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How Big Water Projects Helped Trigger Africa’s Migrant Crisis

By Paul Homewood | Not A Lot Of People Know That | April 1, 2018

Following up the Lake Chad post, this is a highly relevant contribution by science writer, Fred Pearce, in Yale 360 last October:


The Hadejia-Nguru wetland was once a large green smudge on the edge of the Sahara in northeast Nigeria. More than 1.5 million people lived by fishing its waters, grazing their cattle on its wet pastures, and irrigating their crops from its complex network of natural channels and lakes. Then, in the 1990s, the Nigerian government completed two dams that together captured 80 percent of the water that flowed into the wetland.

The aim was to provide water for Kano, the biggest city in northern Nigeria. But the two dams dried up four-fifths of the wetland, destroying its natural bounty and the way of life that went with it. Today, many of the people who lost their livelihoods have either headed for Kano, joined the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram that is terrorizing northeast Nigeria – or paid human-smugglers to take them to Europe.

For the past three years, Europe has been convulsed by a crisis of migrants, some from Syria and the war-torn Middle East, but also hundreds of thousands coming from the arid Sahel region of Africa, including Nigeria, Mali, and Senegal. They are fleeing poverty and social breakdown caused by insurgent groups such as Boko Haram. But environmentalists and others in the region say that behind this social chaos lies serious water mismanagement in the drought-prone region.

Big dams intended to bring economic development to the Sahel are having the opposite effect. By blocking rivers, they are drying out lakes, river floodplains, and wetlands on which many of the poorest in the region depend. The end result has been to push more and more young people to risk their lives to leave the region.

The Manantali Dam is estimated to have caused the loss of 90 percent of fisheries and up to 618,000 acres previously covered by water.

Last year, I traveled with Wetlands International, a Dutch-based environmental NGO, along the valley of the River Senegal, which forms the border between Senegal and Mauritania. Farmers, herders, and fishermen told of their battles against the ecological breakdown that has followed the building of the Manantali Dam, which is located upstream in Mali and was completed in 1987. The dam holds back a large part of the river’s seasonal flood flow to generate hydroelectricity for cities and provide irrigation water for some farmers. But there have been more losers than winners.

Seydou Ibrahima Ly, a teacher in the bankside village of Donaye Taredji in Podor district, said that when he was young, “the river had a flood that watered wetlands where fish grew.” But “now there is no flood because of the dam… Compared to the past, there aren’t many fish. Our grandparents did a lot of fishing, but we don’t.” With their livelihoods gone, more than 100 people had left his village, he said. “In some villages, they are almost all gone.”

“The migrants know the boats [traveling to Europe] are dangerous, but they have a determination to go and find a better life,” said Oumar Cire Ly, deputy chief of neighbouring Donaye village, which has also seen an exodus of its young people.

Farmers once planted their crops in the wet soils as the waters receded. Pastoralists grazed their animals where forests and wildlife flourished. But the dam and its related projects are estimated to have resulted in the loss of 90 percent of the fisheries and up to 618,000 acres of fields that were previously covered by water from the rising river during the wet season, a system of natural irrigation known as flood-recession agriculture.

The Senegal River Basin Development Organization – the intergovernmental agency that is responsible for the dam project and is known by its French acronym, OMVS – conceded in 2014 that eliminating the river’s annual flood “has made flood-recession crops and fishing on the floodplain more precarious, which makes the rural production systems of the middle valley less diversified, and therefore more vulnerable.”

This is clearly at odds with the organization’s mandate to “ensure food security for all people within the river basin and region.” But Amadou Lamine Ndiaye, the OMVS’s director of environment and sustainable development, told me his agency regarded wetlands such as river floodplains primarily as a source of revenue for tourists, rather than as a lifeline for rural communities.

As many as a million Nigerians have lost livelihoods because of dams that once fed a wetland that flowed into Lake Chad.

Worse still is the crisis affecting the region around Lake Chad, which until half a century ago was Africa’s fourth largest lake, straddling the border between Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon. The lake has lost more than 90 percent of its surface area since then. Initially, this was largely due to persistent droughts in the Sahel that often dried up the rivers supplying it with water. Since 2002, rainfall has improved markedly, but Lake Chad has not recovered.

That is because of dams on the rivers flowing into the lake from the wetter south, mainly in Cameroon and Nigeria. The Maga Dam in Cameroon has diverted 70 percent of the flow of the Logone river to rice farms. This has both dried up part of the floodplain pastures that once supported 130,000 people, and dramatically reduced inflow to Lake Chad.

In northern Nigeria, up to 1 million people have lost livelihoods because of dams on the River Yobe that once fed the Hadejia-Nguru wetland and flowed on into Lake Chad. In both cases, says Edward Barbier, an environmental economist at Colorado State University, the dams have had an overall negative effect on local economies, as losses to fishermen, pastoralists, and others exceeded gains from irrigation agriculture.

The major wetlands and water basins of the Sahel region in Africa. Wetlands International

The poverty is driving social breakdown and conflict all around the lake. Mana Boukary, an official of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, an intergovernmental body, told Duetsche Welle two years ago: “Youths in the Lake Chad Basin are joining Boko Haram because of lack of jobs and difficult economic conditions resulting from the drying up of the lake.”

The UN humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel region, Toby Lanzer, told a European Union-Africa summit that it was also fueling migration: “Asylum seeking, the refugee crisis, the environmental crisis, the instability that extremists sow — all of those issues converge in the Lake Chad basin.”

A Nigerian government audit of the lake basin in 2015 agreed. It concluded that “uncoordinated upstream water impounding and withdrawal” were among factors that had “created high competition for scarce water, resulting into [sic] conflicts and forced migration.” More than 2.6 million people have left the Lake Chad region since mid-2013, according to the International Organization for Migration.

At their greatest extent, wetlands cover one-tenth of the Sahel, the arid region stretching for 3,400 miles across northern Africa, immediately south of the Sahara desert. They are wildlife havens, especially notable for their birdlife. The Inner Niger Delta in Mali, for instance, is one of the world’s most important seasonal stops for migrating birds, hosting about 4 million waterbirds from Europe each winter. In addition, these wetlands are a source of sustenance for the region’s poor and the main sources of the region’s economic productivity outside the short wet season from June to September.

Dried-up wetlands are often blamed on climate change when the real cause often is more human interference in river flows.

Yet the decline of the wetlands and the resulting social and economic consequences remains a largely untold story. That is partly because dried-up wetlands are routinely, and often incorrectly, blamed on climate change, when the real cause is often more direct human interference in river flows. It is also partly because many development agencies still mostly think of dams as infrastructure development that furthers economic activity and wealth – and partly because many environmental groups concentrate on the ecological impacts of dried wetlands, while ignoring the human consequences.

In this climate of ignorance, more wetlands are under threat. The next victim is likely to be the Inner Niger Delta, a wetland in northern Mali that covers an area the size of Belgium. The delta forms where West Africa’s largest river, the Niger, spreads out across flat desert near the ancient city of Timbuktu.

The delta is a magnet for migrating European waterbirds. It is also currently one of the most productive areas in one of the world’s poorest countries. It provides 80 percent of Mali’s fish and pasture for 60 percent of the country’s cattle, and it delivers 8 percent of Mali’s GDP and sustains 2 million people, 14 percent of the population, says Dutch hydrologist Leo Zwarts. Its fish are exported across West Africa from Mopti, a market town on the shores of the delta.

In recent years the Mali government has been diverting water from the River Niger at the Markala barrage just upstream of the delta, to irrigate desert fields of thirsty crops such as rice and cotton. These diversions have cut the area of delta flooded annually by up to 7 percent, says Zwarts, causing declines in forests, fisheries, and grazing grasses. Some people have left the delta as a result, though it is unclear whether they have been among the Malians regularly reported to be in migrant boats heading from Libya to Italy.

The Markala Barrage in Mali, which diverts water from the River Niger for irrigating crops such as rice and cotton.  Fred Pearce/Yale e360

But this trickle of people from the delta could soon become a flood. In July this year, Mali’s upstream neighbour, Guinea, announced the go-ahead for Chinese firms to build a giant new hydroelectric dam, the Fomi Dam, in the river’s headwaters. Construction could begin as soon as December.

The Fomi Dam’s operation will replace the annual flood pulse that sustains the wetland’s fecundity with a more regular flow that the Mali government intends to tap for a long-planned tripling of its irrigation along the river. Wetlands International estimates that the combined impact of the dam and irrigation schemes could cut fish catches and pastures in the delta by 30 percent.

“Less water flowing into the delta means a lower flood level and a smaller flood extent”, says Karounga Keïta of Wetlands International in Mali. “This will have a direct impact on food production, including fish, livestock, and floating rice.” He fears that the inevitable outcome will be further human migrations from the wetland.

The links in the chain from water management through wetland health to social breakdown and international migration are complex. Wetland loss is certainly not the only reason for the human exodus from the Sahel. And migration is a long-standing coping strategy for people living in a region of extreme climate variability.

But the parlous state of the wetlands of the Sahel is changing the region. In the past, wetlands were refuges in times of drought or conflict. They were safe, and the water persisted even in the worst droughts. But today, with their waters diminished, these wetlands have become sources of outmigration. Now, migrations that were once temporary and local are becoming permanent and intercontinental.

Note his comment that “dried-up wetlands are often blamed on climate change when the real cause often is more human interference in river flows. “.

And that “since 2002, rainfall has improved markedly, but Lake Chad has not recovered.”

I have every sympathy for countries like Nigeria and Cameroon. They are between the proverbial rock and hard place,

They have growing populations, with ever growing expectations. For this they need, among other things, food and water supplies. On the other hand, these very things impact on the environment which ultimately sustains them.

There are no easy answers.

But blaming it all on climate change does nobody any favours.

April 1, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Anti-Semitic claims against Corbyn, Labour exaggerated: Poll

Press TV – April 1, 2018

The majority of Labour Party members in Britain say Israel is “a force for bad” and believe accusations of anti-Semitism within UK’s main opposition party are being exaggerated to damage Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and stifle legitimate criticism of Israel, according to a new poll.

The YouGov survey, which was commissioned by The Times newspaper, showed that 65 percent of the party’s members held a negative view of Israel.

The poll’s findings sent a clear message as Israeli military forces continued to brutally stifle a six-week protest by Palestinians near the border with Gaza.

Called the Great March for Return, the march has seen around 30,000 Palestinians pitch tents along the coastal enclave’s borders to mark the Land Day, the 42nd anniversary of Israel’s murdering of several Palestinians who protested Israel’s land grab plans in 1976.

Israeli soldiers have so far killed 16 protesters and injured dozens more since Friday, the day the new protests began.

Palestinians have pledged to stand firm and continue the event until Nakba Day, or Day of Catastrophe, on March 15, one day after the Israeli regime was created in 1948.

The poll also saw Labour members express solidarity with Corbyn, who as a pro-Palestinian politician, has long been accused of anti-Semitism and come under pressure from the Israeli lobby in the UK to resign.

The pressure peaked last year, when Corbyn announced in his manifesto for the June 8 snap election that a Labour government will “immediately recognize” a state of Palestine.

The manifesto also called for an end to Israel’s blockade and occupation of Palestinian territories, as well as construction of illegal settlements on Palestinian lands.

In the latest case, Corbyn has been accused of partaking in a secret Facebook group that was used by some senior Labour members to allegedly post anti-Semitic content.

Around 77 percent of the participants in the poll said the allegations were “exaggerated” to damage Corbyn and stifle legitimate criticism of Israel. Some 61 percent said he was handling the situation well.

Corbyn’s popularity soaring

The poll also found that Corbyn was enjoying high approval ratings as an astounding 80 percent of Labour member supported him despite internal rebellions and anti-Semitism claims.

About 64 percent of Labour members also thought a Corbyn government was “likely,” compared to 62 percent who last year said it was “unlikely” for the opposition leader to be elected as PM.

April 1, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Trump is the most peace-loving US president Putin will ever know

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | April 1, 2018

A fortnight after sacking Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and a week after kicking out Lt. General HR McMaster from the National Security Council in the White House, President Donald Trump has made his first major foreign policy move. He announced on Thursday in front of cheering supporters at a rally in Richfield, Ohio,

  • “We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now. By the way, we’re knocking the hell out of ISIS. We’re going to be coming out of there real soon. We’re going to get back to our country, where we belong, where we want to be.”

In sheer power play, Trump has shattered the coalition between the US foreign and defence establishments, which Tillerson and Defence Secretary James Mattis assiduously built to usurp policymaking. (Read my column in Asia Times dated March 15, Deconstructing the sacking of Rex Tillerson.)

Trump made his announcement on Thursday without consulting the state department or Pentagon. The state department spokesperson admitted ignorance. The Pentagon spokesperson mumbled that “important work remains to guarantee the lasting defeat of these violent extremists” in Syria. But, on Friday, the White House chief of staff John Kelly in a phone call to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan conveyed Trump’s decision ordering a hold on more than $200 million in recovery funds earmarked for infrastructure projects in northeastern Syria in territories under US military control. This freezes a pledge made by Tillerson in support of Pentagon’s plans for an open-ended military presence in Syria.

Trump’s move may gain traction with 2 American soldiers reportedly killed and four injured in an IED explosion near Manjib on Thursday. Mattis won’t undermine Trump’s decision. That is simply not the military man’s style, which is always to use “front men” (like Tillerson.)

John Bolton, McMaster’s replacement, isn’t a military man. Bolton has a terrible reputation in the Beltway, which will sap his effectiveness. But Bolton is a rank opportunist who’ll know what is good for him under a Boss who is moody and volatile in turns. Also, Mike Pompeo, the incoming secretary of state, is a close pal of Trump’s and there is no daylight possible between the two.

Thus, Trump’s foreign policy agenda is becoming “kinetic”, finally. The speech in Ohio is vintage Trump. He has returned to his golden theme of mending America’s decaying infrastructure “with American heart, and American hands, and American grit.” (White House readout) This is also Trump’s campaign plank in the 2020 election: No more wars abroad unless US interests are directly threatened.

My gut instinct says that an overall easing of tensions with Russia is also to be expected. Trump is not seeking a fight with Russia. Arguably, he is the most peace-loving American president Vladimir Putin will ever know.

The exact circumstances of the Skripal spy case will never be known but following a phone call Trump made to British PM Theresa May on March 28, some sort of a cooling off period may have begun. The White House readout said,

  • Both leaders agreed on the importance of dismantling Russia’s spy networks in the United Kingdom and the United States to curtail Russian clandestine activities and prevent future chemical weapons attacks on either country’s soil.

The above formulation by no means constitutes an “anti-Russian” articulation. Rather, it is a statement on national security priorities.

Hasn’t Britain begun “soft-pedaling” already? Contrary to the gloomy news Wednesday that the chances of Yulia Skripal, the ex-spy’s daughter, surviving was only 1 percent, London announced on Friday that she is “out of danger”, is eating and drinking. And Skripal himself, though “critical”, is “stable”.

Equally, the British FO said on Saturday, “We are considering requests for consular access in line with our obligations under international and domestic law, including the rights and wishes of Yulia Skripal.” The Russian embassy has sought consular access. (Yulia is a Russian citizen.)

Moscow must be sensing new stirrings in the air. The latest remarks by the Russian ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov were spoken more in sorrow than in anger. Antonov said on Saturday,

  • “We want everybody to understand that we (US and Russia) are destined to become friends again. Only close interaction between our countries can help maintain international strategic stability and find mutually beneficial solutions to global and regional challenges.”
  • “Relations between ordinary people shouldn’t suffer. We’ll do everything in our capacity to make sure that Americans have zero problems with trips to Russia.”

Winston Churchill once compared Russian politics to a “dogfight under a carpet”. That is an apt description of Trump-era Russian-American spats as well.

April 1, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

UK may have staged Skripal poisoning to rally people against Russia, Moscow believes

RT | April 1, 2018

London’s reluctance to share information on the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal has led Moscow to strongly suspect that it was the actual perpetrator of the crime, the Russian ambassador to Britain said.

The poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury triggered the worst diplomatic conflict between London and Moscow in years. The UK accused the Russian government of using a military grade nerve agent against the former spy and, according to Moscow, is stonewalling all attempts by Moscow to learn details of the ongoing investigation into the incident.

Moscow is increasingly convinced that Britain is the real culprit behind the attack, according to Russian Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko.

“We have very serious suspicion that this provocation was done by British intelligence,” Yakovenko told Russia’s NTV channel. He clarified that Russia has no direct proof of this suspicion, but the behavior of the British government constitutes strong circumstantial evidence in support of this theory.

The diplomat added that London had gained both short-term and long-term benefits from the poisoning. The short-term gain is that Theresa May’s government managed to spin this story to whip up support both at home and in Europe, while sidelining its failures to negotiate more favorable terms for exiting the European Union, Yakovenko said. The long-term benefit is that it improved London’s standing in the ongoing confrontation between the West and Russia.

“The Britons are claiming a leading role in the so-called containment of Russia. To win support from the people and the parliament for this containment of Russia, a serious provocation was required. And the Britons may have done a really savage one to get this support,” he said.

The ambassador said that details of British investigations into the deaths of several high-profile people with Russian ties have been kept from the public. These include former Russian intelligence officer Aleksandr Litvinenko, Georgian tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, fugitive Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky and Russian whistleblower Aleksandr Perepilichny. He said he hoped there would be a public disclosure of relevant facts in relation to the Skripal case.

“I am sure Russia will not allow the Britons to escape the legal field. They will have to give answers,” he said.

After the poisoning in Salisbury, the UK convinced some of its allies to follow its lead by expelling Russian diplomats. The US was the most receptive to the call, kicking 60 Russians out of the country, which dwarfed the UK’s expulsion of 23 people. European countries that chose to show solidarity with London expelled between one and four diplomats each. Ukraine expelled 13.

Russia hit back with reciprocal expulsions of foreign diplomats. It also demanded that Britain downsize its diplomatic mission in Russia to that of Russia in Britain, affecting over 50 jobs.

April 1, 2018 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism | , | 1 Comment

President Trump to Create Space Force: Another Race US May Trigger to Lose

By Arkady SAVITSKY | Strategic Culture Foundation | 01.04.2018

On March 23, 1983, 35 years ago, President Ronald Reagan unveiled his space-wars program, the SDI, to intercept and destroy incoming missiles and other weapons for battling in this new domain. It never came to fruition, as the technology that existed at that time was insufficiently advanced to meet the requirements. But times change. It has been announced that the project is once again to be pursued. The US plans to deploy weapons in space, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov issued a warning about this in January. That warning proved accurate.

Donald Trump believes that space is becoming a “warfighting domain,” just like the land, air, and sea, and is thus encouraging the creation of a space force on par with the other branches of the armed forces. It was hardly an off-the-cuff comment.

The idea enjoys strong support in Congress. Pushing forward such an initiative would strengthen the president’s position at a time when he needs it the most. Some lawmakers say that force could be created as part of the Department of the Air Force in just three to five years. The proposal is not popular among the military brass, but on March 13 the president made his views known. “The president is very focused on outcomes. He has prioritized space, he has recognized the threats that have evolved, and the pace with which they’ve evolved, and he recognizes that as a warfighting domain,” says Kenneth Rapuano, assistant defense secretary for homeland defense and global security.

The initiative dovetails with the recently issued National Security Strategy. Some initial steps have already been taken. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, the chief space adviser, provided lawmakers with an interim report on upcoming space reforms this month. An updated report is due August 1.

No doubt Donald Trump’s statement was prompted by President Putin’s March 1 address to lawmakers in which he unveiled some details about Russia’s new weapons. The balance of forces in the air, land, and sea is not tilting in America’s favor, but domination of space could change that picture. The Joint Vision 2020 states that the US should dominate and control the military use of space.

What could this mean in practice? It’s logical to assume that all the satellites belonging to the branches of the military and STRATCOM will operate under the new command. No doubt the structure will have teeth, such as the HTV-2 and AHW hypersonic-glide-vehicle weapons, the Boeing X-37 spacecraft, and the Dream Chaser reusable space planes. The X-37 has flown several secret missions into orbit carrying mystery payloads. Anti-satellite weapons have been tested. Now that they have undergone testing on land and at sea, laser technology will move to space.

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty imposes no restriction on conventional weapons. The diplomatic efforts to reach an international agreement regulating space activities have been rejected by the US as disingenuous non-starters. In 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted a Russian resolution, “No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space,” which was dismissed by Washington. The US has never come up any initiatives of its own.

So, the US wants to dominate space. But will it? The USSR suspended many space-war programs, such as “space-to-space” munitions, which could be quickly brought back to life. The R36 ORB was actually the third stage of the well-known Voevoda (Satan) ICBM. Its warhead could be placed in orbit and left there for some time, reducing to just a few minutes the time required to strike any target on Earth. The weapon was even operational for a short period.

There have been programs to create space platforms, including some that were nuclear powered. Russia was the only country to successfully use Halleffect thrusters to maneuver objects in space. In his famous “new weapons” speech, President Putin mentioned the Avangard boost glider that could be easily reconfigured for space-interceptor missions. In 1984 Russia launched a program to create the 79М6 Kontakt anti-satellite (ASAT) system as a direct response to US ASAT tests. The system carried a modified MiG-31D fighter on board that theoretically could attack as many as 24 satellites within a 36-hour period. The Kontakt never became operational, as tensions subsided and Moscow reached an agreement with Washington to terminate the program. It could be resurrected, leaving no American satellite safe. Some sources report that the development has already been revived. And almost all modern US systems are heavily dependent on satellites.

It could be that opening up discussions with Russia on measures to curb the militarization of space might be a much cheaper and more reliable way to safeguard US national security than throwing down the gauntlet. It’s quite likely that the US would touch off a race it won’t win.

April 1, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

The Warm War: Russiamania At The Boiling Point

By Jim Kavanagh | The Polemicist | March 31, 2018

Is it war yet?

Yes, in too many respects.

It’s a relentless economic, diplomatic, and ideological war, spiced with (so far) just a dash of military war, and the strong scent of more to come.

I mean war with Russia, of course, although Russia is the point target for a constellation of emerging adversaries the US is desperate to entame before any one or combination of them becomes too strong to defeat.  These include countries like Iran and China, which are developing forces capable of resisting American military aggression against their own territory and on a regional level, and have shown quite too much uppitiness about staying in their previously-assigned geopolitical cages.

But Russia is the only country that has put its military forces in the way of a U.S. program of regime change—indirectly in Ukraine, where Russia would not get out of the way, and directly in Syria, where Russia actively got in the way. So Russia is the focus of attack, the prime target for an exemplary comeuppance.

Is it, then, a new Cold War, even more dangerous than the old one, as Stephen F. Cohen says?

That terminology was apt even a few months ago, but the speed, ferocity, and coordination of the West/NATO’s reaction to the alleged nerve-agent poisoning of the Skripals, as well as the formation of a War Cabinet in Washington, indicates to me that we’ve moved to another level of aggression.

It’s beyond Cold. Call it the Warm War. And the temperature’s rising.

The Nerve of Them

There are two underlying presumptions that, combined, make present situation more dangerous than a Cold War.

One is the presumption of guilt—or, more precisely, the presumption that the presumption of Russian guilt can always be made, and made to stick in the Western mind.

The confected furor over the alleged nerve-agent poisoning of the Skripals demonstrates this dramatically.

Theresa May’s immediate conclusion that the Russian government bears certain and sole responsibility for the nerve-agent poisoning of the Skripals is logically, scientifically, and forensically impossible.

False certainty is the ultimate fake news. It is just not true that, as she says: “There is no alternative conclusion other than the Russian state is culpable.” The falsity of this statement has been demonstrated by a slew of sources—including the developers of the alleged “Novichok” agent themselves, a thorough analysis by a former UN inspector in Iraq who worked on the destruction of Russian chemical weapons, establishment Western scientific outlets like New Scientist (“Other countries could have made ‘Russian’ nerve agent”), and the British government’s own mealy-mouthed, effective-but-unacknowledged disavowal of that conclusion. In its own words, The British government found: “a nerve agent or related compound,” “of a type developed by Russia.” So, it’s absolutely, positively, certainly, without a doubt, Russian-government-produced “Novichok”…. or something else.

Teresa May is lying, everyone who seconds her assertion of false certainty is lying, they all know they are lying, and the Russians know that they know they are lying. It’s a knowledgeable family.

Prince Geoffrey to his mother Eleanor in The Lion in Winter.

It boggles the—or at least, my—mind how, in the face of all this, anyone could take seriously her ultimatum, ignoring the procedures of the Chemical Weapons Convention, gave Russia 24 hours to “explain”—i.e., confess and beg forgiveness for—this alleged crime.

Indeed, it’s noteworthy that France initially, and rather sharply, refused to assume Russian guilt, with a government spokesman saying, “We don’t do fantasy politics. Once the elements are proven, then the time will come for decisions to be made.” But the whip was cracked—and surely not by the weak hand of Whitehall—demanding EU/NATO unity in the condemnation of Russia. So, in an extraordinary show of discipline that could only be ordered and orchestrated by the imperial center, France joined the United States and 20 other countries in the largest mass expulsion of Russian diplomats ever.

Western governments and their compliant media have mandated that Russian government guilt for the “first offensive use of a nerve agent” in Europe since World War II is to be taken as flat fact. Anyone—like Jeremy Corbyn or Craig Murray—who dares to interrupt the “Sentence first! Verdict afterwards!” chorus to ask for, uh, evidence, is treated to a storm of obloquy.

At this point, Western accusers don’t seem to care how blatantly unfounded, if not ludicrous, an accusation is. The presumption of Russian guilt, along with the shaming of anyone who questions it, has become an unquestionable standard of Western/American political and media discourse.

Old Cold War McCarthyism has become new Warm War fantasy politics.

Helled in Contempt

This declaration of diplomatic war over the Skripal incident is the culmination of an ongoing drumbeat of ideological warfare, demonizing Russia and Putin personally in the most predictable and inflammatory terms.

For the past couple of years, we’ve been told by Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Marco Rubio, and Boris Johnson that Putin is the new Hitler. That’s a particularly galling analogy for the Russians. Soviet Russia, after all, was Hitler’s main enemy, that defeated the Nazi army at the cost of 20+ million of its people—while the British Royal Family was not un-smitten with the charms of Hitlerian fascism, and British footballers had this poignant moment in 1938 Berlin:

“War” is what they seem to want it to be. For the past 18 to 24 months, we’ve also been inundated with Morgan Freeman and Rob Reiner’s ominous “We have been attacked. We are at war,” video, as well as the bipartisan (Hillary Clinton, John McCain) insistence that alleged Russian election meddling should be considered an “act of war” equivalent to Pearl Harbor. Indeed, Trump’s new National Security advisor, the warmongering lunatic John Bolton, calls it, explicitly “a casus belli, a true act of war.”

Even the military is getting in on the act. The nerve-agent accusation has been followed up by General John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, accusing Russia of arming the Taliban! It’s noteworthy that this senior American military general casually refers to Russia as “the enemy”: “We’ve had stories written by the Taliban that have appeared in the media about financial support provided by the enemy.”

Which is strange, because, since the Taliban emerged from the American-jihadi war against Soviet forces in Afghanistan, and the Taliban and Russia have “enduring enmity” towards each other, as Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Network puts it. Furthermore, the sixteen-year-long American war against the Taliban has depended on Russia allowing the U.S. to move supplies through its territory, and being “the principal source of fuel for the alliance’s needs in Afghanistan.”

So the general has to admit that this alleged Russian “destabilising activity” is a new thing: “This activity really picked up in the last 18 to 24 months… When you look at the timing it roughly correlates to when things started to heat up in Syria. So it’s interesting to note the timing of the whole thing.”

Yes, it is.

The economic war against Russian is being waged through a series of sanctions that seem impossible to reverse, because their expressed goal is to extract confession, repentance, and restitution for crimes ascribed to Russia that Russia has not committed, or has not been proven to have committed, or are entirely fictional and have not been committed by anyone at all. We will only stop taking your bank accounts and consulates and let you play games with us if you confess and repent every crime we accuse you of. No questions permitted.

This is not a serious framework for respectful international relations between two sovereign nations. It’s downright childish. It paints everyone, including the party trying to impose it, into an impossible corner. Is Russia ever going to abandon Crimea, confess that it shot down the Malaysian jet, tricked us into electing Donald Trump, murdered the Skripals, is secretly arming the Taliban, et. al.? Is the U.S. ever going to say: “Never mind”? What’s the next step? It’s the predicament of the bully.

This is not, either, an approach that really seeks to address any of the “crimes” charged. As Victoria Nuland (a Clintonite John Bolton) put it on NPR, it’s about, “sending a message” to Russia. Well, as Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov said, with this latest mass expulsion of diplomats, the United States is, “Destroying what little remained of US-Russian ties.” He got the message.

All of this looks like a coordinated campaign that began in response to Russia’s interruption of American regime-change projects in Ukraine and especially Syria, that was harmonized—over the last 18 to 24 months—with various elite and popular motifs of discontent over the 2016 election, and that has reached a crescendo in the last few weeks with ubiquitous and unconstrained “enemization1 of Russia. It’s hard to describe it as anything other than war propaganda—manufacturing the citizenry’s consent for a military confrontation.

Destroying the possibility of normal, non-conflictual, state-to-state relations and constituting Russia as “the enemy” is exactly what this campaign is about. That is its “message” and its effect—for the American people as much as for the Russia government. The heightened danger, I think, is that Russia, which has for a long time been reluctant to accept that America wasn’t interested in “partnership”, has now heard and understood this message, while the American people have only heard but do not understand it.

It’s hard to see where this can go that doesn’t involve military conflict. This is especially the case with the appointments of Mike Pompeo, Gina Haspel, and John Bolton—a veritable murderers’ row that many see as the core of a Trump War Cabinet. Bolton, who does not need Senate confirmation, is a particularly dangerous fanatic, who tried to get the Israelis to attack Iran before even they wanted to, and has promised regime change in Iran by 2019. As mentioned, he considers that Russia has already given him a “casus belli.” Even the staid New York Times warns that, with these appointments, “the odds of taking military action will rise dramatically.”

The second presumption in the American mindset today makes military confrontation more likely than it was during the Cold War: Not only is there a presumption of guilt, there is a presumption of weakness. The presumption of guilt is something the American imperial managers are confident they can induce and maintain in the Western world; the presumption of weakness is one they—or, I fear, too many of them—have all-too blithely internalized.

This is an aspect of the American self-image among policymakers whose careers matured in a post-Soviet world. During the Cold War, Americans held themselves in check by the assumption, that, militarily, the Soviet Union was a peer adversary, a country that could and would defend certain territories and interests against direct American military aggression—“spheres of interest” that should not be attacked. The fundamental antagonism was managed with grudging mutual respect.

There was, after all, a shared recent history of alliance against fascism. And there was an awareness that the Soviet Union, in however distorted a way, both represented the possibility of a post-capitalist future and supported post-colonial national liberation movements, which gave it considerable stature in the world.

American leadership might have hated the Soviet Union, but it was not contemptuous of it. No American leader would have called the Soviet Union, as John McCain called Russia, just “a gas station masquerading as a country.” And no senior American or British leader would have told the Soviet Union what British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson told Russia last week: to “go away and shut up.”

This is a discourse that assumes its own righteousness, authority, and superior power, even as it betrays its own weakness. It’s the discourse of a frustrated child. Or bully. Russia isn’t shutting up and going away, and the British are not—and know they’re not—going to make it. But they may think the Big Daddy backing them up can and will. And daddy may think so himself.

Like all bullies, the people enmeshed in this arrogant discourse don’t seem to understand that it is not frightening Russia. It’s only insulting the country, and leading it to conclude that there is indeed nothing remaining of productive, non-conflictual, US-Russian “partnership” ties. The post-Skripal worldwide diplomatic expulsions, which seem deliberately and desperately excessive, may have finally convinced Russia that there is no longer any use trying. Those who should be frightened of this are the American people.

The enemy of my enemy is me.

The United States is only succeeding in turning itself into an enemy for Russians. Americans would do well to understand how thoroughly their hypocritical and contemptuous stance has alienated the Russian people and strengthened Vladimir Putin’s leadership—as many of Putin’s critics warned them it would. The fantasy of stoking a “liberal” movement in Russia that will install some nouveau-Yeltsin-ish figure is dissipated in the cold light of a 77% election day. Putin is widely and firmly supported in Russia because he represents the resistance to any such scheme.

Americans who want to understand that dynamic, and what America itself has wrought in Russia, should heed the passion, anger, and disappointment in this statement about Putin’s election from a self-described “liberal” (using the word, I think, in the intellectual tradition, not the American political, sense), Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of RT TV (translator’s errors corrected):

Essentially, the West should be horrified not because 76% of Russians voted for Putin, but because this elections has demonstrated that 95% of Russia’s population supports conservative-patriotic, communist and nationalist ideas. That means that liberal ideas are barely surviving among measly 5% of population.

And that’s your fault, my Western friends. It was you who pushed us into “Russians never surrender” mode…

[W]ith all your injustice and cruelty, inquisitorial hypocrisy and lies, you forced us to stop respecting you. You and your so called “values.”

We don’t want to live like you live, anymore. For fifty years, secretly and openly, we wanted to live like you, but not any longer.

We have no more respect for you, and for those amongst us that you support, and for all those people who support you. …

For that you only have yourself to blame. … In meantime, you’ve pushed us to rally around your enemy. Immediately after you declared him an enemy, we united around him….

It was you who imposed an opposition between patriotism and liberalism. Although, they shouldn’t be mutually exclusive notions. This false dilemma, created by you, made us chose patriotism.

Even though, many of us are really liberals, myself included.

Get cleaned up, now. You don’t have much time left.

In fact, the whole “uprising”/color revolution strategy throughout the world is over. It’s been fatally discredited by its own purported successes. Everybody in the Middle East has seen how that worked out for Iraq, Libya, and Syria, and the Russians have seen how it worked out for Ukraine and for Russia itself. In neither Russia nor Iran (nor anywhere else of importance) are the Americans, with their sanctions and their NGOs and their cookies, going to stoke a popular uprising that turns a country into a fractured client of the Washington Consensus. More fantasy politics.

The old new world Washington wants won’t be born without a military midwife. The U.S. wants a compliant Russia (and “international community”) back, and it thinks it can force it into being.

Fear Knot

Consider this quote from The Saker, a defense analyst who was born in Switzerland to a Russian military family, “studied Russian and Soviet military affairs all [his] life,” and lived for 20 years in the United States. He’s been one of the sharpest analysts of Russia and Syria over the last few years. This was his take a year ago, after Trump’s cruise missile attack on Syria’s Al Shayrat airfield—another instant punishment for an absolutely, positively, proven-in-a day, chemical crime:

 For one thing, there is no US policy on anything. The Russians expressed their total disgust and outrage at this attack and openly began saying that the Americans were “недоговороспособны”. What that word means is literally “not-agreement-capable” or unable to make and then abide by an agreement. While polite, this expression is also extremely strong as it implies not so much a deliberate deception as the lack of the very ability to make a deal and abide by it. … But to say that a nuclear world superpower is “not-agreement-capable” is a terrible and extreme diagnostic.

This means that the Russians have basically given up on the notion of having an adult, sober and mentally sane partner to have a dialog with…

In all my years of training and work as a military analyst I have always had to assume that everybody involved was what we called a “rational actor”. The Soviets sure were.  As were the Americans.…

Not only do I find the Trump administration “not agreement-capable”, I find it completely detached from reality. Delusional in other words. …

Alas, just like Obama before him, Trump seems to think that he can win a game of nuclear chicken against Russia. But he can’t. Let me be clear here: if pushed into a corner the Russian will fight, even if that means nuclear war.

There is a reason for this American delusion. The present generation of American leadership was spoiled and addled by the blissful post-Soviet decades of American impunity.

The problem is not exactly that the U.S. wants full-on war with Russia, it’s that America does not fear it.2

Why should it? It hasn’t had to for twenty years during which the US assumed it could bully Russia to stay out of its imperial way anywhere it wanted to intervene.

After the Soviet Union broke up (and only because the Soviet Union disappeared) the United States was free to use its military power with impunity. For some time, the U.S. had its drunken stooge, Yeltsin, running Russia and keeping it out of America’s military way. There was nary a peep when Bill Clinton effectively conferred on NATO (meaning the U.S. itself) the authority to decide what military interventions were necessary and legitimate. For about twenty years—from the Yugoslavia through the Libya intervention—no nation had the military power or politico-diplomatic will to resist this.

But that situation has changed. Even the Pentagon recognizes that the American Empire is in a “post-primacy” phase—certainly “fraying,” and maybe even “collapsing.” The world has seen America’s social and economic strength dissipate, and its pretense of legitimacy disappear entirely. The world has seen American military overreach everywhere while winning nothing of stable value anywhere. Sixteen years, and the mighty U.S. Army cannot defeat the Taliban. Now, that’s Russia’s fault!

Meanwhile, a number of countries in key areas have gained the military confidence and political will to refuse the presumptions of American arrogance—China in the Pacific, Iran in the Middle East, and Russia in Europe and, surprisingly, the Middle East as well. In a familiar pattern, America’s resultant anxiety about waning power increases its compensatory aggression. And, as mentioned, since it was Russia that most effectively demonstrated that new military confidence, it’s Russia that has to be dealt with first.

The incessant wave of sanctions and expulsions is the bully in the schoolyard clenching his fist to scare the new kid away. OK, everyone’s got the message now. Unclench or punch?

Let’s be clear about who is the world’s bully. As is evident to any half-conscious person, Russia is not going to attack the United States or Europe. Russia doesn’t have scores of military bases, combat ships and aircraft up on America’s borders. It doesn’t have almost a thousand military bases around the world. Russia does not have the military forces to rampage around the world as America does, and it doesn’t want or need to. That’s not because of Russia’s or Vladimir Putin’s pacifism, but because Russia, as presently situated in the political economy of the world, has nothing to gain from it.

Nor does Russia need some huge troll-farm offensive to “destabilize” and sow division in Western Europe and the United States. Inequality, austerity, waves of immigrants from regime-change wars, and trigger-happy cops are doing a fine job of that. Russia isn’t responsible for American problems with Black Lives Matter or with the Taliban.

All of this is fantasy politics.

It’s the United States, with its fraying empire, that has a problem requiring military aggression. What other tools does the U.S. have left to put the upstarts, Russia first, back in their places?

It must be hard for folks who have had their way with country after country for twenty years not to think they can push Russia out of the way with some really, really scary threats, or maybe one or two “bloody nose” punches. Some finite number of discrete little escalations. There’s already been some shoving—that cruise missile attack, Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet, American attacks on Russian personnel (ostensibly private mercenaries) in Syria—and, look, Ma, no big war. But sometimes you learn the hard way the truth of the reverse Mike Tyson rule: “Everyone has a game plan until they smack the other guy in the face.”

Consider one concrete risk of escalation that every informed observer is, and every American should be, aware of.

The place where the United States and Russia are literally, geographically, closest to confrontation is Syria. As mentioned, the U.S. and its NATO ally, Turkey, have already attacked and killed Russians in Syria, and the U.S. and its NATO allies have a far larger military force than Russia in Syria and the surrounding area. On the other hand, Russia has made very effective use of its forces, including what Reuters calls “advanced cruise missiles” launched from planes, ships, and submarines that hit ISIS targets with high precision from 1000 kilometers.

Russia is also operating in accordance with international law, while the U.S. is not. Russia is fighting with Syria for the defeat of jihadi forces and the unification of the Syrian state. The United States is fighting with its jihadi clients for the overthrow of the Syrian government and the division of the country. Russia intervened in Syria after Obama announced that the U.S. would attack Syrian army troops, effectively declaring war. If neither side accepts defeat and goes home, it is quite possible there will be some direct confrontation over this. In fact, it’s hard to imagine that there won’t.

A couple of weeks ago Syria and Russia said the U.S. was planning a major offensive against the Syrian government, including bombing the government quarter in Damascus. Valery Gerasimov, head of Russia’s General Staff, warned: “In the event of a threat to the lives of our servicemen, Russia’s armed forces will take retaliatory measures against the missiles and launchers used.” In this context, “launchers” means American ships in the Mediterranean.

Also a couple of weeks ago, Russia announced a number of new, highly-advanced weapons systems. There’s discussion about whether some of the yet-to-be-deployed weapons announced may or may not be a bluff, but one that has already been deployed, called Dagger (Kinzhal, not the missiles mentioned above), is an air-launched hypersonic cruise missile that files at 5-7,000 miles per hour, with a range of 1,200 miles. Analyst Andrei Martyanov claims that: “no modern or prospective air-defense system deployed today by any NATO fleet can intercept even a single missile with such characteristics. A salvo of 5-6 such missiles guarantees the destruction of any Carrier Battle Group or any other surface group, for that matter.” Air-launched. From anywhere.

The U.S. attack has not (yet) happened, for whatever reason (Sputnik reporter Suliman Mulhem, citing “a military monitor,” claims that’s because of the Russian warnings). Great. But given the current state of America’s anxiously aggressive “post-primacy” policy—including the Russiamania, the Zionist-driven need to destroy Syria and Iran, and the War Cabinet—how unlikely is that the U.S. will, in the near future, make some such attack on some such target that Russia considers crucial to defend?

And Syria is just one theater where, unless one side accepts defeat and goes home, military conflict with Russia is highly likely. Is Russia going to abandon the Russian-speaking people of the Donbass if they’re attacked by fascist Kiev forces backed by the U.S.? Is it going to sit back and watch passively if American and Israeli forces attack Iran? Which one is going to give up and accept a loss: John Bolton or Vladimir Putin?

Which brings us to the pointed question: What will the U.S. do if Russia sinks an American ship? How many steps before that goes full-scale, even nuclear? Or maybe American planners (and you, dear reader) are absolutely, positively sure that will never happen, because the U.S. has cool weapons, too, and a lot more of them, and the Russians will probably lose all their ships in the Mediterranean immediately, if not something worse, and they’ll put up with anything rather than go one more step. The Russians, like everybody, must know the Americans always win.

Happy with that, are we? Snug in our homeland rug? ‘Cause Russians won’t fight, but the Taliban will.

This is exactly what is meant by Americans not fearing war with Russia (or war in general for that matter). Nothing but contempt.

The Skripal opera, directed by the United States, with the whole of Europe and the entire Western media apparatus singing in harmony, makes it clear that the American producers have no speaking role for Russia in their staging of the world. And that contempt makes war much more likely. Here’s The Saker again, on how dangerous the isolation the U.S. and its European clients are so carelessly imposing on Russia and themselves is for everybody:

Right now they are expelling Russian diplomats en masse and they are feeling very strong and manly. …

The truth is that this is only the tip of a much bigger iceberg. In reality, crucial expert-level consultations, which are so vitally important between nuclear superpowers, have all but stopped a long time ago. We are down to top level telephone calls. That kind of stuff happens when two sides are about to go to war. For many months now Russia and NATO have made preparations for war in Europe. …Very rapidly the real action will be left to the USA and Russia. Thus any conflict will go nuclear very fast. And, for the first time in history, the USA will be hit very, very hard, not only in Europe, the Middle-East or Asia, but also on the continental US.

Mass diplomatic expulsions, economic warfare, lockstep propaganda, no interest whatsoever in respectfully addressing or hearing from the other side. What we’ve been seeing over the past few months is the “kind of stuff that happens when two sides are about to go to war.”

The less Americans fear war, the less they respect the possibility of it, the more likely they are to get it.

Ready or Not

The Saker makes a diptych of a point that gets to the heart of the matter. We’d do well to read and think on it carefully:

1. The Russians are afraid of war. The Americans are not.
2. The Russians are ready for war.

The Americans are not. Russia is afraid of war. More than twenty million Soviet citizens were killed in WWII, about half of them civilians. That was more than twenty times the number of Americans and British casualties combined. The entire country was devastated. Millions died in the 872-day siege of Leningrad alone, including Vladimir Putin’s brother. The city’s population was decimated by disease and starvation, with some reduced to cannibalism. Wikileaks calls it  “one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history [and] possibly the costliest in casualties.”  Another million-plus died in the nine-month siege of Stalingrad.

Every Russian knows this history. Millions of Russian families have suffered from it. Of course, there was mythification of the struggle and its heroes, but the Russians, viscerally, know war and know it can happen to them. They do not want to go through it again. They will do almost anything to avoid it. Russians are not flippant about war. They fear it. They respect it.

The Americans are not (afraid of war). Americans have never experienced anything remotely as devastating as this. About 620,000 Americans died in the Civil War, 150 years ago. (And we’re still entangled in that!) The American mainland has not been attacked by a significant military force since the War of 1812. Since then, the worst attacks on American territory are two one-off incidents (Pearl Harbor and 9/11), separated by seventy years, totaling about six-thousand casualties. These are the iconic moments of America Under Siege.

For the American populace, wars are “over there,” fought by a small group of Americans who go away and either come back or don’t. The death, destruction, and aroma of warfare—which the United States visits on people around the world incessantly—is unseen and unexperienced at home. Americans do not, cannot, believe, in any but the most abstract intellectual sense, that war can happen here, to them. For the general populace, talk of war is just more political background noise, Morgan Freeman competing for attention with Stormy Daniels and the Kardashians.

Americans are supremely insouciant about war: They threaten countries with it incessantly, the government routinely sells it with lies, and the political parties promote it opportunistically to defeat their opponents—and nobody cares. For Americans, war is part of a game. They do not fear it. They do not respect it.

The Russians are ready for war. The Nazi onslaught was defeated—in Soviet Russia, by Soviet Citizens and the Red Army—because the mass of people stood and fought together for a victory they understood was important. They could not have withstood horrific sieges and defeated the Nazis any other way. Russians understand, in other words, that war is a crisis of death and destruction visited on the whole of society, which can only be won by a massive and difficult effort grounded in social solidarity. If the Russians feel they have to fight, if they feel besieged, they know they will have to stand together, take the hits that come, and fight to the finish. They will not again permit war to be brought to their cities while their attacker stays snug. There will be a world of hurt. They will develop and use any weapon they can. And their toughest weapon is not a hypersonic missile; it’s that solidarity, implied by that 77%. (Did you read that Simonyan statement?) They may not be seeking it, but, insofar as anybody can be, they are ready to fight.

Americans are not (ready for war) : Americans have experienced the horror of what was as a series of discrete tragedies visited upon families of fallen soldiers, reported in human-interest vignettes at the end of the nightly news. Individual tragedies, not a social disaster.

It’s hard to imagine the social devastation of war in any case, but American culture wants no part of thinking about that concretely. The social imagination of war is deflected into fantastic scenarios of a super-hero universe or a zombie apocalypse. The alien death-ray may blow up the Empire State Building, but the hero and his family (now including his or her gender-ambivalent teenager, and, of course, the dog) will survive and triumph. Cartoon villains, cartoon heroes, and a cartoon society.

One reason for this, we have to recognize, is the victory of the Thatcherite/libertarian-capitalist “no such thing as society” ideology. Congratulations, Ayn Rand, there is no such thing as American society now. It’s every incipient entrepreneur for him or herself. This does not a comradely, fighting band of brothers and sisters make.

Furthermore, though America is constantly at war, nobody understands the purpose of it. That’s because the real purpose can never be explained, and must be hidden behind some facile abstraction—”democracy,” “our freedoms,” etc. This kind of discourse can get some of the people motivated for some of the time, but it loses its charm the minute someone gets smacked in the face.

Once they take a moment, everybody can see that there is nobody with an army threatening to attack and destroy the United States, and if they take a few moments, everybody can see how phony the “democracy and freedom” stuff is and remember how often they’ve been lied to before. There’s just too much information out there. (Which is why the Imperial High Command wants to control the internet.) Why the hell am I fighting? What in hell are we fighting for? These are questions everybody will ask after, and too many people are now asking before, they get smacked in the face.

This lack of social understanding and lack of political support translates into the impossibility of fighting a major, sustained war that requires taking heavy casualties—even “over there,” but certainly in the snug. American culture might be all gung-ho about Seal Team Six kicking ass, but the minute American homes start blowing up and American bodies start falling, Hoo-hah becomes Uh-oh, and it’s going to be Outta here.

Americans are ready for Hoo-hah and the Shark Tank and the Zombie Apocalypse. They are not ready for war.

You Get What You Play For

“Russiagate,” which started quite banally in the presidential campaign as a Democratic arrow to take down Trump, is now Russiamania—a battery of weapons wielded by various sectors of the state, aimed at an array of targets deemed even potentially resistant to imperial militarism. Trump himself—still, and for as long as he’s deemed unreliable—is targeted by a legal prosecution of infinite reach (whose likeliest threat is to take him down for something that has nothing to do with Russia). Russia itself is now targeted in full force by economic, diplomatic, ideological—and, tentatively, military—weapons of the state. Perhaps most importantly, American and European people, especially dissidents, are targeted by a unified media barrage that attacks any expression of radical critique, anything that “sows division”—from Black Lives Matter, to the Sanders campaign, to “But other countries could have made it”—as Russian treachery.

The stunning success of that last offensive is crucial to making a war more likely, and must be fought. To increase the risk of war with a nuclear power in order to score points against Donald Trump or Jill Stein—well, only those who neither respect, fear, nor are ready for war would do such a stupid and dangerous thing.

It’s impossible to predict with certainty whether, when, or with whom a major hot war will be started. The same chaotic disarray and impulsiveness of the Trump administration that increases the danger of war might also work to prevent it. John Bolton may be fired before he trims his moustache. But it’s a pressure-cooker, and the temperature has spiked drastically.

In a previous essay, I said that Venezuela was a likely first target for military attack, precisely because it would make for an easy victory that didn’t risk military confrontation with Russia. That’s still a good possibility. As we saw with Iraq Wars 1 (which helped to end the “Vietnam Syndrome”) and 2 (which somewhat resurrected it), the imperial high command needs to inure the American public with a virtually American-casualty-free victory and in order to lure them into taking on a war that’s going to hurt.

But the new War Cabinet may be pumped for the main event—an attack on Iran. Trump, Pompeo, and Bolton are all rabid proponents of regime-change in Iran. We can be certain that the Iran nuclear deal will be scrapped, and everyone will work hard to implement the secret agreement the Trump administration already has with Israel to “to deal with Iran’s nuclear drive, its missile programs and its other threatening activities”—or, as Trump himself expresses it: “cripple the [Iranian] regime and bring it to collapse.” (That agreement, by the way, was negotiated and signed by the previous, supposedly not-so-belligerent National Security Advisor, H. R. McMaster.)

Still, as I also said in the previous essay, an attack on Iran means the Americans must either make sure Russia doesn’t get in the way or make clear that they don’t care if it does. So, threatening moves—not excluding probing military moves—against Russia will increase, whether Russia is the preferred direct target or not.

The siege is on.

Americans who want to continue playing with this fire would do well to pay some respectful attention to the target whose face they want to smack. Russia did not boast or brag or threaten or Hoo-Hah about sending military forces to Syria. When it was deemed necessary—when the United States declared its intention to attack the Syrian Army—it just did it. And American 10-dimensional-chess players have been squirming around trying to deal with the implications of that ever since. They’re working hard on finding the right mix of threats, bluffs, sanctions, expulsions, “Shut up and go away!” insults, military forces on the border, and “bloody nose” attacks to force a capitulation. They should be listening to their target, who has not tired of asking for a “partnership,” who has clearly stated what his country would do in reaction to previous moves (e.g., the abrogation of the ABM Treaty and stationing of ABM bases in Eastern Europe), whose country and family have suffered from wartime devastation Americans cannot imagine, who therefore respects, fears, and is ready for war in ways Americans are not, and who is not playing their game:

1 Ironically, given current drivers of Russiamania, this is a reference to remarks by Janet Napolitano. “The Enemization of Everything or an American Story of Empathy & Healing?

2 Though it’s ridiculous that it needs to be said: I’m not talking here about the phony fear engendered by the media presentation of the “strongman,” “brutal dictator” Vladimir Putin. This is part and parcel of comic-book politics—conjuring a super-villain, who, we all know, is destined to be defeated.

April 1, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Militarism, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment