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US House Armed Services Committee Objects to Investment in Space Interceptors

Sputnik – 18.01.2019

WASHINGTON – US House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith in a statement on Thursday objected to plans in the new Missile Defense Review (MDR) to invest in cost-prohibitive space-based interceptors and warned that the new strategy may drive Russia and China to boost their nuclear arsenal.

“I am concerned that this missile defense review could lead to greater investment in areas… such as a space-based interceptor layer that has been studied repeatedly and found to be technologically challenging and prohibitively expensive,” Smith said.

Smith also warned that the United States must avoid creating missile defense policies that will fuel a nuclear arms race.

“Strategic stability is an important part of US national security, but missile defense policies that incentivize Russia and China to increase their nuclear arsenals will not serve the best long-term interest of the United States,” Smith added.

Earlier today, the Trump administration rolled out its 2019 Missile Defense Review which presents a new strategy and posture that will set the path to strengthen the United States’ current missile defense capabilities and make the case for urgent investment into new ones.

In particular, the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) will study the possibility of investing in a space-based missile intercept layer capable of boost-phase defense. The MDA is tasked with delivering the assessment within the next six months.

The defense system is reportedly designed to destroy missiles before they re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. In 2016, an interceptor rocket and its ground-based targeting system successfully completed the tests in a program to develop a missile defense capable of hitting targets on the edge of outer space, according to various media reports.

January 17, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | | Leave a comment

Debris of INF treaty will fall far and wide

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | January 17, 2019

The US-Russia talks in Geneva regarding the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty have ended in failure. In a final call to salvage the treaty, Moscow offered that American experts could inspect a new suspect Russian missile, which Washington has been citing as the alibi for its decision to quit the treaty, but the US point-blank rejected the offer and instead went on to reconfirm that it intends to suspend observance of the cold-war era pact with effect from February 2.

We are entering uncharted waters in regional and international security. Russia anticipates increased US deployments near its borders. In an interview with government-daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said on Tuesday, “In general, our analysis shows that the American presence near our borders will grow… As for Russia’s western borders, we note the course for the growth of military presence of the US and other NATO members in their vicinity. In 2019, placement of multinational battalion tactical groups in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland will continue. At the same time, Brussels does not hide the fact that its main goal is to contain our country. The strengthening of the European segment of the US global missile defense system continues. The inauguration of the missile defense complex in Poland in addition to the already functioning one in Romania is expected in 2020.”

Equally, new faultlines are appearing. Moscow anticipates further US missile deployments to Northeast Asia – specifically, Japan. Moscow estimates that it is unrealistic to expect Japan to adopt an independent foreign policy. This geopolitical reality in Northeast Asia is in turn casting shadows on the recent improved climate in Russo-Japanese relations. (See my blog Russia tamps down the Kuril hype.)

Following the foreign-minister level talks in Moscow on Monday between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono, the latter showed reluctance to hold a joint press conference, underscoring the rapidly changing climate of ties between the two countries. Lavrov’s remarks to the media later signaled a marked toughening of the Russian stance on the territorial dispute over Kuril Islands.

Lavrov demanded an outright Japanese recognition of Russian sovereignty over all the islands in the Kuril chain as part of the outcome of World War 2, as accepted under international treaties and by the UN – “Japan’s indisputable recognition of the entirety of results of World War 2, including Russia’s sovereignty over all of the islands of the southern Kuril chain,” as Lavrov put it.

Lavrov said Japanese domestic legislation must accordingly be changed in consultation with Russia. He added, “This is our base position and without steps in this direction it is very difficult to expect movement forward on other issues (such as peace treaty).”

Evidently, in the developing post-INF treaty scenario, Japan’s security alliance with the US now becomes a major hurdle in Russo-Japanese relations. Lavrov specifically pointed a finger at this: “The 1956 Declaration was signed when Japan did not have a military alliance treaty with the US. The treaty was signed in 1960, after which our Japanese colleagues departed from the 1956 Declaration. Now that we are resuming talks on the basis of this declaration, we must consider the drastic change that has taken place in Japan’s military alliances since then. At today’s talks we devoted attention to the US efforts to develop a global missile defence system in Japan with a view to militarising that part of the world and also to the actions that the US formally justifies by citing the need to neutralise the North Korean nuclear threat. In reality, these actions are creating security risks for Russia and China.”

Interestingly, Lavrov brought in the common concern of Russia and China with regard to the US-Japan security alliance and the American missile deployments to Japan. This is a snub to Tokyo inasmuch as recently, Abe’s aide in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (which Abe heads) had made a provocative statement that the US should be interested in concluding a treaty between Russia and Japan, as this would “strengthen the bloc” to contain China. Lavrov called it an “outrageous statement” and put across as bluntly as he could the Russian indignation over any Japanese ploy to create misperceptions regarding Russia-China relations:

“The problem is that the president of the Liberal Democratic Party is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. We have issued a serious warning about how inappropriate such statements are. We have also inquired more broadly about how independent Japan can be in addressing any issues at all with such heavy dependence on the United States. We were assured that Japan would make decisions based on its national interests. We would like it to be that way.” (See a detailed report by China Daily titled Russia tells Japan retaking Pacific islands not on horizon.)

As much as in regard of Russia’s western borders with Europe, the Asia-Pacific also becomes a region where Moscow’s policies will be significantly influenced by the new climate in international security. This holds good for other regions, too.

Most certainly, Russia will be even more wary of any open-ended US-NATO occupation of Afghanistan. The Russian-American contestation over Turkey will become more complex. (The US missile deployment in Turkey was a core issue during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.) Again, there are reports that a massive expansion of the US bases in Qatar is unfolding (where the US Central Command is headquartered.) Qatar is a potential site for the deployment of US missile systems. Indeed, in the circumstances, Russia’s relations with Iran assume a highly strategic character. Iran’s strategic autonomy is of vital interest to Russia.

The Balkans is another region that Russian strategies will prioritize. Putin is embarking today on a visit to Serbia, which is a key ally, but where conditions may arise for a potential standoff between the West and Russia as had happened in 2014 in Ukraine. In an interview with the Serbian media, Putin came down heavily on the NATO expansion policy, which he condemned as “a misguided, destructive military and political strategy.” He accused the Alliance of “trying to strengthen its presence in the Balkans.” No doubt, a period of heightened tensions in international security lies ahead with the US decision to abandon the INF treaty.

January 17, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Pompeo Turns Reality Upside Down

By Philip M. GIRALDI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 17.01.2019

The speech made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the American University in Cairo on January 10th deserves more attention than it has received from the US media. In it, Pompeo reveals his own peculiar vision of what is taking place in the Middle East, to include the impact of his own personal religiosity, and his belief that Washington’s proper role in the region is to act as “a force for good.” The extent to which the Secretary of State was speaking for himself was not completely clear, but the text of the presentation was posted on the State Department website without any qualification, so one has to assume that Pompeo was representing White House policy.

Pompeo immediately set the stage for what was to follow, asserting in his first several paragraphs that “This trip is especially meaningful for me as an evangelical Christian… In my office, I keep a Bible open on my desk to remind me of God and His Word, and The Truth. And it’s the truth, lower-case ‘t,’ that I’m here to talk about today. It is a truth that isn’t often spoken in this part of the world, but because I’m a military man by training, I’ll be very blunt and direct today: America is a force for good in the Middle East.”

Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence are quite likely the two most prominent Evangelical Christians in the Donald Trump Administration. Further, the two are Christian Zionists, which means that the return of the Jews to the Middle East is an essential precursor component of their belief that certain steps must be taken to bring about the second coming of Christ. Some Christian Zionists believe that the second coming is imminent, but whether or not that is true of Pence and Pompeo, they nevertheless share the conviction that the state of Israel must be protected at all costs, a view that certainly shapes their policy recommendations regarding the Middle East. And that view also has an impact on policy towards Israel’s neighbors, with Iran in particular being vilified as the purely evil foe, a “cancerous influence,” that will be destroyed in the great battle of Armageddon which will lead to the second coming and the rapture of all good Christians into Heaven.

Beyond that, Pompeo sought in his speech to disparage the Middle Eastern policy of Donald Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama and to make clear that something fresh and exciting has arrived in its place. He said that the United States had been “absent too much” to help friends in the Middle East. “Why? Because our leaders gravely misread our history, and your historical moment. These fundamental misunderstandings, set forth in this city in 2009, adversely affected the lives of hundreds of millions of people in Egypt and all across the region. Remember: It was here, here in this city, that another American stood before you. He told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from an ideology. He told you that 9/11 led my country to abandon its ideals, particularly in the Middle East. He told you that the United States and the Muslim world needed, quote, ‘a new beginning,’ end of quote. The results of these misjudgments have been dire.”

Along the way Pompeo trots out a lot of half-truths and even completely fabricated lies, saying that America’s “timidity” had let to the rise of ISIS, had enabled Iran’s government to crush the “Green Revolution,” had freed Tehran to interfere all over the region, had allowed Hezbollah to accumulate a massive arsenal to threaten Israel, and had permitted Bashar al-Assad to kill his own people with chemical weapons. And worst of all, there was a false desire for peace that led to “a [nuclear] deal with Iran, our common enemy.”

Pompeo concludes from the record of calamities that “So today, what did we learn from all of this? We learned that when America retreats, chaos often follows. When we neglect our friends, resentment builds. And when we partner with enemies, they advance… The good news is this: The age of self-inflicted American shame is over, and so are the policies that produced so much needless suffering. Now comes the real new beginning. In just 24 months, actually less than two years, the United States under President Trump has reasserted its traditional role as a force for good in this region.”

Apart from the histrionics, the speech was clearly intended to deliver a simple political message to the audience and particularly to the Egyptian and Gulf governments. By asserting a “force for good” mandate, Pompeo was actually telling all the autocratic regimes in the Middle East that they can do whatever they want as long as they hate Iran.

To be sure, Pompeo’s speech contained a number of lines that might be considered attempts at humor given the absurdity of some of the claims being made. He said “For those who fret about the use of American power, remember this: America has always been, and always will be, a liberating force, not an occupying power. We’ve never dreamed of domination in the Middle East. Can you say the same about Iran?” Actually, you could say exactly that about Iran, which hasn’t occupied anyone since the seventeenth century. It is the US that has land, sea and air power based all over the region while also fighting wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. It is America’s best friend and ally Israel that is occupying Palestine.

But the best line was towards the end, “And in Yemen, we will continue to work for a lasting peace. And I think this is clear, but it is worth reiterating: The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against the Iranian regime’s aggressive adventurism. We will continue to ensure that Israel has the military capacity to do so decisively.”

As Yemen is achieving peace through American bombs supplied to the Saudis while “ally” Israel is the most persistent aggressor in the Middle East second only to Washington, it is ludicrous to think that America in some way has become a “force for good.” Tell that to the Libyans whose prosperous state was reduced to anarchy by American bombing and support of terrorist groups. Visit Fallujah or Raqqa, or what’s left of them. US forces and sanctions have killed 1.7 million Iraqi civilians, including 500,000 children. By one estimate, as many as 4 million Muslims have died as a direct or indirect consequence of America’s wars in Asia since 1990. US ally Saudi Arabia meanwhile bombs Yemeni schools, buses, and hospitals, starving children as part of a major humanitarian catastrophe, while Israel attacks Syria nearly on a daily basis.

It should be terrifying to learn that Mike Pompeo has an open Bible on his desk, particularly as he seems disinclined to read the New Testament part with its message of love and forgiveness. Now the White House appears to be entering into a new America as a “force for good” phase that relies on naked aggression and collective punishment for those who do not choose to submit. And, per Pompeo, God is on our side.

January 17, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , | 2 Comments

There’s More to Russia than Meets the Eye

By James V. DeLong | American Thinker | January 15, 2019

While I have only a concerned citizen’s knowledge of foreign affairs, I am baffled by the hysterical Russophobia of the MSM and the Democratic Party since the 2016 election.

As far as I can tell, there should be no real issues between Russia and the U.S. Ukraine or Crimea is freighted with questions of local ethnicity and brutal history and should be sorted out by the parties, or at most by Europe. We have no stake. As for the defense of Europe, it is not credible that Russia has designs on an entity that so outweighs it in population and wealth. Trump was right to point out that the Europeans themselves do not believe in the threat, since they are happy to shortchange defense while relying on Russia for natural gas. Why would the Russians send tanks when shutting a valve would cripple Germany?

I do not really understand why either nation is in Syria, and any Russian intervention in the 2016 election was trivial.  In any case, of course the Russians want to influence our elections. We are the world’s 800-pound gorilla (or bull in the china shop), so everyone wants to influence our elections, and who can blame these people? People all over the world live and die depending on the self-centered whims of whoever holds power in the U.S. – just ask Moammar Gaddafi (“we came, we saw, he died“). Saudis, Israelis, Europeans, Brits, and many others have been meddling for decades and will continue to do so. So grow up, MSM.

Irritated by the repetitive triviality of the press, I began searching for sources that would broaden and deepen my perspective. Indeed, I found an avalanche of web material that rarely makes it through the gatekeepers in the U.S. The quality and honesty of these varies greatly, but, to help out readers who share my unease about the information they are getting from the MSM, or even from many U.S. conservative sites, I will list a few that are worth your attention because, in my estimation, they are intelligent observers who know what they are talking about and who are trying to tell their readers the truth as they see it.

Russia Observer is the site of Patrick Armstrong, a former analyst in the Canadian Department of National Defense. He writes a column on some current issue every week or so, plus a useful biweekly “SitRep” covering many issues in terse style. His orientation as follows:

[T]he predominant theme of my career was that we had a great opportunity when the USSR disappeared to make a more cooperative world. Instead, we have steadily turned Russia into an enemy – and a much more capable one than we casually assumed in the 1990s.

So here we are today.  Paying for our arrogance, incompetence and maybe worse.

But I haven’t given up hope.

Everything Armstrong does is first-rate. His work also appears at Strategic Culture, a Russophile site that publishes dozens of authors of multifarious perspectives, but with a commonality that none is a fan of the U.S.

Irrussianality is the work of Paul Robinson, another Canadian, who teaches at the University of Ottawa. He writes every few days on “the relationship between Russia and the West; and the apparently irrational decision making processes which dominate much of international relations.” Again, everything he does is worthwhile. He also has an interesting blog roll, which I have only begun to explore.

Stephen F. Cohen is professor emeritus of Russian Studies at NYU and Princeton.  He has been working the Russian beat at The Nation for several years, warning that something has gone seriously askew, and his new book of columns, War with Russia: From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate, demands attention. To recommend the lefty Nation seems a bit droll, but virtue is where you find it.

What will you learn from these? Not long ago, Patrick Armstrong said, in Back to the USSR: How to Read Western News:

[H]as any Western news outlet reported, say, these ten true statements?

  1. People in Crimea are pretty happy to be in Russia.
  2. The US and its minions have given an enormous amount of weapons to jihadists.
  3. Elections in Russia reflect popular opinion polling.
  4. There really are a frightening number of well-armed nazis in Ukraine.
  5. Assad is pretty popular in Syria.
  6. The US and its minions smashed Raqqa to bits.
  7. The official Skripal story makes very little sense.
  8. Ukraine is much worse off, by any measurement, now than before Maidan.
  9. Russia actually had several thousand troops in Crimea before Maidan.
  10. There’s a documentary that exposes Browder that he keeps people from seeing.

I typed these out as they occurred to me. I could come up with another ten pretty easily. There’s some tiny coverage, far in the back pages, so that objectivity can be pretended, but most Western media consumers would answer they aren’t; didn’t; don’t; aren’t; isn’t; where?; does; not; what?; never heard of it.

Recently, at “The Blob Strikes Back,” Paul Robinson discussed Trump’s plan to withdraw from Syria:

The most recent [defense policy story] … could be well titled ‘The Blob Strikes Back’ – the ‘Blob’ being a derogatory term for the American security establishment, an amorphous being which defies easy definition and is decidedly hard to pin down, but which exerts enormous power and which seems to be impervious to outside realities, continuing along its chosen path regardless of all the disasters it confronts, and causes, along the way. … Starting wars is something the American security establishment can cope with; ending them is something which causes it real difficulties.

Stephen Cohen’s most recent column asks, “Do Russiagate Promotors Prefer Impeaching Trump to Avoiding War with Russia?“:

In large part due to … media malpractice, and despite the escalating dangers in US-Russian relations, in 2018 there continued to be no significant anti-Cold War opposition anywhere in mainstream American political life – not in Congress, the major political parties, think tanks, or on college campuses, only a very few individual dissenters. Accordingly, the policy of détente with Russia, or what Trump has repeatedly called “cooperation with Russia,” still found no significant supporters in mainstream politics, even though it was the policy of other Republican presidents, notably Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan.  Trump has tried, but he has been thwarted, repeatedly again in 2018.

Agree or disagree, the points made by these authors are serious, and they deserve attention and discussion, not oblivion. They are not made in the MSM.

For those who wish to delve, here is one more recommendation.

Vladimir Putin has a website that prints English transcripts of his torrent of speeches, communiqués, and meetings. Putin is quite available; he meets frequently with groups of all stripes and holds news conferences that last for three or four hours. As with all politicians, total candor is improbable, but, on the other hand, he must use these events to communicate with Russia’s many constituencies, so one learns at least what he wants people to think he thinks, whether or not it is what he really thinks.

The Putin of these materials is not at all the thug of the MSM. One can read his remarks at the 2017 dedication of the Wall of Sorrow, a memorial to the victims of political repression, which, with other statements, expresses a clear understanding of need to keep green the memory of the Bolshevik tragedy.

Here one can read his 2018 Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly. Like a U.S. State of the Union address, it genuflects to multifarious interest groups, but it also places great emphasis on the importance of civil society. Putin is on the same page as the American conservatives who keep saying politics is downstream from culture. The speech also contains Putin’s view of the military balance, explaining why he thinks Russia can forestall any aggression by the U.S. while spending a tenth as much.

As stated above, agree or disagree, but it is better to read Putin’s own words than to have his thoughts filtered through the MSM. His speeches are far more substantive than what one gets from our own politicians. (In any case, whom are you going to believe – Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi or Vladimir Putin? It’s not even close.)

Like Patrick Armstrong, I am appalled at the direction taken by Russian-American relations, but neither have I given up hope. Reading Armstrong and his confreres may help lead to a path out of this potentially deadly slough of misinformation.

James V DeLong is a retired lawyer, government official, and think-tank analyst.

January 16, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , | 1 Comment

Pyongyang Urges End of Foreign Military Exercises on Korean Peninsula – Envoy

Sputnik – 15.01.2019

Pyongyang calls for abandoning military exercises involving foreign forces on the Korean Peninsula, North Korean Ambassador to Russia Kim Hyun Joong said Tuesday.

“In order to eliminate military hostility between North and South Koreas in a fundamental way and turn the Korean Peninsula into a lasting and eternal peace zone, it is necessary to abandon conducting military exercises with foreign forces because North and South Korea agreed to follow the path of peace and prosperity,” Joong said at a dinner marking the occasion of the New Year at the Embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in Moscow.

Joong went on saying that it was also necessary to abandon foreign strategic weapons on its territory.

The ambassador stressed that multilateral negotiations should be conducted with the aim to establish a system of peace on the Korean Peninsula through close cooperation with the countries that had signed an armistice agreement.

Pyongyang was ready to establish new relations with the United States in accordance with the spirit of the era and wishes of the people, the diplomat noted.

He further added that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in his New Year’s speech declared his readiness to meet with US President Donald Trump once again.

The situation on the Korean Peninsula has improved since the beginning of this year. During this time, North Korean leader Kim Jon Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have held several meetings, while Kim even had a historic summit with US President Donald Trump. This summit yielded an agreement stipulating that North Korea would make efforts to promote the complete denuclearization of the peninsula in exchange for the United States and South Korea freezing their military drills as well as the potential removal of US sanctions.

READ MORE:

Trump Sends Letter to North Korean Leader Amid Preparations for Summit — Reports

January 15, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

‘NATO Has Outlived Its Usefulness & Should Go Into Dustbin of History’ – Scholar

Sputnik – January 15, 2019

On Monday, The New York Times cited unnamed senior administration officials as saying that US President Donald Trump has ostensibly questioned US membership in NATO and expressed a wish to withdraw the country from the bloc.

Radio Sputnik has discussed the report with Dr Joseph Cheng, Professor of Political Science at the City University of Hong Kong.

Sputnik: What are your thoughts on the report that US President Trump repeatedly expressed his wish to withdraw the country from NATO?

Dr. Joseph Cheng: Well, Trump as a businessman has approached this from the point of view of finances and of course until very recently only four other members of NATO paid the 2 percent of GDP — Britain, Poland, Greece, and Estonia — which he found unsatisfactory. But I believe there are other reasons why NATO has outlived its usefulness, including that, instead of serving as a defensive organisation against a no longer extent Soviet Union, it’s being used for wars of aggression such as the slaughter in Libya, which was orchestrated by Hillary Clinton with the approval of Barack Obama and John Brennan. It was a great atrocity of one of the most humane societies ever realised on the face of Earth.

And now I think the fact that there has been an encroachment on the Eastern Bloc nations [that] Ronald Reagan had solemnly agreed with Mikhail Gorbachev that they would not be weaponised, westernised, no attempt to be made become NATO nations that the United States has grossly violated, beginning with Bill Clinton. And therefore, I believe that withdrawing from NATO and allowing NATO to fall apart would be a good thing for the world, for Europe, for the United States altogether.Sputnik: Professor, the report by The New York Times details Trump’s alleged words dating back to last summer. Why is the media outlet reporting about this now?

Dr. Joseph Cheng: Well, that’s a great question. There has been a massive assault on Trump by the mainstream media and the Democrats because he is being far more successful than they had ever imagined. He has strengthened the American economy prior to the midterms, for example. He had a 50 percent approval rating according to the Rasmussen Poll. He even had a 40 percent approval rating from black Americans. This is devastating potentially to Democrats because if they lose the black vote on which they count having 90 to 95 percent, they are going to have great difficulty winning elections. This is another reason why they are opposing the wall. They want immigrants to come into the United States because they expect they are going vote Democratic. So I believe this is part of an ongoing effort to trash Trump, where the media is reporting only the Democratic version of events, which we know of course, was long since infiltrated by the CIA, in Operation Mockingbird beginning in the 1950s.

Sputnik: Professor, can Donald Trump actually withdraw the United States from NATO, like he withdrew from various other organisations?

Dr. Joseph Cheng: Well, of course, if the president the suggested that might be possible I would have to look at the legalities involving it, but certainly, some of his decisions of the past have been poor ones, withdrawing from the Iran agreement, for example, was not well founded. That was very-very troubling because it made it appear as though he was following an Israeli foreign policy rather than American. The three reasons he gave, namely that the treaty would expire in 2025 was meaningless because it could be renegotiated; that it didn’t cover Iranian military bases that would have been appropriate because it was only concerned with Iran’s nuclear programme and the fact that it didn’t cover Iran’s ballistic missile development was also inappropriate because every sovereign nation is entitled to its own self-defence. So he made a blunder with regard to the Iran deal. My personal opinion is, however, is that NATO has long since outlived its usefulness and should go into the dustbin of history.

Sputnik: How badly does Europe need the US in the bloc? Could they move to be more independent from the US?

Dr. Joseph Cheng: Well, I think that there are many reasons why Europe is growing more independent and, in fact, I think that there is a much more natural reliance between Europe and Russia for example than between Europe and the United States at this point in time; particularly on commercial and economic grounds. The Iran sanctions, for example, have threatened to cost Europe tens of billions of dollars in trade and commerce. So that is all very bad, detrimental to Europe to pursue a policy of sanctions on Iran that was not justified in the first place; where even American intelligence agencies as early as 2007 have concluded that Iran was not pursuing a nuclear weapons programme, which they reaffirmed in 2011 and D-D from the Mossad came on board in 2012 that Iran was not pursuing nuclear weapons, which means these sanctions which are harmful to Europe and to the rest of the world are a bad idea. And of course, pulling out of the Iran deal was not justified from the beginning. So, hopefully, he will display more wisdom in foreign policy than he has heretofore.

January 15, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , | 2 Comments

Washington in Panic Mode as Trump Reportedly Mulled Withdrawal From NATO

Sputnik – 15.01.2019

Since taking office in 2017, Donald Trump has on a multitude of occasions slammed NATO member states for failing to meet their annual defence spending obligations and insisted on fair burden-sharing.

Over the course of 2018, US President Donald Trump repeatedly expressed a willingness to withdraw from NATO, The New York Times reported, citing current and former senior administration officials.

Although the unnamed sources said that they were not sure if Trump was serious, they allegedly feared that POTUS would return to his threat as other alliance member states failed to boost their military donations to NATO and reach the spending target set by the bloc.

Days ahead of a NATO summit in Brussels last summer, Trump purportedly questioned the alliance’s raison d’être while speaking to senior national security officials, describing it as an exhausting burden on the United States.

The New York Times report suggests that Trump complained about Europe’s failure to meet defence spending goals, thus leaving the US to “carry an outsize burden”.

POTUS was allegedly frustrated with the fact that his transatlantic allies would not, on the spot, pledge to donate more. But at another leaders meeting during the same summit, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg praised Washington’s example and suggested that European member states follow suit — Trump was allegedly taken by surprise.

Trump was purportedly annoyed, in particular, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her country’s military spending of 1 percent of its GDP.

At the time, then-Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and White House National Security Adviser John Bolton struggled to stick to American strategy without mentioning the potential withdrawal that would inevitably undermine Washington’s influence in Europe and embolden Russia, the newspaper wrote.

According to The New York Times, national security advisers are increasingly concerned over a possible pullout from NATO, as well as Trump’s purported efforts to keep his encounters with Russian President Vladimir Putin secret from his own aides, and an ongoing investigation into the alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

“It would destroy 70-plus years of painstaking work across multiple administrations, Republican and Democratic, to create perhaps the most powerful and advantageous alliance in history. And it would be the wildest success that Vladimir Putin could dream of”, Michèle A. Flournoy, an under-secretary of defence under President Barack Obama, told the media outlet.

The newspaper further cited retired Adm. Gen. James G. Stavridis, the former supreme allied commander of NATO, who said that “even discussing the idea of leaving NATO — let alone actually doing so — would be the gift of the century for Putin”.

After The New York Times reached the White House for comment, a senior administration official cited Trump’s remarks in July 2018, when he described Washington’s commitment to the military alliance as “very strong”, with the bloc itself being “very important”.

The insiders, who spoke to the newspaper on condition of anonymity, assumed that with a weakened NATO, President Putin would have “more freedom to behave as he wishes”, thus setting up Russia as a “counterweight” to the United States and Europe.

Although President Trump has not publicly threatened to leave the transatlantic alliance, relations between the US and Europe have hit their lowest point since he blasted other NATO members for not complying with their obligations to boost defence spending.

Trump has on numerous occasions emphasised that the other members of the bloc should pay their “fair share” and stressed that only five of the 29 member states were spending two percent of their GDP to defence, which was “insufficient to close gaps in modernising, readiness and the size of forces”.

On the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels in July, the allies agreed to start spending two percent of their GDP by 2024, with Trump pointing out that he was convinced that they would increase defence expenditures in line with their commitments.

At the same time, the US president suggested raising the military spending commitment up to four percent of GDP – that proposal, however, failed to find support.

January 15, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

US atomic bomb and missile tests crowded them onto Ebeye. Now their former Marshall Islands paradise is “the Slum of the Pacific.”

Photo by Vlad Sokhin shows North Camp, one of the most populated areas on Ebeye. Ebeye is the second most densely populated city in the world, home to at least 15,000.
By Vlad Sokhin | Beyond Nuclear International | November 25, 2018

The tiny island of Ebeye in Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, has a total area of 0.36 square kilometres and is home to over 15,000 people, most of whom were moved there from nearby islands because of a US Army missile range-testing program that was launched in the late 1940s. Overcrowding, poverty, outbreaks of infectious diseases and a high level of unemployment has led some to refer to Ebeye as the ‘ghetto of the Pacific’. Until the 1940s, the island’s population was negligible. During the Second World War, Japan occupied the Marshall Islands and moved some 1,000 settlers there and when the US captured the islands in 1944, a new naval base and the movement of people from other parts of the Atoll rapidly augmented Ebeye’s population.

In preparation for ‘Operation Crossroads’, an extensive missile testing programme that would eventually comprise 67 blasts, the US military decided to move all non-US personnel from around the Kwajalein Atoll onto Ebeye, which lies around five kilometres north of Kwajalein Island, the largest in the Atoll. On 1 March 1954, under the code name of ‘Castle Bravo’, the US military detonated a dry fuel hydrogen bomb on Bikini Atoll, in the north of the island chain, which was to be the most powerful nuclear device ever exploded by the United States. Though the Bikini Islanders had been persuaded to relocate to a neighbouring island in 1946, where they had suffered shortages and malnutrition, members of other nearby communities on Rongelap island were not evacuated until 3 days after the blast, causing many to suffer the effects of radiation sickness and birth defects.

Keen to return to their ancestral lands, Bikini islanders were tentatively allowed to come back to their homes three years after ‘Castle Bravo’ but had to be moved again after many developed leukaemia and thyroid tumours.

Over the coming decades, some islanders continued to return and try to reestablish their old communities but periodic tests of the soil, water and plant life on Bikini islands consistently suggested that the place had been so polluted by the nuclear fallout of ‘Castle Bravo’ and other tests that it was unsafe to live on the Atoll any longer. Many Bikini Islanders ended up on Ebeye, now the most densely populated of the Marshall islands, with the help of Greenpeace which in 1985 organised a mass evacuation from areas affected by fallout.

A child stands at the window opening in one of the many derelict houses on the island.

As the US nuclear testing programme developed and grew in the 1950s, most of the people living around the Kwajalein Atoll, where various US military installations that assist the nuclear test sites are based, were relocated from their homes and into a planned settlement on Ebeye. After they were joined by the ‘nuclear migrants’ from Bikini and other northern atolls, the poorly constructed settlements on Ebeye became increasingly crowded, leading to a polio outbreak in 1963, a measles outbreak in 1978 and regular occurrences of cholera, tuberculosis and other diseases up to the present day. The most overcrowded settlement of Northern Camp is a large shanty town without water supply or sewage system. Since much of the population is dependent on the service industry at US installations, unemployment is a major problem.

According to George Junior, a health worker at Ebeye’s hospital, ongoing missile testing around Kwajalein Atoll continues to impact on the health of local people. ‘When the Americans test their missiles and then the rain comes, the entire population of Ebeye gets sick. We have diarrhoea, flu and conjunctivitis. Such symptoms continue for 10 to 15 days and then everyone gets better until the next tests’ he says. And while US personnel enjoy excellent health care in places like Kwajalein Hospital, the majority of Ebeye residents who need emergency care are often referred to hospitals in Majuro, the administrative capital of the Marshall Islands, or to Manila or Hawaii since they do not have clearance to enter military installations.

Vlad Sokhin (Russia/Portugal) is a documentary photographer, videographer and multimedia producer. He covers social, cultural, environmental, health and human rights issues around the world, including post-conflict and natural disaster zones.

January 13, 2019 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 2 Comments

If Army Ads Had Health Warnings

David Swanson | June 18, 2010

This is a parody and not a real U.S. Army ad. You can tell by the honesty.

January 12, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video | 1 Comment

New Poll: US Military Occupations Supported By Far More Democrats Than Republicans

By Caitlin Johnstone | Medium | January 10, 2019

A new Politico/Morning Consult poll has found that there is much more support for ongoing military occupations among Democrats surveyed than Republicans.

To the question “As you may know, President Trump ordered an immediate withdrawal of more than 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria. Based on what you know, do you support or oppose President Trump’s decision?”, 29 percent of Democrats responded either “Somewhat support” or “Strongly support”, while 50 percent responded either “Somewhat oppose” or “Strongly oppose”. Republicans asked the same question responded with 73 percent either somewhat or strongly supporting and only 17 percent either somewhat or strongly opposing.

Those surveyed were also asked the question “As you may know, President Trump ordered the start of a reduction of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, with about half of the approximately 14,000 U.S. troops there set to begin returning home in the near future. Based on what you know, do you support or oppose President Trump’s decision?” Forty percent of Democrats responded as either “Somewhat support” or “strongly support”, with 41 percent either somewhat or strongly opposing. Seventy-six percent of Republicans, in contrast, responded as either somewhat or strongly supporting Trump’s decision, while only 15 percent oppose it to any extent.

These results will be truly shocking and astonishing to anyone who has been in a coma since the Bush administration. For anyone who has been paying attention since then, however, especially for the last two years, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

This didn’t happen by itself, and it didn’t happen by accident. American liberals didn’t just spontaneously start thinking endless military occupations of sovereign nations is a great idea yesterday, nor have they always been so unquestioningly supportive of the agendas of the US war machine. No, Democrats support the unconscionable bloodbaths that their government is inflicting around the world because they have been deliberately, methodically paced into that belief structure by an intensive mass media propaganda campaign.

The anti-war Democrats, after Barack Obama was elected on a pro-peace platform in 2008, went into an eight-year hibernation during which they gaslit themselves into ignoring or forgiving their president’s expansion of George W Bush’s wars, aided by a corporate media which marginalized, justified, and often outright ignored Obama’s horrifying military expansionism. Then in 2016 they were forced to gaslight themselves even further to justify their support for a fiendishly hawkish candidate who spearheaded the destruction of Libya, who facilitated the Iraq invasion, who was shockingly hawkish toward Russia, and who cited Henry Kissinger as a personal role model for foreign policy. I recall many online debates with Clinton fans in the lead up to the 2016 election who found themselves arguing that the Iraq invasion wasn’t that bad in order to justify their position.

After Clinton managed to botch the most winnable election of all time, mainstream liberal America was plunged into a panic that has been fueled at every turn by the plutocratic mass media, which have seized upon unthinking cultish anti-Trumpism to advance the cause of US military interventionism even further with campaigns like the sanctification of John McCain and the rehabilitation of George W Bush. Trump is constantly attacked as being too soft on Moscow despite having already dangerously escalated a new cold war against Russia which some experts are saying is more dangerous than the one the world miraculously survived. Trump’s occasional positive impulses, like the agenda to withdraw US troops from Syria and Afghanistan, are painted as weakness and foolishness by the intelligence veterans who now comprise so much of corporate liberal media punditry. And their audience laps it up because by now mainstream liberals have been trained to have far more interest in opposing Trump than in opposing war.

And how sick is that? Obviously Trump has advanced a lot of toxic agendas which need to be ferociously opposed, but how warped does your mind have to be to make a religion out of that opposition which is so all-consuming that it eclipses even the natural impulse to avoid inflicting death and destruction upon your fellow man? How viciously has the psyche of American liberals been brutalized with mass media psyops to drive them into this psychotic, twisted reality tunnel?

There was one group in the aforementioned survey which was not nearly as affected by the propaganda as armchair liberals. To the statement “The U.S. has been engaged in too many military conflicts in places such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan for too long, and should prioritize getting Americans out of harm’s way,” military households responded 54 percent that this statement aligns with their view. Turns out when it’s your own family’s blood and limbs on the line, people are a lot less willing to commit to endless violence. Sixty percent of Republicans agreed with this statement, while only 41 percent of Democrats did.

Could these statistics have something to do with the fact that younger veterans are statistically much more likely to be Republicans than Democrats? Is it possible that a major reason Trump beat Hillary Clinton, and a major reason Republicans are now far less bloodthirsty than Democrats, is because mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers are tired of flag-draped coffins being shipped home containing bodies which were ripped apart for no legitimate reason in senseless military entanglements on the other side of the world? Seems likely. And it also seems likely that the mass media propaganda machine is having a harder time steering people toward war once they’ve personally tasted its true cost.

January 11, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | Leave a comment

Australia’s Strategic Bubble: Denial in the Face of Changing Geopolitical Realities

By James ONeill – New Eastern Outlook – 11.01.2019

The next election in Australia is expected to be held on a date between March and May 2019. If two years of opinion polls are a reliable guide, the Opposition Labour party is expected to win comfortably. It should present an opportunity for a fresh start in Australia’s foreign and defence policies. That is unlikely however to be the case.

The leader of the Opposition and likely next Prime Minister Bill Shorten (assuming the current interim prime minister actually survives until the election, which is by no means a foregone conclusion) has given no indication in speeches or policy documents that a future Labour government would do other than follow the policies of past decades. (The spectre of the 1972 US-UK coup casts a long shadow).

There are a number of reasons why that is neither a viable policy option, nor is it in Australia’s national interest to remain wedded to the policies of the past.

The essential basis of Australia’s defence policy and its foreign policy corollary was set out in the 2016 Defence White Paper. That document is remarkable for its capacity for delusional thinking and a false historical narrative, as well as having an inability to anticipate radical changes in the geopolitical and strategic framework, notwithstanding that those changes were clearly discernible well in advance of the White Paper’s publication.

Under the heading ‘Strategic Outlook’ for example, it states support for a “rules based global order which supports our interests” (p19). The United States, it says, “will remain the pre-eminent global military power over the next two decades” (p43). Australia’s alliance with the United States “is based on shared values and will continue to be the centerpiece of our defence policy” (p46).

The ANZUS Treaty provides the formal basis of Australia’s defence relationship (p123). It (the Treaty) “obliges each country to act to meet the common danger” (p123).

Taking the last point first, what the treaty actually provides (Article III) is that “the parties will consult together whenever in the opinion of any of them the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened in the Pacific.”

Other provisions in the ANZUS Treaty provide for any measures taken by the parties to be referred to the United Nations Security Council. The parties undertake (Article I) to settle any international disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the UN Charter.

Since the treaty was signed (1951) and came into force (1952) Australia has been part of a United States led coalition that has attacked North Vietnam (1962-72), Afghanistan (2001 and continuing), Iraq (2003 and continuing), and Syria (2015 and continuing).

None of these countries posed a threat to the “territorial integrity, political independence or security” of any of the Treaty’s participants. Neither are any of those countries in or anywhere near the Pacific.

The ANZUS Treaty in short, is not what it is claimed to be and should not be used (assuming it even continues) as a fig leaf of respectability for the blatant geopolitical and imperial ambitions of the United States. That all of the above mentioned wars were and are manifestly in breach of international law and of the United Nations Charter is not a subject of discussion in Australia. Neither could it be claimed that these wars fulfilled the requirement to settle disputes by peaceful means.

The second element is the claim that Australia’s alliance with the United States is “based on shared values.” Politicians frequently repeat this phrase, in one form or another. What are those alleged shared values?

Is it the United States’ history of waging war? It has after all been at war for 222 out of 239 years since Independence in 1776. Just taking the post World War 2 period alone, it has attacked, undermined or overthrown the governments of more than 70 countries, killing between 30 and 40 million people in the process.

Is this really a “shared” value that Australia subscribes to? To claim that the United States presence in the Indo-Pacific (and globally) over the past 70 years has underpinned peace and stability is to take the Orwellian misuse of language to fresh heights.

The major delusion however, is to claim that the United States will remain the pre-eminent military power over the next two decades. Certainly, as long as the United States continues its long standing policy of attacking essentially defenceless countries it can continue to project military power with devastating consequences. Iraq for example is a graphic illustration of this point.

Faced with a power with the ability to fight back, a radically different picture emerges. The two most important opponents of US hegemony in this context are the two countries that the United States National Defence Strategy (December 2017) labeled “dangerous revisionist powers”, i.e. China and Russia.

In looking at the military prowess of those two “revisionist” countries, the dangerous delusions of Australian (and United States) foreign and military policy are brought into stark relief.

The Chinese for example have developed the Dong Feng (East Wind) series of missiles. There are at least 15 variations of this model. Two should be noted for their special relevance to Australia. The DF-21D is an anti-ship ballistic missile that travels at Mach 10 (12,000kmh) with a range expected to reach 8000km by 2020. It’s effectively forces United States aircraft carriers to move well beyond the range within which their aircraft can be used. General John Hyten, head of the US Strategic Command, acknowledged in Senate testimony (21 March 2018) that the United States was powerless against hypersonic missile attacks by China (or Russia).

The DF41 is an intercontinental ballistic missile with a 12,000 km range. It is accurate to within 150 metres, and would reach the United States (and nearly everywhere else in the world) in less than 15 minutes from launch. It has a top speed of Mach 25 and carries up to 10 independently targetable nuclear warheads. The whole of Australia is of course well within its range.

Australian political commentators have almost completely ignored China’s advanced military capabilities, preferring instead to focus (usually with little understanding) on issues such as China’s alleged “aggression” in the South China Sea. The nuanced strategic thinking that underpins Chinese defence policy, as set out for example in a recent essay by Professor Zhang Wenmu from China’s Centre of Strategic Studies in Beijing in Taipinyan Xuebao, August 2017.

These same commentators and indeed politicians and military strategists, display even less awareness of Russia’s advanced state of hypersonic missiles. Again only two of these systems need to be mentioned to make the point. More detailed analyses are really available. (See for example, www.thesaker.is 4 August 2018)

The Avangard is a highly maneuverable ICBM reaching Mach 27 at maximum speed. It totally nullifies any United States defence system (which in any case is vastly inferior to the Russian S400 and S500 anti-missile systems). It can reach almost anywhere in the world, from any direction, in 20 minutes or less. As the aforementioned General Hyten acknowledged, the United States “has no defence.”

The other weapon worth noting is the Kinzhal (“Dagger”) that Andrei Martyanov (www.unzreview.com 5 March 2018) accurately notes as a “complete game changer, geopolitically, strategically, operationally, tactically and psychologically.”

Like the Chinese DF-21D the Kinzhal has rendered carrier-based battle groups obsolete against peer enemies. Its ability to eliminate surface ships, essential for their support role for submarines, raises an important question in the Australian context: what is the point of its $50 billion projected submarine fleet (which will not in any case become operational before 2030?)

The psychological element Martyanov notes is significant because one consequence of the revelations about Russia and China’s military superiority is that it should help shatter the dangerous delusions (as exemplified in the White Paper) of United States geopolitical and military superiority.

The Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). Her model was in the context of someone being advised as having a terminal illness, but it is applicable in the geopolitical context as well.

The initial United States reaction to President Putin’s speech of 1 March 2018 when he outlined the abyss between the United States and Russian missile systems was one of denial. Anger quickly followed and then, in classic US fashion, by demands for more money. These new funds would follow the trillions of dollars already wasted on their incredibly corrupt military industrial system whose latest fiscal and technical disasters include the F35 joint strike fighter (also bought by Australia!)

A bipartisan Congressional committee said that the “solution” to the United States’ technological gap with Russia was a 3-5% annual increase in military spending, (which would of course come at the expense of America’s crumbling infrastructure, education and health systems).

The other plan was to develop more scenarios involving the first use of nuclear weapons (Dinucci www.voltairenet.org 13 December 2018). This is itself based on a fundamental delusion that the United States could somehow avoid massive and devastating retaliation should it be so stupid as to attack either Russia or China.

In Australia’s case however, political and military planners seem to have adopted a new stage of Kubler-Ross’s model: ignoring the reality of a radically changed geopolitical space and, by reiterating old clichés and falsehoods about the United States alliance, hoping that the problem will simply disappear.

No such luxury is available. As Martyanov (op cit.) says, “the world can no longer afford a pretentious self aggrandizing and hollow bully which knows not what it does and threatens the world’s stability and peace.”

That is a reality that needs to be grasped by the incoming government. On past performance however that seems a vain hope.

James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst.

January 11, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

A Clinton Memo That Killed Half a Million People

By Daniel Lazare | Consortium News | January 11, 2019

A Hillary Clinton memo that Wikileaks made public in 2016 has not gotten the attention it deserves.

It takes us back to 2012 and the early phase of the Syrian war.

At that point, it was largely an internal affair, although Saudi arms shipments were playing a greater and greater role in bolstering rebel forces. But once the Obama administration decided in favor of intervention, the conflict was quickly internationalized as thousands of holy warriors flooded in from as far away as western China.

The 1,200-word memo by then-Secretary of State Clinton begins with the subject of Iran, an important patron of Syria.

She dismisses any notion that nuclear talks will stop Iran “from improving the crucial part of any nuclear weapons program—the capability to enrich uranium.” If it does get the bomb, it goes on, Israel will suffer a strategic setback since it will no longer be able to “respond to provocations with conventional military strikes on Syria and Lebanon, as it can today.” Denied the ability to bomb at will, Israel might leave off secondary targets and strike at the main enemy instead.

Consequently, Clinton argues that the U.S. should topple the Assad regime so as to weaken Iran and allay the fears of Israel, which has long regarded the Islamic republic as its primary enemy. As the memo puts it:

“Bringing down Assad would not only be a massive boon to Israel’s security, it would also ease Israel’s understandable fear of losing its nuclear monopoly. Then, Israel and the United States might be able to develop a common view of when the Iranian program is so dangerous that military action could be warranted.”

This document making the case to arm Syrian rebels may have been largely overlooked because of the dates, which appear to be inaccurate.

One line gives the time as “2001-01-01 03:00” even though Clinton was still a New York senator-elect at that point. That date is also out of synch with the timeline of nuclear diplomacy with Iran.

Another contains a State Department case and document number and a date of Nov. 30, 2015. But that’s incorrect as well since it postdates Clinton’s resignation as secretary of state by better than two and a half years.

Central to the Great Debate

Consequently, anyone stumbling across the memo in the Wikileaks archives would have no idea of how its rather loopy logic figures in the great debate about whether to use force to bring down Syrian President Bashir al-Assad.  But textual clues provide an answer. The second paragraph refers to nuclear talks with Iran “that began in Istanbul this April and will continue in Baghdad in May,” events that took place in 2012.  The sixth invokes an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour conducted with then-Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak “last week.” Since the interview took place on April 19, 2012, the memo can therefore be dated to the fourth week in April. This is shortly before Clinton joined forces with then-CIA Director David Petraeus to push for an aggressive program of rebel military aid.

Needless to say, Clinton’s skepticism about negotiating with Iran proved to be unwarranted since Iran eventually agreed to shut down its nuclear program.  The memo thus illustrates her hawkishness along with her conviction that Israeli security trumps all other considerations even if it means setting fire to a region that’s been burned over more than once.

But the memo illustrates much else besides: Clinton’s recklessness, her lack of realism and her almost mystical belief that everything will fall neatly into place once the United States flexes its muscle. Overthrowing Assad would be nothing less than “transformative,” she writes:

“… Iran would be strategically isolated, unable to exert its influence in the Middle East. The resulting regime in Syria will see the United States as a friend, not an enemy. Washington would gain substantial recognition as fighting for the people in the Arab world, not the corrupt regimes. For Israel, the rationale for a bolt from the blue attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be eased. And a new Syrian regime might well be open to early action on the frozen peace talks with Israel. Hezbollah in Lebanon would be cut off from its Iranian sponsor since Syria would no longer be a transit point for Iranian training, assistance and missiles.”

It was “a low-cost high-payoff approach,” she writes, that would eliminate one enemy, weaken two more, and generate such joy among ordinary Syrians that peace talks between Damascus and Tel Aviv will spring back to life. The risks were nil. Since “the Libyan operation had no long-lasting consequences for the region,” the memo says, referring to the overthrow of strongman Muammer Gaddafi six months earlier, the Syrian operation wouldn’t either:

“Some argue that U.S. involvement risks a wider war with Russia. But the Kosovo example [in which NATO bombed Russian-ally Serbia] shows otherwise. In that case, Russia had genuine ethnic and political ties to the Serbs, which don’t exist between Russia and Syria, and even then Russia did little more than complain. Russian officials have already acknowledged they won’t stand in the way if intervention comes.”

So, there was nothing to worry about. Sixty-five years of Arab-Israeli conflict would fall by the wayside while Russia remains safely marginalized.

How it Turned Out

Needless to say, that’s not how things turned out. At that moment, Libya seemed under control. But three or four months later, it would explode as Western-backed Islamist militias blasted away at one another, imposing strict Sharia law, re-instituting slavery and rolling back decades of social progress. Once President Barack Obama approved a modified version of the Clinton-Petraeus plan, Syria would plunge into the same abyss as jihadis funded by Saudi Arabia and the other oil monarchies spread sectarian violence and fear.

Clinton’s assumption that the U.S. could neatly and cleanly decapitate the Syrian government without having to worry about broader consequences was little short of deluded.

The notion that ordinary Syrians would fall to their knees in gratitude was ludicrous while her disregard for the intricacies of Syrian politics was astonishing.

Then there’s the memo’s blithe suggestion that Washington “work with regional allies like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to organize, train, and arm Syrian rebel forces.”

In late 2009, Clinton wrote in another diplomatic memo made public by Wikileaks that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” So what made her think two years later that the kingdom would not fund Syrian jihadis of precisely the same ilk?

The 2009 memo slammed Qatar for allowing Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist groups to use the sheikdom “as a fundraising locale.” So what made her think that a pro-Al Qaeda autocracy would now help Syrians “fight for their freedom,” as the memo puts it? Wouldn’t Qatar be more likely to remove what little freedom Syrians had left? Of course, it would.

There is a remarkable continuity between the Syria policy that Clinton was proposing and earlier policies in Afghanistan and Libya. In the first, U.S. military aid wound up flowing to the notorious warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a religious sectarian and raging anti-western xenophobe who nonetheless was “the most efficient at killing Soviets,” as Steve Coll put it in “Ghost Wars,” his bestselling 2004 account of the CIA’s love affair with jihad.

Hekmatyar’s cutthroats wound up with the lion’s share of American arms. More or less the same thing happened in Libya once Clinton persuaded Qatar to join the anti-Gaddafi coalition. The sheikhdom seized the opportunity to distribute some $400 million to various rebel militias, many of them Islamist. The Obama administration said nothing in response.

British Fighters with International Freedom Battalion in northern Iraq. (Wikimedia)

British Fighters with International Freedom Battalion in northern Iraq. (Wikimedia)

Once again, U.S. arms and materiel flowed to the most reactionary elements. The same would happen in Syria where U.S. and Saudi arms went to the local Al Qaeda affiliate, known as Jabhat al-Nusra, and even to ISIS, as a meticulous report by Conflict Armament Research, a Swiss and EU-funded study group in London, has shown. (See “Did Obama Arm Islamic State Killers?” Consortium News, Dec. 21, 2017.)

Insurgency Mix  

By August 2012, a secret Defense Intelligence Agency report found that Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Al Qaeda were already “the major forces driving the insurgency” and that the U.S. and Gulf states backed them regardless. Speechwriter Ben Rhodes summed up the problem of “moderate” rebels who were indistinguishable from Al Qaeda in his White House memoir, “The World As It Is.” In that, he writes that “Al Nusra was probably the strongest fighting force within the opposition, and while there were extremist elements in the group, it was also clear that the more moderate opposition was fighting side by side with al Nusra. I argued that labeling al Nusra as terrorists would alienate the same people we want to help, while giving al Nusra less incentive to avoid extremist affiliations.”

The problem was how to separate the “good” Al Qaeda fighters from the “bad.” Rhodes later complained when Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he and his fellow Obama officials were “trying to climb a spruce tree naked without scratching our ass.” This was “smug,” Rhodes says. But Putin was merely using a colorful expression to say that the policy made no sense; which it didn’t.

The cost, half a dozen years after the Clinton email, is staggering. As many as 560,000 people have died, half the population has been displaced, while the World Bank has estimated total war damage at $226 billion, roughly six years’ income for every Syrian man, woman, and child. A cockeyed memo thus unleashed a real-life catastrophe that refuses to go away. It’s a nightmare from which President Donald Trump is struggling to escape in his confused and deluded way and that the Deep State – everyone from arch-neocon John Bolton to “liberal” Nancy Pelosi– is determined to renew.

January 11, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment