GR Editor’s Note

Evacuating US sponsored terrorists is routine. See Seymour Hersh’s coverage of the evacuation of Al Qaeda “enemy combatants” in Afghanistan in November 2001.

by Elijah J. Magnier, Edited by Ollie Richardson

The Iraqi Army, the Counter Terrorism units, the Federal police, and Anbar tribes entered the city of Ramadi that was occupied by the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” group (ISIS) for several months. To their biggest surprise, only a few bodies of the terrorist group were found when intelligence gathering by the U.S led coalition and the Iraqi intelligence service confirmed the presence of around 2000 fighters in the city until days before the final assault. Six ISIS fighters were arrested while trying to flee Ramadi among the 442 civilians who left the city one day before the final assault on the city center.

The same phenomena of “ISIS evaporation” was registered in Sinjar when 7500 Kurds, supported by the U.S Air Force, occupied the key northern Iraqi city, finding a very small number of ISIS fighters in it.

So where did all these ISIS fighters go to?

A high-ranking source within the Iraqi government told me:

“The US forces operating in Iraq within the military operation room in Baghdad are the ones who define the units and the time (day and hour) of attacks against ISIS. If we want to benefit from an Air Force to defeat the terrorist group, we should bow to the American command. It is not unlikely for a possible American – Turkish coordination to communicate with “ISIS” and give a free way out to fighters to withdraw in the direction of the Syrian – Iraqi borders. That’s the information our drones collected in the last few days prior the attack of Ramadi.

Our signals and Human Intelligence informed the Americans and us about ISIS movement of troops. We were not allowed to engage against these and no one in the government can contradict the Americans for the moment. The U.S ordered Baghdad to keep al-Hashd al-Sha’bi (PMUs) away from the battlefield of Anbar perhaps to ensure a free passage to ISIS and to reduce the Iranian influence and credit of victories in Iraq”.

“America has asked decision makers in Baghdad to change the heads of anti-terrorism, intelligence and security services of the army and Interior Ministry. Moreover, the Secretary General of the Council of Minister was also  suggested by the Americans and in consequences he has been appointed to this position. The U.S wants a homogeneous team that is friendly to its policy and presence of these (US forces) on the ground in Iraq.

The hostile Era – created by the former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that led to a withdrawal of the forces from Mesopotamia – is over and the policy adopted at the moment consists of reducing the influence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani over a few Iraqi armed groups. What is contributing to the success of such a policy is the fact that the Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is in a bad terms with Soleimani. Since the start, PM Abadi believed that Soleimani was planning to remove him from power, supporting al-Maliki and promoting other choices to replace the actual Premier”, said the source.

The source concluded:

”Iran controls various military organisations fighting within the Popular Mobilisation Units that are strongly present in the battlefield in Iraq and in Syria. Such an influence persuaded al-Abadi to choose the path that leads to ” Uncle Sam ” instead of choosing the one of Welayat-el- faqih. This is why Abadi rejected, following an explicit American demand, to reject any Russia military assistance in the air, in Iraq, unlike the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Iraqi Prime Minister is aware of the possibility that the U.S would like to see 3 Iraqi cantons, one for the Kurds, one for the Sunni and another one for the Shia. The Americans are also supporting the Turkish presence in Iraq, and met with the Director of the French Intelligence Service who said: The Middle East will never be the same as before. What is becoming more clear now that ISIS is a toy used by players for their agenda and plans to reshuffle the map of the Middle East”.

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Shortly before Christmas I wrote the following letter to Mr. Sergej Glaziev, one of Russia’s top economists and economic advisor to President Putin. Sergej is also a member of the Greek Delphi Initiative.

As Professor Michel Chossudovsky so aptly writes, western corporatism is waging an economic war against the world accompanied by increased militarism carried out mainly by the Pentagon and its minion European allies, NATO.

Stopping this criminal western imposed economic supremacy, all based on dollar fiat money, controlled by FED, Wall Street and the Basle (Switzerland) based BIS (Bank for International Settlements), also called the central bank of the world’s central banks, must be the world’s Priority Number One. The BIS was created in 1930 with the objective to help with the settlements of loans related to the reparation payments by Germany after WWI. It later took over the role of coordinating and gradually controlling central banks around the world and the flow of funds between them. The Rothschild – Rockefeller families were instrumental in setting up the institution and are still today among the major shareholders of an entirely privately owned international monetary institution.  

The BIS is one of the most secretive and obscure institutions in the world that helped the FED finance Hitler’s war against Russia during WWII. Yes, for those who don’t know, Washington had already then talked and walked with a forked tongue, playing both sides, as they do now with ISIS. But despite this satanical act – which the failing empire is repeating at nauseatum around the globe, killing millions – the Soviet Army defeated the Nazis, as my friend Andre Vltchek so eloquently says in his latest piece comparing Syria with Stalingrad, no matter how cowardly Washington’s deceit, Russia will not be defeated, nor will Syria, nor will China – nor will the world that loves freedom. People who love cannot be defeated. 

The western immoral, nefarious monetary system forces starving people to death by sanctions, by IMF strangulations, by creating unemployment through corporate privatization of public and social services, by greed – is bound to provoke revolutions, perhaps slowly, but surely. That’s why militarization has to go hand in hand with economic warfare, so that any potential public upheaval can be oppressed by bloody military and police violence before it can rise.

Economy through the prevailing monetary system is used as a deadly weapon, as deadly as bombs and canons. Beating the economy of war with an economy of peace, may be one way of conquering and subduing Humanity’s Enemy Number One – the Anglo-Zionist Empire with seat in Washington – and its spineless lackeys in Europe – who seamlessly after self-provoked and instigated terror attacks in France, Lebanon, Egypt, Mali – to name just a few – and fabricated terror warnings throughout Europe, now also in Munich, are terrorizing the European people into literally asking for a military clamp-down – ‘please protect us – we gladly give up all our civil liberties’. This has already happened in the US, where the American people have lost 90% of their civil rights since 9/11 through the Patriot Act and varies subsequent iterations of it. The US today is nothing but a militarized police state. In no time Europe will be the same. 

These thoughts have prompted me to write to Sergej Glaziev, a brilliant economist and fellow-member of the Greek Delphi Initiative. The Delphi Initiative is an inspirational and internationalized movement of thoughts launched in June 2015 by a group of Greek intellectuals to seek alternatives to the troika (ECB, EC, IMF) caused Greek breakdown, to the US-NATO sponsored Ukrainian civil war and to seek an independent Europe of solidarity.

*        *        *

19 December 2015

Dear Mr. Glazyev,

Please allow me to write to you with one simple but monumental concern:  The survival of humanity.

Washington follows a foreign policy of constant provocation for constant conflict. It is a monster with more than 1,000 military bases around the world, spanning its tentacles into every region of the globe, creating friction, for conflicts, for military interventions, for ‘regime change’.

Six Anglo-Saxon Zionist-dominated giant media corporations are controlling 90% of the ‘news’ consumed by the West. They spit out endless lies, double-talk, hypocrisy, manipulating public opinion seeking consent for the empire’s evil interventions in sovereign nations’ internal affairs.

For the media’s propaganda and mind control campaigns no cost is too high. Why should it? – Fiat money is produced at a mouse click in the billions if necessary to manipulate public opinion into voting for neoliberal candidates in so-called ‘democratic elections’, from Greece, to Argentina to Venezuela to Spain and all over the ‘western’ world, including Japan and Australia. It would be against all odds that a majority of people who suffered for years under drastic austerity measures imposed by their neoliberal governments, would out of free will vote again for their hangmen. It is hardly coincidence that in Europe, not one out of the 28 EU members has a left-leaning government.

The illusion that Europe could become at least an economic counter-force has vanished long ago. Europe, the harbinger of hundreds of years of atrocious and murderous colonization of Africa, Asia and the Americas is hardly the ethical and moral power to resist the new neoliberal Anglo-Zionist empire with headquarters in Washington.  The so-called European Union and even non-EU members have long ago conceded most of their national sovereignty to Washington.

The EU, with the US behind its creation, was never conceived to become a political union. In such a scenario, a common currency, the Euro, was and is a sham. Lack of EU solidarity was exemplarily demonstrated in Greece. The EC, folded into the US (Wall Street, IMF) dominated troika, ruthlessly demolished Syriza. The concepts of ethics and solidarity do not exist in the EU, certainly no more than in the self-proclaimed hegemon of the world. Their blackmailing Greece into submission is a criminal act by any international standards of law – if there was still a court that would uphold such standards.

It is fundamental to unequivocally understand that the United States has one goal – and one goal only – seeking global military, financial and economic hegemony; or as Washington’s strategists call it, Full Spectrum Dominance. There is NOTHING, no diplomacy, no negotiation that could detract them from their course. Peace is not in Washington’s cards – and has not been for the last 200 years.

The objective to reach absolute power was set latest at the onset of WWI; it was intensified in the lead-up to WWII, when the FED via Wall Street and the BIS (Bank for International Settlement), conveniently located in Basle, Switzerland, bordering Germany, financed Hitler’s war against the Soviet Union. The objective for absolute power was eventually solidified with the Pax Americana, later converted into the PNAC (Plan for a New American Century), written during the artificially created Cold War, by Zionist-led Washington ‘think tanks’ (sic).

The fall of the Middle-East and North Africa (MENA) and the gradual encroachment of Russia and China was decided well before 9/11 – see also General Wesley Clark (NATO Commander Europe 1997-2000)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSL3JqorkdU –

Today more than 50% of the US GDP is generated by America’s war machine and related industries and services. US/ NATO instigated conflicts, wars and proxy or mercenary wars in the last 15 years have left behind a death toll of 10 to 12 million people; and a chaos of destruction and misery contributing a considerable portion of refugees to the worldwide flood of at least 60 million refugees (UNHCR), seeking shelter, food and security in the very nations that destroyed their economies, homes and families.

While the dollar monetary system commands the (western) world, one of the three key instruments of oppression and dominance (the other two being war and propaganda), the death toll and destruction will further proliferate – unless – UNLESS, the monster is forcefully stopped in its tracks.

No matter what diplomatic efforts Russia and China may make, no matter what concessions the US and its European and Gulf State minions may appear to make – the PNAC’s objective of Full Spectrum Dominance will not change.

Why do I tell you this? – Most, if not all, you probably already know.

Thanks to the wisdom of Mr. Putin and his team, the world has so far been saved from a WWIII scenario. Mr. Putin’s speech on 28 September at the UN General Assembly and Russia’s subsequent, fully legitimate intervention in Syria to fight the Western terror creation ISIS / Daesh, has started making a dent in the world’s public opinion. There is some awakening taking place. The tectonic plates may have started shifting. At the same time however, Washington is upping the ante, by intensifying its aggression and provocations around the world.

There is no doubt that the Russia-China force-de-frappe is superior to that of the US and NATO. The concern is bloodshed, and possibly annihilation of mankind.

My credo from one economist to another – There is another, possibly bloodless way to conquer the monster: economics.

Russia and China, together with the other BRICS and SCO countries hold the keys:

Rapid expansion of the Russia-China alternative payment systems, fierce promotion of dollar delinked energy trading;

reducing dollar reserve holding below the 50% mark, by encouraging the Chinese Yuan – now officially admitted in the IMF’s SDR basket – as viable alternative reserve currency.

Reducing demand for the fiat dollar, and offering an alternative international payment system, will break the west’s fraudulent dollar grip on the world’s economy; freeing humanity from criminal ‘sanctions’, currency and commodity manipulations.

Once a critical mass is on board the new system, an unstoppable sea-change may take place, breaking the dollar hegemony – and Washington’s path to Full Spectrum Dominance.

A dying beast may still attempt to destroy whatever it can find on its way to oblivion, even committing nuclear suicide – in which case I trust in the Russian-Chinese defence tactics and especially in Mr. Putin as the world’s top geopolitical chess player.

With my best wishes for the Holidays and most certainly for a more peaceful 2016.

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, CounterPunch, 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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A Tangled Web: How the Media Misleads the Public on Terrorist Threats

January 3rd, 2016 by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Public perception about the so-called “Global War on Terror” is manipulated in various ways by a trail of misinformation and disinformation.

This article is a case study on the October 22, 2014 lone gunman rampage of Parliament Hill in Ottawa that was used by the  government of Steven Harper to justify the Canadian entry into the US war in Iraq and, later, the US-led war on Syria. Despite being proven otherwise, the attack by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was reported as being linked to the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/DAESH/ISIS/IS).  

How and Why Facts Get Lost or are Ignored

On the day that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau went on his rampage, a tangled web of information was erected. In all the reporting by the media, the sources were lost. What resulted from this was the perception that Canada was under a foreign-planned attack led by the ISIL/DAESH.

One important source, @ArmedResearch, a US-based Twitter account that presents itself as a microblog for military studies, claimed that the Ottawa attack on October 22 was connected to an attack which took place two days earlier at Saint Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec (October 20).

According to @Armed Research, Martin Couture-Rouleau (who called himself Ahmad LeConverti, which means “Ahmed the convert” in French), who was behind the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu car ramming attack, and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau were in some way connected. Couture-Rouleau had killed a Canadian soldier two days before Zehaf-Bibeau went on his rampage on October 22.

Presented subsequently in various media reports, the two incidents were said to be interconnected. They were portrayed as a coordinated and orchestrated attack. Additionally, the same Twitter account which posted a picture of Zehaf-Bibeau at the Canadian National War Monument starting his rampage within hours of the attack in Ottawa, namely @ArmedResearch, claimed that the photographs came from an ISIL/DAESH source. These were the first pictures of Zehaf-Bibeau and were widely reproduced by the Canadian and international media.

@ArmedResearch, which was instrumental in disseminating the photograph, claimed that the source of the photograph was an ISIL/DAESH or ISIS linked Twitter account named @Breaking3zero. In league with the webpage Heavy.com, @ArmedResearch implied that “Martin Couture-Rouleau followed the same Canadian-based pro-ISIS Twitter account.”

Complicating the matter is the existence of another Twitter account, @V_IMS. @V_IMS which was reported to be an ISIL/DAESH account. Ottawa Citizen journalist Shaamini Yogaretnam reported on October 23 that @V_IMS was suspended within an hour after it began circulating the same pictures.

Maybe it was because most of the entries and posts on @Breaking3zero were in French and @ArmedResearch could not understand, but what Heavy.com  claimed was categorically false. The person behind the post was French-Canadian writer William Reymond.

On October 25, Reymond even sent a Tweet message to Fox News about its faulty reporting in a Fox News article misleadingly titled “Citizen Jihadists: ISIS uses ‘lone wolves’ to mount cheap, effective attacks on US soil” by Pierre Chiareamonte.

Fox News not only misleadingly insinuated that the ISIL/DAESH was behind the Ottawa attack, but also claimed that the picture of Zehaf-Bibeau was posted by the ISIL/DAESH, meaning that @Breaking3zero was an ISIL/DAESH Twitter account. Likewise, @Breaking3zero sent a message to Suzanne Wilton’s account stating: “We ARE NOT a pro ISIS account ! That’s outrageous ! [sic.]”

William Reymond even wrote an article about it on his personal blog in both French and English on October 22, 2014. To set the record straight, on November 1, 2014 he reproduced the same text on Huffington Post.  He starts his text by saying:

Take a good look at this photo. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re bound to come across it in the next couple of hours. This picture is going around the world right now. It shows Michael Zehaf-Bibeau during his attack in Ottawa.

This photo was first published and identified on my 100% news twitter feed @Breaking3zero several hours before the traditional media got ahold [sic.] of it.

I want to tell you the story behind this picture. How it landed on my computer screen and how I was able to identify it before sharing it.

The following day, the RCMP told the public they did not know who could have taken the picture of the incident. This kept Canadians in suspense and made them wonder if the ISIL/DAESH had really been behind the attack. It was later revealed that the source for the photograph was the local Ottawa Police Services.

Reymond disclosed this about the originally source being the local police in Ottawa:

Around 2pm, one of my followers informs me of its existence, asking me if this really is the shooter. At this point in time, information on the Ottawa attack is still very vague and contradictory.

My first reflex is to ask him about the source. He points to the responses to a tweet posted by the Ottawa police.

Not just any tweet. But a tweet asking the witnesses of the attack to share with the police any information allowing to identify the shooter. And there, among the first responses, is the photo of a man holding a rifle.

Don’t bother looking, this tweet doesn’t exist anymore. It was deleted almost instantly. Posted from an anonymous account and for just a few short moments, this picture found itself in the huge virtual haystack  called Twitter.

I don’t know who deleted it. The rate at which it was taken off makes me think that it was probably the author himself. Maybe he thought he was sending a private message. Maybe it took it down after talking to the police, following their advice

Whatever the reason, thanks to a screenshot, I find myself with a copy in hands in the early afternoon.

The media and news agencies have failed to even correct their mistakes. Instead they have just moved on, leaving many Canadians in a blanket of ignorance and misconception. Many Canadians still believe that the photograph of  Zehaf-Bibeau was released by the ISIL/DAESH when in reality it was a photograph taken by an Ottawa police constable using their Blackberry cellular telephone to replicate an earlier photographer taken on the same day by the camera of a tourist at the National War Monument.

Screen shots from Ottawa Citizen, October 23, 2014

At its worst, the failure of the mainstream media to report the facts is intentional. At its best, it is the negligence of sloppy journalists and media outlets. Whatever the case, it  is malfeasance and a form of misconduct that has misinformed the public about the reach of the ISIL/DAESH and the danger that the public faces.

The RCMP also misrepresented the facts, because it reported that Zehaf-Bibeau was planning on going to fight in Syria. He was never planning on going to fight in Syria. The RCMP made this claim, saying that its source was his mother. She, however, angrily spoke out and said that she had even asked the RCMP to correct their mistake after they made the claim.

The Echo Chamber and the Misleading of the Public

There is an echo chamber of misinformation and disinformation where misinformed reports and conjecture feed other reports, leading to the construction of a distorted picture of the news and world. After a Globe and Mail article on the day of the attack speculated that Zehaf-Bibeau’s adopted father appeared “to have fought in 2011 in Libya,” it was reported as a fact in other media, including the state-owned British Broadcasting Corporation.

Zehaf-Bibeau was never even on the national terrorist watch list in Canada. Based on what an unnamed US law enforcement official told the reporter Susan Candiotti, CNN wrongly reported that Zehaf-Bibeau’s “passport had been confiscated by Canadian authorities when they learned he planned to go fight overseas.”

US law enforcement officials also released information about Zehaf-Bibeau before Canadian law enforcement officials did. This includes the release of his widely circulated picture from the day of his rampage on Parliament Hill. “The working Ottawa police theory is that the photo, regardless of where it first appeared on Twitter, was shared not just internally but with other law enforcement agencies and may have been leaked by police outside the country,” according to Yogaretnam. 

Governments and a cross-section of the mainstream media are societal actors that have what can be described as “role setting agendas.” In other words, both governments and their affiliates and allies in the mass media are involved in branding campaigns that manage societal perceptions. This includes the deliberate creation of hysteria and panic, which is why there was a fixation on the Saint-Denis and Bataclan attacks (November 13, 2015) in France while the terrorist attacks on Beirut’s southern Dahiyeh area (November 12, 2015) that took place a day earlier were virtually ignored.

These branding campaigns have been at work to sell specific perspectives aimed at framing or re-framing the views of the public and the way that audiences understand or perceive the policy shifts in national security and foreign policy that justify war and the looting of national resources. It is within this context that it should be noted that the Canadian media has decided to focus on the case of an underage boy from the Lachine area of Montréal being found guilty in 2015 of committing terrorist-related crimes (for robbing a store when he was fifteen in October 2014 and trying to use the credit card of his parents to fly to Turkey to join the ISIL/DAESH in February 2014) while the Canadian government sells massive amounts of weapons to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The focus and gaze of the public is being misdirected towards a misguided schoolboy through an illusion that ignores the real backers of terrorism. Aside from being an oppressive dictatorship, major violator of human rights, and committing war crimes against the people of Yemen in an aggressive bombing campaign, the Saudi regime  is undeniably supporting the ISIL/DAESH and other terrorist organizations in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.

Here lies the irony. While an adolescent Canadian schoolboy is being jailed as a terrorist threat for foolishly wanting to join the ISIL/DAESH or other terrorist organizations fighting in Syria and Iraq, the Canadian government is actually supporting and arming Saudi Arabia, one of the widely recognized backers of the terrorists that Ottawa itself claims to be fighting inside Iraq and Syria.

Click here to read a detailed analysis of how the Canadian government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper misled Canadians in 2014 about the attack on Parliament Hill while it was being blamed itself for supporting the terrorists inside Iraq and Syria. 

A few months ago, entrepreneur Charles Devenish contacted me to tell me about his plans to develop various mining enterprises across India. He spoke about the massive amounts of untapped mineral resources lying beneath India that is just lying there and has been for a long time. What he thought I might find appealing were his plans for how small-scale mining could dovetail with a model of agriculture aimed at restoring Indian soils, which have been seriously degraded by decades of ‘green revolution’ chemical poisoning, and a rolling back of the increasing and harmful corporate control of farming. 

Devenish wants to set up co-operative mining enterprises in rural areas that would involve local farmers, who would then have a say and a stake in these local mines (see this report). The farmers would also benefit from the profits that would supplement their farming income and also be funnelled into investment in research and knowledge, which would enable them to restore their soils and move towards organic agriculture that would be in harmony with the local ecology.

Taken at face value, the plan sounds reasonable, especially given the current push to make farming financially non-viable, displace farmers from their lands and then implement a petro-chemical intensive system of agriculture based on the industrialised model of farming that the West has adopted. This model has led to de-nutrified food, degraded soils, contaminated water, serious health issues and various other problems. Although there are calls to help farmers by, for example, providing them with a proper living income and stopping wrongful land acquisition, waiting for policy makers in central government to address the plight of farmers could be a very long wait indeed, particularly as much of officialdom is facilitating the corporate takeover of farming.

But what caught my attention was Charles Devenish’s commitment to a Gandhian model of rural development. The model of mining he is proposing seems a long way from those stories we hear about people being driven from their lands as big corporations move in to destroy the landscape and ecology courtesy of corrupt back-room deals done with officials. The aim is to keep farmers on their lands and provide them with additional sources of income, not least from mining.

Devenish’s ‘Gandhian model of development’ appears to have nothing to do with Gates-Zuckerberg models of ‘philanthro-capitalism’ that we currently hear about. What Gates is attempting to do with agriculture in Africa is very much tied to a corporate model as envisaged by Monsanto. And what Zuckerberg seems to want is to roll out a ‘free’ and basic version of the internet which is again tied to corporate interests.

But mention Gandhi in certain circles and the response is one of cynicism: many would say his ideas are outdated and irrelevant in today’s world. Such a response could not be further from the truth. Gandhi could see the future impact of large-scale industrialisation in terms of the devastation of the environment, the destruction of ecology and the unsustainable plunder of natural resources.

Gandhi was ahead of his time. Although he might not have used today’s terms, ideas pertaining to environmentalism, agroecology, sustainable living, fair trade, local self-sufficiency, food sovereignty and so on were all present in his writings. He was committed to inflicting minimal damage on the environment and was concerned that humans should use only those resources they require and not amass wealth beyond their requirements. People have the right to attain certain comforts but a perceived right to unbridled luxuries would result in damaging the environment and impinge on the species that we share the planet with. His own lifestyle was a highly sustainable one, focusing on simplicity, austerity and need rather than want.

For Gandhi, indigenous capability and local self-reliance (swadeshi) were key to producing a model of sustainable development. This is in stark contrast to what is currently taking place. For example, Chennai (Madras) has just experienced its worst flooding in over 100 years. This article in the Hindustan Times outlines how uncontrolled urban sprawl and planning across India has ignored watershed management and proper environmental planning and has placed cities at the peril of major flooding. In Delhi, the authorities are building on flood plains. Across India, cities are “sitting ducks for all sorts of natural disasters.”

Another example is agriculture, whereby the ‘green revolution’ brushed aside indigenous agriculture and replaced it with water- and chemical-intensive farming that relies on external inputs from corporations and results in massive external costs, including huge damn construction projects, soil degradation, ecological devastation, population displacement and a poisoned environment. It has also exposed farmers to the vagaries of rigged global trade and markets, commodity speculation and the geopolitics of food. They are also often encouraged to grow cash crops for export rather than supply local people. The result for many of them has been debt, suicide and financial crisis. Farmer and campaigner Bhaskar Save outlines what the green revolution did for Indiahere.

Rather than a push towards urbanisation, Gandhi felt that the village economy should be central to development and India should not follow the West by aping an urban-industrial system. He noted that it took Britain half the resources of the planet to achieve its prosperity and asked how many planets would a country like India require? Gandhi added that the economic imperialism of a tiny island kingdom was keeping the world in chains, and if an entire nation of 300 million (India’s population at the time) took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locusts.

India is now 1.2 billion plus and China, 1.3 billion. The US with 300 million has already stripped much of the planet. US citizens as a whole constitute 5 percent of the world’s population but consume 24 percent of the world’s energy. On average, one American consumes as much energy as two Japanese, six Mexicans, 13 Chinese, 31 Indians, 128 Bangladeshis, 307 Tanzanians and 370 Ethiopians

Gandhi argued that the type of industrialised development adopted by Britain was based on a mind-set that encourages humans to regard man as conqueror and owner of the Earth. Apart from uncontrolled urban sprawl that tramples over the environment, this arrogance also manifests itself in geo-engineering, genetic engineering and the appropriation of all facets of life from water and land to forests, seeds and food by powerful corporations.

The view of development envisaged by Gandhi was fundamentally different. Although there was a role for industrialisation that was not resource- or energy-intensive and which involved for example shipbuilding, iron works and machine making, this would exist alongside village handicrafts. This type of industrialisation would not make villages and village crafts subservient to it: nothing would be produced by the cities that could be equally well produced by the villages and the function of cities would be to serve as clearing houses for village products. He argued that with new technology even energy could be produced in villages by using sunlight and local materials. And, of course, people would live within the limits imposed by the environment and work in harmony with the natural ecology rather than by forcing it to bend to the will of profiteering industries.

In  his book ‘Mahatma Gandhi: An Apostle of Applied Human Ecology‘, the late environmental scientist T N Khoshoo writes:

“… Gandhiji called the so-called modern society a nine-day wonder. Poverty has been aggravated due to cumulative environmental degradation on account of resource depletion, increasing disparities, rural migration to urban areas resulting in deforestation, soil erosion, loss of soil fertility, desertification, biological impoverishment, pollution of air, water and land on account of lack of sanitation, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and their biomagnification, and a whole range of other problems.”

Consider that prior to the British, India was among the richest countries in the world and had controlled a third of global wealth until the 17th century. It was an exporter of spices, food grains, handicrafts, handloom products, wootz steel, musk, camphor, sandalwood and ivory items, among other things. The village was the centre of a rural economy, which was the centre of entrepreneurship. The British dismantled much of this system by introducing mono crop activities and mill-made products, and post independent India failed to repair the economic fabric. As a result, successive administrations have ended up preparing relief packages from time to time and rural India is thus too often depicted a basket case.

Officials now seem to be preoccupied with a fetish for GDP growth and an unsustainable model of ‘development’. Part of this process involves destroying the environment and moving hundreds of millions from the land and into what are already overburdened mega-cities. Depriving people of their livelihoods in rural India (and deliberately running down agriculture) means mass migration to cities that are failing to produce anywhere near the volumeof jobs required to soak up new arrivals.

If a forest can be chopped down and the land and timber sold, this increases GDP and thus constitutes ‘growth’. The wildlife has gone and the forest which had been managed for centuries by local people who had used its resources sustainably for their needs has disappeared. And the people who lived on the land migrate to cities to live in slums and search for work that does not exist. This is regarded as ‘development’.

It is, according to Vandana Shiva, a model of development underpinned by a certain ideology:

“People are perceived as ‘poor’ if they eat food they have grown rather than commercially distributed junk foods sold by global agri-business. They are seen as poor if they live in self-built housing made from ecologically well-adapted materials like bamboo and mud rather than in cinder block or cement houses. They are seen as poor if they wear garments manufactured from handmade natural fibres rather than synthetics.”

And the result of this mind set is that the ‘poor’ must therefore be helped out of their awful ‘backwardness’ by the West and its powerful corporations.

What some might regard as ‘backward’ stems from an ethnocentric ideology, which is used to legitimize the destruction of communities and economies under the banner of ‘globalisation’ (ie neoliberalism and imperialism) that were once locally based and self- sufficient.

Reflecting Gandhi’s views, Sudhansu R Das argues that reweaving the Indian village economy lies in the ability of the leadership to revert the change in societal behaviour that lets villagers prefer unnecessary consumer items to real economic assets. Das argues that the young generation in villages today prefers fast food to homemade nutritious food. Similarly, many biodegradable, handcrafted, daily use items have given way to plastic and synthetic products. People give up many climate friendly traditional dresses, footwear and a wide range of homemade eatables for no convincing reason but for the influence of ‘the market’ and advertising. People are persuaded to borrow and live beyond their means. The mad craze for status symbol has indebted millions of people. Das calls for reinvigorating entrepreneurship in villages.

However, government after government aggravates the problems by creating an impression that the villagers are a backward, inefficient and unproductive lot who can survive only on relief. With proper investment and appropriate policies, India’s rural economy could once again thrive.

T N Khoshoo argued that Gandhi’s advocacy of an ‘non-interventionist lifestyle’ provides the answer to the present day problems. The phrase ‘health of the environment’ is not just a literary coinage, he argues. It makes real biological sense because, as Gandhi argued, our planet is like a living organism. Without the innumerable and varied forms of life that the earth inhabits, without respecting the species we share this place with, our world will become lifeless.

Alternatively, before that happens, humans will become extinct and the planet will shake us off like a bad case of fleas. But, in the meantime, how much damage will have done by then and how much suffering will we have caused by a system that thrives on turning people into slaves to their desires and allowing imperialism to reign free?

Gandhi was “an apostle of applied human ecology,” according to T N Khoshoo. He offered a vision for a world without meaningless consumption which depleted its finite resources and destroyed habitats and the environment. Given the problems facing humanity, his ideas should serve as an inspiration to us all, whether we live in India or elsewhere.

Unfortunately, his message seems to have been lost on many of today’s leaders who have capitulated to an out-of-control ‘capitalism’ that is driving the world towards resource-driven conflicts with the ultimate spectre of nuclear war hanging over humanity’s head.

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Riyadh has stoked the sectarian fires at the start of 2016 with its decision, and carrying out, of the executions of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and various members of the Shiite community.  All in all, 47 were dispatched in a Saudi orgy of state-sanctioned violence. 

Since his 2012 arrest in the Saudi Arabian eastern province of Qatif, al-Nimr had become something of a talismanic figure, having openly supported mass anti-government demonstrations in the region in 2011 and expressing open sympathy with fellow Shiites.  The lot of the Shiite community in that part has been a disgruntled one, giving the cleric ample room to insist on elections and criticism of the ruling al-Saud family.

The Saudi authorities have been left in a pickle as to how to respond.  Arrest him for the charges of sedition was considered acceptable but executing him would be another matter.  There had been various warnings issued by Tehran about the consequences of doing so, making the issue more incendiary than usual.

Furthermore, executing him alongside various al-Qaeda figures such as Faris al-Shuwail, and those involved in a series of lethal attacks between 2003 and 2006, betrayed a rather distorted perspective.  This is not to say that members of al-Saud had no reason to fear him.

For one, the Sheikh was on public record against any violent resolution, which is precisely what made him terrifying to a regime positively addicted to it. Prior to his arrest, Sheikh al-Nimr had told the BBC in a 2011 interview that he called for “the roar of the word against authorities rather than weapons… the weapon of the word is stronger than bullets, because authorities will profit from a battle with weapons.”

He was also suggesting an alternative structure of religious governance.  Such views will have undoubtedly been influenced by ten years of religious studies in Tehran and a few in Syria.  For al-Nimr, governance should be conducted through a process somewhere between that of a single religious leader (“wilayet al-faqih”) and consultation, a philosophy of “shura al-fuqaha” in which a council of religious leaders hold sway.[1]

Pigeonholing the cleric as firebrand revolutionary or moderate democrat is tempting, though it is very obvious that al-Nimr was far more complex, a creature of religious politics rather than liberal awakening.  A sense of his worldview can be gathered in a US cable via WikiLeaks from August 2008. It speaks of his opposition to the “authoritarianism of the reactionary al-Saud regime” and support for “the people” in any conflict with the authorities.[2]

It is also hard to go by his open advocacy for “the right of the Saudi Shi’a community to seek external assistance if it were to become embroiled in a conflict.” This, accompanied by his open encouragement of the Iranian regime and its nuclear ambitions, was always going to niggle the Saudi authorities.

The trial that followed the grandest traditions of display over legal substance, an attempt less to redress strict matters of law as those of political expediency.  Eyewitnesses, for one, were not called to testify.  The authorities were determined to pot al-Nimr, finding that he had been responsible for “foreign meddling”.

Whatever the supposedly peaceful views of the Sheikh, such historical reactions tend to be of the violent sort.  The battles against Riyadh are unlikely to be resolved with a mighty pen over weaker sword.  Fearing this exact point, the kingdom deployed hundreds of armoured vehicles to Qatif to quell protests in the aftermath of Saturday’s executions.

The international dimension has also seen similar reactions.  The Bahraini village of Abu Saiba witnessed tear gassing from security forces. The result of this bloody venture has been to enrage the Shiite community in the country while antagonising those outside it as well.

Warnings and unfavourable predictions regarding the al-Saud regime have come in a flurry.  Former Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, not necessarily the paragon of accurate crystal ball gazing, has suggested that the move will see the regime in Riyadh collapse.

In a released statement, al-Maliki insisted that his countrymen “strongly condemn these detestable sectarian practices that affirm that the crime of executing Sheikh al-Nimr will topple the Saudi regime as the crime of executing the martyr [Muhammad Baqir] al-Sadr did to Saddam.”[3]

The words of the ever active, some might say iconic figure of the Shi’a cleric politician Muqtada al-Sadr, was bound to carry even more weight. Having resisted US forces during its Iraqi occupation, al-Sadr’s words of condemnation will have purchase in Shiite communities beyond Iraq, including Saudi Arabia itself.

The domino effect continued in other countries with large Shiite representation.  Yemen’s Houthi movement have deemed al-Nimr a “holy warrior”. Hezbollah in Lebanon have insisted that the move amounted to an assassination.  The Saudi embassy in Tehran was attacked on Saturday with Molotov cocktails, with some of the offices being ransacked.

Politically sharpened eyes were invariably trained on the official Iranian response.  They did not have to wait long.  The tinderbox had been lit.  The Iranian Revolutionary Guards issued an unmistakable response to the execution via a statement carried by the Mehr news agency.  “A harsh revenge will strike at the Al Saud in the near future and cause the fall of its pro-terrorist, anti-Islamic regime.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei took to Twitter to suggest that, “Doubtlessly, unfairly-spilled blood of oppressed martyr #SheikhNimr will affect rapidly & Divine revenge will seize Saudi politicians.”  The religious figure has also gone so far as to suggest that any instrumental difference between the ISIS executioner and his Saudi counterpart is minimal. One is merely “black” as against the other’s “white”.

Teheran summoned the Saudi ambassador to express its condemnation of the execution, a favour which was returned to Riyadh’s Iranian ambassador more or less telling the Iranians to mind their own business.

The response from pro-Saudi governments, notably that of the United States, has been true to form. Since they have been as responsible for stoking sectarian violence in the region as any, public condemnations have been modest.

For them, the concern is less about victims in a mercenary power tussle than strategic balance.  “We are particularly concerned that the execution of (al-Nimr) risks,” claimed a meek John Kirby of the US State Department, “exacerbating sectarian tensions at a time when they urgently need to be reduced.”[4]

The move on the part of Riyadh has been one of indifference to consequences.  In that sense, the kingdom has shown itself immune to the external world which it has sought to control, with limited success.   That said, it has been allowed a degree of impunity – oil, the usual venality of strategic calculations, and the blind eye – have all served to exempt the kingdom from closer inspection.

This execution has proven to be a jolt, but it is unlikely to see the iron rule of the Saudi regime loosened. The most likely scenario here is an intensification of existing proxy confrontations, with more deaths.  Reform will be distinctly off the agenda.

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

Notes 

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How Israeli pricetag terrorism is financed by $6bn through the AIPAC Lobby in Washington (and raises the possibility of global war in 2016)

The Zionist Council – now known as AIPAC – is the most powerful lobby of American foreign policy ever known. It decides who stands for election to Congress and who gets elected right across all fifty states of the Union.
Effectively, just 20% of the American electorate control the US Legislature and Administration in a process that runs counter to any form of democratic government.  It exerts that control by money paid to ensure that virtually no individual who does not support AIPAC’s political agenda for Israel is elected to Congress.
It is a complete corruption of the democratic process that effectively disenfranchises over 240m Americans and impacts the lives of billions around the world in the most powerful, long-running, political scam ever perpetrated in the West.
The consequences to the Middle East and to Europe are mind-blowing. The Israeli government virtually controls American global foreign policy both overtly through Mr Netanyahu’s direct instructions to Congress and covertly through AIPAC’s political machinations in Washington.
The result is effective Israeli command of the White House and the consequent impotency of the elected president.  A travesty of democratic government and an insult to justice, morality and civil rights that extends across the world and threatens eventual war with nuclear weapons.
There is no greater threat that faces the world in 2016.
London January 2016
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Jaysh al-Islam is a stalwart ally of US State Department-listed terrorist organization al-Nusra, though one would never suspect as much reading weepy Western eulogies over the terrorist organization leader’s death. 

The commander of terrorist organization and Al Qaeda affiliate Jaysh al-Islam (the Army of Islam), “Sheikh” Zahran Alloush, was killed in a Syrian airstrike this week in the suburbs of Damascus.
 
In a surreal, coordinated propaganda campaign, the Western media sidestepped Alloush’s praise of and coordination with US State Department-listed foreign terrorist organization Jabhat al-Nusra, previously known as Al Qaeda in Iraq – and indeed, the very terrorist organization that the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS/ISIL/Daesh) itself sprung up from.

The West itself has for years now, reported on Jaysh al-Islam’s collaboration with Al Qaeda. A March 2013 Institute for the Study of War report authored by now disgraced “expert” Elizabeth O’Bagy – a paid lobbyist who in fact attempted to lie about the presence of “moderate Syrian opposition,” titled, “The Free Syrian Army” (.pdf) would note regarding the terrorist organization that:

Liwa al-Islam [now known as Jaysh al-Islam] is a driving force behind actions in Damascus, and is part of the current multilateral effort, codenamed “Operation Epic in the Capital of the Omayyads,” to gain ground and prepare for later sustained efforts against regime forces in the city. Liwa al-Islam is known to cooperate with Jabhat Nusra and conduct joint operations.

Image: The corporate sponsors of the Institute of the Study of War, a think-tank tasked with portraying terrorists fighting in Syria as “moderates.” It incidentally revealed in one of its own reports that Jaysh al-Islam closely coordinated operations with US State Department-listed foreign terrorist organization, al-Nusra.
Ironically, despite knowing the various affiliations “rebel groups” in Syria have with Al Qaeda, O’Bagy herself, along with the so-called Institute for the Study of War – an arms industry-funded think tank – have attempted to perpetuate Western support of these “rebel groups,” which in turn have perpetuated the deadly conflict raging in Syria. The profitable war, and the US dominated MENA region that would form as a result of its successful execution, helps explain why the West is so interested in portraying terrorists as “moderates,” and going as far as mourning the death of a terrorist leader who openly worked with and praised Al Qaeda.

Terrorist Leader Zahran Alloush Praised Al QaedaOne doesn’t need a paid lobbyist in Washington to expose Alloush and his Jaysh al-Islam’s links to Al Qaeda. Alloush himself would praise and support Al Qaeda openly. In a video titled, “Islam Army Sheikh Zahran Alloush || Jabhat al-Nusra are our Brothers.” Alloush himself would claim:

 The summary of this issue is that we in Jaysh al-Islam praise our brothers of the Nusra Front, and we don’t consider them Khawarij as is propagated against us. We fight alongside them and they fight alongside us. Regarding the fact that there are some states that are not pleased with the Nusra Front, this is the business of these states. We praise those who fight alongside us and raise the banner of Allah. The anger of these states doesn’t matter to us, not from nearby or faraway.

Together with admissions from the very states that were arming, funding, training, and supporting Alloush and his terrorist organization, and from Alloush himself, he and Jaysh al-Islam are undeniably allies of Al Qaeda in Syria – the al Nusra Front.

The US State Department’s own official statement announcing al-Nusra’s designation as a foreign terrorist organization would claim (emphasis added):

The Department of State has amended the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 designations of al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) to include the following new aliases: al-Nusrah Front, Jabhat al-Nusrah, Jabhet al-Nusra, The Victory Front, and Al-Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant. The Department of State previously designated AQI as an FTO under the Immigration and Nationality Act and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under E.O. 13224 on October 15, 2004. The consequences of adding al-Nusrah Front as a new alias for AQI include a prohibition against knowingly providing, or attempting or conspiring to provide, material support or resources to, or engaging in transactions with, al-Nusrah Front, and the freezing of all property and interests in property of the organization that are in the United States, or come within the United States or the control of U.S. persons. 

Clearly, Jaysh al-Islam’s praise of and coordination with al-Nusra constitutes, “knowingly providing, or attempting or conspiring to provide, material support or resources to, or engaging in transactions with, al-Nusrah Front.”

Image: The “moderate” terrorists of US-Saudi backed Jaysh al-Islam uses women as human shields to protect themselves from Syrian and Russian air operations – a fact even the Western media noted, albeit deeply buried in their eulogies for Alloush.

That none of this is mentioned in the weepy eulogies of Alloush in the wake of a Syrian airstrike should trouble the millions of Americans and Europeans who have been convinced for over a decade that Al Qaeda is their enemy and that the constant state of war imposed upon them to battle Al Qaeda and those that would aid and abet it, is an existential necessity.

The West Mourns Dead Terrorist
Deceitful articles published by some of the West’s most prominent newspapers and services would attempt to portray Alloush and the terrorist organization he headed as “moderates.” The New York Times in its article, “Powerful Syrian Rebel Leader Reported Killed in Airstrike,” would claim:

Analysts said the strikes were in keeping with longstanding efforts by the Syrian government and its allies to eliminate groups claiming to occupy a middle ground between Mr. Assad and the Islamic State. The efforts are part of a broader objective to improve Mr. Assad’s standing among Western governments, which despise him but also see the Islamic State as an increasing menace.

In reality, Jaysh al-Islam does not occupy a “middle ground” between the Islamic State and the Syrian government. Regardless of alleged tensions between Jaysh al-Islam and the Islamic State, they pursue the same goals, backed by the same foreign interests, using the same tactics.
Image: A member of Alloush’s Al Qaeda-affiliate Jaysh al-Islam fires a US-made anti-tank TOW missile system likely laundered through Saudi suppliers. The US has documented Jaysh al-Islam’s ties with Al Qaeda, but continues to provide it with cash, training, weapons, and political support nonetheless. 
The Washington Post would report in their article, “Syrian rebel commander reportedly killed in Russian airstrike,” that:

Alloush’s forces receive backing from Saudi Arabia, which has supported Syrian rebels but has thrown its weight behind the renewed diplomatic push to end the conflict. Intensified Russian strikes on rebel forces, including Saudi allies such as Alloush, however, may shake the oil-rich kingdom’s support for renewed peace efforts.

This indicates that among the many groups the US and its Saudi allies seek to put into power should they succeed in “regime change” in Syria, includes Al Qaeda-affiliate Jaysh al-Islam. That Saudi Arabia’s role in the conflict – often portrayed as supporting “moderate opposition forces” – is revealed instead to be supporting Al Qaeda affiliates, further justifies both Damascus and Moscow’s claims that there are indeed no moderates fighting the Syrian government, and that the only way the conflict can be ended is by eliminating these terrorists and restoring order within Syria’s borders.The West’s Decade-Long “War on Terror” 

Al Qaeda stands accused of carrying out terrorism globally, including the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 in the United States that left nearly 3,000 dead in a single day. Its alleged role in the September 11 attacks triggered over a decade of global war, including the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the chaos and bloodshed that continues to this very day in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

It is global war, waged by the United States and its partners, in which over a million have died, including thousands of dead Western troops, and tens of thousands more maimed, and tens of millions of Middle Easterners, North Africans, and Central Asians maimed, displaced, or otherwise affected.

Considering this, one would expect the loss of one of Al Qaeda’s allies to be a milestone in this global war. When the West finds itself instead mourning the loss of one of Al Qaeda’s allies, attempting to cover up or spin its ties with the terrorist organization, the truth behind this global war begins to shine through over a decade of lies and propaganda.

Image: Joint Russian-Syrian military operations are clearly, demonstrably undermining and destroying the fighting capacity of terrorist organizations fighting in Syria. Just because the West refuses to label the organizations being destroyed as “terrorists,” does not change that fact, nor the fact that US operations in Syria have been exposed as disingenuous in intention, bolstering terrorists, not fighting them
Disgracefully, while the West claims the government in Damascus is the cause of both the rise of terrorism in Syria and its perpetuation, it was Damascus, not the West that eradicated Alloush – head of an Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. Worse still, it is the United States and its allies, particularly Saudi Arabia, who have propped up Jaysh al-Islam and Alloush.It is clear that regime change in Syria will not help end terrorism or undermine terrorist organizations like the Islamic State or Jaysh al-Islam, but only help them. Damascus and its allies in Moscow and Tehran, demonstrably prove they are the only forces consistently fighting and defeating terrorism in Syria. The only other conceivable way to interpret the West’s continued insistence that only through regime change will terrorism end in Syria is to understand the West itself is sponsoring this very terrorism as a pretext for regime change. Such sponsorship, and thus the terrorism resulting, will only “end” once the West achieves its goals.

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

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The new US Department of Defense Law of War Manual is essentially a guidebook for violating international and domestic law and committing war crimes. The 1,165-page document, dated June 2015 and recently made available online, is not a statement of existing law as much as a compendium of what the Pentagon wishes the law to be.

According to the manual, the “law of war” (i.e., the law of war according to the Pentagon) supersedes international human rights treaties as well as the US Constitution.

The manual authorizes the killing of civilians during armed conflict and establishes a framework for mass military detentions. Journalists, according to the manual, can be censored and punished as spies on the say-so of military officials. The manual freely discusses the use of nuclear weapons, and it does not prohibit napalm, depleted uranium munitions, cluster bombs or other indiscriminate weapons.

The manual might have more properly been titled A Manifesto for Total War and Military Dictatorship.

The manual is an expression of the incompatibility of imperialist militarism and democracy. In the 25 years since the liquidation of the USSR, and especially over the 14 years since the launching of the so-called “war on terror,” the United States has been almost perpetually at war, seeking to offset its economic decline by threats and military violence around the world.

The same government that orchestrated a coup led by fascists in the Ukraine, that backs a military dictatorship and repression in Egypt, and that supports mass killings and destruction in Gaza can hardly be expected to remain true to the rule of law and democratic principles at home.

Through both the Bush and Obama administrations, the “war on terror” has been accompanied by a steady abrogation of democratic rights within the United States, including a barrage of police state legislation such as the Patriot Act, unrestricted spying on the population by the National Security Agency and other agencies, the militarization of the police, and the establishment of precedents for the detention and assassination of US citizens without charges or trial.

In this context, the Pentagon manual is a significant milestone in the drive to establish the framework of a police state.

In his farewell address in 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned about the dangers posed by the “military-industrial complex.” But America’s current military-corporate-intelligence establishment has metastasized far beyond anything Eisenhower could have imagined. Bloated with unlimited cash, dripping with blood from wars of aggression, it boldly announces its independence, its hostility to democracy and the rule of law, and its readiness to carry out war crimes and other atrocities at home and abroad.

The Pentagon manual reflects international imperialist tendencies. Its authors state that it “benefited from the participation of officers from the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force and the Australian Royal Air Force on exchange assignments with the US Air Force.” They continue: “In addition, military lawyers from Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia reviewed and commented on a draft of the manual in 2009 as part of a review that also included comments from distinguished scholars.” (P. v)

The manual, which “reflects many years of labor and expertise,” applies to the entire Department of Defense, which includes the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, four national intelligence agencies including the NSA, and numerous other subordinate departments and agencies, totaling 2.13 million active duty personnel and 1.1 million reservists. The manual notes, “Promulgating a DoD-wide manual on the law of war has been a long-standing goal of DoD lawyers.” (P. v) The new document supersedes various policy documents that had accumulated piecemeal within different sections of the military and intelligence agencies.

It is the outcome of a continuous effort through both Democratic and Republican administrations over a long period, including the Bush and Obama administrations. It was issued at the highest levels of the state, having been prepared by a “Law of War Working Group” that “is chaired by a representative of the DoD General Counsel and includes representatives of the Judge Advocates General of the Army, Navy, and Air Force; the Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the Marine Corps; the offices of the General Counsels of the Military Departments; and the Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” (Pp. v-vi)

The Pentagon general counsel is Stephen W. Preston. Preston was general counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 2009 to 2012, during which time the CIA covered up its own war crimes and obstructed efforts to investigate its illegal torture program. It is unclear to what extent the manual has been reviewed or approved by any civilian authority.

The significance of Nuremberg

The Law of War Manual is replete with references to the Nuremberg proceedings, a complex and significant event in the history of the post-World War II period and the history of international law. The manual opens with this tribute:

Nuremberg tribunal

After World War II, US military lawyers, trying thousands of defendants before military commissions, did, in the words of Justice Robert Jackson, ‘stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of law’ in ‘one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.’ Reflecting on this distinctive history, one chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff observed that ‘[T]he laws of war have a peculiarly American cast.’ And it is also true that the laws of war have shaped the US Armed Forces as much as they have shaped any other armed force in the world. (P. ii)

The Pentagon of 2015 paying tribute to the Nuremberg precedent is like the world’s top-polluting corporation expressing appreciation for efforts to protect the environment. If the precedent of Nuremberg were applied impartially today, it would be necessary to arrest and prosecute all of the top officials in the Pentagon, the world’s leading perpetrator of illegal aggression. After the triumph of the Allies over Germany and Japan in the Second World War, the victorious powers convened international tribunals to prosecute major war criminals of the defeated powers. The most famous trial took place from November 20, 1945 to October 1, 1946 in Nuremberg, Germany and featured the prosecution of Hermann Göring, Wilhelm Keitel, Joachim von Ribbentrop and other leading Nazis.

There was an undeniable component of “victors’ justice” in the proceedings. The same week in August 1945 that the United States, the USSR, Britain and France forged an agreement to establish the International Military Tribunal, the United States committed some of the most heinous crimes of the war: the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Nonetheless, the democratic legal positions espoused at Nuremberg stand in sharp contrast to the corrupt and lawless American political establishment of today, which asserts the right to abduct or assassinate any person without charges or trial anywhere on earth, attack any country “preventively,” and spy on the entire world’s population.

At the time of the Nuremberg tribunals, a majority view emerged among the major Allied governments rejecting calls to execute leading Nazis summarily on the basis of a “political decision.” Instead, the defendants were offered a full and fair trial, during which they were permitted to call witnesses, present evidence and argue in their own defense.

The most important principle that emerged from the Nuremberg proceedings was the concept that the decision to launch a war of aggression is the fundamental crime from which all other war crimes flow. While the Nuremberg prosecutors exposed some of the greatest crimes in human history, they maintained that the primary crime was the decision by Hitler and his close associates to launch the war in the first place.

The chief US prosecutor was Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson. His assistant, Telford Taylor, emphasized in a memorandum to Jackson that the underlying motivations and aims of the Nazis were not the decisive legal questions: “The question of causation is important and will be discussed for many years, but it has no place in this trial, which must rather stick rigorously to the doctrine that planning and launching an aggressive war is illegal, whatever may be the factors that caused the defendants to plan and to launch.”

In other words, launching a war of aggression is a criminal act—a crime against peace—no matter what arguments or policies are invoked to justify it.

Similarly, the Nuremberg prosecutors rejected the argument that those who committed crimes were justifiably “following” or “relaying” orders. Nuremberg Principle IV reads, “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility…provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”

These were powerful democratic conceptions that reverberated long after the trials. During the Vietnam War, as Taylor himself noted in his memoir, “thousands of young men contended…that under the Nuremberg principles they were legally bound not to participate in what they regarded as the United States’ aggressive war.”

More recently, on July 12, 2013, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden invoked the Nuremberg principles to justify his refusal to conceal evidence of illegal spying. “I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945,” he said. “Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore, individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.”

Justice Robert Jackson at Nuremberg

The Nuremberg precedent expressed the confidence of the United States as the dominant imperialist power emerging out of the Second World War. The American ruling class felt that it could afford, under the circumstances, not only to assert democratic principles, but to declare that these principles were universal, applying to all countries, including the United States itself.

Thus, on July 23, 1945, Jackson told the International Conference on Military Tribunals, the inter-allied body that prepared the trials, “If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.” [1]

Seventy years later, America’s leaders have much less in common with jurists like Jackson and Taylor than they do with Nuremberg’s defendants. While the Pentagon pays tribute to the Nuremberg precedent, a partial list of the countries subjected to US military violence since the liquidation of the USSR includes Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, the former Yugoslavia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, Nigeria and Yemen.

If launching a war of aggression is illegal, arrest warrants should be forthcoming for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Brennan, Leon Panetta, Robert Gates, James Clapper, John Ashcroft, Joe Biden, John Kerry and their criminal co-conspirators. All of these individuals should be in the dock, right where Göring and company sat, on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against peace.

Ample evidence exists for indictments. One powerful exhibit in such a trial, for example, would be a November 27, 2001 memorandum by Donald Rumsfeld that contemplates various phony justifications for a war of aggression against Iraq. Under the profoundly incriminating headline “How start?” Rumsfeld ponders the possibilities: “Saddam moves against Kurds in north? US discovers Saddam connection to Sept. 11 attack or to anthrax attacks? Dispute over WMD inspections? Start now thinking about inspection demands.”

Rumsfeld’s memorandum is one of many proofs that there was a conspiracy to launch the invasion of Iraq in 2003 on the basis of lies and pretexts. As a result of this illegal aggression, hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives, if not more, and millions have been turned into refugees. An entire society has been devastated, leading to the rise of movements such as ISIS, and trillions of dollars worth of property have been destroyed or wasted.

The Nuremberg trials featured similar exposures of the criminal Nazi conspiracy to invade Poland based on false pretenses. To provide a casus belli for the war they had already decided to launch, the Nazis staged a provocation known as the Gleiwitz incident. During the Nuremberg proceedings, this incident was exposed as a staged attack on a German radio station by German forces posing as Poles. Hitler had boasted to his generals: “Its credibility doesn’t matter. The victor will not be asked whether he told the truth.”

Do as I say, not as I do

Notwithstanding its repeated invocations of the Nuremberg precedent, the Pentagon’s Law of War Manual features a strong element of “do as I say, not as I do.”

For example, on the subject of aggressive war, the document declares, “Aggression is the most serious and dangerous form of the illegal use of force… Initiating a war of aggression is a serious international crime.” (P. 44) This is a plain statement of the Nuremberg precedent.

However, as one reads further, it emerges that this principle applies only to countries other than the United States. The manual notes that the US has refused to recognize the authority of the International Criminal Court (ICC), under which the US could be prosecuted for crimes of aggression.

The document states, “The United States has expressed the view that the definition of the act of aggression in the Kampala amendments to the Rome Statute does not reflect customary international law.” (P. 45) The US also expressed “concerns regarding the possibility of the ICC exercising jurisdiction over the crime of aggression without a prior determination by the Security Council that a State has committed an act of aggression.” (P. 1,112) Such a Security Council determination, of course, would be subject to a US veto.

The refusal of the United States to recognize the authority of the ICC has deep historical significance. The United States played a leading role in establishing the Nuremberg precedent, but now refuses to submit to its enforcement. This amounts to an admission that if the United States were subject to an impartial application of the Nuremberg precedent today, virtually all of official Washington would have to be transported to jail. It exposes as fraudulent all of America’s posturing as a kind of self-appointed “world policeman” with the authority to sanction and attack other states that allegedly violate international law.

Similarly, the Pentagon manual declares that torture is illegal: “For example, it would be unlawful, of course, to use torture or abuse to interrogate detainees for purposes of gathering information.” (P. 309) But the document fails to explain how the CIA came to implement a systematic and sadistic torture program with the integral participation of high-level officials in the White House, for which nobody has ever been held accountable.

The manual is full of caveats, disclaimers and weasel words. For example: “This manual is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity against the United States, its departments, agencies, or other entities, its officers or employees, or any other person.” (P.1) In other words, the law of war does not apply to us, only to you. Passages like this reveal that the “law of war” manual does not represent “law” as such, but policies determined unilaterally by the Pentagon.

The Pentagon’s hypocrisy (and sometimes plain incoherence) on the subjects of torture and aggression is an expression of the crisis of bourgeois rule in the United States and the contradictions of American foreign policy. On the one hand, the US constantly seeks to dress up its imperialist projects in the costume of international legality. To justify the first Gulf war (1991), America denounced Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait as illegal “aggression.”

Just last year, American political leaders were denouncing Russian “aggression” in Ukraine. After the United States orchestrated a coup in Ukraine, and while American commandos and dollars were pouring in, John Kerry accused Russia of violating Ukraine’s “national sovereignty” and “territorial integrity.” Obama declared, “There is a strong belief that Russia’s action is violating international law.”

On the other hand, notwithstanding all the talk about international law, national sovereignty, and territorial integrity, America invades and bombs anywhere it sees fit, without any regard for such considerations. Where the United States can obtain international legal approval for its aggression, it does so, but otherwise the aggression takes place anyway.

The manual states,

“[T]he authority to take actions under the law of war would be viewed as emanating from the State’s rights as a sovereign entity rather than from any particular instrument of international law.”

In other words, the United States can freely ignore treaties and conventions and other “instruments of international law”—such as the Geneva Convention of 1949, which the United States announced in 2002 that it would not follow—while still claiming to adhere to its own version of international law.

At the Nuremberg trials, Jackson characterized the Nazi regime as essentially a monstrous criminal enterprise, a giant illegal conspiracy that invoked “law” only in the most tendentious, cynical and self-serving manner. The defendants, Jackson declared, “are surprised that there is any such thing as law. These defendants did not rely on any law at all. Their program ignored and defied all law… International Law, natural law, German law, any law at all, was to these men simply a propaganda device to be invoked when it helped and to be ignored when it would condemn what they wanted to do.” These words apply with full force to the Pentagon and its manual.

The manual explicitly gives the Pentagon a green light at any future time to repudiate the principles it ostensibly lays down. Its authors write that the document does not “preclude the Department from subsequently changing its interpretation of the law.” (P. 1)

Notes

[1]: See http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/jack44.asp.

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© AP Photo/ Khalid al-MousilTurkey Drags NATO into Quagmire as Iraq Threatens Military Retaliation

By Sputnik, January 02 2016

Iraq’s readiness to take military action against Turkey if Ankara fails to withdraw its troops from Iraqi territory has increased the possibility of NATO involvement on the side of Turkey and its territorial ambitions, reported the German press on Thursday.

Dorit-RabinyanIsrael Bans Novel Featuring Palestinian-Jewish Romance, Threatens ‘Jewish Identity’

By Philip Weiss, January 02 2016

Israel takes another step down a very dark path. Here is the news from Haaretz today: Israel Bans Novel on Arab-Jewish Romance From Schools for ‘Threatening Jewish Identity’ Israel’s Education Ministry has disqualified a novel that describes a love story…

syria-bombing-510x283Syria is the Middle East’s Stalingrad

By Andre Vltchek, January 02 2016

Day and night, for years, an overwhelming force has been battering this quiet nation, one of the cradles of human civilization. Hundreds of thousands have died, and millions have been forced to flee abroad or have been internally displaced.

syrianarmy2-510x309Video: Strategic Advance of SAA Forces against ISIS Rebels in Southern Syria, Supported by Russian Air Strikes

By South Front, December 31 2015

In  Dara’a province, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) with the Russian Air Forces’ support are advancing in the town of Sheikh Miskeen clashing with the Free Syrian Army’s “Southern Front Brigades”.

netanyahuincongressIsrael and Its Lobby Lose the Iran Deal All over Again, in News of Damning Wiretaps

By James North and Philip Weiss, January 01 2016

The Wall Street Journal scoop [tells us] that the Obama administration spied on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu during the Iran Deal negotiations so as to counter his efforts to sink it. The wiretaps reveal that Israeli officials were up to their necks in the US political process; they “coordinated talking points with Jewish-American groups against the deal; and asked undecided lawmakers what it would take to win their votes, according to current and former officials familiar with the intercepts.”

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The Health Impacts of Fluoridated Water. “Shaky Science”

January 2nd, 2016 by Washington's Blog

One of our pet peeves is when erroneous groupthink persists even in the face of contradictory evidence.

As shown below, water fluoridation is based on very shaky science.  And yet – despite the science – the big dental associations in the U.S. and other countries continue to push it as safe and effective.

The Guardian reported last week:

Health experts are calling for a moratorium on water fluoridation, claiming that the benefits of such schemes, as opposed to those of topical fluoride (directly applied to the teeth), are unproved.

***

Stephen Peckham, director and professor of health policy at Kent University’s centre for health service studies, said: “Water fluoridation was implemented before statistics had been compiled on its safety or effectiveness. It was the only cannon shot they had in their armoury. It gets rolled out, becomes – in England – policy and then you look for evidence to support it.

“The fat debate [whereby fat used to be the big enemy in food before that was revised] is an example of evidence getting built up to support a theory. It’s a dental health policy that’s got up a head of steam and people have been reluctant to see it criticised.

You can’t really confidently say that water fluoridation is either safe or effective.

Newsweek reported last June:

You might think, then, that fluoridated water’s efficacy as a cavity preventer would be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But new research suggests that assumption is dramatically misguided; while using fluoridated toothpaste has been proven to be good for oral health, consuming fluoridated water may have no positive impact.

The Cochrane Collaboration, a group of doctors and researchers known for their comprehensive reviews—which are widely regarded as the gold standard of scientific rigor in assessing effectiveness of public health policies—recently set out to find out if fluoridation reduces cavities. They reviewed every study done on fluoridation that they could find, and then winnowed down the collection to only the most comprehensive, well-designed and reliable papers. Then they analyzed these studies’ results, and published their conclusion in a review earlier this month.

The review identified only three studies since 1975—of sufficient quality to be included—that addressed the effectiveness of fluoridation on tooth decay in the population at large. These papers determined that fluoridation does not reduce cavities to a statistically significant degree in permanent teeth, says study co-author Anne-Marie Glenny, a health science researcher at Manchester University in the United Kingdom. The authors found only seven other studies worthy of inclusion dating prior to 1975.

The authors also found only two studies since 1975 that looked at the effectiveness of reducing cavities in baby teeth, and found fluoridation to have no statistically significant impact here, either.

The scientists also found “insufficient evidence” that fluoridation reduces tooth decay in adults (children excluded).

“From the review, we’re unable to determine whether water fluoridation has an impact on caries levels in adults,” Glenny says. (“Tooth decay,” “cavities” and “caries” all mean the same thing: breakdown of enamel by mouth-dwelling microbes.)

“Frankly, this is pretty shocking,” says Thomas Zoeller, a scientist at UMass-Amherst uninvolved in the work. “This study does not support the use of fluoride in drinking water.” Trevor Sheldon concurred. Sheldon is the dean of the Hull York Medical School in the United Kingdom who led the advisory board that conducted systematic review of water fluoridation in 2000, that came to similar conclusions as the Cochrane review. The lack of good evidence of effectiveness has shocked him. “I had assumed because of everything I’d heard that water fluoridation reduces cavities but I was completely amazed by the lack of evidence,” he says. “My prior view was completely reversed.”

“There’s really hardly any evidence” the practice works, Sheldon adds. “And if anything there may be some evidence the other way.” One 2001 study covered in the Cochrane review of two neighboring British Columbia communities found that when fluoridation was stopped in one city, cavity prevalence actually went down slightly amongst schoolchildren, while cavity rates in the fluoridated community remained stable.

Overall the review suggests that stopping fluoridation would be unlikely to increase the risk of tooth decay, says Kathleen Thiessen, a senior scientist at the Oak Ridge Center for Risk Analysis, which does human health risk assessments of environmental contaminants.

“The sad story is that very little has been done in recent years to ensure that fluoridation is still needed [or] to ensure that adverse effects do not happen,” says Dr. Philippe Grandjean, an environmental health researcher and physician at Harvard University.

The scientists also couldn’t find enough evidence to support the oft-repeated notion that fluoridation reduces dental health disparities among different socioeconomic groups, which the CDC and others use as a rationale for fluoridating water.

“The fact that there is insufficient information to determine whether fluoridation reduces social inequalities in dental health is troublesome given that this is often cited as a reason for fluoridating water,” say Christine Till and Ashley Malin, researchers at Toronto’s York University.

Studies that attest to the effectiveness of fluoridation were generally done before the widespread usage of fluoride-containing dental products like rinses and toothpastes in the 1970s and later, according to the recent Cochrane study. So while it may have once made sense to add fluoride to water, it no longer appears to be necessary or useful, Thiessen says.

It has also become clear in the last 15 years that fluoride primarily acts topically, according to the CDC. It reacts with the surface of the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to acids excreted by bacteria. Thus, there’s no good reason to swallow fluoride and subject every tissue of your body to it, Thiessen says.

Another 2009 review by the Cochrane group clearly shows that fluoride toothpaste prevents cavities, serving as a useful counterpoint to fluoridation’s uncertain benefits.

***

“I couldn’t believe the low quality of the research” on fluoridation, Sheldon says.

***

Cavity rates have declined by similar amounts in countries with and without fluoridation.

***

Sheldon says that if fluoridation were to be submitted anew for approval today, “nobody would even think about it” due to the shoddy evidence of effectiveness and obvious downside of fluorosis.

***

The CDC and others “are somehow suspending disbelief,” Sheldon says. They are “all in the mindset that this is a really good thing, and just not accepting that they might be wrong.” Sheldon and others suggest pro-fluoridation beliefs are entrenched and will not easily change, despite the poor data quality and lack of evidence from the past 40 years.

Indeed, an overwhelming number of scientific studies conclude that cavity levels are falling worldwide … even in countries which don’t fluoridate water.

World Health Organization Data (2004) – 
Tooth Decay Trends (12 year olds) in Fluoridated vs. Unfluoridated Countries: 

who dmft An Overwhelming Number of Scientific Studies Conclude That Cavity Levels are Falling Worldwide ... Even In Countries Which Dont Fluoridate Water

And the scientific literature shows that – when fluoridation of water supplies is stopped – cavities do not increase (but may in some cases actually decrease). See thisthisthisthisthis and this.

A couple of weeks ago, the British Medical Journal reported that Americans lose a lot more of their teeththan the Brits … even though the U.S. fluoridates a lot more of its water than the UK.

Fluoridating may water also cause reduction in IQ, depression and a variety of other illnesses.

The Guardian notes:

Critics cite studies claiming to have identified a number of possible negative associations of fluoridation, including bone cancer in boysbladder cancerhypothyroidismhip fractures and lower IQ in children.

Newsweek reports:

A growing number of studies have suggested … that the chemical may present a number of health risks, for example interfering with the endocrine system and increasing the risk of impaired brain function; two studies in the last few months, for example, have linked fluoridation to ADHD and underactive thyroid.

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Israel takes another step down a very dark path. Here is the news from Haaretz today:

Israel Bans Novel on Arab-Jewish Romance From Schools for ‘Threatening Jewish Identity’

Israel’s Education Ministry has disqualified a novel that describes a love story between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man from use by high schools..

Move comes despite the fact that the official responsible for teaching of literature in secular state schools recommended the book for use in advanced literature classes, as did a professional committee of academics and educators…

“Young people of adolescent age tend to romanticizing and don’t, in many cases, have the systemic vision that includes considerations involving maintaining the identity of the people and the significance of assimilation.”

The novel is Borderlife by Dorit Rabinyan. It is blurbed by Amos Oz. A description:

What begins in the cold of early New York winter ends on a Jaffa beach at summer’s blinding peak. A chance encounter brings two strangers together: Liat, an Israeli from Tel Aviv, and Hilmi, a Palestinian born in Hebron. For one frozen winter away from home, on snowy streets, filled with longing for a Middle Eastern sun, Liat and Hilmi demarcate the place reserved only for them, an intimate short-term place, a universe for two. At the fissures and margins of things, in corners and in gaps, the reality lurking in Israel peers and snarls at them. The story, with its twists and passions, follows them even when they each go their own way – Liat returning to Tel Aviv and Hilmi to the village of Jifna, north of Ramallah – refusing to end.

What will liberal Zionists say about this?When do you conclude that this kind of intolerance and racism is built into the very idea of religious nationalism? Henry Siegman writes in Haaretz today that American liberal values are not shared by Israel. And yes, we’re trying to live up to them over here; but it’s impossible to imagine this kind of official action here.

Thanks to Ofer Neiman.

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net. 

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Iraq’s readiness to take military action against Turkey if Ankara fails to withdraw its troops from Iraqi territory has increased the possibility of NATO involvement on the side of Turkey and its territorial ambitions, reported the German press on Thursday.

Even though Iraq is aiming for a diplomatic solution to its dispute with Turkey, its government hasn’t ruled out using military force in order to remove Turkish troops from Iraqi territory, thus raising the possibility of NATO involvement, German Economic News (DWN) reported on Thursday.

 Iraqi soldiers advance their position in northern Ramadi, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015

“If it comes to war, NATO must be on the side of Turkey in Iraq,” the newspaper pointed out.

‘Iraq doesn’t want any Turkish troops in its country, and threatens war against a NATO country,’ reported DWN.The Federal Republic of Germany has been a NATO member since 1955. In December the German government announced that its forces were joining the US-led anti-Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) coalition in a non-combat, support role. On Wednesday, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said that although Iraq wants to use diplomatic means to resolve the conflict, it does not exclude the use of force if “fighting is imposed on us.” “We will consider it (the use of military force) to protect our sovereignty, people and resources,” said al-Jaafari.

Tanks of the Turkish army at the Turkey-Iraq border . (File)
Tanks of the Turkish army at the Turkey-Iraq border . (File)

 

In early December, the Turkish government sent a battalion of 25 tanks and about 150 troops into northern Iraq without the permission of the Iraqi government. Ankara said its forces were there with the assent of the Iraqi government, and were sent in response to security concerns in northern Iraq, where its forces help to train Iraqi militia battling Daesh in northern Iraq. The Iraqi government in Baghdad called the incursion a violation of Iraqi sovereignty, and demanded the troops withdraw in 48 hours.

 

At first Turkey refused to withdraw troops from the Bashiqa military base, which is close to Mosul in northern Iraq, but later agreed to withdraw some of the forces after Iraq complained to the UN Security Council. On Wednesday the Iraqi government again complained, that Turkey has so far failed to honour the agreement to withdraw all its troops from Iraqi territory.Turkey has been a NATO member since 1952, and according to the terms of the North Atlantic Treaty, the principle of collective defence commits its members to defend each other in the event of an armed attack against another member. However, Article 5 of the Treaty makes no reference to the alliance’s responsibilities to intervene in the case of an act of aggression by a NATO country.

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Venezuela Passes Law Banning GMOs, by Popular Demand

January 2nd, 2016 by William Camacaro

The National Assembly of Venezuela, in its final session before a neoliberal dominated opposition takes the helm of legislative power on January 5, passed one of the most progressive seed laws in the world on December 23, 2015; it was promptly signed into law by President Nicolas Maduro. On December 29, during his television show, “In Contact with Maduro, number 52,” Maduro said that the new seed law provides the conditions to produce food “under an agro-ecological model that respects the pacha mama (mother earth) and the right of our children to grow up healthy, eating healthy.” The law is a victory for the international movements for agroecology and food sovereignty because it bans transgenic (GMO) seed while protecting local seed from privatization. The law is also a product of direct participatory democracy –the people as legislator– in Venezuela, because it was hammered out through a deliberative partnership between members of the country’s National Assembly and a broad-based grassroots coalition of eco-socialist, peasant, and agroecological oriented organizations and institutions. This essay provides an overview of the phenomenon of people as legislator, a summary of the new Seed Law, and an appendix with an unofficial translation of some of the articles of the law.

The People as Legislator of Seed Policy

The Legal Basis

The Seed Law is a glowing example of the legal personality of popular power (poder popular) at work in Venezuela, the people as legislator. As Article 5 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela indicates, “Sovereignty resides intransferable in the people, who exercise it directly as provided for in this Constitution and in the law, and indirectly, through suffrage . . . .” An example of the direct legislative powers of citizens is found in Article 204, no. 7 of the Constitution which specifically names citizens as potential legislators, should they organize a petition of at least one percent of the registered voters (see also Article 205). There are also numerous references to the legislative power of communal structures in the organic Laws of Popular Power (Poder Popular) passed in 2009 and 2010.

Farmer, Cooperativa Aracal in the State of Yaracuy.
Credit: Fred Mills

Venezuela’s seed policy had been based on an earlier 2002 Seed Law that was passed in a highly polarized political environment, just months after a short-lived coup against then President Hugo Chavez and just weeks prior to an opposition-led strike and sabotage of the oil industry. That law was superseded in April of 2004, when after halting a project to plant Monsanto’s transgenic soybeans on 500,000 acres of land, then President Hugo Chavez declared, “The people of the United States, of Latin America, and the world, need to follow the example of Venezuela free of transgenics.” This declaration constituted a virtual ban of transgenics. It was also consistent with the government’s emphasis on endogenous development. Endogenous development, asChristina Schiavoni and William Camacaro describe it, means development from within:

[Endogenous development] implies first looking inside, not outside, to meet the country’s needs, building upon Venezuela’s own unique assets. This means valuing the agricultural knowledge and experience of women, Indigenous, Afro-descendants, and other typically marginalized campesino (peasant farming) populations as fundamental to Venezuela’s food sovereignty. This also means preserving Venezuela’s native seeds, traditional farming methods, and culinary practices.

Such endogenous development received further support when in June 2012, Chavez made the Country Plan (2013 – 2019) his presidential campaign platform. The Plan, which is now the law of the land, includes among its five major objectives, “the construction of an eco-socialist economic model of production based on a harmonic relationship between humans and nature that guarantees the rational and optimal use of natural resources, respecting the processes and cycles of nature.” The Plan also prioritizes the expansion of agricultural production, but only in a way that advances the goal of food sovereignty (1.4) and accelerates democratic access to the necessary resources for sustainable agricultural production (1.4.2).

Chronology of the People as Legislator of Seed Policy

The blog of Eco-Socialist Space of Popular Power (CDR-SUR) provides a detailed chronology of the popular struggle for input and impact on the new Seed Law. In “The Process of the Collective Construction of the New Seed Law in Venezuela,” CDR-SUR indicates that the people as legislator of seed policy first emerged in response to a notice by the legislative branch of government in mid-2012 that the National Assembly would be considering a substantial revision of the 2002 Seed Law. Since a transgenic and big agribusiness lobby had been at work trying to influence seed policy, it was also time for eco-socialists and other ecological movements to weigh in on the issue.

In response to the Assembly’s notice, several hundred social and ecological organizations organized the “International Meeting of Guardians of Seeds” in Monte Carmelo (October 26 – 29, 2012), in the State of Lara, in order to draft measures for consideration by the National Assembly that would unequivocally ban transgenic seed and protect Indigenous, Afro-descendant and peasant seed from privatization. More than 1000 persons, 116 organizations, and 162 institutions participated in the grassroots (popular) deliberations (CDR-SUR).

While the idea of the people as legislator is grounded in the Constitution and the organic laws of popular power, it took some public pressure on the National Assembly and government ministries (called Ministries of Popular Power!) for this legislative voice to be heard and taken into account. In March of 2013, while the relevant legislative committees and government ministries were holding hearings on the Seed Law Project, the “Venezuela Free of Transgenics Campaign” (VFTC) lobbied unsuccessfully for inclusion in the initial phase of debate. The ecological movement, undeterred, organized the Venezuela Free of Transgenics Open Seminar at the Bolivarian University of Venezuela in March of 2013 which sponsored periodic forums on the debate over seed policy.

On May 25, 2013, the VFTC collected signatures at a national mobilization held in the Plaza de Los Museos in Caracas, to petition the National Assembly to include the coalition’s voice as a legislative partner in the Seed Law deliberations (CDR-SUR). The next day, according to CDR-SUR, Alfredo Ureña, a deputy of the National Assembly and president of the Permanent Subcommission on Agro-Food Development, formulated an action plan to ensure that the Seed Law would be anti-transgenic.

In June of 2013, the VFTC stepped up its organizing and education efforts. These efforts included, as part of the Fourth Venezuelan Congress on Biological Diversity (June 28), a workshop on the “collective construction of a Seed Law proposal” (CDR-SUR). This collective effort produced documents directly relevant to the legislative deliberations on the Seed Law.

On October 21, 2013, as documented by William Camacaro and Frederick B. Mills in Venezuela and the Battle against Transgenic Seeds (December 6, 2013), the VFTC mobilized in front of the National Assembly to prevent the advance of a Seed Law proposal because it contained stealth provisions that would have opened the door to transgenic seed and possibly allow the privatization of locally shared “free” seeds. This was a critical turning point in the eco-socialist struggle to influence the nation’s seed policy. As CDR-SUR points out, on October 22, in a meeting between the VFTC and legislators involved in drafting the Seed Law, it was agreed that there would be popular participation in the construction of the Seed Law, referred to as the Popular Constituent Debate on the New Seed Law.

According to CDR-SUR, “The Popular Constituent Debate convened on the 28 and 29 of October in Monte Carmelo, Sanare in the State of Lara on the occasion of the Day of Peasant Seed (Semilla Campesina).” It was here that a consensus was hammered out by a large variety of agroecological organizations on the basic objectives of the Seed Law.

As a follow up to this conference in Monte Carmelo, “the second round of discussion [by 135 peasant collectives and educators] took place in the City of Naguanagua in the State of Carabobo from November 1 to 3, 2013” (CDR-SUR). The focus of this round was in large part to determine the procedures of popular debate to ensure that the final product was indeed a result of collective deliberation in concert with key legislators of the National Assembly. These procedures were to ensure the practice of inclusion, public dissemination of information, and the constitutionally grounded praxis of the people as legislator.

The third round of discussion was held at the Latin American Institute of Agroecology Paulo Freire (IALA) in Barinas state on November 22, 2013. During this round the Popular Constituent Debate constructed a proposed preamble, objectives, and structure for the proposed law. It was agreed that the Popular Constituent Debate would meet two more times in the states of Aragua and Merida.

After the last round of Popular Constituent Debate on the New Seed Law, the members of the Popular Movement for the New Seed Law and the National Assembly set up a work group to construct the consensus draft of the law and it is this version that entered into the first of the two required discussions by the National Assembly. On October 14, 2014 the proposed Seed Law was approved by the first discussion, one of two discussions normally required prior to the passage of a proposed bill.

During 2015, workshops were set up to review the proposed seed law before the final discussion; these workshops included members of the National Assembly, the Venezuela Free of Transgenics Campaign, and several government ministries. Through the workshops, several additional mechanisms were built into the law. These included a means for popular control over seeds by means of the recognition of the Popular Council for the Storage and Protection of Local, Peasant, Indigenous, and Afro-descendant Seed, as well as a recognition of the government’s role in licensing free seed and thereby protecting it from patents or other forms of privatization.

In “Venezuela to Consider Ban on Transgenic Seed” (June 8, 2015), Camacaro and Mills discuss the consensus reached by the collective efforts of the agroecological movement with regard to seed policy. In short, the popular version of the Seed Law proposal (June 2015) was constructed over a two year period of collective deliberation by a broad coalition of agroecological oriented organizations and movements. On December 26, 2015, The Popular Movement for the New Seed Law issued a celebratory statement declaring:

This 22 of December, with the approval of the new Seed Law by the National Assembly, we close the legislative cycle of popular constituent debate and collective deliberation that we initiated more than two years ago. The product of our struggle is a law that has no precedent anywhere in the world in terms of both its emancipatory content and the way it has been made possible by the protagonistic participation of the People as Legislator.

The Seed Law was also endorsed, “after ample discussion,” by the Presidential Council of Communes. A statement issued by the Council on June 3 reads:

“From the diverse voices of the Presidential Council of Popular Government of the Communes, the comuneros (members of communes) of the country solicit the prompt approval, in the second discussion [by the National Assembly], of the Seed Law . . . The Seed Law, constructed collectively from the grassroots, is anti-transgenic and makes us advance significantly towards the recovery and consolidation of local, peasant, Indigenous and Afro-descendant seeds. Moreover we are speaking about a proposed Seed Law, profoundly anti-imperialist and ecosocialist, that incarnates the legacy of the Leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chavez, at a moment in which the transnationals of agribusiness aim at privatizing seed and life.”The people as legislator, then, consisting of both the nationwide agroecological movements as well as the highest level of communal representation, made full use of their constitutionally grounded constituent power to partner with the liberal democratic state to forge the nation’s seed policy.

Summary of the Seed Law

The new Seed Law is inspired by the eco-socialist movement in Venezuela and the worldwide peasant movement La Via Campesinaand is informed by the Indigenous philosophy of vivir bien (living well). As President of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma explains:

Vivir Bien well is to live in equality and justice. It is where there is no exploited and no exploiters, where there are no excluded and no persons who exclude others, where there are no marginalized persons and no persons who marginalize others. Vivir Bien is to live in community, in collectivity, in reciprocity, in solidarity, and, most important, in complementarity.  (note 2)

The Seed Law contributes to vivir bien and advances eco-socialist principles by promoting small- and medium-scale farming using agroecological methods rather than monoculture that depends heavily on environmentally harmful chemical interventions. Moreover, it prioritizes the collective interest in the farming community’s control of the means of production, distribution and consumption of food. This law bans transgenic seeds and thereby avoids the political capture of seed policy by the corporate interests of transnational big agriculture while promoting and protecting the heirloom seeds and farming methods of Venezuela’s Indigenous, peasant, and Afro-descendant communities. Traditional seeds (semillas campesinas) will be immune to patents and privatization and come under the control of the communities that share them. The seed is considered a living thing, and as such is not only an object at hand for use in agriculture, but a subject that is entitled to certain rights and protections. These rights, combined with the philosophy of vivir bien and eco-socialist principles, form the ethical and legal basis for the development of food sovereignty and food security and of resistance to transnational corporate capture of the nation’s agricultural policy.

The law is consistent with Article 127 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela: “The genome of living things cannot be patented, and the law that refers to bio-ethical principles regulates the matter.” It is also consistent with the Country Plan 2013 -2019 that declares one of the “great historic objectives” to “construct an eco-socialist economic model of production, based on the harmonious relation between man and nature, that guarantees the use and rational and optimal utilization of vital natural resources.” (p. 19-20).

In closing, with the passage of the Seed Law, history is being made in Venezuela. Not only is the law extraordinary in and of itself, both for its content and the for the highly participatory way in which it was developed, but the fact that it was passed at this very moment, in the face of adverse circumstances both globally and nationally, is all the more extraordinary. Globally, national seed legislation is increasingly being co-opted by corporate agribusiness interests, with many governments turning a blind eye, or worse, actively colluding in the process, as has been powerfully documented by GRAIN and La Via Campesina. Nationally, Venezuela’s food system has been under attack by, among other things, an “economic war” being waged by some elements of the opposition, resulting in food shortages that played a definitive role in influencing the recent elections. The economic war has shown that, despite important advancements made toward food sovereignty, i.e., toward greater national and local popular control over the food system, since the inception of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, much work remains to be done to achieve a food system that is truly equitable, sustainable, and under the firm control of the people, in partnership with the government. The people, however, are clearly determined, and they are not going to sit back passively and wait for this to happen, as we have seen with the major popular organizing and mobilizing efforts that ultimately led to the successful passage of the Seed Law.

The passage of the Seed Law thus marks a major step forward for food sovereignty in Venezuela, as well as a victory for the global food sovereignty movement, and a warning sign to corporate agribusiness. However, as they say in Venezuela, “la lucha sigue” – the struggle continues – and indeed the passage of the Seed Law is one step, albeit an important step, in a much longer process. As the popular movements who worked on the Law’s passage are already emphasizing, now is the time to disseminate it, defend it against likely backlash, and push forward its full implementation. While the Venezuelan people will remain the protagonists in this process, they are calling for international solidarity to defend what might arguably be the world’s most revolutionary seed law.

APPENDIX: Highlights of Several Articles of the Seed Law (unofficial translations)

Article 1 of the law summarizes its main features:

The present Law has as its objective to preserve, protect, and guarantee the production, propagation, conservation, and free circulation and use of seed, as well as the promotion, research, distribution, and commercialization of the same, based on a socialist agroecological vision, with the aim of consolidating our food security and sovereignty, prohibiting the release, the use, the propagation, and the entrance into the country and the national production of transgenic seeds as well as the patents and right of the breeder over the seed, in a manner that is sovereign, democratic, participatory, co-responsible and in solidarity, making special emphasis on the valorization of the Indigenous, afro-descendent, peasant and local seed, that benefits biodiversity and helps to preserve life on the planet in conformity with what is established in the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Article 2 lays out the goals of the law:

1. Promote the transition from conventional systems of production based on monoculture and the use of agrochemicals with agro-industrial and/or corporate seed for conventional use, to an agroecological system and the preservation of the environment in the short, medium and long term, based on agro-biodiversity.

2. Promote the production of seeds that are necessary to guarantee national production, with the goal of avoiding importation and achieving national sovereignty.

3. Promote the transition to communal and eco-socialist agriculture, in order to protect agro-biodiversity by means of the production of local, peasant, Indigenous, and Afro-descendant seed.

4. Revalorize and re-legitimize the local, traditional, and ancestral knowledge wisdom, beliefs and practices of the peasant, Indigenous, Afro-descendant, and other communities.

5. Prohibit the privatization of seed.

6. Orient the organization and planning of public policy in function of the different scales of production, distinguishing the policies intended for family agriculture or polyculture in small-scale production from the policies intended for big producers.

Article 3. Seed is recognized as a living thing and a constituent part of Mother Earth and for this reason it is considered an object as well as the subject of right and the application of norms pertaining to the preservation of life on the Planet and the conservation of biological diversity.

Article 4. The local peasant, Indigenous, and Afro-descendant seed is declared a common good of public, cultural as well as natural material and immaterial interest of the peoples; this seed is considered a contribution of our communities to the improvement of vegetable varieties and their propagation and preservation for a sustainable form of agriculture that constitutes the basis of our food and our culture.

Article 5. The production, importation, commercialization, distribution, release, use, propagation and entrance into the country of transgenic seed is prohibited. The National System of Seeds will develop and guarantee the technical, organizational, and institutional capacity to prevent, identify, detect, correct, return, and to sanction the violations of this prohibition.

One of the principle values of the law, expressed in Article 8, is that it “promotes, in a spirit of solidarity, the free exchange of seed and opposes the conversion of seed into intellectual or patented property or any other form of privatization.”

With regard to popular power (grassroots democracy), Article 9 provides that a Popular Council will be responsible for the storage, protection and regulation of Indigenous, Afro-descendant and peasant seed “with an emphasis on the exchange and local distribution of seed to guarantee our food sovereignty and the construction of an eco-socialist model of economic production.

Article 11 of the law also creates a National Seed Commission constituted by officials from several ministries related to agriculture, as well as representatives from both the Presidential Councils that deal with seed policy and the Popular Council for the storage and protection of local, Indigenous, peasant and Afro-descendant seed. This Commission will be responsible for planning and promoting seed policy as well as facilitating research, development, production and commercialization of seed.

Article 14 creates the National Institute for Seed (INASEM) which will be responsible for providing the material resources and administration necessary for implementing much of the policy developed by the Seed Plan, such as operating labs, offering technical assistance and issuing licenses for the disposition of certain categories of seed. This institute will also include spokespersons from the Presidential Council concerned with seed policy, but is largely a governmental body.

Notes:
1. In the section on chronology, the authors are indebted to the content of a chronology of the struggle produced by the CDR-SUR(Espacio Ecosocialista Del Poder Popular, Nov. 6, 2015). We have translated parts of that document into English. All shortcomings are, of course, our own.

2. Entrevista al President Evo Morales Ayma, con motivo de la aprobacion en la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas de la Declaracion de las Naciones Unidas sobre los derechos de los pueblos indigenas, La Paz, 24 septiembre, 2007 in Vivir Bien: Mensajes y documentos sobre el Vivir Bien, 1995-2010, Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia.)

3. All translations of government documents are unofficial.

Frederick B. Mills is a Professor of Philosophy at Bowie State UniversityWilliam Camacaro, MFA, is a Member of the Bolivarian Circle of New York  “Alberto Lovera” and an expert on Venezuela. Christina Schiavoni is an activist and scholar focused on food sovereignty and the right to food.

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State Department spokesman Admiral John Kirby’s year in review  “Official Blog” comments focus on reinventing history.

He turned truth on its head, claiming:

 “the United States helped change the world for the better” in 2015 – “across a range of issues…vital to ensur(e) the safety, security and prosperity of the American people.”

It’s hard taking rubbish he wrote seriously, substituting fiction for facts,  ignoring America’s endless war on humanity at home and abroad, etc 

Claiming America reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba, Kirby failed to explain its imperial objectives – to return the island state to colonial status, exploit its people and resources under officials it controls, the same dirty scheme it has in mind for all independent nations.

Positive steps were achieved in the war on terrorism, Kirby claimed. The so-called “war” is the greatest hoax in modern times.

ISIS and other major terrorist groups are US creations – armed, funded, trained and deployed as imperial foot soldiers, doing America’s killing and dying for it.

Claiming America took important steps to protect the environment and climate is polar opposite official US policy. Ecological destruction is unrestrained.

Fossil fuel use continues unabated. Dangerous nuclear power is expanding. A Fukushima-type incident on US soil is just a matter of time.

Foods and ingredients permitted to be sold are hazardous to human health – GMOs and others saturated with dangerous chemicals.

Many rushed to market with inadequate testing prescription drugs cause more harm than good – drug industry bandits allowed to push them the way illicit traffickers sell their wars – often at unaffordable prices.

Kirby credited Washington with consummating the Iran nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – JCPOA) – without explaining current US intentions to undermine it by irresponsibly imposing new sanctions Tehran won’t tolerate, perhaps not most other countries.

Nor did Kirby explain Iran’s peaceful program with no military component or intention to have one. So why was Tehran forced to make major concessions demanded of no other nations?

Official US policy toward the Islamic Republic remains regime change by war or other means – removing its independent government, replacing it with one Washington controls, stealing its vast energy reserves, exploiting its people, eliminating Israel’s main regional rival. Thirty-six years of US hostility toward Iran remain unchanged.

Kirby gave Washington’s “robust response” full credit for stemming the Ebola outbreak, Obama calling it one of America’s greatest threats along with Russia (threatening no one) and ISIS, its own creation.

US-led General Assembly members “adopt(ed) an ambitious set of global goals…to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all,” Kirby blustered. Reality is polar opposite. Poverty rages out-of-control, including in America and other Western countries. Ecological destruction is unrestrained.

Corporate coup d’etat Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks were concluded. Kirby ignored the measure’s predatory provisions, putting profits above public safety and other major concerns.

Kirby claimed America’s commitment to preserve global oceans, ignoring their unrestrained ravaging for profit. He called the sham Paris climate agreement a success.

Perhaps his most outrageous claim was saying America is

“bringing peace (and) security to Syria – aid(ing) the Syrian people during their time of need.”

Obama bears full responsibility for one of history’s great crimes – launching war in March 2011, continuing it unabated without mercy, using ISIS and other takfiri terrorists as imperial foot soldiers, bombing Syrian infrastructure and government targets, wanting Assad replaced by a US-controlled puppet.

There’s nothing civil about war in Syria. It’s US-led naked aggression using imported terrorists against a sovereign independent country threatening no others.

America’s war is responsible for ravaging the country, slaughtering many tens of thousands, displacing half the population, and creating unspeakable human misery, one of many high crimes on Obama’s rap sheet – a record of unaccountable horrors, ruthlessness and shame.

Preventing “peace and security” are central to Washington achieving its aims. Allowing them defeat its agenda.

Admiral John Kirby is Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Public Affairs, serving as the department’s spokesman.

His job involves disseminating propaganda and other misinformation, suppressing vital truths.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
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Syria is the Middle East’s Stalingrad

January 2nd, 2016 by Andre Vltchek

Day and night, for years, an overwhelming force has been battering this quiet nation, one of the cradles of human civilization.

Hundreds of thousands have died, and millions have been forced to flee abroad or have been internally displaced. In many cities and villages, not one house is left intact.

But Syria is, against all odds, still standing.

During the last 3 years I worked in almost all of Syria’s perimeters, exposing the birth of ISIS in the NATO-run camps built in Turkey and Jordan. I worked in the occupied Golan Heights, and in Iraq. I also worked in Lebanon, a country now forced to host over 2 million (mostly Syrian) refugees.

The only reason why the West began its horrible destabilization campaign, was because it “could not tolerate” Syria’s disobedience and the socialist nature of its state. In short, the way the Syrian establishment was putting the welfare of its people above the interests of multi-national corporations.

*

More than two years ago, my former Indonesian film editor demanded an answer in a somewhat angry tone:

“So many people are dying in Syria! Is it really worth it? Wouldn’t it be easier and better for Syrians to just give up and let the US have what it is demanding?”

Chronically petrified, this young woman was always searching for easy solutions that would keep her safe, and safe with significant personal advantages. As so many others in this time and age, in order to survive and advance, she developed a complex system resting on betrayals, self-defenses and deceptions.

How to reply to such a question?

It was a legitimate one, after all.

Eduardo Galeano told me: “People know when it’s time to fight. We have no right to tell them … but when they decide, it is our obligation to support them, even to lead them if they approach us.”

In this case, the Syrian people decided. No government, no political force could move an entire nation to such tremendous heroism and sacrifice. Russians did it during World War Two, and the Syrians are doing it now.

Two years ago I replied like this: “I have witnessed the total collapse of the Middle East. There was nothing standing there anymore. Countries that opted for their own paths were literally leveled to the ground. Countries that succumbed to the dictates of the West lost their soul, culture and essence and were turned into some of the most miserable places on earth. And the Syrians knew it: were they to surrender, they would be converted into another Iraq, Yemen or Libya, even Afghanistan.”

And so Syria rose. It decided to fight, for itself and for its part of the world.

Again and again, it retained itself through the elections of its government. It leaned on its army. Whatever the West says, whatever the treasonous NGOs write, the simple logic just proves it all.

This modest nation does not have its own powerful media to share the extent of its courage and agony with the world. It is always the others who are commenting on its struggle, often in a totally malicious way.

But it is undeniable that whilst the Soviet forces stopped the advance of the German Nazis at Stalingrad, the Syrians have managed to stop the fascist forces of Western allies in its part of the world.

Of course Russia got directly involved. Of course China stood by, although often in the shadow. And Iran provided support. And Lebanon-based Hezbollah put up, what I often describe as, an epic fight on behalf of Damascus against the extremist monsters invented and armed by the West, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

But the main credit has to go to the Syrian people.

Yes, now there is nothing left of the Middle East. Now there are more tears than raindrops descending on this ancient land.

But Syria is standing. Burned, wounded, but standing.

And as is being widely reported, after the Russian armed forces came to the rescue of the Syrian nation, more than 1 million Syrian people were able to return home … often to encounter only ashes and devastation, but home.

Like people returned to Stalingrad, some 70 years ago.

*

So what would my answer be to that question now: “whether it would be easier the other way”, to surrender to the Empire?

I guess something like this:

“Life has meaning, it is worth living, only if some basic conditions can be fulfilled. One does not betray great love, be it love for another person or love for one’s country, humanity or ideals. If one does, it would be better not to be born at all. Then I say: the survival of humankind is the most sacred goal. Not some short-time personal gain or ‘safety’, but the survival of all of us, of people, as well as the safety of all of us, humans.”

When life itself is threatened, people tend to rise and fight, instinctively. During such moments, some of the most monumental chapters in human history are written.

Unfortunately, during these moments, millions tend to die.

But the devastation is not because of those who are defending our human race.

It is because of the imperialist monsters and their servants.

Most of us are dreaming about a world without wars, without violence. We want true kindness to prevail on earth. Many of us are working relentlessly for such a society.

But until it is constructed, until all extreme selfishness, greed and brutality are defeated, we have to fight for something much more “modest” – for the survival of people and of humanism.

The price is often horrible. But the alternative is one enormous gaping void. It is simply nothing – the end, full stop!

In Stalingrad, millions died so we could live. Nothing was left of the city, except some melted steel, scattered bricks and an ocean of corpses. Nazism was stopped. Western expansionism began its retreat, that time towards Berlin.

Now Syria, quietly but stoically and heroically, stands against Western, Qatari, Saudi, Israeli and Turkish plans to finish the Middle East.

And the Syrian people have won. For how long, I don’t know. But it has proven that an Arab country can still defeat the mightiest murderous hordes.

Andre Vltchek is philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist, he’s a creator of Vltchek’s World an a dedicated Twitter user, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


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Looking forward into the New Year, here are a few predictions and some emerging trends to be on the look out for in 2016.

In last year’s Predictions and Trends for 2015, we told readers to expect some major tectonic shifts in the geopolitical arena.

That happened alright, and in the coming 12 months we can expect some of those new realities to solidify, while others continue to take shape.

The good, the bad, and the ugly – here’s what to look for ahead in 2016…

1-minority-report
Positive Trends…

Geopolitical Realignment – 2015 saw one of the most significant geopolitical realignments of the last 40 years. Russia’s arrival on the scene in Syria signaled a departure from a unipolar‘New American Century’ where Washington dictated the pace and facts on the ground in all major overseas conflicts. In addition to this, the gradual disintegration of Washington’s half-baked plan to impose international sanctions against Russia has re-opened a door between European nations and Russia – much to chagrin of rogue central planners in Washington like Victoria Nuland and John McCain.

AssadSyria Remains – What the nation of Syria has endured over the last few years is nothing short of incredible. For four years, the US, Britain, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Israel and a bevy of other “allies” have been flooding the country with illegal weapons, illicit cash, jihadist terrorist fighters, narcotics, as well as bombing the country in violation of every international law on the books (and costing western taxpayers billions of dollars per year) – in an all-out effort to destabilize the country and collapse its government in Damascus, and to redraw its borders in a Neocolonial move to reshape the Middle East. After all that, the tough resolve of the Syrian people and its government have managed to repel this violent conflict driven by foreign interests – and despite propaganda coming out of the US to the contrary – any sectarian divisions that may have existed before in Syria, have been replaced by a movement towards national solidarity, bringing the people together closer than ever – in full support of  President Assad. It seems like the people of the Middle East are rapidly wising-up to age-old false flag games and other methods of foreign manipulation.

Cuba and Iran – In 2015, Cuba returned into the fold of politics and economics, as it began interfacing with Washington. Overall, this is a positive thing, so long as Sheldon Adelson and Donald Trump aren’t allowed to buy-up Havana harbor and build a strip of mega casinos there. With the advent of the international Iran Nuclear Deal, Iran is now threatening to re-enter to global marketplace – which ultimately means more economic opportunity, not only for Iran, but for all of its trading partners too. More trade and cultural exchange also means there’s a great opportunity for peace and stability in the Middle East and central Asia. Many in the US Republican Party do not want to see this happen and are backed an Israeli Lobby throwing money at them in order to keep tensions high. 2016 could be another diplomatic break-out year for Iran.

Oil Price – For the second straight year running, we are seeing a drop in oil prices and this translates to savings at the pump with many US states now enjoying prices below $2.00 per gallon. It’s also good for small to medium size businesses and translates into lower food prices (lower cost of transportation). It also means that Fracking shale industry is no longer viable economically – which is good news if you are a fan of clean ground water. The Saudis have spent around $100 billion of foreign reserves to keep shale and other low-cost oil producers out of business. Their decision in 2014 not to cut production has driven prices well below $50 a barrel. However, this is not good news for countries who are overly dependent on oil to support their entire economy. One such country currently in trouble financially is Saudi Arabia, who are now in debt and have no cash reserves left – for the first time in their history. This also exposes the Saudi royal family additional risk of domestic and social instability at home. Will too much debt cause petrol kingdom to lose its ability to project power internationally? Not necessarily, just look at the US who are $17 trillion in the hole, and still bullying the world. Russia is also dependent on healthy oil and gas prices in order to remain strong, and there are some pundits who believe that OPEC’s choice to keep prices down is a form of ‘economic warfare’ in a US-led effort to bankrupt Russia. Time will tell who the winners and losers are, but one thing is certain in 2016 – someone is going to feel the pinch somewhere.

HempHemp – 2015 may have been the Year of Pot, when legalized cannabis and medical marijuana gained mainstream acceptance in a number of states in the US, but 2016 looks set to be the year of hemp. Even though modern society is mostly ignorant to the many key uses of industrial hemp – for food, protein supplements, medicine, beauty and cosmetics, bio-fuel, textiles, plastics, utilities items and building material – many will soon come to realize that our forefathers were heavily invested in hemp products, and that hemp holds the key to solving a number of hot issues on both the right and the left, namely issues of economy, long-term sustainability, nutrition, health and better alternatives to dodgy GMO technology. California is one of the first states to pass legislation to legalize industrial hemp. Be warned however, GMO imperialists like Monsanto seek to patent the cannabis plant and thus monopolize the industry (this is what is behind George Soros pouring millions into legalization campaigns globally), so there are still many epic battles to be fought on the road to cannabis freedom.

twitter-future
(Image: Barjesh War)

Not so positive…

Stock Market Crash – In the last months of 2015, every pundit and wealth website seemed to be predicting some kind of major stock market crash in 2016. Many have the date pinned to the fist week of February. Some say this is simply inevitable after a seemingly endless ‘bull market’, in other words, what goes up, must come down. In fact, the markets did take a dip right before the new year’s end, so maybe that slide is already underway. Considering all that happened in 2015 – the Greek debt crisis, oil prices crashing, and the Chinese currency devaluation – it could’ve been a lot worse. But what would really push that trend over the edge is a good old fashion crisis. If the market does tank and millions of middle class savers are wiped out – expect the Moguls to move in to buy up everything on the cheap. That’s right: a re-consolidation of wealth and power, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. During the election cycle of 2008, Wall Street engineered a financial crash which helped sweep Barack Obama into power, but more importantly, it worked to re-consolidate wealth and power in the US and beyond. Such a convolution would then lead nicely into a re-boot of the Occupy Movement, and will also aid whichever presidential candidate is best positioned to capitalize on a perceived ‘economic crisis’ (which could very well be Donald Trump).

War on Cash – One of the progressive trends of the last decade has been a gradual transition towards a ‘cashless society’, where all good and services will be bought and sold by an electronic debit and credit system. Today, we are closer than ever to this becoming a reality. In the US, top banks like Chase have already begun restricting the use of cash. What next? Will the government want to tax cash, and eventually move to prohibit the private storage of cash altogether? As Zero Hedge states, “We keep being bombarded by moves to restrict the use of cash and demands to ban it altogether. These demands seem to mainly revolve around two arguments: one is that ‘only criminals need cash’, which is on a par with the absurd assertion that we should all be fine with Stasi-like ubiquitous government surveillance ‘if we have nothing to hide’.” In this climate of fear and staged “ISIS” attacks, expect “terror” to be the main rally cry to ban the mainstream use of cash once and for all.

Hashtag#Hashtag Hell/ Emoji Hell – More memes. 2015 was the year of the hashtag. Some say that it is human evolution; a brave new worldwhere all of man’s experiences and philosophical insights can be reduced down to 142 characters or less. There were the predictable terror memes like #JeSuisCharlie#SanBernardinoStrong, #PrayForParis, and even #JeSuisChien (translated: I am a dog), there was also trending favorites like #BlackLivesMatter#IStandWithAhmed and #LoveWins. Can it get any worse? You bet it can. If Twitter manages to integrate Emoji icons into its system, the hashtag hell will quickly become Emoji Hell. Is there any escape from this vapid, reductionist Silicon Valley digital reality? At what point can we jump off this cultural Titanic?

Gun Control – This is not so much a prediction as it is a reality now. Already, on New Year’s Eve, US President Barack Obama, desperate to cement his own ‘legacy’ in his final year in office, announced he will be bypassing the democratic process and enact his own federal decrees on ‘Gun Control’ in America by passing a series of “bold executive actions” to limit the sale and procurement of fire arms. For 2nd Amendment advocates and Republicans, this means war (in political terms), and will be a major hot-button issue all year in the US media, and will ultimately end up in the Supreme Court. Thanks to Obama’s ‘bold’ move, in 2016 the real winners will be gun and ammo manufacturers and retailers – who will rake-in record sales and profits this year. If we didn’t know any better, we’d think that Obama owned shares in the firearms industry. The other dangerous byproduct of this issue is that we can expect many more staged ‘mass shooting’ events which the media and the White House will use to further ram home their anti-gun agenda, which really isn’t about guns at all – but is really about the federalization and ‘fusion’ of every law enforcement and emergency response agency in the country, aka more federal control.  Once again… problem, reaction, solution. 

Early False Flag – NOTE: This is one prediction we definitely DO NOT want to see happen this year. In the first week of 2015, we saw a spectacular event in the Charlie Hebdo Attack. This event set the pace for the coming 12 months. What was more amazing was how many other staged terror events and geopolitical outcomes were tethered in some way to Charlie Hebdo. It was if this early event set the tone and pace for the coming year. It provided a much-needed continuity to many of the mainstream’s popular narratives related to terrorism, Syria, Islamophobia, war, as well as ramping-up a government police state in Europe and North America. For the architects of war and chaos – this proved to be an incredibly successful formula. Let’s hope and pray that they do not use it again.

1-SultanTurkey Goes Rogue – In the last months of 2015, the world got a glimpse of just how deep the nation of Turkey is in terms of fomenting geopolitical turmoil in the Middle East, and beyond. Since 2010, NATO member Turkey has hosted terrorist training camps, as well as facilitated the free flow of terrorist fighters, weapons, cash, as well as a lucrative black market ISIS oil trade – all of which exposes how Turkey is a prime mover in fueling the progress of the so-called ‘Islamic State’See 21WIRE’s comprehensive report on the illicit ISIS Oil Trade for more shocking revelations on Turkey’s activities there. Now at odds with Russia, we learned that Turkey is now involved in facilitating the movement of jihadist terrorists between their country and the Ukraine, and allowing ISIS to buy weapons in the Ukraine. In 2016, Turkey may become to world’s premier ‘bad actor’ internationally. This will certainly lead to a NATO crisis, which will lead to…

A New EU Army – As the world grows tired of the cold war dinosaur known as NATO, and as crisis points like the Paris Attacks and the engineered ‘Migrant Crisis’ push European politics further into the abyss, a new ‘solution’ is already waiting in the wings. In 2016, we will see the final pieces being put into position for the creation of a new federalized European Army, complete with all the federalized accompaniments like a militarized external EU Border Force, an EU CIA, an EU FBI and an EU NSA – mostly in the name of ‘fighting terror’ and protecting against attacks on ‘soft targets’. In terms of freedoms and openness in society, this is not a positive trend.

Crimea – The west have not given up on the Crimea and the architects of instability are currently deploying both US-backed Ukrainian NeoNazi paramilitary fighters and Jihadis from Chechnya – into the Crimea to try and start a sub-regional conflict there. If they poke too hard, this one could get ugly very quickly. Washington is playing with fire here.

Precrime – As man becomes lazy and thinks less, reliance on expensive computer models and artificial intelligence has become the new buzz practice in law enforcement and ‘fighting terror’. Keystone cops around the globe are so enamored with this Orwellian level of gadgetry, that the concept of ‘pre-crime’ as illustrated in Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi classic The Minority Report is now beginning to gain mainstream acceptance. This technology is based on the insane premise that a computer will be able to predict if someone is about to commit a crime or  “may become radicalized”, based on their data profile and other creative computer modeling exercises. Believe it or not, western governments have already unleashed this crack-pot Victorian technology in towns and schools to monitor suspect children from a young age. 

Active-Shooter-Main-Graphic-2015Active Shooter Nation – In a bid to “Make America Ready”, government buildings, schools, colleges, airports, military bases, libraries, hospitals, shopping malls and bingo halls – are all staging multi-agency, “Active Shooter Drills”. America is fast turning into the world leader in staging these contrived, ‘hyper-real’ productions. The only problem is, as these events play-out in real life and on TV, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between an actual drill and a staged ‘mass shooting’ or ‘domestic terror’ event. The important thing to note is that behind every “drill”… is an endless stream of dollars. This is part of the new predator ‘security’ economy in the US. While other businesses are struggling to make ends meet, the security industry seems to be a real growth area. The problem is that too many agencies and private contractors all want a piece of this plastic apple pie, and are all-too-willing to submerse themselves in this bizarre, and highly disturbing new Amerika. When will it end?

Hostage Crisis – It’s been a while since the establishment has engineered a high-profile hostage crisis. One of the last major events in this class of crisis event happened in 1979 with the Iranian Hostage Crisis, where 52 American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days. It just happened to take place during a US presidential election cycle, with president Jimmy Carter (D) running for reelection against challenger Ronald Reagan (R). The crisis, including a horrific failed rescue attempt, was used against Carter in the media. According to reports at the time Reagan campaign operatives had managed to do a backdoor deal with the elements of the new Iranian regime to ‘hold-off’ releasing the hostages until after the election. In the end, Reagan won and took credit for that ‘victory’. It’s been a while since Washington has had a good ‘hostage crisis’ and in an election year, it could help to divide voters and perhaps benefit a candidate as it did with Reagan. Let’s hope that this year’s 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil goes off without a hitch, unlike the 1972 Olympics in Munich which featured a made-for-TV Israeli-Palestinian hostage crisis and massacre (many researchers still content that it was a deliberately staged event). As mainstream news ratings continue to plummet, it seems the only thing CNN, FOX, MSNBC and others can do to guarantee a healthy income is to produce a long protracted crisis, where viewers will stay glued to their TV for days, if not weeks on end. In this way, a hostage crisis is a real winner. And then Michael Bay can make a Hollywood blockbuster about it.

Multidimensional False Flag Terror – As the public becomes increasing fatigued from fake ISIS videos and obvious one-dimensional terrorist incidents (like the fake Chattanooga production), the architects of chaos and false flag terror are looking for bigger and better ways to sustain news coverage and keep the public afraid and completely dependent on the state to feel “safe and secure”, while at the same time advancing a domestic and global military, economic and social agenda. Last year, staged terror events like HebdoGarland and Copenhagen – had multiple dimensions in that they managed to join a ‘fear of the Muslim’ together with the illusive concept of ‘free speech’ in the west. Later, the San Bernardino Shooting took things to another level altogether – by fueling left-wing fear of ‘guns’ and served the White House’s liberal anti-gun agenda and justified an increasing militarization (and federalization) of America’s police and ‘law enforcement’ agencies.  For the right-wing it fueled a building anti-Islamic wave and called for more US “boots on the ground” in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan (and everywhere else) and prompted calls to “shut US borders”, further diluting the immigration debate. On top of this, San Bernardino allowed the FBI and the media to demonize social media – prompting calls to allow full access at any time to anyone’s social media accounts – all because of ‘suspicion’ that the alleged shooters were “radicalized” on the internet. That’s 5 or 6 major issues spun into one ‘terror’ event, leaving the media (not 21WIRE) and the public (not 21WIRE readers) nearly paralyzed in trying to analyze the maelstrom. This is the false flag formula of the future.

1-eco_terrorist_ISISEnvironmental Terror – Bringing together the sum of all fears for the liberal left-wing and fueling the hysteria of the right-wing is a powerful combination. Nothing could achieve this hyper-politicized marriage of fear and insanity in the west – than some bizarre jihadi-environmentalevent. As the Paris Attacks in November just happened to coincide with the UN’s COP21 Climate Summit in Paris, and how this led a number of high-profile western political leaders to utter the idiotic idea that “climate change is causing jihadi terrorism and ISIS,” we can see how easily the mentalists in media and politics would have a technocratic orgy should such a ‘event horizon’ ever occur. This is one scenario we definitely do not want to see happen, except in the movies.

New War Theatre – As the world gets tired of the west’s failure to collapse Syria, and an already established public fatigue about Iraq and Afghanistan, western war planners will be on the lookout for a new theatre of operations for the public to become fixated on. Some prime candidates here could be Pakistan and Somalia. Script writers already introduced Pakistan as a terror hot bed with the San Bernardino Shooting with the bogus claim that one of the THREE gunmen was a 5’2″, 120 lb Pakistani mail-order bride named Tafsheen Malik. Also, with Saudi’s rampage in Yemen still receiving ZERO media coverage in the US and Europe, look for western intelligence agencies to re-heat the old al Shaabab terrorist narrative in Somalia – creating a virtual geopolitical crisis across the Gulf of Aden from neighboring Yemen.

Israel Status Quo – As every year passes, one wonders if this will be the year that Israel gets smart, ends apartheid, and stops repressing, stealing land and killing the native Palestinian population. Sadly, there are no signs that the Israelis have found religion, and more indication that they are continuing down a road to nowhere, and will continue to be ostracized by the international community for presiding over the longest running, illegal pogrom in the modern world. You just can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Kosher bull terrier Bibi Netanyahu looks set to head the world second biggest protection racket again this year. Expect Israel to kick, scream, threaten and blackmail everyone possible again this year when Palestine moves closer and closer into the family of nations.

Occupy Redux – During the election cycle of 2008, Wall Street engineered a financial crash which helped sweep Barack Obama into power. This helped to spur-on the Occupy Movement (ironically, funded by a Wall Street billionaire). In 2011, the Democratic Party used the Occupy Movement to register millions of young voters which helped Obama win in 2012. The 1% vs. the 99%, in an epic battle guaranteed to lead nowhere (as it did in 2011). The rest is just one big mess of muesli, falafel, portable toilets, groups of students playing “repeat after me”, the smell of weed and suspiciously underfed white people with dreadlocks camping out in city squares nationwide. It’s a proven formula and one that Democrats will most likely use again. Will it be in 2016?

Hillary-DonaldUS Election – Who will win the US presidency? We don’t know, but we will this time next year. More importantly, will it really matter in reversing many of the negative trends identified above? All we know for certain is that all the US presidential candidates will continue to spout more insane rhetoric – on the left it’s calls for “redistribution of wealth”, “job creation” and “free healthcare”, and on the right it will be “tougher national security” and “close down the border” etc. Honestly, most of us don’t care who wins, we just can’t wait until it’s over.

Obama Golfing – In his last year in office, you can be certain that Barack Obama will take every opportunity swing his clubs on the US taxpayer dime. Expect to see him golfing a lot this coming year.

Return of Jihadi John? – Contrary to popular belief, the US did not kill ISIS actor Jihadi John in a drone strike this past fall (if not, then show us the evidence). Like all US drones strikes, there is no forensic evidence to ever back-up any of their illustrious claim of killing ‘high profile’ targets. So this means there’s a chance the Tom Clancy Unit in Langley will be resurrecting the popular YouTube mascot in 2016. That would be a real show-stopper, wouldn’t it? Watch this space…

We could go on and on here, but we’ll stop there… for now. Be sure to stay tuned to 21WIRE and our weekly radio show, SUNDAY WIRE, this year for all the best analysis on big breaking news stories and events.

LAST YEAR: See Our Predictions and Trends for 2015

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Quand la Maison blanche et le Pentagone ne sont pas d’accord.

January 1st, 2016 by Pierre Van Grunderbeek

Le récent article de Seymour Hersh qui a été publié sur le site du très sérieux London Review of Books [1] n’a pas fait les choux gras des médias français.

Comme toujours, Seymour Hersh met en avant des informations de première importance.  Il s’agit ici de divergences d’analyses entre la DIA, l’agence de renseignements du Pentagone, et les conseillers de Barack Obama.

Une autre information a bien retenu l’attention de ces médias.  La mort de Zahran Allouche, l’autoritaire commandant de Jaish Al-Islam (l’Armée de l’islam).

 

Il a été ciblé par un bombardier, sans doute russe, alors qu’il tenait une réunion secrète dans la Ghouta Est avec une brochette de commandants locaux.

Zahran Allouche était le fils d’un prédicateur salafiste et il était originaire de la Ghouta.   Il avait le plein soutien de l’Arabie saoudite, un pays qui le lui fournissait les fonds et les armes pour payer ses hommes et pour lutter contre l’armée loyaliste.  Il se rendait fréquemment en Arabie saoudite pour discuter des besoins de ses troupes et pour définir les objectifs militaires avec les services de sécurité saoudiens.

Les récentes avancées de l’armée loyaliste ont coupé la plupart des voies d’approvisionnement de la Ghouta et la population y est affamée.  Un vaste réseau de tunnels permet encore à cette région de maintenir le contact avec l’extérieur mais la situation y devient de plus en plus précaire.

L’armée qu’il commandait est composée de plusieurs dizaines de milliers d’hommes (de vingt à quarante mille) et il était un farouche adversaire de l’État islamique qu’il avait chassé de la région.

Il n’y a évidemment aucun lien entre ces deux informations sauf peut-être l’attaque chimique qui a eu lieu le 21 août 2013.

La première partie de l’article de Seymour Hersh est un recueil de confidences d’un ex-conseiller de l’État-major interarmes.

À l’été 2013, toutes les analyses de la DIA confirmaient que si Bachar al Assad était militairement battu, une prise de pouvoir par les islamistes s’ensuivrait immanquablement.

Jaish Al-Islam, une rébellion takfiriste soutenue par l’Arabie saoudite et commandée par Zahran Allouche, aurait pris Damas.   Jabhat al-Nosra (le front de la victoire), un groupe djihadiste affilié à Al-Qaïda, aurait pris les villes du centre de la Syrie et Alep tomberait sous la coupe d’islamistes proches des Frères musulmans soutenus par la Turquie et le Qatar.

L’État islamique (DAECH) n’existait pas encore en Syrie mais l’État islamique en Irak et au Levant venait d’apparaitre en Syrie et se battait aux côtés de Jabhat al-Nosra pour prendre Raqqa aux troupes loyalistes.

À cette époque, la CIA complotait depuis plus d’un an avec le Royaume Uni, l’Arabie Saoudite, le Qatar et avec l’aval du président des États-Unis pour expédier des armes et des marchandises dans le but de renverser Bachar al Assad.  Les armes partaient de Libye jusqu’en Syrie via la Turquie.

Ce qui avait débuté comme une opération secrète pour armer et soutenir les rebelles modérés s’était transformée en un programme technique, militaire et logistique à cheval sur la frontière turque pour toutes les forces d’opposition, y compris Jabhat al-Nosra et les autres groupes islamistes radicaux.

Les soi-disant rebelles modérés s’étaient évaporés et l’Armée syrienne libre n’était qu’un mirage stationné sur une base aérienne en Turquie. Le constat était peu réjouissant : il n’y avait aucune opposition modérée viable face à Bachar al Assad et les USA armaient des extrémistes.

Le directeur de la DIA, le Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, continuait à envoyer des rapports alarmistes au président mais il semblait que l’administration ne voulait pas entendre la vérité.

Les commandants du JCS (État-major interarmes) partagèrent alors les informations avec leurs collègues allemands, israéliens et russes en se disant que leurs analyses seraient soufflées à Bachar al Assad.

En été 2013, l’AAS (l’armée loyaliste) tenait les villes et les groupes rebelles n’arrivaient plus à avancer.  Ces groupes rebelles, renforcés par des djihadistes et des mercenaires étrangers payés par les États du Golfe ou de riches donateurs continuaient à publier des vidéos d’exécutions et de tortures sur des prisonniers et des civils syriens.

Les médias commencèrent à parler d’intervention militaire pour mettre fin à cette effusion de sang.  Une zone d’exclusion aérienne était envisagée mais il fallait pour cela l’aval de Conseil de Sécurité de l’ONU.

En juin 2013, au G8 de Dublin, Vladimir Poutine tint bon contre les sept autres membres et refusa jusqu’au bout de donner l’accord de la Russie pour une telle opération.

 

Sauf à violer la Charte des Nations Unies, la situation était bloquée.

Barack Obama commis alors une bourde qui aurait pu avoir de lourdes conséquences.

Il répondit à la question d’un journaliste en disant que l’utilisation d’armes chimiques par Bachar al Assad autoriserait les États-Unis à lancer des frappes sur la Syrie sans l’aval de CS de l’ONU.

Les journalistes, qu’on aurait dits avides d’encore plus de sauvagerie, se mirent alors à scruter les bulletins d’informations à la recherche de l’acte qui obligerait Barack Obama à tenir sa parole.

L’occasion se présenta ce fameux 21 août 2013.  Un bombardement chimique sur la Ghouta orientale fit entre 350 et 1700 morts (suivant les sources) parmi la population civile.

Pour les médias, pour les dirigeants politiques et pour l’opinion publique, il ne faisait aucun doute que Bachar al Assad était le responsable du massacre.

Barack Obama était sous la pression des médias qui le poussait à faire intervenir ses bombardiers.  Il savait que les rebelles étaient prêts à se lancer à l’assaut des grandes villes syriennes.  Les bombardements franco-étasuniens auraient mis l’armée régulière en déroute comme en Irak.

Bien sûr, il connaissait les rapports de la DIA et il avait lu que la chute de Bachar al Assad signifiait l’arrivée des Islamistes partout en Syrie mais ce n’était pas du tout le scénario prévu au départ par les États-Unis.

Nous savons que ce qui était privilégié, c’est un départ de Bachar al Assad et son remplacement par un président pro-occidental.  L’armée et l’administration syrienne devant assurer la continuité de gestion de l’État jusqu’à son éventuel démembrement suivant le bien connu projet de remodelage du Moyen-Orient.

Ma conviction personnelle est que ce n’est pas qu’un changement de régime qui était envisagé pour la Syrie, c’était surtout un changement d’alliance avec une rupture avec l’Iran, avec la Russie et avec le Hezbollah.

Mais Barack Obama était prisonnier de sa parole.  Que vaudrait encore la parole d’un président des États-Unis s’il se défaussait de sa promesse dans un cas pareil.

Il pouvait lancer quelques frappes symboliques mais il se serait quand-même déjugé.

Il y a un autre élément dont il faut tenir compte pour comprendre la valse-hésitation de Barack Obama.  Le budget de la Défense venait de subir une forte coupe budgétaire et le JCS (État-major interarmes) était réticent à se lancer dans une action militaire aux contours mal définis pouvant entrainer les États-Unis dans un bourbier comme en Irak.

Le sauvetage est alors venu en deux temps.

John Kerry a dit en répondant à un journaliste qu’il n’y avait pas de possibilité d’éviter l’intervention aérienne excepté si une chose tout-à-fait improbable arrivait comme par exemple si Bachar al Assad se débarrassait de ses armes chimiques.

Vladimir Poutine a répondu dans les 48 heures que Bachar al Assad est d’accord de se débarrasser de ses armes chimiques.  On se demande parfois si ce n’était préparé à l’avance tellement que c’était bien coordonné.

Nous connaissons la suite.  Barack Obama a d’abord invoqué l’accord du Congrès.  Ensuite il a accepté l’offre russe et Bachar al Assad a donné ses armes chimiques pour qu’on les détruise.

Bien sûr, tout le monde n’a pas été dupe de cette fameuse attaque chimique de la Ghouta qui était tombée à point nommé.

Deux éminents experts du prestigieux MIT ont démontré quelques mois plus tard que ces obus chimiques ne pouvaient avoir été tirés d’une zone gouvernementale.  [2]

Seymour Hersh, déjà lui, fut un des premiers à publier et à commenter ce rapport à la fin 2013.

Il reste quelques détails à prouver mais il est clair qu’on avait presque commencé une guerre avec un « false flag » comme motif.  Si ce ne sont les troupes loyalistes, c’est alors forcément les rebelles islamistes de Jaish Al-Islam qui sont responsables du massacre pour un motif bien simple : ils savaient que cela provoquerait l’intervention aérienne franco-étasunienne qui leur permettrait de reprendre l’offensive sur Damas.

Depuis ces deux dernières années, nous avons pu nous apercevoir tous les jours que les islamistes n’accordent aucune considération à la vie humaine et il n’y a aucune raison de croire qu’il en était autrement en août 2013.

Si on continue dans les déductions, on constate que c’était bien Zahran Allouche qui était le commandant des rebelles de cette zone.  Il devait certainement en savoir des choses sur cette attaque chimique.  Il ne parlera plus maintenant et c’est dommage.

Il reste encore à savoir qui a trahi pour indiquer le lieu où le groupe se réunissait.

L’article de Seymour Hersh parle aussi d’un rapport de l’ambassadeur étasunien en Syrie, William Roebuck de décembre 2006,  qui analysait les failles du gouvernement Assad et proposait une liste des méthodes « susceptibles d’augmenter la probabilité » d’opportunités de déstabilisation. Il recommandait que Washington travaille avec l’Arabie Saoudite et l’Égypte pour développer les tensions sectaires.  L’ambassade se chargeait aussi de donner de l’argent à des dissidents politiques locaux.

Cette partie de l’article prouve que la contestation en Syrie n’avait rien de spontané.  Elle était bien préparée de longue date.  Cela indique aussi que les États-Unis utilisent des méthodes tout-à-fait illégales pour renverser des gouvernements.  Il n’y a aucune raison de croire que ce genre de méthodes se limitait uniquement à la Syrie, bien au contraire.  Cela confirme bien que toutes les soi-disant révolutions de couleurs spontanées sont le résultat d’une manipulation de petits groupes par les ambassades étasuniennes.  Tous les lecteurs assidus de sites sérieux le savent depuis longtemps.

 

L’histoire des prisonniers d’Al Qaïda livrés par la CIA à la Syrie pour y être torturés est déjà connue depuis longtemps.  La Syrie n’est d’ailleurs pas le seul pays concerné.  Il est maintenant mal venu pour les journalistes et pour les ONG d’accuser la Syrie de violation des droits de l’homme sans lancer en parallèle les mêmes accusations contre la CIA.

Un autre point intéressant relevé par l’article est que le Pentagone avait réussi à faire parvenir aux rebelles des armes obsolètes provenant de stocks de l’armée turque en 2013.  Cela expliquerait les avancées de l’ASS en été de la même année.  Malheureusement, l’Arabie saoudite, le Qatar et la Turquie décidèrent d’augmenter le financement des groupes islamistes y compris l’État islamique qui avait fait son apparition en Syrie en cette fin 2013.  Ces groupes prirent alors le contrôle d’énormes territoires dans l’est du pays.

À la fin de 2013, la CIA continuait à former des combattants qui rejoignaient les groupes islamistes dès leur passage en Syrie.

Une accusation qui revient souvent dans les confidences du conseiller de l’État-major concerne la Turquie et le rôle négatif de son président,  Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, dans la crise syrienne.  Il était évident que pour la DIA, le président turc ne concentrait pas ses efforts sur le remplacement de Bachar al Assad par une personnalité pro-occidentale.  Son ambition est d’avoir une zone d’influence sur les zones nord de l’Irak et la Syrie qui étaient des parties de l’Empire ottoman il y a un siècle et de peut-être régler son problème kurde en coupant le PKK de ses bases arrière.

La deuxième partie de l’article analyse la situation actuelle en Syrie et les rapports conflictuels entre les présidents Obama et Poutine.  Cela reste intéressant mais ce sont des informations qui n’apportent pas d’éléments nouveaux.

La conclusion de l’article est un appel à travailler ensemble, donc avec les Russes, pour venir à bout de l’État islamique et de stabiliser la Syrie en gardant pour cela Bachar al Assad à la tête du pays jusqu’à ce que la situation soit stabilisée.  Des élections pourront avoir lieu ensuite.

C’est l’avis de nombreux experts ne faisant pas partie du cercle néo-conservateur ainsi que de nombreux anciens diplomates.

Cet avis n’est pas majoritaire au Congrès mais en privé, de plus en plus de députés approuvent cette idée.

En septembre dernier, le général Dempsey a pris sa retraite et a été remplacé par le général Joseph Dunfort à la tête de l’État-major interarmes.  Lors de son audition devant la Commission sénatoriale des  forces armées, il avait déclaré que la Russie est une menace existentielle pour les États-Unis et que la Turquie est un des alliés les plus importants.

Barack Obama a maintenant un général beaucoup plus en accord avec son entourage idéaliste (idéaliste dans le sens « uniquement idéal pour les intérêts des États-Unis)  à la tête de l’État-major.  Il n’y aura plus de contestation indirecte.

Le lieutenant général Michail T. Flynn avait été remplacé à la tête de la DIA en août 2014.

Revenu à la vie civile, il continue à clamer lors de nombreuses interviews que les décisions de Barack Obama sont incompréhensibles. (lien)

Conclusion.

Cette contestation de la Politique du Président par le Pentagone est assez étonnante et même rare dans l’histoire des États-Unis.

On peut dire qu’il y d’un côté des analyses réalistes basées sur des informations récoltées sur place ainsi que sur des photos aériennes et de l’autre, une approche idéologique tout-à fait déconnecté de la réalité qui tend vers la recherche de la suprématie des États-Unis.  Les décisions sont dans ce cas toujours prises en veillant à ce qu’elles n’avantagent pas un concurrent géopolitique.

En 2013, les tenants de l’école réaliste étaient John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, des généraux du Pentagone dont Martin Dempsey et Michail T. Flynn.

Il ne reste que John Kerry en fonction.  On constate de plus en plus souvent que ses déclarations sont contredites par Susan Rice, une proche conseillère de Barack Obama.

Cela ne donne pas plus de cohérence à la diplomatie actuelle des États-Unis.

En Syrie, la Russie s’est placée au centre du jeu.  Presque cinq ans de guerre a été le temps nécessaire qui a permis à Vladimir Poutine de préparer son armée pour intervenir intelligemment en Syrie.

 

Les experts du Pentagone estiment dans leurs calculs que le coût de l’intervention pour la Russie est de 1 à 2 milliards de dollars par an entièrement prélevés sur le budget de l’armée.

Ce coût serait supportable pour 4 à 5 ans sans problème.

Cela change complétement la donne.  La Russie est maintenant incontournable et quelle que soit la solution qui sera négociée en Syrie, il faudra tenir compte de ses intérêts.

Barack Obama est discrédité sur le dossier syrien et, sauf grande surprise, il le laissera à son successeur.

C’est le prix à payer pour avoir eu une politique étrangère confuse et incompréhensible pendant son dernier mandat.

Ceci est une constatation réaliste qui se base sur la détermination de Vladimir Poutine à défendre les intérêts existentiels de la Russie qu’il estime fondamentalement menacés.  Cela ne concerne aucunement une considération préférentielle pour la Russie.

L’alternative est une guerre contre la Russie dont on devine les conséquences désastreuses pour tous les belligérants.

Traduction intégrale de l’article de Seymour Hersh en français sur le site “Les Crises”.  [3]

Pierre Van Grunderbeek

 

[1] http://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n01/seymour-m-hersh/military-to-military

[2]http://www.agoravox.fr/actualites/international/article/la-syrie-et-le-rapport-du-mit-147902

[3]http://www.les-crises.fr/echanges-entre-militaires-par-seymour-hersh/

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Selected Articles: Fingers Crossed for a More Placatory New Year.

January 1st, 2016 by Global Research News

burundi_flagAfrica in Review 2015: Social Crises, “Peacekeeping” Operations and the Legacy of Imperialism

By Abayomi Azikiwe, January 01 2016

From Burundi to Ghana and beyond the intervention of western states continues as an impediment to genuine development.

Former CIA Director Richard Helms Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from CIA Library“CIA Lying Performance” Then and Now: The JFK Assassination Versus The CIA’s Obstruction of Justice in 2015

By Prof Peter Dale Scott and Milicent Cranor, December 31 2015

The essay focuses on tales told by Richard Helms, a top official of the CIA in 1963 who later became its director — and  is based on a talk given by Prof. Peter Dale Scott. Scott is the popularizer of the expression, “Deep Politics,” and a virtuoso when it comes to what sometimes seems like grabbing smoke (…) and then analyzing the residue.

q-4A-Z of Drones 2015: “Reducing Terrorism”, Targeted Assassinations, UAV Engines, Whistleblowers

By Chris Cole, January 01 2016

Part 3 of 3. Read parts 1 and 2.

mcmurtryGlobal Crises 2016: Western Media, the Public Interest, Corrupting Youth, the Real Terrorism, Collective Consciousness

By Prof. John McMurtry, January 01 2016

Philosopher John McMurtry (image left) was asked to “co-operate with Ayatollah Khamenei in the Supreme Leader’s letter to the Youth in Europe and North America”. The questions posed by  a designated US enemy opened a new world standpoint on the US-led world disorder and the taboo depths of  shared crises as we enter 2016.

IMF go homeIMF Warns of Slow Growth and Economic “Shocks” in 2016

By Barry Grey, December 31 2015

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde offered a bleak economic forecast for 2016 and beyond in a guest column published Wednesday in the German financial newspaper Handelsblatt.

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Philosopher John McMurtry was asked to “co-operate with Ayatollah Khamenei in the Supreme Leader’s letter to the Youth in Europe and North America”. 

The questions posed by  a designated US enemy opened a new world standpoint on the US-led world disorder and the taboo depths of  shared crises as we enter 2016. 

What in general do the Western media hide and not let people know?

In general, the mass media across cultures are propaganda systems for those who own or control them. But the Western media lead the world in silencing one ultimate issue confronting  all peoples on Earth – the despoliation of the world’s life support systems by transnational  corporate globalization. They talk only of climate warming’, not destabilization of planetary life cycles at every level. They promote only market-growth solutions which are known not to work.

No-one talks of US-led ‘globalization’ itself as the underlying disorder. No science or story defines the common cause of the spasmic extinctions everywhere, the oceanic pollutions, the fish stock collapses across all waters, and the ever larger-scale looting of resources across borders. It is a deeper causal mechanism than even US empire. Transnational money tides increasingly devour and poison all that exists with even Communist-Party China destroying its own air to breathe and grounds of a human life.

Western media are the lead PR vehicles for this limitlessly life destructive invasion and growth – the nature of fascism in all forms. Financial fascism is never named in the media, and so its world floods of private money sequences, commodities and public waste grow and multiply beneath detection. Throughout the corporate media present only isolated problems, competitive spectacles and ads for the system. Humanity`s common life ground and universal needs are screened out. ‘Reforms’ are only more corporate marketizations and bank-driven dispossessions.

The underlying law of corporate globalization its media presentation is undeniable, but taboo to name. Whatever stands against the transnational corporate market as the cosmic engine of humanity’s well-being is anathematized and annihilated in one nation after another. The methods range from bombing social infrastructures in Slavic and Arab societies to silencing and reversing undeniable facts exposing the lies of the system.  No alternative to feeding resources into the life-blind growth juggernaut has arisen at a productive level.  The media repel any real economic reform as unthinkable.

In this borderless chaos of corporate globalization which now strips even the social infrastructures of the European Union to pay big banks and dispossess workers, the mass media select out whatever joins the dots of the cumulative catastrophe unfolding on both social and ecological planes.  No real threat to collective life security computes except constructed enemies who mutate from one Orwellian hate object to the next. The collective life capital on which everyone’s continued breathing, water, nutrition, biodiverse surroundings, social security and knowledge depend are not even conceived.

Are the politics of European and US governments contrary to the national interests of even their own nations?

The meaning of ‘the national interest’ is the prior question. It is the common life interest of citizens through generational time. Yet you will never find this principle in the mass media, official declarations, or even academic journals. Typically the meaning is reversed– for example the US orchestrating society-destroying wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine, and Syria. All are claimed to be for the ‘US national interest’ and ‘global security’ at once, but these very big lies are only incantations of unaccountable power.

In fact, all societies involved keep being destroyed all the way back to the lead invading state. Social life fabrics are divided, bombed and torn apart in the Islamic world, and hollowed out at home at the same time.  One dark truth persists underneath all the lies – an endless eco-genocide of poorer peoples and their life conditions across continents that profit the transnational money party alone.  Is there exception?

This is the world-defining fact that no corporate state or media report. They divert instead to “the terrorists threatening the civilized world”. In fact this is merely the US and allies projecting the terror onto the victims that fight back or on their own jihadi constructions  sowing civil wars to divide and rule from without.  Thus endless US-led bombing from one country to the next somehow avoids the very oil-supply lines sustaining ISIL, the designated Evil One which has in fact been financed, armed and directed by the CIA and allies like Saudi Arabia and Turkey. That the ‘terrorists’ are a creation of the system warring upon them is another Orwellian absurdity. But it is the reigning pretext for  armed lockdown and dispossession of US-EU societies too for transnational corporate exploitation – the ultimate global terrorism at work across cultures and borders.

Consider the bizarre turns on the ground of the master big lie of ‘protecting the Free World and its allies’. Turkey’s despotic state under Erdogan, whose son is making millions out of running ISIL stolen oil, shoots down a Russian plane tracking the Turkey-protected ISIL oil-truck columns, and bombs only Kurds, the sole indigenous fighting force in the US-led Syria-Iraq wars. It is all so confusing until one recognizes that it is the same underlying pattern throughout. Names, cultures, even rulers make little difference. The corporate rich always get richer while peoples and their environments are ever more predated and looted in the name of their ‘security’ and ‘freedom’.

At the same time, the connection between the Western rule of armed force and financial terror – essentially NATO and big banks following Wall Street – is never named however much it dispossesses and ruins the citizens of the lead Western societies themselves.

Robotic despots called “technocrats” spread the terror of money-control extortion, and liquidate all liveable social programs to force the payments.  NATO armed forces stand ready to be called as back-up enforcers. Resistance is bombed within Europe itself, as in Yugoslavia and Ukraine. War criminal facts disappear into blaming the designated enemy, usually a former ally.  The simultaneous hollowing out of US and EU majorities by the same military-financial axis funded by the public treasury is anathema to recognize.

But the systemic financial extortion, corporate treaty rights as absolute over nations, and NATO armed terror cannot succeed by themselves. Pervasive toxic propaganda against resistance across borders, special agents and forces on site at pleasure, and floods of US dollars to pay local fascisti to scream abuse and threats all participate in enforcing the final unseen objective –to transform all public wealth into transnational financial control and multiplication of instruments of dispossession. This is the nature of the global financial fascism advancing beneath the public radar. Even the food and water futures of the world’s peoples are bought up by Wall Street and company using US Federal Reserve cash. There is no end to the carcinomic invasions of the public realm and people’s lives unless forced back from without and risen  up against from within.

Is the West divided against itself? 

No matter what country you live in, perpetual war is built into this system’s exponential money-sequence demands across all cultures and borders. The staggering wastes of lives and public resources never end but always rise in demands. They have ever since the Reagan-Thatcher turn which is still absurdly masked as ‘neoliberal’ by the Left – a sign of the categorical confusion that allows it to go on destroying across the world. This is the division not yet comprehended.

As with the Mafia in microcosm, financial fascism commands citizens everywhere to pay up or suffer the consequences of life ruin. In fact, there is no other way to keep a system of armed extortion at every level going, even if you spin it as “globalization”. The key is to proclaim the opposite of ‘freedom’ and ‘prosperity’ all the way. This is the mass public relations function at which this system surpasses all others. This masking by advanced public relations techniques is the only way it can keep on going.

The deprivation, invasion, and looting of sovereign nations for more transnational private  profits without limit is called ‘growth’. It devours the developing and developed world at the same time. Every wage, tax, access to life means is now at risk and the demands for more private corporate rights never stop. This is the ultimate division within the West and now the East – the life of societies against their transnational financial predation.

How can it be believed in as ‘the free world’ by anyone with a working mind? It is totalitarian in its reach – for example, the US Executive, Legislature and Supreme Court all now directly or indirectly controlled by the money party across parties. In functional terms, The US-led military is joined at the hip to transnational bank-corporate rule along with the mass media – the unseen global financial fascism operating across state and private divisions. But the new PR twist of this global fascism is to condemn violence not glorify it, while showing and using terror and violence more pervasively all the while‘Neoliberal’ fits this public relations mask like a glove. It conceals the absolute conflict between the people’s lives and future and the system’s demands for continuous destruction to grow private money demand and sequences without limit as a form of ‘liberalism’ – in fact, the original philosophy of John Stuart Mill and John Dewey, both mild socialists. Thus the most absolute conflict between society’s common life interests and borderless financial-fascist rule is erased by an equivocal slogan.

For example, it is certainly not remotely liberal or in the interests of US taxpayers to pay out $2,000,000,000 dollars a day for the US corporate war and terror machine, a peerlessly profitable quasi-monopolist global business in its own right and enforcer of the limitlessly life-destructive  system across borders . Yet even dispossessed Greece pays billions of public money to the transnational NATO enforcer standing over it behind the foreign banks to annihilate any embodied social resistance to the concealed invasion.

With endless cuts to social spending “to reduce government costs”, ever more people within Western borders have been pushed into inhuman conditions at the same time as refugees flee in millions from the bombed states and engineered civil wars. Together they overstress social life support systems beyond any built capacity to manage by  systematically defunded social states. Again the absolute division between peoples’ common life interests and the system’s DNA of consuming life organization and conditions at every level cannot be denied. But no category yet recognizes it.

What do you see as the importance of youth in the future of the West and the failure of policy-makers to provide for them?

Perhaps the worst problem of this system has been the way in which the lives of the younger generations have been sacrificed beneath notice. There is no private profit in enabling the young to understand and flourish as human beings. But there is ever more profit in exploiting the young’s increasing market demand as well as cheap labor. The vast and growing global businesses of junk foods, violence entertainment, and selfie-chatter have one thing in common. They depend on the young as unthinking spenders.  In this way the next generations are made pervasively addictive consumers degrading human life capacities the more corporate commodities are consumed by them. Maximizing corporate sales and ‘investor’ profits is the sole value criterion. Even infants in the crib are consciously conditioned into this expanding addictive-junk cycle as “job-creating growth”.

Alarm arises in informed citizens with the latest epidemic disorder like obesity, bullying, unfitness, and failing attention spans. But the overall pattern is blocked out. Youth are conditioned to a totalizing market of appetites and future insecurity without human meaning left.  Life-serving vocations are everywhere chopped to ‘save money’. Students in higher education are treated as consumers of course packages by corporate university managements who multiply themselves as students are forced into debt slavery. With human livelihoods ever scarcer, youth depression becomes epidemic. Long-term demoralization sets in beneath understanding of its system cause.

But banning Western ideas, clothing or music won’t solve the problem. The disorder is far deeper and invades every level of life organization. The only truth is what sells. The only competition is to lower costs on life and increase money-value outputs faster. The Creation itself is destroyed by the lock-stepping money sequences to more. Over 90% of resource extractions become waste within weeks.

Youth everywhere are threatened by this global disorder. But prohibition of ‘Western ways’  is symptomatic. Yes, prohibit the selling of what is scientifically known to attack life capacities from junk food to extreme violence entertainment. But ethnic appearances are not the issue. They are diversions. The need is to re-set to the lost life ground – the universal life needs of humanity and its ecological host through generational time.

It is on this common life-ground that science and religion meet, and East and West join across differences. The young long for it.

Why is there Islamophobia in the West?

Cultural differences provoke ignorance – the first level of the problem. But false  propaganda  cultivates hate. Long before Islamaphobia, US-led ‘anti-communism’ murdered millions in Vietnam, Indonesia, and Latin America. Before that, European Nazism was assisted by US transnational corporations against the ‘communist threat’ – which meant, decoded, whatever stood in the way of the transnational corporate fascism already building the perpetual war system on which it still thrives and grows today. After fascist Germany and Japan were defeated, the now militarily supreme US, led by corporate Nazi partners in the US never named or prosecuted, carried on the global pogroms to holocaust proportions. So-called ‘communists’ were everywhere slandered, persecuted and warred upon even where they did not exist – a global holocaust that killed tens of millions of people and ruined as many lives.

In short, the cornerstone of US ideology is its designated Enemy – whatever opposes private corporate globalization. The genocide of first peoples was its original stage.  Islamaphobia is one more variation on the theme. Ironically, ‘Islam’ as armed jihad –the main hate object now – has been a creation and instrument of covert-state US policy. It has been for decades an admitted US asset in advancing the bi-partisan project of ‘full spectrum dominance’ of the world. Back in the 1980’s, jihadi mass murder and mayhem were orchestrated and funded by the US to destroy a secular Afghan state led by equality for women and social guarantees.

It was destroyed to bleed the USSR coming to its defense through the ‘Afghanistan War’. A fanatically sectarian Islam was led by foreign Saudi corp-man and Wahabi Osama bin Laden, with US National Security Adviser Pole Brzezinski cheer-leading the annihilation of secular socialism as the means to destroy Russia, his instituted fixation. So from al Qaeda to D’aesh, the terrorist monsters have been a Saudi-and-Sunni-based fanaticism led by the US special-forces state – lately with ample support from Turkey’s Erdogan and Gulf kings hating Shia Iran as well. But such distinctions are smeared out in the Islamaophobia of today.

Yes, imperial colonization and destruction of the Islamic world has bled its civilization dry on a far longer and larger scale. The main modern driver has been money-oil exploitation, the fuel of world capitalism until Wall Street sold its futures. The Greater Israel project has been the permanent enforcer in situ. Through all this evil – meaning limitlessly life-destructive self maximization – Islamic civilization has retreated into an obscurantist and punitively authoritarian clerical rule without productive base. An inward-looking mullah Islam has become the dominant line of collective belief through the chaos.

It has resulted in what is not recognizable in Islam’s golden years as the world’s leading civilization. In Moorish Spain over centuries, for example, Islamic order demonstrated peerless architecture, arts and science that still capture the wonder of those who look today. None of the violent in-looking practices sustaining Islamophobia in the Western mind are evident. Life-and limb-destroying punishments for theft, heresy, consensual sex and the face-elimination of women that provoke the anger of so many in the West seem foreign to this earlier civilisation. Certainly the death-to-non-believers fanaticism was alien to the Islamic civilisation that saved the classical secular works of Plato and Aristotle from the dark ages of the ‘Christian’ West.

Today Islamophobia finds its rational kernel in the dispossession, maiming, lashing torture and legal murder of individuals for no violent offence. Persons found guilty of heresy, sexual non-conformity, criticism of the theocracy, completely personal and peaceful offenses can be legally tortured, maimed and murdered. All of this is anathema to the reasonably caring mind.

It does not matter who commits this inhuman violence – whether the Spanish Inquisition, secular despots, US torturers, the Israeli occupation, or a mullah hierarchy. It is hideous in principle. For evolved humanity, life-enabling institutions and advancing knowledge form the pathway of true civilisation. An end to paralyzing fear and extreme violence to non-violent persons is a dividing line of human history.

Why the delay of awakening collective consciousness in the West?

‘Awakening collective consciousness’ can have opposite meanings. The US-EU today claim binding Western values for every invasion of another society.  So we need a criterion to rule out group-mind aggression and destruction in any form.

A deep core of our problem is that the US has in fact no collective life interest or consciousness in its constitution, its dominant social sciences, its actionable laws, or its white fundamentalist religions. Western market and political doctrine repudiate collective consciousness in principle. Only self-maximizing atomic individuals with no binding life community alone exist to this ruling mind-set. Self-serving corporations and consumers compete for survival according to market rules whose algebra is life-blind. Endless “trade agreements” override any society’s collective laws if they reduce expected profits to private transnational money sequences. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the latest extension of this sociopath metaphysics built into the ruling market paradigm.

“Delay of collective consciousness” is thus locked into what is called ‘globalization’, East and West. Permanent war is waged to enforce and extend it. The academy itself apes the atomic market model. Hidden in a technocratic code few know, its transnational dogmas and corporate form have claimed all our countries by secretly minted treaties whose defining principle is the absolute right of borderless corporations over all rights of sovereign nations, workers and environments that may conflict with foreign ‘investor’ demands. The predictable result is that an increasing majority of the world’s people is without sufficient livelihoods or ecological security. Only market solutions are allowed. Only self-maximizing greed counts as rational in the model.

The only security that matters is of this ruling system itself.  “Who’s security gets protected by any means necessary? Whose security is casually sacrificed in the process?” Naomi Klein aptly asks before the long-planned mass meetings and demonstrations for climate justice in Paris when a jihadist mass-murder stopped them all overnight.  It conveniently justified the state decision to ban all peaceful protests, marches and other outdoor activities during the all-nations negotiations for a new global regime. In such ways the perpetual war system and creeping police state continue rolling over opposition by all means. The greatest irony is that all this happens in the name of ‘collective security’ when, in fact, the collective security of the living world is what is continuously destroyed by this a-priori life-blind disorder.

Collective life interests and decisions are already ruled out by the punitive regulations of transnational corporate-market treaties overriding the laws of once sovereign nations. Every one of these secretive treaties is controlled and minted outside of any people’s vote, participation or knowledge of proceedings, and is enforced by public dispossession decided by closed lawyer tribunals without public records or any right of appeal. Collective consciousness is precisely prohibited from any social formation, policy or legislation limiting private corporate profit opportunities across borders.

How could Western peoples allow it?

The macro pattern is unnamed. Global financial fascism advances by ignorance of it. Few recognize that humanity’s social evolution has in fact been reversed by a life-blind global mechanism that rules beneath knowledge of its meaning. Its slow-motion coup d’etat across nations and cultures has silently reversed post-1945 history which had developed collective life standards of human life and flourishing. Look, for example, at the UN Declaration of Universal Rights, or the binding International Covenant of Social, Economic and Cultural Rights. They remind us how far human rights were being built into the order of the post-War world. Every article is a collective requirement for the protection and enablement of human life across classes and nations.  Beneath these international ideals, various forms of socialism and social democracy were the choice of virtually every society and population.  Racism, sexism, child abuse, ecocide –the great evils were becoming consciously repudiated by a new reign of international law. Collective institutions of education, health, pensions and worker rights and unions were all advancing.  There was even a competition between superpowers to achieve them across the lines of the Cold War.

Then it was all reversed from 1980 on led by the corporate-fascist regimes of Reagan and Thatcher.  From then on via global currency and interest control, borderless corporate rights and armed-force empire, the US-led private money party declared war on all collective consciousness and institutions that did not serve the corporate market. Working from the US’s advantageous post-War position of its nuclear bombs, sea-lane and aerial military control across oceans, and private corporate rights in technology and knowledge production, the US corporate class – fresh from collaboration with the Nazis even during the War – imposed a long march backwards to private money-party control as “freedom”.

Social consciousness became a taboo within the academy itself. Beneath all the delusionary propaganda of “the free market and democracy”, ever more uncontrolled private money sequences propelled mass-murderous pogroms and wars against collectives of all kinds. Worker and social-base strippings under ever more parroted euphemisms of “austerity”, “deficit reduction”, “market reforms”, “technocratic government”, and “efficiencies” became mechanical slogans mouthed by media and politicians. Their common meaning became undeniable, but never named – reductions of life means to citizens everywhere. Long-evolved regulations and institutions for the common life interest continue today to be dismantled, defunded and warred upon on every plane, almost in feeding frenzy.

Yet people increasingly know the only collective awakening that works is awakening to our shared life-ground through every moment, our evolved natural and social life bases without which our next breaths cannot be drawn. This is the demystified core of the world’s wisdom traditions. In the lost bonds of meaning, the ultimate cause is to serve life’s more inclusively compossible flourishing through time – our true human becoming finding its way through the massacre and stupefaction of the global financial fascism not yet named or bound.

John McMurtry is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada whose work is translated from Latin America to Japan. He is the author of the three-volume Philosophy and World Problems published by UNESCO’s Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS), and his last book is The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: from Crisis to Cure

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GR Editor’s Note

America’s quest for military hegemony includes the use of nuclear weapons on a preemptive basis against both the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.

Russia has responded to US threats through a major modernization of its strategic nuclear weapons arsenal.

A new nuclear arms race has been launched.  All the safeguards of the Cold War era have been scrapped. The US is openly threatening Russia with nuclear weapons. 

Should we be concerned. Public opinion is largely unaware of the dangers of a nuclear holocaust which threatens life on planet earth. 

The United States and its allies have launched a military adventure which threatens the future of humanity. 

The Western military alliance is in an advanced state of readiness. And so is Russia.

Russia is heralded as the “Aggressor”. U.S.-NATO military confrontation with Russia is contemplated.

Michel Chossudovsky,  January 1, 2016

*       *      *

Recent days and weeks have seen several news items pertaining to the future state of the Russian nuclear triad. The scope of  modernization plans suggests the role Russia’s strategic nuclear forces are to play as of Russia’s security foreign policy.

The scale of Russian strategic nuclear modernization is impressive. President Putin recently attended the laying down of Aleksandr III, the seventh Borey-class ballistic missile submarine out of eight planned which carry 16 multi-warhead Bulava SLBMs each. Three of these ships are already in service, the whole series is to become operational by 2020.


Text by J.Hawk

It was also announced that the first PAK-DA heavy bomber flight is to take place in 2020, with the aircraft becoming operational by 2025. In the interim, Russia’s Long-Range Aviation will receive several squadrons of Tu-160M2 bombers, whose production is expected to resume in the upcoming years. The Sarmat heavy ICBM research and development has been recently declared complete, and the missile will begin launch testing in 2016 or 2017. The missile’s unique capabilities include the ability to strike any target on the planet using multiple possible trajectories, for example, it could be used to strike North America not only by flying over the North Pole, but also using an alternative trajectory over the South Pole which would render US ABM systems irrelevant. The construction of Voronezh-DM over-the-horizon ballistic missile attack early warning radars is continuing. Finally, the Russian General Staff announced the development of a system allowing strategic ballistic missiles to be retargeted following launch, which thus far was impossible to do because once the target selection was completed prior to launch there was no way to alter it once the missile was in flight.

This brief outline of current developments shows that Russia is pursuing a sophisticated strategy of deterrence. The comparatively small and uniform French, Russian, and Chinese nuclear arsenals are capable of deterring only one threat, namely a nuclear attack on their national territory. The variety of capabilities inherent in Russia’s triad means that its national leadership has a range of responses at its disposal and can use its capabilities to deter not only nuclear attacks against its territory but also conventional attacks against its military targets, including outside of Russia’s borders.

Syria is an example of what these capabilities mean for Russia. It is no accident that Putin’s request to raise the strategic nuclear force readiness level to 95% came when he instructed the General Staff to destroy any potential threat to Russian aircraft or ground facilities in Syria. The Russian military presence in Syria is not large enough to guarantee survival against a concerted NATO attack. Fifty aircraft located at a single airbase, even one protected by the S-400, are still vulnerable due to their exposed location and lack of strategic depth. Russian conventional forces could not easily come to Hmeimim’s aid in the event of it being attacked by NATO forces. What makes Hmeimim secure from attack is the credible and flexible deterrence posture.

What makes that deterrence both credible and flexible is the variety and modernity of Russia’s delivery vehicle force which is not limited to having to launch a multi-warhead ICBM or SLBM, and which can penetrate all current or planned defenses. The credibility of Russia’s nuclear deterrent is strengthened by the existence of a powerful conventional deterrent in the form of Kalibr and Kh-101 cruise missiles.

The use of these missiles against ISIS targets was likely motivated to dissuade any countries hostile to Russia’s presence in Syria because it demonstrated Russia could use these weapons to retaliate against any attack on Hmeimim. The target state would then have to choose between backing down or escalating, thus risking a nuclear exchange with Russia. If Russia simply had an ICBM and SLBM force, Hmeimim would be a much more tempting target because an ICBM launch would be disproportionate response to the attack. Russia’s strategic force modernization plans indicate that its leadership anticipates Syria-like scenarios in the years to come.

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The VW emissions scandal sent shock waves throughout the auto industry across the world, as it was revealed that the company had been fraudulently lowering the emission counts of the nitrogen oxides that were included in many of its diesel engines after the company realised that there was no legal way for those diesel engines to meet the tight U.S. emissions standards that were in place.

Volkswagen were vague when detailing exactly how the fraud was allowed to take place, and simply blamed the scandal on a ‘chain of events’ within the company. Despite a two hour intensive press conference at the time the scandal first broke, a satisfactory explanation for who authorised the installation the inaccurate software, when the software was first used, and how was the cover up to disguise this usage kept hidden for such a long period of time. What is known is that  500,000 diesel-powered cars in the U.S. were found to be effected when the scandal first broke in September. But this isn’t the biggest controversy to emerge from the scandal: what it reveals about the global auto industry is much more illuminating.

Shining A Light on The European Car Market

The scandal reduced Volkswagen’s standing within the global auto industry (albeit temporarily) and also shone a light on the industry and the way in which its reporting takes place in general. Volkswagen is the biggest car maker in Europe, and one whose reputation revolves around its commitment to reliability and trustworthiness. Correcting the scandal now it has emerged is likely to cost the company, and therefore the German economy, greatly, as it is estimated that 11 million cars and vans will need to be serviced in order to remove the faulty software, and the United Kingdom and Germany are considering the further recall of approximately 1.2 million and 2.8 million diesel cars respectively as a result.

The knock on ramifications are effecting more than just VW: shares in other car manufacturers, including Renault, Peugeot, Nissan and BMW have all dropped by between 2 to 4 percent since the scandal first broke. Focus and guidelines on the European auto industry are likely to become much stricter, and the effect of this will be a loss of profits in association with a loss of consumer confidence.

A Death Blow to the Diesel Car?

Automobile research analyst at Bernstein Research, Max Warburton believes that the VW scandal could mark the beginning of the end for the global diesel car market, In an interview on the subject he stated that: “The move against VW is going to act as a catalyst to speed up the fall in diesel market share in Europe and halt it in the US.” Diesel cars already have a bad reputation amongst those consumers with an environmental interest, because of the high levels of emissions that they produce, and diesel cars are already around 10-15% more expensive to insure than petrol cars (with adequate car insurance coverage being a legal requirement in most markets) making them generally more expensive for consumers to run. This is devastating news for Europe, which has seen billions of euros extensively invested in diesel technology over the last decade, in a bid to find a cleaner and more environmentally friendly diesel engine. The fraudulent activity of the region’s largest manufacturer means that this money has been, effectively, wasted.  No doubt because on of their biggest exports sits at the heart of the scandal, the German government has raised its concerns over the lack of regulation within the car industry, and costly new regulations are sure to be implemented in the short term.

Good News For The American Auto Industry?

Where there is disaster for one market it usually indicates opportunity for another, and it has been predicted that this difficult time for the European auto industry will spell an opportunity for the American auto industry to assert its authority and provide a viable challenge to the diesel market and to diesel car technology which has been dominated by the European auto industry for so long. American hybrid and electric car brands in particular could and should take advantage of the light that this scandal has shed on the need for environmentally friendly motoring. What is yet to be seen is if VW is the only manufacturer to be caught up in this kind of scandal, or if the effects may be even wider reaching that we currently perceive them to be.

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Russia’s New National Security Strategy

January 1st, 2016 by Stephen Lendman

Acting by decree, an updated national security strategy, has been implemented which fundamentally redefines US-Russia relations. 

It addresses significant threats Russia faces – notably US-led NATO encroaching on its borders, stating:

“The buildup of the military potential of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and vesting it with global functions implemented in violations of norms of international law, boosting military activity of the bloc’s countries, further expansion of the alliance, the approach of its military infrastructure to Russian borders create a threat to the national security.”

It accused Washington and it allies of “seeking to keep up their domination in global affairs,” risking greater conflicts than already.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement, saying

“(t)he course NATO has assumed towards ‘deterring’ Russia, materialized as a buildup of military presence in countries of Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, increase in the number and intensity of exercises close to the Russian border, necessitated measures to counter the threats that NATO creates for Russia’s national security.”

“The remaining channels of a political dialogue with NATO and bilateral contacts with the leadership of the key member countries of the organization have been used for the explanation of negative consequences and potential risks from changes to the existing configuration of forces in Europe.”

The Ministry noted the “confrontational nature of the Alliance’s decision to invite Montenegro to the start of talks on its accession to NATO, leading to a further fragmentation of the European security space, creation of new demarcation lines on the continent.”

Are plans to incorporate Ukraine next not yet revealed? Will US-led NATO divisions be deployed along Russia’s borders more than already? Pentagon tactical and strategic nuclear weapons target its heartland.

Are things heading recklessly toward direct confrontation? Russia’s warning against deploying nuclear weapons in Europe to avoid “dangerous consequences” went unheeded.

Former German Defense Ministry Parliamentary State Secretary Willy Wimmer called “new attack options against Russia a conscious provocation of our Russian neighbor.”

Despite Bundestag members overwhelmingly ruling for the withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from Germany earlier, new ones are being deployed, sparking outrage in Russia.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called it “an infringement of Articles 1 and 2 of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.”

Putin responded to Washington’s provocative Eastern European expansion, saying Russia “will be forced to aim our armed forces…at those territories from where the  threat comes.”

“It is (US-led nuclear armed and dangerous) NATO that is moving towards our border, and we aren’t moving anywhere.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused Washington of “inciting tensions and carefully nurturing (its) European allies’ anti-Russian phobias (as a pretext for) expanding its military presence and influence in Europe” – threatening world peace.

Key US NATO allies Britain, France, Germany, Turkey and others march in lockstep with its aggressive anti-Russian policy. Its officials have just cause for concern.

Russian lower house State Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin called NATO a “cancer tumor” in Europe. World peace depends on its “disband(ment).”

“This could be done in several stages,” he said. First “expel” America. Disbandment could “painlessly” follow – a vital step toward “strengthening security and stability on the European continent,” he stressed.

Russia’s updated national security strategy cited other significant threats – including internally or externally instigated color revolutions, a US specialty, threatening its sovereignty by undermining and destabilizing its political integrity.

US bioweapons threaten its security, the document saying its “network of…biological military labs is expanding on the territories of countries bordering Russia.”

Its “independent foreign and domestic policy has been met with counteraction by the US and its allies, seeking to maintain” unchallenged global dominance, including by marginalizing, containing, weakening and isolating Russia, a high-risk confrontational policy assuring no winners.

US-installed fascists in Ukraine pose a direct threat to Russia’s security. Their regime represents a “long-term source of instability in Europe and directly at the Russian border” – an intolerable situation forcing Putin to respond appropriately, at the same time fostering peace and stability.

Moscow wants nuclear proliferation constrained, urging “the creation of appropriate conditions that will enable a reduction of nuclear weapons without damaging international security and strategic stability” – perhaps a first step toward eliminating these hugely destructive weapons once and for all.

Its document explained “(a)n entire spectrum of political, financial, economic and information instruments has been brought into struggle for influence in the international arena.” America’s agenda threatens world peace.

Russia only intends using force when other options to “protect the national interests” fail, a possibility it hopes won’t be necessary.

It’s concerned about its resource-dependent economy, noting a need to become more diversified and competitive.

It cites “a lag in the development of advanced technologies, the vulnerability of the financial system, the imbalance of the budgetary system, the economy going offshore, the exhaustion of the raw materials base, the strength of the shadow economy, conditions leading to corruption and criminal activities, and uneven development of regions.”

It intends initiatives designed to deal with these and other significant issues – planning social and economic policies to strengthen its financial system, as well as “ensur(e) its sovereignty and the stability of the national currency.”

It understands the threats and challenges it faces – intending to address them effectively, permitting no outside forces from compromising its sovereignty, especially US-led Western ones.

Whether its efforts will be enough to avoid potentially catastrophic global war is the most pressing issue of our time.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network. It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

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The power-brokers who influenced congress to support nuclear Israel’s illegal settlements in 2015 and war with non-nuclear Iran in 2016

In 1933, a baby was born into a low-income family and grew up in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. His family was of Ukrainian Jewish ancestry whose father drove a taxi, and his mother ran a knitting shop. Currently he is the owner of an Israeli daily newspaper as well as being boss of an LA gambling casino group and is the major founder of the Republican Party.

It is, of course, a matter of global bemusement that the government of the most powerful Western democracy, the United States of America, is elected not on the basis of political acumen, education or intelligence but on the amount of money that specific individuals have either amassed or inherited. Barack Obama, of course, being the one exception.

This political aberration has, in the recent past, given us such incompetent nonentities as George Bush who personified the ultimate in inept leadership,  and which currently showcases a television host and hotel owner, a certain Mr Trump.

Whilst this aberrant behaviour on the part of the American public may seem to the outside world to be a rehearsal for another TV show, in fact it is a tragedy of global proportions whereby casino bosses and the like use their gambling or other profits to ensure that they control or heavily influence the supposedly democratically elected US congress. The result is, that wherever we live in the world – in Europe, Asia or North America – our lives are circumscribed by the antics of such American nonentities who have managed to obtain huge political influence by the power of money alone.

One of the consequences of such a flawed system is that foreign states such as Israel are able to send politicians such as Binyamin Netanyahu to demand of congress $6 billion a year as an involuntary gift from the American electorate to support his own government and to keep him in power. That huge sum includes vast amounts of arms and military equipment to support the Israeli government’s policy of illegal settlement on Palestinian land.  A policy for which Mr Adelson uses the considerable clout of his (unelected) power to support.

Such corrupted methods of allegedly democratic government are of immense disadvantage to global peace and prosperity and should be banned by the UN in the interests of the international community of nations.

(C) [email protected]  London.
1st Jan 2016

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Revolutionizing Political Economic Analysis in Nigeria

January 1st, 2016 by Abiodun S. Falodun

Records of events are very important. They serve as not only historical documents but a guide for the future. The book, Revolutionary Pen has done it properly as it chronicles events of struggles of the working people, youth and the poor, that emanated in almost all facets of the encounters of the working masses and the society at large; at every serially and not seemingly ending periods of attacks by the state on  them. It does not stop at reporting these events, but goes further to analyse the way forward the working masses and the society in general can take to end these state attacks and also to realise their own inherent political power, which can and only give them the panacea, to rebutting the system of oppression, and take charge of their patrimony.

It should be put rightly on record that events happen almost every second but many are missing in history. This is the main reason the book, Revolutionary Pen, which is a compilation of many articles on the field of struggle of the working people, epitomizes and accurately gives proper records of how these events happened, and also the way out of the problems associated, which makes it a resort for researchers and activists alike.

Far from a conventional write up, the book touches on the much awaited and “hoped for” 2015 Elections, which majority of the Nigerian masses reposed their belief for “Change” from the rotten and corrupt past Jonathan/PDP-led government in. It also x-rayed the similarities, nexus and the profit-oriented coloration of both Jonathan and nascent Buhari governments.

We are now in the aftermath of the elections, and the new ‘Change’ government and agenda are unfolding in the eyes of Nigerians. But before mentioning the tumultuous struggles of workers and pensioners for a living wage and pensions, it is necessary to say a few words on the current and unabated Boko Haram terror camapign in the north-eastern part of Nigeria. The book actually explains in clear terms, the roots of militancy and insurgency in the Nigerian society, the creators of this menace, the reasons behind their rise and how these terror groups and terrorism can be subdued, through the mass actions of working people, youth, labour movement and community movements. I believe that if the solutions proffered in this book can be put to practice by those affected and involved, our society, Nigeria in particular, would have less to bother about rightwing militancy and terrorism.

According to the book, the region where the menace of Boko Haram terrorism is rampant (the North East Nigeria) is the most underdeveloped part of the country where an average youth hardly knows the wonders or the efficacy of science and techniques. The book put forward that the reason is not far-fetched. It explains how these north-eastern youth could not get access to quality education, while the bulk of their endowments and patrimonies are being shared as take-home by rich few in corridors of power. Furthermore, these rich few utilize divisive instrument of religion and ethnicity to subjugate the mass of people, as expressed in the use of Sharia by northern ruling elites when they lost control of political power. The monster of religious division and radicalization thrown to the society is now confronting the country through the Boko Haram terrorism.

Anyone could try to denounce the plight of workers and their senior brothers, the pensioners, especially when one enjoys a juicy contract sum from government or when one is not so ‘lucky’ to be in the employment of capitalist class – either in the state establishment or private sector. The reality of mass suffering of workers and pensioners was clearly expressed in the struggle for implementation of N18, 000 minimum wage and the continuous battle of pensioners for their pittance called pensions, after they have committed their adult lives to the public and private establishments.

The fact that the fate of the working class and those of other oppressed and exploited class is interwoven was recently expressed in Osun State where, as a result of the non-payment of salaries for several months, other oppressed strata, including market women and artisans, find it difficult to sustain a decent living and regular income. This underscores the essence of the book’s serious and detailed analysis of the struggle of workers and pensions, and linking it with the general economic straitjacket the capitalist system, nay its neo-colonial type in Nigeria, has pushed the working and poor people into.

It also explores the role of labour leaders and labour movement in the struggle for living wage and pension payment; drawing out the lessons and errors of the leadership. The leadership of labour had earlier requested a N52, 200 minimum wage in 2010 only to settle for N18, 000 minimum wage in early 2011. Interestingly, when most of the state governments, federal government and private sector employers refused to implement or properly implement the meagre wage law, the labour movement could not defend the wage effectively.

The same story could be said of pension of retirees where the labour movement, instead of defending living pension based on cost of living and other economic and social indices, supported the fraudulent contributory pension scheme that deduct from workers’ salary in order to pay them pension. The recent attack on pensioners by state-sponsored gangsters in June 2015 in Osogbo, Osun State, who protested non-payment of their pensions for up to a year, and stories retirees dying on the queues in the process to collect their meagre pensions, reflect serious suffering pensioners are undergoing. On the other hand, very few in control of retirees pensions are looting en mass billions from these funds.

Today, there is serious attack on N18, 000 minimum wage as many state governments are planning to cut the workers’ salaries while some like the Osun State government have resorted to paying half salaries for workers. There are also plan to sack several thousands of workers by public and private sector. This section of Revolutionary Pen, under the title Workers’ and Pensioners’ Struggle, is a vital material for working people and activists searching for tactics and methods of defending a better living wage for workers and pensioners. More importantly, it underscores the need for labour movement to build a new mass party of working people, youths and the oppressed as a way of permanently ending the misery and sufferings of workers and pensioners. The writer, Kola Ibrahim, has since 2012 written a book on Minimum Wage struggle where all issues pertaining to minimum wage were clearly explained.

The mass misery and squalor ravaging workers and the entire peasantry at large is not limited to Nigeria or Africa alone; it spreads across the entire globe. This itself the working masses must realize that it is a virile tool in the hands of the state. Examples are not far-fetched. We have cases in the northern part of Africa and Middle East where youths and working people, fed up with the failure of global capitalism and their sit tight rulers to improve their lots, took the road of mass revolts and revolutions against their ruling classes. This saw the defeat of decades-old regimes such as those of Hosni Mubarak and Ben Ali in Egypt and Tunisia respectively.

Aside spreading like wildfire, the revolts and revolutions also show the limit of terrorism as a tool of fighting the ruling class. Regimes that used terrorism as a tool to drive through anti-poor policies and sustain their rule were overthrown by mass revolts and revolutions. Of course, most of these revolutions have been derailed with counterrevolution taking deep root. This is a product of failure of these revolutions to end the rule of capital and establish a government of workers, youths and poor. This book underscores the fact that concessions are not won on a platter of gold, but fought for and won by mass of people organized in their common struggle to break the stranglehold of ruling class and improve their conditions.

This book under the section, International Issues, addresses the rise of revolutionary movements in Egypt, Senegal and Burkina Faso, and the continued Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It draws on various international issues and the struggles of the working people globally to underscore the uniformity of struggle of the working people and the need for international mass movement of working and oppressed people. It also exposes the hypocrisy and the failure of global capitalism and imperialism to solve political, social and economic crises facing humanity.

The book also put in proper perspective how the economy has been bastardized by selling off public properties to private individuals at a give-away prices all in the name of obnoxious privatization. Example is when Prof. Barth Nnaji who owns a private electricity firm was made a Minister of Power by the Goodluck Jonathan government. The resultant effect is that the public power sector was sold off to private firms close to corridor of power but with no serious plan to undertake massive long-term investments in the power sector. The same power sector today has not been performing better than before it was handed over to private shylocks. The case has been a sorry one with poor people paying the price with skyrocketing and estimated bill for unavailable electricity. The country after committing over $20 billion to the sector since the civil rule began in 1999 can only boost of about 4,000 megawatts of electricity for a population of over 170 million. Meanwhile, South Africa with around a quarter of Nigeria’s population generates more than 40, 000 megawatts. Even at that, millions of working class South Africans do not have access to electricity.

Revolutionary Pen submits that only when our economy is nationalized under democratic public control and management can we have serious plan of massive development of the power sector as part of the holistic plan to develop the economy and the society. The book explores various capitalist options propounded by bourgeois strategists and clearly shows how Nigeria cannot get out of its underdevelopment under this system.

Addressing the educational crisis in the country, the book provides analysis on how governments at various levels and at different times have neglected the education sector through under funding and capitalist policies of commercialization, rationalization and privatization. The chapter on education titled Education Sector, addresses various issues ranging from analysis of the education sector especially in view of the 2013 six-month strike of the university lecturers’ union, ASUU, to attempt of the Fashola government to totally price education out of the reach of the poor by hiking fees in Lagos State University (LASU), the only state owned university by over one thousand percent. It also addresses the issue of private university education that is becoming a significant feature of education system in Nigeria; while the book also addresses the problem of non-functioning library system in Nigeria, which as the author noted, mirrors the crisis in the education sector as a whole. The author was himself a proven student leader and activist during his days as a student; therefore, his proposals and analyses clearly expressed those of an insider, who has been part and parcel of the struggle and debate about proper funding and management of education sector.

The economic analysis ranging from the global economic meltdown that started in 2008 to the banking crisis in Nigeria in 2009 and the fraudulent bailout system under Jonathan administration, give vivid view of the future of Nigeria, nay the world under the current capitalist system. Not to be forgotten also is the analysis on the health sector vis-à-vis the Ebola virus disease and the attack on doctors in Lagos State by the Fashola government. The health sector analysis clearly delves into the root of the crisis facing the health sector such as inadequate funding and mismanagement of health institutions by government appointed managers. In the analysis on Ebola, the book also dwells on the role of global political economy and especially the pharmaceutical companies in the health crisis especially in Africa and third world countries. The author, just as he did in the education sector, challenged the in-house unions in the health sector to rise to the occasion by building a united platform of struggle to seek improvement in the health sector. The book conclusively links this with the ultimate political challenge before the working and poor people, by linking the health sector crisis with the political economy of Nigeria, nay Africa.

Finally, the book is a library material for students and academics seeking historical analyses and alternative narrative on the political, social and economic issues in Nigeria, Africa and the world. The ending chapter on politics, which includes an essay on the politics and personality of the late pro-democracy activist, Gani Fawehinmi, a discourse on the undemocratic nature of Nigeria’s electoral system, and the debate on the political crisis generated by the health problem and eventual death of the late president Umar Yar’Adua, is also worth reading.

It is an honour to write a review of such an important historical book as Revolutionary Pen. The book is both revolutionary in its analyses and alternative approach to documenting political, social, economic and historical issues. Of course, I hope the publisher will improve on the quality of the book in terms of its production including its cover and graphics. However, the content and the historical value of the book far outweigh in manifolds, the shortcoming of the production. I therefore recommend the book to activists and civil society community; students of politics, history and economics; researchers and academics; labour leaders, journalists/media practitioners, and all those interested in alternative and leftwing understanding of Nigeria’s and global political economic issues.

Revolutionary Pen: Collected Essays on Nigeria, and Global Political-Economic Issues, through the eye of a socialist, by Kola Ibrahim, 2015

Abiodun S. Falodun is Coordinator, Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR), Osun State Chapter

 

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Has Boko Haram Been “Technically Defeated”?

January 1st, 2016 by Adeyinka Makinde

Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent comment made during an interview with the BBC that the Islamist terror group Boko Haram had been “technically defeated” has unsurprisingly brought a high level of criticism – not least in the light of the massacre of 80 people shortly after.

Some have been quick to draw analogies with US President George W. Bush’s now infamous victoriam declarationem aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln on May 1st, 2003 that brought an end to what he said would be “major combat operations” in Iraq. His televised address, dubbed the “Mission Accomplished” speech was of course followed by a Sunni insurgency which claimed many civilian and military lives. Twelve years later with the rise of several Islamist insurgent groups including al-Qaeda in Iraq and the so-called Islamic State, that country has defied attempts at being militarily pacified.

Buhari was referring to the re-conquest of Nigerian territory acquired by Boko Haram. The distinction is a subtle one and affords little comfort to the relatives of those who have lost their lives in the recent terror outrages.

It is instructive to remember that given the inherent dynamic related to asymmetric warfare, many insurgencies, including those which were successful in destroying the will of a national army or an army of occupation, have not had the goal of territorial conquest. The goal is often to sap the will of the opponent -politically, militarily and morally- in order to extract the relevant concessions among which ultimately would be the ceding of power. Thus Britain withdrew from Palestine in the face of unceasing attacks from the main Zionist terror groups: the Irgun and the Stern Gang.

Buhari may need reminding that the damage capable of being inflicted by a determined guerrilla movement which does not acquire territory is no less of a challenge than one attempting to challenge a national army for territory.

‘Strong ideologies’ such as those which are religiously motivated cannot be defeated without a coherent plan aimed at counter-acting the ideology and merely by the re-conquest of land or the disruption of the activities of the group’s cells.

There needs to be something more tangible in terms of ‘winning the hearts and minds’ of the population in the north east of Nigeria, especially among the disenchanted youth who form the recruiting fodder for Boko Haram.

The Nigerian military may have recaptured land ceded to the insurgents and may have muted, to use Buhari’s words, their ability as an “organised fighting force” in the battlefield, but it is only when there is demonstrable progress in the civic, psychological and economic spheres of counter-insurgency that Buhari should mention the word “defeat” albeit that it is presently qualified by the term “technically.”

 

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From Burundi to Ghana and beyond the intervention of western states continues as an impediment to genuine development

One of the major issues gaining international attention during 2015 was the political crisis in the Central African state of Burundi stemming from a dispute over whether incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza could pursue a third term in office. Mass demonstrations took place in the capital demanding that the president reverse his decision to run for a third term.

Nkurunziza was appointed as the head-of-state over Burundi in the aftermath of a negotiated transition process aimed at ending a twelve year civil war during 1993-2005. The president said that the first term resulted from an appointment by the parliament and the second election was the first one where he had to stand before the electorate. A Burundi Constitutional Court decision on May 5 upheld the position of Nkurunziza in the disagreement.

The National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) ruling party won the elections held on July 21 guaranteeing Nkurunziza another five year term of office. Burundi is considered a lesser developed state with an economy based on agricultural production and exports.

Nonetheless, the unrest inside the country has continued. A disaffected military officer, Gen. Godefroid Niyombara, attempted to stage a coup on May 13 which did not succeed in part due to the condemnation of the effort by the African Union (AU) and East African Community (EAC) regional organizations. It has been estimated that 280,000 people have fled Burundi to neighboring states in response to the growing extra-judicial killings in the capital of Bujumbura and other areas.

In recent weeks there have also been clashes between rebels opposed to the Nkurunziza and Burundian security forces in the southwestern Rumonge district of the landlocked state. Similar attacks were launched near the capital of Bujumbura on Dec. 11.

According to UPI.com,

“Rebels in Burundi attacked military installations surrounding the capital of Bujumbura on Friday (Dec. 11), a sign from the opposition to the president that the conflict is becoming a rebellion. The coordinated assaults at dawn by heavily armed insurgents on military sites, security encampments and a prison left 12 rebels dead and 20 under arrest, an army spokesman said.”

Many Burundian refugees have re-located in neighboring Rwanda where claims indicate that armed opposition forces are being recruited. The government in Kigali has denied these suggestions and says that it is neutral in the conflict.

Rwanda and Burundi have a near-matching ethnic composition with Hutu majorities and Tutsi minority groups. However, in Burundi the head-of-state Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader during the 1993-2005 civil war, is from the Hutu majority whereas in Kigali, President Paul Kgame is Tutsi and the former leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), the guerilla army that took control of Rwanda amid the genocide of 1994 that killed an estimated 800,000 people.

Burundian Foreign Minister Alain Nyamitwe spoke during a press conference on December 19 in Bujumbura saying “There have been reports that some Burundian refugees have been recruited and went for military training to attack the country. We call on these illegal activities to stop. We needed the truth to be brought to the table as to whether the allegations are false or true.” (The East African)

Refuting these assertions, Rwandan Minister for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, Seraphine Mukantabana, stressed “These are the same baseless accusations that different people keep on trading. There is no proof to it, like the names, pictures or other details of refugees they allege were recruited so that we can go and check if they ever lived in the camp and left as a result of recruitments. I don’t see anything factual except just hearsay, and idle word of mouth.” (East African, Dec. 19)

Meanwhile, amid the failure of the Nkurunziza government and the opposition to reach a political agreement, the AU, which is seeking the support of the United Nations Security Council, has pledged to deploy 5,000 peacekeeping troops into Burundi. The Burundian leaders in Bujumbura are in complete opposition to this proposal.

Despite efforts by AU Commission Chair Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to reassure the Burundi government that it is only concerned with preventing the full eruption of a civil war and has no hidden agenda as it relates to regime-change, Nkurunziza refuses to entertain any foreign occupation of the country and is blaming the former colonial power of Belgium in conjunction with Rwanda for the rising instability. Dlamini-Zuma in a statement on the Burundi crisis  “expressed the AU’s readiness to rapidly initiate discussions with the government of Burundi to devise the best ways and means of facilitating the deployment of the mission, in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation”.

The AU Commission Chair encouraged the Burundi government to participate fully in peace talks that were scheduled to take place on December 28 in Uganda. However, the political character of the proposed intervention by the AU in Burundi remains to be determined.

Such an intervention would undoubtedly be reliant upon assistance from western imperialist states based in Washington, London, Paris and Brussels. With this type of deployment the potential for a conflict framed within the context of national sovereignty and the role of western states could prove problematic and protracted.

West Africa 50 Years After the Coup Against Nkrumah: Economic Dependency and the Ebola Crisis

Nearly five decades ago on February 24, 1966, a right-wing police and military coup guided and coordinated by the United States Central Intelligence Agency and State Department was staged against the Convention People’s Party (CPP) of the First Republic of Ghana. Nkrumah had studied for a decade in the U.S. and two years in England where he attended Lincoln University, the University of Pennsylvania and the London School of Economics.

During his tenure oversees in the years of 1935-1947, Nkrumah was associated with the Marxist left and African nationalist movements in the U.S. and Britain. He was an organizer among African students, reading and learning from the work and personal association with luminaries such as W.E.B. Du Bois and C.L.R. James along with being a reputed member of the Garveyite Universal Negro Improvement Association, African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) while he lived in Pennsylvania.

After completing his studies in the U.S. during 1945, he traveled to Britain where he participated in the organization of the Fifth Pan-African Congress held that October, working with Du Bois, veteran communist and Pan-Africanist George Padmore, among others. By the end of 1947, Nkrumah had returned to the Gold Coast (colonial name for Ghana) becoming an organizing secretary for the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), a moderate organization which hired Nkrumah to develop a mass base for the group.

By mid-1949, Nkrumah had broken with the UGCC taking its Committee on Youth Organization (CYO) which he founded and the Accra Evening News publication conceived by him as well. The CPP was initiated on June 12, 1949 at a rally attended by tens of thousands of Ghanaians.

The Positive Action campaign of January 1950 landed him in prison for a year when he was released after the CPP won governmental elections established by the British colonialists to reform the system of imperialism. After his release from prison, Nkrumah was named Leader of Government Business by the British Governor General Sir Arden-Clark.

During the years of 1951-1957, Nkrumah described this period as moving from Positive Action to Tactical Action. The independence years of 1957-1966, witnessed tremendous strides in the areas of national development, support for other independence struggles through the CPP press and the foreign ministry and efforts designed to bring about the realization of a United States of Africa.

Socialism under an All-African union government was the strategic objective of the CPP. Nkrumah argued that in a 20th century international context of large-scale economic production within both the socialist world and the decaying imperialist system, Africa, in order to develop rapidly, required the consolidation of its nation-states, integrating small-scale neo-colonial dominated micro-national structures into a large continental political construct that could engage in centralized planning and development.

The Congo crisis of 1960, resulting in the imperialist-backed coup against national liberation leader and first Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, leading to him being kidnapped and assassinated in January 1961, illustrated even more starkly to Nkrumah and other anti-imperialist governments in Africa, that an independent military force was needed to safeguard the sovereignty of the post-colonial states. These progressive governments led by revolutionary parties and organizations such as in Guinea, Algeria, Mali, Egypt along with Ghana, took a different line than the majority of the moderate and conservative post-colonial states which were divided into two blocs known as the Monrovia and Brazzaville groups.

Of course in Ghana, it was the military and the police that were utilized against the socialist-oriented state led by the CPP. Nonetheless, it was the economic dependency of the state in relationship to neo-colonialism, which Nkrumah described in his seminal 1965 book, as being “The Last Stage of Imperialism” that provided the ideological underpinning of the regime-change tactics utilized by Washington under the administration of the-then President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

The citadel of neo-colonialism is the U.S. and its multi-national corporations and banks. Nkrumah writes in the introduction of “Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism”, that “Foremost among the neo-colonialists is the United States, which has long exercised its power in Latin America. Fumblingly at first she turned towards Europe, and then with more certainty after world war two when most countries of that continent were indebted to her. Since then, with methodical thoroughness and touching attention to detail, the Pentagon set about consolidating its ascendancy, evidence of which can be seen all around the world.”

Nkrumah goes on to ask “Who really rules in such places as Great Britain, West Germany, Japan, Spain, Portugal or Italy? If General de Gaulle is ‘defecting’ from U.S. monopoly control, what interpretation can be placed on his ‘experiments’ in the Sahara desert, his paratroopers in Gabon, or his trips to Cambodia and Latin America? Lurking behind such questions are the extended tentacles of the Wall Street octopus. And its suction cups and muscular strength are provided by a phenomenon dubbed ‘The Invisible Government’, arising from Wall Street’s connection with the Pentagon and various intelligence services.”

Ghana’s first attempt at securing a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was during the last several months of the Nkrumah administration in 1965. The Ghana government was severely impacted by the decline in cocoa prices on the global market. In addition, petty-bourgeois class interests within Ghana, allied with neo-colonialism and imperialism, worked incessantly to undermine Socialism and Pan-Africanism.

After the coup and the installation of a puppet regime composed of a group of lower-level military officers and police, the IMF granted a series of loans to Ghana under terms that proved quite disadvantageous to the interests of the workers, farmers and youth of the country. Consequently, Ghana has never regained its political and social status attained during the Nkrumah government of the 1950s and 1960s.

Today under the leadership of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) ruling party headed by President John Dramani Mahama, Ghana faces the continuation of the post-colonial crisis. The IMF is preparing to extend further credit to the government despite the hardships the people have suffered since 1966.

The economic dependency and military subordination of Africa could not be more clearly revealed than when the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) epidemic erupted during 2014-2015. These developments represented the largest outbreak of this virulent form of a Viral Hemorrhagic Fever (VHF) on the continent of Africa in 40 years, when it was first identified in the former Zaire, now-known as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia were the most severely impacted by the EVD outbreak. It has been reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) that over 11,000 people died, most of which were in the above-mentioned states. Small incidences were reported in other states including Nigeria, Senegal and Mali but were rapidly contained and eradicated.

All three of these states, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia maintain close economic, political and military links with imperialism. The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) engages in military operations alongside these West African governments whose people are among the poorest on the continent and the world.

Absent of a firm Pan-African system of healthcare, economic production and communication, the devastation of this EVD outbreak could not be properly tackled. Even if Pentagon-based bioweapons research centers were the cause of this pandemic, the failure of Africa to squelch the spread in its infancy is a reflection of the current status of neo-colonialism well into the second decade of the 21st century.

Then it was the military apparatuses of Washington, London and Paris which were given permission by the neo-colonial dominated regimes to intervene. Cuba also deployed but solely with medical personnel and played a significant role in stemming the spread of EVD, even prompting recognition by imperialism through its corporate and state-controlled media.

Revolutionary Cuba has been subjected to biological warfare by the CIA and the Pentagon for decades. Nonetheless, the socialist state has been able to overcome these assaults and emerge even stronger as an anti-imperialist country.

The only medium and long-term solution to the healthcare crisis in Africa lies within a Pan-African planning framework. There must be an integration of the medical and scientific infrastructure to facilitate the sharing of investigative and research methodologies.

The need for an All-African military high command is as necessary in 2015 as it was during the early and mid-1960s during the times of Nkrumah, Ahmed Sekou Toure (Guinea), Modibo Keita (Mali), Ben Bella (Algeria), Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egypt), Julius Nyerere (Tanzania) and the other anti-imperialist leaders of the period. Nonetheless, this continental command must be independent of imperialism, distinguishing it from the current collaborative efforts led by AFRICOM and NATO which characterize the operations now in effect in Somalia, Nigeria, Mali, the Gulf of Guinea, the Gulf of Aden and other geo-political regions on the continent.

Neo-Colonialism: 1965-2015

Over the period of fifty years, Africa has experienced numerous crises involving food deficits, unsustainable national debt, periodic and consistent proliferations of infectious disease epidemics, ongoing series of military interventions both domestic and western in orientation as well as political efforts aimed at exerting continental influence upon the UN Security Council and other multi-lateral structures controlled by the imperialist industrialized states. In 2015 yet another African debt crisis is developing due to the precipitous decline in commodity prices including oil and strategic minerals.

This crisis comes in the almost immediate aftermath of AU member-states being hailed for their phenomenal economic growth. Events in Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, the Republics of Sudan and South Sudan and other countries illustrates how precarious these assessments of the financial status of neo-colonial dominated states are in actuality.

These challenges on the economic front are not limited to Africa. Many of the so-called “emerging countries” are facing the same problems such as Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Russia and China. Beijing with its social constructs utilizing the commanding role of the Communist Party and its planned economy under socialism with Chinese characteristics has proven to be in a better position to address the current crisis.

Xi Jinping’s recent state visits to the Republic of Zimbabwe and the Republic of South Africa, along with the second full summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), noted that the desire for closer ties between Beijing and AU member-states was cognizant of the new situation within the global economy still dominated by imperialism. Africa needs infrastructural development in order to secure genuine growth and development in the short, medium and long-term political and economic trajectories.

The fact that prices for oil have ranged from $34-38 per barrel in December 2015, down by over two-thirds in the last year-and-a-half, provides a glimpse into the current situation involving the international division of labor and economic power. The U.S. under the administration of President Barack Obama has strongly emphasized domestic oil production and along with ally Saudi Arabia, has over-produced petroleum resulting in a glut in the market and a rapidly declining economic situation in the other producer-states including Russia.

Other prices for commodities have also gone down significantly. For example platinum, in which the Southern African states of South Africa and Zimbabwe constitute approximately 75 percent of the world’s production, has also declined in price impacting foreign exchange earnings and the labor market.

Bloomberg in an article published on September 29, stated that “Platinum extended its slump to the lowest in more than six years amid concerns demand from automakers will slow as investigations into the Volkswagen AG scandal deepen. Volkswagen cars with diesel engines rigged to cheat on emissions tests are being pulled from markets in Spain, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium, while prosecutors in Sweden consider opening an investigation on potential corruption. About 42 percent of platinum demand comes from its use in pollution-control devices in diesel engines, according to Morgan Stanley.”

This same article continues saying “Platinum futures for January delivery fell 0.5 percent to settle at $918.10 an ounce at 1:23 p.m. (Sept. 29) on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after touching $899.60, the lowest for a most-active contract since December 2008. Palladium advanced. Gold futures for December delivery slipped 0.4 percent to $1,126.80 an ounce on the Comex in New York. Prices are set for a fifth straight quarterly loss, the longest losing streak since 1997. Silver gained. Platinum is trading at a discount of about $210.50 to gold, the biggest since August 2012. Some investors who had been betting on platinum outperforming gold are now exiting that trade, David Govett, head of precious metals at broker Marex Spectron Group in London, said by telephone.”

As Nkrumah pointed out in his book “Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism,” some five decades ago, “On the economic front, a strong factor favoring Western monopolies and acting against the developing world is international capital’s control of the world market, as well as of the prices of commodities bought and sold there. From 1951 to 1961, without taking oil into consideration, the general level of prices for primary products fell by 33.l per cent, while prices of manufactured goods rose 3.5 per cent (within which, machinery and equipment prices rose 31.3 per cent). In that same decade this caused a loss to the Asian, African and Latin American countries, using 1951 prices as a basis, of some $41,400 million. In the same period, while the volume of exports from these countries rose, their earnings in foreign exchange from such exports decreased.”

Consequently, the cycle of dependency in Africa upon the imperialist states must be overturned in order for real growth and development to occur and maintain its sustainability over a period of decades. This cannot be realized under the current system of global capitalism, also referred to as international finance capital and imperialism.

The realization of the aims and objectives of the African Revolution requires socialist construction. Until the character of development is viewed and analyzed within an anti-capitalist framework, the actual solutions to these crises will remain elusive.

 

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You’d think that there would be widespread outrage over the story everyone’s talking about today, the Wall Street Journal scoop that the Obama administration spied on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu during the Iran Deal negotiations so as to counter his efforts to sink it. The wiretaps reveal that Israeli officials were up to their necks in the US political process; they “coordinated talking points with Jewish-American groups against the deal; and asked undecided lawmakers what it would take to win their votes, according to current and former officials familiar with the intercepts.”

The president approved the wiretaps.

Privately, Mr. Obama maintained the monitoring of Mr. Netanyahu on the grounds that it served a “compelling national security purpose,” according to current and former U.S. officials.

That’s right; there’s a compelling national interest in stopping the Israel lobby.

Many have said that President Obama lacks spine? Well, it sure looks like the leak to reporters Adam Entous and Danny Yadron came from the administration, and it’s hard to believe that a leak of this magnitude was not approved by the president. Just when the Israel lobby thought that it was starting to get back to business as usual, the Obama administration has reminded them that something has fundamentally changed in the U.S.-Israel relationship. Not only did we beat the lobby and Israel on the Iran Deal, but: we’re exposing your tactics, and patriotic Americans are going to be very upset by what they see.

Remember that Obama in his highlight moment of the Iran Deal told Americans it would be an “abrogation of my constitutional duty” to defer to Israel’s interests on the Iran Deal. You’d think it would be a scandal that the Israeli PM was intriguing with Republicans — and surely some Democrats– in the way the WSJ has documented; but instead the official reaction is likely to be how outrageous it was for Obama and the NSA to be listening in on the supposed only democracy in the Middle East.

Some of the details from the article:

The U.S., pursuing a nuclear arms agreement with Iran at the time, captured communications between Mr. Netanyahu and his aides that inflamed mistrust between the two countries and planted a political minefield at home when Mr. Netanyahu later took his campaign against the deal to Capitol Hill.

The National Security Agency’s targeting of Israeli leaders and officials also swept up the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups. That raised fears—an “Oh-s— moment,” one senior U.S. official said — that the executive branch would be accused of spying on Congress…

White House officials believed the intercepted information could be valuable to counter Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign…

Much of the article substantiates the allegations swirling at the time of the deal, that Netanyahu was getting inside information on the secret negotiations. The eavesdropping revealed to the White House:

How Mr. Netanyahu and his advisers had leaked details of the U.S.-Iran negotiations — learned through Israeli spying operations — to undermine the talks; coordinated talking points with Jewish-American groups against the deal; and asked undecided lawmakers what it would take to win their votes, according to current and former officials familiar with the intercepts.

The notorious Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer was caught on the tapes:

Mr. Dermer was described as coaching unnamed U.S. organizations — which officials could tell from the context were Jewish-American groups — on lines of argument to use with lawmakers, and Israeli officials were reported pressing lawmakers to oppose the deal…

Israel’s pitch to undecided lawmakers often included such questions as: “How can we get your vote? What’s it going to take?”

Again, no names of US legislators, but this article contains the explicit threat that Israel could expose individuals down the road. The practice is sure to anger Americans and drive an even deeper wedge into the Jewish community over the role of the lobby. Patriotic Jewish Americans are going to be embarrassed yet again by the extent to which Israel tries to subvert our government, using American Jewish friends to do so. And many will walk away from the lobby over this kind of business. The large wavering middle of pro-Israel forces is going to be set back. J Street made the right call on the Iran Deal (reluctantly, I’ve heard) but it will reap a dividend.

Notre Dame professor Michael Desch’s interpretation: “The lobby and Congress will no doubt try to spin it as more evidence of Obama’s anti-Israel animus. But the story constitutes powerful evidence of 1) divergence of US and Israeli interests on important issues like Iran and 2) close coordination of the lobby and Government of Israel in trying to influence US domestic politics.”

Scott Horton refers to the last big eavesdropping scandal, when then-congresswoman Jane Harman promised a suspected Israeli agent that she would attempt to stop a federal case against American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) staffers in exchange for that agent’s political influence in getting her a committee chair. Jeff Stein reported the story:

Rep. Jane Harman, the California Democrat with a longtime involvement in intelligence issues, was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington.

Harman was recorded saying she would “waddle into” the AIPAC case “if you think it’ll make a difference,” according to two former senior national security officials familiar with the NSA transcript.

In exchange for Harman’s help, the sources said, the suspected Israeli agent pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi , D-Calif., then-House minority leader, to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections, which the Democrats were heavily favored to win.

The suspected Israeli agent was inferred (it was the opinion of Josh Marshall and Ron Kampeas) to be Haim Saban, the giant contributor to the Democratic Party. So a “suspected Israeli agent” is also a giant Democratic funder with influence over the Congress? We’re headed for a showdown between the lobby and the grassroots, inside the Democratic Party. And praise to the Obama administration, who we guess is fueling the controversy out of “compelling national” interest.

 

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Part 3 of 3. Read part 1 and part 2.

Documents released by Edward Snowden brought fresh questions about GCHQ involvement in US drone strikes outside conflict zones.  MPs took the unusual step of writing to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, suggesting  it was time “to consider and issue clear guidance on the law, policy and procedure concerning the investigation of complicity into extraterritorial targeted killing.”  Qatar continues to be an important hub for US and UK drone operations with the Al Udeid base hosting the Combined Air Operation Center (CAOC).  British military operations against ISIS are also run from ‘RAF Al Udeid’ in Qatar.

RMilitary officials from the US, UK, France and Italy began to meet as the Reaper Users Group during 2015.  The group is aimed, we are told, at enhancing interoperability and reducing costs.   More details emerged during the year of the role of the US air base at Ramstein in Germany in the on-going drone wars.  The base is a key communications hub linking the US with its armed drones around the globe. Hundreds marched on the base in September in response to the revelations. The debate over whether the use of drones for targeting killing is effective at reducing terrorism or a recruitment tool for terrorist groups continues. This year, former military officers have been most vocal in arguing the latter.

sAround forty alleged militants were killed in a single reported US drone strike in Somalia at the end of January.  Although the Pentagon publicly denied carrying out that particular strike, they were happy to confirm that US drones had struck Somalia on the very same day, targeting a senior leader of al-shabab.  There seems to have been a real change of tactics and an increase in drone strikes in Somalia as Jack Serle of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism noted early in the year.  Perhaps inevitably the increasing use of drones has been followed by the rise in numbers of military drones being shot down.  USRussianIsraeli and Saudi Arabian drones have all reported been downed during the year although it is impossible to confirm all these reports.  The safety and security threat from small civil drones began to be recognized during the year. As sales of these small cheap drones takes off, the threat will simply grow.

TThe normalisation of drone targeted killing took a step forward in 2015 as the UK wholeheartedly embraced the tactic.  ParliamentariansUS Senatorsthe United Nations and civil society groups continue to struggle to, at the very least, limit such activity and gain some oversight of the process.  Transparency, however, is in short supply and government contempt for proper public oversight, never mind curbing the practice, is obvious. Meanwhile BAE Systems’ Taranis combat drone continued its test programme with a third (and reportedly final) set of flight tests in November. The drone, or a derivative of it, is likely to be a contender for the UK’s Future Combat Air System (FCAS) likely to see some funding decision in 2016.

UBritish-based Israeli-owned UAV Engines attempts to curb protests at its factory in Staffordshire were botched during the year when the company failed to abide by court rules. In February the CPS dropped a case against nine protesters when the company refused to co-operate with court mandated disclosures.  In July protesters successfully overturned in the courts a ‘forbidden zone’ around the factory, and then in October the High Court threw out an injunction as the company had in effect misled the court. This led to the collapse of the caseagainst a further 19 people arrested for breach of the injunction at a protest in July. Maybe UAV Engines should join US drone manufacturer General Atomics in setting up shop in theUnited Arab Emirates (UAE).

capital-letter-vThe UK MoD has suddenly developed a taste for releasing videos of British drone strikes. Since March 2015 there have been nine videos of such strikes published online as opposed to just six released over the past seven years.  While the Vatican has long opposed the use of armed drones and the development of autonomous weapons, drones have this year been banned from flying over Vatican City due to security fears.

wWhistleblowers helped us have a better understanding of the drone wars during 2015 with the release of a set of documents that have become labelled ‘The Drone Papers‘.   Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations also revealed GCHQ links to US drone strikes and that personnel from project Widowmaker were based at Menwith Hill. Finally, former US drone pilots went on the record to detail the horrific consequences of the US drone targeted killing programme.   The information released by whistleblowers is crucial to the public’s understanding of drone warfare – thank you.

The manifest failings of the UK’s Watchkeeper drone were laid bare this year.  After spending almost £1bn on its development, the UK got barely six days use out of the (ahem) state of the art drone in Afghanistan.  Army training with the ‘all weather’ drone is now being conducted in the Ascension Islandsas the weather in the UK is not, er, suitable. Wimbledon was not immune to the intrusion of rogue drones, something that occurred at numerous sporting events during the year.

xyzWhile Northrop Grumman was happy to feature the X-47b drone in its Super Bowl ad, the much more mysterious X-37b drone took off on another classified mission into space in May 2015.  Don’t expect it back any time soon – the previous secret mission lasted almost two years.  Despite the chaos and horror of the on-going war in Yemen – in which more than 90% of the casualties are civilians – the US continues to launch drone strikes, with the Bureau reporting around 20 confirmed and an additional 10 possible strikes. The extremely high-altitude Zephyr drone was purchased by the UK for use by its Special Forces. Airbus executives, mistakenly, let the cat out of the bag ahead of the SDSR in September. After a rushed Airbus retraction the deal was discretely confirmed as part of the SDSR in November.

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International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde offered a bleak economic forecast for 2016 and beyond in a guest column published Wednesday in the German financial newspaper Handelsblatt .

The IMF head wrote that global economic growth next year would be “disappointing” and the outlook for the medium term had also deteriorated. Lagarde pointed to the continuing slowdown in China and the prospect of rising interest rates in the US as major factors leading to a continued slowdown in world growth rates and the potential for financial shocks.

Lagarde also noted the substantial decline in the growth of world trade, the ongoing fall in oil and other commodity prices, and the worsening economic and financial crisis in so-called “emerging market” and “developing” countries whose economies are heavily dependent on commodity exports and expanding trade.

“All of that means global growth will be disappointing and uneven in 2016,” Lagarde said. She warned, in particular, of “spillover effects” resulting from the decision of the US Federal Reserve Board earlier this month to begin raising its benchmark interest rate from near zero, the first Fed rate increase in over nine years.

Lagarde and the IMF had lobbied against the Fed move, warning that it could spark a panic outflow of capital from emerging market countries with high levels of dollar-denominated corporate debt such as Brazil, Turkey and South Africa.

In the Handelsblatt article, Lagarde said that she was concerned about the ability of such countries to absorb “shocks,” citing in particular an increase in financing costs for corporations that sold large volumes of dollar-denominated bonds during the emerging market and oil boom that followed the financial crisis of 2008. The rise in the dollar means the real cost of debt repayment for these companies, whose revenues are in sinking local currencies, increases.

Lagarde hinted that the crisis could spread more broadly across the financial system, suggesting that emerging market and energy sector companies defaulting on their payments could “infect” banks and state treasuries.

On Wednesday, oil prices resumed their slide to their lowest levels in eleven years after the Saudi oil minister said the kingdom had no intention of scaling back petroleum production in 2016. Since the middle of 2014, oil prices have plummeted by two-thirds. In 2015 alone they have dropped by 35 percent.

But the oil price fall is only part of a broader collapse in industrial commodity prices. Nickel has dropped by more than 40 percent. Zinc, which was widely expected to rise in price this year because of the signaled closure of large mines in Australia and Ireland, has fallen 28 percent. Iron ore has also plummeted.

The new drop in oil prices and Lagarde’s pessimistic forecast combined to push down global stock prices Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 117 points (0.66 percent), in line with other major indexes in the US and Europe.

The continuing decline in commodity prices is a sharp expression of a deepening crisis in the real economy internationally. The slowdown in China is the most prominent factor in the fall in these prices, as its previously voracious appetite for industrial commodities propped up global demand.

But China’s slowdown is itself an expression of more fundamental processes and contradictions in the world capitalist economy. An indication of the systemic nature of the current malaise is the forecast released this week by OPEC that petroleum prices will not return to the $100-per-barrel levels of 2013 and early 2014 until 2040 at the earliest.

In October, the IMF released a report predicting world economic growth of 3.5 percent for 2016, the slowest rate since the immediate aftermath of the September 2008 financial meltdown. Last April, it warned that the global economy would remain locked in a pattern of slow growth, high unemployment and high debt for a prolonged period, acknowledging that there was little prospect of a return to the growth rates that prevailed prior to the 2008 crash.

In the April report, the IMF focused on a sharp decline in business investment during the so-called “recovery” that officially began in June of 2009. It noted that business investment in North America and Europe had declined by 20 percent, twice the fall that followed previous recessions.

While the IMF chose not to make the connection, this figure points to a basic feature of the global capitalist crisis—the enormous growth of speculation and parasitism. The same tendencies that triggered the 2008 crash—the reckless and largely criminal speculative activities of the financial elite that have come to dominate economic life—have only intensified in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Far from reining in the banks and hedge funds, the IMF, the major central banks and governments in the US, Europe and Japan have bailed them out to the tune of trillions of dollars and subsidized a further orgy of speculation. By means of ultra-low interest rates and central bank money-printing operations, known as “quantitative easing,” finance capital has been encouraged to inflate new financial bubbles—from the stock market to the oil sector, junk bonds and emerging market economies—which have further enriched the wealthy and the super-wealthy while diverting resources from the productive forces and impoverishing the working class.

While the real economy has remained depressed, stock prices have soared. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index in the US has risen by more than 200 percent since 2009.

Corporations and banks have starved the real economy of productive investment, instead seeking higher profits from risky investments that are entirely parasitic. These include speculation in high-yield, high-risk “junk bonds” linked to the oil and commodities industries. After the implosion of the subprime mortgage market in 2007-2008, money has flooded into this area of speculation. High-yield assets at US mutual funds hit $305 billion in June 2014, triple their level in 2009. Outstanding debt in the US junk bond market has soared to more than $1.2 trillion from less than $700 billion in 2007—an increase of 71 percent.

Now, under the impact of the collapse in industrial commodity prices, the ratings agencies are warning that 50 percent of energy junk bonds could default, along with 72 percent of bonds in the metals, mining and steel industries.

The mounting crisis of the emerging market economies is similarly bound up with massive inflows of hot money seeking high rates of return during the oil boom and China’s post-Wall Street crisis rapid economic expansion. Between 2004 and 2014, emerging market corporate debt increased from $4 trillion to $18 trillion, with much of the increase taking place since 2008.

One figure highlights the further growth of economic parasitism since the 2008 crisis: global debt has increased by 40 percent to $200 trillion, almost three times the size of the world economy.

To pay for this exercise in recklessness and greed, the working class all over the world has been hammered with austerity programs, mass layoffs and cuts in wages, pensions and health benefits. This has only deepened the stagnation and decline in the real economy. But these attacks will continue and intensify in 2016 and beyond, in tandem with the deepening of the crisis of the capitalist system.

Perhaps the sharpest expression of the explosive growth of parasitism is the record increase registered in 2015 in mergers and acquisitions and stock buybacks. US corporations that amassed trillions from cost cutting, wage cuts and the benevolence of the Obama administration and the Fed, rather than invest their cash hoards in job-creating, productive areas, have instead plowed it into stock buybacks to increase the payouts to big investors, and in mergers, which result in downsizing and job cutting. This past year, $4.7 trillion worth of mergers and acquisitions were announced in the US, a record.

One day prior to Lagarde’s column in Handelsblatt, the initial fruits of one of the biggest mergers of the year, the $130 billion deal involving the chemical giants DuPont and Dow, were announced. DuPont said Tuesday it would cut 1,700 jobs in its home area around Wilmington, Delaware. This is part of a $700 million cost-cutting plan that will reduce the firm’s 6,100-strong work force by 10 percent.

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In  Dara’a province, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) with the Russian Air Forces’ support are advancing in the town of Sheikh Miskeen clashing with the Free Syrian Army’s “Southern Front Brigades”. The pro-government sources report that the SAA took control of the Battalion 82 base and the hilltop of Tal Al-Hish overlooking the northern flank of the town. The clashes are continuing.

Sheikh Miskeen is located along the Quneitra-Sweida Highway and overlooks a way on the Al-Quneitra Governorate and the city of Nawa.

According to the field reports, the SAA liberated the town of Maheen, 25 kilometers from the vital M5 highway, and the town of Huwwarin after the heavy clashes with ISIS. The towns were taken by the terrorist group in late November. It is expected that the SAA will continue their offensive onto the town of Quryatayn.

The Syrian government has essentially avoided clashing with the Syrian Kurds which are a major part of the SDF.

However, as the Kurdish forces and the Russian-backed government forces meet up, the question of developing joint strategy arises. Moreover, Ankara already concerned by the growing Kurdish clout on the border and definitely is preparing actions to stop the Kurds in their offensive actions. Such an action would also push the Syrian government and the SDF to coordinate their actions in fight against foreign-backed terrorists.

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Arizona Senator John McCain’s crusade to rid the US space industry of Russian rocket engines by 2019 could be scuppered by a devious provision placed in the upcoming defense spending bill.

After the outbreak of violence in Ukraine, McCain was the leading figure behind the legislation enforcing the rapid phase out of the RD-180 engines that have powered the Atlas V rocket, used in most US launches, for the past two decades.

United Launch Alliance (ULA), the leading space rocket contractor co-owned by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, says it is developing its all-American Vulcan rocket, a tweaked version of the Atlas, with a new engine. But until its launch, it insists it needs to rely on the 14 RD-180 it has already ordered from Russia’s Energomash.

The exact number of engines ULA is allowed to use is at the heart of the behind-the-scenes battle going on in Congress. The House version of the 2016 defense spending bill says all 14, while Senate insists that only nine should be used, and McCain is arguing the number should be even lower.

Russian RD-180 rocket engines manufactured at Energomash at the request of the U.S., being prepared for transport to Sheremetyevo Airport. (RIA Novosti/Iliya Pitalev)

But one group of Republicans have strengthened ULA’s hand with a provision in the bill, that McCain is calling“outrageous”. Section 8045 says that any tender for a space launch in the 2016 fiscal year must receive bids from two suppliers, and if there are fewer, the competition is void.

Since there are only two companies licensed for space launches in the US – the other is Elon Musk’s SpaceX – this gives ULA the power to sabotage any tender, by saying it has no engines, due to Congress restrictions.

Atlas V rocket (Reuters/Michael Brown)

McCain has placed the blame on Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, and his group of pro-ULA – and by proxy, “pro-Putin” – Republicans.

“Why in the world would anyone think we would want to continue dependency on Russian rocket engines, which traces up to the corrupt mafia that is around Vladimir Putin?” McCain said to The Daily Beast. “The American people should ask a question of these appropriators: Why are you taking care of Vladimir Putin’s cronies?”

Shelby’s Alabama houses extensive facilities operated by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, and the two giants contributed $160,000 to his election fund last year.

Grounded by space politics

Beyond the Congress machinations, the RD-180 replacement program threatens to create a major bottleneck for the US space industry.

Even supposing the current 14 Russian engines are fired into space, the future of the Vulcan is up in the air, with 2022 as the earliest working date, if all field tests by private US engine manufacturers go to plan, with ULA also on the hook for a large bill. It has stated that in the worst-case scenario each launch could cost up to $1 billion, five times the current price.

Once the plucky outsider, Space X, which has claimed it can outcompete ULA on launch price, could now become a monopoly. But Space X doesn’t even have a heavy rocket that could compete with Atlas, and won’t until its Falcon Heavy project is complete, which could also take another six or seven years.

The Pentagon has pleaded with Congress to hold off its politically-motivated plans, saying in a letter signed by Defense Secretary Ash Carter that the anti-Russian legislation could leave “a multiyear gap where we have neither assured access to space nor an environment where price-based competition is possible.”

On the other side of the Atlantic, Energomash will also likely be in financial trouble without government support, as RD-180 formed the bulk of its orders.

Falcon Heavy rocket (Image from spacex.com)

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A Year of Achievement for Cuban Healthcare

December 31st, 2015 by Ollie Hopkins

The 56TH year of the Cuban Revolution, 2015, has been a year of more inspirational achievements in health, education and internationalism — despite the ongoing US blockade.

In June, Cuba became the first country in the world to receive validation from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to successfully achieve the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.

Given the global scale of the HIV/Aids epidemic, where an estimated 1.4 million women living with HIV become pregnant each year, the potential global health impact is phenomenal if the world can learn from Cuba.

The WHO said: “Eliminating transmission of a virus is one of the greatest public health achievements possible. Cuba’s success demonstrates that universal access and universal health coverage are feasible and indeed are the key to success, even against challenges as daunting as HIV.”

This year also saw the largest contingent of health workers who were fighting the Ebola outbreak in west Africa return home after completing their successful missions.

These world-leading achievements are from a very long list of Cuban healthcare accolades — and are a testament to the Cuban revolution and its people.

Cuba has created a world-class healthcare system and is at the forefront of biotechnology and medical research, despite being under blockade for over half a century, which prevents access to many crucial medicines and equipment.

According to the World Bank, the United States spends almost 20 times what Cuba spends per head per year ($8,553 to $431) on healthcare and yet Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than the US and a similar life expectancy.

If the US had the same infant mortality rates as Cuba, it would save thousands of US children’s lives each year.

Cuba’s achievements clearly go beyond simple statistics and are a product of its socialist system. How society is organised, for whose benefit is public spending and the goal of a healthy, educated population all need to be considered.

The fundamental difference is that in the United States, healthcare spending funds huge profits for a wide range of companies that profiteer along the supply chain of the created health sector market.

Cuba, by contrast, has a centrally planned system where different public-sector departments work highly effectively with one another, in pursuit of the public health of its people, rather than a pursuit of profit.

Cuba’s vaccine development continues to be among the best in the world. Cimavax is a lung cancer vaccine that can suppress the growth of tumours in the lungs allowing for a stable stage of the illness, prolonging life.

The Molecular Immunology Centre of Havana, a Cuban state-owned organisation, is the creator of Cimavax and has also developed vaccines for meningitis B, hepatitis B and dengue fever. These drugs are free and universally available for patients in Cuba.

Cimavax has been available in Cuba for several years, but has gained more global attention since the US-Cuba rapprochement on December 17 last year. There has been hope for improved co-operation between the US and Cuba on health and Cimavax is now undergoing clinical trials in the US, which does signify a step in the right direction on this particular issue.

However, progress elsewhere has been limited.

Embassies opened in Washington and Havana this summer, symbolising the formal re-establishment of diplomatic relations. Despite these positive developments, the blockade is still in place, Guantanamo Bay is still occupied and US aggressive policies towards Cuba continue.

Only the United States and Israel now stand isolated in support of the blockade. Twenty-fifteen saw the largest-ever majority in the UN vote to end the blockade with a total of 191-2, with no abstentions.

The financial impact of the blockade has been devastating — $833 billion since its introduction. The blockade costs lives, and that was its intention.

Former Cuban diplomat Dr Carlos Alzugaray said at this year’s Cuban Futures conference: “One can never forget the original motives — hunger, desperation and the overthrowing of the Cuban government. They are the exact words used by the State Department in 1960.”

In October, a Cuban seven-year-old cancer patient Noemi Bernardez was denied access to Temozolomida, a drug which could radically improve her survival chances, as Cuba cannot directly purchase drugs from US manufacturers.

This is just one example from an endless list from over five decades of US aggression against Cuba, costing the health and lives of the Cuban people.

As part of the post-December 17 relations, President Barack Obama has authorised limited trade. But the devil is in the detail — only US companies are allowed to supply certain goods to privately owned properties or enterprises in Cuba. Cuba still cannot export to the US.

The US strategy of exclusive private-sector trade is a deliberate attempt to undermine the Cuban government and its social achievements, including free universal healthcare.

The US Treasury guidelines give examples such as not permitting US companies to provide air-conditioning to Cuban hospitals because they are publicly owned.

The methods have changed but the objective remains the same. US interference in Cuba clearly continues, with regime change being the goal and to roll back the achievements of the revolution.

Another year of revolution has continued to improve the lives of Cubans and the wider world — from Ebola sufferers in west Africa to post-earthquake Nepal, Cuban internationalism continues to direct resources to where they are needed.

Cuba continues to be an inspiration for those who strive for a better world and international solidarity with Cuba is crucial in the struggle to end the blockade. Ending the blockade could unleash Cuba’s vast potential and help improve and save yet more lives across the world.

Ollie Hopkins is campaigns officer for the Cuba Solidarity Campaign (www.cuba-solidarity.org.uk).

 

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Part 2 of 3. Read part 1 and part 3.

Reported Israeli drone strikes in Syria and Sudan received scant attention as Israel simply refuse to acknowledge such operations.  India abandoned development of its indigenous Nishant drone and turned its sights on procuring armed drones from Israel while Italy received permission from the US to arm its Reaper drones. The Pentagon’s Inspector General launched an investigation into allegations that military officials have skewed intelligence reports to provide more positive accounts of the progress of the campaign against ISIS.  Some suggested that documents have subsequently been destroyed seemingly as part of a cover up.

jUS officials confirmed in September that Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in conjunction with the CIA are conducting drone operations aimed at killing ‘high value targets’ in Syria.  21-year old British hacker Junaid Hussainwas said to be one of the first targeted.  Mohammed Emwazi, the British ISIS militant known as Jihadi John, was also killed in a US drone strike in the centre of Raqqa in November.  Despite strong lobbying from Republicans, Jordan was refused permission to purchase US drones – Israel has stepped in to supplythem instead.

KThe ‘Killer Robots campaign continues its efforts to ensure a preventative ban on the development of autonomous weapon systems. While US and UK diplomats insist that such weapons are not being pursued, simultaneously military officials argue that drones, “particularly autonomous ones,” have to be “the new normal.”  Officials repeatedly refuse to disclose where British drones are currently based in the Middle East although several reports – and satellite photos – suggest they are at the Ali Al Salem air base in Kuwait.

l_plateBoth the Israeli military and US Special Forces operated drones over Lebanon during the year while US drones also deployed to Latvia as part of a ‘European Reassurance Initiative’.  Drone industry lobbyists were as active as ever behind the scenes aiming to ‘relax’ controls on drone exports while also challengingrestrictions on drones flying in domestic civil airspace.  Although US drones have been flying some surveillance missions over Libya (and apparentlycrashing) such operations are likely to increase during 2016

alphabet-mHollywood’s discovery of the drone wars has resulted in several movies including Ethan Hawk in ‘Good Kill’ and Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman in the forthcoming ‘Eye in the Sky.  Many more are apparently in the pipeline.  Michael Fallon, the British Defence Secretary changed the methodology for calculating British drone and air strikes during the year, leading to ‘less’ strikes on paper, if not on the ground.  Leaked NSA documents showed clear links between the North Yorkshire US spy base, Menwith Hill, and US drone strikes in Yemen.

N2Nigeria’s acquisition of Chinese armed drones was a complete surprise and clearly showed the global spread of drones, with The Netherlands being one of a number of European countries gaining  US approval to purchase Reaper drones. Naming continues to be an issue for the industry with the UK choosing to re-christen the Predator B (Reaper) drone as the more soothing and acceptable ‘Protector drone’.  The preposterously named  European combat drone prototype, nEUROn, continued its test programme during the year with test flights in Italy and Sweden.

OA number of commentators highlighted that President Obama’s much promised openness on US drone strikes outside of conflict zones has failed to materialise. In fact there has probably been even less oversight of the targeted killing strikes within Iraq and Syria. Authors George RR Martin and Will Self as well as retired General Stanley McChrystal were among a diverse and growing number of people voicing opposition to the way that drones are lowering the threshold for war.

pThe pressure on pilots due to the ever-increasing demand for drones was a regular new item during the year.  In December the USAF announced changes that will now see enlisted personnel (and not just officers) fly drones – surveillance flights at first but this will also likely change.  Police use of drones has taken a significant  step forward in 2015 with many local forces announcing they are to trial the use of drones.  At the same time, the number of drone incidents being reported to the police has rocketed.  Protests at drone bases and factories continued during the year withCreech in Nevada and Waddington in the UK being a key focus of attention.

 

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Heightened visibility alone, however, has not effectively ended such slayings or brought justice to victims

The Black Lives Matter movement that swept the country in 2015 has—among other accomplishments—forced global media outlets to afford victims of police killings the most basic acknowledgement: a public record of their names and deaths.

Such a grim tally was maintained this year by both the Guardian and the Washington Post, following the consistent failure of the U.S. government to keep adequate records.

African-American Chicago resident Betty Jones, pictured on the left, was killed by Chicago police while attempting to help a neighbor, who was also killed. (Photo: Facebook). Native-American Alaska resident Larry Kobuk, pictured on the right, died in police custody this year. (Photo: Alaska Native News).

African-American Chicago resident Betty Jones, pictured on the left, was killed by Chicago police while attempting to help a neighbor, who was also killed. (Photo: Facebook). Native-American Alaska resident Larry Kobuk, pictured on the right, died in police custody this year. (Photo: Alaska Native News).

According to the Guardian, 1,126 people were killed by police so far in 2015, averaging more than three a day, with 27 percent of those slain facing mental health issues.

The numbers confirm the racial injustices highlighted by nationwide protests. Among black people in America, 6.9 per million were killed by police, compared to 2.86 white people per million. In other words, African-Americans were nearly 2.5 times as likely to be killed by police as their white counterparts.

Native-Americans and Latinos were also disproportionately likely to have their lives taken by law enforcement, with 3.4 per million and 3.35 per million killed respectively.

The high number of killings was corroborated by the Washington Post, which only tracks fatal police shootings—not killings by taser, beating, and other forms of force, such as the high-profile death of African-American man Freddie Gray in Baltimore. The paper concluded, nonetheless, that nearly 1,000 civilians were shot and killed by police this year.

What’s more, the Post‘s analysis found that the FBI, which is tasked with tracking such shootings, is dramatically undercounting killings because “fewer than half of the nation’s police departments report their incidents to the agency.”

“The Post documented well more than twice as many fatal shootings this year as the average annual tally reported by the FBI over the past decade,” journalists Kimberly Kindy, Marc Fisher, Julie Tate, and Jennifer Jenkins reported this week.

However, Jim Naureckas, editor of Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting’s watchdog journal Extra!argued Tuesday that the Post also “held back” key information by downplaying the connection between the high number of police killings and the grievances issued by racial justice movements.

For example, Post journalists wrote that “the kind of incidents that have ignited protests in many U.S. communities—most often, white police officers killing unarmed black men—represent less than 4 percent of fatal police shootings.”

But in fact, the Black Lives Matter movement has condemned killings by officers of all races, killings of people who were armed, and killings of black women—such as Mya Hall and Rekia Boyd—by police as well as vigilante violence.

Even still, the Post‘s numbers are damning.

“Although black men make up only 6 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 40 percent of the unarmed men shot to death by police this year,” the paper’s database found. “In the majority of cases in which police shot and killed a person who had attacked someone with a weapon or brandished a gun, the person who was shot was white. But a hugely disproportionate number—3 in 5—of those killed after exhibiting less threatening behavior were black or Hispanic.”

There are many things that the databases don’t track, including beatings, abuse, and sexual assaults. For example, police officer Daniel Holtzclaw’s serial raping of African-American women would not make it on this list of atrocities.

But perhaps, more than anything, both databases show that heightened visibility, in itself, will not end police killings or bring justice to its victims.

The end of 2015 is being marked by ongoing protests demanding “Justice for Tamir Rice,” a 12-year-old African-American shot to death by a white police officer while playing with a toy gun. An Ohio Grand Jury decided Monday not to indict officers Timothy Loehmann or Frank Garmback, despite video evidence that neither provided first aid to the dying child.

In a statement released Monday night, Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, declared: “I don’t want my child to have died for nothing and I refuse to let his legacy or his name be ignored. We will continue to fight for justice for him, and for all families who must live with the pain that we live with.”

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The Southern California gas company is now claiming they’ve “pin pointed” a massive methane leak in Porter Ranch, California. This methane leak has led to thousands of displaced families. Of course, the term “pin pointed” is being applied in a liberal sort of way. According to the LA Times.

Workers were continuing to drill a relief well and had reached a depth of 3,800 feet about midnight Saturday when they discovered the site of the target well using a magnetic ranging tool, said Anne Silva, a spokeswoman for SoCal Gas. The well extends more than 8,000 feet below the surface.

The company is still “not sure of the exact location of the leak,” Silva said, “but suspects it is within a shallow level — within the first several hundred feet of the 8,700-foot well.”

This is a leak that the Gas Company feels could go on at least into March. Methane freely polluting the air until at least March. Have we yet to grasp the severity of this? This is a man-made natural catastrophe that may well turn out to be larger in scale than the BP oil spill. According to Erin Brockovich, the side effects, which are deep and involved, take less than a week to start feeling.

After only a week of visiting families in Porter Ranch, I am already experiencing the headaches, nausea and congestion that have plagued this community living at the center of one of the most significant environmental disasters in recent history.

We can’t even begin to fathom what the serious longterm consequences over this matter will turn out to be. Making matters worse, SoCalGas has essentially REFUSED to release information on the surrounding air quality, so we have no way of really grasping how bad this really is. The leak is supposedly residing at over 8000 feet underneath the ground, making it a complicated, complex problem to solve. With the potential of liability and litigation, attorneys are filtering responses on both sides. In just one month, this leak will have accounted for 1/4 of the total estimated methane emissions in the entire state of California.

Vomiting, nosebleeds, trouble breathing, are just the beginning of what these people are experiencing on a daily basis. The community has begun the act of transferring school children out of the area. While SoCalGas has helped with some relocation efforts, it hasn’t been nearly enough. Many people have been stuck waiting on a list to be assigned relocation, all the while, their respiratory systems being decimated by infectious gases.

And all the while, a refusal to release air quality data remains on the part of the company responsible for it all. Sick people only know they are sick, but confirmations of why seem to be vague and protected by a wall of legal jargon and advisors. SoCalGas needs to come out and take responsibility. They need to address the people who are sick and with great urgency resolve their issues. This can’t continue to go on.

What shocks me the most is that while this story has received a great deal of coverage, it really hasn’t been the top story. Maybe the holidays? Maybe people just aren’t interested? All the same, this affects us all. This could (and likely is) happen in any of our communities. Want to see what it looks like using infrared? What are people breathing in?

Four more months of this? This is unacceptable. Why do you think they declared a no-fly zone? Is it really for pilot safety or is it more that they don’t want people seeing what’s actually happening on the ground? I would go with the latter and strongly encourage any of you reading to make similar considerations. Of course, pilots likely could get sick flying over it, but this sounds a lot more like a corporation covering up a disaster of epic proportions. There is no end game here. There is no reason to believe that this gas leak won’t be responsible for mass deaths, near and far in years.

Here is Erin Brockovich speaking on behalf of the people of Porter Ranch.

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Russia: America’s Main Geopolitical Adversary

December 31st, 2015 by Stephen Lendman

In the wake of the 1917 Revolution, when the Soviet Union replaced Tsarist Russia, both the US and Britain wanted regime change. 

Three months before WW I ended, Britain led a multi-nation force against Soviet Russia. At the time, Lloyd George was Prime Minister. Churchill was UK Minister of War and Air. Woodrow Wilson was US president.

Thousands of US marines were involved. They invaded Russia, intervening against Bolshevik forces, remaining until April 1920, an early example of imperial American lawlessness.

On the one hand, Soviet Russia and today’s Russian Federation land mass represents a huge prize, rich in valued resources, America perhaps willing to go to war for control.

On the other, Russia today is a far cry from Soviet days:

  • hugely powerful militarily with state-of-the-art weapons, likely important ones kept under wraps; and a thermonuclear arsenal matching America’s capability – able to strike targets worldwide with precision accuracy and hugely destructive force;
  • spending judiciously – a small fraction (maybe 10%) of Washington’s bloated defense budget, wasting trillions of dollars in recent decades, money literally down the drain, one of many examples of wrongheaded US policies;
  • able to match US might, perhaps exceeding it in some respects;
  • technologically sophisticated, the equal of any potential adversary;
  • advancing politically and economically at America’s expense, a slow, steady process under Putin’s stewardship, one nation rising, the other declining, some observers believe significantly in the post-9/11 era, a process begun years earlier.

America’s rage for power is delusional, showing it failed to learn the lesson of past empires, gone on the rocks of their hubris and arrogance, the eventual fate for the self-styled “indispensable nation,” increasingly seen more as a liability than asset in the eyes of growing numbers of nations, wanting peace, stability and prosperity, not endless wars of conquest, one nation after another systematically destroyed.

America has interests, not allies, using nation states to serve its imperial agenda, mainly Pentagon controlled NATO, Israel and rogue Arab states, an alliance for endless wars of conquest, mass slaughter and destruction, countries systematically ravaged, their resources stolen, their people exploited.

Major flashpoint areas risk igniting global thermonuclear war – Ukraine, Syria, and other Middle East areas where US/Russian interests clash.

Washington transformed Ukraine into a Nazi-infested fascist dictatorship – used as a dagger targeting Russia’s heartland, along with other Eastern countries close to its border, pressured to play America’s dirty game, no matter the harm to their interests.

Preserving Syrian sovereignty is key to preventing Iran’s isolation, and the entire region becoming a US/Israeli colony, partnered with Saudi tyrants and the Erdogan-led international criminal organization running Turkey.

Riyadh and Ankara are ruthless rogue states, threatening regional peace, stability and security. They’re creating a so-called “strategic cooperation council,” focusing on military, political and economic issues.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced the scheme, omitting explanation of the imperial aims of both nations – saying things were arranged this week during discussions between Erdogan and Saudi King Salman in Riyadh – meeting for the third time this year, united against Syria’s Assad.

Wanting him ousted is consistent with US objectives, using these and other countries as instruments of anti-Russian policies, wanting its sovereign independence destroyed, risking possible thermonuclear confrontation to achieve its maniacal aims – a clear agenda of madness.

In a letter to the world body, Syria’s UN envoy Bashar al-Ja’afari accused Erdogan of high crimes against the Syrian Arab Republic – covertly supporting ISIS and other terrorist groups, warning of his delusional goal to “revive” the Ottoman Empire.

“Since 2011, an unprecedented terrorist war has been waged against the Syrian Arab Republic by armed terrorist groups, the members of which come from more than 100 countries,” Ja’afari explained.

Those groups are being provided with funding, weapons, materiel and logistical support by states and regimes from the region and beyond.

Bordering on Syria and Iraq, Turkey is playing a leading role, Ja’afari stressed. It’s “interference in Syria’s internal affairs t(akes) many forms including direct involvement of the regime of Erdogan, the Turkish armed forces in offensive military operations in support of terrorists.”

They’re “providing covering fire for the terrorists’ movements inside Syrian territory or along (border areas) to facilitate the infiltration of terrorist mercenaries from Turkish (to) Syrian territory.”

Erdogan continues committing heinous high crimes – with full support and encouragement from Washington. Russia’s anti-terrorism intervention foiled his northern Syria no-fly zone/safe haven scheme.

His designs on Mosul, Iraq oil fields remain, Baghdad committed to liberate the area from ISIS control and get world support against Turkish forces operating illegally cross-border.

Ja’afari’s call for the UN “to take a firm stand (to) put end to (Ankara) violations and crimes falls on deaf ears with Washington calling the shots. Its Security Council veto power lets it continue pursuing its regional agenda without official world body condemnation.

At the same time, Russia’s intervention changed things dramatically. Syrian forces continue making slow, steady gains, ISIS and other terrorist groups very much on the back foot.

Defeating them is another issue, no simple task as long as US and other outside support continue. They control Iraqi and Libyan territory, infiltrated into Central Asia, have safe havens outside Syrian territory, new recruits apparently keep coming, and their revenue sources keep supplying millions of dollars daily.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected].

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.

 

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Sino-US relations still considered most important: poll

A new poll shows that some 78 percent of Chinese believe Western countries intend to contain China.

Some 36.5 percent said the West intends to and have already moved to contain China. Some 41.7 percent say Western countries have such intentions but there exists no obvious action, according to a survey released by the Global Times’ Poll Center Tuesday.

The annual survey, “How Chinese people view the world,” involved telephone responses from 1,530 people from seven Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Changsha.

Jin Canrong, deputy dean of the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Tuesday that this is how the Chinese feel, following the past year’s events.

Relations between China and the US have been strained in 2015 due to issues like the South China Sea disputes and cyber security. China and Japan locked horns in disputes around the Diaoyu Islands and Japan’s attitude to face up to its wartime history.

“The US and Japan did things aimed at China, but China is not that easy to contain,” he said.

The poll also finds that some 69.4 percent consider Sino-US relations China’s most important bilateral relations. However, the number has dropped from 81.3 percent in 2009, 74.6 percent in 2012 and 72.3 percent in 2014.

Bilateral relations with Russia, Japan, and the EU ranked as China’s second, third and fourth most important diplomatic relations.

“It is no surprise to see Chinese pay more attention to Sino-US relations since it influences their lives as the two countries share common interests,” Jin said.

The survey showed that 27.8 percent agree that the South China Sea disputes have been affecting relations, while 10.5 percent think the cyber security issue soured Sino-US relations.

Other issues that may strain the Sino-US relations are the Taiwan issue, 22.6 percent, and the Diaoyu Islands, 22.1 percent.

According to the survey, 56.9 percent, most of whom are young people, are optimistic about the future of Sino-US relations while 28.5 percent believe relations will be strained.

Jin said that the positive views on the development of Sino-US relations reflect the respondents’ confidence in China.

“The conflict between China and the US is more about national interests than ideology,” Zhang Jiehai, a sociologist at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

Ambivalent relations

Meantime, 28.6 percent said bilateral relations with Russia are China’s second most important, and 24.9 percent said relations with Japan are the third most important.

“Sino-Russian and Sino-Japanese relations are considered the most significant neighborly relations. China and Russia have been in recent years moving in a good direction, while Japan and China are still locked in feuds, including historical issues and disputes over the Diaoyu Islands,” Zhou Yongsheng, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times.

Zhou said that although Japan is China’s second largest trade partner, the disputes between the two countries involve national honor and interests, leaving most Chinese with little faith in the future of Sino-Japanese relations.

People who think relations between China and Southeast Asian countries remain important to China dropped by 2.5 percent, compared to 2014. And 53.6 percent agree that disputes in the South China Sea were the main cause of strained relations.

The survey also showed that 53.9 percent are optimistic about the future of China’s international relations, while 37.6 percent are concerned.

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US President Barack Obama’s administration is reportedly preparing fresh sanctions on international companies and individuals over Iran’s missile program. 

They would be the first financial sanctions on Iran since Tehran agreed to a landmark nuclear agreement in July and present a serious challenge to the accord’s implementation.  

According to the Wall Street Journal, the sanctions would target a number of Iranian nationals and international companies over suspected involvement in Iran’s missile program.

“We’ve been looking for some time‎ at options for additional actions related to Iran’s ballistic missile program based on our continued concerns about its activities,” an Obama administration official was quoted as saying.

“We are considering various aspects related to additional designations, as well as evolving diplomatic work that is consistent with our national security interests,” the official said, on condition of anonymity.

US officials claim the new sanctions are in line with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear agreement, and the Treasury Department can impose new sanctions on Iran over its missile development.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of the state, has made it clear that Iran would consider any new sanctions a breach of the JCPOA.

In an October letter to President Hassan Rouhani, outlining his conditional approval of the JCPOA, the Leader said that in case of a violation, “the government would be obliged to take necessary measures and halt JCPOA activities.”

“Imposing any sanctions at any level and under any pretext by any side of the negotiations will be considered a breach of the JCPOA,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in his letter.

Iran has also defended its right to carry out missile tests for defensive purposes, saying none of his country’s missiles are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

“It’s our legitimate defense. These are not missiles that are designed to be capable of carrying nuclear warheads and, therefore, it is within our right to self-defense,” said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in an interview published by The New Yorker earlier this month.

According to the Journal, the sanctions would prohibit US or foreign nationals from conducting business with targeted companies.

US banks would also be required to freeze any assets the companies or individuals hold inside the American financial system.

Tehran is already disappointed by Obama’s signing of a Congress bill this month aimed at limiting travels to Iran and trade with the country.

Iran says the law violates a July nuclear accord and amounts to new sanctions on the country.

The US Supreme Court is also mulling a case on appropriating $2 billion of Iranian assets frozen in a bank in New York.

The Obama administration has urged the tribunal not to overturn the decisions of US circuit and appeals courts to use the funds.

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On the 29th of November, 2015, Foreign Affairs – the publication of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) – published an article titled: Divide and Conquer in Syria and Iraq; Why the West Should Plan for a Partition. It was written by Barak Mendelsohn, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Haverford College and a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. In the article, he argues that the “solution” to the current crisis in Syria and Iraq is the creation of an “independent Sunni state” (or Sunnistan), in addition to separating “the warring sides:”

“The only way to elicit indigenous support is by offering the Sunnis greater stakes in the outcome. That means proposing an independent Sunni state that would link Sunni-dominated territories on both sides of the border.Washington’s attachment to the artificial Sykes–Picots borders demarcated by France and Britain a century ago no longer makes sense. Few people truly believe that Syria and Iraq could each be put back together after so much blood has been spilled. A better alternative would be to separate the warring sides. Although the sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shias was not inevitable—it was, to some extent, the result of manipulation by self-interested elites—it is now a reality.”

Mendelsohn’s so-called “solution” for the region is in fact the strategy Western powers have been pursuing in the Middle East for years. His proposal is pretty much identical to the preferred “outcome” for Syria articulated by the former US Secretary of State and CFR member, Henry Kissinger. Speaking at the Ford School in 2013, Kissinger reveals his desire to see Syria Balkanized into “more or less autonomous regions (from 27.35 into the interview):

“There are three possible outcomes. An Assad victory. A Sunni victory. Or an outcome in which the various nationalities agree to co-exist together but in more or less autonomous regions, so that they can’t oppress each other. That’s the outcome I would prefer to see. But that’s not the popular view…. I also think Assad ought to go, but I don’t think it’s the key. The key is; it’s like Europe after the Thirty Years War, when the various Christian groups had been killing each other until they finally decided that they had to live together but in   separate units.”

Carving out Sunnistan in the region was also recently advocated by the former US Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, in his NY Times article: To Defeat ISIS, Create a Sunni State. Bolton wants to create an“independent Sunni State” to act as a “bulwark” against Bashar al-Assad and Baghdad. Make no mistake about it; the strategy of the US had always been to create a Sunni micro-state in Eastern Syria and Western Iraq to isolate Assad. In the 2012 declassified report from the DIA, the document reveals that the powers supporting the Syrian opposition – “Western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey” – wanted to create a “Salafist principality in Eastern Syria in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”

Obviously, Salafism (which some argue is synonymous with Wahhabism; whilst others argue that Wahhabism is a more extreme form of Salafism) is a branch of Sunni Islam. Many have argued that “violence” is “central” to Wahhabism and Salafism, as Catherine Shakdam expresses in her article, Wahhabism, Al Saud and ISIS – the Unholy Trinity:

“Wahhabism is no more than an engineered perversion, a division, an abomination which has but spread like a cancer onto the Islamic world and now threatens to destroy all religions… Wahhabism is not of Islam and Islam will never be of Wahhabism – it is a folly to conceive that Islam would ever sanction murder, looting and atrocious barbarism. Islam opposes despotism, injustice, infamy, deceits, greed, extremism, asceticism – everything which is not balanced and good, fair and merciful, kind and compassionate. If anything, Wahhabism is the very negation of Islam. As many have called it before – Islam is not Wahhabism.”

Shakdam continues:

“Wahhabism is merely the misguided expression of one man’s political ambition – Mohammed Abdel Wahhab, a man who was recruited by Empire Britain to erode at the fabric of Islam and crack the unity of its ummah (community). Wahhabism has now given birth to a monstrous abomination – extreme radicalism; a beast which has sprung and fed from Salafis and Wahhabis poison, fueled by the billions of Al Saud’s petrodollars; a weapon exploited by neo-imperialists to justify military interventions in those wealthiest corners of the world. ISIS’s obscene savagery epitomises the violence which is inherent and central to Wahhabism and Salafism, its other deviance. And though the world knows now the source of all terror, no power has yet dared speak against it; instead, the world has chosen to hate its designated victim – Islam.”

Fracturing Iraq

In relation to Iraq, the plan to split the country into three parts has been publicly advocated by US officials ad nauseam. The President Emeritus of the CFR, Leslie Gelb, argued in a 2003 article for the NY Times that the most feasible outcome in Iraq would be a “three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south.” In 2006, a potential map of a future Middle East was released by Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters which depicted Iraq divided into three regions: a Sunni Iraq to the West, an Arab Shia State in the East and a Free Kurdistan in the North.

The current US Vice President, Joe Biden, also penned an article which was co-authored by Gelb titled: United Through Autonomy in Iraq. The 2006 article argues for a decentralized Iraqi state where power is held by three “ethno-religious” groups: “Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab.” Furthermore, the NY Times published an article in 2013 titled: Imagining a Remapped Middle East; How 5 Countries Could Become 14, which envisages the Middle East and Libya completely Balkanized.

Responding to the strategy of the West in Iraq, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, called the division of the country “unacceptable.” Lavrov stated that this was “social engineering” and “state structure manipulation from far outside,” adding that Russia believes “Iraqis – Shia, Sunnis and Kurds – should decide for themselves how to live together.”

The Western elite’s strategy is to create a Middle East (and a world for that matter) devoid of strong, sovereign, independent nation-states that can resist imperial advances.

Fracturing countries into feuding micro-states ensures Western interests are not confronted with a cohesive entity which can collectively unite to oppose this belligerent force. “Divide and conquer” as Mendelsohn’s article is titled, the ancient strategy used by an array of imperial powers, from the Roman’s to the British, remains the strategy of the Western Empire today.

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Imperial Wars, Neoliberal Harshness: Grim New Year Tidings

December 31st, 2015 by Stephen Lendman

The new year traditionally is a time for hope and change, a new beginning, a shift from policies causing so much harm to many millions worldwide – nameless, faceless victims of imperial ruthlessness. 

New Year’s day and each successive ones assure more of the same, business as usual – a continued menu of endless imperial wars, neoliberal harshness, government serving elitist interests exclusively, and harsh crackdowns on nonbelievers, America heading toward full-blown tyranny in the name of combating terrorism – the greatest hoax in modern times.
The larger issue is whether humanity can survive the ravages of US-led imperialism – the greatest threat it ever faced in world history, power-crazed lunatics in Washington willing to risk destroying planet earth to own it.

Instead of sounding the alarm and urging a call to action, presstitutes masquerading as journalists support what demands condemnation.

Ordinary people are manipulated by bread, circuses, and daily misinformation – mindless of the dangers they face, indifferent to the risk of ending life on earth, ignorant of the pure evil Washington represents, complicit with its rogue partners.

Each new year begins with the threat of US-launched nuclear war, the unthinkable possibility able to kill us all. Power-crazed lunatics make ruthless choices.

Witness them in one war theater after another – endless mass slaughter and destruction, making the world safe for monied interests.

Madness defines US policies. Its criminal class is bipartisan. Whoever succeeds Obama in January 2017 will exceed the worst of his homeland and geopolitical agenda.

America already is thirdworldized, on a fast track toward a ruler-serf society, unfit and unsafe to live in, fundamental freedoms eliminated in plain sight, run by a gangster class serving its own interests exclusively.

It devotes more resources to homeland and foreign militarism, belligerence and confrontational policies than the rest of the world combined.

Expect more of the same in the new year, likely more than ever before, maybe looked back on as the year WW III began – if anyone survives the onslaught, a long shot at best.

Another holiday season brings no joy to the vast majority of people worldwide. Human suffering remains extreme.

US policymakers consider it a small price to pay, nothing too outlandish in serving their interests.

The horrors of their maniacal agenda is airbrushed from official and scoundrel media reports – on New Year’s and every other day.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

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Year of Disenchantment: Memories of 2015

December 31st, 2015 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Years tend to only become memorable much after the fact. This point is aptly illustrated by the observation, made by E. H. Carr, that history is read by the contemporary circumstances that give meaning to them.  Some years have been totally forgotten; others have revived.

The fall of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire in 1453, effectively ending the Eastern imperial arrangements in place after the fall of Rome, sent shudders through Christendom. But it was only historians and their subsequent theses about the loss of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire that made the event even more significant.  Alternative trade routes, for instance, needed to be found.  Exploration on the part of rapacious and ever hungry European powers were given a fillip.  Cause and effect led to the search for new continents, and markets.

Just a touch under four decades later, the Colombian encounter took place, one that dramatically created a transatlantic system, destroying and supplanting civilizations, while initiating various exchanges. In effect, the chance sighting by Christopher Columbus in 1492 of the Bahamas brought several continents, including Africa, into play, underdeveloping and impoverishing much of the continent in the slave trade and creating various slave regimes in the New World.  There were vast human, cultural, and biological transfers, many forced, and others the tragic consequence of situation.  At the very least, it transformed the European diet.

For all of that, 1492 was both romanticised, and demonised, again after the fact.  It was not even clear at that point that the enterprising citizen of Genoa had, in fact, found a people rather different to those of India.  The year, for that reason, is less the year to remember than one to either mourn or glorify, depending on which side of ideological fence you find yourself.

What then, for 2015?  It was another year which saw its share of calamities, its historical follies heaped up.  But it will take some time to know where the consequences will come home to roost.

For the student of history, 2015 will conjure up those fateful months leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.  The surge of Islamic State’s revolutionary aspirations, the flowing blood of the Shiite-Sunni divides across the Middle East, seem inconceivable without the invasion by the US-led coalition of the destructively willing.  The sanctimonious insistence on removing various regimes on the part of sentiment and poorly thought out strategy has proven disastrous.

An exemplary illustration of this problem is the Syrian conflict, which in 2015 moved into its next, ever more dangerous phase. Countries such as the United Kingdom extended their strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria after parliamentary debate. Russia joined the conflict in dramatic fashion, claiming to strike Islamic State targets while also targeting anti-Assad forces.

The very busy skies were bound to lead to confrontations, with Turkish jets engaging and downing a Russian Su-24 fighter in November.  The severe deterioration of relations between Ankara and Moscow provide ominous signs between various powers battling for influence in the Middle East. These, in turn, are also historical jousts.  Pessimists have already pulled out such works as Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, even if such historical parallels tend to be poor, if not impossible examples to use.  Just as you will never step on the same spot of a beach, you will never replicate history in its exact sequence, let alone mimic its forms.

Having failed in Syria, diplomacy has also retreated in the face of facing one of the most prominent consequences of the war: refugees.  Millions have been displaced, and have trekked across continents, and sailed across seas.  Thousands have drowned. Countries such as Australia and Hungary have respectively sought fortress reactions, be they turning back the boats or sealing off the borders.  Others, such as Germany, have preferred accommodation. The result: uneven chaos and electorates ripe for plucking by the populists.

Not all international relations need end in blood or stalemate.  The dark chapter regarding Syria should also be read alongside the deliberations over Iran’s nuclear program.  The US and Iran, accompanied by China, Russia, France, UK and Germany, were finally convinced to come to the table, one which culminated in the July deal that ostensibly limits Teheran’s pursuit for a nuclear weapon in exchange for lifting sanctions.  Cynics, mainly among the Republicans in the United States Congress and Israel, were not convinced, desperate to see Iran bounded and bowed.

Others will prefer underlining the environmental accord of COP21, the Paris meeting that saw a mixed, albeit global attempt to forge an agreement limiting the rise in global temperatures to “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels.  Differentiation, as ever, remains the big problem, and whether 2015 is the year when the human race chalked up an environmental victory, or failed to avert impending catastrophe, will have to be written.

Every year has to have some historical exaggeration, a talking point that is invariably inflated to invest it with gravitas.  2015 will be one of those years where terrorism continued to receive false authority. The ledger was certainly crowded: spectacular attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria; assaults in France by Islamic State militants; continued bombings in Iraq, to name a few.  The motivating fear in many countries has been Islamic radicalisation at home, though it is one often disengaged from the foreign policy dimension of governments.

It is striking, in fact, to listen to officials from Paris to Canberra, from Washington to Ankara, to consider terrorism in the most hermetic of vacuums, indifferent to origins and motivations.  The rather bland excuse is minted in the same school of apologetics: They hate us because of our values.  Eventually, fanaticism of any sort tends to cloud discussion, and make us all pious.

The response to this phenomenon has varied, but what is evident is an internationalisation of the surveillance state.  If 2015 is to be a year of any significance in that regard, the erosion of civil liberties, across a range of areas, must be one of them.  Civil liberties have suffered in Australia, Britain, France and Canada.  Legislation stripping the citizenship of dual-nationals has passed.  The mania for data retention and pushing Internet Service Providers into the role of deputised police over content is a trend that sees no sign of abating.

Finally, two points on economics and sovereignty.  The European Union, to take a most obvious example, continues to stutter towards doom, showing how a broad-based continental program was high-jacked by a bank-based, financial philosophy obsessed by austerity.  It has seen the most grisly of capitulations by Greece and the railroading of its financial independence before the European Central Bank, European Commission and the International Monetary Fund. Will 2015 be the year the EU began penning its obituary?

A second, and not unrelated point.  Those of the neoliberal persuasion would have been delighted by the continued push of the technocrats, typified by the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement between twelve countries that nets the Asia-Pacific economic zone in an effort to combat China.  The “free trade” rationale suggests why 2015 is memorable from one, distinct perspective: the relentless, estranging rise of the corporate shadow state over the legislative competence of people’s representatives.

While twelve parliaments and assemblies will be busy implementing the text in the forthcoming year, the casualties are bound to be severe.  Environmental protections, the prices of pharmaceutical products and biologics, and the role of copyright and intellectual property, will all feature in some form.  And if companies are dissatisfied with the policies of signatory states, they will be able to sue on lost profits.  A true recipe for disenchantment, and one for continued scepticism in 2016.

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

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Syria: It’s Not a Civil War and it Never Was

December 31st, 2015 by Ulson Gunnar

The weapons are foreign, the fighters are foreign, the agenda is foreign. As Syrian forces fight to wrest control of their country back and restore order within their borders, the myth of the “Syrian civil war” continues on. Undoubtedly there are Syrians who oppose the Syrian government and even Syrians who have taken up arms against the government and in turn, against the Syrian people, but from the beginning (in fact before the beginning) this war has been driven from abroad. Calling it a “civil war” is a misnomer as much as calling those taking up arms “opposition.” It is not a “civil war,” and those fighting the Syrian government are not “opposition.”

Those calling this a civil war and the terrorists fighting the Syrian state “opposition” hope that their audience never wanders too far from their lies to understand the full context of this conflict, the moves made before it even started and where those moves were made from.

When did this all start? 

It is a valid question to ask just when it all really started. The Cold War saw a see-sawing struggle between East and West between the United States and Europe (NATO) and not only the Soviet Union but also a growing China. But the Cold War itself was simply a continuation of geopolitical struggle that has carried on for centuries between various centers of power upon the planet. The primary centers include Europe’s Paris, London and Berlin, of course Moscow, and in the last two centuries, Washington.

In this context, however, we can see that what may be portrayed as a local conflict, may fit into a much larger geopolitical struggle between these prominent centers of special interests. Syria’s conflict is no different.

Syria had maintained close ties to the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War. That meant that even with the fall of the Soviet Union, Syria still had ties to Russia. It uses Russian weapons and tactics. It has economic, strategic and political ties to Russia and it shares mutual interests including the prevailing of a multipolar world order that emphasizes the primacy of national sovereignty.

Because of this, Western centers of power have sought for decades to draw Syria out of this orbit (along with many other nations). With the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the fractured Middle East was first dominated by colonial Europe before being swept by nationalist uprising seeking independence. Those seeking to keep the colonial ties cut that they had severed sought Soviet backing, while those seeking simply to rise to power at any cost often sought Western backing.

The 2011 conflict was not Syria’s first. The Muslim Brotherhood, a creation and cultivar of the British Empire since the fall of the Ottomans was backed in the late 70s  andearly 80s in an abortive attempt to overthrow then Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, father of current Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The armed militants that took part in that conflict would be scattered in security crackdowns following in its wake, with many members of the Muslim Brotherhood forming a new US-Saudi initiative called Al Qaeda. Both the Brotherhood and now Al Qaeda would stalk and attempt to stunt the destiny of an independent Middle East from then on, up to and including present day.

There is nothing “civil” about Syria’s war. 

In this context, we see clearly Syria’s most recent conflict is part of this wider struggle and is in no way a “civil war” unfolding in a vacuum, with outside interests being drawn in only after it began.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its Al Qaeda spin-off were present and accounted for since the word go in 2011. By the end of 2011, Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise (Al Nusra) would be carrying out nationwide operations on a scale dwarfing other so-called rebel groups. And they weren’t this successful because of the resources and support they found within Syria’s borders, but instead because of the immense resources and support flowing to them from beyond them.

Saudi Arabia openly arms, funds and provides political support for many of the militant groups operating in Syria since the beginning. In fact, recently, many of these groups, including allies of Al Qaeda itself, were present in Riyadh discussing with their Saudi sponsors the future of their joint endeavor.

Together with Al Nusra, there is the self-anointed Islamic State (IS). IS, like the Syrian conflict itself, was portrayed by the Western media for as long as possible as a creation within a vacuum. The source of its military and political strength was left a mystery by the otherwise omniscient Western intelligence community. Hints began to show as Russian increased its involvement in the conflict. When Russian warplanes began pounding convoys moving to and from Turkish territory, bound for IS, the mystery was finally solved. IS, like all other militant groups operating in Syria, were the recipients of generous, unending stockpiles of weapons, equipment, cash and fighters piped in from around the globe.

The Syrian conflict was borne of organizations created by centers of foreign interests decades ago who have since fought on and off not for the future of the Syrian people, but for a Syria that meshed more conveniently into the foreign global order that created them. The conflict has been fueled by a torrent of weapons, cash, support and even fighters drawn not from among the Syrian people, but from the very centers of these foreign special interests; in Riyadh, Ankara, London, Paris, Brussels and Washington.

How to settle a civil war that doesn’t exist?

If the Syrian conflict was created by foreign interests fueling militant groups it has used for decades as an instrument of executing foreign policy (in and out of Syria), amounting to what is essentially a proxy invasion, not a civil war, how exactly can a “settlement” be reached?

Who should the Syrian government be talking to in order to reach this settlement? Should it be talking to the heads of Al Nusra and IS who clearly dominate the militants fighting Damascus? Or should it be talking to those who have been the paramount factor in perpetuating the conflict, Riyadh, Ankara, London, Paris, Brussels and Washington, all of whom appear involved in supporting even the most extreme among these militant groups?

If Damascus finds itself talking with political leaders in these foreign capitals, is it settling a “civil war” or a war it is fighting with these foreign powers? Upon the world stage, it is clear that these foreign capitals speak entirely for the militants, and to no one’s surprise, these militants seem to want exactly what these foreign capitals want.

Being honest about what sort of conflict Syria is really fighting is the first step in finding a real solution to end it. The West continues to insist this is a “civil war.” This allows them to continue trying to influence the outcome of the conflict and the political state Syria will exist in upon its conclusion. By claiming that the Syrian government has lost all legitimacy, the West further strengthens its hand in this context.

Attempts to strip the government of legitimacy predicated on the fact that it stood and fought groups of armed militants arrayed against it by an axis of foreign interests would set a very dangerous and unacceptable precedent. It is no surprise that Syria finds itself with an increasing number of allies in this fight as other nations realize they will be next if the “Syria model” is a success.

Acknowledging that Syria’s ongoing conflict is the result of foreign aggression against Damascus would make the solution very simple. The solution would be to allow Damascus to restore order within its borders while taking action either at the UN or on the battlefield against those nations fueling violence aimed at Syria. Perhaps the clarity of this solution is why those behind this conflict have tried so hard to portray it as a civil war.

For those who have been trying to make sense of the Syrian “civil war” since 2011 with little luck, the explanation is simple, it isn’t a civil war and it never was. Understanding it as a proxy conflict from the very beginning (or even before it began) will give one a clarity in perception that will aid one immeasurably in understanding what the obvious solutions are, but only when they come to this understanding.

Ulson Gunnar, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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The Black Man’s Burden

December 31st, 2015 by Garikai Chengu

So much has been said of the “white man’s burden:” namely, how the collapsing American Empire and bygone British Empire have shouldered the burden of civilising Africa and driving the global economy for centuries. The opposite is true. The fact of the matter is that not only was Western civilisation invented by black Africans in ancient Egypt, Africa has driven global economic growth for centuries.

African natural resources, labour, land, slavery and skilled émigré – as any decent economic historian will tell you – have fueled the world’s economy for many, many decades. To this day, Africa is the world’s engine-room for growth. In short, driving global economic growth abroad, whilst benefiting little at home is the “black man’s burden.” That Africans know that there are immense riches just beneath their feet as well as just above their heads in High Office, only adds to the burden.

The roots of “Western” civilization, technology, religion, culture and science are to be found not in Greece, but in Black Egypt. Infact as early as 9,000 BC to 500 A.D. black empires, from the prehistoric Zingh Empire of Mauritania to ancient Khemet of Egypt, were at the forefront of development in technology, politics and culture. Far from “civilising the natives,” Europeans replaced communitarianism, cooperation and spirituality – that prevailed across Africa – with a corrupt, aggressive and inhumane form of civilisation.

First there was the brutal kidnapping of millions of Africans, so as to replace the indigenous Americans that Europeans had wiped out. The slave trade broke the back of African economies whilst creating capital for plantation owners that kick started Europe’s industrial revolution.

Africans were stripped of their land and forced down gold mines and onto rubber plantations. The naked theft of African land and minerals including gold, copper, rubber, ivory and tin continued ravenously throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This culminated in the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884, where Europe gleefully divied up Africa and formalised the “Scramble For Africa.”

After World War Two, Europeans were severely weakened by years of unremitting industrial slaughter of each other. To make matters worse, liberation movements were gaining momentum. This ultimately made the cost of containing “restless natives” greater than the benefits Europeans could extract from them. As British power wained the baton of colonialism was passed to American imperialism.

Poverty and disunity have been the essential ingredients that have allowed this neo-colonial exploitation to continue. But, thanks largely to soaring mineral prices and Chinese win-win investments, poverty levels are beginning to tumble.

Disunity however persists. America is making sure of it. Washington is fomenting disunity by funding reactionary neo-liberal political parties across the continent as well as the odd “good dictator.” A bad dictator however, named Muammar Gaddafi, was hunted down and assassinated by Washington. Not least because of his plans for an African IMF, gold backed Afro-currency and a United States of Africa. In essence, Colonel Gaddafi’s plans for African unity were as good as a hand written suicide note addressed directly to NATO. By losing Gaddafi, Africa may also have lost Libya. For, NATO will ensure that Mr. Gaddafi’s plans for African unity will be smothered in their crib.

Then ofcourse there is United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) which will almost certainly establish a military base in Libya. Infact any African government that America offered money to host AFRICOM, Mr. Gaddafi would offer double the amount to refuse.

Mr. Obama would have us believe that hundreds of highly trained US Special Forces are braving tsetse flies, dengue fever and are running around in the African bush to flush out Ugandan rebels. All for freedom and democracy. Coincidentally in one of the most oil rich enclaves on earth. Home to Sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest onshore oil discovery in 20 years of two billion barrels.

The new cold war between America and China will be over resources, not ideology. Africa will take centre stage. Should America’s hard power and divide-and-rule approach triumph, Africa may descend into one large theater of war with many actors, chapters and a tragic ending. Should China’s soft power and win-win economic approach triumph, this may end up becoming a truly African Century.

To this day, Africans produce cheap, often slave labour and ship raw materials north for peanuts. In return Africans purchase finished products at a premium from the north. This skewed trade relationship is what helped build the west and underdeveloped Africa for centuries.

Reversing this trend would allow the black man to free himself of a centuries old burden. Reversing this trend is this generation’s struggle. That said, Africa’s future looks bright, for the ingredients are present for an economic boom, which actually benefits Africans: favourable demographics, a commodities boom, a burgeoning middle class and growing enthusiasm for technology with more than 600 million mobile-phone users—more than America or Europe.

If Africans resolutely build the capacity to refine their own crude oil, gold and platinum as well as the capability to cut and polish their diamonds, they will certainly turn this into an African century. If Africans staunchly defend their resources and turn them into finished products, they will finally turn the “black man’s burden” into Africa’s renaissance.

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Britain’s New Holy War Doctrine

December 31st, 2015 by Graham Vanbergen

In modern societies people nowadays regard the notion of a holy war as nothing more than a contradiction. The deliberate slaughter and wholesale destruction of people and societies seems to be as far from holiness as one can get, surely.

However, religion and war have gone hand in hand for centuries and still do. Armies of young men forge ahead into battle with a belief that God is with them, He is on their side and will keep them safe irrespective of the risk. In biblical times, losing a war sometimes meant changing religion for the losers.

However, for war to be a holy war there has always been a central point of focus with religion being the spearhead. Preconditions such as the achievement of a religious objective, the authorisation of a religious leader and possibly spiritual rewards for the victors have a tendency to be ‘just war’ conditions.

Francis Bacon said there were five causes for holy war, (he wrote in a Christian context, but the categories would be usable by any faith) which were briefly; spreading the faith, rescuing Christians, recover religious sites being profaned and avenge blasphemous acts, or cruelties and killings of Christians (even if these took place long ago). From this you can see that the conflict against ISIS qualifies from every angle and perspective.

The British government managed an aggressive and pernicious campaign to overturn an embarrassing 2013 parliamentary vote on the bombing of Syria. It succeeded, but only after the Paris killing spree and the refugee crisis it was attached to. The reality for the government is that its citizens do not support its actions in Syria. The latest polls suggest less than half support the bombing of Syria and a third strongly object. How will they react when they find out Britain will start bombing Libya quite soon, one can only speculate.

The government accepts that it needs a new narrative to continue the indiscriminate and illegal killing of countless innocent civilians abroad to support it’s commitments to domestic weapons manufacturers and blindly follow American foreign policy.

The legitimate authority for a holy war is not the government of a state but the Church, or person who heads the religious institution concerned.

This Christmas we have witnessed something quite extraordinary – Britain’s leaders effectively ganging up to deliver a united message through the establishment press and media organisations. The Queen, The Prime Minister and our religious leaders acting in harmony, the message is religious and it’s about war.

From The Telegraph –

Britain’s two most senior clerics have drawn on the darker side of the nativity story in hard-hitting Christmas sermons warning of the possible “elimination” of Christianity from the region of its birth. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, both draw comparisons between the Biblical account of the mass murder of children around Bethlehem on the orders of King Herod and the 21st Century Jihadist threat”.

Welby branded the ISIS terror group “a Herod of today” as he warned that Christianity faces “elimination” in the region of its founding two millennia ago.

Meanwhile Cardinal Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, also used his Christmas address to speak of the surge in murder driven by faith, also describing Christians being murdered by Islamist extremists as “martyrs”.

This year, the Queen used her Christmas Day broadcast to make her most overtly religious address to the nation quoting directly from the Gospel of John. She highlighted the Christian message of light triumphing over the dark following a year which has seen “moments of darkness.”

In a masterclass of hypocrisy Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, in a speech in Oxford on the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, called for a revival of traditional Christian values.

He staunchly defended the role of religion in politics (something previous politicians have steered well away from) and said the Bible in particular was crucial to British values. “We are a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so,” he told the audience at Christ Church.

What binds these speeches together is the politicisation of Britain’s indigenous religion as a pretext for attacking (or defending ourselves) another country based on its religion – in essence, a holy war.

From the The Independent –

Britain faces a terrorist threat lasting for decades, David Cameron has warned, as the official alert level was raised due to events in Iraq and Syria.

To ensure this new and enforced religious and political doctrine will continue for those decades we find that our schools must teach that Britain is a Christian country. “The guidance I have issued today makes absolutely clear that the recent judicial review will have no impact on what is currently being taught in religious education.”

The Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan made her comments after David Cameron’s Christmas message to stress Britain was a Christian country in what was widely viewed as his most religious address ever.

The sudden emergence of a holy theme entering British politics is not only surprising but should be regarded as deeply suspicious. For a start, it is endorsed by a prime minister who advocates the illegal extra-judicial murder of British citizens, the bombing and killing of innocent civilians, isolation and blame culture towards the ‘undeserving poor’ and suspicion of war-torn refugees – hardly christian traits of any sort.

Jesus, who famously taught, “blessed are the peacemakers” would have abhorred people like David Cameron, Francoise Hollande and Barrack Obama for their actions. Perceived as a political dissident and threat to government power with anti-government views, Jesus would have been arrested by these leaders and labelled a domestic extremist. The key thrown away.

But Cameron does not have such values. Britain is now the second largest arms seller in the world – thriving off death and destruction. It sells to any country who will buy no matter what human rights abuses occur as a result. One need not look further than the continued arms sales to Israel and their treatment of the Palestinians. According to historical and traditional sources, Jesus lived in Roman Judea, and died and was buried on the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, making the area a Holy Land for Christianity. Two thousand years later, Israelis and Palestinians and the wider world argue from which clan Jesus descended. Britain is weaponising the region. The irony.

All of this in the backdrop of a declining religious society back in Britain. In the ten years between the 2001 and 2011 census, Briton’s registering their christian faith fell by 20% and there was a 67% rise in people reporting no religion.

As we all know, the great series of western holy wars were the Crusades. These took place from 1095 until 1291 CE with the aim of capturing the sacred places in the Holy Land from the Muslims who lived there. It was intended as a war to right wrongs done against Christianity as mentioned earlier by Francis Bacon.

The first Crusade captured Jerusalem after bitter fighting. The residents of the city were utterly brutalised and slaughtered in their thousands by the Christian invaders. The conduct of the invaders breached the principles of modern just war ethics.

Clearly, nothing has changed in two thousand years except the narrative and even that has seemingly moved 360 degrees.

Whilst the massacres still colour politics on both Christian and Islamic sides to this day, it is alarming to think that modern wars are now being waged under the guise of religion on the basis that all other excuses have been exhausted.

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As the TRAI decides the fate of Free Basics, Mark Zuckerberg is in India with ₹100 crore, in pocket change, for advertising. Facebook’s Free Basics is a repackaged internet.org, or in other words, a system where Facebook decides what parts of the internet are important to users.

Reliance, Facebook’s Indian partner in the Free Basics venture, is an Indian mega-corporation with interests in telecom, energy, food, retail, infrastructure and, of course, land. Reliance obtained land for its rural cell phone towers from the government of India and grabbed land from farmers for SEZ’s through violence and deceit. As a result and at no cost, Reliance has a huge rural, semi-urban and suburban user base — especially farmers. Although Free Basics has been banned (for the time being), Reliance continues to offer the service across its networks.

A collective corporate assault is underway globally. Having lined up all their ducks, veterans of corporate America such as Bill Gates are being joined by the next wave of philanthro-corporate Imperialists, including Mark Zuckerberg. The similarities in Gates and Zuckerberg’s perfectly rehearsed, PR firm-managed announcements of giving away’ their fortunes is uncanny. Whatever entity the Zuckerbergs form to handle the US$45 billion they will be investing will most likely end up looking a lot like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. ie: powerful enough to influence the climate negotiations, responsible for nothing.

An advertisement for Facebook's Free Basics internet service. It reads, "What Net Neutrality Activists Won't Tell You."

An advertisement for Facebook’s Free Basics internet service. It reads, “What Net Neutrality Activists Won’t Tell You.”

What could Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have to gain from dictating terms to governments during the climate summit? “The Breakthrough Energy Coalition will invest in ideas that have the potential to transform the way we all produce and consume energy,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page. It was an announcement of Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Coalition, the combined wealth of hundreds of billions of dollars of 28 private investors who will influence how the world produces and consumes energy.

At the same time, Gates is currently behind a push to force chemical, fossil fuel dependent agriculture and patented GMOs (#FossilAg) through the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). It is an attempt to lock African farmers into a dependence on fossil fuels that should be left underground, as well as creating a dependence on Monsanto for seeds and petrochemicals.

95% of the cotton in India is Monsanto’s proprietary Bt Cotton. This year, in regions from Punjab to Karnataka, 80% of this Bt crop failed  — that’s 76% of Bt Cotton farmers with no crop left at harvest time. If they had a choice, they would switch. But what resembles a choice between cotton seeds is the same Bt Cotton seed, marketed by different companies under different names, purchased in desperation as farmers try combination after combination of seeds, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides — all of which have chemical names designed to make you feel inadequate — until you have no ‘choices’ left but to take your own life.

What Monsanto has done by pushing Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) laws and patents on seeds, Zuckerberg is attempting to do to internet freedom in India. And like Monsanto, he is targeting the most marginalised Indians.

Free Basics will limit what the internet is to a vast majority of India. Already at its outset Free Basics has said it won’t allow video content on the basis that it will interfere with the telecom companies’ services (read: profits) — despite the TRAI’s own recommendation that video content is more accessible to different parts of the population.

Once allowed as a free service, what is to stop telecom companies from redefining the internet to suit their own interests, and those of their corporate partners? After all, the ban on Free Basics has not stopped Reliance from carrying on with the service to its huge user base, a large proportion of who are farmers.

Why should Mark Zuckerberg decide what the internet is to a farmer in Punjab, who has just lost 80% of his cotton harvest because Monsanto’s Bt Cotton and the chemicals he was told to spray completely failed? Should the internet allow him to see how GMO technology has failed everywhere in the world and is only kept afloat through unfair market and trade policies, or should the internet suggest the next patented molecule he should spray on his crop?

The Monsanto-Facebook connection is a deep one. The top 12 investors in Monsanto are the same as the top 12 investors in Facebook, including the Vanguard Group. The Vanguard Group is also a top investor in John Deere, Monsanto’s new partner for ‘smart tractors’, bringing all food production and consumption, from seed to data, under the control of a handful of investors.

It’s no surprise that the Facebook page March Against Monsanto, a major American movement in support of labelling and regulating GMOs, was deleted.

Recently India has seen an explosion in e-retailing. From large corporations to entrepreneurs, people all over the country are able to sell what they make to a market that was earlier unreachable to them. Craftsman have been able to grow their businesses, farms have found consumers nearby.

Just like Monsanto with patented seeds, Zuckerberg wants not just a slice, but the whole pie of the basic economy of the Indian people, especially its farmers and peasants. What would Monsanto’s monopoly over climate data mean for farmers enslaved through a Facebook gateway to Monsanto data delivered through an internet that is controlled by Facebook? What would this mean for internet and food democracy?

The right to food is the right to choose what we want to eat; to know what is in our food (#LabelGMOsNow) and to choose nourishing, tasty food — not the few packaged goods that corporations want us to consume.

The right to the internet is the right to choose what spaces and media we access; to choose spaces that enrich us — not what companies think should be our ‘basics’.

Our right to know what we are eating is as essential our right to information, allinformation. Our right to an open internet is as essential to our democracy as our right to save, exchange and sell open pollinated farmers’ seeds.

In the ultimate Orwellian doublespeak, “free” for Zuckerberg means “privatised”, a far cry from privacy — a word Zuckerberg does not believe in. And like corporate-written “free” trade agreements, Free Basics is anything but free for citizens. It is an enclosure of the commons, which are ‘commons’ because they guarantee access to the commoner, whether it be seed, water, information or internet. What Monsanto’s IPRs are to seed, Free Basics is to information.

Smart Tractors from John Deere, used on farms growing patented Monsanto seed, sprayed and damaged using Bayer chemicals, with soil and climate data owned and sold by Monsanto, beamed to the farmer’s cellphone from Reliance, logged in as your Facebook profile, on land owned by The Vanguard Group.

Every step of every process right up until the point you pick something up off a supermarket shelf will be determined by the interests of the same shareholders.

Talk about choice.

Dr. Vandana Shiva is a philosopher, environmental activist and eco feminist. She is the founder/director of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology. She is author of numerous books including, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate CrisisStolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food SupplyEarth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace; and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. Shiva has also served as an adviser to governments in India and abroad as well as NGOs, including the International Forum on Globalization, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization and the Third World Network. She has received numerous awards, including 1993 Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) and the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize.

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Originally published by Global Research on August 28, 2014

The 2014 global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) by researchers at the University of Oxford covers 108 countries: 31 Low-Income Countries, 67 Middle-Income Countries and 10 High-Income Countries. These countries have a total population of 5.4 billion people, some 78% of the world’s population.

The MPI assesses poverty at the individual level. If someone is deprived in a third or more of ten weighted indicators, the global index identifies them as ‘MPI poor’, and the extent – or intensity – of their poverty is measured by the number of deprivations they are experiencing. Those indicators and based on health, education and living standards and comprise the following factors: years of schooling, school attendance, levels of nutrition, child mortality, access to cooking fuel, sanitation (open defecation, for example), access to water, ownership of assets, access to electricity and flooring material (eg, dirt).

Based on a rural-urban analysis, of the 1.6 billion people identified as MPI poor, 85% live in rural areas. This is significantly higher than estimates of 70-75% in poverty, where income is used as the basis for determining poverty.

Poverty reduction is not necessarily uniform across all poor people in a country or across population subgroups. An overall improvement may leave the poorest of the poor behind. The highest levels of inequality are to be found in 15 Sub-Saharan African countries and in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.

The researchers have paid special attention to the situation of the destitute, or what they term the poorest of the poor. Over half of the world’s poor are classed as destitute.

Countries which have reduced MPI poverty and destitution the most in absolute terms were mostly Low Income and Least Developed Countries, with Nepal making the fastest progress.

The situation in India

Eradicating poverty in India requires every person having access to safe drinking water, sanitation, housing, nutrition, health and education. According to the MPI, out of its 1.2 billion-plus population, India is home to over 340 million destitute people and is the second poorest country in South Asia after war-torn Afghanistan. Some  640 million poor people live in India (40% of the world’s poor), mostly in rural areas, meaning an individual is deprived in one-third or more of the ten indicators mentioned above (malnutrition, child deaths, defecating in the open).

In South Asia, Afghanistan has the highest level of destitution at 38%. This is followed by India at 28.5%. Bangladesh and Pakistan have much lower levels. The study placed Afghanistan as the poorest country in South Asia, followed by India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.

India had the second-best social indicators among the six South Asian countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan) 20 years ago. Now it has the second worst position, ahead only of Pakistan. Bangladesh has less than half of India’s per-capita GDP but has infant and child mortality rates lower than that of India.

Writing this week in India’s Deccan Herald, Prasenjit Chowdhury notes that according to two comparable surveys conducted in Bangladesh and India in 2006, in Bangladesh, 82% of children are fully immunised, 88% get vitamin A supplements and 89% are breastfed within an hour of birth. The corresponding figures for Indian children are below 50 per cent in all case and as low as 25%t for vitamin A supplementation.

Moreover, over half of the population in India practices open defecation, a major health hazard, compared with less than 10% in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has overtaken India in terms of a wide range of basic social indicators, including life expectancy, child survival, enhanced immunisation rates, reduced fertility rates and particular schooling indicators.

What has gone wrong?

In recent times, India has experienced much publicised high levels of GDP growth. So what is going wrong? Amartya Sen and the World Bank’s chief economist Kaushik Basu have argued that the bulk of India’s aggregate growth is occurring through a disproportionate rise in the incomes at the upper end of the income ladder. To use Arundhati Roy’s term, the poor in India are the ‘ghosts of capitalism’: the ‘invisible’ and shoved-aside victims of a now rampant neoliberalism.

The ratio between the top and bottom 10% of wage distribution has doubled since the early 1990s, when India opened up it economy. According to the 2011 Organisation for Cooperation and Economic Development report ‘Divided we stand’, this has made India one of the worst performers in the category of emerging economies. The poverty alleviation rate is no higher than it was 25 years ago. Up to 300,000 farmers have committed suicide since 1997 due to economic distress and many more have quit farming.

Assets such as airports, seeds, ports and other infrastructure built up with public money or toil have been sold off into private hands.

Secretive Memorandums of Understanding have been signed between the government and resource extraction-related industries, which has led to 300,000 of the nation’s poorest people being driven from their lands in tribal areas and around 50,000 placed into ‘camps’. As a result, naxalites and insurgents are in violent conflict with the state across many of these areas.

Where have the benefits been accrued from the 8-9% year on year GDP growth in recent times?

 Sit down and read the statistics. Then step outside and see the islands of wealth and privilege surrounded by the types of poverty and social deprivations catalogued by the MPI.

Global Finance Integrity has shown that the outflow of illicit funds into foreign bank accounts has accelerated since opening up the economy to neoliberalism in the early nineties. ‘High net worth individuals’ (ie the very rich) are the biggest culprits here. Crony capitalism and massive scams have become the norm. It is not too hard to see what is going wrong.

 India’s social development has been sacrificed on the altar of greed and corruption for bulging Swiss accounts, and it has been stolen and put in the pockets of the country’s ruling class ‘wealth creators’ and the multinational vultures who long ago stopped circling and are now swooping.

Me-first acquisitiveness is now pervasive throughout the upper strata of society. Run out and buy some useless product because Kareena, Priyanka or another icon of deception says ‘because you’re worth it’… but never ever let this narcissism give way to contemplate why the rivers and soils have been poisoned and people are being been made ill in places like Punjab, agriculture is being hijacked by the likes of Monsanto, land is being grabbed on behalf of any number of corporations, the great nuclear power money fest is in full swing or why ordinary people are violently opposing state-corporate power. Much of this acceptance results from deals hammered out behind closed doors. Much of it results because too many are conditioned to be ignorant of the facts or to accept that all of the above is necessary.

This is a country where the majority sanctify certain animals, places, rivers and mountains for being representations of god or for being somehow touched by the hand of god. It’s also a country run by Wall Street sanctioned politicians who convince people to accept or be oblivious to the destruction of the same.

Many are working strenuously to challenge the selling of the heart and soul of India. Yet how easy will it be for them to be swept aside by the corrosive impacts of a rapacious capitalism and its hugely powerful corporations that colonise almost every area of social, cultural and economic life and encourage greed, selfishness, apathy, irretrievable materialism and acquisitive individualism, as well as the ignorance of reality ‘out there’ – what lies beyond the narrow concerns of spend and buy middle class India?

Western capital had known that India has always been ripe for the taking. Consumerism’s conspicuous purchasing and consumption draws on and manipulates the pre-existing tendency to buy favour, the perceived self importance deriving from caste, the sense of entitlement due to patronage, the desire nurtured over the centuries to lord it over and seek tributes from whoever happens to be on the next rung down in the pecking order. Lavish, conspicuous displays of status to reinforce difference and hierarchy have always been important for cementing social status. Now icons of capitalism, whether renowned brand products, labels or product endorsing celebrities, have also taken their place in the pantheon of Indian deities to be listen to, worshiped and acquiesced to.

And the corporations behind it all achieve hegemony by altering mindsets via advertising, clever PR or by sponsoring (hijacking) major events, by funding research in public institutes and thus slanting findings and the knowledge paradigm in their favour or by securing key positions in international trade negotiations in an attempt to structurally readjust retail, food production and agriculture. They do it by many methods and means.

Before you realise it, culture, politics and the economy have become colonised by powerful private interests and the world is cast in their image. The prevailing economic system soon becomes cloaked with an aura of matter of factuality, an air of naturalness, which is never to be viewed for the controlling hegemonic culture or power play that it really is.

 Seeds, mountains, water, forests and the biodiversity are being sold off. The farmers and tribals are being sold out. And the more that gets sold off, the more who get sold out, the greater the amount of cash that changes hands, the easier it is for the misinformed to swallow the lie of Wall Street’s bogus notion of ‘growth’ – GDP. And India suddenly becomes capitalism’s poster boy ‘economic miracle’.

India is suffering from internal hemorrhaging. It is being bled dry from both within and without. Too extreme a point of view? Tell that to the 340 million destitute who make up over half of India’s poor.

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Following a series of disastrous failures in India, one of Coca-Cola’s most important markets, the company is desperate to rebuild its reputation by claiming ‘water neutrality’. But the idea is absurd, writes Amit Srivastava, and does nothing to benefit the communities that suffer from the depleted aquifers it pumps from.

The Coca-Cola company is planning to announce that it is close to replenishing all the water it uses“back to communities and nature” by the end of 2015, well ahead of schedule.

It will take more than PR puff to restore Coca-Cola's reputation in India. Wall-painted sign in Bangalore, India. Photo: Syed Nabil Aljunid via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

It will take more than PR puff to restore Coca-Cola’s reputation in India. Wall-painted sign in Bangalore, India. Photo: Syed Nabil Aljunid via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

As campaigners that have closely scrutinized Coca-Cola’s operations in India for over a decade, we find the company’s assertions on balancing water use to be misleading.

The company’s track record of managing water resources in and around its bottling operations is dismal, and the announcement is a public relations exercise designed to manufacture an image of a company that uses water sustainably – far removed from the reality on the ground.

The impetus for Coca-Cola to embark upon its ambitious water conservation programs globally stems from its experience in India, where the company has been the target of communities across the country holding it accountable for creating water shortages and pollution.

The company has faced crisis in India due to their mismanagement of water resources, including

  • the forced closure of their bottling plant by government authorities in Kerala in 2005,
  • the closure of its 15 year old plant in Varanasi last year,
  • the refusal by government authorities to allow a fully-built expansion plant to operate in Varanasi in August 2014,
  • a proposed plant in Uttarakhand cancelled in April 2014,
  • and the withdrawal of the land allocated for a new bottling plant by the government in Tamil Nadu due to large scale community protests in April 2015.

Coca-Cola’s operations in Jaipur in India are also now used as a case study in colleges and universities on the company’s profound impact on water resources.

The myth of ‘water neutrality’

The suggestion that the world’s largest beverage company can become “water neutral”, as Coca-Cola has suggested, is impossible and deceptive, as the India Resource Center has pointed out in the past. It is not possible for a company whose primary raw material is water, to have ‘neutral’ impact on water resources.

Such a disingenuous suggestion by the world’s largest beverage company is a disservice to the public, and without admission of the massive impact the company has on water resources, there can be no genuine discourse with Coca-Cola on water management.

The company’s claims of having ‘neutral’ impact on water resources are misleading for two principal reasons.

First, water issues are local in their impact unlike, for example, climate change. When Coca-Cola extracts water from a depleted aquifer in Varanasi or Jaipur, the impacts are borne by the local communities and farmers that depend upon it to meet their water needs.

Replenishing an aquifer hundreds of miles away from the point of extraction, as Coca-Cola has often done to ‘balance’ their water use, has no bearing on the health of the local aquifer which Coca-Cola depletes through its bottling operations, nor the privations suffered by those who depend upon it.

Second, the amount of water used to make Coca-Cola products, referred to as the ‘water footprint’, is much more than the water used in the bottling plants. Cane sugar is a major component of Coca-Cola products in India, and as one of the largest procurers of sugar in India, Coca-Cola is well shy of achieving any balance with the water used the production of its sugar sweetened beverages.

The Water Foot Print Network has estimated that it takes 442 liters of water to make one liter of Coca-Cola using cane sugar, and 618 liters of water to make one liter of Coca-Cola product using High Fructose Corn Syrup.

These astounding numbers are not factored into the water replenishment announcement, and Coca-Cola’s claims fall flat if they were to be included – as they ought to be. The numbers used for their announcement are about 200 times less than the actual water footprint of Coca-Cola products.

No more pumping of depleted aquifers!

One of the continuing challenges being faced by communities across India is that the Coca-Cola company has continued to operate its bottling plants in severely water-stressed areas, as well as propose new plants in water-stressed areas where the communities have very limited access to potable water – a fundamental human right.

Any company that wants to establish itself as a responsible user of water would begin by not operating in water stressed areas, a demand that has been made of Coca-Cola but which the company seems to ignore because it will deprive it of profits and access to markets.

Coca-Cola is in the habit of making tall claims and generating false opinions favorable to its own cause, whether it is on water use or public health, and this announcement on water replenishment is just that. Just last week, the company was exposed for setting up a front group, Global Energy Balance Network, to confuse the science around obesity.

Attempting to confuse and mislead regulators and scientific opinion is not new to Coca-Cola. In 2006, one of Coca-Cola’s lobbyists in India admitted that his job “was to ensure, among other things, that every government or private study accusing the company of environmental harm was challenged by another study.”

If Coca-Cola truly wishes to rebuild its reputation in India and mitigate the massive environmental damage caused by its operations, it must stop the greenwashing, stop exploiting depleted aquifers, and engage seriously with its critics and impacted communities.

Amit Srivastava is director of India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization.

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full-289552-syrian-rebels-celebrating-1451404294Syria Rebel “Opposition” Commander’s Assassination, a Major Blow to US-NATO-Saudi Agenda

By Eric Draitser, December 30 2015

News of the death of prominent anti-Assad commander (or ‘terrorist,’ ‘rebel,’ ‘opposition commander,’ etc.) Zahran Alloush has the potential to radically alter the nature of the war in Syria.

USA guerreWar and the Economic Crisis: America Is Being Destroyed By Problems That Are Unaddressed

By Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, December 30 2015

The failure of leadership in the United States is not limited to the political arena but is across the board.

061128-N-4953E-004Multirole Naval Platforms of the 21st Century. Naval Arms Race and Regional Conflicts

By Brian Kalman and Igor Pejic, December 30 2015

An apparent trend in many navies of the world today is the fielding of multi-purpose vessels along the lines of the traditional LHD platform, but with added capabilities. It appears that in an age of increasingly asymmetrical warfare or limited conflict, both highly modernized and developing navies are acquiring these vessels.

US MilitaryUS Military to Expand Global Operations in 2016

By Thomas Gaist, December 30 2015

The year 2015 will be remembered as a year of expanding global warfare and militarism. (…) The imperialist powers are determined to make 2016 an even bloodier and more dangerous year. Germany and Japan are openly remilitarizing, as their governments seek to whitewash and rationalize the crimes of the World War II era. All of the imperialist powers have seized on the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino to place their populations and economies on a war footing.

H.-ClintonClinton Foundation Donors Got Weapons Deals From Hillary Clinton’s State Department

By David Sirota, December 30 2015

Even by the standards of arms deals between the United States and Saudi Arabia, this one was enormous. A consortium of American defense contractors led by Boeing would deliver $29 billion worth of advanced fighter jets to the United States’ oil-rich ally in the Middle East.

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One hundred years ago European civilization, as it had been known, was ending its life in the Great War, later renamed World War I. Millions of soldiers ordered by mindless generals into the hostile arms of barbed wire and machine gun fire had left the armies stalemated in trenches. A reasonable peace could have been reached, but US President Woodrow Wilson kept the carnage going by sending fresh American soldiers to try to turn the tide against Germany in favor of the English and French.  

The fresh Amerian machine gun and barbed wire fodder weakened the German position, and an armistance was agreed. The Germans were promised no territorial losses and no reparations if they laid down their arms, which they did only to be betrayed at Versailles. The injustice and stupidity of the Versailles Treaty produced the German hyperinflation, the collapse of the Weimar Republic, and the rise of Hitler.

Hitler’s demands that Germany be put back together from the pieces handed out to France, Belgium, Denmark, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, comprising 13 percent of Germany’s European territory and one-tenth of her population, and a repeat of French and British stupidity that had sired the Great War finished off the remnants of European civilization in World War II.

The United States benefitted greatly from this death. The economy of the United States was left untouched by both world wars, but economies elsewhere were destroyed. This left Washington and the New York banks the arbiters of the world economy. The US dollar replaced British sterling as the world reserve currency and became the foundation of US domination in the second half of the 20th century, a domination limited in its reach only by the Soviet Union.

The Soviet collapse in 1991 removed this constraint from Washington. The result was a burst of American arrogance and hubris that wiped away in over-reach the leadership power that had been handed to the United States. Since the Clinton regime, Washington’s wars have eroded American leadership and replaced stability in the Middle East and North Africa with chaos.

Washington moved in the wrong direction both in the economic and political arenas. In place of diplomacy, Washington used threats and coercion. “Do as you are told or we will bomb you into the stone age,” as Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told President Musharraf of Pakistan. Not content to bully weak countries, Washington threatens poweful countries such as Russia, China, and Iran with economic sanctions and military actions. Consequently, much of the non-Western world is abandoning the US dollar as world currency, and a number of countries are organizing a payments system, World Bank, and IMF of their own. Some NATO members are rethinking their membership in an organization that Washington is herding into conflict with Russia.

China’s unexpectedly rapid rise to power owes much to the greed of American capitalism. Pushed by Wall Street and the lure of “performance bonuses,” US corporate executives brought a halt to rising US living standards by sending high productivity, high value-added jobs abroad where comparable work is paid less. With the jobs went the technology and business knowhow. American capability was given to China. Apple Computer, for example, has not only offshored the jobs but also outsourced its production. Apple does not own the Chinese factories that produce its products.

The savings in US labor costs became corporate profits, executive renumeration, and shareholder capital gains. One consequence was the worsening of the US income distribution and the concentration of income and wealth in few hands. A middle class democracy was transformed into an oligarchy. As former President Jimmy Carter recently said, the US is no longer a democracy; it is an oligarchy.

In exchange for short-term profits and in order to avoid Wall Street threats of takeovers, capitalists gave away the American economy. As manufacturing and tradeable professional skill jobs flowed out of America, real family incomes ceased to grow and declined. The US labor force participation rate fell even as economic recovery was proclaimed. Job gains were limited to lowly paid domestic services, such as retail clerks, waitresses, and bartenders, and part-time jobs replaced full-time jobs. Young people entering the work force find it increasingly difficult to establish an independent existance, with 50 percent of 25-year old Americans living at home with parents.

In an economy driven by consumer and investment spending, the absence of growth in real consumer income means an economy without economic growth. Led by Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve in the first years of the 21st century substituted a growth in consumer debt for the missing growth in consumer income in order to keep the economy moving. This could only be a short-term palliative, because the growth of consumer debt is limited by the growth of consumer income.

Another serious mistake was the repeal of financial regulation that had made capitalism functional. The New York Banks were behind this egregious error, and they used their bought-and-paid-for Texas US Senator, whom they rewarded with a 7-figure salary and bank vice chairmanship to open the floodgates to amazing debt leverage and financial fraud with the repeal of Glass-Steagall.

The repeal of Glass-Steagall destroyed the separation of commercial from investment banking. One result was the concentration of banking. Five mega-banks now dominate the American financial scene. Another result was the power that the mega-banks gained over the government of the United States. Today the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve serve only the interests of the mega-banks.

In the United States savers have had no interest on their savings in eight years. Those who saved for their retirement in order to make paltry Social Security benefits liveable have had to draw down their capital, leaving less inheritance for hard-pressed sons, grandsons, daughters and granddaughters.

Washington’s financial policy is forcing families to gradually extinguish themselves. This is “freedom and democracy “ America today.

Among the capitalist themselves and their shills among the libertarian ideologues, who are correct about the abuse of government power but less concerned with the abuse of private power, the capitalist greed that is destroying families and the economy is regarded as the road to progress. By distrusting government regulators of private misbehavior, libertarians provided the cover for the repeal of the financial regulation that made American capitalism functional. Today dysfunctional capitalism rules, thanks to greed and libertarian ideology.

With the demise of the American middle class, which becomes more obvious each day as another ladder of upward mobility is dismantled, the United States becomes a bipolar country consisting of the rich and the poor. The most obvious conclusion is that the failure of American political ledership means instability, leading to a conflict between the haves—the one percent—and the dispossessed—the 99 percent.

The failure of leadership in the United States is not limited to the political arena but is across the board. The time horizon operating in American institutions is very short term. Just as US manufacturers have harmed US demand for their products by moving abroad American jobs and the consumer income associated with the jobs, university administrations are destroying universities. As much as 75 percent of university budgets is devoted to administration. There is a proliferation of provosts, assistant provosts, deans, assistant deans, and czars for every designated infraction of political correctness.

Tenure-track jobs, the bedrock of academic freedom, are disappearing as university administrators turn to adjuncts to teach courses for a few thousand dollars. The decline in tenure-track jobs heralds a decline in enrollments in Ph.D. programs. University enrollments overall are likely to decline. The university experience is eroding at the same time that the financial return to a university education is eroding. Increasingly students graduate into an employment environment that does not produce sufficient income to service their student loans or to form independent households.

Increasingly university research is funded by the Defense Department and by commercial interests and serves those interests. Universities are losing their role as sources of societal critics and reformers. Truth itself is becoming commercialized.

The banking system, which formerly financed business, is increasingly focused on converting as much of the economy as possible into leveraged debt instruments. Even consumer spending is reduced with high credit card interest rate charges. Indebtedness is rising faster than the real production in the economy.

Historically, capitalism was justified on the grounds that it guaranteed the efficient use of society’s resources. Profits were a sign that resources were being used to maximize social welfare, and losses were a sign of inefficient resource use, which was corrected by the firm going out of business. This is no longer the case when the economic policy of a counry serves to protect financial institutions that are “too big to fail” and when profits reflect the relocation abroad of US GDP as a result of jobs offshoring. Clearly, American capitalism no longer serves society, and the worsening distribution of income and wealth prove it.

None of these serious problems will be addressed by the presidential candidates, and no party’s platform will consist of a rescue plan for America. Unbridled greed, short-term in nature, will continue to drive America into the ground.

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A recently announced Saudi-led “anti-terror” coalition was met with great skepticism recently.

This is not because of doubts over Saudi Arabia’s sincerity alone, but because of the fact that much of the terrorism the “coalition” is allegedly to fight is an intentional creation of Saudi Arabian foreign policy to begin with.

Image: Saudi Arabia, indisputably the premier state-sponsor of terrorism on Earth, and supplying the ideological “source code” carried forth by Al Qaeda and the so-called “Islamic State,” claims it wants to lead an “anti-terror coalition.” The world is reasonable to call this disingenuous at best, a ploy to continue, or even expand terrorism at worst. 

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CNN’s article, “Muslim nations form coalition to fight terror, call Islamic extremism ‘disease’,” claims:

Calling Islamic extremism a disease, Saudi Arabia has announced the formation of a coalition of 34 largely Muslim nations to fight terrorism.

“This announcement comes from the Islamic world’s vigilance in fighting this disease so it can be a partner, as a group of countries, in the fight against this disease,” Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman said.

Asked whether the new coalition could include ground forces, Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat told reporters in Paris on Tuesday that “nothing is off the table.”

In reality, decades of documented evidence reveal that the Saudis are the primary conduit through which Western cash, weapons, support, and directives flow into mercenary armies of extremists, indoctrinated by Saudi Wahhabism – a politically-motivated perversion of Islam – and sent to execute joint Western-Saudi  geopolitical ambitions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and beyond.

In fact, over the decades, one can see a direct relation to the increasing impotence of Western conventional forces and their ability to project power across the planet, and the rise of unconventional terrorist forces that reach into otherwise inaccessible regions in their stead.

Image: The seats were still warm in Riyadh where representatives from Al Qaeda affiliates fighting in Syria sat, discussing with their Saudi sponsors future collaboration as Saudi Arabia announced its “anti-terror coalition.” 

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This does more than the West’s feigned ignorance and surprise to explain why, after a year of allegedly battling the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) in Syria, the United States made little progress and only after Russia’s recent intervention, has the terrorist organization’s existence been put in jeopardy.

The rise of ISIS, turns out to be the premeditated machinations of the West and its regional partners. A Department of Intelligence Agency (DIA) report drafted in 2012 (.pdf) admitted:

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

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

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

The DIA report makes it clear that Saudi Arabia’s “coalition” is the source of all terrorism, not the solution, and that there already exists a coalition sincerely committed to exterminating the scourge of militant extremism in the MENA region – Russia, China, Iran, and of course Syria itself.

A Facade to Hide Continued Terrorism Behind 

Likely what Saudi Arabia is doing, is attempting to reboot a narrative that, as of late, is increasingly implicating it and many of the members of its “coalition” as the very source of global terrorism. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has become increasingly involved directly with military operations beyond its borders. Its forces are fighting in neighboring Yemen, and military forces from Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf neighbors have been fighting covertly and semi-covertly in operations stretching from Libya to Syria.

Creating a “coalition” to fight “terrorism,” would give the Saudis another rhetorical ploy to hide their increasingly direct role in supporting militarily the terrorist proxies they have deployed and who are now being defeated across the MENA region. Just as the US has done in Syria, using ISIS as a pretext to involve itself directly and militarily in the Syrian conflict without ever actually fighting ISIS, Saudi Arabia is seeking to create a plausible cover story to do the same.

For those interested in truly defeating terrorism globally – recognizing the state sponsors of terrorism and excluding them categorically from solving the problem until they are held responsible for creating it in the first place is essential. Saudi Arabia’s announcement was met with skepticism, even ridicule for this very reason. Second, to defeat terrorism globally, those truly interested in investing in such a battle, should do so with those demonstrating a sincere desire to eradicate this scourge.

Thanks to the US DIA, a list of nations leading the fight has already been provided.

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

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Russian air strikes had destroyed 556 militant targets in 164 combat sorties conducted since December 25. Successfully hit targets were located in Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, Hama, Homs, Damascus, Deir ez-Zor, and Raqqa provinces. The Russian air support helped the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) to stage offensives to the north and east of Latakia Province. Three significant plateaus towards Kabbani and Sirmaniyah fell into the army control.

Separately, the pro-government forces have continued successful advances in the province of Aleppo. The SAA liberated the village of Doudyan and destroyed militant outposts and supply routes in the villages of Tal Jebin, Tal Meseybeen, Shwehene, Maaret Artiq and Shimaeya. The SAA also took control of the village of Sharba.

On Dec. 27 the Iraqi Security Forces declared victory over ISIS militants in the city of Ramadi. The declaration comes after the Iraq forces encircled the city and seized the central administration complex. However, there are many pockets of militants still entrenched in various positions throughout the city. The Iraqi security forces will also have to spend significant time to clear out the remaining improvised explosive devices that infest the city.

Pentagon confirmed that militants were cleared from the government complex. But some US experts have already noted that the Ramadi’s strategic value is repeatedly overestimated. According to them, Ramadi is just one location in the contested Anbar province and the Iraqi army will face serious problems in attempts to clear nearby ISIS locations in Fallujah, Hit and areas west of Haditha. This rapidly reaction marks that Iraq made a serious step in war on ISIS. A series of such steps could increase the Iraqi security forces independence from the US-led coalition support what definitely isn’t a goal of the US political leadership.

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US-Backed Iraqi Forces Recapture Ramadi from ISIS

December 30th, 2015 by James Cogan

The Iraqi government and its prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, have announced that its troops, backed by US air strikes, have driven Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) out of Ramadi, the capital of the country’s western province of Anbar.

Abadi’s boasting on Twitter of the “liberation” of Ramadi, combined with celebrations on state media, follows months of intense bombardment by US war planes and weeks of street-to-street fighting by US armed and trained Iraqi special forces units.

US military spokesman Colonel Steven Warren revealed in a press statement that at least 630 air strikes had been launched against ISIS targets in Ramadi since July. More than 30 were carried out in the past week to support Iraqi troops as they pushed toward the main government complex in the city centre.

No official estimates have been released of either government or ISIS casualties, or the death toll among the Ramadi residents who had not fled. As few as 400 ISIS fighters were estimated to be defending the city, seeking to prevent the government advance with little more than explosives and sniper fire. Reuters was told that 93 government troops were admitted to Baghdad hospitals on Sunday alone.

The city itself is in ruin. Even the sanitised media footage shows utter devastation to blocks of residential housing. A spokesman for the government-endorsed Anbar provincial council, Eid al-Karboly, told the Washington Post: “All the infrastructure of the city has been destroyed. It will take years to return life to the city.” Karboly estimated that 80 percent of all homes are damaged to some degree.

Many of the buildings that have been destroyed in the current efforts to retake Ramadi were only rebuilt in the last seven years, after being reduced to rubble during the US occupation of Iraq.

Anbar province was one of the centres of resistance to the US invasion. Both Ramadi and Fallujah, the other major city in the province, were bloody battlefields between American troops and Iraqi insurgents on repeated occasions between 2004 and 2007. Fighting was only brought to an end by the so-called “Awakening” policy of the US military, which effectively involved buying off the tribal leaders of many of the insurgents and placing tens of thousands of resistance fighters on the US-funded Iraqi government payroll.

The growth of support for ISIS in western Iraq stemmed in large part from the decision by the Baghdad government, which is dominated by religious-based Shiite parties, to systematically reduce support for the predominantly Sunni militias in Anbar after the US withdrawal at the end of 2011. Sunni-based political parties and Anbar tribal leaders were subsequently persecuted.

Amid hostility toward the sectarian policies of the Shiite government, areas of Fallujah and Ramadi were taken over by fighters declaring allegiance to ISIS in early 2014. At the time, the actions of the extremist Sunni movement against the Baghdad regime enjoyed the tacit sympathy, if not overt support, of many of the tribal leaderships that had enlisted into the US “Awakening.” Former US-funded tribal fighters provided much of the manpower and military expertise that ISIS employed to capture most of Anbar and the key northern Iraqi city of Mosul in July 2014, where they routed tens of thousands of poorly-motivated, US-trained government troops.

The last sectors of Ramadi came under complete ISIS control in May 2015. As in Mosul, government forces retreated in disarray, provoking US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to publicly denounce the Iraqi Army for “a lack of will to fight.”

The recapture of the city appears linked to a new set of deals and pay-offs that US officials have struck with the Anbar tribal leaderships, who either have been alienated by ISIS or have concluded it is a lost cause. Daniel Byman, an American analyst of Islamic extremist movements, told the New York Timesyesterday that the Anbar tribes “want a high degree of independence, but they also want to be on the side of the winners.”

The Iraqi government has stressed that the forces used to assault Ramadi were not made up of the largely Shiite troops, some commanded by Iranian officers, which have borne the brunt of defending Baghdad and surrounding areas from ISIS over the past year. Instead, they were a combination of units that have been “retrained” over recent months by US and Australian advisors and what the Wall Street Journal described as a US-backed “thousands-strong force of local Sunni tribal fighters.”

Preparations are now underway for offensives by the same forces to seize back control of Fallujah, as well as, ultimately, Mosul and other ISIS-held towns and villages in the northern province of Nineveh.

Reports indicate that the Sunni tribal force will be handed control of Ramadi once it is fully cleared of ISIS fighters and that the Iraqi Army will withdraw. Such a policy dovetails with the widespread discussion in US and European military and strategic circles that the only way to maintain control over the oil-rich Middle East—after more than a decade of military setbacks and debacles for US policy—is the partition of Iraq and Syria into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish mini-states.

US-Israeli strategist Barak Mendelsohn bluntly headlined a comment in the November edition of Foreign Affairs magazine, “Divide and Conquer in Syria and Iraq: Why the West Should Plan for a Partition.” Mendelsohn declared that the US and the European powers should carve out an “independent Sunni state that would link Sunni-dominated territories on both sides of the border,” while leaving the Russian and Iranian-backed Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad in control of a small Shiite and Christian enclave centred on Damascus.

Other proposals include carving out the majority Kurdish-populated northern provinces of both Iraq and Syria into another statelet—a prospect that is ferociously opposed by the Turkish and Iranian governments, which fear an upsurge of separatist sentiment in their Kurdish regions.

The divisions that were fomented by the US occupation in Iraq to weaken resistance, and then to provoke civil war in Syria against the Assad government, are already responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands and forcing millions in both countries to flee their homes. The fact that American and European strategists are contemplating redrawing borders, entrenching sectarian and ethnic conflicts and, most likely, triggering new wars, is testimony to the sheer criminality of imperialist policy in the Middle East.

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Boko Haram in Nigeria: Historical and Political-Economic Exploration

December 30th, 2015 by Lawal Rafiu Adeniran

Book Title: Boko Haram in Nigeria: Historical and Political-Economic Exploration, by Kola Ibrahim, 2015

As a testament to Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilisation theory, which is also manifesting in what Mary Kaldor describes as ‘new wars’, a new dimension of conflicts has established itself in International politics. These conflicts now come in form of armed insurgency, violent secessionist, ethno-religious conflicts etc. Africa, no doubt occupies an important seat in the theatre of war.

In Nigeria, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’ Awati Wal-Jihad popularly called Boko Haram has been responsible for the death of over 14,000 people (both combatants and civilians), displacement of over 1.5 million persons, destruction and loot of properties worth billions of naira, abduction of over 220 school girls from Chibok secondary school, bombings of several high profile institutions amongst others. With the Nigerian government and their International principals bereft of any practical solution on how to curb the menace, Kola Ibrahim’s work ‘Boko Haram in Nigeria: Historical and Political-Economic Exploration’ comes to their rescue.

The book provides a scientific analysis of the causes, escalatory factors, response efforts targeted at the conflict and chart a way forward out of this seemingly hopeless state. In what appears to be a complete departure from the conventional method of analysing the conflict, he contends that any investigation into the conflict should not be done outside of the political economy of the society. In total conformity to his hypothesis, Boko Haram and other various ethno-religious terrorist groups are offspring of capitalism and imperialism, the current socioeconomic system embraced by Nigeria and their international principals and not until this system is overthrown all efforts at combating terrorism will only be tantamount to enclosing water in a basket. Even if the government manages to defeat Boko Haram under this current arrangement, it will only enthrone negative peace if the underlining causes of the conflict are not addressed.

However, it is my view that any effort at understanding the trajectory of religious fundamentalism in Nigeria should not ignore the rise and fall of the Maitatsine movement. In the same manner that Boko Haram rise was traced in scientific details to the Uthman dan Fodio Jihad, a detailed analysis of the Maitatsine movement should be done while drawing out similarities with Boko Haram. This work provides little insight into the movement. Of course, this is compensated for by the deep and detailed analyses from various angles, of the rise of terrorism, religious fundamentalism and terrorism, and Boko Haram in particular. This gives a general understanding of various strands of religious fundamentalism and terrorism, including Maitatsine movement.

Also, the use of the word tribe in describing the uniqueness of our culture and relations may not be accurate. Of course, the author used ‘tribe’ and ‘ethnic groups’ interchangeably, which may seem simple and easy to use, especially when writing for general and varied readers, it is however necessary to state that there is a serious debate on the use of tribes in Africa ethnographic analysis. In my view, tribalism is an important element in the racist ideology of colonialism and imperialism. If not what is it that make about 14 million Hausa/Fulani a tribe and less than 4 million Norwegians an ethnic group. If looked at properly, all the characteristics that qualify a group to be tagged as a tribe also existed among the colonial/European people, ethnic groups not tribe is used to describe them. Therefore, tribalism, as much as it is not used to describe western ethnography should not be used in Africa.

Irrespective of these few observations, the book passes as a reference and important library material for understanding our society, even beyond the Boko Haram terrorism or global terrorism. The book utilized various tools to analyzing terrorism and the rise of Boko Haram. Starting with the philosophical, historical and sociological analysis of religion and the tendency of violent and fundamentalist trends developing religions, the book gave a brilliant insight into understanding religious terrorism.

Terrorism is not only a feature in Nigeria; therefore, the effort of the writer in analyzing terrorism from a global perspective gives a better understanding of the rise of religious terrorism in Nigeria in recent times. The role of capitalist geopolitics and imperialism in the rise of religious terrorism and especially Boko Haram is well documented and explained in Chapter 3 of the book.

Furthermore, a deep analysis of the rise of radical religious consciousness in the northern Nigeria, tracing it to the Usman dan Fodio jihad campaign also helps to understand the sociology and historical background to rise of various religious tendencies in the north, and the role of various actors. The book also did a political-economic analysis of Nigeria from the colonial period to the current period. This understanding is necessary in order to understand how Nigeria’s political economy provides the background to radical religious consciousness and the use of religion for political purposes.

The book also looks at the immediate causes of the rise of Boko Haram tendency especially since the beginning of civil rule in 1999 in Nigeria. It explains the role of the political actors and the Nigerian state in providing the breeding ground for the rise of Boko Haram. Furthermore, the military terror against the group, mirroring the neo-colonial and repressive nature of capitalist armed forces, is a refreshing and vivid angle to understanding the rise of Boko Haram tendency.

The book, in conclusion, just like it has provided the clues in the two articles of the Introduction, gave various proposals to the working class, labour movement and civil society in defeating the ogre of terrorism in Nigeria on a permanent basis.

By and large, in a period when scholars in terrorism studies are lost on whether terrorism could ever be abolished or defeated from our society, whether negotiations and mediations, or the killing of the leaders of terrorist organisations could save the world from its self-made mess, Kola Ibrahim brings to spotlight once again that for Boko Haram and global terrorism to be defeated on a permanent basis, we must first of all defeat capitalism. This can only be done when workers take over their unions and rebuild on democratic, anti-capitalist and revolutionary basis. Only a revolutionary socialist government that will put the commanding heights of the economy under workers control can guarantee positive and lasting peace.

I therefore recommend this classic book to students, researchers, policy makers, journalists, politicians and all those who seek alternate narrative and crave for a deeper understanding of Boko Haram, global terrorism and its relationship with capitalism beyond the current peripheral analysis found in literature.

Lawal Rafiu Adeniran, M.A Peace and Conflict Studies, Ibadan, Nigeria.

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Image: USS Stethem

An apparent trend in many navies of the world today is the fielding of multi-purpose vessels along the lines of the traditional LHD platform, but with added capabilities. It appears that in an age of increasingly asymmetrical warfare or limited conflict, both highly modernized and developing navies are acquiring these vessels. These multi-use vessels are being built to provide their nations a power projection capability that is well suited to the likely asymmetrical nature of modern conflict. These vessels can respond quickly to both natural and man-made disasters, providing peace keeping troops, relief supplies, hospital facilities, water purification and helicopter rescue and evacuation. They can also respond quickly to a localized military threat, bringing a significant fighting force to bear in a short interval of time.

In an age of increased state sponsored terrorism these vessels can act as effective offshore command and control stations for anti-terrorism operations. They can accommodate and facilitate the insertion of special operations forces both via air and sea. They can support special operations teams once in the field with air support, up to date reconnaissance, logistical support, and emergency extraction in short duration. In light of the flexibility inherent in these vessels and the power projection capabilities they possess they are a force multiplier in a modern conflict.

Written by Brian Kalman and Igor Pejic exclusively for SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence. 

Introduction

The many varied nations of the world that have maritime borders operate navies of equally varied composition and capability. From the imperial monolith of the United States to the small island nation of the Philippines or Taiwan, all such nations must maintain navies to ensure their defense, access to trade, relief in events of natural and manmade disaster and to protect their national interests. Regional powers such as India, China and Japan have different security interests and strategies, and their naval composition and capabilities reflect these realities.

China and India are growing in influence and are accordingly investing in modernizing their navies in order to protect expanding interests and to facilitate power projection capabilities. Russia finds itself in similar circumstances, and has spent decades rebuilding a viable and capable naval arm that more apply reflects its proud naval heritage. Japan has found that it must increasingly rely more on itself to ensure its defense in a region of potential adversaries that possess increasingly more capable navies and ballistic missile forces. The offensive military strategies of both the United States and NATO are fueling the decision of many nations to start new building programs, whether they are allied with these institutions or are their targets. China and Russia are reacting to an ever more obvious strategy to contain and control their national growth.

The past fifteen years has seen the United States and its allies engage in numerous military invasions and interventions in the Middle East. All of these operations have utilized strike aircraft, special operations forces and armed and unarmed UAVs as force multipliers. These force multipliers have allowed for successful prosecution of offensive operations while reducing the conventional military forces required, as well as reduced the duration of operations. The success of such operations in localized, low-intensity conflicts is especially evident. Warships that can provide a platform to transport and support small, combined arms units of strike aircraft, helicopter assault or amphibious assault infantry or marines, special operations units, and reconnaissance and attack UAVs are seen as an essential tool in prosecuting the low intensity conflicts of the future.

It is quite evident with minimal research to find that every nation with a significant naval footprint in the world is investing in new multirole vessels. These vessels come in a number of different forms and can be built to particular specifications. The military operations of the past decade and a half are influencing the naval strategy of many nations with the backdrop of two major geo-political centers of tension: the South China Sea and Syria. Conflict or future conflict in these areas will require the forces engaged to utilize these new and flexible tools of power projection in order to prevail.

The Multirole Naval Platform

There are a number of different designs that fit into the category of the Multirole Naval Platform (MRNP). Some of these designs optimize flexibility and provide a balance of command and control, strike aircraft, air and amphibious assault, or cargo space while others are designed to maximize the effect of only one or two of these capabilities. For example, the Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) is very flexible, with helicopter and amphibious assault capabilities, ample cargo space and medical facilities for Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations and even accommodation of VSTOL strike aircraft. The Helicopter Dock Destroyer (DDH) is aviation-centric, with no amphibious capability. More space is allotted to aircraft and the fuel and armaments they require. The Landing Platform Dock (LPD) is a smaller version of the LHD in many respects, being under 20,000 tons displacement. These vessels are a good alternative to the LHD when the nation lacks the operational or economic ability to maintain the larger LHD, or the vessels will most likely be operating in shallower or more confined waterways. Greater speed and smaller size (stealth) are also benefits of this design. The Landing Ship Tank (LST) is designed to transport and land a combination of infantry and tanks or other heavy vehicles. They may also possess a small number of aircraft for reconnaissance, support and air assault.

Landing Helicopter Dock LHD

The LHD is the most balanced, and thus flexible of all of the MRNP designs. The LHD is the largest design, requiring the dimensions and space to accommodate a large number of aircraft, troops, light and heavy vehicles, cargo and amphibious assault craft. As a result, the displacement of these vessels is usually between 25,000 and 40,000 tons. A good examples of an LHD are the HMAS Canberra L02, USS Wasp LHD1 and SPS Juan Carlos I L61.

Juan Carlos I LHD

Juan Carlos I LHD

These vessels have to be large enough to accommodate the following features:

  • Large flight deck to allow helicopter assault operations and or humanitarian support/evacuation.
  • Large internal aircraft hangar deck.
  • Heavy/light vehicle deck. Often doubles as a cargo deck.
  • Floodable well deck for the launching and recovery of landing craft, LCACS and/or amphibious vehicles.
  • Accommodation and facilities for between 500 and 2,000 troops.
  • Hospital facilities.

Landing Platform Dock

The LPD is a well-balanced multirole vessel; however, on a smaller scale than the LHD. It has comparable flexibility, but at a much smaller scale it lacks the power projection capability of the LHD. It has a small aircraft component, a smaller troop carrying capacity, and less long term self-sustainability. They are designed to provide more amphibious capability than air assault. It is of smaller dimension and displacement than the LHD, coming in at between 8,000 and 20,000 tons. Although their smaller size limits the scope of their operations, they gain the benefit of being able to operate more easily in littoral waters and are less costly to build and maintain. They have a shallower draft and smaller dimensions that lend to them being more suited to more constricted coastal waterways.

San Antonio Class LPD

San Antonio Class LPD

The vessels of the LPD pattern possess the following characteristics:

  • A flight deck that allows for limited helicopter assault and or humanitarian support/evacuation.
  • Small internal hangar deck.
  • Heavy/light vehicle deck.
  • Floodable Well deck for the launching and recovery of landing craft and LCACs.
  • Accommodation and facilities for between 200 and 1,000 troops.
  • Hospital facilities.

Helicopter Dock Destroyer

The DDH is a relatively new adaptation of the MRNP. The DDH abandons all amphibious capabilities in favor of aircraft assault and aerial strike capability. The only two nations to build and operate DDHs are the United States and Japan. The JMSDF operates three DDHs currently, with a fourth vessel to enter operation in 2016. The United States has only one DDH, the USS America with another the USS Tripoli slated to be commissioned in 2018, if construction and sea trials go according to plan. Although the USS America and USS Tripoli are designated LHAs, they lack the amphibious capabilities of all other LHAs before them and should not be categorized as such. The displacement of a DDH ranges between 19,000 and 46,000 tons.

The Japanese DDHs lack a well deck and all space that would be devoted to amphibious equipment is utilized to support helicopter operations. These vessels act as command vessels in the JMSDF Escort Fleet Flotillas, are loaded with ASW helicopters and other ASW countermeasures along with a full complement of helicopter assault troops. The larger Izumo class DDHs have a large enough flight deck and internal hangar space to equip them with fixed-wing VSTOL aircraft, most likely the F-35B, if so decided in the future. The smaller Hyugaclass DDHs have both been used in HADR operations over the past few years in response to an earthquake and a major hurricane, where their helicopter support and evacuation capability proved of benefit.

Rendering of America Class LHA equipped with F-35B VSTOL strike aircraft

Rendering of America Class LHA equipped with F-35B VSTOL strike aircraft

The notable characteristics of the DDH are as follows:

  • Very large flight deck that can accommodate medium and heavy helicopters and VSTOL strike aircraft and UAVs.
  • Large internal hangar decks to service aircraft.
  • Accommodation and facilities for between 300 and 1700 troops.
  • Hospital facilities.

The USS America LHA6 has proven to be a controversial topic amongst the US Navy and Marine Corps. Many see the vessel as a small aircraft carrier and do not see the need for such a vessel for the USMC. The USMC’s traditional role as an amphibious force should not be abandoned, and the flexibility exhibited by the force of LHAs and LPDs already operated by the force offer far more flexibility to USMC expeditionary forces than theAmerica Class vessels. Why remove a tool from your toolbox? The USMC has traditionally relied on the US Navy to provide aerial strike capability when so required, and the US Navy has ten aircraft carrier strike groups in service. It has largely been accepted that the USS Tripoli LHA7 will be the last vessel in this class to lack a well deck, with all other vessels in class being redesigned to allow for amphibious operations.

Landing Ship Tank

While traditionally designed to be beached bow-first to discharge tanks and heavy combat vehicles, the LST design has matured to allow for discharge via bow ramp or well deck like the LHA and LPD. Although not really an MRNP due to the limits in its capabilities, more modern LSTs share more in common with the LPD or LHD than in the past. The Navy of the Republic of Korea operates 4 modern LSTs with bow ramps of the Go Jun Bong class, and is currently in the second phase of LST development (LST-II), having designed more capable ships. These vessels usually carry a mixture of tanks, AAVs, and small landing craft as well as support vehicles along with 200 to 300 marines. These vessels lack helicopter assault capability, with only a small helicopter deck fitted.

The JMSDF operates three LSTs; however, their design is more akin to an LPD or LHD, having a stern well deck that houses two LCACs for transporting tanks (up to 10 Type 10 MBTs), vehicles and troops ashore. The Osumiclass vessels also can carry up to eight helicopters for transporting troops or for support and evacuation in HADR operations. Funds have recently been allocated to study the feasibility of refitting these vessels with V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and AAV7s for amphibious assault.

ROK Navy Seong In Bong LST685 discharging a K1 MBT

ROK Navy Seong In Bong LST685 discharging a K1 MBT

The LST is usually close in size and displacement to the LPD, though slightly smaller. The bow-ramp LST has a very shallow draft in comparison to its size, due to the requirement to beach the vessel bow-first in order to discharge vehicles. Displacement ranges between 4,000 and 14,000 tons. The characteristics of the LST include:

  • A large bow ramp for discharging tanks, vehicles and troops while beached or a well deck for launching amphibious forces and tanks via LCAC or landing craft.
  • Limited aircraft capability.
  • Ability to carry approximately 10 to 12 MBTs and other vehicles.
  • Accommodation and facilities for between 250 and 1,000 troops.
  • Limited hospital facilities.

Naval Arms Race in Asia and the Mediterranean

It is obvious to see the benefits of the MRNP with their inherent flexibility, humanitarian support and power projection capabilities. Such vessels would be of benefit to any nation with an extensive maritime border. The benefits are obvious, but why are so many vessels now being built in such a short span of time? These naval building programs are being driven by geo-political developments in two main regions of the globe, the Mediterranean and the Asia-Pacific. This is in direct relation to the wars of regime-change and disruption in the Middle East and the U.S. “Pivot to Asia” and the disputes over contested areas in the East and South China Seas.

When identifying the driving cause, a common denominator is the hegemonic foreign policy of the United States. The wars of regime change that wrought chaos in Iraq, Libya, Egypt and now Yemen and Syria were all spearheaded by the United States and NATO. The result of these operations has been failed states and humanitarian catastrophe for those nations targeted. Syria has been laid waste by a Wahhabist invasion that was created by Saudi Arabia and their emirate allies in conjunction with the United States. The threat of direct military intervention in Syria by the United States in 2014, turned the Mediterranean into the largest possible naval battle ground in recent times.

Nations building/acquiring MRNPs in the Europe/Mediterranean:

France: 3

  • 3 x Mistral Class LHDs built between 2004 and 2012.

Spain: 3

  • 1 x Juan Carlos I Class LHD, 2 x Galicia Class LPDs built by Navantia recently acquired (2010 to present).

Russia: 2 (planned)

  • 2 x Mistral Class LHDs built by France and sold to Egypt. Sold to Egypt in 2015. Now seeking 2 x LHDs of indigenous design and manufacture.

Turkey: 1

  • Building 1 x LPD based on Juan Carlos I Class of Spanish shipbuilder Navantia starting 2015.

Egypt: 2

  • Recent purchase of 2 x Mistral Class LHDs from France in 2015.

In East and Southeast Asia the reality of a resurgent China, a nation that can trace its civilization back for over five thousand years, has been met with open hostility on the part of the United States. Apparently, the U.S. government believes that China should be allowed to expand its economic power, but not its military ability or geo-political influence. In an attempt to hamper Chinese expansion in these areas, the United States has decided to aid China’s potential adversaries at every turn. Nations such as Vietnam and the Philippines, wary of any Chinese expansion in the South China Sea and with equal claims to islands and oils and gas fields there, have been on the receiving end of U.S. support and even military assistance.

Nations in Asia building/acquiring MRSVs:

India: 1 (of 4)

  • Acquired 1 x Austin Class LPD from the U.S. in 2007. Plan to acquire a total of 4 x LPDs of a new design by 2020.

China: 4 (of 12)

  • 4 x Type 071 Class LPD built between 2007 and 2015, with 2 more being constructed. Plans to build 6 x LHDs have been in the works since 2005.

Japan: 7

  • 2 x Hyuga Class DDH and 2 x Izumi Class DDH built between 2006 and the present. 3 x Osumi Class LST built between 1998 and 2003.

South Korea: 1 (of 2)

  • 2 x Dokdo Class Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH) built between 2007 and the present. The second in class planned to handle VSTOL strike aircraft. A newer LPX design is also in the planning stage.

Indonesia: 4

  • 4 x Makassar Class LPD built between 2007 and 2011.

Philippines: 2 (of 4?)

  • 2 x LPD being built on the Makassar Class pattern in Indonesia. Delivery planned between 2016 and 2017. The Philippine Navy may decide on a total complement of 4 such vessels.

United States: 30 (of 34)

  • This includes 9 x San Antonio Class LPDs built of a planned 12 total vessels between 2006 and the present, as well as 1 x America Class LHA built of a planned 2 total vessels between 2015 and the present.

(It is important to note that the United States is building more new MRNPs than any other nation in this analysis by a wide margin. These new vessels will be added to the older class of LHDs and LSDs that were built and commissioned between 1985 and 2002.)

Geopolitical Flashpoints

There are a number of territorial disputes in the South China Sea between China and a number of other nations. These disputes are ostensibly matters of exerting sovereignty over historical territories; however, the likely presence of oil and natural gas and highly prized fishing rights are of far greater importance. The same issues are at the root of the dispute between China and Japan over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands.

The war in Syria that has claimed over 250,000 lives and devastated arguably the last secular nation in the Middle East, is another volatile geo-political flash point that has absorbed the efforts of most nations in the Middle East, Russia, the United States and many NATO member states. This is also a conflict centered determining what nations control the flow of oil and natural gas, in this case from the Middle East into Europe, as well as cornering that market as a whole.

The current conflict in Yemen started out as an internal one until Saudi Arabia decided to intervene on the side of the deposed Hadi administration. The Saudis refuse to allow a non-Sunni power friendly to Iran to exist in the region, especially one located on their rebellious southern border region. This conflict has continued to escalate, with numerous allies to Saudi Arabia engaging in airstrikes and naval shelling of the Houthi controlled areas of the country.

The Senkaku Islands

The sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands, known as the Daioyu Islands in China, has been in dispute for centuries. China claims that the islands were their territory centuries before they were illegally annexed by Japan at the conclusion of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894. Japan asserts that the islands were ceded to Japan as part of the ceding of Taiwan “in perpetuity” at the conclusion of the war. Japan surrendered Taiwan to the Chinese Nationalists at the conclusion of World War II, who ended up retreating to the Island at the end of the Chinese Civil War and establishing the Republic of China.

The Senkaku Islands remained in limbo as far as their ownership was concerned, until the government of Japan reasserted sovereignty when they purchased three of the islands from a private Japanese citizen in 2012, effectively legally nationalizing them. China responded by creating a new air-defense identification zone over the islands the following year. Japan upped the ante by forming the Amphibious Preparatory Unit (APU) of 700 men (to be expanded to 3,000), a force of marines that could be dispatched by air or sea to respond to any attempts to occupy the islands. The two nations have sent military aircraft over the islands, and Chinese civilian and auxiliary/research vessels have spared with Japanese Coast Guard vessels in the islands’ waters. China sent an armed vessel to the waters of the Senkakus for the first time in late December of 2015, resulting in a formal diplomatic complaint from Japan.

Senkaku-Islands-detail

Senkaku Islands detail

It is easy to see how Japan’s new DDHs and LSTs could be utilized in responding to further moves by the Chinese to exert their sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands. The new APU could be deployed to the islands in short order aboard either an Osumi class LST or Hyuga or Izumo class DDH acting as part of one of four Escort Fleet Flotillas. The large DDHs could be equipped with VSTOL F-35B in such a theoretical future conflict over the islands. China would likely use any number of the six Type 071 LPDs in a fleet of escorting warships to occupy the islands and force the issue. It is; however, unlikely that China would attempt to settle the issue militarily before the larger LHDs it has planned for the PLAN come into service in 2020.

South China Sea Disputes

A detailed explanation of the many interlaced territorial disputes in the South China Sea by all the nations involved is beyond the scope of this analysis. There are two main areas of contention: the sovereignty of the entire South China Sea and its legal status as an international waterway for purposes of uninhibited trade, and the sovereignty of particular island chains and shoals. It is theorized that a great deal of oil and natural gas are in abundance under the seabed in many of these disputed areas. Oil and gas exploration and drilling has been underway for a number of years now, most notably in waters south of Vietnam/north of Malaysia and in waters north of Brunei. In pressing its claims of sovereignty China went as far as anchoring an oil exploration rig within the EEZ of Vietnam in May of 2014. Vietnam has a conflicting claim to much of the South China Sea, including the Spratley and Paracel Islands. Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines also have disputed claims in the area .China has taken the unprecedented decision to construct man-made islands at three locations in the Spratly Islands as well as construction in the Paracel Islands and Scarborough Shoal.

China most likely started dredging and land reclamation on the first of three man-made islands in the Spratleys sometime in 2011 or 2012. Construction efforts have steadily picked up pace since 2014 and the small reefs and atolls have morphed into artificial islands of thousands of acres in size. China has been building airstrips and port facilities on Fiery Cross Reef, and both Subi and Mischief Reef are undergoing major reclamation. In addition, China is building a fuel depot on Woody Island in the Paracels. China has fought naval skirmishes with Vietnam over control of the Paracel Islands on two separate occasions, one in 1974 and another in 1988.  China has also constructed military outposts in Scarborough Shoal which is also claimed by the Philippines, the islands clearly located within that nations EEZ.

South China Sea conflicting claims

South China Sea conflicting claims

China submitted a formal claim to the United Nations to virtually the entire South China Sea in 2009, which was rejected by that body as it does not comply with established international law governing the establishment of territorial waters. All nations with conflicting claims protested, along with the United States and Indonesia who hold no claims. The building of artificial islands is obviously either an attempt by China to press their claim by occupying and utilizing these islands, or to militarily exert control over the South China Sea as their long term goal. In order to protect these holdings and to react to any threat from prospective adversaries, a navy equipped with LPDs and LHAs is essential. China undoubtedly had this in mind when it started building six LPDs of the Type071 class and designing the new LHAs. The new LHAs are comparable to the Canberra or Mistral class, but are said to be much larger in size, with a displacement approaching 40,000 tons.

The Philippine Navy has received military aid from both Australia and the United States in the face of greater Chinese resolve to solidify their claims. Australia has donated two fully refurbished Balikpapan Class heavy landing craft (LHC) to the Philippine Navy while the U.S. has announced plans to donate two vessels, a decommissioned USCG cutter and a research vessel. Two LPDs based on the Indonesian PT PAL built Makassar are already under construction and should be delivered between 2016 and 2017.

Makassar Class LPD Banda Aceh LPD593.

Makassar Class LPD Banda Aceh LPD593.

It is easy to imagine a future conflict in the South China Sea where all major parties to the conflict will benefit from utilizing newly acquired MRNPs. Vessels that can land marines or assault troops via landing craft or AAVs complete with armored support, combined with air assault elements and that can provide aircraft to provide ground attack and air superiority cover to the attack force are a tool that both China and those aligned with the United States in this dispute have decided they must have. Any asymmetrical warfare that might take place could be commanded and coordinated from LHAs or LPDs. Special forces can operate from these platforms with insertion and extraction by sea or air, with reconnaissance support from the advanced sensors and information systems onboard as well as from UAVs launched and recovered from their flight decks. If a military confrontation happens, whether a result of miscalculation or by design, these new vessels will likely play a large part. As the United States ratchets up pressure in continuous “freedom of navigation” missions with armed warships and strategic bomber forces, the Chinese will be forced to either respond in kind or back down. Hopefully, statesmanship and compromise will prevail.

Chinese Type 071 LPD underway

Chinese Type 071 LPD underway

The War in Syria

The war that has raged in Syria for 5 years now has taken a decisive turn since Russia started its air campaign to aid the Syrian Arab Army in its fight to regain the initiative in the war and destroy the mostly foreign Wahhabist elements fighting the state on behalf of foreign interests. Russia is undoubtedly aiding a longtime ally in a time of desperate need, as well as ensuring its own defense in the long run. Russia has been fighting equally unsavory and illegitimate Wahhabist forces in its own Caucasus republics, and it is reasonable to believe that those forces fighting in Syria, if victorious would turn their sights north toward Russia. They would find willing allies in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE (all of which are funding and aiding the various terrorist groups fighting against the Syrian state) and Russia cannot allow this to come to pass.

A very defined delineation of adversaries has begun to emerge in this conflict in the form of three distinct blocks. One side is made up of those forces that aim to reestablish the legitimate sovereign state of Syria. They also aim to establish a mutually beneficial logistical route of oil and natural gas transport through their nations to the European market. These nations are Syria, Iraq, Iran and Russia. Russia, most importantly seeks to maintain balance.

Combat-radius(airbase+navy)

On another side there are the nations that aim to overthrow the government of Syria and render the nation impotent and malleable to their wishes. They hope to be able to control the groups that they have armed and funded to overthrow the legitimate government in Syria, so that after the war they can leverage beneficial oil and natural gas transit contracts that will allow them to control the transport of oil and natural gas from the Middle East to Europe, while cutting out Iran and Iraq, and undercutting Russian prices. These nations are Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

The third side is comprised of nations that hope to continue the destabilization of the entire region to the detriment of Russia and Iran. They would rather see the Saudi alliance gain control of oil and natural gas transit to Europe than the Syria-Iraq-Iran alliance. This forces Russia and Iran to invest resources into fighting regional conflicts, while they continue to militarily surround them and fund internal forces to destabilize them. This side is composed of the United States and NATO.

The Case of the Russian Mistrals

Although the much hyped reason that France reneged on the contract to deliver two Mistral Class LHDs, theVladivostok and the Sevastopol, to Russia was the Russian “invasion” of the Ukraine and the “annexation” of the Crimea. Although the invasion and annexation were the fantasy creation of a concerted western media and White House propaganda campaign, they were just a convenient cover for the real reason that the Mistralscould not be delivered to Russia. The true reason was a very possible, and by September of 2015, real Russian intervention in Syria.

The United States and NATO, at times in coordination with the Saudi Arabia/Gulf emirate alliance, had been deeply invested in the overthrow of the Syrian government since the start of conflict in 2011. Turkey, also a member of NATO, is deeply involved in the conflict for a number of reasons, and due to its geographical location stands the most to lose from a Russian intervention. It became apparent when Russia responded to a very possible direct military intervention by the United States and NATO in 2013 by moving a large number of warships into the Mediterranean, that it wasn’t just the U.S. that had a red line that could not be crossed. Russia was ready for war, but fortunately Russia was able to broker a deal to exchange Syrian chemical weapons for de-escalation. The U.S. administration should have understood at this juncture that Russia would not allow the Syrian government to be overthrown by an unlawful military campaign. If Russia was to intervene as a collapse of the Syrian government seemed likely, the addition of two Mistral Class LHDs to their naval assets could not be tolerated.

Naval variant Ka-52 Alligator landing on Mistral Class LHD during trials

Naval variant Ka-52 Alligator landing on Mistral Class LHD during trials

It is arguable that at least one of the Mistrals, the Vladivostok would be available to take part in Russia’s current operations in Syria. The crew had been training for over a year in preparation for its commissioning in 2014. This vessel would have been a great asset positioned off the Syrian coast, being able to respond to support the airbase in Lattakia or to deliver ground attack support and troop transportation along the entire Syrian coast. It could act as a powerful joint naval/land force command ship and could support aerial operations with a force of reconnaissance UAVs. If need be, Russian marines and Spetsnaz could also deploy from this floating base of operations. It would have been a force multiplier in the region, and would definitely have influenced any calculus on the part of Turkey. It could also have been position in the Black Sea or close to the Bosporus to influence the decision making of the Erdogan regime or to react to any Turkish provocations.

Russia is determined to acquire LHDs or LPDs for the Russian Navy. It has announced with the cancellation of the Mistral deal that it will be asking indigenous ship builders to provide the government with designs for a similar platform to meet the needs of the Ministry of Defense (MoD). It is interesting to note that Turkey signed a contract in May of 2015 with Navantia of Spain to build an LPD based on the Juan Carlos I LHD design. This is the same design that was used as the basis of the Royal Australian Navies newly commissioned HMAS Canberra and soon to be commissioned HMAS Adelaide. Apparently, Turkey will be receiving one of these modern power projection vessels before Russia does. Russia lost a valuable head start when they decided to trust France to honor a basic contract. Apparently two centuries of peaceful relations between the two nations after the defeat of Napoleon mean little to the French leadership of today.

The Yemen Conflict and the Indian Ocean

It appeared, with the overthrow of an illegitimate ruler who gained office in an election where there was only one candidate that Yemen was moving towards stability, after a period of civil war and terrorism. Not long after the forces of the Houthi and Saleh aligned factions forced the Saudi aligned Abd Radduh Mansur Hadi to flee the country in February of 2015, the Saudi Arabian Airforce started bombing the impoverished country. It was clear that Saudi Arabia would not tolerate a predominantly Shia Houthi movement that shares good relations with Iran to take control of the nation that is on their disputed southern border. A coalition of nations under the leadership of Saudi Arabia has since been formed partly due to Saudi inability to prevail militarily and partly to add an air of legitimacy to the illegal Saudi invasion. The Houthis have been able to hold roughly a third of the country, with the other two thirds are controlled by the Hadi government and Ansar-al Sharia and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). It is interesting to note that the Saudi-proxy terrorist groups have flourished in Yemen since Saudi Arabia started their campaign.

It was announced in September of 2015, that the two Mistral Class LHDs that were denied to Russia were purchased by Egypt. Egypt is a member of the Arab League sanctioned coalition that is engaged in the conflict in Yemen and currently has air and naval assets engaged. It remains to be seen if the conflict will see the use of the two LHDs at some future date. With the Saudi led coalition making little headway in the conflict, even with the aid of terrorist bombings by their allies in Ansar al-Sharia and AQAP, there may be time remaining to the Egyptian Navy to take delivery of the vessels, train the vessel crew and Ka-52 air crews and add these powerful vessels to the naval assets already engaged in the conflict.

Yemen-conflict

It is important to note that the entire Indian Ocean is growing in strategic importance in light of developments over the past three decades. India is positioned between a volatile Arabian Peninsula and Horn of Africa to the west and a traditional enemy in Pakistan and an ever increasingly assertive China to the east. India has wisely responded by modernizing its aircraft carrier force with the acquisition of a Soviet Era Kiev Class aircraft carrier, which was heavily modified and commissioned into the Indian Navy as the INS Vikramaditya in 2013. The INS Viraat, a former British Centaur Class aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, is also in service, but is slated to be replaced by the indigenously designed and built INS Vikrant by 2018. INS Vikrant will commence sea trials this coming year. The Indian Navy has called for proposals for its Multirole Support Vessel (MRSV) project, and has specified an LHD design of between 20,000 and 27,000 ton displacement. It appears that Navantia is the leading contender to win the contract; however the DCNS designed Mistral 140 concept, at a much smaller displacement of 14,000 tons may be a contender.

Conclusions

The world is currently faced with a number of regional conflicts that could easily and regrettably become conflicts of global proportion. Nations as small and as economically limited as the Philippines to the military juggernaut that is the United States, have moved in recent years to acquire vessels that allow them flexibility, power projection capability, and asymmetrical warfare options in an ever increasingly complex geo-political landscape. From the Middle East to East and Southeast Asia to the Indian Ocean, the world is challenged by conflicts that defy international law regardless of the claims of the perpetrators. All of these conflicts have been decades in the making.

As the nations on every side of these conflicts plan their strategy, both diplomatically and militarily, one fact stands out loud and clear. They have all either acquired or are in the process of acquiring multirole naval platforms such as the LHD,LPD,LHA or DDH to empower their navies and to provide more options to diplomats, military planners and warfighters to stay one step ahead in an ever changing geo-political landscape. These vessels are not game-changers on their own, but when employed as a component of a modern naval force, they provide an added power projection capability and a host of options to naval strategic planners. They are a force multiplier in 21st century naval warfare.

It remains to be seen how the current conflicts and disputes will be resolved by all of the assorted stakeholders. The fact that these vessels are being added to the naval inventories of many of the real or potential belligerents of these conflicts and disputes carries the probability that they will be used in the future. All we can do is hope that their inherent power and capabilities will work as a deterrent to conflict and war, and that they will one day be looked on in awe as a tool ultimately left sheathed, while intimidatingly ensuring peace.

Brian Kalman is a management professional in the marine transportation industry. He was an officer in the US Navy for eleven years. He currently resides and works in the Caribbean.

Igor Pejic graduated Political Science Foreign Affairs Department at the Faculty of Political Science and now he is a postgraduate student on the MA Terrorism, Security and Organised Crime at the University of Belgrade, Serbia.

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Part 1 of 3. Read part 2 and part 3.

Despite the end of NATO combat operations in December 2014, US drones continued to launch strikes in Afghanistan throughout 2015 as part of its (ahem) non-combat mission. British drones departed Afghanistan for the Middle-East with Adrian Chiles giving us an inside view of RAF Waddington, home of British drone operations. Meanwhile, in a classic example of having your cake and eating it, defence companies are now unashamedly marketing anti-drone devices to protect us from the drones that they are selling. With all the money sloshing around the industry, it’s perhaps no wonder that the ASTRAEA programme was denied further government funding.

purple-alphabet-letter-b2015 saw the publication of a number of excellent new books examining the technology, politics and ethics of the growing use of armed drones.  Also expanding are the number of US drone bases around the globe, with Africa being a particular focus (recent reports also suggest Suffolk in the UK is to be the site of a new US drone operations centre). Pakistan surprisingly joined the armed drone users club in 2015 with its Burraq drone launching strikes in North Waziristan.  Less surprising perhaps is the fact that despite all the media hype, Britain’s Brimstone missile has yet to be integrated onto British drones.

cCivilian casualties from drone and air strikes in Iraq and Syria are mostly invisible in mainstream media reports, yet casualty recorders like Airwars report they are growing week by week. The use of civilian contractors to maintain US military drone programs came under the spotlight in a TBIJ investigation this year – and is likely to increase with the push to increase Combat Air Patrols.  In the UK, project Claire  (CiviL Airspace Integration for RPAS in Europe) took a worrying step forward with the first flight of a military drone in unsegregated civil airspace.

dMore British drones deployed to the Middle East for operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria at the beginning of the year. Despite calls for greater openness and transparency, the number of British drones in use against ISIS is officially asecret (but Shhh! the Defence Secretary seemed to have forgot when he told the French press that all ten are in operation).  David Cameron committed to again double the UK’s armed drone fleet (after doubling the number in operation in 2014) as part of the strategic defence and security review.  David Davis took over as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones and initiated an important debate around the use of drones for targeted killing. The UK’s Cross Government Working Group on drones promised a public dialogue on drones which so far at least, has been neither public nor a dialogue.

e-a-zThe debate on whether the growing use of armed drones is an effective means of creating peace and security continued throughout the year with the rancorous TV debate between Glen Greenwald and Christine Fair being an extreme example. A US government report meanwhile found that the use of Reaper drones by US Homeland Security to protect US borders had been largely ineffective.  Enrique Iglesias needed surgery on his hand after grabbing a drone during a concert in May, one of numerous reports of injuries from civil drones.  At the end of the year Germany announced that it was taking over the leadership of the European combat drone development programme.

FFunding for drone development and operations seems limitless despite on-going spending cuts in the UK and the US.  Leaders from different faith communities spoke out against the use of drones for targeted killing with leaders writing a joint letter to President Obama and Congressional leaders.  Despite the ‘pinpoint precision’ of drone strikes, there have been a number of reported friendly firedeaths from strikes in Iraq during 2015.  Meanwhile the organisers of theFarnborough air show are keen to have a Reaper or Global Hawk drone take part in the flying display next year to “help people get comfortable with the idea” of drones.  Chances of either the drones flying, or the public being comforted, are slim to non-existent.

GA new report from Corporate Watch detailed the impact of Israeli drones in Gaza – an issue that gets little attention from most drone watchers – while Israeli security services began to use surveillance drones to monitor protests in the West Bank.  We learnt this year that RAF pilots are lent as a gift of services to the USAF in order to operate US armed drones, while leaked documents suggested GCHQ also gifting intelligence to the US for its drone strikes.  Google’s attempts to steal Amazon’s thunder ended in tears as its massive solar-powered drone crashed shortly after take-off.

letter_hThe USAF’s main drone training centre, Holloman AFB in New Mexico, is to undergoing a dramatic expansion in 2016 to match the ever expanded need for drone pilots.  21-year old British hacker Junaid Hussain was killed in a US drone strike in Syria in August 2015, one of ten Britons killed in such strikes according to TBIJ figures.  After president Obama apologised and promised an investigation into the deaths of two western hostages in a US drone strike, a coalition of human rights groups urged the same treatment for all civilian victims of US drone strikes.

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New York: Christmas Eve in The City That Never Sleeps?

December 30th, 2015 by Barbara Nimri Aziz

The city that never sleeps? Well, this Christmas eve New York is defying that moniker.

Although the metropolis may awaken after midnight, it’s presently deserted. Park and Fifth Avenues twinkle on through the evening while their residents abandon streets and highways, malls and markets, parks and bike lanes to join family and friends indoors, even on this warm winter night. Up and down the wide avenues of Manhattan millions of miniature lights still sparkle, embracing tree trunks and reaching through invisible, naked branches. Dazzling decorations that lured shoppers are now but shadows behind dimmed window panes. Curbside parking space is plentiful; taxi drivers have burrowed their cars in suburban garages; fruit vendors, the only merchants in sight, are shuttering their vans.

I pass Symphony Space with its marquee in darkness. Starbucks at 95th is lifeless; although I see lights on atMcDonalds on 96th.  Their coffee maker is off; and those employees chatting inside must be waiting to be paid their bonus. (Does McD give Christmas bonuses?). One working mother guarding McD’s door against any new customers unapologetically announces that she’s heading home early today.

Forget any last minute stocking stuffer, a bottle of perfume, chocolates, or wine. Shoppers had their chance; now workers deserve some respite. Do I detect an uncharacteristic respect for workers’ family needs this night? “We’re closed”, whispers a silent Wall Street. For one evening and a day, this mercilessly capitalist center succumbs to ‘tradition’, if not religious conviction.

I don’t remember New York streets as vacant like at 9 pm today. Broadway in lockdown! South Asian cooks in masala bars, Japanese sushi roll wrappers, and Afghan taxi drivers all bend to America’s Christmas (if not Christian) tradition and depart for distant lodgings. No quick pickups from cheap Chinese fast food joints or the Halal shawarma street-carts tonight.

After finishing my radio special after 7 o’clock, I head towards Brooklyn’s Schermerhorn subway station. The streets have emptied. Seeing a handsome brightly lit store selling fresh produce, juices, and organic cereals, I step inside for some bulgar wheat—$8.00. a pound!– but I’m unlikely to find it anywhere else tonight. Four attendants hover in the aisles with no one to serve. (Are they too awaiting their yearend bonus?)

At least the A train to Manhattan is still running and I board a near empty car. Beside me, a groggy fellow, in laborer’s clothes is either drugged or he drank too much at his company party; he teeters beside me all the way out of Brooklyn, then finally stretches himself out over five empty seats as we tunnel towards Manhattan. Three other passengers across from me emit the ambience that identifies ‘tourist’ to any native New Yorker. They’re conversing in French, as are two casually dressed men seated nearby. I spot a young woman an orange hijab browsing through her phone: intense, but not French.

That’s it. What a reversal of mood since I traveled on this very route only 6 hours earlier! Then, subway platforms on the A-Line were not only jammed with commuters; they thrummed with seasonal music proffered by a variety of ‘holiday’ entertainers who know we’re especially generous these days. A cacophony of sound behind me stirs my curiosity and, walking along the platform, I find its source– a man plucking a guitar and stomping his tambourine-wrapped foot while mouthing some unrecognizable tune. Awful. Yet a surprising number of people stop to photograph his pitiful drama. The man’s disharmony is surely a ploy to draw us to his ‘stage’, a presentation as crude as his music and unarguably below NYC’s street-music standards.

There in front of him, and us, five foot-high dolls are perched, each dressed in a colorful bra and skirt. Electrically animated by the man’s vigorous foot slapping, they shake and shimmy, while on a shelf above them, three furry toys– a rabbit, a bear and a monkey– twirl. “Oh look!” squeals a young mother, parking her baby in its stroller. Calling two older children towards the display, the enthusiastically snaps a photo. (Her daughters are less impressed.) Meanwhile passing travelers drop dollar bills into a bowl at the man’s elbow. Others raise their phone cameras towards the makeshift stage, then move on.

I step into the next train to join workers and shoppers heading to Brooklyn. The train car is crowded but four tall men somehow make their way among us, three wearing red Santa caps, followed by one shaking a small brown bag at us. The singers start with “Jingle Bells”, then shift to “Silent Night” in the genre of African American gospel music. I can’t find any singles when I reach into my purse, but the fellow handling the quartet’s ‘donations’ rushes to assist me. Seeing my $10. note, he smiles: “I can give you change”, and reaches into his own sack to help me out. Am I to announce my contribution, divided by four, to the whole train? The carolers, waiting, are into a second verse of Silent Night. An awkward moment.  How can I ask for change? So I drop my tenner into the proffered bag forthwith and murmur a blessing to his “Merry Christmas” thankyou.

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News of the death of prominent anti-Assad commander (or ‘terrorist,’ ‘rebel,’ ‘opposition commander,’ etc.) Zahran Alloush has the potential to radically alter the nature of the war in Syria. 

Considering Alloush and other senior members of the leadership of the Salafist militant group Jaish al-Islam were killed in a major airstrike carried out by the Syrian air force, there is undoubtedly going to be a transformation on the ground as initiative on the battlefield, particularly in Southern Syria, shifts still further to the Syrian Arab Army and its allies.

With Alloush out of the picture and, based on reports coming from sources inside the opposition, significant disarray at the uppermost echelons of leadership of the barely cohesive “Islamic Army,” it seems clear that the Syrian government is likely to move in to reestablish control of Douma, Ghouta, and other rebel-held suburbs of Damascus.

However, while many international observers lament the loss of this “iron-fisted leader” less than a month ahead of planned peace talks set to take place in late January 2016, nearly all analyses of this development have failed (deliberately omitted?) to elucidate just what the rebel groups under his command were doing in Ghouta and Douma, the nature of the ongoing war within the war between the Syrian military and the factions in control of these key suburbs, and the propaganda about the key strategic corridor and the events that have taken place there, including the infamous “Douma market attack” of August 2015 (which I debunked here).

By examining the wealth of information about Alloush, his ideology, his organization, and their activities in the rebel stronghold suburbs of Damascus, it becomes clear that the airstrike that ultimately killed him and many of his Salafist comrades did far more than simply kill a leader of an important rebel group.  Rather, this was a monumental, and perhaps mortal, blow to an entire segment of the rebel-terrorist coalition fighting against the Syrian government and people.

Zahran Alloush: Reality vs Perception

In the days since Alloush’s death there have been, rather predictably, numerous articles written about the assassination, nearly all of which portray Alloush as something of a ‘moderate,’ a man who by the sheer force of his personality and will led an armed faction which stood as “defenders of the true revolution” in their steadfast opposition to both Assad and the Islamic State.  One could be forgiven for thinking that Alloush was a patriot doing his part to defend Syria from the Islamic State and the brutal dictatorTM rather than a vicious Salafist who committed countless war crimes against the Syrian people, among others.

Take for instance the New York Times, writing just hours after the assassination was announced:

Mr. Alloush led the Army of Islam, a group that had recently agreed to participate in a political process seeking to end the five-year-old conflict…Analysts said the strikes were in keeping with longstanding efforts by the Syrian government and its allies to eliminate groups claiming to occupy a middle ground between Mr. Assad and the Islamic State. The efforts are part of a broader objective to improve Mr. Assad’s standing among Western governments, which despise him but also see the Islamic State as an increasing menace.

Consider the implication of the phrase “groups claiming to occupy a middle ground between Mr. Assad and the Islamic State.”  While this is classic corporate media faux-objectivity, the reality is that this is cleverly constructed misinformation designed to validate and legitimize an absolutely discredited notion, namely that there is a significant difference between the ideology of Alloush’s organization and that of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).  Indeed, the NYT here is unsurprisingly bolstering official Washington’s line that the US must support “moderate opposition” which, in the subtext of that phrase, is everyone who is not ISIS/ISIL.  But real experts on Syria recognize that this is merely political window-dressing, that in fact the difference between Jaish al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate), and the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is just words; these organizations compete for influence and control, but do not truly differ ideologically.

Joshua Landis, Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost experts on Syria, suffers no such delusions about Alloush.  In December 2013, Landis wrote:

Zahran Alloush’s rhetoric and propaganda videos provide much insight into his world view, attitude toward Syria’s religious minorities, and vision for Syria’s future. The difference between his ideology and that of al-Qaida groups is not profound. Rather, it is one of shades of grey. [The video linked in the article] is an anti-Shiite tirade and “bring-back-the-Umayyad-Empire” propaganda piece. It shows how sectarian Alloush is. He refers to Shiites, and reduces the Nusayris into this grouping, as “Majous”, or crypto-Iranians…  Here it is an Islamic term of abuse meant to suggest that Alawites and Iranians not only have the wrong religion but also the wrong ethnicity—they are not Arabs, but crypto-Iranians…[This] demonstrates how demonized the Alawites are in the propaganda of the new Islamic Front.  Zahran calls for cleansing Damascus of all Shiites and Nusayris… On hearing this sort of talk from the leaders of the revolution, Alawites and other non-Sunni sects worry that their struggle is a fight for their very existence [emphasis added].

This video and the language of Alloush demonstrates [sic] how difficult it is to draw a clear line between the ideology of the Islamic Front and that of the al-Qaida groups [emphasis added]. They both embrace foreign jihadists and encourage them to come Syria to join the fight. They both call for the resurrection of an Islamic Empire and they both look back to the Golden Age of Islam for the principles upon which the new state will be founded. Their political philosophy and blue print for the future is largely based on a similar reading of Islamic history and the Qur’an.

Some analysts try to draw a clear line between al-Qaida and the Islamic Front, insisting that the former support changing Syria’s borders and seek to establish a Caliphate while the latter are Syrian Nationalists. Unfortunately, this distinction is not evident in their rhetoric. Both idealize Islamic Empire, both reject democracy and embrace what they call shari’a, both welcome jihadists from the “Islamic Umma,” both fly the black flag of Islam rather than the Syrian flag as their predominant emblem. The Islamic Front is dominated by Syrians who do have clear parochial interests, whereas ISIS is run by an Iraqi. Foreigners play a dominate role in its command, but this is not so with the Islamic Front. All the same, their ideologies overlap in significant ways.

Landis, well known as a fierce critic of Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian Government, here removes the mask from Alloush and quickly debunks and thoroughly discredits any attempts to manufacture moderation in the figure of Alloush.  Far from being one of the mythical “moderates” that Obama & Co. are always prattling on about, Alloush is unmistakably a jihadist of the first order, one whose ideology, as Landis correctly noted, is not at all different from that of Al Qaeda and ISIS/ISIL.  Indeed, this is only further confirmed in this video where, as Landis points out, Alloush:

“goes to some lengths to explain that his relationship with Nusra [al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria] is one of brotherhood with only superficial ideological differences that can be settled with shari’a and discussions. This supports my argument that the ideological differences between the Front and al-Qaida are not deep.”

Of course, rhetorical flourishes aside, the question of actual crimes committed by Alloush and his jihadi comrades is critical to examine.  In late 2014 and early 2015, Alloush commanded Jaish al-Islam to fire rockets indiscriminately onto Damascus, a blatant war crime.  Many Syrians were killed in these attacks.   It is important to note that while the pro-rebel media outlets would make an equivalence between such attacks and the infamous “barrel bombs” of the Syrian Arab Army, the reality is that these are simply not comparable.  The aerial offensives carried out by Syria’s air force have targeted rebel strongholds with clear military and strategic targets, while the Jaish al-Islam rocket attacks were fired at civilians without any specific targeting.  This is not to say one has to sanction the SAA’s tactics, just to understand the difference between them and those used by the rebels.

Whether one wants to use this to absolve Assad and the Government of blame or not, the inescapable fact is that bombardment by the military was never indiscriminate.  By contrast, the purpose of Alloush’s bombardment of Damascus was solely to inflict terror on the population of Syria’s capital, and to take revenge for attacks carried out by the Syrian armed forces.  Charles Lister, a vehemently anti-Assad analyst with the Brookings Doha Center, noted in a tweet that referenced an announcement by Alloush via twitter, that “Jaish al-Islam has begun a massive mortar & Grad rocket attack on central #Damascus, to ‘cleanse the capital.’”  Indeed, the use of the word “cleanse” is instructive as it illustrates the attitude and ideology of Alloush as it is practiced on the battlefield.  His desire to ethnically cleanse Syria was never mere rhetoric.  Any way you slice it, Alloush and Jaish al-Islam committed this act that constitutes a war crime.

Interestingly, Alloush’s ideological and rhetorical brotherhood with the Nusra Front translated into on-the-ground collaboration, particularly at the infamous massacre in the Damascus suburb of Adra.  While pseudo-alternative media propagandists such as James Miller at The Intercept callously claimed that no massacre occurred at Adra, instead claiming that RT and other non-Western media that reported it were simply spreading disinformation, Miller and his ilk’s attempts to cover up what truly happened fell flat.

Award-winning journalist Patrick Cockburn, writing in the UK Independent on February 9, 2014, painted a chilling portrait of the horrors of the Mhala family and others in Adra.  Cockburn wrote:

Accounts of what happened to the rest of the population of Adra are confused. I spoke to some of the 5,000 refugees who had been allowed to leave by Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic Front on 30 December and some of whom are now squatting in a giant cement factory. They said the jihadis had ordered them to their basements and had kept them there. The number singled out for execution is put at between 32 and 80. There are accounts of the doctor in the local clinic, a Christian known locally as Dr George, being decapitated. Bakery workers who resisted their machinery being taken away were roasted in their own oven. Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic Front fighters went from house to house with a list of names and none of those taken away then has been [sic] since. This includes the head of the legal department at the Information Ministry who disappeared with his wife and daughter and whose phone is now being answered by a man saying he belongs to Jabat al-Nusra.

It is critical to note the close collaboration here between Nusra and the Islamic Front, the coalition in which Alloush’s Jaish al-Islam is a founding member and plays a central role.   A resident of Adra, the wife of a doctor in town, explained that,

“The armed men were non-Syrians. We lived terrible days, before we could escape with only the clothes that we wore…We woke up at dawn with the sound of bullets… we saw men carrying black flags of Jaish al-Islam and Jabhat al-Nusra. Some of them were singing ‘Alawites we have come to cut off your heads’ song, and this was the song they first sang at the start of the war in Idlib.”

Such egregious war crimes and crimes against humanity are par for the course for Jaish al-Islam.  In early November 2015, just weeks before Alloush was finally killed, Jaish al-Islam made international headlines after parading caged civilians through the streets of Ghouta, with cages of women being placed atop the organization’s headquarters and other key buildings to act as human shields against possible Syrian or Russian airstrikes.

According to the corporate media’s own darling, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (the one-man anti-Assad operation run by Rami Abdel Rahman which has become the primary source for much of the western media’s reporting on Syria), Jaish al-Islam “spread cages over several areas and squares in the Eastern Ghouta putting inside them regime forces’ officers, soldiers and their families.”   Despite the attempt by SOHR to soft-peddle the war crime by characterizing the victims as “regime forces and their families,” the obvious barbarity of such an act is not lost on any genuine political observer.  Such actions certainly go a long way toward debunking the spurious assertion that Alloush and Jaish al-Islam (or Alloush’s original group Liwa al-Islam) are anything that could be described as “moderate.”

Their terrorist credentials are further bolstered by the dastardly role they played in the chemical weapons attack, and subsequent attempts to derail the dismantling of the chemical weapons stockpile by the Syrian Government.  Even if one were to dispute the very provocative alleged video evidence (herehere, and here with excellent, balanced analysis here) of Alloush’s Liwa al-Islam (his organization before consolidation as Jaish al-Islam) there are clear and unmistakable connections between Alloush and the entire chemical weapons saga in Syria.

According to military and strategic analyst, and retired Brigadier General, Ali Maqsoud, the Liwa al-Islam forces arrayed in Jobar included “the so-called ‘Chemical Weapons Front’ led by Zahran Alloush [the supreme leader of Liwaa al-Islam]. That group possesses primitive chemical weapons smuggled from al-Qaida in Iraq to Jobar, in the vicinity of Damascus…[they used]rockets [which] were manufactured domestically to carry chemicals. They were launched from an area controlled by Liwaa al-Islam.”

Maqsoud’s analysis was substantiated by a comprehensive report released in January 2014 (more than four months after the incident), by former UN weapons inspector Richard Lloyd and Prof. Theodore Postol of MIT which effectively debunked the claims of the US government (along with Human Rights Watch and a number of other organizations) that the Syrian military carried out the attack.  The Lloyd/Postol report showed definitively that US intelligence and conclusions regarding the incident were grossly inaccurate. The report, entitled Possible Implications of Faulty US Technical Intelligence in the Damascus Nerve Agent Attack of August 21, 2013, notes that:

The Syrian improvised chemical munitions that were used in the August 21 nerve agent attack in Damascus have a range of about 2km…[The evidence] indicates that these munitions could not possibly have been fired at East Ghouta from the ‘heart’, or from the eastern edge, of the Syrian Government-controlled area shown in the intelligence map published by the White House on August 30, 2013…The UN independent assessment of the range of the chemical munitions is in exact agreement with our finding.

In other words, Lloyd and Postol confirmed with their findings that the chemical attack of August 21, 2013, which almost led to a direct US military intervention, was carried out from area controlled by Alloush and Liwa al-Islam.  This is further substantiated in Pulitzer Prize winner Seymour Hersh’s infamous April 2014 exposé The Red Line and the Rat Line which noted that:

The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons… Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing…[which] drew on classified intelligence from numerous agencies: ‘Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators,’ it said, ‘were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large-scale production effort in Syria.’

Naturally, this must be seen in connection with the now well established fact that Alloush is essentially an agent of Saudi Arabia.  Without funding and support from Riyadh, Alloush’s organization would never have even gotten off the ground at the outbreak of the war in Syria in early 2011. Christof Lehmann of nsnbc wrote in October 2013 that:

Several commanders of al-Qaeda brigades in Syria have stated that Zahran Alloush receives his orders directly from Saudi Intelligence. Russian diplomatic sources stated… that people of many different political observances have provided information to Russian diplomats.  Statements to the effect that Zahran Alloush receives his orders directly from the Saudi Intelligence are corroborated by the fact that both Alloush and the Liwa-al-Islam are financed by the Saudi Interior Ministry. The group was literally established with Saudi money after Alloush was released from prison in 2011 [just weeks before the first unrest in Syria began].  According to international law, this fact alone is sufficient to designate Alloush and the Liwa-al-Islam as Saudi mercenaries.

There was an obvious direct line between Riyadh and Ghouta with Alloush and his organization.  That line has now been permanently severed with his death and those of other key figures of the organization.  This will have major implications for the future of the war in Syria, especially with the beginning of a peace process coming at the end of January 2016, less than four weeks from the time of publication.

Part Two of this article will focus on the implications of Alloush’s elimination for the future of this war.  How will this major setback for the rebel/terrorist factions impact any negotiations?  How will it affect the military situation on the ground?  The article will also attempt to place into a broader narrative the “war within the war” between the Syrian military and the Alloush-led rebel groups in the Damascus suburbs.

For now, one thing is certain: this assassination marks a major turning point in this bloody, nearly five year old war.

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In last week’s review of the Russian military intervention in Syria I wrote that Kerry had lost every single negotiation he ever had with the Russians and that he had a record of agreeing to A only to come back to the US and then declare non-A. This time again, the Americans did not change their modus operandi, except that it was Obama himself who declared, yet again, that Assad must go, resulting in some commentators speaking of a “White House Schizophrenia”. Others, however, noted that this could be simply a case of face saving denials. Personally, I think that both of these explanations are correct.

There is no doubt that Obama is an exceptionally weak, and even clueless, President. The man has proven to have no vision, no understanding of international relations, his culture is minimal while his arrogance appears to be infinite – he is all about form over substance. This is the ideal mix to win a Presidential election in the USA, but once in the White House this is also a recipe for disaster.

When such a non-entity is placed at the top of the Executive branch of government, the different part of government do not get a clear message of what the policy is and, as a result, they each begin doing their own thing without worrying too much about what the POTUS has to say. The recent article by Sy Hersh “Military to Military” is a good illustration of that phenomenon. Being weak and lacking vision (or even understanding) Obama’s main concern is conceal his limitations and he therefore falls back on the oldest of political tricks: he tells his audience whatever it wants to hear. Exactly the sames goes for Kerry too. Both of these man will say one thing to the Russian rulers or during an interview with a Russian journalist, and the exact opposite to an American reporter. That kind of “schizophrenia” is perfectly normal, especially in the USA.

Christmas celebration in the streets of Latakia, Syria. Credit: The Saker.

Christmas celebration in the streets of Latakia, Syria. Credit: The Saker.

To use the expression coined by Chris Hedges, the USA is an “Empire of Illusion”. The US society has an apparently infinite tolerance for the fake as long as the fake looks vaguely similar to the real thing. This is true on all levels, ranging from the food Americans eat, to the way they entertain themselves, to the politicians they elect and to the putative invincibility of the armed forces their taxes pay for. It is all one gigantic lie, but who cares as long as it is a fun, emotionally reassuring lie. In the Syrian context, this ability to ignore reality results in the support of terrorism in the name democracy, the conduct of an “anti-Daesh” campaign which results in Daesh dramatically increase its territory, the accusation that Assad used chemical weapons and now the “Assad can stay but he must go” policy. This ability to completely decouple rhetoric and reality can sometimes have a positive side-effect. For example, even if this week saw a Zag! From the US Administration in terms of rhetoric, this does not necessarily mean that the USA will continue to attempt to overthrow Assad. The opposite is also true, however. The fact that the US has said that Assad can stay in no way implies that the US will stop trying to overthrow him.

The bottom line is this: yes, there was definitely a Zag! this week, but only time will tell how much of a zag we are dealing with.

In this context I highly recommend the recent article by Alexander Mercouris entitled “Russian diplomacy achieved a trio of Security Council Resolutions over the last month which give Russia a decisive advantage” in which he explains how Russia has achieved victory after victory at the UN Security Council. What is important here is that with each of these Russian-sponsored Resolutions the number of available options for the USA are gradually reduced.

Another factor also reducing the US options are all the tactical successes of the Syrian military whose progress is slow, but steady. The intensive pace of Russian airstrikes is having an effect on Daesh and the Syrians are slowly advancing on all fronts. There has been no Daesh collapse yet, but if the Syrians continue to advance as they have done so far their offensive will eventually reach a critical point when the quantity of their small (tactical) victories will end up triggering a qualitative (operational) reaction and Daesh will begin to collapse. Of course, the Daesh fighters will have the option of finding safety in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and elsewhere, but the psychological impact of a Daesh defeat in Syria will be huge.

So far there are no signs of a possible Turkish invasion of northern Syria, no signs that anybody is still thinking about imposing a no-fly zone, and besides the murder of Samir Kuntar in an Israeli airstrike (which I discussed here), it appears that the S-400s are achieving the desired deterrent effect.

In other words, while US leaders have their heads stuck deep up into their own delusions, the events on the ground are slowly but steadily reinforcing the Russian position and vindicating Russia’s stance.

In the meantime, the Syrian Christians who follow the Gregorian Calendar are celebrating Christmas in the streets of Latakia in a clear sign that a multi-confessional Syria still exists and has a future.

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US Military to Expand Global Operations in 2016

December 30th, 2015 by Thomas Gaist

The year 2015 will be remembered as a year of expanding global warfare and militarism. It began with discussions of the possibility of “total war” against Russia over the Ukraine crisis, saw new provocations against China in the South China Sea, and draws to a close amid the escalation of the US and European war in Iraq and Syria and the spread of conflict to Yemen, Libya and other parts of Africa.

The imperialist powers are determined to make 2016 an even bloodier and more dangerous year. Germany and Japan are openly remilitarizing, as their governments seek to whitewash and rationalize the crimes of the World War II era. All of the imperialist powers have seized on the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino to place their populations and economies on a war footing.

The most dangerous factor is the US drive for global domination. The United States has its hands in virtually every country, employing drone assassinations, Special Forces operations and a network of military bases and agreements aimed at establishing unchallenged military domination over the planet, along with cyberspace and outer space.

More plans are afoot. Washington is preparing to expand its global basing system through the addition of a “larger network envisioned by the Pentagon,” which will include at least four new Special Forces hubs and numerous new “spoke” bases, according to a New York Times article published Monday.

The commando network will be centered on Eurasia and Africa but will be global in scope, according to Pentagon officials. Among the new bases will be a permanent establishment in Afghanistan, which will function as “a hub for Special Operations troops and intelligence operatives throughout Central and South Asia.”

The record of the US special units, which have emerged as the spearhead of the so-called “war on terror” since 2001, makes clear the murderous nature of the escalating commando war. US Special Forces have been granted a general license to carry out violence and mayhem in every part of the world with total disregard for international law. Thousands of US commandos are already operating in between 85 and 130 countries worldwide, according to varying estimates by US media sources.

The enlarged Special Forces network is only one element of a broader strategic escalation by Washington. US weapons manufacturers are collaborating with the government to channel an expanding war chest of arms to allied governments and proxy forces, with American weapons sales surging in recent years. In 2014, total US arms sales jumped by $10 billion to a total of $35 billion, giving US corporations control over 50 percent of the world weapons market, according to a congressional report released last week.

The intensified drive for a redivision affects every region of the world.

Europe

Washington is pre-positioning military equipment and deploying conventional forces and military “advisors” and trainers throughout Europe in preparation for war against Russia.

The US Army plans to double the number of tanks it has deployed to Europe, sending another full armored brigade to the continent, accompanied by infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons as well as an additional full Army division dedicated to joint operations with NATO and European militaries.

In Ukraine, US Army forces are training five battalions of active-duty forces and US Special Forces are partnering with the Ukrainian military to develop Ukraine commando units.

Asia Pacific

South Korea, a country that has been tapped to serve as a staging area for US war preparations against China, was the leading importer of US arms in 2014, purchasing nearly $8 billion worth of American-made weaponry.

In December, the Obama administration approved the sale of $1.8 billion worth of weapons to Taiwan, including warships previously used by the US Navy and several advanced missile systems. The sale was the first weapons transfer to Taiwan in years and was clearly intended as a provocation against Beijing.

In the Pacific, the US Army’s “Pacific Pathways” program is coordinating joint operations with Asia-Pacific militaries. In the course of 2015, the program saw the US conduct joint drills with units from Australia, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Mongolia, South Korea and Thailand.

Middle East

Leading purchasers of US weapons in 2014 included the ultra-reactionary regimes of Saudi Arabia, which purchased $4 billion worth of TOW missiles, and Qatar, which purchased $9.8 billion worth of US arms. Qatar has been a major backer of Islamist forces in Syria in the US-backed civil war against Assad.

The US has spearheaded a new imperialist carve-up of the entire region, with Britain, France and Germany piling into the wars in Iraq and Syria toward the end of 2015 and Saudi Arabia leading a US-backed war in Yemen.

Africa

Total arms sales to Africa—particularly in the oil-rich regions—increased by 50 percent between 2010 and 2014 over the previous five-year period. Cameroon and Nigeria, which are collaborating with the growing US intervention in West Africa in the name of the “fight against Boko Haram,” were among the leading importers of weapons. Preparations are underway to relaunch military operations in Libya, already devastated by the US-NATO war that overthrew and murdered Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Cyber and outer space

Even cyberspace and outer space are not exempt from the US-led militarization drive. In November, the US was one of only four countries to vote against a United Nations resolution, “No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space,” which was supported by more than 120 member states. In a presentation earlier this year, US Undersecretary of Defense Robert Work outlined Pentagon plans to deploy a range of space weapons, which Work claimed are necessary to ensure military dominance over Russia.

***

The experience of the Obama administration has underscored the impossibility of opposing imperialist war outside of a struggle against the capitalist system and all of its political representatives. Having won office in 2008 as an antiwar candidate, presenting himself as an opponent of the war in Iraq and an antidote to the militarism of the Bush administration, President Obama has presided over an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, wars for regime change in Libya and Syria, and a new war in Iraq.

Obama’s talk about ending the war in Afghanistan has been exposed by his decision to keep thousands of US troops in the country and the plans to establish permanent US bases there. All of his pledges of “no ground troops” or “boots on the ground” in Iraq and Syria have been exposed as lies.

The divisions that exist within the US ruling elite and the state over foreign and military policy concern the focus and methods of US efforts to dominate the territory and resources of the world, with the Obama White House arguing for a concentration on the struggle against China and his opponents demanding a larger commitment of troops and weapons to turn the Middle East into a de facto US colony. But there is no “peace faction” within the corporate and political establishment, or either of the two big-business parties.

One side of the global crisis is the slide toward a new world war. The other is the development of revolutionary struggles by the working class. Vast resources are allocated to destruction and war, while growing sections of the US population are pushed into poverty and forced to struggle for basic necessities such as housing, education, nutrition and health care.

The struggle against war can be conducted only on the basis of the independent mobilization of the working class in the US and internationally against imperialism on the basis of a socialist and internationalist revolutionary program.

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