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Behind the Crimea/Russia Reunion

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | March 18, 2016

With high symbolism Russian President Vladimir Putin is visiting Crimea “to check on the construction of the Kerch Strait Bridge, which will link the Crimean peninsula and continental Russia,” the Kremlin announced on Thursday.

As the Russians like to say, “It is no accident” that he chose today – marking the second anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea three weeks after the U.S.-sponsored coup in Kiev on Feb. 22, 2014, and just days after a referendum in which Crimean voters approved leaving Ukraine and rejoining Russia by a 96 percent majority.

The 12-mile bridge is a concrete metaphor, so to speak, for the re-joining of Crimea and Russia. When completed (the target is December 2018), it will be the longest bridge in Russia.

Yet, the Obama administration continues to decry the political reunion between Crimea and Russia, a relationship that dates back to the Eighteenth Century. Instead, the West has accused Russia of violating its pledge in the 1994 Budapest agreement — signed by Ukraine, Russia, Great Britain and the U.S. — “to respect the independence and sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine,” in exchange for Ukraine surrendering its Soviet-era nuclear weapons.

Did Moscow violate the Budapest agreement when it annexed Crimea? A fair reading of the text yields a Yes to that question. Of course, there were extenuating circumstances, including alarm among Crimeans over what the unconstitutional ouster of Ukraine’s president might mean for them, as well as Moscow’s not unfounded nightmare of NATO taking over Russia’s major, and only warm-water, naval base at Sevastopol in Crimea.

But what is seldom pointed out is that the other parties, including the United States, seem to have been guilty, too, in promoting a coup d’etat removing the democratically elected president and essentially disenfranchising millions of ethnic Russian Ukrainians who had voted for President Viktor Yanukovych. In such a context, it takes a markedly one-dimensional view to place blame solely on Russia for violating the Budapest agreement.

Did the Western-orchestrated coup in Kiev violate the undertaking “to respect the independence and sovereignty” of Ukraine? How about the pledge in the Budapest agreement “to refrain from economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by the Ukraine of the rights inherent in its sovereignty.” Political and economic interference were rife in the months before the February 2014 coup. [See Consortiumnews.com’sWho Violated Ukraine’s Sovereignty?”]

Did Ukrainian President Yanukovych expect to be overthrown if he opted for Moscow’s economic offer, and not Europe’s? Hard to tell. But if the putsch came as a total surprise, he sorely underestimated what $5 billion in “democracy promotion” by Washington can buy.

After Yanukovych turned down the European Community’s blandishments, seeing deep disadvantages for Ukraine, American neoconservatives like National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland pulled out all the stops to enable Ukraine to fulfill what Nuland called its “European aspirations.”

“The revolution will not be televised,” or so the saying goes. But the Feb. 22, 2014 putsch in Kiev was YouTube-ized two-and-a-half weeks in advance. Recall Nuland’s amateurish, boorish – not to mention irresponsible – use of an open telephone line to plot regime change in Ukraine with fellow neocon, U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, during an intercepted conversation posted on YouTube on Feb. 4.

Nuland tells Pyatt, “Yats is the guy. He’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. He’s the guy you know. … He has warned there is an urgent need for unpopular cutting of subsidies and social payments before Ukraine can improve.”

Arseniy Yatsenyuk (aka “Yats”) was quickly named prime minister of the coup regime, which was immediately given diplomatic recognition by Washington. Since then, he has made a royal mess of things. Ukraine is an economic basket case, and “Yats” barely survived a parliamentary vote of no confidence and is widely believed to be on his way out.

Did Moscow’s strong reaction to the coup, to the danger of NATO setting up shop next door in Ukraine come as a surprise to Nuland and other advisers? If so, she ought to get new advisers, and quickly. That Russia would not let Crimea become a NATO base should have been a no-brainer.

Nuland may have seen the coup as creating a win-win situation. If Putin acted decisively, it would be all the easier to demonize him, denounce “Russian aggression,” and put a halt to the kind of rapprochement between President Barack Obama and Putin that thwarted neocon plans for shock and awe against Syria in late summer 2013. However, if Putin acquiesced to the Ukrainian coup and accepted the dangers it posed to Russia, eventual membership for Ukraine in NATO might become more than a pipedream.

Plus, if Putin swallowed the humiliation, think of how politically weakened he would have become inside Russia. As NED’s Gershman made clear, not only did American neocons see Ukraine as “the biggest prize” but as a steppingstone to ultimately achieve “regime change” in Moscow, or as Gershman wrote, “Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

Russian Equities

In a formal address in the Kremlin on March 18, 2014, the day Crimea was re-incorporated into Russia, Putin went from dead serious to somewhat jocular in discussing the general issue:

“We have already heard declarations from Kiev about Ukraine soon joining NATO. What would this have meant for Crimea and Sevastopol in the future? It would have meant that NATO’s navy would be right there in this city of Russia’s military glory, and this would create not an illusory but a perfectly real threat to the whole of southern Russia. …

“We are not opposed to cooperation with NATO … [but] NATO remains a military alliance, and we are against having a military alliance making itself at home right in our backyard or in our historic territory. I simply cannot imagine that we would travel to Sevastopol to visit NATO sailors. Of course, most of them are wonderful guys, but it would be better to have them come and visit us, be our guests, rather than the other way around.”

A little-known remark by Putin a month later (on April 17, 2014) was unusually blunt in focusing on one of the main reasons behind Moscow’s strong reaction – namely, Russia’s felt need to thwart Washington’s plan to incorporate Ukraine and Crimea into the U.S. anti-ballistic missile deployment encircling Russia. Putin was quite direct:

“This issue is no less, and probably even more important, than NATO’s eastward expansion. Incidentally, our decision on Crimea was partially prompted by this.

This is a serious bone of contention, with far reaching implications. In short, if the Russian military becomes convinced that the Pentagon thinks it has the capability to carry out a strategic strike without fear of significant retaliation, the strategic tripwire for a nuclear exchange will regress more than four decades to the extremely dangerous procedure of “launch on warning,” allowing mere minutes to “use ‘em, or lose ‘em.”

Russia has been repeatedly rebuffed – or diddled – when it has suggested bilateral talks on this key issue. Four years ago, for example, at the March 2012 summit in Seoul, Russia’s then-President Dmitry Medvedev asked Obama when the U.S. would be prepared to address Russian concerns over European missile defense.

In remarks picked up by camera crews, Obama asked for some “space” until after the U.S. election. Obama can be heard saying, “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.” Putin claims to have seen no flexibility on this strategic question.

What Coup?

The Obama administration and its stenographers in the mainstream U.S. media would like the relevant Ukrainian history to start on Feb. 23, 2014 with “Yats” and his coup cronies deemed the “legitimate” authorities. To that end, there was a need to airbrush what George Friedman, president of the think-tank STRATFOR, publicly called “the most blatant coup in history” – the one plotted by Nuland and Pyatt in early February 2014 and carried out on Feb. 22.

As for Russia’s alleged designs on Crimea, one searches in vain for evidence that, before the coup, the Kremlin had given much thought to the vulnerability of the peninsula and a possible need to annex it. According to the public record, Putin first focused on Crimea at a strategy meeting on Feb. 23, the day after the coup.

Yet, given the U.S. mainstream media’s propagandistic reporting on the Ukraine crisis, it is small wonder that the American people forgot about (or never heard of) the putsch in Kiev. The word “coup” was essentially banished from the U.S. media’s lexicon regarding Ukraine.

The New York Times went so far as to publish what it deemed an investigative article in early 2015 announcing that there was no coup in Ukraine, just President Yanukovych mysteriously disappearing off to Russia. In reaching its no-coup conclusion, the Times ignored any evidence that there was a coup, including the Nuland-Pyatt phone call. In regards to Ukraine, “coup” became just another unutterable four-letter word.

Last year, when Sen. John McCain continued the “no coup” fiction, I placed the following letter in the Washington Post on July 1, 2015 (the censors apparently being away at the beach):

“In his June 28 Sunday Opinion essay, ‘The Ukraine cease-fire fiction,’  Sen. John McCain was wrong to write that Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea without provocation. What about the coup in Kiev on Feb. 22, 2014, that replaced President Viktor Yanukovych with pro-Western leaders favoring membership in NATO? Was that not provocation enough?

“This glaring omission is common in The Post. The March 10 World Digest item ‘Putin had early plan to annex Crimea’ described a ‘secret meeting’ Mr. Putin held on Feb. 23, 2014, during which ‘Russia decided it would take the Crimean Peninsula.’ No mention was made of the coup the previous day. …” (emphasis added)

And so it goes. More recently, in Jeffrey Goldberg’s lengthy magnum opus in The Atlantic on Obama’s foreign policy, there were two mentions of how Russia “invaded” Crimea, two allusions to Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, but not a word about the coup in Kiev.

Invincible Ignorance

In Catholic theology, the theory that some people can be “invincibly ignorant” can lessen or even erase their guilt. Many Americans are so malnourished on accurate news – and so busy trying to make ends meet – that they would seem to qualify for this dispensation, with pardon for not knowing about things like the coup in Kiev and other key happenings abroad.

The following, unnerving example brings this to mind: A meeting of progressives that I attended last year was keynoted by a professor from a local Washington university. Discussing what she called the Russian “invasion” of Crimea, the professor bragged about her 9-year-old son for creating a large poster in Sunday School saying, “Mr. Putin, What about the commandment ‘Thou Shall Not Kill?’” The audience nodded approvingly.

This picnic, thought I, needed a skunk. So I asked the professor what her little boy was alluding to. My question was met by a condescending smirk of disbelief: “Crimea, of course.” I asked how many people had been killed in Crimea. “Oh, hundreds, probably thousands,” was her answer. I told her that there were, in fact, no reports of anyone having been killed.

I continued, explaining that, with respect to Russia’s “invasion,” what you don’t see in the “mainstream media” is that, a treaty between Ukraine and Russia from the late 1990s allowed Russia to station up to 25,000 Russian troops on the Crimean peninsula. There were 16,000 there, when a U.S.-led coup ousted the democratically elected government in Kiev on Feb. 22, 2014. (I had grabbed the attention of the audience; yet stares of incredulity persisted.)

In contrast to Crimea’s bloodless political secession from Ukraine, the Ukrainian government’s “anti-terror operation” against ethnic Russians in the east who resisted the coup authorities in Kiev has killed an estimated 10,000 people, many of them civilians. Yet, in the mainstream U.S. media, this carnage is typically blamed on Putin, not on the Ukrainian military which sent to the front neo-Nazi and other right-wing militias (such as the Azov battalion) contemptuous of ethnic Russians. [See Consortiumnews.com’sUkraine Merges Nazis and Islamists.”]

A few weeks before the professor’s remarks, after a speaking engagement in Moscow, I had a chance to do a little souvenir shopping on the Arbat. The behavior of the sales people brought me up short. It was decades since I had served as a CIA officer in the Soviet Union; the shopkeepers then were usually taciturn, allergic to discussing politics, and not at all given to bragging about their leaders.

This time it was different. The sales people wanted to know what I thought of President Putin. They were eager to thrust two coffee cups into the shopping bag that I had filled with small gifts for our grandchildren. On one was emblazoned the Russian words for “polite people” under an image of two men with insignia-less green uniforms – depicting the troops that surrounded and eventually took over Ukrainian installations and government buildings in Crimea without a shot being fired. The other cup bore a photo of Putin over the Russian words for “the most polite of people.”

The short conversation that ensued made it immediately clear that Russian salespeople in Moscow – unlike many “sophisticated” Americans – were well aware that the troubles in Ukraine and Crimea began in Kiev on Feb 22, 2014, with “the most blatant coup in history.” And, not least, they were proud of the way Putin used the “polite green men” to ensure that Crimea was not lost to NATO.

Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During his 27-year career as a CIA analyst he headed the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch. In retirement, he helped create Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moscow Calls New Expropriation of Land by Israel in Palestine ‘Illegal’

Sputnik – 18.03.2016

MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry called illegal the new expropriation of land by Israel in the Palestinian territories, according to a statement issued on Friday.

Moscow expressed “concern about the settlement projects of Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

“A few days ago, the Israeli authorities announced the expropriation of 154.5 hectares of land near the town of Jericho in the West Bank of the Jordan River. This area has been declared ‘the land of the Israeli state,'” the statement reads.

“These actions are illegal under international law and the decisions on them should be reviewed,” the ministry stressed.

Moscow urged “all the sides to refrain from unilateral steps that undermine the prospects of the Palestinian issue settlement on the internationally recognized basis.”

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | 1 Comment

Israeli forces close East Jerusalem streets for marathon, detain 4

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Ma’an – March 18, 2016

JERUSALEM – The Israeli authorities early Friday shut down streets across Palestinian neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem and detained four in preparation for the annual Jerusalem marathon, locals said.

Locals told Ma’an that a number of roads were blocked by iron barricades and buses, as thousands of Israeli runners joined in the marathon for the sixth year in a row.

Four residents of al-Issawiya neighborhood were detained prior to the marathon. Two of them, identified by locals as Fadi Matwar and Jad al-Ghoul, were reportedly warned against being in Jerusalem during the marathon.

Al-Issawiya popular committee spokesman Muhammad Abu al-Hummus, who was detained prior to the marathon last year, was also detained Friday morning.

Locals told Ma’an that Israeli intelligence also summoned Jihad Oweida, the secretary-general of the National Committee against Normalization. The committee has in the past been a vocal opponent of the Jerusalem marathon for going through occupied territory.

Participants in the marathon run through West Jerusalem as well as segments of Jerusalem’s occupied eastern half, including along the walls of the Old City and near other historical sites.

The marathon last year drew large numbers of Palestinian protesters to places where the run passes through neighborhoods under Israeli military occupation, with residents waving Palestinian flags and proclaiming slogans supporting Palestinian claims to Jerusalem.

East Jerusalem is internationally recognized as Palestinian territory, but Israel occupied it in 1967 and later annexed it in a move never considered legitimate abroad.

Friday’s marathon comes weeks before an annual marathon is expected to be held in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

This year will mark the fourth consecutive “Right to Movement” marathon, which is comprised of two 11 kilometer loops, as race organizers were unable to find a contiguous stretch of 42 kilometers due to Israeli military restrictions on Palestinian movement.

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | Leave a comment

Britain to Sign Deal Providing Ukraine With Military Training, Intelligence

Sputnik – 18.03.2016

London will sign a new 15-year-long defense deal with Kiev, pledging to provide Ukraine with military training and intelligence to allegedly protect it from Russia, media reported Thursday.

Under the agreement, UK troops will take part in more joint drills and train larger numbers of Ukrainian troops, according to the paper. The countries will also share intelligence and expertise, it was reported in the article.

“The UK will stand firm with Ukraine as they defend their territorial integrity. This new defence agreement sets out that commitment as we enhance our training of Ukrainian armed forces,” UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said, as quoted by The Telegraph newspaper.

UK troops have previously carried out drills in Ukraine, however, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has repeatedly called for more military aid from the Western states, including the United Kingdom.

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Saudi airstrike on Yemeni market had no apparent military reason – UN

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RT | March 18, 2016

UN inspectors, who visited the Al Khamees market in north-western Yemen, where Saudi airstrikes killed over a hundred people this week, found no evidence that the attack could have any military goal.

The closest target of any value to justify the bombing is a small checkpoint some 250 meters from the market, which is manned by a small group of Houthis, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on Friday.

The market attack in Hajja Governorate on Wednesday was one of the deadliest incidents in Saudi Arabia’s year-long campaign in Yemen, Zeid said, describing it as “carnage.” The death toll was reported as 106 people, including 24 children. The high figures are explained by the timing of the airstrikes, which were delivered during the afternoon rush hour at the market. It serves as the main shopping destination for some 15 surrounding villages.

Since the Yemeni campaign was launched in March last year by the Saudi-led coalition of Arab nations, the UN has recorded just under 9,000 casualties in Yemen, including 3,218 civilians killed and a further 5,778 injured, Zeid said.

“Looking at the figures, it would seem that the coalition is responsible for twice as many civilian casualties as all other forces put together, virtually all as a result of airstrikes,” he said.

“They have hit markets, hospitals, clinics, schools, factories, wedding parties – and hundreds of private residences in villages, towns and cities including the capital Sana’a,” he added. “Despite plenty of international demarches, these awful incidents continue to occur with unacceptable regularity. In addition, despite public promises to investigate such incidents, we have yet to see progress in any such investigations.”

He warned that “we are possibly looking at the commission of international crimes by members of the Coalition.”

“I urge both sides to swallow their pride and bring this conflict to a halt,” Zeid said. “The people of Yemen have suffered enough. A very poor country is having its limited infrastructure decimated, and people are struggling desperately to survive.”

Earlier, the Al Khamees market bombing was condemned by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and a number of international organizations. Saudi Arabia said it would scale down its aerial campaign in Yemen and focus on training Yemeni troops.

The campaign’s goal in Yemen was to push back Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and bring back to power exiled former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Uncontrollable—Pentagon and Corporate Contractors Too Big to Audit

By Ralph Nader | March 17, 2016

The Reuters report put this colossal dereliction simply: “A law in effect since 1992 requires annual audits of all federal agencies—and the Pentagon alone has never complied.”

All $585 billion and more, e.g., for the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, of your money—not just unaudited, but, in the sober judgement of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) of the Congress, this vast military budget is year after year UNAUDITABLE. That means that the Congressional auditors cannot obtain the basic accounting data to do their job on your behalf.

Auditing the Department of Defense receives left/right support, from Senator Bernie Sanders (Dem. VT) to Senator Ted Cruz (Rep. TX).

H.R. 942, the “Audit the Pentagon Act of 2014,” is supported by both Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives. In the statement announcing this legislation, the sponsors declared “The Treasury Department’s Financial Report of the US Government for fiscal year 2012 shows the DOD yet again has nothing to audit—its books are a mess. In the last dozen years, the Pentagon has broken every promise to Congress about when DOD would pass an audit. Meanwhile, Congress doubled Pentagon spending.”

Republican right-winger, Mike Conaway (Rep. TX) used to be a CPA in private life. At a Congressional hearing in 2011, he told Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “I go home to folks in West Texas, and when they find out the Department of Defense can’t be audited, they are stunned.” His constituents may be more stunned to learn that their Congressman also voted for all expanding defense budgets, which is why H.R. 942 is going nowhere unless the people rally to make auditing the Pentagon a presidential election issue.

Secretary Gates and his successor Secretary Panetta agree with Rep. Conway’s observations. Yet it has seemed that the military—this huge expanse of bureaucracy, which owns 25 million acres (over seven times the size of Connecticut) and owns over 500,000 buildings in the U.S. and around the world—is beyond anybody’s control, including that of the Secretaries of Defense, their own internal auditors, the President, tons of GAO audits publically available, and the Congress. How can this be?

Enormous scandal after enormous scandal is reported by newspapers such as Reuters, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal and by news services such as Associated Press and ProPublica. Citizen groups from the left and Right excoriate this runaway budget, including the national Taxpayers Union, POGO, and Taxpayers for Common Sense. TO NO AVAIL!

Have you heard of the $43 million natural gas station in Afghanistan that was supposed to cost $500,000? Do you know about the $150 million villas that were built for corporate contractors in Afghanistan so they could spend another $600 million advising Afghans about starting private businesses in that war-torn country?

Or how about purchase of billions of dollars of spare parts because the Army or Air Force didn’t know the whereabouts of existing spare parts in forgotten warehouses here and there? What about the $9 billion the Pentagon admitted could not be accounted for in Iraq during the first several months of the invasion?

The list goes on, together with massive cost over-runs by the private contractors that are rewarded with more contracts. Soldiers get dirty drinking water, bad food, inadequate equipment, and security breaches by these contractors. No matter.
President Eisenhower’s farewell warning about the “military-industrial complex” becomes ever more of an understatement as it devours over half of the entire federal government’s operating budget.

Mike McCord, the Pentagon’s chief financial officer, has some startling explanations for why the Department is not ready for an audit. It’s not the Department’s “primary mission,” he says, which is “to defend the nation, fight and win wars.” He continues: “We’re too big to just sort of blow up all our systems and go buy one new, gargantuan IT system that runs the entire Department.”

Where are the accounting standards groups when we need them to speak up?

Mr. McCord certainly knows how to enhance his job security. Why no Pentagon audit? Too big to audit? No. Just too many scandals, too much waste, gigantic weapon system redundancies, overlaps between military branches, and many sinecures in bloated, inflexible bureaucracies, so often condemned by commanding generals in the field.

McCord himself has pointed to the areas in which he prefers to cut costs in order to save money: Congressionally-opposed base closures, retiree costs, and consolidating “its Tricare health system.”

In the final analysis, the principal culprits, because they have so much to lose in profits and bonuses, are the giant defense companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and others that lobby Congress, Congressional District by Congressional District, for more, more, more military contracts, grants and subsidies. They routinely hire ex-Pentagon specialists and top brass who know how to negotiate the ways and means inside of the government.

President Eisenhower sure knew what he was talking about. Remember, he warned not just about taxpayer waste, but a Moloch eating away at our liberties and our critical domestic necessities.

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The trillion dollar question

By Lawrence Wittner | Peace & Health Blog | March 16, 2016

Isn’t it rather odd that America’s largest single public expenditure scheduled for the coming decades has received no attention in the 2015-2016 presidential debates?

The expenditure is for a thirty-year program to “modernize” the US nuclear arsenal and production facilities. Although President Obama began his administration with a dramatic public commitment to build a nuclear weapons-free world, that commitment has long ago dwindled and died. It has been replaced by an administration plan to build a new generation of US nuclear weapons and nuclear production facilities to last the nation well into the second half of the twenty-first century. This plan, which has received almost no attention by the mass media, includes redesigned nuclear warheads, as well as new nuclear bombers, submarines, land-based missiles, weapons labs, and production plants. The estimated cost? $1,000,000,000,000.00—or, for those readers unfamiliar with such lofty figures, $1 trillion.

Critics charge that the expenditure of this staggering sum will either bankrupt the country or, at the least, require massive cutbacks in funding for other federal government programs. “We’re . . . wondering how the heck we’re going to pay for it,” admitted Brian McKeon, an undersecretary of defense. And we’re “probably thanking our stars we won’t be here to have to have to answer the question,” he added with a chuckle.

Of course, this nuclear “modernization” plan violates the terms of the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which requires the nuclear powers to engage in nuclear disarmament. The plan is also moving forward despite the fact that the US government already possesses roughly 7,000 nuclear weapons that can easily destroy the world. Although climate change might end up accomplishing much the same thing, a nuclear war does have the advantage of terminating life on Earth more rapidly.

This trillion dollar nuclear weapons buildup has yet to inspire any questions about it by the moderators during the numerous presidential debates. Even so, in the course of the campaign, the presidential candidates have begun to reveal their attitudes toward it.

On the Republican side, the candidates—despite their professed distaste for federal expenditures and “big government”—have been enthusiastic supporters of this great leap forward in the nuclear arms race. Donald Trump, the frontrunner, contended in his presidential announcement speech that “our nuclear arsenal doesn’t work,” insisting that it is out of date. Although he didn’t mention the $1 trillion price tag for “modernization,” the program is clearly something he favors, especially given his campaign’s focus on building a US military machine “so big, powerful, and strong that no one will mess with us.”

His Republican rivals have adopted a similar approach. Marco Rubio, asked while campaigning in Iowa about whether he supported the trillion dollar investment in new nuclear weapons, replied that “we have to have them. No country in the world faces the threats America faces.” When a peace activist questioned Ted Cruz on the campaign trail about whether he agreed with Ronald Reagan on the need to eliminate nuclear weapons, the Texas senator replied: “I think we’re a long way from that and, in the meantime, we need to be prepared to defend ourselves. The best way to avoid war is to be strong enough that no one wants to mess with the United States.” Apparently, Republican candidates are particularly worried about being “messed with.”

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has been more ambiguous about her stance toward a dramatic expansion of the US nuclear arsenal. Asked by a peace activist about the trillion dollar nuclear plan, she replied that she would “look into that,” adding: “It doesn’t make sense to me.” Even so, like other issues that the former Secretary of State has promised to “look into,” this one remains unresolved. Moreover, the “National Security” section of her campaign website promises that she will maintain the “strongest military the world has ever known”—not a propitious sign for critics of nuclear weapons.

Only Bernie Sanders has adopted a position of outright rejection. In May 2015, shortly after declaring his candidacy, Sanders was asked at a public meeting about the trillion dollar nuclear weapons program. He replied: “What all of this is about is our national priorities. Who are we as a people? Does Congress listen to the military-industrial complex” that “has never seen a war that they didn’t like? Or do we listen to the people of this country who are hurting?” In fact, Sanders is one of only three US Senators who support the SANE Act, legislation that would significantly reduce US government spending on nuclear weapons. In addition, on the campaign trail, Sanders has not only called for cuts in spending on nuclear weapons, but has affirmed his support for their total abolition.

Nevertheless, given the failure of the presidential debate moderators to raise the issue of nuclear weapons “modernization,” the American people have been left largely uninformed about the candidates’ opinions on this subject. So, if Americans would like more light shed on their future president’s response to this enormously expensive surge in the nuclear arms race, it looks like they are the ones who are going to have to ask the candidates the trillion dollar question.

[Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany  and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press). He is a regular contributor to the Peace and Health Blog.]

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Hillary Clinton Lied Her Way to War in Libya

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teleSUR | March 18, 2016

Declassified emails released in January and February reveal that Hillary Clinton was one of the main instruments in spreading chaos and extremism in Libya when the U.S. secretary of state personally pushed for the ousting of late Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi.

Clinton’s emails reveal that she and her staff were aware that civilians they claimed to be protecting were not actually in danger from government forces.

Less than a month ahead of the passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, a resolution which authorized a no-fly zone to protect civilians on March 17, 2011, Hillary’s assistant, Huma Abedin, in an email dated Feb. 21, 2011, stated: “Based on numerous eyewitness reports, it is the Embassy’s assessment that the government no longer controls Benghazi. This is likely the case for Ajdabiyah as well.”

Abedin went on to write that sources in Benghazi reported that Libyan Interior Minister Abdul Fattah Younes had “changed sides” and was “now with the protesters in Benghazi.” The mood in Benghazi and Ajdabiyah, according to the email, was “celebratory” and all posters of Gadhafi had been “knocked down.”

Crucially, this email was written at a time when Clinton was aware that no government crackdown was taking place in either Benghazi or Ajdabiyah.

This was despite anti-government protests kicking off in Benghazi and Ajdabiyah a few days before, at a time when the U.S. and France and other Western governments were claiming government forces were involved in the mass-killing of protesters and civilians.

However, on March 2, 2011, a few days before the passage of the U.N. resolution, U.S. State Department official Harriet Spanos sent an email informing Clinton that “Security Reports . . . confirm that Benghazi has been calm over the past couple of days.”

“Economic activity is going on in Benghazi,” she added in the email, with shops and banks open and “[m]obile and landline phones… working… and Internet has returned.”

The moment of truth came 11 days into the NATO bombing, which continued for several months, when Clinton’s top adviser, Sidney Blumenthal, who was not employed by the state department but by the private Clinton Foundation, laid out the reasons for the Washington-led intervention and the eventual ousting of Gadhafi.

Without once mentioning “humanitarian” purposes, in a March 27, 2011 email Blumenthal stressed to Clinton the importance of pressing for a “final win” by ousting Gadhafi in order to boost U.S. President Barack Obama’s then low approval ratings.

Ousting the Libyan strongman, argued Blumenthal, would further establish “security in North Africa, securing democracy in Egypt and Tunisia, economic development, effect throughout Arab world and Africa, extending U.S. influence, counter-balancing Iran, etc.”

Further highlighting his complete and utter disregard for the human cost of the intervention, in the same email Blumenthal informed Clinton about the horrors committed by U.S.-backed forces in Libya, which included members of al-Qaida.

“Speaking in strict confidence, one rebel commander stated that his troops continue to summarily execute all foreign mercenaries in the fighting.” Such actions are considered war crimes and in violation of international resolutions and conventions.

The emails also reveal that the Obama administration and Clinton were aware of the threat of al-Qaida in the eastern part of the country, which had for years been suppressed by the Libyan leader.

The emails also show that claims made by NATO at the time, including alleged atrocities committed by Gadhafi’s forces such as rape and mass killings, were rumors used by Clinton and the Obama administration to help sell the intervention to the world.

It is clear the NATO intervention was not intended for humanitarian purposes. So what were the intentions of Clinton and the Obama administration? [Beyond the long planned and ongoing destruction of any and all enemies of Israel*] The same as most U.S. interventions: financial interest.

The emails reveal that most of the intelligence Clinton received on Libya was from Blumenthal, who was preparing to make substantial financial gains from the fall of the Libyan leader.

According to Vice News, the intel briefs on Libya were “prepared by Blumenthal’s business partner and former CIA operative Tyler Drumheller, a consultant with plans to take advantage of economic opportunities in a post-war Libya.”

Both men worked with the U.S.-based security company Osprey, a start-up that hoped to profit from medical and military contracts with Libyan rebels amid the chaos of the conflict, according to Vice News.

Five years later, the opportunism of Clinton and the Obama administration which resulted in one of the most disastrous interventions in recent decades, aiding the rise of extremist groups in the oil-rich African country and contributing to Europe’s ongoing refugee situation can be seen for what it was: a devastating assault on the people of Libya rooted in lies, deceit and narrow, imperial self-interest.



*Also in the cited Vice article but not presented by teleSUR:

… Much of the intelligence Blumenthal fed to Clinton was quite odd. One email suggested that Libyan elites wanted warm relations with Israel, another that European spy agencies were encouraging tribal leaders to declare a semi-autonomous tribal zone in the east of the country. […]

On Aug. 27, 2012, for instance, Blumenthal’s intelligence claimed that a new Libyan president would “seek a discreet relationship with Israel.” Then, Clinton forwarded on the e-mail to her top policy aide Jacob Sullivan with a note attached: “If true, this is encouraging. Should consider passing to Israelis.”

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Propaganda Feeds War on Syria

By Rick Sterling | Consortium News | March 17, 2016

There has been a pattern of sensational but untrue reports that lead to public acceptance of U.S. and Western military intervention in countries around the world.

For instance, in Gulf War 1 (1990-91), there were reports of Iraqi troops stealing incubators from Kuwait, leaving babies to die on the cold floor. Relying on the testimony of a Red Crescent doctor, Amnesty Interenational ‘verified’ the false claims.

A scene of destruction after an aerial bombing in Azaz, Syria, Aug. 16, 2012. (U.S. government photo)

Scene of destruction after aerial bombing in Azaz, Syria, Aug. 16, 2012.
(U.S. government photo)

Ten years later, there were reports of yellow cake uranium going to Iraq for development of weapons of mass destruction.

One decade later, there were reports of Libyan soldiers drugged on viagra and raping women as they advanced.

In 2012, NBC broadcaster Richard Engel was supposedly kidnapped by a pro-Assad Syrian militia but luckily freed by Syrian opposition fighters, the “Free Syrian Army.”

All these reports were later confirmed to be fabrications and lies. They all had the goal of manipulating public opinion and they all succeeded in one way or another. Despite the consequences, which were often disastrous, none of the perpetrators were punished or paid any price.

It has been famously said, “Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.” This report is a critical review of the so-called “Caesar Torture Photos” story. As will be shown, there is strong evidence the accusations are entirely or substantially false.

Overview of ‘Caesar Torture Photos’

On Jan. 20, 2014, two days before negotiations about the Syrian conflict were scheduled to begin in Switzerland, a sensational report burst onto television and front pages around the world. The story was that a former Syrian army photographer had 55,000 photographs documenting the torture and killing of 11,000 detainees by the Syrian security establishment.

The Syrian photographer was given the code-name “Caesar.” The story became known as the “Caesar Torture Photos.” A team of lawyers plus digital and forensic experts were hired by the Carter-Ruck law firm, on contract to Qatar, to go to the Middle East and check the veracity of “Caesar” and his story. They concluded that “Caesar” was truthful and the photographs indicated “industrial scale killing.”

CNN, London’s Guardian and LeMonde broke the story which was subsequently broadcast in news reports around the world. The Caesar photo accusations were announced as negotiations began in Switzerland. With the opposition demanding the resignation of the Syrian government, negotiations quickly broke down.

For the past two years the story has been preserved with occasional bursts of publicity and supposedly corroborating reports. Most recently, in December 2015 Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report titled “If the Dead Could Speak” with significant focus on the Caesar accusations.

Following are 12 significant problems with the “Caesar torture photos” story:

  1. Almost half the photos show the opposite of the allegations.

The Carter Ruck Inquiry Team claimed there were about 55,000 photos total with about half of them taken by “Caesar” and the other half by other photographers. The Carter Ruck team claimed the photos were all “similar.” Together they are all known as “Caesar’s Torture Photos.”

The photographs are in the custody of an opposition organization called the Syrian Association for Missing and Conscience Detainees (SAFMCD). In 2015, they allowed Human Rights Watch (HRW) to study all the photographs which have otherwise been secret. In December 2015, HRW released their report titled “If the Dead Could Speak.”

The biggest revelation is that over 46 percent of the photographs (24,568) do not show people “tortured to death” by the Syrian government. On the contrary, they show dead Syrian soldiers and victims of car bombs and other violence (HRW pp 2-3). Thus, nearly half the photos show the opposite of what was alleged. These photos, never revealed to the public, confirm that the opposition is violent and has killed large numbers of Syrian security forces and civilians.

  1. The claim that other photos only show “tortured detainees” is exaggerated or false.

The Carter Ruck report says “Caesar” only photographed bodies brought from Syrian government detention centers. In its December 2015 report, HRW said, “ The largest category of photographs, 28,707 images, are photographs Human Rights Watch understands to have died in government custody, either in one of several detention facilities or after being transferred to a military hospital.” They estimate 6,786 dead individuals in the set.

The photos and the deceased are real, but how they died and the circumstances are unclear. There is strong evidence some died in conflict. Others died in the hospital. Others died and their bodies were decomposing before they were picked up. These photographs seem to document a war-time situation where many combatants and civilians are killed.

It seems the military hospital was doing what it had always done: maintaining a photographic and documentary record of the deceased. Bodies were picked up by different military or intelligence branches. While some may have died in detention; the big majority probably died in the conflict zones. The accusations by “Caesar.” the Carter Ruck report and HRW that these are all victims of “death in detention” or “death by torture” or death in “government custody” are almost certainly false.

  1. The true identity of “Caesar” is probably not as claimed.

The Carter Ruck Report says “This witness who defected from Syria and who had been working for the Syrian government was given the code-name ‘Caesar’ by the inquiry team to protect the witness and members of his family.” (CRR p12)

However if his story is true, it would be easy for the Syrian government to determine who he really is. After all, how many military photographers took photos at Tishreen and Military 601 Hospitals during those years and then disappeared? According to the Carter Ruck report, Caesar’s family left Syria around the same time. Considering this, why is “Caesar” keeping his identity secret from the Western audience? Why does “Caesar” refuse to meet even with highly sympathetic journalists or researchers?

The fact that 46 percent of the total photographic set is substantially the opposite of what was claimed indicates two possibilities: Caesar and his promoters knew the contents but lied about them expecting nobody to look. Or, Caesar and his promoters did not know the contents and falsely assumed they were like the others. The latter seems more likely which supports the theory that Caesar is not who he claims to be.

  1. The Carter Ruck Inquiry was faulty, rushed and politically biased.

The credibility of the “Caesar” story has been substantially based on the Carter-Ruck Inquiry Team which “verified” the defecting photographer and his photographs. The following facts suggest the team was biased with a political motive:

–The investigation was financed by the government of Qatar which is a major supporter of the armed opposition.

–The contracted law firm, Carter Ruck and Co, has previously represented Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also known for his avid support of the armed opposition.

–The American on the legal inquiry team, Professor David M. Crane, has a long history working for the U.S. Defense Department and Defense Intelligence Agency. The U.S. government has been deeply involved in the attempt at “regime change” with demands that President Bashar “Assad must go” beginning in summer 2011 and continuing until recently.

–Crane is personally partisan in the conflict. He has campaigned for a Syrian War Crimes Tribunal and testified before Congress in October 2013, three months before the Caesar revelations.

–By their own admission, the inquiry team was under “time constraints” (CRR, p11).

–By their own admission, the inquiry team did not even survey most of the photographs

–The inquiry team was either ignorant of the content or intentionally lied about the 46 percent showing dead Syrian soldiers and attack victims.

–The inquiry team did its last interview with “Caesar” on Jan. 18, 2014, quickly finalized a report and rushed it into the media on Jan. 20, two days prior to the start of United Nations-sponsored negotiations.

The self-proclaimed “rigor” of the Carter Ruck investigation is without foundation. The claims to a “scientific” investigation are similarly without substance and verging on the ludicrous.

  1. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is involved.

In an interview on France24, David Crane of the inquiry team describes how “Caesar” was brought to meet them by “his handler, his case officer.” The expression “case officer” usually refers to the CIA. This would be a common expression for Professor Crane who previously worked in the Defense Intelligence Agency. The involvement of the CIA additionally makes sense since there was a CIA budget of $1 billion for Syria operations in 2013. Crane’s “Syria Accountability Project” is based at Syracuse University where the CIA actively recruits new officers despite student resistance.

Why does it matter if the CIA is connected to the “Caesar” story? Because the CIA has a long history of disinformation campaigns. In 2011, false reports of viagra fueled rape by Libyan soldiers were widely broadcast in Western media as the U.S. pushed for a military mandate. Decades earlier, the world was shocked to hear about Cuban troops fighting in Angola raping Angolan women. The CIA chief of station for Angola, John Stockwell, later described how they invented the false report and spread it around the world.  The CIA was very proud of that disinformation achievement. Stockwell’s book, In Search of Enemies, is still relevant.

  1. The accusers portray simple administrative procedures as mysterious and sinister.

The Carter Ruck inquiry team falsely claimed there were about 11,000 tortured and killed detainees. They then posed the question: Why would the Syrian government photograph and document the people they just killed?  The Carter Ruck Report speculates that the military hospital photographed the dead to prove that the “orders to kill” had been followed. The “orders to kill” are assumed.

A more logical explanation is that dead bodies were photographed as part of normal hospital / morgue procedure to maintain a file of the deceased who were received or treated at the hospital. The same applies to the body labeling / numbering system. The Carter Ruck report suggests there is something mysterious and possibly sinister in the coded tagging system. But all morgues need to have a tagging and identification system.

  1. The photos have been manipulated.

Many of the photos at the SAFMCD website have been manipulated. The information card and tape identity are covered over and sections of documents are obscured. It must have been very time-consuming to do this for thousands of photos. The explanation that they are doing this to “protect identity” is not credible since the faces of victims are visible. What are they hiding?

  1. The Photo Catalog has duplicates and other errors.

There are numerous errors and anomalies in the photo catalog as presented at the SAFMCD website. For example, some deceased persons are shown twice with different case numbers and dates. There are other errors where different individuals are given the same identity number.

Researcher Adam Larson at A Closer Look at Syria website has done detailed investigation which reveals more errors and curious error patterns in the SAFMCD photo catalog.

9. With few exceptions, Western media uncritically accepted and promoted the story.

The Carter Ruck report was labeled “Confidential” but distributed to CNN, the Guardian and LeMonde. CNN’s Christiane Amanpour gushed over the story as she interviewed three of the inquiry team under the headline “EXCLUSIVE: Gruesome Syria photos may prove torture by Assad regime.” Critical journalism was replaced by leading questions and affirmation. David Crane said “This is a smoking gun.” Desmond de Silva “likened the images to those of holocaust survivors.”

The Guardian report was titled “Syrian regime document trove shows evidence of ‘industrial scale’ killing of detainees” with the subtitle, “Senior war crimes prosecutors say photographs and documents provide ‘clear evidence’ of systematic killing of 11,000 detainees”

One of the very few skeptical reports was by Dan Murphy in the Christian Science Monitor. Murphy echoed standard accusations about Syria but went on to say incisively, “the report itself is nowhere near as credible as it makes out and should be viewed for what it is: A well-timed propaganda exercise funded by Qatar, a regime opponent who has funded rebels fighting Assad who have committed war crimes of their own.”

Unfortunately that was one of very few critical reports in the mainstream media. In 2012, foreign affairs journalist Jonathan Steele wrote an article describing the overall media bias on Syria. His article was titled “Most Syrians back Assad but you’d never know from western media.” The media campaign and propaganda has continued without stop. It was in this context that the Carter Ruck Report was delivered and widely accepted without question.

