Aletho News


Neocons Scheme for More ‘Regime Change’

By James W Carden | Consortium News | June 18, 2016

In 1985, the diplomat and historian George F. Kennan published a seminal essay in Foreign Affairs magazine in which he took on the topic of “Morality and Foreign Policy.” Objecting to the habit of American policymakers to link foreign policy objectives to specific desired outcomes within the borders of sovereign nations, Kennan struck a blow for the Westphalian interstate system which had been the cornerstone of international life since 1648.

Standing against the neocon tide yelling “stop!”, Kennan decried what he called the “histrionics of moralism” that guided American policymakers into believing they were responsible – and worse still, had it in their power – to right every wrong in every corner of the globe.

The self-declared mission to remake the world in America’s image has only become more entrenched since Kennan’s essay appeared three decades ago. In fact today’s neocons – positively high on self-righteous indignation, particularly when it comes to Russia and Syria – are perhaps even worse than their ideological forbearers who at least understood the all-too-real dangers of a nuclear conflagration between the U.S. and Soviet Union.

Today’s neocons – comfortably ensconced in U.S. government- and NATO-funded think tanks, major newspapers and magazines, issue forth groundless denunciations of the Russian government; eagerly cheer on the destruction of a modern European state, Ukraine; cheer on NATO’s latest adventures on the Russian frontier; and earnestly hope that a secular Syrian government be replaced by a band of Sunni religious fanatics, all the while smugly shrugging off the possibility of a nuclear confrontation between Russia and the West. Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad, you see, are “bad guys”: end of discussion.

And this brings us to the neocons who, unlike the scores of Christopher Hitchens acolytes in the Washington media world, actually wield some power. On June 7, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland seemed pleased to report that the U.S. has already spent $600 million on “security assistance” in Ukraine, while $787 million has been requested for FY2017.

Meanwhile, efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the sovereign government of Russia, with an eye towards another “regime change,” continue apace. Nuland, in a remarkably candid response to a question from perhaps the Senate’s leading advocate of “regime change,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, said the State Department not only works with the Soros-funded Open Russia, it works side-by-side with Russian “journalists who have fled” Russia.

Endless ‘Regime Change’

This points to what is the de facto policy towards not only Russia, but towards any government which finds itself in America’s crosshairs: work relentlessly to undermine the legitimacy of that government, with the ultimate aim of overthrowing it.

Can there be any doubt this is so in light of the “dissent memo” which was sent by 51 State Department officials this week? According to the New York Times, the memo urged Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama “to carry out military strikes against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.”

What these American diplomats are, in effect, calling for is a policy which would lead to a war with Russia, would kill greater numbers of civilians, would sunder the Geneva peace process, and would result in greater gains for the radical Sunnis “rebels” who are the principal opponents of the Assad regime.

But these diplomats, heedless of the costs or likely ramifications of their preferred policy, feel the U.S. simply must unleash the dogs of war so that they can feel better about themselves for having done “something.”

The dual policies of isolating and provoking Russia and endless war in the Near East is the predictable yet natural outgrowth of American foreign policy as it has been pursued since 1950.

Searching for a post-World War Two rationale on which to base American policy in the aftermath of perceived Soviet aggression in Greece and Turkey, President Harry Truman’s National Security Council issued NSC-68. The brainchild of former Wall Street wunderkind turned uber-hawkish policy adviser Paul Nitze, NSC-68 might correctly be viewed at the original sin of the America’s postwar foreign policy.

According to the policy directive, the U.S. must “foster a fundamental change in the nature of the Soviet system … foster the seeds of destruction within the Soviet system … with a view to fomenting and supporting unrest and revolution in selected strategic satellite countries” all with an eye toward reducing “the power and influence in the Kremlin inside the Soviet Union.”

Sound familiar? Substitute the word “Soviet” with “Russia” or even “Syria” and we have the template for America’s more recent imperial adventures. Worryingly, as we approach the November presidential elections, there seems not an ounce of interest inside the Washington establishment for a new approach.

James W Carden is a contributing writer for The Nation and editor of The American Committee for East-West Accord’s He previously served as an advisor on Russia to the Special Representative for Global Inter-governmental Affairs at the US State Department.

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 2 Comments

Anti-Russia smear campaign also targets Trump

By Finian Cunningham | RT | June 18, 2016

Sensational reports of Russian government spies hacking into the Democrat party’s computers weren’t the usual anti-Moscow smear job. Republican presidential contender Donald Trump also took a hit in the double whammy.

The abrasive business tycoon may have a popular following among grass roots voters, but he has managed to garner powerful enemies within the American establishment. Not least large sections of the corporate news media, the military and foreign policy arms of US government.

Government-owned news outlet Voice of America reports this week that Republican leaders are “wringing their hands” over Trump and seeking to nix his presidential nomination. This impetus against the billionaire politician has grown in the wake of last week’s mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, when Trump “doubled down” on controversial anti-Muslim rhetoric, which is seen as divisive and alienating voters.

Trump’s enemies in the media are topped by the Washington Post after he banned the newspaper from covering his campaign. In an unprecedented move, he revoked official accreditation to the paper’s reporters after he slammed the Post for “phony and dishonest” coverage. The paper has prominently featured columns that purport to “debunk” many of Trump’s political claims and statements.

Trump made another powerful enemy when he scoffed at the US-led military umbrella NATO, deriding the 28-member military bloc as an “obsolete” organization. He also said he would slash US financial and military commitments if elected president. Trump stepped on serious toes there since NATO can be seen as a lynchpin of American imperial power projection and a crucial financial pump for the Pentagon and its military-industrial complex.

Earlier this month, CNN ran an “exclusive” op piece to NATO. Headlined “Inside NATO as it faces fire from Trump”, the organization was given ample space to justify its existence as “cutting edge” and “transforming” for its stated purpose of maintaining global security. Trump’s name wasn’t mentioned explicitly by NATO officials, but it was obvious that he had rankled the alliance, and it was out to burnish its image, which CNN generously indulged.

Now let’s deal with the smear job at issue. On Tuesday, the Washington Post splashed with this story: “Russian government hackers penetrated DNC, stole opposition research on Trump”.

The Post’s “national security” reporter Ellen Nakashima writes: “Russian government hackers penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee and gained access to the entire database of opposition research on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, according to committee officials and security experts who responded to the breach.”

The first thing to note is the poor journalistic standard, whereby the headline of a news report is presented as a fact – “Russian government hackers penetrated DNC” – when the information is actually only a claim “according to committee officials and security experts”, as the first paragraph discloses.

And on reading the article it turns out that the claim made against the Russian government is underwhelming. The entire article is based on the hearsay of the private security firm employed by the Democrat party. There is no evidence presented to substantiate the assertion that the alleged hackers were linked to Russian military intelligence (GRU) or its state security service (FSB).

This is true to form for that Washington Post reporter. Last year, Nakashima published several articles in which she similarly claimed that Russia and Chinese government hackers had broken into the White House network and other federal databases. Again, those articles were based on unverified claims by anonymous officials and private security firms.

For the record, the Russian government flatly denied having anything to do with the latest computer hack at the DNC. “I completely rule out a possibility that the [Russian] government or the government bodies have been involved in this,” said Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman.

A second telling aspect about the story was that on the same day that the Washington Post led on it, all the major US media, and some prominent British ones too, also ran with it. All with nearly the same wording of the factually sounding headline imputing the Russian government. That kind of wall-to-wall, uniform coverage is indicative that the story was primed by a governmental agency for media broadcast. In short, a disinformation campaign.

The obvious target here is Russia. Not for the first time has the Kremlin been accused with breaching US computer networks and generally being a sinister specter threatening national security – as if Washington is not also carrying out the same espionage and worse. The hacker story is but just one more twist in Washington’s overarching anti-Russia narrative, including accusations that it is destabilizing European states, annexed Crimea, is invading Ukraine, and bombing hospitals and civilians in Syria.

Russian spies allegedly interfering in American domestic politics and a presidential election by hacking into the Democrat National Committee is aimed at whipping up Cold War public resentment towards Moscow.

But perhaps the bigger target of the disinformation is Donald J Trump.

Notice how the alleged Russian hack was coupled prominently with “stealing opposition research on Trump”. And, pointedly, all the media headlines also featured this aspect. Patently, the Trump detail was intended as a “talking point”, as they say in state intelligence parlance.

The Trump campaign reportedly brushed off the “news” that personal information had been accessed by hackers. His campaign team breezily referred reporters to contact federal investigators.

However, here’s the thing. By making it appear that the Russians have the goods, or the dirt, on Trump the intended effect is that he would be viewed as “compromised” in the eyes of American voters. He would be, according to this logic, a national security risk if elected president, vulnerable to being manipulated, blackmailed or some other form of coercion – by America’s number one global enemy, Russia.

The Washington Post is not the only one with a confluence of interest in running the Russian hacker/Trump damaged story. The private security firm, CrowdStrike, that the DNC contracted to purportedly hunt for the Russian spyware is linked to NATO and the US foreign policy establishment. And it is CrowdStrike’s assessment upon which the entire story in the Washington Post and all the other media outlets is based.

Dmitri Alperovitz, CrowdStrike’s chief technology officer, is quoted frequently as the main source of the story, and as saying they have “high confidence” it was Russian hackers, “but we don’t have hard evidence”.

In what seems a clumsy disclosure, the Washington Post article makes a passing reference to Alperovitz being “a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council”.

The Atlantic Council, based in Washington DC, is a high-profile international think tank that publishes papers, holds seminars and hosts leading American and European public figures to present a solidly “Atlanticist” US foreign policy. The Atlantic Council is tightly aligned with the US-led NATO military alliance and is regularly briefed by NATO leaders, including former commander General Philip Breedlove and current secretary general Jens Stoltenberg. It is an avid cheer leader for the anti-Russian narrative that dominates US policy towards Moscow.

In sum, the latest media smear job on Russia was a double dirty trick. With Donald Trump also on the receiving end.

Read more:

Russian spies again? DNC says Russian hackers breached its files

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Deception | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NATO Should Stay Vigilant to Avoid ‘Arms Race’ With Russia

Sputnik — 18.06.2016

Germany’s former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said on Saturday that NATO should remain vigilant to avoid an arms race with Russia, because it would not solve any problems on the international arena.

“Now, we [NATO members] should be careful not to start a new arms race. This will not help either mitigate the conflicts or restore good relations with Russia,” Schroeder told the German Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper in an interview, commenting on the Alliance’s decision to deploy four multinational battalions — around 4,000 troops — to the Baltic states and Poland to bolster their defense capabilities in the region.

The ex-chancellor said that he considered it necessary for NATO to take steps toward Russia, as “the assumption that someone in the Russian government may invade any of the bloc’s countries has nothing to do with reality.”

Speaking on the lifting of anti-Russian sanctions, Schroeder said that Germany should strive not to lose the achievements of the former Chancellor Willy Brandt, who played a significant role in the establishment of relations between the Russia and Germany. According to Schroeder, Germany should be careful not to lose the privilege of political and economic partnership with Russia.

Since 2014, relations between Russia and the European Union, including Germany, have deteriorated amid the crisis in Ukraine. Brussels, Washington and their allies have introduced several rounds of anti-Russia sanctions since the reunification of Crimea with Russia in 2014, accusing Moscow of meddling in the Ukrainian conflict.

Russia has repeatedly refuted the allegations, warning that the Western sanctions are counterproductive and undermine global stability. In response to the restrictive measures, Russia has imposed a food embargo on some products originating in countries that have targeted it with sanctions.

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , | Leave a comment

House Leaders Politicize a Tragedy to Block Bipartisan Surveillance Reforms

By Shahid Buttar | EFF | June 17, 2016

After hurdling procedural barriers, a congressional attempt to protect privacy and encryption failed on the House floor yesterday, falling short of a majority by a mere 24 votes.

Two years ago, the House stood united across party lines, voting by a remarkable margin of 293–123 to support the same measures, which would enhance security and privacy by limiting the powers of intelligence agencies to conduct warrantless backdoor searches targeting Americans, and to undermine encryption standards and devices.

This week, the intelligence community broke that consensus by inappropriately politicizing the recent tragedy in Orlando. Before Thursday’s vote, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), circulated a letter falsely claiming that:

If this amendment were enacted, the Intelligence Community would not be able to look through information lawfully collected under FISA Section 702 to see if… the Orlando nightclub attacker was in contact with any terrorist groups outside the United States.

These claims were downright disingenuous.

As members of the intelligence committee well know, the government will have no problem securing warrants to search the Orlando attacker’s online communications. Warrants are not difficult to secure when appropriate. The only thing a warrant requirement would do is prevent the government from abusing its powers, as it repeatedly has in the past.

The clever misrepresentations about the proposed amendment, and unproven and ultimately spurious claims that it would undermine national security, prompted efforts to correct the debate and inform policymakers of the truth, leading dozens of members of Congress to switch sides in both directions. Ultimately, the House chose to reverse two previous votes overwhelmingly supporting precisely the same amendment.

We are greatly disappointed that the House chose to abandon its prior votes defending the rights of constituents, and particularly in those members who accepted the canard that simply requiring the government to obtain a judicial warrant before searching Section 702 intelligence databases would hinder investigations.

Observers who share our concerns have opportunities to impact the debate going forward. First, contact your federal representative to share your views, especially if yours was one of the dozens who shifted their position.

But don’t stop there: August will present a key point in time when—visiting their districts just a few months before an election with likely high turnout driven by a presidential election cycle—members of Congress will be at their most politically vulnerable, exposed, and therefore receptive to grassroots concerns.

If you’d like to take advantage of the opportunity to share your views with your representatives in a forum more influential than a phone call, confirm how your representative voted, recruit a handful of friends to form a local group, and join the Electronic Frontier Alliance.

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

On the sumoud narrative and its dangers

MEMO | June 18, 2016

One of the most celebrated qualities of the people of Gaza is their sumoud, their steadfastness and capacity to endure the woes inflicted by Israeli terror. Media coverage of the tiny strip is full of soppy stories about how, regardless of the number of times Israel mows the lawn or casts lead, farmers will always sow their buffer zone farmlands and medics will never cease to improvise with what little they have.

The question is not whether the people of Gaza have given up on their professions and fell to their knees before their occupiers, but the cheap reproduction of them as an extraordinary population who will continue to endure all sufferings imposed on their lives and cling to their cause. What is more disturbing is that foreign journalists on the ground often steer the conversation to get the answers they are looking for. The people of Gaza have memorised the right answer: No matter what, we will never leave.

The truth, however, is that the “people of Gaza” are for the most part sick of this framing and, in fact, a considerable number of them are leaving. In September 2014, nearly five hundred Palestinians from Gaza drowned in the Mediterranean as they attempted to reach Europe. To risk one’s life with smugglers and brave seas in pursuit of a better life elsewhere should tell us something about people’s limited capacity to endure inhumane conditions as well as the limited truth of the sumoud narrative. This is not to say that people are abandoning their struggle for justice and their liberation ideals; many join activist groups or dedicate years of research to them. However, it is time to step back a little and reassess the sumoud narrative; it is perhaps time to understand Gaza and its people on their own terms. To do so, one should look critically at blanket narratives and long-held assumptions, as well as changes that have occurred to established concepts.

There are, to my mind, two primary dangers in trumpeting this narrative of sumoud. The first lies in transforming an ordinary population into mythical creatures able to overcome the most excruciating of circumstances. This transformation places a high, and utterly unjustified, expectation on Gaza’s Palestinians to endure Israel’s relentless aggression and to hold on to the land regardless of the level of destruction implemented. This expectation winds up minimising the power and consequences of Israel’s occupation because, no matter how filthy and bloody it becomes, the Palestinians are predisposed to endure.

For Palestinians on visas abroad, questions on whether they plan to go back to Gaza at the end of their studies are often posed by -without generalising- some Palestine supporters. To be sure, what motivates the question is a principled concern for the liberation of the land. Leaving Palestine, they would say, is exactly what Israel wants. This objection is often, and understandably, voiced by exiled Palestinians and their younger descendants. It is understandable because their varied experiences of Palestine are defined less by daily reality and more by the vision of what Palestine was and will be again. The present certainly plays a role but actual daily experience makes a lot of difference. Questions of this sort, nevertheless, place a lot of pressure on those in Gaza who already have so much to deal with or live abroad under the threat of deportation. What I am calling for is a more comprehensive understanding of the conditions in Gaza and a re-examination of what sumoud means in contemporary reality.

The second danger is that the sumoud narrative paints steadfastness as a choice rather than a forced reality. Palestinians in Gaza are not given the choice between enduring Israel’s aggression and seeking opportunities elsewhere. Palestinians, at least in part, continue to plough, sow, dig tunnels, and improvise because there is no other option. Simply put, Palestinians endure because they have to, not because they choose to. It is perhaps more worthwhile to write stories on the disgraceful visa processes and mistreatment and degradation of Palestinian asylum seekers than pretend as though we have chosen to suffer and, therefore, to endure. As though we are naïve enough to allow ourselves to hope when no signs of improvement can be glanced anywhere.

The Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza have taken this narrative of a mythical people to heart. Each feels it necessary to act as if the Palestinians are not only doing fine under their dysfunctional governments but are flourishing too. Mahmoud Abbas, for example, is still “state building” and constructing mythical cities such as Rawabi when hardly any land is left. The obscene complicity of both governments, together with the collective efforts of Israel, Egypt, and Jordan, have made it impossible for Palestinians trapped in Gaza to leave and, consequently, they are forced endure.

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Footage of soldier kicking knife ‘represents clear violation of international law’

Ma’an – June 18, 2016

HEBRON – Human Rights Defenders (HRD) in Palestine released a video last week showing an Israeli soldier kicking a knife toward the body of Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif — who was shot point-blank in the head by an Israeli soldier in March — an action the group said represents a clear violation of international law.

The video shows an Israeli soldier casually kicking a knife — allegedly used by al-Sharif during an attempted stabbing attack — to the other side of the road in the town of Tel Rumeida in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, as al-Sharif’s body lay a few meters away.

The footage was taken before al-Sharif was shot execution-style in the head by an Israeli soldier, a graphic video of which was released in March, leading to widespread condemnation by rights groups and the UN demanding an investigation into the apparent “extrajudicial execution.”

Badi Dweik, an activist from HRD, said in a statement released Saturday that the group decided to make the video public in order to challenge current narratives unfolding at the ongoing military trial of Elor Azaria — the Israeli soldier charged with manslaughter after killing al-Sharif. Azaria has claimed that he shot the immobilized Palestinian because he saw al-Sharif reaching for the knife, or feared he had explosives strapped to his chest.

However Azaria’s commander testified in court on Thursday that al-Sharif posed no threat before he was shot dead, and when asked why he shot al-Sharif, Azaria answered: ‘This terrorist was alive, and he needs to die.'”

An additional video surfaced at the start of June, showing an Israeli ambulance driver kicking the same knife near to al-Sharif’s body after he was killed.

The video footage, obtained by Israel’s Channel Two, was expected to be shown to an Israeli military court to disprove claims by the Israeli soldier who killed al-Sharif that he shot the young Palestinian point-blank in the head after al-Sharif moved to grab a knife, according to the Israeli media outlet Ynet.

The footage shows that the knife allegedly used in the attack was far from al-Sharif when he was shot, notably showing an ambulance driving over the knife before it was kicked closer to al-Sharif’s body.The Israeli military prosecutor reportedly said that an Israeli ambulance driver, Ofer Ohanna, who was near the scene kicked the knife towards al-Sharif’s body following his murder, according to Hebrew-language news outlet Maariv.

The new video that has surfaced reveals that the ambulance driver was not the only one to tamper with evidence at the crime scene, but that an Israeli soldier also manipulated a piece of key evidence by moving the knife, which Dweik emphasized was a violation of international law. Al-Sharif was shot alongside Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi after the two Palestinians allegedly stabbed and moderately wounded an Israeli soldier at a military checkpoint in the Tel Rumeida area of Hebron on March 24.Although it was widely believed that Al-Qasrawi was killed immediately, new witness accounts documented by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem have since emerged that “raise concerns that al-Qasrawi was also executed with a shot to the head, as he lay injured on the ground after having been hit by gunfire elsewhere in his body.”

Al-Sharif, meanwhile, was left severely wounded for several minutes without treatment, before Azaria stepped forward and put a bullet through his head, killing him.Azaria was charged with manslaughter, rather than murder as had initially been expected, and is being held on a military base in “open detention” where he is free to roam and has received visits from his family. His trial opened in early May.

Palestinians have long held fears that Israeli soldiers and settlers tamper with crime scenes involving Palestinians, with human rights groups accusing Israel of practicing a policy of extrajudicial executions since a wave of violence erupted in October, leaving more than 200 Palestinians and some 30 Israelis killed.

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

Pro-Israeli sides warn Boeing on Iran deal

Press TV – June 18, 2016

A groundswell of opposition is building among pro-Israeli politicians in the US against Boeing’s plans to sell aircraft to Iran.

The Chicago-based aerospace giant has reportedly received requests for more information after Iran said on Tuesday it had reached an initial agreement with Boeing for the supply of jetliners.

Two senior Republican House representatives have said Boeing could threaten US national security with the planned sale of aircraft to Iran.

“American companies should not be complicit in weaponizing” Iran, Representatives Jeb Hensarling and Peter Roskam were reported to have said in a letter to Boeing released on Friday.

In their letter to Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg, the lawmakers asked for “clarification” of the current state of negotiations.

A senior Iranian official said on Friday serious talks were underway between the two sides and expected “good news” about them to be announced within a couple of days.

The European Commission announced on Thursday that the Iranian flag carrier Iran Air has been taken off a safety blacklist and cleared to fly the European skies.

Iran Air agreed in January to buy 118 jets worth $27 billion from Airbus and is discussing further orders with Boeing.

Iranian officials have said the country needs as many as 500 jets to renew its fleet which has suffered under US-led sanctions for years, marked by a series of disasters in which hundreds of people have lost their lives.

Iran’s current civil aviation fleet consists of 248 aircraft with an average age of 20 years, of which 100 are grounded.

Israel law center Shurat Hadin said on Thursday it had told Boeing that it would place liens on any of its airplanes sold to Iran.

The center claims to be representing hundreds of families of alleged victims of terrorism, who have been awarded billions of dollars in damages from frozen Iranian assets.

Shurat Hadin reportedly warned Boeing that a nuclear deal the US and several others countries signed with Iran in July, lifting many sanctions on Tehran, did not override American judgments held by the families the Israeli center represents, which means they can serve liens on anything Iran purchases.

US Representatives Hensarling and Roskam have asked whether Boeing could guarantee that Iran could not convert Boeing passenger jets to cargo aircraft and whether it would repossess aircraft if the nuclear agreement fell through.

The nuclear pact reached by President Barack Obama was opposed by every Republican member of the US Congress. Several questioned the Boeing deal as soon as the news reports came out.

The planned Boeing deal would be the biggest by far between a US company and Tehran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Apart from Airbus and Boeing, Iran is also negotiating with several other global aviation giants over the purchases of planes including Bombardier and Embraer.

According to media reports, Iran’s order list from the American aviation giant includes narrow-body 737s for domestic flights and two-aisle 777s for long-haul routes.

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , | 2 Comments

US Underestimates Civilian Death Toll in Iraq and Syria by 95%

teleSUR | June 17, 2016

The United States-led coalition that is bombing Iraq and Syria may be under-reporting the civilian toll of that war by as much as 95 percent, according to a new report released Friday by the monitoring group Airwars.

The U.S.-led coalition, which includes nations such as Britain, France and the Netherlands, has been bombing Islamic State group targets in Iraq and Syria since 2014, carrying out more than 13,121 airstrikes, or just over 19 a day. The vast majority of the strikes are carried out by the U.S., according to Airwars—68 percent in Iraq and and 82.5 percent in Syria—with an estimated civilian death toll of at least 1,312 people.

Over the past six months it’s gotten worse, according to Airwars. “Between December and May, in both Iraq and Syria, there was a marked increase in the number of alleged casualty incidents and civilian death attributed to coalition actions,” it says. In Iraq, the group reports that between 297 and 518 civilians were killed by coalition airstrikes in this time. In Syria, between 197 and 274 civilians were killed, “a 38 percent increase in likely civilian deaths above the previous six months.

The U.S. has admitted to killing just 20 civilians. Its allies have admitted to none. “If correct, Airwars data suggests the coalition may be under-reporting civilian deaths by more than 95 percent,” the report says.

The worst incident for civilians occurred on March 19 in the Islamic State-occupied city of Mosul, when at least 25 innocents were killed when coalition airstrikes hit Mosul University in the middle of the day. As teleSUR reported at the time, such a strike on a civilian institution—confirmed by the U.S. Department of Defense—may constitute a breach of international law.

The U.S. and its coalition allies are not the only foreign governments reportedly killing civilians in the region. Of 630 alleged incidents where civilians died in Syria as a result of international airpower, 91 percent have been attributed to Russia, according to Airwars, killing between 2,792 and 3,451 civilians between December 2015 and May 2016, largely as the result of airstrikes targeting non-Islamic State forces and civilian areas, “particularly in and around Aleppo.

The Russian government says its airstrikes have not killed any civilians since they began in Sept. 2015.

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Saudi repeats call for US strikes on Syrian government

Press TV – June 17, 2016

The Saudi foreign minister has repeated Riyadh’s call on the US to carry out airstrikes against the Syrian government, echoing a similar request by dozens of US diplomats who broke ranks with the White House to push for military action against Damascus.

During a press briefing at the Saudi Embassy in Washington on Friday, Adel al-Jubeir said the Arab monarchy has long been pushing for a US military campaign to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Saudi minister added that from the very start of the crisis in Syria, Riyadh has strongly favored “a more robust policy, including air strikes, safe zones, a no fly zone, a no drive zone.”

He went on to say that the kingdom had called for arming Syria’s so-called “moderate opposition” with ground-to-air missiles and reiterated an offer to deploy Saudi special forces as part of any US-led operation against the Damascus government, which has been making back-to-back gains against the Daesh Takfiri group.

Jubeir’s comments came after 51 US State Department officials signed an internal document, known as the “dissent channel cable”, this week, calling for targeted military strikes against the Syrian government.

“Failure to stem Assad’s flagrant abuses will only bolster the ideological appeal of groups such as Daesh, even as they endure tactical setbacks on the battlefield,” reads the cable, critical of US President Barak Obama’s policies towards the Syrian crisis.

The State Department has acknowledged the existence of the cable as confidential diplomatic communication, but did not comment on its contents.

Russia’s reaction

Meanwhile, Russia slammed the so-called internal document and warned that such attempts to oust Assad would not “contribute to a successful fight against terrorism.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov further said that “this could plunge the region into complete chaos.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov also censured the proposed attacks against Damascus, saying they would be “at odds with the UN resolutions.”

“We need to negotiate and reach a political resolution on the basis of international law, which was agreed upon at the UN Security Council,” Bogdanov added.

The United States and its allies formed a coalition that has been conducting airstrikes against what are said to be Daesh terrorists inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from Damascus or a UN mandate. The coalition has repeatedly been accused of targeting and killing civilians. It has also been largely incapable of fulfilling its declared aim of destroying Daesh.

Daesh Takfiri terrorists, who were initially trained by the CIA in Jordan in 2012 to destabilize the Syrian government, are engaged in crimes against humanity in the areas under their control.

Syria has been grappling with a deadly conflict it blames on certain foreign states for over five years. UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which has also displaced over half of the Arab country’s pre-war population of about 23 million. The militancy has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure.

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , , | 3 Comments

‘Saber-rattling & warmongering’: German FM blasts NATO military drills in Eastern Europe

RT | June 18, 2016

Sharply criticizing NATO war games in Eastern Europe, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Bild am Sonntag newspaper that inflaming the standoff with Russia would endanger European security and increase risk of reviving an “old confrontation.”

The ongoing large-scale Anakonda-16 NATO military maneuvers in Poland, simulating the repulsion of “Russian aggression” against the country, are counterproductive, Deutsche Welle cited German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier as telling Bild am Sonntag newspaper, in an interview to be published Sunday.

“Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security is mistaken,” Steinmeier said ahead of the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw beginning July 8. “We are well-advised to not create pretexts to renew an old confrontation,” he emphasized.

Rather than inflaming the situation further “through saber-rattling and warmongering,” there ought to be more space for dialogue and cooperation with Moscow, Steinmeier said.

It would be “fatal to now narrow the focus to the military, and seek a remedy solely through a policy of deterrence,” German FM said, calling to give way to diplomacy instead of military posturing.

Calling for dialogue and a diplomatic approach, Steinmeier also mentioned the necessity of maintaining military preparedness of NATO.

The alliance should also consider the possibility to “renew discussions about the benefits of disarmament and arms control for security in Europe,” he said.

The Anaconda drills have become NATO’s largest exercise in Europe since the Cold War, bringing to Poland over 31,000 troops from 24 NATO member states and “partner nations,” including the US, the UK, Germany, Canada, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and others.

Moscow has once again pointed out that augmentation of NATO military presence in Eastern Europe and Baltics is unjustified, stressing that Russia has no plans whatsoever to interfere with any country in the region.

“I am convinced that every serious and honest politician is well aware that Russia will never invade any NATO member. We have no such plans,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated.

The NATO summit in Warsaw is set to put “Russian threat” issue high on the agenda, as the gathering will be making the final decision on stationing additional NATO troops in Eastern Europe.

More NATO troops deployed to Poland will be sending “a clear signal that an attack on Poland will be considered an attack on the whole Alliance,” the bloc’s Secretary General told reporters following his meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda in early June.

The statements made by NATO leadership put Russian diplomats in a position where they have to deny the obvious.

“During the NATO secretary general’s recent visit to Poland, officials in this country [Poland] made statements suggesting that from now on Russia would know that any attack on Poland would mean an attack on NATO as a whole. This is completely absurd because they are discussing a non-existent problem. There are no plans for any attacks on Poland,” Russian envoy to NATO Aleksandr Grushko said in an interview with TV channel Russia-24.

Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on Friday, President Vladimir Putin said that NATO has “an absolutely slapdash attitude to our position on anything,” adding that it was the US that had unilaterally quit the missile defense treaty, which was initially signed to “provide strategic balance in the world.”

NATO “needs a foreign enemy, otherwise what would be the reason for the existence of such an organization,” said the Russian leader. The conflict in Ukraine, caused by a bloody coup supported by the US and its European NATO allies, was forced on that country “to substantiate the very existence of the North Atlantic alliance,” the Russian president concluded.

Putin assured his audience that he does not want to proceed to a new Cold War, as “no one wants it.”“However dramatic the logic of the development of international relations might seem on the outside, it’s not the logic of global confrontation,” he explained.

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Sanders in Burlington

By Stephen Lendman | June 17, 2016

Clinton is the presumptive Democrat party nominee. She’ll face Trump in November.

On Thursday night from his Burlington, VT home base, Sanders addressed supporters via livestream, maintaining the myth of his “political revolution,” pretending his campaign continues.

His address was warmed-over stump mumbo jumbo previously delivered numerous times before – empty rhetoric, belying his business as usual voting record, the true measure of the man, the only thing that counts.

All politicians lie. Ignore what they say. Follow only what they do. Sanders’ political history isn’t pretty. It speaks for itself.

Due diligence checking exposes him as just another dirty politician, a self-serving opportunist like all the rest with rare exceptions – none since Jack Kennedy becoming presidential material.

Sanders is no JFK, no anti-war activist, no peace, equity and justice champion, no social democrat as he claims – for sure no transformational revolutionary advocate.

Saying “the political revolution must continue” ignored its nonexistence. Dirty business as usual continues unchanged no matter who succeeds Obama.

Sanders saying he’s “very optimistic about the future of our country” belies its deplorable state – a neocon infested rogue state at war with humanity, risking WW III.

Throughout his campaign, he never once explained its danger, imperial madness, the risk of US-initiated nuclear war, targeting Russia and/or China, wrongfully blaming them for America’s high crimes against peace.

He lied, saying his “campaign has never been about any single candidate… always about transforming America.”

He did nothing to achieve it throughout 30 years in public office, failing to follow through when his vote mattered most, virtually always yielding to powerful entrenched interests – suppressing his deplorable record in addressing followers on the stump, again on Thursday night.

He ignored US imperial wars, not a word said about them, naked aggression against nonbelligerent countries, raping one after another, responsible for millions of deaths, chaos and human misery on an unimaginable scale.

He “look(s) forward to working with secretary Clinton,” he said, his endorsement certain, an unindicted war criminal/racketeer belonging in prison, not high office.

Claiming his intention “to transform the Democratic (sic) party” ignored its hardwired ruthlessness too debauched to fix – exclusively serving wealth, power and privilege.

Republicans operate the same way, both parties in lockstep on major issues mattering most, notably supporting endless imperial wars, corporate empowerment and harsh crackdowns on nonbelievers.

Sanders is part of the problem, not the solution. He’ll never admit it. I just did!

Stephen Lendman can be reached at His new book as editor and contributor is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , | 1 Comment

The State Department’s Collective Madness

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | June 17, 2016

Over the past several decades, the U.S. State Department has deteriorated from a reasonably professional home for diplomacy and realism into a den of armchair warriors possessed of imperial delusions, a dangerous phenomenon underscored by the recent mass “dissent” in favor of blowing up more people in Syria.

Some 51 State Department “diplomats” signed a memo distributed through the official “dissent channel,” seeking military strikes against the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad whose forces have been leading the pushback against Islamist extremists who are seeking control of this important Mideast nation.

The fact that such a large contingent of State Department officials would openly advocate for an expanded aggressive war in line with the neoconservative agenda, which put Syria on a hit list some two decades ago, reveals how crazy the State Department has become.

The State Department now seems to be a combination of true-believing neocons along with their liberal-interventionist followers and some careerists who realize that the smart play is to behave toward the world as global proconsuls dictating solutions or seeking “regime change” rather than as diplomats engaging foreigners respectfully and seeking genuine compromise.

Even some State Department officials, whom I personally know and who are not neocons/liberal-hawks per se, act as if they have fully swallowed the Kool-Aid. They talk tough and behave arrogantly toward inhabitants of countries under their supervision. Foreigners are treated as mindless objects to be coerced or bribed.

So, it’s not entirely surprising that several dozen U.S. “diplomats” would attack President Barack Obama’s more temperate position on Syria while positioning themselves favorably in anticipation of a Hillary Clinton administration, which is expected to authorize an illegal invasion of Syria — under the guise of establishing “no-fly zones” and “safe zones” — which will mean the slaughter of young Syrian soldiers. The “diplomats” urge the use of “stand-off and air weapons.”

These hawks are so eager for more war that they don’t mind risking a direct conflict with Russia, breezily dismissing the possibility of a clash with the nuclear power by saying they are not “advocating for a slippery slope that ends in a military confrontation with Russia.” That’s reassuring to hear.

Risking a Jihadist Victory

There’s also the danger that a direct U.S. military intervention could collapse the Syrian army and clear the way for victory by Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front or the Islamic State. The memo did not make clear how the delicate calibration of doing just enough damage to Syria’s military while avoiding an outright jihadist victory and averting a clash with Russia would be accomplished.

Presumably, whatever messes are created, the U.S. military would be left to clean up, assuming that shooting down some Russian warplanes and killing Russian military personnel wouldn’t escalate into a full-scale thermonuclear conflagration.

In short, it appears that the State Department has become a collective insane asylum where the inmates are in control. But this madness isn’t some short-term aberration that can be easily reversed. It has been a long time coming and would require a root-to-branch ripping out of today’s “diplomatic” corps to restore the State Department to its traditional role of avoiding wars rather than demanding them.

Though there have always been crazies in the State Department – usually found in the senior political ranks – the phenomenon of an institutional insanity has only evolved over the past several decades. And I have seen the change.

I have covered U.S. foreign policy since the late 1970s when there was appreciably more sanity in the diplomatic corps. There were people like Robert White and Patricia Derian (both now deceased) who stood up for justice and human rights, representing the best of America.

But the descent of the U.S. State Department into little more than well-dressed, well-spoken but thuggish enforcers of U.S. hegemony began with the Reagan administration. President Ronald Reagan and his team possessed a pathological hatred of Central American social movements seeking freedom from oppressive oligarchies and their brutal security forces.

During the 1980s, American diplomats with integrity were systematically marginalized, hounded or removed. (Human rights coordinator Derian left at the end of the Carter administration and was replaced by neocon Elliott Abrams; White was fired as U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, explaining: “I refused a demand by the secretary of state, Alexander M. Haig Jr., that I use official channels to cover up the Salvadoran military’s responsibility for the murders of four American churchwomen.”)

The Neocons Rise

As the old-guard professionals left, a new breed of aggressive neoconservatives was brought in, the likes of Paul Wolfowitz, Robert McFarlane, Robert Kagan and Abrams. After eight years of Reagan and four years of George H.W. Bush, the State Department was reshaped into a home for neocons, but some pockets of professionalism survived the onslaughts.

While one might have expected the Democrats of the Clinton administration to reverse those trends, they didn’t. Instead, Bill Clinton’s “triangulation” applied to U.S. foreign policy as much as to domestic programs. He was always searching for that politically safe “middle.”

As the 1990s wore on, the decimation of foreign policy experts in the mold of White and Derian left few on the Democratic side who had the courage or skills to challenge the deeply entrenched neocons. Many Clinton-era Democrats accommodated to the neocon dominance by reinventing themselves as “liberal interventionists,” sharing the neocons’ love for military force but justifying the killing on “humanitarian” grounds.

This approach was a way for “liberals” to protect themselves against right-wing charges that they were “weak,” a charge that had scarred Democrats deeply during the Reagan/Bush-41 years, but this Democratic “tough-guy/gal-ism” further sidelined serious diplomats favoring traditional give-and-take with foreign leaders and their people.

So, you had Democrats like then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (and later Secretary of State) Madeleine Albright justifying Bill Clinton’s brutal sanctions policies toward Iraq, which the U.N. blamed for killing 500,000 Iraqi children, as “a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.”

Bill Clinton’s eight years of “triangulation,” which included the brutal air war against Serbia, was followed by eight years of George W. Bush, which further ensconced the neocons as the U.S. foreign policy establishment.

By then, what was left of the old Republican “realists,” the likes of Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft, was aging out or had been so thoroughly compromised that the neocons faced no significant opposition within Republican circles. And, Official Washington’s foreign-policy Democrats had become almost indistinguishable from the neocons, except for their use of “humanitarian” arguments to justify aggressive wars.

Media Capitulation

Before George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, much of the “liberal” media establishment – from The New York Times to The New Yorker – fell in line behind the war, asking few tough questions and presenting almost no obstacles. Favoring war had become the “safe” career play.

But a nascent anti-war movement among rank-and-file Democrats did emerge, propelling Barack Obama, an anti-Iraq War Democrat, to the 2008 presidential nomination over Iraq War supporter Hillary Clinton. But those peaceful sentiments among the Democratic “base” did not reach very deeply into the ranks of Democratic foreign policy mavens.

So, when Obama entered the White House, he faced a difficult challenge. The State Department needed a thorough purging of the neocons and the liberal hawks, but there were few Democratic foreign policy experts who hadn’t sold out to the neocons. An entire generation of Democratic policy-makers had been raised in the world of neocon-dominated conferences, meetings, op-eds and think tanks, where tough talk made you sound good while talk of traditional diplomacy made you sound soft.

By contrast, more of the U.S. military and even the CIA favored less belligerent approaches to the world, in part, because they had actually fought Bush’s hopeless “global war on terror.” But Bush’s hand-picked, neocon-oriented high command – the likes of General David Petraeus – remained in place and favored expanded wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama then made one of the most fateful decisions of his presidency. Instead of cleaning house at State and at the Pentagon, he listened to some advisers who came up with the clever P.R. theme “Team of Rivals” – a reference to Abraham Lincoln’s first Civil War cabinet – and Obama kept in place Bush’s military leadership, including Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, and reached out to hawkish Sen. Hillary Clinton to be his Secretary of State.

In other words, Obama not only didn’t take control of the foreign-policy apparatus, he strengthened the power of the neocons and liberal hawks. He then let this powerful bloc of Clinton-Gates-Petraeus steer him into a foolhardy counterinsurgency “surge” in Afghanistan that did little more than get 1,000 more U.S. soldiers killed along with many more Afghans.

Obama also let Clinton sabotage his attempted outreach to Iran in 2010 seeking constraints on its nuclear program and he succumbed to her pressure in 2011 to invade Libya under the false pretense of establishing a “no-fly zone” to protect civilians, what became a “regime change” disaster that Obama has ranked as his biggest foreign policy mistake.

The Syrian Conflict

Obama did resist Secretary Clinton’s calls for another military intervention in Syria although he authorized some limited military support to the allegedly “moderate” rebels and allowed Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to do much more in supporting jihadists connected to Al Qaeda and even the Islamic State.

Under Secretary Clinton, the neocon/liberal-hawk bloc consolidated its control of the State Department diplomatic corps. Under neocon domination, the State Department moved from one “group think” to the next. Having learned nothing from the Iraq War, the conformity continued to apply toward Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Russia, China, Venezuela, etc.

Everywhere the goal was same: to impose U.S. hegemony, to force the locals to bow to American dictates, to steer them into neo-liberal “free market” solutions which were often equated with “democracy” even if most of the people of the affected countries disagreed.

Double-talk and double-think replaced reality-driven policies. “Strategic communications,” i.e., the aggressive use of propaganda to advance U.S. interests, was one watchword. “Smart power,” i.e., the application of financial sanctions, threats of arrests, limited military strikes and other forms of intimidation, was another.

Every propaganda opportunity, such as the Syrian sarin attack in 2013 or the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shoot-down over eastern Ukraine, was exploited to the hilt to throw adversaries on the defensive even if U.S. intelligence analysts doubted that evidence supported the accusations.

Lying at the highest levels of the U.S. government – but especially among the State Department’s senior officials – became epidemic. Perhaps even worse, U.S. “diplomats” seemed to believe their own propaganda.

Meanwhile, the mainstream U.S. news media experienced a similar drift into the gravity pull of neocon dominance and professional careerism, eliminating major news outlets as any kind of check on official falsehoods.

The Up-and-Comers

The new State Department star – expected to receive a high-level appointment from President Clinton-45 – is neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who orchestrated the 2014 putsch in Ukraine, toppling an elected, Russia-friendly president and replacing him with a hard-line Ukrainian nationalist regime that then launched violent military attacks against ethnic Russians in the east who resisted the coup leadership.

When Russia came to the assistance of these embattled Ukrainian citizens, including agreeing to Crimea’s request to rejoin Russia, the State Department and U.S. mass media spoke as one in decrying a “Russian invasion” and supporting NATO military maneuvers on Russia’s borders to deter “Russian aggression.”

Anyone who dares question this latest “group think” – as it plunges the world into a dangerous new Cold War – is dismissed as a “Kremlin apologist” or “Moscow stooge” just as skeptics about the Iraq War were derided as “Saddam apologists.” Virtually everyone important in Official Washington marches in lock step toward war and more war. (Victoria Nuland is married to Robert Kagan, making them one of Washington’s supreme power couples.)

So, that is the context of the latest State Department rebellion against Obama’s more tempered policies on Syria. Looking forward to a likely Hillary Clinton administration, these 51 “diplomats” have signed their name to a “dissent” that advocates bombing the Syrian military to protect Syria’s “moderate” rebels who – to the degree they even exist – fight mostly under the umbrella of Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and its close ally, Ahrar al Sham.

The muddled thinking in this “dissent” is that by bombing the Syrian military, the U.S. government can enhance the power of the rebels and supposedly force Assad to negotiate his own removal. But there is no reason to think that this plan would work.

In early 2014, when the rebels held a relatively strong position, U.S.-arranged peace talks amounted to a rebel-dominated conference that made Assad’s departure a pre-condition and excluded Syria’s Iranian allies from attending. Not surprisingly, Assad’s representative went home and the talks collapsed.

Now, with Assad holding a relatively strong hand, backed by Russian air power and Iranian ground forces, the “dissenting” U.S. diplomats say peace is impossible because the rebels are in no position to compel Assad’s departure. Thus, the “dissenters” recommend that the U.S. expand its role in the war to again lift the rebels, but that would only mean more maximalist demands from the rebels.

Serious Risks

This proposed wider war, however, would carry some very serious risks, including the possibility that the Syrian army could collapse, opening the gates of Damascus to Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front (and its allies) or the Islamic State – a scenario that, as The New York Times noted, the “memo doesn’t address.”

Currently, the Islamic State and – to a lesser degree – the Nusra Front are in retreat, chased by the Syrian army with Russian air support and by some Kurdish forces with U.S. backing. But those gains could easily be reversed. There is also the risk of sparking a wider war with Iran and/or Russia.

But such cavalier waving aside of grave dangers is nothing new for the neocons and liberal hawks. They have consistently dreamt up schemes that may sound good at a think-tank conference or read well in an op-ed article, but fail in the face of ground truth where usually U.S. soldiers are expected to fix the mess.

We have seen this wishful thinking go awry in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine and even Syria, where Obama’s acquiescence to provide arms and training for the so-called “unicorns” – the hard-to-detect “moderate” rebels – saw those combatants and their weapons absorbed into Al Qaeda’s or Islamic State’s ranks.

Yet, the neocons and liberal hawks who control the State Department – and are eagerly looking forward to a Hillary Clinton presidency – will never stop coming up with these crazy notions until a concerted effort is made to assess accountability for all the failures that that they have inflicted on U.S. foreign policy.

As long as there is no accountability – as long as the U.S. president won’t rein in these warmongers – the madness will continue and only grow more dangerous.

[For more on this topic, see’sDemocrats Are Now the Aggressive War Party” and “Would a Clinton Win Mean More Wars?’]

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

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 2 Comments