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Fallacies in Modern Medicine: Statins and the Cholesterol-Heart Hypothesis

By Donald W. Miller, Jr., MD | June 4, 2015

This commentary was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Volume 20, Number 2, Pages 54-56, Summer 2015.

Modern medicine has developed striking ways to treat coronary heart disease, which feature coronary stents implanted percutaneously and coronary artery bypass grafts performed surgically with the aid of a heart-lung machine. And then there are statins to lower cholesterol.

A 70-year-old man sees a physician for a checkup. He has no history of heart disease and no risk factors for it. He does not smoke, has no family history of diabetes or heart disease, and is physically active and not overweight. His blood pressure is 130/70. A lipid panel, however, shows that his calculated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) is 195 mg/dL. Following the most recent 2013 guidelines framed by an American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA) task force, the physician prescribes a statin for this person, rosuvastatin (Crestor) 20 mg/day, for primary prevention of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD). [1]

Cardiologists declare that “cholesterol-containing lipoproteins are central to the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis.” [2] Statins, first approved for clinical use in 1987, are very effective in lowering cholesterol. High intensity statin therapy, rosuvastatin 20mg/day and atorvastatin (Lipitor) 40-80 mg, reduces LDL-C by 50 percent or greater. Moderate intensity therapy, rosuvastatin 10 mg, atorvastatin 10 mg, simvastatin (Zocor) 20-40 mg, and pravastatin (Pravachol) 40 mg/day, achieves a 30 to 50 percent reduction of LDL-C. [3]

Some 43 million Americans take statins. [4] In 2010, 11.6 percent of the population took them, 37 million, which includes 19.2 percent of people age 45-64; 39.6 percent, age 65-74; and 44.3 percent of people age 75 and older. [3] Following the 2013 ACC/AHA guidelines, an additional 10.2 million Americans without cardiovascular disease, like the patient above, have now become candidates for statin therapy. [5] One study concludes that 97 percent of black and white Americans aged 66 to 75, including all men in that age group should take statins. [6]

It is a multi-billion dollar business. Pfizer’s Lipitor went on sale in 1997 and became the best-selling drug in the history of prescription pharmaceuticals before its patent expired in 2011. Sales surpassed $125 billion. AstraZeneca’s Crestor was the top-selling statin in 2013, generating $5.2 billion in revenue that year.

Pfizer, in an advertisement, proclaims, “Lipitor reduces risk of heart attack by 36%,” based on the findings of a large randomized trial where 10,305 individuals were assigned to take Lipitor or a placebo (ASCOT-LLA). [7] The trial showed that 1.9 percent of people taking Lipitor suffered a heart attack while 3.0 percent of the placebo group had one. Considered in terms of “relative risk” reduction, the percentage Pfizer cites in the ad is correct. (It is calculated by subtracting 1.9 from 3 and dividing the difference, 1.1, by 3, which equals 36 percent.) But more realistically, the trial showed that Lipitor only reduced the “absolute risk” of having a heart attack by a tiny 1.1 percent (1.9 percent in the statin group compared with 3 percent in the placebo group). [7] Statin-trial investigators tout relative risk reduction (typically 20-40 percent in these trials) rather than the meager, real-world reduction in risk (1-2 percent taking statins).

Investigators cite relative risk to inflate claims of statins’ effectiveness. However, they report deleterious effects in terms of absolute risk, minimizing their magnitude. For example, if 6 percent of the statin group were to get diabetes during a trial compared to 2 percent with the placebo group, they will say that taking statins increases the risk of acquiring diabetes by 4 percent, not that there is 66 percent increased (relative) risk of suffering this adverse event.

Government and the pharmaceutical industry fund these multimillion dollar studies expecting correct results, so statin-trial researchers employ this particular kind of statistical deception to create the appearance that statins are effective and safe. [8] As one medical school professor puts it, “Anyone who questions cholesterol usually finds his funding cut off.” [9]

Eukaryotic animal cells make cholesterol through the “mevalonate pathway.” This pathway also produces, among other things, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), heme-A, and dolichol. CoQ10 is particularly important as it functions both as an antioxidant and, with heme-A, in aerobic cellular respiration—in the electron transport chain that generates adenosine triphosphate, the fuel that powers all living things. (Dolichol is required for synthesis of glycoproteins.) Statins inactivate hydroxymethylglutaryl‐coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase, the enzyme cells use to synthesize mevalonate from HMG-CoA. This shuts down the mevalonate pathway. As a result, HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins) block not only the synthesis of cholesterol but also CoQ10 and the other physiologically essential biomolecules that this pathway produces.

Lovastatin (Mevacor), the first statin, is a naturally occurring molecule isolated from a fungus named Aspergillus terreus. Newer statins are synthetic variations of these mycotoxins that fungi produce. Fungi make statins, as a “secondary metabolite,” to kill predatory microbes. They also kill human cells. In a review of How Statin Drugs Really Lower Cholesterol and Kill You One Cell at a Time by James and Hannah Yoseph, Peter Langsjoen writes:

Many practicing physicians have a healthy understanding of the current level of corruption and collusion among big pharmaceutical companies, governmental agencies such as the NIH and FDA, and major medical associations such as the American Heart Association, but the reader of this book will come away with the disturbing conclusion that it is even worse than imagined. Statins may be the perfect and most insidious human toxin in that adverse effects are often delayed by years and come about gradually. Further, statins frequently impair mental function to such a degree that by the time patients are in real trouble, they may lack the mental facilities to recognize the cause. [10]

This toxin targets brain cells and skeletal muscle. The brain makes up 2 percent of body weight but contains 25 percent of the body’s cholesterol. Its dry weight is 50 percent cholesterol. LDL-C delivers cholesterol to the body’s cells, except for the brain since this cholesterol-carrying lipoprotein does not cross the blood-brain barrier. Statins do. Brain cells, neurons and glial cells, manufacture their own cholesterol and the mevalonate pathway’s other products. [11] A broad spectrum of adverse cognitive reactions occur from taking statins. They include confusion, forgetfulness, disorientation, memory impairment, transient global amnesia, and dementia. [12]

Myopathy is the most common adverse effect of statin treatment, manifested by muscle aches and pains, weakness, instability, and easy fatigue. [8,13] The most severe manifestation of statin-induced muscle damage is rhabdomyolysis, which carries a 10 percent mortality rate. Fragments of ruptured muscle block renal tubules and cause kidney failure. [12] In one randomized trial of 1,016 healthy men and women given statins or a placebo, 40 percent of the women taking statins suffered exertional fatigue or decreased energy. [14]

Several randomized controlled trials have reported a statistically significant increase in cancer taking statins. [8,15] In most of these trials, a small reduction in cardiovascular deaths in the statin group is counterbalanced by an increase in deaths from other causes, notably cancer, with the result that there is in no significant difference in all-cause mortality between people taking a placebo and those prescribed statins. [16]

Statins can also cause diabetes, emotional disorders (depression, aggressiveness, suicidal ideation), hepatitis, cataracts, and strokes. [12,13,17] In January 2014 the FDA issued new safety information on statins, pointing out that “a small increased risk of raised blood sugar levels and the development of type 2 diabetes have been reported with the use of statins;” and it required drug companies add this information in the package insert with the drug. [18] Since then (as of August 2014), attorneys have filed more than 1,000 lawsuits against Pfizer, representing 4,000 women who say that taking Lipitor gave them diabetes.

Statin trials typically run for only 2 to 5 years. Investigators terminated the influential JUPITER trial endorsing statins for primary prevention of ASCVD after (a median) 1.9 years, far too short a time to reveal one of the worst “side effects” of long-term statin treatment: accelerated senescence. [19] Statins speed up the transition from midlife vigor to debilitated old age. [12]

Heart surgeon Michael DeBakey and his team, 52 years ago, found no correlation between blood cholesterol levels and severity of atherosclerosis in 1,700 patients undergoing surgical treatment of ASCVD. [20] I have observed the same thing with my heart surgery patients (unpublished observations). Evidence for the cholesterol-heart hypothesis, i.e., the lipid hypothesis, wilts upon close scrutiny, as is also the case with the diet-heart hypothesis, which indicts saturated fat along with cholesterol for causing atherosclerosis. Approached with an open mind and without confirmatory bias (ignoring evidence that disagrees with one’s beliefs), substantial evidence now proves beyond a reasonable doubt that these hypotheses are wrong. [21-25]

If not cholesterol, what causes atherosclerosis? My colleague, the late Russell Ross, professor of pathology at the University of Washington discovered the cause: Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease. [26] Initiated by endothelial dysfunction, with or without injury, and mediated by macrophages and T lymphocytes, the ensuing inflammatory response promotes proliferation and migration of smooth muscle cells. Russell demonstrated that atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory and fibroproliferative process that is fundamentally no different than that seen in cirrhosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic pancreatitis.

The small benefit statins offer in dealing with ASCVD comes from their non-lipid-lowering anti-inflammatory effects, especially with their ability to suppress nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB), a transcription factor concerned with intensifying the inflammatory response. [27] But even if they had no harmful side effects, the “number needed to treat” (NNT) for statins weighs against their use. If a statin reduces the (absolute) risk of having a heart attack by just 2 percent, its NNT is 50. For every 50 people taking a statin, 1 person will benefit while 49 other people (98 percent) will not gain any benefit from taking the drug and will expose themselves to the potentially serious broad spectrum of adverse events that statins cause (carrying a risk considerably greater than 2 percent). Statins do more harm than good. (Nutraceuticals curcumin and resveratrol also quell inflammation, like statins, by suppressing NF-kB—with no side effects).

A catalog of factors that play a causal role in inflammatory ASCVD would include: 1) eating trans fats and too many carbohydrates and omega-6 vegetable oils (and not enough saturated fats); 2) deficiencies in various vitamins (vitamins A, C, D, E, K2, B6, B9-folic acid, and B12); 3) mineral deficiencies (magnesium, selenium, copper) and excess (iron); 4) lipid oxidation products; 5) possibly bacterial infection (Chlamydia pneumoniae); 6) diabetes; 7) abdominal obesity; 8) hypertension; 9) smoking; and 10) stress.

Cholesterol combats inflammation in addition to its other roles, which include maintaining cell membrane integrity (cell membranes are 50 percent cholesterol), facilitating cell signaling, and serving as the structural foundation for bile salts, various hormones, and vitamin D. Dealing with inflammation cholesterol acts as the body’s fire brigade, putting out inflammatory fires and helping repair damage. (Blaming cholesterol for atherosclerosis is like blaming firemen for the fire they have come to put out.)

Cementing this molecule’s physiologic importance, there are now more than 100 peer reviewed studies showing that low cholesterol levels lead to early death. [28] One of them is a study by Schatz and colleagues exploring the relationship between cholesterol levels and death rates over a 20-year period in 3,572 men aged 71-93 years. Those with the lowest cholesterol had a 35 percent increase in mortality compared with the highest cholesterol. [29] Another one, following 490 people aged 75 years for over 6 years, found that those with cholesterol levels below 193 mg/dL had a 52 percent increase in death rates compared to those with cholesterol levels above 232 mg/dL. Death rates rose by 18 percent for every 38mg/dL decrease in cholesterol levels. [30]

It is becoming increasingly clear that the cholesterol-heart hypothesis is a fallacy of modern medicine. In the future medical historians may liken the prescribing of statins to lower blood cholesterol with the old medical practice of bloodletting. Taking that vital substance out of the body is comparable to today’s practice of blocking production of cholesterol, an equally vital component, with drugs.


  1. Stone NJ, Robinson JG, Lichtenstein AH, et al. 2013 ACC/AHA guideline on the treatment of blood cholesterol to reduce atherosclerotic cardiovascular risk in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task force on Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol 2014;63:2889-2934.
  2. Kohli P, Whelton SP, Hsu S, et al. Clinician’s guide to the updated ABCs of cardiovascular disease prevention. J Am Heart Assoc 2014;3:e001098 Available at: Accessed March 17, 2015.
  3. Newsom, LD. Primary prevention of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease:Controversies and clinical considerations. Ann Pharmacother   2015;49(April): 484-493.
  4. Pencina MJ, Navar-Boggan AM, D’Agostino RB, et al. Application of new cholesterol guidelines to a population-based sample. N Engl J Med 2014;370:1422-1431.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health United States, 2013: With special feature on prescription drugs. Available at: Accessed March 20, 2015.
  6. Miedema AMD, Lopez FL, Blaha MJ. Eligibility for statin therapy according to new cholesterol guidelines and prevalent use of medication to lower lipid levels in an older US cohort: The atherosclerosis risk in communities study cohort. JAMA Intern Med 2015;175(1):138-140.
  7. Sever PS, Dahlof B, Poulter NR, et al. Prevention of coronary and stroke events with atorvastatin in hypertensive patients who have average or lower-than-average cholesterol concentrations, in the Anglo-Scandinavian Cardiac Outcomes Trial-Lipid Lowering Arm (ASCOT-LLA): a multicenter randomized controlled trial. Lancet 2003;361:1149-1158.
  8. Diamond DM, Ravnskov U. How statistical deception created the appearance that statins are safe and effective in primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Expert Rev Clin Pharmacol 2015;8(2):189-199.
  9. Rosch P. Quote in: Cholesterol skeptics and the bad news about statins. Center for Medical Consumers, Cholesterol Skeptics: Conference Report. Available at: Accessed March 21, 2015.
  10. Langsjoen P. Review of How Statin Drugs Really Lower Cholesterol and Kill You One Cell at a Time by James and Hannah Yoseph. J Am Phys Surg 2013;18:30.7
  11. Mauch DH, Nagler K, Schumacher S. CNS synaptogenesis promoted by glia-derived cholesterol. Science 2001:294(5545):1354-1457.
  12. Graveline D. Adverse Effects of statin drugs: a physician patient’s perspective. J Am Phys Surg 2015;20:7-11.
  13. Golomb BA, Evans MA. Statin adverse effects: a review of the literature and evidence for a mitochondrial mechanism. Am J Cardiovasc Drugs 2008;8(63):373-418.
  14. Golomb BA, Evans MA, Dimsdale JE, et al. Effects of statins on energy and fatigue with exertion: results from a randomized controlled trial. Arch Intern Med 2012;172:1180-1182.
  15. Ravnskov U, Rosch PJ, McCully KS. The statin-low cholesterol-cancer conundrum. QJM 2012;105:383-388.
  16. Colpo A. The Great Cholesterol Con: Why everything you’ve been told about cholesterol, diet and heart disease is wrong!; 2006.
  17. Culver AL, Ockene IS, Balasubramanian R, et al. Statin use and risk of diabetes mellitus in postmenopausal women in women’s health initiative. Arch Intern Med 2012;172(2):144-152.
  18. FDA expands advice on statin risk. FDA Consumer Health Information/U.S. Food and Drug Administration. January 2014. Available at: Accessed March 22, 2015.
  19. Ridker PM, Danielson E, Fonseca FA, et al. Rosuvastatin to prevent vascular events in men and women with elevated C-reactive protein. N Engl J Med 2008;359:2195-2207.
  20. Garret HE, Horning EC, Creech RG, DeBakey M. Serum cholesterol values in patients treated surgically for atherosclerosis. JAMA 1964;189:655-659.
  21. Iso H, Jacobs Jr DR, Wentworth D, et al. Serum cholesterol level and six-year mortality from stroke in 350,977 men screened for the multiple risk factor intervention trial. N Engl J Med 1989;320:904-910.
  22. Ravnskov U. The Cholesterol Myths: Exposing the Fallacy that Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease. Washington, D.C.: New Trends Publishing; 2000.
  23. Ravnskov U. A hypothesis out-of-date: The diet-heart idea. J Clin Epidemiol 2002;55:1057-1063,
  24. Taubes G. Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Sciance of Diet and Health. New York: Anchor Books; 2008.
  25. Evans D. Cholesterol and Saturated Fats Prevent Heart Disease: Evidence from 101 Scientific Studies. Guilford, Surrey, UK; Grosvenor House Publishing: 2012.
  26. Ross R. Atherosclerosis—an inflammatory disease N Engl J Med 1999; 340:115-126.
  27. Hölschermann H, Schuster D, Parviz B, et al. Statins prevent NF-kB transactivation independently of the IKK-pathway in human endothelial cells. Atherosclerosis 2006;185:240-245.
  28. Evans D. Low Cholesterol Leads to an Early Death: Evidence from 101 Scientific Papers. Guilford, Surrey, UK; Grosvenor House Publishing: 2012.
  29. Schatz IJ, Masaki K, Yano K, et al. Cholesterol and all-cause mortality in elderly people from the Honolulu Heart Program: a cohort study. Lancet 2001;358(9279):351-355.
  30. Tuikkala P, Hartikainen S, Korhonen MF, et al. Serum total cholesterol levels and all-cause mortality in a home-dwelling elderly population: a six-year follow-up. Scand J Prim Health Care 2010;28(2):121-127.

Donald Miller (send him mail) is a retired cardiac surgeon and Emeritus Professor of Surgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He is a member of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Science and Pseudo-Science | | Leave a comment

Conservative ‘warrior nation’ mythology glorifies Boer War against evidence

By Yves Engler | Rabble | June 3, 2015

In their bid to brand Canada a “warrior nation,” Stephen Harper’s Conservatives seek to glorify Canadian military history, regardless of its horrors.

On Saturday Canada’s Minister of Veteran Affairs released a statement to mark “113 years since the end of the South African war.” Erin O’Toole said, “Canada commemorates all those who served in South Africa, contributing to our proud military history.”

But the Boer War was a brutal conflict to strengthen British colonial authority in Africa, ultimately leading to racial apartheid. In the late 1800s the Boers, descendants of Dutch settlers, increasingly found themselves at odds with British interests in southern Africa. Large quantities of gold were found 30 miles south of the Boer capital, Pretoria, in 1886 and the Prime Minister of U.K.’s Cape Colony, Cecil Rhodes, and other British miners wanted to get their hands on more of the loot.

There was also a geostrategic calculation. The Boer gold and diamond fields in the Orange Free State and Transvaal were drawing the economic heart of southern Africa away from the main British colonies on the coast. If this continued London feared that the four southern African colonies might unite, but outside of the British orbit, which threatened its control of an important shipping lane.

Between 1898 and 1902 London launched a vicious war against the Boer. With Cecil Rhodes’ Imperial South African Association promoting anti-Boer sentiment in this country, some 7,400 Canadians fought to strengthen Britain’s position in southern Africa.

The war was devastating for the Boers. As part of a scorched-earth campaign the British-led forces burned their crops and homesteads and poisoned their wells. About 200,000 Boer were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Twenty-eight thousand (mostly children) died of disease, starvation and exposure in these camps.

In Another Kind of Justice: Canadian Military Law from Confederation to Somalia, Chris Madsen points out that, “Canadian troops became intimately involved in the nastier aspects of the South African war.” Whole columns of troops participated in search, expel and burn missions. Looting was common. One Canadian soldier wrote home, “as fast as we come up the country… we loot the farms.” Another wrote, “I tell you there is some fun in it. We ride up to a house and commandeer anything you set your eyes on. We are living pretty well now.” There are also numerous documented instances of Canadian troops raping and killing innocent civilians.

As with the Boer, the war was devastating for many Africans. Over 100,000 Blacks were held in concentration camps but the British failed to keep a tally of their deaths so it’s not known how many died of disease or starvation. Some estimate that as many as 20,000 Africans were worked to death in camps during the war.

Unlike the Boer, the plight of black South Africans didn’t improve much after the war. In Painting the Map Red: Canada and the South African War, 1899-1902, Carman Miller notes, “Although imperialists had made much of the Boer maltreatment of the Blacks, the British did little after the war to remedy their injustices.” In fact, the war reinforced white/British dominance over the region’s Indigenous population.

The peace agreement with the Boer included a guarantee that Africans would not be granted the right to vote before the two defeated republics gained independence. In The History of Britain in Africa, John Charles Hatch explains: “By the time that self-government was restored in 1906 and 1907, they [the Boer] were able to reestablish the racial foundations of their states on the traditional principle of ‘No equality in church or state.'” Blacks and mixed-race people were excluded from voting in the post-war elections and would not gain full civil rights for nine decades.

For Harper’s Conservatives the details of the Boer War are barely relevant. What matters is that Canadians traveled to a distant land to do battle beside a great empire. That’s the “warrior nation” they seek to create.

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Sleepwalking to Another Mideast Disaster

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | June 4, 2015

If sanity ruled U.S. foreign policy, American diplomats would be pushing frantically for serious power-sharing negotiations between Syria’s secular government and whatever rational people remain in the opposition – and then hope that the combination could turn back the military advances of the Islamic State and/or Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front.

But sanity doesn’t rule. Instead, the ever-influential neocons and their liberal-hawk allies can’t get beyond the idea of a U.S. military campaign to destroy President Bashar al-Assad’s army and force “regime change” – even if the almost certain outcome would be the black flag of Islamic nihilism flying over Damascus.

As much as one may criticize the neocons for their reckless scheming, you can’t call them fickle. Once they come up with an idea – no matter how hare-brained – they stick with it. Syrian “regime change” has been near the top of their to-do list since the mid-1990s and they aren’t about to let it go now. [See’sThe Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”] That’s one reason why – if you read recent New York Times stories by correspondent Anne Barnard – no matter how they start, they will wind their way to a conclusion that President Barack Obama must bomb Assad’s forces, somehow conflating Assad’s secular government with the success of the fundamentalist Islamic State.

On Wednesday, Barnard published, on the front page, fact-free allegations that Assad was in cahoots with the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) in its offensive near Aleppo, thus suggesting that both Assad’s forces and the Islamic State deserved to be targets of U.S. bombing attacks inside Syria. [See’sNYT’s New Propaganda on Syria.”]

On Thursday, Barnard was back on the front page co-authoring an analysis favorably citing the views of political analyst Ibrahim Hamidi, arguing that the only way to blunt the political appeal of the Islamic State is to take “more forceful international action against the Syrian president” – code words for “regime change.”

But Barnard lamented, “Mr. Assad remains in power, backed by Iran and the militant group Hezbollah. … That, Mr. Hamidi and other analysts said, has left some Sunnis willing to tolerate the Islamic State in areas where they lack another defender. … By attacking ISIS in Syria while doing nothing to stop Mr. Assad from bombing Sunni areas that have rebelled, he added, the United States-led campaign was driving some Syrians into the Islamic State camp.”

In other words, if one follows Barnard’s logic, the United States should expand its military strikes inside Syria to include attacks on the Syrian government’s forces, even though they have been the primary obstacle to the conquest of Syria by Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and/or Al-Qaeda’s spinoff, the Islamic State. (Another unprofessional thing about Barnard’s articles is that they don’t bother to seek out what the Syrian government thinks or to get the regime’s response to accusations.)

The Sarin Story

So, “regime change” remains the neocon prescription for Syria, one that was almost fulfilled in summer 2013 after a mysterious sarin gas attack on Aug. 21, 2013, outside Damascus – that the U.S. government and mainstream media rushed to blame on Assad, although some U.S. intelligence analysts suspected early on that it was a provocation by rebel extremists.

According to intelligence sources, that suspicion of a rebel “false-flag” operation has gained more credence inside the U.S. intelligence community although the Director of National Intelligence refuses to provide an update beyond the sketchy “government assessment” that was issued nine days after the incident, blaming Assad’s forces but presenting no verifiable evidence.

Because DNI James Clapper has balked at refining or correcting the initial rush to judgment, senior U.S. officials and the mainstream media have been spared the embarrassment of having to retract their initial claims – and they also are free to continue accusing Assad. [See’sA Fact-Resistant Group Think on Syria.”]

Yet, the DNI’s refusal to update the nine-days-after-the-attack white paper undermines any hope of getting serious about power-sharing negotiations between Assad and his “moderate” opponents. It may be fun to repeat accusations about Assad “gassing his own people,” a reprise of a favorite line used against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, but it leaves little space for talks.

There has been a similar problem in the DNI’s stubbornness about revealing what the U.S. intelligence community has learned about the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shoot-down over eastern Ukraine killing 298 people on July 17, 2014. DNI Clapper released a hasty report five days after the tragedy, citing mostly “social media” and pointing the blame at ethnic Russian rebels and the Russian government.

Though I’m told that U.S intelligence analysts have vastly expanded their understanding of what happened and who was responsible, the Obama administration has refused to release the information, letting stand the public perception that Russian President Vladimir Putin was somehow at fault. That, in turn, has limited Putin’s willingness to cooperate fully with Obama on strategies for reining in hard-charging crises in the Middle East and elsewhere. [See’sUS Intel Stands Pat on MH-17 Shoot-down.”]

From the Russian perspective, Putin feels he is being falsely accused of mass murder even as Obama seeks his help on Syria, Iran and other hotspots. As U.S. president, Obama could order the U.S. intelligence community to declassify what it has learned about both incidents, the 2013 sarin gas attack in Syria and the 2014 MH-17 shoot-down in eastern Ukraine, but he won’t.

Instead, the Obama administration has used these propaganda clubs to continue pounding on Assad and Putin – and Obama’s team shows no willingness to put down the clubs even if they were fashioned from premature or wrongheaded analyses. While Obama withholds the facts, the neocons and liberal hawks are leading the American people to the cliffs of two potentially catastrophic wars in Syria and Ukraine.

Though Obama claims that his administration is committed to “transparency,” the reality is that it has been one of the most opaque in American history, made much worse by his unprecedented prosecution of national security whistleblowers.

Even in the propaganda-crazy days of the Reagan administration, I found it easier to consult with intelligence analysts than I do now. While those Reagan-era analysts might have had orders to spin me, they also would give up some valuable insights in the process. Today, there is much more fear among analysts that they might stray an inch too far and get prosecuted.

The danger from Obama’s elitist – and manipulative – attitude toward information is that it eviscerates the American people’s fundamental right to know what is going on in the world and thus denies them a meaningful say in matters of war or peace.

This problem is made worse by a mainstream U.S. news media that marches in lockstep with neoconservatives and their “liberal interventionist” sidekicks, narrowing the permitted policy options and guiding an enfeebled public to a preordained conclusion – as New York Times correspondent Anne Barnard has done over the past two days.

In the case of Syria, the only “acceptable” approach is the reckless idea that the U.S. government must militarily damage the principal force – the Syrian army – that is holding back the rising tide of Sunni terrorism and then must take its chances on what comes next.


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

[For more on this topic, see’sThe Day After Damascus Falls” and “Holes in the Neocons’ Syrian Story.”]

June 4, 2015 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | 1 Comment

PBS Frontline Fails the Public with “Obama at War”

A Case Study in Distortion and Bias on Syria

By Rick Sterling | Dissident Voice | June 4, 2015


Frontline is an influential television program which examines important foreign and domestic issues. The shows tend to be technically well done – combining concise writing with compelling video. Many North Americans watch and have their beliefs shaped by Frontline documentaries.

Last week Public Broadcasting System channels across North America broadcast the Frontline special titled “Obama at War”. The 52 minute video portrays the following:

* Origins of the Syrian conflict

* Response of the Obama administration

* Evolution of the conflict

* The run-up and response to alleged chemical attacks in 2013

* Emergence of ISIS, Nusra and other extremist groups

* Where is the conflict headed?  Where is US policy headed?

The video is online here. The approximate time stamp of some key moments in the video are noted in text below.

Positive Elements

On the positive side, the documentary acknowledges that:

* It is a violation of international law to provide weapons to a non-state actor trying to overthrow a sovereign state.

* The overthrow of the Libyan government led to chaos and increased sectarianism and violence.

* There might not be any easy solutions; escalating US involvement as demanded by the “Syrian opposition” and interventionists might actually make things worse.

In addition, the program shows the inner workings and debate process in the Obama administration.

That said, following are some key problems with the documentary.

Key Failings:

(1) Promotes “Syrian Opposition” that is more American than Syrian

Three “Syrian Opposition” members (Ouabi Shahbandar, Murhaf Jouejati, and Amr al Azm) appear 12 times through the documentary, using about 7% of the total time.  In reality all of the three are U.S. Citizens; none of them has lived in Syria for many years or decades.

Ouabi Shahbandar is the “Syrian Opposition” member given prominent attention in the video. He came to the US at age 8.  At Arizona State University in 2003 he was a young Republican neoconservative on the rampage, strongly supporting GW Bush and the invasion of Iraq, denouncing war protesters as “terrorists” and allying with far right figures such as David Horowitz. In the past decade he has worked for the US Dept of Defense.

Murhaf Jouejati teaches at the National Defense University (US Dept of Defense). A third voice is from Amr Al Azm who is leader of the US funded “Day After Project” intended to plan for development after regime change in Damascus. In short, all three “Syrian Opposition” voices are aligned and committed to US not Syrian national interests.

(2) Excludes authentic Syrian voices

Most viewers will be completely unaware that polls have consistently shown the majority of Syrians  supporting their government and opposing armed opposition attacks.  As the widely respected British journalist Jonathan Steele wrote in 2012, “Most Syrians back President Assad but you’d never know from Western media.”  In 2013, a NATO study concluded that Assad was winning the battle for Syrian hearts and minds and “After two years of civil war, support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad was said to have sharply increased.”

In light of this it seems fair to ask: Why are none of these voices included in a documentary about Syria? Why were there no voices from members of the Syrian American Forum or Arab Americans for Syria or from Syrians who actually live in Syria and experience the conflict first hand?

(3) Gives biased and contradictory characterization of the conflict

At (2:30) “Syrian opposition” member Murhaf Jouejati claims the Syrian opposition has universal goals and is not sectarian. In contrast, at (3:35) Washington Post journalist David Ignatius describes the uprising as a “Sunni revolution”. How can it be a “Sunni revolution” and non-sectarian at the same time?

In reality, both portrayals are distortions. The Syrian conflict has been often characterized in Western media as “an Alawi regime dictatorship dominating the Sunni majority population.” Although repeated countless times, it is essentially untrue. For example, the powerful Syrian Defense and Information Ministries are both led by Sunni Muslims; the Syrian Army is majority Sunni; the economy is dominated by Sunni businessmen. In reality, Syria is a mix of many religions and the government is predominately nationalist and secular, not religious.

The opposition is driven by sectarian Wahabi ideology but that does not represent Sunni Islam any more than Zionist supremacism represents Judaism or right wing Christian fundamentalists represent Christianity.

(4) Excludes important background information about U.S. Ambassador and US Policy

U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford is ever-present in the documentary. He appears 15 separate times and his perspective uses almost 10% of the entire video.  In the opening scenes, Ford talks about going to support a protest march in Hama. He says “We were not backing any particular set of demands that the protesters were putting forward; we were simply supporting their right to demonstrate peacefully.” This is a nice platitude for those who believe in the tooth fairy, but how about the real world?

In fact, U.S. policy has been hostile toward Syria for many years. In 2003-4 the Syria Accountability Act imposed sanctions.  It’s widely known that the US and allies Israel and Saudi Arabia seek to break Syria’s alliance with Iran and the Lebanese resistance movement. Israel has attacked Syria numerous times. In 2007, Seymour Hersh wrote:

The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

Robert Ford is very familiar with these “extremist groups” since he was Political Counselor under Ambassador John Negroponte in Baghdad 2004 – 2006 during the time that they were launched. Negroponte is infamous in Latin America where he was US Ambassador to Honduras coordinating the creation of the ‘Contras’ in Nicaragua and death squads in El Salvador and Honduras.  Negroponte and Robert Ford implemented the transformation in US strategy in Iraq following the first year of US occupation.  Called the “Salvador option” by Newsweek magazine, Robert Ford likely played a pivotal role since he was a top official and fluent in Arabic. But this important background information is missing from the Frontline special.

(5) Falsely claims the Syrian insurgency was predominately secular in 2012/2013

One of the major arguments of Robert Ford and other interventionists is that the Syrian uprising was not sectarian; they claim the Obama Administration did not do enough to support the secular opposition and thereby “allowed” it to be radicalized. Ford says toward the end of the documentary:

Of course there was a window of opportunity. The jihadi elements in Syria were a distinct minority in the Syrian armed opposition in late 2012 and going into 2013.(45:35)

This assertion is contradicted on multiple counts. Observing conditions in Aleppo in September-October 2012, American journalist James Foley wrote:

Many civilians here are losing patience with the increasingly violent and unrecognizable opposition — one that is hampered by infighting and a lack of structure, and deeply infiltrated by both foreign fighters and terrorist groups.

More significantly, just in the past few weeks, the August 2012 analysis of the Defense Information Agency has been released following a law suit connected to Congressional hearings around Benghazi.  That report states:

Internally, events are taking a clear sectarian direction. The Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI are the major force driving the insurgency in Syria.

It appears Ford was deliberately downplaying the sectarian reality of the conflict to justify his call for greater US intervention.

(6) Falsely suggests Obama Administration was preventing opposition forces from receiving weapons

The documentary gives the impression the Obama administration was steadfastly blocking the supplying of weapons to Syrian armed opposition through 2012.  In reality, huge quantities of weapons were transferred  beginning 2011. Another Defense Intelligence Agency document discloses:

During the immediate aftermath of, and following the uncertainty caused by, the downfall of the Gaddafi regime, in October 2011 and up until early September 2012, weapons from the former Libya military stockpiles located in Benghazi, Libya were shipped …to Syria.

The weapons included “Sniper rifles, RPG’s and 125mm and 150mm howitzer missiles.”

As documented here, beginning November 2012 there was a major airlift of arms to Syrian rebels:

3,000 tons of weapons dating back to the former Yugoslavia have been sent in 75 planeloads from Zagreb airport to the rebels, largely via Jordan.

The kernel of truth here is that despite the huge shipments of weapons to the armed opposition they were still losing. Unwilling to accept this, Saudi Arabia wanted to escalate the shipments and transfers even more.

(7) Excludes Crucial Information including the Huge Number of Syrian Soldiers Killed

There are many scenes of Syrian victims from “armed opposition” territories and battle zones. Like all wars and conflicts, it is horrible with good and bad people on all sides. However, it is striking that there are no videos or interviews showing the extent of casualties in Syrian government areas.

Three quarters of the Syrian population live in areas under Syrian government control and they are also victims of random or targeted attacks. Nor is there any hint about the huge number of Syrian soldiers, police and national defense forces who have been killed.

Viewers of “Obama at War” will have no idea that between 80 and 120 thousand Syrian soldiers and civil defenders have been killed in the conflict. Many thousands are victims of those “Sniper” rifles shipped under the watchful eye of the CIA. Skeptical readers are urged to look for themselves at the range of estimates from different sources shown here.

Contrary to the mythology, there was a violent faction provoking the conflict from the beginning.

What would happen in the USA or Canada if foreign sponsored “rebels” killed tens of thousands of police or military soldiers?

(8) Falsely claims “clear proof” that Syrian government used Sarin in Spring 2013

At (22:15) Frontline intones “With no one to stop him, Assad initiates a new phase in the war: the deployment of chemical weapons.”

Mark Mazetti of NY Times says:

Intelligence community was assessing that the rebels were on the ropes. You have the clear proof in the intelligence community that there had been chemical weapon attacks ….

Mazetti’s assertion ignores the widespread debate and differing opinions among those looking into the sarin issue.  For example, UN Inspector Carla Ponte said the evidence pointed toward the rebels being responsible, not the government. She said:

There are strong, concrete suspicions …of the use of sarin gas….on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.

If the “rebels” were “on the ropes”, why would the Assad government use chemical weapons and provoke international outcry and possible intervention?  On the other hand, the “rebels” had the motive and the means. Syrian insurgents had even been captured with Sarin in Turkey earlier in the year.

(9) Excludes key research on responsibility for Sarin Use in August 2013

At (26:45) Frontline says “Then, a sarin gas attack on a rebel held suburb of Damascus…..1400 men, women and children are killed according to what the American intelligence agencies tell the President.”  John Kerry accuses the Syrian government of using “the world’s most heinous weapons against the most vulnerable people”.

In reality, there was immediate skepticism about the responsibility. Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), made of up retired members of the US intelligence community especially the Central Intelligence Agency, issued a statement saying:

Former co-workers are telling us, categorically, that contrary to the claims of your administration, the most reliable intelligence shows that Bashar al-Assad was NOT responsible for the chemical incident that killed and injured Syrian civilians on August 21, and that British intelligence officials also know this.

“Obama at War” ignores the critical debate and simply repeats the accusations which have been largely discredited.  Over the past 18 months some of the best US investigative journalists have researched what happened on August 21 in Ghouta.  Seymour Hersh wrote “The Red Line and the Rat Line” pointing to Turkish and Nusra culpability. Robert Parry wrote “The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case” identifying the “junk heap of bad evidence” used to blame the Syrian government. Two months before the gas attacks, Russ Baker predicted the drive toward another US intervention based on false premises.  He commented sarcastically:  “No one is likely to demand good hard evidence for the use of chemical weapons. After all, the Bush administration and its lies for war was so…very long ago.”

Instead of dealing with the controversy and contrary evidence, Frontline ignored it and echoes the assertions of interventionists.

(10) Largely ignores the lessons from Libya

The situation in Libya is highly relevant to Syria – and recent. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to explore what happened there and the lessons to be learned?  At (9:45) there is a passing reference to the chaos in Libya following the overthrow of the Gadaffi government.

Earlier at (5:45) NY Times reporter Mark Mazetti says “We had seen what happened in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya … Popular demonstrations would ultimately bring down the regime.” However, that is inaccurate regarding Libya where the government was overthrown by a seven month US/NATO/GULF bombing campaign – not “popular demonstrations”.

Considering that the attacks on Libya were presented as necessary to “protect civilians” (as is currently argued for Syria), and the eruption of sectarianism and violence which has followed, and the terrible decline in living standards and security for Libyan civilians …. isn’t this worthy of more than five seconds passing reference?

(11) Repeats Dubious Accusations regarding Chlorine Gas Bombs

“Obama at War” repeats accusations based on unreliable evidence that the Syrian government has been using chlorine gas bombs to attack civilians. Logic would suggest that the opposition has a motive for this while the government does not.  Some widely publicized writers, such as Dr. Annie Sparrow, are full of moralistic condemnations but curiously short of facts.  As reported by Time magazine in Spring 2013, the major chlorine producing factory in Syria (and its stockpiles of chlorine) were under Nusra (Al Queda) control since 2012.  It is also curious there are no current videos showing the alleged onslaught of chlorine filled barrel bombs while there are many videos showing the armed opposition launching gas canisters.

(12) Promotes False History of the Expansion of ISIS and Nusra

At this point the documentary does something very misleading: it presents the expansion of ISIS and Nusra as a consequence of the Obama decision not to attack Syria.  At 36:25 the documentary intones “Extremists exploited the decision not to attack.”  At 36:35 Shahbandar claims that extremists are telling Syrian civilians “Look you’ve been betrayed by the world ….”.  At 36:55 Baker (NY Times) suggests that ISIS and Nusra are saying “We’re the only ones who can take down Assad and create a new order here.” The documentary then claims that moderate rebels are joining extremists with ISIS emerging as the strongest. That is soon followed by video showing ISIS surging through Iraq and seizing Mosul.

In reality, the extremists (Nusra, ISIS, etc) were the major armed opposition force long before the August 2013 situation.  That was confirmed in the August 2012 DIA report.  Nor was the surge of ISIS into Iraq a consequence of the Obama decision. The ISIS seizure of Mosul occurred in June of 2014, ten months after the Obama decision.

If the US had proceeded and attacked Syria in September 2013 it would have further weakened the Syrian government and helped the extremists expand even more.  After four years of attacks by tens of thousands of heavily armed insurgents from all over the globe, the Syrian government and military is greatly weakened. That has allowed ISIS to control the lightly populated eastern part of the country. The Syrian army is bogged down fighting thousands of extremists in the major urban areas in the west, north and south which has allowed ISIS to continue in the east.

(13) Suggests that ISIS and Nusra are “helping” and “defending” Syrians

At 37:10 Ford says:

I think it’s human nature to seek help from those who will defend you against the external threat that’s killing you, arresting you, torturing you … It’s no surprise that Syrians seek support of anyone to get rid of the regime that’s inflicting the pain.

Ford’s assertion that the extremists are “defending” Syrians against an “external threat” is bizarre since the “external threat” refers to the Syrian government and “those who will defend you” refers to extremist organizations consisting of huge numbers of sectarian fanatics and mercenaries from across the globe.

While there are some Syrians who want a sectarian wahabi state with strict sharia law, they are vastly outnumbered by Syrians who want to maintain a secular state and inclusive multi-faith society. The suggestion in this documentary that a significant number of Syrians seek “help” from ISIS or Nusra is a grotesque falsehood.

Ford continues his nonchalant description of ISIS at 44:30:

Dropping bombs is not going to destroy the Islamic State and so it seems the Islamic State is going to maintain control over the eastern half of Syria more or less indefinitely.


* “Obama at War” presents a biased and distorted view of the reality in Syria.

* The experience and perspective of the vast majority of Syrians is ignored.

* There is a pressing need for realistic reports which convey the perspectives and experiences of all people in the conflict, not just the “opposition” and their supporters.

Rick Sterling is active with the Syria Solidarity Movement and Mt Diablo Peace and Justice Center. He can be emailed at:

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

Police search house, prepare charges against German Holocaust skeptic


By Brandon Martinez | Non-Aligned Media | June 4, 2015

German media have reported that police have raided the house of 86-year-old Ursula Haverbeck, a German lady who has publicly doubted the Holocaust story.

A report in Mindener Tageblatt says:

“The public prosecution department of the city of Bielefeld has been investigating a case of “incitement to hatred“ (Volksverhetzung) against … Ursula Haverbeck. Now, a new lawsuit was added: prosecutors of Niedersachsen’s State Office of Criminal Investigations have searched the houses of Vlotho resident Haverbeck with the support of authorities of the city of Herford. The houses of three further accused were also searched on that day.”

Haverbeck has been constantly pursued by German authorities for her nonconformist opinions about the Holocaust. In Germany, a self-professed ‘democracy,’ individuals do not have the right to question establishment myths about the Second World War. The public is forced to accept the self-serving interpretations of the winners of World War II under penalty of fines and imprisonment.

The government of Germany should be boycotted and condemned until the present Stasi-like police state is disbanded.

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 2 Comments

Israel sees red over Orange plans to axe ties

AFP – June 4, 2015

JERUSALEM – French telecoms giant Orange said Thursday it wanted to withdraw its brand from Israel just hours after its chief executive came under fire from Israeli officials for giving in to a pro-Palestinian campaign.

Orange, which is partly controlled by the French government, insisted its decision to end its brand-licensing agreement with Partner, Israel’s second largest mobile operator, was not politically motivated.

But Israel lashed out at the decision, which appeared to be related to Partner’s operations in the occupied West Bank.

Citing its own “brand development strategy”, Orange said it did not wish to maintain a brand presence in countries “in which is it not an operator”, while distancing itself from the politics.

“In this context, and while strictly adhering to existing agreements, the Group ultimately wishes to end this brand licence agreement,” it said.

“The Orange Group… does not engage in any kind of political debate under any circumstance,” it said.

The storm erupted on Wednesday when Orange chief executive Stephane Richard told reporters in Cairo that the company was planning to withdraw from Israel.

His remarks touched a raw nerve in Israel which is growing increasingly concerned about global boycott efforts and the impact on its image abroad.

It drew a furious response from Israeli officials as well as from Partner, which is not a subsidiary but operates under the Orange brand name.

“The black side of Orange” said the top-selling Yediot Aharonot, while Israel HaYom, a staunch backer of rightwing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ran a headline reading: “Orange is no longer a partner.”

Deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely wrote to the Orange boss urging him “to clarify the matter” and warning him not to become party to “the industry of lies which unfairly targets Israel”.

And Isaac Benbenisti, who becomes chairman of Partner on July 1, said he was “very, very angry”, accusing Richard of caving in to “very significant pressure” from pro-Palestinian activists and joining a global campaign to isolate Israel.

End of the affair

Richard’s remarks dominated the headlines in all of Israel’s main media outlets on Thursday where he was immediately cast as a supporter of the boycott movement.

Although the Orange boss did not directly refer to the question of settlements, his remarks in Cairo came after the publication on May 6 of a report accusing the telecoms giant of indirectly supporting settlement activity through its relationship with Partner.

Compiled by five mainly French NGOs and two trade unions, the report accuses Partner of building on confiscated Palestinian land, and urges Orange to cut business ties and publicly declare its desire to avoid contributing to the economic viability of the settlements.

The international community regards all Israeli construction on Palestinian land seized during the 1967 Six-Day War as illegal.

Challenged in Cairo, Richard said: “Our intention is to withdraw from Israel. It will take time” but “for sure we will do it”.

“I am ready to do this tomorrow morning … but without exposing Orange to huge risks.”

Orange says it holds no shares or voting rights in Partner Communications, nor does it have any influence over the firm’s strategy, and that it does not have any other business activity in Israel.

Orange and Partner are linked by a licensing agreement which allows the Israeli firm to use its brand and logo in exchange for a fee. The contract was signed in 1998, two years before the telecoms giant was acquired by France Telecom.

The contract, initially open-ended, was recently amended by Orange and now expires in 2025.

Orange is present in 20 countries and the brand licensing agreement with Partner is the only one with a firm that is not a subsidiary.

Victory for BDS movement

The crisis comes after days of introspection in Israel over its place in the world, with the government railing against what it has denounced as a campaign of delegitimization.

Israel has been struggling to tackle a growing Palestinian-led boycott campaign which has had a number of high-profile successes.

Known as the BDS movement — boycott, divestment and sanctions — it aims to exert political and economic pressure over Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories in a bid to repeat the success of the campaign which ended apartheid in South Africa.

This week, Britain’s National Union of Students voted to affiliate itself with the BDS movement, in a move which drew a sharp rebuke from Netanyahu.

Last week, Israel narrowly avoided expulsion from FIFA after the Palestinians withdrew a resolution calling on it to ban its Israeli counterpart over restrictions on Palestinian footballers and the presence of five teams inside Jewish settlements.

The boycott movement was even debated in parliament on Wednesday.

“It’s not politically correct to be anti-Semitic today but it’s super ‘in’ to be anti-Israel,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told MPs.


Ma’an staff contributed to this report.

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Leave a comment

Israel in Desperation

By Robert Fantina | Aletho News | June 4, 2015

Representatives of the Palestine Football Association removed their request for a vote at FIFA (The Fédération Internationale de Football Association; English: International Federation of Association Football) to expel Israel, at the very last minute. Whether it was known that they had insufficient votes, or Israel made some concessions, it can only be seen as a mistake for Palestine, and a small but short-lived victory for Israel.

Let’s look at this situation more closely.

If Palestine knew that it didn’t have the vote of 75% of the FIFA membership, a vote would still have required each nation to take a stand, either for or against justice, individual dignity and human rights. Countries that voted not to expel would have then been under pressure to change their vote the next time this issue arises before FIFA, which it definitely will. Palestine surrendered an excellent opportunity.

The other possible option is that Israel agreed to make some concessions. Surely no one representing Palestine would believe in Israel’s ‘good intentions’. Israel’s murderous, genocidal onslaught against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip last summer drew to a close when a cease-fire agreement was reached between the two nations. Palestine agreed to stop its rocket-fire (more on those ‘rockets’ later) and Israel agreed to do the same, as well as allow trade between Gaza and the West Bank, and to ease the blockade of the Strip, including allowing the import of building materials. This easing of the blockade also included allowing fishermen to work unimpeded for a nine-mile limit.

Since then, there has been very little rocket-fire from Gaza, and that only in response to ongoing Israeli violations of the cease-fire. Trade is still forbidden between Gaza and the West Bank. Insufficient building materials have been allowed in to Gaza, and fisherman are routinely shot within sight of the shoreline.

And what about those Palestinian ‘rockets’? Dr. Norman Finkelstein, a noted scholar, son of Holocaust survivors and an outspoken critic of Israel, refers to them as ‘enhanced fireworks’. Another journalist noted that those ‘rockets’ could be made with an eighth-grade chemistry set. This is what Palestine must use to oppose Israel, which has the most advanced and deadly weaponry available in the world, all provided by the United States.

So if Israel made ‘concessions’ that caused Palestine to agree to withdraw its request for a vote, nothing will change.

So Israeli football (soccer) teams can continue to play in all world games, abusing Palestinians, preventing them from training and competing, and harassing them when they do. Business as usual for apartheid Israel.

However, the picture isn’t as rosy for Israel as it might seem. Regardless of what happens to the current corrupt FIFA leadership, the battle at FIFA is just one of many fronts. The war for Palestinian independence and freedom is not a ground, sea or air war, and it won’t be won quickly. The publicity surrounding the Palestinian request for a vote to expel Israel shed a very unflattering light on that nation, adding to its growing international reputation as a rogue nation, where racism is institutionalized and justice does not exist. With the newly-formed government of recently re-elected Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu including some of the most overtly racist and genocidal cabinet members the world has ever seen, every new accusation gains greater scrutiny.

Pending in the International Criminal Court (ICC) are the findings on whether or not Israel committed war crimes in the summer of 2014. Palestine may, it is imagined, withdraw that petition as well, but doing so is unlikely. Any decision condemning Israel will have little legal impact, since Israel is not a member of the ICC. However, the court of public opinion is often stronger than anything a judge can decree, and the penalties far harsher than a court edict. The Israeli brand, already damaged beyond redemption, will suffer further once that decision is rendered.

The United Nations, nothing if not weak and generally ineffectual, is also considering a recommendation by its own personnel to add the Israeli army to a list of violators of children’s rights. UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, several Palestinian human rights organizations and at least one Israeli human rights organization all support the inclusion of the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) on this infamous list. Yet Israel has exerted great pressure on the U.N., so it is possible that Ban Ki-Moon, the U.N. Secretary General, may dismiss the work and words of his own advisors. Yet even if he bows to this pressure, significant damage has been done to the Israeli brand.

In the U.S., a situation currently making the news involves the termination of the employment of Professor Steven Salaita from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Mr. Salaita’s offer of tenured employment was withdrawn, following his ‘Tweeted’ criticism of Israel’s genocide against the Palestinians in 2014. Emails sent to the university chancellor indicate that large donors with strong pro-Israel beliefs pressured her into withdrawing the application. Within two weeks, over 1,200 academics around the world vowed to boycott the university, and that number has increased greatly since then. Numerous events scheduled to take place there have been cancelled, because the speakers who had previously agreed to participate, have withdrawn in protest. The American Association of University Professors, which has strongly condemned Mr. Salaita’s dismissal, is expected to censure the university within weeks.

One wonders how long Israel can continue to pressure and brow-beat international organizations into doing its bidding. How much time, effort and expense will it continue to expend to enable its continued crimes against humanity? Although the North American news media does little to publicize Israel’s many war crimes and violations of international law, the corporate-owned and controlled media is no longer the world’s only source of news. Social media gives everyone with a camera and an internet connection the ability to spread news around the world. And that ability, coupled with organized movements such as BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction), global student human-rights organizations working for Palestinian freedom and justice, and frantic (and futile) Israeli efforts to delegitimize Palestinian rights, all strengthen international knowledge of Israeli crimes.

It may not be in 2015 that Palestine is finally freed from its decades-long bondage to Israel. It will not come about because a soccer organization did or didn’t make a stand against injustice, or because of the findings of an international court of law. It will happen due to the efforts of people around the world who recognize the suffering of the Palestinian people, and who will no longer tolerate their governments’ complicity in that suffering. The defeat of apartheid in South Africa did not happen overnight, but it happened. The same will be true for Palestine.

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 3 Comments

MI5 blackmailed child sex abusers

Press TV – June 3, 2015

Some reports suggest that the British Security Service, MI5, shielded pedophile politicians from prosecution to blackmail them back in the 1970s.

“There’s now substantial evidence that the Security Service were condoning that, they knew of it and made use of it so as to blackmail the abusers and prevent some of the abusers being brought to book at the time,” Belfast Telegraph quoted a lawyer for one of the child abuse victims as saying.

The revelation was made in Belfast High Court during the hearing of the Kincora Boy’s Home case.

The victims of the abuse at the Kincora boys’ home in Belfast have filed the legal action with the aim to force a full independent probe that would have the authority to compel the secret service to hand over documents and witnesses to give testimonies.

‘Utterly scandalous’

Meanwhile, Amnesty International announced that investigation into child abuse at Kincora Boys’ Home in east Belfast should be investigated by the UK parliament.

“The Kincora affair may be one of the most disturbing episodes of the Troubles…The claims that MI5 turned a blind eye to child abuse, actively blocked a police investigation, and instead used the pedophile ring for intelligence-gathering purposes, are utterly scandalous,” said Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director Patrick Corrigan.

‘Catalog of cover-ups’

Founder and Spokesperson of National Association for People Abused in Childhood expressed the hope that the forthcoming national inquiry would scrutinize the cover-ups.

“There has been a catalog of cover-ups and security services, MI5, senior police officers, probably senior politicians,” Peter Saunders told Press TV on Wednesday.

The British government has so far refused to include the case within the scope of a child abuse inquiry established by Home Secretary Theresa May.

London is seeking a different inquiry in which the MI5 would not be forced to hand over documents or compel witnesses to testify regarding the abuse at the boys’ home.

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , | Leave a comment

The Podemos Phenomenon: Spain’s Best Hope for Democracy

By William Hawes | Global Research | June 4, 2015

The captivating rise of Spain’s new left-leaning party Podemos has captured the world’s attention by emphasizing participative democracy. The formerly fractured Spanish left, in the past marred by petty infighting in Spain, coalesced from grassroots protests over austerity measures and gained steam in 2011. Working with the Anti-Capitalist Left activist base, Podemos began in 2014 by starting local public meetings, called citizen circles, to organize; using the web to organize, poll, and debate issues; and heavily promoting anti-austerity measures and poverty reduction. Young adults especially have been swept up in the Podemos’ rise, as unemployment for youths stands at anywhere from 30-50% by region.

Last month, anti-poverty activist Ada Colau gained the most seats to become Barcelona’s mayor with backing from Podemos. Podemos-backed Manuela Carmena came in a strong second in Madrid’s mayoral election as well. A coalition with Spain’s Socialist Party (PSOE) may secure both ladies’ spots. Now all eyes turn to the general election slated for December. At center stage as leader of Podemos is Pablo Iglesias, former college professor and TV host.

The ideology of Podemos was incubated during the May 2011 protests in Madrid centered on the skyrocketing unemployment and austerity measures employed by the Zapatero-led government. Spain’s protests erupted nationwide and were centered in the Puerta del Sol square in Madrid, led by social networks and citizen assemblies. Protesters were dubbed Indignados (“the outraged”, or “the angry ones”), for their rejection of Spain’s increasingly corrupt two-party system and the “austericide” measures strangling the economy and vitality of the nation. Spreading throughout the country, it is estimated that about 6.5-8 million participated. Protests have continued under the Rajoy regime. (1)

After the protests, Podemos formed from a coterie of radical professors from Madrid’s Complutense University. The most notable are Iglesias, political theorist and the face of the movement; Jesús Montero, former communist and political organizer, and Iñigo Errejón, university lecturer and campaign strategist. Beginning to channel citizens’ hopes, despair, and anger over poor economic conditions, Iglesias’ TV programs, La Tuerka and also Fort Apache, became hits and launched him into the national spotlight.

Debating conservatives on national broadcasts pushed Iglesias into the stratosphere in Spain, with bona-fide rock-star status, which he backs up: Iglesias accepts only quarter of his salary as a member of the European parliament. He flies coach on all his trips. He routinely rips Rajoy and his cadre of corrupt officials. He lives in a graffitied neighborhood in Madrid, has credentials as a respected academic, and visits with famous theorist Chantal Mouffe.

Iglesias and Podemos certainly have their critics and detractors, however. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has blasted the party recently, calling them “incompetent populists”. Some have questioned Iglesias’ decision to run Fort Apache, as it was produced by an Iranian state-run TV company. Others frown upon members’ past consulting work with the Venezuelan government. And co-founding member Juan Carlos Monedero has recently quit the party, commenting that Podemos needs to “go back to its origins”. (2)

Despite the backlash, there is no doubt that Podemos represents the best hope for the future in Spain. Monedero still claims they are “the most decent force in Spanish politics”. Iglesias has shown citizens who the ruling People’s Party (PP) and the rival Socialists’ Workers Party (PSOE) really are: la casta (the caste), the establishment, corrupt leaders and officials who do nothing as nearly 6 million people are out of work and 2 million households have no net income. (3) The party is also aware of their limitations in an integrated EU economy: this is why they have called on the help of friends like Greece’s Syriza to fight the EU technocracy, ECB, and IMF. No doubt, Podemos would be wise to send feelers to Italy’s PM Matteo Renzi and Ireland’s Sinn Fein party to ally the periphery, mainly southern Europe, against the unjust policies of Brussels.

Iglesias has shown moderation and fairness in nearly every aspect of Podemos’ agenda. He supports Spain’s membership in the EU, but only under fair laws and loan agreements. He wants benefits and social programs expanded, but he is not calling for nationalization of entire industries. Podemos supports sharing more power with the autonomous regions of the Basque Country, Catalonia, and Galicia, and even states that the party would allow a Catalonian referendum, which the PP and PSOE oppose. (4)

Podemos is more than a vehicle to bring to life the hopes and dreams of Spaniards alone. As political theorists, leaders of Podemos cannot be accused of intellectual laziness. By employing a narrative of anti-elite rhetoric within a framework of social justice, they have created a message appealing to citizens of the whole nation. By linking digital democracy, through social media, with participative elements, such as meetings to combat poverty, lobby for public health initiatives, the arts, and more, Podemos has provided a contemporary deliberative democratic blueprint for the world.

The party has helped lay ground for democracy with revolutionary potential, but not within a traditional, left/right framework. Though favoring a moderate social democracy, Iglesias and the leadership deny that they are partisans. Iglesias explained the left/right divide succinctly at a rally in Barcelona: “Power doesn’t fear the left, only the people”. (5) At its core, Podemos is attempting to challenge the power structure, and deliver democracy to the masses, even if it means deviating from its anti-capitalist, leftist origins.

By moving towards the center, and consolidating power mostly between Iglesias and Errejón, Podemos risked alienating its activist base. These are undoubtedly the reasons for Monedero’s resignation from the party. Charisma and charm will only take you so far, and pandering towards the middle will only work up to a point. Besides, the populist, new center-right party Ciudadanos is also mining the center for votes with this strategy.

Podemos should continue to act as a movement led by activists, and evade the traps of capitulation and compromise that mainstream parties fall into. Breaking the two-party stranglehold of the PP and PSOE has been impressive. By concentrating on poverty reduction, debt restructuring, ending austerity, and listening to its citizen circles, Podemos and Iglesias can win wider support, unity, and solidarity. If focus can be kept on their grassroots campaigns, Spain will begin to see what a true, albeit messy, participative democracy looks like.

William Hawes is a writer specializing in politics and environmental issues. You can reach him at







June 4, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

‘Ukraine Was a Totally Oligarchic State’

New Cold War | June 3, 2015

The following is an interview with Aleksander Vladimirovich Kolesnik, Deputy of the Parliament of Novorossiya. The interview was conducted by New Cold on April 16, 2015 in the city of Donetsk.

How did you become involved in the movement for Novorossiya?

Aleksander Vladimirovich Kolesnik: I could not remain indifferent when during the winter of 2013-2014, the Maidan events were taking place and I saw how my former colleagues in the Department of Interior (police) where I once served were standing at Maidan Square, protecting the Ukrainian state and law and order but were being bullied and hurt by the crowd and even killed. They could only respond with their rubber clubs.

I served in Odessa way back during military conscription, and then I served in the police in Donetsk and Sumy. [1]

I did not share the so-called values that Maidan proclaimed. It was an aggressive movement of fascist youngsters, proclaiming a Nazi ideology at the state level. Such slogans as “Ukraine is for Ukrainians”, “Glory to the nation – death for enemies” and so on I cannot view as anything but a Nazi ideology.

Was it true, the slogans we heard about on Maidan Square such as “Hang the Moskals [Russians] on a branch”?

Of course. But you know, in a way, this was secondary to shaping my views. I was expecting this moment for 24 years. I assumed that sooner or later this would happen, because during the 24 years of Ukraine’s existence as an independent country [since 1991], there was a gradual but steady rise of Ukrainian nationalism, specifically at the state level. This was happening right before my eyes, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 when Ukraine separated.

Before, we could travel freely from Donetsk region [in Ukraine] to Rostov region [in Russia]. There were no border control posts. Then, customs and border posts and procedures began appearing. Inter-urban electric trains were abolished. Everything happened right before my eyes. It all happened gradually, but was aimed at reducing relations with Russia.

It turned into ridiculous measures, such as digging trenches along the border. Right now, Ukraine is building a wall.

During the Maidan events, it was in January [2014], I realized that I couldn’t just stand by. I joined a political party (organization), the Russian Bloc. It already had an active involvement in Crimea. There were units here which I joined, specifically the unit in Makiivka in Donetsk [an industrial city located 25 km from Donetsk city].

Was the Russian Bloc a party?

It was initially a party. At the call of the party leadership, we went to a rally in central Donetsk on March 1. Other pro-Russian organizations also took part in this rally. When I saw the masses of people, I realized that my compatriots share the same views with me.

According to police estimates, 60,000 of my compatriots took part in the March 1 rally, on Lenin Square. Not only was the central square full, so too were the adjacent streets. After this, I became actively involved in this process. As a representative of the Russian Bloc, I joined the Yugo-Vostok (South-East) Movement in mid-April, which was led by Oleg Tsarev. Other protesting organizations joined it as well, such as Oplot, Russkiy Vostok (Russian East), Berkut, and others. Together we began undertaking joint activities.

We actively organized rallies. We were the first to hold a motor rally which delivered humanitarian aid to Slavyansk. If you recall, by the end of April [2015], the city was blocked off by the National Guard of Ukraine. We loaded cars with humanitarian aid–there were approximately 100 cars provided voluntarily–we put up flags and we headed straight to the National Guard’s blockade posts.

It was right after Easter. Our women brought Easter bread along with us. When the soldiers of the National Guard stopped us, the women wished them a Happy Easter, gave them some Easter bread and asked if we could pass through. No one dared to refuse or shoot. This caused some confusion, but they let us go through.

After that, we took part in preparations for holding the referendums in Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts (regions). They were still oblasts of Ukraine at that time. The people’s republics had already been proclaimed, but we still needed to hold referendums.

After the referendums were held [May 11], when Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics were formed, an agreement was achieved by their leaders. The parliaments of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics authorized their representatives to create the parliament of Novorossiya.

We approved a constitutional act which proclaimed Novorossiya a confederal state. We adopted a battle flag of Novorossiya, which then became an insignia of the armed forces of Novorossiya.

When was the Novorossiya act adopted?

In July, I don’t quite remember the exact date.

Fifteen candidates from each republic were nominated, from among the deputies of the parliaments of two republics, and 15 representatives of public organizations from each republic were approved.

At the beginning of September, in deference to the first ceasefire agreement signed at Minsk [on Sept. 5], the Parliament of Novorossiya temporarily suspended its legislative work. The reason for this was the fact that, according to the Minsk agreement, an agreement with Ukrainian authorities on the status of the so-called districts of Donetsk and Lugansk was supposed to be reached. Since this status has not yet been determined, the status of the Parliament of Novorossiya is not determined either.

So we then became actively involved in humanitarian missions. And we facilitated measures to address the concerns of citizens in our respective districts. Deputies of the Novorossiya Parliament were assigned to districts. People would come with their problems and needs, which we tried to solve and fulfill.

This continues following the Minsk-2 agreement [Feb. 12, 2015]?

As I already mentioned, yes. Because of these Minsk agreements–where Novorossiya is not considered at all, the term Novorossiya is not even used–we cannot proceed with our work because it may be regarded as a violation of the agreements.

It is mainly because of the Minsk agreements that there are some structural difficulties. Everything has to be built from the bottom. We have first to create the mechanism of the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics. We could have adopted any kind of laws, but they would have been useless without an executive power system in place

What are your expectations of the Minsk 2 agreement?

We are expecting that as a result of the Minsk agreement there will finally be some sort of recognition of Lugansk and Donetsk republics. If the Ukrainian side wants the agreement to function, it will have to recognize the Republics. If not, the agreement has no future.

What about the borders of Donetsk and Lugansk? Right now, Ukraine holds half of their historic territory.

It is difficult to say. It all depends on how the situation will further evolve.

Personally, I don’t think there will be a lasting truce. The same thing happened during the first Minsk agreements–the Ukrainian authorities and army waited some time, conducted reconnaissance, brought more troops, and then began a new offensive.

Unfortunately, everyone here believes that war is inevitable. No ceasefire will lead to peace until the main contradictions causing the conflict in the first place are resolved.

What is meant by ‘Novorossiya’. Is this the territories of Lugansk and Donetsk regions alone?

Of course not. Historically, Novorossiya is the territory from Odessa to Kharkiv, the south and east of Ukraine.

I am not sure whether you know this or not, but the city of Dnepropetrovsk, which prior to the Revolution of 1917 was called Ekaterinoslav, was for some period of time called Novorossiysk.

So the political objective is to have Novorossiya include these historical borders?

That is our goal. Fighting on the side of the military forces of the Lugansk and Donest Republics are very many people from Odessa, Kherson, Zaporozhye, Kharkiv and Dnepropetrovsk.

Do you think people in these regions want to join Novorossiya?

Of course. You saw during the Russian Spring last year that people held mass demonstrations involving tens of thousands of people. These protests were suppressed very violently. One example was what happened at the Odessa Trade Union House on May 2. [Dozens of anti-Maidan and pro-autonomy protesters were killed that day in an arson attack by extremist forces acting in the name of the government which came to power in Kyiv on Feb. 21, 2014.]

What have been the results of the actions of the Kyiv government on the people in southeastern Ukraine?

The actions of Ukrainian authorities were mainly aggressive. There were no attempts to negotiate. As a result of this aggression, the people living in Lugansk and Donetsk republics became even more united. More and more people joined our army.

The actions of the government have had a very strong influence on events. After Ukrainian troops began shelling peaceful cities—housing and infrastructure, brutal, senseless shelling–even those people that shared pro-Ukrainian moods changed their views.

Did that change happen in Odessa and Kharkiv as well?

Of course. Our example inspired them. We communicated with a lot of protesting organizations in these cities. Unfortunately, whenever they tried to show any activity, they were immediately arrested by the Security Service of Ukraine.

My personal opinion is that the repressive methods are a dead end for Ukraine. Even here in the southeast, when everything was just beginning, they tried frightening the people with repression and by arresting people. But this didn’t help them in any way.

Moreover, I am convinced that the end of the Kyiv regime will come about by the actions of Ukrainians themselves – the people who inhabit the territory of so-called Malorossiya [historically, ‘Little Russia’]—because, I think, we think that these people are being deceived. No lie can last for a long time.

What would a republic of Novorossiya look like?

I believe, as do many people living here, that most importantly there should be support of close economic, cultural and political ties with Russia. Not just friendly relations. Customs borders should be eliminated. Customs controls at the actual border should serve only to facilitate the free movement of people, capital and goods.

What form, exactly, this will take I don’t know. Maybe Novorossiya will become a part of the Russian federation. Maybe it will join the Eurasian Economic Union, or join the EEU with the rest of Ukraine. The exact form is not the most important thing.

Every third citizen of the Russian Federation is Ukrainian by origin. Citizens of Ukraine have moved to Russia in big numbers in order to work, specifically to the North and Far East where gas and oil are extracted and mined. Why should we separate ourselves by borders with Russia when, instead, we can cooperate economically—buying natural gas at domestic Russian prices, for example? It is silly to turn our backs on this.

Yes, federation with Ukraine is possible, but only on the conditions that the Kyiv authorities be held responsible for their crimes, that a new government come to power and, accordingly, the politics with regards to Russia will change.

What about relations with other countries?

Mostly, we communicate only with the Russian Federation when it comes to external contacts.

There have been attempts to help us made by people from Turkey and Germany. They tried sending us humanitarian aid, but there were too many difficulties with such things as crossing borders, going through customs, and getting necessary documentation done.

Would social and economic policy in Novorossiya be different from that of Ukraine?

Yes, of course it will differ. Ukraine was a totally oligarchic state. Most of the members of Parliament there–not all, but many–were funded and sponsored by oligarchs. We have nothing against businessmen or private initiative. We have nothing against even oligarchs, but they should serve interests of the state.


[1] Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych abolished compulsory military conscription in 2013. It was reintroduced in April 2014 as part of the ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’ launched that month by the governing regime that came to power in Kyiv two months earlier.

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

Reformatting Ukraine is on the agenda

By Vitaly LEYBIN| Oriental Review | June 3, 2015

Russia – The latest horrible ceasefire violations in Donbass by the Kiev’s regime are likely intended to demonstrate the “inefficiency” of the OSCE mission to its Western patrons and are evidence of Ukraine’s attempts to circumvent the jurisdiction of the Minsk truce co-brokered by Russia, Germany, and France.

Indeed, Minsk-2 is very inconvenient for Poroshenko, because it documents for the first time the need for direct dialog between Kiev and the Donbass. And they need to discuss more than just war and peace, because in fact there are a whole range of issues that must be resolved politically, such as the format for local elections, as well as constitutional reform and economic recovery in Ukraine. Minsk-2 undermines the power structure in Ukraine, which after Maidan has been built around nationalist and military mobilization and the persecution of political opponents. There’s a good reason why President Poroshenko immediately tried to disavow the agreement as soon as he returned from Minsk. In March 2015 the Verkhovna Rada passed an amendment to the law on the special status of the districts controlled by Donetsk and Luhansk (in violation of the spirit of the Minsk agreement), rather than adopting a new law as Angela Merkel had asked Poroshenko to do. These actions, as well as others that undercut the foundations of the truce, are causing extreme irritation in Berlin and Paris.

It is already clear that Poroshenko’s regime is incapable of negotiating. The two Minsk agreements – dating from Sept. 5 and Feb. 12 – would never have been reached had Kiev not suffered military defeats. As soon as Petro Poroshenko won the election on May 25, 2014, Russia and the EU leaders offered to open a dialog with the Donbass militia. At that time there had been no mass casualties or widespread public acrimony. It seemed that Poroshenko, who had been elected to office (albeit without the voters of the Donbass), was capable of listening to the urgings of the leaders in Europe and Russia and begin a peace process. At least his campaign platform offered some hope of that. However, pressure from US officials forced Poroshenko to embrace a military solution. On May 26, 2014, for the first time since WWII, Donetsk was subjected to an air raid, the Donetsk airport was bombed, civilians were killed, and a real war began.

By late August, Ukraine had suffered a crushing defeat on all fronts and in all directions, and Poroshenko, finding himself trapped in a hopeless situation in which the militia threatened to advance further west, had to hastily sign the Minsk Protocol on Sept. 5, in which the parties agreed to pull back from the zone of engagement. That offered the hope that a political process of reconciliation could begin. But instead Kiev took an extremely harsh stance: a de facto economic blockade of the Donbass began; banks closed; public institutions, schools, and hospitals shut down; the payment of pensions and salaries to state employees was suspended; and later – entry to the Donbass was limited to holders of residential passes, in essence creating an internal border. Unable to win on the battlefield, Kiev declared war on the people of the Donbass in order to deprive the militia of popular support. That culminated in yet another fiasco: Ukraine lost Debaltsevo and other territories.

Autonomy or independence? That depends on Kiev.

The most important step in the establishment of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics was the election in November 2014. That election was not recognized by Kiev or the EU, but played a huge role in establishing a legitimate government in those republics. In spite of Kiev’s economic blockade and the constant threat of renewed hostilities, it resulted in an undeniable improvement in the humanitarian situation. Even as hostilities raged, behind the front lines peaceful civilian life continued, infrastructure was restored, doctors were able to save lives, children attended school, and many businesses reopened. Regular payment of pensions and public subsidies has begun again, but in order to accomplish this, a new system of social support had to be built from scratch. Due to the lack of cash in hryvnia (the Ukrainian currency) a multicurrency system was introduced, and pensions are already being paid in rubles. Direct economic ties between companies in Donetsk and Russia have been revived. Taxes have also been collected from those businesses, and the republics now have actual budgets, and although they have not been formally approved due to the uncertainty of the revenue base, those budgets serve as guidelines for estimating bare-bones expenditures. A clear and transparent system has been put together for distributing humanitarian aid. Humanitarian convoys are arriving from the Russian Ministry of Emergency Management, and community organizations are also doing their bit, including Donbass Fraternity Fund, Dr. Elizaveta Glinka’s Fair Aid Foundation, and many others. Throughout the war some local charities in, such as Compassion (Dobrota), have continued their work in Donetsk. In every town, no matter how tiny, volunteers have been laboring selflessly.

The more Kiev drags its feet on any political resolution or recognition of special rights for the areas under the control of the governments in the republics, the worse its chances to maintain its current borders. Ukraine will never be stable until she agrees to change. If Ukraine continues to insist on the status quo and persists in pursuing a military solution to the conflict, she will continue to lose ground.

A range of emotions are being experienced in the republics. It is clear that neither the militia nor the majority of the population can envision any sort of future life with Kiev: too much blood has been spilled and Kiev has brought too much suffering to the people of the Donbass – in addition to bombings, humiliation, and the economic blockade.

Nevertheless, Ukraine still has the potential to devise a more nuanced policy than just their extremely nationalistic current plan. This was clearly evident during the elections for the Verkhovna Rada on Oct. 26, 2014. The opposition Bloc even won in Dnepropetrovsk (where nationalist patrols are stationed on every street corner and government leverage coupled with street gangs worked to thwart any opposition movement), not to mention the cities of Zaporozhye and Kharkov. Certainly not all the credit for that success was due to Opposition Bloc itself – which barely waged any sort of political campaign at all – but could rather be chalked up to the public, who voted against the government and against the war. The turnout in Odessa (39.5%), the lowest seen since the end of the Soviet Union, was virtually an act of popular sabotage against “the outsiders’ elections.”

Ongoing protests in Kiev against Yatsenyuk government and Ukraine's National Bank are not covered much by the intl media

Ongoing protests in Kiev against Yatsenyuk government and Ukraine’s National Bank are not covered much by the intl media

The potential for protest is huge, because Ukraine has no desire to be the country that the nationalists have envisioned. Every day of peace means new and difficult questions for the Ukrainian government: the population sees the results of the “reforms,” the economy is languishing, social payments are shrinking, prices are rising, political repression is everywhere, political opponents are being murdered, and the bodies of soldiers who died in the Donbass are being shipped home to every district in the country.

The law prohibiting Soviet symbols and the ban on the memory of the Great Patriotic War, the glorification of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army – therein lies the path to the further destruction of their own country. And that’s not coming from Russia, but from the Ukrainian people. Most Ukrainians will not tolerate such a policy or such a government.

The problem lies in the immaturity of the Ukrainian political elite. For over 23 years of the country’s independence, that elite has been fixated on dividing and redividing the country’s resources, in the end always shifting the political blame onto outside factions: sometimes pointing the finger at Moscow, and currently – at the West. They have not yet learned how to be responsible for their own state. Now they follow the lead of the US, crippling their own country.

The big game

A lasting peace in the Donbass is achievable only if Europe and Russia can reach an agreement. It is impossible to imagine Poroshenko – or even less Prime Minister Yatsenyuk – behaving in a constructive manner, if Europe and Russia do not coerce them into working for peace.

With all the problems of the past year, it is clear that France and Germany trust Russia far more than their Ukrainian protégés. They can recognize the issues on which “the Russians cannot be trusted” – and the matters on which they can. But those are fixed, clearly defined questions – because Russia does not change her position minute by minute. But all bets are off when it comes to the politicians in Kiev. They might promise to lay down their arms or adopt a law on special status, and then completely flip-flop after a telephone call with Washington.

Of course Europe has phobias and fears of “Russian expansion,” but those are more common among the talking heads and the press, while the leaders and diplomats understand that “expansion” is the very essence of international politics. The European Union itself pursues an active policy of “partnership,” and in recent decades has also been expanding, while Russia is doing no more than attempting to safeguard her room to maneuver economically. Europeans understand that Russia would not have taken steps to reunify with Crimea and support the Donbass if the West had not provoked the conflict. After many incidents of the most cynical violence aimed at seizing and retaining power over the last year, it is reasonable to assume that the shootings on Maidan were the responsibility of those forces that took power in Ukraine in February 2014. All this is an example of very dirty politics. No matter how indignant the Europeans might be in public, they understand that Russia could not remain on the sidelines.

And that would not be because of any imaginary “imperial ambitions” or in order to merely seize territory. Russia’s most important and closest neighbor had entered into a period of disintegration and civil war after a coup d’etat. Forces had assumed power that did not shy away from overt violence – ideological, cultural, repressive, and military – against their own people. The problem was not Ukraine’s “European” path, but the bluff – the West was never planning to spend its resources on the economic development of a foreign country, much less help her integrate into European organizations. The result of Maidan could mean nothing but chaos in Ukraine. And until this chaos is overcome, Russia will not remain on the sidelines.

Publication is based on a frontpage article recently released by the Russian Expert journal. Text adapted and translated by ORIENTAL REVIEW.

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment