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A collection of essays on Russian-American relations 2015 – 2017 by one of the US’s top Russia experts

Review by Alexander Mercouris | The Duran | November 19, 2017

One of the most deeply frustrating things for anyone with any knowledge of Russia who has been following the Russiagate saga is the staggering ignorance of basic facts about Russia which is so prevalent amongst elites in the US.

What makes this especially frustrating is that there is actually no shortage of knowledgeable and erudite experts about Russia who could be called upon if any true desire for knowledge about Russia actually existed.

Of those one who who stands out is Gilbert Doctorow, who has been a professional Russia watcher since 1965.

Gilbert Doctorow has now offered us a new book – “Does the United States have a Future” – which brings together his splendid collection of essays about Russia and about Russian-American relations which he has been writing since 2015.

This is of course the same period when in the aftermath of the Ukrainian crisis and because of Russia’s intervention in Syria Russian-American relations entered upon their present catastrophic downward spiral, with the US rolling out successive sanctions against Russia, and deploying ever greater numbers of its troops ever closer to Russia’s border.

In this heavy atmosphere of heightened Russian-US tensions, and amidst a shrill media campaign, the Russian side of the story rarely gets told. What we get instead is an exaggerated focus on the largely misunderstood doings of one man – Vladimir Putin – who is not just routinely blamed for everything that goes wrong – be it Trump’s election, the Brexit vote, the 2015 European refugee crisis, the secessionist outbreak in Catalonia and the rise in Germany of the AfD – but who has become dangerously conflated with Russia itself.

The huge achievement of Gilbert Doctorow’s essays is that they put entirely behind them this disastrous paradigm.

For someone fixated on psychoanalysing Putin’s personality and on learning the gossip about the internal squabbles of the Kremlin this collection of essays has little to offer. Doctorow has as little patience for this sort of thing as do I. Suffice to say that one of the essays, which goes by the dismissive title “Kremlinology is alive and well in Russia”, turns out to be focused not on mythical Kremlin power struggles but on the impact on the people of St. Petersburg of a visit by Putin to their city.

For anyone interested in Putin what anyone reading these essays will get instead is detailed and erudite analyses of his speeches, of his massive and truly astonishing Q&A sessions, of his media interviews, and of the effect of all these doings on Russian public opinion and what they tell us about Russian policy.

Not by chance, the only reference to me in the whole collection is when Doctorow disagrees with me about an interview Putin gave to the German newspaper Bild-Zeitung. I gave the German interviewers high marks for their conduct of the interview. Doctorow politely expresses his incredulity.

Ultimately far more interesting to anyone genuinely interested in understanding the rapidly recovering Great Power which is Russia, and who wants to get a genuine grasp of the sort of things that move its people, are those essays which touch on topics other Western reporters of Russia tend to ignore.

Here Doctorow’s immense knowledge of Russia and of Russian history is essential, and it shines through every essay.

Thus we find masterful discussions of works about tsarist history by the historian Dominic Lieven, and an outstanding discussion – the best I have come across – of Henry Kissinger’s insights and  limitations as they concern Russia.  There is even a remarkable essay which takes Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina as a starting point to discuss war.

However the single thing which sets the essays which are specifically about Russia apart is the extraordinary rapport Gilbert Doctorow has with Russia’s ‘everyman’. Take a comment like this one from the very first page of the very first essay in the book, which is dated 30th May 2015. Against a background of a deepening recession Gilbert Doctorow tells us this

I say assuredly that the mood across the social spectrum of my “sources” is uniformly patriotic and uncomplaining. These sources range from the usually outspoken taxi drivers; through the traditionally critical journalists, academics, artists and other intelligentsia who are family friends going back many years, to former business contacts and other elites.

How many of those who report from Russia are able to speak to a wide range of contacts like this? How many of them pay heed to the opinions of Russia’s “usually outspoken taxi drivers”, reliable purveyors of the public mood though those people are? How many of those who report from Russia even know how to talk to such people? (confession here: I don’t).

Or take Gilbert Doctorow’s deeply moving account from 10th May 2016 of the March of the Immortal Regiment, held now every year on 9th May to commemorate Russia’s sacrifice in the Second World War. What other Western reporter of Russia has both the erudition and the common touch necessary to write a passage like this?

Given the manifestly patriotic nature of Victory in Europe Day celebrations, which open in Moscow and cities across Russia with military parades, precise marching columns, displays of military hardware on the ground and in the air, I was uncertain how possibly strident the Immortal Regiment component might be. As it turned out, the crowd was uniformly good humoured and focused on its private obligations to be met: the celebration of parents, grandparents, even great grandparents’ role in the war and reconfirmation of their status as family heroes whatever their military or civil defence rank, whether they survived or were among the countless fatalities.

Elsewhere Gilbert Doctorow is able to talk knowledgeably in two different essays about the state of the Russian shopping basket – a matter of fundamental importance to Russians and therefore given Russia’s power and importance to everyone – of Russian responses to the Trump-Clinton debate, of the Russian public’s response to one of Putin’s mammoth annual Q&A sessions, and of the steely response – utterly free of sentimentality and hysteria – of the people of St. Petersburg and of Russia generally to a terrorist attack on the city.

Of the essays specifically about Russia it is however what Doctorow writes about the Russian media which Western readers may find most surprising.

It is now generally conceded even in the West that Russia does have a public opinion, something which tended not to be admitted in Soviet times, though there still seems to be little genuine interest in finding out what it is.

The lazy assumption is anyway that in Russia public opinion is effectively manipulated by the government through its supposedly all-encompassing control of the news media.

Though it is sometimes grudgingly admitted that the print media does have some independent voices, and that the Russian media now has a degree of sophistication unknown in Soviet times, the prevailing opinion in the West is that it remains every bit as propagandistic and mendacious as it was in Soviet times. The classic statement of this view is Peter Pomorantsev’s “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: Adventures in Modern Russia”.

Doctorow’s essays are an important corrective to this bleak and distorted picture.

Doctorow does not sugarcoat the reality. He concedes that the television media has a bias favouring the Kremlin and that ‘non-system’ politicians whose parties are not represented in the Duma like Kasyanov and Navalny have difficulty gaining access to it.

I would say in passing that Russia’s television media is not exceptional in this. In my opinion Russian television today is much less controlled by the government than was French television during Charles De Gaulle’s and Georges Pompidou’s time in France, when I was in Paris as a child.

In any event, as a regular participant in Russia’s extraordinarily extended and elaborate political talk-shows – a vital and massively popular information tool for the Russian population – Doctorow shows that the common Western view that Russian television viewers get no exposure to the Western view-point and hear only the Kremlin’s view is simply wrong. Here is one passage where Doctorow describes them

The regulars of these talk shows are a mix of Russians and foreigners, pro-Kremlin and anti-Kremlin voices. There inevitably is at least one American who can be counted on to purvey the Washington Narrative. A reliable regular in this category has been Michael Bohm, who was for a long-time op-ed manager at The Moscow Times and now is said to be teaching journalism in Moscow….

From among Russians, the talk show hosts bring in one or more representative of opposition parties. On the 11th it happened to be a personality from the Yabloko Party (Liberals). But at other times there will be the leader of the Communist Party, Gennady Zyuganov, the founder of the right nationalist LDPR, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, or the leader of the social democratic party, Just Russia, Sergei Mironov. They all get their time on air in these shows.

Elsewhere Doctorow gives vivid accounts of these sprawling and at times chaotic talk shows, which have no precise analogue anywhere else that I know of.

Doctorow’s book, as its title shows, is not only about Russia. Rather it is about the collapse of any sort of dialogue based on mutual respect and understanding between the US and Russia.

In essay after essay Doctorow pinpoints the cause: at a time when the Russian mind is becoming increasingly open, the American mind is becoming increasingly closed.

The title of the book – “Does the United States have a future?” – is in fact an intentional exercise in reverse imaging.

At its simplest it refers back to Doctorow’s previous book: “Does Russia have a future?” published in 2015.

However the title of both books must also be seen as a comment on the ‘disaster literature’ about Russia which has become so prevalent in the West, and which continues unabated to this day even as it is repeatedly proved wrong.

Basically what Doctorow is saying is that it is in the US not Russia that the suppression of debate and independent voices is putting the future in jeopardy.

It is in these essays that look at the situation in the US where Doctorow dissects the evolution or rather regression of US policy towards an increasingly strident Russophobia, and where one senses Doctorow’s growing exasperation and alarm.

Take for example what Doctorow has to say about one of the most outspoken Americans calling for ever more confrontation with Russia: NATO’s former military chief General Breedlove

Most everything is wrong with what Breedlove tells us in his article. It is a perfect illustration of the consequences of the monopoly control of our media and both Houses of Congress by the ideologists of the Neoconservative and Liberal Interventionist school: we see a stunning lack of rigour in argumentation in Breedlove’s article coming from the absence of debate and his talking only to yes men.

Perhaps the biggest mistakes are conceptual: urging military means to resolve what are fundamentally political issues over the proper place of Russia in the European and global security architecture.  Whereas for Clausewitz war was ‘a continuation of politics by other means’, for Breedlove politics, or diplomacy, do not exist, only war.

The alarm in the last paragraph finds still greater emphasis in the essay which immediately precedes it. This has the ominous title “The Nuclear Clock is at Two Minutes to Midnight”.

It is however in the closing of the American mind where Doctorow pinpoints the danger

My point is not to ridicule the very earnest and well-intentioned anti-war campaigners whose ranks I joined that day. It is to demonstrate how and why the highly tendentious reporting of what we are doing in the world and what others are doing to us, combined with the selective news blackouts altogether by major media has left even activists unaware of real threats to peace and to our very survival that American foreign policy has created over the past 20 years and is projected to create into the indefinite future if the public does not awaken from its slumber and demand to be informed by experts of countervailing views. We are living through a situation unparalleled in our history as a nation where the issues of war and peace are not being debated in public.

Along with the alarm and frustration there is also very real disappointment.

Like most people who lived through the later stages of the Cold War Doctorow remembers a world where the US’s European allies acted as a force of restraint on the US.

Based now in Brussels at the very epicentre of the European Union Doctorow is shocked at the extent to which this is no longer the case, and at the degree to which the same attitudes of hubris, belligerence and hysteria which have gained such a hold in the US have now also managed to gain a hold in Europe.

Like many others Doctorow is totally unimpressed by the current crop of European politicians, and as someone able to remember the likes of Charles De Gaulle and Helmut Schmidt Doctorow does not balk from expressing his scorn in withering terms. A good example is to be found in the title of one of his essays: “News flash: Europe is brain dead and on the drip”.

It is in his discussions of Europe that Doctorow allows himself his brief flashes of anger. Take these comments he makes about Elmar Brok, the truly dreadful chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs

I remember with a shudder an exchange I had with Elmar Brok on 5 March 2015 on The Network, a debate program of Euronews. Brok, a German, is the chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs. He comes from Angela Merkel’s CDU party and within the Parliament is in the European People’s Party bloc, on the center right, the bloc which really calls the shots in the EP.

Brok is big, brash and does not hesitate to throw his weight around, especially when talking with someone outside the Establishment whom he has no reason to fear. We were discussing the shooting of Boris Nemtsov, which occurred just days before. Brok insisted the murder was the responsibility of Vladimir Putin. Not that Putin pulled the trigger, but he created the atmosphere where such things could happen, etc., etc. One way or another the talk shifted to the allegedly autocratic nature of the Putin ‘regime,’ with its crackdown on freedoms, and in particular ever tightening control of media.

At that point, I objected that the Russia media were very diverse editorially, with many different points of view expressed freely. Brok shot back that this was patently untrue, and he did not hesitate to cross all red lines and indulge in libel on air by asking how much the Kremlin paid me to say that.

Apart from the obvious truth that an authoritarian like MEP Brok would not know freedom of speech if he tripped on it, I think back to that exchange every week whenever I turn on Russian state television and watch one or another of the main political talk shows.

Doctorow’s strongest feelings of disappointment however remain firmly focused on the US.

Doctorow’s essays show that like many people he entertained very cautiously worded hopes about Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton after all was the self-styled ‘war candidate’ and the preferred choice of the Neocons, whilst Trump at least spoke of the need for better relations with Russia.

Not for nothing is one of Doctorow’s essays entitled “War or Peace: the essential question before American voters on November 8th”.

Doctorow’s hopes were never very high and like many others he was appalled by the conduct of the 2016 election, which he calls disgraceful. His essays which follow Trump’s election victory show the speed of his disillusionment. Not only has Trump proved completely incapable of fulfilling any of Doctorow’s hopes; he seems to have no idea of how to conduct foreign relations, and is rapidly reverting to the aggressive belligerence which is now the default position of all US Presidents.

In the meantime his election has heightened partisan tensions within the US to unheard of levels.

In his final chapter, which has the same title – “Does the United States have a future?” – as the whole book, Doctorow sets out the consequences.

A US which twenty years ago bestrode the world is now incapable of governing itself, whilst its increasingly reckless conduct is spreading conflict and alarm around the world.

Not only has trust in “American leadership” as a result all but collapsed but the two other Great Powers – Russia and China – have been completely alienated, and are busy forging an alliance whose combined resources will soon dwarf those of the US.

About all that the US however remains in denial, as it is about the world crisis its actions are generating. In a political system where all dissenting opinions are excluded it cannot by definition be otherwise. Thus the US looks set to continue on its present ruinous course, with no ability to change direction

…. a still greater threat to our democracy and to the sustainability of our great power status has come from the inverse phenomenon, namely the truly bipartisan management of foreign policy in Congress. The Republican and Democratic Party leaderships have maintained strict discipline in promotion of what are Neoconservative and Liberal Interventionist positions on every issue placed before Congress. Committees on security and foreign affairs invite to testify before them only those experts who can be counted upon to support the official Washington narrative. Debate on the floor of the houses is nonexistent. And the votes are so lopsided as to be shocking, none more so than the votes in August on the “Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act”….

It would be comforting if the problems of our political culture began and ended with the elites operating in Washington DC. However that is patently not the case. The problem exists across the country in the form of a stifling conformism, or groupthink that is destroying the open marketplace for ideas essential for any vital democracy.

I recognise the accuracy of this picture and am prey to no illusion. However in my opinion it is still too early to give up hope.

Trump’s victory, if it shows nothing else, shows that there is more resistance to the ‘groupthink’ in the US than Doctorow in these passages perhaps allows. What is the Russiagate hysteria after all if not the expression of a collective nervous breakdown on the part of the US elite at the discovery that the American people as a whole do not share their obsessions?

A state of hysteria of the sort we are going through now cannot be sustained indefinitely. Eventually a reaction will set in, at which point those at the forefront in spreading the hysteria will be exposed as the charlatans that they are, whilst many of those they fooled will feel ashamed.

When that point comes it is good to know from this outstanding collection of essays that there are still genuine experts available that the US can call upon to guide its policies like Gilbert Doctorow.

March 24, 2018 Posted by | Book Review, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

“Why 55 U.S. Senators Voted for Genocide in Yemen”

By Michael S. Rozeff | | March 24, 2108

That’s the headline of a blog. It’s a good question. There are six factors involved: Iran, sales of arms, Israel, the CIA, indifferent cruelty, and the system of empire. These are all bad reasons that shouldn’t persuade right-thinking and honorable U.S. senators, but votes for genocide do not come from right-thinking and honorable senators.

Iran. The idea is that Saudi Arabia is thwarting Iran in Yemen. The evidence for this is very, very thin, but even if the Saudis want to thwart Iran somehow in Yemen, that doesn’t justify either a war initiated by Saudi Arabia, a war of the type and scale being waged by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, and a U.S. presence in that war.

Sales of arms. Huge sales to the Saudis are being made by U.S. companies who influence senators.

Israel. Israel is anti-Iran and in league with Saudi Arabia. Senators are influenced by the Israel lobby.

Notice that in none of these factors or those to follow does the American public play a part. The Senate is only remotely under the control of Americans on this issue, and why would it be? Americans are little affected by what their government does in Yemen, and the U.S. role is kept quite hidden. The visible and well-heeled Israel lobby is more influential than the invisible “pro-American public” lobby.

The CIA. The CIA operates an anti-al Qaeda operation inside Yemen. The war has allowed al-Qaeda to expand. This justifies an expanded CIA presence there. This benefits the CIA.

Indifferent cruelty. The lives of Yemenis count for little to those who vote for genocide. This is a characteristic of fallen man that is sometimes ameliorated by moral teachings and the threat of punishments or worse blowback, but only now and then. The institutional customs and mechanisms to control this trait are not strong enough to stop genocides.

The system of empire. Habitual cruelty is a feature of the U.S. empire. Empires enforce “order”, actually control and dominance, over broad domains that they seek to extend. They use killing to accomplish their expansion in most cases. Their victims are not counted as costs.

March 24, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

What I Saw As an Official Observer to the Russian Elections

By Gilbert Doctorow | Russia – Insider | March 23, 2018

In this piece, I will share impressions from my mission as an international observer to the Russian presidential election. The event was of historic importance given Russia’s rising standing in the world under the leadership of its front-runner candidate in the election, Vladimir Putin, and it has been covered widely in world media.

What will set this account apart from the rest is firstly the focus on one location, the Crimea, which I visited as monitor within a varied delegation of 43. The Crimea, for its part, had unusually high importance to the Russians and to the world at large, because the election there was rightly viewed as a second referendum on the reunification of Crimea with Russia in 2014, and that reunification or annexation, depending on your point of view, underlies much of the acrimonious confrontation today between Russia and the US-led “international community.”

The author interviewed by RT on election day.

A little remarked fact underscores my argument for the key importance of the Crimean vote: the precise date selected to hold the presidential election across the Russian Federation, 18 March. That is the anniversary of the formal unification, the culmination of the Crimean Spring of 2014, which followed by several days the original referendum approving unification. It will be recalled that the validity of that first referendum has been denied by Russia’s Western detractors, who insist the result was forced by the presence of Russian troops in the streets and an atmosphere of intimidation coming from pro- and anti-Russian demonstrations. The vote in 2018 has taken place in a totally calm situation, which removes all possibility of reservations about validity unless violations at polling stations could be identified.  At a minimum, the task of a monitoring group such as mine should have been to watch that issue very closely. How that functioned in practice, what I/we actually saw and did will make up the first part of this essay.

The entire force of international observers who spread out across Russia was quite heterogeneous and I will spend some time in the second half of this essay describing us: who we are, why we and not others were present in Russia for election monitoring work.  In this second half, I will also discuss something highly important that other commentators have avoided entirely: the fact that the elections come within the context of an intense political, economic and information war between Russia and the West that has in the past couple of years reached the level of the worst days of the Cold War. Consequently, once we look past the technical aspects of the vote, where there is, among serious professionals, a consensus that these elections were well administered and transparent, we find ourselves back in the midst of tendentious interpretation by both sides to the issue,  if not outright propaganda.  I will not dodge this question, and I do not expect to receive bouquets from anyone.  The task before us will be very simple: to try as best I can to give details about the circumstances of the balloting so that the reader can arrive at an independent conclusion. Without naming names, I will produce my evidence from personal experience on the ground that is missing from media accounts till now given their broad brush approach.

What we saw

The bare facts are that  voter turn-out in Crimea was similar to turn-out in Russia at large, coming to about 67% while ballots for Putin exceeded by far the Russian average:  about 92% for Putin versus the national average of approximately 77% for Putin.

What I am about to say to flesh out these bare bones comes from our group visits to 10 polling stations over the course of as many hours. The first two were in the city of Yalta. The next two were in small villages situated along the main highway running from Yalta north and west to the provincial capital of Simferopol. And the last six were in the city limits of Simferopol. The distance we covered was 80 kilometers. Given the poor state of repair of even roads of regional importance in Crimea, the time in transit, had we not stopped along the way, would have been nearly two hours.

Our group of about 20 traveling together was split between two mini-buses, one predominantly French speaking and the other predominantly German and English speaking. Each bus had local chaperones who, together with those of us monitors fluent in Russian could assist our linguistically handicapped colleagues.

Except for the very last polling station which was close to where we had lunch and was chosen spontaneously by our group without objection from our chaperones, all the polling places had been selected by our hosts in advance, which obviously is not the random selection you would like ideally to have in such an exercise. In several stations we were met by television film crews who were expecting us.

However, we were let loose in the polling stations and could speak directly not only with the senior administrator but also with voters, with the volunteers manning the registration desks, with the monitors from the local social chambers and representatives of the candidates, if any happened to be where we were, given that they moved around all day. That is to say we had every opportunity to hear complaints, to remark any peculiar goings-on, such as organized groups of voters showing up together. There were none. We heard of no scandals, and we saw no demonstrations or protesters of any kind around the polling stations. Instead what we witnessed was an intermittent flow of voters arriving, being processed efficiently, casting their ballots and departing.

In this connection, I want to stress that our group seemed to take its responsibilities rather seriously.  To be sure, when we started out in the morning we descended on our first polling booths like a group of aliens – everyone attached to their mobile gadgets and texting, arranging travel on line for their next destinations and not paying much attention to where we were. However, that phase passed quickly and my colleagues took an interest in the here and now throughout the rest of our rather long work day. We had the usual group photos outside a number of polling stations taken not only for official record but using our own mobile phones to create personal souvenirs. And we gave interviews to the waiting television crews, though that was only a minor diversion.

The polling stations we visited were for the most part secondary schools. Some were in buildings of the local civil administration. All were serviceable and well prepared to receive the public.  Many of the buildings had several stairs at their entrances. Among them some had permanent ramps, as is becoming very widespread in Russia to accommodate those in wheelchairs, parents pushing baby carriages and the elderly or infirm. Where no permanent ramp existed, temporary wooden ramps were installed, obviously at considerable expense and effort in what are otherwise quite poor districts. The Crimea obviously received no infrastructure investments during the 23 years when it was ruled by post-independence Ukraine, and is simply a poor region, however promising its future development may be.

This effort to facilitate voting also had another dimension, what I will call ambulatory ballot collection. Each station had a small sealed plexiglass ballot box which was taken out by volunteers on visits to voters who were too frail or too ill to come down to the polling station. The numbers of such voters were not big, something like 50 or 60 out of polling districts numbering between 1800 and 2500 registered voters. But the symbolic message was clear: that each citizen, each vote counts.

A special welcome was being offered at all polling stations to young people, specifically to those who had just turned 18 and were voting for the first time. They were each given a paper diploma issued by the city elders. Again, the numbers of such cases were tiny, running from 5 to 10 in the districts we visited, but the welcoming hand was visible.

I have mentioned measures taken by local volunteers to raise voter participation. The biggest effort to ensure eligible voters registered and easily found a voting station convenient to them was done at the federal level via the internet resources of the Central Election Committee using online registration and sms communications. In this regard, the Crimea was no different from any other region of the Russian Federation.

The single biggest impression from visiting polling stations was their sophisticated equipment to guaranty transparency, to empower the broad public to do citizen monitoring over the internet and to efficiently record the votes.

One of the first things we would see on entering the polling stations was the row of voting booths, with simple standardized assemble-disassemble frames and light cloth draw curtains for privacy.  That was the only holdover from the simple past. Each polling station now had two sets of “eyes”: CCTV cameras positioned to oversee the voter registration tables and the ballot boxes. These cameras fed live images to the internet and could be viewed by anyone in Russia online. Still more important for guarantying fair elections were the new electronic ballot boxes that were installed in about half the polling stations we visited, the rest being manual count boxes. The automated ballot boxes are autonomous, meaning they are not connected to the web and so are not subject to hacking. They are topped in effect by self-feeding scanners which automatically record each vote. Unlike purely electronic systems, the new Russian boxes receive and store paper ballots, meaning that if any dispute over the automated count arises, a manual count can always be done later.

A peek into some of the plexiglass ballot boxes on our visits showed up only check marks next to Putin’s name. That was about the only indication, wholly unscientific to be sure, of how sentiment was running.

Otherwise the polling stations were notable for being inviting to the public through their engagement of DJs operating simple loudspeakers blaring pop music at the entrances. One of the tunes that came up in various places was telling: “Crimea and Russia Together Forever!” One polling station had costumed teenage entertainers out in front of the building to amuse and babysit smaller kids while their parents were voting. At another polling station, girls and boys aged 8 – 10 wearing military cadet uniforms greeted each arriving voter and sent off the departing voters with a hearty “goodbye.” In that same station, retro patriotism also came up in another form, which possibly was spontaneous, possibly organized in advance: an eight year old girl reciting quite loudly and with good histrionic training a patriotic poem with the repeated refrain “Russia is Rising!”

Voting day ended in Simferopol on a pronounced patriotic note. There was a free pop concert in the main city square which drew a good-natured crowd of several thousand of all ages and ended in a magnificent fireworks display. During the 10 minutes or so of the fireworks, the orchestra and showmen sang the Russian national anthem, which was lustily supported by the entire audience.

To anyone with a recollection of the Soviet Union, all of this collective jollity and distinctly Russian pop music, which was always rather tame, seems all too familiar. However, it was well-intentioned, and it may be that a substantial part of what was promoted as Soviet models and tradition was always just a variation on Russian national culture.

Our work day ended in a municipal administration building of Simferopol where we held a press conference. Five of us with the best command of Russian, myself included, were assigned places on the dais. There were only a handful of journalists in the room, but questions were pitched to us by a moderator and the proceedings were broadcast live by several television crews. This was in lieu of a group report.

*   *  *   *

International Election Observers: who were we?

Russia’s Central Election Commission reportedly issued accreditation to 1,500 international observers whose nominations were put forward by a variety of sponsors, including Russian NGOs, the State Duma and international organizations. Some monitoring was done by diplomats from foreign embassies who requested accreditation, allowing them to visit polling stations and gather information. These monitors would later report only to their respective governments.

I was invited to Russia by a Moscow-based NGO called the Russian Peace Foundation, which entrusted administration of its allotment to a Warsaw based NGO called the European Council for Democracy and Human Rights. The original intention was to invite and accredit 150 individuals from all over the world.  In the end, only about 80 monitors arrived in Moscow via this channel, myself included. On the ground, in our Moscow hotel, I saw about half this number, and I never learned where the others may have been lodged. Out of that number only a couple of us were sent to Crimea, where we joined accredited monitors from other pools. We never discussed among ourselves who came from which sponsor group.

In the Crimea-bound contingent, I was the only American, and, one of the handful of fluent Russian speakers. This put me under the spotlight but also heightened my ability to engage the local electoral officials and voters.

The monitors with whom I came into contact, both in my own pool from the Peace Foundation with whom I associated in Moscow and coming from other pools with whom I associated in the small contingent sent to Crimea were all of mixed backgrounds.  Some were academics with think tank affiliation, or professional political analysts like myself. Some were elected legislators in their home countries or members of the European Parliament.

The politics of the elected deputies appeared to be mainly from what is called “far Right.” Specifically, I met with a Bundestag deputy from the Alternativ fuer Deutschland, with a French MEP formerly in the Front National and now in a group cooperating with Brexit campaigner and EU skeptic Nigel Farage. There were also a couple of Italian deputies from the Veneto Region said to be members of the Northern League. Though I did not meet with him on the mission, I was aware of the presence in Moscow of one observer coming from the “far Left” party Die Linke. Centrist parties seemed to be absent.  Within the contingent sent to Crimea there were also several who fit none of the descriptions above. I have in mind the representative of the President of Pakistan and the representative of the President of Malaysia.

The politic al convictions of those monitors with whom I spent some time could be characterized as ranging from mildly to extremely pro-Russian. Those who were in the latter category constituted perhaps 10% of the total. From our table talk over lunch, I understood that the several very pro-Russian monitors had a latent conflict of interest :  they each made some of their professional income in Russia, or, as was the case with one of the Italians, they are developing businesses in Crimea with local partners. From among this sub-group, two were particularly fluent in Russian and presented their propagandistic observations to the local journalists with whom we met in the polling stations and at the press conference. This is how one Crimean newspaper received the choice quotation which it duly published: that “today Crimea is the most democratic place in the world.” An over-the-top assessment that is frankly embarrassing to read.

I would call this case a distortion of the observer mission that was preconditioned by the general background of political, informational and economic warfare being waged between the West and Russia for the past several years. To my knowledge, the Russian Duma had extended invitations to all Members of the European Parliament, but the major centrist parties there opposed sending any representatives to observe elections which they knew in advance would be a sham because of their own ideological anti-Putin prejudices. Thus, who actually came and took part in the monitoring was the result of a self-sorting process. The MEPs and parliamentarians from national legislatures who came did so in the face of moral pressure from the majority of their peers, and they received strict prohibitions in particular against going to Crimea. I saw how one of the French MEPs initially in our Crimea contingent backed out at the very last minute and remained in Moscow to avoid scandals back home.

Propaganda and information warfare on all sides

The fierce political winds in the West against Putin, against Russia directed mainstream US and European media reports on the Russian election campaign for weeks in advance of the vote. The media denounced the process as fake because of the near certainty of the outcome, the re-election of Vladimir Putin. This mind-set even exerted a discernable influence on the most authoritative foreign observation body to come to the elections, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The OSCE contingent was the single largest group of international election observers, receiving 580 accreditations. Within that overall number there was a core group of 60 who were deployed in Russia six weeks before the elections. They met with local election boards, candidates’ representatives and others to build an information base on the elections. Then there were 420 additional short-term observers sent by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. And about 100 accreditations for the election-day mission were issued to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, who were nearly all European MPs in their respective countries.

I wish to stress that the OSCE did not send any election observers to the Crimea. In a statement issued by the United States Mission to the OSCE on 22 March, the reasons that evidently also guided the OSCE in its entirety are set out with the crystal clarity of a Cold War blast denouncing Russia’s “invasion and occupation of Crimea,” its staging of “illegitimate elections… [with] frequent and severe abuses, specifically targeting the Crimean Tatar community and others opposed to Russia’s occupation.” Russia is charged with coercing Ukrainian citizens in Crimea to vote in illegitimate elections. The 18 March elections are, per the US Mission, “another attempt by Russia to give its purported annexation of Crimea a semblance of legitimacy.”

Without further ado, I condemn this official US statement as an ignorant, willfully blind rejection of the realities on the ground in Crimea that I and other members of our monitoring team unreservedly established.

As for the OSCE monitoring mission to the rest of the Russian Federation, the various constituent groups mentioned above issued two pages of Press Releases on their findings at a press conference held in downtown Moscow the day after the elections. Given the institution’s credibility, that report has received a good deal of attention in global media.

The general conclusions were summarized at the top of the Releases:

“Russian presidential election well administered, but characterized by restrictions on fundamental freedoms, lack of genuine competition, international observers say.”

On the one hand, the OSCE report gave the Russians, and in particular the Central Election Commission, high marks for the professional administration of the elections as witnessed by their teams in the field on election-day. In particular, the press handout mentions as welcome the accuracy of voter lists and the legal changes that enabled voting in polling stations away from the permanent place of residence, a facility which was used by 5.6 million Russians. Tabulation was also assessed positively.

These bland-sounding compliments have to be put in an historical context to be fully savored.

The background is the 2011 Duma elections which were shown by Russian activists at the time to have been fraudulent due to ballot box stuffing, “carousel voting,” i.e. multiple voting and the shepherding of company employees and civil servants to the polling stations by their superiors. Incidents were reported of voter turnout in some districts exceeding 100% of registered voters. These outrages sparked mass street demonstrations that were fanned by encouragement from Western governments and media at the time. The Kremlin took note and instituted several procedural reforms and widespread implementation of CCTV cameras already the next year for the presidential election, which passed without incident and prepared the way for the extensive measures supporting transparency and fair voting that we saw on 18 March 2018. The government also took measures to protect itself and society from the would-be actors of regime change though mass demonstrations:  the rules on foreign-sponsored pro-democracy NGOs were tightened, as were rules on public assembly.

On the other hand, the OSCE Press Releases go far beyond the voting mechanisms, far beyond the specifics of this electoral campaign to challenge the entire Russian political culture.

“Elections are a critical part of democracy, but democracy is not only about elections. …. [I]mproving the real state of democracy in Russia requires full respect for people’s rights between elections as well,” Marietta Tidei, head of the delegation from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly” is quoted as saying on page one of the handout.

The OSCE spokespersons direct attention in particular to limitations on rights of assembly, on free speech in Russia and to media control by the state, with unequal allocation of air time going to the president that short-changed his challengers

Perhaps the most condemnatory remarks in the OSCE Press Release relate to registration of candidates for the presidential race.

“After intense efforts to promote turnout, citizens voted in significant numbers, yet restrictions on the fundamental freedoms, as well as on candidate registration, have limited the space for political engagement and resulted in a lack of genuine competition…”

This was a thinly veiled reference to the rejection of the candidacy application of the famous blogger and corruption-fighter Alexei Navalny, who from the beginning to end was held up in Western media as the only real opponent to Vladimir Putin. This characterization of who was real opposition and who was a “Kremlin project” was itself a highly politicized issue that outside observers would have done better to side-step entirely.

There are several serious problems with the overarching negative analysis by the OSCE, which slotted very nicely into the predisposition of the Western media to trash the Russian elections. Whether by intent or by ignorance, the OSCE authors of the critique of the electoral campaign circumstances acted as the mouthpieces of the opposition candidates, most particularly the Liberal party candidates among whom Ksenia Sobchak was the most visible and vocal. They did not give any thought to counterarguments, which I will present here.

First, there is the issue of applying double standards and expecting the ideal of fair competition for all candidates to the nation’s highest office, when that standard is very rarely if ever met in the West itself. I would name little, neutral Switzerland as one country with credible  civic freedoms, campaign and voting procedures. I was about to name here Finland, another small and relatively homogeneous country which always gets high marks on democratic institutions, but then I recalled that a couple of years ago there was a great scandal over abuse of the newly introduced remote voting facility via the internet. That noisy scandal ended in one parliamentary deputy, a party leader and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, being stripped of her mandate for violations.  So there can be problems even in Eden.

Then, at the risk of being accused of “what-aboutism,” I am obliged to mention an egregious and relatively recent case of  suppression of mass opposition movements in the United States. I have in mind the case of Occupy Wall Street, which broke out in the midst of the Crash of 2008 and was on the point of achieving political traction when it was brutally crushed by police and court actions that blatantly violated constitutional protection of freedom of assembly and speech. No one has ever paid a price for those  abridgements of civil liberties which are still enshrined in law and regulations at the local level.

Let me now address the question of Vladimir Putin’s dominance in air time coming from his status and activities as president, not as candidate or debater, which he did not use at all. The OSCE observers  ignore that Putin has this dominance 365 days on 365 because he is one of the most widely traveled, most consequential heads of state in the world against whom most any human being in opposition would have a very difficult time. This is precisely why he had the support of 80% of the population in polls held repeatedly in the year leading to the elections.

His popularity after 18 years in power is explained not only by being hyper active but by being hyper-productive for the vast majority of the population. In that time in office national GDP multiplied several times and take home pay of the broad population rose 10 times. Under Putin the poverty rate was cut in half. And in the past 4 years his government restored the nation’s self-confidence over its place as a global leader thanks to the bloodless takeover of the Crimea in March 2014 through perfectly executed psychological warfare in which 20,000 Russian troops from the Sevastopol naval base overcame an equal number of Ukrainian forces on the peninsula with hardly a shot fired and no fatalities. Then came the successful air war against the Islamic State in Syria from 2015 to 2017 that also had negligible cost in Russian military personnel. And finally in the midst of the election, on 1 March President Putin unveiled Russia’s new, state of the art strategic weapons systems which he claimed restored the country’s nuclear parity with the United States. All of these achievements would leave any opposition candidates, however clever, tongue-tied.

Finally, no criticism of restrictions on freedom of assembly or speech can be made in the abstract. They were introduced by the Kremlin in the context of the political war on the country being conducted by the West with especial intensity since the 2014 reunification with/annexation of Crimea. It is indecent to fault the Russians for imperfect democratic institutions when the result of outside pressure has always been to rally the broad public around its leader and to make life very difficult for any opposition.

For anyone with a few gray hairs and recollection of Soviet days going back to the 1960s, the present situation in Russia and the criticism of authoritarianism brings to mind the issues that surrounded the introduction of the détente policy:  hard pressure on the Soviet Union under Leonid Brezhnev was known to result in crackdowns on dissent and the rise in the numbers of political prisoners.

Today’s Russia is a far more humane society than the old Soviet Union, but it is a disservice to opponents of United Russia and Vladimir Putin to impose personal and sectoral sanctions as the US-led West has done since 2012, when it introduced the Magnitsky List or accelerated from 2014 to present under the pretext of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. What is surprising is that the country has virtually no political prisoners (Ksenia Sobchak could list only 16 dubious cases when she and other candidates met with Putin in the Kremlin on 19 March). During the campaign the candidates were able to express the most outrageous attacks  on the government and its policies using false accusations, on live national television without any hint of retribution.

Why was the Russian political landscape devoid of serious challengers? The achievements of the incumbent are only part of the story. Another big factor has been the “vertical of control” that Vladimir Putin implemented at the start of his rule 18 years ago to reestablish state power in the face of disintegration and chaos, in the face of local satrapies run by thieves bearing the title of oligarchs. Without broad reinstatement of self-rule at the regional level through direct election of mayors and governors, there is scant possibility of experienced candidates enjoying popular backing rising to challenge a president. There will be more of the same top-down “parties” and rootless power seekers who ran against Putin in 2018.  This question of preparing for democratic succession is the single biggest challenge facing Vladimir Putin in his fourth and last mandate.

My conclusion is that in the discussion about the Russian elections of 18 March everybody is using everybody else to score propaganda points. Nonetheless, even in this reality the monitoring missions served the worthy purpose of keeping the local Russian officials on their toes and encouraging transparency, in the Crimea and surely everywhere else. That is a very good thing in itself.

And I end this report with one more encouraging sign that I heard at our press conference in Simferopol that capped our election monitoring mission. We on the dais were interrupted for a short announcement by the head of the Simferopol government who gave tabulation of voter turnout as of 18.00 o’clock. He ended his recitation with this statement to the audience: “these elections are by and for us, Russians, not for anyone else.”   Now that  is a tremendous leap forward in Russian self-awareness and national pride. They have stopped looking abroad for validation. They have grown up…

For a brief overview of my findings as election observer in Crimea, see my 19 March interview with RT on Red Square.

Gilbert Doctorow is an independent political analyst based in Brussels. His latest book, Does the United States Have a Future? was published on 12 October 2017.

March 24, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Video | , , | 1 Comment

Dems Kept Cheerleading Bush-Era Neocons; Now There’s One In The White House

By Caitlin Johnstone | Rogue Journalist |  March 24, 2108

Dems are criticizing Trump’s National Security Advisor pick, not because he’s a warmonger who was one of the original members of the Project for a New American Century, but because he’s allegedly too soft on Russia, Caitlin Johnstone explains.

As so many of us have been dreading, PNAC’s favorite bloodthirsty child killer John Bolton has been added to the Trump administration. And as many half-jokingly predicted, Democrats seized on this opportunity to accuse Bolton of being a Kremlin agent.

That’s right, John Bolton, the guy who has been trying to start a war with Russia since long before the name Vladimir Putin meant anything to the average Democrat, is being accused of colluding with Russia. Count on Democrats to oppose the most virulent neocon in Washington by accusing him of not being hawkish enough.

“John Bolton once suggested Russian hack of DNC may have been a false flag operation by Obama Admin,” fretted lead Democratic Russiagater Adam Schiff, mistaking brazen partisan hackery for actual skepticism about a likely intelligence community false flag.

“Don’t forget the reason for H.R. McMaster’s departure: He criticized Russia,” added Democratic Coalition co-founder Scott Dworkin. “McMaster said publicly that Russia needed to face serious consequences for what they’ve done in Syria & for the gas attack in the UK. John Bolton would never say anything like that.”

“Trump has outdone himself by selecting Bolton,” Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch tweeted with a link to a story about Bolton having appeared in a 2013 video for a Russian gun rights group. “In one appointment, he simultaneously increased the influence of the NRA in his Admin. & found another way to tie himself to Russia. Does he still claim he hires the best people? #TrumpRussia.”

“Bolton is *pre-indictment* for many crimes against America,” tweeted renowned professional intelligence LARPer Eric Garland.

Was he referring to Bolton’s unforgivable war crimes? Of course not.

“He’s owned by Russia,” Garland explained.

There are of course many, many, many extremely legitimate reasons to criticize John Bolton, and none of them involve being too soft on Russia. Not only is he a PNAC signatory who played a major role in manufacturing the lies that led to the Iraq invasion, but he still insists that that invasion was a great idea. He’s advocated for escalations and acts of military violence against every single government that is in any way oppositional to U.S. hegemony including VenezuelaIranNorth KoreaSyriaRussia and China, and account after account of his personal behavior toward people he’s worked with indicate that he is in all likelihood an actual, literal psychopath.

But Democratic opposition to Bolton, even when it doesn’t get sucked up into idiotic Russia conspiracy theory, appears to be receiving a relatively lukewarm response from mainstream America. It certainly isn’t attracting the urgent attention it should be, and certainly isn’t eliciting the level of viral interest as a new “bombshell” Russiagate revelation. And why should it? Propagandists have been pacing rank-and-file Democrats into embracing Iraq-raping Bush-era neocons for more than a year now.

In addition to Democrats being forced to spend 2016 gaslighting themselves into believing that a warmongering neocon who supported the Iraq war would make a great First Female President, they have also been manipulated by the cult of blind anti-Trumpism into accepting neoconservative death worshippers like Bill Kristol, David Frum and Max Boot into their #Resistance fold.

“One of the most amazing outcomes of the Trump administration is the number of neo-conservatives that are now my friends and I am aligned with,” MSNBC pundit Joy Reid openly admitted in an interview last year. “I found myself agreeing on a panel with Bill Kristol. I agree more with Jennifer Rubin, David Frum, and Max Boot than I do with some people on the far left. I am shocked at the way that Donald Trump has brought people together.”

Just as Bolton has cozied up to the Trump crowd by disguising his brazen neoconservative globalism as libertarian-leaning nationalism, neocons like Frum, Boot and Kristol who helped decimate Iraq have been cozying up to mainstream Democrats by posing as woke progressives, and now they’re in like Flynn. Dems had to stretch and compartmentalize their thinking to accommodate the other Bush-era neocons, and even Bush himself to a large extent, so why would a few experts saying “Uh seriously this Bolton guy is deeply terrifying” have any influence over them? They already had to gaslight themselves into believing the bloodshed caused by neoconservatism is fine.

So the American mainstream has been successfully manipulated on both sides of the artificial political divide into supporting vestigial Bush neocons, with #TheResistance proudly retweeting depraved death cultists like Bill Kristol while a majority of the #MAGA crowd support Trump’s elevation of Bolton, and now there’s no one left but us homeless nonpartisans to point and scream about where this all seems to be headed.

Partisan hack Trump supporters are worthless. Partisan hack Democrats are equally worthless. Only those who have awakened from the relentless barrage of mass media psy-ops and seen beyond the fake uni-party trap can see what’s going on. It’s up to us to awaken everyone else.

March 24, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

UN rights body adopts 5 anti-Israel resolutions, urges arms embargo

Press TV – March 24, 2018

In a major diplomatic blow to Israel, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) has adopted five resolutions against Tel Aviv, urging an international ban on arms sales to the regime over its atrocities in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The resolutions were adopted Friday at the end of the UNHCR’s 37th session, which lasted for a month in Geneva, slamming the Israeli regime’s mistreatment of Palestinians and voicing support for the Palestinians’ cause against the regime’s occupation of their homeland.

One of the resolutions is called “Ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (al-Quds).”

The document, which was passed by 27 to 4 votes and 15 abstentions, urged the world community to stop selling arms to the regime in Israel.

The resolution called upon “all states to promote compliance under international law” with regard to Israeli actions “by ensuring that their public authorities and private entities do not become involved in internationally unlawful conduct, inter alia the provision of arms to end users known or likely to use the arms in the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian and/or human rights law.”

Another of the five resolutions calls for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, which the regime seized from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War. Tel Aviv continues to occupy two-thirds of the Syrian territory ever since, in a move that has never been recognized by the international community.

The UN rights body also approved a resolution that called on Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines as well as one that urged the Tel Aviv regime to halt settlement activity.

The fifth document approved on Friday denounced Israel for human rights abuses against the Palestinians.

US gets angry, says losing ‘patience’

Furious over the resolutions, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has slammed the council as “foolish and unworthy of its name,” claiming it is biased against Israel.

She also warned that the US would continue to consider its options regarding membership of the UN panel, saying, “Our patience is not unlimited.”

“When that happens, as it did today, the Council fails to fulfill its duty to uphold human rights around the world. The United States continues to evaluate our membership in the Human Rights Council. Our patience is not unlimited,” Haley said.

The UK also spoke against what it called the council’s bias against Tel Aviv.

Britain opposed the resolutions on the Golan Heights and the one on accountability. It, however, voted in favor of the resolutions on human rights and Palestinian self-determination. The country also abstained on the resolution on settlements.

Under US President Donald Trump, the regime in Israel has stepped up its expansionist policies and crimes against Palestinians.

The regime has been further emboldened by a US decision to transfer its capital from Tel Aviv to the occupied city, in a major policy shift which drew global anger and protests late last year.

The city, which is designated as “occupied” under international law since the 1967 Arab War, is sought by Palestinians as the capital of their future state.

March 24, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Police complicit in blacklisting of trade unionists by construction firms, Met admits

RT | March 23, 2018

Police colluded in stripping trade unionists of work by passing on their information to a blacklisting operation ran by construction firms. The Metropolitan police made the admission after a six-year investigation.

Following an internal probe, the Met said allegations of police sharing the information of workers with some of the UK’s biggest construction firms are “proven.” The information included details of workers’ political activity and of their personal relationships.

The scandal came to light in 2009 following a raid by an information commissioner on an organization called the Consulting Association, which uncovered a list of more than 3,000 workers. It is understood that more than 700 workers shared £75m in settlement compensation – with many others having earlier settled for smaller amounts.

In a letter to the workers’ lawyers, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin states that findings were “completed two years ago and so sensitive they had been sent straight to the then-commissioner.” The letter read: “Allegation: Police, including Special Branches, supplied information that appeared on the Blacklist, funded by the country’s major construction firms.”

“The report concludes that, on the balance of probabilities, the allegation that the police or Special Branches supplied information is ‘proven.’ Material revealed a potentially improper flow of information from Special Branch to external organizations, which ultimately appeared on the blacklist.”

Eight firms who used the list were sued by workers; they include Carillion, Balfour Beatty, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci. All firms apologized unreservedly.

In a statement, Scotland Yard said it was sorry for the delay in releasing the outcome of its investigation. “Allegations about police involvement with the ‘Blacklist’ will be fully explored during the Undercover Policing Public Inquiry,” it said. “At this stage the MPS will await the conclusions of the UCPI before considering what steps should be taken next.”

Dave Smith, of the Blacklist Support Group which represents the trade unionists, said: “We have waited six years for this. When we first talked about police collusion in blacklisting, people looked at us as if we were conspiracy theorists. We were told things like that don’t happen here. With this admission from the Met Police, our quest for the truth has been vindicated.”

March 24, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

India doesn’t need a working relationship with US Central Command

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | March 23, 2018

The Indian media reported that following the 2+2 talks in Washington last week at the level of the foreign and defence secretaries of India and the US, a “path-breaking” decision has been firmed up to station a naval attaché at the US Naval Forces Command (NAVCENT) in Bahrain. The Defence Ministry officials in Delhi have reportedly said that the Indian attaché’s mandate will be to ‘ensure that the US and Indian navies are on the same page’ and to ‘ensure better coordination and logistic support for warships and aircraft carriers of the two countries.’

The NAVCENT, which comes under the US Central Command, has an area of responsibility that comprises the Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain is in charge of naval operations in the Persian Gulf region, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The highly secretive American base at Diego Garcia deep down in the Indian Ocean provides the underpinning for the NAVCENT.

If the proposed Indian deputation to the NAVCENT takes place, the US Pacific Command and Central Command will ‘share’ India, which would signify India’s growing importance to the US’ global strategies. The NAVCENT is currently fighting wars in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. But then, India has nothing to do with any of these wars.

Does the US-Indian project to monitor the movement of Chinese ships in the Indian Ocean warrant such a step? Can’t we keep a tab on the Gwadar naval base without an attaché deployed to Bahrain? Are we contemplating force projection in the Indian Ocean?

On the other hand, this decision drips with profound symbolism and will be noted keenly by all regional states – especially, Iran and Pakistan – and global powers – Russia and China, in particular. Indeed, the stunning part is that, sadly, our policymakers can be so myopic about the country’s geography and the dangerous security environment surrounding it.

All indications are that a major escalation of the war in Syria is imminent. Tensions are rising alarmingly and last weekend Moscow openly warned of retaliation against US targets if it again attacked the Syrian government forces. Only two days ago, Russian Deputy Defence Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in Moscow, “We have been warning the United States about the need to abandon these plans unconditionally. Any illegal use of force… would be an act of aggression against a sovereign state.” Read the latest analysis by the Russian think tank on security issues entitled The Russian Military Warns: a Major War in Syria Is Imminent.

Again, there are sub-plots – the US plans to balkanize Syria with the help of Kurds and Turkey’s trenchant opposition to it; the US-Israeli strategy to contain Iran’s influence in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon; the NATO’s intent to evict Russia from its Syrian bases and Eastern Mediterranean and so on. Furthermore, it is only the US military support that is sustaining the brutal war waged by Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Yemen. A recent op-Ed in the Washington Post co-authored by 3 senior US senators – Bernie Sanders, Mike Lee and Chris Murphy says: “U.S. military is making the crisis (in Yemen) worse by helping one side in the conflict bomb innocent civilians… U.S. forces are coordinating, refueling and targeting with the Saudi-led coalition, as confirmed last December by Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.”

Above all, what India needs to be most vigilant about is the real possibility of a US-Iranian confrontation as a near-term scenario. The appointment of John Bolton as the new US National Security Advisor is indeed ominous. Read an analysis by the well-known investigative journalist and author Gareth Porter in the American Conservative entitled The Untold Story of John Bolton’s Campaign for War With Iran.

Our faujis are besotted with Uncle Sam. For the lucky bloke who gets the slot in Bahrain it may be an attractive ‘phoren posting’, but for India what does it add up to? India will be foolish to get entangled in the US’ military adventures. It simply won’t cut ice to say our chap will remain single-mindedly focused on the movement of Chinese ships.

Politics is largely a matter of perceptions. India gains nothing by displaying a working relationship with the US Central Command when the gathering storms on the horizon are already visible to the naked eye. The prudent thing will be to begin preparations to sequester our country from collateral damage when the tsunami actually arrives. Only fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

March 24, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , , | 2 Comments

BBC Forced To Retract False Claim About Hurricanes

By Paul Homewood | Not A Lot Of People Know That | March 22, 2018

Another day, another BBC retraction.


You may recall the above report by the BBC, which described how bad last year’s Atlantic hurricane season was, before commenting at the end:

A warmer world is bringing us a greater number of hurricanes and a greater risk of a hurricane becoming the most powerful category 5.

As I promised, I fired off a complaint, which at first they did their best to dodge. After my refusal to accept their reply, they have now been forced to back down.

The above sentence now no longer appears, and instead they now say:

Scientists are still analysing what this data will mean, but a warmer world may bring us a greater number of more powerful category 4 and 5 hurricanes and could bring more extreme rainfall.

Correction 29 January 2018: This story has been updated to clarify that it is modelling rather than historical data that predicts stronger and wetter hurricanes.

Of course, we have the usual problem, that those who read the article originally and who would have been deeply misled, won’t see the correction now.

March 24, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | | Leave a comment