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Bye, Bye, FBI? The Case for Disbanding the Federal Frankenstein’s Monster

By Thomas L. Knapp | The Garrison Center | January 23, 2108

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is always under fire for something. As of late January, that something is destruction of evidence. Text messages between agents involved in the Bureau’s investigations of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, from a key time frame during the presidential transition, are missing. Congress, the Bureau, and the US Justice Department are at each other’s throats over the missing messages and what they might say.

It’s far from the first time, as James Bovard points out at The Hill. In 1973, acting FBI director Patrick Gray was forced to resign for destroying evidence in the Watergate investigation. After the 1992 murder of Vicki Weaver by an FBI sniper, an FBI division chief went to prison for destruction of evidence in that case.

The FBI has  had 110 years to prove its worth. A dispassionate look at its history says that it’s far more often served as a center for blackmail, corruption, and political manipulation than as anything resembling a legitimate law enforcement agency.

In fact, it was a bad idea in the first place.

The FBI — then merely the Bureau of Investigation, or BOI — was created during a congressional recess and without congressional approval by the Attorney General in 1908 for purposes of “investigating” (read: Drumming up a scare over) the role of prostitution in “white slavery,” a forerunner of today’s “human trafficking” panic. It’s pretty much gone downhill from there.

The US Constitution defines only three federal crimes: Treason, piracy and counterfeiting. The first two are military matters and the third is handled by the Secret Service. There’s no room for an FBI in a constitutional law enforcement scheme.

One excuse for keeping the FBI going has been to facilitate investigations of crimes with an interstate angle. But given today’s technology, the states could presumably set up their own clearinghouses to exchange information and track down cross-border bank robbers and kidnappers. The FBI is just another bureaucratic layer inserting itself between the commission of a crime and the arrest of those thought to be responsible.

While the FBI has no particularly compelling, or even legitimate, mission, it certainly has its illegitimate uses. It’s probably not going too far to think of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI’s first director, as having been a sort of shadow president for much of his 48 years of service. He used agents to get the goods on aspiring political leaders, and apparently used that information to get what he wanted from them both for the Bureau itself and in public policy generally.

One big problem with a federal law enforcement agency as big and well-funded as the FBI is that at some points it’s almost certain to stop working for the rest of the government and start running the rest of the government. Election? Who needs an election? Just ask J. Edgar what to do.

Unfortunately, the second big problem with such an agency is that it’s hard to get rid of after more than a century of nearly uncontested power.

But we should try.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org).

January 23, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

US rejects Moscow-proposed UN mechanism to probe Syria chemical attacks based on facts

RT | January 23, 2018

The US has firmly rejected a Russian-drafted Security Council resolution seeking to establish an objective investigative mechanism to probe all allegations of chemical attacks in Syria “based on impeccable and irrefutable data.”

“We want to rise above the differences and propose [the] creation of a new international investigative body,” tasked with establishing facts and seeking those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria “based on the impeccable and irrefutable data obtained in a transparent and credible way,” Russia’s permanent representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzia told the Security Council on Tuesday.

The mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) of the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) expired in November following a number of failed attempts by the UNSC to extend its authority. Moscow has repeatedly criticized JIM’s handling of the investigation of chemical attacks in Syria, including the April incident in Khan Shaykhun in Idlib province.

Moscow believes that JIM’s investigations were full of “systemic deficiencies” and speculations, lacked hard evidence, while its conclusions were often drawn from statements made by questionable sources. The main point of contention is that the team did not honor the basic chain-of-custody principle, which required OPCW to obtain on-site biomedical and environmental samples.

The United Nations Security Council meeting was called by Russia to discuss the situation in Syria, including fresh accusations against the Syrian government over an alleged chemical attack in a Damascus suburb.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, however, fervently rejected the Russian proposal, shifting gears to accuse Moscow of trying to shield Bashar Assad from the alleged crimes the US continues to pin on him not bothering to back it with evidence.

“When Russia doesn’t like the facts, they try and distract the conversation. That’s because the facts come back over and over again to the truth Russia wants to hide – that the Assad regime continues to use chemical weapons against its own people,” Haley told the Security Council.

“The United States and the international community are not going to be fooled. We remain steadfast in pursuing accountability for those who use chemical weapons,” she said before leaving the meeting.

The immediate and passionate rejection of Moscow’s initiative is quite telling and proves that the establishment of a professional and independent investigative mechanism is the last thing Washington would like to see, Nebenzia noted.

“The fact that our resolution was outright dismissed says volumes. This once again reveals the truth, that we sadly already know. The United States of America does not need an independent, professional mechanism. Not only that you reveal the truth, but you show your true colors in front of the international community.”

Earlier on Tuesday during an international conference in Paris, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson blamed the Syrian government for the alleged chemical incident in East Ghouta. Just ahead of the ‘International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons’ 24-nation meeting, reports surfaced of a possible chlorine gas attack on Monday, in which more than 20 civilians were allegedly injured. The reports have been produced by controversial pro-militant sources, namely the White Helmets and the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), and have not yet been independently verified.

The lack of evidence did not stop the top US diplomat directly accusing Russia of allowing chemical weapons-related incidents in Syria. “Whoever conducted the attacks Russia ultimately bears responsibility for the victims in eastern Ghouta and countless other Syrians targeted with chemical weapons since Russia became involved in Syria,” he stated.

January 23, 2018 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism | , , , | 2 Comments

Antisemitsm- Reality or Merely Statistics?

By Gilad Atzmon | January 23, 2018

Last weekend, the Israeli press gave the impression that a new global pogrom is going to burst any minute. “Hike in worldwide anti-Jewish incidents” was Israel’s Ynetnews headline.

Early on Sunday, the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs released the ‘2017 Anti-Semitism Report,’ which showed a “substantial increase in racist incidents against Jews in Europe, especially in the western parts of the continent.”

According to the report, “2017 saw a 78% increase in incidents of physical violence against Jews in the UK and a 30% increase in all anti-Semitic incidents in the country.” We learned about an increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Germany. A study of Central and Eastern European countries revealed that “20% of the respondents did not want Jews in their country and 30% did not want Jews as neighbours. In addition, 22% of Romania’s citizens and 18% of Polish citizens were interested in denying the right of Jews to citizenship in their country.”

Reportedly, Diaspora Jews are shaken by the alleged rise in antisemitsm. Ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the World Zionist Organisation revealed that 83% of those surveyed reported that they were exposed to anti-Semitism on the Internet and on social media, 59% believe that the politicians in their country are anti-Semitic at least to some extent and 51% of respondents said they were afraid to wear Jewish symbols in public.

Now, let me assure you, I do not buy any of the above. I am not impressed by Zionist statistics and I am not alone. In Britain for instance, the Crown Prosecution Service is sceptical about the validity of the above statistics. But let’s assume for a moment that all these figures are factually valid and statistically accurate. The article still fails to ask the 6 million dollar question — Why? Why are Jews once again hated?

Naturally, the Palestinians are available to be blamed. “It further claimed that there is ongoing anti-Semitic incitement by the Palestinian Authority: Systematic use of religious and other anti-Semitic narratives to foster hatred of Israelis and Jews among its citizens.” If you are bewildered by the above statement wait till you read the ‘rationale.’ Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, is quoted as  saying the following during a meeting of the PLO’s Central Committee: “Israel is a colonial project that has nothing to do with the Jews.”

Abbas’s statement may be right or wrong. It is, however, the opposite of anti-Semitic incitement. It absolves the Jews of the crimes committed by the state that calls itself “The Jewish State.”

I will try to help Naftali Bennett and his Ministry of Diaspora Affairs. If you are genuinely concerned about antisemitsm and  the high percentage of Eastern Europeans who do not want to live in proximity to Jews, you may want to also try to find out what percentage of Israeli Jews are happy to live next to Arab neighbours. Try to ascertain the percentage of ‘Diaspora Jews’ in New York’s Kiryas Joel or London’s Golders Green who are willing to  live alongside Goyim. Before Minister  Bennett complains about the Poles who don’t want Jewish citizens in their country, he should share with us his personal views regarding the prospect of Israel becoming a ‘state of its citizens’ as opposed to ‘The Jewish State.’

Perhaps when Bennett, The Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, and other Jewish institutions are brave enough to reflect upon these questions, antisemitsm might evaporate and more importantly, Jews may stop being fearful of their neighbours. They won’t have reason; at last they will love their neighbours and be loved in return.

January 23, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 2 Comments

Facebook, Google, Twitter Announce ‘Counterspeech’ Psyop to Keep Public Docile

By Jake Andersen | ANTIMEDIA | January 18, 2018

If you’re a radical or search for “extremist” content online, the biggest social networks and internet companies on Earth will soon be converting you into a docile moderate, or at least, they will try.

Facebook, Google, and Twitter have been screening and filtering extremist content for years, but on Wednesday, the gatekeepers of the internet confirmed to Congress that they are accelerating their efforts and will target users who may be exposed to extremist/terrorist content, redirecting them instead to “positive and moderate” posts.

Representatives for the three companies testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to outline specific ways they are trying to combat extremism online. Facebook, Google, and Twitter aren’t just tinkering with their algorithms to restrict certain kinds of violent content and messaging. They’re also using machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to manufacture what they call “counterspeech,” which has a hauntingly Orwellian ring to it. Essentially, their goal is to catch burgeoning extremists, or people being radicalized online, and re-engineer them via targeted propagandistic advertisements.

Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, stated:

“We believe that a key part of combating extremism is preventing recruitment by disrupting the underlying ideologies that drive people to commit acts of violence. That’s why we support a variety of counterspeech efforts.”

Meanwhile, Google’s YouTube has deployed something called the “Redirect Method,” developed by Google’s Jigsaw research group. With this protocol, YouTube taps search history metrics to identify users who may be interested in extremist content and then uses targeted advertising to counter “hateful” content with “positive” content. YouTube has also invested in a program called “Creators for Change,” a group of users that makes videos opposed to hate speech and violence. Additionally, the video platform has tweaked their algorithm to reduce the reach of borderline content.

In his testimony, Juniper Downs, YouTube’s head of public policy, said, “Our advances in machine learning let us now take down nearly 70% of violent extremism content within 8 hours of upload and nearly half of it in 2 hours.”

On the official YouTube blog, the company discussed how they plan to disrupt the “radicalization funnel” and change minds. The four steps include:

  • “Expanding the new YouTube product functionality to a wider set of search queries in other languages beyond English.
  • Using machine learning to dynamically update the search query terms.
  • Working with expert NGOs on developing new video content designed to counter violent extremist messaging at different parts of the radicalization funnel.
  • Collaborating with Jigsaw to expand the ‘Redirect Method’ in Europe.”

Starting at the end of last year, the company had already begun altering its algorithm so that 30% of its videos were demonetized. The company had explained that it wanted YouTube to be a safer place for brands to advertise, but the move has angered many content producers who generate income with their video channels.

The effort to use machine learning and AI as part of a social engineering funnel is probably not new, but we’ve never seen it openly wielded on a vast scale by a government-influenced corporate consortium. To say the least, it is unsettling for many. One user commented underneath the post, “So if you have an opinion that’s not there [sic] agenda You are a terrorist. Free speech is dead on YouTube.”

For its part, Twitter’s representative told Congress that since 2015 the company had taken part in over 100 training events focused on how to reduce the impact of extremist content on the platform.

In a post called “Introducing Hard Questions” on its blog, Facebook discussed rethinking the “meaning of free expression.” The post posed a number of hypothetical questions, including:

  • How aggressively should social media companies monitor and remove controversial posts and images from their platforms? Who gets to decide what’s controversial, especially in a global community with a multitude of cultural norms?
  • Who gets to define what’s false news — and what’s simply controversial political speech?”

The three tech giants have been under intense scrutiny from lawmakers who feel the platforms have been used to sow division online and even recruit homegrown terrorists. While the idea of using an algorithm to fight extremism online is not new, a unified front of Facebook, Google, and Twitter has never collectively produced original online propaganda, the specifics and scope of which remain vague despite the companies’ attempts at transparency.

Only recently, in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), was the use of propaganda on the American people by the government formally legalized. Then-President Barack Obama continued strengthening government propaganda at the end of his administration with the dystopic Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act of 2017, which created a kind of Ministry of Truth for the creation of so-called “fact-based narratives.”

It appears that while the government continues to strengthen its potential to conduct psychological operations (psyops), it is also joining forces with internet gatekeepers that can use their algorithms to shape billions of minds online. While one may applaud the ostensible goal of curbing terrorist recruitment, the use of psyops for social engineering and manufacturing consent could extend far beyond the original intent.

January 23, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 1 Comment

Palestinian demands should be the foundation for decolonisation

By Ramona Wadi | MEMO | January 23, 2018

The Palestinian Authority now has a tangible proposal from the US, partly as a result of perpetual waiting. On several occasions waiting was touted as the reason for Mahmoud Abbas’s diplomatic delays and refusal to connect with Palestinian aspirations.

However, since US President Donald Trump laid bare his agenda with his unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Israel has been able to employ an overt approach to its violence and expansion, while the PA must accept fragments or nothing at all. So far there is no mention of Palestinian resistance as the means through which decolonisation can come about. As a result the PA has not attempted to alter its limitations. If it does, it will destabilise its entire structure.

The US plan consists of an almost permanent exclusion of Palestinians from Palestine. Having altered the status of Jerusalem enough to set a precedent and for Israel to lay claims, it is ridiculing the UN’s non-binding resolutions which refute changes to the city’s status. In the event that a Palestinian state is created Palestinians would have to contend with a town outside of Jerusalem for its capital – media speculation has mentioned Abu Dis as the option.

Besides allowing Israel to expand its security narrative to the extent that a Palestinian state would still be subjected to the colonial enterprise, Trump has proposed two other concepts which seek to terminate Palestinian claims to historic Palestine. The plan calls for the recognition of separate national homelands for Israelis and Palestinians, ostensibly to promote a semblance of mutual recognition. It also puts forward a ludicrous proposal that Palestinian refugees should have the right to return within the borders of a Palestinian state, rather than to historic Palestine.

The premise of achieving mutual recognition is already erroneous. It is only possible to make such claims due to the fact that there is still no global intent, let alone consensus, to define Israel as a colonial entity without legitimacy. If one takes into consideration the marginalisation of Palestinian refugees whose plight has been incessantly exploited, it is clear that mutual recognition cannot exist in a context that favours the settler-colonial state and its inhabitants.

If justice is to be served the Palestinian right of return should extend to all of historic Palestine. Israel will not redefine itself, yet it is resistant to suggestions which accurately describe its existence. This fact has been ignored by the PA and the international community in order to prioritise a failed diplomatic script which even now remains a point of reference.

A case in point is the intermittent declaration of countries recognising Palestine as a state. Apart from justifications of “timing” in delaying the symbolic recognition, there is also the implication of recognising a Palestinian state based on the two-state compromise. In the current circumstances, with the two-state solution having been exposed as a move to facilitate Israeli colonisation and which has been declared obsolete because there is no longer a need for such a veneer, what have countries recognised? For countries whose recognition is still pending, what do they intend to recognise? If there is no unified intervention from Palestinian leaders that stipulates the people’s demands as the foundations upon which decolonisation can be achieved, countries are merely recognising Palestine’s disappearance in accordance with US and Israeli demands.

January 23, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | Leave a comment

Likud MP: the State of Israel must ‘be run only by Jews’

Israeli Knesset Member Miki Zohar [INSubcontinent/Twitter]
MEMO | January 23, 2018

Israeli parliamentarian Miki Zohar, part of the ruling Likud party, has declared that Israel should “be run only by Jews”, in remarks reported by right-wing news site Arutz Sheva.

Zohar, who is the incoming Knesset House Committee Chair, was speaking in relation to criticism from Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi about his suitability for the role, in light of previous racist remarks.

The Likud MK, however, was unrepentant.

“I insist that this state, the State of Israel, be run only by Jews. Arabs are invited to live here quietly without engaging in terror”.

According to Arutz Sheva, Zohar is preparing a comprehensive agenda for his committee.

“The trend will be clear, to preserve the State of Israel and its democracy, with clear principles that I have always advocated, the Land of Israel, the Torah of Israel, and the nation of Israel”.

In October 2017, Zohar told Haaretz newspaper that Palestinians “[do not] have the right to national identity” because they do “not own the land of this country”, adding: “I’m sorry to say this, but they have one conspicuous liability: They weren’t born Jews”.

January 23, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 2 Comments

A National Defense Strategy of Sowing Global Chaos

By Nicolas J.S. Davies | Consortium News | January 23, 2018

Presenting the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States on Friday at the Johns Hopkins University, Secretary of Defense James Mattis painted a picture of a dangerous world in which U.S. power – and all of the supposed “good” that it does around the world – is on the decline.

“Our competitive edge has eroded in every domain of warfare – air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace,” he said. “And it is continually eroding.”

What he could have said instead is that the United States military is overextended in every domain, and that much of the chaos seen around the world is the direct result of past and current military adventurism. Further, he could have acknowledged, perhaps, that the erosion of U.S. influence has been the result of a series of self-inflicted blows to American credibility through foreign policy disasters such as 2003 invasion of Iraq.

There were also two important words hidden between the lines, but never mentioned by name, in the new U.S. National Defense Strategy: “empire” and “imperialism.”

It has long been taboo for U.S. officials and corporate media to speak of U.S. foreign policy as “imperialism,” or of the U.S.’s global military occupations and network of hundreds of military bases as an “empire.”  These words are on a long-standing blacklist of “banned topics” that U.S. official statements and mainstream U.S. media reports must never mention.

The streams of Orwellian euphemisms with which U.S. officials and media instead discuss U.S. foreign policy do more to obscure the reality of the U.S. role in the world than to describe or explain it, “hiding imperial interests behind ever more elaborate fig leaves,” as British historian A.J.P. Taylor described European imperialists doing the same a century ago.

As topics like empire, imperialism, and even war and peace, are censored and excised from political debate, U.S. officials, subservient media and the rest of the U.S. political class conjure up an illusion of peace for domestic consumption by simply not mentioning our country’s 291,000 occupation troops in 183 other countries or the 39,000 bombs and missiles dropped on our neighbors in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan since Trump took office.

The 100,000 bombs and missiles dropped on these and other countries by Obama and the 70,000 dropped on them by Bush II have likewise been swept down a kind of real time “memory hole,” leaving America’s collective conscience untroubled by what the public was never told in the first place.

But in reality, it’s been a long time since U.S. leaders of either party resisted the temptation to threaten anyone anywhere, or to follow through on their threats with “fire and fury” bombing campaigns, coups and invasions. This is how empires maintain a “credible threat” to undergird their power and discourage other countries from challenging them.

But far from establishing the “Pax Americana” promised by policymakers and military strategists in the 1990s, from Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney to Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton, the results have been consistently catastrophic, producing what the new National Defense Strategy calls, “increased global disorder, characterized by decline in the long-standing, rules-based international order.”

Of course the drafters of this U.S. strategy document dare not admit that U.S. policy is almost single-handedly responsible for this global chaos, after successive U.S. administrations have worked to marginalize the institutions and rules of international law and to establish illegal U.S. threats and uses of force that international law defines as crimes of aggression as the ultimate arbiter of international affairs.

Nor do they dare acknowledge that the CIA’s politicized intelligence and covert operations, which generate a steady stream of political pretexts for U.S. military intervention, are designed to create and exacerbate international crises, not to solve them.  For U.S. officials to admit such hard truths would shake the very foundations of U.S. imperialism.

Opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran – the so-called nuclear deal – from Republicans and Democratic hawks alike seems to stem from the fear that it might validate the use of diplomacy over sanctions, coups and war, and set a dangerous precedent for resolving other crises – from Afghanistan and Korea to future crises in Africa and Latin America.  Iran’s success at bringing the U.S. to the negotiating table, instead of falling victim to the endless violence and chaos of U.S.-backed regime change, may already be encouraging North Korea and other targets of U.S. aggression to try to pull off the same trick.

But how will the U.S. justify its global military occupation, illegal threats and uses of force, and trillion-dollar war budget once serious diplomacy is seen to be more effective at resolving international crises than the endless violence and chaos of U.S. sanctions, coups, wars and occupations?

From Bhurtpoor to Baghdad

Major Danny Sjursen, who has fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and taught history at West Point, is a rare voice of sanity from within the U.S. military. In a poignant article in Truthdig, Major Sjursen eloquently described the horrors he has witnessed and the sadness he expects to live with for the rest of his life. “The truth is,” he wrote, “I fought for next to nothing, for a country that, in recent conflicts, has made the world a deadlier, more chaotic place.”

Danny Sjursen’s life as a soldier of the U.S. Empire reminds me of another soldier of Empire, my great-great-great grandfather, Samuel Goddard.  Samuel was born in Norfolk in England in 1793, and joined the 14th Regiment of Foot as a teenager. He was a Sergeant at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. During 14 years in India, his battalion led the assault on the fortress of Bhurtpoor in 1826, which ended the last resistance of the Maratha dynasty to British rule. He spent 3 years in the Caribbean, 6 years in Canada, and retired as Commandant of Dublin Castle in 1853 after a lifetime of service to Empire.

Danny’s and Samuel’s lives have much in common.  They would probably have a lot to talk about if they could ever meet.  But there are critical differences.  At Bhurtpoor, the two British regiments who led the attack were followed through the breech in the walls by 15 regiments of Indian “Native Infantry.” After Bhurtpoor, Britain ruled India (including Pakistan and Bangladesh) for 120 years, with only a thousand British officials in the Indian Civil Service and a few thousand British officers in command of up to 2.5 million Indian troops.

The British brutally put down the Indian Mutiny in 1857-8 with massacres in Delhi, Allahabad, Kanpur and Lucknow. Then, as up to 30 million Indians died in famines in 1876-9 and 1896-1902, the British government of India explicitly prohibited relief efforts or actions that might reduce exports from India to the U.K. or interfere with the operation of the “free market.”

As Mike Davis wrote in his 2001 book, Late Victorian Holocausts, “What seemed from a metropolitan perspective the nineteenth century’s final blaze of imperial glory was, from an Asian or African viewpoint, only the hideous light of a giant funeral pyre.”

And yet Britain kept control of India by commanding such loyalty and subservience from millions of Indians that, in every crisis, Indian troops obeyed orders from British officers to massacre their own people.

Danny Sjursen and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and other post-Cold War U.S. war zones are having a very different experience. In Afghanistan, as the Taliban and its allies have taken control of more of the country than at any time since the U.S. invasion, the U.S.-backed Afghan National Army has 25,000 fewer troops under its command than it did five years ago, while ten years of training by U.S. special operations forces has produced only 21,000 trained Afghan Commandos, the elite troops who do 70-80% of the killing and dying for the corrupt U.S.-backed Afghan government.

But the U.S. has not completely failed to win the loyalty of its imperial subjects. The first U.S. soldier killed in action in Afghanistan in 2018 was Sergeant 1st Class Mihail Golin, originally from Latvia.  Mihail arrived in the U.S. in November 2004, enlisted in the U.S. Army three months later and has now given his life for the U.S. Empire and for whatever his service to it meant to him. At least 127 other Eastern Europeans have died in occupied Afghanistan, along with 455 British troops, 158 Canadians and 396 soldiers from 17 other countries.  But 2,402 – or 68%, over two-thirds – of the occupation troops who have died in Afghanistan since 2001, were Americans.

In Iraq, an American war that always had even less international support or legitimacy, 93% of the occupation troops who have died were Americans, 4,530 out of a total of 4,852 “coalition” deaths.

When Ben Griffin, who later founded the U.K. branch of Veterans for Peace, told his superiors in the U.K.’s elite SAS (Special Air Service) that he could no longer take part in murderous house raids in Baghdad with U.S. special operations forces, he was surprised to find that his entire chain of command understood and accepted his decision. The only officer who tried to change his mind was the chaplain.

The Future of Empire

The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff have explicitly told Congress that war with North Korea would require a ground invasion, and the same would likely be true of a U.S. war on Iran. South Korea wants to avoid war at all costs, but may be unavoidably drawn into a U.S.-led Second Korean War.

But besides South Korea, the level of support the U.S. could expect from its allies in a Second Korean War or other wars of aggression in the future would probably be more like Iraq than Afghanistan, with significant international opposition, even from traditional U.S. allies. U.S. troops would therefore make up nearly all of the invasion and occupation forces – and take nearly all of the casualties.

Compared to past empires, the cost in blood and treasure of policing the U.S. Empire and the blame for its catastrophic failures fall disproportionately – and rightly – on Americans. Even Donald Trump recognizes this problem, but his demands for allied countries to spend more on their militaries and buy more U.S. weapons will not change their people’s unwillingness to die in America’s wars.

This reality has created political pressure on U.S. leaders to wage war in ways that cost fewer American lives but inevitably kill many more people in countries being punished for resistance to U.S. imperialism, using air strikes and locally recruited death squads instead of U.S. “boots on the ground” wherever possible.

The U.S. conducts a sophisticated propaganda campaign to pretend that U.S. air-launched weapons are so accurate that they can be used safely without killing large numbers of civilians. Actual miss rates and blast radii are on the “banned topics” blacklist, along with realistic estimates of civilian deaths.

When former Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari told Patrick Cockburn of the U.K.’s Independent newspaper that he had seen Iraqi Kurdish intelligence reports which estimated that the U.S.- and Iraqi-led destruction of Mosul had killed 40,000 civilians, the only remotely realistic estimate so far from an official source, no other mainstream Western media followed up on the story.

But America’s wars are killing millions of innocent people: people defending themselves, their families, their communities and countries against U.S. imperialism and aggression; and many more who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time under the onslaught of over 210,000 American bombs and missiles dropped on at least 7 countries since 2001.

According to a growing body of research (for example, see the UN Development Program study, Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping-Point for Recruitment), most people who join armed resistance or “terrorist” groups do so mainly to protect themselves and their families from the dangers of wars that others have inflicted on them. The UNDP survey found that the final “tipping point” that pushes over 70% of them to take the fateful step of joining an armed group is the killing or detention of a close friend or family member by foreign or local security forces.

So the reliance on airstrikes and locally recruited death squads, the very strategies that make U.S. imperialism palatable to the American public, are in fact the main “drivers” spreading armed resistance and terrorism to country after country, placing the U.S. Empire on a collision course with itself.

The U.S. effort to delegate war in the Middle East to Saudi Arabia is turning it into a target of global condemnation as it tries to mimic the U.S. model of warfare by bombing and starving millions of innocent people in Yemen while blaming the victims for their plight. The slaughter by poorly trained and undisciplined Saudi and Emirati pilots is even more indiscriminate than U.S. bombing campaigns, and the Saudis lack the full protection of the Western propaganda system to minimize international outrage at tens of thousands of civilian casualties and an ever-worsening humanitarian crisis.

The need to win the loyalty of imperial subjects by some combination of fear and respect is a basic requirement of Empire. But it appears to be unattainable in the 21st century, certainly by the kind of murderous policies the U.S. has embraced since the end of the Cold War. As Richard Barnet already observed 45 years ago, at the end of the American War in Vietnam, “At the very moment the number one nation has perfected the science of killing, it has become an impractical instrument of political domination.”

Obama’s sugar-coated charm offensive won U.S. imperialism a reprieve from global public opinion and provided political cover for allied leaders to actively rejoin U.S.-led alliances. But it was dishonest. Under cover of Obama’s iconic image, the U.S. spread the violence and chaos of its wars and regime changes and the armed resistance and terrorism they provoke farther and wider, affecting tens of millions more people from Syria and Libya to Nigeria and Ukraine.

Now Trump has taken the mask off and the world is once again confronting the unvarnished, brutal reality of U.S. imperialism and aggression.

China’s approach to the world based on trade and infrastructure development has been more successful than U.S. imperialism. The U.S. share of the global economy has declined from 40% to 22% since the 1960s, while China is expected to overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest economy in the next decade or two – by some measures, it already has.

While China has become the manufacturing and trading hub of the global economy, the U.S. economy has been financialized and hollowed out, hardly a solid basis for future growth. The neoliberal model of politics and economics that the U.S. adopted a generation ago has created even greater wealth for people who already owned disproportionate shares of everything, but it has left working people in the U.S. and across the U.S. Empire worse off than before.

Like the “next to nothing” that Danny Sjursen came to realize he was fighting for in Iraq and Afghanistan, the prospects for the U.S. economy seem ephemeral and highly vulnerable to the changing tides of economic history.

The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers

In his 1987 book, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000, historian Paul Kennedy examined the relationship between economic and military power in the histories of the Western empires who colonized the world in the past 500 years. He described how rising powers enjoy significant competitive advantages over established ones, and how every once-dominant power sooner or later has to adjust to the tides of economic history and find a new place in a world it can no longer dominate.

Kennedy explained that military power is only a secondary form of power that wealthy nations develop to protect and support their expanding economic interests. An economically dominant power can quickly convert some of its resources into military power, as the U.S. did during the Second World War or as China is doing today. But once formerly dominant powers have lost ground to new, rising powers, using military power more aggressively has never been a successful way to restore their economic dominance. On the contrary, it has typically been a way to squander the critical years and scarce resources they could otherwise have used to manage a peaceful transition to a prosperous future.

As the U.K. found in the 1950s, using military force to try to hold on to its empire proved counter-productive, as Kennedy described, and peaceful transitions to independence proved to be a more profitable basis for future relations with its former colonies. The drawdown of its global military commitments was an essential part of its transition to a viable post-imperial future.

The transition from hegemony to coexistence has never been easy for any great power, and there is nothing exceptional about the temptation to use military force to try to preserve and prolong the old order. This has often led to catastrophic wars and it has always failed.

It is difficult for any political or military leader to preside over a diminution of his or her country’s power in the world. Military leaders are rewarded for military strategies that win wars and expand their country’s power, not for dismantling it. Mid-level staff officers who tell their superiors that their weapons and armies cannot solve their country’s problems do not win promotion to decision-making positions.

As Gabriel Kolko noted in Century of War in 1994, this marginalization of critical voices leads to an “inherent, even unavoidable institutional myopia,” under which, “options and decisions that are intrinsically dangerous and irrational become not merely plausible but the only form of reasoning about war and diplomacy that is possible in official circles.”

After two world wars and the independence of India, the Suez crisis of 1956 was the final nail in the coffin of the British Empire, and the Eisenhower administration burnished its own anti-colonial credentials by refusing to support the British-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt. British Prime Minister Anthony Eden was forced to resign, and he was replaced by Harold Macmillan, who had been a close aide to Eisenhower during the Second World War.

Macmillan dismantled the remains of the British Empire behind the backs of his Conservative Party’s supporters, winning reelection in 1959 on the slogan, “You’ve never had it so good,” while the U.S. supported a relatively peaceful transition that preserved Western international business interests and military power.

As the U.S. faces a similar transition from empire to a post-imperial future, its leaders have been seduced by the chimera of the post-Cold War “power dividend” to try to use military force to preserve and expand the U.S. Empire, even as the relative economic position of the U.S. declines.

In 1987, Paul Kennedy ended The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers with a prescient analysis of the U.S. position in the world. He concluded,

“In all of the discussions about the erosion of American leadership, it needs to be repeated again and again that the decline referred to is relative not absolute, and is therefore perfectly natural; and that the only serious threat to the real interests of the United States can come from a failure to adjust sensibly to the newer world order.”

But after Kennedy wrote that in 1987, instead of accepting the future of peace and disarmament that the whole world hoped for at the end of the Cold War, a generation of American leaders made a fateful bid for “superpower.” Their delusions were exactly the kind of failure to adjust to a changing world that Kennedy warned against.

The results have been catastrophic for millions of victims of U.S. wars, but they have also been corrosive and debilitating for American society, as the perverted priorities of militarism and Empire squander our country’s resources and leave working Americans poorer, sicker, less educated and more isolated from the rest of the world.

When I began writing Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq in 2008, I hoped that the catastrophes in Afghanistan and Iraq might bring U.S. leaders to their senses, as the Suez crisis did to British leaders in 1956.

Instead, eight more years of carefully disguised savagery under Obama have squandered more precious time and good will and spread the violence and chaos of U.S. war-making even farther and wider. The new National Defense Strategy’s implicit threats against Russia and China reveal that 20 years of disastrous imperial wars have done nothing to disabuse U.S. leaders of their delusions of “superpower status” or to restore any kind of sanity to U.S. foreign policy.

Trump is not even pretending to respect diplomacy or international law, as he escalates Bush’s and Obama’s wars and threatens new ones of his own. But maybe Trump’s nakedly aggressive policies will force the world to finally confront the dangers of U.S. imperialism. A coming together of the international community to stop further U.S. aggression may be the only way to prevent an even greater catastrophe than the ones that have already befallen the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Honduras, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen.

Or will it actually take a new and even more catastrophic war in Korea, Iran or somewhere else to finally force the United States to “adjust sensibly to the new world order,” as Paul Kennedy put it in 1987? The world has already paid a terrible price for our leaders’ failure to take his sound advice a generation ago. But what will be the final cost if they keep ignoring it even now?

Nicolas J.S. Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.

January 23, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Black Sea Antics by the US-NATO Military Alliance

By Brian CLOUGHLEY | Strategic Culture Foundation | 23.01.2018

In addition to the increasing numbers of troops and aircraft ranged along Russia’s northern borders, the United States continues to deploy missile-equipped warships to the Black Sea, and on January 10 the UK’s Sun newspaper headlined that “US destroyer races to Russia-dominated Black Sea to ‘ensure security and stability’.” The US Navy Times joined in by announcing that “US Navy ruffles Russian feathers in the Black Sea” and Stars and Stripes reported the US 6th Fleet’s Captain Tate Westbrook as saying that “US ships will continue to enter the Black Sea and work with our allies and partners to ensure maritime security and stability,” but nobody gave an example of insecurity.

Indeed, nobody has ever provided evidence of any problems in the Black Sea that require the Pentagon or its NATO sub-office in Brussels to “protect waters of economic and military importance.” (And it is mildly amusing that the US refuses to ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.)

It was reported on February 16 that “NATO defence ministers have decided to beef up the military alliance’s naval presence in the Black Sea in response to an increasingly aggressive Russia. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO will hold more war games and training in the strategically important sea.” But there has never been an instance of a merchant vessel having been inconvenienced by Russia — just as, in the South China Sea, where the US Navy also indulges in equally provocative antics, there has not been a single case of Chinese interference with any transiting commercial ship.

The propaganda doesn’t stop there. The US Navy Times reports breathlessly that “Russian subs are regularly known to lurk beneath the waves on the East Coast of the United States and regularly in the Mediterranean again, according to multiple sources who spoke to Navy Times on background. Sailors are regularly squaring off with Russian jets when they operate on Putin’s doorstep in the Baltic and Black Sea.”

Ignoring the sneering reference to President Putin, the Navy Times makes a good point : the Baltic and Black Sea are indeed doorsteps to Russia, and it is wise to defend your own doorsteps when they are being used as bases for hostile foreign military deployments.

The Navy Times argues that “While President Trump has expressed interest in repairing US relations with Russia, some analysts say the U.S. must step up its aerial and maritime patrols in response to Russia’s own increase of deployed naval forces in the Black Sea. The increasing prevalence of tension and danger in the area signal that it might be time to get tough.”

So the Pentagon is getting tough and records that since the middle of last year the guided missile destroyers USS Carney and USS Porter conducted five “maritime security operations” in the Black Sea, and the guided missile cruiser USS Huế City held exercises with the Ukrainian navy ship Balta.

According to the US Navy the USS Carney “is equipped with the world’s most sophisticated weaponry systems. She is fitted with missiles that reach extended ranges. Land attack cruise missile strike capability is provided by Tomahawk missiles, which are launched from the MK 41 Vertical Launching System. Additionally, Carney has Harpoon anti-surface missiles.” It’s just the sort of warship that contributes to an atmosphere of stability and security.

It has escaped the notice of the Pentagon and its sub-office in Brussels that Russia has a Black Sea coastline of 800 kilometres, excluding Crimea, and has every right to regard that area as home waters — just as it has every right to sail in and fly over the Baltic.

There’s plenty of aggression, to be sure. But it is entirely by the US-NATO military alliance which at vast expense deploys its combat ships, strike aircraft, ‘Big Guns’ and special forces to countries and seas on Russia’s borders. Why not use all that money to improve mutually beneficial trade arrangements and transport infrastructure? That would be welcomed by Russia and by a growing number of European countries that are disturbed about continual confrontation of Russia by the Pentagon-Brussels military circus. But the big question is : Why does NATO continue its belligerent boogies along Russia’s borders? What benefits can possibly accrue from its bluster?

All was made clear on January 19 when the US Defence Secretary, General James Mattis (he of the infamous “it’s fun to shoot some people” comment about Afghans), declared that “great power competition — not terrorism — is now the primary focus of US national security.”

It’s back to the happy days of the Cold War, when Washington’s military-industrial mafia thrived and expanded — and back to the language of the Cold War in the just-released National Defense Strategy. In this document the Pentagon says its objectives are to “remain the preeminent military power in the world, ensure the balances of power remain in our favor, and advance an international order that is most conducive to our security and prosperity.” One of the ways enabling the Pentagon to achieve this is to “address the arc of instability building on NATO’s periphery”, which would be entertaining were it not so absurd.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union it wasn’t Russia that increased its military capabilities. It was the US-NATO military alliance that expanded eastwards to Russia’s borders, increasing the number of countries from 16 to 29. There was no Russian threat to western Europe or anywhere else, and the Moscow government was concentrating on the economy, developing natural resources, and improving the living standards of its citizens. These priorities were disrupted by NATO’s first expansion in 1999 when Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic pushed NATO eastwards. In 2004 there was major success for the Cold Warriors when seven more countries were enlisted in the military alliance and NATO military power moved right up to Russia’s borders.

The pattern was profoundly depressing for Russia, but nothing could be done to halt US-NATO military expansion. The New York Times observed that ceremonies in Washington and Brussels in 2004 marked “the largest expansion in the alliance’s history [which] officially culminated a military integration that began years ago. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have all trained with NATO forces, restructured their own forces to NATO standards and contributed soldiers to NATO operations.” It was all part of a very long-term plan.

The BBC reported that “Russian lawmakers have voiced concern about Nato’s eastward expansion to Moscow’s doorstep. A resolution by the lower house of parliament, the Duma, said Russia may reconsider its defence strategy if NATO continued to ignore Moscow’s interests. It urged NATO members to ratify an arms treaty to restrict deployment of weapons near Russia’s borders… The Duma said it would also recommend the government to strengthen Russia’s nuclear deterrent and consider the deployment of additional troops on the country’s western borders.”

The “arc of instability” is not within Russia: it is in the sweep of NATO and NATO-influenced countries surrounding Russia.

The United States stations armed forces in some 800 military bases around the world. Russia has nine overseas bases and has no intention of establishing more. It is Washington that has expanded its global military presence so dramatically and created so much tension and instability. Its forays into Iraq and Afghanistan and its blitz on Libya were catastrophic, but it appears that more wars are being planned.

US-NATO military fandangos in the Black Sea are part of the Pentagon-Brussels policy of poisonous confrontation that is intended to increase in intensity. The world is becoming an ever more dangerous place.

January 23, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Sowing war and chaos: US continues meddling in Syria through the Kurds

Doubling down on the fixation with ousting Assad produces another US foreign policy disaster

By Alexander Mercouris – The Duran – January 23, 2018

On October 6th 2017 I wrote a lengthy article for The Duran in which I said that the US’s two previous plans in Syria having failed – Plan A being regime change through US backing of violent Jihadi groups, Plan B being the attempt to set up an anti Assad ‘Sunnistan’ in eastern Syria – the US was resorting to Plan C, which was to establish a US backed Kurdish protectorate in northern Syria, so as to undermine the Syrian government from within.

In that article I outlined in detail how that was being done, with the massive supply of arms to the YPG, the Kurdish militia in northern Syria, and through the permanent deployment of US troops in the Kurdish controlled regions of northern Syria.

I also outlined what I thought the likely consequences of this Plan C would be,

Consequences of the US’s Kurdish policy

What are the consequences of the US’s Plan C/’Kurdish’ strategy, and what are its prospects?   In summary there are five:

(1) it will prolong the conflicts in Syria and Iraq;

(2) it is delaying the final defeat of Al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria and Iraq;

(3) it will make the Iraqi government align itself still more closely to Iran and Syria;

(4) it will strengthen hostility within Turkey to the US, and may make Turkey more inclined to seek regional alignments with the US’s Middle East rivals and enemies: Russia and Iran;

(5) it risks making the Kurds even more isolated in their region, whilst uniting the region against them.

I also said that though Plan C was rather more grounded in reality than Plan B since a Kurdish statelet in northern Syria had rather more coherence and reality than the eastern ‘Sunnistan’ proposed as Plan B, it was nonetheless in the long term unworkable, and the attempt to implement it would set the scene for the next US Middle East debacle.

Just two weeks later, with the Iraqi army’s successful offensive against the Iraqi Kurds in northern Iraq, and following the Iraqi army’s recapture from the Kurds of the key Iraqi oil town of Kirkuk, it appeared that this Plan C was already failing and on 19th October 2017 I wrote a further article for The Duran in which I said as much.

In the event, with a persistence worthy of a better cause the US despite the failure in Iraq has persisted with its Plan C.

Firstly the US announced that it intended to keep 2,000 US troops stationed (illegally) in Syria indefinitely, supposedly to prevent a ‘vacuum’ emerging there.

In reality the true number of US troops in Syria is much greater, and it is the presence of these troops which by preventing the restoration of the Syrian government’s authority across the whole of Syria is threatening to create a ‘vacuum’ there. Most, though not all, these US troops appear to be based in northern Syria, in territory controlled by the YPG.

Then the US announced that it was building up a 30,000 strong ‘border force’ in northern Syria, which it was clear would be built up around the Kurdish militia, the YPG.

The results have been very much as I predicted in my article of 6th October 2017.

Firstly, the US game with the Kurds in Syria has outraged the major regional powers: Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Turkey’s President Erdogan has now launched his army and air force against the Syrian Kurds whom the US has been backing in their north Syrian enclave of Afrin.

In order to launch this attack Erdogan needed Moscow’s permission, the Russians having previously positioned military observers in Afrin.

A Turkish military delegation accordingly visited Moscow and obtained Moscow’s permission, resulting in the withdrawal of the Russian military observers from Afrin and the unimpeded operation of the Turkish air force there.

The Russians for their part attempted to persuade the Kurds to hand over Afrin to the Syrian government as a way of averting the Turkish attack. The Kurds, counting on US protection, however refused, with the result that they have quickly discovered that the US protection that they had counted on is nowhere to be seen, so that they now find themselves facing the Turkish army on their own.

In a bizarre twist, showing the extent of their confusion and possibly highlighting the internal criticism their leaders are coming under for putting so much trust in the US, the YPG is now blaming the Russians for the debacle.

We know that, without the permission of global forces and mainly Russia, whose troops located in Afrin, Turkey cannot attack civilians using Afrin air space. Therefore we hold Russia as responsible as Turkey and stress that Russia is the crime partner of Turkey in massacring the civilians in the region.

In the meantime, where a few weeks ago it appeared that ISIS in its fastnesses in eastern Syria was close to total collapse after coming under simultaneous attack by the Syrian army and the US backed Kurds, it is now back on the attack and has actually been able to recover some territory at the expense of the Kurds, who are having to transfer fighters to face the threat from the Turkish army in the north.

Meanwhile the Syrian army has been able to capitalise on Turkey’s focus on the Kurds to carry out major advances against the remaining Jihadi enclaves in western Syria near Damascus and in Idlib province, where the key Abu Duhur air base has now been recaptured from the Jihadis, and where large numbers of Jihadi fighters have been surrounded by the Syrian troops.

Latest reports from the normally reliable Al-Masdar news agency speak of continuing Syrian military advances deeper into Idlib province, with plans apparently being prepared for an offensive which will bring the Syrian army all the way up to the outskirts of Idlib city.

An article in the Guardian has now confirmed the critical role of the British government in egging the US on with Plan C as well as the extent of US and British dismay with the latest developments:

The problem for the west is that, as an endgame possibly approaches in Syria, it cannot afford to lose Turkish diplomatic support since Ankara has been the vital countervailing force to a Russian-imposed peace.

The Turkish preoccupation with the Syrian Kurds on its borders could lead to the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, reaching a deal with Damascus and Moscow.

The speech – in which the UK Foreign Office had a big hand – was something of a watershed and was under-appreciated in Europe. Previously, Trump’s policy on Syria was simply the destruction of Isis and an aversion to talk of nation-building. But the Tillerson speech has been widely criticised because it was long on aspiration but short on detailing the credible levers the US and the west have to pressure Moscow to abandon Assad.

Western diplomats say they have some stakes in the ground: the threat to withhold EU and US reconstruction funds, the promise to keep 2,000 US troops inside Syria indefinitely and a slightly confused commitment to help the Kurds form a border force inside northern Syria. British ministers also repeatedly warn that a Russian-imposed peace that simply leaves Assad in charge would not only be morally reprehensible but unstable…..

There is so much wrong with the thinking in this article that it is difficult to know where to start.

Firstly, it is grotesque to say that “a Russian-imposed peace that simply leaves Assad in charge would not only be morally reprehensible but unstable” when it is Western policy to use the Kurds to prolong the war in Syria in order to increase pressure on the Russians so as to get them to agree to having President Assad ousted which is the true and obvious cause of the continuing instability there.

Secondly, to suppose that Turkey would stand idly by whilst the US armed the Kurds to fight President Assad’s government when Turkey is already fighting a Kurdish insurgency on its own territory was beyond farfetched. It should have been obvious that any policy of this kind that relied upon both Turkey and the Kurds in order to succeed was bound to fail.

Thirdly, the idea that the Western powers can ‘pressure’ Russia into ‘abandoning’ President Assad now that President Assad is in secure control of Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Deir Ezzor, all of Syria’s main cities, and in fact every part of what constitutes ‘useful Syria’, when Russia previously refused to abandon him when the territory under his control was reduced to a small coastal strip and he was about to lose control of Deir Ezzor and Aleppo, is beyond delusional.

Now that the Turkish army is pressing deep into Afrin, with the US and the Western powers as the Guardian article says unable to stop it, the Guardian article refers to what is rapidly becoming the default Western position in northern Syria: abandon the Kurds and hand over to Turkey and its Jihadi allies a strip of northern Syria as a ‘security zone’ at the Kurds’ expense:

The US can argue it tolerated Kurdish territorial expansions across northern Syria, and specifically west of the Euphrates river, only so long as the Kurdish militias inside the Syrian Democratic Forces were needed to defeat Isis, but now that battle has been won the US priority is to stop the freefall in its relations with Turkey. If that means a temporary Turkish foothold in the patchwork that is Syria, so be it.

One might even call it Plan D.

That this is indeed the emerging policy – though some US officials still seem to be unaware of the fact – has now been confirmed by Rex Tillerson, the US’s hapless Secretary of State, who speaking of Turkey is reported to have said the following:

Let us see if we can work with you to create the kind of security zone you might need.

What this ignores is that this policy is every bit unworkable as the Plans A, B and C which preceded it.

Firstly, the duplicity towards the Kurds is nothing short of staggering. Having armed the Kurds and encouraged them to create their own statelet in northern Syria in order to fight ISIS and destabilise the government in Damascus, the US is now preparing to abandon them to Turkey as soon as the going gets difficult.

Needless to say duplicity of this order is going to shatter trust in the US both amongst the Kurds and even in Turkey, which is not likely to forget any time soon the game the US attempted to play with the Kurds in Syria at its expense.

Secondly, Turkey’s Jihadi allies have repeatedly shown their lack of military effectiveness. It is all but inconceivable that they can control territory in northern Syria in the face of opposition from both the Kurds and the local Arab people without the protection on the ground of the Turkish army.

However whether the Turkish army would be prepared to remain entrenched forever in northern Syria facing what is likely to become before long a guerrilla war waged against it by both the Kurds and the local Arab population backed by the Syrian government in Damascus is problematic to say the least.

My opinion is that that is all but inconceivable, in which case Plan D is as unworkable as Plans A, B and C.

Thirdly, despite the Kurdish complaints about ‘betrayal’ by Russia, the likely consequence of the latest events is that over time it will oblige the Kurds to rein in their regional aspirations and seek to come to terms with the government in Damascus, just as the Russians have been urging them to do.

By any objective measure the Kurds in both Syria and Iraq have in recent years grossly overplayed their hand.

They used the US induced internal crises in Syria and Iraq to forge all but independent areas within those countries. They then expanded these zones far beyond their natural limits, bringing under their control large areas with predominantly Arab populations.

Then as the internal crises within Syria and Iraq abated, instead of leveraging the strong position they had achieved to come to terms with the governments of those countries so as to hold on to their gains, the Kurds went for broke, and gambling on US promises of support, they pitched for what amounted to outright independence, in Syria de facto, in Iraq de jure.

As a result they antagonised all the regional powers and Russia, bringing down upon themselves the wrath of Iraq and Turkey, and finding themselves isolated, when they discovered in Iraq in October and in Syria now that the promise of US support had no reality behind it.

The result is that when they were attacked by the Iraqi army in October and by the Turkish army now they found that they had no one to look to but themselves.

Pressure of events if nothing else will now probably force the Kurds in Syria to come to terms, however grudgingly, with the Russians and with the Syrian government in Damascus.

That would obviously mean accepting the overall authority of the government in Damascus in return for whatever form of autonomy the Russians can negotiate for them.

That is the only realistic way that the Kurds in Syria – who ultimately account for no more than 8% of Syria’s population – can secure protection for themselves provided by Russia, which as recent events have shown is the only secure form of protection that can be relied upon in this region.

As for the US and its Western allies, the time has come – in fact it is long overdue – for them to commit themselves to some serious rethinking.

The strategy of regime change in Syria which was launched in 2011 has decisively failed.

There is no realistic possibility of the US persuading Russia to abandon President Assad and agreeing to regime change in Syria, and no realistic way the US can bring about regime change in Syria without Russia’s agreement.

That means that regime change in Syria is impossible and is not going to happen.

With the Syrian government in Damascus now secure and gaining daily in power and confidence, it is now only a matter of time before it regains full control of all Syrian territory.

All the various plans to keep Syria weak and divided by playing Sunnis against Alawites, Kurds against Arabs, and Turks against Kurds and Syrians, can only delay this outcome, not prevent it, and can only do so only at horrific cost, whilst setting up the US for further humiliation

This is because the only practical effect of these plans is to increase the Syrian government’s dependence on Moscow and Tehran, thereby strengthening Syria’s alliances with Russia and Iran and weakening the regional geopolitical position of the US.

In reality if the US’s objective really were to limit or even extinguish Russian and Iranian influence in Syria – as it claims – then the only way it could do this would be by coming to terms with the Syrian government in Damascus, which is the legitimate government of Syria recognised as such by the overwhelming majority of Syria’s people, so as to persuade it to limit or cut its ties to Russia and Iran so as to reduce or extinguish the influence of these countries in Syria.

That would involve giving the Syrian government security guarantees that it could trust and economic aid to rebuild Syria, in return for its agreement to limit or close the Russian and Iranian bases which are now starting to appear on Syria’s territory.

Whether such a thing is now possible is another matter. However the modern history of the Middle East is such an appalling catalogue of duplicity that I for one would not say it was impossible if it were ever seriously attempted.

Already there are rumours that some officials within the Syrian government in Damascus are uneasy about the over close relations (as they see it) which Syria now has with Iran, and the problems which they think these are causing Syria.

However if the US is going to embark upon this genuinely realistic foreign policy then it must end its maniacal fixation with the person of Bashar Al-Assad, and it must tell its allies in Britain, Saudi Arabia and Israel that they must do the same.

Putting aside the disaster this fixation has caused to the people of Syria, who have had to endure seven years of war because of it, its only result has been to strengthen Syria’s alliances with Iran, Russia and more recently Iraq, thereby weakening the geopolitical position in the Middle East of the US.

As ought to be obvious, doubling down on this fixation can only spell more disaster further down the line, and the latest debacle in northern Syria which has resulted in fighting between the US backed Kurds and the US’s NATO ally Turkey ought to underline this fact.

However because this obvious truth is one which continues to be passionately resisted in Washington – not to mention in London, Jerusalem and Riyadh – it looks to be rejected, opening the way for still more disasters to come.

January 23, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Destroying Syria

Why does Washington hate Bashar al-Assad?

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • January 23, 2018

The Donald Trump administration is planning to install a 30,000 strong armed “security force” in northern Syria along the borders with Turkey and Iraq. This presumably will tie together and support the remaining rag-tags of allegedly pro-democracy rebels and will fit in with existing and proposed U.S. bases. The maneuver is part of a broader plan to restructure Syria to suit the usual crop of neocon geniuses in Washington that have slithered their way back into the White House and National Security Council, to include renewed demands that the country’s President Bashar al-Assad “must go,” reiterated by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last Wednesday. He said “But let us be clear: The United States will maintain a military presence in Syria, focused on ensuring ISIS cannot re-emerge.” Tillerson also claimed that remaining in Syria would prevent Iran from “reinforcing” its position inside Syria and would enable the eventual ouster of al-Assad, but he has also denied that Washington was creating a border force at all, yet another indication of the dysfunction in the White House.

A plan pulled together in Washington by people who should know better but seemingly don’t is hardly a blueprint for success, particularly as there is no path to anything approximating “victory” and no exit strategy. The Syrians have not been asked if they approve of an arrangement that will be put in place in their sovereign territory and the Turks have already bombed targets and sent troops and allied militias into the Afrin region, also a U.S. supported Kurdish enclave on the border. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has indicated clearly that Ankara will disrupt any U.S. devised border arrangement. From the Turkish point of view the border security force, which reportedly will largely consist of Kurdish militiamen, will inevitably work in cooperation with the Kurdish terrorist group PKK which is active on the Turkish side of the border, in seeking to create an autonomous Kurdish state, which Turkey reasonably enough regards as an existential threat.

And then there is one other little complication, which is that the United States presence in Syria is completely illegal both under international law and under the U.S. government’s War Powers Act. Syria is a sovereign state with a recognized government and there is no U.N. or Congressional mandate that permits Washington to station its soldiers, Marines and airmen within the country’s borders. The argument that the recent Authorizations to Use Military Force (AUMF) permitted the activity because groups linked to al-Qaeda were active there and the local government was unable to expel them is only thinly credible as the U.S. has also attacked Syrian Army forces and the militiamen linked to Syria’s ally Iran. That constitutes a war crime.

Trump can under the War Powers Act take military action to counter an imminent threat, which was never the case from Syria in any event, but after 60 days he has to cease or desist or go to Congress for authorization up to and possibly including a declaration of war. The military offensive against Syria began under President Barack Obama and it is far beyond that two-month window already, so egregiously in violation that some Congressmen are actually beginning to take notice. Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia has demanded that no military initiatives in Syria be undertaken without a Senate vote. He said on Thursday that“I am deeply alarmed that yet again, the Trump administration continues to raise the risk of unnecessary war, disconnected from any firm policy objectives and core national security interests. To be clear, neither the 2001 or 2002 AUMFs provide authority to target Assad or Iranian proxies in Syria, and it is unacceptable for this action to be taken absent a vote and approval of Congress.”

The animus against Syria runs deep, to include questionable claims from generally hostile sources that al-Assad has deliberately massacred hundreds of thousands of his own people as well as dubious assertations about the use of chemical weapons that led to a U.S. cruise missile attack on a Syrian airbase in Shayrat. A perfect example of how brain dead the western media is over the issue was provided by last week’s article by David Brunnstrom of Reuters on the Tillerson speech, where he wrote “U.S. forces in Syria have already faced direct threats from Syrian and Iranian-backed forces, leading to the shoot-down of Iranian drones and a Syrian jet last year, as well as to tensions with Russia.” The uninformed reader would assume that Americans were the victims of an attack and aggression by Moscow whereas the reality is quite different. Iran and Russia are allies of the legitimate Syrian government that are in the country by invitation to help in its fight against groups that everyone acknowledges to be terrorists. The United States is there illegally and is as often as not using its proxies to fight the Syrian Army.

Syria-phobia goes back to the George W. Bush Administration in December 2003, when Congress passed the Syria Accountability Act, House Resolution 1828. Syria at that time was already in the cross-hairs of two principal American so-called allies in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Both were actively working to destabilize the regime, though for different reasons. The Saudis were fearful of Iranian influence over Damascus but also had a religious agenda in that the secular Syrian regime was protective of religious minorities and was itself an offshoot of Shi’a Islam referred to as Alawites. The Saudis considered them to be heretics.

The Israelis for their part were enamored of the Yinon Plan of 1982 and the Clean Break proposals made in 1996 by a team of Jewish American neocons. Their intention was to transform most of Israel’s neighboring Arab states into warring tribes and ethnicities so they would no longer be a threat. Israeli leaders have stated openly that they would prefer continued chaos in Syria, which remains a prime target. Israel is, in fact, currently bombing Syrian Army positions, most recently near Damascus, while also supporting the ISIS and al-Nusra Front remnants.

The Syrian Accountability Act does indeed read at times like the completely bogus indictment of Saddam Hussein that had led to the invasion of Iraq earlier in 2003. It cites development of weapons of mass destruction and missiles, but its main focus is related to the alleged support of terrorist groups by Damascus. It “Declares the sense of Congress that the Government of Syria should immediately and unconditionally halt support for terrorism, permanently and openly declare its total renunciation of all forms of terrorism, and close all terrorist offices and facilities in Syria, including the offices of Hamas, Hizballah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.”

One might note that the groups cited by name are not identified as being a threat to the United States. Rather, they are organizations hostile to Israel, which suggests that the motivation for the bill was the usual dominant pro-Israeli sentiment in Congress. The bill’s sponsor was Eliot Engel of New York, a passionately pro-Israeli legislator.

Be that as it may, the drive to “get” Syria has remained a constant in American Foreign Policy to this day. When the U.S. still had an Embassy in Damascus, in December 2010 President Barack Obama maladroitly sent as Ambassador Robert Ford. Ford actively supported the large demonstrations by anti-regime Syrians inspired by the Arab Spring who were opposed to the al-Assad government and he might even have openly advocated an armed uprising, a bizarre interpretation of what Ambassadors are supposed to do in a foreign country. He once stated absurdly that if the U.S. had armed opponents of the regime, al-Qaeda groups would have been “unable to compete.” Ford was recalled a year later, after being pelted by tomatoes and eggs, over concerns that his remaining in country might not be safe, but the damage had been done and normal diplomatic relations between Damascus and Washington have never been restored.

The desire to bring about regime change in Damascus gathered considerable steam in 2011. Harsh government efforts to repress the demonstrations that did take place inevitably led to violence in both directions and the United States, Saudis and the Gulf States subsequently began to arm the rebels and support the formation of the Free Syrian Army, which Washington assured the American public consisted of only good people who wanted democracy and fundamental rights. To no one’s surprise many of the fledgling democrats accepted U.S. training and weapons before defecting to the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front or to ISIS.

Currently, the reconstruction of Syria is proceeding. The Syrian Arab Army is wiping out the last few enclaves controlled by ISIS in Idlib Province and the so-called Syrian Civil War will soon be over but for the mopping up. Many internal refugees have returned to their homes after the government reasserted control and also thousands who fled overseas have reportedly come back. Note that they are returning to areas where the al-Assad government is firmly in charge, perhaps suggesting that, while there were legitimate grievances among the Syrian people, the propaganda insisting that most Syrians were opposed to the regime was grossly overstated. There is considerable evidence that Bashar al-Assad is actually supported by a large majority of the Syrian people, even among those who would welcome more democracy, because they know the alternative to him is chaos.

One would like to think that Syria might again be Syria but Washington is baying for blood and clearly would like to see a solution that involves a fragmentation of the state enabling containment and rollback of Iranian influence there while also satisfying both its clients Israel and the Saudis as well as creating a possible mini-state for the Kurds. The destruction of Syria and the Syrian people will just be regarded as collateral damage while building a new Middle East. Hopefully the Syrians, backed by Iran, Russia and China will prevent that from happening and as the U.S. did not directly engage in much of the hard fighting that destroyed ISIS, it thankfully has little leverage over what comes next.

Whether it is Riyadh or Tel Aviv leading Washington by the nose is somehow irrelevant as the blame for what is taking place is squarely on the White House. The United States has no coherent policy, nor any actual national interest in remaining in Syria, but the strange political alignments that appear to be playing out in and around the Oval Office have generated a desire to destroy a country and people that in no way threaten the U.S. Someone should remind the president that similar scenarios did not turn out very well in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. No one should expect that Syria will be any different.

January 23, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments