militarism and serial aggression that is spreading violence and chaos across the world.

Surely the real lesson of the 1930s and the Second World War, now reinforced by the experience of the past 20 years, is that it is not enough to simply sign treaties that prohibit aggression and war crimes. The world must be ready to actually enforce the prohibition against the threat or use of military force in customary international law, the 1928 Kellogg Brand Pact and the U.N. Charter – by uniting peacefully and diplomatically to stand up to U.S. aggression and militarism before they lead to a cataclysmic total war that will kill tens or even hundreds of millions of civilians, in Korea or somewhere else.

Nicolas J. S. Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.  He also wrote the chapter on “Obama at War” in Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.

All images, except the featured, in this article are from the author.

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When Will the West Ever Learn from History?

November 18th, 2017 by Lord Lothian

“I regret the wasted years during which ‘the West lost the Middle East’ but I feel that now maybe the time has come to put all that behind us. In this modern age of horizontal communication we must seek to engage each other more. We can still build a better world” Lord Lothian ([1]).

Amir NOUR ([2]): Your Georgetown University pamphlet titled “How the West Lost the Middle East” became an essential part of Amir Nour’s ([3]) book which has created a real buzz in Algeria and is yielding an increasing interest elsewhere in the world. Such an interest is most probably due to the tragic events unfolding in the Middle East, but also to the “unusual” criticism voiced by a Western politician vis-à-vis the foreign policy of the West in general towards the Middle East. What caused you to adopt the position you outlined in Washington D.C in October 2013?

Lord LOTHIAN ([4]): I have spent much of the last fifteen years immersing myself in the politics of the Middle East and the Magreb, as well as the wider region. My interest was fired by the number of conflicts, real, potential and incipient, which I found within the region beginning with the obvious Israel/Palestine conflict but extending to the divisions within Lebanon, the sectarian divide in Iraq, the wider Sunni/Shia conflict as it emerged from time to time and place to place; and obviously the security implications for the West dramatically brought into focus by 9/11. Current events not only confirm the reasons for my concern but also refocus my increasing concerns that none of us seem to learn from past events and we make avoidable mistakes which only compound our previous errors.

My initial purpose in delivering my Georgetown University lecture was not only to demonstrate how wrong the West had got the Middle East but also how we missed a great opportunity for building a commonwealth of interest between the West and the Arab peoples as the Ottoman Empire disintegrated and are continuing to miss what little remains of that opportunity. I believe however belatedly in being honest about our past in the hope that those who come after us may avoid the same mistakes and could yet build in our modern network world a new relationship between the West and the wider Middle East including the Magreb (the MENA). Given current developments there is an urgent community of interest and a greater need for mutual cooperation than for many years. It would be a tragedy for us all if we ignore it.

AN: Judging by the die-hard approach to the region prevailing among Western politicians – as illustrated, for instance, by your fellow countryman Tony Blair’s recent Bloomberg speech on “Why the Middle East matters”- and elites alike, isn’t one rightly entitled to label you a “Robinson Crusoe” of Western politics with little, if any, impact on the decision-making centres in the U.S. and Europe?

LL: My own personal view of Tony Blair expressed over many years is that he has never had a real grasp of facts and that he has always been more concerned with the effect of what he says than the reality which he should be addressing. Hence his incomprehension that his solidly pro-Israeli stance (along with George W Bush) during the July War in Lebanon in 2006 as Beirut as I witnessed was torn apart could have a damaging impact on Arab perception of him as he was made the Quartet’s Peace Envoy. His whole career – except for Northern Ireland where I pay tribute to his achievement of the Good Friday Agreement – has been based on what appears to amount to self delusion not least in his justification of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. I feel particularly sensitive about this as I was assured in Parliament by him at the time that this was not about regime change (which in international law was illegal) but solely about robust evidence of WMD on the basis of which I called on my Party to support him only to find out later that I had been misled. I therefore take what he says about the Middle East with a very large pinch of salt, as I do much of the justifications offered for what has followed. I must gently question also what he has achieved as Envoy in the Middle East. The answer is ‘not much’. As for being Robinson Crusoe I can’t judge what impact if any my thoughts and lectures might have. That doesn’t mean in this network world that they are not worth thinking and delivering. It might be easier to remain silent on many of these issues; it doesn’t mean that it is right to do so and it certainly isn’t courageous. The lone voice may not always immediately be heard, but over time it can show its worth.

AN: What’s your response to those critics according to whom, your “brave” stance is conceived from a Realpolitik perspective, i.e. from the title chosen deploring the “loss” of the Middle East, to the insistence on “perceptions” rather than “realities”, and the concluding remarks highlighting the wish to “win back”, one day, the “lost region”, your pamphlet simply reproduces the Western conventional wisdom on Middle East affairs?

LL: Cynicism and scepticism are the traditional and easily discharged weapons of the critics. After forty years in politics they do not bother me. The details of the criticisms set out in this question arise from a misunderstanding of nuance, one which was not lost on my Georgetown audience with their historic perception of winning friends and influencing people. I also needed to find a snappy title to engage American interest – which it did. When I speak of ‘winning back’ I am referring to hearts and minds and trust which in 1916 we might have achieved but which through our subsequent actions we comprehensively squandered and which hopefully it is not yet to late to begin to win back. In truth therefore it wasn’t so much that the West lost the Middle East but that it never had it to lose in the first place. Failure to win might have been a more accurate description but it would not have caught the attention that my title has. Claiming as the critics do that my lecture simply reproduces the Western conventional wisdom on Middle East affairs sits strangely with the criticism I have received from western pundits who feel that I have been most unfair to the West. Being criticised by both sides is not a bad place to be.

AN: As once famously stated by your other illustrious fellow countryman, Lord Palmerston, international relations are all about the defense of national interests. Don’t you think therefore that the West only cares about its own interests and sides with whoever guarantees the prevalence of these interests in the Middle East, be it a Sunni or a Shia “partner”?

LL: International relations are traditionally and rightly about the pursuit of national interests, but it is a frequently made mistake to equate that with selfish or simply material interests. Part of the West’s error over the last hundred years in the region has been to secure material interests at the expense of losing valuable friendships. My argument is that this has not worked, that in the end national interests have not been served. I do however believe that it is not and should never be for the West to take sides in the age old religious divide between Sunni and Shia. That is why I am so anxious that we should not again become embroiled ourselves in this re-emerging conflict.

AN: You are critical of the West’s use of unfortunate terminology such as “War on terror”, “Shock and Awe”, “collateral damage”. Yet, according to some, you yourself seem to fall into that same language trap when using terms like “Islamism”, “jihad” -which are frequently equated with “terrorism”-, and “Arab Street”. What’s your take on that?

LL: I was always critical of the use of the phrase ‘war on terror’. Wars are fought between armies and protagonists. The reaction to 9/11 was the pursuit of the perpetrators of a heinous crime in which the victims were not enemies but innocent folk of many nationalities and religious confessions. Describing the pursuit of those evil criminals as a war gave them a status and a credibility which they certainly yearned for but equally certainly did not deserve. Terrorism is the use of fear resulting from a violent act to secure political ends. It is a form of blackmail. It is not war, and to describe it as such gave it a kudos which in turn helped it to radicalise and recruit gullible young to their evil cause. ‘Shock and Awe’ I decry as unhelpfully propagandist and designed to scare. It is part of an alienating and unnecessary rhetoric. ‘Collateral damage’ I condemn as being a mealy mouthed attempt to cover up the truth that innocent people are getting caught in the crossfire and are getting severely injured or killed. This is particularly the case in relation to Drones. It is basically intended to deceive. I was surprised to find the term ‘Arab Street’ being included amongs the criticised terminology. It was a term introduced to me by a number of Arab intellectuals many years ago to distinguish the ordinary Arab – what we in Britain would call the man in the street – from their rulers who may be motivated by more personal ambitions.

AN: You equally denounce the West’s double standards and other political inconsistencies in terms of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Aren’t you just sharing in that policy when you endorse the Israeli “stubborn democracy” -branded as Apartheid by former President Jimmy Carter – and dismiss the so-called “Arab spring”-by reducing it to an adventure (in Libya) or a “Jihadist” drive (in Syria), without even mentioning the Tunisian democratic experience. The latter criticism seems all the more significant since you are the co-chair of the British Council Hammamet Conference?

LL: My criticism of the ‘Arab Spring’ is not so much about its conceptual meaning but about its outturn and the rash and unconsidered hopes that the West invested in it without doing any due diligence on it. Tunisia has certainly pulled through, not without some difficulty, and is making sound progress. The West however originally welcomed the phenomenon as the birth of liberal democracy within the region. In Egypt? In Libya? In Syria? I believe that sadly today the facts speak for themselves and do not need me as an advocate.

AN: The book rightfully warned of territorial disintegration and sectarian conflicts within the Muslim world. Because of the ongoing de facto partition of Iraq, red flags are being raised elsewhere in the region. How best do you think these looming threats can be countered efficiently?

LL: The situation in Syria/Iraq is so fluid that I have avoided making substantial comments upon it other than to assert that it would be a mistake for the West to become militarily involved in either country as once again it would add to the problem rather than resolve it. ISIS is a concern to the West because of its capacity to recruit western based Muslims therefore spreading the security risk to those western countries as well. But the ISIS problem is largely a regional one and must be resolved within the region by the region itself. Western intervention would be counterproductive.

AN: Following the success of your Georgetown conference, do you intend to write some kind of a follow-up work in the future?

LL: I have given another wider lecture recently called ‘When will we ever learn’. It can be downloaded from the Global Strategy Forum website ([5]).

AN: Any final words to the Algerian and international audiences?

LL: I regret the wasted years during which ‘the West lost the Middle East’ but I feel that now maybe the time has come to put all that behind us. In this modern age of horizontal communication we must seek to engage each other more. We can still build a better world.

Notes

[1] The conversation took place on July 5th, 2014.

[2] Algerian researcher in international relations, author of the book « L’Orient et l’Occident à l’heure d’un nouveau Sykes-Picot » (“The Orient and the Occident in time of a new Sykes-Picot”), Editions Alem El Afkar, Algiers, 2014.  He is a fervent advocate of the henceforth vital “dialogue of civilizations”, the alternative option of which in today’s increasingly globalized and polarized world, is a catastrophic “clash of civilizations.

[3] Downloadable free of charge, in French and Arabic languages, by clicking on the following links: Http://www.mezghana.net/amir-nour.pdf (French version)

and Http://www.mezghana.net/Sykes-Picot.jadeed-REAL.LAST.pdf (Arabic version).

[4] Lord Lothian PC DL, (formerly Michael Ancram) is the first Chairman of Global Strategy Forum (An open forum, founded in 2006 and dedicated to the promotion of fresh thinking and active debate on foreign affairs, defence and international security issues. It is an independent, non-party political organisation. It publishes commissioned research and holds a series of lectures and debates seeking the views of leading politicians, academics and opinion formers, both in Britain and internationally). Lord Lothian served in the Conservative Government and from 2001 to 2005 held the portfolios of Deputy Leader, Shadow Foreign Secretary and Shadow Defence Secretary. He served on the House of Commons Intelligence Select Committee until he stood down from Parliament at the May 2010 General Election. On 22nd November 2010, he was created a Conservative life peer as Baron Kerr of Monteviot, of Monteviot in Roxburghshire, and was introduced in the House of Lords the same day.

[5] See :  https://www.globalstrategyforum.org/wp-content/uploads/Lord-Lothian-EI-lecture-2June2014.pdf

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VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: 

stephenlendman.org 

(Home – Stephen Lendman). 

Contact at [email protected].

On Thursday, Russia and Washington faced off in a Security Council debate with dueling resolutions on extending the OPCW/UN Joint Investigation Mechanism (JIM).

Its mandate expires on November 17. A previous article explained what’s going on as follows:

Damascus is falsely blamed for CW use, despite no evidence proving it.

Russia wants the JIM extended until May 16, 2018. Washington proposed another 24 months.

The sinister US text includes a provision for invoking the UN Charter’s Chapter VII, authorizing “action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

Russia strongly opposes efforts to escalate conflict in Syria or anywhere else. US policy is polar opposite, using the JIM report on last April’s Khan Sheikhoun incident as justification for its imperial aims – wanting endless war in Syria for regime change, not resolution.

JIM report conclusions were biased, distorted and one-sided. OPCW inspectors never visited sites requiring examination.

Russia called its report sloppy and “amateurish,” based on “a layman’s methodology,” lacking credibility. Moscow’s draft SC resolution calls for revising JIM’s conclusions.

Work done failed to conform to international standards, it said. It called for JIM inspectors to visit Kahn Sheikhoun, site of the alleged incident, and Shayrat airbase, the alleged site where an unproven CW attack was launched – what they failed to do since last April, drawing conclusions based on phony evidence supplied by anti-Syrian sources, including the al-Qaeda-linked White Helmets.

Moscow called for a credible full-scale investigation, according to Chemical Weapons Convention standards, what hasn’t been done so far, rendering the JIM report an attempt to present phony conclusions, lacking credibility.

Washington lied, calling JIM’s findings serious and trustworthy.

Is the Trump administration seeking a pretext for escalated war on Syria, using the UN Charter’s Article VII to justify what’s unjustifiable?

Washington’s phony accusations of Syrian CW use appear to be how it’ll claim the right to strike government military and other targets at a time of its choosing.

On Thursday, Russia and America vetoed each’s others resolutions on this issue.

Russian UN envoy Vassily Nebenzia blasted Washington’s resolution, saying “(t)here was nothing balanced in it.”

It solely aimed to “question the role of Russia in the process of Syrian political settlement.” Before the vote, Nebenzia explained Russophobic UK UN envoy Matthew Rycroft said Moscow “has no place in the political process in Syria.”

US UN envoy Nikki Haley repeated the same disgraceful accusation, saying

“the only thing that today has proved is that Russia cannot be trusted in the political process in Syria.”

“Russia will not be a good and trusted actor because they want control who’s at fault. They want to control what happens. They want to control that area.”

“(T)hey want to work with Iran and Syria to make sure that they have that all under control.”

Fact: Washington wants endless war and regime change, Syrian sovereignty destroyed, along with permanent occupation and control of the country, installing puppet rule to serve its interests.

Fact: Russia wants peace and stability, respect for Syrian sovereignty, its territorial integrity, and right of its people to decide who’ll lead them, free from foreign interference – according to international law.

Haley finds new ways of embarrassing herself, saying by failure to support Washington’s resolution on extending JIM, Russia is “telling the entire world that chemical weapons are okay to use.”

America, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan and Israel share responsibility for CW use in Syria – by terrorists they support.

Damascus is falsely blamed for their high crimes. Not a shred of evidence proves its forces used CWs any time throughout years of conflict.

Clear evidence shows US-supported terrorists used them numerous times.

Washington’s war in Syria is far from resolved, despite important progress made toward liberating the country from its US-supported terrorist scourge.

What dirty trick will the Trump administration come up with next to escalate things? It’s just a matter of time before its next move.

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.”

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The overthrow of the democratically elected President of Ukraine in February 2014 was one of the most important geostrategic occurrences during the past century, because it led to the breakaway from Ukraine of the two regions — Crimea and Donbass — that had been the most opposed to the overthrow, and that had voted over 75% for the President who had been overthrown.

And those two breakaways from Ukraine were then presented in the U.S.-allied “The West” as having resulted from ‘Russian aggression’, which then became punished, first by economic sanctions against Russia, and then by massive NATO military buildups on Russia’s borders. But, now, some of the participants in the coup are going public about the matter, because the people who had hired them cheated even them.

The Italian newspaper Il Giornale, and Italian Mediaset Matrix TV, Chanel 5, issued, on November 15th, confessions by a few of the snipers who on 20 February 2014 fired down into the crowd of “Maidan” demonstrators and police, in order “to sow chaos,” as they say that they had been instructed to do. 

The Georgian mercenary Alexander Revazishvilli said:

“Everyone started shooting two or three shots at a time. It went on for fifteen, twenty minutes. We had no choice. We were ordered to shoot both on the police and the demonstrators, without any difference.”

This account is entirely consistent with the leaked phone-conversation on 26 February 2014 in which Urmas Paet, the investigator whom the EU had assigned to determine whom to blame for the snipers and their massive bloodshed during the overthrow, informed the EU’s Foreign Affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, that the anti-Yanukovych, pro-U.S. and pro-EU side, were to blame, and that Paet had just been informed of this by Petro Poroshenko (who shortly thereafter became elected as Ukraine’s figurehead President). Paet said:

what was quite disturbing, the same oligarch [Poroshenko — and so when he became President he already knew this] told that well, all the evidence shows that the people who were killed by snipers, from both sides, among policemen and people from the streets, [this will shock Ashton, who had just said that Yanukovych had masterminded the killings] that they were the same snipers, killing people from both sides [so, Poroshenko himself knows that his regime is based on a false-flag U.S.-controlled coup d’etat against his predecessor]

Revazishvilli, and the others confessing, have never yet received the $5,000 each, that they say they’d been promised, and so they finally are going public against the person whom they say had actually hired them for the coup. They name him as “Mamuka Mamulashvili, Saakashvili’s military advisor.”

That’s Mikheil Saakashvilli, the U.S.-imposed President of Georgia, during 2008-2013, who, after becoming extremely unpopular in Georgia, and convicted in absentia there for corruption, became subsequently the U.S.-imposed Governor of the Odessa region of Ukraine. He always suppressed speakers of the Russian language (such as Odessans are), in both countries, both of which nations border Russia (which is why the U.S. regime especially wants to place its missiles there). He now has no citizenship of any country, because he is outlawed both in his original country, Georgia, and in his adopted country, Ukraine. As being the 30 May 2014 appointed Governor of Odessa (where on 2 May 2014 had been perpetrated by the U.S-imposed regime a horrific massacre of locals there against the coup), he turned out to be too rabid a hater of Russians to be acceptable even to the U.S. regime’s figurehead President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, and so was removed and expelled from Ukraine.

The coup itself had been in preparation by the regime of U.S. President Barack Obama ever since 2011. It was a major plan of Obama but kept secret from the public until the coup was sprung in February 2014, such as is shown in this recorded phone-conversation, where Obama’s agent on Ukraine, Victoria Nuland, tells Obama’s Ukrainian Ambassador, Geoffrey Pyatt, whom to place in charge of Ukraine after the coup will be completed, which occurred 22 days later. The coup itself hired far-right mercenaries from not only Georgia and Lithuania (such as are here confessing to these Italian newsmedia), but also from Israel and unnamed other countries, but above all from Ukraine itself — members of both of Ukraine’s two racist-fascist or idelogically nazi Parties, the Right Sector, and the “Freedom” or “Svoboda,” Party (which latter had previously been called the Social Nationalist Party of Ukraine until the U.S. CIA told them to change their name to “Freedom,” which sounds much better to Americans).

The two heads of the coup, organizing it on the ground in Ukraine, were the Right Sector’s founder Dmitriy Yarosh, and the co-founder of Svoboda, Andriy Parubiy

Parubiy, who had actually planned and led that violence, had hired Mamulashvili and others like him; Parubiy was referred to, even by wikipedia, in this way:

“From December 2013 to February 2014 Parubiy was a commandant of Euromaidan.[16] He was coordinator of the volunteer security corps [i.e.: of the mercenaries] for the mainstream protesters.[17].”

In addition, there were paid ‘protesters,’ to add mere bodies and voices to the crowds. And, “Parubiy co-led the Orange Revolution in 2004.” That was a straightforward CIA operation. So, Parubiy was an expert at organizing a coup for Washington. But, the people who now are going public about their participations in the coup didn’t know anything above the man who had hired them: “Mamuka Mamulashvili, Saakashvili’s military advisor.” In March 2016, Parubiy (the man who had actually hired Mamulashvili and a few others like him) was specially honored and received in Washington as a hero of democracy, by NATO’s PR agency, the Atlantic Council.

All of this is kept secret, from the American public, by the U.S. regime’s ‘news’media. This is important for them to do, because when Obama in 2014 imposed economic sanctions against Russia, and when the U.S. regime’s NATO military alliance against Russia, began sending missiles, troops, and bombers, to and near Russia’s borders in order to ‘defend’ NATO against ‘the Russian threat’ and ‘Russia’s aggression against Ukraine’, it was all ‘justified’ on the basis of that coup’s having been not a coup at all that the U.S. had perpetrated right on Russia’s border, but instead a ‘revolution’ that brought ‘democracy’ to Ukraine by (unconstitutionally) overthrowing Ukraine’s democratically elected President, Viktor Yanukovych.

George Orwell’s 1984 Big Brother is alive and well in ‘the free world’, the ‘democratic West.’ But apparently, Italy isn’t quite as much of a dictatorship as is today’s United States.

This news-report is — like all that I do — being sent free of charge for publication to all U.S. and many of its vassal-nations’ ‘news’media; and, so, if you don’t read about it, or any such news, in the New York Times, or in the New Yorker, or in the Washington Post, or Mother Jones, or National Review, or CNN, or Slate, or the Guardian, or the Independent, or etc., then you know why you don’t.

It’s not because the ‘reporters’ and the editors and managers who hire and fire them, really believe that the coup in Ukraine wasn’t a coup, and that Russia, instead of the U.S., is the world’s ultimate aggressor-nation; it’s instead because they themselves are part of the aggressor-regime, the national government (both public and private) that’s overwhelmingly recognized, by people outside the U.S., to be “the biggest threat to peace” in the entire world.

They know this — that they’re propagandists for America’s dictatorship— but Americans don’t; because the ‘news’ they receive never reports it (just like they never report that they had covered up George W. Bush’s lying about ’Saddam’s WMD’ etc.). The biggest news-stories are therefore the ones that the press won’t report, because the press are a crucial part of the perpetrator-regime itself.

And this is called ‘democracy’. It’s ‘democracies’ such as this that perpetrate such atrocities as Iraq 2003, Libya 2011, Syria since 2012, and Ukraine 2014; and they couldn’t do it without the crucial lying. Up next are Iran, Lebanon, and maybe, finally, Russia itself; and the lying against Russia is and has been nonstop, especially after 2011. Russia lies about small matters such as about sports-doping, but America lies about big matters, such as about which of the two nations is the aggressor against the other. Regarding the serious matters, Russia’s newsmedia are vastly more-honest than are America’s, and should therefore be read in preference to TIME, NYT, WP, CNN, etc. But, of course, none of the U.S. regime’s ‘news’media will allow this fact to be published. And a world-ending nuclear war could result from that.

Ukraine was seized by the U.S. regime as part of the plan to conquer ultimately Russia. This plan crucially includes adding, to NATO, Ukraine — which has Europe’s longest border with Russia. The only way to end that neo-Hitlerite plan is to end NATO now. In the U.S. regime’s ‘news’media, any such proposal cannot be debated, much less advocated. So, wherever you are reading this, is definitely not a part of the regime. It is an authentically free and independent newsmedium, a reliable news-source regarding serious international matters. All the rest — they’re liars; that’s their job.

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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Featured image: The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system stretching for over 2,300 kilometres

The biggest local government pension fund in the UK – Tameside Metropolitan Borough/Greater Manchester (GMPF) – is investing in the most controversial mining initiative of recent years, an investigation by The Ecologist has revealed. Greater Manchester Authorities has as a result of our investigation “queried” the investment with its fund managers.

Adani Enterprises, an Indian corporation, is starting work on the Carmichael mine, which will be the world’s biggest coal mine and is perilously close to the Great Barrier Reef. The £9.3bn company has won the support of the Australian government for the project despite its controversial environmental record in India.

Pension fund

A response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by The Ecologist has confirmed that GMPF has a £357,850 holding in Adani Abbot Point Terminal Pty Ltd, which is part of Adani Enterprises.

The investigation involved sending FOIA requests to all 101 Local Government Pension Schemes and according to the responses the GMPF is the only one with investments in the mining company.

A Stockport Council spokesperson told The Ecologist:

“Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF) administers the pension fund on behalf of all the Greater Manchester Authorities.

“The decisions on what shares and bond investments to buy rests with our external fund managers, who operate within parameters set by GMPF. Both the fund managers and the parameters are reviewed on a regular basis. The council has requested further details on the specific investments queried and is awaiting a formal response from the GMPF Investment Team.”

When contacted about the venture, both Adani Enterprises and the Department of Commerce in India, failed to respond.

Expressing support

The revelation comes at a time when Malcolm Turnbull’s Australian government is being accused of wasting taxpayers’ money on a Commonwealth Aus$1bn loan to Adani to fund a freight rail route in and out of the terminal.

Sam Regester, from Enviromental Justice and Get Up, told Australia’s Network Ten:

“We’re seeing 23 banks from around the world saying they’ll never give a dollar to this project, the only investor we do have is our federal government who are willing to take a billion dollars away from renewable energy, our schools and hospitals to bail out Adani.”

Blair Palese, the Australian CEO of environmental pressure group 350.org, told SBS World News:

“We need to send a message to Malcolm Turnbull that funding a giant coal mine in Queensland makes no sense.”

The mining project has met with significant public opposition. More than 2,000 campaigners took part in a protest at Bondi Beach on the doorstep of the Prime Minister’s Wentworth constituency. They assembled to form the words STOP ADANI on the sand. This was just one of 45 protests held across the country during a day of action in October. There are currently 160 Stop Adani groups nationwide.

Uranium supplies

More than half of Australians oppose the mine, with only 26 percent expressing support, according to a recent poll from Reachtel. Two thirds of those polled oppose the Aus$1bn loan from the Commonwealth for the freight line.

Environmental protestors have been battling the Adani project for more than five years, claiming it will destroy parts of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The port is to be used for coal and uranium exports back to India.

Steven Ciobo, the Australian Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister has however confirmed that all approvals for the project are now in place and “it is certainly moving forward”.

The company overcame two legal cases when a court in Brisbane threw out green campaigners’ and a local landowner’s appeals against the mine.

The regulatory constraints for the export of Australian uranium to India have also been waived, with the vocal support of the trade minister.

“We are engaging with the Indian Commerce Ministry on free trade agreement,” he has said. India has 22 nuclear power stations in operation, all hungry for uranium supplies.

Inundated storage 

Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Queensland Governor, also spoke to Network Ten. He said:

“Regional Queensland is hurting and we will do anything we can to get people back into work.”

Unemployment rates in some areas Northern Queensland have reached 10 percent, with up to one in four young people out of work. The promise of thousands of new jobs are proving popular with business leaders.

Adani has invested £2.1bn on the Abbot Point port so far and preparatory work for the actual mine is in full swing. Work was scheduled to commence late last month. The first consignment is set to be shipped to India in March 2020.

In April this year, the company hit the headlines in Australia following a spill in the 5,000-hectare wetlands of Abbot Point that are home to more than 40,000 shore birds.

A Queensland government report confirmed the spill at Adani’s Abbot Point contaminated the wetlands with coal deposits during Cyclone Debbie, which inundated storage ponds at the facility. Adani has now been ordered to monitor the Caley Valley wetlands site despite there appearing to be ‘no widespread impact’.

The Stakeholders 

Stakeholders in GMPF include the The University of Manchester, Salford Univeristy, The Care Quality Commission, The Manchester College, Trafford College, Tameside College, Stockport College, Ashton College, Bury College, Oldham College, Rochdale VI Form College, Bolton VI Form College Transport for Greater Manchester, Stagecoach Manchester, Cheetham’s School of Music, National Museum of Labour History, Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, Manchester Centre for the Deaf, Brighter Futures Education Trust, the Care Quality Commission, City South Manchester Housing Trust Limited, South Manchester Law Centre, Tameside, Manchester, Oldham and Stockport Citizens Advice Bureaus, Bolton Metropolitan Council, Bury Metropolitan Council, Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council, Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council,and 22 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) from Devon and Cornwall through to Northumbria.

Jan Goodey is a regular contributor to the Ecologist.

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Here are startling figures. The British government believes up to 850 Britons left the country to fight with the Islamic State. Over 400 of them have returned home. Of them, only 54 have been convicted of crimes. The rest have been left free to “reintegrate.”

If this seems crazy, here’s the rationale as described by the Telegraph:

“So far, only a small proportion have been prosecuted and counterterrorism officials have said it can be difficult to find evidence that they committed crimes in the war zones of Syria and Iraq.”

Max Hill QC has been the brains providing the intellectual backing for such policies. He is the government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. Of returning fighters, he said that Britons who had “traveled out of a sense of naivety, possibly with some brainwashing along the way, possibly in their mid-teens and who return in a sense of utter disillusionment” should be kept out of the court system.

The Telegraph also reported on October 29 that “the Home Office is looking at a new strategy to reintegrate extremists that could even see them propelled to the top of council house waiting lists if needed.” They could even have their rent paid by the taxpayer. “We are planning a number of pilots to explore the best way to diverting such people from terrorism and extremist activity,” said an unnamed source.

On the other side of the fence sits Tory Member of Parliament Rory Stewart, famous for his travel books on Afghanistan and Iraq, who says nearly all British Islamic State fighters “should be killed.” Vocal alongside him is Col. Richard Kemp, a former government counterterrorism adviser, who says giving incentives to those who traveled overseas to fight with the Islamic State is “obscene.” As reported by the Telegraph, Kemp told an audience:

I think it’s a very much mistaken policy. When you look at the profile of many of the people who have been involved in terrorist attacks in the UK, or traveled overseas, they do not come from deprived backgrounds. …

If someone is inclined to be an extremist, you are not going to bribe them into not being a terrorist. It’s not going to change them.

At the end of the day—whether returning jihadists are traitors, whether their citizenship should be removed, whether they should be jailed or killed, whether economic incentives can prevent extremism—the figures remain the same. Of the approximately 400 British jihadists who have returned, around 350 of them are free to return to “normal” lives.

The Bible has a perfect description for behavior like this. The book of Hosea describes many of the afflictions of Britain (or in biblical language—Ephraim—as you can prove here) in the latter days. In Hosea 5:11, it says that

“Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment.” A few chapters later, it continues, “Ephraim is like a dove, easily deceived and senseless” (Hosea 7:11; New International Version).

British citizens fly to the Middle East to join a group known for some of the most brutal violence the world has seen since World War ii. Beheadings, torture, mass rapes, cage drownings, and forced cannibalism are just some of their calling cards. Then, whether or not it is known if they participated in the brutality, they return to their home country, their only official punishment being put on some formal terrorist “watch list.” Yes, Hosea’s descriptions of Britain as “broken in judgment” and “easily deceived and senseless” are a perfect match.

Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry writes about this description in his booklet Hosea: Reaping the Whirlwind. “Britain may look good on the surface. But God says in [Hosea 7:8] that it is like a ‘cake not turned’—already burned out underneath. British society lacks any real substance. We are, even now, witnessing this great calamity in Britain, the United States, and other Israelitish nations. Serious crises are going to make our nations crumble suddenly, like a burned-out cake! It will dumbfound the world.”

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Who Gets to Push the Nuclear Button?

November 18th, 2017 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

William Binney is the former National Security Agency (NSA) official who created NSA’s mass surveillance program for digital information. He says that if the Russian government had conspired with Trump, hacked the Democratic National Committee’s computer, or in any way influenced the outcome of the last US presidential election, the National Security Agency would have the digital evidence. The fact that we have been listening to the unsubstantiated charges that comprise “Russiagate” for more than one year without being presented with a scrap of evidence is complete proof that Russiagate is entirely fake news.  

The fake news originated with CIA director John Brennan and FBI director Comey conspiring with the DNC in an effort to discredit and unseat President Trump and at a minimum prevent him from damaging the vast power and profit of the military/security complex by normalizing relations with Russia.  

Consider what this means. The directors of the CIA and FBI made up a totally false story about a newly elected President and fed the lies to the presstitutes and Congress. The presstitutes never asked for a drop of evidence and enlarged the Brennan/Comey lie with a claim that all 17 US intelligence agencies had concluded that Russia had interfered. In actual fact, a handful of carefully selected people in three of the agencies had prepared, perhaps under duress, a conditional report that had no evidence behind it.  

That it was fake news created to control President Trump was completely obvious, but corrupt security officials, corrupt senators and representatives, a corrupt DNC, and corrupt media used constant repetition to turn a lie into truth.

Here is BinneySee this also.   

Having shoved Trump into the militarist camp, his enemies have turned on Trump as an unstable, volatile person who might push the button. Senator Bob Corker (R, TN) and Senator Chris Murphy (D,CT) are using the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to portray President Trump as a quixotic person who shouldn’t have his finger on the nuclear button. We have gone full circle, from Trump who wants to defuse nuclear tensions to Trump who might push the button.

If Senators Corker and Murphy were really concerned and not just orchestrating a new way to attack Trump, they would bring out the fact that Russiagate is a hoax that has made nuclear war more likely. As I have pointed out, Washington has convinced Moscow that Washington is planning a surprise nuclear attack on Russia and also collecting Russian DNA for a tailored Russian-specific bio-weapon. I cannot think of anything more likely to trigger nuclear war than the escalated tensions that Russiagate is preventing Trump from reducing. See this.   

For the record, contrary to the erroneous assertions of “nuclear experts,” the president cannot simply order a nuclear attack. The president either has to accept a Joint Chiefs war plan and order a launch when the military is ready, or he has to accept the advice of his national security adviser to launch in retaliation for incoming enemy ICBMs. If a president simply ordered a nuclear strike, he would be ignored.

If it is not the president who must make the nuclear decision, who is it to be? The military? We should be thankful that that was not the case when the Joint Chiefs pressured President John F. Kennedy to approve a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union.

The question who should have launch authority is an easy one to answer. No one.  

If nuclear missiles are incoming, launching does not protect you. You are already going to be destroyed. Why destroy the other side of the world in an act of revenge. It is pointless.

There is no such thing as a preemptive strike that prevents retaliation. 

Nuclear war is an act of insanity. Nothing can justify it.

The purpose of diplomacy is to prevent war. However, ever since the Clinton regime attacked Serbia, US diplomacy has been used to cause wars. During the 16-years of George W. Bush and Obama the US destroyed in whole or part seven countries, killing and maiming millions of peoples and producing millions of refugees. Not a single one of these wars was justified. Everyone of these wars was based in lies. The last US government that showed any respect at all for truth was the George H. W. Bush administration.

Before launching each of these acts of unprovoked aggression, Washington demonized the leader of the country. To get rid of one person, Washington did not flinch at murdering large numbers of people and destroying the infrastructure of the country. This tells you that Washington has no morality. None. Zilch. Therefore, Washington is capable of launching a preemptive nuclear strike. Back when nuclear weapons were puny by today’s standards, Washington nuked two Japanese cities while Japan was trying to surrender. That was in 1945, a lifetime away.  Whatever bits of morality that still existed then are long gone today.

Today a CNN editor-at-large named Chris Cillizza, published online an article titled, “There’s a massive moral vacuum in the country right now.” At last, I thought, a presstitute has realized that Washington’s constant nuclear threats against other countries shows a complete disrespect for the life of the planet and indicates a moral vacuum. But no, the presstitute is talking about sexual harassment, especially that of Roy Moore in the 1970s. And it is all Trump’s fault.  How can he lead when he harasses women himself?  

President Trump intended to normalize relations with the other major nuclear power. He has been prevented from doing so by the military/security complex, the DNC, and the presstitutes.  

Cillizza says sexual harassment is a “very big” consequence of Trump’s election. I am left wondering if CNN’s editor-at-large considers nuclear war to be as serious as sexual harassment.

This article was originally published by Paul Craig Roberts Institute for Political Economy.

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Trump and the Nuclear Option: The Fiction of Sanity

November 18th, 2017 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

It had not happened in decades. On Tuesday, members of the US Congress gathered to consider the scope of presidential power in launching a nuclear strike. The state of the mind of the current president was very much at the forefront of the discussion, even if some present preferred not to name him specifically.

One senator who was fairly frank about his concerns was Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut, giving more than a hint where some members were coming from.

“We are concerned that the president of the United States is so unstable, so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic, that he might order a nuclear strike that is wildly out of step with US interests.”

Of the procession of experts consulted on the matter, Peter Feaver of Duke University was of some interest.

“Let me start with a simple but important question,” came the query from Sean Illing of Vox. “Can the President unilaterally launch a nuclear strike?”[1]

Feaver was cautious, preferring to consider the issue in terms of logistical matters, and legal authority. To that “precise point” the answer was “no”. “He requires other people to carry out an order, so he can’t just lean on a button and automatically missiles fly.” But in a legal and political sense, the President had “authority on his own to given an order that would cause other people to take steps which would result in a nuclear strike.”

Illing pressed further, wanting a scenario where a strike might be called for. Feaver’s description is that of a complex of mass preparatory killing in action. Consider the instance where the president is woken up in the middle of the night. He has a mere 30 minutes or less to make a decision about using the nuclear option, either because the US has been attacked or will be attacked.

By that point, “hundreds if not thousands of people in the national security complex” would have evaluated, examined and abided by protocols, awaiting an answer from the executive. Feaver speaks with instrumental precision: “the system is designed to be able to carry out an order in that narrow time span, and he alone would have the legal authority to give that order if he’s still alive.”

A second scenario was also supplied: that of the errant president itching to call for a strike “in the middle of the night”. (Interesting how these desires lie dormant during the day.) “Hey, I wanna do a nuclear strike,” comes the seemingly unhinged request. The response from this same mass security complex might be more critical. “Well,” they would ask, “what is this? Why are we doing this?” A good number would have to affirm the decision’s soundness.

Feaver’s assumption here is of a smooth, functioning system that neutralises the madman, corners the poor decision. Soldiers, for instance are “trained to disobey illegal orders, so context matters.” Presumptions of legality may exist, or otherwise. A nuclear strike ordered “with no context, no crisis, no alert” casts no presumption of legality. “Alarms,” claims Feaver, would go off “throughout the system”.

Retired General Robert Kehler, formerly the commander of US Strategic Command, added more meat to the bone in suggesting that the military might well refuse to follow an order deemed illegal. No one, however, was any the wiser how that process would unfold.

Senators claiming that Trump is not stable in terms of how he would handle a nuclear strike ignore the fact that anyone who contemplates such a move is bound to have his sanity questioned to begin with. Their grievance is with what form of insanity is most suited for the occasion.

Feaver did, at the very least, admit that a closer “look at nuclear command and control” was due, even if sceptical about “legislative fixes” that would hem in presidential power. (Congress, as ever, is regarded with suspicion in times of nuclear catastrophe – best leave it to the more fleet-footed president.)

The annihilating nature of nuclear war, in its very realisation, renders its use an act of insanity. But such insanity is built into the military industrial complex. It is measured, gauged and dolled out in portions. What this grand nuclear military process is supposedly meant to do is administer it cautiously, a rationalised nonsense, if ever there was one.

This shines light on a perverse point: the security establishments of the world where nuclear weapons are still present make it mandatory to assume that use might well be urgent. They couch this as a precautionary principle in terms of safe guards, rational actors and oversight, the false comforts of credible theory. Again, such measures are fairly meaningless where momentum is in place, and will unwavering.

The only genuinely sane appraisal in terms of a nuclear option is not to have one. To date, the only leading politician in a nuclear state who has made it clear he will not use his country’s nuclear option should he become prime minister is Jeremy Corbyn of the British Labour Party. And how the chicken hawks greeted that decision, deeming the man a terrorist for not wanting to engage in an act of mass murder.

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

Note

[1] https://www.vox.com/world/2017/11/17/16656856/trump-congress-nuclear-weapons-war

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Text below is an assessment by Dr. Theodore Postol of the White House Intelligence Report of April 11, 2017, first published by Global Research on April 13, 2017.  Dr. Postol is professor emeritus of Science, Technology, and International Security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

***

Dear Larry,

I am responding to your distribution of what I understand is a White House statement claiming intelligence findings about the nerve agent attack on April 4, 2017 in Khan Shaykhun, Syria. My understanding from your note is that this White House intelligence summary was released to you sometime on April 11, 2017.

I have reviewed the document carefully, and I believe it can be shown, without doubt, that the document does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the US government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria at roughly 6 to 7 a.m. on April 4, 2017.

In fact, a main piece of evidence that is cited in the document points to an attack that was executed by individuals on the ground, not from an aircraft, on the morning of April 4. This conclusion is based on an assumption made by the White House when it cited the source of the sarin release and the photographs of that source. My own assessment, is that the source was very likely tampered with or staged, so no serious conclusion could be made from the photographs cited by the White House.

However, if one assumes, as does the White House, that the source of the sarin was from this location and that the location was not tampered with, the most plausible conclusion is that the sarin was dispensed by an improvised dispersal device made from a 122 mm section of rocket tube filled with sarin and capped on both sides.

The only undisputable facts stated in the White House report is the claim that a chemical attack using nerve agent occurred in Khan Shaykhun, Syria on that morning. Although the White House statement repeats this point in many places within its report, the report contains absolutely no evidence that this attack was the result of a munition being dropped from an aircraft. In fact, the report contains absolutely no evidence that would indicate who was the perpetrator of this atrocity.

The report instead repeats observations of physical effects suffered by victims that with very little doubt indicate nerve agent poisoning.

The only source the document cites as evidence that the attack was by the Syrian government is the crater it claims to have identified on a road in the North of Khan Shaykhun.

I have located this crater using Google Earth and there is absolutely no evidence that the crater was created by a munition designed to disperse sarin after it is dropped from an aircraft. The Google Earth map shown in Figure 1 at the end of this text section shows the location of that crater on the road in the north of Khan Shaykhun, as described in the White House statement.

The data cited by the White House is more consistent with the possibility that the munition was placed on the ground rather than dropped from a plane. This conclusion assumes that the crater was not tampered with prior to the photographs. However, by referring to the munition in this crater, the White House is indicating that this is the erroneous source of the data it used to conclude that the munition came from a Syrian aircraft.

Analysis of the debris as shown in the photographs cited by the White House clearly indicates that the munition was almost certainly placed on the ground with an external detonating explosive on top of it that crushed the container so as to disperse the alleged load of sarin.

Since time appears to be of the essence here, I have put together the summary of the evidence I have that the White House report contains false and misleading conclusions in a series of figures that follow this discussion. Each of the figures has a description below it, but I will summarize these figures next and wait for further inquiries about the basis of the conclusions I am putting forward herein.

Figure 1 shows a Google Earth image of the northeast corner of Khan Shaykhun where the crater identified as the source of the sarin attack and referred to in the White House intelligence report is located.

Also shown in the Google Earth image is the direction of the wind from the crater. At 3 AM the wind was going directly to the south at a speed of roughly 1.5 to 2.5 m/s. By 6 AM the wind was moving to the southeast at 1 to 2 m/s. The temperature was also low, 50 to 55°F near the ground. These conditions are absolutely ideal for a nerve agent attack.

When the temperature near the ground is low, and there is no sun and very slow winds, the dense cool air stays close to the ground and there is almost no upward motion of the air. This condition causes any particles, droplets, or clouds of dispersed gas to stay close to the ground as the surrounding air moves over the ground. We perceive this motion as a gentle breeze on a calm morning before sunrise.

One can think of a cloud of sarin as much like a cloud of ink generated by an escaping octopus. The ink cloud sits in the water and as the water slowly moves, so does the cloud. As the cloud is moved along by the water, it will slowly spread in all directions as it moves. If the layer of water where the ink is embedded moves so as to stay close to the ocean floor, the cloud will cover objects as it moves with the water.

This is the situation that occurs on a cool night before sunrise when the winds move only gently. Figures 5 and 6 show tables that summarize the weather at 3 hour intervals in Khan Shaykun on the day of the attack, April 4, the day before the attack, April 3, and the day after the attack, April 5. The striking feature of the weather is that there were relatively high winds in the morning hours on both April 3 and April 5. If the gas attack were executed either the day before or the day after in the early morning, the attack would have been highly ineffective. The much higher winds would have dispersed the cloud of nerve agent and the mixing of winds from higher altitudes would have caused the nerve agent to be carried aloft from the ground. It is therefore absolutely clear that the time and day of the attack was carefully chosen and was no accident.

Figure 2 shows a high quality photograph of the crater identified in the White House report as the source of the sarin attack. Assuming that there was no tampering of evidence at the crater, one can see what the White House is claiming as a dispenser of the nerve agent.

The dispenser looks like a 122 mm pipe like that used in the manufacture of artillery rockets. As shown in the close-up of the pipe in the crater in Figure 3, the pipe looks like it was originally sealed at the front end and the back end. Also of note is that the pipe is flattened into the crater, and also has a fractured seam that was created by the brittle failure of the metal skin when the pipe was suddenly crushed inward from above.

Figure 4 shows the possible configuration of an improvised sarin dispersal device that could have been used to create the crater and the crushed carcass of what was originally a cylindrical pipe. A good guess of how this dispersal mechanism worked (again, assuming that the crater and carcass were not staged, as assumed in the White House report) was that a slab of high explosive was placed over one end of the sarin-filled pipe and detonated.

The explosive acted on the pipe as a blunt crushing mallet. It drove the pipe into the ground while at the same time creating the crater. Since the pipe was filled with sarin, which is an incompressible fluid, as the pipe was flattened the sarin acted on the walls and ends of the pipe causing a crack along the length of the pipe and also the failure of the cap on the back end. This mechanism of dispersal is essentially the same as hitting a toothpaste tube with a large mallet, which then results in the tube failing and the toothpaste being blown in many directions depending on the exact way the toothpaste skin ruptures.

If this is in fact the mechanism used to disperse the sarin, this indicates that the sarin tube was placed on the ground by individuals on the ground and not dropped from an airplane.

Figure 8 shows the improvised sarin dispenser along with a typical 122 mm artillery rocket and the modified artillery rocket used in the sarin attack of August 21, 2013 in Damascus.

 

 

 

At that time (August 30, 2013) the Obama White House also issued an intelligence report containing obvious inaccuracies. For example, that report stated without equivocation that the sarin carrying artillery rocket used in Damascus had been fired from Syrian government controlled areas. As it turned out, the particular munition used in that attack could not go further than roughly 2 km, very far short of any boundary controlled by the Syrian government at that time. The White House report at that time also contained other critical and important errors that might properly be described as amateurish. For example, the report claimed that the locations of the launch and impact of points of the artillery rockets were observed by US satellites. This claim was absolutely false and any competent intelligence analyst would have known that.

The rockets could be seen from the Space-Based Infrared Satellite (SBIRS) but the satellite could absolutely not see the impact locations because the impact locations were not accompanied by explosions. These errors were clear indicators that the White House intelligence report had in part been fabricated and had not been vetted by competent intelligence experts.

This same situation appears to be the case with the current White House intelligence report. No competent analyst would assume that the crater cited as the source of the sarin attack was unambiguously an indication that the munition came from an aircraft. No competent analyst would assume that the photograph of the carcass of the sarin canister was in fact a sarin canister. Any competent analyst would have had questions about whether the debris in the crater was staged or real. No competent analyst would miss the fact that the alleged sarin canister was forcefully crushed from above, rather than exploded by a munition within it. All of these highly amateurish mistakes indicate that this White House report, like the earlier Obama White House Report, was not properly vetted by the intelligence community as claimed.

I have worked with the intelligence community in the past, and I have grave concerns about the politicization of intelligence that seems to be occurring with more frequency in recent times – but I know that the intelligence community has highly capable analysts in it. And if those analysts were properly consulted about the claims in the White House document they would have not approved the document going forward.

I am available to expand on these comments substantially. I have only had a few hours to quickly review the alleged White House intelligence report. But a quick perusal shows without a lot of analysis that this report cannot be correct, and it also appears that this report was not properly vetted by the intelligence community.

This is a very serious matter.

President Obama was initially misinformed about supposed intelligence evidence that Syria was the perpetrator of the August 21, 2013 nerve agent attack in Damascus. This is a matter of public record.

President Obama stated that his initially false understanding was that the intelligence clearly showed that Syria was the source of the nerve agent attack. This false information was corrected when the then Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, interrupted the President while he was in an intelligence briefing. According to President Obama, Mr. Clapper told the President that the intelligence that Syria was the perpetrator of the attack was “not a slamdunk.”

The question that needs to be answered by our nation is how was the president initially misled about such a profoundly important intelligence finding? A second equally important question is how did the White House produce an intelligence report that was obviously flawed and amateurish that was then released to the public and never corrected? The same false information in the intelligence report issued by the White House on August 30, 2013 was emphatically provided by Secretary of State John Kerry in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee!

We again have a situation where the White House has issued an obviously false, misleading and amateurish intelligence report.

The Congress and the public have been given reports in the name of the intelligence community about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, technical evidence supposedly collected by satellite systems that any competent scientists would know is false, and now from photographs of the crater that any analyst who has any competent at all would not trust as evidence.

It is late in the evening for me, so I will end my discussion here.

I stand ready to provide the country with any analysis and help that is within my power to supply. What I can say for sure herein is that what the country is now being told by the White House cannot be true and the fact that this information has been provided in this format raises the most serious questions about the handling of our national security.

Sincerely Yours,

Theodore A. Postol

***

APPENDIX

Selected Quotes from the White House Report

The United States is confident that the Syrian regime conducted a chemical weapons attack, using the nerve agent sarin.

We have confidence in our assessment because we have signals intelligence and geospatial intelligence, laboratory analysis of physiological samples collected from multiple victims, as well as a significant body of credible open source reporting, that tells a clear and consistent story.

We assess that Damascus launched this chemical attack in response to an opposition offensive in northern Hamah Province that threatened key infrastructure. Senior regime military leaders were probably involved in planning the attack.

Shaykhun at 6:55 AM local time on April 4

Our information indicates that the chemical agent was delivered by regime Su-22 fixed-wing aircraft

Our information indicates personnel historically associated with Syria’s chemical weapons program were at Shayrat Airfield in late March making preparations for an upcoming attack in Northern Syria, and they were present at the airfield on the day of the attack.

Hours after the April 4 attack, there were hundreds of accounts of victims presenting symptoms consistent with sarin exposure,

Commercial satellite imagery from April 6 showed impact craters around the hospital that are consistent with open source reports of a conventional attack on the hospital after the chemical attack.

An open source video also shows where we believe the chemical munition landed—not on a facility filled with weapons, but in the middle of a street in the northern section of Khan Shaykhun. Commercial satellite imagery of that site from April 6, after the allegation, shows a crater in the road that corresponds to the open source video.

observed munition remnants at the crater and staining around the impact point are consistent with a munition fthat functioned

Last November, for instance, senior Russian officials used an image from a widely publicized regime chemical weapons attack in 2013 on social media platforms to publicly allege chemical weapons use by the opposition.

We must remember that the Assad regime failed to adhere to its international obligations after its devastating attacks on Damascus suburbs using the nerve agent sarin in August 2013, which resulted in more than one thousand civilian fatalities, many of whom were children. The regime agreed at that time to fully dismantle its chemical weapons program, but this most recent attack

[Complete] White House Intelligence Report Provided To Me [Author] on April 11, 2017 [Full text of Report]

The Assad Regime’s Use of Chemical Weapons on April 4, 2017

The United States is confident that the Syrian regime conducted a chemical weapons attack, using the nerve agent sarin, against its own people in the town of Khan Shaykhun in southern Idlib Province on April 4, 2017. According to observers at the scene, the attack resulted in at least 50 and up to 100 fatalities (including many children), with hundreds of additional injuries.

We have confidence in our assessment because we have signals intelligence and geospatial intelligence, laboratory analysis of physiological samples collected from multiple victims, as well as a significant body of credible open source reporting, that tells a clear and consistent story. We cannot publicly release all available intelligence on this attack due to the need to protect sources and methods, but the following includes an unclassified summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s analysis of this attack.

Summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Assessment of the April 4 Attack

The Syrian regime maintains the capability and intent to use chemical weapons against the opposition to prevent the loss of territory deemed critical to its survival. We assess that Damascus launched this chemical attack in response to an opposition offensive in northern Hamah Province that threatened key infrastructure. Senior regime military leaders were probably involved in planning the attack.

A significant body of pro-opposition social media reports indicate that the chemical attack began in Khan Shaykhun at 6:55 AM local time on April 4.

Our information indicates that the chemical agent was delivered by regime Su-22 fixed-wing aircraft that took off from the regime-controlled Shayrat Airfield. These aircraft were in the vicinity of Khan Shaykhun approximately 20 minutes before reports of the chemical attack began and vacated the area shortly after the attack. Additionally, our information indicates personnel historically associated with Syria’s chemical weapons program were at Shayrat Airfield in late March making preparations for an upcoming attack in Northern Syria, and they were present at the airfield on the day of the attack.

Hours after the April 4 attack, there were hundreds of accounts of victims presenting symptoms consistent with sarin exposure, such as frothing at the nose and mouth, twitching, and pinpoint pupils. This constellation of symptoms is inconsistent with exposure to a respiratory irritant like chlorine— which the regime has also used in attacks—and is extremely unlikely to have resulted from a conventional attack because of the number of victims in the videos and the absence of other visible injuries. Open source accounts posted following the attack reported that first responders also had difficulty breathing, and that some lost consciousness after coming into contact with the victims— consistent with secondary exposure to nerve agent.

By 12:15 PM local time, broadcasted local videos included images of dead children of varying ages. Accounts of a hospital being bombed began to emerge at 1:10 PM local, with follow-on videos showing the bombing of a nearby hospital that had been flooded with victims of the sarin attack. Commercial satellite imagery from April 6 showed impact craters around the hospital that are consistent with open source reports of a conventional attack on the hospital after the chemical attack. Later on April 4, local physicians posted videos specifically pointing out constricted pupils (a telltale symptom of nerve agent exposure), medical staff with body suits on, and treatments involving atropine, which is an antidote for nerve agents such as sarin.

We are certain that the opposition could not have fabricated all of the videos and other reporting of chemical attacks. Doing so would have required a highly organized campaign to deceive multiple media outlets and human rights organizations while evading detection. In addition, we have independently confirmed that some of the videos were shot at the approximate times and locations described in the footage.

Further, the World Health Organization stated on April 5 that its analysis of the victims of the attack in Syria showed they had been exposed to nerve agents, citing the absence of external injuries and deaths due to suffocation. Doctors without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres; MSF) said that medical teams treating affected patients found symptoms to be consistent with exposure to a neurotoxic agent such as sarin. And Amnesty International said evidence pointed to an air-launched chemical attack. Subsequent laboratory analysis of physiological samples collected from multiple victims detected signatures of the nerve agent sarin.

Refuting the False Narratives

The Syrian regime and its primary backer, Russia, have sought to confuse the world community about who is responsible for using chemical weapons against the Syrian people in this and earlier attacks. Initially, Moscow dismissed the allegations of a chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun, claiming the attack was a “prank of a provocative nature” and that all evidence was fabricated. It is clear, however, that the Syrian opposition could not manufacture this quantity and variety of videos and other reporting from both the attack site and medical facilities in Syria and Turkey while deceiving both media observers and intelligence agencies.

Moscow has since claimed that the release of chemicals was caused by a regime airstrike on a terrorist ammunition depot in the eastern suburbs of Khan Shaykhun. However, a Syrian military source told Russian state media on April 4 that regime forces had not carried out any airstrike in Khan Shaykhun, contradicting Russia’s claim. An open source video also shows where we believe the chemical munition landed—not on a facility filled with weapons, but in the middle of a street in the northern section of Khan Shaykhun. Commercial satellite imagery of that site from April 6, after the allegation, shows a crater in the road that corresponds to the open source video.

Moscow has suggested that terrorists had been using the alleged ammunition depot to produce and store shells containing toxic gas that they then used in Iraq, adding that both Iraq and international organizations have confirmed the use of such weapons by militants. While it is widely accepted that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has repeatedly used sulfur mustard on the battlefield, there are no indications that ISIS was responsible for this incident or that the attack involved chemicals in ISIS’s possession.

Moscow suggested this airstrike occurred between 11:30 AM and 12:30 PM local time on April 4, disregarding that allegations first appeared on social media close to 7:00 AM local time that morning, when we know regime aircraft were operating over Khan Shaykhun. In addition, observed munition remnants at the crater and staining around the impact point are consistent with a munition that functioned, but structures nearest to the impact crater did not sustain damage that would be expected from a conventional high-explosive payload. Instead, the damage is more consistent with a chemical munition.

The Syrian regime has used other chemical agents in attacks against civilians in opposition held areas in the past, including the use of sulfur mustard in Aleppo in late 2016. Russia has alleged that video footage from April 4 indicated that victims from this attack showed the same symptoms of poisoning as victims in Aleppo last fall, implying that something other than a nerve agent was used in Khan Shaykhun. However, victims of the attack on April 4 displayed tell-tale symptoms of nerve agent exposure, including pinpoint pupils, foaming at the nose and mouth, and twitching, all of which are inconsistent with exposure to sulfur mustard.

Russia’s allegations fit with a pattern of deflecting blame from the regime and attempting to undermine the credibility of its opponents. Russia and Syria, in multiple instances since mid- 2016, have blamed the opposition for chemical use in attacks. Yet similar to the Russian narrative for the attack on Khan Shaykhun, most Russian allegations have lacked specific or credible information. Last November, for instance, senior Russian officials used an image from a widely publicized regime chemical weapons attack in 2013 on social media platforms to publicly allege chemical weapons use by the opposition. In May 2016, Russian officials made a similar claim using an image from a video game. In October 2016, Moscow also claimed terrorists used chlorine and white phosphorus in Aleppo, even though pro-Russian media footage from the attack site showed no sign of chlorine use. In fact, our Intelligence from the same day suggests that neither of Russia’s accounts was accurate and that the regime may have mistakenly used chlorine on its own forces. Russia’s contradictory and erroneous reports appear to have been intended to confuse the situation and to obfuscate on behalf of the regime.

Moscow’s allegations typically have been timed to distract the international community from Syria’s ongoing use of chemical weapons—such as the claims earlier this week—or to counter the findings from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-United Nations (UN) Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), which confirmed in August and October 2016 reports that the Syrian regime has continued to use chemical weapons on multiple occasions long after it committed to relinquish its arsenal in 2013. Russia has also questioned the impartial findings of the JIM—a body that Russia helped to establish—and was even willing to go so far as to suggest that the Assad regime should investigate itself for the use of chemical weapons.

Moscow’s response to the April 4 attack follows a familiar pattern of its responses to other egregious actions; it spins out multiple, conflicting accounts in order to create confusion and sow doubt within the international community.

International Condemnation and a Time for Action

The Assad regime’s brutal use of chemical weapons is unacceptable and poses a clear threat to the national security interests of the United States and the international community. Use of weapons of mass destruction by any actor lowers the threshold for others that may seek to follow suit and raises the possibility that they may be used against the United States, our allies or partners, or any other nation around the world.

The United States calls on the world community in the strongest possible terms to stand with us in making an unambiguous statement that this behavior will not be tolerated. This is a critical moment— we must demonstrate that subterfuge and false facts hold no weight, that excuses by those shielding their allies are making the world a more dangerous place, and that the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons will not be permitted to continue.

We must remember that the Assad regime failed to adhere to its international obligations after its devastating attacks on Damascus suburbs using the nerve agent sarin in August 2013, which resulted in more than one thousand civilian fatalities, many of whom were children. The regime agreed at that time to fully dismantle its chemical weapons program, but this most recent attack—like others before it—are proof that it has not done so. To be clear, Syria has violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the UN Charter, and no drumbeat of nonsensical claims by the regime or its allies can hide this truth. And while it is an embarrassment that Russia has vetoed multiple UN Security Council resolutions that could have helped rectify the situation, the United States intends to send a clear message now that we and our partners will not allow the world to become a more dangerous place due to the egregious acts of the Assad regime.

Theodore A. Postol is a Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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The International Criminal Court (ICC) propagates injustice as stark as slavery or South African apartheid. It’s a Western court that prosecutes Africans exclusively. In June 2011, the ICC engaged in one of its most shocking imperial crusades by indicting Libyan President Muammar al-Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi for crimes against their own people. NATO claimed that the indictments justified destroying Libya with an aerial bombing campaign, and the ICC failed to indict a single NATO commander.

Neither Samantha Power’s histrionics about Libyans facing genocide nor the UN’s preposterous “responsibility to protect” doctrine could disguise NATO’s real goal. Gaddafi had proposed a more assertive African Union with a currency and monetary policy crafted to liberate Africa from neo-colonial economic predators, so Gaddafi had to die. Libya’s national bank and oil company died with him, as did the last of the ICC’s credibility as anything but an instrument for projecting Western imperial power.

Now, six years later, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has announced that she will investigate Burundian officials for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the country’s past three years of civil unrest.

Burundi is a tiny East African nation of 11 million, the fifth poorest in the world, and it’s leaning eastward, building alliances with Russia and China. It is geostrategically situated, bordering Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east, and the hugely resource rich Democratic Republic of Congo to the west.

A Russian firm won the contract to exploit its nickel reserves, which are probably its most valuable resource. Officials said that the Russian firm offered better terms than its Western competitors.

In May 2015, Russia and China blocked a UN Security Council resolution to censure Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza for seeking another term in office—his second or third, depending on one’s interpretation of the Burundian constitution. Russia’s UN Ambassador, the now deceased Vitaly Churkin, told reporters,

“It’s not the business of the Security Council and the UN Charter to get involved in constitutional matters of sovereign states.”

Five months later, on October 27, 2016, Burundi notified the ICC that it intended to withdraw from the court’s jurisdiction in accordance with the will of its Parliament. It completed the process a year later, on October 27, 2017, when it was widely reported that Burundi had become the first nation to leave the ICC. Now, however, a press release on the court’s website states that authorization for the new investigation was issued under seal on October 25, two days before Burundi’s exit, and that the government is therefore legally obliged to cooperate.

I asked John Philpot, international criminal defense attorney and co-author of the anthology “Justice Belied: The Unbalanced Scales of International Criminal Justice,” to comment.

***

John Philpot: This is just another disgraceful episode in the history of the ICC. In June 2011, the court indicted Libyan President Muammar al-Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi for war crimes and crimes against humanity to help NATO whitewash the war of aggression it was waging in Libya. That war started in early March and ended at the end of October, when President Gaddafi was murdered with the blessing of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who said, “I want him dead,” and then cackled, “We came, we saw, he died.” Murdering a prisoner of war is a war crime, according to the Geneva Convention, but the ICC didn’t concern itself with that.

IC Gbagbo Motta eng 195.jpg

President Laurent Gbagbo (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Several months after NATO started bombing Libya, French troops invaded Ivory Coast to support one side of an election dispute. On April 11, they arrested President Laurent Gbagbo, his wife, and a minister.

Mr. Gbagbo is a very interesting figure. He earned his doctorate from Paris Diderot University and, in the 1980s, served as Director of the Institute of History, Art, and African Archeology at the University of Abidjan. He helped found the Ivorian Popular Front, a political party, and vowed to modernize the country by building infrastructure for transportation, communication, clean water, and clean energy. Prior to the NATO war on Libya, he had been collaborating with Gaddafi on the creation of an African currency and monetary policy.

In November 2011, he was transferred to the ICC where his trial for alleged crimes against humanity is set to last until 2022.

There’s a wave of opposition to this kind of judicial domination by the ICC throughout Africa. South Africa, Gambia, and Burundi all said they planned to withdraw, but Burundi is the only one that filed notice and completed the legal process.

African opposition to the ICC’s rush to rope Burundi back in has been resounding. The President of Uganda, who is the current chairman of the East African community, and the President of Tanzania have both denounced the investigation.

It’s an ugly and dangerous attempt to destabilize and destroy the government of Burundi, but the government is strong and united, and I think Africa is going to be united against this as well.

Burundi has been courageously resisting neocolonial aggression for some years. On May 13, 2015, Western-inspired elements of the Burundian military attempted a coup d’état, but most of the army remained loyal, and the coup failed. Then Burundi faced cross border incursions from neighboring Rwanda, a longstanding US ally and military partner.

In December 2015, in response to Western pressure, the African Union proposed a 5000-man military force to occupy Burundi as “peacekeepers.” Burundi responded that this would amount to an invasion and that it would respond militarily. The African Union came to its senses and rejected the idea in January 2016.

This year the Burundian government seemed to be getting a respite, and Burundians even celebrated their newfound freedom from the ICC on October 27, but then Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that the new investigation had been authorized under seal two days earlier.

Bensouda initiated the investigation herself—“propriu motu”—not on the basis of a complaint by the UN Security Council (UNSC) or state parties to the court. Russia, China, or both would no doubt have vetoed any effort to file a complaint from the UNSC.

Former Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo initiated the ICC trials of Uhuru Kenyatta and other Kenyan political leaders, which were rife with NGO-inspired false testimony. They collapsed after wreaking havoc in Kenyan political life.

Burundi has stated that it will neither cooperate nor let ICC investigators enter the country and that it rejects the court’s jurisdiction outright. It will need support against escalating propaganda and demonization.

Ann Garrison: I saw that Human Rights Watch has already applauded the investigation.

JP: Yes, but Burundi has stated that it will begin an international campaign to put an end to the ICC, and we should support that.

AG: Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni have never been investigated by the ICC and most likely never will be because they’ve been so loyal to their Western benefactors, but their horrific crimes in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been well documented for many years. Nevertheless, you wouldn’t want to see the ICC take aim at either of them, would you?

JP: Personally, I would not agree with Kagame or Museveni being tried by the ICC. They should be tried in their own countries by governments that replace them, or by an African criminal court should one be created.

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

AG: We’ve reported here on the African Court of Human and People’s Rights that is now hearing Rwandan political prisoner Victoire Ingabire’s appeal of her conviction and 15-year sentence, but that’s not a criminal court. Could you explain what its purview is?

JP: The African Court of Human and People’s Rights can hear cases arising from the African Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and other human rights instruments. It can also give advisory opinions. For countries who grant the court jurisdiction, we could consider it as a court of final appeal. It is not a criminal court that can prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, or wars of aggression.

AG: Is there any effort underway to create a continental African criminal court?

JP: Yes, on June 27, 2014, the Malabo Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights was adopted by the African Union to provide for a full African Criminal Court for trials of war crimes and other human rights violations, and it includes a full appeal process. The Protocol will come into force after ratification by 15 member states. To date, I believe that nine countries have signed the protocol and none have yet ratified it. This court could have an interesting future if it establishes its independence from non-African agendas.

AG: People have been asking me about the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Could you explain its purview and how it was eclipsed by the international criminal courts including the ICC, ICTY, and ICTR?

JP: The UN Charter defines the International Court of Justice as the primary judicial branch of the United Nations. All of the UN’s sovereign member states are automatically parties. It settles legal disputes between states and provides legal opinions to specified agencies and the UN General Assembly, and its very well-respected, but it has no criminal jurisdiction. It can rule on international law and award damages to aggrieved parties like Nicaragua, which successfully argued that the US had violated its sovereignty, the first principle of international law, by supporting the Contra War against the revolutionary government in the 1980s.

Finding an enforcement mechanism for such judgments is another, still unsolved problem. The US ignored the ICJ judgment and refused to pay damages awarded to Nicaragua, just as Uganda ignored the ICJ judgment that it had violated Congo’s sovereignty, and refused to pay damages for invasion and plunder.

The International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda (ICTR) and the International Criminal Tribunal on Yugoslavia (ICTY) were ad hoc courts imposed by the UN Security Council to judge crimes committed during the wars in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. These were imperial wars and imperial courts designed to create states subservient to empire, mostly de facto US empire, and the ICC has served the same purpose.

Neither Russia nor China resisted these courts, because the United States was so dominant after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but they are using their veto power to resist now. That’s why the US could not get the UNSC to pass resolutions condemning Burundi or Syria or send a complaint against either to the ICC.

All the international criminal courts became propaganda tools for perpetuating Western domination of Africa by demonizing any African leaders who dare to raise an independent head or take steps toward resource sovereignty.

AG: In his essay “The ICC and Afghanistan: The War Crimes Game Continues,” your colleague Christopher C. Black wrote, “The United States, though not a member of the ICC, has established its dominating influence in the staff of the tribunal so that it and its Canadian and EU allies effectively control its machinery, most importantly the prosecution, the administration, and the selection of judges.” Can you confirm?

JP: Mr Black is right. We meet Americans everywhere in these courts although their own nationals are immune from prosecution. Several American prosecutors became United States Ambassadors-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, namely, Pierre Richard Prosper, Stephen Rapp, and John Clint Williamson, and none seemed at all ashamed of the impunity bestowed on the United States. They actually seemed proud of American exceptionalism.

AG: After the new investigation was announced, I read “The ICC’s New Burundi Investigation: Where Is the Court Headed?” by Harvard Law professor Alex Whiting. His bio says that from 2010 to 2013, he was “Investigation Coordinator and then Prosecution Coordinator in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, overseeing all of the ongoing investigations and prosecutions in the Office.”

JP: He’s a perfect example of how the US controls the court.

AG: So what’s the future of the ICC? Any hope of reform?

JP: No. Impunity for the powerful will be the rule as long as this court exists. Tony Blair will never be charged for war crimes in Iraq even though the current leader of his own party, Jeremy Corbyn, has called for his prosecution.

The treaty that created the court, the Rome Statute, proposed that it would eventually be able to charge and prosecute crimes against peace, also known as wars of aggression, once they were defined and member states agreed to the definition. But they’ve never been defined and never will be because the US and its Western allies control the court and they don’t want to land in the dock.

Burundi has taken one step on the path to overcoming this grotesque judicial domination and set an example for the rest of Africa and the world. More human rights NGOs will soon join Human Rights Watch in decrying its withdrawal from the ICC and its refusal to cooperate with the new investigation. Then we’ll need to step up to explain why they’re wrong.

***

Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at [email protected].

John Philpot is an international criminal defense lawyer and co-author of the anthology “Justice Denied: The Unbalanced Scales of International Criminal Justice.” He can be reached at e-mail.address.

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Origins of the Russian “Media Threat”

November 18th, 2017 by Diana Johnstone

It is not hard to imagine a dialogue between Mediacrat, Psyops, Politician and Think Tanker – perhaps sitting around during a coffee break at the annual Bilderberg get together.

Mediacrat: We know the sheeple are stupid and believe everything we tell them over and over and over.

Psyops: That works for sure. Anything that sounds familiar has to be true. That’s how people learn.

Mediacrat: But some of the stuff we’ve been telling people is so far off the wall that even some of the deplorables, you know, the common people, are beginning to have doubts. Weapons of mass destruction, a new Hitler to overthrow every few years, and the more trillions we spend on defense the more threatened we are.  Not clear whether we are overthrowing Middle East regimes for or against Islamic terrorists.  Of course nobody knows where those places are, but what matters is the story line, which gets confused.

Politician: So who cares what the common people think?  So long as we get the money from the oligarchs, we win the elections.

Mediacrat:  Sure, but this doubt is hurting our business.  People don’t buy newspapers any more, some of them even start looking for news elsewhere.  Besides, if money wins elections it’s also because the money is us!  We are the voice of big money! We do more to elect you than you do yourselves.

Politician: That’s not fair.  I lie as much as you do, even more.

Think Tanker:  Wait a minute.  I’m the one who actually produces most of the really important lies.  Without my fertile imagination, how would you be able to come up with all these dramatic pretexts for keeping the war economy running smoothly?

Psyops: I think you’re not giving me enough credit, but let’s not quarrel among ourselves. In order to maintain world hegemony, it is essential for the United States to be seen as the shining city on the hill, the home of democracy, crusading to impose its benefits on the rest of an ungrateful world.  If masses of people show they don’t believe in our exceptional unity in diversity, it could make a bad impression on our satellites.

Politician: Then bomb them.

Think Tanker: We can’t bomb everyone at once.  Only a few at a time, to keep things going.

Mediacrat:  Bombs can’t do everything.  We also need to manufacture consent.  We have Hollywood, CNN, the New York Times and Washington Post, all doing their best.  But until recently, they could count on the absence of any audible contradiction.  Now something is happening – the Internet, blogs, Russia Today…

Politician, Psyops, ThinkTanker (in chorus):  Russia Today!  That’s it!

Psyops: Yes, Russia today is both the problem and the solution.

Think Tanker: I think I see where you’re heading…

Psyops: Look, RT has interfered grossly in our democracy by giving a voice to American intellectuals and journalists whom we have systematically marginalized for decades.

Mediacrat:  Absolutely. RT lets real Americans say whatever they think about America and U.S. foreign policy.  None of those Americans could ever keep a job as editorialist for the Washington Post.  Newsweek would fire every single one. They’d never get a peep out of Pentagon, State Department and White House sources.  How can a journalist report on U.S. policy without being briefed by anonymous official sources?  Ridiculous.

Think Tanker: Just like us, media hold the party line by hiring Eastern European émigrés who count on U.S. military power to settle their historic grudges.  Those are people who would really enjoy seeing Moscow bombed!

Psyops: RT doesn’t say much about Russia, and nobody wants to hear about Russia anyway.  But they regularly interview highly articulate Americans – lots of them, in fact – who contradict the official narrative and who report news about things happening in the United States in totally the wrong way.  This can cause confusion.

Politician: We know that.

Think Tanker: Fortunately few people in the United States listen to RT, its success is mostly confined to Americans who feel cheered up hearing people say what they were already thinking, but never expected to hear on a TV channel.

Mediacrat:  But people who don’t think correctly must remain isolated.  Moreover, along with Internet sites like Truthdig, Consortium News, The Intercept, CounterPunch, Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute, Paul Craig Roberts – the list goes on and on – lots of people are coming into contact with versions of reality which make our version sound increasingly far-fetched.

Psyops:  And there you have it.  RT presents an alternative narrative.  The sites mentioned also present an alternative narrative.  Therefore, the alternative sites are the same as RT, in fact, they are working for RT, and RT is working for the Kremlin!

Politician:  The Kremlin – that’s good, sounds like the communist evil empire.

Psyops:  Here’s the point.  We insist that RT is a Putin plot to destroy America.  The sheeple – or at least the older ones – are used to hearing that the Kremlin wants to destroy America, that goes down easily. In order to destroy America, the Kremlin uses RT (and Sputnik news) to create an alternative reality.  We call that alternative reality “fake news”.  It must be fake news because it’s not the official version. Now, watch this: the alternative reality fake news on RT very much resembles what is said on alternative internet sites, blogs, and so on.  Therefore, it is all a Commie – excuse me, Putin – plot.

Mediacrat:  We’d better hurry up and get this across before more people start watching RT.

Politician: There’s not a minute to lose.  I’ve got it!  When the War Party loses an election, that’s because of RT!

Think Tanker: Not very credible considering RT’s small audience in the United States.

Politician:  Well, we can’t wait until the audience grows, can we?  Let’s blame them now, a preventive strike.

Think Tanker: Now you’re talking my language.

Psyops: Look, we kill all those birds with one stone.  First, we tell the masses that Moscow has gone back to being the Evil Empire, and everything it does is intended to destroy our glorious democracy, out of spite.  Evil Empires are like that.  Once they are convinced that Russia is the source of all evil, that RT is the instrument of that evil, a wicked foreign agent, then we make clear that all the other alternative sites are also fake news designed by the Evil Empire.  So alternative commentators, journalists and intellectuals are also foreign agents.  Nobody will dare listen to them. Simple, isn’t it?

Politician: I love it.  Anyone who opposes me is a foreign agent.  Let’s have another election!

Mediacrat:  But what do we do with those American journalists – I mean foreign agents?  We can’t fire them since we never hired them in the first place.

Psyops:  Look, I don’t want to go too far, but there’s a lot of spare room in Guantanamo these days…

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House GOP Tax Cut Swindle: A Huge Tax Hike on Grad Students

November 18th, 2017 by Stephen Lendman

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: 

stephenlendman.org 

(Home – Stephen Lendman). 

Contact at [email protected].

It’s shocking but true. You can’t make this stuff up. College and grad school students already are drowning in debt.

During my higher education years in the 1950s, the student loan racket didn’t exist. It wasn’t needed. Affordable tuition and expenses meant students could complete their education debt free.

Good jobs were plentiful, long before offshoring to low-wage countries created today’s deplorable conditions – well-educated graduates denied opportunities afforded me, many debt-entrapped, unemployed, way underemployed or unable to find work in their chosen fields.

The House GOP tax cut swindle makes a bad situation far worse, including “a giant tax hike on graduate students,” CNBC reported, explaining:

“Some programs provide graduate students with a modest stipend for food and housing.”

“For instance, Ryan Hill, a fourth-year Ph.D.. student at MIT, receives a $30,000 living stipend and a tuition waiver, allowing him to forego paying $50,000 in tuition.”

“He currently pays taxes on his $30,000 stipend, but under the House…tax bill, his tuition waiver would also be taxed – meaning he would be taxed as if he was earning $80,000 a year.”

MIT doctoral candidate Tamar Oostrom said federal taxes for her and fellow grad students would increase up to 400%, calling it “absolutely crazy.” She and others in her class are “shocked.”

Many grad students work as instructors or conduct research in return for free tuition. The American Council on Education estimates about 145,000 grad students benefit this way.

House Republicans voted to end the tuition reduction exemption along with more harmful provisions for most Americans – by passing a giant giveaway to corporate predators and super-rich households.

The Harvard Crimson said taxes on university grad students “could increase almost four-fold, citing a tax law expert.

The House bill repeals the “qualified tuition reduction” universities like Harvard afford their employees and paid grad students.

“Harvard currently provides full tuition support to all Ph.D. students and some Master’s students, giving roughly $45,000 per year to each student, though that amount decreases to roughly $12,000 after the first two years of a Ph.D. program,” the Crimson explained.

According to Law Professor Patrick Thomas, Harvard grad students receiving a $35,000 stipend could see their federal tax burden increase from about $3,300 to $12,000 under the GOP House plan.

Harvard doctoral candidates could owe in federal and state taxes almost half of the stipend benefit they receive – creating too great a burden for many to bear.

National Association of Graduate-Professional Students legislative director Samantha Hernandez said she “monitor(s) all legislation at the state and federal levels that could affect graduate and professional students.”

The House GOP bill “would have the greatest negative impact of anything (she’s) seen.” It would make graduate study unaffordable for most students whose families aren’t rich..

The Senate measure to be voted on after Thanksgiving doesn’t repeal the “qualified tuition reduction.”

Both congressional versions are huge windfalls for corporate predators and super-rich households – at the expense of ordinary people struggling to get by.

Trump’s “middle class miracle” is nightmarish for ordinary people – what I called the great American tax swindle in a separate article.

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

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The Biggest Threat to World Peace Is NATO

November 17th, 2017 by Eric Zuesse

On November 8th, Britain’s Daily Mail bannered “NATO tells Europe to prepare for ‘rapid deployment’:” and sub-headed “Defence chiefs say roads, bridges and rail links must be improved in case tanks and heavy vehicles need to be quickly mobilised” (to invade Russia, but the newspaper’s slant was instead that this must be done purely defensively: “In October, NATO accused Russia of misleading them, saying that Moscow had deliberately violated international rules of military drills”).

The article continued:

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called for the infrastructure update across Europe as NATO is set to overhaul its command structure for the first time since the Cold War

During a press conference in Brussels, Stoltenberg said NATO needs a command structure to ensure ‘we have the right forces, in the right place, with the right equipment at the right time.’

He then added: ‘This is not only about commands. We also need to ensure that roads and bridges are strong enough to take our largest vehicles, and that rail networks are equipped for the rapid deployment of tanks and heavy equipment.

‘NATO has military requirements for civilian infrastructure and we need to update these to ensure that current military needs are taken into account.’ 

The NATO military alliance against Russia has been continuing the Cold War, and is now intensifying it, after the voluntary end of the Cold War in 1991, by the Soviet Union, and by its mirrored military alliance, which was the Warsaw Pact.

With that end of communism, and end of the communist military alliance, all of the constructive reason for NATO likewise ceased, and so NATO should have ended simultaneously when the Soviet Union and its military alliance did; but, instead, certain corporate interests in Western nations have prevailed; and, so, the Cold War is now ratcheting up even further on the U.S.-NATO side. This escalation, which is being done under false pretext (on the basis of lies), is forcing Russia to similarly increase its military budget and military exercises (such as the drills that are the pretext for NATO’s latest aggressive move here) — and Russia’s responses are being called by NATO ‘Russian aggression’, as if NATO hasn’t actually forced Russia to increase its military defenses (including those “drills”).

The need that the NATO-supplying corporations, such as Lockheed Martin and BAE, have — companies whose enormous profits depend heavily upon intensifying the Cold War instead of ending it (such as ought to have happened in 1991) — has become the mass-murdering and land-destroying corporate tail, which is actually wagging the governmental dogs, of Western nations’ (especially of America’s) foreign policies, so as to increase global expenditures into the mass-killing industries (most of which are U.S.-based), in order to keep their war-profits high. Wall Street is heavily involved in this, and most of America’s billionaires have these types of investments.

Economic theory considers all purchases and sales to constitute ‘economic growth’; and, so, expenditures and purchases for mass-killing and bombing, and for defenses against same, are considered just as much ‘economic growth’ as if those expenditures had gone into building things, instead of into destroying things — and neoliberals are therefore just as supportive of the military-industrial complex as are neoconservatives — neoliberals merely view the matter from the perspective of internal domestic policies (‘growth’), instead of from the perspective of external foreign policies (conquest). Both perspectives serve the aristocracy, the billionaires.

This neoliberal-neoconservative consensus, in the West, keeps the profits going for the owners of all sorts of corporations — it’s “the Washington Consensus” that’s sold to vassal nations by promising that this path will allow them to join in the imperial nations’ ‘growth’. The leadership of the Soviet Union was sold a neoliberal bill of goods by the the Harvard economics department in around 1990, and the World Bank and Harvard’s people took the Russians for all they could, which was able to be done because Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was naive and accepted neoliberalism — he didn’t know about its neoconservative side, the aristocracy’s pursuit of conquest. He had rejected Marxist economics, and thought that the only alternative would be capitalist economics.

Back in 1991, when Gorbachev ended the Soviet Union and its military alliances, NATO had 16 member-nations. Later in the decade, in 1999, NATO under U.S. President Bill Clinton, started expanding — taking on as new members, nations that had previously been allied with Russia. 

The Soviet Union had consisted of: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Lithuania, Moldova, Latvia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Turkmenistan, and Estonia (the last of which was forcibly joined with it in 1940 so as to assist Russia’s fight against the Nazis). NATO has since absorbed, into its anti-Russia ranks: Lithuania (2004), Latvia (2004), and Estonia (2004), and is seeking the additional admissions of Ukraine, and of Moldova.

The Warsaw Pact, of Soviet-allied nations, had included: U.S.S.R., Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Eastern Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. All of those except the Russian portion of the U.S.S.R. have since been absorbed into the anti-Russian military alliance, NATO. In the brainwashed U.S.-allied countries, this growth of the anti-Russia alliance isn’t considered “aggression,” even though it’s being done by NATO’s adding former Russia-allied nations, and though Russia’s former military alliance against NATO, the Warsaw Pact, ended in 1991. Aggression by “the West” is not acknowledged by “the West.” Even the U.S. group’s blatant aggressions that destroyed Russia-friendly nations such as Iraq, Libya and Syria aren’t. The fact that the U.S. is considered overwhelmingly throughout the world to be “the biggest threat to peace” is likewise ignored by the Empire’s ‘news’media.

Thus: 10 formerly Russia-allied nations have now been switched into the anti-Russia military alliance. And NATO accuses Russia of ‘aggression’. Nobody talks about how the U.S. would react if Russia had a military alliance which included both Mexico and Canada, and called upon them to strengthen their bridges so as to be able to carry today’s Russian battle-tanks. But, the people who are doing this, know very well what they are doing, and why, and to whom. They play dumb but they aren’t.

In addition, Yugoslavia was non-alligned, but now most of its parts have joined NATO: Slovenia, Croatia, and Montenegro. (Montenegro was brought into NATO on 5 June 2017, by U.S. President Donald Trump, who is being investigated by the rabidly anti-Russia U.S. Government, for allegedly being insufficiently hostile against Russia. His response to the accusations has been to try to out-do his domestic opponents’ hostility against Russia — to up their anti-Russia ante, instead of to wage political war against America’s military-industrial complex and its owners.) 

And, the other parts of the former Yugoslavia continue to be courted. On November 15th, Radio Free Europe headlined “Serbia Hosts Joint Military Drills With U.S. As Bosnia Hosts NATO Delegation”. They reported:

“NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, speaking at a joint news conference with visiting Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Brussels on November 15, said ‘there is no doubt whatsoever that we absolutely respect the decision by Serbia to remain a military neutral country.’”

Were Hitler’s troops being allowed to hold military exercises in neutral Switzerland? Of course not. Obviously, this isn’t any ‘military neutrality’. Instead, it’s those small countries trying to avoid becoming targets of U.S. missiles and bombs.

Most of the 13 new admittees to NATO after the 1991 end of the Cold War (on Russia’s side, but not on America’s), are located to the east of West Germany (closer to Russia than even East Germany was). In the negotiations to end the Cold War, the understanding that George Herbert Walker Bush’s people communicated to Mikhail Gorbachev’s people was that if the Cold War ends and East Germany becomes absorbed into West Germany to become again simply “Germany” and thenceforth a capitalist country (such as all did happen), then NATO would not move “one inch to the east.” That’s the basis upon which Gorbachev ended the Cold War. George Herbert Walker Bush lied — via his agents. Gorbachev was incredibly naive, and he didn’t specify that NATO would need to end if the Warsaw Pact would end. He believed in the goodwill, and honesty, of Bush and of his agents. He accepted merely the vague verbal promise that NATO would’t be expanded even “one inch to the east.” He didn’t know that he was dealing with people who were negotiating on behalf of, and who were following the instructions of, a super-scoundrel — U.S. President Bush. Bush’s dream, of encircling Russia with U.S. bombers, missiles. and tanks is now coming true. Would the U.S. tolerate Russia placing its invasion-forces on and near our borders, in Canada and in Mexico? 

If this isn’t the time to end NATO, then when will be? And how much time to do it remains, before there is a WW III? Anyone who is supportive of the formation of a non-profit “End NATO Now” is hereby invited to indicate so, in a reader-comment to this article, at Washingtonsblog; and, if enough people indicate there that they would be willing to donate time or money to such an organization, then I shall establish it. Because: if we don’t end NATO now, then maybe NATO will end us all, surprisingly soon.

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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US Military and CIA Leaders May be Investigated for War Crimes

November 17th, 2017 by Prof. Marjorie Cohn

Featured image: A US Marine Corps V-22 Osprey aircraft prepares to land at forward operating base Nawa in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Dec. 17, 2010. (Image: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin S. O’Brien / US Navy)

On November 3, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) informed the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber, “[T]here is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in connection with the armed conflict in Afghanistan.”

In what Amnesty International’s Solomon Sacco called a “seminal moment for the ICC,” Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked the court for authorization to commence an investigation that would focus on US military and CIA leaders, as well as Taliban and Afghan officials.

Bensouda wrote in a November 14, 2016, report that her preliminary examination revealed “a reasonable basis to believe” the “war crimes of torture and ill-treatment” had been committed “by US military forces deployed to Afghanistan and in secret detention facilities operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, principally in the 2003-2004 period, although allegedly continuing in some cases until 2014.”

The chief prosecutor noted the alleged crimes by the CIA and US armed forces “were not the abuses of a few isolated individuals,” but rather were “part of approved interrogation techniques in an attempt to extract ‘actionable intelligence’ from detainees.” She added there was “reason to believe” that crimes were “committed in the furtherance of a policy or policies … which would support US objectives in the conflict of Afghanistan.”

In accordance with its Rome Statute, the ICC only asserts jurisdiction over people whose home country is unwilling or unable to bring them to justice. In explaining why this war crimes investigation falls under the ICC’s jurisdiction, Bensouda wrote that the US Department of Justice investigations regarding ill-treatment of 101 detainees were limited to whether interrogation techniques used by CIA interrogators were unauthorized and violated criminal statutes. The US Attorney General (AG) said the Justice Department would not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the guidance provided by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC).

The AG investigated only two incidents and found the evidence insufficient to obtain convictions. In one case, Gul Rahman froze to death after being stripped and shackled to a cold cement floor in the secret Afghan prison known as the Salt Pit. In the other, Manadel al-Jamadi died in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison after he was suspended from the ceiling by his wrists which were bound behind his back. Former military policeman Tony Diaz, who witnessed al-Jamadi’s torture, said that blood gushed from his mouth like “a faucet had turned on” when he was lowered to the ground. A military autopsy concluded that al-Jamadi’s death was a homicide. However, the AG ultimately refused to prosecute the Bush officials responsible for the torture and deaths of those two men.

In 2008, ABC News reported that Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet and John Ashcroft met in the White House and micromanaged the torture of terrorism suspects by approving specific torture techniques such as waterboarding. George W. Bush admitted in his 2010 memoir that he authorized waterboarding. Cheney, Rice and John Yoo – author of the OLC’s most egregious torture memos – have made similar admissions.

Were the ICC to pursue its investigation, the United States, which is not a party to the Rome Statute, would very likely refuse to relinquish any US person to the ICC. During the Bush administration, Congress passed the American Service-Members Protection Act, which says if US persons are sent to the ICC in The Hague, the US military can forcibly extract them. The act also restricts US cooperation with the ICC and prohibits military assistance to states parties to the Rome Statute unless they sign bilateral immunity agreements with the US.

States which sign these “Article 98” agreements — referring to the section of the Rome Statute that addresses treaties between countries — pledge not to hand over US nationals to the ICC. The United States has reportedly extracted those agreements from over 100 countries — primarily small nations, or fragile democracies with weak economies. Moreover, the US government has withdrawn military aid from several nations that refused to be coerced into signing them.

However, under the Rome Statute, the ICC can take jurisdiction over a national of even a non-party state if he or she commits a crime in a state party’s territory. The US vehemently objects to this, but it’s nothing new. Under well-established principles of international law, the crimes being prosecuted in the ICC — genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity — are crimes of universal jurisdiction.

The doctrine of universal jurisdiction permits any country to try foreign nationals for the most egregious crimes, even without any direct relationship to the prosecuting country. That means other nations can bring US leaders to justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Indeed, the United States has asserted jurisdiction over foreign nationals in anti-terrorism, anti-narcotics trafficking, torture and war crimes cases. The US government tried, convicted and sentenced Charles “Chuckie” Taylor Jr. to federal prison for torture committed in Liberia. Israel tried, convicted and executed Adolph Eichmann for his crimes during the Holocaust.

There will be strong political pressure to avoid liability for US leaders. But Bensouda has undoubtedly withstood heavy pressure by asking the court to approve an investigation into crimes committed in Afghanistan. She also invariably faced considerable pushback for opening a preliminary examination in January 2015 of possible war crimes committed by Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza. Bensouda is expected to announce the results of that examination in December.

The ICC has been criticized for focusing almost exclusively on African leaders. This is apparently changing with possible investigations into the conflicts in Afghanistan and Palestine.

If a full investigation of US officials proceeds as requested, it “would send a clear signal to the Trump administration and other countries around the world that torture is categorically prohibited, even in times of war, and there will be consequences for authorizing and committing acts of torture,” according to Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU’s Human Rights Program.

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump declared he would “immediately” resume waterboarding and would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” because the United States is facing a “barbaric” enemy. He labeled waterboarding a “minor form” of interrogation.

“The long overdue message that no one is above the law is particularly important now, as the Trump administration ramps up military machinations in Afghanistan and embraces the endless war with no plan in sight,” Katherine Gallagher, a senior lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said in a statement.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and a member of the national advisory board of Veterans for Peace. The second, updated edition of her book, Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues, will be published in November. Visit her website: MarjorieCohn.com. Follow her on Twitter: @MarjorieCohn.

Copyright, Truthout. Reprinted with permission.

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USAID and Wall Street: Conflicts, Coups, and Conquest

November 17th, 2017 by Tony Cartalucci

In 1928 when the US-based United Fruit Company – now known as Chiquita Brands International – faced labor issues in Colombia, it had at its disposal Colombian troops which gunned down hundreds of strikers to maintain production and profits.

Ensuring that Colombia protected “American interests” was the US State Department who hosted company representatives at the US embassy in Bogotá, which in turn was in contact with Washington.

The United Fruit Company’s actions in Colombia was far from an isolated incident. US Marine Corps General Smedley Butler would write a book regarding his personal, first-hand experience in fighting wars on multiple continents for oil companies, bankers, and fruit companies.

Nearly a century ago large corporate interests already possessed full control over the mechanisms of American governance, determining its domestic and foreign policy, and readily using the nation’s military might for their own personal gain across the globe.

The arrangement has not disappeared over time. It has simply evolved.

The US Chamber of Commerce and USAID

The US Chamber of Commerce on its own website admits it is a lobbying organization and while it claims it represents millions of businesses big and small – it is an organization dominated by, and existing solely for it largest members.

These include Chevron, Citi, Coco-Cola, Chevrolet, McDonald’s, Ford, Dow, Exxon, Honeywell, Proctor & Gamble, Visa, Yum, Monsanto, and many more.

And while there is nothing inherently wrong with a lobbying organization, or US companies doing business abroad, it is what this particular lobbying organization does with its immense, concentrated, and unwarranted influence.

Representing not only the largest corporations in the United States, but also some of the largest corporations on Earth, the US Chamber of Commerce today – just as United Fruit did nearly a century ago – has direct access to the levers of US governance.

The US State Department today – just as it did in Bogotá in 1928 – represents “American interests,” understood as being synonymous with corporate interests. It is through the US State Department that organizations like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) receive their funding and directives.

These organizations are either chaired by or partnered directly with representatives not from humanitarian aid or democracy promotion circles, but from the very corporations they truly serve merely under the guise of “development” and “democracy.”

USAID – for instance – openly boasts of its joint partnership with US Chamber of Commerce member and agricultural giant Monsanto. With US State Department resources and tax money, Monsanto has used the cloak of development aid to spread into developing nations around the world from Africa and Asia to South America.

NED – on the other hand – is directly chaired by representatives from some of Wall Street’s largest  corporations including, Exxon, Goldman Sachs, Boeing, Ford, Citigroup, and Visa. While many of NED’s grantees pose as left-liberal activists fighting against corrupt and abusive special interests in their respective nations, they are in fact enabling the most corrupt and abusive special interests on Earth to simply remove obstacles so that they can dominate the markets, resources, and peoples of any given targeted nation.

And together, openly – as discussed by USAID’s administrator at a recent US Chamber of Commerce Foundation conference – that is what USAID and NED and their many subsidiaries do.

Conflicts, Coups, and Conquest 

Doing business overseas is not in and of itself necessarily a bad thing. However, US corporations through USAID, NED, and their subsidiaries do more than just business.

Ordinarily nations send representatives abroad to find common ground, mutual interests, and to negotiate prospective deals. The United States – instead – coerces nations through “soft power” and different degrees of covert and more overt military force.

Through their “development” and “democracy” programs, they systematically take over the infrastructure, media, and political order of targeted nations, eventually installing obedient client regimes into power – either through compromised elections, color revolutions, or US military-led regime change operations. These client regimes then serve “American interests” just as the Colombian government did in 1928 when “American interests” required strikers to be shot en mass.

It was USAID and NED-funded groups that helped fill the streets of Arab nations in 2011, tipping off years of war, the destruction of whole nations, and the edging of the entire region toward an even wider conflict in pursuit of long-standing, openly declared US foreign policy objectives. In the Middle East Wall Street seeks to eliminate its competitors, fuel its immense arms industry, and grant its energy firms, financiers, and the petrodollar they are both built upon a reprieve from an otherwise inevitable collapse.

Today, nations like Thailand face an “opposition” created and perpetuated entirely out of the US and European embassies and from the coffers of USAID and NED. So-called “activists” find their social media timelines filled exclusively with content produced by US State Department grantees. For decades US special interests have sought to dominate Thailand economically and geopolitically. With China’s rise, Wall Street sees a closing window of opportunity to use Thailand and other nations along China’s peripheries to box in this growing competitor and potential usurper of US hegemony in Asia Pacific.

While many imagine great conspiracies toward world domination driven by complex political ideologies – in reality American hegemony is driven by the same tropism of collective human greed that has fueled empire throughout human history.

USAID and NED often are used to provoke conflicts and even wars – including the current conflicts the US is waging in the Middle East and North Africa. Both organizations also play roles in the aftermath of conflicts and wars such as in Afghanistan, where they help overwrite destroyed industries, institutions, and infrastructures with a system that locks and pays directly into Wall Street and Washington’s.

Understanding why and on behalf of whom US foreign policy is directed helps policymakers and individuals alike look past the many political distractions offered to occupy the world’s attention while the US expands its grip. Understanding that US foreign policy is driven by corporate interests and a desire to dominate resources, markets, and people allows nations to focus on building resilient economies, institutions, and national security to deal with and defend against the many methods the US uses.

Tony Cartalucci is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published.

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Massive Overkill: The Threat of Nuclear Annihilation

November 17th, 2017 by William D. Hartung

[This piece has been updated and adapted from William D. Hartung’s “Nuclear Politics” in Sleepwalking to Armageddon: The Threat of Nuclear Annihilation, edited by Helen Caldicott and just published by the New Press.]

Until recently, few of us woke up worrying about the threat of nuclear war. Such dangers seemed like Cold War relics, associated with outmoded practices like building fallout shelters and “duck and cover” drills.

But give Donald Trump credit. When it comes to nukes, he’s gotten our attention. He’s prompted renewed concern, if not outright alarm, about the possibility that such weaponry could actually be used for the first time since the 6th and 9th of August 1945. That’s what happens when the man in the Oval Office begins threatening to rain “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on another country or, as he did in his presidential campaign, claiming cryptically that, when it comes to nuclear weapons, “the devastation is very important to me.”

Trump’s pronouncements are at least as unnerving as President Ronald Reagan’s infamous “joke” that “we begin bombing [the Soviet Union] in five minutes” or the comment of a Reagan aide that, “with enough shovels,” the United States could survive a superpower nuclear exchange.

Whether in the 1980s or today, a tough-guy attitude on nuclear weapons, when combined with an apparent ignorance about their world-ending potential, adds up to a toxic brew. An unprecedented global anti-nuclear movement — spearheaded by the European Nuclear Disarmament campaign and, in the United States, the Nuclear Freeze campaign — helped turn President Reagan around, so much so that he later agreed to substantial nuclear cuts and acknowledged that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

It remains to be seen whether anything could similarly influence Donald Trump. One thing is certain, however: the president has plenty of nuclear weapons to back up his aggressive rhetoric — more than 4,000 of them in the active U.S. stockpile, when a mere handful of them could obliterate North Korea at the cost of millions of lives. Indeed, a few hundred nuclear warheads could do the same for even the largest of nations and those 4,000, if ever used, could essentially destroy the planet.

In other words, in every sense of the term, the U.S. nuclear arsenal already represents overkill on an almost unimaginable scale. Independent experts from U.S. war colleges suggest that about 300 warheads would be more than enough to deter any country from launching a nuclear attack on the United States.

Despite this, Donald Trump is all in (and more) on the Pentagon’s plan — developed under Barack Obama — to build a new generation of nuclear-armed bombers, submarines, and missiles, as well as new generations of warheads to go with them. The cost of this “modernization” program? The Congressional Budget Office recently pegged it at $1.7 trillion over the next three decades, adjusted for inflation. As Derek Johnson, director of the antinuclear organization Global Zero, has noted,

“That’s money we don’t have for an arsenal we don’t need.”

Building a Nuclear Complex

Why the desire for so many nukes? There is, in fact, a dirty little secret behind the massive U.S. arsenal: it has more to do with the power and profits of this country’s major weapons makers than it does with any imaginable strategic considerations.

It may not surprise you to learn that there’s nothing new about the influence the nuclear weapons lobby has over Pentagon spending priorities. The successful machinations of the makers of strategic bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, intended to keep taxpayer dollars flowing their way, date back to the dawn of the nuclear age and are the primary reason President Dwight D. Eisenhower coined the term “military-industrial complex” and warned of its dangers in his 1961 farewell address.

Without the development of such weapons, that complex simply would not exist in the form it does today.  The Manhattan Project, the vast scientific-industrial endeavor that produced the first such weaponry during World War II, was one of the largest government-funded research and manufacturing projects in history.  Today’s nuclear warhead complex is still largely built around facilities and locations that date back to that time.

A fiery mushroom cloud lights up the sky.

The Trinity test of the Manhattan Project was the first detonation of a nuclear weapon. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Manhattan Project was the first building block of the permanent arms establishment that came to rule Washington. In addition, the nuclear arms race against that other superpower of the era, the Soviet Union, was crucial to the rationale for a permanent war state.  In those years, it was the key to sustaining the building, funding, and institutionalizing of the arms establishment.

As Eisenhower noted in that farewell address of his, “a permanent arms industry of vast proportions” had developed for a simple enough reason. In a nuclear age, America had to be ready ahead of time. As he put it,

“We can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense.”

And that was for a simple enough reason: in an era of potential nuclear war, any society could be destroyed in a matter of hours. There would be no time, as in the past, to mobilize or prepare after the fact.

In addition, there were some very specific ways in which the quest for more nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles drove Eisenhower to give that farewell address. One of his biggest fights was over whether to build a new nuclear bomber. The Air Force and the arms industry were desperate to do so. Eisenhower thought it a waste of money, given all the other nuclear delivery vehicles the U.S. was building at the time. He even cancelled the bomber, only to find himself forced to revive it under immense pressure from the arms lobby. In the process, he lost the larger struggle to rein in the nation’s nuclear buildup and corral the burgeoning military-industrial complex.

At the same time, there were rumblings in the intelligence community, the military establishment, the media, and Congress about a “missile gap” with the Soviet Union. The notion was that Moscow had somehow jumped ahead of the United States in developing and building intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). There was no definitive intelligence to substantiate the claim (and it was later proved to be false). However, a wave of worst-case scenarios leaked by or promoted by intelligence analysts and eagerly backed by industry propaganda made that missile gap part of the everyday news of the time.

Such fears were then exaggerated further, thanks to hawkish journalists of the era like Joseph Alsop and prominent Democratic senators like John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, as well as Stuart Symington, who just happened to be a friend and former colleague of an executive at the aircraft manufacturing company Convair, which, in turn, just happened to make ICBMs. As a result, he lobbied hard on behalf of a Pentagon plan to build more of that corporation’s Atlas ballistic missiles, while Kennedy would famously make the nonexistent missile gap a central theme of his successful 1960 campaign for the presidency.

Eisenhower couldn’t have been more clear-eyed about all of this. He saw the missile gap for the fiction it was or, as he put it, a “useful piece of political demagoguery” for his opponents.

“Munitions makers,” he insisted, “are making tremendous efforts towards getting more contracts and in fact seem to be exerting undue influence over the Senators.”

Once Kennedy took office, it became all too apparent that there was no missile gap, but by then it hardly mattered. The damage had been done. Billions of dollars more were flowing into the nuclear-industrial complex to build up an American arsenal of ICBMs already unmatched on the planet.

The techniques that the arms lobby and its allies in government used more than half a century ago to promote sky-high nuclear weapons spending continue to be wielded to this day. The twenty-first-century arms complex employs tools of influence that Kennedy and his compatriots would have found familiar indeed — including millions of dollars in campaign contributions that flow to members of Congress and the continual employment of 700 to 1,000 lobbyists to influence them. At certain moments, in other words, there have been nearly two arms lobbyists for every member of Congress. Much of this sort of activity remains focused on ensuring that nuclear weapons of all types are amply financed and that the funding for the new generations of the bombers, submarines, and missiles that will deliver them stays on track.

When traditional lobbying methods don’t get the job done, the industry’s argument of last resort is jobs — in particular, jobs in the states and districts of key members of Congress. This process is aided by the fact that nuclear weapons facilities are spread remarkably widely across the country. There are nuclear weapons labs in California and New Mexico; a nuclear weapons testing and research site in Nevada; a nuclear warhead assembly and disassembly plant in Texas; a factory in Kansas City, Missouri, that builds nonnuclear parts for such weapons; and a plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, that enriches uranium for those same weapons. There are factories or bases for ICBMs, bombers, and ballistic missile submarines in Connecticut, Georgia, Washington State, California, Ohio, Massachusetts, Louisiana, North Dakota, and Wyoming. Such a nuclear geography ensures that a striking number of congressional representatives will automatically favor more spending on nuclear weapons.

In reality, the jobs argument is deeply flawed. As the experts know, virtually any other activity into which such funding flowed would create significantly more jobs than Pentagon spending. A study by economists at the University of Massachusetts, for example, found infrastructure investment would create one and one-half times as many jobs as Pentagon funding and education spending twice as many.

In most cases it hasn’t seemed to matter that the jobs claims for weapons spending are grotesquely exaggerated and better alternatives litter the landscape. The argument remains remarkably potent in states and communities that are particularly dependent on the Pentagon. Perhaps unsurprisingly, members of Congress from such areas are disproportionately represented on the committees that decide how much will be spent on nuclear and conventional weaponry.

A Field Guide to Influencing Nuclear Thinking in Washington

Another way the nuclear weapons industry (like the rest of the military-industrial complex) tries to control and focus public debate is by funding hawkish, right-wing think tanks. The advantage to weapons makers is that those institutions and their associated “experts” can serve as front groups for the complex, while posing as objective policy analysts. Think of it as an intellectual version of money laundering.

Frank Gaffney (Source: Center for Security Policy)

One of the most effective industry-funded think tanks in terms of promoting costly, ill-advised policies has undoubtedly been Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy. In 1983, when President Ronald Reagan first announced his Strategic Defense Initiative (which soon gained the nickname “Star Wars”), the high-tech space weapons system that was either meant to defend the country against a future Soviet first strike or — depending on how you looked at it — free the country to use its nuclear weapons without fear of being attacked, Gaffney was its biggest booster. More recently, he has become a prominent purveyor of Islamophobia, but the impact of his promotional work for Star Wars continues to be felt in contracts for future weaponry to this day.

He had served in the Reagan-era Pentagon, but left because even that administration wasn’t anti-Soviet enough for his tastes, once the president and his advisers began to discuss things like reducing nuclear weapons in Europe. It didn’t take him long to set up his center with funding from Boeing, Lockheed, and other defense contractors.

Another key industry-backed think tank in the nuclear policy field is the National Institute for Public Policy (NIPP).  It released a report on nuclear weapons policy just as George W. Bush was entering the White House that would be adopted almost wholesale by his administration for its first key nuclear posture review. It advocated such things as increasing the number of countries targeted by the country’s nuclear arsenal and building a new, more “usable,” bunker-busting nuke. At that time, NIPP had an executive from Boeing on its board and its director was Keith Payne. He would become infamous in the annals of nuclear policy for co-authoring a 1980 article at Foreign Policy entitled “Victory Is Possible,” suggesting that the United States could actually win a nuclear war, while “only” losing 30 million to 40 million people. This is the kind of expert the nuclear weapons complex chose to fund to promulgate its views.

Then there is the Lexington Institute, the think tank that never met a weapons system it didn’t like. Their key front man, Loren Thompson, is frequently quoted in news stories on defense issues. It is rarely pointed out that he is funded by Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and other nuclear weapons contractors.

And these are just a small sampling of Washington’s research and advocacy groups that take money from weapons contractors, ranging from organizations on the right like the Heritage Foundation to Democratic-leaning outfits like the Center for a New American Security, co-founded by former Obama administration Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy (who was believed to have the inside track on being appointed secretary of defense had Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election).

And you may not be surprised to learn that Donald Trump is no piker when it comes to colluding with the weapons industry. His strong preference for populating his administration with former arms industry executives is so blatant that Senator John McCain recently pledged to oppose any new nominees with industry ties. Examples of Trump’s industry-heavy administration include Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a former board member at General Dynamics; White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who worked for a number of defense firms and was an adviser to DynCorp, a private security firm that has done everything from (poorly) training the Iraqi police to contracting with the Department of Homeland Security; former Boeing executive and now Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan; former Lockheed Martin executive John Rood, nominated as undersecretary of defense for policy; former Raytheon Vice President Mark Esper, newly confirmed as secretary of the Army; Heather Wilson, a former consultant to Lockheed Martin, who is secretary of the Air Force; Ellen Lord, a former CEO for the aerospace company Textron, who is undersecretary of defense for acquisition; and National Security Council Chief of Staff Keith Kellogg, a former employee of the major defense and intelligence contractor CACI, where he dealt with “ground combat systems” among other things. And keep in mind that these high-profile industry figures are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the corporate revolving door that has for decades been installed in the Pentagon (as documented by Lee Fang of the Intercept in a story from early in Trump’s tenure).

Given the composition of his national security team and Trump’s love of all things nuclear, what can we expect from his administration on the nuclear weapons front? As noted, he has already signed on to the Pentagon’s budget-busting $1.7 trillion nuclear build-up and his impending nuclear posture review seems to include proposals for dangerous new weapons like a “low-yield,” purportedly more usable nuclear warhead. He’s spoken privately with his national security team about expanding the American nuclear arsenal in a staggering fashion, the equivalent of a ten-fold increase. He’s wholeheartedly embraced missile defense spending, pledging to put billions of dollars more into that already overfunded, under-producing set of programs. And of course, he is assiduously trying to undermine the Iran nuclear deal, one of the most effective arms control agreements of recent times, and so threatening to open the door to a new nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Unless the nuclear spending spree long in the making and now being pushed by President Trump as the best thing since the invention of golf is stopped thanks to public opposition, the rise of an antinuclear movement, or Congressional action, we’re in trouble. And of course, the nuclear weapons lobby will once again have won the day, just as it did almost 60 years ago, despite the opposition of a popular president and decorated war hero. And needless to say, Donald Trump, “bone spurs” and all, is no Dwight D. Eisenhower.

William D. Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.  An earlier version of this essay appears in Sleepwalking to Armageddon: The Threat of Nuclear Annihilation, edited by Helen Caldicott (the New Press).

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Aluminum has been recognized as a neurotoxic ingredient by leading researchers and scientists across the globe. So why do babies in the U.S. receive up to 4,925 micrograms (mcg) of aluminum within the first 18 months, and an additional 170 to 625 mcg by the age of 6 through routine vaccinations?

What are the possible side effects of aluminum on the human body when injected? Aluminum has been used as a vaccine adjuvant (a substance that enhances the body’s immune response) since the 1920’s but has only been tested one time, on two rabbits. Their remains have since disappeared.

Injecting Aluminum, a new documentary by French journalist Marie-Ange Poyet, investigates the history of aluminum in vaccines and its potentially devastating effects on the human body.

“Injecting Aluminum” is now available in North America on DVD, Streaming and screening events from Cinema Libre Studio.

Synopsis

In the early 90s, a mysterious muscular disease with symptoms that included severe muscle and joint pain began to surface among multiple patients in France. A team of doctors in Paris discovered that these patients had developed a new disease called Macrophagic Myofascitis, or MMF, which occurs when the aluminum hydroxide adjuvant from a vaccine remains embedded in the muscle tissue.

What the pharmaceutical companies don’t make public is that the aluminum adjuvant was never rigorously tested* before going on the market and there are alternative, much less toxic, adjuvants available.

Featuring interviews with patients, doctors, scientists, and influential politicians, Injecting Aluminum examines aluminum’s devastating effects on the human body and calls into question the public health policies around aluminum in vaccines.

Directed by Marie-Ange Poyet, Injecting Aluminum features groundbreaking interviews with leading aluminum specialists such as “Mr. Aluminum”, Dr. Christopher Exley, biologist at the University of Stirling with a PhD in the Ecotoxicology of Aluminum, Dr. Yehuda Shoenfeld, founder of the leading Centre for Autoimmune Diseases at the Sheba Medical Center, Dr. Romain Gherardi, the Director of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, and Dr. Jérôme Authier, neurologist and head of the Center of Reference of neuromuscular diseases of the Henri Mondor Hospital in Créteil, France.

*In fact, tested only on two rabbits. Once. And their remains have since disappeared.

Injecting Aluminum has a running time of 90 minutes, is not rated and is now available on DVD and SVOD (Amazon).

Trailer

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Should Turkey Trust the US?

November 17th, 2017 by Anna Jaunger

Last week, the Turkish Armed Forces entered Afrin in Syria’s Aleppo. According to the Syria-based Kurdish Hawar News Agency, Turkey also intends to deploy troops near the Raju area and place its armored vehicles there.

Many Syrian experts believe that Ankara cooperates with the U.S.-backed Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki. Earlier, Spokesman of the armed opposition group Abdulsalam Adbulrazaq reported that Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki had reached an agreement with the Turkish troops over the deployment of Turkish soldiers at monitoring positions in Western Aleppo.

According to preliminary estimates, Turkey will provide opposition militants with all necessary weapons, and Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki fighters, in turn, will protect and cover the Turkish soldiers when moving to new positions. There is no doubt that the U.S.-backed group is acting with the tacit consent of its patron.

Notably, such agreements and greater cohesiveness between both sides were achieved against the background of the recent Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s official visit to the United States. The Turkish politician stressed that Turkey and the U.S. could make “a fresh start.”

The improvement in relations between Ankara and Washington is also proven by the tensions between the U.S. and Kurds. Apparently, this was caused by the actual refusal of the Kurdish formations to participate in direct fighting with the Syrian army (SAA) in the region of the Euphrates.

Besides, after the U.S. didn’t officially recognize the Kurdish people’s referendum for independence from Iraq, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) was confused. The Command of the Kurdish forces came to the conclusion that despite all the assurances of support, Washington could sharply turn away from them at any moment.

Anyway, despite the fact that both sides haven’t given any official comments on their coordination yet, it becomes obvious that Washington has changed its priorities once again. Now it is more important for the U.S. to maintain good graces of its NATO partner than to defend the interests of the Kurdish side.

However, in this regard, a question arises: Should Turkey trust Washington if the U.S. is ready to play the Kurdish card whenever possible?

Anna Jaunger is a freelance journalist at Inside Syria Media Center where this article was originally published.

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Israel and Saudis: Best of Friends?

November 17th, 2017 by Stephen Lendman

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: 

stephenlendman.org 

(Home – Stephen Lendman). 

Contact at [email protected].

They’re strange bedfellows, allies of convenience against a common adversary – Iran for its sovereign independence and opposition to their hegemonic ambitions.

In an unprecedented interview with London-based, Saudi-owned Elaph.com, IDF chief of staff Gadi Eizenkot said Israel is willing to share intelligence with Riyadh.

He claimed with Trump as US president,

“there is an opportunity for a new international alliance in the region and a major strategic plan to stop the Iranian threat.”

“We are ready to exchange experiences with moderate Arab countries and exchange intelligence to confront Iran.”

Riyadh and Tel Aviv share “many common interests,” he added, calling Tehran the region’s “biggest threat.”

Fact: Washington, Israel and Riyadh are the region’s leading state sponsors of terrorism – supporting the scourge the Islamic Republic opposes.

Fact: Iran hasn’t attacked another country in centuries. Israel and Riyadh are permanently at war internally and/or abroad – the region’s two leading human rights abusers, a threat to world peace, what Iran fosters and supports.

Eisenkot lied claiming Tehran aims “to control the Middle East by means of two Shiite crescents. The first from Iran through Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, and the second from Bahrain through to Yemen until the Red Sea.”

“This is what must be prevented in the region. In this matter, there is complete agreement between us and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has never been our enemy. It has not fought us nor have we fought it.”

Fact: Israel seeks regional dominance along with Washington’s presence. Riyadh wants uncontested Arab world control.

Fact: Both countries are warrior nations. They support ISIS, al-Qaeda, its al-Nusra offshoot and other regional terrorist groups..

Fact: Allied with Washington, they represent an axis of pure evil. Iran is a peacemaker, not a belligerent, threatening no other countries anywhere.

Eisenkot:

“When I was at a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington and heard what the Saudi representative had to say, I found it identical to what I think about Iran and the need to confront it and to confront its expansion in the region.”

Fact: Iran isn’t revanchist. It has no territorial ambitions. Nor does it seek dominance over other nations, fostering cooperative relations instead.

Netanyahu boasts about high-level cooperation with Riyadh. One rogue state supports another – best of friends apparently without formal diplomatic relations.

Iran doesn’t recognize Israel’s legitimacy, never saying it seeks the Jewish state’s destruction, as falsely claimed – or intends developing nuclear weapons it deplores and wants eliminated.

Eisenkot said

“(o)ur demand is for Hezbollah to leave Syria and for Iran and its militias to retreat from Syria.”

“We have said openly, and also quietly and secretly too, that we will not accept Iranian consolidation in Syria in general, and their concentration west of the Damascus” – within 50 km of Israel’s border.

“We will not allow any Iranian presence. We have warned them against building factories or military bases and we will not allow it.”

Iranian forces operate from Syrian bases, mostly as military advisors. It may or may not intend building one or more military bases in the country, its legal right with permission from Damascus.

Israeli military intelligence-connected DEBKAfile lied, claiming

“Iran already has 13 bases in Syria and tens of thousands of troops.” Utter rubbish!

Eisenkot’s interview came two weeks after Lebanese PM Saad Hariri’s forced resignation and detention under house arrest in Riyadh – along with scores of Saudi princes, ministers and others arrested and detained, as well as belligerent Saudi threats against Iran and Hezbollah.

If Washington, Israel and Riyadh launch war on Iran, it could be prelude to global war involving Russia – unthinkable but possible.

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.”

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The Federal Communications Commission plans to vote to overturn open-internet protections at its open meeting on Dec. 14, according to a report Wednesday from Bloomberg News.

In May, the agency voted along party lines to begin a rulemaking process to jettison these strong protections grounded in Title II of the Communications Act — a move that would undermine the sound and successful basis for the FCC’s landmark 2015 Open Internet Order, which has been upheld by the federal courts.

The FCC’s December decision will be the culmination of this seven-month proceeding, during which millions of people rejected the agency’s proposal and urged FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to preserve the safeguards put in place under the Obama administration.

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:

“In less than a month, and in defiance of the tens of millions of Americans who have spoken out for the free and open internet, Ajit Pai will move to kill Net Neutrality. It’s time to raise hell.

“We’ll learn the gory details in the next few days, but we know that Pai intends to dismantle the basic protections that have fueled the internet’s growth. And that means that however you use the Internet — to organize, to tell stories, to talk to your family, to make a living — now is the time to make your voice heard and oppose this attack on free expression, choice and innovation.

“Pai’s willingness to trot out alternative facts about broadband-industry investment and the supposed harms caused by these vital rules should worry anyone who cares about the free and open internet. Pai’s intent is clear: to destroy the internet as we know it and give even more gatekeeper power to a few huge companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.

“Any honest look at the facts proves that the Title II rules are working well, investment is up across the board, and the only uncertainty or confusion is based on what’s coming out of Pai’s mouth. If the FCC passes Pai’s plan in December, it will face enormous challenges in court — and in the streets as well.”

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In showing numerous instances of concordance and amity among Muslims and Sikhs that occurred during the Mughal era, Prof Dalip Singh’s Sikh history differs from the trend of Mughal/Musalman-bashing characterizing most of Mughal-Sikh Orientalist historiography. During the Mughal rule, ordinary Sikhs and Muslims as well as their leaders endeavored to maintain peaceful coexistence between these two communities of faith.

However, it cannot be denied that there were conflicts that occurred between the Sikh Gurus and the Mughal rulers who were contemporaneous with the former. Prof Dalip Singh took a novel approach in looking at these conflicts as caused not by religious commitment of the Mughal bureaucracy to Islam but primarily caused by political and pragmatic State concerns.

This article is an evaluation, rejoinder, and analysis of Prof Dalip Singh’s views regarding the tolerant nature of Sikh and Muslim relations in Mughal India by analyzing the conflicts that transpired during this particular timeframe and by determining whether the conflicts that occurred between the two communities were mainly due to religious reasons as alleged by Orientalists or due rather to political, economic, and pragmatic exigencies and State considerations.

By recovering and highlighting the various historical instances of Muslim-Sikh rapprochement that existed in medieval Mughal India, the article endeavors to promote a culture of dialogue and mutual respect between these two faith-traditions based on their shared history of amity.

Introduction: Context and Commitment of the Article

Prof Dalip Singh—an eminent academic authority on Sikh Studies, senior-researcher of Sikh Research and Education Center (SREC) based in Chesterfield, Missouri, USA—had written six voluminous books as well as numerous scholarly articles on the history, philosophy, and theology of Sikhism. His books are veritable sources of information on the history of Sikhism and the dynamics of the relationship between Sikh and Muslim citizens during the Mughal Empire’s era of ascendancy in India. These books are very helpful resources in the presentation of the flow of events describing the relations between the ten Gurus of Sikhism and the Mughal emperors contemporaneous with these Gurus.

Guru Nanak with Bhai Bala, Bhai Mardana and Sikh Gurus

Guru Nanak with Bhai Bala and Bhai Mardana and Sikh Gurus (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The rise of Mughal rule directly coincided with the flourishing of the spiritual ministry of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith and the subsequent ministries of the nine Sikh Gurus succeeding him. Utilizing Prof Dalip Singh’s books as bases of reference, I will evaluate and analyze his views regarding the dynamics of Sikh and Muslim relations in Mughal India by highlighting and analyzing the conflicts that transpired during this particular time-frame and determine whether the conflicts that occurred between the two communities—namely Sikh and Muslims—were mainly due to religious reasons or due rather to political, economic, and pragmatic exigencies of the time.

The Historical Milieu of the Sikh Gurus’ Relations with the Mughal Emperors

The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak (1469-1539 CE) had witnessed the defeat of the Turkic Lodhi rulers of Delhi and the rise of the Mughal regime under the leadership of the descendant of Timur, the victorious Babar Padshah. The defeated Turkic Lodhi rulers and the Mughal victors were professing Sunni Muslims. Both camps were related by bloodline to the great Turko-Mongol clan of conquerors (the Al-Khanids and the Timurids) who ruled Middle East, Central Asia, and North India.

The change of rulership in the throne of Delhi—from the Lodhi dynasty to the new Timurid-Mughal conqueror, Babar—established more firmly the hegemonic hold of Sunni Islam in the Indian Subcontinent. The tenth and last Guru of the Sikhs, Gobind Singh (1675-1708 CE) struggled against the ultra-orthodox Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Guru Gobind Singh fought Aurangzeb on egalitarian principles, and not because of religious differences between them. This conflict was triggered by the emperor’s apparent partiality and favoritism towards Muslims at the expense of his Hindu and Sikh subjects. While struggling against the oppressive and elitist policies of the Mughals, the Sikh Gurus also fought against the caste-ridden and discriminatory social practices of medieval Hinduism. This, in a gist, is the historical milieu and framework of the development of Sikhism as an egalitarian religio-philosophical faith.

Brahminic “Historical Myths” Purporting to Divide Sikhs and Muslims in Mughal India

Reading Prof Dalip Singh’s books, I noticed the objectivity of his historical descriptions regarding the relations between the Sikh Gurus and the Mughal Muslim rulers. Prof Singh identified what he calls “Orientalist and Brahminic historical concoctions” regarding many alleged events that transpired between the Sikh Gurus and the Mughal rulers [See, Dalip Singh, Eight Divine Guru Jots (Light).

Chesterfield, Missouri: Sikh Research and Educational Center, 2004; pp. 180-181]. Such historical myths purport to enlarge and blow out of proportion the Muslim-Sikh conflicts. According to Prof Dalip Singh, Brahmin historians who were schooled in the Orientalism that was in vogue among British and continental European universities and who were intensely opposed to the egalitarian and monotheistic message of Sikhism “concocted” these historical myths. Moreover, these “Orientalist and Brahminic historical concoctions” have adverse effects on the harmonious relations between Sikh and Muslim communities [Ibid., pp. 182-197].

Prof Singh’s aim in re-evaluating Sikhism’s history is to sort-out, reject, and dismiss “myths” that tend to destroy the cordial and concordant relations between Muslims and Sikhs in medieval Mughal India. Take for example his strong denial of the popular story propagated by Brahmin historians (a story that is unfortunately believed by most Sikhs as factual history) that a Pathan mercenary under the order of Emperor Bahadur Shah martyred Guru Gobind Singh. Prof Singh utilized more than one-sixth of the total pages of his book, Life of Guru Gobind Singh to prove that the story is an “Orientalist and Brahminic concoction” intended to sow discord among Muslims and Sikhs.

He analyzed the factual events surrounding the last eighty days prior to the assault of Guru Gobind Singh’s life to show that the story is a total fabrication. Likewise, he also narrated the harmonious, amicable, fraternal, and friendly relations that existed between the Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah and Guru Gobind Singh [Cf. Dalip Singh, Life of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Chesterfield, Missouri: Sikh Research and Educational Center, 2002; pp. 312-336]. He showed that Guru Gobind Singh and Emperor Bahadur Shah (Prince Shah Alam before his coronation) developed close friendship right at the start of the latter’s enthronement to the Mughal throne. The emperor was a well-wisher of the Guru who offered the Guru a Mughal robe of honor symbolizing imperial camaraderie and royal favor. Bahadur Shah even assured the free movement of the Guru throughout the whole breadth of Mughal territories. Furthermore, the emperor issued a firman (edict) guaranteeing the safety of the Guru and his disciples during the whole duration of his reign [Ibid., pp. 289-291, 302-304].

It appears that Wazir Khan of Sirhind was the mastermind of the Guru’s murder. Wazir Khan sensing the Guru’s closeness with the emperor had been sending hit men and spies to find opportunity to murder the Guru. Wazir Khan was afraid that the Guru—who was now a very close friend of Emperor Bahadur Shah—would settle scores with him as retaliation for the former’s murder of the Guru’s sons [Ibid., pp. 328-331]. According to Prof Dalip Singh, the Pathan and his assistant before they were killed in an encounter with the Sikhs, directly confessed that it was Wazir Khan who deputed them to murder Guru Gobind Singh. Emperor Bahadur Shah, who was at that time in Maharashtra—hearing of the murderous assault on the Guru’s life—right away dispatched his surgeon (an Englishman named Mr. Cole) to treat the Guru’s wounds. Furthermore, the emperor issued immediately a strong directive to round-up the 700 Pathans in the immediate vicinity where the crime was committed; as they may have harbored the Pathan assassin and his assistant. Guru Gobind Singh asked the Emperor not to do so since that act would entail punishing the innocents who may not be directly or indirectly involved in the reprehensible act [Ibid., pp. 329-330].

It is not my aim to prove whether Prof Dalip Singh’s abovementioned assessment regarding the historical circumstances surrounding the death of Guru Gobind Singh is correct or not. My purpose in narrating the above historical analysis is to show the commendable efforts of Prof Singh in removing and weeding-out what he termed as “Orientalist-Brahminic historical concoctions” that may unduly affect an objective and just appraisal of Muslim-Sikh history during the Mughal era. Such gestures of fairness coming from a Sikh historian are indeed praiseworthy since there is no dearth of history books that exaggerate unhistorical polemics against the Mughal rulers. As I see it, Prof Singh set the tone of historical factualness and unbiased objective research by removing many unfounded and propagandistic misinformation regarding the Sikh Gurus’ relationship with the Mughal emperors.

Cordial and Harmonious Relations between Sikhism and Islam during the Mughal Era

Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Prof Singh noted various conflicts between Muslims and Sikhs and between the Gurus and the Mughal royalty. Nevertheless, he also emphasized that Muslims, particularly the Sufis, and their disciples (i.e., the ordinary Muslim masses), reached out and helped the Gurus in performing pious activities, in proclaiming the doctrine of monotheism, and in declaring the egalitarian message of liberation from caste inequities. For instance, Bhai Mardana, a Muslim musician, assisted and served Guru Nanak from the start of his ministry until the Guru’s demise [See, Dalip Singh, Life of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and His Teachings. Chesterfield, Missouri: Sikh Research and Educational Center, 2004; pp. 33-36].

The Sunni-Sufi saint, Hazrat Mian Mir maintained fraternal friendship with Guru Arjan and remained constantly by the latter’s side all throughout the period of the Guru’s imprisonment and eventual martyrdom. Hazrat Mian Mir successfully achieved rapprochement between the Emperor Jahangir and Guru Hargobind [See, Eight Divine Guru Jots (Light), op.cit. pp. 178-179, 213]. It is also interesting to mention that it was Hazrat Mian Mir—who was a Muslim saint and not a Sikh for that matter, who laid the chief cornerstone of the holiest Sikh shrine, the Harmandir Sahib (the Shrine of the One God) in Amritsar, Punjab. Furthermore, the sacred scripture of Sikhism, Shri Aadi Guru Granth Sahib, contains numerous hymns and spiritual poetry composed by Muslim saints, poets, and bards [Ibid., pp. 179-180]. The above facts show not only the tolerant and all-inclusive nature of Sikhism but likewise, these facts provided historical instantiations of the deep friendship and goodwill that existed between the religious leaders of both communities.

Likewise, in the lifetime of Guru Gobind Singh, many Muslim awliya (Sufi saints) enlisted themselves as the Guru’s well-wishers, as example take the case of Sayyed Bhikha Shah who consecrated the Guru during the latter’s infancy and foretold of the Guru’s future spiritual greatness [Life of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, op.cit., pp. 30-31]. Pious Muslims like Pir Budhu Shah and his followers wholeheartedly helped the Guru to the extent that Pir Budhu Shah sacrificed his sons to defend Guru Gobind Singh from the armed attacks of the Hindu pahari-rajas (hill-chieftains) of Himachal [Ibid., pp. 190-192]. The Muslim soldiers, Nabi Khan and Ghani Khan as well as the Sunni saint, Hazrat Sayyid Muhammad Nurpuri, helped Guru Gobind Singh escape the mercenaries of Wazir Khan, the governor of Sirhind [Ibid., pp. 227-230].

These historical facts, and many more, were narrated to emphasize that a broad section of Muslims from the saintly class (Sufi sheikhs), the Mughal soldiers, mystical poets, as well as ordinary Muslims, enthusiastically aided the Sikh Gurus in their noble cause for a tolerant, caste-free, and egalitarian India. Furthermore, these narrations show that there were numerous instances of amity, concord, and friendship between the Sikh Gurus and their followers, and the Muslim Sufi saints and their disciples (i.e., the ordinary Muslim masses).

Not Islamic Doctrines Per se but Mughal Discriminatory Policies that Caused Sikh-Mughal Conflicts

Prof Dalip Singh brings home two very important points in his analysis of Sikh-Muslim relations in medieval India. Firstly, the conflicts between the Sikh Gurus and the Mughal emperors were brought about by the Mughal’s elitist and discriminatory policies towards non-Muslims. Secondly, the caste-oriented Brahmins who detested Sikhism’s egalitarian ideology, and who were firmly opposed to Sikhism’s cutting criticisms of Hindu idolatry, ritualism, and casteism, oftentimes fan the Mughal emperor’s conflict with the Sikh Gurus [Eight Divine Guru Jots (Light), op.cit. pp. 16-24]. Prof Singh also brings into the fore the part played by obscurantist, casteist, divisive and communalist Brahmins in fomenting conflicts between Sikhs and Muslims. He identified the role of Brahminic machinations in creating divisions between these two egalitarian religions. Unfortunately, most Sikh histories fail to show the Brahminic instigations in the Sikh-Muslim conflicts. Prof Singh stands out in contrast with other historians in his emphasis that most of the troubles that were experienced by the Gurus were not only due to the oppression of the Mughal Padshahs (Emperors) but also due to the plots of upper caste Hindus who were fearful of the teachings of the Gurus against casteism. These Brahmins slandered the Gurus before the Mughal authorities [Ibid., p. 209-ff].

Baba Sri Chand Ji’s statue. Sculpture by Amrit Singh Khalsa (Source: Sikhi Wiki)

Prof Singh enumerated many examples of Brahmin machinations against the Gurus. The immediate successor of Nanak, Guru Angad, suffered from the disruptive plots of Brahmins who wanted him removed from the “guruship” for his spirited campaign against the caste system [Ibid., pp. 13-17]. According to Prof Singh, there were Brahmins who aggressively supported the Udassi sect of Guru Nanak’s ascetic son, Baba Sri Chand in order to create division among the Sikhs at the crucial time when the infant Sikh community suffered bereavement during the demise of Guru Nanak [Ibid., pp. 17-19]. Similarly, a yogi-ascetic by the name of Shiv Nath Tapa—in collusion with local Brahmins—jealous of the rising popularity of Guru Angad among the masses; and envious of the general acceptance among the ordinary people of the Guru’s institution of casteless dining (Guru ka langar), vehemently endeavored to remove the Guru from preaching his doctrine of pristine monotheism and social egalitarianism in the town of Khadur and other outskirt areas [Ibid., pp. 22-24]. Likewise, Chandu, the person who is responsible for the martyrdom of  the fifth Guru Arjan; Pandit Krishan Lal who vehemently opposed the preaching of the eighth Guru Harkrishan; the upper-class Brahmins and hill-chieftains (pahari rajas)—these are not Muslims. These are all Hindus who intensely opposed the Sikh Gurus and caused them much suffering [Ibid., pp. 13-24, 209, 177-178, 312-313; See also, Life of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, op.cit. pp. 166-177].

Sikhism’s Concept of Righteous Warfare Compared with Islam’s View of a Just Struggle (Jihad)

Kirpan.jpg

A kirpan (top) and its sheath – a sword or knife carried by Sikhs (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Prof Dalip Singh explained at length the full significance and the metaphorical symbolism of the sword that Guru Gobind Singh required for devout Sikhs to perpetually carry in their person. The sword signifies the righteous authority of the One God [See, Dalip Singh, Sword: Symbol of Divine Authority. Chesterfield, Missouri: Sikh Research and Educational Center, 2002; pp. 45-52, 97-98]. It further signifies the ideal way of life for Sikhs, viz, that true Sikhs should be submissive to the divine authority of God in the service of truth, integrity, human dignity, and justice even to the point of martyrdom (shahadat) [Ibid., pp. 53-64]. The Sikh sword is not meant for its wielder to aspire for brute power and wealth—it is to be utilized for seva (service): service and submission to God’s authority, service to the Khalsa or Sikh community, and service to the whole of humanity.

This is the full religious significance of the sword in Sikhism. All the Sikh Gurus strongly detest and explicitly forbid aggressive warfare; i.e., warfare for the sake of power grabbing and warfare that involves massacre of innocent non-combatants [Ibid., p. 54]. Therefore, those wars entered-to by Sikhs that contravene the regulative principles laid down by the Gurus were devoid of religious legitimacy because such wars run counter to the Sikh tenets concerning righteous warfare (dharam yuddh). Thus, Sikhism should not be blamed for wars waged by Sikhs that go against the regulative directives set forth by the Sikh Gurus [Ibid., pp. 55-56].

As of this juncture, let me say that the Sikh teaching on defensive warfare is in perfect consonance with what Islam taught regarding jihad. When Prophet Muhammad sanctioned the use of the sword in a righteous struggle, he solemnly warned the Muslims that the sword is to be used only as the last resort and in self-defense for the sake of truth, justice, and humanity so that there will be no oppression and persecution that will overwhelm the Islamic community [Al-Qur-an 22:39; 2:190,193; 8:61]. Maulana Muhammad Ali Lahori, an eminent scholar in Quranic exegesis (tafseer Qur’aniyyah), in commenting and in summarizing the above pertinent passages in the Al Qur-an related to jihad says unequivocally that these passages explicitly proscribed and condemned in clear and certain terms aggressive warfare in the name of religion.

Even defensive warfare has Shar’i (Qur-anic) regulative principles characterized by fairness and humaneness to the enemy combatants. In no way are non-combatant civilians be included in a defensive warfare. Maulana Muhammad Ali exhorted Muslims to pay special care and attention to the Shar’i conditions laid down by the Qur-an and Sunnah (practice of the Prophet) concerning legitimate and defensive warfare [See, Maulana Muhammad Ali, The Holy Qur-an: Translation and Commentary. Columbus, Ohio: Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore Press, op.cit., 1998]. Warfare in the perspective of Islam and Sikhism is only utilized as the last resort for the defensive protection of the oppressed from the arrogant oppressors. Both religions believe that the sword is never intended for offensive or aggressive warfare. Defense for the rights and dignity of the human person is the only reason for drawing the sword—and only as the last recourse. Islam and Sikhism do not condone force and compulsion—both faiths stand for peace, tolerance, and amity [See Maulana Muhammad Ali Lahori, The Religion of Islam. Columbus, Ohio: Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore, USA Inc., 1990; pp. 405-443]. Islam however provides for the just defense of ones’ faith, life, and property. In the same vein, the sixth Guru, Hargobind and tenth Guru, Gobind Singh (as the last preceptor of Sikh lineage of spiritual masters) provided for defensive struggle against oppression (but not aggressive war) in their act of arming the Sikhs with sword.

I strongly believe that the parallel and analogous teaching of both Sikhism and Islam regarding just, defensive, and righteous warfare can be positively harnessed and be efficiently utilized as collaborative venues for interfaith dialogue between these two religions. Furthermore, interfaith dialogue on the nature of what constitutes just warfare in Sikhism and in Islam can be effective settings for mutual forgiveness and reconciliation of historical animosities between Sikhs and Muslims since both communities will be able to reflect and analyze for themselves that the numerous wars that they waged against each other in the past did not have any religious warrants or justifications—and therefore the raison d ’etre in many of these past wars were only for greed and thirst for power, and thus devoid of spiritual significance.

Not the Islamic Shariah Per se but Political Pragmatism and Discriminative Policies of Mughal Bureaucracy that Persecuted and Oppressed the Sikhs

Prof Dalip Singh did not hesitate to narrate the grave injustices perpetrated by the Mughal Padshahs to the Sikhs and to their Gurus; but I truly marvel at the proper balance and intellectual prudence shown in Prof Singh’s nuanced analysis of the actuations of the Mughal Sultans vis-à-vis Sikhs. Let us take the example of Emperor Aurangzeb. His decisions were always affected by pragmatic considerations of appeasing bigoted Muslims and Hindus who constantly flattered him in his royal durbar (court). Prof Singh argued that Aurangzeb’s decisions were not specifically dictated by his commitment to Islamic Sunni orthodoxy; rather they were largely dictated by political pragmatism. He pointed out that during the ministry of Guru Harkrishan, the Sikh masands (feudal overlords) and the rival claimant to guruship, Ram Raie should be equally pointed out as among those who greatly persecuted the Guru and caused him much distress. They were the ones who presented their case to Aurangzeb and instigated the emperor to persecute Guru Harkrishan. The Sikh masands further appealed to the emperor to make Ram Raie the Guru instead of Harkrishan. In short, Emperor Aurangzeb’s commitment to orthodox Sunni Islam did not have anything to do with his decision to imprison by house arrest Guru Harkrishan; rather it was Aurangzeb’s political and pragmatic move to please and to win-over to his side the rebellious Sikh masands and the rival claimant to the guruship, Ram Raie [See, Eight Guru Jots (Light), op.cit., pp. 307-320].

Emperor Jahangir receiving his two sons, an album-painting in gouache on paper, c 1605-06.jpg

Emperor Jahangir receiving his two sons, Khusrau and Parviz, an album-painting in gouache on paper, c. 1605-06 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Prof Singh deeply disagreed with most Sikh historians in their allegation that Guru Arjan was martyred because he committed treason against the reign of Emperor Jahangir by supporting the rebellion of Prince Khusro (the ill-fated son of Jahangir). Prof Singh reasoned that Guru Arjan was a peacemaker as shown in all his religious writings. In these writings, he exhorted the Sikhs to live in amity with everyone and to abide by the laws of the land. The Guru was a staunch advocate of inter-religious harmony as shown in the material as well as spiritual help that he accorded with impartiality to the needy Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh masses [Ibid., pp.169-203]. Given these facts, it would be unthinkable that Guru Arjan supported the rebellion of Khusro.

Prof Singh also opposed the allegation that Guru Arjan was penalized for rebellion, which in the Mughal times was public execution, according to the Shariah law [Ibid., pp. 184-185]. He argues—and I believe, rightly so—that in the Mughal era, penal provisions in the Shariahlaw was not applied to persons who are not Muslims. Legally speaking, Shariah is defined as “the entire law and regulations taken or inferred from Divine Revelation (Qur-an) and Prophetic Traditions (Sunnah) governing Muslims in their individual and collective lives as Muslims from the cradle to the grave (sic)” [See, Bayazid Kurdi Shafii, Shari Kya Hain? (What is Shariah?). Peshawar: Kitabistan Fiqhiyyah, 1979; pp. 50-53. Emphasis and italics, mine. See also, Huseyin Hilmi Işik, Seadet Ibadiyye (Endless BlissVolume 3. Istanbul: Wakf Ihlas Gazetçelik, 1980; pp. 57-69]. The Mughal rulers enforced the Shariah Law solely on the Muslim subjects and not to the kufurat (unbelievers), a technical term for non-Muslims [Cf., Ahmet Tuluykan, Kitab-e Dowleh Islamiyeh (Book of Islamic Treasuries). Kutahya, Turkey: Ruhani Sohbetleri, 1942; pp. 34-47]. It is therefore erroneous to claim that Guru Arjan, a non-Muslim, was punished according to the mandates of the Shariah. The Mughal officers in Lahore murdered the Guru, under the instigation of Chandu, a Hindu who was jealous of the Guru’s fame. The Guru’s martyrdom was also due to the slanders and intrigues of fundamentalist bigots (both Muslims and Hindus) in the court of Emperor Jahangir who for pragmatic reasons to remain in power, approved of the Guru’s execution; and never because of the Islamic Law (Shariah), which solely governed the life of Muslims.

I must admit that both Mughal royal chronicles, Tuzukh-e-Jahangiri and Tuzukh-e-Alamgiri narrated that the executions meted to both Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur were punishments for propagating a different religion in contradistinction to Islam; however I cannot belittle the fact that the clear provision stipulated by preeminent fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) scholars like Hazrat Imam Abu Hanifa concerning the jurisdiction of the Shariah clearly stands out—that non-Muslims (kafir) cannot be punished on account of Muslim Law since the Shariah, as explained by the four Imams of Sunni fiqh governs only the Islamic Ummah (community of believers).

To properly understand Emperor Jahangir’s verdict of putting to death Guru Arjan and whether such an order was based on Shariah considerations, it is relevant to provide direct quote from the Tuzukh-e-Jahangiri, which was Jahangir’s own personal memoir. The Tuzukh states:

In Goindwal, which is on the bank of river Beas, there was a Hindu named Arjan. Masquerading in the mantle of sanctity and piety, to the extent that he had lured many from the simpletons among the Hindus, and even from the unwary and dumb adherents of Islam, by his conduct and pretensions; and they had trumpeted far and wide his supposed holiness. They called him Master, and from every corner, ignorant hoi polloi crowded to venerate and place their trust in him. For approximately three or four generations, their business is becoming popular among the dimwitted masses. I therefore intend to put a stop to this vain affair and bring him to Islam, the right path [Kareem Maksod Zishan, Tuzukh-i-Jahangiri: Literal Translation with Chronological Introduction. Chittagong, Bangladesh: Bangla Institute of South Asian Studies, 1965; p. 144].

The abovementioned quote is the only text in the Tuzukh that directly mentioned Guru Arjan and his religious activities. In the above text, Jahangir definitely identified the Guru by his name, Arjan. This text did not say anything to conclusively prove that Emperor Jahangir commanded the execution of Guru Arjan using the Shariah Law as the legal basis. I must stress that this particular quote from the Mughal royal chronicle, Tuzukh-e-Jahangiri did not support the allegation that the execution meted to Guru Arjan was punishment for propagating a different religion in contradistinction to Islam. The above text only shows Emperor Jahangir’s animosity towards Guru Arjan. The text however showed that Jahangir, in order to put an “Islamic sense or flavor” to his animosities against Guru Arjan, expressly stated that he wanted to “bring him [i.e., the Guru] to Islam”—i.e., the Emperor intended to convert the Guru to the Islamic faith [Ibid].

It must be clearly reiterated that even if one argues that Emperor Jahangir invoked the penal code of the Shariah as the legal basis in putting Guru Arjan to death (a point that the Tuzukh did not assert); still, one must not forget the fact that the clear provision stipulated by preeminent fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) scholars like Hazrat Imam Abu Hanifa concerning the jurisdiction of the Shariah still clearly stands out—that non-Muslims (kafir) cannot be punished on account of Muslim Law since the Shariah, as explained by the four Imams of Sunni fiqhgoverns only the Islamic Ummah (community of believers). Punishing a non-Muslim by appealing to the Shariah is at best misguided and erroneous if one adheres faithfully to the clear pronouncement of Hazrat Imam Abu Hanifa as to the non-inclusion of kafirs from the domains of Shariah jurisdiction [Cf., Huseyin Hilmi Işik, Seadet Ibadiyye (Endless BlissVolume 3, op. cit., p. 59. See also Bayazid Kurdi Shafii, Shari Kya Hain? (What is Shariah?), op. cit., p. 53].

Selimiye Camii ve Mavi Gökyüzü.jpg

Hanafi (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

It should be borne in mind that the Islam which spread in Mughal Northern India, and adhered to by the ulama (religious functionaries) in Mughal court is the Sunni Hanafi school of fiqh. If these ulama prescribed Shar’i penalty to execute both Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur, these ulama were declaring something contrary to Islamic Law—their ruling (fatwa) can be considered null and void from the very beginning. Thus, it appears to me that the Mughal emperors Jahangir and Aurangzeb outwardly feigned allegiance to Islam by publicly executing the Gurus Arjan and Tegh Bahadur, and allowed their respective chroniclers to write that the Gurus were executed for propagating a different religion. All the above measures were done by the Mughal emperor for propagandistic agenda; to placate and appease the rising ultra-orthodox Naqshbandi ulama whose influence were steadily growing in the Mughal durbar as shown in the meteoric rise of Hazrat Imam Rabbani Ahmad Sirhindi whose spiritual mastership (Pir-Mureedi) was acknowledged and sought-after by many ashraf (Central Asian Turks) nobles in the courts of both Jahangir and Aurangzeb [Cf. Eight Guru Jots (Light), op.cit., pp. 184-190].

If the Islamic Shariah was not supposed to be the legal corpus used in giving capital punishment to non-Muslims (kufurat) since technically the Shariah was to be exclusively and solely applied to Muslims, then what punitive law did the Mughal Emperors use in penalizing non-Muslims, in particular the martyred Gurus Arjan and Tegh Bahadur? This question will be tackled in the next subsection.

The Mughal Rule was not an Islamic State in terms of Shariah Specifications but an Empire Governed by Turko-Mongol Traditions and Conventions 

To properly understand the Mughal policies in its dealings with Sikhism, it should be stressed that the Mughal Empire in India was never an Islamic State, nor was it intended to be a theocratic empire. Of course, I admit that within the Mughal administration, there were Sunni mullahs and Sufi mystics of varied persuasions and doctrines; in the same manner that there were also Hindu nobilities (i.e., the Rajputs) and Brahmin councilors. There were even agnostic philosophers in the officialdom of the Mughal emperors. Religious pluralism and multiculturalism existed in the Mughal court even during the reign of the ultra-orthodox Sunni Muslim Aurangzeb [See, Halid Rufa’i, Turkic and Mughal Governance: The Case of Ottoman and Timurid Sultanates. Istanbul: Khas Turk Publishers, 1973; pp. 145-147]. Objectively speaking, the Mughal Empire and its distant “cousin”, the Ottoman Sultanate in Turkey were pluralistic regimes. Yet there were times that orthodox Muslim nobles wanted to assert and were at times successful to some degree, in forcing the emperors to buy their own brand of Islamic fundamentalism.

As this was in the case of Aurangzeb’s reign (and to some extent during Jahangir’s rule) when the conservatist Naqshbandi order of Sufis headed by Hazrat Imam Rabbani Ahmad Sirhindi became influential in the Mughal court. In his spiritual letters, collectively known as, Maktubat, Hazrat Ahmad Sirhindi repeatedly complained that the Mughal bureaucracy was very lenient towards the practices of non-Muslims; by tolerating and even by encouraging them. He asked the Mughal nobles to exert their utmost efforts in compelling the Mughal Padshah to implement pro-Muslim political and economic policies. The ashraf nobles who aligned with Hazrat Ahmad Sirhindi were relatively successful in persuading Emperor Aurangzeb to establish semblance of orthodox Islamic rule during his reign [Cf. Halid Rufa’i, op. cit., pp. 147-149. See also, Haleem Sarwar Zia. Mujaddad alf Sani al Sirhindi and His Role in the Islamic Renaissance of Central Asia. Karachi, Pakistan: Maktab-i-Irfan wal Islamiyya, 1959; pp. 225-226]. Nevertheless, in the general span of its existence, the Mughal Rule (likewise, the Osmanlı or Ottoman Rule in Turkey) was essentially pluralist, tolerant, cosmopolitan, and openly secular.

According to Dr Alp Aqaoğlu, a scholar of medieval Mongol-Turkic governance, the criminal and penal laws implemented in Mughal India were not based on the Qur-an and Shariah. The penalties inflicted by Mughals and Turks were not based on the Qur-an but on the customary “yasa-yarligh Chagtai Changgiz Khani” (i.e., traditional penal laws as practiced by Chughtai Turkic-Mongols and as inaugurated by Genghis Khan and his immediate successors) [See, Prof. Alp Aqaoğlu, Sirkarı  Maghul ve Vilayetı Turk (The Rule of the Mughals and the Government of the Turks). Iznik, Turkey: Yeni Kutuphane, 1967; pp. 21-59].

Therefore, the relatively brutal punitive laws of Mughal India were rooted in the customary criminal laws of the Mongols (yarligh or yasa), and were never based on Islamic Shariah. Halil Inalçik, professor of ancient and medieval Turkish administrative systems likewise added that the Ottoman Sultans of Turkey and the Mughal Padshahs (Emperors) of India never intended to establish an “Islamic rule”—in the strictest signification of the term—during their periods of ascendancy. Both regimes established the millat or mazhab system of governance in their respective domains. This system entailed that all millat (cultural groups) or mazhabs (Urdu and Turkic term for religious communities) within the Ottoman (and Mughal) realm were autonomous and therefore, free to establish their own religious and communal laws in their respective territorial domains; provided that these millat give their allegiance to the Padshah, pay the tributary taxes as token acknowledgment of the Padshah’s sovereignty, and provided further that the customary laws of the respective millats did not challenge the authority of the Padshah or the religious sensibilities of the Muslim majority [Halil İnalçik, The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age, 1300-1600. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1973; pp. 65-75, 89-118].

The preservation and expansion of their power in India were the overriding goals of the Mughal emperors. Their professed allegiance to Islam was likewise based on self-interest and political pragmatism, i.e., whether their allegiance to Islamic orthodoxy will conduce or add to their security of power and territorial expansion [See, L.S. Stavrianos, The Ottoman Empire.New York: Rinehart Press, 1957; pp. 8-31]. The Mughal Rule was never an Islamic rule in the strict Shariah meaning of the term; instead, the Mughals only pragmatically utilized Islam for their own political convenience. Even an eminent orthodox Naqshbandi Sufi Muslim saint like Hazrat Imam Rabbani Ahmad Sirhindi was likewise imprisoned by Emperor Jahangir when the former became critical of the policies of the latter; thus proving the contention that the Mughal Padshahs were moved not by bonafide Islamic zeal but by court intrigues and by pragmatic acts to ensure the maintenance of their power [Cf., Eight Divine Guru Jots, op.cit., pp. 137-139. See also Haleem Sarwar Zia. Mujaddad alf Sani al Sirhindi and His Role in the Islamic Renaissance of Central Asia, op.cit., pp. 225-226]. These facts further confirm and establish the contention that Guru Arjan never rebelled against the Shariah Law nor was he punished on account of the Islamic Law. His death was due to the intrigues sown by intolerant and bigoted religionists, both Muslims and Hindus; and not because of the Shariah penal code per’se.

Sikhism as an Independent, Monotheistic, and Egalitarian Religion and the Ever-present Danger of Hindu Assimilation Posed by Brahminic and Hinduttva Ideology on Contemporary Sikhism 

Prof Dalip Singh showed in his writings the arduous and painstaking revolutionary efforts made by all Sikh Gurus starting from Guru Nanak down to Guru Gobind Singh to distinguish the Sikh Khalsa from Hinduism. The Gurus imbue the Sikhs with egalitarian ideals to contrast starkly the societal inequalities of caste-conscious Hinduism. Beginning with Guru Nanak’s denunciations of the evils of casteism and idolatry, continuing with Guru Angad’s institution of communal kitchen and congregational dining (Guru ka langar) to break down caste barriers, and culminating in Guru Gobind Singh’s formation of the democratic and casteless Khalsa (Sikh community)—all these instill in the Sikhs the ideals of fraternity, justice, and equality.

In their foresight, the Gurus of Sikhism insisted that the Sikhs are a distinct community. This insistence was made so that Sikhs will not be assimilated by the caste-ridden and idolatrous Hindu way of life, which were clearly against the Gurus’ egalitarian and monotheistic ideals. The Gurus knew the strength of the Brahministic sway in Indian culture and mentality. They knew that if Sikhs will not be vigilant, there is a grave danger that the prevalent ethos of Hinduism will water down the Sikh ideals of egalitarianism and staunch monotheism—thus making it another sect of Hinduism like what happened to other egalitarian and anti-caste religious movements of India in the past. It was the spiritual genius and progressive forethought of the Gurus that made possible the survival of Sikhism as an independent world religion. In his writings, Prof Dalip Singh alerted the Sikhs regarding the grave threat and the consequent danger of falling into the trap of Hindu assimilation and Brahminic syncretism [Dalip Singh, Eight Divine Guru Jots (Light). Chesterfield: Missouri: Sikh Research and Educational Center, 2004; pp. 137-139].

Looking at contemporary India’s track record vis-à-vis its policy of state secularism; pitted against the emergence of an extremely aggressive Hindu fundamentalism (Hinduttva) in present day India, and judging from current events, I can sadly say that during the last four decades, India failed miserably in implementing the lofty ideals of secularism. The destruction of the Golden Temple in Amritsar with Indira Gandhi’s persecutions of Sikhs in the 1980s; the destruction of Babri Masjid with the encouragement of the Hindu fundamentalist party, Bharatiya Janata Parishad in the 1990s; the killing of hundreds (if not thousands) of Muslims (i.e., Gujarat Carnage) in 2002; and the sporadic burning of Christian churches in Orissa and in places where Harijan Christians reside; these and many other instances show that the Brahminist communal forces are bent on making India a Hindu theocracy at the disastrous expense of the rights of other religious minorities. These turn of events were contrary to Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of a “truly pacifist, pluralist, tolerant, and secular India” [Daniel Birch and Ian Allen, Gandhi. San Francisco CA: Field Educational Publications; 1969; pp. 47]. As for India’s performance in honoring the Sikh’s right for autonomy after the Partition, my historical readings showed that India was not too conscientious in fulfilling most of its promises to the Sikhs. Judging from what I have seen in the militant resurgence of Hindu fundamentalism and Brahmin racism in present-day India, I feel that the Sikhs have to be very cautious regarding these recent developments, since the real dangers of cultural assimilation, marginalization, and ultimate cultural annihilation of the Sikhs are ever present, and pressures are being exerted by fundamentalist Brahmins to make Sikhism into another insignificant sect of disarrayed Hinduism.

Conclusion

Prof Dalip Singh’s research in Sikh history is unique since it puts a concordant perspective on the history of Muslim-Sikh relations in Mughal times without sacrificing historical facts. He was able to place a proper and balanced outlook to a very touchy issue in medieval Indian history. To write an objective and just appraisal of Sikh-Muslim relations coming from a Sikh scholar whose sole goal is to sincerely rectify historical mistakes for the sake of concord between the two communities, is indeed a very laudable accomplishment. Personally, I am very tired of reading lopsided Sikh history books that always portray Sikhs and Hindus as “bhai-bhai” (brothers) and the Muslims as their common “dushman” (enemies). Oftentimes, these biased books engage in Muslim bashing without giving due credit to a very concrete historical fact that there were hundreds, nay, thousands of ordinary Muslims (and many Muslim Sufi saints) who were on the side of the Gurus in their struggle against Mughal injustice, oppression, and tyranny.

Prof Dalip Singh amply recorded that there were many Muslims who, while remaining committed Muslims, were themselves true Sikhs (disciples) of the Gurus. These Sikhi-Muslims, as they were often called even laid their precious lives, the lives of their loved-ones, and their properties for the egalitarian cause of the Gurus. It is sad to see that many books on Sikh history only showed the sufferings of the Gurus in the hands of Mughal rulers, but failed to highlight the sinister treatments meted to the Gurus by the elitist, racist and caste-conscious Brahmins. I am therefore grateful to Prof Dalip Singh’s intellectual prudence, circumspect research, and objective treatment of historical facts. I truly admire his courageous and daring crusade of rectifying Sikh history and of exposing the myths propagated by historians who are infected by Brahminic propaganda to pit Sikhs against Muslims. Indeed, I found his views on Muslim-Sikh relations in the Mughal Era, to be more authentic, lucid, and conducive in producing a more harmonious, tolerant, and concordant rapport between the contemporary adherents of Islam and the Sikh faith.

A Brief Note on the Article

This article is an updated, detailed and expanded version of my conference paper which was first delivered in a lecture-forum entitled, “Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh Relations in Medieval Mughal India” held at Guru Nanak Sikh Temple, Martillo St., Marikina City, Philippines on July 02, 2008. Years before, the first seminal drafts of this paper were written with full concurrence and approval of Dr. Dalip Singh of Sikh Research and Educational Center based in Chesterfield, Missouri, USA. Prof Singh himself, through constant e-mail communications with the author of this paper, had thoroughly reviewed the draft and made valuable comments of its contents. In the same manner, I am extremely grateful to Prof. Dr. Devinder Singh Chahal, the present chair of the Institute for Understanding Sikhism (IUS) based in Quebec, Canada for his valuable critique and intellectual guidance in pointing-out parts of the paper that needs to be further reflected-upon, strengthened, or reconsidered from a different vantage point. 

Prof. Henry Francis B. Espiritu is Associate Professor-VI of Philosophy and Asian Studies at the University of the Philippines (UP), Cebu City. He was former Academic Coordinator of the Political Science Program at UP Cebu from 2011-2014. He was also the former Coordinator of Gender and Development (GAD) Office at UP Cebu from 2015-2016. His research interests include Islamic Studies particularly Sunni jurisprudence, Islamic feminist discourses, Islam in interfaith dialogue initiatives, Islamic environmentalism, Classical Sunni Islamic pedagogy, the writings of Imam Al-Ghazali on pluralism and tolerance, Turkish Sufism, Muslim-Christian dialogue, Middle Eastern affairs, Peace Studies, Mughal Studies and Public Theology.

Sources

A.) Primary Sources:

Singh, Dalip. Eight Divine Guru Jots (Light). Chesterfield , Missouri : Sikh Research and Educational Center, 2004.

__________. Life of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Chesterfield , Missouri : Sikh Research and Educational Center, 2002.

__________. Life of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and His Teachings. Chesterfield , Missouri : Sikh Research and Educational Center, 2004.

__________. Sword: Symbol of Divine Authority. Chesterfield , Missouri : Sikh Research and Educational Center, 2002.

B. Secondary Sources:

Ali, Maulana Muhammad. The Holy Qur-an: Translation and Commentary. Columbus , Ohio : Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore Press, 1998.

______________________. The Religion of Islam. Columbus , Ohio : Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore Press, 1990.

Aqaoğlu, Alp. Sirkarı Maghul ve Vilayetı Turk (The Rule of the Mughals and the Government of the Turks). Iznik , Turkey : Yeni Kutuphane, 1967.

Birch, Daniel and Allen, Ian. Gandhi. San Francisco CA : Field Educational Publications, 1969.

Inalçik, Halil. The Ottoman Empire : The Classical Age, 1300-1600. New York : Praeger Publishers, 1973.

Işik, Huseyin Hilmi. Se’adet Ibadiyye (Endless Bliss) Volume 3. Istanbul : Wakf Ihlas Gazetçelik, 1980.

Rufa’i, Halid. Turkic and Mughal Governance: The Case of Ottoman and Timurid Sultanates. Istanbul : Khas Turk Publishers, 1973.

Shafii, Bayazid Kurdi. Shari Kya Hain? (What is Shariah?). Peshawar , Pakistan : Kitabistan Fiqhiyyah, 1979.

StavrianosL.S. The Ottoman Empire . New York : Rinehart Press, 1957.

Tuluykan, Ahmet. Kitab-e Dowleh Islamiyeh (Book of Islamic Treasuries). Kutahya , Turkey : Ruhani Sohbetleri, 1942.

Zia, Haleem Sarwar. Mujaddad alf Sani al Sirhindi and His Role in the Islamic Renaissance of Central Asia. Karachi , Pakistan : Maktab-i-Irfan wal Islamiyya, 1959.

Zishan, Kareem Maksod. Tuzukh-i-Jahangiri: Literal Translation with Chronological Introduction, 4th edition. Chittagong , Bangladesh : Bangla Institute of South Asian Studies, 1965.

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  • Comments Off on Muslim-Sikh Relations in Medieval India: Deconstructing the Orientalist Myth of “Perpetual Communal Conflict”

In showing numerous instances of concordance and amity among Muslims and Sikhs that occurred during the Mughal era, Prof Dalip Singh’s Sikh history differs from the trend of Mughal/Musalman-bashing characterizing most of Mughal-Sikh Orientalist historiography. During the Mughal rule, ordinary Sikhs and Muslims as well as their leaders endeavored to maintain peaceful coexistence between these two communities of faith.

However, it cannot be denied that there were conflicts that occurred between the Sikh Gurus and the Mughal rulers who were contemporaneous with the former. Prof Dalip Singh took a novel approach in looking at these conflicts as caused not by religious commitment of the Mughal bureaucracy to Islam but primarily caused by political and pragmatic State concerns.

This article is an evaluation, rejoinder, and analysis of Prof Dalip Singh’s views regarding the tolerant nature of Sikh and Muslim relations in Mughal India by analyzing the conflicts that transpired during this particular timeframe and by determining whether the conflicts that occurred between the two communities were mainly due to religious reasons as alleged by Orientalists or due rather to political, economic, and pragmatic exigencies and State considerations.

By recovering and highlighting the various historical instances of Muslim-Sikh rapprochement that existed in medieval Mughal India, the article endeavors to promote a culture of dialogue and mutual respect between these two faith-traditions based on their shared history of amity.

Introduction: Context and Commitment of the Article

Prof Dalip Singh—an eminent academic authority on Sikh Studies, senior-researcher of Sikh Research and Education Center (SREC) based in Chesterfield, Missouri, USA—had written six voluminous books as well as numerous scholarly articles on the history, philosophy, and theology of Sikhism. His books are veritable sources of information on the history of Sikhism and the dynamics of the relationship between Sikh and Muslim citizens during the Mughal Empire’s era of ascendancy in India. These books are very helpful resources in the presentation of the flow of events describing the relations between the ten Gurus of Sikhism and the Mughal emperors contemporaneous with these Gurus.

Guru Nanak with Bhai Bala, Bhai Mardana and Sikh Gurus

Guru Nanak with Bhai Bala and Bhai Mardana and Sikh Gurus (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The rise of Mughal rule directly coincided with the flourishing of the spiritual ministry of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith and the subsequent ministries of the nine Sikh Gurus succeeding him. Utilizing Prof Dalip Singh’s books as bases of reference, I will evaluate and analyze his views regarding the dynamics of Sikh and Muslim relations in Mughal India by highlighting and analyzing the conflicts that transpired during this particular time-frame and determine whether the conflicts that occurred between the two communities—namely Sikh and Muslims—were mainly due to religious reasons or due rather to political, economic, and pragmatic exigencies of the time.

The Historical Milieu of the Sikh Gurus’ Relations with the Mughal Emperors

The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak (1469-1539 CE) had witnessed the defeat of the Turkic Lodhi rulers of Delhi and the rise of the Mughal regime under the leadership of the descendant of Timur, the victorious Babar Padshah. The defeated Turkic Lodhi rulers and the Mughal victors were professing Sunni Muslims. Both camps were related by bloodline to the great Turko-Mongol clan of conquerors (the Al-Khanids and the Timurids) who ruled Middle East, Central Asia, and North India.

The change of rulership in the throne of Delhi—from the Lodhi dynasty to the new Timurid-Mughal conqueror, Babar—established more firmly the hegemonic hold of Sunni Islam in the Indian Subcontinent. The tenth and last Guru of the Sikhs, Gobind Singh (1675-1708 CE) struggled against the ultra-orthodox Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Guru Gobind Singh fought Aurangzeb on egalitarian principles, and not because of religious differences between them. This conflict was triggered by the emperor’s apparent partiality and favoritism towards Muslims at the expense of his Hindu and Sikh subjects. While struggling against the oppressive and elitist policies of the Mughals, the Sikh Gurus also fought against the caste-ridden and discriminatory social practices of medieval Hinduism. This, in a gist, is the historical milieu and framework of the development of Sikhism as an egalitarian religio-philosophical faith.

Brahminic “Historical Myths” Purporting to Divide Sikhs and Muslims in Mughal India

Reading Prof Dalip Singh’s books, I noticed the objectivity of his historical descriptions regarding the relations between the Sikh Gurus and the Mughal Muslim rulers. Prof Singh identified what he calls “Orientalist and Brahminic historical concoctions” regarding many alleged events that transpired between the Sikh Gurus and the Mughal rulers [See, Dalip Singh, Eight Divine Guru Jots (Light).

Chesterfield, Missouri: Sikh Research and Educational Center, 2004; pp. 180-181]. Such historical myths purport to enlarge and blow out of proportion the Muslim-Sikh conflicts. According to Prof Dalip Singh, Brahmin historians who were schooled in the Orientalism that was in vogue among British and continental European universities and who were intensely opposed to the egalitarian and monotheistic message of Sikhism “concocted” these historical myths. Moreover, these “Orientalist and Brahminic historical concoctions” have adverse effects on the harmonious relations between Sikh and Muslim communities [Ibid., pp. 182-197].

Prof Singh’s aim in re-evaluating Sikhism’s history is to sort-out, reject, and dismiss “myths” that tend to destroy the cordial and concordant relations between Muslims and Sikhs in medieval Mughal India. Take for example his strong denial of the popular story propagated by Brahmin historians (a story that is unfortunately believed by most Sikhs as factual history) that a Pathan mercenary under the order of Emperor Bahadur Shah martyred Guru Gobind Singh. Prof Singh utilized more than one-sixth of the total pages of his book, Life of Guru Gobind Singh to prove that the story is an “Orientalist and Brahminic concoction” intended to sow discord among Muslims and Sikhs.

He analyzed the factual events surrounding the last eighty days prior to the assault of Guru Gobind Singh’s life to show that the story is a total fabrication. Likewise, he also narrated the harmonious, amicable, fraternal, and friendly relations that existed between the Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah and Guru Gobind Singh [Cf. Dalip Singh, Life of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Chesterfield, Missouri: Sikh Research and Educational Center, 2002; pp. 312-336]. He showed that Guru Gobind Singh and Emperor Bahadur Shah (Prince Shah Alam before his coronation) developed close friendship right at the start of the latter’s enthronement to the Mughal throne. The emperor was a well-wisher of the Guru who offered the Guru a Mughal robe of honor symbolizing imperial camaraderie and royal favor. Bahadur Shah even assured the free movement of the Guru throughout the whole breadth of Mughal territories. Furthermore, the emperor issued a firman (edict) guaranteeing the safety of the Guru and his disciples during the whole duration of his reign [Ibid., pp. 289-291, 302-304].

It appears that Wazir Khan of Sirhind was the mastermind of the Guru’s murder. Wazir Khan sensing the Guru’s closeness with the emperor had been sending hit men and spies to find opportunity to murder the Guru. Wazir Khan was afraid that the Guru—who was now a very close friend of Emperor Bahadur Shah—would settle scores with him as retaliation for the former’s murder of the Guru’s sons [Ibid., pp. 328-331]. According to Prof Dalip Singh, the Pathan and his assistant before they were killed in an encounter with the Sikhs, directly confessed that it was Wazir Khan who deputed them to murder Guru Gobind Singh. Emperor Bahadur Shah, who was at that time in Maharashtra—hearing of the murderous assault on the Guru’s life—right away dispatched his surgeon (an Englishman named Mr. Cole) to treat the Guru’s wounds. Furthermore, the emperor issued immediately a strong directive to round-up the 700 Pathans in the immediate vicinity where the crime was committed; as they may have harbored the Pathan assassin and his assistant. Guru Gobind Singh asked the Emperor not to do so since that act would entail punishing the innocents who may not be directly or indirectly involved in the reprehensible act [Ibid., pp. 329-330].

It is not my aim to prove whether Prof Dalip Singh’s abovementioned assessment regarding the historical circumstances surrounding the death of Guru Gobind Singh is correct or not. My purpose in narrating the above historical analysis is to show the commendable efforts of Prof Singh in removing and weeding-out what he termed as “Orientalist-Brahminic historical concoctions” that may unduly affect an objective and just appraisal of Muslim-Sikh history during the Mughal era. Such gestures of fairness coming from a Sikh historian are indeed praiseworthy since there is no dearth of history books that exaggerate unhistorical polemics against the Mughal rulers. As I see it, Prof Singh set the tone of historical factualness and unbiased objective research by removing many unfounded and propagandistic misinformation regarding the Sikh Gurus’ relationship with the Mughal emperors.

Cordial and Harmonious Relations between Sikhism and Islam during the Mughal Era

Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Prof Singh noted various conflicts between Muslims and Sikhs and between the Gurus and the Mughal royalty. Nevertheless, he also emphasized that Muslims, particularly the Sufis, and their disciples (i.e., the ordinary Muslim masses), reached out and helped the Gurus in performing pious activities, in proclaiming the doctrine of monotheism, and in declaring the egalitarian message of liberation from caste inequities. For instance, Bhai Mardana, a Muslim musician, assisted and served Guru Nanak from the start of his ministry until the Guru’s demise [See, Dalip Singh, Life of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and His Teachings. Chesterfield, Missouri: Sikh Research and Educational Center, 2004; pp. 33-36].

The Sunni-Sufi saint, Hazrat Mian Mir maintained fraternal friendship with Guru Arjan and remained constantly by the latter’s side all throughout the period of the Guru’s imprisonment and eventual martyrdom. Hazrat Mian Mir successfully achieved rapprochement between the Emperor Jahangir and Guru Hargobind [See, Eight Divine Guru Jots (Light), op.cit. pp. 178-179, 213]. It is also interesting to mention that it was Hazrat Mian Mir—who was a Muslim saint and not a Sikh for that matter, who laid the chief cornerstone of the holiest Sikh shrine, the Harmandir Sahib (the Shrine of the One God) in Amritsar, Punjab. Furthermore, the sacred scripture of Sikhism, Shri Aadi Guru Granth Sahib, contains numerous hymns and spiritual poetry composed by Muslim saints, poets, and bards [Ibid., pp. 179-180]. The above facts show not only the tolerant and all-inclusive nature of Sikhism but likewise, these facts provided historical instantiations of the deep friendship and goodwill that existed between the religious leaders of both communities.

Likewise, in the lifetime of Guru Gobind Singh, many Muslim awliya (Sufi saints) enlisted themselves as the Guru’s well-wishers, as example take the case of Sayyed Bhikha Shah who consecrated the Guru during the latter’s infancy and foretold of the Guru’s future spiritual greatness [Life of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, op.cit., pp. 30-31]. Pious Muslims like Pir Budhu Shah and his followers wholeheartedly helped the Guru to the extent that Pir Budhu Shah sacrificed his sons to defend Guru Gobind Singh from the armed attacks of the Hindu pahari-rajas (hill-chieftains) of Himachal [Ibid., pp. 190-192]. The Muslim soldiers, Nabi Khan and Ghani Khan as well as the Sunni saint, Hazrat Sayyid Muhammad Nurpuri, helped Guru Gobind Singh escape the mercenaries of Wazir Khan, the governor of Sirhind [Ibid., pp. 227-230].

These historical facts, and many more, were narrated to emphasize that a broad section of Muslims from the saintly class (Sufi sheikhs), the Mughal soldiers, mystical poets, as well as ordinary Muslims, enthusiastically aided the Sikh Gurus in their noble cause for a tolerant, caste-free, and egalitarian India. Furthermore, these narrations show that there were numerous instances of amity, concord, and friendship between the Sikh Gurus and their followers, and the Muslim Sufi saints and their disciples (i.e., the ordinary Muslim masses).

Not Islamic Doctrines Per se but Mughal Discriminatory Policies that Caused Sikh-Mughal Conflicts

Prof Dalip Singh brings home two very important points in his analysis of Sikh-Muslim relations in medieval India. Firstly, the conflicts between the Sikh Gurus and the Mughal emperors were brought about by the Mughal’s elitist and discriminatory policies towards non-Muslims. Secondly, the caste-oriented Brahmins who detested Sikhism’s egalitarian ideology, and who were firmly opposed to Sikhism’s cutting criticisms of Hindu idolatry, ritualism, and casteism, oftentimes fan the Mughal emperor’s conflict with the Sikh Gurus [Eight Divine Guru Jots (Light), op.cit. pp. 16-24]. Prof Singh also brings into the fore the part played by obscurantist, casteist, divisive and communalist Brahmins in fomenting conflicts between Sikhs and Muslims. He identified the role of Brahminic machinations in creating divisions between these two egalitarian religions. Unfortunately, most Sikh histories fail to show the Brahminic instigations in the Sikh-Muslim conflicts. Prof Singh stands out in contrast with other historians in his emphasis that most of the troubles that were experienced by the Gurus were not only due to the oppression of the Mughal Padshahs (Emperors) but also due to the plots of upper caste Hindus who were fearful of the teachings of the Gurus against casteism. These Brahmins slandered the Gurus before the Mughal authorities [Ibid., p. 209-ff].

Baba Sri Chand Ji’s statue. Sculpture by Amrit Singh Khalsa (Source: Sikhi Wiki)

Prof Singh enumerated many examples of Brahmin machinations against the Gurus. The immediate successor of Nanak, Guru Angad, suffered from the disruptive plots of Brahmins who wanted him removed from the “guruship” for his spirited campaign against the caste system [Ibid., pp. 13-17]. According to Prof Singh, there were Brahmins who aggressively supported the Udassi sect of Guru Nanak’s ascetic son, Baba Sri Chand in order to create division among the Sikhs at the crucial time when the infant Sikh community suffered bereavement during the demise of Guru Nanak [Ibid., pp. 17-19]. Similarly, a yogi-ascetic by the name of Shiv Nath Tapa—in collusion with local Brahmins—jealous of the rising popularity of Guru Angad among the masses; and envious of the general acceptance among the ordinary people of the Guru’s institution of casteless dining (Guru ka langar), vehemently endeavored to remove the Guru from preaching his doctrine of pristine monotheism and social egalitarianism in the town of Khadur and other outskirt areas [Ibid., pp. 22-24]. Likewise, Chandu, the person who is responsible for the martyrdom of  the fifth Guru Arjan; Pandit Krishan Lal who vehemently opposed the preaching of the eighth Guru Harkrishan; the upper-class Brahmins and hill-chieftains (pahari rajas)—these are not Muslims. These are all Hindus who intensely opposed the Sikh Gurus and caused them much suffering [Ibid., pp. 13-24, 209, 177-178, 312-313; See also, Life of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, op.cit. pp. 166-177].

Sikhism’s Concept of Righteous Warfare Compared with Islam’s View of a Just Struggle (Jihad)

Kirpan.jpg

A kirpan (top) and its sheath – a sword or knife carried by Sikhs (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Prof Dalip Singh explained at length the full significance and the metaphorical symbolism of the sword that Guru Gobind Singh required for devout Sikhs to perpetually carry in their person. The sword signifies the righteous authority of the One God [See, Dalip Singh, Sword: Symbol of Divine Authority. Chesterfield, Missouri: Sikh Research and Educational Center, 2002; pp. 45-52, 97-98]. It further signifies the ideal way of life for Sikhs, viz, that true Sikhs should be submissive to the divine authority of God in the service of truth, integrity, human dignity, and justice even to the point of martyrdom (shahadat) [Ibid., pp. 53-64]. The Sikh sword is not meant for its wielder to aspire for brute power and wealth—it is to be utilized for seva (service): service and submission to God’s authority, service to the Khalsa or Sikh community, and service to the whole of humanity.

This is the full religious significance of the sword in Sikhism. All the Sikh Gurus strongly detest and explicitly forbid aggressive warfare; i.e., warfare for the sake of power grabbing and warfare that involves massacre of innocent non-combatants [Ibid., p. 54]. Therefore, those wars entered-to by Sikhs that contravene the regulative principles laid down by the Gurus were devoid of religious legitimacy because such wars run counter to the Sikh tenets concerning righteous warfare (dharam yuddh). Thus, Sikhism should not be blamed for wars waged by Sikhs that go against the regulative directives set forth by the Sikh Gurus [Ibid., pp. 55-56].

As of this juncture, let me say that the Sikh teaching on defensive warfare is in perfect consonance with what Islam taught regarding jihad. When Prophet Muhammad sanctioned the use of the sword in a righteous struggle, he solemnly warned the Muslims that the sword is to be used only as the last resort and in self-defense for the sake of truth, justice, and humanity so that there will be no oppression and persecution that will overwhelm the Islamic community [Al-Qur-an 22:39; 2:190,193; 8:61]. Maulana Muhammad Ali Lahori, an eminent scholar in Quranic exegesis (tafseer Qur’aniyyah), in commenting and in summarizing the above pertinent passages in the Al Qur-an related to jihad says unequivocally that these passages explicitly proscribed and condemned in clear and certain terms aggressive warfare in the name of religion.

Even defensive warfare has Shar’i (Qur-anic) regulative principles characterized by fairness and humaneness to the enemy combatants. In no way are non-combatant civilians be included in a defensive warfare. Maulana Muhammad Ali exhorted Muslims to pay special care and attention to the Shar’i conditions laid down by the Qur-an and Sunnah (practice of the Prophet) concerning legitimate and defensive warfare [See, Maulana Muhammad Ali, The Holy Qur-an: Translation and Commentary. Columbus, Ohio: Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore Press, op.cit., 1998]. Warfare in the perspective of Islam and Sikhism is only utilized as the last resort for the defensive protection of the oppressed from the arrogant oppressors. Both religions believe that the sword is never intended for offensive or aggressive warfare. Defense for the rights and dignity of the human person is the only reason for drawing the sword—and only as the last recourse. Islam and Sikhism do not condone force and compulsion—both faiths stand for peace, tolerance, and amity [See Maulana Muhammad Ali Lahori, The Religion of Islam. Columbus, Ohio: Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore, USA Inc., 1990; pp. 405-443]. Islam however provides for the just defense of ones’ faith, life, and property. In the same vein, the sixth Guru, Hargobind and tenth Guru, Gobind Singh (as the last preceptor of Sikh lineage of spiritual masters) provided for defensive struggle against oppression (but not aggressive war) in their act of arming the Sikhs with sword.

I strongly believe that the parallel and analogous teaching of both Sikhism and Islam regarding just, defensive, and righteous warfare can be positively harnessed and be efficiently utilized as collaborative venues for interfaith dialogue between these two religions. Furthermore, interfaith dialogue on the nature of what constitutes just warfare in Sikhism and in Islam can be effective settings for mutual forgiveness and reconciliation of historical animosities between Sikhs and Muslims since both communities will be able to reflect and analyze for themselves that the numerous wars that they waged against each other in the past did not have any religious warrants or justifications—and therefore the raison d ’etre in many of these past wars were only for greed and thirst for power, and thus devoid of spiritual significance.

Not the Islamic Shariah Per se but Political Pragmatism and Discriminative Policies of Mughal Bureaucracy that Persecuted and Oppressed the Sikhs

Prof Dalip Singh did not hesitate to narrate the grave injustices perpetrated by the Mughal Padshahs to the Sikhs and to their Gurus; but I truly marvel at the proper balance and intellectual prudence shown in Prof Singh’s nuanced analysis of the actuations of the Mughal Sultans vis-à-vis Sikhs. Let us take the example of Emperor Aurangzeb. His decisions were always affected by pragmatic considerations of appeasing bigoted Muslims and Hindus who constantly flattered him in his royal durbar (court). Prof Singh argued that Aurangzeb’s decisions were not specifically dictated by his commitment to Islamic Sunni orthodoxy; rather they were largely dictated by political pragmatism. He pointed out that during the ministry of Guru Harkrishan, the Sikh masands (feudal overlords) and the rival claimant to guruship, Ram Raie should be equally pointed out as among those who greatly persecuted the Guru and caused him much distress. They were the ones who presented their case to Aurangzeb and instigated the emperor to persecute Guru Harkrishan. The Sikh masands further appealed to the emperor to make Ram Raie the Guru instead of Harkrishan. In short, Emperor Aurangzeb’s commitment to orthodox Sunni Islam did not have anything to do with his decision to imprison by house arrest Guru Harkrishan; rather it was Aurangzeb’s political and pragmatic move to please and to win-over to his side the rebellious Sikh masands and the rival claimant to the guruship, Ram Raie [See, Eight Guru Jots (Light), op.cit., pp. 307-320].

Emperor Jahangir receiving his two sons, an album-painting in gouache on paper, c 1605-06.jpg

Emperor Jahangir receiving his two sons, Khusrau and Parviz, an album-painting in gouache on paper, c. 1605-06 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Prof Singh deeply disagreed with most Sikh historians in their allegation that Guru Arjan was martyred because he committed treason against the reign of Emperor Jahangir by supporting the rebellion of Prince Khusro (the ill-fated son of Jahangir). Prof Singh reasoned that Guru Arjan was a peacemaker as shown in all his religious writings. In these writings, he exhorted the Sikhs to live in amity with everyone and to abide by the laws of the land. The Guru was a staunch advocate of inter-religious harmony as shown in the material as well as spiritual help that he accorded with impartiality to the needy Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh masses [Ibid., pp.169-203]. Given these facts, it would be unthinkable that Guru Arjan supported the rebellion of Khusro.

Prof Singh also opposed the allegation that Guru Arjan was penalized for rebellion, which in the Mughal times was public execution, according to the Shariah law [Ibid., pp. 184-185]. He argues—and I believe, rightly so—that in the Mughal era, penal provisions in the Shariahlaw was not applied to persons who are not Muslims. Legally speaking, Shariah is defined as “the entire law and regulations taken or inferred from Divine Revelation (Qur-an) and Prophetic Traditions (Sunnah) governing Muslims in their individual and collective lives as Muslims from the cradle to the grave (sic)” [See, Bayazid Kurdi Shafii, Shari Kya Hain? (What is Shariah?). Peshawar: Kitabistan Fiqhiyyah, 1979; pp. 50-53. Emphasis and italics, mine. See also, Huseyin Hilmi Işik, Seadet Ibadiyye (Endless BlissVolume 3. Istanbul: Wakf Ihlas Gazetçelik, 1980; pp. 57-69]. The Mughal rulers enforced the Shariah Law solely on the Muslim subjects and not to the kufurat (unbelievers), a technical term for non-Muslims [Cf., Ahmet Tuluykan, Kitab-e Dowleh Islamiyeh (Book of Islamic Treasuries). Kutahya, Turkey: Ruhani Sohbetleri, 1942; pp. 34-47]. It is therefore erroneous to claim that Guru Arjan, a non-Muslim, was punished according to the mandates of the Shariah. The Mughal officers in Lahore murdered the Guru, under the instigation of Chandu, a Hindu who was jealous of the Guru’s fame. The Guru’s martyrdom was also due to the slanders and intrigues of fundamentalist bigots (both Muslims and Hindus) in the court of Emperor Jahangir who for pragmatic reasons to remain in power, approved of the Guru’s execution; and never because of the Islamic Law (Shariah), which solely governed the life of Muslims.

I must admit that both Mughal royal chronicles, Tuzukh-e-Jahangiri and Tuzukh-e-Alamgiri narrated that the executions meted to both Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur were punishments for propagating a different religion in contradistinction to Islam; however I cannot belittle the fact that the clear provision stipulated by preeminent fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) scholars like Hazrat Imam Abu Hanifa concerning the jurisdiction of the Shariah clearly stands out—that non-Muslims (kafir) cannot be punished on account of Muslim Law since the Shariah, as explained by the four Imams of Sunni fiqh governs only the Islamic Ummah (community of believers).

To properly understand Emperor Jahangir’s verdict of putting to death Guru Arjan and whether such an order was based on Shariah considerations, it is relevant to provide direct quote from the Tuzukh-e-Jahangiri, which was Jahangir’s own personal memoir. The Tuzukh states:

In Goindwal, which is on the bank of river Beas, there was a Hindu named Arjan. Masquerading in the mantle of sanctity and piety, to the extent that he had lured many from the simpletons among the Hindus, and even from the unwary and dumb adherents of Islam, by his conduct and pretensions; and they had trumpeted far and wide his supposed holiness. They called him Master, and from every corner, ignorant hoi polloi crowded to venerate and place their trust in him. For approximately three or four generations, their business is becoming popular among the dimwitted masses. I therefore intend to put a stop to this vain affair and bring him to Islam, the right path [Kareem Maksod Zishan, Tuzukh-i-Jahangiri: Literal Translation with Chronological Introduction. Chittagong, Bangladesh: Bangla Institute of South Asian Studies, 1965; p. 144].

The abovementioned quote is the only text in the Tuzukh that directly mentioned Guru Arjan and his religious activities. In the above text, Jahangir definitely identified the Guru by his name, Arjan. This text did not say anything to conclusively prove that Emperor Jahangir commanded the execution of Guru Arjan using the Shariah Law as the legal basis. I must stress that this particular quote from the Mughal royal chronicle, Tuzukh-e-Jahangiri did not support the allegation that the execution meted to Guru Arjan was punishment for propagating a different religion in contradistinction to Islam. The above text only shows Emperor Jahangir’s animosity towards Guru Arjan. The text however showed that Jahangir, in order to put an “Islamic sense or flavor” to his animosities against Guru Arjan, expressly stated that he wanted to “bring him [i.e., the Guru] to Islam”—i.e., the Emperor intended to convert the Guru to the Islamic faith [Ibid].

It must be clearly reiterated that even if one argues that Emperor Jahangir invoked the penal code of the Shariah as the legal basis in putting Guru Arjan to death (a point that the Tuzukh did not assert); still, one must not forget the fact that the clear provision stipulated by preeminent fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) scholars like Hazrat Imam Abu Hanifa concerning the jurisdiction of the Shariah still clearly stands out—that non-Muslims (kafir) cannot be punished on account of Muslim Law since the Shariah, as explained by the four Imams of Sunni fiqhgoverns only the Islamic Ummah (community of believers). Punishing a non-Muslim by appealing to the Shariah is at best misguided and erroneous if one adheres faithfully to the clear pronouncement of Hazrat Imam Abu Hanifa as to the non-inclusion of kafirs from the domains of Shariah jurisdiction [Cf., Huseyin Hilmi Işik, Seadet Ibadiyye (Endless BlissVolume 3, op. cit., p. 59. See also Bayazid Kurdi Shafii, Shari Kya Hain? (What is Shariah?), op. cit., p. 53].

Selimiye Camii ve Mavi Gökyüzü.jpg

Hanafi (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

It should be borne in mind that the Islam which spread in Mughal Northern India, and adhered to by the ulama (religious functionaries) in Mughal court is the Sunni Hanafi school of fiqh. If these ulama prescribed Shar’i penalty to execute both Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur, these ulama were declaring something contrary to Islamic Law—their ruling (fatwa) can be considered null and void from the very beginning. Thus, it appears to me that the Mughal emperors Jahangir and Aurangzeb outwardly feigned allegiance to Islam by publicly executing the Gurus Arjan and Tegh Bahadur, and allowed their respective chroniclers to write that the Gurus were executed for propagating a different religion. All the above measures were done by the Mughal emperor for propagandistic agenda; to placate and appease the rising ultra-orthodox Naqshbandi ulama whose influence were steadily growing in the Mughal durbar as shown in the meteoric rise of Hazrat Imam Rabbani Ahmad Sirhindi whose spiritual mastership (Pir-Mureedi) was acknowledged and sought-after by many ashraf (Central Asian Turks) nobles in the courts of both Jahangir and Aurangzeb [Cf. Eight Guru Jots (Light), op.cit., pp. 184-190].

If the Islamic Shariah was not supposed to be the legal corpus used in giving capital punishment to non-Muslims (kufurat) since technically the Shariah was to be exclusively and solely applied to Muslims, then what punitive law did the Mughal Emperors use in penalizing non-Muslims, in particular the martyred Gurus Arjan and Tegh Bahadur? This question will be tackled in the next subsection.

The Mughal Rule was not an Islamic State in terms of Shariah Specifications but an Empire Governed by Turko-Mongol Traditions and Conventions 

To properly understand the Mughal policies in its dealings with Sikhism, it should be stressed that the Mughal Empire in India was never an Islamic State, nor was it intended to be a theocratic empire. Of course, I admit that within the Mughal administration, there were Sunni mullahs and Sufi mystics of varied persuasions and doctrines; in the same manner that there were also Hindu nobilities (i.e., the Rajputs) and Brahmin councilors. There were even agnostic philosophers in the officialdom of the Mughal emperors. Religious pluralism and multiculturalism existed in the Mughal court even during the reign of the ultra-orthodox Sunni Muslim Aurangzeb [See, Halid Rufa’i, Turkic and Mughal Governance: The Case of Ottoman and Timurid Sultanates. Istanbul: Khas Turk Publishers, 1973; pp. 145-147]. Objectively speaking, the Mughal Empire and its distant “cousin”, the Ottoman Sultanate in Turkey were pluralistic regimes. Yet there were times that orthodox Muslim nobles wanted to assert and were at times successful to some degree, in forcing the emperors to buy their own brand of Islamic fundamentalism.

As this was in the case of Aurangzeb’s reign (and to some extent during Jahangir’s rule) when the conservatist Naqshbandi order of Sufis headed by Hazrat Imam Rabbani Ahmad Sirhindi became influential in the Mughal court. In his spiritual letters, collectively known as, Maktubat, Hazrat Ahmad Sirhindi repeatedly complained that the Mughal bureaucracy was very lenient towards the practices of non-Muslims; by tolerating and even by encouraging them. He asked the Mughal nobles to exert their utmost efforts in compelling the Mughal Padshah to implement pro-Muslim political and economic policies. The ashraf nobles who aligned with Hazrat Ahmad Sirhindi were relatively successful in persuading Emperor Aurangzeb to establish semblance of orthodox Islamic rule during his reign [Cf. Halid Rufa’i, op. cit., pp. 147-149. See also, Haleem Sarwar Zia. Mujaddad alf Sani al Sirhindi and His Role in the Islamic Renaissance of Central Asia. Karachi, Pakistan: Maktab-i-Irfan wal Islamiyya, 1959; pp. 225-226]. Nevertheless, in the general span of its existence, the Mughal Rule (likewise, the Osmanlı or Ottoman Rule in Turkey) was essentially pluralist, tolerant, cosmopolitan, and openly secular.

According to Dr Alp Aqaoğlu, a scholar of medieval Mongol-Turkic governance, the criminal and penal laws implemented in Mughal India were not based on the Qur-an and Shariah. The penalties inflicted by Mughals and Turks were not based on the Qur-an but on the customary “yasa-yarligh Chagtai Changgiz Khani” (i.e., traditional penal laws as practiced by Chughtai Turkic-Mongols and as inaugurated by Genghis Khan and his immediate successors) [See, Prof. Alp Aqaoğlu, Sirkarı  Maghul ve Vilayetı Turk (The Rule of the Mughals and the Government of the Turks). Iznik, Turkey: Yeni Kutuphane, 1967; pp. 21-59].

Therefore, the relatively brutal punitive laws of Mughal India were rooted in the customary criminal laws of the Mongols (yarligh or yasa), and were never based on Islamic Shariah. Halil Inalçik, professor of ancient and medieval Turkish administrative systems likewise added that the Ottoman Sultans of Turkey and the Mughal Padshahs (Emperors) of India never intended to establish an “Islamic rule”—in the strictest signification of the term—during their periods of ascendancy. Both regimes established the millat or mazhab system of governance in their respective domains. This system entailed that all millat (cultural groups) or mazhabs (Urdu and Turkic term for religious communities) within the Ottoman (and Mughal) realm were autonomous and therefore, free to establish their own religious and communal laws in their respective territorial domains; provided that these millat give their allegiance to the Padshah, pay the tributary taxes as token acknowledgment of the Padshah’s sovereignty, and provided further that the customary laws of the respective millats did not challenge the authority of the Padshah or the religious sensibilities of the Muslim majority [Halil İnalçik, The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age, 1300-1600. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1973; pp. 65-75, 89-118].

The preservation and expansion of their power in India were the overriding goals of the Mughal emperors. Their professed allegiance to Islam was likewise based on self-interest and political pragmatism, i.e., whether their allegiance to Islamic orthodoxy will conduce or add to their security of power and territorial expansion [See, L.S. Stavrianos, The Ottoman Empire.New York: Rinehart Press, 1957; pp. 8-31]. The Mughal Rule was never an Islamic rule in the strict Shariah meaning of the term; instead, the Mughals only pragmatically utilized Islam for their own political convenience. Even an eminent orthodox Naqshbandi Sufi Muslim saint like Hazrat Imam Rabbani Ahmad Sirhindi was likewise imprisoned by Emperor Jahangir when the former became critical of the policies of the latter; thus proving the contention that the Mughal Padshahs were moved not by bonafide Islamic zeal but by court intrigues and by pragmatic acts to ensure the maintenance of their power [Cf., Eight Divine Guru Jots, op.cit., pp. 137-139. See also Haleem Sarwar Zia. Mujaddad alf Sani al Sirhindi and His Role in the Islamic Renaissance of Central Asia, op.cit., pp. 225-226]. These facts further confirm and establish the contention that Guru Arjan never rebelled against the Shariah Law nor was he punished on account of the Islamic Law. His death was due to the intrigues sown by intolerant and bigoted religionists, both Muslims and Hindus; and not because of the Shariah penal code per’se.

Sikhism as an Independent, Monotheistic, and Egalitarian Religion and the Ever-present Danger of Hindu Assimilation Posed by Brahminic and Hinduttva Ideology on Contemporary Sikhism 

Prof Dalip Singh showed in his writings the arduous and painstaking revolutionary efforts made by all Sikh Gurus starting from Guru Nanak down to Guru Gobind Singh to distinguish the Sikh Khalsa from Hinduism. The Gurus imbue the Sikhs with egalitarian ideals to contrast starkly the societal inequalities of caste-conscious Hinduism. Beginning with Guru Nanak’s denunciations of the evils of casteism and idolatry, continuing with Guru Angad’s institution of communal kitchen and congregational dining (Guru ka langar) to break down caste barriers, and culminating in Guru Gobind Singh’s formation of the democratic and casteless Khalsa (Sikh community)—all these instill in the Sikhs the ideals of fraternity, justice, and equality.

In their foresight, the Gurus of Sikhism insisted that the Sikhs are a distinct community. This insistence was made so that Sikhs will not be assimilated by the caste-ridden and idolatrous Hindu way of life, which were clearly against the Gurus’ egalitarian and monotheistic ideals. The Gurus knew the strength of the Brahministic sway in Indian culture and mentality. They knew that if Sikhs will not be vigilant, there is a grave danger that the prevalent ethos of Hinduism will water down the Sikh ideals of egalitarianism and staunch monotheism—thus making it another sect of Hinduism like what happened to other egalitarian and anti-caste religious movements of India in the past. It was the spiritual genius and progressive forethought of the Gurus that made possible the survival of Sikhism as an independent world religion. In his writings, Prof Dalip Singh alerted the Sikhs regarding the grave threat and the consequent danger of falling into the trap of Hindu assimilation and Brahminic syncretism [Dalip Singh, Eight Divine Guru Jots (Light). Chesterfield: Missouri: Sikh Research and Educational Center, 2004; pp. 137-139].

Looking at contemporary India’s track record vis-à-vis its policy of state secularism; pitted against the emergence of an extremely aggressive Hindu fundamentalism (Hinduttva) in present day India, and judging from current events, I can sadly say that during the last four decades, India failed miserably in implementing the lofty ideals of secularism. The destruction of the Golden Temple in Amritsar with Indira Gandhi’s persecutions of Sikhs in the 1980s; the destruction of Babri Masjid with the encouragement of the Hindu fundamentalist party, Bharatiya Janata Parishad in the 1990s; the killing of hundreds (if not thousands) of Muslims (i.e., Gujarat Carnage) in 2002; and the sporadic burning of Christian churches in Orissa and in places where Harijan Christians reside; these and many other instances show that the Brahminist communal forces are bent on making India a Hindu theocracy at the disastrous expense of the rights of other religious minorities. These turn of events were contrary to Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of a “truly pacifist, pluralist, tolerant, and secular India” [Daniel Birch and Ian Allen, Gandhi. San Francisco CA: Field Educational Publications; 1969; pp. 47]. As for India’s performance in honoring the Sikh’s right for autonomy after the Partition, my historical readings showed that India was not too conscientious in fulfilling most of its promises to the Sikhs. Judging from what I have seen in the militant resurgence of Hindu fundamentalism and Brahmin racism in present-day India, I feel that the Sikhs have to be very cautious regarding these recent developments, since the real dangers of cultural assimilation, marginalization, and ultimate cultural annihilation of the Sikhs are ever present, and pressures are being exerted by fundamentalist Brahmins to make Sikhism into another insignificant sect of disarrayed Hinduism.

Conclusion

Prof Dalip Singh’s research in Sikh history is unique since it puts a concordant perspective on the history of Muslim-Sikh relations in Mughal times without sacrificing historical facts. He was able to place a proper and balanced outlook to a very touchy issue in medieval Indian history. To write an objective and just appraisal of Sikh-Muslim relations coming from a Sikh scholar whose sole goal is to sincerely rectify historical mistakes for the sake of concord between the two communities, is indeed a very laudable accomplishment. Personally, I am very tired of reading lopsided Sikh history books that always portray Sikhs and Hindus as “bhai-bhai” (brothers) and the Muslims as their common “dushman” (enemies). Oftentimes, these biased books engage in Muslim bashing without giving due credit to a very concrete historical fact that there were hundreds, nay, thousands of ordinary Muslims (and many Muslim Sufi saints) who were on the side of the Gurus in their struggle against Mughal injustice, oppression, and tyranny.

Prof Dalip Singh amply recorded that there were many Muslims who, while remaining committed Muslims, were themselves true Sikhs (disciples) of the Gurus. These Sikhi-Muslims, as they were often called even laid their precious lives, the lives of their loved-ones, and their properties for the egalitarian cause of the Gurus. It is sad to see that many books on Sikh history only showed the sufferings of the Gurus in the hands of Mughal rulers, but failed to highlight the sinister treatments meted to the Gurus by the elitist, racist and caste-conscious Brahmins. I am therefore grateful to Prof Dalip Singh’s intellectual prudence, circumspect research, and objective treatment of historical facts. I truly admire his courageous and daring crusade of rectifying Sikh history and of exposing the myths propagated by historians who are infected by Brahminic propaganda to pit Sikhs against Muslims. Indeed, I found his views on Muslim-Sikh relations in the Mughal Era, to be more authentic, lucid, and conducive in producing a more harmonious, tolerant, and concordant rapport between the contemporary adherents of Islam and the Sikh faith.

A Brief Note on the Article

This article is an updated, detailed and expanded version of my conference paper which was first delivered in a lecture-forum entitled, “Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh Relations in Medieval Mughal India” held at Guru Nanak Sikh Temple, Martillo St., Marikina City, Philippines on July 02, 2008. Years before, the first seminal drafts of this paper were written with full concurrence and approval of Dr. Dalip Singh of Sikh Research and Educational Center based in Chesterfield, Missouri, USA. Prof Singh himself, through constant e-mail communications with the author of this paper, had thoroughly reviewed the draft and made valuable comments of its contents. In the same manner, I am extremely grateful to Prof. Dr. Devinder Singh Chahal, the present chair of the Institute for Understanding Sikhism (IUS) based in Quebec, Canada for his valuable critique and intellectual guidance in pointing-out parts of the paper that needs to be further reflected-upon, strengthened, or reconsidered from a different vantage point. 

Prof. Henry Francis B. Espiritu is Associate Professor-VI of Philosophy and Asian Studies at the University of the Philippines (UP), Cebu City. He was former Academic Coordinator of the Political Science Program at UP Cebu from 2011-2014. He was also the former Coordinator of Gender and Development (GAD) Office at UP Cebu from 2015-2016. His research interests include Islamic Studies particularly Sunni jurisprudence, Islamic feminist discourses, Islam in interfaith dialogue initiatives, Islamic environmentalism, Classical Sunni Islamic pedagogy, the writings of Imam Al-Ghazali on pluralism and tolerance, Turkish Sufism, Muslim-Christian dialogue, Middle Eastern affairs, Peace Studies, Mughal Studies and Public Theology.

Sources

A.) Primary Sources:

Singh, Dalip. Eight Divine Guru Jots (Light). Chesterfield , Missouri : Sikh Research and Educational Center, 2004.

__________. Life of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Chesterfield , Missouri : Sikh Research and Educational Center, 2002.

__________. Life of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and His Teachings. Chesterfield , Missouri : Sikh Research and Educational Center, 2004.

__________. Sword: Symbol of Divine Authority. Chesterfield , Missouri : Sikh Research and Educational Center, 2002.

B. Secondary Sources:

Ali, Maulana Muhammad. The Holy Qur-an: Translation and Commentary. Columbus , Ohio : Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore Press, 1998.

______________________. The Religion of Islam. Columbus , Ohio : Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore Press, 1990.

Aqaoğlu, Alp. Sirkarı Maghul ve Vilayetı Turk (The Rule of the Mughals and the Government of the Turks). Iznik , Turkey : Yeni Kutuphane, 1967.

Birch, Daniel and Allen, Ian. Gandhi. San Francisco CA : Field Educational Publications, 1969.

Inalçik, Halil. The Ottoman Empire : The Classical Age, 1300-1600. New York : Praeger Publishers, 1973.

Işik, Huseyin Hilmi. Se’adet Ibadiyye (Endless Bliss) Volume 3. Istanbul : Wakf Ihlas Gazetçelik, 1980.

Rufa’i, Halid. Turkic and Mughal Governance: The Case of Ottoman and Timurid Sultanates. Istanbul : Khas Turk Publishers, 1973.

Shafii, Bayazid Kurdi. Shari Kya Hain? (What is Shariah?). Peshawar , Pakistan : Kitabistan Fiqhiyyah, 1979.

StavrianosL.S. The Ottoman Empire . New York : Rinehart Press, 1957.

Tuluykan, Ahmet. Kitab-e Dowleh Islamiyeh (Book of Islamic Treasuries). Kutahya , Turkey : Ruhani Sohbetleri, 1942.

Zia, Haleem Sarwar. Mujaddad alf Sani al Sirhindi and His Role in the Islamic Renaissance of Central Asia. Karachi , Pakistan : Maktab-i-Irfan wal Islamiyya, 1959.

Zishan, Kareem Maksod. Tuzukh-i-Jahangiri: Literal Translation with Chronological Introduction, 4th edition. Chittagong , Bangladesh : Bangla Institute of South Asian Studies, 1965.

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War Crimes as Policy

By Mark Taliano, November 17, 2017

The West, their allies, and their proxies are not wanted in Syria. They are the problem, not the solution. Their foreign “interventions” in Syria amount to war crimes as policy.

Report Urges Congress Require Chinese State Media to Register as Foreign Agents

By Stephen Lendman, November 17, 2017

Perhaps it signaled what’s ahead, an all-out assault on legitimate dissent, viewpoints challenging the official narrative, hard truths dark forces in America want suppressed, especially online, in RT’s case for its popular television news, information and commentaries.

Russia and China Build Up a New Economic Geography

By F. William Engdahl, November 17, 2017

On November 8 Russia’s large mining group Norilsk Nickel announced it had begun operations at a new state-of-the-art Bystrinsky mining and processing plant outside of Chita in Russia’s Zabaykalsky Krai. Notable about the project is the participation of China, as well as the fact that four years ago the huge copper, gold and magnetite reserves of Bystrinsky were inaccessible to any market and completely undeveloped.

Burundi Exits the ICC: An Interview with David Paul Jacobs

By David Paul Jacobs and Ann Garrison, November 17, 2017

Last year the African Union resisted Western pressure to intervene militarily in Burundi. On October 26, Burundi officially completed its withdrawal from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) without being indicted. The next day the Non-Aligned Movement of 120 member nations rejected the UN Commission of Inquiry’s report accusing Burundi of human rights crimes within its own borders. That’s quite a list of anti-imperial accomplishments for a tiny East African nation that’s always ranked among the 10 poorest in the world.

Russia-gate Spreads to Europe

By Robert Parry, November 17, 2017

The Russia-gate hysteria has jumped the Atlantic with Europeans blaming Russia for Brexit and Catalonian discontent. But what about Israeli influence operations or, for that matter, American ones, asks Robert Parry.

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UK Government, Shale Gas and Climate Change

November 17th, 2017 by Lesley Docksey

Despite falling apart at the seams over its Brexit ‘negotiations’ with the EU, and its internal fights and scandals, bringing shame and embarrassment to the UK, Theresa May’s government is determined to carry on with its money-oriented and earth-trashing policies.

When they help with one hand, they hinder with both. While science says we need to have zero global carbon emissions by 2040, the government is aiming for a 57% drop by 2030, and doesn’t actually have the policies to achieve that. Even so, 25% of the UK’s energy is now generated by renewable sources. Much of that is due to Scotland’s progress. Month by month they improve while elsewhere the Tory government has cut support for renewable energy projects.

Too many people in England have a NIMBY (‘not in my back yard’) attitude and the reasons for objecting to renewable developments are often based on spoiling the views across our green and pleasant land. Wind turbines are apparently totally unacceptable as part of the landscape, although people lived for years (and still do in some places) with electricity pylons marching across the land; just as they’ve mostly stopped objecting to telephone and satellite masts popping up everywhere because they love their mobile phones more than their views.

But offshore wind (and Britain has a lot of ‘offshore’ in relation to land mass) also comes in for objections, despite the fact it could be a real bonus to the country.

People who have a sea view don’t want to look at wind turbines despite the fact that planned installations are not that close to shore. “They’re objecting to some white dots on the horizon!” was one renewable energy supporter’s comment. But the UK is a small island nation and we have a lot of traffic in our waters. Do all of those gazing at their precious sea view not notice the huge container ships, oil tankers and all the rest chuntering across the horizon?

Instead of making a genuine push for renewable energy, the government insists that nuclear power, as in new builds Hinkley Point C (being built by the French state-owned company EDF, and others built by China and South Korea), and fossil fuel in the form of shale gas is the only way to keep the country going. To this end, in December 2015, they made available 93 licences for onshore oil and gas exploration.

Fracking is very much an English project, as Wales has a moratorium on the practice, and Scotland has an outright ban (as does Northern Ireland’s neighbour Ireland). Northern Ireland itself is in limbo. Their last Environment Minister was planning to ban fracking, but the NI Department of the Environment (DoENI) was abolished in May 2016. However, according to Planning Aid England (March 2017), England is the only part of the UK where shale gas extraction is currently permitted.

But then England, poor benighted England, is a Tory stronghold and the Tories have pledged ‘unprecedented support’ for fossil fuels – in return for all the ‘donations’ they’re getting from the oil bosses. In a spirit of generosity, they then decide that communities should be given some money for allowing fracking to ruin their lives, and in August 2016 they launched a consultation on a proposed ‘Shale Wealth Fund’. This was to determine how to share out the money, not whether they should even consider trying to offer bribes.

So on Saturday November 11th the government published this announcement – at 12:15 am in the middle of the night, probably hoping that once the sun had risen we’d all be shopping while wearing our red poppies to support our armed forces, and far too busy to notice. They are offering up to £10 million to any community affected by the activities of shale gas companies. Pretty crass, seeing that the UK is also talking about ‘leading the world’ in cutting carbon emissions at the UN climate change conference in Bonn.

Will it work? Probably not, as all the communities currently threatened with fracking are either actively protesting or organising their protests. And each year the number of people supporting fracking diminishes. Now only 16% are in favour of shale gas.

Where’s the money coming from? According to one dedicated protestor at the Preston New Road site, there is no way the fracking companies would give away that amount of money; it would be a real dent in their hoped-for profits, and so far, almost all drilling will be exploratory. He also added that they had already tried to pay active protesters to go away by offering £25,000. “That’s a lot of money when you’re skint” he said, but no one appears to be taking up the offer.

So will the government be using taxpayers’ money to prop up a policy that 84% of us don’t want? Well, of course it will. The money will come from the tax revenues the government is hoping to collect from shale gas, if and when there’s any genuine production. With this money, the government suggests communities could pay for projects such as

  • new play parks, community sports facilities and libraries (which means buying back the land that got sold off and reopening the libraries that closed due to lack of funding)
  • improvements to transport links (that the government has refused funding for)
  • restoration of local heritage sites (that have been neglected or trashed by government schemes)

Back to the protester who commented,

“Do they really think a play park would be more important than your child drinking poisoned water?” 

And they don’t mention repairing the damage to the roads, lanes and bridges that the heavy industrial fracking traffic will cause, disrupting any ‘improvements’ to transport links. Although, if the USA is anything to go by, the bill for that will be much higher.  Take Pennsylvania: 

In 2012, approximately $204 million was collected in “impact fees” from fracking companies. ‘Impact fee’ is an appropriate name because Pennsylvania has suffered significant impact from shale gas drilling. But then statistics emerged on the appalling condition of Pennsylvania roads. In 2010, PennDOT estimated road damage from drilling at $265 million. But by 2013, the state estimated that $3.5 billion would be needed just to maintain the states existing assets and $8.7 billion to make all the necessary bridge repairs. 

The real hypocritical punch-below-the-belt by our ‘leading the world on environment protection’ government is this: 

The Shale Wealth Fund principles include:

  • a commitment to real local decision-making, by allowing local communities to determine how the Shale Wealth Fund is spent in their area. prioritising the needs of local people first and foremost.
  • ensuring that decision-making is locally representative and those who make these decisions are held accountable to local communities.
  • The government has confirmed that it will be up to communities to decide where the money should go.

But… 

When Lancashire County Council refused permission for Cuadrilla to start fracking operations, citing impact and noise, Cuadrilla submitted an appeal. Sajid Javid, the government’s Communities Secretary, overturned the Council’s decision and gave Cuadrilla permission to drill. Would it surprise you that Javid has links to the finance sector that bankrolls fossil fuel companies?

So much for committing to local decision making.

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Crimes of Saudi Arabia and Its Allies in Yemen: Casualties and Damages

November 17th, 2017 by Legal Center for Rights and Development

Saudi Arabia declared war against Yemen in 2015 with the aid and support of several other countries through the sale of weapons, logistics and intelligence services. 

Below is the summary of casualties and damages, 900 days from the outset of the war, provided by the Legal Center for Rights and Development, a civil society organization based in the capital of Sana’a, Yemen.

Source: amlashi / Legal Center for Rights and Development

Based in Sanaa, the LCRD, provides a daily update of  casualties:

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Throughout the past decade, the UN General Assembly Third Committee has adopted the resolution: “Combating Glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”

Every year the resolution is adopted by an overwhelming majority of UN member states, while the European Union, which, as the battleground of Nazism should have supported the resolution, merely abstains, and their fence-straddling raises disturbing questions about their actual tendencies. Japan’s abstention raises equally disturbing questions. The United States has consistently, and shockingly, opposed this resolution.

The resolution is sponsored by the Russian Federation, which together with its Soviet comrades, lost more than 30 million citizens in the struggle against the Nazi invasion. The resolution is co-sponsored by more than 35 member states, including many of the most fiercely anti-fascist countries, including China, which lost another 25 million Chinese citizens in the struggle against Japanese fascist invaders, North Korea, which suffered horrifically under Japanese imperialism, but ultimately triumphed in the struggle against Japanese colonization and fascism, and other co-sponsors include Cuba, Kazakhstan, Bolivia, Belarus, Angola, Venezuela, along with numerous developing countries. This resolution is voted on November 14.

The crucial question is why the United States, each year, has, almost in isolation, voted against this resolution, in violation of the will of the international community and the majority of the UN member states. Last year only the United States and Ukraine opposed this resolution, which was adopted as A/RES/71/179.

This current resolution states:

“Recognizing with deep concern the alarming increase in instances of discrimination, intolerance and extremist violence motivated by anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Christianophobia and prejudices against persons of other ethnic origins, religions and beliefs,”

“Mindful of the horrors of the Second World War, and stressing in this regard that the victory over Nazism in the Second World War contributed to establishing the conditions for the creation of the United Nations, designed to prevent future wars and save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”

4. “Expresses deep concern about the glorification, in any form, of the Nazi movement, neo-Nazism and former members of the Waffen SS organization, including by erecting monuments and memorials and holding public demonstrations in the name of the glorification of the Nazi past, the Nazi movement and neo-Nazism, as well as by declaring or attempting to declare such members and those who fought against the anti-Hitler coalition and collaborated with the Nazi movement participants in national liberation movements.”

6. “Emphasizes once more the recommendation of the Special Rapporteur that “any commemorative celebration of the Nazi regime, its allies and related organizations, whether official or unofficial, should be prohibited by States, also emphasizes that such manifestations do injustice to the memory of the countless victims of the Second World War and negatively influence children and young people, and stresses in this regard that it is important that States take measures, in accordance with international human rights law, to counteract any celebration of the Nazi SS organization and all its integral parts, including the Waffen SS, and that failure by States to effectively address such practices is incompatible with the obligations of States Members of the United Nations under its Charter.”

“Notes with concern the increase in the number of racist incidents worldwide, including the rise of skinhead groups, which have been responsible for many of these incidents, as well as the resurgence of racist and xenophobic violence, targeting, inter alia, persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities or on any other grounds, including arson attacks on houses and vandalization of schools and places of worship.”

Perhaps the answer to the US position became visible with the election of a president of a failing capitalist economy, who captured the rage and frustration of an increasingly impoverished citizenry, and appears to condone the most loathsome scapegoating of minorities in America (and elsewhere). This reached a boiling point in Charlottesville in mid -August this year, during a rally of white supremacists and neo-Nazis, publicized, among others by Mike Enoch, who refers to African Americans as “animals,” extols fascism, is a cohort of Klu Klux Klan devotee David Duke and white-nationalist James Alex Fields, who drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer.

The President, to the shock and embarrassment of his allies, stated that there are some “very, very fine people” present at the neo-Nazi rally, though his daughter, Ivanka, a converted orthodox Jew, tweeted:

“There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazis.”

Coincidentally, this same August, 2017, two brilliant films opened to great acclaim, and suddenly disappeared from movie theatres. The first, “Detroit,” directed by Katheryn Bigelow, was extoled in a New York Times review:

“The film understands and strives to dramatize racism not as a matter of bad personal attitudes or equal and opposite prejudices, but rather as a structuring fact of American life, an apparatus of power, exclusion and control wielded against ‘them.’”

Although “Detroit” focuses upon an event in 1967, the Algiers Motel incident, simultaneously another film, “Whose Streets” appeared, and also quickly disappeared.

“Whose Streets” documents prevailing rampant racism, the recent murder of innocent unarmed black men by sadistic racist police armed with lethal weapons: the list is too long – Ferguson, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, etc. etc. This is the current criminal climate. The murder of Heather Heyer should be included, because neo-Nazism rears its bestial head too often in times of economic crisis, a crazed and enraged expression of powerlessness, which, with an increased militarization of police, sadistically targets the homeless, the vulnerable, the voiceless, the most impoverished.

The Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. reveals that 23 million Germans faced starvation at the time Hitler was voted inter power.

Racism, xenophobia, anti-semitism, conspicuously increasing throughout Europe, have been written in invisible ink in the USA, no doubt underlying the US opposition to the UN Anti-Nazi Resolution. President Trump is the chemical substance that revealed this hidden writing to the naked eye.

Carla Stea is Global Research’s Correspondent at United Nations headquarters, New York.

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While the orchestrated coup is afoot in Saudi Arabia, little attention is being paid to the potential disruption that such a fiasco may entail for the global oil markets. At the present juncture, the US’s stock of power has grown as a result of the rise to power of a more US-loyal and obedient Saudi prince, Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) (image below). If the tragic prince manages to survive, the US will have in place a trigger happy and obedient anti-Iran monarch.

If he does not ascend to the throne and Saudi Arabia capsizes, US-led capital will still reap war-industry profits arising from the war-wreckage he leaves behind. Contingently upon the degree and duration of violence in cases of war, either across the strait of Hormuz and or by an internally collapsing Saudi Arabia, the levels of global oil supplies may chronically fall below demand. It so appears that no matter what happens in Saudi Arabia as a result of the coup, China may incur a loss.

However, does the rise of such a ghost/US-marioneted prince offset the recent American losses, and those of its allies, in Syria, Iraq and Yemen? Furthermore, would it not be the case that any serious disruption in Saudi Arabia, the US’s protégé nation that guarantees stability in the global oil market, would hold an increasingly grudging world hostage to the global hegemon. Questions of receding American power and imperialist racketeering come to mind, as they should.

Incidentally as well, whether MBS, the vengeful prince, can pull it off–given that he has eroded many of the outstanding sources of Saudi legitimacy – or whether Saudi Arabia will fragment following in the path of neighbouring states, are issues that cloud the stability of global oil supplies. This is a risk like no other in modern history. A protracted conflict either within Saudi Arabia or with Iran, one that is different from the ongoing Saudi aerial bombing of the starving Yemeni population, would be a first in recorded history, especially as it may entail chronic shortfalls in oil supply. Although the current oil market is buoyant partly citing political uncertainty behind the higher prices, the mainstream’s overrated ‘hypothesis of efficient markets’ cannot envisage a scenario of strategic shortfalls in oil production. Such scenarios are said to be algebraic-time incoherent (the steady state time we use to predict the future); these would-be events are entwined with the uncertainty of history, or with the way dominant political forces undergo a volte-face. At some time in mid-stream, people organised and in a position of power suddenly change their minds and change the course history. Fortunately, the actuaries of the mainstream cannot grapple with real or social time events, otherwise these would be hired to predict and abort the timing of the next revolution; the hope of billions around the planet for emancipation.

Playing with oil supplies is synonymous with the politics of brinksmanship. Oil is a strategic commodity for many reasons, foremost because it provides much of the energy required for world population growth. As oil and energy from oil to sustain or improve upon production levels fall below consumption for periods that exceed the drawing down of stocked reserves, the strategic impact of oil becomes all too clear for everyone to see.

It may be as well to recall that Saudi Arabia is peculiar in the world of oil production. It provides what is called a ‘production cushion’ by its ability to quickly pump additional oil (around 2 million bpd) to balance abrupt global oil shortages. Pari passu, instability in the Saudi state infuses a higher risk premium into the oil price, which otherwise would not be necessary. Needless to say, a scenario that includes a prolonged absence of such Saudi cushion qua safety valve and, possibly a decrease in Saudi oil supplies, spells disaster for most oil dependent states.

Of all the oil dependent states, China is the world’s biggest importer of oil. On the face of it, China may be hardest hit. In a sense, a significant drop in Saudi oil supplies may more than just dent the high Chinese rates of growth (the effect of high oil prices), it may bring a significant portion of its production capacity to a halt (the effect of oil shortages). As is already well known, China’s inexorable rise is anathema to US empire. An empire is not simply a big economic power. China is a big economic power, but it is neither an empire nor imperialist. Defining imperialism by the exploitation of wage labour would make the grocery store next door imperialist. The overly analytical minds of the mainstream employ such logic to define China as imperialist.

But then again, the mainstream is paid to exonerate the imperialist or the dominant actual and ideological force in history. Imperialism is a real and historically specific form of exploitation that draws wealth from whole nations by coercion and violence. Imperialism in the monopoly age is still more ferocious because it extracts more of the conquered peoples’ wealth by commodifying their lives. China, in particular, bore tremendous losses at the hands of a history ushered by western imperialism. An empire is something like the US empire, which is heir to centuries of accumulated European colonial and imperialist plunder along with, and this is a crucial point, the culture of ideas that justifies cold blooded expansion.

China, which until two centuries ago was the leading civilisation of the planet, has arisen and grown. All else remaining constant, within a decade or so and at the present rates of growth, China will even be bigger than the US in nominal dollar terms GDP. It is already bigger in terms of purchasing power parity exchange rates. A bigger China heralds a material rupture (a break with the past in the global balance of economic power); and as China becomes big enough, it also becomes inevitable for an ideological rupture to follow (a break with the past as US-dominant ideology changes).

The latter rupture, a dethronement of the dominant culture and ideology, of ways of knowledge and modes of social organisation, must follow either because of reasons related to a rising intrinsic ideology peculiar to China or because the rift that China creates leaves open the space into which new forms of political organisation and their corresponding novel ideas would grow. In short, there will be a change of power at the top of the global pyramid in the international division of labour. The degree of these global alternations potentially bears the long awaited civilizational turnaround: the dumping of the ‘kill the third-worlder and weep for him or her’ ethos of the white man’s burden, becomes likely. In a manner of speaking, ‘the East wind would have defeated the West wind,’ as per Mao Zedong.

Meanwhile, arresting the advance of China has become something of an American obsession. For those who stress that China is imperialist, they foresee a détente into which both imperialist powers (China and the US) would jointly east on imperial tribute– a sort of super-imperialism in which the US and China cohabitate and split the spoils from the rest of the world. Even if such a hypothesis were true, that is if China was imperialist, one is also reminded that inter-imperialist rivalry motivates warring because, under capitalism, all predatory parties take their cue from fetish-like market forces that are alienated from responsible social control – people fall victim to external market forces shaped by profit making. In such a world, objective circumstances that escape the command of reasonable people systemically lead capital, the class in control under capitalism, into war. There were always wars, but their frequency, causes and modes of realisation vary according to the historical periods in which they occur. Even under the two-imperialisms assumption, the US and China will collide. However, the reality remains that China is not an imperialist power by any stretch of the imagination. China is still shedding the shackles of years of colonial loot and wars of depopulation.

Worse yet, the current mainstream’s neurotic fixation with stymieing the ascent of China recommends a pre-emptive nuclear strike either within the intermediate term (the window of opportunity) or while the US still enjoys ‘nuclear primacy’ as one of the feasible political tools at the US’s disposal. With Trump at the helm, there is something to sombrely ponder about an inchoate president playing the role of madman at the pinnacle of an empire that contemplates the use of nuclear weapons as a first strike option. However, Trump is no exception to the streak of past US presidents. In the early 1980’s, Bush Senior would comfort himself with the thought that more Russians would die than Americans in case the US nuked the Soviet Union first.

The theory with which one may explain such presidential behaviour is called the madman theory. Apart from having nothing to do with theory, this theory has little to do with the personality of the incumbent president; playing mad is more a part of the job description of all US presidents in the nuclear age. What is additionally disconcerting however, is that the liberal bent of all such presidents, including their overall cultural environments, regards as primary bourgeois rights and ‘negative freedom’ (national defence and defence of interests in foreign territory) and only pays lip service to social rights or human lives. The proof for this is evidenced ex post-facto in the hundreds of millions of war and related deaths of the twentieth century.

As always, a western social fascism breeding in a liberal or bourgeois democratic receptacle combined with a primacy of politics or, the premise that imperialist aggression has primarily sociological causes, mean that no Chinese cant of ‘one tide lifting all boats’ can write off the prospect of outright or surrogate confrontations with the US. Placing the pursuit of power for stability of capitalist rule before instantaneous economic gains is the sociological underpinnings of imperialism. That is not to say that economics falls last; economics is determining in the last moment or after working people have been coerced or commodified by violence to extract the most value for price out of them. In most cases such a process, dubbed the law of value, involves depopulation by war, hunger or severe austerity.

Hence, the pursuit of power of which one speaks is not some psychological whim, it is the power that cements the rule of capital or the social relationship by which private gains expand by the commodification-consumption of man and the environment. In such a metabolic order (metabolic as in the making of wealth consumes more of man and nature), China cannot wiggle its way out of the US’s wrath (the commodification of its own people) and all at once climb the global economic ladder by stealth. As the chief capitalist power in history, the US is being led by its own objective and alien market forces: it necessarily must stop China. The case may be that it is only the reasonable view of some US strategists who foresee the prospects of any nuclear disaster as mutually assured destruction (a nuclear winter), which mitigates the realisation of that abominable first strike scenario.

With nuclear confrontation being remote (but still very real), China’s market-led expansion remains vulnerable so far as its trade routes fall in areas of US sponsored or instigated wars or states under the thumb of Uncle Sam, like the Gulf states. More to the point, China’s energy security and circuits are weak spots. The recent coup by the Hamlet-like prince destabilises that circuit in a region that exports a fifth of global oil supplies, which flow through the Hormuz strait on daily basis. Saudi Arabia itself produces nearly a sixth of global oil. For long, oil demand and supply run tightly close to each other, as they must. So, to restate the obvious, missile-lobbing within Saudi territory or across the waters of the Gulf harms all oil dependent countries.

Although China may incur serious shortages in the short to intermediate term, other powerful emerging countries such as India or Brazil will also lose. This begs the question: Can the US regulate the sabotage of oil supply and production across the oil dependent globe? With the US being the third largest exporter of oil and with its capacity to speedily increase production via unconventional drilling methods, it can be selective in choosing the parties it wants to bail out and the parties it wants to leave behind to agonise. For the latter group, their resources will be disengaged or be put up for grab at fire sale prices, and their capital could flow North to the safety of dollar markets. Just as every global recession has been so far, a war in Saudi or with Iran may turn out to be a wealth and value restructuring arrangement in favour of US empire.

For the US, it is the impact of the chronic oil shortage on China’s internal security that matters. China’s Achilles heel may still be the loosening of the centripetal pull of the Beijing authority upon the vast stretches of the successor state to the heavenly kingdom, as per any caricature reading of Chinese history. However, modernity and its trappings have eroded distances and homogenised traditions. The heavenly kingdom has become pretty much worldly with the speediest of trains. The effect of the oil shock may not shatter China, but can it bring its working population to endure the effects of severe austerity – up to the point of subversionary spill-over.  Put differently, can the shortages of oil combined with an overstretched Chinese credit market (China’s huge debts triggering a Minsky moment) precipitate a downward spiral steep enough to impel China into the sort of shock therapy and internal collapse that undermined the post-socialist Soviet republics?

The simple answer is no. To borrow from the catchphrases of the Great Recession: China is too big to fail. It is also growing in the safety of a regulated capital account – Minsky moments can be contained. At the present interval, some venture to ask what would happen if China decided to impose sanctions on the USA. China has enough partnerships for energy supply, productive capacity and financial wherewithal to withstand the shock and possibly use the opportunity to recapitalise with alternative energy sources at a rate fast enough that may become a historic landmark. The world has changed. China is the world leading auto-sufficient system of market accumulation. Short of nuclear first strike, the Chinese system is rooted in the protectionism of the socialist era and it is undefeatable. Meanwhile, apart from the US’s declining market share globally(around 15 percent while China’s is nearly 20 percent) and its receding hegemony, counting its recent losses in Iraq, Syria and Yemen and the hemming in of Iran and Turkey upon the northern border of historical Palestine (facetiously, the Medes and the Amorites are coming),these are the harbingers of US imperial twilight.

For long, no matter how foolish or miscalculating US empire appeared, was it right or wrong, the outcome of its actions favoured its status. The US could lose, but its very loss would be a win because there was no other power challenging its hegemony. History was American and in history there is no right and wrong. What was necessary for history, that is necessary to service the expansion of commodity production via a metabolic order auto-reproducing by value destruction and creation simultaneously (waste, wars, depopulation and environmental degradation are also production), was also borne out by the immediate politics of the Oval office. An identity or a complete reconciliation of historical necessity and immediacy in politics as chance was nearly always in evidence. The Hegelian utopia or an end of history in which necessity became chance materialised for a period after the fall of the Soviet Union. For instance, in 2003 the United Nations did not authorise the invasion of Iraq, but the US invaded; while there was no power to challenge its decision, the nexus of war and financial expansion played in its favour. So long as it was unchallenged, it had won whether it acted soberly or foolishly.

That ideality, the identity of necessity with coincidence, is no longer the case. The US had tried in vain to enact a no-fly zone over Syria, but was vetoed by China and Russia. More recently, the US’s attempts to sacrifice the Kurds in Iraq have failed. Its Saudi sponsored coup, a fratricidal spectacle torn from the pages of a Shakespearian play, will most likely ensue because MBS has confronted public power (the Leninist understanding of the deep state), the bureaucratic structure and the order of kinship and clientelism holding together the kingdom. The coup will fail also because no one is convinced that the coup is an anti-corruption campaign, when in fact the present king was most opposed to corruption investigations in the past.

The coup will decidedly fail because while the US held Saudi Arabia in a state of animated suspension to control/usurp its oil, it imposed upon that society an immutable state of consciousness re-enacted by a fabricated Islamic obscurantism; such stasis in which the colonial settlement of Palestine remained unforgiven would backfire if the gung-hoprince was to allegorically hoist the Zionist flag over Mecca. Saudi life before oil was of the typical peasant or nomadic structures in which everyone, men and women, worked and had a say in the decisions made. It was the combination of Euro-US imperialism that imposed an identity, which promotes idleness and segregation. However, the very reactionary identity cum social ideology erected by imperialism will at a moment’s notice reinvent itself as anti-imperialist. In Saudi Arabia, the credo of anti-Zionism was uncompromised in order to compete with the popularity of pan-Arabism. More important, the anti-Zionist struggle is contiguous to peoples’ liberation struggles in the region as a whole. Such legacies instilled at the popular level are the guarantee that the pro-Zionist/imperialist putsch will fail.

Of course, the imperialist sponsored Sunni-Shiite identity schism reared by the invasion of Iraq and its Bremer’s constitution is a sinkhole into which Iran had fallen, othering many into the Sunni hand-me-down imperialist rubric. But the recent gains of themulti-sectarian Arab Syrian army and the bitter victory of Yemen, a country that withstands a baleful famine in the process, had thrown a monkey wrench into the imperialist plot. The blowback from the defeat of the MBS-Zionist alliance/coup will air on the side of China. What China had sown into the Arab world, especially its long-standing support for the rights of the Palestinian people, will come to fruition.

Although the short-term impact of oil shortages on China may be dire, the boomerang effect upon a US empire auto-eroding by the practice of racism inside and outside, and the instigation of war to promote its growth by waste industry, can also be dire. However, just as there are imperialistically imposed identity-politics traps mitigating popular anti-imperialist unity in the Arab region, there are also similar hurdles of identity superseding class unity in the North. The dominant strand of Western/liberal Marxism voiding the necessity for ironclad popular organisation as undemocratic and swerving popular energy into futile academic tit-for-tats, does not bode well for the rest of the world. The results remain to be seen.

Dr. Ali Kadri is Senior Research Fellow, Middle East Institute (MEI), National University of Singapore. He was previously  visiting fellow at the Department of International Development, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and head of the Economic Analysis Section at the United Nations regional office for Western Asia.

Note

[1] Ali Kadri is author of The Cordon Sanitaire: A Single Law Governing Development in East Asia and the Arab Worldhttps://www.palgrave.com/de/book/9789811048210

Featured image is from Energy and Capital.

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War Crimes as Policy

November 17th, 2017 by Mark Taliano

Despite appearances and differing ideologies, both the Kurds’ SDF and ISIS are Western intelligence assets in Syria. Neither would exist in Syria without the West and its allies, and both serve to destroy the country.

The Empire’s anti-democratic SDF proxies are not defeating the U.S Daesh proxies. They are simply replacing them.

One might reasonably ask how two seemingly opposed terrorist groups could possibly share the same strategic purpose. The answer would likely escape the awareness of the fighters as well, and it certainly escapes the awareness of most Canadians, whose tax dollars are supporting the terrorists. But the answer isn’t that complicated.

Consider the similarities between the two groups:

  • Both groups seek to illegally “impose their will” on Syria, and are effectively destroying Syria, contrary to the wishes of the vast majority of Syrians[1]
  • Both groups seek to partition Syria
  • Both groups require and receive support from the same aggressor nations
  • Both groups engage in activities that are illegal under international law and punishable according to Nuremburg Principles

ISIS/Daesh serves the military strategy of “place-setter”[2], as outlined in an earlier article. Empire first infests an area with terrorists, then destroys the area, using the fake pretext of “going after terrorists”, subsequently, it channels the original terrorists elsewhere, and then replaces the former terrorists with new terrorist occupiers who are portrayed as “liberators”.

Syrian journalist Nasser Atta describes the following video as an ISIS convoy “carrying 4500 fighters and their families leaving Raqqa a month ago after an agreement with US-backed Kurdish forces”:

Investigative journalist Sharmine Narwani describes the same strategy in these words:

The West, their allies, and their proxies are not wanted in Syria. They are the problem, not the solution. Their foreign “interventions” in Syria amount to war crimes as policy.

Notes

[1] TESEV (2012) ‘The perception of Turkey in the Middle East 2011’, TürkiyeEkonomikveSosyalEtüdlerVakfi, Istanbul, February, online: http://tesev.org.tr/en/yayin/ the-perception-of-turkey-in- the-middle-east-2011/ Accessed 17 November, 2017

[2] Mark Taliano, “The Islamic State as “Place-Setter” for the American Empire. ISIS is the Product of the US Military-Intelligence Complex.” Global Research, 26 October, 2017.  (https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-islamic-state-as-place-setter-for-u-s-empire-isis-is-the-product-of-the-us-military-intelligence-complex/5606371). Accessed 11 November, 2017

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: 

stephenlendman.org 

(Home – Stephen Lendman). 

Contact at [email protected]global.net.

Speech, media and academic freedom in America are threatened.

Forcing RT America to register as a foreign agent was a shot across the bow, an attempt to undermine its operations, wanting its reporting silenced.

Perhaps it signaled what’s ahead, an all-out assault on legitimate dissent, viewpoints challenging the official narrative, hard truths dark forces in America want suppressed, especially online, in RT’s case for its popular television news, information and commentaries.

Established in October 2000, The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) aims to monitor, investigate, and report to Congress on the national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.”

“The Commission is required to issue an annual report of its evaluation and findings.” Its latest report was wide-ranging.

Recommendations included, urging congressional “strengthen(ing) (of the) Foreign Agents Registration Act to require the registration of all staff of Chinese state-run media entities, given that Chinese intelligence gathering and information warfare efforts are known to involve staff of Chinese state-run media organizations and in light of the present uneven enforcement of the Act.”

Media in China and Russia aren’t “intelligence gathering and information warfare” operations – unlike US-led Western ones, functioning as press agents for wealth, power and privilege.

USCC accused Chinese state media of involvement in spying and propaganda. Forcing them to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) will be another body blow to media freedom.

Xinhua with offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston and San Francisco is notably targeted, the report saying:

“Xinhua serves some of the functions of an intelligence agency by gathering information and producing classified reports for the Chinese leadership on both domestic and international events.”

In testimony to the USCC, CIA/connected Freedom House said a “loophole” prevents requiring Xinhua and the People’s Daily staff from registering as foreign agents.

Bipartisan neocon US lawmakers are working on overhauling FARA in the wake of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manfort’s indictment on 12 counts, including operating as an unregistered foreign agent and false and misleading FARA statements – charges unrelated to Russia.

A previous article explained AIPAC has been an unregistered agent for Israel since 1953 – no charges ever brought for operating illegally, nothing holding it accountable for decades of deplorable actions, including support for Israeli high crimes, along with malicious lying, fear-mongering and promoting naked aggression against its adversaries.

Things in America are heading toward outlawing dissent, calling it a threat to national security, even treason, equating it to terrorism.

It’s a fundamental freedom, the hallmark of free societies, the highest form of patriotism – constitutionally guaranteed.

Yet it’s endangered by administration and congressional efforts to compromise it – perhaps heading toward eliminating the most fundamental of all rights.

Post-9/11 police state laws headed America toward tyranny. Is abolishing speech, media and academic freedom next?

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at lendm[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

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Following intimidation and threats of arrest and asset seizure, Russia Today (RT) was forced to register as a foreign agent. According to a new report on U.S.-China relations, China’s Xinhua News Agency may be targeted next.

The report indicates that the news outlet has been responsible for gathering intelligence for the Chinese government, which lawmakers in the U.S. believe requires the reclassification of the news outlet as a “foreign agent.”

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), which “monitors” and “investigates” bilateral relations between the two countries and recommends legislation to lawmakers, has said Xinhua is part of a scheme by Chinese leadership to change global perception of the country and operates as an intelligence-gathering mission.

This annual report focused on Xinhua and its rapid growth across the globe, with now over 150 global affiliates. The outlet has also expanded rapidly within the U.S. now having offices in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.

“Xinhua serves some of the functions of an intelligence agency by gathering information and producing classified reports for the Chinese leadership on both domestic and international events,” the report claimed.

The report recommends that lawmakers force Xinhua to comply with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) because of its intelligence-gathering activities. This would require top-level employees to register with the Department of Justice and forfeit any and all required personal data and information.

In its decision to force RT to become FARA compliant, an outlet that services programs hosted by some of the U.S.’ own top journalists, the U.S. Congress called the outlet a “state-run propaganda machine.”

RT and Sputnik editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan called the move an affront to the principles of freedom of speech, which is embedded in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“The war the U.S. establishment wages with our journalists is dedicated to all the starry-eyed idealists who still believe in freedom of speech. Those who invented it, have buried it,” said Simonyan.

In a recent FOX News interview, Alternet Senior Editor, Max Blumenthal criticized congress’ decision to force RT to register as a foreign agent.

“I go on RT fairly regularly and the reason I do so is because the three major cable networks are promoting bombing and sanctioning half the world, at least the noncompliant nations in it, and RT is questioning that,” Blumenthal said.

“They let me talk about, for example, the real sources of foreign influence in this town including the Israel Lobby and organizations like AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) which have been promoting a humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip, war on Lebanon, war on Iran, which is not required for some reason to register as a foreign agent, and I don’t know why that is.”

Featured image is from Flickr.

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Snipers Fired At BOTH Police and Protesters In Ukraine

Remember the protests in Ukraine which led to the old leader being replaced?

If you’ll recall,  the ruthless slaughter of people by snipers was the event which turned world opinion against the Ukrainian President, and resulted in him having to flee the country.

Italy’s 11th largest newspaper – Il Giornale – reported on an admission by several of the snipers (Google translation):

“Everyone started shooting two or three shots at a time. It went on for fifteen, twenty minutes. We had no choice. We were ordered to shoot both on the police and the demonstrators, without any difference. I was totally outraged.

So Georgian Alexander Revazishvilli remembers the tragic shootout of 20 February 2014 in Kiev when a group of mysterious snipers opened fire on crowds and cops massacring over 80 people. That massacre has horrified the world and changed the destiny of Ukraine by forcing President Viktor Yanukovich accused of organizing the shootout. But the massacre also changed the fates of Europe and our country, triggering the crisis that will lead to sanctions against Putin’s Russia. Sanctions revealed a boomerang for the Italian economy (Watch the video ).

Revazishvilli’s confessions and two other Georgians – gathered by writers in the documentary “Ukraine, the hidden truths” aired tonight at 23.30 on Matrix, Channel 5 – reveal a different and disconcerting truth. The truth of a massacre and the same opposition that accused Yanukovych and his Russian allies. Revazishvilli and his two companions – met and interviewed in the documentary – are a former member of the security services of former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and two former militants of his party. Hired in Tbilisi by Mamuka Mamulashvili, Saakashvili’s military adviser, are tasked with supporting – along with other Georgian and Lithuanian volunteers – ongoing demonstrations in Kiev in return for a $5,000 final fee.

***

The following day, Mamulashvili and the leaders of the protest explain to volunteers who will face a police assault at the Conservatory building and at the Ukraine hotel. In that case – he says – we must shoot at the square and sow the chaos. But one of the protagonists confesses to having received another explanation, much more comprehensive. “When Mamulashvili arrived, I also asked him. Things are getting complicated, we have to start shooting – he replied that we can not go to the pre-election presidential elections. But who should shoot? “I asked. He replied that who and where it did not matter, you had to shoot somewhere so much to sow chaos. “

“It did not matter if we fired at a tree, a barricade, or the molotov. confirms another volunteer – what counts was sowing confusion.

BBC interviewed the head of the opposition’s security forces at the time, who confirms that snipers were killing both sides … protesters and police:

And the former Ukranian government security boss said the same thing. Specifically, he said:

Former chief of Ukraine’s Security Service has confirmed allegations that snipers who killed dozens of people during the violent unrest in Kiev operated from a building controlled by the opposition on Maidan square.

Shots that killed both civilians and police officers were fired from the Philharmonic Hall building in Ukraine’s capital, former head of the Security Service of Ukraine Aleksandr Yakimenko told Russia 1 channel. The building was under full control of the opposition and particularly the so-called Commandant of Maidan self-defense Andrey Parubiy who after the coup was appointed as the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Yakimenko added.

So the chief of the government’s security forces, the head of the opposition’s security forces, and the snipers themselves  all admit the snipers were killing both protesters and police.

Similarly:

[Ukrainian Health Minister Oleh] Musiy, who spent more than two months organizing medical units on Maidan, said that on Feb. 20 roughly 40 civilians and protesters were brought with fatal bullet wounds to the makeshift hospital set up near the square. But he said medics also treated three police officers whose wounds were identical.

Forensic evidence, in particular the similarity of the bullet wounds, led him and others to conclude that snipers were targeting both sides of the standoff at Maidan — and that the shootings were intended to generate a wave of revulsion so strong that it would topple Yanukovych and also justify a Russian invasion.

And the Estonian foreign minister – after visiting Ukraine – told the EU foreign affairs minister that the Maidan opposition deployed the snipers – and fired on both the protesters and the police – to discredit the former government of Ukraine.

The Snipers Were Associated with the Maidan Protesters

While the mainstream media has proclaimed that the sniper fire was definitely from government forces, some of the above-cited sources dispute that claim.

Additionally, BBC reported at the time:

Reporting for Newsnight, Gabriel Gatehouse said he saw what looked like a protestershooting out of a window at the BBC’s Kiev base, the Ukraine Hotel.

BBC interviewed a Maidan protester who admitted that he fired a sniper rifle at police from the Conservatory, and that he was guided by a military veteran within the Maidan resistance. Here are actual pictures a reporter took of Maidan snipers, recently published by BBC:

gunmen at Kiev Conservatory 20 February

(There were reportedly at least 10 Maidan snipers firing from the Conservatory.)

The Frankfurther Allgemein reported that Maidan commander Volodymyr Parasjuk controlled the Conservatory at the time:

Volodymyr Parasjuk – the leader in “self-defense units” of the revolution who had called the night of Yanukovich’s escape, on the stage of Maidan to storm the presidential residence one year ago.

On the day of the massacre Parasjuk was staying with his unit in the colonnaded building of the Kiev Conservatory right at the Maidan. In the days before the death toll had risen, and the fighters grew the conviction alone with limited power as before will not be able to overthrow Yanukovych. “There were at that time many guys who said you have to take the weapon and attack,” said Parasjuk recalls. “Many,” he himself had since long ago it had firearms, often their officially registered hunting rifles.

Tagesschau – a German national and international television news service produced by state-run Norddeutscher Rundfunk on behalf of the German public-service television network ARD – also reportedin 2014 that at least some of the sniper fire came from protesters.

And remember, the snipers who admitted firing at both sides were associated with Mikhail Saakashvili and his party.  Saakashvili was a huge supporter of the Maidan protesters from the very beginning.  As Newsweek reports:

Saakashvili was a supporter of the Ukrainian revolution since the beginning of Euromaidan ….

Indeed, the Maidan protesters who deposed the old Ukrainian prime minister were so pleased with events that they rewarded Saakashvili by appointing him leader of Ukraine’s largest region.

Former AP and Newsweek reporter Robert Parry summarizes what kind of guy Saakashvili is:

The latest political move by the … regime in Ukraine was to foist on the people of Odessa the autocratic Georgian ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, a neoconservative favorite and currently a fugitive from his own country which is seeking him on charges of human rights violations and embezzlement.

***

According to a New York Times profile last September, Saakashvili was there “writing a memoir, delivering ‘very well-paid’ speeches, helping start up a Washington-based think tank and visiting old boosters like Senator John McCain and Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state.”

McCain and Nuland were key neocon backers of the coup that ousted Yanukovych and touched off the bloody civil war that has killed thousands of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, while also reviving Cold War tensions between the West and Russia. Before the coup, McCain urged on right-wing protesters with promises of U.S. support and Nuland was overheard hand-picking Ukraine’s new leadership, saying “Yats is the guy,” a reference to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who became prime minister after the coup.

***

The Georgian prosecutors also have charged Saakashvili with human rights violations for his violent crackdown on political protesters in 2007.

Context: Sniper Attacks As False Flag Terror

Random shootings are a type of false flag terror.    For example, in 1985 – as part of the “Gladio” false flag terror campaign (see number 12) – snipers attacked and shot shoppers in supermarkets randomlyin Belgium, killing twenty-eight and leaving many wounded.

Shooting both sides is an especially big red flag for a false flag …

Specifically, when authoritarian regimes want to break up protests, they might shoot protesters. On the other hand, when violent protesters shoot government employees, they might be trying to overthrow the government.

But when secretive snipers kill both protesters and the police, it is an indication of a “false flag” attackmeant to sow chaos, anger, disgust and a lack of legitimacy.

This has happened many times over the years. For example:

  • Unknown snipers reportedly killed both Venezuelan government and opposition protesters in the attempted 2002 coup
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