Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Africa Awaits the Aftershock After Defying President Trump in the United Nations General Assembly

By Mary Serumaga | CounterPunch | December 27, 2017

President Trump’s recent defeat in his effort unilaterally to alter the status of Jerusalem in defiance of international law highlights the nature of the relationship between the United States and African countries. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations let it be known before the vote on the General assembly resolution that Donald Trump will take personally any opposition to his policy on Jerusalem. The President himself has made allusions to countries that take American billions and then do what they like. In effect, the United States is monetizing loyalty to President Trump.

American frustration with the United Nations is not new. There were similar immoderate reactions to resolutions that went against State Department policy in the 1960s when Burkina Faso (then called Upper Volta), Nigeria, Ghana and Guinea, four of the thirty-six African countries that voted for the resolution to uphold international law on Jerusalem’s status (outnumbering African abstainers and no-shows combined) showed independence of thought from the United States. Then, as now, American money had been wrongly assumed to guarantee deference to the State Department. [1]

Among the many issues in contention in the 1960s were i. admission of Communist China to the General Assembly, ii. African arms proliferation, and perhaps most important of all, iii. régime-change in Congo by the removal of Patrice Lumumba, Congo’s newly elected leader in favour of his opponents backed by Belgium, the UK and the United States.

During the Congo crisis, the U.S paid a substantial proportion of the cost of the UN peace-keepers in Congo (40% according to David N. Gibbs and 50 % according to Secretary of the Treasury, Robert Anderson) and  grew increasingly disgruntled with its inability to dominate the situation.[2]

“Secretary Herter said he had the strong feeling that our interests have not been advanced by the way the UN operation in the Congo had been conducted. In response to a question from the President, Secretary Herter said both the Secretary General of the UN and Dayal, the UN Representative in the Congo, were responsible for this situation. […]

“The President said one of our most serious problems soon would be the determination of our relations with the UN. He felt the UN had made a major error in admitting to membership any nation claiming independence. Ultimately, the UN may have to leave U.S. territory. (Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961–1963, Volume XX, Congo Crisis, Document 4, Editorial Note.)[3]  

U.S. policy towards the UN became aggressive. The Administration felt itself to be in a strong enough position to demand staff changes at UN Headquarters and to determine the composition of United Nations Operation, Congo (UNOC) in order to attain its objective of dictating political developments in that country. Having encouraged Congolese Chief of State Kasavubu to denounce elected Prime Minister Lumumba in a radio broadcast, resulting in Lumumba’s seeking refuge under UN military guard, American officials became concerned that Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to Congo, Rajeshwar Dayal, was in favour of Lumumba’s reinstatement (UN troops had blocked four attempts to abduct Lumumba by Congolese troops loyal to the opposition.)

Meanwhile African countries in favour of reinstating Lumumba attended a conference in Casablanca and discussed withdrawing their troops from UNOC in protest of Lumumba’s treatment. In a telegram to the U.S. mission to the UN dated January 12, 1961, the Department of State said:

“You should approach SYG [acronym for UN Secretary General] soonest with view obtaining his full assessment current situation in Congo. In course discussion you should make following points:

U.S. greatly concerned that situation in Congo has seriously deteriorated despite fact UNGA [United Nations General Assembly] has accepted Kasavubu authority and UN has nearly 20,000 troops stationed in Congo. Pro-Lumumba elements, with outside support contrary to UN resolutions, extending their influence to substantial part of Congo territory. We are especially disturbed at reports, as yet unconfirmed, that participants Casablanca Conference secretly agreed there should be coup d’etat in March in which their troops would be used outside UNOC framework to assist in restoring Lumumba to power, confronting UN with fait accompli. We believe SYG should be reminded strongly that if Congo falls under Communist domination while UN sharing major responsibility for security of country, the results in U.S. public and Congressional opinion likely to be extremely damaging to UN. We therefore request he consider taking all necessary steps to rectify situation. Following are concrete suggestions we hope he will consider urgently:

+ Replace Dayal soonest (emphasis added). As result series of incidents, we have no doubt Dayal’s sympathy for return Lumumba and that his conduct of UNoperations reflects this bias. We believe his removal too long delayed, and that Dayal’s activities have contributed substantially to deterioration of situation in Congo.

+ Now that Guineahas requested withdrawal its troops from UNCommand, we believe SYG should consider encouraging withdrawal of those other contingents who have proved most unreliable and who threatened withdrawal anyway. In particular, Ghana, the UAR and perhaps even Morocco.

+ To fill future requirement, believe SYG should again consider urgently requesting troops from more reliable countries, such as French-African States, Latin America, etc. and increasing contingents from reliable countries already furnishing forces.”[4]

During this time the U.S. reconsidered its relationship with the UN. It was uncomfortable with the new African membership which displayed a trait of voting independently of the American position. More than ten African countries attained independence in 1960 alone.

“The President said one of our most serious problems soon would be the determination of our relations with the UN. He felt the UN had made a major error in admitting to membership any nation claiming independence. Ultimately, the UN may have to leave U.S. territory. (emphasis added)”[5]

By the time the National Security Council (NSC) was being told this, the Department of State together with the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. ambassador to Congo, Clare Timberlake had established contact with one Colonel Joseph Mobutu, commander of the Congolese army loyal to the administration in Leopoldville. Mobutu, not yet a strongman in 1960, had witnessed an abortive attempt by President Kasavubu, coached by the U.S., to unseat the elected Prime Minister of Congo by means of a parliamentary vote of no-confidence. Mobutu approached the CIA Station in Leopoldville and expressed his determination to keep Communism out of Congo. As a result, he was co-opted as the U.S. main contact in Congo eventually gaining Western support for his palace coup and going on to rule for thirty-two undemocratic and resource-draining years.

Newly independent African countries were recognized as a matter of course, as and when they gained independence. Two types of leaders are discernible to U.S. officials; the ‘moderate’ or ‘pro-Western’ or more accurately, the amenable to U.S. promptings and proposals and the ‘irresponsible’, ‘radical’, ‘xenophobic Nationalists’ who insisted on political positions in their own domestic, pan-African and Afro-Asian interests and not necessarily the U.S. national interest.

By January 1960, President Eisenhower had already reconciled himself to the possibility of working with dictators “although we cannot say it publicly, […] we need the strongmen of Africa on our side.”[6] The advantage was that through them he could side-step the Pan-African movement and the Afro-Asian Bloc in the UN.

Among the ‘responsible’ was President Houphouët-Boigny of Ivory Coast who was not only merely neutral in the Cold War but positively anti-Communist. He was also anti-pan Africanist Kwame Nkrumah who he portrayed as having illusions of grandeur, (“He believes that he is descended to earth to liberate the African masses.”) and Lumumba (who he described as being ‘changeable’ by reason of his limited education and inexperience). He undertook to counsel them both as well as Sékou Touré of Guinea (another country out of American favour) and assured American officials they could all be brought back to the fold.

Boigny pledged to keep his country free of Soviet influence but said this would need to be facilitated by the U.S. An arrangement is described under which Boigny was to be accompanied to the UN General Assembly by several Entente economic experts to demonstrate the Western support he enjoyed. Boigny planned to develop an African Front to oppose the Afro-Asian Bloc.

In return he was promised,

 “the United States will extend sympathy and material support to him personally (emphasis mine) and to the four associated states [likely Dahomey (now in Benin), Niger, Upper Volta (Burkina Faso) and Togo which were forming an entente to be led by Boigny]. “We hope thereby to strengthen one of the most staunchly pro-Western African leaders to continue his guiding influence on the future not only of these states but of others in the region.”[7]

Mali and Guinea on the other hand were judged to be slipping (towards the Sino-Soviet Bloc.) Liberia, at the time America’s only true satellite in Africa, was not strategically important on the same level as Ghana, Nigeria or Congo but the state of its capital city was said to be an embarrassment to the U.S., requiring urgent cosmetic enhancement.

Support for military and other African dictators solidified as American foreign policy through the 1970s. President Nixon’s Bureau for African Affairs justified the supply of arms to military dictators on the basis that they were unlikely to be used to attack neighbours and that they were necessary to maintain internal order, i.e. to keep the régime in power.[8]

It should be noted that despite Ivory Coast’s long history of neo-colonial collaboration with America and France under Boigny’s long tenure as President (he doubled the life expectancy of the average Ivorian), UNICEF economic indicators for the 21st century show that country’s human development outcomes to be at par with poorer, landlocked countries and countries that followed a different path. Life expectancy there is lower than in most countries and a good five years shorter than in Ivory Coast’s neighbours.[9] This is because while Ghana’s Nkrumah, Senegal’s Dia, Congo’s Lumumba, Togo’s Olympio and others sought aid to develop their countries, Boigny like Mobutu sought and received financial support for himself. Both built multi-million dollar monuments to themselves (Boigny: a basilica in his hometown surpassing St Peter’s in the Vatican in size and Mobutu’s Gbadolite palace complex (airport, hotel and cinema included), again in his home town built and furnished with materials imported from Italy and France.

Relations with other African Leaders

Prime Minister Abubakar Balewa of Nigeria visited President Eisenhower a week after his country gained independence.[10] Balewa was an avowed anti-Communist. However he was clear that while he wanted to emulate American-style democracy and institutions he had no interest in joining any ‘power bloc.’ He said while some smaller nations were turning to the Eastern Bloc for assistance, Nigeria would not. He then requested bilateral aid arrangements which Eisenhower agreed to consider. President Eisenhower assured him, “…we put great interest and stock in Nigeria…we will be depending on Nigeria heavily.” before describing the type of infrastructural loans Nigeria could expect from the UN Special Fund for Africa.

Nigerian development and U.S.’ voting positions in the UN General Assembly are discussed in the same conversation and the same exchange – they were one and the same thing; one was unlikely to be offered without the satisfaction of the other.

Later in the conversation in answer to Prime Minister Balewa’s question, President Eisenhower stated that should Nigeria vote in favour of Red Chinese representation at the UN it would “constitute such a repudiation of the U.S. that we would be in a hard fix indeed.” [11] In the event Nigeria did vote against the U.S. position and the U.S. began to doubt whether Nigeria could be relied upon to champion another matter important to them: an arms limitation agreement governing African countries.

“It has been suggested that Nigeria might be the most suitable country to provide African initiative for the exploration of this possibility. However, the behavior of the Nigerian delegation in the current General Assembly now causes some doubt in this regard.”[12]

The bluntly-spoken Prime Minister Sylvanus Olympio of Togo said in his deliberations with U.S. officials that he preferred multilateral aid to avoid the “power politics and trouble” that he believed came with bilateral aid.

In a courtesy call to the White House in 1960, President Dia of Senegal expressed willingness to have close relations with the U.S. saying he had no anxiety about political, economic, cultural or ideological domination by the U.S. He then made arrangements for a technical assistance programme to be drawn up by his aides who were to remain behind in Washington for the purpose. [13]

Recently Senegal has voted twice in support of international law governing Palestine. In 2016 together with three other non-African countries it moved a Security Council resolution that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”

If President Trump carries out his threats, Senegal is likely to face the type of ‘power politics and trouble’ Togo has been anxious to avoid since the 1960s. In December 2017, Togo was the only African country to vote with the USA and Israel. Benin (Dahomey), once part of the Boigny-led entente, abstained.

With current voting patterns, it remains to be seen whether backing dictatorial régimes on the African continent will remain viable as U.S. foreign policy. While the potential availability of American development assistance did not prevent most African countries from standing on their own principles in the 1960s, the active promotion of dictatorship undermined and eventually killed the pan-African movement. However, the entry of China as a new development partner may free African leaders to govern independently of Western (and hopefully Chinese) domination.

Uganda, one of the remaining strongman states is a major recipient of American military largesse and host to American military personnel. But Uganda also collaborates closely with China and abstained from the vote. Rwanda and Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Lesotho and Malawi also abstained. The no-shows, which arithmetically at least, are as good as abstentions, were all African and included Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, and Zambia. All, except Swaziland have deep economic ties with the People’s Republic of China.

Notes.

[1] Other African supporters of international law were Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Dijbouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.

[2] At the 456th meeting of the NSC.

[3] See also Foreign Relations 1958-1960, Volume XIV , Doc. 29, Report of the Conference of Principle Diplomatic and Consular Officers of North and West Africa[3], Tangier, May 30-June 2, 1960.

[4] FRUS, 1961–1963 Volume XX, Congo Crisis Doc. 5. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to the United Nations, Washington, January 12, 1961, 8:22 p.m.

[5] FRUS, 1961–1963 Volume XX, Congo Crisis, Doc. 4.

[6] See FRUS 1958-1960, Africa, Vol. XIV General Policy, page 75, Doc. 21, Memorandum of Discussion at the 432nd Meeting of the National Security Council January 14, 1960.

[7]FRUS 1958-1960 v.14 Newly Independent States, Doc. 65 Memorandum from Secretary of State Herter to President Eisenhower, August 5, 1960.

[8] FRUS, 1969–1976 Volume E–6, Documents on Africa, 1973–1976, Document 4, Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (Ross) to the Under Secretary of State for Security Affairs (Tarr), Washington, April 10, 1973.

[9] UNICEF, http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/

[10] FRUS 1958-1960, Africa, Vol. XIV General Policy Doc. 38, Instruction from the Department of State to Various Diplomatic Posts and Missions, November 25, 1960.

[11] FRUS 1958-1960 v.14 Newly Independent States Document 77, Memorandum of Conference with President Eisenhower, October 8, 1960.

[12] “Nigeria had voted against U.S. positions regarding Chinese representation, the allocation of the Cuban complaint to the Political Committee, and the Ethiopian resolution against nuclear weapons. (Memorandum from Herz to Kellogg, November 7; Department of State, AF/AFI Files: Lot 69 D 295, Arms for Africa”

[13] FRUS 1958-1960 v.14 Newly Independent States, Doc.88. Memorandum of Conversation, December 9, 1960.

Mary Serumaga is a Ugandan law graduate who has worked in public sector reform and spent several years in advocacy, and as a volunteer care worker for asylum-seekers. Her essays have been published in Transition (Hutchins Press), The Elephant, Pambazuka News, Foreign Policy Journal, Africa is a Country, the Observer (Uganda) and King’s Review. The Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt website carries her articles on debt.

December 27, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flashback to 2011: Asma Assad: A Rose in the Desert

By Richard Edmondson | Fig Trees and Vineyards | December 27, 2017

The article below was initially published in Vogue Magazine in early 2011. I am re-posting it here as it provides a striking look back at Syria as it was just prior to the outbreak of the neocon-instigated regime-change war which so devastated the country.

Asma Assad, the wife of President Bashar Assad, is a woman of grace and beauty, and it’s probably not surprising that a fashion magazine would have decided to publish an article on her. But after the article appeared, Vogue, along with Joan Juliet Buck, the writer of the piece, were attacked by certain mainstream media outlets, such as The Atlantic, presumably for not sufficiently demonizing the Syrian government.

“Asma al-Assad has British roots, wears designer fashion, worked for years in banking, and is married to the dictator Bashar al-Assad, whose regime has killed over 5,000 civilians and hundreds of children this year,” wrote Max Fisher in a sarcastically-worded lead paragraph for The Atlantic.

Fisher also criticized Vogue’s “fawning treatment of the Assad family and its portrayal of the regime as tolerant and peaceful,” noting that this treatment had “generated surprise and outrage in much of the Washington foreign policy community.”

The article by Buck had appeared in Vogue’s February 2011 issue. The Syrian regime-change operation got underway in March, a month later, when protests broke out in Daraa. And the timing of the two probably was nothing more than coincidental.

But of course the neocons in the State Department would have already begun executing their scheme, and a media vilification campaign would have been deemed necessary, or at any rate helpful, in greasing the wheels–and the sudden appearance of the Vogue article (the magazine reportedly has over 11 million readers) probably was looked upon as something of a monkey wrench in the plans. You could think of it as one of the rare moments that a mainstream media organ stepped out of bounds.

Fisher, who now holds a position with the New York Times, went on to kvetch that “the glowing article praised the Assads as a ‘wildly democratic’ family-focused couple who vacation in Europe, foster Christianity, are at ease with American celebrities, made theirs the ‘safest country in the Middle East,’ and want to give Syria a ‘brand essence.’”

It is of course true that the Assads “foster Christianity,” as Fisher contemptuously puts it (indeed–you can go here to see a video I posted two years ago of the first couple attending a Christmas service at a church in Damascus in 2015), but of course it would not do to have this kind of information put out in the mainstream just before the launch of a long-planned regime change operation.

Other mainstream media attacks upon Vogue came from Gawker, where writer John Cook also accused the publication of “fawning”; the New York Times, which published a piece headlined “The Balance of Charm and Reality“; and Slate, whose writer, Noreen Malone, damned Vogue for paying “besotted compliments” to the Assads and for “unwittingly exacerbating” a “modern day Marie Antoinette problem.”

Buck should now be proud of the mainstream media attacks upon her work–but aside from this, her article, as I say, is important also in that it provides a valuable glimpse into life in the country just before the outset of the war.

Syria, she notes, was known as “the safest country in the Middle East.” Buck was roundly excoriated for making this observation, but certainly at the time, in 2011, it was true in spades: Syria was eminently safer than either US-occupied Iraq or Israeli-occupied Palestine.

Buck also notes that Syria is “a place without bombings, unrest, or kidnappings”–which would have run completely counter to the narrative of Assad being the ubiquitous “brutal dictator who kills his own people” and who serves as a “magnet to jihadis”–but perhaps most noteworthy of all are Buck’s revelations about programs set up for children in the country.

When I visited Syria in 2014, one of the things I heard about were Asma Assad’s charity efforts on behalf of children, so it was not surprising for me, upon reading the Vogue article, to learn of Massar, an organization founded by the First Lady and “built around a series of discovery centers,” or to learn that at these centers children and young adults, ages five to twenty-one, were taught “creative, informal approaches to civic responsibility.”

Buck also tells of Asma’s jaunts around the country visiting local schools and interacting with children in what seems to have been a very life-fulfilling manner.

All of this, of course, would have come to a dramatic halt, or a dramatic curtailment at any rate, when the nightmare began and the country suddenly found itself invaded by armies of US-backed terrorists.

Another fascinating aspect of the article is what it reveals regarding Asma’s contributions toward safeguarding Syria’s cultural heritage. While in Syria I attended, along with several members of the staff of Veterans Today, an anti-terrorism conference held at the Dama Rose Hotel in Damascus. Among the subjects discussed at the conference were the ongoing attacks upon cultural heritage sites.  It was disclosed that at the outset of the conflict, the country’s Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), in anticipation of terrorist looting of cultural heritage sites, had begun securing priceless artifacts by placing them in secure storage sites around the country.

The effort was a herculean one, involving DGAM’s 2500 employees spanning out across the country, and while most of the credit has gone to Dr. Maamoun Abdulkarim, the director of DGAM, it would appear, if Buck’s article is any indication, that Asma Assad played a role in the effort as well:

There are 500,000 important ancient works of art hidden in storage; Asma al-Assad has brought in the Louvre to create a network of museums and cultural attractions across Syria, and asked Italian experts to help create a database of the 5,000 archaeological sites in the desert. “Culture,” she says, “is like a financial asset. We have an abundance of it, thousands of years of history, but we can’t afford to be complacent.”

The reference to works of art being “hidden in storage” would suggest that already at that time–February of 2011–Syrian officials had begun to anticipate the hellfire that was about to be unleashed upon their country.

One other thing I might mention is a small criticism I have of Buck’s piece. She speaks of “minders” who she claims accompanied her throughout her visit, commenting as well that “on the rare occasions I am out alone, a random series of men in leather jackets seems to be keeping close tabs on what I am doing and where I am headed.”

All I can say in response to this is that I never experienced anything of the like during my own visit to Syria. I stayed at the Dama Rose Hotel–the location where the conference was held–and while I occasionally went out for strolls through the neighborhood, I never once was followed by any “random series of men in leather jackets.” Yes–there were Syrian soldiers in the streets. But they were stationed at certain locations, busy street corners for instance, and they did not begin tailing me suspiciously after I had passed them by. They remained at their posts. Moreover, their presence, rather than threatening, was a comforting assurance I would not be attacked or kidnapped by terrorists, at least while the soldiers were around.

Lastly, I would also mention that Vogue succumbed to the withering barrage of criticism and removed Buck’s article from their website. Less than a year later, the only trace of it that remained on the Internet was at a pro-Syrian site called PresidentAssad.net–something which was made note of in a January 3, 2012 article by Fisher at The Atlantic.

The PresidentAssad.net site is still around, but for some reason the Vogue article seems to have gotten dropped over the years. However, it has re-surfaced–at Gawker. There you may find it (at least for the time being) along with a link back to the attack piece I mentioned above, written by Cook and posted in February of 2011.

***

Asma al-Assad: A Rose in the Desert

By Joan Juliet Buck

Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic—the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. Her style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment. She’s a rare combination: a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement. Paris Match calls her “the element of light in a country full of shadow zones.” She is the first lady of Syria.

Syria is known as the safest country in the Middle East, possibly because, as the State Department’s Web site says, “the Syrian government conducts intense physical and electronic surveillance of both Syrian citizens and foreign visitors.” It’s a secular country where women earn as much as men and the Muslim veil is forbidden in universities, a place without bombings, unrest, or kidnappings, but its shadow zones are deep and dark. Asma’s husband, Bashar al-Assad, was elected president in 2000, after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, with a startling 97 percent of the vote. In Syria, power is hereditary. The country’s alliances are murky. How close are they to Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah? There are souvenir Hezbollah ashtrays in the souk, and you can spot the Hamas leadership racing through the bar of the Four Seasons. Its number-one enmity is clear: Israel. But that might not always be the case. The United States has just posted its first ambassador there since 2005, Robert Ford.

Iraq is next door, Iran not far away. Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, is 90 minutes by car from Damascus. Jordan is south, and next to it the region that Syrian maps label Palestine. There are nearly one million refugees from Iraq in Syria, and another half-million displaced Palestinians.

“It’s a tough neighborhood,” admits Asma al-Assad.

It’s also a neighborhood intoxicatingly close to the dawn of civilization, where agriculture began some 10,000 years ago, where the wheel, writing, and musical notation were invented. Out in the desert are the magical remains of Palmyra, Apamea, and Ebla. In the National Museum you see small 4,000-year-old panels inlaid with mother-of-pearl that is echoed in the new mother-of-pearl furniture for sale in the souk. Christian Louboutin comes to buy the damask silk brocade they’ve been making here since the Middle Ages for his shoes and bags, and has incidentally purchased a small palace in Aleppo, which, like Damascus, has been inhabited for more than 5,000 years.

The first lady works out of a small white building in a hilly, modern residential neighborhood called Muhajireen, where houses and apartments are crammed together and neighbors peer and wave from balconies. The first impression of Asma al-Assad is movement—a determined swath cut through space with a flash of red soles. Dark-brown eyes, wavy chin-length brown hair, long neck, an energetic grace. No watch, no jewelry apart from Chanel agates around her neck, not even a wedding ring, but fingernails lacquered a dark blue-green. She’s breezy, conspiratorial, and fun. Her accent is English but not plummy. Despite what must be a killer IQ, she sometimes uses urban shorthand: “I was, like. . . .”

Asma Akhras was born in London in 1975, the eldest child and only daughter of a Syrian Harley Street cardiologist and his diplomat wife, both Sunni Muslims. They spoke Arabic at home. She grew up in Ealing, went to Queen’s College, and spent holidays with family in Syria. “I’ve dealt with the sense that people don’t expect Syria to be normal. I’d show my London friends my holiday snaps and they’d be—‘Where did you say you went?’ ”

She studied computer science at university, then went into banking. “It wasn’t a typical path for women,” she says, “but I had it all mapped out.” By the spring of 2000, she was closing a big biotech deal at JP Morgan in London and about to take up an MBA at Harvard. She started dating a family friend: the second son of president Hafez al-Assad, Bashar, who’d cut short his ophthalmology studies in London in 1994 and returned to Syria after his older brother, Basil, heir apparent to power, died in a car crash. They had known each other forever, but a ten-year age difference meant that nothing registered—until it did.

“I was always very serious at work, and suddenly I started to take weekends, or disappear, and people just couldn’t figure it out,” explains the first lady. “What do you say—‘I’m dating the son of a president’? You just don’t say that. Then he became president, so I tried to keep it low-key. Suddenly I was turning up in Syria every month, saying, ‘Granny, I miss you so much!’ I quit in October because by then we knew that we were going to get married at some stage. I couldn’t say why I was leaving. My boss thought I was having a nervous breakdown because nobody quits two months before bonus after closing a really big deal. He wouldn’t accept my resignation. I was, like, ‘Please, really, I just want to get out, I’ve had enough,’ and he was ‘Don’t worry, take time off, it happens to the best of us.’ ” She left without her bonus in November and married Bashar al-Assad in December.

“What I’ve been able to take away from banking was the transferable skills—the analytical thinking, understanding the business side of running a company—to run an NGO or to try and oversee a project.” She runs her office like a business, chairs meeting after meeting, starts work many days at six, never breaks for lunch, and runs home to her children at four. “It’s my time with them, and I get them fresh, unedited—I love that. I really do.” Her staff are used to eating when they can. “I have a rechargeable battery,” she says.

The 35-year-old first lady’s central mission is to change the mind-set of six million Syrians under eighteen, encourage them to engage in what she calls “active citizenship.” “It’s about everyone taking shared responsibility in moving this country forward, about empowerment in a civil society. We all have a stake in this country; it will be what we make it.”

In 2005 she founded Massar, built around a series of discovery centers where children and young adults from five to 21 engage in creative, informal approaches to civic responsibility. Massar’s mobile Green Team has touched 200,000 kids across Syria since 2005. The organization is privately funded through donations. The Syria Trust for Development, formed in 2007, oversees Massar as well as her first NGO, the rural micro-credit association FIRDOS, and SHABAB, which exists to give young people business skills they need for the future.

And then there’s her cultural mission: “People tend to see Syria as artifacts and history,” she says. “For us it’s about the accumulation of cultures, traditions, values, customs. It’s the difference between hardware and software: the artifacts are the hardware, but the software makes all the difference—the customs and the spirit of openness. We have to make sure that we don’t lose that. . . . ” Here she gives an apologetic grin. “You have to excuse me, but I’m a banker—that brand essence.”

That brand essence includes the distant past. There are 500,000 important ancient works of art hidden in storage; Asma al-Assad has brought in the Louvre to create a network of museums and cultural attractions across Syria, and asked Italian experts to help create a database of the 5,000 archaeological sites in the desert. “Culture,” she says, “is like a financial asset. We have an abundance of it, thousands of years of history, but we can’t afford to be complacent.”

In December, Asma al-Assad was in Paris to discuss her alliance with the Louvre. She dazzled a tough French audience at the International Diplomatic Institute, speaking without notes. “I’m not trying to disguise culture as anything more than it is,” she said, “and if I sound like I’m talking politics, it’s because we live in a politicized region, a politicized time, and we are affected by that.”

The French ambassador to Syria, Eric Chevallier, was there: “She managed to get people to consider the possibilities of a country that’s modernizing itself, that stands for a tolerant secularism in a powder-keg region, with extremists and radicals pushing in from all sides—and the driving force for that rests largely on the shoulders of one couple. I hope they’ll make the right choices for their country and the region. ”

Damascus evokes a dusty version of a Mediterranean hill town in an Eastern-bloc country. The courtyard of the Umayyad Mosque at night looks exactly like St. Mark’s square in Venice. When I first arrive, I’m met on the tarmac by a minder, who gives me a bouquet of white roses and lends me a Syrian cell phone; the head minder, a high-profile American PR, joins us the next day. The first lady’s office has provided drivers, so I shop and see sights in a bubble of comfort and hospitality. On the rare occasions I am out alone, a random series of men in leather jackets seems to be keeping close tabs on what I am doing and where I am headed.

“I like things I can touch. I like to get out and meet people and do things,” the first lady says as we set off for a meeting in a museum and a visit to an orphanage. “As a banker, you have to be so focused on the job at hand that you lose the experience of the world around you. My husband gave me back something I had lost.”

She slips behind the wheel of a plain SUV, a walkie-talkie and her cell thrown between the front seats and a Syrian-silk Louboutin tote on top. She does what the locals do—swerves to avoid crazy men who run across busy freeways, misses her turn, checks your seat belt, points out sights, and then can’t find a parking space. When a traffic cop pulls her over at a roundabout, she lowers the tinted window and dips her head with a playful smile. The cop’s eyes go from slits to saucers.

Her younger brother Feras, a surgeon who moved to Syria to start a private health-care group, says, “Her intelligence is both intellectual and emotional, and she’s a master at harmonizing when, and how much, to use of each one.”

In the Saint Paul orphanage, maintained by the Melkite–Greek Catholic patriarchate and run by the Basilian sisters of Aleppo, Asma sits at a long table with the children. Two little boys in new glasses and thick sweaters are called Yussuf. She asks them what kind of music they like. “Sad music,” says one. In the room where she’s had some twelve computers installed, the first lady tells a nun, “I hope you’re letting the younger children in here go crazy on the computers.” The nun winces: “The children are afraid to learn in case they don’t have access to computers when they leave here,” she says.

In the courtyard by the wall down which Saint Paul escaped in a basket 2,000 years ago, an old tree bears gigantic yellow fruit I have never seen before. Citrons. Cédrats in French.

Back in the car, I ask what religion the orphans are. “It’s not relevant,” says Asma al-Assad. “Let me try to explain it to you. That church is a part of my heritage because it’s a Syrian church. The Umayyad Mosque is the third-most-important holy Muslim site, but within the mosque is the tomb of Saint John the Baptist. We all kneel in the mosque in front of the tomb of Saint John the Baptist. That’s how religions live together in Syria—a way that I have never seen anywhere else in the world. We live side by side, and have historically. All the religions and cultures that have passed through these lands—the Armenians, Islam, Christianity, the Umayyads, the Ottomans—make up who I am.”

“Does that include the Jews?” I ask.

“And the Jews,” she answers. “There is a very big Jewish quarter in old Damascus.”

The Jewish quarter of Damascus spans a few abandoned blocks in the old city that emptied out in 1992, when most of the Syrian Jews left. Their houses are sealed up and have not been touched, because, as people like to tell you, Syrians don’t touch the property of others. The broken glass and sagging upper floors tell a story you don’t understand—are the owners coming back to claim them one day?

The presidential family lives surrounded by neighbors in a modern apartment in Malki. On Friday, the Muslim day of rest, Asma al-Assad opens the door herself in jeans and old suede stiletto boots, hair in a ponytail, the word happiness spelled out across the back of her T-shirt. At the bottom of the stairs stands the off-duty president in jeans—tall, long-necked, blue-eyed. A precise man who takes photographs and talks lovingly about his first computer, he says he was attracted to studying eye surgery “because it’s very precise, it’s almost never an emergency, and there is very little blood.”

The old al-Assad family apartment was remade into a child-friendly triple-decker playroom loft surrounded by immense windows on three sides. With neither shades nor curtains, it’s a fishbowl. Asma al-Assad likes to say, “You’re safe because you are surrounded by people who will keep you safe.” Neighbors peer in, drop by, visit, comment on the furniture. The president doesn’t mind: “This curiosity is good: They come to see you, they learn more about you. You don’t isolate yourself.”

There’s a decorated Christmas tree. Seven-year-old Zein watches Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland on the president’s iMac; her brother Karim, six, builds a shark out of Legos; and nine-year-old Hafez tries out his new electric violin. All three go to a Montessori school.

Asma al-Assad empties a box of fondue mix into a saucepan for lunch. The household is run on wildly democratic principles. “We all vote on what we want, and where,” she says. The chandelier over the dining table is made of cut-up comic books. “They outvoted us three to two on that.”

A grid is drawn on a blackboard, with ticks for each member of the family. “We were having trouble with politeness, so we made a chart: ticks for when they spoke as they should, and a cross if they didn’t.” There’s a cross next to Asma’s name. “I shouted,” she confesses. “I can’t talk about empowering young people, encouraging them to be creative and take responsibility, if I’m not like that with my own children.”

“The first challenge for us was, Who’s going to define our lives, us or the position?” says the president. “We wanted to live our identity honestly.”

They announced their marriage in January 2001, after the ceremony, which they kept private. There was deliberately no photograph of Asma. “The British media picked that up as: Now she’s moved into the presidential palace, never to be seen again!” says Asma, laughing.

They had a reason: “She spent three months incognito,” says the president. “Before I had any official engagement,” says the first lady, “I went to 300 villages, every governorate, hospitals, farms, schools, factories, you name it—I saw everything to find out where I could be effective. A lot of the time I was somebody’s ‘assistant’ carrying the bag, doing this and that, taking notes. Nobody asked me if I was the first lady; they had no idea.”

“That way,” adds the president, “she started her NGO before she was ever seen in public as my wife. Then she started to teach people that an NGO is not a charity.”

Neither of them believes in charity for the sake of charity. “We have the Iraqi refugees,” says the president. “Everybody is talking about it as a political problem or as welfare, charity. I say it’s neither—it’s about cultural philosophy. We have to help them. That’s why the first thing I did is to allow the Iraqis to go into schools. If they don’t have an education, they will go back as a bomb, in every way: terrorism, extremism, drug dealers, crime. If I have a secular and balanced neighbor, I will be safe.”

When Angelina Jolie came with Brad Pitt for the United Nations in 2009, she was impressed by the first lady’s efforts to encourage empowerment among Iraqi and Palestinian refugees but alarmed by the Assads’ idea of safety.

“My husband was driving us all to lunch,” says Asma al-Assad, “and out of the corner of my eye I could see Brad Pitt was fidgeting. I turned around and asked, ‘Is anything wrong?’ ”

“Where’s your security?” asked Pitt.

“So I started teasing him—‘See that old woman on the street? That’s one of them! And that old guy crossing the road?

That’s the other one!’ ” They both laugh.

The president joins in the punch line: “Brad Pitt wanted to send his security guards here to come and get some training!”

After lunch, Asma al-Assad drives to the airport, where a Falcon 900 is waiting to take her to Massar in Latakia, on the coast. When she lands, she jumps behind the wheel of another SUV waiting on the tarmac. This is the kind of surprise visit she specializes in, but she has no idea how many kids will turn up at the community center on a rainy Friday.

As it turns out, it’s full. Since the first musical notation was discovered nearby, at Ugarit, the immaculate Massar center in Latakia is built around music. Local kids are jamming in a sound booth; a group of refugee Palestinian girls is playing instruments. Others play chess on wall-mounted computers. These kids have started online blood banks, run marathons to raise money for dialysis machines, and are working on ways to rid Latakia of plastic bags. Apart from a few girls in scarves, you can’t tell Muslims from Christians.

Asma al-Assad stands to watch a laborious debate about how—and whether—to standardize the Arabic spelling of the word Syria. Then she throws out a curve ball. “I’ve been advised that we have to close down this center so as to open another one somewhere else,” she says. Kids’ mouths drop open. Some repress tears. Others are furious. One boy chooses altruism: “That’s OK. We know how to do it now; we’ll help them.”

Then the first lady announces, “That wasn’t true. I just wanted to see how much you care about Massar.”

As the pilot expertly avoids sheet lightning above the snow-flecked desert on the way back, she explains, “There was a little bit of formality in what they were saying to me; it wasn’t real. Tricks like this help—they became alive, they became passionate. We need to get past formalities if we are going to get anything done.”

Two nights later it’s the annual Christmas concert by the children of Al-Farah Choir, run by the Syrian Catholic Father Elias Zahlawi. Just before it begins, Bashar and Asma al-Assad slip down the aisle and take the two empty seats in the front row. People clap, and some call out his nickname:

Two hundred children dressed variously as elves, reindeers, or candy canes share the stage with members of the national orchestra, who are done up as elves. The show becomes a full-on songfest, with the elves and reindeer and candy canes giving their all to “Hallelujah” and “Joy to the World.” The carols slide into a more serpentine rhythm, an Arabic rap group takes over, and then it’s back to Broadway mode. The president whispers, “All of these styles belong to our culture. This is how you fight extremism—through art.”

Brass bells are handed out. Now we’re all singing “Jingle Bell Rock,” 1,331 audience members shaking their bells, singing, crying, and laughing.

“This is the diversity you want to see in the Middle East,” says the president, ringing his bell. “This is how you can have peace!”

December 27, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

State Dept rejects US envoy proposal to stop calling West Bank occupied – report

RT | December 27, 2017

The State Department has reportedly rejected a request by the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, to stop referring to Israel’s control of the West Bank as an “occupation.”  The final say is with Donald Trump, though.

The issue is being discussed, and President Trump will ultimately take the final decision, according to Israeli public broadcasting channel Kan. A State Department official said in response to the report that there has been no change in US policy regarding the West Bank, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Friedman’s alleged request comes as Washington’s attempts to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have not borne fruit. World leaders have questioned the US’s role as a peace broker in the region after Trump declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel on December 6 – sparking an international backlash and a rebuke by the UN General Assembly. Washington had earlier vetoed a UN Security Council resolution which demanded Trump’s decision be withdrawn.

The State Department has previously had to walk back a number of inflammatory statements made by Friedman about the West Bank. In September, he described Israel’s military control of Palestinian territories as “an alleged occupation.” Later that same month, Friedman said that Israel only occupies 2 percent of the West Bank and that illegal Israeli settlements in the territory are part of the Jewish State – prompting State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert to clarify that “our position on that hasn’t changed” and “the comment does not represent a shift in US policy.”

Israel seized the West Bank in 1967 during the Six-Day War. According to estimates by international bodies and NGOs, approximately 60 percent of the territory is fully occupied by Israel. The UN Security Council has adopted resolutions stating that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories has “no legal validity,” and calling for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” The State Department refers to “occupied territories” in its own reports, including in a human rights report from last year.

Friedman, an Orthodox Jew and former bankruptcy lawyer who worked for Trump’s real estate empire, has been an outspoken advocate for Israel’s claim to Jerusalem. Although lacking a formal background in diplomacy, he was a top adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign, vowing that a Trump White House would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the US embassy in Tel Aviv to the contested holy city. Friedman has previously accused Barack Obama of “anti-Semitism” and likened one liberal Israeli anti-occupation group, J Street, to Kapos – Jewish “collaborators” who were appointed to supervise forced labor in Nazi concentration camps.

December 27, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 2 Comments

What options does Abbas have after that General Assembly vote?

By Prof. Kamel Hamwash | MEMO | December 27, 2107

As the dust settles on a significant week at the UN, in which America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was rejected roundly by the international community, the Palestinians have made a commitment not to engage with the US in any future peace talks. Where, though, can the Palestinian President turn to next? What options does Mahmoud Abbas have?

A divided, and in some cases apathetic, Arab world has been experiencing political turmoil since the confrontation emerged this year between the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt on one hand, and Qatar on the other. As young pretenders to their respective countries’ thrones experiment with war and politics, the US and Israel can take a back seat in the hope that Arab states will weaken each other without any interference on their part.

Palestine is no longer a priority for some Arab countries, except where they can exert pressure on the weak leadership in Ramallah to please Washington and, in turn, the Israelis. Like turkeys voting for Christmas, they believe that they will be protected from Iran if they can deliver the complete submission of the Palestinians to Israel’s wishes.

The EU, which rejected Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, saw some of its own members abstain in the vote in the UN General Assembly. The Russians and Chinese, important members of the Security Council, also have limited, if any, influence on Israel or the Palestinians when compared with the Americans. The Palestinian President’s options for an alternative “honest broker” that Israel will accept are thus non-existent.

It has taken Mahmoud Abbas over two decades to admit that the US is so biased in favour of Israel that it cannot play an even-handed role in the search for a just peace. Why it has taken him so long to realise this so obvious fact is a mystery. Successive US administrations have taken their lead from Israel on this issue. It was always the case that any “offer” to the Palestinians would be put to the Israelis first, and that only after they had applied their “security” test to it and given the green light would it be put to the Palestinians.

This formed the core of an exchange of letters between former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and George W Bush in 2004. “In light of new realities on the ground,” wrote the then US President, “including already existing major Israeli population centres, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.” He added that, “The United States reiterates its steadfast commitment to Israel’s security, including secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel’s capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats.”

While Bush referred in his letter to UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 as forming the basis for negotiations, the Israelis worked hard to ensure that the talks which followed were not referenced to any such international decisions.

The Palestinians fell into this trap by failing to insist on international law and Security Council Resolutions as the basis for any talks. This included the last “serious” attempt to bring peace by Barack Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry in 2013, which not only failed to bring peace but was also immediately followed by the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza. Kerry persuaded the Palestinians to return to talks lacking in any reference to international law.

Before leaving office, Kerry laid much of the blame for the failure of the talks he had initiated on the Israelis after, of course, reminding everyone of Obama’s “deep commitment to Israel and its security”. His explanation for the Obama administration’s abstention on UN Security Council Resolution 2334 concerning the illegality of Israel’s settlements — instead of the usual veto of anything critical of Israel — was that the vote was about “preserving” the two-state solution. “That’s what we were standing up for: Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living side by side in peace and security with its neighbours.”

The incoming Trump administration disassociated itself from Resolution 2334, with the president-elect himself promising that “things will be different” when he entered the White House. He has certainly been true to his word. While asking Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements”, Trump moved away from the US position on two-states: “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”

Trump’s pro-Israel advisers have spent months meeting with the two sides to the conflict. While promising to put a deal on the table soon, this came to a halt when Trump announced on 7 December his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and intention to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv.

Following the US veto of a Security Council resolution rejecting its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and then a large majority voting to pass the same resolution in the General Assembly, Abbas announced last week that he is severing his ties with the US when it comes to the peace process. The Palestinians, he declared, will not “accept any plan from the US” due to America’s “biased” support of Israel and its settlement policy. He also said that the US plan — Trump’s much-vaunted “deal of the century” — “is not going to be based on the two-state solution on the 1967 border, nor is it going to be based on international law or UN resolutions.”

In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to state that, “Abbas declared he was abandoning the peace process and did not care which proposal the United States brings to the table.” Putting a spin on it that is incomprehensible to the rest of the world, Netanyahu told his weekly cabinet meeting, “I think that once again, something clear and simple emerges: The Palestinians are the ones who do not want to solve the conflict.” He will do or say anything to distract us from the glaringly obvious reality that it is Netanyahu’s far-right government that is fully to blame for the lack of peace.

As for Mahmoud Abbas, he has to choose between acknowledging his failure over 23 years to advance the cause of the Palestinians, or going back to the drawing board, assessing the strengths of the Palestinian people and looking for ways to raise the cost to Israel of its military occupation of Palestine. The higher the cost, the quicker that Israel will address the Palestinians’ grievances as they seek to attain their rights.

The Palestinian Authority President’s starting point should be to develop a liberation strategy that excludes reliance on non-Palestinians for its delivery, whilst making it supportable by others, both governments and citizens alike.

The elements of such a strategy should include the following:

  • The development of options for raising the cost to Israel of the occupation.
  • A declaration that the Oslo Accords are null and void. Israel has done this in all but name.
  • To demand UN Security Council protection for the Palestinian people.
  • To end the PA’s security coordination with the occupation, as it is both immoral and a free service to Israel that brings no benefits whatsoever to the Palestinian people.
  • To ask the UN to set up a coordination mechanism for necessary interaction with Israel on humanitarian matters.
  • To ask the Arab League to withdraw the Arab Peace Initiative immediately.
  • To restate that the Palestinian refugees’ legitimate right of return is non-negotiable.
  • To demand that any future negotiations with Israel are based on equal rights for all who live between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea, and acknowledge that this is the only way to achieve real peace.
  • To call on the UN Secretary-General to adopt the ESCWA report — “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid” — that he has withdrawn.
  • To launch cases at the International Criminal Court against Israel and Israeli officials immediately, starting with the illegal settlement issue.
  • To offer unqualified support for the entirely peaceful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and call for its escalation.
  • The immediate lifting of all sanctions imposed by the PA in Ramallah on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
  • The implementation of the reconciliation agreement with Hamas.
  • An escalation of the peaceful and popular resistance movement in Palestine.
  • The launch of a reformed and inclusive Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
  • A serious engagement with Palestinians in the diaspora and a move towards elections to the Palestinian National Council.

Many of the points listed above should have been guiding principles in the past, but were overlooked in the PA’s pursuit of a pointless “negotiations first and last” policy which has failed by any measure.

Such a strategy will come with a price. It will bring isolation to the Palestinians and will have an impact on them in ways that will make their lives even more difficult. However, the alternative is that they continue to be oppressed with no end in sight if the current policies remain in place. The Palestinians have shown on numerous occasions that they are prepared to pay the necessary price for liberation but they must be told how this will be achieved by a leadership that they have had the chance to elect.

Any objective assessment will conclude that the current leadership is incapable of delivering what the Palestinians deserve and to which they aspire. It must therefore stand aside and allow the younger, talented generation of Palestinians come to the fore and lead their people. The New Year cannot be allowed to bring more of the same at the hands of Abbas and his team. He has other options; he must exercise them.

Read also:

Free at last: A UN without US diplomatic blackmail

December 27, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Intelligence Community Says US Had Better Reauthorize Surveillance… Or Else

By Caitlin Johnstone | Medium | December 23, 2017

The editorial board of the Washington Post, whose sole owner is a CIA contractor, has published a predictably fact-challenged op-ed arguing that congress must reauthorize the Orwellian surveillance program known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is deliberately used to collect communications of US citizens.

WaPo, which to this day continues to violate universal journalistic protocol by refusing to disclose its $600 million conflict of interest when reporting on the US intelligence community, just so happens to once again find itself in full agreement with that same US intelligence community. In a new joint statement by the Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, FBI Director Christopher Wray, NSA Director Michael Rogers, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the US intelligence community warns that should congress fail to reauthorize Section 702, something very, very bad may happen to America.

“There is no substitute for Section 702,” the statement claims. “If Congress fails to reauthorize this authority, the Intelligence Community will lose valuable foreign intelligence information, and the resulting intelligence gaps will make it easier for terrorists, weapons proliferators, malicious cyber actors, and other foreign adversaries to plan attacks against our citizens and allies without detection.”

Am I the only one who’s creeped out by this kind of language? This is after all the same US intelligence community that was seen in CIA documents casually discussing the option of the “real or simulated” sinking of a boatload of Cuban civilians as though they were discussing whether to buy two percent or whole milk at the supermarket. The same US intelligence community which lied about the Gulf of Tonkin incident to manufacture support for the Vietnam War, resulting in the needless deaths of millions of people including 58,220 Americans. The same US intelligence community which posed as a black civil rights advocate and tried to blackmail Martin Luther King Jr into committing suicide. The same US intelligence community which infiltrated American civil rights movements and dissident groups in order to disrupt and discredit them and frame them for acts of violence. The same US intelligence community which compiled a list of American dissidents to be thrown in concentration camps in the event of a “national emergency”.

“But Caitlin,” you may be saying. “Despite all the countless unfathomably evil things that the US intelligence community is known to have done in the past, there’s no reason to believe they’re still that vicious and depraved. Just because the language of the joint statement makes it abundantly clear that they really, really want their 702 surveillance reauthorization doesn’t mean they’d do something unspeakable to get it!”

Well that’s an interesting theory, convenient hypothetical objection person, but one of the statement’s signatories, Mike Pompeo, recently said he’s actually helping the lying, torturing, drug-running, warmongering, government-toppling CIA to “become a much more vicious agency”. There is every reason to believe that the US intelligence community is at least as psychopathic as it has ever been.

So excuse the hell out of me if I can’t help but read the intelligence community’s joint statement in the voice of a cartoonish mafia thug threatening to arrange a little “accident” if his extortion victim doesn’t pay up. When a depraved, violent organization with a history of using false flags and psyops to advance its agendas says it urgently needs to be given unchecked surveillance powers in order to prevent acts of terror, I get a little nervous.

With the rare glimpses we’ve been given behind the curtain of USIC opacity, we’ve seen that US intelligence agencies don’t actually use their surveillance capabilities for fighting terrorism nearly as much as they pretend to. With WikiLeaks’ massive leak drop earlier this year on the CIA’s sprawling surveillance system, there was no reference in any of the documents to terrorists or extremists. WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange said in a press conference at the time that there was a “conspicuous” absence of any such references, adding the following:

“What is not there is any reference to terrorists, any reference to extremists. And that actually shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone; no one no one who studies the intelligence world that’s a surprise to. Because even if you just look at the budgets that came out in 2013 to the US intelligence black-budget, you don’t see anything like the majority of the budget going towards extremism, even though there are very strong political reasons to try and couch any operation in countering terrorism and countering extremism to get more money.

Despite that political pressure, something like a third of the entire US intelligence budget is described as countering various forms of extremism. And the overwhelming majority is not, but particularly for the CIA, the vast majority of the expenditure and attack types are geopolitical. They’re about, you know similar to the information revealed about the CIA attacking of the French election cycle — understanding who could be pals with the CIA, who could help out the institution in one way or another. So for example, you spy on Airbus. That information you then pass to the US Chamber of Commerce amongst others, which is listed in the material, and US Chamber of Commerce can then adjust what is doing in order to assist Boeing, and these companies are closely connected to each other.”

So going by what we ordinary people can actually put our eyes on, surveillance is not even really about fighting terrorism at all; it’s about having access to as much information as possible which can be used for geopolitical manipulation and leverage for America’s unelected power establishment. And yet these intelligence agencies, which appear to spend far less energy fighting terrorism than they pretend to, are warning of terrorist attacks should the American people’s elected representatives fail to grant them the reauthorization they demand.

In all probability, congress will bow to these demands. Hell, if they’re seeing what I’m seeing I can’t even say I blame them. To put it lightly, these are scary mofos. As Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said earlier this year, “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”

Either way, we need to talk about this. We need to talk about the fact that there is a violent, unelected power establishment with zero accountability or transparency which cannot be trusted not to false flag Americans into consenting to an expansion of the Orwellian surveillance state. The only way to pretend that this is not a very real threat is to live in denial and shove this reality as far away from one’s consciousness as possible.

So let’s bring it into consciousness. This is a real thing. This is happening. America is ruled by a band of unelected, unaccountable thugs who will kill and terrorize in order to shore up power and advance agendas. These thugs rule America, and therefore much of the world. Pay attention to these things, everyone. This affects you personally.

Click here to contact your representatives and tell them to stand up to the US intelligence community’s demands for warrantless spying on innocent Americans.

December 27, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , | 4 Comments

Homeland Security’s Multibillion-Dollar Comedy Show

Image by James Bovard
By James Bovard | FFF | December 26, 2017

After the 9/11 attacks, Congress and the Bush administration pretended that unlimited federal spending was one of the best ways to thwart terrorist threats. In 2002, Congress created the Homeland Security Department (DHS), sweeping some of the most inept federal agencies, such as the Secret Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), into the new mega-department. Congress also created numerous programs — some run directly by FEMA — to shovel out more than $30 billion in anti-terrorism funding to local and state governments.

As Sen. Tom Coburn (R–Okla.) observed a few years ago, “FEMA’s lax guidelines and oversight made the agency a virtual rubberstamp for most anything that grant recipients creatively justified as related to homeland security — regardless of how loosely related.” Louisiana Homeland Security grant recipients spent $2,400 for a lapel microphone and $2,700 for a teleprompter. Fort Worth, Texas, spent $24,000 of a federal anti-terrorism grant on a latrine-on-wheels. Other Texas local governments spent Homeland Security grants on “a hog catcher for Liberty County, body bags, garbage bags, Ziploc bags and two 2011 Camaros at $31,000 apiece,” as a Senate report revealed.

DHS approved a Michigan police department’s spending $6,200 of its grant on 13 sno-cone machines. The Senate report noted that local officials “defended the sno-cone purchases saying the machines were needed to treat heat-related emergencies.” DHS also asserted that the machines were “dual purpose” because they “could be used to fill ice packs in an emergency.”

The Jacksonville Urban Area Security Initiative used a DHS grant to produce an 8-minute film entitled “Domestic Terrorism: The First Line of Defense.” The film urged viewers to report any suspicious activity and to be especially wary of people that are “alone or nervous” or people “of average or above average intelligence” (unlike the people who made the film). People were also told to be on the lookout for residents who displayed “increased frequency of prayer or religious behavior.” As a Techdirt analysis pointed out, “Broadly defined ‘suspicious behavior’ is a great way to make every citizen a suspect … and justify every violation of personal privacy. If you need warrantless wiretaps or a reason to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens, all you have to do is start listing everyday activity as ‘suspicious.’”

Anti-terrorism funding has proven to be a boon for the travel industry. Many DHS grant recipients paid to send their employees to the HALO Counter-Terrorism Summit in 2012, which took place at the Paradise Point Resort & Spa on an island near San Diego. Invitees were told that “this luxury resort features over 460 guestrooms, five pools, three fantastic restaurants overlooking the bay, a world-class spa and state-of-the-art fitness center. Paradise awaits.” The highlight of the conference was a “zombie apocalypse” show featuring “40 actors dressed as zombies getting gunned down by a military tactical unit…. Conference attendees were invited to watch the shows as part of their education in emergency response training,” as a Senate investigation reported. This type of federally subsidized mass-shooting rehearsal did not spur any protests from anti-gun groups.

DHS handouts make state and local law-enforcement agencies more intrusive and punitive. DHS has given a number of grants to purchase license-plate readers for police patrol cars. One California urban area spent $6 million on the readers, which were used to detect vehicles with “excessive traffic violations.” Two years ago, DHS solicited proposals for private companies to create a national database on license-plate data that could disclose exactly when and where citizens drive. The subsequent firestorm caused DHS to temporarily back off from its proposal but it was rolled out again in 2015.

Maryland used federal Homeland Security grants to equip hundreds of police cars with license-plate scanners that create almost 100 million records per year detailing exactly where and when each vehicle travels. The grants also paid for stationary cameras that recorded license plates passing on nearby roads. The massive databank, which mortifies the ACLU, has been almost a total failure at nailing violent criminals or car thieves or terrorists. Instead, almost all the license-plate alerts involve scofflaws who failed to take their cars in for mandatory vehicle-emissions tests.

Increased surveillance

Local governments and agencies in the Chicago area spent $45 million in Homeland Security grants to set up a network of surveillance cameras known as “Project Shield.” The system was justified as an anti-terrorist measure but was shut down after it was recognized as a boondoggle. A Chicago Tribune editorial derided the program as “Project Sieve.” Some of its equipment failed to function in hot or cold weather. Almost 20 percent of the equipment was misplaced or stolen. Idiotic decisions were made in where to place the surveillance cameras — in police-station lobbies for example. Congressman Michael Quigley (D–Ill.) denounced Project Shield as “corruption which makes us less safe.”

After the heavy-handed police response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, Barack Obama publicly fretted about the militarization of police. But many of the worst abuses have long been funded by DHS. A Senate report noted, “‘Militarized’ vehicles and bomb detection robots top the list of ‘must have’ equipment being purchased by law enforcement teams around the country.”

Many police departments use DHS grants to purchase the same type of armored personnel carriers used by the U.S. military. The most popular model is the BearCat — an acronym for Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck. The Keene, New Hampshire, police department justified using federal funds to purchase a BearCat because of rowdiness at a local pumpkin festival. An Arizona police department used a BearCat to carry out a raid on a cockfight organizer. A police department in Washington state used its BearCat to “pull over drunk drivers.” The Clovis, California, Police Department displayed its BearCat at a local Easter egg hunt. A Senate report noted, “Police departments rave about the vehicles’ ‘shock and awe’ effect saying the vehicles’ menacing presence can be enough of a deterrent for would-be criminals.” Unfortunately, there is no way to deter police departments from spending federal dollars to intimidate local taxpayers.

Police departments are also using DHS grants to buy drones to conduct surveillance over their entire domains. As the Senate report explained, “Given the proliferation of military drones used in war operations, local police now want similar equipment in their arsenal of crime-fighting tools.” Senator Coburn warned, “The deployment of these types of surveillance machines raises important questions about American citizens’ constitutional rights and the appropriate balance between improving security and freedom. Federal, state, and local policymakers must carefully consider whether new law-enforcement tools and strategies protect freedom or threaten civil liberties.” But few members of Congress have shown any interest in reining in federally funded abuses.

Federal grant money is enabling local police to buy other military-style devices. As a Senate report noted, “Long-Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) machines were originally developed for use by the military as a nonlethal way to repel adversaries, including Iraqi insurgents or pirates, by making a loud and intense sound that is capable of damaging hearing.” Pittsburgh used $88,000 of DHS grant money to buy a “long-range acoustic device” and used it on protesters at a 2009 international summit in Pittsburgh, leading to at least one lawsuit from a victim claiming permanent loss of hearing.

Federal anti-terrorism grants are also spurring pointless intrusions around the nation. The Washington, D.C., subway system has been plagued by high-profile violent attacks by riders (as well as horrendous service which occasionally kills passengers). The feds’ solution? Special grants of $10 million or more per year to bankroll police to accost travelers before they enter the subway system and search their purse, briefcase, backpack, or whatever. Metro officials insisted that the searches were no big deal because they would be very brief — unless, of course, police found a reason to arrest someone or detain him for questioning. Police rely on hand-held explosive-detection devices which are well known to be ludicrously inaccurate (and can be triggered by hand sanitizer or soap). A Washington Post reporter noted that “many of those transit commuters still have the option of traveling by car, where their property is likely to be safe from police search as long as they don’t commit a crime, a distinction no longer available to Metro riders.” The police search teams are not deployed in response to any credible threat; instead, they are simply sent out to establish police presence. This is akin to the “security theater” that TSA has made famous. But news that police conduct warrantless searches of passengers entering subway stops quickly spreads on social media. If someone wants to avoid the hassle (or the discovery of the nuclear bomb in his suitcase), he merely needs to go to a different metro station a mile or two away.

Federal anti-terrorism grants have been a great political success regardless of pervasive waste, fraud, and abuse. As author James Risen (who was targeted for years by both the Bush and Obama Justice Departments for national-security leaks he received) observed, the “homeland security–industrial complex” has been a windfall for Washington. Politicians have “learned that keeping the terrorist threat alive provides enormous political benefits…. A decade of fear-mongering has brought power and wealth to those who have been the most skillful at hyping the terrorism threat,” enhancing the “financial well-being of countless federal bureaucrats, contractors, subcontractors, consultant, analysis and pundits.”

The Trump administration has proposed curtailing some anti-terrorism grants to state and local governments but it remains to be seen whether Congress gets on board. What does the United States have to show for tens of billions of dollars of Homeland Security antiterrorism spending by local and state governments? Michael Sheehan, former New York City deputy commissioner for counterterrorism, observed, “I firmly believe that those huge budget increases have not significantly contributed to our post–9/11 security.” But the war on terrorism has been an unmitigated victory for Leviathan and politicians at every level of government.

December 27, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

US Prepares for Forcible Entry Operations in Remote Theaters of War

By Peter KORZUN | Strategic Culture Foundation | 27.12.2017

One area where America has a significant advantage over any putative adversary is in logistics. No other nation can challenge the US ability to conduct overseas operations, deploy and sustain joint forces worldwide, including remote corners of the globe. But it’s not enough! The capability is being urgently enhanced. Summing up pieces of information coming from various sources leads to the conclusion that preparations for combat actions conducted far from home bases are in full swing.

US Air Force exercise capstone Joint Forcible Entry (JFE) – the largest ever – was held on Dec.9-10 to check the readiness for airlifting Army paratroopers. The transport aircraft were escorted by F-15 and F-16 warplanes fighting their way through contested air space to the enemy’s rear. Once landed, the forces on the ground were supported from air. 37 C-17 Globemaster III and 21 C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft took off from 12 air bases across the country to support the largest JFE event in history. Troops were landed in Nevada. In total, over 100 aircraft took place in the drills.

The training event took place after Mobility Guardian – a large NATO power projection exercise – was held in July bringing together roughly 30 nations. The exercise included all elements of forcible entry operation, including electronic attack and cyber warfare. A С-17 ready to land in any part of the world in 24 hours to deliver the equipment needed to provide for further operations of 4 F-22 или F-35 fighters was an element of the fully integrated scenario.

This month, US and South Korea held “Vigilant Ace”, the largest ever joint air exercise. The five-day Vigilant Ace drill involved 230 aircraft, including F-22 Raptor stealth jet fighters, and tens of thousands of troops.

The exercises of such large scale held one by one showed that the capability to conduct power projection operations in the faraway regions is a priority. The infrastructure of other countries as well as pre-positioned stocks is widely used to enhance effectiveness. For instance, on Dec. 1, 2017, the Defense Logistics Agency issued an amendment to a contract notice regarding prepositioned supplies at jet fuel at sites throughout Europe and Africa in support of US military activities. The change specifically added a requirement for supplies of commercial Jet A fuel at three sites: Manu Dayak Airport in the central Nigerien city of Agadez, Houari Boumediene Airport in the Algerian capital Algiers, and Tamanrasset/Aguenar Airport.

The plans are on the way to beef up logistics infrastructure for offensive operations in Europe, including the creation of logistics command and the creation of a military free transit zone modeled on the 1996 Schengen agreement to allow free forces movements across the borders of European NATO members. Powidz, Poland, a village with a population of 1,000, is to become a strategically important NATO hub described as the «center of the center of gravity». The plans include the delivery of more than a brigade’s worth of military vehicles, equipment, artillery and personnel.

This month, the new US C-130J Super Hercules military transport aircraft arrived at Ramstein Air Base (AB) in Germany, to replace one of 14 C-130J’s at Ramstein AB. The aircraft features upgraded avionics, improved lift capacity, superior climb performance, and long-range landing field capabilities. It is part of a rotational process to upgrade existing aircraft.

Looks like the US military really needs the airlift capability expanded and it needs it now. The Air Force is bringing back C-5M Super Galaxy transports recently mothballed due to budget cuts. The C-5 is the largest airlifter built by the United States, capable of carrying a maximum of 135 tons of cargo. It can haul up to 36 standard pallets and 81 troops at the same time or a wide variety of gear, including tanks, helicopters, submarines, equipment, and food and emergency supplies. The Galaxy can 120,000 pounds of cargo more than 5,500 miles — the distance from Dover Air Force base in Delaware to Incirlik airbase in Turkey — without refueling. Without cargo, that range jumps to more than 8,000 miles. The Air Force purchased 131 C-5 Galaxies between 1968 and 1989. Starting in 2013, the service decided to upgrade 52 of them to the new -M “Super Galaxy” standard, which involved swapping older TF-39 engines for new F138 commercial engines. The new engine generates 22 percent more thrust and allows for more cargo to be carried. The planes also received all-glass cockpits, a new autopilot system, new navigation and safety upgrades, an all-weather flight control system, and new flight and engine instrument suite.

An idea is floating to convert transport aircraft like the C-130 Hercules into the airborne aircraft carrier, capable of launching a volley of drones that could fly into a battle space to provide reconnaissance and surveillance. These drones would simultaneously communicate and swarm, confusing the enemy with their numbers and distracting its air defenses.

Military Sealift Command (MSC) routinely employs around 50 ships, a combination of government owned/contractor operated vessels and commercial transports to meet its worldwide responsibilities. The Navy relies on private contractors to maintain both prepositioned logistics ships loaded with equipment and stored at several locations around the world and the Ready Reserve Fleet for mobilization. For example, Crowley Maritime Corporation and its subsidiaries manage some 24 prepositioned and Ready Reserve ships. Private companies also provide routine transportation and logistics services both within CONUS and globally. The Navy is completing construction of the landing platform dock (LPD) 17 class and is set to begin recapitalization of the dock landing ship (LSD) class in 2020, using a hull based on the LPD 17.

LHA 8 is programmed in 2024 as a replacement for the first Wasp-class amphibious assault ship.

Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Global Logistics Support (GLS) provides global logistics for a global Navy. The organization is made up of approximately 6,300 military and civilian logistics professionals operating from 105 locations worldwide, providing an extensive array of integrated global logistics and contracting services to Navy, Marine Corps, joint operational units, and allied forces across all warfare enterprises.

The facts and events summed up above are not front-page stories. They don’t tell much separately but tell a lot when put together and systematized. They lead to believe the United States is urgently preparing for a truly big war waged far away from its borders. The US military is sized, organized, and globally postured to fight it. A doctrine of expanding forces is not as straightforward as producing more fighters and weapon systems. Nothing is possible without logistics. That’s what is given the highest priority as the preparations are intensified.

December 27, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

US runs training camps for Syria militants: Russian general

Press TV – December 27, 2017

The Russian military top brass says militants, including those with the Takfiri Daesh terror group, are receiving training in US bases in Syria, adding the terrorists have been instructed to “destabilize” the Arab country.

In an interview with Russia’s Komsomolskaya Pravda daily on Wednesday, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov said the US had turned its military base near the town of al-Tanf in southeastern Syria into a training camp for militants.

Asked about the situation at the US-run al-Tanf base, he replied, “According to satellite and other surveillance data, terrorist squads are stationed there. They are effectively training there.”

General Gerasimov also accused the US of using a refugee camp outside the town of Shaddadah in Syria’s northeastern Hasakah Province as a training center for the Daesh remnants, including those evacuated from the terror outfit’s former stronghold of Raqqah.

“This is essentially ISIS (Daesh),” he said. “They change their colors, take different names – the ‘New Syrian Army’ and others. They are tasked with destabilizing the situation.”

On December 16, Russia’s Reconciliation Center for Syria revealed Washington’s training activities for members of the so-called New Syrian Army, composed of various terrorist groups, at the Shaddadah camp.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Gerasimov estimated that there are currently some 350 militants in al-Tanf and about 750 others in al-Shaddadah,

He further noted that the Russian military had been watching the US training activities at the al-Tanf base “for several months.”

The official also stressed that the Pentagon has so far failed to provide any explanation for its military presence at the al-Tanf base after Daesh’s defeat, saying, “So far, their answers have been ambiguous.”

The town of al-Qaryatayn in Syria’s Homs Province risked falling into the hands of the anti-Damascus militants if the Russian forces had not intervened, according to Gerasimov.

“We took timely measures… They have suffered a defeat, these forces were destroyed. There were captives from these camps. It is clear that training is underway at those camps,” he added.

Nusra terrorists to be wiped out next year

Meanwhile, the Russian general predicted that the operation to eliminate members of the al-Nusra Front militant group in Syria will be completed in 2018.

Next year’s developments in Syria will include “the completion of eliminating militants from Jabhat al-Nusra and its affiliates,” he pointed out.

After losing all the territories under their control in Syria and Iraq, the Daesh terrorists have fled to Libya and southwestern Asia after being defeated in Syria, Gerasimov added.

“Some of them return to countries, from which they illegally arrived. The bulk of them flee to Libya, to southwestern Asian countries,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also commented on the issue, saying the main part of the anti-Daesh battle in Syria was over.

“Now, of course, the main anti-terrorist objective is the defeat of Jabhat al-Nusra,” Lavrov said at a meeting with Ahmad Jarba, leader of Syria’s opposition Tomorrow movement.

He warned that the al-Nusra terrorsits have been “are still resisting … because they have been receiving assistance from abroad” to fight against the Syrian government forces.

“We are seeing positive changes in Syria. A decisive blow has been dealt on the IS [Daesh]. And although some militants who have fled the battlefield are trying either to regroup in Syria or to flee abroad,” he added.

Russia, Syria in close defense cooperation

General Gerasimov said the Russian military advisers assist nearly all units of the Syrian forces in planning counter-terrorism operations.

“We cooperate closely with the Syrian government troops, our advisers are attached to nearly all units,” he said.

Russian jets have been conducting air raids against Daesh and other terrorist outfits inside Syria at the Damascus government’s request since September 2015.

President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Moscow now sees no need for a heavy military presence in Syria, but it will continue its counter-terrorism battle in the Arab state “if necessary.”

December 27, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Report that North Korean defector has anthrax antibodies feeds into biological weapons scare

RT | December 27, 2017

South Korean media have claimed that a North Korean defector was found to have developed antibodies to anthrax before his flight across the border. The report may likely play into the hands of those looking for a pretext for war.

The news was broken by South Korea’s Channel A on Tuesday, citing an anonymous intelligence official.

“Anthrax antibodies have been found in the North Korean soldier who defected this year,” the unnamed official said, without revealing the way in which the soldier might have been exposed to the deadly substance, which could be either direct contact or vaccination.

Little is known about the soldier apart from that he was one of four North Korean military servicemen to defect to South Korea this year. The revelation comes against the backdrop of a series of reports suggesting that North Korea has been developing a program to fit biological weapons on intercontinental missiles. An earlier anonymous report by Japan’s Asahi newspaper, that came out last week, claimed that Pyongyang has embarked on “conducting heat and pressure resistance tests to see whether anthrax germs can survive at temperatures of 7,000 degrees, the level an ICBM [inter-continental ballistic missile] encounters when it reenters the Earth atmosphere.”

The concerns of the pariah state getting hold of biological weapons were echoed in the recently released US National Security Strategy, claiming that Pyongyang has been striving to obtain “chemical and biological weapons which could also be delivered by missile.”

North Korea, meanwhile, rejected all the allegations and reiterated its commitment to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). It accused Washington of trying to forge a pretext for a military incursion, like it did in 2003 to justify its military aggression in Iraq.

The comparison has merit, as even the alleged biological weapon is exactly the same. At the fateful UN Security Council meeting on February 5, 2003, the then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell brandished a model vial of anthrax to illustrate the alleged danger coming from Iraq under Saddam Hussein, which according to Powell could have produced some 25,000 liters of anthrax. The word “anthrax” first made headlines in October 2001, when five Americans died and over a dozen fell sick due to exposure to powdered anthrax sent through the mail. In the most prominent case, a letter with anthrax was delivered to the office of Democratic Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, shutting down the whole Senate.

The letters that also contained death threats were linked by the media and the George W. Bush administration to Iraq at the time.

“The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax and nerve gas weapons for over a decade,” Bush said in his State of the Union address in January 2002, noting that the US would act first in the face of a possibility of such an attack.

Later, it was revealed that the man behind the toxic letters was US citizen Bruce Ivins, who was working in a military biodefense lab and had no relation to Iraq. The rest of Powell’s claims about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction found no proof either, with Powell later admitting that he was misled by intelligence community and the speech became a “blot” on his record.

While the US officials, spearheaded by UN envoy Nikki Haley, are upping the rhetoric and threatening to “utterly destroy” North Korea if war breaks out, or in case of Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, calling on Pentagon to move US servicemen’s families from South Korea as though the war is imminent, Russia and China have been advocating restraint, warning of disastrous consequences to the whole region, first and foremost to Washington’s ally South Korea, of a potential military confrontation. The so-called double-freeze plan, championed by Moscow and Beijing, envisions the simultaneous halt of war games regularly held by the US and allies and the suspension of the nuclear and missile program run by Pyongyang. The plan, however, was outright rejected by Washington in August.

December 27, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

NATO Rolls Out Offensive Cyberweapons

By Ulson Gunnar – New Eastern Outlook – 25.12.2017

NATO members including the US, UK, Germany, Norway, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands have begun taking public steps in defining guidelines regarding the deployment of offensive cyberweapons.
Reuters in its article, “NATO mulls ‘offensive defense’ with cyber warfare rules,” states:

A group of NATO allies are considering a more muscular response to state-sponsored computer hackers that could involve using cyber attacks to bring down enemy networks, officials said.

Reuters also reports:

The doctrine could shift NATO’s approach from being defensive to confronting hackers that officials say Russia, China and North Korea use to try to undermine Western governments and steal technology.

The article also noted that the United States and its allies already possess and have threatened to use cyberweapons offensively, citing the 2010 Sutxnet virus deployed against Iranian nuclear infrastructure as a possible example. Other examples cited of possible applications included shutting down power plants with malware rather than bombing them.

Reuters also reported that NATO was setting up “cyber commands” including one in Estonia apparently intended to launch cyber attacks into Russia.

Extending NATO Aggression into Cyberspace 

At face value, a nation developing the ability to defend itself and carry out counterattacks against foreign aggressors, including in cyberspace, appears as legitimate policy.

For NATO, however, its track record of serial aggression and expansion beyond its borders predicated on intentionally false pretexts indicate that the military alliance will simply carry its aggression into cyberspace as well.

The NATO invasion and occupation of Afghanistan followed the attacks on September 11, 2001 on Washington D.C. and New York City. Despite none of the alleged suspects involved in the attack actually coming from Afghanistan, and the government of Afghanistan having played no role in the attacks, NATO would invade and has since occupied the nation for the past 16 years.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq led by the US and other prominent NATO members was predicated entirely on falsehoods. Claims that the Iraqi government at the time possessed chemical and biological weapons later turned out to have been intentionally fabricated to justify an invasion that, by some estimates, cost the lives of over a million Iraqis and thousands of US and European soldiers. The invasion and occupation resulted in regional conflict that continues to this day.

In 2011 when terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda moved against the government of Libya, NATO portrayed the resulting conflict as a crackdown on what it and Western media called “freedom fighters.” NATO armed militants and eventually intervened in an air campaign that toppled the government, leaving Libya in ruins since.

Between 2013-2014 the US and its NATO partners openly fomented protests against the elected government of Ukraine. Supporting Neo-Nazi militias and their affiliated political parties, NATO succeeded in overthrowing the government and placing into power organizations and parties involved in the protests. NATO has since intervened on various levels, short of military intervention, to protect the regime in Kiev from both political challengers and a possible counter-coup.

In many ways, since the Arab Spring in 2011, the US and its NATO partners have already used cyberweapons of sorts to destabilize and attack targeted nations. Social media was manipulated in the opening weeks of protests, false information transmitted, technology and software distributed among US-NATO funded opposition groups, all in an effort to stampede targeted governments out of power.

Today, NATO members are involved in the bombing, invasion, occupation and drone warfare from Africa to Asia. They employ the tools of modern disinformation and propaganda to interfere and manipulate in the political processes of nations worldwide.

The notion that NATO will develop and deploy cyberweapons in an offensive capacity will not only enhance ongoing aggression, but because of the nature of cyberweapons and the possibility of attacks concealing their point of origin, might see it expand into areas where currently, conventional military means cannot be justified.

Considering the extensive experience NATO possesses in fabricating pretexts for aggression, and the perceived benignity of cyberwarfare versus conventional weapons, we can expect to see NATO use this new concept of “offensive defense” to further menace the nations and peoples of this planet with a degree and frequency far above and beyond its conventional military operations.

While Reuters cites Russia, China and North Korea as likely targets of NATO cyberattacks, it is likely that any and all actors, both state and non-state, will find themselves targets of NATO aggression should their interests conflict with those that underwrite the NATO alliance.

Developing the means to put these capabilities in check and prevent NATO from developing any sort of advantage in cyberspace will be a prerequisite for future peace and stability, online and off.

December 27, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

China Responds to Reports of Alleged Oil Transfer to N Korea Amid UN Sanctions

Sputnik – 27.12.2017

The UN has introduced a number of trade restrictions against North Korea on December 22, limiting the country’s oil deals to four billion barrels per year.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying has commented on the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo report, claiming that Chinese ships had transferred oil to North Korean vessels about 30 times in October by saying that Beijing has no information on the issue. However, she stressed that Beijing “completely and strictly” implemented UN trade restrictions recently adopted against North Korea.

“The Chinese government has been completely and strictly enforcing Security Council resolutions. We are taking a sincere and serious attitude and forceful and effective actions,” she said when responding to a question concerning a possible breach.

According to the Chinese customs data, presented by the Reuters news agency on Tuesday, China has not exported any oil products or gasoline, jet fuel, diesel or fuel oil to North Korea in November, following the UN restrictions. The country also has not been importing any iron ore, coal or lead from North Korea during the mentioned period, as the media specified.

The report also specifies that China’s exports of corn to North Korea has reduced by 82 percent, comparing to a year earlier, while rice exports plunged 64 percent.

This stance corresponds to China’s previous calls for all the parties concerned to show restraint and take collective efforts, aimed at the de-escalation of the conflict on the Korean peninsula, amid the recently toughened UN sanctions against Pyongyang.

The ramped-up measures, introduced on December 22, limit North Korea’s oil dealings to four billion barrels per year and making oil exporters working with the country to report on their deliveries to the UN Security Council as a response to the country’s recent missile launch.

Addressing the sanctions, Pyongyang has called them an “act of war,” explaining that the country’s nuclear program is a self-defense deterrent against the nuclear threats and blackmail of the US.

December 27, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment