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‘No War With Syria’ rallies happening this Saturday August 31, worldwide

The following notice has been posted all over the internet, please help to pass the word along.

Here’s the plan of action to oppose the illegal and unconstitutional war with Syria:

We are launching a global rally on Saturday August 31st in every city and town in the world.

Here’s how you get involved

siria-guerraGo to the FB search bar and search for ‘No War With Syria Rally (your city)’.

Join the event, invite ALL of your friends to join it as well, then get involved with the locals that are already in the event page to help them any way you can.

If there is no event page made for your location yet, please make one. Here’s how:

-Simply click on your event tab from your FB homepage.

-Click create an event.

-Name the event ‘No War With Syria Rally (your city)’.

-make sure you set the privacy to public so other people can find it when they search for it.

-Pick a central and relevant location and start time for your area (please make it on Saturday August 31st).

-Invite ALL of your friends and encourage everyone else to invite their friends as well and do whatever else you can to let people know about the rally.

-Try to get some volunteers together to make banners to do some canvassing on Friday the night before your rally. Make signs.

-Pass out flyers in the days leading up to your rally.

-Contact other activist groups in your area for help.

-contact local media and let them know about your rally. Focus on independent journalists in your area.

-Set up a hashtag for your march and use it on FB, Twitter, and Instagram.

-The rest is up to your discretion to handle locally.

The time to change the world and stop the war is now. Share this information with anyone and everyone you know, thousands of innocent lives depend on it.

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

Court Rejects KBR’s Attempt to Avoid Trial for Human Trafficking

By Steven Watt | ACLU | August 26, 2013

A federal court in Texas struck a blow last week to contractor KBR’s attempt to thwart efforts to hold it accountable for labor trafficking in Iraq. After a review of the evidence, the court ordered that a case charging the former Halliburton subsidiary with human trafficking and forced labor proceed to trial.

The case, Ramchandra Adhikari v. Daoud & Partners, is brought by 12 Nepali men under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) against KBR and its Jordanian subcontractor, Daoud & Partners, for their participation in the trafficking and forced labor scheme. The ACLU and Yale Law School’s Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Law clinic filed an amicus brief in support of the men.

As part of the scheme, the men were duped into working on U.S. military bases in Iraq after being falsely promised lucrative employment in hotels and restaurants in relatively safe countries in the Middle East. En route to the military base – on a dangerous highway with no security – the convoy in which the men were traveling, along with dozens of others in identical predicaments, was attacked by Iraqi insurgents. Eleven of the men in the convoy were later executed, their deaths broadcast on television. The survivor made it to the base but was refused permission to return home for another 15 months.

As the ACLU has documented in Victims of Complacency, while the fate of the men may be unique, the scheme of which they were a part was sadly all too common at the time. Since 2003, similar labor trafficking schemes resulted in thousands of foreign workers (known as Third Country Nationals or “TCNs”) being hired to work on U.S. government contracts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

In an attempt to avoid accountability, KBR sought the dismissal of the case, arguing that the 12 Nepali men had not been subjected to labor trafficking and that regardless, it is shielded from liability under the TVPA. The judge rejected this argument, correctly ruling that the evidence presented:

[S]hows that each man was deceived about his promised job; each man was promised a hotel-related job in Jordan; each man’s family took on significant debt in order to pay recruitment fees; when the men arrived in Jordan, they were subject to threats and harm; their passports were confiscated; and the men were locked into a compound and threatened.

The case can now proceed to trial, bringing the families of the 11 victims, along with the one survivor, an important step closer to holding their traffickers accountable. It is our hope that this trial, along with new regulations against the trafficking and forced labor of persons serving under government contracts, will help end modern-day slavery on government overseas contracts once and for all.

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Deception | , , , , | Leave a comment

Palestinian schools in Jerusalem offered money to switch to Israeli curriculum

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Al-Akhbar | August 28, 2013

Several Palestinian schools in Jerusalem will incorporate Israeli educational material in their curriculum after receiving financial incentives from Israeli officials, Ma’an news agency reported on Wednesday.

An education official told Ma’an that the Israeli municipality in Jerusalem had offered increased salaries for teachers and principals who implement Israeli course material in the classes, bringing an estimated $550 for each student enrolled in schools agreeing to the switch.

Some Palestinian and Israeli school principals and teachers met in Tel Aviv last week to discuss the change, the official added.

Jerusalem’s director of education Samir Jibril said at least five Palestinian schools in Jerusalem will switch from Palestinian Authority to Israeli education plans at certain grade levels.

“This step is very dangerous and touches the awareness of Palestinians in Jerusalem in an effort to brainwash them and control them, especially young generations,” a teacher identifying only as Jibril told Ma’an.

The Israeli curriculum purportedly includes maps marking the West Bank as part of Israel and identifying territories by their Jewish Biblical names.

The history material also identifies Jerusalem as the capital of Israel despite the fact that the United Nations and most states do not recognize Israel’s claim on the city.

The apartheid wall in the West Bank is also referred to as Israel’s security fence, and Israel is described as a bastion of human rights and democracy.

Another section depicts a conversation between Arab students who praise Israel’s development of Palestinian cities and decide to sing the Israeli national anthem.

(Al-Akhbar, Ma’an)

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Guardian of What?: The Media and War Propaganda

By Jeremy Salt | Palestine Chronicle | August 28, 2013

If there is any comfort in how the Guardian has been reporting the Middle East, especially Libya and Syria, it is that many of its readers, judging from their remarks in ‘Comment is Free’, do not appear to believe or trust it.

The Guardian sells itself as the global beacon of liberal opinion. It is liberal on social issues and alongside the chatterers, it has some excellent political correspondents and commentators, notably Gary Younge and Seamas Milne. As liberals themselves, its readers around the world must think they are on safe ground when quoting from the Guardian but if so, where the Middle East is concerned, they are deluding themselves.

Throughout the crisis in Syria the Guardian has been not so much reporting the conflict as running a propaganda campaign against the government in Damascus, to the benefit of the armed Islamist groups and the outside governments sponsoring them. The wellsprings of its ‘reporting’ have been the unsubstantiated claims of ‘activists’ no matter how wild and improbable. Without any evidence it is now accusing the Syrian government of being responsible for the alleged nerve gas/chemical weapons attack in the Ghouta district around Damascus. The far greater likelihood that the armed groups were responsible for this atrocity scarcely rates a mention. Building on the unsubstantiated claim that it was the Syrian military, Martin Chulov argues in favor of another one, that it was Bashir’s brother Maher who was personally responsible (the same accusation is being made by the Israeli intelligence propaganda outlet Debkafile, from which Chulov may well have taken his lead). This is how propaganda works. Once set in motion it just needs a push to keep it rolling.

Buttressing its editorial and reports, Fawaz Gerges is given space to claim that it is up to the Syrian government to prove that it was not responsible for this atrocity. This is nonsense: if the Syrian government was not responsible for this atrocity, how can it prove what it did not do, especially when anything it says will be dismissed out of hand by the mainstream media and the governments arming, financing and training the ‘rebels’? The onus of proof lies on those making the accusations, and so far neither the Guardian nor the anti-Assad campaigning Kim Sengupta of the Independent (where Robert Fisk has provided balance with some reports giving the perspective of the Syrian government) nor William Hague nor anyone else making this accusation has produced a scrap of evidence that this attack was carried out by the Syrian military.

Probability points in the direction of the armed groups. The ‘rebels’ are known to have acquired stocks of sarin. They used a chemical weapons compound in their home-made missile attack on a military outpost at Khan al Assal in March that killed dozens of soldiers and civilians. (1) In May this year Carla del Ponte, a member of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria said investigators had evidence that the ‘rebels’ had used sarin gas. (2) In May also Turkish police seized sarin gas along with hand guns, grenades, ammunition and unspecified ‘documents’ from apartments where Jabhat al Nusra members were living in Adana and Mersin. (3) Early in June the Syrian military seized two barrels of sarin gas from a ‘rebel’ hideout in Hama. (4)

On top of all this the armed groups have filmed themselves experimenting with chemical weapons on rabbits. As they have slaughtered thousands of civilians in the most barbaric fashion there is no argument that moral considerations would prevent them from taking this further atrocious step – and it is they who have every reason to take it. They are being ground down across the country and at this stage only direct military intervention is going to save them and save the project to destroy the Syrian government. It is a measure of the desperation of their outside sponsors that Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief, was recently in Moscow with an offer from his government to buy $15 billion worth of Russian arms if Russia would just allow the passage of a UN Security Council resolution authorizing a military attack on Syria. Putin said no, and what a coincidence it is that a short time later there is a mass atrocity that gives the western-led collective the pretext it wants to attack Syria without a UNSC resolution behind them.

Clearing positions held by the armed groups a few days after the apparent nerve gas/chemical weapons attack, Syrian soldiers found stocks of chemicals, gas masks, syringes and anti-neurotoxin drugs in tunnels at Jobar, one of the three districts on the outskirts of Damascus, along with Ain Tarma and Zamalka, targeted in the attack. Several soldiers were taken to hospital in critical condition. The official Syrian news agency English-language news site, SANA ran photos of cylinders of chemicals and other material, including syringes, produced by the ‘Qatar-German Company for Pharmaceutical Industries’. There is no company of this name but there is a company called Qatar-German Medical Devices whose QG logo can be seen on a box found in the tunnel marked ‘Flow I.V. Cannula’. The army also found a basement stocked with quantities of chemical agents manufactured in Saudi Arabia and a number of European countries. The material included equipment for making chemical weapons and anti-neurotoxins in case the armed men poisoned themselves.

The discovery of this material was followed by the Medecins Sans Frontieres statement that three of the hospitals it supports in the Damascus governorate had received 3,600 patients displaying neuro-toxic symptoms in three hours on the morning of August 21, of which number 355 had died. While MSF cannot say who was responsible for this atrocity, its statement highlights the complete improbability of the Syrian government carrying out a mass chemical weapons/nerve gas attack on civilians in suburbs only a few kilometers from the center of Damascus, shortly after the arrival of UN chemical weapons inspectors and indeed only several kilometers from where they were staying, killing or wounding thousands and filling its own hospitals with the victims. At face value the accusation is ludicrous, yet such is the propaganda whipped up against the Syrian government over the past three years that some people will believe it to be capable of anything.

Not only do the armed groups, their backers and the media salesmen of their pitch, including the Guardian, want the world to believe that the Syrian government was responsible for this atrocity, they want the world to believe that Bashar is stupid, indeed so stupid that he would have ordered this attack within three days of the arrival of the UN chemical weapons inspectors. This canard is reminiscent of the accusation that the Syrian government arranged the assassination of Rafiq Hariri in 2005. The killing was a master stroke used as a lever to get the remaining Syrian troops out of Lebanon, and to blacken Syria’s name internationally. By the time all the four suspects had been freed and Syria cleared by the UN tribunal of any responsibility the media had moved on. It is a long time since it has shown any interest in who killed Hariri. Like the Hariri killing the first question to be asked in the wake of this latest atrocity is ‘who benefits?’ In both cases the answers are clear: in the first, Israel, the US and their proxies in Lebanon; in the second, the armed groups and the outside governments supporting them, including, of course, Israel, which is now leading the charge for a direct military attack on Syria.

By disseminating the deceit and lies put out by Libyan and then Syrian ‘rebels’ and ‘activists’, Al Jazeera ruined its reputation. The Guardian has run the same line as this mouthpiece of the government of Qatar yet remains protected by its mystique as a beacon of liberal opinion. Many of its readers are clearly confused when all they have to do is see that the emperor has no clothes: far from being the guardian of liberal opinion, this newspaper is the guardian of western, gulf and Israeli interests in the Middle East against Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. Its correspondents are still writing seriously and positively about a Palestinian ‘peace process’ that is a grotesque sham. Israel is playing with the Palestinians, as a cat plays with a mouse. It has Abbas in its pocket and by abandoning Syria and embracing Muhammad Morsi and the deposed ruler of Qatar, Ismail Haniyeh and Khalid Misha’al have found themselves without any backers. Not since its foundation has Israel enjoyed such a good run. If only the governments in Tehran and Damascus could be destroyed and Hezbollah extinguished life would be perfect.

The Guardian has never even attempted to provide balanced coverage of what is going on in Syria. There has been no counterweight – no antidote – to the anti-Assad and pro-rebel reporting and comment of Ian Black and Martin Chulov. The techniques will be familiar to all but the most inert readers. The paper runs headlines which are not justified in the text. The claims of ‘activists’ are given prominence and the claims of the Syrian government minimized, without there ever being any doubt about what the Guardian wants its readers to believe. It has downplayed or ignored the evidence of terrible atrocities by the armed groups (such as the massacres this August of hundreds of villagers in the Lattakia governorate (5) , of more than 100 people in Khan al Assal (6) and the massacre by Jabhat al Nusra of an estimated 450 Kurdish women and children around the Syrian-Turkish border town of Tal Abyad). (7) It has printed the wildest claims without any attempt to substantiate them, such as the allegation by a London-based ‘activist’ that the Syrian government was packing detainees into shipping containers and dumping them at sea. It has allowed ‘activists’ to shift the blame for car and suicide bombings on to the government even when it is government institutions that have been bombed and government employees who have been the victims. It has expected its readers to believe that the Syrian government is exploding bombs in densely populated residential areas in the middle of its own cities. It relies on the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights when it must know that it is a completely tainted source. The only explanation for this can be that this one-man band is saying what the Guardian wants to hear and what it wants its readers to believe.

The strategy of the armed groups has been to destroy infrastructure and terrorize the civilian population. This they have largely succeeded in doing. Syrians are pouring out of the country to get away from them. In the name of a twisted pseudo-revolution these armed men are supported by a collective of foreign governments. The line of the moment following the alleged chemical weapon/nerve gas attack is that ‘all red lines have been crossed’ when these governments crossed all red lines in international law long ago by financing and arming groups such as the brigades of the Free Syrian Army and Jabhat al Nusra. International law prohibits armed intervention in other countries and the use of mercenaries. International law forbids the application of economic sanctions against member states of the UN yet in all these categories the collective bent on the destruction of the Syrian government has shown complete contempt for international law. Of course this is merely standard procedure. International law is for other people, not the ‘international community’ as represented by the UK, France and the US [or Israel] and nowhere have they treated international law with more contempt than in the Middle East.

These governments are making the most strenuous effort in the history of the modern Middle East to destroy an Arab government. The reason has been clear from the beginning: Syria is Iran’s strongest regional ally and is being targeted as a second best option to targeting Iran itself. The takfiris inside Syria, demeaning Islam with their shouts of ‘Allahu Akbar’ every time they cut a throat, are doing the work of governments that have done nothing but damage to the Middle East for the past century. The prime losers are the Syrian people. About 100,000 have been killed in this conflict and much of their country’s infrastructure has been deliberately torn to shreds. The chief regional beneficiaries are Israel and Saudi Arabia, holding hands under the table. The destruction of the Syrian government would be an unparalleled strategic triumph for Israel and the ‘west’, which is why Russia and China have not budged in their position that it is the Syrian people who must decide their own future and not outside governments and armed gangs and why Russia in particular will be planning its riposte should Barack Obama be talked into launching a Cruise missile strike.

The Guardian’s propaganda cover for the Syrian ‘rebels’ follows its support for the Libyan ‘rebels’ against another dictator. The protest movement in Benghazi was seized upon by Britain, France and the US as the opportunity to intervene and destroy the government in Tripoli. There was no countrywide movement against Muammar al Qadhafi and the ‘rebels’ could not have advanced a yard beyond the city limits of Benghazi without the cover of NATO missiles. Qadhafi was brought down after a seven month blitz by the air forces of three of the most powerful militaries in the world and eventually murdered after several previous attempts to murder him by missile strike had failed, while killing members of his family. Thousands of innocent Libyans were killed during this prolonged aerial assault. This neo-imperialist adventure was fully underwritten by the mainstream media. None of the war crimes committed by NATO forces or ‘rebels’ on the ground had the same impact on editorials and ‘reporting’ as the claims that the Libyan leader was bombing his own people from the air, using black mercenaries and distributing Viagra to his troops. These sensational allegations were later shown to be lies, but by this time they had served their purpose in setting up Qadhafi as someone who deserved to be killed (rather than put on trial, embarrassing in the process Blair, Sarkozy and others who benefitted from Libyan money and oil concessions). With Libya out of the way the same western governments and the same mainstream media flapped on like vultures to Syria and another supposed dictator, leaving the Libyans to clean up the mess they had created as best as they could.

Having shed the shackles of balanced journalism in Libya and Syria, the Guardian is now defending media ethics and responsibility in the Edward Snowden- Glenn Greenwald affair. Greenwald has been revealing secrets from Snowden’s store of official documents. David Miranda, his partner, was detained for nine hours by British intelligence while in transit through London. If the purpose was to shut Greenwald up by putting pressure on his relationship, his scarcely repressed fury is an indication that it will not work. Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian’s editor-in-chief, had been having private conversations with British intelligence and only decided to take action, by destroying material the Guardian had on hard drives, when threatened with legal action. This was a significant exercise of the power of the surveillance state which had to be challenged, but how much more significant is media support for mass death and destruction delivered to Syria by groups of men financed, armed and trained by outside governments?

The Guardian does not actually call for war. It leaves that to other people. It merely sets the stage. It runs an editorial based on the assumption that this chemical weapons attack was the work of the Syrian government. The possibility that the armed groups might have done it is not even taken into account. It observes that ‘choosing between bad options is even more complex [supporting armed groups responsible for one atrocity after another is obviously not considered a bad option] … this paper has resisted the calls for military intervention in Syria [as if there is not already military intervention in Syria] … but we do appear to be coming ever closer to a tipping point with difficult judgments ahead.’ Without calling for war itself, this beacon of liberal opinion then quotes with approval the arch conservative William Hague, who talks of civilized values while pushing for a war that would bury them in further great mounds of bodies.

Behind the mask of asinine geniality Hague is a warmonger. He has wanted ‘intervention’ in Syria – a war kicked off with the declaration of a no-fly zone and now possibly a Cruise missile strike – for years and now sees it in his grasp. The Guardian should have been on to his smiling duplicity and double-speak like a terrier on to a rat. Instead it is joining the chorus line for war. That is the reality behind its own double-speak. The Syrian government agreed to allow UN inspectors into the districts targeted in this apparent nerve gas/chemical weapons attack but as soon they approached these districts, they were shot at by snipers. If it can be proven that it is the armed groups that carried out this attack it is a safe bet that we will hear no more talk of red lines being crossed. Obama said he would not take a decision until he had proof but now we are being told by an unnamed US official that the on the spot inquiry is too little and, not even a week after the event, too late. The British media is talking of a military attack being launched within days.

The US media is much more reserved: after all, their country is being pushed into the front line by governments that would never have the guts to attack by themselves but will only run in from behind once the US takes the lead. Obama is still holding back and has the intelligence and sense not to fall for this if, unfortunately, not necessarily the strength of character to resist the pressure being applied to him. Britain, France and Israel want to strike now, while the propaganda is running hot and strong and before the UN inspectors ruin their rush to war by concluding that this attack around Damascus either was or might have been the work of the armed groups.

This will not be Libya. This never was Libya. This will not begin and end with a few Cruise missiles fired at Syria from warships in the eastern Mediterranean. This may well spark a major war involving Turkey, Iran, Israel, Hezbollah and Russia for which those pushing for war must be held responsible right now and not just afterwards. If the decision is taken the Guardian will wring its hands about the horrors of war but it will still justify it on humanitarian grounds and the ‘responsibility to protect’. Amidst the smoke and carnage, the question of who fired the chemical weapons around Damascus will soon be forgotten.

Jeremy Salt is an associate professor of Middle Eastern history and politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.

Notes:

1. See ‘Russia’s UN envoy says Syria rebels used chemical weapons’, Los Angeles Times,July 9,2013, reporting the statement by Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin that armed groups had used sarin gas in the attack at Khan Assal on March 15, killing 26 people, including 16 military personnel, and wounding 86.
2. See ‘UN’s Del Ponte says evidence Syrian rebels ‘used sarin’. BBC News Middle East, May 6, 2013.
3. See ‘Adana’da El Kaide operasonyu:12 gozalti ( Al Qaida operation at Adana: 12 arrested), Zaman, May 28, 2013.
4. ‘Syrian army seized sarin cylinders from militants in Hama’, Press TV, June 2, 2013.
5. See ‘Massacre in Latakia, August 2013. A documentary report on Al Nusra massacre in Lattakia’, Sham Times, August 8, 2013. Translated by Australians for Reconciliation in Syria.
6. See ‘UN rights chief calls for investigation into Syrian massacre’, Reuters.com., reporting on the ‘apparent’ massacre ‘carried out by Syrian opposition forces in the town’.
7. See ‘Defend the Kurds in Syria from massacre and ethnic cleansing’, Kurdistan Times, August 8,2013, reporting the massacre of 120 children and 330 women by Jabhat al Nusra at Tal Abyad on August 5. While the numbers have not been independently verified, the massacre triggered off an exodus of tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds into northern Iraq. Syrian Kurds have given details of massacres of Kurds carried out by Jabhat al Nusra across northern Syria.

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

UN calls for Security Council approval before any military strike in Syria

Al-Akhbar | August 28, 2013

Any US military action taken in response to suspected chemical weapons attacks in Syria would need to be approved by the UN Security Council, international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said on Wednesday.

“I think international law is clear on this. International law says that military action must be taken after a decision by the Security Council. That is what international law says,” he told a press conference in Geneva.

“I must say that I do know that President Obama and the American administration are not known to be trigger-happy. What they will decide I don’t know. But certainly international law is very clear.”

The United States and its allies built their case Wednesday for likely military action against the Syrian government in the war-torn country over an alleged chemical attack on August 21, despite stern warnings from Russia.

The ramp-up of military language came as UN inspectors began a second day of investigating the sites of the alleged chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds of people.

The ground for a Western military intervention in Syria was being set out by US Vice President Joe Biden, who for the first time said last week’s attack, thought to have killed hundreds, could only have been perpetrated by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

“[US President Barack Obama] believes and I believe that those who use chemical weapons against defenseless men, women and children should and must be held accountable,” he said.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the American military was already prepared to act if Obama gave the order –though White House aides said no final decision had been taken.

“We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take,” Hagel told the BBC. “We are ready to go, like that.”

The Syrian government strongly denies the claims leveled against it.

“Many facts tend to prove the innocence of the Syrian government, which has been subject to false accusations,” Syrian ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari told state media.

Jaafari said such facts also showed that “armed groups have used chemical weapons in order to bring about military intervention and aggression against Syria.”

Jaafari said such facts also showed that “armed groups have used chemical weapons in order to bring about military intervention and aggression against Syria.”

The West and Turkey “have enabled terrorist groups to create a laboratory for chemical weapons on Turkish territory with materials provided by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar… and to bring these chemical weapons to Syria for use,” he alleged.

A team of United Nations inspectors reached rebel-held territory outside Damascus on Wednesday, opposition activists said.

“They have reached the town of Maleiha and are now with the rebel escorts, soon they will head to towns where the strikes happened and begin their inspections,” activist Salam Mohammed said, speaking to Reuters via Skype.

The team of arms experts boarded a convoy of six vehicles in Damascus, the photographer said. It was unclear which site they were intending to visit.

This came a day after the experts suspended their mission for one day over safety concerns.

The inspectors braved sniper fire when they began their mission on Monday but still managed to visit two field hospitals in Moadamiyet al-Sham, southwest of Damascus, and collect evidence of last week’s suspected chemical attacks.

But they were unable carry out a planned visit to a second site in Eastern Ghouta, on the Syrian capital’s northeastern outskirts, on Tuesday because their safety could not be guaranteed.

Britain joined the US in saying government forces were behind the strikes, and Prime Minister David Cameron said London and its allies had to consider whether targeted military action was required to “deter and degrade the future use of chemical weapons.”

French President Francois Hollande said his country was “ready to punish” those behind the chemical attacks and that he would meet the Syrian opposition’s leader on Thursday.

Moscow, Assad’s most powerful ally, again warned a military solution would destabilize the Middle East, and Syria’s envoy to the UN blamed rebels in the country for launching the attack to provoke international intervention.

Speaking to UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said “a military solution will lead only to a further destabilization of the situation in the country and the region,” his ministry said.

Senior officials in Washington told NBC news that possible strikes against targets in Syria could take place as early as Thursday.

Analysts expect to see cruise missiles launched from US and allied submarines, ships and possibly planes, firing into Syria from outside its waters and airspace.

A military campaign in Syria is expected to be limited in scope, likely to last only several days and to target military sites but not the chemical weapons stocks themselves, sources in Washington said.

An official in Syria’s main opposition National Coalition said the group expects a Western military intervention and it has been consulted over targets, which included airports, military bases and arms depots.

“It’s a question of days and not weeks,” said Ahmad Ramadan, adding that “there have been meetings between the Coalition, the (rebel) Free Syrian Army and allied countries.”

During a news conference on Tuesday, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Damascus would defend itself.

“We have two options: either to surrender, or to defend ourselves with the means at our disposal,” he said. “The second choice is the best. We will defend ourselves.”

(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama’s Looming War of Aggression in Syria and the Pathologies of America’s Iran Debate

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett | Going to Tehran | August 27th, 2013

As the Obama administration manufactures its “case” for military aggression against Syria in the coming days or weeks, we want to highlight an interview that Hillary did with Zeinab al-Saffar when we were in Beirut earlier this summer; the interview is now available on Al Mayadeen’s Web site, see here.  Hillary’s account of how the United States self-servingly demonizes non-Western countries that get in its way seems highly applicable to the current discussion—it hardly merits the label “debate”—about attacking something in Syria, ostensibly because of claims that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians last week in Ghouta, an eastern suburb of Damascus.  The frame for such demonization, Hillary notes, is inevitably driven by and bound up with

“the United States’ way of going to war.  The United States doesn’t go to war, it says, to protect its interestsThe United States says it’s going to war to ‘liberate’ peoples—whether they’re liberating people in Cuba, Vietnam, Iraq, and prospectively IranAnd the way the American people is conditioned to accept it (and, essentially, world opinion as well) is that American experts put out a narrative about these various countries—whether it’s Cuba, Vietnam, Iraq, or now Iran—they put out a narrative about how repressive that society is, how illegitimate its government is in terms of its domestic politics, and how irrational it is in its foreign policy.  We’ve seen this in country after country that the United States has invaded or tried to invade to overthrow its government.”

Of course, no one anticipates that President Obama is about to order a U.S.-led invasion of Syria.  But, since Obama’s foolish declaration in August 2011 that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “must go,” the United States has been committed to the Syrian government’s overthrow.  And the demonization of Syria’s government as repressive, illegitimate, and irrational has proceeded apace, exactly along the lines described by Hillary.  Now the demonization focuses on unsubstantiated allegations of the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons as a justification for the United States to use military force against it—just as concocted claims about Saddam Husayn’s weapons of mass destruction were central to building the case for invading Iraq in 2003.

Make no mistake, U.S. military action against Syria will be fragrantly illegal (not that President Obama’s senior advisors, most members of Congress, or much of the American public will care).  Nevertheless, the Obama administration is gearing up for precisely such action—and for entirely self-generated reasons.  It was Obama who declared that Assad “must go.”  It was Obama who declared that chemical weapons use was a “red line.”  It was Obama who put himself in a position where he can’t entertain the possibility that Syrian oppositionists used chemical weapons, because that would destroy his administration’s Syria policy.  And because Obama took these ill-considered and illegal positions, he must now use American military power to preserve his “credibility.”

Obama took these positions, the “credibility” of which he must now defend by engaging in overt aggression, in no small part because American foreign policy elites believe that bringing down the Assad government will undermine the Islamic Republic of Iran.  In her interview for Al Mayadeen, Hillary discusses the evolution of our own thinking about the Islamic Republic, how America should engage it, and what are the real obstacles to a more realistic and effective American posture toward Tehran.

In particular, she charts the progress from our earlier advocacy of a U.S.-Iranian “grand bargain” (whereby America would “talk Iran into agreeing with American positions on Hizballah, on the nuclear issue, on the Palestinian issue, on a range of things”) to our recognition that “something much more profound and deep” is required—that the United States needs “to come to terms with and accept” a fiercely independent Islamic Republic, in much the same way that President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger came to terms with and accepted the People’s Republic of China in the early 1970s.  She also recounts the attacks we have faced—first from the right, when we were criticizing President George W. Bush’s handling of Iran policy, followed by much of the left, when we began making the same criticisms of Obama’s posture toward Iran.  In this context, Hillary argues that our biggest offense has been to challenge the deeply held American myth “that Iranians were demanding to be liberated by the United States, but not liberated by an American tank, but by the great American ideas and great American values, that everyone wants, deep in their heart, to be secular liberals…if you questioned that in the United States, as we did, you really were vilified.”

Our experience strongly suggests that the biggest obstacles to genuine revision of U.S. policy toward the Islamic Republic are some fundamental aspects of American political culture.  As Hillary points out, “to accept an Islamist political order, [the United States] would have to give up the pursuit of hegemony, the pursuit of dominance.  This idea that we can use the excuse of what’s called American exceptionalism—that the United States is a unique force for good in the world—to invade other countries to ‘liberate’ them, we’d have to give that up, because we’d have to recognize that there is some legitimacy to other political orders, particularly ones that are Islamist.  And that’s especially relevant in the Middle East that is so important in geostrategic terms.”

The problem, though, is that “hegemony may be nice in theory—if you could get it, if you could rule the world, that might be a nice idea for some Americans in theory—but you cannot get it in the Middle East, because you are up against Islam.  You cannot do it; you cannot defeat that.  For the United States to have any strategic influence in this vital part of the world, we argue in our book, we have to come to terms with that—just as we could not defeat one billion people in China who wanted to have their independence.  It’s a very similar situation.”

But it seems that United States is not yet ready to come to terms with this reality.  And so, in another vain attempt to get at the Islamic Republic of Iran, America is about to engage in illegal aggression against one of the Middle East’s most avowedly secular governments—a government that, like the Islamic Republic, actually fights the kind of violent (and anti-American), al Qaida-affiliated extremism that some U.S. “allies” work so hard to promote.

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 3 Comments

The NYT’s Evolving Drive to War on Syria

By Michael McGehee  ·  NYTX  ·  August 27, 2013

In George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984, Winston Smith, the protagonist, is a clerk for the Records Department at the Ministry of Truth. Winston’s job is to rewrite Oceania’s history, news article by news article, as official party policy changes. The idiom “down the memory hole” comes from this portion of Orwell’s book and refers to the destruction of Winston’s efforts, after making revisions.

When one knew that any document was due for destruction, or even when one saw a scrap of waste paper lying about, it was an automatic action to lift the flap of the nearest memory hole and drop it in, whereupon it would be whirled away on a current of warm air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere in the recesses of the building. — George Orwell, 1984, Chapter 4

The website NewsDiffs.org shows us how this function exists today, in the real world, where articles by major news organizations are rapidly revised dozens of times following publication and without editors providing any explanatory note. By comparing and contrasting these revisions, what goes down the proverbial memory hole, along with what simply does not make it to publication, readers are provided with a keen insight into how major news outlets operate as the Records Department for dominant power systems in the West.

Take, for example, the New York Times’ article on the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, “Kerry Cites Clear Evidence Of Chemical Weapon Use.”

According to NewsDiffs the article has gone through 22 revisions since yesterday. While some of them were for simple grammar corrections, like changing “to” to “too,” many of the changes were considerable, and offered a hawkish, pro-war, bias to the U.S. and its Western allies, particularly Washington’s usual partners: the United Kingdom and Israel.

The first major change was the addition of this remark made by U.K.’s Foreign Secretary William Hague: “Is it possible to respond to chemical weapons without complete unity on the U.N. Security Council? I would argue yes it is, otherwise it might be impossible to respond to such outrages, such crimes, and I don’t think that’s an acceptable situation.”

Already readers can see how the “paper of record” is shaping the article as a public relations piece on behalf of those who have been working tirelessly for years on bringing down the government in Syria. Worse, no space is provided to point out that, unless in response to a specific armed attack, use of force without a U.N. mandate is unlawful. Nor is space given to question the difference between “possible” and “legal.” Is it possible the West would violate international law? The historical record is affirmative.

The next significant revision included comments added by Israeli officials that it was “crystal clear” that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons. The evidence? None is provided.

The next two major revisions were updates about how the U.N. inspector team came under sniper fire (here and here). While the two edits show confusion as to who was likely behind the attacks it is noted that the U.N. convoy was being “escorted by Syrian security forces.” No commentary is provided as to what interests the rebels may have in preventing the investigation. This could have been an important moment to do so, especially considering that The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that the U.S. was trying to stop the investigation.

Then there are the past incidences we have reported on: Washington signing off on a plan to use chemical weapons and then blame it on the Syrian government, as well as rebel fighters getting caught with sarin nerve gas in Turkey (see here and here).

In another significant revision space is provided to the U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and his argument for intervention: “if there is any action taken, it will be in concert with the international community and within the framework of legal justification.”

The pattern continues: the NYT article is a morphing argument for war.

The following change provides space to Russia to warn against the use of military force and to indicate that the rebels might have been behind alleged chemical attack. But, this, like Syria’s account, doesn’t make it to the final edit that we have to-date.

When the NYT gets around to offering limited space to the Syrian government they still manage to warp the paragraph in derision:

[President Assad] said government troops would have risked killing their own forces if they had used chemical weapons. “This contradicts elementary logic,” news reports quoted him as saying. It is “not us but our enemies who are using chemical weapons,” he said, referring, as he usually does, to antigovernment rebels as “the terrorists.” [emphasis added]

And in the next edit the entire reference above is stricken out, leaving no space for the Syrian government to comment on the matter. While nearly all of the article has been given to anti-Assad officials to make threats, or shed crocodile tears over the war’s tragic costs, there is but one one-sentence paragraph that alludes to the possibility that the rebels were behind the attack, and even it is carefully constructed to cast doubt on the possibility:

“Obama administration officials said that Mr. Kerry’s statement was calculated to rebut the claims made by Syria and its longtime patron, Russia, that the rebels were somehow responsible for the chemical weapons attack, or that Mr. Assad had made an important concession by giving the United Nations investigators access.” [emphasis added]

Finally, the article is headlined as “Kerry cites evidence . . .,” but the final revision states: “In the coming days, officials said, the nation’s intelligence agencies will disclose information to bolster their case that chemical weapons were used by Mr. Assad’s forces.” In other words, no evidence is ever cited, just promised to be given later, much like was said with the last accusation that proved fruitless.

What we witness is the evolution of an article, not into a journalistic piece of integrity, truth, or impartial coverage, but into a mouthpiece for those who want war, and have invested years into the making. The Syrian conflict has been going for nearly three years, all during which the U.S. and its allies have been seeking to bring down the Assad government, turning a blind-eye to the crimes of the rebels, and thwarting efforts to reach a peaceful solution. The NYT article was so far revised and rewritten nearly two dozen times, with only minimal space provided to what could best be described as the “enemy” side of the conflict, and done so with contempt, showing that just as Washington has taken sides on the conflict, so too has the New York Times.

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

“Bandar ibn Israel”

By Sharmine Narwani | Al-Akhbar | 2013-08-28

The recent acts of political violence in the Middle East’s Levant are not unrelated.

Car bombings in the predominantly Shia southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh; twin bombings targeting Sunni mosques in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli; an alleged chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus blamed on the Syrian government; a secret IDF operation across the Lebanese border foiled by Hezbollah; rockets lobbed by an Al Qaeda-related group into Israel; an IDF airstrike on a pro-Damascus Palestinian resistance group base in Lebanon…

From one perspective, the common thread is the crisis in Syria, where a 29-month conflict has cemented divisions in the rest of the region and set the stage for an existential fight on multiple battlefields between two highly competitive Mideast blocs.

From another perspective, the common thread drawing these disparate crime scenes together is the “culprit” – one who has strong political interest, material capabilities and the sense of urgency to commit rash and violent actions on many different fronts.

In isolation, none of these acts are capable of producing a “result.” But combined, they are able to instill fear in populations, stir governments into action, and in the short term, to create the perception of a shift in regional “balances.”

And no parties in the Mideast are more vested right now in urgently “correcting” the regional balance of power than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the state of Israel – both nations increasingly frustrated by the inaction of their western allies and the incremental gains of their regional rivals Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and now Iraq.

Worse yet, with every passing month the “noose of multilateralism” tightens, as rising powers Russia, China and others offer protective international cover for those foes. Israel and Saudi Arabia are keenly aware that the age of American hegemony is fast declining, and with it, their own regional primacy.

Common foes, common goals

At the helm of efforts to “correct” the imbalance is Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, the US’s longtime go-to man in Riyadh – whose 22-year reign as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington provided him with excellent contacts throughout the Israeli political and military establishment

Like Israel, Bandar has long been a vocal advocate of curtailing the regional influences of Iran and Syria and forging a neocon-style “New Middle East” – sometimes to his detriment.

When he all but disappeared from public view in 2008, one of the reasons cited for Bandar’s “banishment” from the royal circle of influence was that he had “meddled in Syrian affairs, trying to stir up the tribes against the Assad regime, without the king’s approval.”

The frustrated Bandar, who at the time officially headed Saudi’s National Security Council, was also notably absent when Saudi King Abdullah paid a highly visible visit to the Syrian president in late 2009 to renew relations after four years of bitter tensions.

All that changed with the Arab uprisings in early 2011. Regime-change in Syria – according to an acquaintance who visited various prominent Saudi ministers (all key royals) in 2012 – suddenly become a national priority for the al-Saud family. According to this shocked source, the Saudis had come to believe that if the battle for control over Syria “is lost,” the kingdom would lose its Shia-dominated Eastern Province where its vast oil reserves are concentrated.

That year marked Bandar’s return to influence in the kingdom, and within short order he was promoted to head the powerful Saudi Intelligence Agency, known for its myriad links into the underworld of global jihadis.

But the kingdom’s once-reliable western powerhouse ally, the United States, appeared to be withdrawing from the region. Highly sensitive to the fall-out over its aggressive interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, Washington was shying away from the kind of overt leadership that the Saudis desperately needed to re-establish their equilibrium in the region.

Which is where Bandar comes into the picture. The former ambassador to Washington has the kind of relationships that go deep – no Saudi knows how to twist American arms better than he. But to push western allies in the desired direction, the Saudis were in need of an influential and opportunistic ally that was also passionately fixated on the same set of adversaries. That partner would be Israel.

Says a 2007 Wikileaks cable from the US embassy in Riyadh:

“We have also picked up first hand accounts of intra-family tension over policy towards Israel. Some princes, most notably National Security Advisor Bandar Bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, are reportedly pushing for more contact with Israel. Bandar now sees Iran as a greater threat than Israel.”

Bandar’s ascendancy to his current position suggests more than ever that the Saudis, at least for now, have put aside their reservations over dealing with Israel. And Iran’s election of a moderate new President Hassan Rouhani has brought urgency to the Saudi-Israeli relationship – both fearing the possibility of a US-Iranian grand bargain that could sink their fortunes further.

Putting wheels into motion

For Riyadh and Tel Aviv, Syria is the front-line battle from which they seek to cripple the Iranians in the region. None have been as ferocious in lobbying Washington on the issue of Syrian “chemical weapons use” and “red lines” as this duo – perhaps even setting up false flag operations to force its hand. Since last Winter, says the Wall Street Journal:

“The Saudis also started trying to convince Western governments that Mr. Assad had crossed what President Barack Obama a year ago called a “red line”: the use of chemical weapons. Arab diplomats say Saudi agents flew an injured Syrian to Britain, where tests showed sarin gas exposure. Prince Bandar’s spy service, which concluded in February that Mr. Assad was using chemical weapons, relayed evidence to the US, which reached a similar conclusion four months later.”

The following Spring, it was Israel’s turn. In an article entitled “Did Israel Ambush the United States on Syria,” Alon Ben David says:

“By stating that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons, Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, the director of Israel’s Military Intelligence Research Department, cornered the Americans. Washington finally — and very tentatively — admitted that such weapons had been used. If Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu planned to ambush the Americans, it was a phenomenal success. From an Israeli standpoint, this was a chance to test America’s supposed “red line.”

The Russians, however, have stood in the way of every effort to draw the US into intervening directly in Syria. In the past year, the Saudis and Israelis have tag-teamed Moscow, by turns cajoling, threatening and dangling incentives to shift the Russians from their immovable position.

Just last month, Bandar beat a path to Moscow to test Russian President Vladimir Putin’s appetite for compromise. According to leading Lebanese daily As-Safir, a private diplomatic report on the Saudi prince’s visit claims that Bandar employed a “carrot-and-stick” approach to wrest concessions from Putin on Syria and Iran.

In what has to be the most delusional statement I’ve heard in a while, Bandar allegedly told the Russian president: “There are many common values and goals that bring us together, most notably the fight against terrorism and extremism all over the world.” He continued with a threat:

“I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us, and they will not move in the Syrian territory’s direction without coordinating with us. These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role or influence in Syria’s political future.”

According to the report, Putin responded to Bandar thus: “We know that you have supported the Chechen terrorist groups for a decade. And that support, which you have frankly talked about just now, is completely incompatible with the common objectives of fighting global terrorism that you mentioned. We are interested in developing friendly relations according to clear and strong principles.”

Bandar ibn Israel: a terror Frankentein

Chechen jihadis have, of course, turned up in Syria to fight alongside their brethren from dozens of other countries against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the past two years.

The Saudi links go beyond jihadis though. Seventeen months ago in Homs – and barely a month after the battle over Baba Amr – 24 Syrian rebels groups sent an email to the externally-based Syrian National Council, complaining about the rogue behavior of the Saudi-funded Al Farouq Battalion. This is the group to which the infamous lung-eating Syrian rebel once belonged.

Alleging that Al Farouq was responsible for killing at least five rebels and fomenting violence against civilians and other fighters, the group wrote:

“The basis of the crisis in the city today is groups receiving uneven amounts of money from direct sources in Saudi Arabia some of whom are urging the targeting of loyalist neighborhoods and sectarian escalation while others are inciting against the SNC. They are not national, unifying sources of support. On the contrary, mature field leaders have noted that receiving aid from them [Saudi Arabia] entails implicit conditions like working in ways other than the desired direction.”

In a reprisal of his role in Afghanistan where he helped the CIA arm the Mujahedeen – who later came to form the backbone of the Taliban and Al Qaeda – Bandar is now throwing funding, weapons and training at the very same kinds of Islamist militants who are establishing an extreme version of Sharia law in territories they hold inside Syria.

Says an analyst at a Beirut-based think tank:

“These fighters, many of whom are ideologically aligned with Al Qaeda, are much more pragmatic today. They are ready to take funding, facilities and arms from the Saudis (who previously they targeted). There is no concept of a main enemy – it could be the US, Russians, Iranians, Saudis, Muslim Brotherhood. Their only priority is to use the new situation of instability in the region to form a core territorial base. They now think in Syria they have a real opportunity to regenerate Al Qaeda that they didn’t have since their defeat in Iraq. In the Sinai too. Through a central Syrian base they are ready to converge with other regional actors from which they will move into Lebanon, Iraq and other places.”

“Some of them know Bandar for a long time,” says the analyst. “There have always been Saudi intelligence officers dedicated to oversee jihadist groups in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kashmir, Chechnya.”

Though the Saudis tell Washington that their goal is to keep extremists out of power in Syria, elements in the US administration remain uncomfortable about where this could end. Says the Wall Street Journal, quoting a former official concerned about weapons flowing into jihadi hands: “This has the potential to go badly” – an understatement, if ever there was one.

Using Lebanon as a lever

Whereas western powers have sought to maintain stability on the Lebanese front, the Saudis – who lost influence in the Levantine state when Hezbollah and its allies forced the dissolution of a Riyadh-backed government in early 2011 – are not as inclined to keep the peace.

Paramount for Bandar’s Syria plans is halting the battlefield assistance Hezbollah has provided for the Syrian army in key border towns which had become supply routes for rebels.

To punish Hezbollah and weaken its regional allies, the Saudis have used their own alliances in Lebanon to hammer daily at the Shia resistance group’s role in Syria. One easy route is to sow sectarian tensions in multi-sect Lebanon – a tactic at which the conservative Wahhabi Saudis excel. Pitting Sunni against Shia through a series of well-planned acts of political violence is child’s play for Saudis who have decades of expertise overseeing such acts – just look at the escalation of sectarian bombings in Iraq today for example.

This does not necessarily mean that Riyadh is involved in planning these operations though.

Says the Beirut analyst: “The escalation may be Saudi-run, but not necessarily the deed itself. (When they back these Islamist extremists in Lebanon), they know the software of these people. They know they will attack Shia and moderate Sunni, use rockets, car bombs, etc. They empower these groups being conscious of the consequences. These guys are predictable. And the Saudis also have some trusted men among these groups who will act in a way that will conform to Saudi interests and projects.”

The diplomatic report on the Bandar’s Moscow visit concludes: “It is not unlikely that things [will] take a dramatic turn in Lebanon, in both the political and security senses, in light of the major Saudi decision to respond to Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian crisis.”

Two bombings: one, targeting a Shia neighborhood, the second aimed at Sunni residents. On another front, the IDF launches a secret mission across the Lebanese border, swiftly thwarted by a Hezbollah counterattack. Soon after, an Al Qaeda linked group called the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (AAB), which last year acknowledged its fight against the Syrian state, launches four rockets into Israeli territory. Israel does not retaliate against this Salafist militia though. The IDF choses instead to strike at the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a group that supports the Resistance in Lebanon and Syria.

It appears that Israel, like the Saudis, has a message to relay to Lebanon: Hezbollah should stay out of Syria or Lebanon will bear the consequences.

The escalation of violence in the region – from Lebanon to Iraq – is today very much a Bandar-Israel project. And the sudden escalation of military threats by Washington against the Assad government is undoubtedly a result of pressures and rewards dangled by this duo.

While Putin may have told Bandar to take a hike when the he offered to purchase $15 billion in weapons in exchange for a compromise on Syria and Iran, the British and French are beggars for this kind of business. Washington too. With $65 billion in arms sales to the kingdom in process, the Obama administration is prostituting Americans for cold, hard cash.

Let there be no mistake. Bandar ibn Israel is going for gold and will burn the Middle East to get there.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow Sharmine on twitter @snarwani.

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 3 Comments