  1. Politicians have used the Caesar story to push for more US/NATO aggression. 

Politicians seeking direct U.S. intervention for “regime change” in Syria were quick to accept and broadcast the “Caesar” story. They used it to demonize the Assad government and argue that the U.S. must act so as to prevent “another holocaust,” “another Rwanda,” “another Cambodia.”

When Caesar’s photos were displayed at the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Congress, Chairman Ed Royce said “It is far past time that the world act…. It is far past time for the United States to say there is going to be a safe zone across this area in northern Syria.”

The top-ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee is Eliot Engel. In November 2015 he said, “We’re reminded of the photographer, known as Caesar, who sat in this room a year ago, showing us in searing, graphic detail what Assad has done to his own people.” Engel went on to advocate for a new authorization for the use of military force.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger is another advocate for aggression against Syria. At an event at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in July 2015, he said, “If we want to destroy ISIS we have to destroy the incubator of ISIS, Bashar al-Assad.”

The irony and hypocrisy is doubly profound since Rep. Kinzinger has met and coordinated with opposition leader Okaidi who is a confirmed ally of ISIS. In contrast with Kinzinger’s false claims, it is widely known that ISIS ideology and initial funding came from Saudi Arabia and much of its recent wealth from oil sales via Turkey. The Syrian Army has fought huge battles against ISIS, winning some but losing others with horrific scenes of mass beheading carried out by ISIS.

  1. The Human Rights Watch assessment is biased.

HRW has been very active around Syria. After the chemical attacks in greater Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, HRW rushed a report which concluded that, based on a vector analysis of incoming projectiles, the source of the sarin carrying rockets must have been Syrian government territory. This analysis was later debunked as a “junk heap of bad evidence” by highly respected investigative journalist Robert Parry.

HRW’s assumption about the chemical weapon rocket flight distance was faulty. Additionally it was unrealistic to think you could determine rocket trajectory with 1 percent accuracy from a canister on the ground, especially from a canister on the ground that had deflected off a building wall.

In spite of this, HRW stuck by its analysis which blamed the Assad government. HRW Director Ken Roth publicly indicated dissatisfaction when an agreement to remove Syrian chemical weapons was reached. Roth wanted more than a “symbolic” attack on Syrian government forces.

Regarding the claims of “Caesar,” HRW seems to be the only non-governmental organization to receive the full set of photo files from the custodian. To its credit, HRW acknowledged that nearly half the photos do not show what has been claimed for two years: they show dead Syrian soldiers and militia along with scenes from crime scenes, car bombings, etc.

But HRW’s bias is clearly shown in how it handles this huge contradiction. Amazingly, HRW suggests the incorrectly identified photographs support the overall claim. They say, “This report focuses on deaths in detention. However other types of photographs are also important. From an evidentiary perspective, they reinforce the credibility of the claims of Caesar about his role as a forensic photographer of the Syrian security forces or at least with someone who has access to their photographs.” (HRW, p31) This seems like saying if someone lies to you half the time that proves they are truthful.

The files disprove the assertion that the files all show people who were tortured and killed. The photographs show a wide range of deceased persons, from Syrian soldiers to Syrian militia members to opposition fighters to civilians trapped in conflict zones to regular deaths in the military hospital. There may be some photos of detainees who died in custody after being tortured, or who were simply executed. We know that this happened in Iraqi detention centers under U.S. occupation. Ugly and brutal things happen in war times. But the facts strongly suggest that the “Caesar” account is basically untrue or a gross exaggeration.

It is striking that the HRW report has no acknowledgment of the war conditions and circumstances in Syria. There is no acknowledgment that the government and Syrian Arab Army have been under attack by tens of thousands of weaponized fighters openly funded and supported by many of the wealthiest countries in the world.

There is no hint at the huge loss of life suffered by the Syrian army and supporters defending their country. The current estimates indicate from 80,000 to 120,000 Syrian soldiers, militia and allies having died in the conflict. During the three years 2011-2013, including the period covered by the “Caesar” photos, it is estimated that over 52,000 Syrian soldiers and civilian militia died versus 29,000 anti-government forces.

HRW had access to the full set of photographs including the Syrian army and civilian militia members killed in the conflict. Why did they not list the number of Syrian soldiers and security forces they identified? Why did they not show a single image of those victims?

HRW goes beyond endorsing the falsehoods in the “Caesar story”; HRW suggests the cataloguing is only a partial listing. On page 5, the report says, “Therefore, the number of bodies from detention facilities that appear in the Caesar photographs represent only a part of those who died in detention in Damascus.”

On the contrary, the Caesar photographs seem to mostly show victims who died in a variety of ways in the armed conflict. The HRW assertions seem to be biased and inaccurate.

  1. The legal accusations are biased and ignore the supreme crime of aggression.

The Christian Science Monitor journalist Dan Murphy gave an apt warning in his article on the Carter Ruck report about “Caesar.” While many journalists treated the prosecutors with uncritical deference, he said, Association with war crime prosecutions is no guarantor of credibility – far from it. Just consider Luis Moreno Ocampo’s absurd claims about Viagra and mass rape in Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya in 2011. War crimes prosecutors have, unsurprisingly, a bias towards wanting to bolster cases against people they consider war criminals (like Assad or Qaddafi) and so should be treated with caution. They also frequently favor, as a class, humanitarian interventions.”

The Carter Ruck legal team demonstrated how accurate Murphy’s cautions could be. The legal team was eager to accuse the Syrian government of “crimes against humanity” but the evidence of “industrial killing,” “mass killing,” “torturing to kill” is dubious and much of the hard evidence shows something else.

In contrast, there is clear and solid evidence that a “Crime against Peace” is being committed against Syria. It is public knowledge that the “armed opposition” in Syria has been funded, supplied and supported in myriad ways by various outside governments. Most of the fighters, both Syrian and foreign, receive salaries from one or another outside power. Their supplies, weapons and necessary equipment are all supplied to them. Like the “Contras” in Nicaragua in the 1980’s, the use of such proxy armies is a violation of customary international law.

It is also a violation of the UN Charter which says “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other matter inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations”.

The government of Qatar has been a major supporter of the mercenaries and fanatics attacking the sovereign state of Syria. Given that fact, isn’t it hugely ironic to hear the legal contractors for Qatar accusing the Syrian government of “crimes against humanity”?

Isn’t it time for the United Nations to make reforms so that it can start living up to its purposes? That will require demanding and enforcing compliance with the UN Charter and International Law.

Rick Sterling is an independent research/writer and member of Syria Solidarity Movement.  He can be contacted at rsterling1@gmail.com

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US gears up to fight Russian ‘disinformation’ with… disinformation

RT | March 17, 2016

Two US senators are proposing legislation to counter, what they consider to be “disinformation” spread by certain foreign media. What better way to kick-start their campaign than by basing their bill on spurious nonsense?

Republican Senator Rob Portman and his Democratic colleague Chris Murphy are deeply concerned about foreign “propaganda.” They demand that Uncle Sam throws even more money at the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which is already given around $768 million annually.

Not content with the EU’s Stratcom East and NATO’s Riga-based communications centre, Portman and Murphy want a new center for Information Analysis and Response to analyze “foreign government information-warfare efforts.”

What better place to launch the crusade than at NATO’s Atlantic Council appendage? An organization funded by such disinterested and neutral parties as the US State Department, Lockheed Martin, the Kingdom of Bahrain and the monarchy of the United Arab Emirates?

Portman certainly couldn’t think of a better venue, so he showed up on Wednesday to express his satisfaction that the “US version of events is better.” This attitude is not a shock. Most of the US elite, and their media champions believe America has a monopoly on truth. Next, Portman warned that Russia, China and other countries are trying to “manipulate and control information to achieve their national goals, often at the expense of the interests and values of America’s allies.”

The Senator sounded particularly worried about RT. And it is no wonder. Portman claimed RT spends $400 million a year just for the maintenance of our Washington bureau. Just imagine that? $400 million big ones.

Unfortunately, given that our entire budget for 2016 is 17 billion rubles, or around $248 million in today’s dollars, we have no idea where on earth Portman got this numbers – or if he even believes them. That $248 million pays for the global broadcasting and newsgathering operations of round-the-clock TV channels in English, Arabic and Spanish, documentaries, online portals in six languages, the RT UK channel, and yes, RT America – our stateside outpost. To run all of this RT receives one third of the funding the US government allocates for the BBG. Despite modest means, RT can boast 70 million weekly TV viewers, nearly 50 million monthly unique visitors to our digital platforms and a status as the number one international TV news network on YouTube, with more than 3 billion views.

Amazing, the BBG’S Voice of America (VOA) reported Portman’s $400 million figure without question, and with no apparent fact-checking. The Senator’s – and the supposedly venerated news organization’s he seeks to aid – fight against “disinformation” kicks off with a blatant lie. You really can’t make this stuff up.

VOA wasn’t alone, Germany’s own state-broadcaster, Deutsche Welle (DW), also carried Portman’s erroneous sums. DW, of course, is never regarded as propaganda in Washington because the administration in Berlin is not a threat to American interests.

This is despite the fact that it receives government funding – $332 million per year – to communicate its country’s point of view to the world. When RT contacted DW to correct this blatant falsehood, the outlet’s editors treated the issue as a “difference of opinion” before eventually adding RT’s budget figure as our own claim, and not the publicly available information that it is, and that has been reported by hundreds of, credible, news outlets.

The BBG, and its supporters, such as Senator Portman, are currently fighting hard in Washington to secure extra resources for their efforts. An intensive campaign has been fought over the past six months to support these objectives. Much of this lobbying has been based on exaggeration and outright lies. Portman’s $400 million is one of the most absurd yet. The fact that VOA and DW unquestioningly repeated the deceit speaks volumes.

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

GOP senators introduce new Iran sanctions bill

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Press TV – March 17, 2016

A group of US Republican senators has introduced legislation to impose new sanctions against Iran over what legislators have described as Tehran’s support for terrorism and human rights violations.

The legislation, which was introduced on Thursday by Senator Kelly Ayotte, aims to impose harsher sanctions on Iran’s economy.

The bill is sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio and Senators Mark Kirk, Dan Coats and Cory Gardner as well as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Several other Republican senators have also signed on the new bill, dubbed the “Iran Terrorism and Human Rights Sanctions Act of 2016.”

The bill’s co-sponsors include Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate, and Senators John Cornyn, Rob Portman, Pat Roberts, Ben Sasse, Tom Cotton, Jerry Moran, Johnny Isakson and Lisa Murkowski.

The senators have accused Iran of supporting terrorism in the Middle East and committing human rights abuses.

“I reject our current posture of willful ignorance and inaction towards Iran’s terrorist activities, illegal missile testing, funding Assad’s war, and human rights abuses,” said Kirk, a strong supporter of Israel and advocate of Iran sanctions.

“The Administration’s response cannot once again be it’s ‘not supposed to be doing that’ as Iran continues to walk all over US foreign policy and the international community,” he said.

The Obama administration has advised the Republican-dominated Senate not to impose more sanctions on Iran after the historic nuclear agreement between Tehran and the world powers.

With the Iran Sanctions Act expiring at the end of this year, GOP senators are trying their best to reauthorize and impose more sanctions on Tehran on the pretext of terrorism, human rights issues, and ballistic missile tests.

Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France as well as Germany started implementation of the deal, dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, on January 16.

After JCPOA went into effect, all nuclear-related sanctions imposed on Iran by the European Union, the Security Council and the US were lifted.

Iran in return has put some limitations on its nuclear activities. The nuclear agreement was signed on July 14, 2015 following two and a half years of intensive talks.

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

America’s Genocidal Wars

By Stephen Lendman | March 17, 2016

America’s pure evil is unequaled by any previous regime in history – inflicting more harm on more people over a longer duration.

None match US ruthlessness. Centuries of slaughter reduced its native population to a small fraction of its original numbers.

Five centuries of slavery were horrific. Black Africans were captured, branded, chained, force-marched, beaten, encaged, and stripped of their humanity.

Around 100 million human beings were sold like cattle. Millions perished during the Middle Passage, packed into filthy coffin-sized spaces, filled with human excrement, victims of dysentery, smallpox and other epidemic-level diseases, women raped and beaten, others flogged or clubbed.

Anyone believed diseased was dumped overboard like garbage. Modern-day genocide continues in new forms. WWII and endless US wars following involved mass extermination, countless millions perishing from violence, starvation, preventable diseases and overall deprivation.

Civilians are treated as ruthlessly as combatants in all US wars. State-sponsored genocide reflects their barbarity, ongoing in multiple theaters now.

High crimes demanding accountability go unreported. Wars of aggression masquerade as humanitarian intervention, responsibility to protect and democracy building.

Unparalleled US hubris and arrogance threaten humanity’s survival. America is the world’s leading exponent of terrorism, ISIS and likeminded groups its creation, CIA operatives teaching their recruits the fine art of committing atrocities.

All US wars are waged lawlessly without mercy. John Kerry’s indictment of Daesh’s (ISIS) genocidal crimes belies its US creation, America bearing full responsibility for its existence and criminality.

On Thursday, Kerry ignored where blame lies, saying “(i)n my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims.”

“Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions, in what it says, what it believes, and what it does.”

Its fighters are “also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups, and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities.”

Claiming “what (it) wants to erase, we must preserve” belies longstanding US imperial policy – waging endless wars of aggression, using ISIS and other terrorists as proxy foot soldiers, wanting all sovereign independent states replaced by pro-Western puppet ones, believing genocidal slaughter is a small price to pay.

Obama, Kerry, as well as other current and earlier top US officials are unindicted war criminals – guilty of the supreme crime against peace, responsible for genocidal mass murder.


Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment