Syria: Is the U.S. Preparing a False Flag Bombing?

October 8th, 2016 by Moon of Alabama

There is a curious coincidence of a remark Secretary of State Kerry made to Syrian opposition activists and a new paint scheme applied to some U.S. military jets.

October 1 2016: Kerry in leaked audio: ‘I lost the argument’ for use of force in Syria

Washington (CNN) Secretary of State John Kerry’s frustration with the failure of American diplomacy was on display as he defended US efforts to help end the five-year civil war in Syria during a meeting last week with a group of Syrian civilians, according to an audio recording obtained by CNN.

Kerry’s comments came at a meeting that took place at the Dutch Mission to the United Nations on the sidelines the UN General Assembly, where Kerry was going from session to session in a frenzied effort to resuscitate a ceasefire that seemed poised to collapse.

A complete audio recording of the meeting between Kerry, some of his staff, and some Syrians is available on youtube.

Of interest is a short segment about alleged Russian bombing beginning at 11:18. The female Arab-English interpreter translates remarks by a Syrian, believed to be the Syrian front-man of the White Helmets scam Raed Saleh, about the difficulties of supervising ceasefires.

Interpreter (translating from a male Arabic speaker): We don’t believe that Russia can be the guarantor of the actions of the regime. We see Russia is a partner of the regime in bombing Syrians, Syrian civilians, market places, even our own team, the Syrian Civil Defense team. We documented since the start of the Russian intervention in Syria from day one until February of this year more than 17 of our Syrian Civil Defense personal have been killed by Russian airstrikes.

Kerry: Do you have any videos of the airplanes of these strikes?

(crosstalk interpreter and male Arab voice)

Kerry: Can we get that (unintelligible) videos the agents have been asking for?

(crosstalk interpreter and male Arab voice)

Kerry staff member: So can I just say – we get a lot of videos of the victims of these attacks, they are terrible, but they don’t help us. We need videos of the actual aircrafts and ammunition. And there is a lot of them on the internet but we don’t know whether they are real or not. Verified videos of the actual aircraft is the most useful thing. …

These men can be helped, though someone in the U.S. military – or not.

A Canadian journalist based in Eastern/Central Europe, Christian Borys tweeted yesterday:

Christian Borys @ItsBorysThe U.S is painting their F/A-18’s to match the paint schemes of Russian jets in #Syria. Standard training, but interesting nonetheless. pic.twitter.com/FVN6tMj2Ji

1:45 PM – 6 Oct 2016

This is the attached pic:

The first three pics are of an U.S. F/A-18 fighter and attack aircraft in Russian coloring. (The wingtips are raised for storage as this is a carrier enabled plane. The windows of the raised cockpit hood are covered with white sun protection sheets.) On the bottom right is a picture of a Russia SU-34 in the usual Russian color scheme as it is also used by the Russian contingent in Syria.

It would be extremely difficult to distinguish these like-colored planes from each other in a shaky fly-by and “bombing” video.

The U.S. regularly uses planes in “enemy” color schemes as “aggressor force” during training and maneuvers. It helps U.S. pilots to get used to “enemy” targets during air-to-air combat training. So this can all be, like Christian Borys assumes, “standard training”.

But there is also Kerry’s talk with the Syrian opposition and his explicit request for videos of “Russian” jets bombing in Syria.

This may be an innocent coincidence: Secretary Kerry is asking the scam artists of the White Helmets for video of Russian jets “bombing civilians” in Syria and, just by chance, the U.S. military is painting one of its jets to look like a “Russian” Su-34 strike fighter like those deployed in Syria.

But many incidents in Syria, the Ghouta gas attack, the recent aid convoy attack, get attributed to Russia or the Syrian government without any proof (or even despite contrary evidence). The media always eat these falsehoods up based simply on some official’s say-so, some unverified pictures or video and without asking any further questions. A “Russian attack” on some large civilian target like a refugee camp, documented on video!, would be a very easy sell. The propagandized “uproar” over such an attack could be easily used to launch a wider war. The attack on the Gleiwitz Radio tower, the Gulf of Tonkin incident and “Saddam’s WMDs” come to mind. Kerry is not shy of such lying. Today he invented a new hospital attack, said it was a war crime and that Russia and Syria should be investigated. No such attack happened.

The Russian parliament ratified an agreement with Syria about the indefinite stationing of Russian forces in Syria. Yesterday the Russian Ministry of Defense warned that Russian soldiers are embedded with Syrian units on the ground and that they would be defended against any attempt of air attacks by the Russian air-defense in Syria. U.S. media called such matter of course statement bellicose talk.

There is plenty of lose talk in U.S. media about attacking Syrian and Russian forces in Syria. The U.S. recently bombed a Syrian unit in a well known position it had held for many month. 82 Syrian soldier died and many more were wounded. The strike furthered the advance of ISIS on the besieged Deir Ezzor. That was no ‘mistake’ as the U.S. claimed.

Russia will defend its forces in Syria and it will defend Syria’s sovereignty. It is not alone. A Chinese navy frigate just arrived in the Syrian port Tartus. Should that trip-wire get touched 1.3 billion Chinese would join the Russians, Iranians and Syrians in waging war against the U.S. “regime change” attempt in Syria. Washington is warned. No cheap paint scheme trickery will be accepted as reason to hold back. Russia WILL hit back should the need arise.

Any attack on Russian or Syrian forces would be illegal. Kerry himself, in the above linked talk, says that the U.S. has absolutely no legal grounds for any such attack. It would be illegitimate and a crime. But the U.S. is not known for staying strictly within the framework of international law. Russia is well advised to warn of the eventual consequences of any breach. There is nothing “bellicose” about that.

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Created by Western governments and popularized by a top PR firm, the White Helmets are saving civilians while lobbying for airstrikes.

It is rare for a short Netflix documentary to garner as much publicity or acclaim as The White Helmets has. Promoted as “the story of real-life heroes and impossible hope,” the film is named for the civil defense organization whose members have gained international acclaim for saving lives in rebel-held territory in the hellish war zones of eastern Aleppo and Idlib. The film’s tagline, “To save one life is to save all of humanity,” that is remarkably similar to that of Steven Spielberg’s Holocaust epic, Schindler’s List: “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”

The Netflix feature comes on the heels of a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for the White Helmets, an “alternative Nobel” award known as the Right Livelihood Award and endorsements from an assortment of celebrities. “The move [by the celebrities] draws attention to both the horror of the conflict and the growing willingness of well-known Americans to adopt it as a cause célèbre,” wrote Liam Stack of the New York Times.

Footage of the White Helmets saving civilians trapped in the rubble of buildings bombed by the Syrian government and its Russian ally has become ubiquitous in coverage of the crisis. An international symbol of courage under fire, the group has become a leading resource for journalists and human rights groups seeking information inside the war theater, from casualty figures to details on the kind of bombs that are falling.

The bravado displayed by the White Helmets under Syrian government and Russian bombardment has captivated some of the most influential observers of the Syrian conflict. Among the group’s biggest boosters is Sophie McNeill, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation correspondent who was among the first reporters to publish the now-famous photo of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh being extracted from the rubble of an Eastern Aleppo apartment building.

On her Twitter account, McNeill urged readers to donate money to the White Helmets and expressed her hope that the group wins the Nobel Prize. (McNeill did not respond to questions sent to her publicly listed email.) Laura Rosenberger, a foreign policy adviser to Hillary Clinton, also took to Twitter to promote the group, posting a Wall Street Journal article hailing the civil defense group as “white knights for desperate Syrians.” Hillary Clinton quickly retweeted Rosenberger, registering her own tacit endorsement of the White Helmets. On September 22, Secretary of State John Kerry declared that he was “honored to meet [the White Helmets] leader and Aleppo activists,” hailing the organization as “brave 1st responders on the scene.”

The White Helmets are touted for saving tens of thousands of lives, though estimates on exactly how many varies dramatically depending on the source. The recently released White Helmets’ Netflix documentary claims they’ve saved “over 55,000” people, while Georgetown Security Studies Review had the number at 15,500 in May 2015. The State Department claimed this April that 40,000 had been rescued by White Helmets, but AJ+, a subsidiary of Al Jazeera, asserted around the same time that “more than 24,000” have been saved.” In a separate report published four months later, AJ+ quoted the figure at 60,000—which is the figure the White Helmets themselves claim. Whatever the number, there is little dispute that the White Helmets’ rank-and-file are saving lives in what seems to be an increasingly desperate situation in eastern Aleppo.

Yet the group is anything but impartial. The White Helmets’ leadership is driven by a pro-interventionist agenda conceived by the Western governments and public relations groups that back them. Anyone who visits the group’s website—which is operated by an opposition-funded PR company known as the Syria Campaign—will be immediately directed to a request to sign a petition for a no-fly zone to “stop the bombs” in Syria. These sorts of communiques highlight the dual role the White Helmets play as a civil defense organization saving lives while lobbying for a U.S. military campaign that will almost inevitably result in the collapse of Syria’s government.

According to a 2012 Pentagon estimate, a no-fly zone would require at least “70,000 American servicemen” to enforce, along with the widespread destruction of Syrian government infrastructure and military installations. Also sometimes called “safe zones” or “buffer zones,” from Yugoslavia to Iraq to Libya, no-fly zones have served almost without exception as the preamble to regime change. With no clear plan in place for the day after the government falls, or any conclusive evidence that its ouster is what most Syrians want, the Western governments, professional activists and public relations specialists who created the White Helmets are intensifying their push for regime change.

The White Helmets were founded in collaboration with USAID’s Office of Transitional Initiatives—the wing that has promoted regime change around the world—and have been provided with $23 million in funding from the department. USAID supplies the White Helmets through Chemonics, a for-profit contractor based in Washington DC that has become notorious for wasteful aid imbroglios from Haiti to Afghanistan. While members of the White Helmets have been implicated in atrocities carried out by jihadist rebel groups, the names of many of the firms that supposedly monitor and evaluate their work have been kept secret by USAID on unspecified security grounds.

Away from the battlefield, the White Helmets have proven one of the most effective tools in the Syria Campaign’s public relations arsenal. Apart from the group’s own calls for a no-fly zone, the White Helmets have been at the center of the Syria Campaign’s ongoing attack on the United Nations, which it accuses of illicit collusion with Assad. This month, the White Helmets joined 74 other groups operating in rebel-held territory announced their refusal this month to cooperate with the U.N. as long as it recognizes the Syrian government. In a separate move, the Syria Campaign launched a petition to demand that the United States National Security Council share confidential radar information with White Helmets teams operating on the ground, apparently including in areas controlled by extremist rebel factions.

In May 2015, White Helmets spokesperson Raed Saleh met privately with U.N. and EU officials to push for a no-fly zone. A month later, Saleh’s colleague Farouq Habib testified before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs in support of a no-fly zone, claiming to possess first-hand knowledge of chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government. With the Obama administration having drawn its “red line” at the deployment of chemical weapons, allegations like these are potential trigger points for full-scale U.S. military intervention.

The White Helmets’ Netflix documentary studiously avoids any discussion of the group’s interventionist, hyper-partisan agenda and omits any mention of its actual origins among Western governments, leaving the impression that the White Helmets are an organically developed band of politically impartial volunteers reflecting the Syrian consensus.

Critical questions about the White Helmets’ role in an interventionist public relations apparatus have been raised by only a few marginal websites that generally support the Syrian government — and those who raise them have been subjected to scorn and castigation. Thus the issue has been kept off the table, along with the public debate over the consequences of a regime change policy that the Obama administration still supports.

The White Helmets in Washington

This September 27, while White Helmets members dug survivors and bodies from the ruins of buildings in the rebel-held warzone of eastern Aleppo, two of the group’s public representatives appeared in Washington for a series of events and high-level meetings. The first event open to the public was held at the Atlantic Council, an influential think tank with close ties to the Obama administration, and took place under the banner of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, which is named for and funded by the family of the assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minister who amassed his fortune through business ties to the Saudi royal family. (Rafik’s son, Saad, blames the Syrian government for killing his father and creating ISIS and has effectively called for its removal.)

Presiding over The White Helmets reception was Frederick Hof, the director of the Hariri center, a former adviser to Hillary Clinton on Syrian “transition” and a longtime State Department envoy in the Middle East. Hof has said his focus on Syria at the State Department was motivated by the prospect of “beating Hezbollah and its Iranian master,” a goal he found “inspiring.” As he introduced The White Helmets, Hof accused Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad of committing war crimes with impunity and demanded that his government pay a “heavy price.”

While conceding that a no-fly zone was not a feasible option because it would subject the U.S. Air Force to Syria’s anti-aircraft systems, Hof told me he preferred cruise missile strikes against Syrian military installations and arming the rebels with Manpad shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft missiles. When I asked if he feared such sophisticated weapons falling into the hands of Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham or Ahrar Al-Sham, the jihadist groups that boast the most manpower and battlefield prowess, Hof accused me of ignorance about the Defense Department’s foolproof vetting mechanisms.

After a screening of the trailer for The White Helmets, Hof introduced the civil defense group as a heroic and absolutely “impartial” party to the conflict. He then welcomed Saleh, the White Helmets spokesman, to the stage. “Our demand is not for support to continue the work of the White Helmets, rather our demand is to stop the killing itself so that we don’t have to continue this awful job,” Saleh said.

Seated beside Saleh and providing live translation was Kenan Rahmani, a legal and strategy adviser to the Syria Campaign. As I reported in Part 1 of this series, the Syria Campaign is a private company founded by a New York- and London-based public relations firm called Purpose in order to generate public pressure for the removal of Syria’s government. It led the push for the White Helmets’ Nobel Prize nomination, orchestrated the group’s endorsements from Hollywood celebrities and has fundraised for its Netflix documentary vehicle.

Rahmani, for his part, was a policy adviser to the Coalition for a Democratic Syria, a umbrella organization of exile groups with close ties to the Syrian rebels and neoconservative organizations in Washington, before he took his current job at the Syria Campaign. When I asked Saleh how the White Helmets’ demand for a no-fly zone fit with its claim to uphold impartiality, Rahmani interjected to defend his company’s work.

“Of course we are an impartial, non-political organization,” he said. “The Syria Campaign doesn’t take political sides but our position is a no-fly zone would stop the suffering, would stop the destruction.” Saleh of the White Helmets followed up with his own call for a no fly zone, telling me that if I understood the scale of destruction in Syria, I would agree with his demand.

Moments after the panel discussion ended, Rahmani approached me to complain about my line of questioning. “These people [the White Helmets] are saving lives,” he began. But before he could complete his sentence, Rahmani was whisked away by Anna Nolan, the Purpose firm’s director of strategy who oversaw the Syria Campaign’s foundation. From that point on, Rahmani refused to speak to me.

Seated in the front row throughout the event was Ayman Asfari, one of the main funders of the Syria Campaign and a top exile supporter of the Syrian opposition. The billionaire CEO of the petroleum services company Petrofac, Asfari contributed $180,000 of the Syria Campaign’s $800,000 budget this year. (Most of the company’s donors are anonymous.)

I approached Asfari on his way out to ask how long he planned to continue directing his fortune toward promoting regime change. “There is a political process, which is a transition. We just want to bring back the transition,” he said before disappearing into an elevator. In a few hours, Asfari would host a screening of The White Helmets at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The White Helmets’ founding fathers

Supporters of heightened U.S. military intervention in Syria routinely accuse President Barack Obama of not doing enough to support the forces fighting the Syrian government. James Traub, a leading liberal voice of interventionism, has repeatedly claimed over the past five years that the U.S. is “doing nothing” in Syria and paying a terrible price for it. But together with the $1 billion the CIA has spent on arming and training the rebels, a close look at the hundreds of millions of dollars the U.S. Agency for International Development has spent in Syria on projects including the White Helmets tells a different story.

Back in July 2012, a year after the Syrian conflict began, USAID began to lay the groundwork for its Syrian Regional Option. With American analysts excitedly proclaiming the imminent downfall of Bashar Al-Assad and his government, USAID rushed to “provide support to emerging civil authorities to build the foundation for a peaceful and democratic Syria,” according to a USAlD executive report from that year.

The grants were authorized by USAID’s Office of Transitional Initiatives (OTI), spearheading efforts to encourage what proponents like to call “democracy promotion” in countries like Cuba and Venezuela, but which amount to failed attempts at regime change. In Cuba, USAID’s OTI caused an embarrassing diplomatic incident in 2014 when it was exposed for funding a program aimed at spawning instability and undermining the government through a Twitter-like social network called Zunzuneo.

Following a series of pilot programs carried out by a for-profit, Washington DC-based contractor called Development Alternatives International (DAI) at a cost of $290,756 to U.S. taxpayers, the OTI began setting up local councils in rebel-held territory in Syria. The idea was to establish a parallel governing structure in insurgent-held areas that could one day supplant the current government in Damascus. According to its 2012 USAID executive summary on the Syria Regional Option (PDF), “foreign extremist entities” already held sway across the country.

In March 2013, a former British infantry officer named James Le Mesurier turned up on the Turkish border of Syria. Le Mesurier was a veteran of NATO interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo who moved into the lucrative private mercenary industry after his army days ended. But running security for the UAE’s oil and gas fields left him feeling unfulfilled with his career as a hired gun. He wanted to be a part of something more meaningful. So he became a lead participant in USAID’s Syria Regional Option.

Le Mesurier’s job was to organize a unique band of people who rush into freshly bombed buildings to extract survivors—while filming themselves—in rebel-held areas facing routine bombing by Syrian army aircraft. In 2014, he established Mayday Rescue, a non-profit based in Turkey that grew out of the Dubai-based “research, conflict transformation, and consultancy” firm known as Analysis, Research, and Knowledge, or ARK. That group, which employed Le Mesurier while overseeing the White Helmets’ training, has been sustained through grants from Western governments and the British Ministry of Defense. Mayday Rescue, for its part, received around $300,000 in initial funding from the U.S. Department of State to assist in training the first responders. Though they were known as Syrian Civil Defense, graduates of Le Mesurier’s course became popularly identified by the signature headgear they wore in the field: White Helmets.

Since being founded under the watch of Mayday Rescue, the White Helmets have received grants worth millions of dollars from the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Japan and USAID. To date, USAID has donated $23 million to the White Helmets, a substantial sum for a civil defense project in a war zone.

Mark Ward, director of the Syria Transition Assistance and Response Team at the State Department, highlighted the political dimension of the White Helmets’ funding in an interview with Men’s Journal: “[Funding the White Helmets is] one of the most important things we can do to increase the effectiveness and legitimacy of civil authorities in liberated areas of Syria.”

In the Netflix documentary The White Helmets, Mayday Rescue is never identified as the administrator of the group, nor does Le Mesurier ever appear on screen. USAID and Chemonics, the for-profit contractor that supplies the group, are also curiously omitted from the film.

An unmonitored money dump?

USAID relies on Chemonics to deliver resources to the White Helmets. The company’s contract with the group is part of the $339.6 million committed by USAID for “supporting activities that pursue a peaceful transition to a democratic and stable Syria.” This whopping sum of money supplements the reported $1 billion the CIA spent in the past year supplying and training the rebel forces attempting to overthrow the Syrian government, fueling a grinding civil war that necessitates the presence of thousands of first responders.

Based in downtown Washington DC, Chemonics has developed a checkered history across the world. In Haiti, the company squandered millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars and delivered next to nothing for average Haitians while racking up a $2.5 million bonus for its CEO. Jake Johnston, a research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, produced a series of reports exposing Chemonics’ disastrous performance in Haiti.

“After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Chemonics was the recipient of the largest single contract from the U.S. government. But despite the immediate and grave humanitarian needs, funding for Chemonics came from the Office of Transition Initiatives, the ‘political arm’ of USAID,” Johnston told me. “Rather than basing funding decisions on the needs on the ground, OTI provides funding based primarily on U.S. national interests and to help steer political transitions across the globe.”

Johnston pointed to a lack of independent monitoring procedures as one of USAID’s most substantial failures. “Unfortunately, it becomes extremely difficult to track where money spent by OTI and Chemonics actually ends up,” he said. “Programs are designed to be broad, flexible and fast, distributing millions of dollars to subcontractors with very little public oversight or accountability.”

In reports by the U.S. Government Accountability Office and USAID Inspector General, Chemonics was slammed for its incompetent performance and poor evaluation procedures, and was accused of wasting tens of millions of dollars in Afghanistan.

For many languishing in rebel-held territory in Syria, however, USAID and its contractors are among the only sources of sustenance. As Brett Eng and Jose Ciro Martinez wrote in Foreign Policy, USAID’s involvement in Syria “has created another unhealthy form of dependence in opposition-controlled areas like Daraa. Instead of the Assad regime, it is the United States, Jordan, and the for-profit development organization Chemonics that civilians in Daraa are beholden to.”

Eng and Martinez also warned that USAID might be inadvertently propping up some of the more unsavory rebel factions, writing, “without a well-defined, inclusive opposition group, it is unclear to whom civilian loyalties are being redirected.”

Frankie Sturm, a public information officer at the State Department, told me that Chemonics “has put in place third-party monitors to verify that assistance reaches intended beneficiaries and for intended purposes.”

When I asked Chemonics for the names of these monitors, it directed my questions back to USAID, which refused to provide an answer on security grounds. USAID spokesperson Sam Ostrander told me his agency “works with another firm, completely separate from Chemonics” to monitor the assistance to the White Helmets, but didn’t name the company or disclose how much public funding it received.

In 2014, USAID produced the only evaluation report to date on its Syria-related “transition initiatives.” It was not exactly a portrait of success. “The extent to which OTI’s efforts were successfully building inclusive and accountable governance structures was still unclear,” the report concluded, also noting that “the ongoing conflict resulted in challenges that have led to delays in development and implementation of these activities.”

With such thin monitoring mechanisms in place to track how USAID money is spent in Syria, the risk of misappropriation is considerable.

‘Emergency burial’

Far from the gaze of most Western media consumers, videos and photographs have surfaced on news sites and social media accounts sympathetic to the Syrian government showing White Helmet members boasting about discarding the body parts of Syrian troops in dumpsters, posing triumphantly on the corpses of Syrian soldiers, joining fighters accosting an alleged political opponent, waving the flag of Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra alongside jihadist fighters, and carrying weapons.

While it would seem unfair to tar an entire group with the actions of a few scofflaws, more than a few of the images depict events that are disturbingly real. One particularly jarring video (18+) filmed in Northern Aleppo shows two members of the White Helmets participating in an execution, waiting just off camera while a member of Al-Nusra shoots a man dressed in street clothes in the head after reading out a death sentence. The video of the two White Helmets members immediately packing up the man’s body prompted a statement by the organization condemning the killing and claiming its members were simply fulfilling their task to perform “the emergency burial of the dead.”

In May 2015, a White Helmet member named Muawiya Hassan Agha provided an extensive eyewitness account to the Violations Documentation Center in Syria on the alleged deployment of chemical weapons by Syrian government warplanes in Idlib. (The report described him as a “media activist.”) A year later, Agha was exposed by pro-government social media activists for filming a grotesque video depicting extremist Syrian rebels torturing two captured soldiers they later executed. EA Worldview editor-in-chief Scott Lucas reported that Agha was expelled from the White Helmets days later.

Asked about the allegations of involvement by White Helmet members in human rights violations, the State Department’s Sturm replied, “Syria Civil Defense are emergency response workers who risk their lives to save others—men, women and children trapped by the ravages of war. USAID has no credible information to believe the organization is engaged in anything other than this core mission.”

Chemonics refused to offer a comment on its monitoring and evaluation of the White Helmets or other clients in Syria.

Syria Campaign hones the message

In 2014, the year after USAID disbursed its seed money for the White Helmets, an outfit called the Syria Campaign suddenly materialized to mobilize even greater support for Western intervention through online “clicktivism.” Among the group’s primary functions has been marketing the White Helmets to Western media consumers as non-political heroes saving lives in a sea of sectarian villains.

“We went to meet [the White Helmets] at a training in southern Turkey, they were focused on the training and we were like, we’d like to elevate you guys and get the inspiring work you do out to the world,” James Sadri, campaign director at the Syria Campaign, told me.

Back in November 2014, Tim Dixon, the managing director of Purpose Europe, a former adviser to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and an original Syria Campaign board member, issued a report detailing how his firm’s “White Helmets campaign uses compelling storytelling to mobilize public support.” Dixon wrote: “Purpose believed their story had the power to inspire empathy and action in the wider public, and launched the White Helmets campaign in August as part of an ongoing effort to build support for the protection of civilians.”

Crediting the Syria Campaign’s promotion of the White Helmets with “significant breakthroughs on public engagement, media narratives, and funding,” Dixon boasted of “elite meetings in New York and DC” as well as coverage in outlets from the BBC to the New York Times. Among the most effective storytelling vehicles, according to Dixon, was the “Miracle Baby” video portraying the dramatic rescue of baby Mahmoud from beneath the rubble of a bombed-out home by a White Helmets team.

The episode featured prominently in the documentary The White Helmets and even included a cameo appearance by Mahmoud himself, now a toddler. The Netflix film appears to be at least partly the handiwork of the Syria Campaign.

This July, staffers of the PR company appeared in the studios of Channel 4 in London at a gathering of wealthy donors known as the Funding Network. “The Syria Campaign made a fantastic pitch for funding for their outreach work surrounding The White Helmets,” the Funding Network reported. The group noted, however, that “for reasons of confidentiality, we are unable to post the Syria Campaign’s pitch for the time being.”

Laila Kiki, the Syria Campaign’s media lead, told me, “We didn’t raise any funds specifically for outreach around the Netflix documentary, but our team is supportive of the release.”

On September 30, as the attacks on the rebel-held areas of Aleppo reached a level of unprecedented ferocity, the Syria Campaign sent out an email and social media blast in the name of “Heroes of Syria” like the White Helmets. The message urged supporters into the streets for a “weekend of action” to clamor for a no-fly zone—or what the PR company euphemistically described as, “all aircraft dropping bombs on civilians grounded.”

“In solidarity please cover your face in dust and share it with your friends on social,” the Syria Campaign advised. “If you can do this with a friend or family member, even better.”

Max Blumenthal is a senior editor of the Grayzone Project at AlterNet, and the award-winning author of Goliath and Republican Gomorrah. His most recent book is The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza. Follow him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal.

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As the Syrian army move to liberate more areas of Aleppo from foreign-backed terrorists, the Western countries and their allies are considering other options including moving the war to the southern parts of the country.

The Israeli regime is engaged in provocative acts in the Golan Heights, which is increasingly becoming a flashpoint in the ongoing Syria crisis.

Southern Syria is divided into two major areas:  the liberated area of al-Quneitra, and the occupied area of the Golan Heights where Al-Nusra Front and al-Qaeda terrorist groups base their fighters.

Tel Aviv has been attempting to drive the Syrian army out of al-Quneitra.  Israel’s objective is to join this part of the Golan Heights to the territory it controls, thereby creating a buffer zone like the one it once had in southern Lebanon.

Southern Syria, New Battle Front?

Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari has said Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights is a direct threat to regional stability and security.

Jaafari made the remarks while addressing the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday. He noted that Israel’s support for terrorist groups in Golan also escalates the conflict in Syria.

Meanwhile, last week Syrian forces targeted terrorists in the southern al-Quneitra province, targeting Takfiri terrorists along the provincial border with the Dara’a province.

A few days later, a senior US military official noted that, “ISIS is set to carry out operations in Dara’a and al-Quneitra provinces.” US officials have been talking about escalation of the situation in south Syria and they have pointed that this is considered a threat. This escalation of clashes in south Syria will create a pretext for the US to intervene militarily.

A glance at the geography of the southern part of Syria and its relative calm compared to other parts of the war-torn country implies that reports of escalations in the area are a political bluff.

Reports predicting more clashes in southern Syria are coming amid the country’s army and resistance movement’s success in the decisive battle against terrorists in Aleppo. Syria army and its allies have managed to liberate all the southern and eastern parts of Syria while the western parts are expected to be freed from terrorist in the coming days. Any talk of a truce is meant to create escape routes for al-Nusra Front terrorists and other Takfiri terrorists in the region.

Challenges for Terrorists in Southern Syria

There are reasons to dispute claims by a US military commander that ISIS is moving to southern Syria. First, the major center of operations for ISIS in Iraq is Mosul and its de facto capital in Syria’s Raqqa. Therefore, if ISIS relocates from Raqqa this will have a negative impact on its strategies.  Secondly, al-Quneitra region has a small population and thus cannot replace Halab which has a population of about 5.3 million people in an area of around 50,000 square kilometers.

The third point is that, al-Quneitra region borders the Israeli regime and thus allowing that area to be a major theatre of operations implies that the Israeli regime will be directly involved in the Syria crisis. The US is well aware that if terrorists relocate major operations to southern Syria, the consequence of that will be the entry of Hezbollah resistance forces and Islamic Revolution Guards Corps military advisers. Clashes in southern Syria can spill over into the Hezbollah stronghold of southern Lebanon and therefore Palestinian territories occupied by the Israeli regime will also be affected by the conflict.

Resistance forces are fully familiar with the terrain in southern Syria and thus it will be an easy area of operations. Unlike Aleppo, al-Quneitra has a lower population density and thus it is easy for the Syrian government to evacuate civilians and engaged enemies directly.

One of the major reasons the US has failed to achieve its objectives in northern Syria is lack of ground operations and the inability of its allies. The US cannot solve this problem by swapping warfronts. The ability of the US to engage in operations in southern Syria are less compared to northern parts of the country. This is due to the fact that northern Syria is close to the Incirlik Turkish airbase currently at the disposal of the US and its allies. This is while US-backed terrorists in southern Syria have very limited maneuverability options.

Refugees Influx to Jordan

If a new battle front is opened in southern Syria, Jordan is also set to suffer the consequences resulting from a sudden influx of refugees.

Indeed, Jordan has already closed its border area with Syria to all but the military as it seeks to limit the influx of Syrian refugees.

The country “cannot tolerate the burden of any additional Syrian refugees anymore, and will not allow the entry of refugees except in humanitarian cases,” Jordan’s state-run Petra news agency cited Prime Minister Hani Mulki as saying on Wednesday. About 75,000 refugees are stranded in a no man’s land between Jordan and Syria, Amnesty International said last month.

After recent political and military failures experienced by the US in Syria, any move to the southern part of the country will lead to major challenges and eventual failure. The situation in Syria remains complex and the victors in the country will be those able to persevere and resist in the face of adversities.

Several times over the last five years there were reports that the Syrian government is on the verge of collapse and the separation of the country with the resistance front. It is now apparent that, no amount of foreign pressure or terrorist operations can change the resolve of the Syrian people to continue in the path of resistance.

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Sources that will be provided here, document the historical narrative now occurring toward all-out war between the US and Russia, up till the present, as that history will be introduced in the following two paragraphs (the first paragraph for background, and the second for a summary of the documentation that will then constitute the main body of the present report):

FOR BACKGROUND:

The US government (Barack Obama) was being led by the Saudi royal family, who own Saudi Arabia, in selecting members for the so-called ‘peace negotiations’ with Russia on the Syrian conflict, and those ‘negotiations’ broke up because the US refused to stop backing Al Qaeda in Syria. As I reported and documented on 6 May 2016:

«These talks broke down on April 18th because Al Nusra was facing imminent defeat in the key city of Aleppo, and because such a defeat was unacceptable to Mohammed Alloush, the Saudi agent, and head of the Saudi-Wahhabist group, the Army of Islam. He was selected by King Saud to lead the rebel side at Syria’s peace negotiations».

FOR SUMMARY OF THE FOLLOWING REPORT:

Al Qaeda in Syria (which used to call itself «Al Nusrah») has been leading the US proxy army of jihadists trying to replace Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria, but now that Russia and the US have broken off negotiations after the US bombed the Syrian army in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor on September 18th, Russia and the United States are gearing up for war against each other in Syria.

Both Russia and Syria have now quit trying to work any longer with the United States to defeat Al Qaeda in Syria — they’ve had enough of America’s protecting Al Qaeda in Syria; they are laying down the gauntlet to the US regime, and are saying that the US regime can henceforth choose either to leave Syria (which it has invaded by its illegal entry into Syria), or else to go to war against both Syria and Russia there, because Syria and Russia will no longer continue to be deterred by US pretenses about its support of alleged ‘moderate rebels’, no longer deterred from Syria’s and Russia’s joint goal of destroying all jihadists in Syria, including Al Qaeda there — America’s actually key proxy-force on the ground trying to replace Assad.

* * *

Now will be presented the documented recent developments producing this historic break towards World War III. We start with America’s bombing of the Syrian Army, and continue up through to October 7th:

On 18 September 2016, Reuters headlined, «US-led forces strike Syrian troops, prompting emergency U.N. meeting», and reported that, «The United States military said the coalition stopped the attacks against what it had believed to be Islamic State positions in northeast Syria after Russia informed it that Syrian military personnel and vehicles may have been hit. The United States relayed its ‘regret’».

Russia’s Sputnik News then bannered on the 18th, «Russian FM: Lethal US Strike on Syrian Army ‘Borders on Connivance With Daesh’», and reported that, «The Russian Foreign Ministry released a sternly worded statement following a tense 24-hours of diplomacy after an allegedly ‘unintentional’ US airstrike killed 80 Syrian Army forces ‘paving the way’ for a Daesh offensive». («Daesh» is a synonym for ISIS.)

Russia’s RIA News agency headlined on the 18th, «Assad Advisor Explains How the USAF [US Air Force] Might Coordinate with IG [another synonym for ISIS]», and reported that, «As soon as Washington struck [Assad’s forces], terrorists launched a ground attack [on Assad’s forces]. [It] hit exactly on the territory that was occupied by the Syrian army».

Later on the 18th, Russian Television headlined «‘Unbelievable’ that US strike on Syrian army was mistake – fmr MI5 agent», and reported that a former intelligence officer for Britain’s MI5, Annie Machon, said: «I find it slightly unbelievable that the Americans could hit this target thinking this was ISIS… So it seems just strange that the Americans are just saying it was a bit of a mistake». She asserted that, in the unlikely event the US really believed that it was supporting «so-called moderate groups» (as she put it) in Syria, «Americans are dealing with fire,» because the so-called ‘moderate rebels’ often defect to jihadist groups and bring along with them the weapons that the US had provided.

This US assistance to Al Qaeda in Syria — Al Nusrah — has been reported for years, by many independent sources, such as in Seymour Hersh’s two separate reports about Obama’s lies regarding Al Nusrah’s being the actual source of the 21 August 2013 sarin gas attack that Obama was blaming on Assad’s government. In fact, on 16 August 2016, the US government even admitted that in Syria «We’re not focused on the former al-Nusra Front. We’re focused on Daesh [ISIS], and that’s what we’re fighting». Evenwhile the US was working with Russia and Syria to kill ISIS in Syria, the US refused to cooperate in attacking Al Qaeda there.

Here was the report, also on September 18th, from Ziad Fadel, a Syrian-born US lawyer (in Michigan) who has many sources in Syria, and who writes for his own popular news-site about this war, the «Syrian Perspective» site, based upon his constant contacts with those Syrians:

«DAYR EL-ZOR:

To be specific, at the Al-Tharda Mountain which is still occupied by the Syrian Army – no thanks to the exceptional talent of the Americans for bungling or outright treachery, yesterday, the United States Air Force, flying out of Habbaaniyya AB in Iraq, with 2 F-16s and 2 A-10 Thunderbolts, crossed the Syrian border without permission and entered Syrian airspace without so much as a hint to the government in Damascus, which might have asked the Americans: WHAT IS YOUR TARGET GOING TO BE? And if the Americans responded with something like: ‘Those ISIS terrorists on Al-Tharda Mountain’, the Syrian government might have said: ‘Oh, no. Don’t do that. Our army is on that mountain.’ And the whole mess could have been averted. 62 Syrian soldiers would still be alive……. We will not forget».

He further reported that,

«an enraged Syrian Army with the help of the PDC and Shu’aytaat Tribal militias, acting under the tenacious and ferocious aerial support of both the SAAF [Syrian Arab Air Force] and RuAf [Russian Air Force], quickly restored army control over all Al-Tharda Mountain inflicting at least 100 casualties on the terrorist filth, destroying 10 vehicles, 6 of which were pickups with 23mm cannons. The air forces are continuing assaults today all around the area of Al-Tharda, Panorama and Al-’urfi».

On September 20th, the Wall Street Journal headlined, «US Believes Russia Bombed Syrian Aid Convoy». But the next day, Britain’s Guardian reported that, «US is not revealing what evidence it has to support claim Moscow was responsible». (Russia denied that it had anything to do with that bombing. Whether the US did it is still not known.)

On September 26th, SANA, the Syrian government’s news agency, bannered, «Al-Moallem: The US wanted to lie and change facts regarding what the Syrian government is doing, but it failed», and reported that: «Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign and Expatriates Minister Walid al-Moallem stressed that the United States, France, and Britain called for a UN Security Council session on Syria this Sunday [September 23rd] in an attempt to support terrorist organizations in Syria… He stressed that the aggression of the US-led coalition on a Syrian Arab Army position in Tharda Mountain in Deir Ezzor was deliberated and in coordination with ISIS, as ISIS rushed to take control of the area only one hour after the aggression».

Also on the 26th, Reuters bannered «Gulf may arm rebels now Syria truce is dead: US officials» and reported the likely sharp escalation of support by the oil kingdoms, for the anti-Assad forces, and asserted «the possibility that Gulf states might arm Syrian rebels with shoulder-fired missiles to defend themselves against Syrian and Russian warplanes, US officials said». This report indicated that the US and its allies were now planning to (either by their own forces or by their proxies who are actually led by Al Qaeda there) shoot down Russian and Syrian planes in Syrian air space. Reuters was reporting efforts by the Sauds and their friends, to pressure a reluctant Obama into joining with them in an all-out war against both Russia and Syria, in Syria.

On September 28th, The New York Times bannered, «Russia’s Brutal Bombing of Aleppo May Be Calculated, and It May Be Working» and reported that:

The effects of Russia’s bombing campaign in the Syrian city of Aleppo — destroying hospitals and schools, choking off basic supplies, and killing aid workers and hundreds of civilians over just days — raise a question: What could possibly motivate such brutality?

Observers attribute Russia’s bombing to recklessness, cruelty or Moscow’s desperate thrashing in what the White House has called a «quagmire».

But many analysts take a different view: Russia and its Syrian government allies, they say, could be massacring Aleppo’s civilians as part of a calculated strategy, aimed beyond this one city.

The strategy, more about politics than advancing the battle lines, appears to be designed to pressure rebels to ally themselves with extremists, eroding the rebels’ legitimacy; give Russia veto power over any high-level diplomacy; and exhaust Syrian civilians who might otherwise support the opposition.

This report didn’t mention another possible explanation for what Russia was doing there: the goal might simply be to exterminate the jihadists who had been imported into Syria by the US and its allied Arabic royal families, during five years of such ‘civil war’, in the few areas of Syria where even the vast majority of the local Syrian residents prefer Shariah law and thus favor the overthrow of the highly secular, ideologically non-religious, Assad government. (Those areas of Syria are identifiable by this Western-sponsored poll that had been taken of the Syrian population during July 2015, where, for example, on page 4, Assad’s support is the lowest in Raqua, Idlip, Daraa, Der’-Zor, Sewedaa, and Hasakeh; and, on page 7, Nusra’s support is by far the highest in Aleppo, but also relatively high in Rural Damascus, Hasakeh, Der’-Zor, Homs, and Daraa.)

This technique of defeating jihadists — exterminating them and their supporters — was the way that Putin had solved the Saudi-led insurgency by jihadists in Russia’s own Chechnya region (who had been backed by both the CIA and the Sauds): exterminating everyone in the fanatical neighborhoods. It also served as a model in Tatarstan, preventing jihadism there.

Just as the United States participated in the firebombing of Dresden, and carried out the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and slaughtered many non-combatants in the process, Russia destroys entire jihadist-supporting neighborhoods, not only the jihadist mercenaries who have taken over control there (and who have either killed or driven out any residents who oppose them). The reason that The New York Times doesn’t mention such an explanation is that it doesn’t fit what the White House is saying about the matter; it fits instead with what ‘the enemies’ (Assad and Putin) are saying they’re doing. In fact, the NYT report went so far as to actually sub-headline «Blurring Rebels and Jihadists» and assert that, «Aleppo is a metaphor for the larger war.

The northern Syrian city is one of the few remaining strongholds for non-jihadist rebel groups». Even the Western-sponsored poll in July 2015 showed that to be the exact opposite of the reality. Although the NYT said this, the United States government iteslf had already asserted the opposite: on 20 April 2016, the Pentagon’s official spokesperson on the Syrian war, Steve Warren, said «It’s primarily al-Nusra who holds Aleppo». So, the regime sometimes has problems keeping its narrative together (sometimes its press-mouthpieces such as the NYT go even beyond the government’s own lies), but they needn’t really worry much when they slip up like that and state the truth, because, after all, The New York Times reaches far more Americans than does a flunky at an official press conference, and everybody who is involved in the cons knows what the intended story-line is supposed to be (i.e.: Russian government bad; US government good), so such elementary slip-ups are rare, and inconsequential. (But the Pentagon spokesperson, Steven Warren, might miss his next promotion for that error, honesty.)

In other words: the US is allied with Al Qaeda in Syria.

On September 28th, US State Department spokesperson John Kirby was asked in a press conference, «What makes you think that the Secretary’s [John Kerry’s] threat to begin to take steps to suspend cooperation if the Russians don’t act to stop the violence immediately is likely to get the Russians to actually stop the violence?» Like any professional ‘news’ ‘reporter’ for the regime, this questioner posed his question with the underlying assumption «Russian government bad» «American government good». Mr. Kirby, likewise very professional as a propagandist, replied, «you’d have to ask Foreign Minister Lavrov» (in the ‘enemy’ camp). Then, the ‘journalist’ prodded Kirby further, and Kirby said, «we thought that that could help us advance the fight against a group like al-Nusrah in particular».

He was presenting the US as if it had been against, instead of for, Al Qaeda in Syria. (Actually, Obama is committed to, and highly dependent upon, Al Qaeda in Syria in order to overthrow Assad.) A ‘journalist’ asked: «Can you foresee any options that the US Government could take, short of full-scale warfare and invasion, that would actually stop the Russian/Syrian onslaught on Aleppo?» Then that was refined to «What are the consequences for Russia?» And, finally, after much to-and-fro, and with obvious great reluctance, Kirby handed to the assembled dogmeat-hungry ‘journalists’:

The consequences are that the civil war will continue in Syria, that extremists and extremists groups will continue to exploit the vacuums that are there in Syria to expand their operations, which will include, no question, attacks against Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities, and Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags, and they will continue to lose resources – even, perhaps, more aircraft.

The US State Department is now officially threatening Russia with war — not only on the proxy-battlefields of Syria, but «perhaps even Russian cities». Was that historic announcement headlined as such in the American ‘news’ media? In such a country, one can’t blame the public for sleepwalking into global annihilation, if that’s where we go.

On October 1st, German Economic News headlined «Großmächte treiben in Syrien auf einen globalen Krieg zu» or «Great Powers Driving in Syria on to a Global war,» and reported that:

The battle for Aleppo can evolve into a direct war between the US and Russia. The situation is extremely dangerous.

The international and Islamist mercenaries are, according to the Syrian army leadership, preparing a counteroffensive against the Syrian army in Aleppo. As al-Masdar news reports, thousands of mercenaries are assembling in the south and west of the city to expel from Aleppo the Syrian army. 

On October 3rd, Zero Hedge headlined, «US Suspends Diplomatic Relations With Russia On Syria», and quoted Kirby saying «This is not a decision that was taken lightly» but «Unfortunately, Russia failed to live up to its own commitments, including its obligations under international humanitarian law».

On October 5th, the «Moon of Alabama» blogger bannered, «Is Fighting Al-Qaeda In Aleppo Good Or Bad? — US Unable To Decide», and he expressed (and documented) the view that the only reason why Kerry and the rest of the Obama Administration had pretended to negotiate with Russia regarding Syria was in order to buy time to enable enough US weapons to be delivered to Al Nusra and its allies in Syria so as to be able to conquer the nation.

Also on October 5th, Morning Consult headlined «Congress Must Vote on Bombing Assad Regime, Lee Tells Obama», and reported that, «If the Obama administration wants to bomb the Assad regime, it must first get a declaration of war from Congress, Sen. Mike Lee said… ‘Should President Obama move ahead without authorization, then Congress must be called back into session to fulfill its obligation to debate and determine whether our nation should once again go to war’». Of course, if America does «once again go to war,» it will be war this time against Russia, and it will be unprecedented, in many ways, perhaps even final (which would be extremely «unprecedented»).

Also on October 5th, Britain’s Daily Mail bannered «Russia claims nuclear war could be imminent as it evacuates 40 MILLION people in drill and warns that ‘schizophrenics from America’ could attack», and reported that:

Russia is evacuating more than 40 million people in drills to prepare for nuclear war after Putin’s Ministry of Defence warned of ‘schizophrenics from America sharpening atomic weapons for Moscow’. 

Citizens have been told a war with the West could be imminent and Kremlin officials have said underground shelters have been built to house 12million people. 

The massive evacuation drill started yesterday and will last three days.

On October 6th, Russian Television bannered «‘S-300, S-400 air defenses in place’: Russian MoD warns US-led coalition not to strike Syrian army», and reported that Russia’s Defense Ministry said that «any missile or air strikes on the territory controlled by the Syrian government will create a clear threat to Russian servicemen», as a consequence of which the American invading forces would be shot down.

Also on October 6th, Al Masdar News headlined «Point of No Return as Islamist Rebels Lose More Ground in Aleppo City», and reported that «Islamist rebels of the [Nusra-allied and trained] Fatah Halab coalition have little prospect of breaking the [Syrian Arab Army — Syrian government] SAA imposed siege of eastern Aleppo».

Also on October 6th, Ireland’s RTE bannered «UN Security Council to Meet on Syria — Diplomats», and reported:

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting tomorrow on Syria after a UN envoy warned that eastern Aleppo may be totally destroyed in the next few months by the Russian and Syrian air campaign.

Russia requested the meeting to hear from UN envoy Staffan de Mistura, who will brief the council via video conference from Geneva at 1400 GMT, diplomats said.

Mr De Mistura earlier took aim at Russia, suggesting that Moscow was indiscriminately bombing a city with hundreds of thousands of civilians to flush out just a few hundred jihadists.

«We are talking about 900 people, basically, who are becoming the main reason for which there is 275,000 people actually being attacked», he said.

Would this, he asked, be the excuse for «the destruction of the city?»

«In maximum two months, two-and-a-half months, the city of eastern Aleppo may be totally destroyed,» he told reporters.

The envoy urged fighters from the former Al-Nusra Front – which renamed itself Fateh al-Sham Front after breaking with Al-Qaeda – to leave Aleppo under a deal to halt the regime’s attacks on the city.

«If you decide to leave with dignity … I am personally ready to physically accompany you», Mr de Mistura said.

Security Council members were discussing a French-drafted UN resolution calling for a ceasefire in Aleppo.

On Friday, October 7th, Reuters headlined «Assad offers rebels amnesty if they surrender Aleppo», and reported that, «Rebels holed up in Aleppo can leave with their families if they lay down their arms, President Bashar al-Assad said on Thursday, vowing to press on with the assault on Syria’s largest city and recapture full control of the country». He was willing to allow the estimated 900 Nusra-allied fighters, «inside Aleppo’s rebel-held eastern sector» to escape, in order for Aleppo’s jihadist-controlled area to avoid being totally destroyed by bombing. «However, rebels said they had no plan to evacuate Aleppo, the last major urban area they control, and denounced the amnesty offer as a deception».

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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CNBC reports: “The British pound took a dive on Friday, tanking as much as 6 percent, as traders scrambled to assess the cause of the heavy selling. The currency fell to $1.1819 in early Asian hours, hitting its lowest level since 1985—a year when it hit $1.0520 amid an acrimonious mining industry strike. The currency later recovered [5%] to hover at the $1.24 handle by the afternoon session of Asian trade.

Friday’s fall was the most aggressive since results of the Brexit vote emerged on June 24, according to spread-betting firm IG. – Market speculation was rife that the decline was the result of a wrongly entered trade. Because there was no news so far to justify the pound’s wild swing, it could be the result of a ‘fat finger’ [mistake], said Elias Haddad, senior currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.”

Video: Press TV Interview of Economist Peter Koenig

John Gorman, head of non-yen rates trading at Nomura Securities, said via email that there were two theories floating around. “First, it was a fat finger or a trade entered mistakenly. The second possibility, which sounds more reasonable, is that there is a large barrier option that traded and that caused the selloff in light liquidity.”

Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, echoed that view. “It’s a low liquidity sell-off. Typically, when we see this, the reversal is violent but with fundamental support, the pound could find a new range between 1.22 and 1.25 per dollar,” she said in e-mailed comments.

But because other currencies did not see corresponding moves, it may not be a liquidity issue, flagged ‎UBS’ chief Asia-Pacific investment officer Kelvin Tay. Indeed, other currencies were stable on Friday, with the euro down 0.30 percent to $1.1117 while the was 0.15 percent stronger at $103.90.

Not everyone believed the fat-finger theory either. “Usually, fat finger errors don’t have the continuity that we’re seeing right now. There’s a chance that it might been an error but I don’t think we haven’t seen the last of the lows,” Ashraf Laidi, CEO of Intermarket Strategy, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box”.

Friday’s moves cap a volatile week for the currency, bringing its week-to-date losses to over 4 percent, according to Reuters data. On Thursday, it traded around $1.2720 after hitting what was also a 31-year low of $1.2686 on Wednesday. The selling began to accelerate following British

Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement on Sunday that Article 50, a piece of legislation that launches the exit process, could start by the first quarter of 2017.

TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS TV INTERVIEW

PressTV Question: How do you see this sudden fall of the British Pound? Is it a ‘mistake’ as some say, or does it have to do with BREXIT and with Prime Minister Teresa May’s announcement that the exit process could start by the first quarter of 2017?

Peter Koenig:  First, we have to realize that the western economy is one where the currency, i.e. the monetary system makes the economy, not the other way around as it should be – where the economy makes the monetary system.

We are living in an economy where money has since the banking deregulation in the 1990s absolutely no backing, not gold, not the economic output of a country – nothing but thin air, as money is made by a mouse click on a computer by a private bank. In the US 97% of all money is made by private banks as debt. In Europe it’s not much different.

This system is perfect for speculation. You invent an event – and use that event in the media to justify a fall in the stock market, or in this case a currency.

In the case of the British Pound, it was not even necessary to invent an event – there is BREXIT, and BREXIT will last for a long time, perhaps even more than the statutory limit of 2 years, as everything is negotiable, especially between the UK and the EU.

So, in the case of the drop of the Pound by 6% – of which it recovered at least 5% in less than an hour – has in my opinion nothing to do with the wild guesses of media pundits, of so-called ‘fat fingers’ (mistakes) or ‘liquidity sales’, as someone else puts it.

It is pure and simple speculation. Speculation by banks that use the pretext of BREXIT – and it’s not the last time – to make a quick profit, probably in the hundreds of millions, if not billions – in 15 minutes – why not? The system allows it, so it’s all legal.

I could even imagine – don’t really know, but could imagine – that the Bank of England is behind this massive quick-drop, to make a quick profit – or in other words to recover some of the billions the Bank of England has already and will be putting into the ‘system’ to stabilize the English Pound. – Why not, after all, in the Western monetary system, money is made of thin air, but to maintain a certain balance you recover some of what others have already taken out as speculative profit.

PressTV: How will BREXIT and these currency fluctuations affect Britain’s and the world’s economy?

PK: Yes, another aspect that must be pointed out in this connection, is the fact that BREXIT is made to believe it is bad for the British economy – therefore the speculations in this direction, i.e. letting the currency drop from time to time by all those who control the monetary system, the same people who by default are against BREXIT and who want to put pressure on the UK Government to either reverse BREXIT or make the process as slow and as light as possible.

The western dollar based system needs the EU to survive. If BREXIT is presented with problems, it may discourage others from exiting the monetary union and the EU – I hear that Italy is perhaps the next candidate for EUREXIT.

Depending on who wins the French elections, for example Marine Le Pen, extreme right, or Jean-Luc Mélenchon, extreme left – both want to exit the EU, the EURO and NATO.  – Imagine what may happen to the western monetary system and its economy that is based on this fake system, if France and Italy -and who knows, perhaps even Germany, decide for EUREXIT? – It will not be good.

Therefore, there are plenty of reasons for these wide monetary speculations, mostly carried out by banks, probably even central banks, and maybe even the BIS itself – the Bank for International Settlement, the Central Bank of all central banks.

And let me add – the British economy in the long run will be better off without the EU; this is a clear prediction by serious economists, even within Britain, therefore – much of the negative hype that comes from the mainstream media is nothing but fear-mongering.

Again, be prepared to see more of these sudden drops and recoveries – all for quick profit taking. And mind you this, as time goes on, could happen with any other strong country’s currency, the EURO for example as long as it exists; and I am not excluding that such attempts on speculation may even be made against the Chinese Yuan, as has happened already, although China is much better prepared for western speculations. Also their currency is not made of thin air, but is not only backed by gold, but by their economy.

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He writes regularly for Global Research, ICH, RT, Sputnik, PressTV, The 4th Media, TeleSUR, The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.

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Who is Driving Tensions on the Korean Peninsula?

October 8th, 2016 by Joseph Thomas

With North Korea’s recent nuclear weapon test, it appears the East Asian state is transitioning from possessing a demonstration capability toward hosting a functional nuclear arsenal. While analysts believe North Korea has yet to miniaturise its nuclear weapons to fit in rocket-launched warheads, the frequency and size of the nation’s nuclear tests indicate expanding capabilities in both research and development as well as in fabrication and deployment.

BBC’s article, “North Korea’s nuclear programme: How advanced is it?,” would claim:

North Korea has conducted several tests with nuclear bombs.

However, in order to launch a nuclear attack on its neighbours, it needs to be able to make a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on to a missile.

North Korea claims it has successfully “miniaturised” nuclear warheads – but this has never been independently verified, and some experts have cast doubt on the claims.

And despite Western commentators and their counterparts in South Korea and Japan’s claims that North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme is a proactive, provocative policy, closer scrutiny reveals that Pyongyang’s defence policy may be instead predicated on legitimate fears reflecting and reacting to American and South Korean foreign policy.

An Axe Poised Above Pyongyang 

The International Business Times in an article titled, “As nuclear threat escalates, South Korea has concrete plans to eliminate Kim Jong-un,” would report:

South Korean troops are reportedly on standby to “eliminate” North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, should they feel threatened by their nuclear weapons.

According to CNN International, South Korean Defence Minister Han Min-koo revealed the information in parliament on 21 September. When asked whether a special forces unit had already been put together to eliminate the North Korean dictator, Han confirmed that such a plan was already in place.

Such an announcement, while at first may appear to be South Korea reacting to what it believes is a legitimate threat, is instead a clearly provocative move meant specifically to escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula, not assuage them.

Such an operation, to maximise chances for success, would be kept secret, not announced to the world. Additionally, “eradicating” a leader believed by many to serve mainly as a figurehead, with a large network of military and industry leaders surrounding him handing various aspects of North Korean foreign and domestic policy, would accomplish little in negating any actual military threat the nation posed to its southern neighbour.

Instead, a much larger and more involved plan would need to be put in place and prepared vigorously for, one that would entail hundreds of thousands of South Korean and American troops and possibly even other forces brought in under the guise of a UN peacekeeping force to overwhelm and subdue North Korea.

And such a plan does indeed exist.

A 2009 paper published by influential US-based think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, titled, “Preparing for Sudden Change in North Korea,” would enumerate a deeply involved plan for US and South Korean forces to fill any void that may develop in the event that North Korea’s government collapses.

While the report itself does not mention US activities underway to induce such a collapse, such activities are indeed ongoing, as they are elsewhere around the world, as are their effects are on display where they have already unfolded, namely Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan.

The plan itself involves subduing any and all resistance from North Korea’s military and population with an occupying force nearly a half-million strong, as well as the complete seizure of North Korea’s economy and its subsequent integration into South Korea’s “market economy.”

With such plans in place, with US and South Korean forces clearly practising for them annually and with the US intentionally and persistently attempting to undermine political stability within North Korea itself, what other sort of geopolitical posture should the world expect to see pursued by Pyongyang’s leadership besides paranoia and a perpetual war footing?

It is clear that covert and overt threats made by the West and its political proxies in Seoul either directly or through policy either put on paper or into practice indirectly, drives North Korea’s reciprocal belligerence.

The United States and its East Asian proxies have a clear material and military advantage over North Korea and could afford more than Pyongyang to make concessions and to redirect energy and resources away from threatening the North Koreans, toward genuine rapprochement.

However, while genuine rapprochement would be in the entire Korean Peninsula’s best interests, as well as in China and Japan’s, it would negate any further need for the United States’ presence on the Peninsula. Thus, as long as Seoul depends on or allows the US to provide regional security, it will entail such security that will ensure America’s perpetual presence and influence over the region. With America’s dual purpose being to both control the Koreas as well as encircle neighbouring China, there is virtually no reason ever for the United States to foster genuine peace and coexistence on the Peninsula.

The removal, therefore, of American forces from both Korea and Japan would be the first and most crucial step toward real reconciliation and progress in the region, reconciliation and progress that Asia requires but would acquire at the cost of America’s regional hegemonic ambitions.

Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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Interview conducted with Denmark’s TV-2

Highlights, Complete Transcript of Interview Below

President al-Assad

“Do you know the unicorn, the animal that’s like a horse, has a long horn? It’s a myth. And the moderate opposition is a myth. That’s why you cannot separate something that doesn’t exist from something that exists. All of them have the same grassroots, the same grassroots that used to be called “free Syrian army” four years ago, five years ago, then it became al-Nusra, then it became ISIS. So, the same grassroots move from group to another group. That’s why they cannot separate it. And they don’t want.. if this is reality, not a myth, they don’t want, but they cannot, because it doesn’t exist…

…they [the U.S. administration] insisted that there is a moderate opposition, and the Russian told them “ok, if there is a moderate opposition, please separate those moderates from the extremists,” and it didn’t work, because they don’t exist…

…If there is opposition, what is the definition of opposition? Could you accept an opposition in your country that belongs to other countries? Or should it be a Danish opposition that belongs to Danish people. They cannot tell which opposition to support in any other country. This is an intervention in internal matters. This is against the sovereignty, against the international law. They don’t have the right to support anyone in Syria against anyone. It’s not their business. We are a sovereign country; we are independent. We have the right to tackle our problems….

…They have to. There’s no other option. We won’t accept that terrorists will take control of any part of Syria, not only Aleppo. This is our mission, and this is our goal, and this is our next step…

…it’s my mission according to the constitution. It’s the mission of the army according to the constitution; it’s the mission of the state’s institutions according to the constitution. It’s not an option, it’s not a personal opinion, and it’s not my plan. My mission is to defend the civilians. My mission is to fight terrorists. My mission is to take control of every part of my country…”

FULL VIDEO-INTERVIEW

TRANSCRIPT 

(Damascus, 6 October 2016) ~ In an interview given to Denmark’s TV 2 channel, President al-Assad said that “moderate opposition” is a myth, and that reaching a political solution requires fighting terrorism, asserting that it’s not acceptable that terrorists will take control of any part of Syria.

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President Bashar al-Assad affirmed that the United States doesn’t have the will to reach any agreement about Syria, and that Syria knew in advance that the US agreement with Russia will not succeed because the main part of that agreement is to attack al-Nusra which is an American card in Syria.

Following is the full text of the interview

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Question 1: So, Mr. President, let us begin with the current situation in Aleppo. The last few weeks, terrifying pictures have come out from Aleppo. I mean, we see the residents of the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo in a very dire situation. They seem exhausted, they seem terrified, the situation is very violent. What is the strategy behind launching such fierce attack from the Syrian and Russian armies at the moment?

President Assad: Actually, we didn’t launch an attack, because the Syrian Army has continued its drive toward liberating every part of Syria including Aleppo or eastern Aleppo from the terrorists, but there was a ceasefire for one week in order to give the treaty, or the agreement, let’s say, between the Russians and the Americans a way to be implemented, and it didn’t work. When that week ended, we continued our drive as army to liberate eastern Aleppo from the terrorists. But actually, when you want to talk about the dire situation in eastern Aleppo, it’s not because of the government; it’s because of the terrorists. They’ve been in that area for years now, but we only heard about that “dire situation” in the media recently, in the Western media, because the situation of the terrorists is very bad. This is the only reason. While if you want to talk about the situation there, we never prevented any medical supply or food supply or any other thing from entering east Aleppo. There’s no embargo, if that’s what you mean, there’s no embargo, and our role as a government is to encircle the terrorists in order to liberate every part of the city.

Question 2: But what I also mean, we see pictures of children being killed, children at hospitals, we see pictures of demolished hospitals. Who’s targeting those hospitals?

President Assad: Let me tell you something about those pictures of children; of course, in every war, there are victims, there are innocent victims, and that’s why every war is a bad war, but if you look at those pictures that they’ve been promoted as pictures in the Western media, they only singled out a few pictures of children that suit their political agenda, just to accuse the Syrian government, while – you’ve been here now for two days – and they’ve been daily shelling from the eastern part of Aleppo toward the rest of the city, and there was wholesale killing and destruction of the other part of the city and tens of victims and tens of wounded people from Aleppo that the Western corporations didn’t talk about them. The Western officials didn’t issue a single statement regarding those children and women and elderly and innocents in general. So, this is part of the propaganda and demonization of the government in Syria. That doesn’t mean when you have war, again, that you don’t have victims, but the Syrian government has opened the door for the militants in the eastern part of Aleppo to leave safely with guarantees, and for the people of that area to go back to their houses.

Question 3: But residents in the area, eyewitnesses, international aid organizations, all saying that the hospitals have been targeted, and when I look at the pictures, I see hospitals, I see the beds inside the hospitals, and to me it really looks like it is demolished, it has been targeted, so who’s targeting the hospitals?

President Assad: I don’t have the answer to which hospital are you talking about, because we don’t have any facts about it, we only have allegations, so answering allegations shouldn’t be only through-

Question 4: But pictures are facts.

President Assad: Pictures cannot tell you the story, even videos, everything could be manipulated these days. I wouldn’t say that there are no such attacks on any building, but as a government, we don’t have a policy to destroy hospitals or schools or any such facility for a simple reason: first of all, morally, the second reason is that if we do so, we are offering the militants the incubator, the social incubator that they’ve been looking for, it’s going to be a gift, something we wouldn’t do because it’s against our interests. It’s like shooting ourselves in the foot. If there’s such an attack from the army, it could be by mistake, but we don’t have any information that thing has happened. All what we have is allegations and only in the Western media, not from Syria.

Question 5: So, if the Syrian Army didn’t attack hospitals, or maybe they did by mistake, you say, are you sure it’s not the Russian air force who are targeting hospitals?

President Assad: The question that you should ask when you have a crime: who is the beneficiary of that crime? What would they get, I mean for the Russians or the Syrians, if they attack a school or if they attack hospital? What would they get if they attack a hospital? Nothing, they wouldn’t get anything. I mean, even if you want to talk about the terrorists, most of their hospitals for the militants would be in the basement in ordinary buildings. So, attacking a hospital intentionally by the army is based on shaky logic, let’s say.

Question 6: Do you then agree that whoever attacks hospitals, they are guilty of war crimes?

President Assad: Of course, by international law, it is. I mean, hospitals have immunity. Any other facility for any inhabited area – inhabited by civilians, not by militants – has immunity, and any government shouldn’t do it, of course, I agree with you.

Question 7: Mr. President, you have kids yourself, and I’m sure you’re also watching television, you also watch these pictures of children at the hospitals, children being buried in the rubble. How does it affect you when you look at these pictures of Syrian children?

President Assad: Of course, I have children, I have the same feelings of any father and mother who would care a lot about their children, and how would they feel if they lose a member of their family. And by the way, we lost members of our families during the conflict because of the terrorist attacks. But when you look at those killed children, you think why? Why the terrorists did so? Why did Qatar and Saudi Arabia and Turkey commit those crimes? And I wonder why would the Western countries, mainly the USA and its allies in Europe, have supported those terrorists who’ve been committing crimes in Syria? That’s the first thing I thought about. Of course, as President, the second thing that I would think about is how can I protect the Syrian people and the Syrian children, and how can I protect the innocent from having the same fate in any coming day.

Question 8: So, you are blaming the rebels in the eastern part of Aleppo of being behind the attacks on the children of Aleppo?

President Assad: You can take your camera to Aleppo, to the other part of Aleppo which is under the control of the government, which is – I mean, when you see the fact, it’s more credible than what I’m going to say – but you can see how many civilians have been killed during the last two months in Aleppo. Hundreds of civilians have been killed by the rebels. The question is why didn’t we hear about them in the Western media? That’s my question. Again, I wouldn’t say that you don’t having civilians going as victims, but when it’s shelled by mortars by the rebels intentionally, we have to talk about this crime as well.

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Question 9: At the moment, there’s a seven-year-old girl, her name is Bana al-Abed, from Aleppo. She’s Tweeting about her life in the eastern part of Aleppo. She’s talking about the massive bombardment. She’s very scared, every time she wakes up and realizes, fortunately, she’s still alive. Do you trust her as an eyewitness?

President Assad: You cannot build your political position or stand, let’s say, according to a video promoted by the terrorists or their supporters. It’s a game now, a game of propaganda, it’s a game of media. You can see anything, and you can be sympathetic with every picture and every video you see. But our mission as a government is to deal with the reality. You have terrorists in Syria, they are supported by foreign powers and foreign countries, and we have to defend our country. In some areas, the terrorists use the civilians as a human shield, but we have to do our job to liberate them, we cannot say “we won’t do anything because the terrorists are holding those hostages.” It’s our mission. Again, we are going to the same point; you always have mistakes that are committed by anyone, but this is not policy, and you always have innocent victims of that war.

Question 10: What kind of mistakes did the Syrian Army do?

President Assad: Any individual mistakes.

Question 11: Have you any examples of mistakes?

President Assad: I mean, you have institutions, I mean anyone could be punished if he commits a mistake, that would happen in any war, in every army, this is common sense.

Question 12: You have encouraged the civilians in the eastern part of Aleppo, and also actually the rebels, to leave the place. You wanted to create a humanitarian corridor. Can you guarantee the safety of those civilians and the rebels if they leave the rebel-held part of the city?

President Assad: Exactly, that’s what we announced a few days ago, and we announced it two months ago, because we wanted the civilians to leave away from the terrorists. Yeah.

Question 13: And how are you going to protect them?

President Assad: They are allowed to leave. It happened many times, in many different areas in Syria. We allowed the terrorists to leave that area in order to protect the civilians. We don’t need any more blood-letting and blood-shedding. This is one of the ways or the methods we’ve been using in order to protect the civilians. Of course, if they don’t obey, we tell the civilians that we’re going to attack that area, so they can move away from it. But the best way is to allow the terrorists to leave, and the civilians will be safe, then you can if you want to follow or chase the terrorists, you can chase them somewhere else where there’s no civilians.

Question 14: Do you understand if people around the world who are watching these terrifying pictures coming out of the eastern part of Aleppo, if they maybe think that you are denying facts? That you also have some kind of responsibility for the victims, for the bombing of the hospitals, for the bombing of the civilian infrastructure? Do you understand that some people, they may think you are denying facts?

President Assad: Look, if we’ve been faced by lies since the beginning of the war on Syria, accepting those lies as reality doesn’t make me credible. I wouldn’t be credible if I say “oh, yeah, you’re right.” That’s why I said there’s a difference between accepting that this is a policy, or accepting that they always have mistakes. I didn’t deny any mistake to be committed by any individual. I said there’s always mistakes. There are always mistakes committed in any war. So, I’m very realistic. But to say that this is our aim as a government, we give the order to destroy hospitals or schools or to kill civilians, this is against our interests. I mean, if you want to put the morals aside, we wouldn’t do it because this is against us, so how can those people, that would say that we are only denying facts, convince anyone that we are working against our interests?

This is first. Second, if we are killing people, Syrian people, and destroying hospitals and committing all these atrocities, and we’ve been faced by all the great powers and the petrodollars in the world, how can I be President after nearly six years of the beginning of the war? I’m not Superman, if I don’t have support, I wouldn’t be here, and because I have the support, and because we defend the Syrian people, we have the support as President or as a government. This is how to refute all these claims. I mean, at the end, the reality is telling.

Question 15: So, there’s a fierce battle going on in Aleppo right now. What will be the Syrian army and the Russian army’s next move to retake the eastern rebel-held part of Aleppo?

President Assad: To continue the fight with the rebels till they leave Aleppo. They have to. There’s no other option. We won’t accept that terrorists will take control of any part of Syria, not only Aleppo. This is our mission, and this is our goal, and this is our next step.

Question 16: So, this intense way of warfare that we see right will continue, that’s what you’re saying?

President Assad: No, if you have any other option like the reconciliations in other areas, that’s the best option, not the war, and that’s why we announced – we gave many amnesties to hundreds, and maybe thousands, not hundreds, thousands of militants, in order to save blood, and it worked. That’s why we said we give them guarantee, whether they want to have reconciliation and to have the amnesty, or to leave with their armaments outside the city of Aleppo completely, to leave the city safe, and for the people to go back to their normal life.

Question 17: The United States, they stopped all bilateral talks with Russia about any kind of peace agreement, and the Russians they said that they actually regret this. Do you regret it as well?

President Assad: We regret it, but we knew in advance that it wouldn’t work, because the agreement, it’s not only about the talks between the two great powers, it’s not about what they’re going to sign or agree upon; it’s about the will, and we already knew, we had already known that the Americans didn’t have the will to reach any agreement, because the main part of that agreement is to attack al-Nusra which is, according to the American list and to the United Nations list, is a terrorist group, but in the Syrian conflict, it’s an American card. Without al-Nusra, the Americans cannot have any real, let’s say, concrete and effective card in the Syrian arena. That’s why we regret it, but we already knew that it wouldn’t happen.

Question 18: But isn’t it very difficult for the United States to separate the so-called “moderate rebels” and some of the more radical ones? This is very difficult, when you are attacking the moderate rebels all the time.

President Assad: You are right, do you know why you are right? Do you know the unicorn, the animal that’s like a horse, has a long horn? It’s a myth. And the moderate opposition is a myth. That’s why you cannot separate something that doesn’t exist from something that exists. All of them have the same grassroots, the same grassroots that used to be called “free Syrian army” four years ago, five years ago, then it became al-Nusra, then it became ISIS. So, the same grassroots move from group to another group. That’s why they cannot separate it. And they don’t want.. if this is reality, not a myth, they don’t want, but they cannot, because it doesn’t exist.

Question 19: But why did you ask them to do it if it’s not possible?

President Assad: Because they insisted that there is a moderate opposition, and the Russian told them “ok, if there is a moderate opposition, please separate those moderates from the extremists,” and it didn’t work, because they don’t exist, that’s why.

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Question 20: What do you think will be the consequences of the US suspension of the bilateral talks? I mean, until now, the Syrian and Russian armies, they have avoided direct clashes with the US army. Do you think that there’s an increased risk of direct attacks between you and your allies and the US army?

President Assad: Many people are talking about the escalation, if the agreement didn’t work or if it’s not implemented. But actually that escalation has been happening for a while now. I mean, before that agreement, let’s say, failed, the Americans attacked our forces in Deir Ezzor, and everybody knows that only one group existed in Deir Ezzor, which is ISIS, and ISIS came and took the place of the Syrian Army and they threaten the city, which is called Deir Ezzor, because of the American attacks. So, talking about escalation, it’s already happening. Talking about direct confrontation, since World War II, that never happened, I mean, it was very close to happening during the Cuban missile crisis, in 1962 I think. Now the situation is different, because in the United States you don’t have superior statecraft. When you don’t have superior statecraft, you should expect anything, and you should always expect the worse. I’m sure that Russia is doing its best not to reach that point, but do the Americans – or, let’s say, the “hawks” part or the group within the administration – do their best to avoid that confrontation, or the opposite, do their best to have this confrontation with Russia? That’s what worries us.

Question 21: And talking about the incident in Deir Ezzor on September 17. It was British, Australian, US, and Danish fighter jets who allegedly attacked the Syrian Army. Denmark, like the other countries, they said it was a mistake. Do you accept that explanation?

President Assad: We accept the explanation, but that doesn’t mean we accept that error, doesn’t mean we justify it. To say a mistake, maybe you have the wrong information, especially as you are fulfilling an American mission; I’m sure not the Danish, not the British, decided which target they should attack. I’m sure the Americans said “this is our target, and this is where ISIS is.” Of course, they deceive the others, and tell them “we’re going to attack ISIS.” Maybe that’s the truth. But is it acceptable for the Danish people that your army is fulfilling military missions of other countries without verifying the target and knowing where is it heading? Do you take a bus without knowing where the bus is going to? You don’t. So, it’s not acceptable. Maybe it’s a mistake, that’s true, but the mistake is not acceptable.

Question 22: So do you think that, indirectly, Denmark, they were helping ISIS?

President Assad: In reality, they helped ISIS because of this attack, because they killed tens of Syrian soldiers who are defending the city of Deir Ezzor from being under the control of ISIS, and now ISIS took the place, took the hills that overlook the city, so they could be able someday to take control of Deir Ezzor because of that attack.

Question 23: And you think that the US, they did that on purpose, and Denmark, they helped them without knowing?

President Assad: I don’t know about Denmark; I don’t know if it’s without knowing. Maybe. The only reason that makes me believe so is because the Europeans implement and fulfill what the Americans want in every field without asking and without discussing, to be frank, so it could be one of the reasons. But for the Americans, a hundred percent, they did it intentionally, because ISIS gathered their militants in the same place before the attack, and when the attack started, it took about one hour, and in the next hour ISIS attacked and took control of those hills. How could ISIS knew about this raid before it happened? Of course, this is not the only indication for us that the United States is supporting ISIS, the attack on Palmyra, when they occupied and took control of Palmyra under the supervision of the Americans, the smuggling of oil, the extraction of oil from oil fields in Syria in the desert in the middle of the day. This is a strong indication that the United States has been supporting ISIS in order to use ISIS.

Question 24: Until now, the Danish government they have followed US policy towards Syria. They even said that they were willing to engage in a military operation against the Syrian Army. What do you think about the Danish policy towards Syria?

President Assad: First of all, the intervention in Syria, as part of the international coalition which is actually an American coalition, this is against the international law, this is against the sovereignty of Syria because this is not in coordination with the Syrian government, while the Russian came to Syria after taking the permission of the Syrians; actually after having an invitation from the Syrian government to support us in our fight against the terror. So this is against the sovereignty, this is against the international law and this is against any moralized policy anywhere in the world. It’s illegal.

The other aspect of that policy is the embargo. As part of the European Union, they made embargo on the Syrian population; tens of millions of Syrians, they are not allowed to reach the basic needs of their life. For example, you cannot buy now pumps for the water, they cannot buy medical equipment to diagnose somebody who has a cancer who would die because he cannot afford these materials. The embargo prevents the Syrian companies, airlines companies, from having spare parts for their airplanes in order to prevent those airplanes from crashing in the air and killing the passengers. This is the policy of the European Union, and Denmark is part of that policy.

Question 25: But what else should they do? I mean, they are very much against what’s going on in Syria right now. They have been supporting the opposition. Maybe they don’t want to be involved in a direct war with the Syrian Army. So what else to do?

President Assad: For the government?

Journalist: Yes.

President Assad: The question is would you as a Danish citizen accept me as a foreigner to support opposition in your country with money and to tell them “go and kill, and that’s how you achieve your political goals?” If there is opposition, what is the definition of opposition? Could you accept an opposition in your country that belongs to other countries? Or should it be a Danish opposition that belongs to Danish people. They cannot tell which opposition to support in any other country. This is an intervention in internal matters. This is against the sovereignty, against the international law. They don’t have the right to support anyone in Syria against anyone. It’s not their business. We are a sovereign country; we are independent. We have the right to tackle our problems. So, they’re not in a position to support anyone, whether right or wrong.

Question 26: Do you see Denmark as an enemy of Syria?

President Assad: No, they are not. They are not an enemy. There is a big difference between the Danish people, like most of the European people, they were friends to Syria, but it’s about the policy of the government. It’s about whole Europe now being absent from the political map at least since 2003 after the invasion of Iraq, just because they had to follow the Americans, and they don’t dare to take their independent, let’s say, path in politics. We differentiate precisely between the government and the people of Denmark, and the same for other countries.

Question 27: If it could speed up the negotiations for a peaceful future in Syria, if you left office and may be another one from the Syrian administration took over, why wouldn’t you do that?

President Assad: To leave, you mean?

Journalist: Yes.

President Assad: That depends on the Syrian people. It’s not my decision. And if you don’t have the support of the Syrian people, you have to leave right away, because without their support, you cannot achieve anything, you cannot produce anything, you are going to fail. So that’s simply the reason, especially during the war you have to lead the ship to the shore; you don’t run away because there is a war, unless the Syrian people want you to leave. If I’m the problem, again, or the other point, let’s say, or the other side of the story, if I’m the reason of the war, I would leave. But it’s not about me; I am just used as a nominal reason. It’s much bigger than that; it’s about Syria, it’s about the government, it’s about the independence, it is about the war on the regional level, it is about the war between the great powers. Syria is just the headline and the President is the main headline.

Question 28: So you don’t think that you are one of the reasons for the war?

President Assad: No, I am not a reason for the war, because if I am a reason, the war should have started in 2000, since I became President, not 2011 when the money started pouring from Qatar and when the United States took the decision that they want topple governments and presidents because they do not suit them.

Question 29: But don’t you think you are the reason that the war escalated?

President Assad: Because of me?

Journalist: Yes.

President Assad: So, the terrorists according to what you are saying, terrorists are not responsible, they are very peaceful people. The money of Qatar and Saudi Arabia and Turkey are something legal and natural, let’s say, and the agenda of the United States fulfilled the needs of the Syrian people, which is not realistic.

Question 30: Mr. President, you have said many times that you will continue the fight until you have recaptured the whole country, is that still your approach to this process?

President Assad: No, it’s not my approach; it’s my mission according to the constitution. It’s the mission of the army according to the constitution; it’s the mission of the state’s institutions according to the constitution. It’s not an option, it’s not a personal opinion, and it’s not my plan. My mission is to defend the civilians. My mission is to fight terrorists. My mission is to take control of every part of my country. You don’t take part of your country as a state. You don’t say “it is enough for me have half of the country” or so.

Question 31: So you think that you are defending the civilians?

President Assad: Definitely.

Question 32: I mean more than hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed; some people say 250 thousands; some people say 300 thousands. Do you think that you are defending the civilians in Syria?

President Assad: The majority of those that you are talking about, the victims, are supporters of the government, not the opposite. Another part which is unbiased, in the middle, it doesn’t belong to the government or to the other. So the majority are supporters. So, of course, I am defending the civilians. Again, otherwise if I’m not, If I’m killing the civilians, as the propaganda would promote for four years, I wouldn’t be here as President. I cannot withstand for nearly six years.

Question 33: Last question, Mr. President: Do you believe in a diplomatic political solution, or do you, deep inside your heart, know that this is going to be a military solution, and that is really what you want?

President Assad: Neither, neither, because when you have a problem you have a solution, you don’t have a kind of solution, but the problem itself will tell you how many aspects of that problems you have. For example, if I believe in political solution but you have terrorism, you cannot have a political solution because you have chaos. If you have chaos, this is the antithesis to anything natural, including the political process. So, you need first to fight terrorists in order to reach political solution. So, in reality, you have to follow both paths; the military and the diplomatic or the political, because they are related to each other. So, it’s not about my belief; it’s not what I believe; it’s what the requirement of this conflict to be solved. So you don’t define it. The whole circumstances define it. For example, regarding the terrorists, it’s not only about military solution; it’s about the adjacent countries and the Western countries stop supporting the terrorists. If they stop supporting them, the military aspect of that solution will be marginalized; it won’t be important because they will be weak. You will give a chance to more political initiatives in that regard. If they support them more, actually what is going to happen is the opposite; the political solution or path will be marginalized. So, it’s not about what I believe in. I wish we can solve everything politically, I wish, that’s what I think is suitable, but it’s not about what I wish, it’s about the facts on the ground.

Journalist: Thank you very much, Mr. President.

President Assad: Thank you for coming.

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“Millions of people need its sanctuary and protection.  History will frown on those who do not build.” — Editorial, The Guardian, Aug 15, 2011

There was very little in the manner of elaborateness on this occasion.  There were no hysterics, though there was some surprise from pundits behind the selection of Portugal’s António Guterres as Ban Ki-moon’s successor for Secretary-General of the United Nations.  Where, went this line of alarm, was the woman? After all, seven out of 13 candidates were vying for the position.

The position itself has become more of a bauble of over the years, while the organisation has slid into the background, seemingly broken.  The United Nations remains a beast held captive, for the most part, by the Permanent Five, powers vested with the killing strength of a veto.  Wars continue to rage with merciless execution, exercised through proxy theatres and actors, while the organisation takes the next battering on its chin.

As for contenders, it seemed that the punters got it wrong again, this, in a season when they have been mistaken about so much in terms of elections.  The talking heads chewed off each other’s ears suggesting that the next Secretary-General would be a competent female, or from Eastern Europe, or both.

Even Ban decided to weigh in, claiming it was “high time now” for a female Secretary-General.  The straw polls yielded rather different results, the first placing the head of Unesco, Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, third, before subsequently dropping to fifth.

When the announcement came, The Campaign to Elect a Woman UN Secretary-General expressed “outrage” at the decision.  “There were seven outstanding female candidates and in the end it appears they were never seriously considered.”[1]  That’s diplomacy for you.

Guterres seemed beat his fellow contenders with some imaginary stick of competence, convincing the Security Council to unanimously back him.  “What we are looking for,” claimed British ambassador Matthew Rycroft, “is a strong secretary general… who will take the United Nations to the next level in terms of leadership, and who will provide a convening power and a moral authority at a time when the world is divided on issues, above all like Syria.”[2]

Much wishful thinking there, and thoughts more dissimulating than not.  An active, strong Secretary-General is exactly the sort of chap these powers do not want.  Damning praise is code for not rocking the boat.  By all means, venture a criticism here and there, but generally keep matters afloat and civil as a servant to the countries at the UN.

During Ban’s tenure, powers, often of the brutish variety, have been given a decent white wash, in some cases gruesomely so.  Burma, Sri Lanka and China, at various stages, have benefited from Ban’s efforts to, as Human Rights Watch claims, “portray oppressive governments in a positive light.”  He may well have put it down to the daily seediness of diplomacy.

The point is always to be wary of anything stemming from a permanent Security Council member.  US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power insists on someone who can “mobilize coalitions” and avail himself of “creaky” yet necessary “tools” to cure the international dysfunction that that risen, even if her role in aggravating that state of affairs is undeniable.  Within the ramshackle organisation, aggressive, spoiling powers cause mischief and sow ills without discrimination.

The backers of the Secretary-General sometimes misjudge their man, finding that the office is occupied by overly active, if not ambitious figures.  For one, a decision was made in 1945 to limit the office-holder’s powers to bring to the attention of the Security Council violations of international law.  In other words, the SG was meant to avoid doing something seemingly essential to the office: guarding the Charter with its lofty aspirations.

The Security Council seemed to buck that trend in August 2001, adopting Resolution 1366 which recognised “the essential role of the Secretary-General in the prevention of armed conflict and the importance of efforts to enhance his role in accordance with Article 99 of the Charter of the United Nations.”[3]

Kofi Annan also went well outside his remit, devising the millennium goals while embracing that fraught philosophy known as the Responsibility to Protect.  Previously, such figures as Dag Hammarskjöld proved steely in his resolve, so much so there remains more than a hint he was done away by way of a plane crash on his way to cease-fire negotiations in the Congo.

It was Hammarskjöld, deemed by some a virtual prime minister of the organisation, who came up with the notion that the UN Secretariat should be working on the edge of progress, ever engaged in preventive diplomacy.  The current office holder has often, by way of contrast, seemed on the edge of an abyss, indifferent to conflagration and calamity.

For all the bad press over the years, the UN can, at stages, do better than the imperial powers that claim to have mastered the art of governance.  UN peacekeeping missions cost a fraction than those of standard forces of brutal, even clumsy occupation.  Preventive diplomacy can yield less destructive results.  Whether such scope afforded the new SG, who intends to bring “swift decisions which the troubled world we live in demands” is hard to envisage in a post-Ban world.

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

Notes

[1] https://twitter.com/She4SG
[2] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37568433
[3] https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N01/524/48/PDF/N0152448.pdf?OpenElement

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No one has a crystal ball that allows them to foresee precisely what’s going to happen as the new Tory government of Manitoba really gets down to business in the months ahead. But there are some things we can be pretty sure about.

The Tories will claim that it’s vital to curb provincial government spending to reduce Manitoba’s deficit and move toward balancing the budget. In reality, there’s no deficit crisis. Not only was the share of provincial revenue spent on servicing the debt in the 2015-16 fiscal year low, it was lower than it had been three years prior. The Tory “cure” – austerity – for the non-existent crisis might not even lower the deficit.

But a balanced budget isn’t the real objective (if the Tories had inherited one, they’d simply be talking about ‘reinventing government’ or some other justification for their program). Although some Tory MLAs may be so naive as to believe that lowering the deficit is the government’s true goal, and that doing this will somehow lead companies in Manitoba to hire more people and pay them more, they’re wrong on both counts.

Pushing Markets Further

One of the things that this government’s strategic thinkers really want to do is weaken public services. Deficit reduction is a means to that end. The Tories embrace this goal because they are ardently committed to neoliberal ideology. This vision aims to make people more dependent on markets (in other words, private firms) to meet their needs. It favours the delivery of healthcare, social services and education by for-profit firms. So we should expect not just spending cuts but also moves to create new opportunities for companies to make money, through privatization, contracting-out, deregulation (coming soon: Uber?), public-private partnerships (P3s), social impact bonds, and schemes that claim to offer people more ‘choice’.

It’s worth emphasizing that the Tory goal isn’t getting rid of government, as some critics will say. One of the key goals of neoliberalism “is to redefine the shape and functions of the state, not to destroy it,” as the astute analyst Philip Mirowski has pointed out. The Tories want to use government powers to push markets deeper into society. This includes reorganizing what’s left of the public sector so it operates more like the private sector. They’re also keen on pumping up one part of the state: the already-inflated violent system of policing and prisons.

One of the other things the Tories are eager to do is weaken unions and workers’ rights, since these are barriers to higher corporate profits (just like environmental and other regulations on what companies can do, which they also want to take down). The fact that the public sector is highly unionized is another reason why the Tories so like the idea of restructuring it in neoliberal ways. Changing the Labour Relations Act to make it harder for workers to unionize may be just the start of an assault on unions. Watch out for changes to the Employment Standards Act too. The Tories can’t even pretend that these moves have anything to do with lowering the deficit – higher profits is what they’re all about.

Potential for Protest, and More

The weakness of grassroots union activism and community organizing to demand change in Manitoba mean that few people have experience acting collectively to defend their interests (unlike in Quebec, for example). The discrediting of the NDP after its decisive election loss means that many people think there’s no alternative to what the Tories propose.

For these reasons it may well be difficult to mobilize much protest until the Tories introduce big cuts or really aggressive legislation. But as the response to the Newfoundland Liberal government’s attacks this year makes clear, such attacks can quickly spark opposition on a scale that most foes of austerity would have thought impossible.

Yet even if the Tories proceed cautiously their attacks will harm many people. This will create possibilities for protest and, going beyond that, real resistance that tries to stop attacks. Even small-scale short-lived mobilizations can contain seeds that may flower into ongoing organizing efforts in workplaces, on campuses, in neighbourhoods or among specific communities of people. The Tories are less popular among indigenous people than in the non-indigenous population, so indigenous mobilization may develop more quickly.

With this in mind, people who recognize what the Tories have in mind for Manitoba should set ourselves the goal of building active opposition to their attacks. Just waiting for the next election will mean not even trying to repel Tory attacks. Just waiting will also demoralize people hurt by the Tories, making them less likely to bother to vote in the next election.

Starting from where we’re at, we should aim to build protests that escalate to higher levels of resistance, including strike action. What’s needed is a mass social movement that can force the government from office, much as happened in Quebec in 2012. That’s a long shot, but it is what we should aspire to.

Right now, planning public protests against Tory attacks is a first step. Another is equipping more people with a clear understanding of neoliberalism and with organizing skills. •

David Camfield teaches Labour Studies and Sociology at the University of Manitoba. He is the author of the chapter on Manitoba in a forthcoming book on fiscal policy and public services in Canada’s provinces. This article first published on the Solidarity Winnipeg website.

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Eight years after the eruption of the global financial crisis, the conditions are being created for another meltdown of even bigger proportions, amid rising geo-political and economic tensions between the major capitalist powers.

This is the implication of three reports issued by the International Monetary Fund in preparation for its annual meeting, which begins in Washington today. The World Economic Outlook reported lower growth in all the advanced economies, underscoring the lack of a genuine recovery in the global economy, while two financial reports pointed to mounting instability resulting from the injection by central banks of trillions of dollars into the world financial system.

Taken together, the reports point to the underlying economic contradictions that are fuelling a series of crises. These include slowing world trade and rising protectionist measures, the row between the US and the European Union over tax payments by Apple, the move by the US Justice Department to impose a $14 billion penalty on Deutsche Bank, the breakdown in talks on the US-sponsored Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and accusations from politicians in Berlin that the US is waging “economic warfare.”

The increasing instability of the financial system was highlighted in the IMF’s twice-yearly Fiscal Monitor report issued on Wednesday. It found that debt in the nonfinancial sector of the world economy had doubled in nominal terms since the turn of the century, reaching $152 trillion last year and continuing to rise.

Current debt levels are 225 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), rising from 200 percent in 2002. The IMF said that while there was no consensus on how much debt was too much, current debt levels, of which two-thirds is privately held, were at a record high.

There was a need for deleveraging, but the current low-growth environment was making “the adjustment very difficult, setting the stage for a vicious feedback loop in which lower growth hampers deleveraging and the debt overhang exacerbates the slowdown.”

The report said the debt overhang problem, characterised as a situation in which the borrower’s debt service liability exceeds its future repayment capacity, “resides squarely within advanced economies’ private sector.”

While the IMF did not make the point, its analysis exposes the claim that too much government spending is the cause of mounting financial problems. According to the Fiscal Monitor report, the easing of restrictions on credit meant that nonfinancial private-sector debt in the major economies increased by 35 percent of GDP in the years leading up to the global financial crisis.

Significantly, there was a rapid rise in household debt in this period. The report did not point to the reasons, but two major factors undoubtedly were the low level of wage increases, forcing increased borrowing, and the surge in house prices in a number of countries, itself a product of credit expansion. The IMF noted that in some countries—Australia, Canada and Singapore—private-sector debt had continued to accumulate at a fast pace.

The report found that public debt, which makes up one-third of the total, had risen from 70 percent of global GDP to 85 percent. But almost half of this increase was a result of low nominal growth. In other words, far from the rise in government debt being the result of “profligate” spending on health, pensions and social services—the mantra of those demanding austerity—its expansion is rooted in the ongoing stagnation following the 2008 financial crisis.

A second financial report, Global Financial Stability, drew out the growing risks to the financial system. It said that while short-term risks had abated since the previous report in April, “the medium-term risks are building.” The continued slowdown in global growth had prompted financial markets to expect a continued period of low inflation, low interest rates and “an even longer delay in normalizing monetary policy.”

It warned, however, that some monetary policies, such as negative interest rates, were “reaching the limits of their effectiveness, and the medium-term side effects of low rates are rising for banks and other financial institutions.”

Pension funds and insurance companies, which are dependent for their financing on investment in long-term government bonds, were particularly adversely affected, with their solvency “threatened by a prolonged period of low interest rates.”

Financial institutions as a whole in the advanced economies faced a “number of cyclical and structural challenges and need to adapt to the new era of low growth and low interest rates.” If these challenges were left unaddressed, it “could undermine financial soundness.”

These problems go to the very heart of the capitalist financial system—the banks. The report stated that weak profitability could “erode banks’ buffers and undermine their ability to support growth.” Even if there were a cyclical recovery in the economy, this would not resolve the problems of low profitability. “Over 25 percent of banks in advanced economies (about $11.7 trillion in assets) would remain weak and face significant structural challenges,” with the problems concentrated in the European and Japanese banking sector.

“In the euro area,” the report stated, “excessive nonperforming loans and structural drags on profitability require urgent and comprehensive action.” Reducing nonperforming loans and addressing deficiencies in capital were a priority.

The mounting financial problems, while concentrated in the advanced economies, are not confined to them. The report found that in emerging market economies, around 11 percent of corporate debt, over $400 billion, was held by firms with “weak repayment capacity.”

High debt levels and excess capacity made it difficult for these companies to “grow out of the problem” which left them “sensitive to downside external or domestic developments,” and if interest rates started to rise and earnings fell, “such a scenario would exhaust bank capital buffers in some emerging markets.”

Another area of concern was China, where “continued rapid credit growth… and expanding shadow banking products pose mounting risks to financial stability.” The rapidly growing financial system “is becoming increasingly leveraged and interconnected, and a variety of innovative vehicles and products are adding to the complexity.” Corporate debt at risk remained high and “underlying risks from non-loan credit exposures add to these challenges.”

The three reports point to the deepening contradictions of the global capitalist system. The IMF has insisted that in the absence of any cyclical rise of the economy, monetary policy alone cannot bring about a recovery, and government infrastructure and other spending is necessary to provide a boost.

But such spending would increase debt and would depend on interest rates remaining low. Ultra-low interest rates, however, are increasingly undermining the stability of banks and other financial institutions, creating the conditions for another financial crisis, which will further inflame the already high level of geo-political and economic conflict.

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The psychopaths in Washington and in the pentagon is preparing for a nuclear confrontation with Russia with recent tests of two fake 700-pound nuclear bombs in the Nevada desert. Defense One, a U.S. Military website for the defense industry published an article by Marcus Weisgerber titled The US Air Force Just Dropped Two Fake Nukes’ on October 6th and stated “A pair of U.S. Air Force B-2 bombers dropped two 700-pound faux nuclear bombs in the middle of the Nevada desert within the past few days. Now the Pentagon wants to tell you about it.”

The Pentagon not only wants the public to know about these tests but also to warn Russia that it is testing its old version of the B61 nuclear bombs to pinpoint the accuracy and reliability in case of a real world war III scenario were to take place.

A press release by the National Nuclear Security Administration(NNSA) on the same day stated the following:

“In collaboration with the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command, NNSA conducted successful surveillance flight tests using joint test assemblies (JTA) of the B61-7 and B61-11 earlier this month. Analysis and flight recorder data from the tests indicate that both were successful.

JTAs are mock weapons containing sensors and instrumentation that allow scientists and engineers from national laboratories to assess their performance. The assemblies contain no nuclear materials and are not capable of nuclear yield. These assemblies also include a flight recorder that stores bomb performance data for each test.

The primary objective of flight testing is to obtain reliability, accuracy, and performance data under operationally representative conditions. Such testing is part of the qualification process of current alterations and life extension programs for weapon systems. NNSA scientists and engineers use data from these tests in computer simulations developed by Sandia National Laboratories to evaluate the weapon systems’ reliability and to verify that they are functioning as designed”.

Weisgerber asked “But why now? Perhaps it has to do with tensions with Russia, which are higher than they have been in decades, and which have sparked fears of a new nuclear arms race.”

Russia is also preparing for a worst case scenario as it announced a drill for its citizens in case Washington decides to launch a nuclear weapon into Russian territory. Washington has been threatening Russia over the civil war in Syria. Washington, Turkey.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have been the main supporters of al-Nusra and other terrorist groups since the start of the civil war in 2011 which has failed since Russia got involved in the conflict. The plan to remove Assad has failed and now Washington is escalating it war rhetoric against Russia. Another possible explanation for the nuclear weapons tests and they may have to do with more funding for the Military-Industrial Complex. Weisber said “But it may also have to do with the Pentagon’s quest to replace its decades-old nuclear arsenal with new bombs and delivery vehicles, an endeavor whose price tag tops several hundred billion dollars.” War is big business. War is profitable on many levels especially for arms manufacturers.

However, a war against Iran,China and Russia is on the table because they are the last remaining obstacles to Washington’s global dominance. Washington is contemplating a possible nuclear war against their adversaries because their cadres of psychopaths are willing to unleash a nuclear disaster for the entire planet to achieve their stated goals. Can Russia bring peace and avoid World War III when the next regime to assume the White House comes to power this January?

If Hillary Clinton wins (or steals) the election, that question is not hard to answer especially with the neoconservative war hawks and special interest groups who support her. Clinton is a Democratic warmonger in her own right as the recent U.S. intervention in Libya proves what she is capable of. With a Trump presidency it is still vague on what type of foreign policy he would follow.  However, U.S. Vice-Presidential candidate Mike Pence made it clear what he believes should be done in a recent U.S. televised debate regarding U.S-Russia tensions in Syria:

“The United States of America needs to begin to exercise strong leadership to protect the vulnerable citizens and over 100,000 children in Aleppo. Hillary Clinton’s top priority when she became secretary of state was the Russian reset, the Russians reset. After the Russian reset, the Russians invaded Ukraine and took over Crimea.

And the small and bullying leader of Russia is now dictating terms to the United States to the point where all the United States of America — the greatest nation on Earth — just withdraws from talks about a cease-fire while Vladimir Putin puts a missile defense system in Syria while he marshals the forces and begins — look, we have got to begin to lean into this with strong, broad-shouldered American leadership.

It begins by rebuilding our military. And the Russians and the Chinese have been making enormous investments in the military. We have the smallest Navy since 1916. We have the lowest number of troops since the end of the Second World War. We’ve got to work with Congress, and Donald Trump will, to rebuild our military and project American strength in the world.

But about Aleppo and about Syria, I truly do believe that what America ought to do right now is immediately establish safe zones, so that families and vulnerable families with children can move out of those areas, work with our Arab partners, real time, right now, to make that happen.

And secondly, I just have to tell you that the provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength. And if Russia chooses to be involved and continue, I should say, to be involved in this barbaric attack on civilians in Aleppo, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike military targets of the Assad regime to prevent them from this humanitarian crisis that is taking place in Aleppo.

There’s a broad range of other things that we ought to do, as well. We ought to deploy a missile defense shield to the Czech Republic and Poland which Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama pulled back on out of not wanting to offend the Russians back in 2009”.

Pence’s statement is hawkish which proves that whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump (who is also surrounding himself with neoconservatives such as former CIA director James Woolsey as his senior adviser and Joseph Schmitz who was a Defense Department inspector general under President George W. Bush), 2017 is sure to be a politically intense year for the World. Will it be peace or war? Washington’s reckless drive to World War III needs to be stopped in its tracks; let’s hope Russia and its allies can deter such a scenario.

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The situation in Syria is dangerously veering out of control, with the US threatening strikes against the Syrian Arab Army while Russia has suggested that it would shoot down any incoming threat to its servicemen. The alternative media is ablaze with speculative talk about the onset of World War III, and a distinct feeling of unease has suddenly spread across the world. All objective observers realize that Russia and the US have drastically raised the stakes in Syria, with each side escalating their diplomatic rhetoric and military posturing to the point where it indeed appears as though the world is on the brink of total war between the two strongest nuclear powers. The problem with this convincing analysis, however, is that it doesn’t take into account whether either of the two sides is bluffing, and it doesn’t draw a distinction between illusion and intent.

Instead, it takes every move and word at face value and discounts the obviousness of both parties waging a psychological war against the nerves and resolve of their decision-making counterparts. Everything that is playing out right now is part of one big show in which both sides are signaling to the other that there are certain red lines that they won’t accept the other crossing, though it’s unclear at this moment whether either Great Power will follow through on their implied threats if the other oversteps their bounds. This is why it’s very likely that one of the sides is bluffing, though as games of ‘chicken’ such as this one sometimes end up, it’s very possible that one or the other actor will test the limits in seeing how far they can go, thus either calling their rival’s bluff or triggering a new series of conflict escalations. There’s no comfortable way to get around this fact, so it’s best to be as blunt as possible in the following analysis.

Who’s Calling Whose Bluff In Syria?

Red Lines

Russia and the US have both articulated what in practice amounts to their own red lines for Syria. Moscow declared that “any missile or air strikes on the territory controlled by the Syrian government will create a clear threat to Russian servicemen”, reminding the US that “Russian air defense system crews are unlikely to have time to determine in a ‘straight line’ the exact flight paths of missiles and then who the warheads belong to. And all the illusions of amateurs about the existence of ‘invisible’ jets will face a disappointing reality.” This was popularly interpreted as Russia essentially saying that it will use its S300 and S400 systems to shoot down any jets or cruise missiles that the Pentagon uses to bomb the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), acting on the justification that this sort of immediate response is necessary in order to safeguard the lives of Russian servicemen who might be embedded with the SAA in whatever the targeted location might be.

The US was less direct and relied on CIA and Pentagon “leaks” to reveal its position, which pretty much came down to a desire to bomb the SAA in order to save face for the Russian military and SAA’s astounding anti-terrorist successes around Aleppo since the collapse of the cessation of hostilities agreement in mid-September. To remind the reader, the whole reason why this deal fell through was because Pentagon chief Ashton Carter sabotaged Obama and Kerry’s commitment to it and essentially carried out a “deep state” coup in usurping control of the world’s largest military apparatus from the elected Command-in-Chief. To review, Russia’s red line is any US attack against the SAA, while the US’ is the successful liberation of Aleppo. Syria’s second-largest city could be freed from the terrorists without the US having to launch missiles against the liberators in response, while Russia should rightly defend its servicemen from American attacks if their lives are in danger, so it’s obvious that the escalation prerogative rests solely in the hands of the US, specifically Secretary of War Carter and his “deep state” (permanent military-intelligence-diplomatic bureaucracy) backers.

Assumptions, Assumptions, Assumptions

Everything that was written above is factual and not at all any form of hyperbole, but facts have a curious way of morphing into an indistinguishable form of fiction the longer that the media talks about them and rouses their respective audiences’ emotions. That’s plainly happening right now when it comes to the skyrocketing Russian-US tensions over Syria, though not without good reason, of course. This is a veritably the most important and urgently pressing issue in the world right now due to the enormity of what’s at stake, so it makes sense for all sides to discuss this at depth. Whether intentionally or not, however, the media frenzy from both mainstream and alternative commentators has led to a situation where a plethora of assumptions are seamlessly being inserted into the discussion and discoloring the factual purity of what’s really going on.

Take for instance the unquestioned assumption on behalf of the American media and “deep state” decision makers that the US must “do something” to prevent or forestall what they term as the “fall of Aleppo”, otherwise they’ll be forced to “do something more” to “punish” Russia and Syria for making this happen. The circular groupthink at play here is very dangerous and could foreseeably amount to unprecedentedly deadly consequences if it gets out of control, and there’s no certainty that it won’t because nobody honestly knows who the power behind the Pentagon is at this point. Obama is “officially” the Command-in-Chief but he was neutralized after Secretary of War Carter overrode his ‘ceasefire’ deal and unilaterally sabotaged it by bombing the SAA in Deir ez Zor, and while it might appear that this means that Carter is the one in charge, he’s just a representative of the hardline neoconservative “deep state” faction which used him to seize control of America’s military.

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From the reverse angle, the Russian side is also full of assumptions too, though of a qualitatively different nature. Moscow’s official statements on the matter make it clear that it would act on the condition that it believes that the lives of Russian servicemen are in danger. The particularity of this language is important because legally speaking in terms of the legislation approved by the Russian Duma and President Putin’s public statements on the matter, the Russian anti-terrorist operation in Syria is aimed solely at eliminating terrorists, not necessarily protecting the territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic nor the safety of the SAA. The latter two objectives are understandably assumed to form part and parcel of Russia’s mission there seeing as how they’re operationally inseparable from the stated goal of fighting terrorism and sustaining the gains that have thus far been achieved, but when dealing with high-stakes rhetoric at the Great Power level and in the context of a speculated nuclear escalation ladder, technicalities such as these are very important and mustn’t be ignored. Media commentators might pay them no attention, but it’s a sure bet that the Pentagon’s strategists are obsessing over these fine details and gaming out how far they can go in getting away with their vaunted ‘face-saving’ strike on Syria.

Strategic Calculations

Russia and the US know that a conventional engagement between their militaries would instantly throw the world into its worst-ever crisis, immediately spiking the prospects that an apocalyptic nuclear exchange could soon follow if the security dilemma between them is perceived as being insurmountable by that point in time. This is very dangerous and shouldn’t be taken lightly at all, which makes it all the more crazier that the US might seriously be entertaining whether or not it feels “lucky” enough to try and call what it believes to be Russia’s bluff. The way that the Pentagon is analyzing the situation right now is that Russia could halt the threatened escalation that the US is blackmailing it with so long as it stops assisting the SAA with anti-terrorist bombing assistance around Aleppo. The liberation of Aleppo would irreversibly move the War on Syria to its final stage, putting the Syrian people and their democratically elected and legitimate government on the path to victory in dealing the US its worst-ever and most publicly embarrassing defeat in history. This is the reason why the US is so frenziedly invoking the unmistakable specter of nuclear war, since Syria and Russia have never been closer to liberating Aleppo than they are now, and ironically only because the Pentagon sabotaged the ‘ceasefire’ and inadvertently unshackled Damascus and Moscow from its restrictive military conditions.

The US could bow out of the war and let history rightly run its course, but the zealous neoconservative ideologues that have captured control of the American Armed Forces seem intent on staging one last grand stand before the US’ epic retreat from the conflict. This is why they carried out the “deep state” coup in going against Figurehead Obama and bombing the SAA in Deir ez Zor, all with the now-debunked expectation that this would somehow intimidate Russia and Syria and thus compel them into game-changing concessions. To the rational observer, such a scheme was doomed to fail from the get-go, but one must understand that the personalities behind this plot see the world in a completely different light than most people do, largely because of the self-deluding groupthink that pervades their faction. The point isn’t to argue about just how absurd this gambit is, but to demonstrate to the reader how the plotters conceive of the world and provide insight into predicting their next possible course of action in the War on Syria.

Calling The Bluff

There’s no way that Russia will ever give in to the US’ blackmail and halt or curtail its anti-terrorist operation around Aleppo just because the Pentagon is threatening a missile strike against the SAA. Moscow and Damascus would of course prefer the peaceful route to solving the conflict that the US thrust upon the Arab Republic, and there’s still the very vague chance that a French-backed UN ‘ceasefire’ might end up being something attractive for Russia and Syria to pursue, but for now both sides are passionately intent on liberating Aleppo as soon as possible and are holding back at nothing to achieve this monumental objective. Therefore, the neoconservative “deep state” coup faction represented by Secretary of War Carter might actually take the previously unthinkable step of launching attacks against the SAA in order to offset this eventuality or “punish” the Syrians for routing the terrorists. Carter and his ideological clan are trying to figure out whether Russia’s carefully worded announcement that it will shoot down any incoming warplanes or cruise missiles that pose a plausible threat to its servicemen is a bluff, or whether they could exploit the technical nature of the statement and the Russian military presence in Syria in order to “bend the rules” and see what they can get away with.

From the Pentagon’s perspective, it’s unclear to the zealous ideologues if President Putin has the political will to order his military to shoot down any US warplane or cruise missile aiming for the SAA or if it’s possible to notify Moscow in advance of Washington’s intent to symbolically send a couple of ‘face-saving’ salvos to destroy a few SAA runways far away from the locations where Russian servicemen are stationed. Carter and his cronies might be calculating that President Putin won’t raise the stakes in attempting to shoot down whatever assets the US depends on in carrying out this possible strike, wagering that he’ll “let them get away with it” especially if it’s “only” cruise missiles that are used in this operation. The US doesn’t know whether the technical nature of the Ministry of Defense’s statement is an indication that there’s leeway that the Russians are considering, or if it was just purposefully ambiguous in order to preserve Moscow’s strategic flexibility in the event that Washington does indeed take military action. Should the Pentagon take this unprecedented step, it probably wouldn’t risk the lives of its own pilots in doing so, especially since it’s a lot easier for the S300/S400 to shoot down a plane than a cruise missile, and also because the destruction of a cruise missile doesn’t necessitate the same ‘face-saving’ ‘counter-escalation’ that Washington would be pressured to commence as the shooting down of a warplane pilot, especially right before the heated Presidential Election.

Balancing The Unthinkable With The “Doable”

The US has the largest cruise missile stockpile in the world, so if it theoretically wanted to take “decisive action”, it could easily overwhelm the S300/S400 systems through an incessant barrage of attacks against the SAA, but that would definitely push Russia towards pushing the crisis up to and possibly even beyond the nuclear level, which even the most insane neoconservative doesn’t want (at least not until the US’ “missile defense” infrastructure is fully up and running, which will still take decades). Barring this unthinkable scenario, the Pentagon – if it ops to undertake such a course of action – would likely “moderate” its aggression and rely “only” on a few symbolic cruise missiles instead, taking care to notify Russia right beforehand of what its intended targets will be. The situation is very tricky because Russia and the US had probably exchanged intelligence about their on-the-ground forces in the run-up to the ‘ceasefire’s’ planned implementation, so in theory, the US could have previous information about the on-the-ground location of Russian servicemen that Moscow might have earlier volunteered (which explains why the Deir ez Zor location was bombed and not somewhere near Aleppo, for example).

syria-mapThe key distinction, however, is that this information would be outdated, and there’s no guarantee that Russia didn’t move some of its servicemen to SAA-administered military facilities that the US previously thought were only manned by the Syrians. Washington simply doesn’t know if the place that it would be targeting has Russians on the ground there or not, so it would be a ‘leap of faith’ that would represent one of the most irresponsible decisions that the US – or any other country, for that matter – had ever taken in history. Going along with the scenario, if the US lobs cruise missiles at a secluded but symbolic SAA facility and notifies Russia right after the projectiles are already airborne and en route to their destination, then the Russian military – if it doesn’t already have a mandate to shoot down all incoming hostile objects – would be pressured to make a split-second determination over whether or not this attack threatens its servicemen. If Russians are on the ground at the location, then the military will shoot down the incoming assault vehicle, but if they aren’t, then the S300/S400 commanding officer will either have instructions from Putin for how to deal with this or would be tasked with making his own decision given the circumstances.

Concluding Thoughts

Russia knows that the defensive act of shooting down an incoming American cruise missile aggressively targeting the SAA or perhaps even its own servicemen would be exploited by the US as a “provocation” in triggering a predetermined escalation ladder, so the weight of the world will be on its shoulders in deciding how to respond to such an egregious act. The Pentagon might even want to purposely “call Russia’s bluff”, as they see it, in response to Russia doing this to the US as regards the liberation of Aleppo. The author personally believes that Russia should secure all of Syria’s airspace and the safety of every SAA serviceman and servicewoman from each and every incoming attack that the US might launch against them, whether by warplanes, cruise missiles, or whatever other vehicles they may use, but it must be countenanced by all observers that there is a faction of the Russian elite which might be arguing that it’s better to “take the loss” than to “unnecessarily trigger” (as they see it) World War III, especially if they think that the apocalypse might be started if they shoot down a few cruise missiles that Carter and his ilk symbolically launch against an SAA airfield in the middle of the desert, for example.

Again, the author firmly believes that it is Russia’s moral responsibility to safeguard the territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic from all outside conventional threats and that this is an absolute necessity in order to sustain the impressive anti-terrorist successes that have thus far been achieved one year after the beginning of the Russian mission in the country, but it can’t be ruled out that actual decision makers inside the Kremlin and within (or in close vicinity to) President Putin’s inner circle think differently about this. Therefore, given the technicality expressly mentioned in Russia’s official statement about how it would respond to any threat against its servicemen in Syria, it’s horrifyingly possible that the “deep state” coup elements that have taken control of the Pentagon and the US’ operations in Syria might want to “test the waters” and see how far they can go in “embarrassing” Russia and “punishing” it and Syria, which could see them deciding to send a few cruise missiles according to the scenario hitherto described in this article in order to see if it can “call Moscow’s bluff”. It would be one of the worst instances of bad judgement in the history of the world if Carter takes this step and is proven wrong by the Russians, since Moscow might not stop at shooting down the cruise missiles over Syria but could even send a couple of its own in equal measure against the air and/or naval assets that launched them in the first place.

Andrew Korybko is the American political commentator currently working for Sputnik agency.

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Air Strikes against Syria: Who are the War Criminals? Who is Supporting Al Qaeda? Russia or America?

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, October 07 2016

America is coming to the rescue of Al Qaeda under a humanitarian mandate. The unspoken agenda is to undermine the Liberation of Aleppo.  The pretext and justification for these actions are based on America’s “responsibility to protect” (R2P) the “moderates” in Aleppo from Syrian and Russian attacks and bombing raids.

Médias

War Propaganda: Syria’s Destruction by the Lies of the Western Media. “Washington will Never let Go, Their Target is World Hegemony”

By Peter Koenig, October 05 2016

Europe, alias the West, has become infested with falsehoods, with thirst for profit and more gains and personal comfort, a hearth of egocentricity and disrespect for her brothers and sisters, let alone for the rest of the world – there is no equal on earth, other than the US of A, the Master of all Masters of crime and horror. Europe with its hundreds of years of colonization always was the chieftain of these ignoble attributes, but now, all scruples are gone; the veils are lifted. There is not even an iota of shame left.

War-USA

Washington Leads The World To War

By Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, October 06 2016

What must the world think watching the US presidential campaign? Over time US political campaigns have become more unreal and less related to voters’ concerns, but the current one is so unreal as to be absurd. The offshoring of American jobs by global corporations and the deregulation of the US financial system have resulted in American economic failure. One might think that this would be an issue in a presidential campaign.

Members of al Qaeda's Nusra Front gesture as they drive in a convoy touring villages in the southern countryside of Idlib

The Real Reason the US Can’t Separate Moderates from Al Qaeda in Syria

By Tony Cartalucci, October 06 2016

The US has attempted to direct attention away from the fact supposed “moderate rebels” it has been supporting are now openly aligned to designated foreign terrorist organizations including Al Qaeda, Jubhat Al Nusra, and the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (ISIS) by focusing instead on the alleged “humanitarian crisis” unfolding amid final operations to restore security to the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.

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US-NATO’s War On Russia: The Winds Howl Before The Storm

By Christopher Black, October 05 2016

A few weeks ago I wrote, “I have been a defence lawyer most of my working life and am not used to gathering evidence for a prosecution, but circumstances impelled me to open a file for the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, or perhaps some future citizen’s tribunal, in which is contained the evidence that the NATO leaders are guilty of the gravest crime against mankind, the crime of aggression. I would like to share with you some brief notes of interest from that file, for your consideration.

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Chief of the Directorate of Media service and Information of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, Major General Igor Konashenkov, said Thursday that the Russian Defense Ministry believes the leaks to the media about possible US strikes on the Syrian army could be a preface to real action.

A number of Western media outlets have published “leaks” about the talks held in the White House administration about the possibility to hold missile and airstrikes on the positions of the Syrian army,” the general told journalists. “As history has shown, such “leaks” often prove to be a preface to real action.

Konashenkov also reminded to “all the ‘hotheads’ that following the September 17 coalition airstrike on the Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor we took all necessary measures to exclude any similar ‘accidents’ happening to Russian forces in Syria.” The statement referred to the recent deployment of an additional battery of S-300 air-defense system and the overal air-defense capabilities of the Russian military grouping in Syria.

Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov

“Russian S-300, S-400 air defense systems deployed in Syria’s Hmeymim and Tartus have combat ranges that may surprise any unidentified airborne targets. Operators of Russian air defense systems won’t have time to identify the origin of airstrikes, and the response will be immediate. Any illusions about “invisible” jets will inevitably be crushed by disappointing reality.”Konashenkov added that military strike on the government-controlled territories, would pose clear threat to Russian military personnel because Russian officers are working on the ground, providing humanitarian help and holding talks with representatives of local communities and militia units across the country.

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Two journalists from Al Jazeera who were on board Zaytouna-Oliva have been released and have safely reached London and Moscow. The other 11 women of the Women’s Boat to Gaza are still in detention, but we anticipate that they will be ‘deported’ soon, as they were moved yesterday from Givon Prison to a detention facility at Ben-Gurion airport.

Wendy Goldsmith, a member of the land team working to secure the release of the women stated that, “the deportation is happening much quicker than in previous flotillas. While we had a great legal team assisting the women, we suspect that the reason for the quick release was because of all the negative media attention Israel has been receiving for its illegal interception, including the demand of rock band Pink Floyd.” According to early reports from the women released, the Zaytouna-Oliva was surrounded by two warships along with four to five smaller naval boats. The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) demanded that the Zaytouna-Oliva stop its course towards Gaza. When the warning was refused, at least seven IOF members, both male and female, boarded our yacht and commandeered it in international waters.

In the course of their capture, the women insisted that Israel’s attack was illegal and that they were being taken against their will to Israel. The Women’s Boat to Gaza campaign asserts that while the captivity of the women on board Zaytouna-Oliva may soon be over, the captivity of 1.9 million Palestinian people in Gaza remains. Whilst the term “peaceful” has been used in some media to describe the attack and capture of our boat, this is inaccurate. Peace is more than merely the absence of physical violence. Oppression, occupation, denial of human rights and taking a boat of unarmed, non-violent women against their will are not peaceful activities. Indeed, as Zaytouna-Oliva approached Palestine, the IOF launched multiple air raids across the Gaza Strip.

The Women’s Boat to Gaza and the Freedom Flotilla Coalition will continue to sail until Palestine is free.

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Police Shootings in America: Law, Policy, and Accountability

October 7th, 2016 by William John Cox

From amongst themselves, the People of the United States have empowered some of their members to enforce their laws and to police their society, but things have gone terribly awry. The police are killing those they are sworn to protect and they themselves are becoming the target of public anger over racial inequality and discrimination. Video images of recent police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota were followed by the mass murder of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, apparently in response to these shootings

The killing of an unarmed mentally-disturbed man last week by El Cajon, California police officers—and resulting civil disturbances—once again raises the question of the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers. The question involves complicated issues of law and policy, but the decision to shoot must often be made in a nanosecond. With the widespread availability of video cameras, instant playback, and social media, however, the justification for the use of deadly force is being increasingly scrutinized, and the quality of law enforcement policy, training, and discretion is frequently found wanting.

The reasonableness of a police shooting decision is determined by what was known to the officer at the moment of the shooting, and whether that decision complied with policy and law. The decision to pull the trigger is made by an individual officer, but the responsibility for its consequences is shared by the policing agency. Based on experience, professional standards, statutory and constitutional law, and public expectations, police policy and training seeks to minimize the risk of harm to the public while ensuring the right of self defense. There are no easy answers, but it is essential that police administrators learn from these encounters and formulate more effective policy and training to guide their officers and to hold them accountable.

Background. My 45-year career in the justice system began in 1962 when I became a police officer in El Cajon. The new chief of police (who was later elected sheriff of San Diego County) was intent on improving the level of professionalism in the department. Proud to be a part of the “New Breed,” I achieved top honors in the San Diego Police Academy and quickly became president of the Police Officer’s Association and later president of the San Diego County organization representing all of its law enforcement officers. Although El Cajon was a quiet suburb, police work was not without its risk. One of my supervisors, Sergeant Fred Wilson— the only El Cajon police officer ever killed in the line of duty—later died of head injuries he sustained breaking up a fight.

Transferring to the Los Angeles Police Department in 1968, I again achieved top honors in the Police Academy and was assigned to South Central LA upon graduation, where policing was more dangerous. My partner and I were once dispatched to a “man with a gun” call from only a block away, and as we turned the corner, we saw the man directly in front of us in the street. He was holding a woman by her hair in one hand and a gun in the other. He shot her in the abdomen, looked up, saw us, and began to run between the houses. I drew my revolver and chased after him. He jumped up on a wall and threw his weapon to the other side, but drew another handgun from his waistband as he came back down. Crouched in a firing stance, I yelled at him to drop the second gun and he did. We arrested him, and his girlfriend was transported to the hospital. Later, my tactics were criticized for not having shot the man. In cop terms, it would have been a “good,” or justifiable, shooting, but in my mind he was just trying to get rid of his guns, and I had no cause to shoot him.

I was fortunate that day, but two of my friends were not so lucky. Jerry Maddox, with whom I had carpooled to the Police Academy, was shot to death in 1969 by a gang member in East LA, and Jack Coler was one of the FBI agents ambushed and murdered at Wounded Knee in 1975.

Drafting Policy. Upon completion of my probation, I was transferred to LA police headquarters where I spent two years researching and writing the department Policy Manual. Subsequently, while attending night law school, I was also assigned to work on the Police Task Force of the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals. My job was to write about the role of the police in America and law enforcement policy making. As the author of the LAPD shooting policy, I later testified at the Police Commission hearing into the shooting of Eulia May Love in 1979. When the city attempted to turn off her gas for nonpayment, the recent widow had the payment in her purse as she waved a knife to keep the gas man at bay. Two officers responded and shot her eight times.

The drafting of shooting policy began with the law of justifiable homicide. A police officer can legally kill in three circumstances: self defense, defense of others, and to prevent the escape of a fleeing felon. Although there have been some minor revisions, the Los Angeles Police Department shooting policy remains the same as originally written. The policy does not limit the right of an officer to shoot in self defense. It does, however, require that “Justification for the use of deadly force must be limited to what reasonably appear to be the facts known or perceived by an officer at the time he decides to shoot.” Moreover, policy states that a “reverence for the value of human life shall guide officers in considering the use of deadly force,” and it imposes a duty on officers to minimize “the risk of death.” The shooting of fleeing felons is limited to those who have caused “serious bodily injury or the use of deadly force where there is a substantial risk” that the felon will “cause death or serious bodily injury to others. . . .”

In a section titled “Minimum Use of Force,” LAPD officers are told they “should use only the reasonable amount of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.”

These Los Angeles Police Department use-of-force policies generally follow California law, and it may be helpful to consider the known facts of the recent El Cajon police shooting in light of these basic principles. Unlike the Los Angeles Police Department Manual—which is generally available in public libraries—the policies of the El Cajon Police Department are not published. It appears, however, that El Cajon’s policies may be based on those of Los Angeles. The ECPD website states that “The Department serves the people of El Cajon by performing in a professional manner; and it is to the people of this community that the Department is ultimately responsible.” Except for the city’s name, this mission statement is identical with the definition  of the LAPD motto, “To Protect and To Serve” I originally wrote in the Policy Manual.

El Cajon Shooting Facts. On September 27, 2016, the sister of Alfred Olango, a 30-year-old refugee from Uganda, called the El Cajon Police Department seeking help with her brother—who was having an emotional breakdown over the death of his best friend. Two other calls to the department reported that a shirtless man was walking in traffic and acting erratically at the same location. Although located less than two miles from police headquarters, it took officers more than an hour to respond.

Richard Gonsalves, a 21-year veteran officer—who had been recently demoted from sergeant for sexually harassing a female officer—was the first to arrive on the scene in the parking lot of a small strip mall. A surveillance camera shows that he immediately drew his weapon and closely confronted Olango, who continued to pace back and forth with his right hand in his pocket. According to the officer, Olango did not obey repeated orders to remove his hand from his pocket. A second officer arrived and drew his taser weapon instead of his firearm. As Olango’s sister approached the scene, Olango suddenly withdrew his hand holding an electronic smoking device from his pocket and extended it towards Officer Gonsalves. He was immediately shot four times by Gonsalves and tased by the other officer. The entire encounter lasted less than one minute.

Tactics. Although the El Cajon Police Department has released the surveillance video and another contemporaneous video made with a bystander’s cellphone, the calls to the police and the radio dispatch have not been released. It is essential to know exactly what Olango’s sister and other callers told the police dispatcher and what the responding officers were told. One standard question asked of most complainants is whether a person is armed. Although a vape pipe might appear to be a small gun, it matters whether the police were originally informed that the person was waving a gun or smoking a vape pipe. There is also a great difference if the responding officers were told that they were dealing with a mental case—or a serious crime such as an armed robbery. Inasmuch as it took more than an hour for the officers to arrive, and the matter was dispatched as a “5150” call regarding a mentally disturbed individual, there is no evidence that a crime of violence was under consideration.

Depending on the information available to Officer Gonsalves, it is questionable whether he should have drawn his gun in the first place. The LAPD shooting policy tells officers they cannot “draw or exhibit a firearm unless the circumstances surrounding the incident create a reasonable belief that it may be necessary to use the firearm” in conformance with written policy. Nor are officers allowed to use deadly force “to protect themselves from assaults which are not likely to have serious results.”

Officers are trained to demonstrate “command presence” and to quickly take control of situations. Officers must deliver firm and unambiguous directions—which may in some cases require a loud voice and even profanity. If, however, Officer Gonsalves believed he was dealing with a mental case, he should have been trained as a professional to de-escalate and defuse the situation by speaking in a calm voice and by asking questions, rather than shouting commands. Asking Olango what he had in his pocket, or if he would show his empty hand, is different than a loud order to remove his hand (along with the pocket contents).

It is reasonable to believe that Officer Gonsalves thought he saw a gun in Olango’s hand when Olango followed directions and removed his hand and the vape pipe from his pocket. Since the officer already had his gun pointed at Olango, he may have fired instinctively. We will never know, however, what Olango was thinking. It is not unreasonable to believe he was simply showing the officer what he had in his pocket and handing it over. Or, more unlikely, he may have been pretending it was a gun and was trying to commit “suicide by cop.”

The video shows that Gonsalves approached Olango to within a few feet and shifted his position several times to maintain close contact as Olango moved about. To de-escalate, rather than inflame, situations involving mentally disturbed people, professional officers are trained to maintain a distance or to speak from behind their police vehicle for self protection—as they defuse confrontations and consider alternatives. The videos show that Olango’s sister had approached to within a few feet behind Officer Gonsalves when he fired four bullets into her brother. Had the officer maintained some distance and emotional reserve, she might have helped resolve the situation. Instead, she plaintively cried, “I called for help. I didn’t call you to kill him.”

Lessons Learned. Following major police actions, professional administrators engage in an “after action” process. Lessons learned from the analysis are then used to enhance the training of officers to avoid making the same mistakes in the future, and to formulate more effective policies to guide their actions. If the El Cajon Police Department already has similar policies to Los Angeles about when to draw a firearm or to minimize the risk of death or serious injury, and if the officer had received de-escalation training, then the officer should be accountable for his failure to follow policy and training. If found to be unjustified, the killing might also warrant criminal prosecution. If, however, police administrators have failed to promulgate appropriate policies and to provide professional training, they themselves should be accountable.

El Cajon has changed from the white, middle-class bedroom community it was when I patrolled there in the early 60s. The population has doubled, and it has become a gritty, multi-ethnic, working-class community. It is likely the police culture has changed as well, as the department has had six other police shootings in the last five years, including the killing of two women. The present culture may also be indicated by the demotion of Officer Gonsalves—instead of firing him—for sexually harassing a subordinate. Independent of policy and law, police officers among themselves categorize shootings as good or bad in terms of the risk to their own safety and their demonstrated heroism. This was not a “good” shooting of an armed robbery suspect or murderer. To the contrary, it appears to have been an entirely avoidable killing of a mentally disturbed person, whom the officers were sworn to protect.

More complete answers to the complicated questions of why police killings are taking place and what can be done to prevent them requires a deeper consideration of contributing causes than is available in this brief paper. These matters include: poverty; a punitive society; the war on drugs; federalization and militarization of the police; regulation of guns; and the professionalization of law enforcement.

Learning from police shootings, such as what occurred in El Cajon, can lead to enlightened solutions and a commitment by the People and their Police to achieve a peaceful outcome. A thoughtful response may be more difficult to arrive at, accept, and implement than the simplistic commentaries being tossed out during the 24-hour news cycle, but it is essential if peace is to prevail in the Nation’s communities.

William John Cox is a retired police officer, prosecutor, and public interest lawyer who writes about public policy and political matters. He was the author of the Los Angeles Police Department Policy Manual and the Role of the Police in America for the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals. His most recent book is Transforming America: A Voters’ Bill of Rights.

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Tuesday night’s debate between the vice presidential candidates of the Democratic and Republican parties was a display of mudslinging, lies, canned rhetoric and phony promises on a par with the first debate between the presidential candidates the previous week, with one telling exception.

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, the Democrat, and Indiana Governor Mike Pence, the Republican, interrupted and contradicted each other incessantly, alternating insults directed against the other ticket with denunciations of their opponents for running “insult-driven” campaigns.

But when it came to the question of the intensifying military confrontation in Syria between US-backed Islamic rebels on the one side and the Russian-backed government of President Bashar al-Assad on the other, there was bipartisan agreement, with the two supposedly bitter antagonists seeming to finish each other’s sentences.

The debate moderator, Elaine Quijano of CBS News, allowed the two candidates to maul each other and insult the intelligence of their viewing audience for more than an hour, making little attempt to steer the direction of the discussion. On Syria, however, she loaded the question in favor of US military intervention, isolating the conditions in Aleppo, currently the focus of US war propaganda, from the five years of bloody civil war instigated by Washington.

According to the debate transcript, Quijano said: “Two hundred fifty thousand people, 100,000 of them children, are under siege in Aleppo, Syria. Bunker buster bombs, cluster munitions, and incendiary weapons are being dropped on them by the Russian and Syrian militaries. Does the US have a responsibility to protect civilians and prevent mass casualties on this scale?”

Each candidate responded with a ritualistic bashing of the presidential candidate of the opposite party—Pence denouncing the “feckless” policy of the Obama-Clinton administration, Kaine vilifying Donald Trump for his admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. But after Quijano pressed them to be specific, they gave identical answers about what to do in Syria.

Pence declared: “The United States of America needs to begin to exercise strong leadership to protect the vulnerable citizens and over 100,000 children in Aleppo… I truly do believe that what America ought to do right now is immediately establish safe zones, so that families and vulnerable families with children can move out of those areas. Work with our Arab partners, real time, right now, to make that happen.”

Kaine said: “Hillary and I also agree that the establishment of humanitarian zones in northern Syria with the provision of international human aid, consistent with the UN Security Council resolution that was passed in February 2014, would be a very, very good idea… And I said about Aleppo, we do agree the notion is we have to create a humanitarian zone in northern Syria. It’s very important.”

Quijano pressed for an explanation of precisely where the safe zones would be established and how they would be kept “safe,” to the point that Pence fended off further questioning by declaring that Kaine had already given the correct answer.

None of the three made reference to the comments last week of General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told a congressional hearing that establishing such safe zones, also called “no-fly” zones, would mean a US war with both Syria and Russia.

Kaine and Pence were both deliberately concealing from the American people the full consequences of the actions they were both advocating—the fact that stepped-up US military intervention in Syria immediately risks a military confrontation between the world’s two main nuclear powers, Russia and the United States.

The moderator’s questioning was equally specific and persistent on the question of North Korea. How should the US government respond if it learned that North Korea had loaded a nuclear warhead onto a ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States, she demanded to know.

Again, both candidates accepted the premise of the question and agreed that a military response might be required, although each suggested that the US government should first put pressure on China to intervene before authorizing a preemptive military strike on Pyongyang.

Pence served on the House Armed Services Committee during his congressional career, before he returned to Indiana and ran for governor in 2012. Kaine sits on both the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, one of a handful of senators entrusted with both roles.

Both candidates are tried and tested defenders of American imperialism, each regarded as a safe pair of hands by the US military-intelligence apparatus, like Hillary Clinton, but in contrast to Trump, who is viewed as unreliable on the central strategic question of Washington’s developing confrontation with Russia and China.

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The Forgotten Libyan Lessons and the Syrian War

October 7th, 2016 by Robert Parry

Most intelligent Americans – Republicans as well as Democrats – now accept that they were duped into the Iraq War with disastrous consequences, but there is more uncertainty about the war on Libya in 2011 as well as the ongoing proxy war on Syria and the New Cold War showdown with Russia over Ukraine.

Today, many Democrats don’t want to admit that they have been manipulated into supporting new imperial adventures against Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Russia by the Obama administration as it pulls some of the same propaganda strings that George W. Bush’s administration did in 2002-2003.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before Congress on Jan. 23, 2013, about the fatal attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11. 2012. (Photo from C-SPAN coverage)

Yet, as happened with Saddam Hussein in Iraq, we have seen a similar hysteria about the evil doings of the newly demonized foreign leaders with the predictable Hitler allusions and vague explanations about how some terrible misdeeds halfway around the world threaten U.S. interests.

Though people mostly remember the false WMD claims about Iraq, much of the case for the invasion was based on protecting “human rights,” spreading “democracy,” and eliminating a supporter of Palestinians who were violently resisting Israeli rule.

The justification for aggression against Iraq was not only to save Americans from the supposed risk of Iraq somehow unleashing poison gas on U.S. cities but to free the Iraqis from a brutal dictator, the argument which explained why Bush’s neocon advisers predicted that Iraqis would shower American troops with rose petals and candies.

Those same “humanitarian” arguments were out in force to justify the U.S.-European “regime change” in Libya eight years later. As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted – even this year – Muammar Gaddafi was a “genocidal” dictator bent on slaughtering the people of eastern Libya (though Gaddafi insisted that he was only interested in killing the “terrorists”).

After a frenzied media reaction to Gaddafi’s supposedly genocidal plans, Western nations argued that the world had a “responsibility to protect” Libyan civilians, a concept known as “R2P.” In haste, the United Nations Security Council approved a resolution to protect civilians by imposing a “no-fly zone” over eastern Libya.

But the subsequent invasion involved U.S.-coordinated air strikes on Gaddafi’s forces and European Special Forces on the ground working with anti-Gaddafi rebels. Before long, the “no-fly zone” had expanded into a full-scale “regime change” operation, ending in the slaughter of many young Libyan soldiers and the sodomy-with-a-knife-then-murder of Gaddafi.

As Western leaders celebrated — Secretary Clinton exulted  “We came, we saw, he died” — Libyans began the hard work of trying to restructure their political system amid roaming bands of heavily armed jihadist rebels. Soon, it became clear that restoring order would not be easy and that Gaddafi was right about the presence of terrorists in Benghazi (when some overran the U.S. consulate killing U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.)

Libya, which once had an envious standard of living based on its oil riches, slid into the status of failed state, now with three governments competing for control and with jihadist militias, including some associated with the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, disrupting the nation. The result has been a far worse humanitarian crisis than existed before the West invaded.

Lessons from Libya

So, there should be lessons learned from Libya, just as there should have been lessons learned from Iraq. But the U.S. political/media establishment has refused to perform a serious autopsy of these monumental failures (U.S. inquiries only looked narrowly at the WMD falsehoods about Iraq and the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi for Libya). So, it has fallen to the British to take a broader view.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton honor the four victims of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, at the Transfer of Remains Ceremony held at Andrews Air Force Base, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, on Sept. 14, 2012. [State Department photo)

The British inquiries have had their own limitations, but the Chilcot report on Iraq catalogued many of the flawed decisions that led Prime Minister Tony Blair to sign up for President George W. Bush’s “coalition of the willing” — and a recent parliamentary report revealed how Prime Minister David Cameron fell into a similar pattern regarding Libya and President Obama.

Of course, it’s always easier to detect the manipulations and deceptions in hindsight. In real time, the career pressures on politicians, bureaucrats and journalists can overwhelm any normal sense of skepticism. As the propaganda and disinformation swirl around them, all the “smart” people agree that “something must be done” and that usually means bombing someone.

We are seeing the same pattern play out today with the “group think” in support of a major U.S. military intervention in Syria (supposedly to impose the sweet-sounding goal of a “no-fly zone,” the same rhetorical gateway used to start the “regime change” wars in Iraq and Libya).

We are experiencing the same demonization of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Russia’s Vladimir Putin that we witnessed before those other two wars on Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. Every possible allegation is made against them, often based on dubious and deceitful “evidence,” but it goes unchallenged because to question the propaganda opens a person to charges of being an “apologist” or a “stooge.”

Past Is Prologue

But looking back on how the disasters in Iraq and Libya unfolded is not just about the past; it’s about the present and future.

Hundreds of refugees from Libya line up for food at a transit camp near the Tunisia-Libya border. March 5, 2016. (Photo from the United Nations)

In that sense, the findings by the U.K. parliament’s foreign affairs committee regarding Libya deserved more attention than they received because they demonstrated that the Iraq case was not a one-off anomaly but rather part of a new way to rationalize imperial wars.

And the findings showed that these tactics are bipartisan, used by all four major parties in the U.S. and U.K.: Bush was a Republican; Blair was Labour; Obama a Democrat; and Cameron a Conservative. Though the nuances may differ slightly, the outcomes have been the same.

The U.K. report also stripped away many of the humanitarian arguments used to sell the Libyan war and revealed the crass self-interest beneath. For instance, the French, who helped spearhead the Libyan conflict, publicly lamented the suffering of civilians but privately were eager to grab a bigger oil stake in Libya and to block Gaddafi’s plans to supplant the French currency in ex-French colonies of Africa.

The report cited an April 2, 2011 email to Secretary of State Clinton from her unofficial adviser Sidney Blumenthal explaining what French intelligence officers were saying privately about French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s real motives for pushing for the military intervention in Libya:

“a. A desire to gain a greater share of Libya oil production, b. Increase French influence in North Africa, c. Improve his internal political situation in France, d. Provide the French military with an opportunity to reassert its position in the world, e. Address the concern of his advisors over Qaddafi’s long term plans to supplant France as the dominant power in Francophone Africa.”

Regarding France’s “humanitarian” public rationale, the U.K. report quoted then-French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé as warning the U.N. about the imminence of Gaddafi engaging in a mass slaughter of civilians: “We have very little time left — perhaps only a matter of hours.”

But the report added, “Subsequent analysis suggested that the immediate threat to civilians was being publicly overstated and that [Gaddafi’s] reconquest of cities had not resulted in mass civilian casualties.”

The report also found that “Intelligence on the extent to which extremist militant Islamist elements were involved in the anti-Gaddafi rebellion was inadequate,” including the participation of Abdelhakim Belhadj and other members of Al Qaeda’s affiliate, Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. A senior defense official said the jihadist danger was played down during the conflict but “with the benefit of hindsight, that was wishful thinking at best.”

The report stated: “The possibility that militant extremist groups would attempt to benefit from the rebellion should not have been the preserve of hindsight. Libyan connections with transnational militant extremist groups were known before 2011, because many Libyans had participated in the Iraq insurgency and in Afghanistan with al-Qaeda.”

(This year, Belhadj and his jihadist militia were enlisted by U.S. officials to protect the U.S.-U.N.-backed “Government of National Accord,” which has failed to win over the support of rival factions, in part, because more secular Libyan leaders distrust Belhadj and resent outsiders deciding who should run Libya.)

Hyperbolic Claims

The U.K. committee criticized the West’s hyperbolic claims about Gaddafi’s intent to slaughter civilians in eastern Libya when his actions were making clear that wasn’t happening.

Ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi shortly before he was murdered on Oct. 20, 2011.

The report said:  “Muammar Gaddafi’s actions in February and March 2011 demonstrated an appreciation of the delicate tribal and regional nature of Libya that was absent in UK policymaking. In particular, his forces did not take violent retribution against civilians in towns and cities on the road to Benghazi. [North Africa analyst] Alison Pargeter told us that any such reprisals would have ‘alienated a lot of the tribes in the east of Libya’ on which the Gaddafi regime relied. …

“Despite his rhetoric, the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence. The Gaddafi regime had retaken towns from the rebels without attacking civilians in early February 2011. …

“During fighting in Misrata, the hospital recorded 257 people killed and 949 people wounded in February and March 2011. Those casualties included 22 women and eight children. Libyan doctors told United Nations investigators that Tripoli’s morgues contained more than 200 corpses following fighting in late February 2011, of whom two were female. The disparity between male and female casualties suggested that Gaddafi regime forces targeted male combatants in a civil war and did not indiscriminately attack civilians.”

The report added: “On 17 March 2011, Muammar Gaddafi announced to the rebels in Benghazi, ‘Throw away your weapons, exactly like your brothers in Ajdabiya and other places did. They laid down their arms and they are safe. We never pursued them at all.’ Subsequent investigation revealed that when Gaddafi regime forces retook Ajdabiya in February 2011, they did not attack civilians. Muammar Gaddafi also attempted to appease protesters in Benghazi with an offer of development aid before finally deploying troops.”

In another reprise from the Iraq War run-up, the U.K. inquiry determined that Libyan exiles played key roles in exaggerating the dangers from Gaddafi, much like the Iraqi National Congress did in fabricating supposed “evidence” of Saddam Hussein’s WMD. The report said:

“We were told that émigrés opposed to Muammar Gaddafi exploited unrest in Libya by overstating the threat to civilians and encouraging Western powers to intervene. In the course of his 40-year dictatorship Muammar Gaddafi had acquired many enemies in the Middle East and North Africa, who were similarly prepared to exaggerate the threat to civilians.”

Qatar’s Al-Jazeera satellite channel, which currently is hyping horror stories in Syria, was doing the same in Libya, the U.K. committee learned.

“Alison Pargeter told us that the issue of mercenaries was amplified [with her saying]: ‘I also think the Arab media played a very important role here. Al-Jazeera in particular, but also al-Arabiya, were reporting that Gaddafi was using air strikes against people in Benghazi and, I think, were really hamming everything up, and it turned out not to be true.’”

Allegations Debunked

The report continued: “An Amnesty International investigation in June 2011 could not corroborate allegations of mass human rights violations by Gaddafi regime troops. However, it uncovered evidence that rebels in Benghazi made false claims and manufactured evidence.

President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron talk at the G8 Summit in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, June 17, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

“The investigation concluded that much Western media coverage has from the outset presented a very one-sided view of the logic of events, portraying the protest movement as entirely peaceful and repeatedly suggesting that the regime’s security forces were unaccountably massacring unarmed demonstrators who presented no security challenge. …

“In short, the scale of the threat to civilians was presented with unjustified certainty. US intelligence officials reportedly described the intervention as ‘an intelligence-light decision’. We have seen no evidence that the UK Government carried out a proper analysis of the nature of the rebellion in Libya. …

“It could not verify the actual threat to civilians posed by the Gaddafi regime; it selectively took elements of Muammar Gaddafi’s rhetoric at face value; and it failed to identify the militant Islamist extremist element in the rebellion. UK strategy was founded on erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the evidence.”

If any of this sounds familiar – echoing the pre-coup reporting from Ukraine in 2013-2014 or the current coverage in Syria – it should. In all those cases, Western diplomats and journalists put white hats on one side and black hats on the other, presenting a simplistic, imbalanced account of the complicated religious, ethnic and political aspects of these crises.

The U.K. report also exposed how the original goal of protecting civilians merged seamlessly into a “regime change” war. The report said:

“The combination of coalition airpower with the supply of arms, intelligence and personnel to the rebels guaranteed the military defeat of the Gaddafi regime. On 20 March 2011, for example, Muammar Gaddafi’s forces retreated some 40 miles from Benghazi following attacks by French aircraft. If the primary object of the coalition intervention was the urgent need to protect civilians in Benghazi, then this objective was achieved in less than 24 hours.

“The basis for intervention: did it change? We questioned why NATO conducted air operations across Libya between April and October 2011 when it had secured the protection of civilians in Benghazi in March 2011. … We asked [former chief of defense staff] Lord Richards whether the object of British policy in Libya was civilian protection or regime change. He told us that ‘one thing morphed almost ineluctably into the other’ as the campaign developed its own momentum. … The UK’s intervention in Libya was reactive and did not comprise action in pursuit of a strategic objective. This meant that a limited intervention to protect civilians drifted into a policy of regime change by military means.”

Less destructive options were also ignored, the report found: “Saif Gaddafi is the second son of Muammar Gaddafi. He was a member of his father’s inner circle and exercised influence in Libya. … Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who knew the Gaddafi regime better than most Western politicians, confirmed that Saif Gaddafi was ‘the best, if not the only prospect’ of effecting political change in Libya.” But that opportunity was rebuffed as was the possibility of arranging Gaddafi’s surrender of power and exile, the report said, adding:

“It was therefore important to keep the lines of communication open. However, we saw no evidence that the then Prime Minister David Cameron attempted to exploit Mr Blair’s contacts. Mr Blair explained that both Mr Cameron and former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were aware that he was communicating with Muammar Gaddafi. We asked Mr Blair to describe Mr Cameron’s reaction to his conversations with Muammar Gaddafi. He told us that Mr Cameron ‘was merely listening’.

“Political options were available if the UK Government had adhered to the spirit of [U.N.] Resolution 1973, implemented its original campaign plan [to protect civilians] and influenced its coalition allies to pause military action when Benghazi was secured in March 2011. Political engagement might have delivered civilian protection, regime change and reform at lesser cost to the UK and to Libya.”

Spreading Disorder

There was also the consequence of the Libyan conflict, spreading disorder around the region because Libyan military stockpiles were plundered. The report said: “Libya purchased some £30 billion [or about $38 billion] of weapons and ammunition between 1969 and 2010. Many of those munitions were not issued to the Libyan Army and were instead stored in warehouses. After the collapse of the Gaddafi regime, some weapons and ammunition remained in Libya, where they fell into the hands of the militias. Other Libyan weapons and ammunition were trafficked across North and West Africa and the Middle East.

Boko Haram leader

“The United Nations Panel of Experts appointed to examine the impact of Resolution 1973 identified the presence of ex-Libyan weapons in Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Gaza, Mali, Niger, Tunisia and Syria. The panel concluded that ‘arms originating from Libya have significantly reinforced the military capacity of terrorist groups operating in Algeria, Egypt, Mali and Tunisia.’ …

“The international community’s inability to secure weapons abandoned by the Gaddafi regime fuelled instability in Libya and enabled and increased terrorism across North and West Africa and the Middle East. The UK Government correctly identified the need to secure weapons immediately after the 2011 Libyan civil war, but it and its international partners took insufficient action to achieve that objective. However, it is probable that none of the states that intervened in Libya would have been prepared to commit the necessary military and political resources to secure stocks of weapons and ammunition. That consideration should have informed their calculation to intervene.”

Despite these findings, the Obama administration and its allies are considering an escalation of their military intervention in Syria, which already has involved arming and training jihadists who include Al Qaeda militants as well as supposedly “moderate” fighters, who have aligned themselves with Al Qaeda and handed over sophisticated American weaponry.

The U.S. military has spearheaded a bombing campaign against Al Qaeda’s spinoff, the Islamic State, inside Syria. But the Obama administration sometimes has put its desire to oust Assad ahead of its supposed priority of fighting the Islamic State, such as when U.S. air power pulled back from bombing Islamic State militants in 2015 as they were overrunning Syrian army positions at the historic city of Palmyra.

Now, with Syria and its Russian ally resorting to intense bombing to root Al Qaeda and its allies, including some of those U.S.-armed “moderates,” from their strongholds in eastern Aleppo, there is a full-throated demand from the West, including virtually all major media outlets, to impose a “no-fly zone,” like the one that preceded the “regime change” in Libya.

While such interventions may “feel good” – and perhaps there’s a hunger to see Assad murdered like Gaddafi – there is little or no careful analysis about what is likely to follow.

The most likely outcome from a Syrian “regime change” is a victory by Al Qaeda and/or its erstwhile friends in the Islamic State. How that would make the lives of Syrians better is hard to fathom. More likely, the victorious jihadists would inflict a mass bloodletting on Christians, Alawites, Shiites, secular Sunnis and other “heretics,” with millions more fleeing as refugees.

Among the Western elites – in politics and media – no lessons apparently have been learned from the disaster in Iraq, nor from the new British report on the Libyan fiasco.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

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Fact-Sheet on Syria’s “White Helmets”

October 7th, 2016 by Simon Wood

The White Helmets – here are a few facts that you need to know.  Share this to your family and friends who subsist on Western corporate media:

* The White Helmets, also called Syria Civil Defence, are not who they claim to be. The group is not Syrian; it was created with USA/UK funding under the supervision of a British military contractor in 2013 in Turkey.

* The name “Syria Civil Defence” was stolen from the legitimate Syrian organization of the same name. The authentic Syria Civil Defence was founded in 1953 and is a founding member of the International Civil Defense Organization (1958).

* The name “White Helmets” was inappropriately taken from the legitimate Argentinian relief organization Cascos Blancos / White Helmets. In 2014, Cascos Blancos / White Helmets was honored at the United Nations for 20 years of international humanitarian assistance.

* The NATO White Helmets are primarily a media campaign to support the ‘regime change’ goals of the USA and allies. After being founded by security contractor James LeMesurier, the group was “branded” as the White Helmets in 2014 by a marketing company called “The Syria Campaign” managed out of New York by non-Syrians such as Anna Nolan. “The Syria Campaign” was itself “incubated” by another marketing company named “Purpose”.

* The White Helmets claim to be “neutral, impartial and humanitarian” and to “serve all the people of Syria” is untrue. In reality, they only work in areas controlled by the violent opposition, primarily terrorists associated with Nusra/AlQaeda (recently renamed Jabhat Fath al Sham).

* The White Helmets claim to be unarmed is untrue. There are photos which show their members carrying arms and celebrating Nusra/AlQaeda military victories.

* The White Helmets claim to be apolitical and non-aligned is untrue. In reality they actively promote and lobby for US/NATO intervention in violation of the norms of authentic humanitarian work.

* The Right Livelihood description that “Syria Civil Defence” saved over 60,000 people and “support in the provision of medical services to nearly 7 million people” is untrue. In reality the zones controlled by terrorists in Syria have few civilians remaining. That is why we see “cat” video/media stunts featuring the White Helmets.

* The NATO White Helmets actually undermine and detract from the work of authentic organizations such as the REAL Syria Civil Defense and Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

* The recent Neflix movie about the White Helmets is not a documentary; it is a self promotional advertisement. The directors never set foot in Syria. The Syrian video, real or staged, was provided by the White Helmets themselves. From the beginning scenes showing a White Helmet actor telling his little boy not to give mommy a hard time until the end, the video is contrived and manipulative. The video was produced by a commercial marketing company Violet Films/Ultra Violet Consulting which advertises its services as “social media management”, “crowd building” and “campaign implementation”.

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America is coming to the rescue of Al Qaeda under a humanitarian mandate. The unspoken agenda is to undermine the Liberation of Aleppo. 

The pretext and justification for these actions are based on America’s “responsibility to protect” (R2P) the “moderates” in Aleppo from Syrian and Russian attacks and bombing raids.

On October 3, the US State Department announced the suspension of bilateral relations with Russia pertaining to Syria (see document below), in response to which, France’s foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault was called upon to intermediate at the diplomatic level. 

Pointing his finger at Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Jean Marc Ayrault casually accused Moscow of crimes against humanity, “La France est indignée”  (France is  indignant).  

In turn, the Western media (including segments of the “Left” alternative media) went into overdrive, accusing Russia of killing innocent civilians, demonizing president Putin;, and more significantly ignoring the devastating impacts of  Obama’s (2014-2016) fake “counterterrorism campaign” implying extensive and routine bombings of both Syria and Iraq over a period of more than two years. 

Initiated in Summer 2014, Operation Inherent Resolve’s real objective is to “protect the terrorists”. 

Strategic Meeting at the White House

On October 5, a strategic meeting of the so-called Principals Committee  (tantamount to a War Cabinet) met behind closed doors at the White House. In attendance: senior officials (Secretary level) from the Pentagon, CIA, Joint Chiefs of Staff, State Department and top national security advisors of the White House.

On the agenda: a proposal earlier voiced by the US state Department to directly attack Syrian government forces and military facilities, inevitably implying the possibility of direct military confrontation with Russia as well as a process of escalation.

While Russian airstrikes are carefully targeted against the terrorists, Moscow is accused of committing extensive war crimes as well as supporting the terrorist organizations sponsored by the Western military alliance.

The media has built upon the humanitarian crisis triggered by Russian intervention against the [terrorist] “freedom fighters”.

What the media has  failed to investigate since the outset are US war crimes against the People of Syria and Iraq, which are amply confirmed by official US Department of Defense data.

The Figures Speak for Themselves 

1. The US-led coalition is protecting the terrorists

2. U.S. and Coalition Airstrikes (Pentagon data)

3. The Cost of Obama’s Air Campaign: 9.3 billion dollars

4. The US-led coalition is providing the terrorists with large amounts of weapons 

1. The Airstrikes are intended to Protect the Terrorists

What we have witnessed is an ongoing drawn out campaign over the last two years of relentless  air raids and bombings, and the terrorist enemy is apparently still intact.

Let us examine the data regarding air strikes by the US and its coalition partners, all of which were allegedly directed against the ISIS-Daesh terrorists who crossed the desert from Syria into Iraq in their Toyota pickup trucks in June 2014.

What would have been required from a military standpoint to wipe out the ISIS Daesh convoy with no effective anti-aircraft capabilities?

If they had wanted to eliminate the Islamic State brigades, they could have “carpet” bombed their convoys of Toyota pickup trucks when they crossed the desert from Syria into Iraq in June. 

The answer is pretty obvious, yet not a single mainstream media has acknowledged it.

The  Syro-Arabian Desert is open territory (see map right). With state of the art jet fighter aircraft (F15, F22 Raptor, F16) it would have been  –from a military standpoint–  ”a piece of cake”, a rapid and expedient surgical operation, which would have decimated the Islamic State convoys in a matter of hours.

2. U.S. and Coalition Airstrikes

  •  The total number of US and coalition sorties against Syria and Iraq is of the order of 111,000. This translates into an average of 147 sorties a day (over a period of 755 days).
  • More than 8,300 strike sorties have been carried out against Syria according to US Department of Defense sources.
  • The non-strike sorties have been used for the purposes of reconnaissance, logistics and coordination with terrorist commandos on the ground. 
  • 31,900 targets in Syria and Iraq have been hit by US war planes (see table below) including public buildings, residential areas, economic infrastructure (all of which was waged under a fake campaign against ISIS- Daesh).

Its all for a good cause. None of these strikes were directed at the Syrian people, according to official statements.

And these humanitarian statements have never been challenged by the Western media.

The initiative was part of the “Global War on Terrorism”. It was in violation of  international law.

Source US Department of Defense, copyright US DoD

3. The Cost of Obama’s Air Campaign: 9.3 billion dollars

755 days, 12.3 million dollars a day since August 2014

These are the costs of destroying an entire country, killing tens of thousands of Syrians, triggering a refugee crisis. These costs are ultimately financed by tax dollars.

These 12.3 million dollars a day are the cost of destroying Syria and Iraq and killing their people.

In the table above the “official” breakdown is provided, the figures refer to US strikes against Syria and Iraq.

31,900 targets as part of a war on terrorism. Ironically, the number of terrorists has increased dramatically as a result of the “counter-terrorism” campaign, not to mention the NATO sponsored international campaign of recruitment of terrorists.

4. Weapons for the Terrorists

In turn, the US and its allies have since the outset of the conflict send in tens of thousands of tons of light weapons into Syria through illicit arms trafficking channels.

These shipments of weapons are not conducted through internationally approved weapons transfers. While they are the result of  a Pentagon (or US government) procurement, they are not recorded as “official” military aid. They use private traders and shipping companies within the realm of a thriving illicit trade in light weapons. 

Based on the examination of a single December 2015 Pentagon sponsored shipment of more than 990 tons, one can reasonably conclude that the amounts of light weapons in the hands of  ”opposition” rebels inside Syria is substantial and exceedingly large.  

For further details see  U.S. “Military Aid” to Al Qaeda, ISIS-Daesh: Pentagon Uses Illicit Arms Trafficking to Channel Enormous Shipments of Light Weapons into Syria, by Prof Michel Chossudovsky, October 02, 2016

The above data on air strikes, the smuggling of weapons confirm extensive US sponsored crimes against humanity 

And we are led to believe that the Islamic State cannot be defeated by a powerful US led military coalition of 19 countries.

The air campaign was not intended to decimate the Islamic State.

The counter-terrorism mandate is a fiction. America is the Number One “State Sponsor of Terrorism”.   

The Islamic State is not only protected by the US and its allies, it is trained and financed by US-NATO, with the support of Israel and Washington’s Persian Gulf allies. 

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There is currently a barrage of propaganda in the “western” media in support of “rebels” in east-Aleppo. It is all about “hospitals” and “children” but the aim is to stop a Syrian army assault on the “rebel” held quarters of the city. U.S. officials are again talking about “intervention”, meaning open war, to prevent the Syrian army and its allies from storming the “rebel” held eastern parts. It would not work but that is not the only reason why it is a strange idea.

“It is primarily al-Qaeda that holds Aleppo,” said (vid) the spokesperson of the U.S. led ‘Operation Inherent Resolve’, Colonel Warren. That was back in April and al-Qaeda (aka Jabat al-Nusra) has since strengthen its capacities in the city. The French Syria expert Fabrice Balanche tells Le Monde Le Figaro (translate from French):

[Al-Qaeda’s] grip on Aleppo’s east has only increased since the spring of 2016, when it sent 700 reinforcement fighters while moderate brigades fighters began to leave the area before the final exit was closed. The provisional opening of a breach of the siege of Aleppo in August 2016 (Battle of Ramousseh) has further increased its prestige and influence on the rebels.

The UN Special Envoy for Syria DeMistura told (vid, 27:43) the UN Security Council:

We have seen information from other sources that tell us more than half of the fighters present in eastern Aleppo are al-Nusra. We have also seen reports alleging the intentional placement of firing positions close to social infrastructure, inside and aside civilian quarters.

So why does the U.S. want to stop the Syrian government forces in their attempt to free the parts of the city which are undoubtedly held by al-Qaeda?

The U.S. voted “Yes” on several UN Security Council resolutions that demand to fight al-Qaeda and “to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Syria.”

Following the UNSC demand, Syria and its allies have surrounded the al-Qaeda held parts of east-Aleppo. They currently bomb targets of opportunity, take starting positions all around it and prepare to eventually storm and capture it. Measures have been taken to allow civilians to escape from the area.

This whole operation is primarily in defense of west-Aleppo where 1.5 million civilians live under the protection of the government. Daily artillery strikes from al-Qaeda held east-Aleppo have killed and wounded many people in the government help parts.

But some U.S. officials believe that defeating al-Qaeda in east-Aleppo will be useful for al-Qaeda:

A U.S. official says Jabhat al-Nusra has been the “main beneficiary” (other than the Assad regime) of Russia’s onslaught. “Until Moscow stops bombing hospitals and aid workers, Nusra will continue to exploit the situation . . . and portray itself as the defender of the Syrian people,” the official explained.

“Hospitals and aid workers,” are often unfortunate collateral damage in urban fighting. That will not surprise the U.S. military, especially after its bombing of several hospitals in Afghanistan and after it recently practically destroyed Kobani in Syria and Fallujah in Iraq to eradicate the Islamic State from those cities.

The claim that fighting al-Qaeda in Aleppo strengthens al-Qaeda seems dubious to me. But even if that is the case what is the alternative to fighting it in the city areas it holds?

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry is urging a new ceasefire with a pause in fighting and aerial bombing of at least seven days. State Department spokesperson Toner explained that yesterday. But he also admitted (vid @14:50) that al-Qaeda and other militant groups use such ceasefire periods to regroup and to resupply:

… we can talk about that some rebel groups or opposition groups may have used the pause to resupply…

It is even more than that. Al-Qaeda wins in every ceasefire (even if those generally do not apply to it) in many other ways. A new study, specifically about al-Qaeda and ceasefire, details that and concludes:

While the establishment of the truces was supposed to help to weaken the most radical factions of the insurgency, Jabhat al-Nusra emerged indisputably strengthened …

Another ceasefire would help al-Qaeda to resupply and regroup and to regain strength in east-Aleppo and elsewhere.

Despite that and despite agreeing to the UNSC resolution the U.S. does not want the Syrian government and its allies to fight al-Qaeda in east-Aleppo because it believes that would strengthen al-Qaeda. It wants a new ceasefire. But any ceasefire or truce strengthens al-Qaeda.

Somehow the U.S. position does not compute.

It gets even more confusing:

“..,” one senior administration official said. “The CIA and the Joint Staff have said that the fall of Aleppo would undermine America’s counterterrorism goals in Syria.”Fighting al-Qaeda in east-Aleppo and “eradicating” it from the area it holds, as the UNSC demands, would undermine U.S. counterterrorism goals? That is strange. The alternative in east-Aleppo is to keep al-Qaeda well and alive and to let it hold the area it currently holds. Would that further U.S. counterterrorism goals? How?

What then are the actually goals?

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The Eurasian Century Is Now Unstoppable

October 7th, 2016 by F. William Engdahl

I recently returned from a fascinating two week speaking tour in China. The occasion was the international premier of my newest book, One Belt, One Road–China and the New Eurasian Century. In the course of my visit I was invited by China’s Northwest University in Xi’an to give a lecture and seminar on the present global political and economic situation in the context of China’s New Economic Silk Road as the One Belt, One Road project is often called. What I’ve seen in my many visits to China, and have studied about the entirety of this enormously impressive international infrastructure project convinces me that a Eurasian Century at this point is unstoppable.

The idiotic wars of the Washington war-hawks and their military industry–in Syria, in Ukraine, Libya, Iraq and now the South China Sea provocations against China–are not going to stop what is now clearly the most impressive and economically altering project in more than a century.

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The term “American Century” was triumphantly proclaimed in a famous editorial in Life magazine in 1941 in the early phase of World War II, before the United States had even entered the war, to describe the system publisher Henry Luce saw dominating the postwar world after the fall of the rival British Empire.

The American Century has lasted a mere seven decades if we date from the end of the war. Its record has been one of dismal failure on balance. The industrial base of the United States, the predominant leading industrial nation and leading scientific innovator, today is a hollowed, rotted shell with once-booming cities like Detroit or Philadelphia or Los Angeles now burned-out ghettos of unemployed and homeless.

The Federal Debt of the United States, owing to the endless wars its Presidents engage in, as well as the fruitless bailouts of Wall Street banks and Government Sponsored Enterprises like Fannie Mae, is well over 103% of GDP at an astonishing $19.5 trillion, or more than $163,000 per taxpaying American and Washington is adding to the debt this year at near $600 billion. Countries like China and Russia are moving away from subsidizing that debt at a record pace.

America’s economic basic infrastructure–bridges, sewer and water treatment plants, electric grid, railways, highways–have been neglected for more than four decades for a variety of reasons. The American Society of Civil Engineers recently estimated that gross domestic product will be reduced by $4 trillion between 2016 and 2025 because of lost business sales, rising costs and reduced incomes if the country continues to underinvest in its infrastructure. That is on top of the fact that they estimate the country at present urgently requires new infrastructure investment of $3.3 trillion by the coming decade just to renew.

Yet US states and cities are not able to finance such an investment in the future in the present debt situation, nor is the debt-choked Federal Government, so long as a cartel of corrupt brain-dead Wall Street banks and financial funds hold America to ransom. This is the sunset for the American Century, a poorly disguised imperial experiment in hubris and arrogance by a gaggle of boring old patriarchs like David Rockefeller and his friends on Wall Street and in the military industry. It is the starkest contrast to what is going on to the east, across all Eurasia today.

Flowing the Thought to Transform

The Eurasian Century is the name I give to the economic emergence of the countries contiguous from China across Central Asia, Russia, Belarus, Iran and potentially Turkey. They are being integrally linked through the largest public infrastructure projects in modern history, in fact the most ambitious ever, largely concentrated on the 2013 initiative by Chinese President Xi Jinping called the One Belt, One Road initiative or OBOR. The project and its implications for Europe and the rest of the world economy have been so far greeted in the west with a stone silence that defies explanation.

It’s been now three years that have transpired since then-new Chinese President Xi Jinping made one of his first foreign visits to Kazakhstan where he discussed the idea of building a vast, modern network of high-speed train lines crossing the vast Eurasian land space from the Pacific coast of China and Russia through Central Asia into Iran, into the states of the Eurasian Economic Union, principally Russia and potentially on to the select states of the European Union. That initial proposal was unveiled in detail last year by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s economic planning organization, and the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Commerce.

It’s a useful point to look now more closely at what has transpired to date. It reveals most impressive developments, more because the development process is creative and organic. The great project is no simple blueprint made by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and then simply imposed, top down, across the so-far 60 countries of Eurasia and South East Asia.

An international conference was recently held in Xi’an, origin of the ancient version of One Belt, One Road, namely the Silk Road. The purpose of the international gathering was to review what has so far taken place. It’s fascinating, notably, in the care that’s being taken by China to do it in a different way, as indications so far are, different from the way American Robber Barons like Cornelius Vanderbilt, E.H. Harriman, Jay Gould or Russell Sage built rail monopolies and deluded and defrauded investors with railroad monopolies more than a century ago.

The seminar, titled the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI): Shared Memory and Common Development, on September 26th, brought together over 400 participants from more than 30 countries including government officials, universities, corporations, think tanks and media.

A key role is being played by Renmin University of China’s Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies to identify progress and problems of the OBOR project. Their report in Xi’an presented principles underlying the OBOR international project: It adheres to the principles of the UN Charter; it is completely open for new participant nations to cooperate; it will follow market rules and seek mutual benefit of participating countries.

Those are noble words. What’s more interesting is the flow process underway to realize such words and to build the mammoth game-changing infrastructure.

Notably, China’s Xi Jinping decided to encourage input from sources other than the state central planning agency or the Communist Party for the complex OBOR. He encouraged creation of private and independent think-tanks to become a source of new creative ideas and approaches. Today there is a Chinese Think Tank Cooperation Alliance group coordinating efforts around OBOR headed by the dean of the Renmin University. In turn they partner with think tanks along the OBOR route including think tanks in Iran, Turkey, India, Nepal, Kazakhstan and other countries.

There will be two main routes of the OBOR. On land there are several routes or corridors in work. The Initiative will focus on jointly building what is being called a new Eurasian Land Bridge from China via Kazakhstan on to Rotterdam. Other OBOR land rail corridors include developing China-Mongolia-Russia, China-Central Asia-West Asia, China-Pakistan, Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar, and China-Indochina Peninsula economic corridors.v This is huge.

It will build on international transport routes, relying on core cities along the OBOR route and using key economic industrial parks as “cooperation platforms.” At sea, the Initiative will focus on jointly building smooth, secure and efficient transport routes connecting major sea ports along the “Belt and Road” including modern upgraded super port construction that will link present China ports at Haikou and Fujian with Kuala Lumpur’s port in Malaysia at the Malacca Strait passage, Calcutta in India, Nairobi in Kenya and via the Suez Canal to Athens and beyond. Crucial is that land and sea parts of OBOR are seen as one whole circulatory system or flow of trade.

The OBOR Initiative will link key Eurasian ports with interior rail and pipeline infrastructure in a way not before seen

To date China has signed memoranda of understanding with 56 countries and regional organizations regarding OBOR. Since his initial proposal in 2013, President Xi Jinping has personally visited 37 countries to discuss implementation of OBOR. China Railway Group and China Communications Construction Company have signed contracts for key routes and ports in 26 countries. Power plants, electricity transmission facilities and oil and gas pipelines, covering 19 countries along the “Belt and Road” in some 40 energy projects have begun. China Unicom, China Telecom and China Mobile are speeding up cross-border transmission projects in countries along the “Belt and Road” to expand international telecommunication infrastructure.

Already, taking the full sea and land routes of OBOR, some $3 trillion of China trade since June 2013 has flowed over the route, more than a quarter of China’s total trade volume. To date China has also invested more than $51 billion in the countries along the present OBOR route. The new land rail routes will greatly reduce transportation costs across Eurasia, enable formerly isolated regions to connect efficiently to sea and land markets and ignite tremendous new economic growth across Eurasia.

The effects of the OBOR are already beginning to appear. Earlier this year an Iranian container ship arrived at Qinzhou Port in China with 978 containers from several countries along the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road opening the first shipping route linking the Middle East and the Beibu Gulf or Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnamese. In February 2016 a container train with Chinese goods took only 14 days to complete the 5,900 mile (9,500km) journey from China’s eastern Zhejiang province through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. That was 30 days shorter than the sea voyage from Shanghai to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, according to the head of the Iranian railway company. China and Iran, now formally part of the OBOR, have targeted bilateral trade, none in US dollars by the way, to exceed $600 billion in the coming decade.

China is presently in negotiations with 28 countries China is in talks with 28 countries including Russia, on high-speed rail projects, China’s train maker, China CNR reports.

It includes a major joint China-Russia $15 billion high-speed Kazan to Moscow line. The 770 kilometers of track between Moscow and Russia’s Tatarstan capital, Kazan, will cut time for the journey from 12 hours now to just 3.5 hours. China has agreed to invest $6 billion in the project which would become a part of a $100 billion high-speed railway between Moscow and Beijing.

Notably, for the new high-speed track being laid, China is developing a new generation of trains capable of reaching speeds of 400 kilometers per hour. And the new trains will solve the costly rail gauge switching problem between China rails and Russian. Trains in Russia run on a 1520mm track, compared to the narrower 1435mm track used in Europe and China. Jia Limin, the head of China’s high-speed rail innovation program told China Daily that, “The train… will have wheels that can be adjusted to fit various gauges on other countries’ tracks, compared with trains now that need to have their wheels changed before entering foreign systems.” Given its strategy of building thousands of kilometers of high-speed railways and developing its domestic Chinese rail sock manufacture as well as other rail technology, China today is the world’s leading producer of rail technology.

Financing the moving

Impressive is that China has secured capital commitment for the OBOR from various sources including the China Development Bank, Export-Import Bank of China, the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the BRICS New Development Bank and other sources including its Silk Road Fund to finance the huge undertaking. The Silk Road Fund has posted $40 billion to fund the OBOR projects. So far close to a quarter trillion US dollars of ready money and another half trillion in supranational institutional working capital is reasonably within reach.

The Western doomsday reports of China’s economy going down the tubes are simply either self-serving propaganda of hedge funds or speculators or fed by lack of understanding of the profound transformation in the entire structure of not only China’s but all Eurasia’s economy through the One Belt One Road initiative. China is undergoing a major transformation from a cheap-labor screwdriver assembly nation to a high-value-added high-tech manufacturer.

Geopolitical transformation

The One Belt, One Road initiative of Xi Jinping and the Eurasian partners, especially Russia, also has strategic dimensions of major import. The construction of new infrastructure corridors spanning across the Eurasian landmass in the form of highways, railways, industrial parks, and oil and gas pipelines, OBOR is connecting for the first time in the modern era landlocked regions of hinterland China and Russia and Central Asia republics with the sea ports. Linking key Eurasian industrial hubs to ports with efficient transportation will revolutionize connectivity of hinterland industrial products and raw materials of every kind. The Russian and Eurasian lands, including China, contain perhaps the richest untapped concentration of every raw material known.

The One Belt, One Road also includes oil and gas pipeline transportation corridors. In January 2015 the Myanmar-China Pipeline project, 2400 km long, was completed, linking Myanmar’s deep-water port of Kyaukphyu on Maday Island in the Bay of Bengal with Kunming in Yunnan province in southeast China near Myanmar’s border. It’s a joint project of the China Development Bank and Myanmar Foreign Investment Bank. The new pipeline allows China to import up to 400,000 barrels a day of Middle East oil over a route 1100 km shorter than the previous Malacca Strait sea route, reducing time to reach the large industrial hub city of Kunming by 30%, major economic gains, and avoiding the strategic chokepoint of the Malacca Strait where the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet dominates.

Previously, 80% of Chinese oil and gas imports crossed the Malacca straits and were subject to US controls. Were the present escalating tensions between Washington and China over the South China Sea or other issues to escalate, China would be brought to her knees much like Japan prior to declaring war in 1941, when the USA embargoed her oil. A second pipeline brings natural gas from Qatar and Myanmar gas fields to China.

The OBOR includes oil and gas pipelines that reduce time and distance to imports of Middle East oil and gas

China will pay $53 billion to Myanmar in pipeline royalties over 30 years. They will also invest $25 million in schooling and other social development projects along the pipeline and 10% of the gas will stay in Burma.

Mackinder Outflanked?

The totality of the strategy behind Xi Jinping’s Eurasian One belt, One Road rail, sea and pipeline initiative, which is moving quietly and impressively forward, is transforming the world geopolitical map. In 1904 a British geographer, Sir Halford Mackinder, a fervid champion of the British Empire, unveiled a brilliant concept in a speech to the London Royal Geographical Society titled the Geographical Pivot of History. That essay has shaped both British and American global strategy of hegemony and domination to the present. It was complemented by US Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan’s 1890 work, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, which advocated “sea power,” stating that nations with domination of the seas, as the British Empire or later the USA, would dominate the world.

The One Belt, One Road, by linking all the contiguous land areas of Eurasia to the related network of strategic new or enlarged deep-water ports of OBOR’s Maritime Silk Road, has rendered US geopolitical strategy a devastating blow at a time the hegemony of America is failing as never in its short history. The Eurasian Century today is inevitable and unstoppable. Built on different principles of cooperation rather than domination, it just might offer a model for the bankrupt United States and the soon-bankrupt European Union, to build up true prosperity not based on looting and debt slavery.

F. William Engdahl is a strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

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Three years ago, we published an article in Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus on Taiwan’s energy debates and an accompanying article in Taipei Times with the title ‘China key to Taiwan energy crisis’. At the time, Taiwan was embroiled in endless debates over its commitment to nuclear power, a commitment that precluded a shift to more secure renewable energy sources.

We argued that Taiwan’s obsession with nuclear power as the way forward in energy policy obscured other options. In particular, the country could extend its great successes in IT, semiconductors and flat panel displays to the next great technological challenge, namely renewable energy. We pointed to the example of China and its green energy strategy which is gradually replacing its black, fossil fuelled strategy, thereby improving China’s energy security as well as building renewable energy industries as export platforms for the future.

Now, three years on, the situation in Taiwan is completely different. There is in place a new President and government, and a new ‘green energy’ strategy. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government led by the first female president in Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, elected in January 2016, is taking Taiwan in a new energy direction, headlined by a commitment to be nuclear-free by 2025.

That opens the way to an alternative energy strategy, now focused on building Taiwan’s strength in solar PV and offshore wind power. New targets for 2020 and 2025 are providing the investment certainty that the previous nuclear preoccupations had denied. The government is backing its energy targets with talk of total investment of NT$1,500 billion (about US$48 billion), induced initially by government expenditure and then followed by foreign capital and domestic investment. The current power monopoly Taiwan Power (Taipower), with a nod to the new government policy, has already announced an investment target of NT$ 400 billion (about US$17 billion ) in the development of renewable energy (mainly in solar and wind power) in the nine years (up to 2025). So things are on the move on the energy front in Taiwan.

There already are clear indications that the new energy policy is being implemented, even though the government is still in its first year of office. These signals include a moratorium on nuclear power and a commitment to phase it out completely by 2025. In addition, there are new government policies in place to build 20 GW of solar power by 2025 as well as 3 GW of offshore wind power – which on their own would be sufficient to replace the nuclear power plants as they are mothballed. 1 A first step towards this goal is a doubling of solar PV power generating capacity to reach 1.4 GW by 2017. An institutional innovation has been the creation of the Energy and Carbon Reduction Office (ECRO) in Taiwan, established in July 2016, as a means of coordinating green energy initiatives with a view to reducing Taiwan’s carbon emissions.

In this article we review these trends, and discuss the next steps that are needed to enable Taiwan to build on its brilliant manufacturing successes in the fields of ICT, such as flat panel displays, semiconductors, telecommunications and PCs, and extend these in the new renewable energy directions now opening up.2

Taiwan’s current electric power mix and DPP strategy

Past commitments to fossil fuels and nuclear by the country’s monopoly power generator Taiwan Power (Taipower), have left Taiwan a laggard in the global shift to renewable energy. Taiwan’s total electric power capacity, from all sources, is 40 GW, or 40 billion watts, compared with the US at 1000 GW and China at around 1,500 GW . In per capita terms, Taiwan’s current power capacity is 1.74 kW per person, compared with 3.1 kW per person in the US and 1.2 kW in China. In 2015, its power generation mix saw coal as the principal fuel (38.4%), followed by liquefied natural gas (LNG) (31.1%) and nuclear at 13.8%. Renewable energy (water, wind and sun) accounted for just 4.5% of power generation (Fig. 1).

Figure 1 Taiwan’s electric power generation 2015 (Source: Taipower)

Expanding the nuclear option has been ruled out by the incoming DPP government, while relying further on coal and LNG is both expensive and a source of energy insecurity because they are nearly 100% imports. So that leaves few options other than renewables as a means of resolving Taiwan’s energy issues. This is both a challenge as well as a huge opportunity.

DPP green energy policy

The DPP under the leadership of Tsai Ing-wen went to the election at the end of 2015 with an energy policy that called for closure of the country’s nuclear power production by 2025 (an approach similar to that of Merkel’s government in Germany), combined with calls for rapid expansion of renewable energy generating sources and enhancement of energy efficiency. The party fought the election with a commitment to reach 20% dependence on renewables for electric power generation by 2025. Since the election there have been some scattered statements, in particular a reinforced commitment to a ‘nuclear free homeland’ by 2025, and a target for solar power of 20 GW by 2025 as well as a target for offshore wind power of 3 GW. On their own these targets would easily make up for the decommissioning of nuclear power stations with a current capacity of 5.1 GW.

The DPP’s green energy policy is viewed as evolving through three stages. The first stage is to integrate green energy-related information and communications technology, materials, machinery, and research resources from both corporate and academic institutions. Such integration includes setting up an energy innovation industrial park in Shalun, Tainan province (located in the Southern Taiwan) with the land size 1118 hectares, or 11.2 km2. (New Energy Association of Taiwan). The park would be designed to act as a hub used to integrate the island’s talents, innovation and technology, and would export products for industrial use overseas. The proposed park would also support the local renewable energy sector, such as offshore wind energy in the Taiwan Strait, solar power in Southern Taiwan, geothermal energy in Yilan (Eastern Taiwan) and ocean/tidal power in the Pacific Ocean (see Figure 2). There would also be a focus on development of energy conservation technologies, in order to constrain energy growth in demand.

Figure 2: Geography of targeted green energy development in Taiwan (Source: Green Energy and Environment Research Laboratories and compiled by the authors)

The second stage of the policy would see a focus on increasing green energy generation as a way to attract NT$1 trillion investment (approximately US$ 31 billion) in related industries — to help turn it into a promising industry while the renewable energy development platform is implemented. The third stage would then be aimed at increasing exports not only of components/products but also turnkey solution/integration systems into international markets, on the assumption that by then the global market for green energy would be more mature.

To overcome the criticism that green energy is a fluctuating (hence non-dispatchable3) source of electricity, the DPP government has also announced plans to increase gas-fired energy as a reserve power source (idle capacity) while promoting energy-saving programs across different sectors. Taiwan is now to build a third LNG terminal, expanding the storage stations and gas-fired plants in order to meet the variations in energy demand when the current three operating nuclear power plants I, II, and III are sequentially decommissioned (as planned) in 2019, 2023, and 2025.

Green energy initiatives and prospects 

At this stage the best prospects for Taiwan would appear to be solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and offshore wind. This is because both solar PV and wind power are now mature technologies where Taiwan already has industrial experience and can utilize its ‘fast follower’ strategies to good effect, while investing in R&D to bring it abreast of world leaders.4

Solar photovoltaic 

Taiwan, a small, tear-drop shaped island 180 kilometers off the coast of China’s Fujian Province, is the world’s second largest producer of solar cells, shipping 10.6 GW of cells in 2015 – nearly a fifth of the world total of 55 GW. Taiwan is also one of the leading solar wafer and module makers in the world, with well-established firms like Motech, Gintech, Solartech, E-Ton and newcomer TSEC providing a solid industrial value chain. Taiwan’s solar PV production activities got under way around the year 2000, and by 2009 Taiwan was second producer in the world, after China (Fig. 3). Figure 3 also indicates that the production of solar PV in Japan has declined – in line with the sequence of flying geese model as seen in many electronics and information technology industries such as PCs, semiconductors, and flat panel displays. As Japanese production declined, so production in China, Taiwan, and other Asian latecomers increased.

Taiwan’s industrial development body ITRI (Industrial Technology Research Institute) projects the development of a green energy sector in Taiwan moving through successive phases, as technologies and capabilities are mastered. The sector as a whole is foreseen to be worth eventually NT$ 200 billion (US$ 6.3 billion) by 2016 (Fig. 4).5

However, Taiwan’s domestic solar PVs market remains woefully underdeveloped, with accumulated installations adding up to less than 700 MW in 2015 (0.7 GW), accounting for just 2.4% of a total power generating capacity (6 Consequently, the Council of Agriculture (COA) under the Ministry of Interior has released about 1,200 hectares (12 km2) of idle agricultural land and land subsidence for solar development, enough for some 1GW of solar power installation (Taiwan’s Solar PV Forum, 2016).

Figure 3. World manufacturing of solar PV panels, by country, 1995-2015 (Source: PV magazine)

To find more space for installing solar PVs, the government is reported to be working on alternative agricultural practices by developing methods that allow the land to be used simultaneously for both agriculture and solar PV — such as growing mushrooms under the panels, above-the-water or floating solar panels on aquatic farms and other such devices. In addition, dams and ponds larger than 660 m2 are also listed as targets for solar development. There is a subsidy paid for ‘agricultural’ solar PV determined by the formula (designed by the Bureau of Energy, of the Ministry of Economic Affairs) that depends on the power capacity and type of solar PV along with the cost changes of solar PV equipment. In 2016, the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) for solar PV ranged from NT$4.66 to $6.48 (compared to the fossil fuel price of NT$2.85-$2.93).

For better return-on-investment performance, Taiwan’s new government seems to be encouraging the installation of longer duration ground-mounted solar power plants (lasting 20-35 years) rather than the roof-top solar power (which last on average 10-15 years, depending on the lifetime of the buildings). Current data on Taiwan practices is provided by the TSEC company (one of Taiwan’s major solar system companies).7 The solar daily mean yield (DMY) in central and southern Taiwan (which has proved to have the highest levels of insolation across Taiwan) is 4.35 hours, power system efficiency is operating at the average rate of 82%, annual efficiency decay 1%, natural damage ratio 1%, maintenance and repair 21 days/per year, land usage/MW is 1.1 hectares, land rental cost NT$200,000/hectare, feedback fund to the local government is NT$100,000/hectare, bank loan interest rate 2.85% (based on 10 years loan). There are three major capital costs for building a ground-mounted solar power plant, namely infrastructure and construction cost (47%), solar module system (44%), and utility converters (9% with 5-7 duration years). Therefore, the first year capital cost is approximately NT$52,000/kw. Based on whether the solar plants operate for 20/25/30/35 years, the total costs/kw are NT$59,000/$62,500/$66,000/$69,500 respectively while the depreciation cost is greatly reduced as the lifetime is extended. By taking 25-30 depreciation years as a base, the solar PV power generation cost is expected to reach ‘grid parity’ NT$3.17-$3.30/kwh (approximately US$0.1/kwh) and comparable to Taiwan’s current subsidized fossil fuel price (NT$2.85-2.93). These are all promising data for the development of solar power generation in Taiwan.

Figure 4. Various targeted energy sectors and their current life cycle stages in Taiwan (Source: ITRI and compiled by the authors)

The recent announcement of the release of 10,000 hectares (100 km2) for solar development is evidence that the new government seems to be making good on its promise to substantially ramp up the share of power generation by renewables. To squeeze the accessible land (but prevent the trade-off with regular economic activities), some public lands such as sanitary landfill sites have also been designated for solar power plant installation.8

In this connection, the Taipei city government announced in August 2016 that it intended to build its first solar power farm in Taipei at a 37 hectare former landfill, Fudekeng Environmental Restoration Park, using ground-mounted solar panels. The project is contracted with the Taiwan-based Tatung company, one of Taiwan’s leading brands for energy saving systems and services. The solar power plant is expected to be completed by the end of 2016 with the target of generating up to 2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. The Taipei city government is expected to share the utility profit from the feed-in-tariff (FIT) scheme with Tatung and receive approximately NT$1 million annually.9Currently, renewable energy sources generate about 487 million kilowatt-hours of electricity for Taipei, which accounts for only 3 percent of the city’s total power consumption. The city (which is under separate political control from the national government) is aiming to increase the contribution by renewable energy sources to 10 percent of its total power generation by the end of 2025.

Offshore wind power

To achieve the goal of 3GW wind power by 2025, the government is aggressively implementing the ‘thousand wind turbines’ project utilizing the Taiwan Strait, one of the world’s best offshore wind sites.10The government closely collaborates with the UK and adopts its “Three Rounds” model for developing the offshore wind power guideline. This follows the sequence with initial demonstration farms (Round 1), then potential shallow areas (Round 2), and finally commercial and zonal deep water development (Round 3) (Higgins and Foley 2014). The development of the offshore wind farms also includes strategic environmental assessments, infrastructure construction, and fisheries compensation negotiations. The Offshore Demonstration Incentive Program aims to complete 4 demonstration turbines by 2015 (progress is currently delayed due to the fact that the fisheries compensation negotiation is not finalized) and three demonstration wind farms by 2020 while the government plans to subsidize 50 % cost of the demonstration turbines (with FIT advances/interest-free loan) and NT$250 million for preparatory and developing processes expenses, according to the report of the Offshore Demonstration Incentive Office. The project forecasts are outlined in Table 1, revealing how the target of 3 GW of offshore wind power is to be reached by 2030.

Table 1: Taiwan’s ‘thousand wind turbines’ project, 2015-2030 projections

2015 2020 2025 2030
MW No. MW No. MW No. MW No.
Onshore 866 350 1200 450 1200 450 1200 450
Offshore 15 4 600 120 1800 360 3000 600
Total 881 354 1800 570 3000 810 4200 1050

Source: Offshore Demonstration Incentive Office, Taiwan

Financing of Taiwan’s green shift

While the technologies and business models supporting a shift to green energy in Taiwan are important, the financing is also a matter of the highest priority. Already in Taiwan in July 2014 there was a sprinkling of Taiwanese interest in issuing green corporate bonds. The country’s then-largest solar cell manufacturer, NeoSolar, issued a corporate bond in July 2014 raising US$ 120 million to expand its green energy manufacturing activities.11 In the same year there was also a corporate green bond issued by Taiwan’s Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE), to facilitate the company’s shift to greener production.

In 2016 there has been renewed activity, led by Chailease Finance Co., one of Taiwan’s finance companies as well as the owner of 31 solar power plants in Taiwan making it Taiwan’s third largest owner of solar power plants. Chailease is expected to issue solar asset backed bonds in 2016, corresponding to a generating capacity of 150MW and a market value of NT$9 billion (approximately US$300 million). The securities are expected to be of 5-year and 10-year duration and are designed to support Taiwan’s developing solar power systems (Energy Trend — in Chinese). The underwriter is CTBC Bank and most of subscribers are insurance companies in Taiwan while all of these assets are 20-year solar power purchasing agreements (PPAs) with Taipower12.

Deregulation of the power sector

Like other East Asian countries, including Japan, Korea and China, Taiwan has inherited a quasi-monopoly power company, Taipower, which could be viewed as an obstacle to further greening. Founded in 1946, it generates power, buys power from a handful of independent power producers (IPPs), distributes power and manages most of the country’s retail and wholesale power activities. There have been many attempts to break the Taipower monopoly, going back at least to 2001 (postponed to 2006) – which came to nothing. Now there is new urgency, since the green power shift is clearly being delayed by the Taipower monopoly.

Reform of the utility regulations would greatly influence the performance of Taiwan’s green energy policy (Wang, 2006). When campaigning for the presidency, Tsai Ing-wen committed her party to review the country’s Electricity Act with a view to introducing greater competition and efficiency.13 As a state-owned utility monopoly, Taipower has long been an economic booster to subsidize the utility prices for electricity supplied to both residential (NT$2.85/kwh, approximately US$0.089/kwh) and industrial (NT$2.93/kwh, about US$0.091/kwh) users. In past decades, this significant subsidy enabled Taiwan to emerge as one of the world’s lowest utility cost countries. Hence reform of the regulation of Taiwan’s utility sector and pricing of electricity, in order to introduce competition in power generation and sale, is now an urgent matter (Chang and Lee, 2016). However, such institutional reforms raise issues of national security as well as the transaction costs for negotiating with both economic and political interests groups such as the Taipower labor union. The Taipower labor union once threatened to strike while pro-nuclear political parties are using media to influence the public opinion. The issues involve preventing ‘privatization of Taipower’ and allowing Taipower to own and establish subsidiaries for power generation, delivery, distribution, sales, and grid networks, all in the name of promoting competition in the power sector. Most recently, in mid-August, the new government reached agreement with the Taipower labor union, making four significant concessions. First, the MOEA agreed to exclude privatization of Taipower from any proposed amendments. Second, within 6-9 years (up to 2025) in two developmental stages, green power is to be directly supplied by Taipower to customers (for the 1st stage) while independent producers in the industrial parks will be allowed to distribute the power produced by their own power plants (for the 2ndstage). In other words, the entities managing power supply and power grid are to be separated. Third, Taipower is to be reorganized as a parent holding company with two subsidiaries for power supply and power grid responsible for distribution, transmission, and sales business. And fourth, any further subsidiaries will be established only if workers’ rights and interests are not adversely affected. Such organizational restructuring of Taipower and deregulation of the power sector are aimed to encourage the dispersal of power sources and micro grid communities.

The new government sees revision of the Electricity Act as key to the deregulation of the power industry and the success of the government’s anti-nuclear-power, development, energy and environmental protection policies. As soon as the concessions were agreed, the new DPP government (facilitated by the Executive Yuan) immediately sent a draft of the ‘Revision of the Electricity Act’ (i.e. the deregulation) to the Legislative Yuan in early September 2016. It is already listed as one of the ‘priority bills’ for the legislature to finalize in the coming session where the DPP is for the first time playing the role of the majority party.14

Smart grid promotion

One aspect of Taiwan’s power system which has not been neglected by Taipower is the shift to a smart grid, or IT-enabled grid that facilitates real-time management and control as a means of saving electricity. There is a worldwide shift underway to build such IT-enabled grids, and Taipower has been one of the foremost players in this endeavour. A “Smart Grid Master Plan” was formulated by Taipower and approved by Taiwan’s Executive Yuan in August 2012, under the previous government (Lin et al 2016). In keeping with Taiwan’s expertise in promoting new industries, a vehicle for government-industry collaboration was created, in the form of a Taiwan Smart Grid Industry Association (TSGIA), bringing together Taiwan’s heavy electrical industry and smart grid-related firms for joint development of smart grid technologies and framing of smart grid standards. A total of 18 smart grid projects have so far been launched, under the guidance of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST), the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA), the Bureau of Energy and private companies. The focus has been on the technologies involved in Energy Management Systems (EMS) and Virtual Power Plants (VPPs), both critical elements of smart grid innovations. During the first phase of the project, sales of smart grid components and products have been growing at a rate of 80% per year, to reach NT$ 12.4 billion (US$ 390 million) in 2012. Practical applications are to be taken forward under Phase 2 of the project, utilizing the “Penghu smart grid demonstration project” and the “Integrated Application project for demand response, distributed generation and energy storage”.15 We note that all these developments preceded the advent of the DPP government with its fresh energy strategies; as soon as the Legislative Yuan passes the ‘Revision of the Electricity Act’, the way that smart grid initiatives will be integrated with the new renewables strategies will be a point of great interest.

Challenges and conclusions

While the new government’s determination to end the nuclear power era in Taiwan is clear, there is as yet little evidence of a sustained investment strategy that will drive Taiwan’s energy production and manufacturing industries towards renewable power. But it is worth pointing out that Taiwan has the reserves needed for investment once a clear signal is given. Bank deposits in Taiwan’s banks as a whole have recorded a historical high at NT$40 trillion (approximately US$1.27 trillion) in July 2016, according to the statistics of Taiwan’s Central Bank. This amount does not include the reserves of the insurance companies. The total funds available indicate that Taiwan’s financial institutions have the investment capacity which can be activated when the investment target is clear and verified.

Another immediate question concerns whether the DPP’s anti-nuclear stance will simply lead to more coal being burnt in Taiwan, and carbon emissions rising – as has happened initially in Germany. There is evidence that the new government does not intend to allow this to happen. To better respond to fluctuations in power demand in the future, the new government, apart from building a new gas receiving and reservation station, is also planning to spend NT$50 billion to build four big hydro power batteries (one has been built on the Sun Moon Lake) in other four big dams around Taiwan.To prevent NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) effects on generation and transmission projects as well as resistance/lassitude concerning efficiency/conservation measures, efforts have also been expended to make power generation choices more transparent. The new government is working with social enterprise platforms such as Code for Tomorrow (equivalent to the US’s ‘Social Coding 4 Good (SC4G)’ and G0v.tw (see http://g0v.tw/en-US/about.html) to encourage the open data and transparent development in the public sector. The goal is to marshal public efforts to provide citizens with easy-to-use information and with easy-to-participate means for discussion of critical social issues such as renewable energy development. Amongst which, the non-confidential database of Taipower such as coal-fired amounts, power consumption by hours, days, seasons, regions, etc. as well as its budget and costs areto be disclosed. All these efforts are aimed to ensure the nuclear-free policy is not traded-off by the increased coal-burning and carbon emissions.

We then conclude by asking what are the difficulties and challenges involved in achieving the non-nuclear goal by 2025 in Taiwan. The first point is the obvious one that the government has been making its initial moves without the benefit of a thorough public airing of the issues. There is an immediate need for a full government-led inquiry into Taiwan’s energy future, where the options for moving beyond nuclear and fossil fuels can be discussed. One of the critical points in such an inquiry would be to draw on Taiwan’s own track record as a high technology fast follower, with an important role for the government industrial laboratories ITRI in this next phase of Taiwan’s industrial development.

Second, new greening programs also call for integration of policies across various government departments and agencies as well as NGOs. Energy administration has become fragmented, with various contributions from different administration authorities, such as the Councils of Agriculture, Interiors, Environmental Protection, and Ministry of Economic Affairs, working at cross-purposes. Third, funding arrangements need clarification. Investment strategies and fundraising mechanisms at the initial stage are not clear yet. Fourth, the compensation and negotiation mechanisms are not legally guaranteed. The lack of a secure legal framework threatens to increase the time and cost of negotiation activity with stakeholders (such as shifting land use arrangements).

We believe Taiwan could be an important player in renewable energy. For years it has been missing opportunities due to the focus on nuclear power and fossil fuels (which probably owed more to Taiwan’s geopolitical situation than to strictly energy-related concerns). But now the way is open to build the country’s generating capacity utilizing renewables whose impact can be increased by investment in smart grids. This would allow Taiwan to complement its manufacturing capacities in producing solar PV cells as well as (potentially) wind turbines and other renewable energy devices. This is truly a strategy grounded in “building energy security through manufacturing”.16 Taiwan has well-tested industrial development models involving the promotion of new industries through market stimulation and domestic technology leverage, and now is the time to apply these skills to the urgent needs of cleaning up its energy system and creating new pillar industries for the future.

Related articles

John A. Mathews, China’s Continuing Renewable Energy Revolution – latest trends in electric power generation
John Mathews and Hao Tan, The Revision of China’s Energy and Coal Consumption Data: A preliminary analysis
Andrew DeWit, Japan’s Bid to Become a World Leader in Renewable Energy
John Mathews and Hao Tan, A ‘Great Reversal’ in China? Coal continues to decline with enforcement of environmental laws
John A. Mathews and Hao Tan, The Greening of China’s Black Electric Power System? Insights from 2014 Data
John A. Mathews and Hao Tan, “China’s Continuing Renewable Energy Revolution: Global Implications”
John A. Mathews and Hao Tan, “Jousting with James Hansen: China building a renewables powerhouse”
John A. Mathews, The Asian Super Grid
Andrew DeWit, Japan’s Energy Policy at a Crossroads: A Renewable Energy Future?
Sun-Jin YUN, Myung-Rae Cho and David von Hippel, The Current Status of Green Growth in Korea: Energy and Urban Security
Mei-Chih Hu and Ching-Yan Wu, Concentrating Solar Power – China’s New Solar Frontier

References

Chang, C. S. 2016. Presentation to Taiwan Solar PV Forum, Academia Sinica, Taipei, 22 Feb 2016 (in Chinese).

Chang, C.T. and Lee, H.C. 2016. Taiwan’s renewable energy strategy and energy-intensive industrial policy, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 64: 456-465.

Higgins, O. and Foley, A. 2014. The evolution of offshore windpower in the United Kingdom, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 37: 599-612.

Lin, C.Y. 2016. Strategy for ‘nuclear-free homeland’ in Taiwan. Green Energy and Environment Research Laboratories, Industrial Technology Research Institute, Taiwan (in Chinese).

Lin, F.J., Chen, Y., Lu, S.Y. and Hsu, Y. 2016. The smart grid technology development strategy of Taiwan, Smart Grid and Renewable Energy, 7: 155-163.

Mathews, J.A., Hu, M.-C. and Wu, C.-Y. 2012. Fast-follower industrial dynamics: The case of Taiwan’s Solar PV industry, Industry and Innovation, 18 (2): 177-202.

Mathews, J.A. and Tan, H. 2014. Manufacture renewables to build energy security, Nature, 513 (11 Sep 2014): 166-168.

Wang, K.M. 2006. The deregulation of Taiwan electricity supply industry, Energy Policy 34 (16): 2509-2520.

Wu, C.-Y. and Mathews, J.A. 2014. Knowledge flows in the solar photovoltaic industry: Insights from patenting by Taiwan, Korea and China, Research Policy, 41: 524-540

Notes

Taiwan has three nuclear power sites in operation. A fourth nuclear power plant was completed in 2015, but it was mothballed as soon as the construction was finished due to social pressure for a ‘nuclear-free homeland’.
For our earlier articles on Taiwan and renewables, see Mathews, Hu and Wu (2012), and Wu and Mathews (2014).
A source of electricity is considered dispatchable if it can be turned on or off in order to meet changing demand.
In our article three years ago we endorsed concentrated solar power (CSP) systems, involving arrays of lenses and mirrors, but this option did not prove to be a strong contender in Taiwan where industrial strategy is focused on the already well-established and promising solar PV sector. For an overview of recent developments by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, see Pat Gao, ‘A sustainable vision’, July 1 2016, Taiwan Today.
In 2015, the production value of solar PV cells in TW reached NT$170 billion. The goal for NT $200 billion for PV and other renewables is set for 2016.
Some optimistic solar companies such as TSEC investigated the available lands across Taiwan and proposed the goal for 40 GW grounded solar power plants (with 30 years depreciation) by 2030 (Taiwan’s solar PV Forum, 2016).
The data were released by TSEC at Taiwan’s Solar PV Forum held by the Academia Sinica, Taipei, on the 22nd February 2016.
There are 371 landfill sites across Taiwan; 67 sites are under operation and 250 sites are in ecological restoration
See ‘Taipei to turn former landfill into solar plant’Taipei Times, July 31 2016.
10 According to the database investigated by the British marine consultancy, 4C Offshore Company, for the global wind farms, Taiwan Strait secures 16 best sites out of the 18 world’s best wind farm sites.
11 See the report on the website of Climate Bonds Initiative.
12 See the Bloomberg story ‘Chailease Plans Solar-Backed Bonds on Taiwan Clean Power Push’, August 24 2016.
13 See ‘DPP states hope to phase out nuclear power by 2025’The China Post, Jan 24 2015.
14 See Taipei Times.
15 See the description at the IEEE webpage.
16 This phrase was used by Mathews and Tan in the article published in 2014 in Nature.

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A group of ex-U.S. intelligence officials is warning President Obama to defuse growing tensions with Russia over Syria by reining in the demonization of President Putin and asserting White House civilian control over the Pentagon.

ALERT MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

SUBJECT: PREVENTING STILL WORSE IN SYRIA

We write to alert you, as we did President George W. Bush, six weeks before the attack on Iraq, that the consequences of limiting your circle of advisers to a small, relatively inexperienced coterie with a dubious record for wisdom can prove disastrous.* Our concern this time regards Syria.

We are hoping that your President’s Daily Brief tomorrow will give appropriate attention to Saturday’s warning by Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova: “If the US launches a direct aggression against Damascus and the Syrian Army, it would cause a terrible, tectonic shift not only in the country, but in the entire region.”

Speaking on Russian TV, she warned of those whose “logic is ‘why do we need diplomacy’ … when there is power … and methods of resolving a problem by power. We already know this logic; there is nothing new about it. It usually ends with one thing – full-scale war.”

We are also hoping that this is not the first you have heard of this – no doubt officially approved – statement. If on Sundays you rely on the “mainstream” press, you may well have missed it. In the Washington Post, an abridged report of Zakharova’s remarks (nothing about “full-scale war”) was buried in the last paragraph of an 11-paragraph article titled “Hospital in Aleppo is hit again by bombs.” Sunday’s New York Times totally ignored the Foreign Ministry spokesperson’s statements.

In our view, it would be a huge mistake to allow your national security advisers to follow the example of the Post and Times in minimizing the importance of Zakharova’s remarks.

Events over the past several weeks have led Russian officials to distrust Secretary of State John Kerry. Indeed, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who parses his words carefully, has publicly expressed that distrust. Some Russian officials suspect that Kerry has been playing a double game; others believe that, however much he may strive for progress through diplomacy, he cannot deliver on his commitments because the Pentagon undercuts him every time. We believe that this lack of trust is a challenge that must be overcome and that, at this point, only you can accomplish this.

It should not be attributed to paranoia on the Russians’ part that they suspect the Sept. 17 U.S. and Australian air attacks on Syrian army troops that killed 62 and wounded 100 was no “mistake,” but rather a deliberate attempt to scuttle the partial cease-fire Kerry and Lavrov had agreed on – with your approval and that of President Putin – that took effect just five days earlier.

In public remarks bordering on the insubordinate, senior Pentagon officials showed unusually open skepticism regarding key aspects of the Kerry-Lavrov deal. We can assume that what Lavrov has told his boss in private is close to his uncharacteristically blunt words on Russian NTV on Sept. 26:

“My good friend John Kerry … is under fierce criticism from the US military machine. Despite the fact that, as always, [they] made assurances that the US Commander in Chief, President Barack Obama, supported him in his contacts with Russia (he confirmed that during his meeting with President Vladimir Putin), apparently the military does not really listen to the Commander in Chief.”

Lavrov’s words are not mere rhetoric. He also criticized JCS Chairman Joseph Dunford for telling Congress that he opposed sharing intelligence with Russia, “after the agreements concluded on direct orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama stipulated that they would share intelligence. … It is difficult to work with such partners. …”

Policy differences between the White House and the Pentagon are rarely as openly expressed as they are now over policy on Syria. We suggest you get hold of a new book to be released this week titled The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War by master historian H. W. Brands. It includes testimony, earlier redacted, that sheds light on why President Truman dismissed WWII hero Gen. Douglas MacArthur from command of U.N. forces in Korea in April 1951. One early reviewer notes that “Brands’s narrative makes us wonder about challenges of military versus civilian leadership we still face today.” You may find this new book more relevant at this point in time than the Team of Rivals.

The door to further negotiations remains ajar. In recent days, officials of the Russian foreign and defense ministries, as well as President Putin’s spokesman, have carefully avoided shutting that door, and we find it a good sign that Secretary Kerry has been on the phone with Foreign Minister Lavrov. And the Russians have also emphasized Moscow’s continued willingness to honor previous agreements on Syria.

In the Kremlin’s view, Russia has far more skin in the game than the U.S. does. Thousands of Russian dissident terrorists have found their way to Syria, where they obtain weapons, funding, and practical experience in waging violent insurgency. There is understandable worry on Moscow’s part over the threat they will pose when they come back home. In addition, President Putin can be assumed to be under the same kind of pressure you face from the military to order it to try to clean out the mess in Syria “once and for all,” regardless how dim the prospects for a military solution are for either side in Syria.

We are aware that many in Congress and the “mainstream” media are now calling on you to up the ante and respond – overtly or covertly or both – with more violence in Syria. Shades of the “Washington Playbook,” about which you spoke derisively in interviews with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg earlier this year. We take some encouragement in your acknowledgment to Goldberg that the “playbook” can be “a trap that can lead to bad decisions” – not to mention doing “stupid stuff.”

Goldberg wrote that you felt the Pentagon had “jammed” you on the troop surge for Afghanistan seven years ago and that the same thing almost happened three years ago on Syria, before President Putin persuaded Syria to surrender its chemical weapons for destruction. It seems that the kind of approach that worked then should be tried now, as well – particularly if you are starting to feel jammed once again.

Incidentally, it would be helpful toward that end if you had one of your staffers tell the “mainstream” media to tone down it puerile, nasty – and for the most part unjustified and certainly unhelpful – personal vilification of President Putin.

Renewing direct dialogue with President Putin might well offer the best chance to ensure an end, finally, to unwanted “jamming.” We believe John Kerry is correct in emphasizing how frightfully complicated the disarray in Syria is amid the various vying interests and factions. At the same time, he has already done much of the necessary spadework and has found Lavrov for the most part, a helpful partner.

Still, in view of lingering Russian – and not only Russian – skepticism regarding the strength of your support for your secretary of state, we believe that discussions at the highest level would be the best way to prevent hotheads on either side from risking the kind of armed confrontation that nobody should want.

Therefore, we strongly recommend that you invite President Putin to meet with you in a mutually convenient place, in order to try to sort things out and prevent still worse for the people of Syria.

In the wake of the carnage of World War II, Winston Churchill made an observation that is equally applicable to our 21st Century: “To jaw, jaw, jaw, is better than to war, war, war.”

* In a Memorandum to President Bush criticizing Colin Powell’s address to the UN earlier on February 5, 2003, VIPS ended with these words: “After watching Secretary Powell today, we are convinced that you would be well served if you widened the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)

Fred Costello, Former Russian Linguist, USAF

Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator

Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)

Larry C. Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)

John Kiriakou, former CIA counterterrorism officer and former senior investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Edward Loomis, NSA, Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East, CIA (ret.)

Todd Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Coleen Rowley, Division Counsel & Special Agent, FBI (ret.)

Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA, (ret.)

Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer

Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat

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Dear Global Research Readers,

The US has been waging war with its allies in Syria and Iraq for a while now. Yemen has also become a battle field, where war for democracy is being waged by… monarchies. Mahdi Nazemroaya highlights the irony of the situation:

The House of Saud and a military coalition that consists mostly of anachronistic monarchies are claiming to bomb Yemen as a means of saving the Yemenite people and their transition to democracy. The irony should not be lost on observers that recognize that the Saudi-led coalition — consisting of the Kingdom of Morocco, UAE, Kuwait, Kingdom of Bahrain, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Qatar, Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia itself — is comprised of an unhealthy mixture of backward family dictatorships and corrupt governments that essentially are the antithesis of democracy.” (The War on Yemen: Where Oil and Geopolitics Mix)

Will there now be war with Russia?

Whenever Russia, China or North Korea conduct military exercises, the mainstream media presents them as a threat to peace. What we are never told, however, is that the U.S. and its NATO allies are holding this kind of exercise almost on a daily basis around the globe, but mostly on Russia’s doorstep. You can see for yourself the extent to which NATO is preparing for war against Russia through selections of articles compiled by Rick Rozoff like US-NATO “Defensive” Military Initiatives and War Games Threaten Russia and Preparing for War with Russia? NATO War Games “Joint Warrior” in Scotland: 13,000 Troops, 54 Warships, 70 Planes, Submarines.

In this context, it is worth recalling the adoption by the U.S. Congress of an important legislation back in December 2014.

The adoption of a major piece of legislation by the US House of Representatives on December 4th (H. Res. 758)  would provide (pending a vote in the Senate) a de facto green light to the US president and commander in chief to initiate –without congressional approval– a process of military confrontation with Russia.

Global security is at stake. This historic vote –which potentially could affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people Worldwide– has received virtually no media coverage. A total media blackout prevails.  (Michel Chossudovsky, America is on a “Hot War Footing”: House Legislation Paves the Way for War with Russia?)

Global Research works to give readers critical coverage of such issues and much more.

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The elites believe they are privileged because they are convinced they are the smartest, most creative, most talented and hardest working. They cap this grotesque narcissism with a facade of goodness and virtue. They turn their elitism into a morality play. — Thomas Frank (paraphrased by Chris Hedges)

The powerful establishment interests vested in the continuation of the status quo and, therefore, the election of Hillary Clinton, have created a campaign narrative that tends to stereotype and stigmatize the white working class as racist, sexist and xenophobic. This was most colorfully expressed recently by Clinton herself when in an unguarded moment before her wealthy donors in Manhattan she stated that half of all Trump supporters consisted of a “basket of deplorables.” Those backing Trump, she continued, were “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it.”

Implicit in this narrative is that support for Donald Trump is driven largely by innate, primordial prejudices and personal characters; and that economics or class issues have nothing or very little to do with his ascendance. Accordingly, the narrative maintains that to the extent that economic conditions of the white working Americans have steadily deteriorated in recent years they have no one to blame but themselves: their laziness, their lack of drive, their moral failures, their sense of entitlement, and the like.

Commenting on this narrative, Conner Kilpatrick of the Jacobin magazine writes, “Somehow liberal pundits have gotten it into their heads that white workers . . .  are just an aggrieved, pissed off, outnumbered minority” [1].

The narrative is propagated by both Republican and Democratic elites and operatives. For example, Anthony DiMaggio, a purported liberal political scientist supporter of Hillary Clinton at Lehigh University writes, “Hillary Clinton caught a lot of flak for referring to half of Trump Supporters as ‘the deplorables.’ She was being far too generous. Public opinion surveys over the last year or so suggest that the white supremacist contingent of Trump voters is even larger.” DiMaggio further writes, “The ascendance of Donald Trump tells us much about the quality of American character – particularly about our enduring and toxic legacy of hate, ignorance, bigotry, and white-supremacy” [2].

Likewise, Jonathan Chait, another liberal intellectual, writes:

“Then there are the voters, whose behavior provided the largest surprise. . . . As low as my estimation of the intelligence of the Republican electorate may be, I did not think enough of them would be dumb enough to buy his [Trump’s] act. And, yes, I do believe that to watch Donald Trump and see a qualified and plausible president, you probably have some kind of mental shortcoming. . . . His appeal operates not at a low intellectual level but at a sub-intellectual level” [3].

Conservative elitists are even more indignant of Trump supporters. Writing in the avowedly conservative National Review magazine, Kevin Williamson writes:

“It is immoral because it perpetuates a lie: that the white working class that finds itself attracted to Trump has been victimized by outside forces. It hasn’t…  Nothing happened to them. There wasn’t some awful disaster. There wasn’t a war or a famine or a plague or a foreign occupation. Even the economic changes of the past few decades do very little to explain the dysfunction and negligence — and the incomprehensible malice — of poor white America. …  The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. . . . The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul” [4].

Williamson’s colleague and conservative co-thinker David French (also writing in the National Review) similarly explains how some poor white people he had known were utterly lazy, irresponsible and obnoxious:

“If they couldn’t find a job in a few days—or perhaps even as little as a few hours—they’d stop looking. If they got angry at teachers or coaches, they’d drop out of school. If they fought with their wife, they had sex with a neighbor. And always — always — there was a sense of entitlement” [5].

These kinds of statements, disparaging and dismissing the white working class, are the name of the game for the establishment elites and courtiers. The problem with this line of argument is that it is not just vulgar and elitist, it is also untrue. The considerable support that the white wage-earning voters in States such as West Virginia and Indiana gave the self-described socialist Bernie Sanders showed that they do, indeed, vote for a progressive populist agenda (more on this later). Their substantial support for Sanders revealed that many Trump voters do not necessaritly subscribe to his bigoted and demagogic agenda, but that they are so disgusted with the status quo that they nonetheless vote for him, largely as an act of revenge or protest. They seem to be instinctively cognizant of the fact that “Trump is the Symptom, Clinton is the Disease,” as Roger Harris put it.

Are Trump’s Supporters Driven by Racism and Xenophobia? 

In a real sense, the juxtaposition between economic and non-economic factors in the rise of Trump is a false dichotomy: both evidence and logic point to the fact that high levels of unemployment and economic hardship are breeding grounds for the escalation of racism and xenophobia.

It was no accident that the classic European fascism rose in conjunction with the harrowing economic conditions of the Great Depression. Nor is it altogether fortuitous that fascistic manifestations have become rampant in many core capitalist countries that are grappling with the ongoing financial turbulence that was set off by the 2008 financial implosion in the U.S., and has since spread to many other countries.

This is not to say that racist or xenophobic sentiments are always or altogether precipitated by economic factors. It is rather to point out that to the extent that there exist such prejudices they tend to remain largely latent during periods of high employment and economic prosperity. Many Trump supporters have economic difficulties that they misguidedly view through the prism of racism and xenophobia. Certainly, xenophobic rhetoric has played an important role in the rise of Donald Trump but, as Daniel Denvir of the Salon magazine put it, “it is the admixture of economic populism, however phony, that makes him so potent” [6].

The claim that Trump owes his electoral victory mainly to non-economic factors such as racism and xenophobia lust much of its credibility when Bernie Sanders won handily against Hillary Clinton in States such as Indiana and West Virginia. According to this claim, as a self-described socialist who advocated a multiracial, multicultural, inclusive and relatively equitable society, Sanders was not supposed to win in places like West Virginia, the whitest (93.7 percent) of all states. But there he was, winning big against Clinton among men, women, young, and old.

The outcome of such primaries, indicating that large numbers of white working Americans voted for Sanders was quite discomforting to the powerful interests vested in the status quo. Not surprisingly, the Clinton campaign (and the elitist courtiers of the establishment in general) became childishly creative: claiming that somehow West Virginia’s vote for a Jewish socialist Brooklyn native was prompted by racism!

“Instead of acknowledging the size and importance of this part of the electorate, Democratic Party elites have simply constructed a new narrative to suit their interests—a narrative that was on display after West Virginia. Following Sanders’s win, a significant chunk of the punditocracy came to the conclusion, mostly by abusing the hell out of exit polls, that a vote for the Jewish socialist was actually a vote for white supremacy. . . . After decades of being told white workers would never support socialism because they’re racist, we’re now told that they support the socialist candidate because they are racist. Yes, this is where liberals are in the year 2016” [7].

To downplay the role of the white working voters in Trump’s campaign, some proponents of the status quo have gone as far as arguing that Trump supporters are not actually working class because the median household income of his supporters is above the national median household income [8].

This is a highly misleading argument. Since black, Latino and other non-white workers/households are more marginalized economically, and still make significantly less than white people, the median income of Trump voters would, accordingly, show a higher figure than the median national income. Furthermore, better-off-than average does not necessarily translate into economic security. A snapshot or static picture of median income does not tell us much; more importantly, it is the trend or change in people’s economic conditions over time that matters most.

Median household income and wealth have drastically fallen in recent years. Wages have been stagnant, and in many cases fallen in real terms. At the same time, healthcare, childcare, higher education, housing, and retirement costs have escalated. A recent Pew Research Center survey shows that in 1971 about 61 percent of American households were categorized as middle class. Today, that number is barely 50% [9]. As a number of observers have pointed out, Trump support is highly correlated to areas where the death rates of middle-aged white people, fueled by opioid overdoses, are spiking [10].

Why Are the Establishment Elites so Eager to Reject Economic/Class Explanations? 

The establishment elites and corporate media pundits tend to stigmatize the white working Americans in order to sanitize the brutal neoliberal policies of austerity economics of the past four decades. The plan and the hope is that in so doing they can exonerate the policy-makers of the establishment—both Republican and Democratic—of the responsibility for the unsavory state of affairs that has given rise to Donald Trump. When racism and bigotry can be blamed capitalism is exonerated.

U.S. economic policy of the past 40 years or so has consisted of a steady escalation of neoliberal austerity economics while its foreign policy has consisted of a steady escalation of war and militarism. Neither Bill Clinton deviated from Ronald Reagan’s policies of supply-side economics at home and military aggressions abroad, nor has Barak Obama deviated from those of George W. Bush.

Indeed, masterfully masquerading as liberals, Bill Clinton and Barak Obama have proven to be much more effective engineers of demolishing the New Deal Economics, of substituting corporate welfare for public welfare, and of deregulating and strengthening the parasitic financial sector than their Republican counterparts. Likewise, using harebrained pretexts such as “humanitarian intervention” and/or “responsibility to protect,” Clinton and Obama have proven to be more successful architects of “regime change” in more countries than Reagan and Bush ever were.

This explains why the liberal elites of the Democratic Party (like their conservative counterparts in the Republican Party) are promoting the obfuscationist narrative that sidesteps the decades-long policies of neoliberalism and militarism, or the fundamental injustices of capitalism, and instead blame the rise of Donald Trump on “moral failures” or “personal characters” of the white working Americans. As Daniel Denvir points out, “If there is no economic context, and Trump’s supporters are just mired in primordial racism, then they are forever lost in the morass of right-wing politics . . . [and] progressives can forget about the angry white guys” [11].

Concluding Remarks 

Capitalism has always employed the age-old tactic of divide-and-rule to pit various strata of the working class against each other in order to keep them docile. This tactic has especially been used more effectively in the United States because as a country of immigrants it has always benefitted from the flow of successive waves of migrant workers who, due to the vulnerability of their circumstances, could easily be exploited more compared to the workers who had arrived before them.

Not only has U.S. capitalism handsomely benefitted from this perennial competition between successive generations of migrant workers, between the old and new migrants, but also elite politicians have often taken advantage of this competition for their own nefarious political and economic purposes. “Slave owners did this by getting laws passed that required white indentured servants and black slaves to be treated differently. Richard Nixon did it by employing the cynical ‘Southern strategy.’ Now Trump is following in this long tradition by pitting struggling white people against immigrants and Muslims” [12].

Hillary Clinton has employed a different tack in pitting the working people against each other: while Trump is guilty of peddling racism and xenophobia, she is guilty of touting moralities, identity politics and wedge issues. Feigning an artificial moral high ground, she (and other elites of the establishment) argues that the worsening of the economic conditions of the white working Americans is mainly the result of their own personal and/or moral failures: laziness, racism, sexism and xenophobia.

While often misplaced or misdirected, the white working Americans’ economic grievances are real. Hillary Clinton and the powerful by-partisan supporters of her campaign tend to dismiss this reality because acknowledging it would be tantamount to acknowledging their own guilt: the fact that their economic policies of the past four decades have been disastrous for working Americans.

Blaming white American workers (as Clinton does) or migrant workers (as Trump does) for the sins of neoliberal austerity economic policies of the past forty years or so represent a blatant effort on the part of the two presidential candidates to scapegoat the working class in order to sanitize the capitalist class. Despicable as these attempts at deflection and deception are, however, one cannot really blame Clinton or Trump for pursuing such self-serving policies of diversion and obfuscation in the service of their class, the reach and powerful.

The real blame goes, instead, to the bureaucratic labor/union leaders who have betrayed the working class by supporting the capitalist class, largely through their support for Hillary Clinton and, more generally, the Democratic Party. The combined number of voters for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump is much higher the number of voters for Hillary Clinton—perhaps 50% higher. This is an obvious indication that a clear majority of the American electorate are ready for radical changes; they prefer anti-establishmentarian candidates to the establishment candidate, even when one of the alternative candidates is a self-described socialist and the other is an avowed bigot.

This is also an indication that were the bureaucratic labor leaders really committed to the interests of the working class, and entered the election contests with their own candidates at both local and Federal levels, independent of the two corporate parties, such independent labor/grassroots candidates could win unimaginable victories in the interest of the overwhelming majority of the people, the so-called 99%.

Political lessons for the working class and other dispossessed masses are unmistakable: To challenge and (ultimately) change the status quo, the labor and other grassroots need to decisively break with the two-party system and the bureaucratic labor leaders. What is needed to reverse the weakening of labor and the declining living standards of the overwhelming majority of the people is a new type of labor organization, a new labor movement and new labor politics.

The new labor/grassroots politics would aim at exposing the lies and deceptions of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Champions of the new politics would explain that both migrant workers and white workers, which essentially means migrant workers of today and yesterday, are victims, first and foremost, of the woes and vagaries of the capitalist system—of neoliberalism and militarism.

They would further explain that the workers and other grassroots need to extricate themselves from the divisive setups of the fraudulent two-part system and, instead, forge an alliance that would safeguard their interests against the ills and injustices of neoliberal economics, and chart a political course that would, ultimately, supplant the crisis-prone and unjust capitalist system with a more humane civilization. Fighting against the ills of capitalism is crucial to labor and other social layers suffering from them. But it makes little sense to fight symptoms without challenging the system that produces them.

References 

[1] Burying the White Working Class.
[2] White Supremacist America: Trump and the “Return” of Right-Wing Hate Culture.
[3] Here’s the Real Reason Everybody Thought Trump Would Lose.
[4] Chaos in the Family, Chaos in the State: The White Working Class’s Dysfunction.
[5] Working-Class Whites Have Moral Responsibilities.
[6] An entire class of Americans misunderstood and rejected: Dismissing white workers is profoundly reactionary.
[7] Conner Kilpatrick, Burying the White Working Class.
[8] Nate Silver, The Mythology Of Trump’s ‘Working Class’ Support.
[9] America’s Shrinking Middle Class.
[10] Daniel Denvir, An entire class of Americans misunderstood and rejected: Dismissing white workers is profoundly reactionary.
[11] Class dismissed: Is the Trump campaign driven by racism or economics? The only possible answer is both.
[12] Holly Otterbein, A Visit to Trump Country

Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics (Drake University). He is the author of Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis (Routledge 2014), The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave–Macmillan 2007), and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). He is also a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

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Russian and Syrian warplanes have delivered massive air strikes on the joint terrorist forces in the province of Hama. Positions and manpower of the US-backed Ahrar al-Sham militant group, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Al-Nusra Front) and Jund al-Aqsa (recently designated by the US as a terrorist group) near Kafr Zita, Tal Abyad and Al-Sathiyat were hit. Local sources say that air raids resulted in destruction of high number of military equipment and ammunition belonging to the terrorist forces.

The air raids also helped the government forces to repel the terrorists’ advance on Al-Sathiyat. Various sources report that the pro-government forces lost from 8 to 15 fighters in these clashes.

US military strikes against the Syrian government is at the top of the agenda today at the White House, when top national security officials in the Obama administration are set to discuss options for the coalition in Syria, The Washington Post daily reported. The US officials are going to push forward so-called “limited military strikes” in order to, according to the official version, prevent violations of the cease-fire by the Assad government and disrupt his ability to continue committing war crimes against civilians in Aleppo and, for sure, to push it back to the negotiating table.

The options under consideration reportedly include bombing Syrian air force runways using cruise missiles and other long-range weapons fired from coalition planes and ships. The report says the idea is supported by the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. One proposed way to do so without a UN Security Council resolution would be to carry out the strikes covertly and without public acknowledgment.

This approach also explains the coalition’s actions against the Syrian army outside Deir Ezzor in September when over 60 pro-government fighters were killed and over 100 injured in air strikes lately called an accident by US officials. Now, there are little doubts that it was likely an intended move to damage the government forces fighting with ISIS in the area.

The same threat forces Moscow to deploy an additional battery of the air defense system S-300 to the Russian Navy’s logistic facility in Tartus. The information was confirmed by Defense Ministry spokesman. Igor Konashenkov said the system will provide protection for the facility and Russian ships off Syria’s shores. Nonetheless, it’s clear that it will also strengthen the Russian air defense shield over the government-controlled areas of Syria.

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Not since the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq has Official Washington’s political/punditry class clamored more single-mindedly – and openly – for the U.S. government to commit a gross violation of international law, now urging a major military assault on the government of Syria while also escalating tensions with nuclear-armed Russia.

And, like the frenzied war fever of 2002-2003, today’s lawless consensus is operating on a mix of selective, dubious and false information – while excluding from the public debate voices that might dare challenge the prevailing “group think.” It’s as if nothing was learned from the previous disaster in Iraq.

For Americans who may find those two points hard to believe, they should remember that the United States and Saudi Arabia went in 50/50 with billions of dollars to finance the jihadist mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s, viewing these religious fanatics as a useful “tip of the spear” to kill Soviet troops who were defending the leftist secular regime then governing in Kabul.Most notably, there are two key facts about Syria that Americans are not being told: one, U.S. regional “allies” have been funding and arming radical jihadist groups, including Al Qaeda terrorists, there almost since the conflict began in 2011 and, two, the claim about “moderate” Syrian rebels is a fraud; the “moderates” have served essentially as a P.R. cut-out for the U.S. and its “allies” to supply Al Qaeda and its allies with sophisticated weapons while pretending not to.

That exercise in U.S.-Saudi realpolitik gave birth to the modern jihadist movement, bringing together a network of foreign jihadists, led by Saudi Arabia’s Osama bin Laden (which morphed into Al Qaeda), with Afghan/Pakistani extremists who evolved into the Taliban.

Though U.S. officials eventually came to fear this Frankenstein monster that they had helped create, Saudi intelligence continued to work with Al Qaeda and its affiliates, using them as a kind of international paramilitary force to punish Saudi enemies, particularly Shiite-dominated governments, from Iran to Syria to now Iraq.

The Saudis also began collaborating with Israel, which shared Riyadh’s view that Iran and the “Shiite crescent” represented a strategic threat. Between Saudi money and Israeli political clout, the two countries could fend off occasional fits of U.S. anger, even to the point of getting the U.S. government to hide a 29-page chapter about Saudi financing for the 9/11 hijackers from the congressional 9/11 report for a dozen years.

For the past five years, the principal target of this powerful coalition has been Syria, with President Obama occasionally joining in – as he did in authorizing “covert” CIA and Pentagon programs to arm “moderate” rebels – and occasionally bowing out – as he did in resisting pressure to bomb the Syrian military after a mysterious sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013.

In summer 2014, when Al Qaeda’s spin-off, the Islamic State, began beheading Western hostages, Obama authorized bombing inside Syria but only against the Islamic State, which also had overrun large sections of Iraq and threatened the Shiite-dominated regime in Baghdad. (Obama’s bombing inside Syria was not authorized by the Syrian government so it was illegal under international law but Syria didn’t press the point as long as the U.S. coalition was attacking forces regarded as terrorists.)

New U.S. Hysteria

This more complex reality is completely missing in the new round of political/press hysteria in the United States. The neocons and their liberal-hawk sidekicks only talk about stopping the “barbarism” of the Syrian government and its Russian allies as they try to finally wipe out Al Qaeda’s jihadists and their “moderate” allies holed up in eastern Aleppo.

New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman.

This new “group think” has prevented Americans from looking at the Syrian situation with more nuance and objectivity. Indeed, if you mix in some of the other facts, the on-the-ground reality could be seen as the U.S. and its “allies” stoking the fire in Syria for five years and, now, as the Syrian military and Russian air power take drastic measures to finally get the blaze under some control, the U.S. government may bomb the firefighters and destroy their equipment.Many of these calls for a U.S. military intervention against the Syrian government (and the Russians) are coming from the same advocates for war who created the misguided consensus for invading Iraq in 2002-2003, voices such as Sen. John McCain, Washington Post editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt, and New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman. And, much like the Iraq example, these esteemed opinion-leaders pile up their propaganda arguments in a one-sided fashion designed to silence the few voices that dare raise doubts.

Beyond the illegality of that action, how the U.S. military intervention is supposed to fix things in Syria is never discussed. By strengthening Al Qaeda and its “moderate” front men, the prospects for a longer and bloodier conflict are increased, not decreased.

The long-held neocon dream of a Syrian “regime change” – even if it could be accomplished – would only open the gates of Damascus to a victory by Al Qaeda and/or its spinoff, the Islamic State. How that would make life better for the Syrian people is another never addressed question. There is simply the pretense that somehow, magically, the “moderate” rebels would prevail, though they are only an auxiliary to Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise.

The “group think” also doesn’t permit in the inconvenient truth that the recent collapse of the U.S.-Russia limited cease-fire was driven by the fact that the “moderate” rebels are so intertwined with Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front – which recently underwent a cosmetic name change to the Levant (or Syria) Conquest Front – that the rebels can’t or won’t separate themselves.

The New York Times, The Washington Post and other mainstream news outlets have sought to bury this reality because it doesn’t fit the preferred narrative of the U.S. fulfilling its commitments under the partial cease-fire agreement and blaming its collapse entirely on the Russians and their dastardly behavior.

One outlier in this propaganda barrage, ironically, has been Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, which published a serious article on this key topic on Sept. 29. It said, “Some of Syria’s largest rebel factions are doubling down on their alliance with an al Qaeda-linked group, despite a U.S. warning to split from the extremists or risk being targeted in airstrikes.

“The rebel gambit is complicating American counterterrorism efforts in the country at a time the U.S. is contemplating cooperation with Russia to fight extremist groups. It comes after a U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire collapsed last week and the Syrian regime and its Russian allies immediately unleashed a devastating offensive against rebel-held parts of Aleppo city that brought harsh international condemnation. …

“The two powers have been considering jointly targeting Islamic State and the Syria Conquest Front — formerly known as the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front — a group that is deeply intermingled with armed opposition groups of all stripes across Syria’s battlefields. The U.S. has also threatened to attack any rebels providing front-line support to the group. …

“Some rebel groups already aligned with Syria Conquest Front responded by renewing their alliance. But others, such as Nour al-Din al-Zinki, a former Central Intelligence Agency-backed group and one of the largest factions in Aleppo, said in recent days that they were joining a broader alliance that is dominated by the Front. A second, smaller rebel group also joined that alliance, which is known as Jaish al-Fateh and includes another major Islamist rebel force, Ahrar al-Sham. …

“In a call with Mr. Kerry on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Syrian rebels ‘refused to follow the U.S.-Russian agreement…but instead merged with [Nusra Front].’”

Misleading the American People

So, isn’t that point relevant to understanding what is occurring in eastern Aleppo, an area essentially under the control of Al Qaeda terrorists? As horrible as war is, there is more than a whiff of hypocrisy when politicians and pundits, who cheered the U.S. Marines’ destruction of Fallujah during the Iraq occupation and who support driving the Islamic State out of the Iraqi city of Mosul, wax indignantly in outrage when the Syrian military seeks to remove Al Qaeda terrorists from one of its own cities.

At the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, President George W. Bush ordered the U.S. military to conduct a devastating aerial assault on Baghdad, known as “shock and awe.”

For instance, Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, who repeatedly wrote as flat fact that Iraq was hiding WMDs, is still today the editorial page editor of The Washington Post, urging a new U.S. war on Syria. The Times’ Friedman, who was infamously wrong about the Iraq War and pretty much everything else, is still considered a premier American columnist who is courted to make high-profile public appearances.There is also the issue of why writers who helped mislead the American people and the world into the catastrophe of the Iraq War were never held accountable and are now in position to whip up more war fever over Syria, Ukraine and Russia. Far from being held accountable, the propagandists who justified the criminal invasion of Iraq have been rewarded with plum assignments and golden careers.

Now, Friedman wants to escalate tensions with nuclear-armed Russia, apparently with the sloppily thought-through mission of imposing another “regime change,” this time in Moscow. As unnerving as a nuclear showdown with Russia should be, Friedman starts his Wednesday column by fabricating a news item about a leak that supposedly revealed that Putin “owns $30 billion in property, hotels and factories across Russia and Europe, all disguised by front organizations and accounting charades.”

After going on for several paragraphs with his fake “news,” Friedman admits that “I made it up.” Ha-ha, so clever! Then, however, he cites what he claims is real news about Russia, including the dubious prosecutorial “report” blaming the Russians for the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shoot-down on July 17, 2014. That “report” – actually a series of videos – had serious evidentiary gapslogical problems and obvious bias, since it was driven largely by Ukraine’s notorious SBU intelligence service which the United Nations has accused of covering up torture.

But to Friedman, the allegations blaming Russia for the shoot-down were unassailable. He writes, “a Dutch-led investigation adduced irrefutable video evidence that Putin’s government not only trucked in the missile system used to shoot down a Malaysia Airlines plane flying over Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 civilians onboard, but also returned it to Russia the same night and then engaged in an elaborate cover-up.”

It might be noted that some of that “irrefutable video evidence” came in the form of computer-generated images of an alleged Russian Buk missile battery traveling down darkened Ukrainian roads, very persuasive scenes, much like Secretary of State Colin Powell showing computer-generated images of Iraq’s “mobile chemical weapons labs” in 2003, labs that didn’t exist.

It also might be remembered that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was also accused of mounting “an elaborate cover-up” of his WMD stockpiles, that also didn’t exist. The point being that slick presentations, which rely mostly on assertions and allude to untested evidence, aren’t always accurate. Skepticism is not only a sign of journalistic professionalism but is necessary to avoid horrible misjudgments, especially on questions of war and peace.

Blaming Russia for Everything

But Friedman just plunges ahead, also asserting that on Sept. 19, Russia bombed a U.N. relief convoy heading for Aleppo. In this case, Friedman cites U.S. intelligence officials who say that “almost certainly” Russia did it, although I had been told that some CIA analysts feared the attack was launched by Al Qaeda’s chief Syrian ally, Ahrar al-Sham, using a U.S.-made TOW missile. The United Nations also withdrew its initial assertion that the attack was an airstrike (although Friedman leaves that fact out, too).

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 problem with propagandists like Friedman is that they ignore the illegal actions of the United States, including mounting military attacks on countries without United Nations’ authority or without the justification of self-defense, in other words, outside the realm of international law. It’s also illegal to supply weapons to terrorists, as has been occurring in Syria both directly by Saudi Arabia and other U.S. “allies” and indirectly by U.S. covert operations giving arms to “moderates” who then turn them over to Al Qaeda.This is not to say that the Russians are innocent in these terrible incidents. Further evidence might convincingly prove that they are guilty – and, if they are, accountability should be assessed as appropriate. Horrible errors happen in war, such as the U.S. airstrike that killed some 62 Syrian soldiers in eastern Syria on Sept. 17 as they were fighting off an attack by Islamic State militants.

While putting on blinders regarding U.S. violations of international law and their human consequences, such as the Syrian refugee flow, the sanctimonious Friedman bizarrely blames Putin for this human suffering, too.

Friedman cites a scholar named Robert Litwak in claiming that “Putin’s departure from standard great-power competition — encouraging a flood of refugees and attacking the legitimacy of our political system — ‘is leading to shifts in global politics that could have revolutionary consequences, even if Putin is not motivated by revolutionary ideology.’”

Friedman’s solution to this highly questionable if not imaginary problem is to increase the pain on Putin and Russia, saying “it’s now clear that we have underestimated the pressure needed to produce effective engagement, and we’re going to have to step it up. This is not just about the politics of Syria and Ukraine anymore. It’s now also about America, Europe, basic civilized norms and the integrity of our democratic institutions.”

While it’s always tempting to dismiss Friedman as a nitwit, the sad reality is that he is an influential nitwit who helps shape “elite” American public opinion. He is now contributing to a new “group think” that is even more dangerous than the one he helped construct in 2002-2003 regarding the Iraq War.

Today, this new “group think,” which — like the Iraq one — is based on a false or selective reading of the facts, could lead to a nuclear war that could end life on the planet.

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Do We Really Want Nuclear War with Russia?” and “Obama Warned to Defuse Tensions with Russia.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

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Washington Leads The World To War

October 6th, 2016 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

What must the world think watching the US presidential campaign? Over time US political campaigns have become more unreal and less related to voters’ concerns, but the current one is so unreal as to be absurd.

The offshoring of American jobs by global corporations and the deregulation of the US financial system have resulted in American economic failure. One might think that this would be an issue in a presidential campaign.

The neoconservative ideology of US world hegemony is driving the US and its vassals into conflict with Russia and China. The risks of nuclear war are higher than at any previous time in history. One might think that this also would be an issue in a presidential campaign.

Instead, the issues are Trump’s legal use of tax laws and his non-hostile attitude toward President Putin of Russia.

One might think that the issue would be Hillary’s extremely hostile attitude toward Putin (“the new Hitler”), which promises conflict with a major nuclear power.

As for benefitting from tax laws, Pat Buchanan pointed out that Hillary used to her benefit a loss almost as large as Trump’s and during the Arkansas years Hillary even took a tax deduction for itemized pieces of used clothing donated to a charity, including $2 for one of Bill’s used underpants.

The vice presidential “debate” revealed that the Democratic Party’s candidate is so ignorant that he thinks Putin, who is democratically elected and has enormous public support, is a dictator.

Here is what we know about the two presidential candidates. Hillary has a long list of scandals from Whitewater and Vince Foster to Benghazi and violation of national security protocols. She is bought-and-paid-for by the oligarchs on Wall Street, in the mega-banks, and in the military-security complex as well as by foreign interests. The proof is the Clinton’s $120 million personal fortune and the $1,600 million in their foundation. Goldman Sachs did not pay Hillary $675,000 for three 20-minute speeches for the wisdom they contained.

What we know about Trump is that the oligarchic establishment cannot stand him and has ordered the Ministry of Propaganda, a.k.a., the US media, to destroy him.

Clearly, Hillary is the candidate of the One Percent, and Trump is the candidate for the rest of us.

Unfortunately, about half of the 99 percent is too dumb to know this.

Moreover, if Trump were to end up in the White House, it doesn’t mean he could prevail over the oligarchy.

The oligarchy is entrenched in Washington with control over economic and foreign policy positions, think tanks and other lobbyists, and the media.

The people control nothing.

What does the world think when they see Donald Trump damned because he doesn’t want war with Russia or the American economy moved offshore?

Where in American politics do Washington’s European, British, Canadian, Australian, and Japanese vassals see leadership worthy of their sacrifice of sovereignty and independent foreign policy? Where do they even see a modicum of intelligence?

Why does the world look to the most stupid, vile, arrogant, corrupt and murderous government on the planet for leadership?

War is the only destination to which Washington can lead.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts’ latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the WestHow America Was Lost, and The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.
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Top Washington Officials, the Clinton Campaign, and main stream media (including The Washington Post and New York Times) have thrown their full support behind Al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria, in an effort to not have the last terrorist strong hold of East Aleppo be liberated by the internationally recognized Syrian government.

The WaPo is talking about Russian war crimes. Talk about a parallel universe. Russia, the country that has been invited legally under international law, is being accused of war crimes because it is fighting to liberate Aleppo from Al Qaeda and ISIS control…while the uninvited (in Syria illegally) United States, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey fight to keep Al Qaeda alive.

Unfortunately this is the America, that for al intensive purposes, has crossed the rubicon, fallen off the wagon, and has entered into an evil alliance with jihadists terrorists…the very same terrorists who attacked the US in 2001.

If only, everyday Americans could know that their government are now interlocked, brothers in arms, with Al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria, in an effort to wipe out a secular and stable middle east government, and hand over the keys of the country to Wahhabi, Saudi sponsored, butchers.

The reality of what America has become is hard to stomach. News coming in that top Washington officials are discussing striking positions of the Syrian military without a UN Security Council resolution is the real war crime.

The war hawks are working out a plan to bomb air force runways in Syria, with missiles fired from US and US-coalition planes and ships.

One administration official who is to take part in the discussions told the war ready Washington Post…

“One proposed way to get around the White House’s objection to striking the Assad regime without a UN Security Council resolution would be to carry out the strikes covertly and without public acknowledgment.”

The CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represented in the Deputies Committee meeting by Vice Chairman Gen. Paul Selva, are now pressing for more “kinetic” options.

“There’s an increased mood in support of kinetic actions against the regime. The CIA and the Joint Staff have said that the fall of Aleppo would undermine America’s counterterrorism goals in Syria.”

“Kinetic” options is US double speak for illegal war.

The “fall of Aleppo”…how about the liberation of Aleppo.

Is Aleppo not a city belonging to Syria, and does Syria’s internationally recognized government not have the right to remove Al Qaeda terrorists from inhabiting the city?

The “fall of Aleppo” double speak for the fall of Al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria. The “fall” of the Saudi and Qatari pipeline dream. The “fall” of America’s evil and destructive regime change operation.

It is now up to Obama. We can only hope the “hope and change” president still has some good left in him. The WaPo reports (much to the paper’s disappointment) that…

–“there’s still great skepticism, however, that the White House will approve military action. Other administration officials told The Post this week that Obama is no more willing to commit U.S. military force inside Syria than he was previously and that each of the military options being discussed have negative risks or consequences.

The National Security Council’s senior coordinator for the Middle East, Rob Malley, and the president’s special envoy to the coalition for the fight against the Islamic State, Brett McGurk, are also said to be against any military escalation against the Assad regime, officials said. There’s no consensus on what options should be sent to the president’s desk. Other options include increased weapons for some Syrian rebel groups and an increase in the quality of such weapons, to allow rebels to defend Aleppo’s civilians.”

Not happy with the prospect that sanity and logic will prevail in Syria, the Washington Post is still pushing for conflict, as the US drums of war beat ever louder.

The WaPo continues to demonise the legitimate government of Assad, and the invited military campaign of Russia…in an all out media blitz to prop up Al Qaeda, and keep Aleppo under the occupation of jihadist terrorists.

U.S. military strikes against the Assad regime will be back on the table Wednesday at the White House, when top national security officials in the Obama administration are set to discuss options for the way forward in Syria. But there’s little prospect President Obama will ultimately approve them.

Inside the national security agencies, meetings have been going on for weeks to consider new options to recommend to the president to address the ongoing crisis in Aleppo, where Syrian and Russian aircraft continue to perpetrate the deadliest bombing campaign the city has seen since the five-year-old civil war began. A meeting of the Principals Committee, which includes Cabinet-level officials, is scheduled for Wednesday. A meeting of the National Security Council, which could include the president, could come as early as this weekend.

Last Wednesday, at a Deputies Committee meeting at the White House, officials from the State Department, the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed limited military strikes against the regime as a means of forcing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to pay a cost for his violations of the cease-fire, disrupt his ability to continue committing war crimes against civilians in Aleppo, and raise the pressure on the regime to come back to the negotiating table in a serious way.

The options under consideration, which remain classified, include bombing Syrian air force runways using cruise missiles and other long-range weapons fired from coalition planes and ships, an administration official who is part of the discussions told me. One proposed way to get around the White House’s long-standing objection to striking the Assad regime without a U.N. Security Council resolution would be to carry out the strikes covertly and without public acknowledgment, the official said.

If Obama does not approve greater support for the Syrian rebels or increased coalition pressure on the Assad regime, the only option left is to wait out the siege of Aleppo and reengage the Russians if and when Aleppo falls, albeit in a weaker position.

Former State Department Syria official Frederic Hof wrote Monday that any policy going forward that hinges on the assumption that Russia is looking for a near-term diplomatic solution in Syria is destined for failure.

“Whatever excuses the administration offers for leaving Syrians defenseless against mass murder, the continued search for common ground with Vladimir Putin should not be one of them,” he wrote. “If nothing else, John Kerry’s exhaustive diplomatic due diligence should retire that illusion permanently.”

Kerry’s deputy, Antony Blinken, testified last week that the U.S. leverage in Russia comes from the notion that Russia will eventually become weary of the cost of its military intervention in Syria. “The leverage is the consequences for Russia of being stuck in a quagmire that is going to have a number of profoundly negative effects,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The argument against more U.S. military intervention in Syria, including strikes against the regime, is based on risks that should be taken seriously but that are ultimately hypothetical. The effects of continuing the current policy are not hypothetical. They include more of what we are seeing now: Russia and the Assad regime committing war crimes against civilians with impunity and destroying Syria’s largest city.

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There won’t be a direct US military intervention against Assad under Obama. Obama turned back from plunging the US into what was clearly going to be an unpopular adventure after the false flag Ghouta chemical attack in 2013. He certainly isn’t going to roll the dice at the height of election season and with the Democratic candidate just barely edging out the Republican Trump.

Moreover, we’ve now learned that this time around even Secretary of State John Kerry — who was one of the main proponents of bombing in 2013 — is against it. The Washington Post:

This time around, Kerry has not favored using U.S. military force against the Assad regime, two administration officials said. He now prefers continued diplomacy with Russia, even in the face of what he says is Moscow’s willingness to “turn a blind eye” to, if not participate directly, in war crimes in Aleppo.

But just so you don’t think this means there are now fewer utter morons running around DC; since renewed brainstorming on Syria begun in the Obama administration last week the Joint Chiefs of Staff have joined the CIA in backing the US entering the Syrian civil war on the side of the Islamist rebels:

The CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represented in the Deputies Committee meeting by Vice Chairman Gen. Paul Selva, expressed support for such “kinetic” options, the official said. That marked an increase of support for striking Assad compared with the last time such options were considered.

Even these clowns understand this would be blatantly illegal, but not to worry, they have a solution for it:

The options under consideration, which remain classified, include bombing Syrian air force runways using cruise missiles and other long-range weapons fired from coalition planes and ships, an administration official who is part of the discussions told me.

One proposed way to get around the White House’s long-standing objection to striking the Assad regime without a U.N. Security Council resolution would be to carry out the strikes covertly and without public acknowledgment, the official said.

This proposal — raining down cruise missiles without taking responsibility for them — happens to be the exact same hare-brained scheme Kerry was banding about in 2013, and even he has since grown out of it.

Funny how the US on the one hand is talking up its bombs as a fitting instruments of its virtuous foreign policy but on the other hand would actually be reluctant to carry out this virtuous bombing out in the open. If the campaign is a virtuous one why the apparent shame?

And just so you know, the reason why Assad has to be bombed is counter-terrorism:

“There’s an increased mood in support of kinetic actions against the regime,” one senior administration official said.

“The CIA and the Joint Staff have said that the fall of Aleppo would undermine America’s counterterrorism goals in Syria.”

That’s right. Should the jihadis allied and intermingled with al-Qaeda be driven from Syria’s Aleppo city this will set back “America’s counterterrorism goals in Syria”. For America’s “counter-terrorism” goals in Syria to keep a strong foundation terrorist sympathizers have to remain in control of half of Syria’s largest city. Somebody has read their Orwell well.

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On September 30, the World Socialist Web Site warned: “It is evident… that the question of whether an escalation of the US intervention in Syria can wait until after the US election of November 8 has become the subject of heated debate within the US ruling establishment.”

It has taken barely a week for this assessment to find decisive confirmation. It has been fully established that the Obama administration is holding precisely such a debate.

On Wednesday, the so-called Principals Committee, consisting of the secretaries of defense and state, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA director, as well as top presidential security aides, convened at the White House to consider proposals to attack Syrian government forces with cruise missiles as well as other acts of military aggression.

Both the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are reportedly in favor of such an escalation, which carries with it the real prospect of a direct armed confrontation between the US and Russia, the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

Reflecting the growing support within sections of the US establishment for a far wider war, key sections of the media, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, have weighed in on the side of those within the military and intelligence apparatus advocating a new eruption of American militarism.

Among the most explicit examples is an opinion column by John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, published in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal. McCain indicts the Syrian government and its ally, Russia, for having “slaughtered countless civilians” through “relentless, indiscriminate bombing.” This is being written by an individual who was one of the most enthusiastic proponents of the “shock and awe” war in Iraq that cost over 1 million Iraqi lives.

The Republican senator writes: “The US and its coalition partners must issue an ultimatum to [Syrian President] Assad–stop flying or lose your aircraft–and be prepared to follow through. If Russia continues its indiscriminate bombing, we should make clear that we will take steps to hold its aircraft at greater risk.”

McCain also calls for the creation of “safe zones” for Syrian civilians protected by the US military and “more robust military assistance” to the so-called “rebels.” He acknowledges that this strategy “will undoubtedly entail greater costs,” but provides no specific indication as to the nature of these costs or who will pay them. McCain does not even hint at the catastrophic global implications of a military confrontation between Washington and Moscow.

Similarly, in an editorial Wednesday, the Washington Post asserts that Washington’s policy has failed in Syria because the US has “refused to use military pressure against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.” The newspaper complains that the Obama administration’s failure to carry out a more direct military intervention in Syria has resulted in “the shrinking of US influence, to Russia’s gain,” and approvingly cites CIA and Pentagon proposals for cruise missile attacks and the provision of more sophisticated weaponry to the “rebels.”

Finally, the New York Times published a front-page lead article Wednesday warning that Russia was using the period between now and the January 2017 inauguration of the next US president as a “window of opportunity” to “move aggressively” in providing military support for the Syrian government. The article favorably reports proposals for US air strikes and goes on to cite unnamed US officials as arguing that Washington could turn Syria into a “quagmire” for Russia, “particularly if the Arab states that support the rebels supply them with antiaircraft weapons and Islamic terrorists decide to retaliate by attacking Russian cities.”

This passage echoes an earlier warning from the top US State Department spokesman that the response of Islamist forces to Russia’s military actions in Syria could “include attacks against Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities.”

The implications are unmistakable. Washington exerts overwhelming operational influence over the Islamist militias that have constituted the principal fighting force in the five-year-old, CIA-orchestrated war for regime change in Syria. Just as it directed them to attack the government in Damascus, it could order them to do the same in Moscow.

The article is supplemented by an opinion piece by Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman, who writes in his signature bully boy style, “Isn’t it time we give Putin a dose of his own medicine?”

While acknowledging that a military confrontation with Russia poses the direct threat of nuclear war, he declares, “But we also cannot just keep turning the other cheek” in regard to “Putin’s behavior in Syria and Ukraine.” He denounces Russia for “mercilessly bombing civilians in Aleppo” and twice charges Russian President Vladimir Putin with violating “basic civilized norms.”

Even from a columnist who has established the gold standard for cynicism and deceit, Friedman’s invocation of “basic civilized norms” leaves one somewhat slack-jawed.

There is not a single war of aggression launched by US imperialism for which he has failed to serve as a fanatical cheerleader. The same man who today laments the Russian bombing of east Aleppo in 1999 wrote in response to the US bombing of Serbia: “It should be lights out in Belgrade: every power grid, water pipe, bridge, road and war-related factory has to be targeted… [W]e will set your country back by pulverizing you.”

Less than four years later he played the same role in relation to Iraq, declaring before the 2003 invasion that he had no problem with “a war for oil,” and writing afterwards that the US had attacked Iraq “for one simple reason: because we could…”

Such are the civilized norms observed by the man from the Times .

Underlying the frenzied support for military escalation in Syria is the fact that the various terrorist organizations Washington has used as its proxy forces–including those directly affiliated to Al Qaeda–are on the verge of a complete debacle in Aleppo, threatening a strategic defeat in the five-and-a-half-year war to bring down Assad, an ally of Russia and Iran, and install a US puppet government in Damascus.

Such an outcome would represent a serious reversal for the policy pursued by US imperialism for the last quarter century, in the wake of the Moscow Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the Soviet Union. Washington saw this development as opening an unobstructed path to its pursuit of global hegemony. It adopted the policy of exploiting its military supremacy as a means of offsetting the decline in its global economic position.

The element of hysteria in response to Moscow’s actions in Syria stems from the fact that both Russia and China are beginning to frustrate this policy.

The media’s lurid claims of Russian aggression notwithstanding, there is no question that in Syria, as in Ukraine and the South China Sea, it is US imperialism that is the aggressor, provoking defensive reactions from both Russia and China. That, however, does not impart any progressive content to the policies being pursued by the Russian government. If Putin could get a deal with Washington that preserved the interests of both his government and those of US imperialism, he would sign it in a minute.

Unable to do so, and in the face of growing economic crisis and signs of social unrest at home, Putin has resorted to the promotion of Russian nationalism and an increasing reliance on the residual military power he inherited from the Soviet Union.

In the past few days, the Russian government has ordered the deployment of additional surface-to-air missile batteries to Syria and suspended an agreement with Washington for the destruction of weapons-grade plutonium. At the same time, pro-government Russian newspapers have warned of the threat a third world war and the government has launched a major civil defense exercise in preparation for just such an eventuality.

A policy of national defense by a regime that represents the interests of Russia’s capitalist oligarchy can only fuel the drive to world war. The masses of Russian working people confront the ultimate consequence of the Stalinist liquidation of the USSR in the form of a growing threat of nuclear holocaust.

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The only force that can prevent a new world war is the international working class, organized independently and mobilized in a struggle against capitalism, the source of war. This requires the building of an international socialist leadership, and there is no time to lose.

We urge all of our readers to attend the November 5 emergency conference in Detroit, “Socialism vs. Capitalism & War,” as a critical step in this fight. Visit the conference web site and register today!

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The US has attempted to direct attention away from the fact supposed “moderate rebels” it has been supporting are now openly aligned to designated foreign terrorist organizations including Al Qaeda, Jubhat Al Nusra, and the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (ISIS) by focusing instead on the alleged “humanitarian crisis” unfolding amid final operations to restore security to the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.

Syria Already Controls the Vast Majority of Aleppo

The operation however, headed by Syrian forces and supported by its allies including Russia, aims to bring the last remaining districts of  the city under government control. Already, the vast majority of Aleppo’s remaining 2 million residents live in government controlled territory, with less than a quarter of a million trapped in terrorist held sections of the city.

The Syrian Ambassador to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, during a recent interview reiterated the fact that not only do 1.75 million of Aleppo’s 2 million residents live in government controlled sections of the city, but militant groups held up in districts awaiting liberation are not even entirely made up of Syrians – but rather foreigners who have entered the country.

This entirely undermines the West’s narrative that Syria is undergoing a “civil war” rather than a foreign orchestrated invasion by proxy, and that security operations to secure Aleppo’s remaining districts represents somehow, an unprecedented “humanitarian disaster.”

And as the US-Russian brokered ceasefire collapses, Russia has cited the United States’ inability and unwillingness to clearly delineate between what Washington alleges are “moderate rebels” and designated terrorist organizations the US itself admits are operating alongside militants they are backing.

Reuters in an article titled, “Russia urges U.S. to deliver on promise to separate Syria’s moderates from ‘terrorists’,” would admit:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday to make good on U.S. pledges to separate Washington-oriented units of Syrian opposition from “terrorist groups”, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

In response, Washington has incoherently and dishonestly blamed Russia for what it calls the driving of moderates into the arms of terrorist organizations.

A BBC article titled, “Syria conflict: US says Russia driving rebels into extremists’ camp,” would claim that:

Russia’s increasing military action in Syria is forcing moderates within the opposition into the hands of extremists, the US has said.

However, in reality, a long-standing truth entirely negates America’s current rhetoric – so thoroughly that this reality lays the blame for the last five years of regional catastrophe entirely at Washington’s feet.

Washington’s War on Syria Began in 2007 Led by Policymakers, Not 2011 by “Protesters”

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in a now prophetic 2007 article titled, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?,” laid out years before the Syrian conflict began not only who and how the war would be triggered and then subsequently waged, but the very sort of humanitarian and sectarian catastrophe that would unfold, and how those the US claimed were “villains” would play a pivotal role in protecting religious and ethnic minorities across the region as it burned in foreign-fueled conflict.

The article began by stating explicitly (emphasis added):

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

This statement is underpinned by a further 9 pages of interviews with American, Lebanese, and Saudi intelligence sources, as well as revelations that monetary and political support was already being funneled at the time into Syria to lay the groundwork for the coming conflict.

The US Can’t Separate “Moderates” from Terrorists, Because There Are No Moderates 

The 2007 report clearly explains why the US cannot “separate” its alleged “moderate rebels” from Al Qaeda and its various affiliates – precisely because there were never any “moderate rebels” to begin with. In fact, it is clear now that the notion of “moderate rebels” was merely cover for the West’s intentional support provided to terrorists since  before the conflict even began.

Thus, it’s not that Syria and Russia are suddenly “driving rebels into the extremists’ camp,” it is instead that America’s attempts to cover up the fact that it has armed and supported extremists since as early as 2007 are no longer tenable.

Hersh’s article would also admit (emphasis added):

Nasr went on, “The Saudis have considerable financial means, and have deep relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis”—Sunni extremists who view Shiites as apostates. “The last time Iran was a threat, the Saudis were able to mobilize the worst kinds of Islamic radicals. Once you get them out of the box, you can’t put them back.”

He would continue by stating (emphasis added):

This time, the U.S. government consultant told me, Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that “they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”

Yet despite this realization, even back in 2007, the US continued in earnest, with the conspiracy transcending the Bush administration and being carried forward under US President Barack Obama’s administration.

Predicting the coming sectarian conflict that would unfold in the region, Hersh’s article would note:

Robert Baer, a former longtime C.I.A. agent in Lebanon, has been a severe critic of Hezbollah and has warned of its links to Iranian-sponsored terrorism. But now, he told me, “we’ve got Sunni Arabs preparing for cataclysmic conflict, and we will need somebody to protect the Christians in Lebanon. It used to be the French and the United States who would do it, and now it’s going to be Nasrallah and the Shiites.

Indeed, it was stated then, and evident now that Syria’s government, its military, and their allies constitute the only force capable of protecting the region’s many minorities from a US-Saudi backed horde of sectarian extremists.

Thus, even as the US feigns urgent concern for what it attempts to portray as an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Aleppo, it is itself guilty of intentionally engineering the entire conflict in the first place – knowing precisely the nature and degree of barbarity that would unfold and the extent to which it would reach. By attempting to shield its terrorist proxies remaining in Aleppo and throughout the rest of Syria, it is attempting to prolong, not end the humanitarian crisis, and tip Syria further toward what would be a catastrophic collapse making Libya’s recent US-induced division and destruction pale in comparison.

US spokespeople, before their various podiums and amid their various press conferences, are struggling to explain what the United States is doing in Syria and toward what end besides repeating the devastating destruction that it has unleashed in Libya, Yemen, Iraq, and Afghanistan. They struggle not because the “truth” is difficult to convey to the public, but because the truth is difficult to deny any further.

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

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“Five million Syrian people have already been forced to leave their country. Now they are being scattered all over the Middle East: throughout Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and Turkey. Some have even gone as far as Europe, Canada and Chile.

How much more can one country endure?

And how can the rest of the world just stand by and watch as it is put through hell?

The answer is obvious: the rest of the world does not know; it does not understand! The propaganda coming out of the Western mass media outlets and indoctrination-spreading institutions is so thorough, so professional, that to most of people all over the world everything related to Syria appears to be blurry, murky, and incredibly complex. President al-Assad is demonized on a daily basis. Heroic resistance is called the “regime’s brutal actions”, pro-western terror groups are described as “moderate opposition.”

This is what my good friend, Andre Vltchek, wrote in his recent piece about “Syria’s Heroic Fight Against Western Imperialism”. It is almost an understatement. Living in Europe, being exposed to the daily, hourly, horrifying barrage of abject lies, day-in-day-out, for weeks no end, is unbearable.

Europe, alias the West, has become infested with falsehoods, with thirst for profit and more gains and personal comfort, a hearth of egocentricity and disrespect for her brothers and sisters, let alone for the rest of the world – there is no equal on earth, other than the US of A, the Master of all Masters of crime and horror. Europe with its hundreds of years of colonization always was the chieftain of these ignoble attributes, but now, all scruples are gone; the veils are lifted. There is not even an iota of shame left.

Let’s face it, the six Anglo-American media giants that dominate the western world, can spend billions on propaganda. Money doesn’t matter. Money is made of thin air. Money for wars doesn’t matter either – it’s also made of thin air. It’s made by the dollar manufacturing machine, meaning the US private banking system. Today, 97% of all the money produced in the US is made by private banks in the form of debt, mostly by Wall Street. And the epitome of financial fraud throughout the globe is Goldman Sachs, the same GS that makes EU financial and monetary policy, through the European Central Bank which is headed by a former GS executive.

So the rest of the world, which is buying US debt as treasury bonds in their reserve coffers, is actually financing all the wars and the slandering of unbending nations, like Syria, Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela – and the list is growing every day, as people are resisting. Most of the propaganda is directed against the very nations that are held hostage by the western dollar-based casino scheme. To add a little caveat: It is all controlled by the Rothschild gang, in connivance with the Rockefellers and consortia of this world, as is the FED itself.

Syria’s fight is indeed heroic. She stands up tall and bold, while burying her hundreds of thousands of death, many of them women and children – the children who would be the future of Syria to rebuild their country. Now they are gone. They died miserable torturous deaths, by cluster bombs, phosphorous-laden missiles and poisonous sarin killer gas, provided to the terrorists by NATO, CIA and Mid-Eastern vassal allies. Others had to flee their homes, their country under the most horrible conditions of famine, disease, discrimination and violence. But the western MSM have brainwashed their public to believe it is the work of Bashar al-Assad, the legitimate President of Syria, who still enjoys close to 80% support of the Syrian population, with the help of Russia and, of course, as always, President Putin. It’s been said before but must be said again – we are in the midst of WWIII, but thanks to the number one diplomatic chess strategist, Vladimir Putin, we have so far been spared from a nuclear war.

Syria is not only fighting the most abhorrent weaponry the west invented to not just kill, but to cause tremendous suffering before death – and to cause for those who survive, generations of malformations and birth defects; generations of people who could not live normal lives, even if peace one day would return. Falluja in Iraq is just an example. Aleppo may become another such horrifying legacy, if not liberated soon by Syria’s and Russia’s armies.

When one sees the pictures of the war victims, or reality itself, the barbarism being committed in Syria and the Middle East, accompanied by the constant rumble of western lie-propaganda, day by day, there is no other option than to conclude that the west has ceased to be human. That process has started hundreds of years ago, by colonial exploitation, mass-murders, esclavisation, torture of literally the entire world by the West and its monotheist Judo-Christian religions. Just think of water-boarding and other diabolical forms of torturing, invented under the Catholic Kings of France and Spain, the infamous Inquisition that began in the 12th Century and lasted for almost 800 years. Its revolting torture methods were promptly taken over by our modern western special forces and secret services, like CIA, MI6, Mossad and all those who serve the empire – which itself is nothing more and nothing less than the descendant of inhuman European stock.

Syria is confronting an entire western culture (sic), dying indeed, but kept alive with an artificial heart, the nefarious dollar-making-machine, as long as feasible with the western pyramid or Ponzi monetary scheme. We, who see through this horror, have to stand up and scream it out to the people, to awaken them from their brainwashed state of zombie; to ignite in them the tiny spark of conscience that we were all born with. Will we succeed?

Make no mistake, Washington will never let go – not by itself, never. Their target is world hegemony – the goal of their self-indulging PNAC – Plan for a New American Century. And to attain this goal, the fall of Syria had been planned long in advance, in the early 1990’s. “Regime Change” is relentlessly being pursued – see Wesley Clark at the Commonwealth Club of California, October 3, 2007 – ‘7 countries have to fall in five years’

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

In addition to the balkanization of Syria, along with the spreading eternal chaos throughout the Middle East and North Africa, one of the key reasons why Mr. Assad has to go – is the infamous Qatari gas pipeline which the US oil giants want to pass through Syria and Turkey – and to which Mr. Assad said NO. He said ‘no’ in 2000; and a definite ‘no’ in 2007. That’s when the CIA started recruiting and training terror groups that would eventually erupt into another ‘Arab Spring’ in 2011 in Syria, to become what’s now euphemistically called a civil war – which is another outrageous lie. It’s a full-out war, driven by Washington with NATO and its European and Mid-Eastern vassal allies – and their foot soldiers and well-paid mercenaries, the western recruited and groomed terror armies. (See F. William Engdahl,  Global Research, March 16, 2016

This pipeline is meant to disrupt the Russian European gas market – and, most important – to keep the hegemony of the dollar. It would again justify printing trillions of new debt dollars, just to extend the reign of the dollar a bit longer. The alternative pipeline, Iran-Iraq-Syria to Europe would be complementary. It is favored by Iran, Russia and Syria; and covertly also by most future European clients, as they would be free from the yoke of the western dollar system. Russia, China and the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) alliance have freed themselves years ago from the rule of the dollar, using their own currencies for trade, including for trading hydrocarbons.

The only way to defeat the monster, is by pulling the rug from under its bloody boots – the monetary rug, that is. This is already gradually happening and may be happening much faster than we think. The ‘crisis’ artificially started by Washington in 2007 / 2008 – under orders of the cream of crop of the occult elite that pulls the strings on Obama, Merkel, May and Co., towards the One World Order – is never ending, as it is meant to prolong the supremacy of the dollar and its by-product, the euro, to the very Armageddon. But, We, The People, can stop it from reaching that horrifying end.

As long as the world is blind to this fact and pundits keep arguing about details of the ‘crisis’ and who is to blame for it (when the willing culprits are clearly those ‘invisible elitists’ who control the monetary system), or as long as politicians are afraid of the consequences of seeing the light, so long the hegemon will advance and encircle the world, like an octopus, gradually but steadily sucking up all its internal and external juices. It’s already happening.

Look at NATO aggressions at Moscow’s doorstep, the absurd and highly propagated US threats on Chinese sovereignty in the South China Sea, are clear signals, that there is no way in heaven that Washington will seriously negotiate for anything; not for a cease fire in Syria, not for reducing weapon-grade plutonium, not for a halt to fighting in the Ukraine Donbass – not for anything. Every attempt at diplomacy is an abject failure, as it is countered with verbal insults at the UN, with lies, accusations and denigrations in all western media. Syria is considered but a stepping stone towards Washington’s Full Spectrum World Dominance – the goal clearly spelled out in the PNAC.

But Syria is no stone, let alone a stepping stone. Syria is a solid rock. Syria has the world’s strongest alliance it could dream of – Russia, Iran and China. This Alliance of Peace will eventually triumph over the diabolical US-NATO-Brussels terror-alliance of destruction and killing.

Peter Koenig is an economist, and water resources and environmental specialist. He has worked for over 30 years with the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and the Swiss Development Cooperation, in Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, East and South East Asia and Latin America. Peter is also a geopolitical analyst for Global Research, Information Clearing House, RT, PressTV, Sputnik, TeleSUR and The 4th Media, China. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance

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Can the Left Survive a Trump Presidency?

October 5th, 2016 by Shamus Cooke

It’s easy to overestimate an adversary. Especially a billionaire who says scary, racist things.

The disbelief triggered by Donald Trump’s candidacy exposed a mass crisis of confidence in the establishment, whose policies alienated the electorate, creating a Trump-sized political void. Trump seems strong because the establishment is so weak, and hated.

Trump himself is a decades-old member of the establishment, but his entry into politics provoked vitriol from his former buddies. It’s an embarrassment to their rule that Trump is a contender to lead the country.

The ruling class has consequently unified behind Hillary Clinton: Republicans, billionaires and conservative military generals are flocking to her as they holler about Trump’s lack of credentials.

The establishment’s shallow anti-Trump rhetoric contrasts with the legitimate fears coming from vulnerable populations and the Left in general, which ring anti-Trump alarm bells for different reasons.

A Trump presidency does pose a direct threat to ethnic and religious minorities, to women, immigrants, labor, and basic democratic rights. These are all real concerns, but how large is the threat, and can the Left survive it?

A worst-case scenario was presented by Arun Gupta, an astute journalist and analyst whose recent article published by ‘In These Times’ was entitled “How a Trump Presidency Would Unleash a Torrent of Racist Violence – and Devastate the Left.”

It’s a good read. Gupta envisions President Trump using the full powers of the federal government — including the National Guard —  to stop protests, attack reproductive rights, attack unions and immigrants, and outlaw Black Lives Matter, while “White supremacists, Neo-Nazis, the Klan, and the Alt-Right would all be welcome into his administration, overtly or covertly…”

Many of Gupta’s points are obviously correct. And several of them would be correct in the context of any Republican president in 2016, especially after eight years of a Democratic president.

The bolder assertions of Gupta’s deserve closer scrutiny, including his assumption that “Black Lives Matter will be declared a domestic terrorist outfit” and “there will be no more climate justice movement,” etc.

Gupta’s stronger assertions rely on comparing a Donald Trump presidency to past fascist governments, which used state power combined with mass movements to physically destroy labor unions, leftist organizations, working-class movements while targeting ethnic and religious minorities.

A mass movement is a central component of fascism, which is used as a hammer to violently smash existing working-class organizations and movements. The classic example of this dynamic remains Nazi Germany.

Gupta characterizes Trump’s campaign — correctly — as a “proto fascist” movement, meaning embryonic fascism, which may or may not develop into a fetus, let alone a baby. Proto-fascism has the DNA necessary to develop into a fully developed fascist movement, but without organizational sustenance and ideal conditions, the embryo withers.

While Gupta is right to warn of the threat, he overstates its imminence. A Trump presidency would feed the fascistic fetus in some ways while likely poisoning it in others.

A comparison of Trump’s campaign to the Nazi movement is helpful to illustrate. German fascism was a genuine, organized mass movement, with the Nazi party becoming the biggest political party in Germany. The party also had a massive paramilitary wing, the “Brownshirts,” which at its height had three million well-organized troops.

When Hitler came into state power, he brought with him his personal army, a massive political party with its own distinct, powerful ideology.

Trump doesn’t even have his own party, let alone a real movement (an electoral campaign is not a movement). His ideas are rudimentary and inconsistent. Because of him the Republicans are deeply split. Trump joined the Republicans out of weakness, not strength, and weakened the Republicans in the process.

Regardless, Gupta is right to criticize the U.S. Left for believing the establishment will save them from Trump. The ruling class fears organized workers far more than their old friend Donald.

The establishment, however, doesn’t arbitrarily dabble with fascism; they use it only when necessary, since engaging with fascism causes political and economic disruption, making profits less predictable.

Historically, a large section of the establishment opens its arms to real fascism when they literally fear for their life. Fascism is the “nuclear option” for capitalists, who use the far-right ideology to prevent the Left from taking power, so that capitalism can be preserved, and with it the large profits for the wealthy.

When Germany’s capitalists invited Hitler into power, the country was in shambles. The establishment was led by President Hindenburg, whom the Left rallied around as the “lesser evil” to Hitler.  After winning the election, the lesser-evil Hindenburg acted as the establishment figurehead, by appointing Hitler to be Chancellor.

The German establishment needed Hitler to save capitalism, which was in imminent danger of being overthrown by the millions-strong and growing Socialist and Communist movements, led by mass organized parties.

The balance of power between the establishment and the working class was nearly even. Consequently, the establishment could not rule effectively. Protests were numerous, employers were under attack with strikes, and pro-capitalist reforms could not be implemented without risking insurrection.

Hitler and the German establishment were in total agreement that the Socialists, Communists and the trade union movement were too powerful, and had to be crushed. The first inhabitants of the concentration camps were leaders of the Left.

The situation in the U.S. is nowhere near 1930’s Germany. The U.S. establishment doesn’t yet need Brownshirts to save capitalism. Yes, widening inequality is an inherent and growing threat to U.S. capitalism, but a new Hitler isn’t yet required to smash the Left. This dynamic is ultimately what will prevent a President Trump from being too large a threat in the immediate future.

Yes, Gupta is right that white supremacists would be emboldened with a Trump victory, but they would likely experience a quick letdown, as Trump quickly gets incorporated into the Republican establishment. There is a reason he didn’t run as an independent or form a new party. His leverage within the Republican Party will be much less than Hitler’s leverage when entering office.

Behind the scenes Trump is already good friends with the establishment, whereas Hitler was an actual outsider who led and organized a real mass movement of the middle class, from scratch.

Trump’s followers will be completely let down by him in office, minus a smattering of racist policies plus the usual Republican program.

Gupta’s article also includes another big assumption about U.S. politics: that electing Republicans is bad for social movements and the Left in general. This was definitely true under President Reagan, but sometimes the opposite is true.

President Obama was in many ways awful for the Left: the anti-war and immigrant’s rights movements were decapitated. Both were powerful movements against Bush, and Obama continued Bush’s approach to wars and immigration, deporting more people than Bush and destroying Libya and Syria, matching Bush’s destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan.

If Trump becomes president, the various social movements — labor, peace, immigration, women, LGBT, Black Lives — will be given free reign to fight back by the Democrat-affiliated media and politicians, who will all discover the backbones they lost while Obama was in office. Good media examples are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who were brave pit bulls against Bush but toothless puppies under Obama.

In this sense, a Republican president can open space for the Left, even as they attempt to implement policies against it, while Democratic presidents shut off political space. Under Obama, protests were discouraged. Challenging politicians with bold demands was prohibited as the working class was told to defend Democrats from the right wing. Politics was stifled.

Obama’s policies are incredibly right-wing and few working-class “leaders” lifted a finger, creating a political void on the Left soon filled by the Chicago Teachers, Occupy, Black Lives Matter, Climate Justice, Native organizing, 15now, etc.

These are genuine movements to varying degrees, since they were either created by independent working class initiative or maintained by the energy of working class people, often despite a leadership who did little to nothing to support them.

Gupta envisions these movements being smashed by Trump. But a movement is sometimes harder to crush when it’s not well organized, especially when it’s in a fighting mood.

When the left was smashed in Germany, it’s precisely because they refused to fight, with Stalin famously relying on the German electoral system to eventually bring the Communists to power. Stalinists argued, “after Hitler, our turn.” This unwillingness to mobilize — as Leon Trotsky persistently denounced — allowed Hitler to brag that he came to power without “one single window-pane being broken.”

It’s possible that a President Trump might overplay his hand by taking the bold actions Gupta envisions. The backlash this could create is possibly just what the Left needs. The reason the establishment hasn’t already frontally assaulted the working class is precisely because these backlashes do happen, and create big political and economic disruptions.

For example, the Republican frontal-assault in Wisconsin led to massive demonstrations and nearly a general strike; the labor movement had every opportunity to win before they prematurely conceded. But it was the hundred thousand strong rallies that struck fear into the Wisconsin establishment and beyond.

The Obama administration created a different backlash when it escalated its assault on teachers unions via his “Race to the Top” program. In response the Chicago Teachers Union radicalized and spread a much more militant model of teacher unions that spread across the country.

It could be argued that the Occupy movement was itself a backlash against Obama’s economic policies.  Obama responded to Occupy by smashing it, using national coordination with the FBI (the lesson being that both parties utilize state power to stop left movements).

Another way social movements can defend themselves against Trump is the shifting societal attitudes that favor the Left, while Trump’s base are middle age or older and white. Young people prefer socialism to capitalism, Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The country is rapidly becoming more diverse, and thus less open to racism. Young people have overwhelmingly accepted homosexuality and are demanding action on climate change. Yes, these attitudes need to be organized, but they pose a potentially fatal blow to U.S. fascism.

Yes, there is a battle looming. Gupta is right to warn us of it. But Trump will not be the general to lead a real fascist movement. He is a buffoon who’s shown no zeal for organizing, and has no plan to build an independent political party, let alone a real movement.

As president he’ll be undermined worse than Obama was, or be completely forced to conform to Republican Party norms. His aptitude for politics ends with name-calling and race baiting, which are most effective for electoral campaigns, not governing.

It’s likely that Trump won’t be elected president; every debate reveals more shortcomings. After losing, he’ll return to TV and real estate, while a more suitable fascist leader waits in the wings.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at [email protected]

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At the end of a meeting of the Ministers for Defence of the European Union, the General Secretary of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, who had been «invited», gave a Press briefing [1].

He declared that he had been shocked by the battle of Aleppo, which he equated with the attack on a humanitarian convoy. He went on to qualify both events as «violations of international law».

However, the attack on the humanitarian convoy was perpetrated on the ground by the «Local Council of Aleppo» against the Syrian Red Crescent, while the battle of Aleppo is being fought by Syria and Russia in application of UNO resolutions calling for the struggle against terrorism. During the Aïd cease-fire, the «Local Council of Aleppo» considered themselves to be linked with organisations listed as terrorist by the UNO, and refused to stipulate the distinction.

Responding to a question from Reuters, Mr. Stoltenberg indicated that NATO would deploy AWACS to improve the Coalition’s view of the sky.

However, Syrian air-space is legally used only by Syria and Russia, and illegally by the Coalition and Israël. The rebel or terrorist armies have no air force. It seems that NATO intends to test the methods of aerial surveillance which still function despite the deployment of the Russian system for disconnecting the Alliance’s command and control.

Translation
Pete Kimberley

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U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing September 28 2016 – Spokesperson John Kirby

QUESTION: But what I don’t think we have heard here is, so what are the consequences for Russia if this agreement falls through beyond some interagency discussions about options that have not yet been chosen? What are the consequences for Russia other than Secretary Kerry won’t talk to them on this particular issue going forward?

MR KIRBY: The consequences are that the civil war will continue in Syria, that extremists and extremists groups will continue to exploit the vacuums that are there in Syria to expand their operations, which will include, no question, attacks against Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities, and Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags, and they will continue to lose resources – even, perhaps, more aircraft.

The Russian Federation interpreted that not as a prediction or warning, but as a direct threat.

Monument to defense of Sevastopol in the second world war 1941-1942

The ceasefire agreement fell through. The U.S. essentially blocked it by NOT pushing its proxy forces in Syria to follow its provisions. It blamed, as usual, the Russian side which had followed the ceasefire nearly to the letter.

Then this happened:

Al-Nusra Front Shells Russian Embassy in Damascus

The Russian embassy in Damascus was shelled from the areas controlled by al-Nusra Front and Faylaq al-Rahman militants, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.”The Russian diplomatic mission came under mortar shelling on October 3. One of the mines exploded on the embassy area near its residential department. Fortunately, no one was wounded. The diplomatic mission sustained material damage. Another two mines went off next to the embassy.” The Ministry said the shelling was conducted from the Jobar municipality controlled by al-Nusra Front and Faylaq al-Rahman terrorists. “We view this shelling of the Russian embassy as a consequence of actions of those who, like the US and its allies, provoke the violent conflict in Syria, flirting with militants and extremists of different sorts.

Russia has deployed a number of additional bombers to Syria. We do not yet know how many. But as soon as these are operational the “rebels” will face a significant larger amount of air attacks. A few weeks of intense attacks and their abilities, logistics and command and control will have been degrade to a point where they can no longer wage an organized fight.

Also deployed was a battery of S-300 air-defense systems. The specific type is said to be S-300VM, also known as Antey-2500. These are specially designed for defending against ballistic- and cruise missiles. The system will be stationed near Tartus harbor and will protect the Syrian east coast as well as the Russian fleet in the eastern Mediterranean. These also have good capabilities against attacking planes. A volley cruise missile attack by the U.S. against the Syrian and Russian airports and air forces in Syria, discussed in various U.S. papers as the start of a “no-fly zone” war, will be severely hampered by this.

Then there is this:

Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai#Damascus agreed & #Russia is ready to send several thousands of special forces & other various units officers this month to #Syria.

9:57 AM – 4 Oct 2016

The final decision for this was, I believe, made after the U.S. attack on  Syrian army positions in Deir Ezzor which opened the besieged city to the Islamic State. That, and the current U.S. bombing of bridges in Deir Ezzor, will allow for an isolated area in which the Islamic State can survive. Russia can and will not condone that.

The U.S. wants, for lack of better ideas, play hardball with Russia. But it does not want to go to war. Russia will go along with the hardball game. It makes sure that the U.S. understands that it will indeed have to fight a full fledged war with Russia and its allies if it wants to get its way in Syria. Further arming its al-Qaeda proxy-Jihadis, as Washington is currently doing, will not change that.

Russia will not give in to U.S. demands without a very severe fight. It bets that Obama, the members of his administration and the generals in the Pentagon are, in the end, pampered cowards. It has, in my estimate, a very high chance to win that bet.

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US-NATO’s War On Russia: The Winds Howl Before The Storm

October 5th, 2016 by Christopher Black

A few weeks ago I wrote, “I have been a defence lawyer most of my working life and am not used to gathering evidence for a prosecution, but circumstances impelled me to open a file for the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, or perhaps some future citizen’s tribunal, in which is contained the evidence that the NATO leaders are guilty of the gravest crime against mankind, the crime of aggression. I would like to share with you some brief notes of interest from that file, for your consideration.

Article 8bis of the Rome Statute, the governing statue of the International Criminal Court states:

For the purpose of this Statute, “crime of aggression” means the planning, preparation, initiation or execution, by a person in a position effectively to exercise control over or to direct the political or military action of a State, of an act of aggression which by its character, gravity and scale, constitutes a manifest violation of the Charter on the United Nations.

Since then I have written little partly due to other events in life that interfered with the ability to sit back, take in, and think about what was happening in the world, but principally because to choose to write about one particular crime committed by the west, meaning the United States of America, when faced with their multitude of crimes, celebrated in the western media under the bloody banners of patriotism, nationalism, chauvinism, and fascism, led to a type of paralysis; state of shock, is perhaps, a better phrase.

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Others must feel the same. Maybe most of us feel that way from time to time. What’s the point? Why say or write anything? They’re going to destroy us all anyway. It doesn’t matter what we say and besides, it’s all been said before. It was said in World War One. It was said in the Second. Now we’re entering, or probably already in the middle of the third-all those words of peace, and outrage and the result? The wars happened despite them.

John Lennon made our fundamental demand, “Give Peace A Chance,” and the CIA shot him in the back for it-one of the great crimes against the people-the murder one of our heroes-for when they shot him in the back they shot all of us in the back.

But this feeling fades, the numbness retreats, the blood begins to flow again, the Peter Finch cry from Paddy Chayefsky’s Network “I’m not going to take it anymore!’ comes screaming back and you stand up and say, “Damn right! I’m not going to take this anymore!”

So I have reopened the file I am preparing for the prosecutor of a future peoples’ tribunal or, a miracle, a really independent prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, to lay war crimes charges against the United States and its NATO and other allies, their leaders and military officers, for the crime of aggression and all the other crimes they commit on a daily basis against many different countries.

The new charges concern their involvement in the political coup carried out in Brazil against the socialist government there, elected by the people, essentially robbing the Brazilian people of their democracy and independence as a nation, their continued and dangerous provocations in Asia against China and North Korea, which they are directly threatening with nuclear annihilation by flying B1 and B2 bombers over the peninsula, ongoing provocations of NATO forces in the Baltic and the Balkans, all threatening Russia, and committing crimes against the peoples of the Donbas republics and now Crimea, that is, Russia itself. But the most dangerous of all is their invasion of Syria to protect and assist their ISIL or Daesh proxy forces. The presence of US, British, French, Canadian, Israeli and other forces in Syria is of course illegal and constitutes the crime of aggression. There are no excuses or justifications for the crime of aggression. Their aggression also constitutes a complete repudiation of the UN Charter, which requires all disputes to be settled peacefully, and forbids the use of force for any reason outside the parameters of the UN mandate.

The invasion of Syria by their direct forces and ISIS proxy forces under various names, and now it appears Turkish forces, has killed hundreds of thousands of people. While Syria, Russia, Iran and others try to find a peaceful conclusion to the war, the Americans and their gang, perpetually dishonest, talk cease-fire from one side of their face, as, from the other, they give orders to attack

The recent bombing of the Syrian positions near Deir es-Zor on September 17th everyone knows was a deliberate attack. The more so since we now have Britain and Denmark stating their planes were involved, as well as American. For all four nations’ pilots to make the same mistake when such a joint operation would have to be finely tuned is beyond far-fetched. The Syrians now claim they have radio intercepts of Daesh and the Americans coordinating the attack. This was a particularly cruel war crime since the Syrian soldiers who were killed were under the impression they were safe from any such attack, didn’t see it coming, a sneak attack, an ambush, by the world’s greatest cowards.

Then to cover that crime under moral indignation they accuse Russia and Syria of attacking an aid convoy that those two countries spent a lot of time and work organizing, then carried on their attack by insulting Russia in the Security Council using the type of vile language that shows their complete contempt for the Russian people.

Many think it’s because Samantha Power is a crazy bitch, which she is of course. Is that personality required for the job? No, but it helps because these gratuitous insults are not just a matter of personality and the personal psychopathy of the individual. This ugly behaviour serves a propaganda purpose and needs to be delivered with hatred and venom for maximum effect. Samantha Power is a natural. Her personality marches perfectly the needs of the regime she represents. Her displays are acted out deliberately and with the one purpose of showing the world that Russia is not worthy of credit or respect, that the Russian people and government are beneath contempt and therefore they are not really human beings. They are things that can be destroyed without feeling anything, for they are nothing. That is the message and anyone who fails to understand this fails to understand what the ultimate objective is-Russia’s complete subjection or war.

The quick response by the Syrian forces to the breaking of the ceasefire by the Americans and, if some reports are credible in Sputnik and Fars, that the 3 Russian, ship-launched missiles fired at Aleppo, hit a central command post manned by American, Israeli and other allied forces, killing 30 of them, then the world is already at war. The report of 11 Canadian soldiers being killed in the Donbas after attacking republican positions there on July 23, while not confirmed, has not been denied by the Canadian authorities in response to my query about the report.

The Americans seem hell bent on war and the up-coming elections in the US hold no hope for the future, only more despair. The Russians and the rest of the world are faced with Godzilla, the monster that threatened Japan in several science fiction films made in the 50’s. Those films were cleverly disguised political attacks on the United States and its destruction and occupation of Japan. America was the monster that was born in the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. It was the monster threatening to destroy everything in its path. Nothing could seem to stop Godzilla, except of course nuclear weapons. And this is where we are; the Russian government trying everything it can think of to avoid that catastrophe while the Americans keep pushing them and all of us, into a corner there is only one escape from.

So, I mark the file, add the new charges, build the criminal dossier; because one day there will be a reckoning with these people. One day, justice will prevail in this world. For as I wrote in a poem,

Once there was Enlightenment,

And Reason’s voice sang sweet,

Of Rights of Man, and truths we now lament,

Murdered with impunity, cut down on every street,

So now we must renew our song,

Our struggle take another form,

For the days run dark, the nights are long,

The winds howl before the storm.

Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto, he is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and he is known for a number of high-profile cases involving human rights and war crimes, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

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On October 2nd, Oleg Manuilo, the spokesperson for Russia’s Ministry for Emergencies (MCHS) announced that a large scale “civil defense” drill will take part in the next few days.

Over 40 million personnel from Russia’s regional and municipal authorities, as well as emergency and evacuation services will be involved.

“The drill will take place from the 4th to the 7th October 2016. As a total, over 40 million people will be involved, with 200,000 specialists from various rescue services, and over 50,000 equipment units will be put to the test.” – Manuilo said.

All federal and local authorities will take part in the drill. The evacuation practice is intended to test the current emergency and evacuation management plans, for efficiency and speediness.

“We will test our communications systems as well as the systemic medical and rescue services” – says Manuilo.

“Moreover, all civil defense units will be readied. In coordination with regional and municipal authorities, all emergency notification systems will be trialed.” These systems are only utilized in the event of a sudden threat.

As part of the drill, standard medical facilities and rescue services will be checked for their readiness and ability to offer assistance.

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Washington’s pursuit of hegemony has fallen short of its goal, causing havoc and collapse of states, Bashar Assad said in a new interview. Syria’s head believes that US meddling in the conflict aims to “save what is left” from its fading global preeminence.

In an interview to Iranian magazine Tehran Foreign Policy Studies Quarterly on Wednesday, the Syrian president argued that the US resort to force every time it fears a challenge to its clout and ability to control the international agenda unilaterally.

“United States builds its position on hegemony over other states and it has been the case since they took advantage of the USSR collapse and established unilateral control over this world up to this day,” the president said, adding that the real motive behind US military interventions into foreign countries is to coerce them to submit to American authority, as in the case with Syria.

“Today, the United States are waging wars with the only goal to cement its project of total control by launching attack on everyone, who opposes its dominance,” Assad said, noting that Washington “rejects” and “refuses to acknowledge” the nascent balance of powers in the world affairs and the rise of other states.

Assad believes that while Washington has been losing its grip, it cannot accept the fact it’s not being in charge of the global affairs, and tries to reaffirm, if not to strengthen, its positions in the world.

“What is happening in Syria is an attempt to save what is left from the American and western hegemony in the world,”Assad said.

According to the Syrian president, “the only one thing the Americans have succeeded is creating problems and destroying states, no more than that.”      

Washington spares no means to inflict losses on its ideological rivals, including “terrorism”, psychological and economical methods, Assad said. However, he thinks that a biased coverage of the conflict by mainstream media delivers one of the most significant blows.

“Here we are talking not only about the minds of the officials, but about the people, about the wrong analysis of what is happening and presenting things in a distorted way.” 

If Syria manages to withstand the pressure and uproot the terrorism from its soil, the victory will pave the way for “spread of ideas of independent development [in the world], that is what the West fears most of all,” Assad said, adding that “what will happen in Syria will affect the political map.” 

The Syrian president does not believe that that the US foreign policy may change its track in the foreseeable future, as wars are in the interest of American powerful lobby groups, in particular, arms and oil lobbies.

“There is no point in analyzing US politics on the basis of common sense, as it is guided by the factional interests,” Assad said.

Earlier, Moscow raised concerns about the possible impact of the US trying to ouster the Syrian president by means of a direct military aggression, with Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova warning it would lead to a “terrible, tectonic shift not only in the country, but in the entire region”.

For its part, Russia has been assisting Syrian government in the fight against terrorism at the request of Assad since September last year. Russia’s UN envoy and the current UN Security Council President Vitaly Churkin on Monday said he believes “had it not been for our [Russian] involvement in Syria, it might well be that the black flags would be flying over Damascus.”

The assertion that Russia has been the main contributor to the Syrian anti-terror campaign and did not let it slip into the hands of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants was rejected by Mark Toner, State Department’s spokesperson in a briefing on Tuesday. Washington has been downplaying Russia’s role in helping to put an end to the Syrian bloodshed, even claiming that its bombing campaigns have been largely targeting the opposition forces instead of IS.

Despite the breakdown of US-Russian cooperation on Syria, Washington indicated it is not going to inflame the standoff by striking Syrian government targets as it is concerned it would put Russian and US forces on the brink of military confrontation.

“The president [Barack Obama], as he thinks through those options, is going to think very carefully about the consequences of taking different actions,” White House spokesman John Earnest said on Tuesday.

US-led coalition carried out airstrike on Syrian government troops in Deir ez-Zoir on September 19, killing 62 servicemen and injuring over hundred. In the wake of the attack, President Assad announced the end of the latest US-Russia brokered ceasefire in Syria.

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The International Monetary Fund has revised down its estimates for the US and other advanced economies for this year while maintaining its forecast for global growth as a whole at the low level of 3.1 percent in its latest World Economic Outlook report released yesterday.

It said the major economies would grow by just 1.6 percent this year compared to 2.1 percent in 2015, down from the forecast of 1.8 percent growth made last July. The most significant decline in the US where the IMF cut its July forecast of 2.2 percent growth to just 1.6 percent following what it said was a “disappointing first half caused by weak business investment” and a rundown of inventories.

It said the euro area would expand 1.7 percent this year and 1.5 percent next year compared to 2 percent growth in 2015. Growth in Japan, the world’s third largest economy, would be only 0.5 percent this year and 0.6 percent in 2017. Growth in the UK economy is forecast to be 1.8 percent this year, falling to 1.1 percent in 2017, compared to growth to 2.2 percent in 2015.

Growth in the Chinese economy, the world’s second largest, is forecast to be 6.6 percent this year, falling to 6.2 percent in 2017, compared to growth of 6.9 percent in 2015.

Falling growth in the major economies is offset to some extent by growth in so-called emerging market and developing economies, which is forecast to rise for the first time in six years to 4.2 percent this year, up from the forecast of 4.1 percent in July, and then increase to 4.6 percent in 2017.

Summarising the outlook, the IMF’s economic counsellor Maurice Obstfeld said: “Taken as a whole, the world economy has moved sideways. Without determined policy action to support economic activity over the short and longer terms, sub-par growth at recent levels risks perpetuating itself through the negative economic and political forces it is unleashing.”

On the economic front those forces include the emergence of the “deflationary cycle” in which “weak demand and deflation reinforce each other” giving rise to a “deflationary trap” in which interest rates, already close to zero, cannot stimulate the economy,” according to the WEO.

An IMF discussion note, co-authored by Obstfeld and released on the eve of the report, warned that downside risks were high, confidence in a sustainable recovery low and, with interest rates at the lower bound, “a deflationary cloud threatens as weak growth looms.”

In his remarks on the WEO, Obstfeld pointed to the political impact of slow growth and rising inequality in the eight years since the global financial crisis of 2008. “The slow and incomplete recovery from crisis has been especially damaging in those countries where the distribution of income has been skewed sharply towards the highest earners leaving little room for those with lower incomes to advance,” he said.

The main factor in the growth of income and wealth inequality, above all in the advanced economies, has been the policies of “quantitative easing” by the world’s major central banks. With the full support of the IMF, they have pumped trillions of dollars into the financial system, enabling rampant speculation, parasitism and the accumulation of unprecedented wealth on the heights of society, while living standards and social conditions have been slashed through a combination of lower wages and cuts in social services.

According to Obstfeld, the consequence of this economic development was a “political movement that blames globalisation for all woes and seeks to wall off the economy from global trends rather than engage cooperatively with foreign nations. Brexit is only one example of this.” Protectionist trade measures have been on the rise across the world, he said.

However, to blame the rise of protectionist measures on a movement of resentment and hostility from below over rising social inequality is completely false. The drive toward protectionism is being organised from above as the governments and ruling classes of the major capitalist powers, confronted by a contracting world economy, take action against their rivals.

As the World Trade Organisation and other international trade bodies have noted, protectionist measures have significantly increased over the past two years, mainly as a result of actions initiated by the governments of the major countries. This has taken place despite repeated declarations at the G-20 summit meetings that the lessons of the 1930s, when such beggar-thy neighbour policies helped fuel the drive to war, have been learned.

The conflict over the $14 billion fine imposed by the US Department of Justice against Deutsche Bank was a political initiative aimed at weakening, if not completely crippling, Germany’s only significant international bank. This prompted claims from leading German politicians that the US was waging “economic warfare” against Germany and that the US had a “long tradition” of waging what amounted to trade war “if it benefits their own economy.”

The move on Deutsche Bank followed in the wake of the European Union decision to impose a €13 billion back tax claim on Apple, prompting strident denunciations from US business leaders, and the virtual scuttling of the US-backed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership by Germany and France.

The release of the WEO was preceded by a series of warnings from leading economic commentators about the direction of the global economy and its implications for world politics.

According to the Brookings Institution-Financial Times tracking index, growth rates for the world economy were “sliding back into the morass [they have] been stuck in for some time.”

Brookings Institution economist Eswar Prasad said most of the world could be described as having “weak investment, stagnant productivity and tepid private sector confidence.” With little prospect of a spontaneous recovery or any new stimulus “ a strong adverse feedback loop has been set in with low growth, fragile business and consumer confidence, low interest rates, trade tensions and political instability feeding into and reinforcing each other.”

Writing in the Financial Times, Mohamed El-Erian, the chief economic adviser to the financial firm Allianz, warned that the “new normal” of the past seven years was unsustainable. The consequences of low growth went far beyond today’s forgone economic opportunities because the longer they persist “the more they eat away at the potential for future growth” as investment plans are shelved.

“The ‘new normal’,” he concluded, “is coming to an end. The reason is simple: it has lasted for so long that it is now breeding the causes of its own destruction.”

Former chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia Stephen Roach, now a lecturer at Yale, took aim at the policies of the central banks. Their approach led to an “insidious connection” between monetary policies, financial markets and asset-dependent economies which had led to the meltdown of 2008-2009 and “could well sow the seeds of another crisis”

“Central bankers desperately want the public to believe they know what they are doing. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

The lack of response to zero interest rates was “strikingly reminiscent of the so-called ‘liquidity trap’ of the 1930s, when central banks were also ‘pushing on a string’.” But having depleted their traditional arsenal long ago, central bankers remained “myopically focused on devising new tools, rather than owning up to the destructive role their old tools played in sparking the crisis.”

The drawing of a parallel between present conditions and those of the 1930s is not misplaced. The stagnation in the world economy and the failure of the ruling elites to devise any measures to turn it around is fuelling the rise of geo-political tensions and conflicts, which, in turn, impact on the world economy. Coupled with the rise of militarism, these processes point inexorably in the direction of war.

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The United States blocked at the United Nations Security Council Russia’s statement on the shelling of its embassy in Damascus, Syria that took place on Monday, the representative of Russia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations told RIA Novosti.

“[The statement] was actually blocked by the US delegation, which tried to add extraneous elements in a standard in such cases text,” the permanent mission statement said.

“The British and Ukrainians clumsily played up to the Americans. It demonstrates their blatant disrespect for the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations,” the statement added.

On October 4, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported the shelling of the Russian embassy in Damascus on Monday. One of the mines exploded near a residential complex on the territory of the embassy but none of its staff was hurt.

According to the ministry statement, the embassy was shelled from the Jobar municipality controlled by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly known as al-Nusra Front) and Faylaq al-Rahman militant groups.

On October 3, US State Department announced in a press release that Washington was cutting off participation in bilateral channels with Russia on sustaining a ceasefire agreement in Syria, which was reached by the two countries in September.

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In the wake of breaking off bilateral talks with Moscow on efforts to achieve a truce and political settlement in Syria, the Obama administration is reportedly convening a meeting today to consider escalating US military intervention in the war-ravaged country.

The so-called Principals Committee, to be attended by the secretaries of state and defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA director, as well as top White House officials, is being convened amid an increasingly dangerous escalation of tensions between the US and Russia, the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the meeting would consider classified proposals that include “bombing Syrian air force runways using cruise missiles and other long-range weapons fired from coalition planes and ships, as well as other acts of military aggression.”

An unnamed administration official is quoted by the Post as reporting that, in order to placate White House concerns over launching such direct military attacks against another country without authorization from the United Nations Security Council, it has been proposed that the strikes be carried out “covertly and without public acknowledgment.”

According to the official cited by the Post, both the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have already “expressed support for such ‘kinetic’ options.” Another unnamed senior administration official told the Post that both the Pentagon and the CIA were backing such a military option because “the fall of Aleppo would undermine America’s counterterrorism goals in Syria.”

This is of course a propaganda pretext for the launching of another direct US military intervention in the Middle East. What the US military and intelligence apparatus really fears is that the Russian-backed Syrian government offensive to overrun eastern Aleppo will deprive the so-called “rebels,” who have been armed, funded and directly paid by the CIA and US regional allies—Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar—of their last stronghold in western Syria’s major population centers. This would spell a crushing reversal for the five-year-old war for regime change orchestrated by Washington.

The claim that this would “undermine America’s counterterrorism goals” only underscores the fraud of the US war on terror. The principal fighting force inside Aleppo is made up of the long-time Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda and allied Islamist militias.

While the Post article suggests that President Barack Obama will likely reject the proposal for military action, the combined pressure of the CIA and the military command may well force a shift in policy. A full meeting of the National Security Council, including the probable participation of Obama, is expected as early as next weekend, when a decision would likely be made.

At the same time, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced Tuesday that it is beefing up Russian air defense systems inside Syria, deploying an advanced S-300 surface-to-air missile battery to protect the Russian naval base in the Syrian port city of Tartus. Given that the Islamist “rebels” have no air force, such weapons systems are intended to raise the cost of any US strikes on Russian and Syrian government positions.

The breakdown of the Syrian ceasefire talks and the menacing military escalations by both sides are the product not merely of individual truce violations. On the US side, these were egregious, with the US-backed militias carrying out hundreds of attacks. Even more decisive was the September 17 US bombing of a Syrian government outpost near the town of Deir ez-Zor, which killed and wounded nearly 200 troops. While the Pentagon claimed this airstrike was an accident, Syria has charged that it was intentional. It served to blow up the ceasefire deal and prevent the implementation of a joint targeting and intelligence-sharing agreement with Russia that the US military command openly opposed.

Underlying the clashes over the ceasefire are the diametrically opposed aims pursued in Syria by US imperialism on the one hand and the Russian government of Vladimir Putin on the other. Washington is intervening in Syria not to fight terrorism or champion human rights, but to further its longstanding drive to assert unchallengeable US hegemony over the Middle East and its vast energy resources, and to deny access to both Russia and China. It is prepared to prolong the bloodshed as long as necessary to bring about regime change and prevent Russia from consolidating a government under current President Bashar al-Assad, or a successor that is amendable to Russian interests.

For its part, the Putin government sees Syria as part of a broader struggle against the US drive to militarily encircle Russia. It fears that a successful US regime-change operation in Syria would serve as a stepping stone toward direct intervention in Russia, including through the unleashing of CIA-funded Islamist fighters drawn from Russia’s Caucasus region. A US-backed client regime in Damascus could help funnel such separatist forces, already trained on the Syrian battlefield, back into Russia to serve as Western proxies in a campaign to destabilize and ultimately dismember the Russian Federation.

While there was a defensive element to Moscow’s intervention, in the final analysis it is directed at defending not the interests of the masses in either Russia or Syria, but rather those of the ruling oligarchy that seized its wealth and power in the criminal operations that accompanied the Stalinist bureaucracy’s restoration of capitalism and dissolution of the Soviet Union a quarter century ago. The methods being utilized in Syria, including in the bloody siege of Aleppo, reflect those class interests.

At the same time, the denunciation on the part of the US government of the loss of civilian life in the Russian-Syrian bombing of Aleppo is utterly hypocritical. After 15 years of waging aggressive war in the Middle East at the cost of over a million deaths and the destruction of entire societies, Washington is the last one to deliver lectures on “war crimes.”

Moreover, there is ample indication that the US military is itself preparing operations that will prove as bloody and punishing as the current siege of Aleppo. UN officials estimate that as many as a million people may be driven from their homes in a US-backed Iraqi offensive, expected as early as next month, against the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which is under the control of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS).

Washington’s NATO ally in the region, Turkey, has issued public warnings about the upcoming Mosul offensive. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim described US plans as “dangerous,” adding, “Our partners’ plans for the Mosul operation are not transparent.” Yildirim warned that the use of Shia and Kurdish militias to take the city would “lead to a new fire being stoked in the region.”

Friction between Ankara and Washington has mounted in relation to the US use of Syrian Kurdish separatist militias as their main proxy force in northern Syria. Turkey is determined to drive back the Kurdish forces and prevent them from consolidating an autonomous territory on Turkey’s border.

Prime Minister Yildirim vowed that Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield, which sent troops into Syria beginning at the end of August, would continue in order to drive back the US-backed Kurdish forces and carve out a 5,000-square-kilometer “safe zone” around El-Bab in the north of Syria.

Separately, another Turkish official, Defense Minister Fikri Isik, commented Wednesday that in the event of a major US-Russian confrontation in Syria, “Turkey always protects its own interests.”

Russian President Putin is scheduled to meet with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Turkey on October 10, the first such visit since Turkish warplanes shot down a Russian jet on the Turkish-Syrian border in November 2015.

Turkey’s tensions with Washington and pursuit of its own regional ambitions in Syria only serve to heighten the geopolitical tensions that could turn the Syrian war for regime change into a new world war.

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Set aside 2 minutes to read this and watch a 20 minute video. It will truly astonish you, no matter how cynical you may be when it comes to the so-called ‘war on terror’, Iraq, Syria and many other conflicts around the world.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was a British Ambassador. While Ambassador to Uzbekistan he accused the Karimov administration of human rights abuses, which he argued was a step against the wishes of the British government. Murray complained to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in November 2002, again in early 2003 and in June 2004 that intelligence linking the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to al-Qaeda was unreliable, immoral and illegal, as it was thought to have been obtained through torture. He described this as “selling our souls for dross”. He was subsequently removed from his ambassadorial post on 14 October 2004 by Tony Blair’s government.

The UK sent ground troops into Sierra Leone during a bitter civil war, yet has neglected to intervene in either Sudan or Zimbabwe, two countries of greater repression and suffering; and now Syria is left unaided despite the military support in Libya – British and American citizens are not privy to the truth.

Murray exposes the plan to build a gas pipeline over Afghanistan when George W Bush signed the construction deal whilst his father George H Bush was a member of the board of the pipeline construction company.In this video, Murray talks about how the same people turn out to be behind the same wars in very different parts of the world. In part, he talks about how the USA was in collusion with some of the most dreadful dictatorships in the world whilst the CIA were using them for ‘extraordinary rendition’ or torture programmes. The reasons for these alliances were that U.S. companies were monopolising the natural resources of entire countries. But there’s more to it than that.

Murray continues with his experience negotiating the peace talks in war-torn Sierra Leone which Britain subsequently invaded. He explains why ‘humanitarian’ military intervention is a lie and why diplomacy doesn’t work because of powerful individuals in the background with a different agenda.

What is startling about Murray’s revelations is that Tony Blair’s war in Sierra Leone was nothing to do with humanitarian intervention and everything to do with money, no matter what the consequences. This may not surprise you given what we now know about Blair. What might surprise you though is that Murray goes on to accuse individuals in senior government positions with the power to make decisions who were also board members of private companies set to benefit from those decisions. One individual in the U.S. State Dept who was supposedly negotiating a peace deal was also the chair of a resource company that had serious financial interests, where war benefited his company, whilst at the same time being the founding partner of another company that devised the extraordinary rendition or torture programme being conducted in that same country. Murray names the guilty.

There is another revelation in this short video that should utterly astound everyone about Tony Blair’s war in Sierra Leone. Murray makes the case that a senior member of Blair’s government, the Secretary of State for International Development at the time was also a member of the board of Sierra Leone’s only titanium mine.  Murray names and accuses this individual of refusing the resources (along with the American’s) to help make the Sierra Leone peace deal work, which culminated in Britain’s (what turned out to be a pre-planned) invasion and the subsequent deaths of countless thousands. Ironically, this person is today the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, is now a Life Peer, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council.

Murray finishes off with a few words about why peaceful resolution of conflicts around the world will not stop whilst western countries retain their current political and economic power structures. He suggests that a tiny number of evil people truly aspire to gain total domination of the world’s resources and are at the centre of much of the needless death and destruction across the planet.

Watch the video, it is truly breathtaking.

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Droning Julian Assange and Wikileaks: The Clinton Formula

October 5th, 2016 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

“We believe in what we are doing… If you are pushed you push back.”

Julian Assange

The mutterings have become furious, and it is clear that the Democratic contender for the White House has again shown how traditional her ploys towards power are going to be.  Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have again managed to pull the blinds off an episode of some consequence, not least because it casts insight into the inner workings of the already maligned Clintoncomplex.

For one, it shows that Hillary Clinton will not be averse to muddying the waters of international law she is so happy to proclaim against Russia, China and other contesting bug bears.  For another, it does not suggest that a Clinton administration is going to go soft on whistleblowers, or the secrecy complex.  The latter is richly ironic given the Secretary’s own slap dash attitude to secrecy protocols when heading the State Department.

The latest WikiLeaks related fuss began a few days ago with the publication on True Pundit that claimed, referring to “State Department Sources” that Clinton had queried the use of a drone to silence the growing nuisance of Assange before the document release that came to be known as Cablegate.[1]

The “early morning November meeting [in 2010] of State’s [the State Department] top brass” has Clinton posing the question: “Can’t we just drone this guy?” This was suggested by True Pundit as being a product of pure frustration, one increased in vain attempts to “cut off Assange’s delivery of the cables” and failing that, forging “a strategy to minimize the administration’s public embarrassment over the contents of the cables.”

Was such a blood thirsty query made in jest, the normalised, crude product of a culture already used to remotely directed extra-judicial assassinations?  The report claims otherwise. Initial, dismissive laughter from officials in the room “quickly died off” before the terse manner of the Secretary.  “Clinton said that Assange, after all, was a relatively soft target, ‘walking around’ freely and thumbing his nose without any fear of reprisals from the United States.”

Such casual talk about eliminating a designated enemy of theUnited States should be of little surprise.  Classified emails (yes, those emails) were of particular interest to the FBI in its own criminal investigation into Secretary Clinton’s butter fingered handling of classified information.

A number touched on the approval process for drone strikes, executed by the Central Intelligence Agency in Pakistan,Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan.  Only a few of these were ever rejected by Clinton.  Even more dire, many, notably those touching on attacks in Pakistan, found their way onto her personal email account.[2]

The retorts to these allegations have been far from convincing, having much the effect of flogging by damp lettuce.  (In a campaign featuring such characters as Clinton and Trump, these could never be any other way.)  Clinton’s campaign manager, Robbie Mook, began to see allies of Trump coming out of every cyber nook and cranny.

Donald Trump and his allies are trying to do everything they can to change the debate here right now. Donald Trump failed at the debate, he became increasingly unwound, was tweeting at 3 a.m., making wild accusations of his own against the former Miss Universe and against Hillary Clinton. [3]

For Mook, Trump’s arsenal, supplemented by assistance from his allies (these are not necessarily elaborated with any distinction), had to “find some way to change this up, and they’re trying to do that by doubling down on conspiracy theories.”

Having drawn a web around his own conspiracy theory of compliance, slotting WikiLeaks, by innuendo and suggestion, into a Trump universe, he had to contend with the direct allegations about the drone strike.  The lettuce started looking damper than ever. “I’m reticent to comment on anything that the WikiLeaks people have said. They’ve made a lot of accusations in the past.”

Many of these accusations have had the rather brutal semblance of truth to them, not to mention the previous spectacular of the DNC disclosures.  These did not reveal so much a conspiracy of theory, but of solid fact in efforts, ruthlessly contrived, to eliminate Bernie Sanders as a threat to the Clinton campaign.

WikiLeaks has been thrilling, horrifying and agitating its audiences with the top hits of disclosure over the ten years it has been in existence. On Tuesday, the organisation celebrated 10 years of an often heady existence, which comprised the release of over ten million classified documents.

It was fitting that this pearler, featuring such a recurring figure of notoriety as Hillary Clinton, should surface at this moment of commemoration.  Clinton’s campaign coven have been less than convincing in denying this point. This stands to reason, given that previous denials have tended to vanish before the onslaught of reality.

Like many previous WikiLeaks revelations, it will be up to voters, opinion makers, and the chattering classes to decide what this means.  In the case of Tunisia, these assisted the first disruptions that came to be known as the Arab Spring.  In the case of the United States, it may harden pre-existing sentiment, the sort fairly immune to any revelations, however grotesque.

A Trump in the White House sends shivers down the spine and turns the stomach of many a voter; but to have a Clinton there, redux of corruption, calamity and mistake, would also shock the sensible and enrage the conscionable.

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

 Notes

[1] http://truepundit.com/under-intense-pressure-to-silence-wikileaks-secretary-of-state-hillary-clinton-proposed-drone-strike-on-julian-assange/

[2] http://www.wsj.com/articles/clinton-emails-in-probe-dealt-with-planned-drone-strikes-1465509863

[3] http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/clinton-manager-reticent-to-comment-on-report-about-droning-assange/article/2603505

 

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As the Syrian Arab Army dug in for a fight against the self-declared Islamic State on September 17, they were struck by an air raid that killed 62 soldiers and injured 100 more. The culprit was a foreign military that has never been attacked by, and has not declared war on, Syria. Two weeks later, that same nation’s military killed 22 soldiers in a strike inside Somalia, another country which it had never been attacked by nor declared war on. The very next day the New York Times published a stinging editorial decrying flagrant violations of international law by an “outlaw nation.”

The Times, of course, was not referring to the perpetrator of both attacks: the United States government. Each act was a clear violation of Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter prohibiting the use of force against another nation and demanding respect for its sovereignty. But the “supreme international crime” of aggression did not merit mention in the Times, who saw something far more sinister than carrying out illegal massacres across countries and continents in the actions of “Vladimir Putin’s Outlaw State.”

Russia, according to the Times’ righteous defenders of international law, is guilty of violating “not only the rules intended to promote peace instead of conflict, but also common human decency.” The editorial board finds not only disregard for the law, but the absence of standard ethics accepted by civilized people and societies. It is a pretentious way of saying that Russia’s leaders are sociopathic, lacking the humanism and benevolence of Americans and their allies.

The cause for the Times’ outrage was the international report released last week that claims Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) was shot down and its 298 passengers and crew members killed by Ukranian rebels fighting the illegitimate government formed in the wake of the U.S.-backed coup in Kiev. The rebels in the Eastern part of Ukraine were resisting bombing and shelling in their towns and cities by fascist and neo-Nazi led militias representing a coup government which had, among other things, rescinded a language law extremely important to the mostly Russian speaking – and ethnically Russian – residents near Donbass.

The investigation claims the Buk surface-to-air missile responsible for blowing up the Malyasian passenger plane was supplied by Russia and subsequently returned to Russia. The headline in the Times was that the report “links” Russia to the deaths. It does not, however, find they participated in the attack or had any advanced knowledge of plans to kill civilians. The Times claims the report “uses strict standards of evidence and meticulously documents not only the deployment of the Russian missile system that caused the disaster but also Moscow’s continuing cover-up.” In reality, this claim could hardly be taken seriously.

RT, a news organization funded by the Russian government, notes that the report depends on unnamed witnesses, anonymous phone calls, and computer simulations. Radar data, perhaps the most reliable source of evidence, was absent from the report’s findings. The report claims U.S.-provided radar data supported its conclusion, but such data was not included as evidence. Russia provided its own data, which purportedly shows that no missile was detected in rebel-held areas.

The Times calls on the United States to pursue the “quest for accountability.” This is noticeably different than the editorial board’s tone in 1988 when the U.S. warship U.S.S. Vincennes stationed in Iranian waters shot down Iran Air Flight 655 inside Iranian airspace and killed 290 passengers and crew. In that case, there was no question the weapon belonged to the United States. Furthermore, there was no question the United States military itself blew the plane out of the sky and killed everyone on board. They admitted it. The Times called the incident a “terrible mistake” and a “blunder” committed amidst the “fog of war.” However, not everyone was so quick to accept the government’s rationalizations at face value and dismiss the incident with a shrug of the shoulders.

Colonel David R. Carlson of the U.S. Navy, who was aboard a different ship near the Vincennes at the time, revealed that he and his colleagues had nicknamed the Vincennes “Robo Cruiser” for its belligerent actions prior to incinerating a plane full of civilians. Carlson suggested that the Vincennes’ crew may have been seeking to battle test the new Aegis Combat System aboard the vessel.

Disputing that an attack on the Vincennes was inevitable, Carlson writes: “I don’t buy it… My guess was that the crew of the Vincennes felt a need to prove the viability of Aegis in the Persian Gulf, and that they hankered for an opportunity to show their stuff. This, I believe, was the climate that aided in generating the ‘fog.’ “

But the Times editorial board assures readers that the American military simply made a tragic, regrettable, mistake. Just like the editorial board nearly 30 years later would explain that the sustained, hour-long destruction of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan was caused by a “torrent of mistakes” due to “gross negligence.” Again, tragic and regrettable mistakes. Presumably no different than the U.S. government’s “mistakes” of kidnapping and torturing people never charged with crimes, hunting and killing political cadres in South Vietnam, organizing and training fascist death squads across Latin America, or killing hundreds of thousands of civilians while carpet bombing Cambodia, Laos, North Korea, Japan and Germany.

For the Times, international law is not an issue if a country has benevolent intentions, which the United States always does, naturally. No matter that the U.S. never obtained U.N. Security Council approval to wage war on Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq or Afghanistan. Or that U.S. warships had no business in participating in a war between Iraq and Iran in 1988. The U.S., due to its status as an exceptional nation, is able to be judged by its own moral criteria in place of the existing legal framework that international treaties (and its own Constitution) obligate the government to follow.

Russia, on the other hand, is a rogue state led by deranged and irrational savages. As a permanent member of the Security Council – obviously a regrettable historical accident – Russia holds a “special responsibility to uphold international law.” One would think from reading this that it was actually Russia, rather than the United States, that has used its veto on the Council far more than any other member during the last 45 years, including 42 vetoes shielding Israel from accountability for its oppression of Palestinians and aggression against neighboring countries.

The other cause for the Times’ wrath against Russia is its behavior in Syria, where “(t)here seems to be no holding Putin to account.”

The United States has no legal right to violate of the sovereignty of Syria, making any and all American military actions inside Syrian territory necessarily illegal.

Russia, on the other hand, is engaging militarily at the behest of the legitimate Syrian government, which is permissible under international law. Russia meets jus ad bellum criteria regarding whether a war is justifiable. Of course, they also have to comply with jus in bello rules regarding conduct during war.

While there is substantial evidence Russia may be in violation of international humanitarian law, absent adjudication in a court of law the evidence is merely one side of the story. The Times accuses Russia (specifically Putin) of “air attacks that have included bunker-busting bombs that can destroy underground hospitals and safety zones where civilians seek shelter” and bombing an aid convoy. Unsurprisingly, there is no substantiation of these claims, or even links provided with such accusations. The Guardian earlier this week quoted a think tank employee stating that “(c)onclusive proof that Russia is using bunker-busters may be hard to find.” The U.S. Air Force does possess such weapons, namely the 37,000 pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator, and it has been pronounced “ready” for use.

The Times also implies that Russia violated a ceasefire negotiated with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. As Gareth Porter has reported, the U.S. itself is actually responsible for sabotaging multiple ceasefires negotiated with Russia. Porter wrote in FAIR that in early April the Al Qaeda franchise in Syria, Al Nusra, along with its embedded U.S.-backed “moderate” rebels, launched an offensive intended to undermine the ceasefire, which it succeeded in accomplishing. When the Syrian government responded by counter-attacking the rebels, major media outlets, including the New York Times, erased the original jihadist attack and implicitly stated that regime bombings were responsible for the end of the ceasefire.

Last week, Porter wrote in Middle East Eye that the Pentagon had destroyed another ceasefire by attacking Syrian troops on September 17, in what the Times would undoubtedly declare another “mistake.” Porter notes that “the final blow apparently came from the Russian-Syrian side,” but this was “provoked” by the U.S. bombing. The Times, though, contends that Russia and Syria have undermined the U.S. in negotiations over an end to hostilities, rejecting reasonable American overtures in order to “continue the slaughter.”

As I have written previously, and Howard Friel and Richard Falk have extensively documented in their book The Record of the Paper, the New York Times consistently ignores international law as a matter of editorial policy in regards to the actions of the United States government. But official enemies like Russia and its president Vladimir Putin are subject to a transparently hypocritical double standard, in which accusations become facts, and international law is suddenly the gold standard by which governments and their officials should be judged.

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If recent mainstream economic reports are to be taken seriously, some of the big brains managing global capitalism these days are starting to lose faith in their neoliberal ideology. Some come close to sounding like virtual heretics — like Jonathan Ostry, the IMF’s deputy director of research and lead author of an article (“Neoliberalism: Oversold?”) in the IMF’s official publication. He stated, with a childlike innocence: “[s]ome aspects of the neoliberal agenda probably need a rethink. The [2008] crisis said: ‘The way we’ve been thinking can’t be right.’” No point, I suppose, in dwelling on the past — that is, the millions of lives made miserable by decades of IMF structural adjustment programs.

The lack of mea culpas notwithstanding, the IMF bravely identifies two aspects of neoliberal policy for scrutiny: the elimination of capital controls (allowing for capital flight to be used as a political weapon against poor countries) and fiscal austerity. While “cheering” aspects of the “neoliberal agenda,” according to the Financial Times, he also acknowledged some “‘disquieting conclusions” including that they resulted in “increased inequality that undermined economic growth.”

That report came out in May but just last week the annual report of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has leapt ahead of any cautious “rethinking” and calls for a virtual reversal of the whole neoliberal “edifice.” The report contains some of the most alarming warnings UNCTAD has ever issued. And that warning relates, in part, to the near-zero interest rates developed countries are using to try to restart their economies.

There are unintended consequence of low interest rates, says the report: “Alarm bells have been ringing over the explosion of corporate debt levels in emerging economies, which now exceed $25 trillion. Damaging deflationary spirals cannot be ruled out.” And later:

The benefits of a rushed integration into international financial markets post-2008 are fast evaporating. If policymakers fail to mitigate the negative impacts of unchecked global market forces …a significant share of developing-country debt incurred since 2008 could become unpayable and exert considerable pressure on the financial system.

UNCTAD’s analysis also attacks Western governments’ obsession with austerity which has starved global demand but it more broadly blames “[t]he entire edifice of liberal market finance…” As far as the UN is concerned, this development is the “third leg” of the global financial crisis — the first two being the U.S. housing bubble and the second the EU meltdown. Its solution sounds almost revolutionary, according to the London Telegraph:

“The world must jettison neoliberal ideology, and launch a ‘global new deal’ with a blitz of investment on strategic sectors. …a return of the ‘developmental state,’ commanding a potent industrial policy, and backed by severe controls on capital flows.”

The report also highlights the fact that global corporations — which designed the neoliberal Washington Consensus explicitly to reverse the old social contract and the “development state” — have failed utterly to deliver on the quid pro quo: their promise of growth and prosperity. The global corporate sector is characterized by management captured by “activist funds” which focus almost exclusively on shareholder value, the maximum extraction of profit and mergers and acquisitions rather than the reinvestment of their profits “[i]nto production capacity, jobs, or self-sustaining growth.”

This latter criticism describes the Canadian corporate sector in spades. Instead of investing its record profits — and its tax break windfall in the billions — it is sitting on over $600 billion idle cash. But the situation with Canadian corporations is actually much worse than in most OECD countries, particularly compared to their main competitors in the U.S. In previous columns I have quoted past studies done by Harvard Business School’s Michael E. Porter. He concluded: “The U.S. is just much more entrepreneurial (than Canada)… Research uncovered key weaknesses in the sophistication of (Canadian) company operations and strategy.” He went on to describe Canadian business as cautious and risk-averse, unwilling to spend money on research and development, and addicted to exporting almost exclusively to the U.S.

Just this past week Deloitte Canada published a report which took Porter’s academic studies a step further by interviewing 1,200 Canadian CEOs regarding their willingness to takes risks and invest in the future of their companies. The results of the study — entitled The Future Belongs to the Bold — paint a pathetic picture. The poll concluded: “At a time when Canada needs its businesses to be bolder and more courageous than ever before, almost 90 per cent aren’t up to the task.” The companies fell into one of several categories: 15 per cent of CEOs were “fearful,” 43 per cent were “hesitant,” 30 per cent were “evolving,” and 11 per cent were “courageous.”

The result? “Investments aren’t made. New ideas aren’t explored. And Canadian companies slowly fall further and further behind.” Companies have actually reduced spending on training by 40 per cent since the mid-1990s. As Porter earlier observed, where Canadian companies are successful it is mostly due to access to cheap labour and natural resources.

And this week the Conference Board of Canada published an op-ed in The Globe and Mail decrying the lack of investment in manufacturing innovation, observing:

[r]esearch and development spending in the sector is generally very low. Indeed, investment has been so weak for a number of years that many manufacturing segments have actually become less capital intensive. The result is an erosion in the global competitiveness of Canadian manufacturing.

Once again we see the folly of placing our economic future in the hands of “fearful” and risk-averse CEOs while giving them every possible advantage from suppressed wages, huge tax cuts and privatization, to deregulation and endless idiotic “trade” deals. Corporate Canada signed a contract and broke it. It should be forced be back to the negotiating table. And this time it should focus on the domestic economy.

The Liberal preoccupation with trade deals looks increasingly ill considered. In yet another warning about the state of global trade, Roberto Azevêdo, the World Trade Organization’s director-general, declared: “The dramatic slowing of trade growth is serious and should serve as a wake-up call.” The question for the Trudeau Liberals is what to do if they do wake up. Instead of more oil and gas infrastructure in a world already awash in both, it should itself be “courageous” and use bold fiscal policy to launch a serious transition away from fossil fuels and at the same time actually take the Paris climate accord seriously. But that would require “rethinking” another neoliberal policy: the reckless tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations which rob federal government coffers of $50 billion every year.

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Israeli Gunboats on Way to Hijack Gaza-Bound Women’s Boat

October 5th, 2016 by The Palestinian Information Center

A few hours before the Zaytouna boat reaches Gaza shores, a cry for help has been launched by onboard activists to guarantee their safe arrival to the coastal territory.

With Israeli threats materializing on the ground, the International Committee to Break the Siege on Gaza appealed for guaranteeing women onboard al-Zaytouna a safe arrival to Gaza shores without being hijacked by Israel.

A fleet of Israeli gunboats has, meanwhile, set sail from the Ashdod Harbor in an attempt to intercept the Zaytouna solidarity boat.

The American activists onboard the ship appealed to the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to deter Israel from attacking the boat. However, they were told by the embassy that the occupation navy has received instructions to commandeer the boat right as it approaches Gaza shores and to tow it to the Ashdod Seaport. In case of any defiance, activists will be arrested.

Israeli gunboats docked in Ashdod navigated to international waters so as to force Zaytouna to backtrack.

The international anti-siege committee dubbed Israel’s projected takeover of the boat an infringement of international laws and parliamentary immunity and also a crime against peaceful activists that do not pose any threat to Israel.

The committee’s chairman Zaher Birawi called on activists around the world to launch a solidarity campaign via social media in the event of an Israeli assault.

A similar Gaza-bound aid flotilla ended in tragedy in 2010 when the Turkish “Mavi Marmara” aid ship was raided by Israeli commandos, who killed 10 Turkish activists.

Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has groaned under a crippling Israeli/Egyptian blockade that has deprived its almost two million inhabitants of most basic commodities, including food, fuel, medicine and desperately-needed building materials.

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“The Parties hereby establish a free trade area…”

— CETA Article 1.4

“Trade, like Religion, is what every Body talks of, but few understand: the very Term is dubious, and in its ordinary Acceptation, not sufficiently explain’d.”

— Daniel Defoe, A Plan of the English Commerce (1728)

The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement(CETA), like other looming mega-treaties, is a comprehensive vehicle for expanding the scope of transnational investment by rolling back the capacity of governments to regulate in the public interest. The attack on democratic governance is not restricted to the notorious Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which privileges transnational capital by creating a parallel legal system exclusive to transnational investors. The invasive claims of transnational investors permeate the entire treaty.

Save democracy - Stop CETA.

Canada and the EU are already among the world’s most open economies. Tariffs are at a historic all-time low. CETA’s primary mission is to eliminate “non-tariff barriers” – namely the laws and regulations constructed over decades of struggle to limit corporate power and support the services and policies needed to defend workers, citizens and the environment. CETA is an investment treaty embedded in a comprehensive deregulatory project.

‘Free Trade’ and the Expanding Investor Universe

The treaty leaves existing regulations and policies in Canada and the EU vulnerable to investor challenges – directly through ISDS, or indirectly through corporate-driven state-to-state dispute mechanisms. It also forecloses the use of essential policy tools which progressive governments will need to reverse the social destruction which is feeding an authoritarian, nationalist and xenophobic right.

The treaty builds on an expansive definition of investment which broadens its scope beyond existing treaties between Canada and the EU. It is virtually identical to the leaked draft investment chapter in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The “legally scrubbed” official CETA text states, tautologically: “Investment means every kind of asset that an investor owns or controls, directly or indirectly, that has the characteristics of an investment” (CETA, 2014: 39). Characteristics of an investment include “the expectation of gain or profit.” In addition to direct investment in an enterprise, ‘investment’ includes stocks, shares, bonds and other debt instruments; concessions, “including to search for, cultivate, extract or exploit natural resources”; intellectual property rights and “other moveable property, tangible or intangible, or immovable property and related rights,” and “claims to money or claims to performance under a contract” (CETA 2014: 39ff). A corporation need only demonstrate a “legitimate expectation” of profit to challenge regulatory obstacles to realising that expectation.

The market access and national treatment provisions set out in the investment chapter apply to governments at every level, erasing all restrictions in the name of ‘non-discrimination’. The treaty prohibits governments from managing foreign investment for distinct objectives, and prohibits any restrictions on profit repatriation.

‘Indirect Expropriation’

The investment chapter ‘reaffirms’ governments’ rights to regulate in the public interest, but investors are guaranteed expanded “fair and equitable treatment” and protection against “indirect expropriation” of anticipated profits through the adoption of new laws and regulations. The dispute settlement body will determine whether indirect expropriation has occurred through a ‘fact-based inquiry that takes into consideration, among other factors: the extent to which the measure or series of measures interferes with distinct, reasonable investment-backed expectations’ (CETA, 2014: 331; my emphasis). Indirect or ‘regulatory expropriation’ has enabled a growing number of successful investor challenges to public interest laws, regulations and court decisions through investor-to-state lawsuits.

Public services are exempted from market access, national treatment and performance requirements and the most-favoured-nation provisions of the investment chapter only to the extent that they are ‘carried out neither on a commercial basis nor in competition with one or more economic operators’. This is the phantom public sector carve-out established in the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) agreement. As there are pockets of private business in most public services, few meet these criteria. Parties must explicitly reserve the services they wish to exclude – the negative list approach – based on the United Nations’ 1991 Central Product Classification, whose thousands of entries blur the distinction between public and private and manufacturing and services. Standstill and ratchet clauses freeze current levels of privatisation, making it difficult, and costly, for governments to take privatised services back into public hands.

CETA’s Domestic Regulation chapter is not restricted to services. Governments must ensure that any regulatory restrictions they maintain or adopt ‘do not unduly complicate or delay the supply of a service, or the pursuit of any other economic activity’ (CETA, 2014: 91; my emphasis). Article 2 of the chapter on Technical Barriers to Trade reinforces limits on regulation by stipulating that technical regulations must “not be more trade-restrictive than necessary to fulfill a legitimate objective.”

The chapter on Government Procurement widens corporate penetration into governments at every level by generalising ‘national treatment’ and prohibiting ‘offsets’, defined as ‘any condition or undertaking that encourages local development’.

The Financial Services chapter allows for loosely-defined ‘prudential measures’ but weakens the potential to restrict the size or market share of financial institutions even where such measures are ‘non-discriminatory’ with respect to foreign and national investors. Governments seeking to restrict the introduction of new financial ‘products’, or limit the size of financial corporations, will find that financial corporations have, through CETA, insured themselves against regulatory risk.

The chapter on Regulatory Cooperation commits signatories to ‘remove unnecessary barriers to trade and investment’ and ‘enhance competitiveness’ through an unaccountable Regulatory Cooperation Forum, which institutionalises corporate lobbying. The Forum is tasked with reducing compliance costs, exploring ‘alternatives’ to regulation, and promoting the ‘recognition of equivalence and convergence’ – a blunt instrument for levelling protection. Governments will share ‘non-public information’ with their Forum counterparts before the information is shared with lawmakers or the public – all ‘without limiting the ability of each Party to carry out its regulatory, legislative and policy activities’!

Regulatory approaches are to be ‘technology-neutral’ – a requirement at odds with the vague promise in the chapter on Trade and the Environment in which the parties ‘commit to cooperate in means to promote energy efficiency and the development and deployment of low-carbon and other climate-friendly technologies’.

How important is investment (and its proxy ‘trade in services’) compared with trade in goods in CETA? The treaty provisions cease to apply 180 days after notice of intention to terminate. However Chapter 8 (Investment) remains in force for a full twenty years (CETA 2014: Article 30.9).

Labour’s Agenda?

After the Brexit vote, the European Commission announced that CETA – scheduled to be signed at the EU-Canada summit in late October – would be treated as a ‘mixed agreement’, requiring approval by the national parliaments of EU member states as well as by the main EU institutions. But the Commission proposes that the treaty enter immediately into ‘provisional’ force following approval by the European Council and European Parliament, meaning that its investment provisions would apply for some years before full ratification, and even if one or more member state voted to sink the deal.

Unions and our civil society allies are unanimous in calling for the removal of ISDS from the treaty. The European Commission’s rebranding of ISDS as an investment court fails to eliminate its fundamental toxicity (See for example Eberhart, 2016) and should be rejected on similar grounds.

But ISDS is only one element, albeit a major one, in CETA’s comprehensive corporate power grab. Transnational investors can press their claims through state-to-state dispute mechanisms, as the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body demonstrates. The expansive claims of transnational investors are systematically built into the treaty; corporate confiscation of democratic governance links the chapters. ISDS cannot be surgically excised, leaving a text which then somehow serves as a vehicle for a progressive trade agenda. Nor can a sweeping charter of investor claims be ‘balanced’ by inserting stronger provisions to defend labour rights or protect the environment. CETA is fundamentally hostile to democracy and the labour movement; it has to be scrapped, not ‘improved’.

Behind CETA, or course, lurks the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Should TTIP fail, many of its ambitions can be realised through CETA. The majority of U.S. transnationals have Canadian subsidiaries with activities and ‘expectations of profit or gain’ in the EU. They can use ISDS and other provisions to feed their growing appetites. EU corporations can sue the government of Canada, but also use Canadian subsidiaries to attack European regulations they find inconvenient, reinforcing the EU’s current retreat from regulation.

For long decades, labour has been fighting purely defensive battles against the neo-liberal trade and investment agenda; we lack an agenda of our own. Lost ground will not be reclaimed on what is fundamentally hostile territory. Crisis, stagnation and the longest investor strike in recent history will not be reversed through stronger doses of neo-liberalism. Substantial programs of public investment are needed to address mass unemployment, inequality, disintegrating public services and climate change. CETA and its flanking treaties effectively preclude them. •

Peter Rossman is the Director of Campaigns and Communication for the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF). This article first published by Global Labour Column.

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Republic of Korea (ROK) on Friday announced a new site for the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile-defense system despite of strong opposition from locals and reasonable concerns of China and other regional countries. The announcement came just days after the US military set the deployment deadline as the end of next year.

The ROK government cited the concerns of the public in Seongju county, the originally-designated site, as the reason for the alteration, but a site change is not a prescription at all.

Despite the altered site, local public are expected to continue their opposition to the THAAD deployment. In Gimcheon (see map below), a southeastern city that is closer to the newly-chosen site, enraged residents have begun a new round of backlash.

As a matter of fact, the ROK government can neither appease the concerns of people from the designated sites, nor persuade its citizens to believe in the so-called effectiveness of the missile shield in protecting its national security.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)’s fifth nuclear test offered Seoul’s plan a new selling point. ROK government, by using the test as a more “convincing” excuse, advertised the so-called necessity to install the THAAD system, cement its military alliance with the US and resist threats through extended deterrence.

However, to avoid further deterioration of tensions on Korean Peninsula, a comprehensive and systematic solution must be found out to address both symptoms and root causes.

Past and present facts have proved that in order to sustain the peace and stability of the peninsula, efforts must be devoted to denuclearizing the peninsula, normalizing the ties between concerned countries, and building a peace and security mechanism for Northeast Asia.

The evolution course of the peninsula also showed that the so-called extended deterrence will only escalate confrontation, aggravate the tension on the peninsula and ultimately place Seoul’s security in a more risking edge.

What’s more, the technical clues also point to a conclusion: it is absurd for Seoul to pursue a sense of security through the THAAD system.

As early as Seoul and Washington announced the decision, experts have pointed out that with a radar range of 1,000 to 2,000 kilometers, the missile shield is designed to shoot down missiles at a relatively high altitude of 40 to 150 km. Given the geographical conditions of the Korean Peninsula, it is ridiculous to use the THAAD missile defense system to “deter nuclear threats from DPRK”.

 Protest against THAAD in Gimcheon

Therefore, ROK has to realize that its true guardian is by no means one or two hollow weapons like the THAAD system, but a clear awareness of the reality and broader world situation.

Given the sensitive and frail security on the peninsula, the unscrupulous actions by any party may lead to an escalated tension. Against such background, the deployment of the THAAD system by Seoul and Washington will undoubtedly add fuels to the deteriorated tensions on the peninsula.

In fact, even ROK public are not convinced by the reasons given by their government. More and more locals called on the authority to reconsider the reckless decision, blaming the latter’s approval to deploy THAAD system as the culprit for today’s dilemma.

Local media Kyunghyang Shinmun commented recently that the ROK government was stubborn in ensuring national security by deterring DPRK with armament race, but as a result made its public more upset and pulled the country further away from security goals.

The public’s security worries and doubts over the guarantee provided by the US are out of historic backgrounds and reality considerations. Trapping in the whirlpool of the peninsula tension, ROK would be the direct victim with a total turn in its destiny once the situation lost control.

What’s worse, the remote US is by no means reliable helper. In recent years, in order to expand its hegemony, the superpower has fallen into a breaker of international law. Employing a “puppet” strategy, it repeatedly threw other countries or regions into disarray and then escaped unscathed.

China will never change its stance of opposing the deployment of the THAAD system since the missile shield, instead of easing regional tension, will pose serious threat to the strategic security balance of regional nations including China.

Like any other countries, China can neither be vague nor indifferent on security matters that affect its core interests. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China also shoulders a responsibility in maintaining world and regional peace and stability.

The US and ROK have to wake up to the facts that the Korean Peninsula is no place to take risks, and that they cannot afford the cost of such dangerous action. If the US and ROK undermine the strategic security interests of China and other regional countries, then they are destined to pay the price and receive a proper counter attack.

“We will pay close attention to relevant developments, and consider taking necessary actions to protect national strategic security and the regional strategic balance,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman told a press conference.

“What needs to be stressed is that Chinese people mean what they say,” the spokesman added, underlining China’s determination and stance against the installment of THAAD system.

Originally published in Chinese by Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily)

Translation, courtesy of  People’s Daily for Global Research

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“The International Day of Non-Violence is marked on 2 October, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement and pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of non-violence.” — un.org

Thus starts the UN Resolution that on 15 June 2007 formalized the legacy of one the most prominent figures of the 20th Century, born 1869 dead 1948 and still ahead of his time in 2016. Yet, in the short span of 9 years this celebration has already become merely symbolic, ceremonial, practically meaningless. Gandhi Jayanthi as it is called in India. Myths can be useless and also misleading. So let me stick to the man and his meaning to humans.

gandhiLet’s remind ourselves of the worldwide wars, proxy-wars, invasions, occupations, terrorisms (State and private); slaveries/tortures of various kinds, human trafficking, forced human mass displacements, persecutions of minorities, economic exploitation, and cruelty to animals. Governments, TNCs, the arms industry, and the top 1%—the elites– profit from all of the above across religious, political, cultural, national, ideological, geographical divides (the globalization).

Such elites will provide narratives for why they have to kill, mutilate, exploit, and cause pain & suffering. And the masses will swallow their vile interpretations and rewritings of reality with a religious apathy and disconnection from reality. And that despite Internet, cell phones, social media, instant communications, and all the gimmicks that supposedly bring info, knowledge, culture, literacy to them. Pessimism? Realpolitik? Realism? Take your pick. History at its best.

But it doesn’t matter the amount or prevalence of violence employed or practiced anywhere anytime. It was from within a violent environment, which oppressed him both in South Africa and in India, that the Mahatma, born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, gave birth to his philosophy of nonviolence. Yin-Yang. The world is readier than ever for it. Nevertheless, besides a philosophy NV can be many things for many people depending on contexts.

Gandhi reminded us that conflicts are natural occurrences. “Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress.” They may arise from incompatible goals (Galtung). Or from pathologies. Nonviolence is one way of responding to conflicts whether at a personal, familiar, social, or political level (Micro- Meso-Macro-Mega levels: Galtung). Another response is the use of violence. Nonviolence is therefore a means to conflict resolution or transformation. Peace by peaceful means.

Because conflicts are symptoms of damaged relations, it is in the relationships that they are to be addressed, not in the parties–as a starting point. For if you steal my bicycle, and we fight over it, before ‘making peace’ you must return the stolen bike: common justice as a prerequisite.

Nonviolence can also be a political strategy to achieve a public goal or set of goals. The difference between strategy and tactics is that strategy is done above the shoulders whereas tactics are done below the shoulders, someone said. NV can be used as both, in tandem, defensively or offensively, a tool, a skill, an art: Civil Disobedience. Besides being a way of life, ahimsa.

“Non-Violence,” a sculpture by Karl Fredrik Reutersward, sits permanently outside UN Headquarters in New York.

In his only book, The Story of My Experiments with Truth: An Autobiography, a collection of articles he wrote for Young India around 1927, Gandhi repeats many times the maxim that guided his actions throughout his life: Truth is God. Not God is truth, which would be a mere attribute, like God is love, God is light, God is the father. In his consciousness, Truth comes before God. Not mere semantics or a slogan but a principle to live–and die–for. Aptly, he named his movement Satyagraha (satya “truth”; agraha “insistence” or “holding to”).A most popular quote of Gandhiji is: “Be the change you want in the world.” The change starts in the person; nonviolence starts here—a design for living.

It was this depth of commitment to truth and principle that Gandhi brought to the table and to his nonviolent interventions, which resulted in the retreat of the biggest empire of the time from India. Independence was not granted; it was conquered, but without bloodshed of the oppressors.

Sir Winston Churchill gave this unflattering description of Gandhi:

“It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious middle temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half-naked up the steps of the viceregal palace, while he is still organising and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms with the representative of the kingemperor.” (India Today)

As the resistance and instances of civil disobedience swelled, Churchill announced: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion, breeding like rabbits.” Such was his hatred for the successful nonviolent uprising and Gandhi.

gandhi-an-autobiography-the-story-of-my-experiments-with-truthGod was never separated from Gandhi’s actions. His understanding of nonviolence implied the need for virtue in the satyagrahi, the practitioner of NV. A few quotes of his:

“Nonviolence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice—nonviolence springs from love, cowardice from hate.”

“The weak will never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

“My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at His feet.”

“Fearlessness is the first requisite of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral.”

“Faith is not something to grasp, is a state to grow into.”

It was here that Gene Sharp and others diverted from Gandhi’s approach to NV. Sharp tried to transform nonviolent actions into mere instruments that could be carried out by any party seeking any objective however lowly either could be. This is not the place to elaborate on this, but I encourage readers and students to research further.

Gandhi gave a new meaning to the concept of civilization. In the 19th Century, the British spuriously classified peoples and races as Civilized, Barbarians or Savages insofar as their ‘evolution’ vis-a-vis Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest. They placed themselves, the white Anglo-Saxons, at the top of this food chain as the civilized ones. Barbarians were all non-Europeans such as Arabs, Indians, Asians; and Savages were the sub-Saharan Africans, natives from the Americas and Islanders. All non-white.

Gandhi redefined, imparted a new meaning to the term ‘Civilization’ with his concept of ‘Nonviolence’ as the way of truly civilized persons and cultures, of relations, mediation of conflicts; a necessary first step for the abolition of war as institution. For by eliminating the violence (smoke) mediators can look into the source of conflicts (fire)—and work on them. The soft side of all religions mandate nonkilling of humans, but Gandhiji expanded it to all forms of life: ahimsa.

Gandhi’s legacy was felt also inside of India with the abolition of the caste system by law. He renamed the Untouchables as Harijans or children of God. But, like racism in the USA, also outlawed, it had little impact in society. Laws cannot and do not erase traditions and customs ingrained in people’s minds and in deep culture. His own wife, Kasturba, would not agree in sharing their table with harijans, as he wished.

He did everything in public, with the masses he loved. He ate, prayed, fasted, slept, worked in their presence. His stomach was the weakest part of his body as he suffered from a chronic diarrhea that forced him to use diapers at times.

The Mahatma did not win a Nobel Peace Prize despite being nominated. The excuse was that he was not a man of peace, he fought against the British Empire [and dared to win—I’d say]. He was rather of the naïve persuasion, as many of us are; not a hawk, a personality trait essential for success in business and politics today. Case in point, the rat race we witness to the White House.

Last act: Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead on Jan 30, 1948 by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu fanatic nationalist who asked forgiveness before pulling the trigger. He wouldn’t accept what in his view was Gandhi’s partiality toward Muslims in the partition of India into India/Pakistan. Upon falling, Gandhiji uttered his last word: “Rama.” One of God’s name in India.

Antonio Carlos Silva Rosa, is the editor of the pioneering Peace Journalism website, TRANSCEND Media Service-TMS, an assistant to Prof. Johan Galtung, and Secretary of the International Board of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment. 

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In order to overcome the partisanship on both sides of this U.S. Presidential contest, the corruption of both of the candidates needs to be acknowledged, and a quick way to do that is to consider the cases of their respective charities (we’ll go beyond that to a broader view afterward):

On September 10th, David A. Farenthold headlined in the Washington Post, «How Donald Trump retooled his charity to spend other people’s money», and he documented that Trump has lied in his many statements asserting that he donates lots to charities, and that he has even used his (actually meager) Foundation as a device to collect donations from others and then simply donate that money from others, to other charities as being «charitable donations by the Trump Foundation». He even has sometimes used donations others had made to his ‘Charity’ in order to purchase things for some of his own businesses. So: not only is his ‘charity’ meager, but it consists largely of the charity of others — and of benefit to himself and to the value of his brand.

Regarding Clinton’s case, a post was made to Huffington Post’s «blog» on 29 May 2016, that optimistically (and unrealistically trusting that the U.S. government would actually follow through on this) predicted «Hillary Clinton to be Indicted on Federal Racketeering Charges» for her having used the U.S. State Department to fundraise for her Clinton Foundation (money that she and her family control), but the article lasted less than a day online before being taken down by HuffPo management.

I personally checked out all of this article’s linked sources and found that they are sound and collectively documented an extensive racketeering operation. Other articles have documented some of its harmful consequences, such as (here and here and here and here) against the Haitian people for the benefit of both Haiti’s and America’s aristocracies; and, so, even if what the immediate withdrawn-by-management article predicted would happen has turned out to have been false (as now seems inevitable), the things that it was alleging to have already occurred (the historical account) were, indeed, entirely true, and damning. The article does show Hillary Clinton to have been operating the U.S. State Department as a personal racket. And other articles document many harmful consequences from it.

The Presidential nominees of both of our major political Parties are profoundly corrupt, and they lie to the public about their kindness and their generosity, which are absent (more like the opposite) in reality. Hillary Clinton’s attempt to destroy evidence in the criminal case against her, by destroying all records she could of her emails, and the FBI’s refusal even to investigate to find the motive for that crime and thereby to say it wasn’t prosecutable, are additional crimes (that won’t be prosecuted) regarding the Clinton Foundation side of this matter, but both of the major-Party nominees are poseurs, liars, and psychopaths.

The deeper question is why, at the present stage of U.S. history, our supposedly (but no longer actually) democratic system of government, has offered to the American people, what the theocratic Iranian system offers to its people: a choice between only uglies — excluding any and all decent, progressive, nominees. There was one decent and progressive candidate in the Presidential contest, Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries, and he had the highest net approval-ratings, and also in all the polls showed as being able to beat, by the biggest margins, each and every one of the opposite Party’s candidates.

And so that candidate, Sanders, was clearly preferred the most, by the largest percentage of Americans — but today’s corrupt American political system excluded that person from being even a choice at all, in the final round (November 8th) contest. Sanders also has by far topped the annual surveys of approval of each of the 100 Senators among the people within the given Senator’s own state, the very people who have considered that person’s policy-record and Senate votes the closest and the longest; and, in the latest published survey, which was reported on 13 September 2016, Sanders’s approval-rating there was 87%, and the second-most-approved Senator had an approval-rating of 69% — an enormous fall-off of 18% from the number-one Senator).

It’s like Iran’s mullahs excluding the best candidates from the final choice by the Iranian people. (Incidentally, on the Republican side of the 2016 Presidential contest, the strongest candidate in the head-to-head matchups against both Clinton and Sanders was John Kasich; but, just like in the Democratic Party, the strongest-polling candidate failed to win his own Party’s nomination. In the polled match-ups between Kasich and Sanders, Sanders was almost always the winner, but in the polled matchups between Kasich and Clinton, Clinton was.)

It is not a democracy when both of the two candidates that are the most preferred by the most people are excluded from the final two-person choice — such as in Iran, and, now, also in the United States. If America were a democracy, the final Presidential contest now would be between Sanders and Kasich — but it’s not.

This is the situation that one would expect in an «oligarchy» — a nation that’s controlled by its aristocrats (the very few wealthiest persons). In all of politics, in every country, there is always an intrinsic conflict between money and voters, for control over the nation’s government.During the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787, in which America’s Constitution was written, the debates focused upon how to avoid the U.S. to become an oligarchy — rule by the wealthiest, against the public.

However, the only scientific study that has ever been done of whether the U.S. is controlled by the public (a democracy), or contrarywise by only the wealthiest — an aristocracy or «oligarchy» — finds (based upon study of 1,779 policy-issues during the period 1981-2002) that the U.S. is, in fact, an «oligarchy.» (The situation has actually become even worse since that period ended, but no study has been done of the subsequent years.)

In other words: former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is correct to state that the U.S. now is «just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery». The evidence since he left the White House in 1981 (and up till at least 2002) showed clearly that that is the case; and it has been getting worse (not better) after 2002 (because of the activist-conservative, Republican, rabidly pro-aristocracy, U.S. Supreme Court decisions, such as Citizens United — which the ‘Democrat’ Hillary Clinton exploits more than any other politician).

For example, there was considerable rhetorical difference between the candidates in the last U.S. Presidential election, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, but afterwards in actual policies, one can well imagine that Romney would have done much as Obama has done as President, and not only in domestic policies but even also in foreign policies. It was Romney — not Obama — who said (and it was Obama — not Romney — who mocked), «Russia, this is without question our number one geopolitical foe.»

At the Bilderberg conferences and at all other forums in which the U.S. — and its other allied — aristocracy gather, or in their public statements such as in the U.S. aristocracy’s Foreign Affairs journal or Foreign Policy magazine, this viewpoint (that after both the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact military alliance ended in 1991, still «Russia, this is without question our number one geopolitical foe») is ceaselessly put forth (and in a March 2006 article in Foreign Affairs, was even put forth the view that America should go all the way to nuclearly blitzing Russia; and Obama in 2015 started the Prompt Global Strike plan in order to enable this goal to be able to be achieved mainly by non-nuclear weaponry — he apparently wants to be able to make use of at least some of Russia, after it’s conquered).

Similarly, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are pushing for the TPP, TTIP, and TISA proposed treaties, which would give international corporations a higher sovereignty than any nation’s sovereignty, and would, if passed into law, enable international corporations to sue the taxpayers of any participating nation, for multi-billion-dollar sums, in a supra-national system not of courts, and not of any nation’s constitution and laws, but of three-person panels of corporate «arbitrators» whose decisions (not dependent upon any country’s laws) will be non-appealable.

Only deeply corrupt nations’ governments can approve such treaties, because if their publics knew what those treaties’ «ISDS» provisions mean, the public would revolt against passage of it: therefore, the press need to be rigidly controlled in order for a ‘democratic’ country to sign it. If any of these three horrific treaties (introducing actually an international fascist dictatorship) goes into effect, then not only the U.S. will be thoroughly corrupt at the top, but the entire world will soon become so (the parts that haven’t yet).

In other words: the U.S. aristocracy control U.S. politics; and that’s the reason why both of America’s major-Party contenders are profoundly corrupt. This would not happen in an authentic democracy. It is not the result of democracy; it is the result of democracy’s having ended in the U.S.

The question of whether a ‘benign dictatorship’ has ever existed, can reasonably be debated upon the basis of the evidence. However, the answer to the question of whether the U.S. still is a «democracy,» is clear and beyond debate, on the basis of the evidence — and it is not a democracy. After 1981, it has been, and is, an aristocracy, ruling here. And any aristocracy is profoundly corrupt — that is the very nature of aristocracy: unaccountable power, what can almost be defined to constitute «an aristocrat».

And that is why both Trump and Clinton are corrupt. This is the culmination of that deeper reality. On the surface is partisanship loaded heavily with lies; underneath is the reality of America’s aristocracy controlling, now, both of the two political Parties.

(Incidentally, and so this is added here parenthetically: Americans who say such things as «Don’t vote for either of them» or «Vote third-party,» are pretenders to participating in their nation’s politics, not actual participants in it — whatever it is, which, in the current U.S. case, is a choice of the lesser of two evils. Even Ralph Nader and Ross Perot failed to come even close to winning even merely a single one of the 50 States in the Electoral College; such ‘candidates’ are fakes, whose only real function is to attract enough more away from the number of potential voters for one of the two Parties’ nominees than away from the other of the two Parties’ nominees, so as to throw the ‘election’ — and that strategy has succeeded only once in modern history, when Nader drew enough away from Gore, both in New Hampshire and in Florida, so as to enable the five Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court to be able to appoint George W. Bush as President, by the Electoral College vote of 266 Gore to 271 Bush, though Gore won 543,895 more of the nationwide counted votes than did Bush.

Bush won the Presidency by, among other things, his 5-4-vote win in the U.S. Supreme Court, an opinion that was so corrupt — making unprecedented and blatantly antithetical use of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, to apply to ballots instead of to voters — so that even the 5-vote majority decision said, using tortured logic, that this ruling would not be able to be cited in future Supreme Court rulings as a precedent: «Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities.» However, there is no applicability of the Equal Protection Clause to ballots, but only to people.

That’s not ‘complex’ at all. The Republicans simply don’t want the Democrats to be able to cite this decision as a precedent in the future if, at that future time, the shoe might happen to be on the other foot. Nader’s voters were suckers who helped him to throw the ‘election’ to Bush, which was what Nader was trying to do. In an aristocracy, everything related to government is corrupt, and the only way to ‘justify’ that sort of government is constant lying.)

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The US Fox News TV channel has reported, citing military sources, that Russia had deployed the S-300V4 “Antey-2500” anti-ballistic missile system in Syria. S-300V4 is an upgraded version of S-300.

It’s designed to defeat short- and medium-range ballistic missile, aeroballistic and cruise missiles, fixed-wing aircraft, as well as loitering ECM platforms and precision-guided munitions.

According to Fox News, it was delivered to the Russian naval facility in Tartus via the sea.

In 2015, Moscow deployed the S-300 long range surface-to-air missile system after the incident with the downing of Russia’s Su-24M bomber aircraft by Turkey. The new phase of strengthening of the air-defense capabilities of Moscow’s military grouping comes amid the increased US-Russian tensions over the ongoing conflict.

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On October 3, Washington suspended bilateral contacts with Moscow over the crisis and, de-facto, withdrew from the peace process in Syria. There is “nothing more for the US and Russia to talk about”, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. Nonetheless, contacts between US and Russian military to “deconflict” encounters between their aircraft in Syrian skies will continue.

The very same day Moscow accused Washington of sabotaging the ceasefire deal, saying that the US will be responsible for any new terror attacks in Syria. The US “has never exerted any real pressure on Jabhat Al-Nusra, done nothing for delineation to succeed and taken no action against its militants,“ the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that “We are becoming more convinced that in a pursuit of a much desired regime change in Damascus, Washington is ready to ‘make a deal with the devil’.”

The Syrian army, the National Defense Forces (NDF), Liwa al-Quds and Hezbollah have been advancing in Aleppo city. The loyalists are clashing with militants in the Awijah neighborhood. The Syrian army and Liwa al-Quds have set a fire control of the Jandoul roundabout after a series of firefights. This chains significantly the movement of militant units in the area. Now, Jaish al-Fatah militants need to use the Asfar and Sawmills heights to maneuver in the neighborhood.

The Syrian army and Hezbhollah advanced against Jaish al-Fatah militants inside the Suleiman al-Halabi Neighborhood of Aleppo city. Recently, the pro-government forces have entered the water foundation area. Clashes are ongoing. The pro-government forces also launched attacks on the Sheikh Sa’eed neighborhood and the missile base of Khan Tuman in southern Aleppo.

The pro-government forces keep initiative in Aleppo and the recent developments show that without active help from foreign powers, the militants will not be able to hold the city.

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Everyone claims to want to end the war in Syria and restore peace to the Middle East.

Well, almost everyone.

“This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,” said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York told the New York Times in June 2013. “Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here.”

Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, stressed the same points in August 2016:

“The West should seek the further weakening of Islamic State, but not its destruction… Allowing bad guys to kill bad guys sounds very cynical, but it is useful and even moral to do so if it keeps the bad guys busy and less able to harm the good guys… Moreover, instability and crises sometimes contain portents of positive change… The American administration does not appear capable of recognizing the fact that IS can be a useful tool in undermining Tehran’s ambitious plan for domination of the Middle East.”

Okay, not exactly everyone.

But surely the humanitarian website Avaaz wants to end the war and restore peace.

Or does it?

Avaaz is currently circulating a petition which has gathered over a million signatures and is aiming at a million and a half. It is likely to get them, with words like this:

“100 children have been killed in Aleppo since last Friday.

“Enough is enough!”

Avaaz goes on to declare: “There is no easy way to end this war, but there’s only one way to prevent this terror from the skies — people everywhere demanding a no-fly zone to protect civilians.”

No-fly zone? Doesn’t that sound familiar? That was the ploy that served to destroy Libya’s air defenses and opened the country to regime change in 2011. It was promoted zealously by Hillary Clinton, who is also on record as favoring the same gambit in Syria.

And when the West says “no-fly”, it means that some can fly and others cannot. With the no-fly zone in Libya, France, Britain and the United States flew all they wanted, killing countless civilians, destroying infrastructure and allowing Islamic rebels to help themselves to part of the country.

The Avaaz petition makes the same distinction. Some should fly and others should not.

“Let’s build a resounding global call to Obama and other leaders to stand up to Putin and Assad’s terror. This might be our last, best chance to help end this mass murder of defenseless children. Add your name.”

So it’s all about mass murder of defenseless children, and to stop it, we should call on the drone king, Obama, to end “terror from the skies”.

Not only Obama, but other “good” leaders, members of NATO:

“To President Obama, President Erdogan, President Hollande, PM May, and other world leaders: As citizens around the globe horrified by the slaughter of innocents in Syria, we call on you to enforce an air-exclusion zone in Northern Syria, including Aleppo, to stop the bombardment of Syria’s civilians and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those most in need.”

The timing of this petition is eloquent. It comes exactly when the Syrian government is pushing to end the war by reconquering the eastern part of Aleppo. It is part of the massive current propaganda campaign to reduce public consciousness of the Syrian war to two factors: child victims and humanitarian aid.

In this view, the rebels disappear. So do all their foreign backers, the Saudi Johnstone-Queen-Cover-ak800--291x450money, the Wahhabi fanatics, the ISIS recruits from all over the world, the U.S. arms and French support. The war is only about the strange whim of a “dictator”, who amuses himself by bombing helpless children and blocking humanitarian aid. This view reduces the five-year war in Syria to the situation as it was portrayed in Libya, to justify the no-fly zone: nothing but a wicked dictator bombing his own people.

For the public that likes to consume world events in fairy tale form, this all fits together. Sign a petition on your computer and save the children.

The Avaaz petition does not aim to end the war and restore peace. It clearly aims to obstruct the Syrian government offensive to retake Aleppo. The Syrian army has undergone heavy losses in five years of war, its potential recruits have in effect been invited to avoid dangerous military service by going to Germany. Syria needs air power to reduce its own casualties. The Avaaz petition calls for crippling the Syrian offensive and thus taking the side of the rebels.

Wait – but does that mean they want the rebels to win? Not exactly. The only rebels conceivably strong enough to win are ISIS. Nobody really wants that.

The plain fact is that to end this war, as to end most wars, one side has to come out on top. When it is clear who is the winning side, then there can be fruitful negotiations for things like amnesty. But this war cannot be “ended by negotiations”. That is an outcome that the United States might support only if Washington could use negotiations to impose its own puppets – pardon, pro-democracy exiles living in the West. But as things stand, they would be rejected as traitors by the majority of Syrians who support the government and as apostates by the rebels. So one side has to win to end this war. The least worst outcome would be that the Assad government defeats the rebels, in order to preserve the state. For that, the Syrian armed forces need to retake the eastern part of Aleppo occupied by rebels.

The job of Avaaz is to get public opinion to oppose this military operation, by portraying it as nothing but a joint Russian-Syrian effort to murder civilians, especially children. For that, they call for a NATO military operation to shoot down (that’s what “no-fly” means) Syrian and Russian planes offering air support to the Syrian army offensive.

Even such drastic measures do not aim to end the war. They mean weakening the winning side to prevent it from winning. To prolong a stalemate. It means – to use the absurd expression popular during the Bosnian war – creating an “even playing field”, as if war were a sports event. It means keeping the war going on and on until nothing is left of Syria, and what is left of the Syrian population fills up refugee camps in Europe.

As the New York Times reported from Jerusalem in September 2013  , “The synergy between the Israeli and American positions, while not explicitly articulated by the leaders of either country, could be a critical source of support as Mr. Obama seeks Congressional approval for surgical strikes in Syria.” It added that “Israel’s national security concerns have broad, bipartisan support in Washington, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the influential pro-Israel lobby in Washington, weighed in Tuesday in support of Mr. Obama’s approach.” (This was when Obama was planning to “punish President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons without seeking to force him from power” – before Obama decided to join Russia in disarming the Syrian chemical arsenal instead, a decision for which he continues to be condemned by the pro-Israel lobby and the War Party.) AIPAC’s statement “said nothing, however, about the preferred outcome of the civil war…”

Indeed. As the 2013 report from Jerusalem continued, “as hopes have dimmed for the emergence of a moderate, secular rebel force that might forge democratic change and even constructive dialogue, with Israel, a third approach has gained traction: Let the bad guys burn themselves out. ‘The perpetuation of the conflict is absolutely serving Israel’s interest,’ said Nathan Thrall, a Jerusalem-based analyst for the International Crisis Group.”

The plain truth is that Syria is the victim of a long-planned Joint Criminal Enterprise to destroy the last independent secular Arab nationalist state in the Middle East, following the destruction of Iraq in 2003. While attributed to government repression of “peaceful protests” in 2011, the armed uprising had been planned for years and was supported by outside powers: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States and France, among others. The French motives remain mysterious, unless linked to those of Israel, which sees the destruction of Syria as a means to weaken its archrival in the region, Iran. Saudi Arabia has similar intentions to weaken Iran, but with religious motives. Turkey, the former imperial power in the region, has territorial and political ambitions of its own. Carving up Syria can satisfy all of them.

This blatant and perfectly open conspiracy to destroy Syria is a major international crime, and the above-mentioned States are co-conspirators. They are joined in this Joint Criminal Enterprise by ostensibly “humanitarian” organizations like Avaaz that spread war propaganda in the guise of protecting children. This works because most Americans just can’t believe that their government would do such things. Because normal ordinary people have good intentions and hate to see children killed, they imagine that their government must be the same. It is hard to overcome this comforting faith. It is more natural to believe that the criminals are wicked people in a country about which they really understand nothing.

There is no chance that this criminal enterprise will ever arouse the attention of the prosecutors at the International Criminal Court, which like most major international organizations is totally under U.S. control. For example, the United Nations Undersecretary General for Political Affairs, who analyses and frames political issue for the Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, is an American diplomat, Jeffrey Feltman, who was a key member of Hillary Clinton’s team when she was carrying out regime change in Libya. And accomplices in this criminal enterprise include all the pro-governmental “non-governmental” organizations such as Avaaz who push hypocrisy to new lengths by exploiting compassion for children in order to justify and perpetuate this major crime against humanity and against peace in the world.

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USA Empire

By Prof. James Petras, October 03 2016

Over the past decade and a half, the US and its allies have invaded, occupied, killed, wounded and dispossessed over ten million people, from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. Military and civilian officials have systematically destroyed entire economies, fostered ethno-religious wars, and placed corrupt political puppets in power.

American Way of Life

By John Kozy, October 03 2016

Do you really believe that people are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? If so, you are totally irrational. No! You are deranged. Since human beings evolved, they have been taking each other’s lives and enslaving others. And as for pursuing happiness? Whether you chase it until the end of your life, no one will ever care. Having a right to pursue it is irrelevant. Attaining it is what matters, and no one has even ever suggested that people have that right. When Jefferson put those sentiments into the Declaration of Independence, he knew they were pure propaganda.

cold-war

By William Blum, October 03 2016

“Russia suspected of election scheme. U.S. probes plan to sow voter distrust.” That’s the Washington Post page-one lead headline of September 6. Think about it. The election that Americans are suffering through, cringing in embarrassment, making them think of moving abroad, renouncing their citizenship; an election causing the Founding Fathers to throw up as they turn in their graves … this is because the Russian Devils are sowing voter distrust! Who knew?

white helmets

By Tony Cartalucci, October 03 2016

Recent protests held across North America and Europe staged by supporters of armed militants in Syria have staged scenes in Western streets eerily similar to those featured in the photos and videos of the US-European funded “Syrian Civil Defence” also known as the “White Helmets.”

syrian-war-propaganda

By Prof. James Petras, October 03 2016

Washington’s quest for perpetual world power is underwritten by systematic and perpetual propaganda wars. Every major and minor war has been preceded, accompanied and followed by unremitting government propaganda designed to secure public approval, exploit victims, slander critics, dehumanize targeted adversaries and justify its allies’ collaboration. In this paper we will discuss the most common recent techniques used to support ongoing imperial wars.

internet-yellow

By John Stanton, October 03 2016

There is an inverse relationship between public access to the Internet and the inability of governments and institutions to control information flow and hence state allegiance, ideology, public opinion, and policy formulation. Increase in public access to the Internet results in an equivalent decrease in government and institutional power. Indeed, after September 11, 2001, Internet traffic statistics show that many millions of Americans have connected to alternative news sources outside the continental United States. The information they consume can be and often is contrary to US government statements and US mainstream media reporting.

SYRIA-CONFLICT

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, October 02 2016

The total shipment is of the order of 994 tons of “humanitarian” R2P light weapons for the “Moderates” in Syria. (in a single shipment out of Romania) among numerous comparable shipments by sea as well as by air.

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Back in 2010, CBS news reported that the Australian government had a potential RFID microchipping plan in the works related to the health care system.

Now, it seems that this plan is beginning to unfold but the push is not a result of mandated health care reforms, but rather a clever propaganda campaign that equates RFID microchipping with becoming superhuman, and people are begging for it.

Under the headline ‘Australians embracing super-human microchip technology’, Australia’s premier media outlet news.com.au (News Corp Australia) reports:

It may sound like sci-fi, but hundreds of Australians are turning themselves into super-humans who can unlock doors, turn on lights and log into computers with a wave of the hand.

Shanti Korporaal, from Sydney, is at the centre of the phenomenon after having two implants inserted under her skin.

Now she can get into work and her car without carrying a card or keys, and says her ultimate goal is to completely do away with her wallet and cards.

She told news.com.au:

 You could set up your life so you never have to worry about any password or PINs it’s the same technology as Paypass, so I’m hoping you’ll be able to pay for things with it.

With Opal you get a unique identification number that could be programmed into the chip. Any door with a swipe card … it could open your computer, photocopier. Loyalty cards for shops are just another thing for your wallet.

The microchips, which are the size of a grain of rice, can act like a business card and transfer contact details to smartphones, and hold complex medical data.

In her interview with the Australian news outlet, Shanti claims that her friends and family are envious of her microchip lifestyle;

 My nana wants one. I’ve had more opposition to my tattoos than I’ve ever had to the chip. My friends are jealous.

In fact, the 27-year-old has noticed a business opportunity and set up a distribution service called Chip My Life with her husband, Skeeve Stevens where for just $80 to $140, people can become so called “super humans.”

On the same day this news story broke, Shanti appeared at Australia’s launch of the much anticipated cyborg themed video game Deus Ex Mankind Divided, alongside American implantable technology pioneer Amal Graafstra.

As you can see, the push for RFID microchipping and assimilating the human population with robots and technology, is something that will most likely be sold to the public as helping them to become “super human,” but clearly if you become part machine/computer, that means there will be someone who can control that technology. If you think the elites wouldn’t capitalize on such an exceptional opportunity to control the population you obviously don’t know  history very well.

Amal Graafstra, who became one of the world first RFID implantees back in 2005, just made headlines recently in the US with a prototype of the world’s first implant-activated smart gun and is a huge proponent for this new technology.

He’s written a book, spoken at TEDx and also appeared in a number of documentaries.

In an interview with the Australian media outlet, Amal explained that the technology he has implanted into his body has “given me the ability to communicate with machines. It’s literally integrated into who I am.”

Shanti has bought into the culture that dominates society today, which is one dominated by the fantasy of super heroes that mesmerizes the population at theaters all across the globe.

“Ever since watching movies like the Terminator, Matrix and Minority Report I wondered if we could actually live like that. I always wondered why we all weren’t living as ‘super-humans’

You can watch how Shanti uses the microchip in her daily life in the video below;

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It’s official.

The United States government closed out the 2016 fiscal year that ended a few days ago on Friday September 30th with a debt level of $19,573,444,713,936.79.

That’s an increase of $1,422,827,047,452.46 over last year’s fiscal year close.

Incredible. By the way, that debt growth amounts to roughly 7.5% of the entire US economy.

By comparison, the Marshall Plan, which completely rebuilt Western Europe after World World II, cost $12 billion back in 1948, or roughly 4.3% of US GDP at the time.

The initial appropriation for the WPA, perhaps the largest of Roosevelt’s New Deal “make work” programs that employed millions of people, cost 6.7% of US GDP.

And, more recently, the US $700 billion bank bailout at the beginning of the 2008 financial crisis was the equivalent of 4.8% of GDP.

So basically these people managed to increase the national debt by a bigger percentage than the cost of the New Deal, Marshall Plan, and 2008 bank bailout.

What exactly did you get for that money?

Did they spend $1.4 trillion on achieving world peace, eradicating poverty, saving the planet, or some other pipedream?

Did they finally fix America’s crumbling infrastructure that has been in desperate need of repair?

Did they send a gigantic tax refund check to every man, woman, and child in the country?

Actually the answer is (D), none of the above. They squandered it all.

In fact, the 2016 fiscal year had the THIRD largest increase in government debt in US history.

The only two previous times in which the debt increased more than the 2016 fiscal year were during the financial crisis.

But there was no financial crisis in 2016.

The government didn’t have to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out the banks.

All things considered, 2016 was a pretty normal fiscal year for the federal government. There were no major emergencies to drain taxpayer funds.

Yet they still managed to blow $1.4 trillion because this level of waste and spending is now baked into the system.

Even if they dramatically slashed spending and got rid of entire departments of the federal government, they would still be hemmhoraging cash at a rate far greater than the economy can now possibly grow.

Social Security and Medicare are now the largest parts of that financial sinkhole, and according to their own projections, their drain on the budget is growing each year.

All other government spending COMBINED pales in comparison to Social Security and Medicare.

So if you add up military spending, homeland security, national parks, and President Obama’s jet, it’s just a fraction of what they spend on Social Security and Medicare.

These programs consume the vast majority of US tax revenue, forcing the government to borrow mind-boggling amounts of money to fund its operations, even in good times.

(Just imagine how much the debt will grow when times get tough again.)

What’s even more crazy is that Social Security and Medicare aren’t even properly funded. Both are rapidly running out of money.

The programs’ annual trustee reports show that their primary trust funds will become completely depleted starting in the next few years.

In fact one of Social Security’s major trust funds for Disability Insurance was actually fully depleted last year.

So even though these programs are already draining taxpayer resources and forcing the government to take on more and more debt, they are in need of a HUGE bailout.

This leaves precisely ONE option: default… but on whom?

It’s possible the government could try to borrow the $42 trillion that they calculate is necessary to make these programs solvent again.

That seems extraordinarily unlikely.

But even if it were possible to print and/or borrow that much money, it would either create a terminal currency crisis, or force the US government to default on unaffordable interest payments, throwing the financial system into chaos.

The other option is to simply default on the future beneficiaries of these programs, telling people, “Hey sorry, we wasted all of your money and there’s nothing left.”

So their choice comes down to either screwing the banks or screwing the taxpayer.

Gee I wonder which option they’ll pick…

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After the US Congress passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which overrides the principle of sovereign immunity to allow families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, an Iraqi group has requested parliament to prepare a lawsuit seeking compensation from the US for the invasion of Iraq.

The “Arab Project in Iraq” lobby group “sees their opportunity to ask for compensation from the United States over violations by the US forces following the US invasion that saw the toppling of late President Saddam Hussein in 2003,” the Al-Arabiya news channel reported on Saturday.

“It urged for a full-fledged investigation over the killing of civilians targets, loss of properties and individuals who suffered torture and other mistreatment on the hand of US forces.”

The Iraqi group is the first to take advantage of the precedent set by JASTA in overturning the principle of sovereign immunity.

President Obama had attempted to veto the legislation, but his veto was overturned by the Senate on Wednesday. By passing JASTA and allowing 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia, the Senate has also made the US vulnerable to legal action seeking compensation for its foreign policy activities across the world.

The day after the Senate vote, former Republican Senator Larry Pressler expressed fear that as a veteran of the Vietnam War, he could now face legal action.

“As a Vietnam combat veteran, I could almost certainly be sued by the Vietnamese government or by a Vietnamese citizen,” Pressler wrote in The Hill.

“The Gulf War, Iraq War and Afghanistan War veterans are more protected by constitutional congressional actions, but we Vietnam veterans will be raw targets if Americans can sue Saudi Arabia.”

On Saturday the first US lawsuit was filed under JASTA, alleging that Saudi Arabia provided material support to al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden. The complaint was filed by Stephanie Ross DeSimone, who was widowed when her husband, a Navy Commander, was killed at the Pentagon on 9/11. The lawsuit is also filed on behalf of the couple’s daughter, who was born after his death.

Saudi Arabia denies any culpability for the 9/11 attacks, and has warned that it might be forced to sell off billions of US assets to avoid sanctions if JASTA became law, a move which would destabilize the US dollar.

“Saudi Arabia would be forced to sell up to $750 billion in Treasury securities and other assets in the United States before they could be in danger of being frozen by American courts,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told the US Congress in March, the New York Times reported.

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Michel Chossudovsky will be speaking at the Beit Zatoun Cultural Centre in Toronto, 

Wednesday, October 5 @ 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm

The world community is being held hostage by the American military agenda and the implications of its new “tactical” nuclear weapons.

Any one of the many flashpoints around the Middle East, China, North Korea, and Russia’s borders could precipitate a situation that threatens the future of humanity.


Michel Chossudovsky
 is Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Ottawa and the director of the Centre for Research on Globalization, a cutting-edge, independent research and media organization at: www.globalresearch.ca.

Chossudovsky has written: The Globalization of Poverty and The New World OrderAmerica’s “War on Terrorism”Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War and his latest: The Globalization of War: America’s Long War against Humanity.

 

Beit Zatoun Cultural Centre in Toronto, 

Wednesday, October 5 @ 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm 

 612 Markham St.

Toronto, ON  M6G 2L8

1 minute from Bathurst subway stop on Bloor line (Markham St. exit)

Phone: 647-726-9500

Email: Email us!

Michel Chossudovsky can be contacted at [email protected]

Archive of Michel Chossudovsky’s online articles at Global Research

facebook event


Need to know:
– Doors open at 6:50
– $10 donation (suggested minimum)
– Accessible on demand via portable ramp; washrooms not accessible
– Please avoid using strong-scented products due to sensitivities

Tasty refreshments (non-alcoholic) with Zatoun oliveoil+za’atar dipping.

*      *      *

“The world is at a dangerous crossroads.  The United States and its allies have launched a military adventure which threatens the future of humanity.

Under a global military agenda, the actions undertaken by the Western military alliance (U.S.-NATO-Israel) in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, Palestine, Ukraine, Syria and Iraq are coordinated at the highest levels of the military hierarchy. We are not dealing with piecemeal military and intelligence operations. Major military and covert intelligence operations are being undertaken simultaneously in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Asia Pacific region.

The current situation is all the more critical inasmuch as a US-NATO war on Russia, China and Iran is part of the US presidential election debate. It is presented as a political and military option to Western public opinion.” 

America’s “Humanitarian War” against the World By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, September 28, 2016

“The United States of America is not fighting the terrorists in Syria. 

The Obama administration, with the support of its allies including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, is supporting the Islamic State (ISIS Daesh)

Obama’s counterterrorism campaign in Syria and Iraq is bogus.” 

Obama is Protecting the Terrorists, America to the Rescue of ISIS-ISIL-Daesh. Testimonies of Syrian Soldiers Who Witnessed the US Airstrikes By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, September 19, 2016

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In a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released Monday, two former CIA detainees described previously unreported torture techniques used in secret U.S. prisons overseas, shedding new light on the program the government fought for years to keep hidden.

Ridha al-Najjar, 51, and Lotfi al-Arabi El Gherissi, 52, both Tunisian men recently repatriated after being in CIA custody for 13 years without charge, independently described being threatened with a makeshift electric chair, deprived of sleep, subject to multiple forms of water torture, chained by their wrists to the ceilings of their cells for extended periods of time, and severely beaten.

The executive summary of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s still-classified torture report makes no mention of electric chairs.

HRW writes of El Gherissi’s experience:

He said the chair was made of metal, or perhaps iron. It had clips with wires attached to it intended to be fit on fingers, and a helmet with wires. His description suggested something makeshift, attached to a pipe that came out of a wall. His interrogators put him in the chair and threatened to use it on him unless he gave them more information, though they did not. He said this terrified him and he was trembling. The room also had a board that they threatened to put him on, but never did. He said he understood that water would be used on him while he was on the board.

Al-Najjar separately recounted similar treatment:

It was made out of metal or iron, had plugs attached to wires for fitting on fingers, and a headset with wires. The description suggested make-shift apparatus, attached to a wall pipe. His U.S. interrogators threatened during interrogations to use the chair on him, but never actually did. The room also contained other instruments used for torture, including a board that he believes his interrogators used on him on various occasions for different types of water torture, and a coffin in which they threatened to place him.

“These terrifying accounts of previously unreported CIA torture methods show how little the public still knows about the U.S. torture program,” said HRW senior U.S. national security counsel Laura Pitter.

The most abuse took place at a facility known as Cobalt, a site in Afghanistan, which al-Najjar and El Gherissi called the “Dark Prison.” Other detainees have referred to it alternately as the Dark Prison or the “Salt Pit” as well. Al-Najjar recounted his interrogators at Cobalt “threatening the ‘well-being of his family,’ using ‘sound disorientation techniques,’ denying him sleep using round-the-clock interrogations, depriving him of any ‘sense of time,’ keeping him in ‘isolation in total darkness; lowering the quality of his food,’ using cold temperatures, playing music ’24 hours a day, and keeping him shackled and hooded.'”

A CIA cable issued September 21, 2002 described him as a “clearly broken man” who was “on the verge of a complete breakdown.” He remained in CIA custody for another 13 years.

Both men were set free in 2015 with no compensation or support from the U.S. or Tunisian governments, which violated international human rights law, HRW said—particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture, both of which the U.S. has ratified. Under those laws, “governments have obligations to ensure the right to an effective remedy for victims of serious human rights violations, including torture and other ill-treatment,” the human rights group wrote. “Although these violations did not take place in the United States, they occurred while the individuals were under the effective control of U.S. security forces.”

Today, al-Najjar and El Gherissi live with their families in Tunisia in destitute conditions, struggling with severe trauma. Al-Najjar, who said his hips, ankle, and back were broken in detention, told HRW that he is still suffering from damage to several internal organs, as well as his ear. “My sister has five kids,” he told Pitter. “I am the sixth.”

El Gherissi lives with his family in a house that has no doors or full roof. He shares a bed with his elderly mother and cannot afford to see a doctor.

Pitter continued, “The release of these two men without the U.S. providing any assistance or redress for their torture and suffering also shows how much the U.S. still needs to do to put the CIA torture program behind it.”

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