What is it that makes young men, reasonably well educated, in good health and nice looking, with long lives ahead of them, use powerful explosives to murder complete strangers because of political beliefs?
I’m speaking about American military personnel of course, on the ground, in the air, or directing drones from an office in Nevada.
Do not the survivors of US attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya and elsewhere, and their loved ones, ask such a question?
The survivors and loved ones in Boston have their answer – America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That’s what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston bomber has said in custody, and there’s no reason to doubt that he means it, nor the dozens of others in the past two decades who have carried out terrorist attacks against American targets and expressed anger toward US foreign policy. 1 Both Tsarnaev brothers had expressed such opinions before the attack as well. 2 The Marathon bombing took place just days after a deadly US attack in Afghanistan killed 17 civilians, including 12 children, as but one example of countless similar horrors from recent years. “Oh”, an American says, “but those are accidents. What terrorists do is on purpose. It’s cold-blooded murder.”
But if the American military sends out a bombing mission on Monday which kills multiple innocent civilians, and then the military announces: “Sorry, that was an accident.” And then on Tuesday the American military sends out a bombing mission which kills multiple innocent civilians, and then the military announces: “Sorry, that was an accident.” And then on Wednesday the American military sends out a bombing mission which kills multiple innocent civilians, and the military then announces: “Sorry, that was an accident.” … Thursday … Friday … How long before the American military loses the right to say it was an accident?
Terrorism is essentially an act of propaganda, to draw attention to a cause. The 9-11 perpetrators attacked famous symbols of American military and economic power. Traditionally, perpetrators would phone in their message to a local media outlet beforehand, but today, in this highly-surveilled society, with cameras and electronic monitoring at a science-fiction level, that’s much more difficult to do without being detected; even finding a public payphone can be near impossible.
From what has been reported, the older brother, Tamerlan, regarded US foreign policy also as being anti-Islam, as do many other Muslims. I think this misreads Washington’s intentions. The American Empire is not anti-Islam. It’s anti-only those who present serious barriers to the Empire’s plan for world domination.
The United States has had close relations with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar, amongst other Islamic states. And in recent years the US has gone to great lengths to overthrow the leading secular states of the Mideast – Iraq, Libya and Syria.
Moreover, it’s questionable that Washington is even against terrorism per se, but rather only those terrorists who are not allies of the empire. There has been, for example, a lengthy and infamous history of tolerance, and often outright support, for numerous anti-Castro terrorists, even when their terrorist acts were committed in the United States. Hundreds of anti-Castro and other Latin American terrorists have been given haven in the US over the years. The United States has also provided support to terrorists in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Kosovo, Bosnia, Iran, Libya, and Syria, including those with known connections to al Qaeda, to further foreign policy goals more important than fighting terrorism.
Under one or more of the harsh anti-terrorist laws enacted in the United States in recent years, President Obama could be charged with serious crimes for allowing the United States to fight on the same side as al Qaeda-linked terrorists in Libya and Syria and for funding and supplying these groups. Others in the United States have been imprisoned for a lot less.
As a striking example of how Washington has put its imperialist agenda before anything else, we can consider the case of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an Afghan warlord whose followers first gained attention in the 1980s by throwing acid in the faces of women who refused to wear the veil. This is how these horrible men spent their time when they were not screaming “Death to America”. CIA and State Department officials called Hekmatyar “scary,” “vicious,” “a fascist,” “definite dictatorship material”. 3 This did not prevent the United States government from showering the man with large amounts of aid to fight against the Soviet-supported government of Afghanistan. 4 Hekmatyar is still a prominent warlord in Afghanistan.
A similar example is that of Luis Posada who masterminded the bombing of a Cuban airline in 1976, killing 73 civilians. He has lived a free man in Florida for many years.
USA Today reported a few months ago about a rebel fighter in Syria who told the newspaper in an interview: “The afterlife is the only thing that matters to me, and I can only reach it by waging jihad.” 5 Tamerlan Tsarnaev may have chosen to have a shootout with the Boston police as an act of suicide; to die waging jihad, although questions remain about exactly how he died. In any event, I think it’s safe to say that the authorities wanted to capture the brothers alive to be able to question them.
It would be most interesting to be present the moment after a jihadist dies and discovers, with great shock, that there’s no afterlife. Of course, by definition, there would have to be an afterlife for him to discover that there’s no afterlife. On the other hand, a non-believer would likely be thrilled to find out that he was wrong.
Let us hope that the distinguished statesmen, military officers, and corporate leaders who own and rule America find out in this life that to put an end to anti-American terrorism they’re going to have to learn to live without unending war against the world. There’s no other defense against a couple of fanatic young men with backpacks. Just calling them insane or evil doesn’t tell you enough; it may tell you nothing.
But this change in consciousness in the elite is going to be extremely difficult, as difficult as it appears to be for the parents of the two boys to accept their sons’ guilt. Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, stated after the Boston attack: “The American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance in the post-colonial world. In some respects, the United States has been fortunate not to experience worse blowbacks … We should be asking ourselves at this moment, ‘How many canaries will have to die before we awaken from our geopolitical fantasy of global domination?’” 6
Officials in Canada and Britain as well as US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice have called for Falk to be fired. 7
President Kennedy’s speech, half a century ago
I don’t know how many times in the 50 years since President John F. Kennedy made his much celebrated 1963 speech at American University in Washington, DC. 8 I’ve heard or read that if only he had lived he would have put a quick end to the war in Vietnam instead of it continuing for ten more terrible years, and that the Cold War might have ended 25 years sooner than it did. With the 50th anniversary coming up June 13 we can expect to hear a lot more of the same, so I’d like to jump the gun and offer a counter-view.
Let us re-examine our attitude toward the Soviet Union. It is discouraging to think that their leaders may actually believe what their propagandists write. It is discouraging to read a recent authoritative Soviet text on Military Strategy and find, on page after page, wholly baseless and incredible claims such as the allegation that “American imperialist circles are preparing to unleash different types of war … that there is a very real threat of a preventative war being unleashed by American imperialists against the Soviet Union” … [and that] the political aims – and I quote – “of the American imperialists are to enslave economically and politically the European and other capitalist countries … [and] to achieve world domination … by means of aggressive war.”
It is indeed refreshing that an American president would utter a thought such as: “It is discouraging to think that their leaders may actually believe what their propagandists write.” This is what radicals in every country wonder about their leaders, not least in the United States. For example, “incredible claims such as the allegation that ‘American imperialist circles are preparing to unleash different types of war’.”
In Kennedy’s short time in office the United States had unleashed many different types of war, from attempts to overthrow governments and suppress political movements to assassination attempts against leaders and actual military combat – one or more of these in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, British Guiana, Iraq, Congo, Haiti, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Cuba and Brazil. This is all in addition to the normal and routine CIA subversion of countries all over the world map. Did Kennedy really believe that the Soviet claims were “incredible”?
And did he really doubt that that the driving force behind US foreign policy was “world domination”? How else did he explain all the above interventions (which have continued non-stop into the 21st century)? If the president thought that the Russians were talking nonsense when they accused the US of seeking world domination, why didn’t he then disavow the incessant US government and media warnings about the “International Communist Conspiracy”? Or at least provide a rigorous definition of the term and present good evidence of its veracity.
Quoting further: “Our military forces are committed to peace and disciplined in self-restraint.” No comment.
“We are unwilling to impose our system on any unwilling people.” Unless of course the people foolishly insist on some form of socialist alternative. Ask the people of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, British Guiana and Cuba, just to name some of those in Kennedy’s time.
“At the same time we seek to keep peace inside the non-Communist world, where many nations, all of them our friends …” American presidents have been speaking of “our friends” for many years. What they all mean, but never say, is that “our friends” are government and corporate leaders whom we keep in power through any means necessary – the dictators, the kings, the oligarchs, the torturers – not the masses of the population, particularly those with a measure of education.
“Our efforts in West New Guinea, in the Congo, in the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent, have been persistent and patient despite criticism from both sides.”
Persistent, yes. Patient, often. But moral, fostering human rights, democracy, civil liberties, self-determination, not fawning over Israel … ? As but one glaring example, the assassination of Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, perhaps the last chance for a decent life for the people of that painfully downtrodden land; planned by the CIA under Eisenhower, but executed under Kennedy.
“The Communist drive to impose their political and economic system on others is the primary cause of world tension today. For there can be no doubt that, if all nations could refrain from interfering in the self-determination of others, the peace would be much more assured.”
See all of the above for this piece of hypocrisy. And so, if no nation interfered in the affairs of any other nation, there would be no wars. Brilliant. If everybody became rich there would be no poverty. If everybody learned to read there would be no illiteracy.
“The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war.”
So … Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Cuba, and literally dozens of other countries then, later, and now, all the way up to Libya in 2012 … they all invaded the United States first? Remarkable.
And this was the man who was going to end the war in Vietnam very soon after being re-elected the following year? Lord help us.
This is not to put George W. Bush down. That’s too easy, and I’ve done it many times. No, this is to counter the current trend to rehabilitate the man and his Iraqi horror show, which partly coincides with the opening of his presidential library in Texas. At the dedication ceremony, President Obama spoke of Bush’s “compassion and generosity” and declared that: “He is a good man.” The word “Iraq” did not pass his lips. The closest he came at all was saying “So even as we Americans may at times disagree on matters of foreign policy, we share a profound respect and reverence for the men and women of our military and their families.” 9 Should morality be that flexible? Even for a politician? Obama could have just called in sick.
At the January 31 congressional hearing on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense, Senator John McCain ripped into him for his critique of the Iraq war:
“The question is, were you right or were you wrong?” McCain demanded, pressing Hagel on why he opposed Bush’s decision to send 20,000 additional troops to Iraq in the so-called ‘surge’.
“I’m not going to give you a yes-or-no answer. I think it’s far more complicated than that,” Hagel responded. He said he would await the “judgment of history.”
Glaring at Hagel, McCain ended the exchange with a bitter rejoinder: “I think history has already made a judgment about the surge, sir, and you are on the wrong side of it.” 10
Before the revisionist history of the surge gets chiseled into marble, let me repeat part of what I wrote in this report at the time, December 2007:
The American progress is measured by a decrease in violence, the White House has decided – a daily holocaust has been cut back to a daily multiple catastrophe. And who’s keeping the count? Why, the same good people who have been regularly feeding us a lie for the past five years about the number of Iraqi deaths, completely ignoring the epidemiological studies. A recent analysis by the Washington Post left the administration’s claim pretty much in tatters. The article opened with: “The U.S. military’s claim that violence has decreased sharply in Iraq in recent months has come under scrutiny from many experts within and outside the government, who contend that some of the underlying statistics are questionable and selectively ignore negative trends.”
To the extent that there may have been a reduction in violence, we must also keep in mind that, thanks to this lovely little war, there are several million Iraqis either dead, wounded, in exile abroad, or in bursting American and Iraqi prisons. So the number of potential victims and killers has been greatly reduced. Moreover, extensive ethnic cleansing has taken place in Iraq (another good indication of progress, n’est-ce pas? nicht wahr?) – Sunnis and Shiites are now living more in their own special enclaves than before, none of those stinking mixed communities with their unholy mixed marriages, so violence of the sectarian type has also gone down. On top of all this, US soldiers have been venturing out a lot less (for fear of things like … well, dying), so the violence against our noble lads is also down.
One of the signs of the reduction in violence in Iraq, the administration would like us to believe, is that many Iraqi families are returning from Syria, where they had fled because of the violence. The New York Times, however, reported that “Under intense pressure to show results after months of political stalemate, the [Iraqi] government has continued to publicize figures that exaggerate the movement back to Iraq”; as well as exaggerating “Iraqis’ confidence that the current lull in violence can be sustained.” The count, it turns out, included all Iraqis crossing the border, for whatever reason. A United Nations survey found that 46 percent were leaving Syria because they could not afford to stay; 25 percent said they fell victim to a stricter Syrian visa policy; and only 14 percent said they were returning because they had heard about improved security.
How long can it be before vacation trips to “Exotic Iraq” are flashed across our TVs? “Baghdad’s Beautiful Beaches Beckon”. Just step over the bodies. Indeed, the State Department has recently advertised for a “business development/tourism” expert to work in Baghdad, “with a particular focus on tourism and related services.” 11
Another argument raised again recently to preserve George W.’s legacy is that “He kept us safe”. Hmm … I could swear that he was in the White House around the time of September 11 … What his supporters mean is that Bush’s War on Terrorism was a success because there wasn’t another terrorist attack in the United States after September 11, 2001 while he was in office; as if terrorists killing Americans is acceptable if it’s done abroad. Following the American/Bush strike on Afghanistan in October 2001 there were literally scores of terrorist attacks – including some major ones – against American institutions in the Middle East, South Asia and the Pacific: military, civilian, Christian, and other targets associated with the United States.
Even the claim that the War on Terrorism kept Americans safe at home is questionable. There was no terrorist attack in the United States during the 6 1/2 years prior to the one in September 2001; not since the April 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. It would thus appear that the absence of terrorist attacks in the United States is the norm.
William Blum speaking in Wisconsin, near Minnesota
Saturday, July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. Peacestock is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace in an idyllic location near the Mississippi, just one hour’s drive from the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Peacestock is sponsored by Veterans for Peace, Chapter 115, and has a peace-themed agenda. Kathy Kelly, peace activist extraordinaire, will also speak.
You can camp there and be fed well, meat or vegetarian. Full information at:http://www.peacestockvfp.org 11
- William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, chapters 1 and 2, for cases up to about 2003; later similar cases are numerous; e.g., Glenn Greenwald, “They Hate US for our Occupations”, Salon, October 12, 2010 ↩
- Huffington Post, April 20, 2013; Washington Post, April 21 ↩
- Tim Weiner, Blank Check: The Pentagon’s Black Budget (1990), p.149-50. ↩
- William Blum, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II ↩
- USA Today, December 3, 2012 ↩
- ForeignPolicyJournal.com, April 21, 2013 ↩
- The Telegraph (London), April 25, 2013; Politico.com, April 24 ↩
- Full text of speech ↩
- Remarks by President Obama at Dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library ↩
- Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2013 ↩
- Anti-Empire Report, #52, December 11, 2007 ↩
Until a week ago it appeared that the government in Belgrade would give up the last vestiges of its claim to Kosovo for the sake of some indeterminate date in the future when Serbia may join the European Union. A series of unreciprocated concessions over the past few months have encouraged the KLA regime’s mentors in Washington and their European backers to expect the final capitulation. In the end they overplayed their hand by demanding everything and offering nothing.
The demands have been escalating for years. The final objective was stated in December 2011, German Chancellor Angela Merkel came to Serbia to declare that the “path of Serbia into the EU can only lead through the normalization of its relations with Kosovo”—i.e., Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo. This precondition was stated with her customary subtlety and diplomatic tact, but at least it had the quality of candor which made it difficult for Boris Tadić and his eurofanatical Democrats to pretend that “the European path” did not entail eventual surrender.
The defeat of Tadić last May and the subsequent establishment of a new, allegedly nationalist coalition government in July did not result in any change of course. Quite the contrary: Washington and Brussels were surprisingly comfortable dealing with Šešelj’s former No. 2, Tomislav Nikolić, as president, and a former Milošević loyalist, Ivica Dačić, as prime minister. The key “Westerner” in the triumvirate is Aleksandar Vučić, known for his embarrassingly groveling statements on visits to Germany and the U.S.
There were no dividends, however. Last October Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Serbs must accept that they cannot change Kosovo’s borders. “We oppose any discussion of territorial changes or reopening Kosovo’s independent status,” Mrs. Clinton declared in Priština after meeting with Kosovo’s self-styled prime minister,Hashim Thaci. “These matters are not up for discussion. The boundaries of an independent, sovereign Kosovo are clear and set.”
Last December, under EU pressure, Serbia agreed to the establishment of a fully-fledged border management system. It provided a visible symbol of Belgrade’s loss of nerve. Furthermore, Dačić was forced to agree to joint passport and customs controls, with equal numbers of Serbian and “Kosovar” officials on duty. Accepting Priština’s right to collect customs duties on goods coming from central Serbia was a significant milestone on what seemed like a terminal slide. Unsurprisingly, the Albanians saw the border as another step toward international recognition.
Serbia’s government policy guidelines made public last January no longer focused on the claim of sovereign rights over the entire province, but on the modest demand for an autonomous status for some 60,000 Serbs living in four northern municipalities. Prime Minister Ivica Dačić even hinted that Serbia could agree to a UN seat for Kosovo, which caused a political storm in Belgrade, although he later withdrew the statement. But asTed Carpenter noted in The National Interest, both U.S. and EU leaders had reacted to previous conciliatory gestures from Serbia with intransigence bordering on contempt:
A majority of countries in the European Union, most crucially Germany, have adopted a similar rigid stance. U.S. and EU leaders assume that Serbia wants membership in the European Union so badly that Serb leaders will ultimately adopt a policy of unconditional surrender regarding the Kosovo issue. That may well be a dangerous miscalculation. The current government … has already moved far beyond Serbian public opinion in offering possible diplomatic compromises.
True to form, during the latest round of negotiations the EU managed to break the camel’s back by refusing to offer even a fig leaf to the Belgrade troika, not even on the minimal demand that the Serbs be allowed to form an association of municipalities in the north.
There was no “deal” on offer from Brussels, and at the same time Germany’s lawmakers presented an incredible list of seven demands which Serbia has to complete if she is to be granted… no, not the EU membership, but a date for the commencement of negotiations that may eventually lead to membership:
- To fulfill all 96 points presented by the European Commission in early 2011;
- To find and prosecute the demonstrators who attacked the German embassy in Belgrade; in February 2008, a day after Berlin recognized Kosovo’s independence;
- To accept, and not deny, that a “genocide” was committed in Srebrenica;
- To make visible progress in resolving all open issues in direct dialogue with Kosovo.
- To abolish all Serbian “parallel institutions” in northern Kosovo (such as schools and hospitals), and to stop financing them;
- To apply pressure on northern Kosovo Serbs to “actively cooperate” with EULEX and Kfor;
- To display visible readiness for legally binding normalization of relations with Kosovo.
The only logical explanation for this piece of 1930’s-style diplomatic brutality is that the Germans want to push Serbia into Russia’s arms as part of establishing an elaborate geopolitical partnership with Moscow. Putin has already responded with $500m soft loan to Belgrade, with the promise of more to come. He would not have done it had Nikolić and Dačić not accepted that the long, futile quest for Serbia’s place under the Western sun is over. One likely consequence is that the dispute over Kosovo will remain frozen for years to come, as it should.
One variant of a well-known law of bureaucracy says that the amount of time spent discussing a budgetary decision is inversely proportional to the magnitude of the budget in question. Judging by what I witnessed on March 20 at the European Parliament—at the Committee on Budgets’ hearing on the “Financing of the Eastern Partnership”—the Brussels machine functions entirely in accordance with this adage.
The money involved is substantial: 2.8 billion euros ($3.6 billion) over 5 years. The project’s stated purpose is to promote “shared values”—democracy, human rights and the rule of law—in six former Soviet states deemed to be of “strategic importance” to the European Union: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, andUkraine. Promoting the principles of market economy, sustainable development, civic society and “good governance” is also among the objectives.
In their opening remarks, the officials involved in running the Eastern Partnership Program were self-congratulatory about its alleged achievements. That much was to be expected: lots of sinecures, cushy jobs and expense-padded missions can be extracted from a few billion. Nevertheless, the entire construct’s numerous problems and shortcomings could not be concealed:
- Conceptually, there is no clear consensus within the EU on what exactly it is trying to promote in its eastern neighborhood under the bombastic slogans of “shared values, collective norms and joint ownership.” What does it all mean, if anything, in the real world?
- Empirically, the program has followed, and still follows, a “top-down” approach of deciding in Brussels what are the goals, then telling the eastern “partners” what they need to do, and finally rewarding them accordingly—rather than developing genuine partnerships based on those countries’ real needs and attainable objectives.
- Managerially, in order for the funds allocated to the “Partnership” to be optimally utilized, they would require elaborate apparatuses of deployment, supervision and evaluation. On the basis of the presentations last Wednesday, it is clear that the EU has neither the institutional mechanisms nor the supervisory bodies capable of insuring that this is the case.
- Substantially, the elephant in the room was the issue of EU enlargement—or, rather, the extreme unlikelihood of further enlargement after Croatia’s accession next July. Without the realistic prospect of an eventual path to full membership, the EU lacks meaningful leverage over the political elites in the six eastern countries to make them change their ways.
Far from being addressed, these problems are bypassed by the tendency of the EU bureaucracy to close its eyes to the reality on the ground in the countries concerned—or, worse, still, to misrepresent that reality for reasons of institutional self-preservations. The result, to put it succinctly, is that billions of European taxpayers’ cash are poured into a bottomless pit of post-Soviet corruption, graft, and pork-barrel politics. “We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us,” went the old Soviet joke. Its modern-day “Eastern” equivalent should be “We pretend to reform, and they pretend that we are doing a good job.” Instead of being properly perceived as part of the problem, terminally corrupt political “elites” are treated as partners in finding solutions.
Moldova is the prime example. On per-capita basis, this backwater squeezed between Romania and Ukraine—the poorest country in Europe—has received far more money than the other five “partners,” and the EU pretends that its objectives are being met. While I was at the European Parliament, the European Commission presented its own regional report on the implementation of the Eastern Partnership. It asserted that “significant progress was made in the implementation of the Eastern Partnership” and singled out Moldova for “showing significant progress,” “stepping up efforts to implement judicial and law enforcement reform,” and “continuing to implement reforms in the areas of social assistance, health and education, energy, competition, state aid and regulatory approximation to the EU acquis.” Moldova’s government was asked to “continue to vigorously advance reforms in the justice and law enforcement systems” as well as intensify the fight against corruption.
This is surreal, on par with the Soviet Communist Party congresses exalting the great and glorious achievements of socialism in the years of terminal decline under Brezhnev. In reality, Moldova is one of the most corrupt countries in Europe, according to independent analysts, who also claim that the majority of EU assistance is being misused by local officials. The Warsaw-based EaP Institute warns that the EU is devoting considerable sums to Moldova for very little return in terms of progress in the country’s reform process: “It begs the question: Why is the EU throwing money like this at a black hole of corruption, when there is so much to do in the EU’s own member states?”
It does, indeed. Moldova has already received some €482m from the EU Eastern Partnership, which is about 110 euros ($145) for every man, woman and child in the dirt-poor country—the equivalent of an average two-weekly wage. Nobody knows for certain where it went, but we have a fair idea. Recent opinion polls say that the majority of citizens of Moldova consider their current coalition government as “totally corrupt.” According to the Transparency International 2012 report, Moldova is among the most corrupt places in Europe, with Kosovo, Albania and Bosnia topping the list. But the EU says it is doing well, because an unhealthy symbiotic relationship has been developed between the unelected and mostly unaccountable bureaucrats managing enormous funds earmarked for nebulous purposes and their foreign “clients” who gloat at the mouth-watering prospect of placing a major portion of those funds into their own pockets.
After last Wednesday’s introductory presentations, several experts and members of European Parliament (MEPs) expressed misgivings about the Eastern Partnership policy. Olaf Osica, director of the centre for eastern studies in Warsaw, declared that “in four years the policy had failed to produce any tangible political or social results.” A prominent Polish MEP and former senior government minister, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, said the entire edifice should be “completely revised”:
There are a whole multitude of projects which, as we have heard at the hearing, no one seems able to follow or understand… What we are doing is creating the illusion that the EU is helping to transform these eastern European countries when, in fact, the naked truth is that the EU is losing its eastern neighbors. What is actually needed is for the EU—and that means both the Commission and Parliament—to totally revise and revisit its Eastern Partnership policy.
All this was in stark contrast to the earlier assurances by senior officials that the current picture was “confused,” but the EU was nevertheless “doing quite well” in addressing concerns about the transparency and accountability of its funding for the six countries (Marcus Cornaro); or that the EU was determined to push ahead with closer cooperation with those countries that have “demonstrated a commitment to the reform process” (Richard Tibbels).
The lenient attitude of EU officials regarding the patchy record of their “Eastern partners” on corruption, democratisation, and the rule of law is in stark contrast with the ever-moving goal posts for a half-dozen aspiring EU members in the Western Balkans. None of them will join the EU for a decade at least, of course, and a realistic reassessment of their political and economic policies is long overdue. The EU is in a state of chronic institutional and financial crisis, and trying to get on board at this point is equal to betting on Romney last November 5. Alternatives do exist, but they call for the cold-blooded diversification of long-term strategies. Belgrade and Kiev in particular should take note.
Yesterday and today (October 14-15) I’ve been taking part in an interesting conference at the Patriarchate of Peć, in the occupied Serbian province of Kosovo. Organized by Bishop Jovan (Ćulibrk), an old friend of Dr. Fleming’s and mine, The Balkans and the Middle East Mirroring Each Other marks the centenary of the First Balkan War and the liberation of Kosovo and Southern Serbia after four centuries of the Ottoman misrule.
The conference has brought together an eclectic group of scholars: Ambassador Darko Tanasković of the University of Belgrade, Boris Havel of the University of Zagreb, Col. Shaul Shay of BESA Center for Strategic Studies, Martin van Creveld of Tel Aviv University, Gordon Bardos of Columbia University, and myself. The proceedings were attended by Patriarch Iriney of the Serbian Orthodox Church (R) and an array of Western diplomats and military officers based in Kosovo.
On the first day Professor van Creveld caused some controversy by suggesting that there existed a significant parallel between Israel and Serbia. The former needs to give up all occupied territories, including most of East Jerusalem—he argued—just as the latter needs to give up its claim to Kosovo. Regardless of how attached both nations feel to their ancient shrines and monuments that would be left behind, van Creveld argued that “amputating the gangrenous leg” was the only way to halt the sapping of strength and resources with no end-game in sight.
Disputing van Creveld’s diagnosis, Dr. Shay said that the apt metaphor was not an amputable leg but the patient’s heart that cannot be removed without killing the patient. My own paper reflected a similar point of view. The similarities between Kosovo and the West Bank are not obvious to the uninitiated, and prima facie similarities may appear superficial: In both cases there’s a small piece of disputed real estate, rich in history, poor in everything else, and badly mismanaged by the local Muslim majority which is chronically hostile to its non-Muslim neighbors. In both cases that majority craves internationally-recognized statehood. Far more important, in my view, is the spiritual parallel, with which I closed my remarks:
Proponents of Kosovo independence scoff at the Serbs’ claim that Kosovo, with its many ancient monasteries and the site of the famous battle, represents not just any part of their country but its very heart and soul—“Serbia’s Jerusalem.” Such attitude betrays a cynical contempt for the essence of any true nation’s identity, which necessarily rests on its historical, moral and spiritual roots. Without such foundation a people ceases to be a people and becomes but a random mob. If Serbia can be haughtily deprived of her Jerusalem today, and her historical and spiritual claims are dismissed out of hand, who is to say “al-Quds” will not be demanded of Israel tomorrow as the capital of an independent Palestine? And is it not hypocritical of the United States to actively support the former while claiming to be opposed to the latter?
Turkey is the common denominator in the Balkans and the Middle East, and its return to the center stage as a regional power is a remarkable phenomenon. It is historically unprecedented for a former great power which undergoes a period of steep decline to make a comeback and reestablish its position as a major player. After the Peloponnesian War Athens was finished for all time. Following the collapse of the Western Empire, Rome has never regained its old stature and glory. After Philip II Spain declined precipitously and has remained a third-rate power ever since. The list goes on, yet Turkey appears to be an exception to the rule.
Turkey’s neo-Ottoman strategy was the theme of Professor Tanasković’s presentation. He noted that at different times and in different contexts Turkey presents itself as a Mediterranean, Balkan, Middle Eastern, or NATO country, but that its most important, indeed defining feature is its Islamic character. Both the Balkans and the Middle East have been repeatedly singled out and openly named as priorities in the neo-Ottoman strategy of “Strategic Depth” as articulated by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The ultimate goal is to recreate a sphere of strictly Turkish dominance, according to Professor Tanasković. He insists that the AKP government’s neo-Ottoman strategy is not an ideological projection focused on the past. Quite the contrary, it is a constant feature of Turkish foreign policy—logical and legitimate. The Islamists are rediscovering their heritage which was interrupted by the Kemalist revolution. Neo-Ottomanism is neither good nor bad, it is a reality based on the notion that parallel to globalization, we have macro-regionalization of the world. In reality, Tanasković went on, there is no “globalization” in world politics: in a sense we are still in the 19th century, with regional powers seeking to dominance in their zones of influence. Only the US is still hoping to transcend the spatial limitations by projecting power always and everywhere.
Professor Tanaskovic concluded by saying that Turkey may have overplayed her hand following Ankara’s decision last spring to support the uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. That decision has changed the strategic equation in the region, and it now exposes Turkey to the possibility of both Russia and Iran coming to view it as an adversary.
Shaul Shay opened his presentation by saying that the term “Arab Spring” is flawed. The word “tsunami,” or perhaps “earthquake,” would be more appropriate. It was destructive, unexpected, and not significantly amenable to human intervention. Nothing significant enough had happened in 2010 to enable us to say that this was the trigger for what followed. In the end, Shay argued, the Islamic Evolution proved stronger than the Tweeter Revolution. The process launched by young activists using all the resources the Internet has to offer eventually paved the way for Islamist movements. The main actors for change have been the youth, but the beneficiaries have been the Islamists—they were structured, with deep roots in society, unlike the youth who have not had time to organize. The outcomes of recent Arab uprisings have confirmed the organizational superiority and appeal of Islamist political parties in a number of countries in the Middle East. The fragile transitions from secular pro-Western dictatorships through a “democratic procedure” to the formation of Islamic regimes was a “tsunami” which has moved the tectonic plates of the Muslim societies and will provoke aftershocks that will lead to a region dominated by political Islam.
In recent years, Say concluded, we’ve seen a change in strategy used by radical Islamic organizations. Muslim Brotherhood openly seeks to establish “democracy” based upon Islamic principles. They regard liberal democracy with contempt, but they are willing to accommodate it as an avenue to power but as an avenue that runs only one way.
Historic changes taking place in both the Balkans and the Middle East are the political equivalent to the shift of tectonic plates. This is a crossroad in history and the road the nations involved take will determine our future. In the meantime we might see more Islamization there rather than Western style democracies. Where it will really lead Middle East and the rest of the world only future will tell.
Fourteen centuries of Islam have fatally undermined Christianity in the land of its birth. The decline of the Christian remnant in the Middle East has been accelerated in recent decades, and accompanied by the indifference of the post-Christian West to its impending demise. Once-thriving Christian communities are now tiny minorities, and in most countries of the region their percentages have been reduced to single digits. Whether they disappear completely will partly depend on Western leaders belatedly taking an interest in Christian plight and persecution. This seems most unlikely, as the examples of Iraq, Egypt and Syria demonstrate.
In Syria the Obama administration is fully committed to supporting the rebels, although it should be well aware of the ideological outlook and long-term objectives of Bashar al-Assad’s foes. They are Sunni fundamentalists. The partnerships forged thus far are ominous. The New York Times reported last June that CIA officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, deciding which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms. The weapons are being funneled across the Turkish border “by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood.”
Syria is the region’s only remaining country where Christians live effectively as equals with their Muslim neighbors. It has the second largest Christian community in the region (after Egypt), some 2.5 million strong. Most of them are supporting President Bashar Al Assad amidst ongoing rebellion in the country because they prefer a dictator who guarantees the rights as a religious minority to the grim future that Assad’s departure might bring. According to George Ajjan, an American political strategist of Syrian origin, an existential fear about a bloody fate awaiting them—should the Assad regime fall in Syria—is the main driver behind the Christian community’s almost unanimous support of its policies:
“The secular regime of the Baath Party dominated over the past four decades by the Alawites, a heterodox Shiite sect to which the Assad family belongs, undoubtedly secured life and liberty for the Christians— although dire economic circumstances resulting from the regime’s failure to provide growth have driven many middle-class Christians to emigrate, seeking a better standard of living abroad. Taking that into account, the commonly-cited figure of 10% Christians is perhaps close to double the real number living in Syria at the start of the uprising.”
It is not to be doubted that if the Obama Administration is successful in its stated objective of bringing Assad down, the Christians in Syria will follow their Iraqi brethren into exile. The predictable consequences of Assad’s fall and the Brotherhood’s victory would be the creation of a Shari’a-based Islamic state.
According to political analyst James Jatras, it sometimes appears as if Washington’s policy toward the unrest sweeping the Middle East is impacted by a network of Muslim Brotherhood agents working in cohorts with Obama who is only pretending to have strayed from his Islamic birth (as defined by Sharia). If this scenario is even only partly correct, Jatras says, then it would be hard to see how the result would be different from the one we have:
“If the conscious goal of the policy were the final uprooting of Christ’s followers from the region of His birth and earthly ministry, it could not have been better crafted. No one can doubt that should the regime of Bashar al-Assad fall, Syria’s Christians (primarily Orthodox), already singled out for attack by the ‘democratic’ opposition, would be subject to a full-scale campaign of elimination that they (unlike the Alawites, who at least can try to defend themselves in mountain areas in which they predominate) are unlikely to survive as a living community. It is thus not too strong to accuse, in so many words, those bipartisan champions of ‘Free Syria’ who urge outside intervention of advocating Christian genocide, whether or not that is their conscious intention.”
That this scenario seems acceptable to the Obama Administration became obvious in October 2011 when Dalia Mogahed, Obama’s adviser on Muslim affairs, blocked a delegation of Middle Eastern Christians led by Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai from meeting with Obama and members of his national security team at the White House. Mogahed reportedly cancelled the meeting at the request of the Muslim Brotherhood in her native Egypt. Rai has warned repeatedly that a Brotherhood-led regime would be a disaster for Syria’s Christian minority, but his admonitions are unwelcome in Washington.
Last July, the Department of State vigorously lobbied against bipartisan Congressional legislation to send “protection envoys” to the Middle East to examine the position of the Christian minorities. The State Department called the protection envoy role “unnecessary, duplicative and likely counter-productive.” In the meantime, tens of thousands of Syria’s Christians have already fled rebel-controlled areas as Islamists who dominate in the rebel ranks target them for murder, extortion and kidnapping. As George Ajjan concludes, this gradual downward demographic pressure of recent years will explode with the exodus of Christians from Syria that is occurring and will accelerate without an end to the current armed conflict:
“Should the uprising continue, with the regime losing control of more and more territory to armed rebels and law and order further breaking down, Christians will increasingly become the targets of intimidation tactics, kidnapping, and overt hostility—if not ethnic cleansing from mixed areas.”
At the same time, Administration officials pressed Egyptian generals into gradual surrender to the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of the country. The decision to treat the Muslim Brotherhood as a strategic partner has been on the cards at least since February 10 of last year—one day before Hosni Mubarak’s resignation— when President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made an astounding statement. He told the House of Representatives Select Committee on Intelligence that the Brotherhood “is an umbrella term for a variety of movements… a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaida as a perversion of Islam.”
The assertion by a top-ranking member of Obama’s team that the Muslim Brotherhood is “largely secular” defies belief. It came into being in 1928 as an outright reaction against secularism, which the Egyptian elites had largely embraced during the British dominance in the country. To this day the Brotherhood’s simple credo remains the same: “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” Contrary to Clapper’s assurances, the Brotherhood is an archetypical Islamic revivalist movement that opposes the ascendancy of secular ideas and advocates a return to integral Islam as a solution to the ills that had befallen Muslim societies. Today it has branches in every traditionally Muslim country and all over the world, including the United States. Its members share the same long-term goal: the establishment of a world-wide Islamic state based on Sharia law. As is to be expected, they believe that the Koran and the Tradition justify violence to overthrow un-Islamic governments, and they look upon America as a sworn enemy.
During the Cold War, Washington routinely pandered to various Islamists as a means of weakening secular Arab nationalist regimes. In the mid 1950s, the Americans even promoted the idea of forming an Islamic bloc—led by Saudi Arabia—to counter the Nasserist movement. That approach may have made some sense during the Cold War, but it certainly makes none today. The strategy of effective support for Islamic ambitions against the Soviets in Afghanistan has helped turn Islamic radicalism into a truly global phenomenon detrimental to U.S. security interests. The ridiculous notion that the Muslim Brotherhood can become America’s user-friendly partner merely proves that the architects of our Middle Eastern policy have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
Egypt’s dwindling Copts have seen their position deteriorate over the past year from precarious to perilous. Already facing discrimination and harassment from Mubarak’s secular regime, they now see that things could get a lot worse under the Islamists who are now poised to take complete power. Their annus horribilis started on New Year’s Day 2011, when a powerful car bomb targeted a Coptic church in Alexandria, killing 25 parishioners and wounding nearly 100 just as they were finishing midnight liturgy. The next turning point was the Maspero massacre on October 9, 2011, when 27 unarmed Christian protesters were killed and hundreds more injured, not by some shadowy Islamic extremists but by the military. An official commission—established by the Army—has unsurprisingly absolved the Army of all responsibility for the killings.
Egypt shows that the prospect of the end of Christianity in Syria as a direct consequence of American policy is not unique, nor limited to one party or administration. The almost complete Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt already is accompanied by an accelerating Coptic exodus, as church attacks and kidnappings (mainly of girls, who after rape and supposed “conversion” to Islam are denied return to their families).
The process is accelerating. On August 1 Sherif Gadallah, a prominent lawyer from Alexandria, submitted a report to the public prosecutor demanding the exclusion of Copts from the committee in charge of forming Egypt’s constitution. That same week a sectarian crisis escalated in the village of Dahshur, only 25 miles south of Cairo, where hundreds of Muslims torched and looted Coptic businesses and homes. “As 120 families had already fled the village … the businesses and homes were an easy game for the mob to make a complete clean-up of everything that could be looted,” said Coptic activist Wagih Jacob. “The security forces were at the scene of the crime while it was taking place and did nothing at all.” The Coptic Orthodox Church issued a statement criticizing officials “for not dealing firmly with the events, demanding the speedy arrest of the perpetrators, the provision of security to the village Copts, their return to their homes, and monetary compensation for all those affected.” Its adherents see the Dahshur incident as a continuation of the Mubarak-era policy of collective punishment of Copts. Renowned Egyptian novelist Alaa Al-Aswany said, “What if the Americans acted the same way as the extremists of Dahshur; would you accept the expulsion of Muslims of America in response to Bin Laden’s terrorism?”
Egypt’s ongoing transition to what passes for democracy in the Muslim world is going to make matters far worse for the Copts, who are fearful the army and courts will not shield them from ever-greater discrimination and harassment. The Freedom and Justice Party, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Muslim Brotherhood, now controls the country’s parliament, and the president is a Brotherhood disciple. The adherents of political Islam are in charge. Their spiritual leader is Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, who in a recent video reminded the faithful that Christians are infidels. The Sheikh’s position is in line with orthodox Islamic teaching, which may explain the fact that he is still hailed in the West as a moderate. Five years ago, a U.S. News article described him as “a highly promoted champion of moderate Islam.” As a result, according to an August 14 report in El Fegr, jihadi organizations openly distribute leaflets inciting for the killing of Copts and promising them “a tragic end if they do not return to the truth” (Islam). The letter even names contact points and a location, Sheikh Ahmed Mosque in Kasfrit, where those supportive of such goals should rally after Friday prayers and join forces.
“Liberation” of Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s secular dictatorship has devastated that country’s Christian community, with many taking refuge in Syria, where they are now again under threat. “At least proponents of Muslim liberation in the Middle East can claim, however implausibly, that the negative impact on local Christians is an unintended and regrettable consequence of a fundamentally humane and progressive program,” James Jatras says.
“But in the Balkans, specifically in Kosovo and in Muslim-controlled areas of Bosnia, no crocodile tears are required. The victims are Serbs, and of course they deserve everything they get. But excuses and window-dressing aside, the bottom line is the same: Washington—supposedly the great global opponent of jihad terror—in fact is the consistent supporter of militant Islamization of one country after another, with the predictable result of streams of Christian refugees, burned churches, murdered clergy, and enslaved girls. Given the collusion between our government and media, not one American in ten has a clue what our government is doing in our name and with our money.”
Iraq’s dwindling Christian population marked Christmas 2011 with bomb attacks across Baghdad that killed dozens of them. After U.S. forces completed their withdrawal from the country, Christian exodus from Iraq accelerated. “Our faithful in Iraq live in fear,” Chaldean Bishop Shlemon Warduni complained, “they feel there is no peace, no security, so they go where they can live in peace… The government cannot ensure their lives.”
The Christian community in Iraq was some two million strong before the US-led invasion of 2003. Up to four-fifths is estimated to have left the country in recent years following a series of attacks by Muslim extremists. While they were still there, the U.S. forces did little to protect them, leaving the task to the Iraqis. On October 31, 2010, an assault on a Baghdad church left 44 worshippers, two priests and seven security force members dead. According to Louis Sako, Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk, “the security forces are not sufficiently prepared to ensure the protection of Christians.” He says that 57 churches and houses of worship in Iraq have been attacked since the invasion with a thousand Christians killed and more than 6 000 wounded.
At the outset of the Islamic conquests under Muhammad’s successors all of these lands were 100 percent Christian. By the time the Ottomans took over they had a Christian plurality, and in Palestine and Lebanon the outright majority. Under the British Mandate (1919-1947), Palestine officially was a Christian country. Bethlehem, for instance, had a population that was 90 percent Christian. Today, they are disappearing: Bethlehem is now less than 10 percent Christian. Among almost three million Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, only 50,000 Christians remain. Within the pre-1967 borders of Israel there are six million people; only two percent are Christians. In the city of Jerusalem the Christian population has declined from 45,000 in 1940 to a few thousand today. At the current rate of decline, the Christian population will be a fraction of one percent in the year 2020, and there will be no living church in the land of Christ
If the Jewish or Muslim population of America or Western Europe were to start declining at a similar rate, there would be an outcry from their co-religionists all over the world. There would be government-funded programs to establish the causes and provide remedies, and heart-rendering Hollywood movies. The endangered minority would be awarded instant victim status and be celebrated as such by the media and academia. But the disappearing Middle Eastern Christians, or their remnant, remain invisible to the Western world. It is evidently hard to be “post-Christian” without becoming anti-Christian.
Marine General John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, says one possible explanation for a spike in killings of American troops by their Afghan partners is the strain of fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ended on August 18. He said that while the reasons for the killings are not fully understood, the effect of Ramadan fasting is “likely among the causes.” There have been at least 32 attacks so far this year, killing 40 coalition members—mostly Americans—ten of them in August.
“The idea that they will fast during the day places great strain on them,” Allen said, adding that the stress may have been compounded by Ramadan falling during the heat of summer and the height of the fighting season. He acknowledged that hunger and heat may not be the primary causes for the killings, but it is among many “different and complex reasons for why we think this may have increased” lately.
Welcome to the Ramadan-Induced Sudden Jihad Syndrome. Presumably next year, the U.S. Army is going to set up counseling centers and group therapy sessions for the Afghan soldiers and policemen who cease to be responsible for their actions due to the “great strain.”
As for the “different and complex reasons,” in Allen’s account the words “Islam” and “jihad” did not make an appearance. In addition to the mental “strain” of fasting, he also cited Taliban infiltration of Afghan security forces and unnamed “personal Afghan grievances” against U.S. troops. Back in Washington, Colonel Lapan, spokesman for the US Joint Chiefs of Staff commented, “we don’t know what’s causing [the attacks], and we’re looking at everything.” As for the experts, Mark Jacobsen, a defense specialist at the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. and a former senior NATO civilian representative in Afghanistan, said Allen’s theory about the role of Ramadan in the attacks is “very reasonable.” John Agoglia, an executive at IDS International, which provides cultural awareness training for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, said in an interview that the insider attacks were partly linked to a Taliban effort to “psychologically dislocate” Afghans from their American trainers and advisers.
While the Fasting Factor is a demented fantasy, the insistence on the “infiltration” by the Taliban and its “psychological dislocation” campaign is factually incorrect. As The New York Times reported on August 18, the military has analyzed the attacks and the results have been worrisome: “Only a handful of the 31 attacks this year have clearly been a result of Taliban activity like infiltration. That suggests a level of malaise or anger within the Afghan forces that could complicate NATO’s training program, which relies on trust and cooperation.”
“Could complicate” implies that this has not happened yet, which is ridiculous. In May 2011, a U.S. Army study established that killings of Americans and other NATO troops by Afghan soldiers and policemen were not “rare and isolated events.” In ten months (July 2010-May 2011) over thirty were murdered by Afghan national security forces. The problem escalated following the alleged burning of Qurans at an American military base last February, when two American officers were killed by their Afghan “colleagues” inside the Interior Ministry in Kabul. After that incident Gen. Allen withdrew his men from Afghan government facilities, while NATO personnel in the capital had to limit their contact with Afghan government institutions to cell phones and e-mail. Another crisis started on March 11, when an American sergeant killed 16 unarmed Afghan civilians in a village near Kandahar. The “insider killings” reached a new high after that incident, steadily escalating to two deaths a week in August.
The primary reason for the killings is the religiously inspired animosity most Afghans feel for the infidel in general, and Americans in particular. It is driven by the eminently orthodox dogma of jihad—supported by countless examples through history—that if a Muslim land is occupied by infidels, it is obligatory for the Muslims to resist the kufr—soldiers and civilians alike—and kill them, while pretending to be their friends if this facilitates the desired outcome.
A war waged by non-Muslims in a predominantly Muslim land is inevitably a religious war. This explanation—which is at least worthy of serious consideration by the military authorities, for the sake of the dead and others who are in harm’s way—is not allowed into the discourse of top field commanders, their professional advisors and political masters. They act like oncologists who willfully won’t, or else are not allowed to, diagnose metastatic cancer. Their political masters prefer to stick to their politically correct dogmas than to accept an explanation that is at odds with their world view. As a result, American and allied soldiers die.
In Afghanistan, the hatred of the infidel occupier is combined with studied contempt of Afghans of all political hues for the rhetoric of “partnership,” with which the American political and military establishment remains infatuated. No partnership is possible. History tells us that Muslim soldiers can respect and obey non-Muslim masters, but not in this case. They will do so only when the “infidel” officer commands Muslims from a clear-cut position of indisputable authority.
During World War II, close to 400,000 Punjabi Muslims volunteered for the British Indian Army. From 1936 until the partition in 1947, Muslims from different parts of the Subcontinent accounted for about a third of the Indian Army personnel. Coming mainly from the traditionally martial communities in today’s Pakistan, they were hugely over-represented in the all-volunteer force. They were commanded mostly by British officers, invariably so above the rank of major. Before 1939, they were on station duty in Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Aden, the Gulf, Burma, Malaya and Hong Kong—some of the hottest places on Earth. During the war they fought mostly in East Africa, North Africa, Syria, Tunisia, Malaya, Burma, and Italy—except for the last, lands and regions no less hot and often even less hospitable than Afghanistan itself. There is no record, however, of “insider attacks” presenting a problem—Ramadan or no Ramadan.
In the Russian Empire, following the conquest of the Caucasus and Central Asia, Muslim territorial regiments—commanded by Russian officers—were established in those territories that were granted autonomous status, such as the Emirate of Bukhara or the Khanate of Khiva. Elsewhere, regiments of Muslims were incorporated into the regular army—e.g. the Muslim cavalry of Dagestan, the Crimean Tatar squadron—but they were also officered by Russians. They were reliable, loyal, fought well, and endured the Ramadan, it seems, with no great stress—or at least we have no such record.
In our own time, Muslims are significantly over-represented in the French Army—accounting for a fifth of the rank-and-file—but most of their officers are French. While the loyalty of these soldiers is considered uncertain if they were asked to restore law and order in the restive Muslim banlieus, insider attacks are not a problem and an assiduous Internet search has failed to find any link between their disciplinary or behavioral problems and Ramadan fasting.
Last but not least, their German officers were full of praise for some hundreds of thousands of Muslims who served as volunteers, mostly in the Waffen SS, between 1941 and 1945. They came from the Crimea, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chechnya, Dagestan, Kosovo, Central Asia—an ethnically and racially diverse group—and yet there is no record of insider killings or the Ramadan Syndrome.
Poor General Allen. He is facing a new, altogether unprecedented phenomenon. And poor Afghan soldiers. They are under such strain…
And other tales of an empire gone mad…
Afghanistan in the 1980s and 90s … Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s … Libya 2011 … Syria 2012 … In military conflicts in each of these countries the United States and al Qaeda (or one of its associates) have been on the same side. 1
What does this tell us about the United States’ “War On Terrorism”?
Regime change has been the American goal on each occasion: overthrowing communists (or “communists”), Serbians, Slobodan Milosevic, Moammar Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad … all heretics or infidels, all non-believers in the empire, all inconvenient to the empire.
Why, if the enemy is Islamic terrorism, has the United States invested so much blood and treasure against the PLO, Iraq, and Libya, and now Syria, all mideast secular governments?
Why are Washington’s closest Arab allies in the Middle East the Islamic governments of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, and Bahrain? Bahrain being the home of an American naval base; Saudi Arabia and Qatar being conduits to transfer arms to the Syrian rebels.
Why, if democracy means anything to the United States are these same close allies in the Middle East all monarchies?
Why, if the enemy is Islamic terrorism, did the United States shepherd Kosovo — 90% Islamist and perhaps the most gangsterish government in the world — to unilaterally declare independence from Serbia in 2008, an independence so illegitimate and artificial that the majority of the world’s nations still have not recognized it?
Why — since Kosovo’s ruling Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) have been known for their trafficking in women, heroin, and human body parts (sic) — has the United States been pushing for Kosovo’s membership in NATO and the European Union? (Just what the EU needs: another economic basket case.) Between 1998 and 2002, the KLA appeared on the State Department terrorist list, remaining there until the United States decided to make them an ally, due in no small part to the existence of a major American military base in Kosovo, Camp Bondsteel, well situated in relation to planned international oil and gas pipelines coming from the vast landlocked Caspian Sea area to Europe. In November 2005, following a visit to Bondsteel, Alvaro Gil-Robles, the human rights envoy of the Council of Europe, described the camp as a “smaller version of Guantánamo”. 2
Why, if the enemy is Islamic terrorism, did the United States pave the way to power for the Libyan Islamic rebels, who at this very moment are killing other Libyans in order to institute a more fundamentalist Islamic state?
Why do American officials speak endlessly about human rights, yet fully support the Libyan Islamic rebels despite the fact that Doctors Without Borders suspended its work in prisons in the Islamic-rebel city of Misurata because torture was so rampant that some detainees were brought for care only to make them fit for further interrogation? 3
Why is the United States supporting Islamic Terrorists in Libya and Syria who are persecuting Christians?
And why, if the enemy is Islamic terrorism, did US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice — who daily attacks the Syrian government on moral grounds — not condemn the assassination of four Syrian high officials on July 18, in all likelihood carried out by al Qaeda types? RT, the Russian television channel broadcast in various parts of the United States, noted her silence in this matter. Does anyone know of any American media that did the same?
So, if you want to understand this thing called United States foreign policy … forget about the War on Terrorism, forget about September 11, forget about democracy, forget about freedom, forget about human rights, forget about religion, forget about the people of Libya and Syria … keep your eyes on the prize … Whatever advances American global domination. Whatever suits their goals at the moment. There is no moral factor built into the DNA of US foreign policy.
Bring back the guillotine
In July, the Canadian corporation Enbridge, Inc. announced that one of its pipelines had leaked and spilled an estimated 1,200 barrels of crude oil in a field in Wisconsin. Two years ago, an Enbridge pipeline spilled more than 19,000 barrels in Michigan. The Michigan spill affected more than 50 kilometers of waterways and wetlands and about 320 people reported medical symptoms from crude oil exposure. The US National Transportation Safety Board said that at $800 million it was the costliest onshore spill cleanup in the nation’s history. The NTSB found that Enbridge knew of a defect in the pipeline five years before it burst. According to Enbridge’s own reports, the company had 800 spills between 1999 and 2010, releasing close to 7 million gallons of crude oil. 4
No executive or other employee of Enbridge has been charged with any kind of crime. How many environmental murderers of modern times have been punished?
During a period of a few years beginning around 2007, several thousand employees of stock brokers, banks, mortgage companies, insurance companies, credit-rating agencies, and other financial institutions, mainly in New York, had great fun getting obscenely rich while creating and playing with pieces of paper known by names like derivatives, collateralized debt obligations, index funds, credit default swaps, structured investment vehicles, subprime mortgages, and other exotic terms, for which, it must be kept in mind, there had been no public need or demand. The result has been a severe depression, seriously hurting hundreds of millions of lives in the United States and abroad.
No employee of any of these companies has seen the inside of a prison cell for playing such games with our happiness.
For more than half a century members of the United States foreign policy and military establishments have compiled a record of war crimes and crimes against humanity that the infamous beasts and butchers of history could only envy.
Not a single one of these American officials has come any closer to a proper judgment than going to see the movie “Judgment at Nuremberg”.
Yet, we live in the United States of Punishment for countless other criminal types; more than two million presently rotting their lives away. No other society comes even close to this, no matter how the statistics are calculated. And many of those in American prisons are there for victimless crimes.
On the other hand, we see the Chinese sentencing their citizens to lengthy prison terms, even execution, for environmental crimes.
We have an Iranian court recently trying 39 people for a $2.6 billion bank loan embezzlement carried out by individuals close to the political elite or with their assent. Of the 39 people tried, four were sentenced to hang, two to life in prison, and others received terms of up to 25 years; in addition to prison time, some were sentenced to flogging, ordered to pay fines, and banned from government jobs. 5
And in Argentina in early July, in the latest of a long series of trials of former Argentine officials, former dictator Jorge Rafael Videla was convicted and sentenced to 50 years for a systematic plan to steal babies from women prisoners who were kidnapped, tortured and killed during the military junta’s war on leftist dissenters — the “dirty war” of 1976-83 that claimed 13,000 victims. Many of the women had “disappeared” shortly after giving birth. Argentina’s last dictator, Reynaldo Bignone, was also convicted and got 15 years. Outside the courthouse a jubilant crowd watched on a big screen and cheered each sentence. 6
As an American, how I envy the Argentines. Get the big screen ready for The Mall in Washington. We’ll have showings of the trials of the Bushes and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Obama. And Henry Kissinger, a strong supporter of the Argentine junta among his many contributions to making the world a better place. And let’s not forget the executives of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Bank of America, and Enbridge, Inc. Fining them just money is pointless. We have to fine them years, lots of them.
Without imprisoning these people, nothing will change. That’s become a cliché, but we very well see what continues to happen without imprisonment. And it’s steadily getting worse, financially and imperially.
Items of interest from a journal I’ve kept for 40 years, part VII
- Bantustanning the aboriginals all over the world: The Indians in America, the aboriginals in Australia, the blacks in South Africa, and the Palestinians in Palestine.
- From 1966 tape of President Lyndon Johnson: “I know we oughtn’t to be there [in Vietnam], but I can’t get out.” And he never did. And thousands more troops would die before Johnson left office. (Washington Post, March 12, 2006)
- The Germans had Lebensraum. Americans had Manifest Destiny.
- chinks, gooks, wogs, towelheads, ragheads — some of the charming terms used by American soldiers to describe their foes in Asia and the Middle East
- In June, 2005, Cong. Duncan Hunter (Rep.-CA) held a news conference concerning Guantánamo. Displaying some tasty traditional meals, he said the government spends $12 a day for food for each prisoner. “So the point is that the inmates in Guantánamo have never eaten better, they’ve never been treated better, and they’ve never been more comfortable in their lives than in this situation.” (Scripps Howard News Service, June 28, 2005, Reg Henry column)
- Vice President Dick Cheney: Guantánamo prisoners are well treated. “They’re living in the tropics. They’re well fed. They’ve got everything they could possibly want.” (CNN.com, June 23, 2005)
- “[Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld said Guantánamo’s operations have been more open to scrutiny than any military detention facility in history.” (Associated Press, June 14, 2005)
- “Their ‘coalition of the willing’ [in Iraq] meant the US, Britain, and the equivalent of a child’s imaginary friends.” Paul Loeb, Truthout, June 16, 2005
- Nobody has ever suggested that Serbia attacked or was preparing to attack a member of NATO, and that is the only event which justifies a military reaction under the NATO treaty, such as the 1999 78-day bombing of Serbia.
- Rumsfeld re Chinese military buildup: “Since no nation threatens China, one wonders: Why this growing investment?” (New York Times, June 6, 2005
- Rumsfeld re Venezuelan major weapons buildup: “I don’t know of anyone threatening Venezuela, anyone in this hemisphere.” (Washington Post, October 3, 2006) [Is it possible that the response to both points raised is the same? A country in North America bordering on Mexico?]
- The failure of the United Nations — as an institution and its individual members — to unequivocally oppose and prevent the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003 can well be called “appeasement”.
- The Iraqi Kurds generally sided with Iran during the 1981-88 Iraq-Iran war; helped the United States before and during its bombing of Iraq in 2003 and during its occupation; and most Kurds don’t identify with being Iraqi according to polls.
- One of the military judges at Guantánamo said: “I don’t care about international law. I don’t want to hear the words ‘international law’ again. We are not concerned with international law.” (Democracy Now, April 12, 2005)
- George W. Bush, re al Qaeda types: “Iraqis are sick of foreign people coming in their country and trying to destabilize their country. And we will help them rid Iraq of these killers.” (Baltimore Sun, May 6, 2004)
- “I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq. Those who want to come and help are welcome. Those who come to interfere and destroy are not.” Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense and unindicted war criminal (Chicago Tribune, July 22, 2003)
- Timothy McVeigh, Gulf War veteran who bombed a government building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people: “What occurred in Oklahoma City was no different than what Americans rain on the heads of others all the time … The bombing of the Murrah building was not personal, no more than when Air Force, Army, Navy or Marine personnel bomb or launch cruise missiles against government installations and their personnel. … Many foreign nations and peoples hate Americans for the very reasons most Americans loathe me. Think about that.” (McVeigh’s letter to and interview with Rita Cosby, Fox News Correspondent, April 27 2001)
- Douglas Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and unindicted war criminal: “Defense Department officials don’t lie to the public. … The Defense Department doesn’t do covert action, period.” (Washington Post, February 21, 2002)
- The United States will “deal promptly and properly with the terrible abuses” of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers. “No country in the world upholds the Geneva Conventions on the laws of armed conflict more steadfastly than does the United States.” Douglas Feith, Boston Globe, May 5, 2004
- “The State Department plans to delay the release of a human rights report that was due out today, partly because of sensitivities over the prison abuse scandal in Iraq, U.S. officials said. One official who asked not to be identified said the release of the report, which describes actions taken by the U.S. government to encourage respect for human rights by other nations, could ‘make us look hypocritical’.” (Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2004)
- In the decades after 1945, as colonial possessions became independent states, it was widely believed that imperialism as a historical phenomenon was coming to an end. However, a new form of imperialism was in fact taking shape, an imperialism not defined by colonial rule but by the global capitalist market. From the outset, the dominant power in this imperialism without colonies was the United States.
- Francis Boyle re the capture and public display of Saddam Hussein: “This is the 21st century equivalent of the Roman Emperor parading the defeated barbarian king before the assembled masses so that they might all shout in unison: Hail Caesar!”
- The US-provided textbooks in Nicaragua after the US-instigated defeat of the Sandinistas in 1990 carefully excluded all mention of Augustino Sandino as a national hero. (Z magazine, November, 1991)
- “Col. David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, said tougher methods are being used to gather the intelligence. On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general. They left a note: ‘If you want your family released, turn yourself in.’ Such tactics are justified, he said, because, ‘It’s an intelligence operation with detainees, and these people have info.’ They would have been released in due course, he added later. The tactic worked. On Friday, Hogg said, the lieutenant general appeared at the front gate of the U.S. base and surrendered.” (Washington Post, July 28, 2003) [This is illegal under international law; in ordinary parlance we'd call it a kidnapping with ransom; in war, it's the collective punishment of civilians and is forbidden under the Geneva Convention]
- “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
- “Americans, who up until now had been so valued for their pragmatism, have become ideologues, ‘Bolsheviks’ of the Right, as Daniel Cohn-Bendit once described them.” (Jean-Marcel Bouguereau, concerning Iraq, Le Nouvel Observateur, September 8, 2003)
- Six months after its invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration defended its policy on the basis of schools and hospitals opening and strides made in providing water and electricity. (Washington Post, September 25, 2003) — These are all things 12 years of US bombing and sanctions had destroyed.
- For a summary of much of this, see: Peter Dale Scott, “Bosnia, Kosovo, and Now Libya: The Human Costs of Washington’s Ongoing Collusion With Terrorists“, The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, August 7, 2011 ↩
- Camp Bondsteel entry on Wikipedia ↩
- Washington Post, January 27, 2012 ↩
- Enbridge entry on Wikipedia; Washington Post, July 29, 2012↩
- Reuters, July 31, 2012 ↩
- Associated Press, July 6, 2012 ↩
The Syrian scenario, as concocted in Washington with some help from London and Paris, is proceeding with almost comical predictability. Amnesty International has just issued a report accusing government forces of “crimes against humanity” and calling on the UN Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court. The report, “All-Out Repression: Purging Dissent in Aleppo, Syria,” is a textbook example of Western quasi-NGOs engaging in intervention advocacy. By accusing the “international community” of failing to act – in Bosnia in 1995, in Kosovo in 1999, or in Libya last year – they feign indignation, but in reality perform on their funders’ cue by reinforcing the political and media elite consensus that decisive and robust action is necessary and justified.
Based entirely on unsubstantiated claims by anti-government activists, devoid of any political or military context, and compiled by unnamed Amnesty “delegates” and “field researchers,” the latest report could have been written at the Department of State. It accuses security forces and pro-government militiamen, known as shabiha, of the entire gamut of crimes, from firing on peaceful protesters and bystanders, including children, to targeting medical teams and torturing their members. Members of the Syrian army and security forces are presented as brutal, mindless demons who cherish inflicting death and pain per se, regardless of political and military consequences. Their alleged victims are presented as peaceful, moderate, and innocent. The moralizing tone is well familiar by now:
The international community has before it ample, credible documentation of the scale and gravity of violations committed, but it has so far failed to put any meaningful pressure on the Syrian authorities to halt their onslaught against civilians suspected of protesting or supporting the opposition. The UN Security Council squandered over a year in political wrangling, while the Syrian government responded to mass protests that were largely peaceful with unlawful killings, torture, enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention.
Amnesty’s demand for the involvement of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is particularly indicative of the likely course of events in the weeks to come. As confirmed by Qaddafy’s indictment in May 2011, a key purpose of the ICC is to provide retroactive justification for an illegal and unprovoked act of military aggression. If and when an ICC “warrant” for Bashar al-Assad’s arrest is issued, it can be used by the Obama Administration as a substitute – however legally dubious – for the UN Security Council resolution authorizing intervention, which Russia and China will not accept. As I commented a day after Qaddafy’s “arrest warrant” was issued, the power of the ICC prosecutor to act without third-party restraint and to claim universal jurisdiction offers the scope for considerable pseudo-legal creativity, depending on the will of the prosecutor’s political masters. The transparent predictability of the process is comical in a dark way, but derisive laughter is out of place because its outcome may be yet another war.
The Manichean caricature of the Syrian conflict provided by the Western NGOs would be unworthy of comment were it not for the fact that Amnesty and its ilk (Human Rights Watch, Transparency International) are fully paid-for subsidiaries of the U.S. Government, its European satellites and quasi-independent fellow-travelers, such as George Soros and his Open Society Institute. Amnesty & Co. were not nearly as vocal when, less than a decade ago, the CIA delivered suspected terrorists to Syrian police specialists, detained at U.S. government’s request, and subjected to certain interrogation practices that make Guantanamo look like a summer camp.
The Amnesty report is an example of our tax dollars at work in pursuit of the warmongers’ interests. At a technical level, their modus operandi was revealed on July 12, when yet another “massacre of civilians” – supposedly committed by the forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian village of Tremseh (Traymseh) – briefly dominated the mainstream Western media. The New York Times claimed the killings in Tremseh were “unlike any massacre that has previously occurred in Syria.” All of the leading MSM organs joined the fray, relying on anonymous “opposition activists” and rebel sources for the claims. “People had their throats slit,” an alleged witness told Agence France Presse, which also reported the presence of pro-Bashar graffiti on the blood-stained walls. London’s Guardian quoted an opposition activist who claimed that “Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Tremseh after its rebel defenders pulled out and started killing the people… Every family in the town seems to have members killed.” The Daily Telegraph claimed – incorrectly – that most recent massacres have involved Sunni villages dominated by the Alawite minority.
Within hours the politicians used media reports to demand action against Damascus. British Foreign Secretary William Hague called the killing of “more that 200 people” a “shocking and appalling atrocity.” He insisted the incident should increase the pressure for a united response from the international community, including Russia and China, which have resisted UN Security Council resolutions authorizing intervention. Only hours later Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement of her own, saying she was “deeply saddened and outraged to learn of reports of yet another massacre committed by the Syrian regime that has claimed the lives of over 200 men, women, and children.” According to Clinton, “Credible reports indicate that this unconscionable act was carried out by artillery, tanks, and helicopters—indisputable evidence that the regime deliberately murdered innocent civilians.”
Mrs. Clinton’s “credible reports” thus rapidly turned into “indisputable evidence,” and duly produced new threats of punishment and more nonnegotiable demands. By now, however, it has become obvious that there is less than meets the eye. The “massacre” in Tremseh appears to have been a replay of nearby Houla six weeks earlier, in other words a Račak-like stage-managed deception where dead rebel combatants were presented as civilian victims. More recent reports, even those based on anonymous “opposition activists,” suggest that fewer than 100 people had died, and that almost all of the dead were military-aged men, rather than “women and children.” A subsequent AFP report revealed that in the final count “the number of civilians killed by shelling is not more than seven,” while the rest were members of the “Free Syrian Army.” The BBC and other MSM outlets subsequently reduced the estimates of the dead and the qualification of the event itself, but in the meantime Mrs. Clinton has moved on, to Aleppo and the alleged brutality of government forces in Syria’s most populous city.
The atrocities are committed by both sides. Those committed by the Syrian rebels are well documented and widely available. When pressed to explain the curious fact that most alleged government crimes occur just ahead of major UN Security Council meetings, a spokesman for the “Syrian National Council” blithely claimed that “Assad doesn’t really care about the international community.” This statement is untrue: Assad is no fool, and his government has repeatedly warned that the rebels were preparing stage-managed massacres some days in advance of their taking place.
In the meantime, as Robert Fisk points out, while Qatar and Saudi Arabia arm and fund the rebels, Washington mutters not a word of criticism against them: “President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, say they want a democracy in Syria. But Qatar is an autocracy and Saudi Arabia is among the most pernicious of caliphate-kingly-dictatorships in the Arab world. Rulers of both states inherit power from their families – just as Bashar has done – and Saudi Arabia is an ally of the Salafist-Wahabi rebels in Syria, just as it was the most fervent supporter of the medieval Taliban during Afghanistan’s dark ages.” The Saudis are repressing their own Shia minority just as they now wish to destroy the Alawite-Shia minority of Syria, Fisk concludes. And we should believe that Saudi Arabia wants to set up a democracy in Syria?
Right now nobody wants democracy in Syria, least of all Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. A democratic Syria would need to develop a system of checks and balances guaranteeing equal rights for its Kurds and Arabs, for the majority Sunnis and minority Alawites and Christians. The only party historically able and willing to guarantee such rights has been the Baath Party. If Assad falls – which is the firm objective of the Obama Administration – Washington’s latest protégés, the Sunni fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, will win. Everyone else will be killed or exiled. The result will be a mono-ethnic, mono-confessional theocracy, part-Gaza and part-Saudi Arabia. A grim prospect, indeed, for the American interest and for American ideals.
Over the past two decades the decisionmakers in Washington have acquired and internalized a bias in Balkan affairs that falls outside the parameters of rational debate. As Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute has noted, such policy is not as inconsistent as it seems: “Time after time the U.S. policy makers would ask what is it that the Serbs want, they would think about it for about five seconds, and reply that it is totally unacceptable.”
Such consistency has had grim results. Their mendacity, as displayed at Rambouillet in February 1999, was on par with the farce of Munich in 1938. In Kosovo their bombs led to a violent secession by an ethnic minority which, in the fullness of time, may render many European borders tentative. In Bosnia-Herzegovina they helped ignite the war in the spring of 1992, notably with U.S. Ambassador Warren Zimmermann’s now notorious mission to Sarajevo. They kept it going in 1993 by torpedoing the European-led peace initiatives. They engineered an outcome in 1995 that could have been obtained in 1992 without a single shot. In Croatia, in August 1995, they aided and abetted the biggest act of ethnic cleansing in post-1945 Europe.
The puzzling question remains: why did America get involved in Balkan affairs, which bear no relationship to U.S. security, involving herself in long-standing and perhaps incurable national conflicts, and consistently acting in bad faith at that?
THE BURDEN OF HISTORY—The U.S. policy in the Balkans made its debut near the end of the First World War. President Wilson, while advocating the creation of Yugoslavia in 1918, did not realize that the unification of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was at least half-century overdue: the process of separate cultural development and the emergence of mutually incompatible national identities among the South Slavs had been completed. But being a liberal, Wilson did not allow Balkan realities to get in the way of his vision. He blended the Puritan self-righteous zeal with the Progressive Era’s belief in the power of politics to change the world for the better. His concepts of “self-determination,” “enlarging democracy” and “collective security” signaled the birth of a view of America’s role in world affairs which has created—and is still creating—endless problems for America and for the world.
After 1948 Tito came to be perceived as an asset by the U.S. Money, weapons, and warm welcome were soon to follow and continued until the end of the dictator’s life in 1980. Fixated on “Tito’s Yugoslavia” as a factor of Cold War stability, key American leaders disregarded—a decade later—the fact that Tito’s internal boundaries between the federal republics were the root cause of the looming conflict. Arbitrarily designed by the communist winners in the civil war in 1945, they left a third of all Serbs outside Serbia-proper, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro. For good measure two “autonomous provinces” were carved out of Serbia, one of which—Kosovo—is an almost Serbenfrei quasi-state today.
For as long as Yugoslavia existed the Serbs could nevertheless derive some comfort from the existence of a common Federal framework: it appeared to promise them a measure of security from the repetition of the nightmare of 1941-45. When Yugoslavia started unraveling, however, in 1991-92, they were determined to resist any attempt by the breakaway republics to force millions of Serbs to become insecure and disliked minorities in their own land.
POLITICAL ESSENCE OF THE WARS—In Croatia in 1991 and in Bosnia in 1992 the Serbs reacted in the same manner as the Americans of Texas, Arizona or New Mexico may react—10 or 20 years from now—if they are outvoted by a Latino majority demanding that those states be reabsorbed into Mexico, or into a contrived “Republic of the North.” For those who discount such outcomes, let us remember history. For example, the Protestant Ulstermen fought, demanded, and were given the right to stay in the United Kingdom when the Irish nationalists opted for secession in 1921. A second poignant illustration is the creation of the State of West Virginia in 1863 when—during the Civil War—the Union annexed the counties of the Commonwealth of Virginia that rejected secession. When comparing the paradigms, the Loyalists of Ulster and the Unionists of West Virginia were just as guilty of a “Joint Criminal Enterprise” to break up Ireland, or the Old Dominion, as were the Serbs of Bosnia-Herzegovina who did not want to be dragged into secession by the Muslim plurality.
Yugoslavia was a flawed polity, and in principle there should have been no objection to the striving of Croats or Bosnian Muslims to create their own nation-states. But equally there could have been no justification for forcing over two million Serbs west of the Drina River to be incorporated into those states against their will. Yugoslavia came together in 1918 as a union of South Slav peoples, and not as a federation of states or territorial units. Its divorce, once it became inevitable, should have proceeded on the same basis. This has been the key foundation of the Yugoslav conflict ever since the first shots were fired in May 1991.
The political essence of the wars of Yugoslav disintegration has been systematically hidden or distorted in the Western mainstream media, academia, and political forums, behind the portrayal of the Serbs as primitive ultranationalists who seek to conquer other peoples’ lands by violent means. The demonization of the Serbs was an exercise in social constructivism, depressingly effective in its crude simplicity. As early as 1992 the media pack equated the brutalities of the Balkans with the Holocaust. Once the paradigm matured with the myth of the “Srebrenica Genocide,” and once any doubters were equated with holocaust deniers, the possibilities for mendacity were limitless. Its fruits will be with us for decades to come.
UNDERSTANDING THE ABSURD—At the level of institutionalized corruption which passes for the political process in Washington D.C. the Yugoslav policy was the end-result of the interaction of pressure groups within the power structure: finding a new role for NATO, earning points in the Muslim world, caving in to ethnic lobbying, pandering to the military-industrial complex, isolating Russia, controlling strategic routes between Europe and the Middle East, and above all cementing American global hegemony. The influence of organized political lobbies in Washington was not decisive, but it should not be underestimated. Anti-Serb lobbies, notably Albanian-Americans, have been well-funded and well-placed for decades, while today (as in the past) the “Serbian lobby” does not exist. As James Jatras has noted, well before the outbreak of hostilities in 1991, the Serbs had already been branded the bad guys. Combined with media reinforcement, much false information was and still is accepted as unquestionable fact.
The Bosnian war transformed NATO into a tool of U.S. hegemony and it opened the door to the renewal of American dominance in European affairs to an extent not seen since Kennedy. As the late Richard Holbrooke put it, Dayton demonstrated that Europeans were not capable of resolving their own problems and that America was still the “indispensable nation.” He boasted, a year later, “We are re-engaged in the world, and Bosnia was the test.”
It is undeniable that geopolitical-strategic factors have played a role in defining the Balkan policy in Washington. Such “rational” reasons are not sufficient, however, to explain the zeal of successive administrations in pursuing a premeditatedly duplicitous anti-Serb policy. The clue is not in the realm of tangible strategic benefits and geopolitical assets, of transit corridors, oil and gas pipelines, lignite and zinc reserves, or military bases such as Camp Bondsteel. The key is in the desire of the Western elite class to use the Balkans as a testing ground for their emerging postmodernist, postnational project. They know that Kosovo is more than a piece of real estate, that it is to the Serbs what Alamo is to Texans or Jerusalem to Jews, that taking it away and letting its churches and monasteries be demolished is an unprecedented exercise in ethnocide. They condoned the Albanian barbarity because they saw the demolition of a small nation steeped in tradition of heroism and martyrdom—the Kosovo saga embodies it perfectly—as a step in the direction of a U.S.-dominated post-national world based on propositional abstractions.
This is the cue to the treatment of the Serbs by the U.S. political and media decision-makers over the past two decades. On the ruins of real nations, the rhetoric of “universal human rights” is imposed as the new basis for law and morality. The Serbs were merely a litmus test. The slogan of choice is multicultural democracy, irrespective of the wishes of the citizens of the particular territory involved—unless it is Serbs who wish to maintain a multi-ethnic state, in which case secession is the West’s preferred policy.
PANDERING TO ISLAMIC MILITANTS—In 1980 the U.S. supported hard-core Islamists in the insurgency against the Soviets in Afghanistan. That decision was a strategic mistake of the highest order: it prompted the release of the Jihadist genie from a bottle that had remained sealed for almost three centuries after the siege of Vienna. Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski’s “brilliant idea”—as he called the Afghan covert action almost two decades after the event—meant that hundreds of millions, and eventually billions of dollars were poured into the coffers and arsenals of people who openly stated their intention to rebuild an early-medieval theocracy in Afghanistan.
The fruits went beyond the jihadists’ wildest dreams. Brzezinski will go down in history as the man who did for Bin Laden what the Kaiser did for Lenin by providing him with that sealed train in 1917. Two “liberal” interventions on the side of the Balkan Muslims, in Bosnia and Kosovo, ensued in the 1990s. The most tangible result of promoting “common ideals and interests in this globalized world” by NATO bombs is the existence of a vibrant, hard-core jihadist base in the heart of Europe that has had a connection with every major terrorist attack in the past decade. Even 9/11 itself had a Bosnian Connection: Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, who planned the 9/11 attacks, was a seasoned veteran of the Bosnian jihad, as were two of the hijackers.
In spite of all other unresolved domestic and foreign issues, at a time when the U.S. power and authority are challenged around the world, key players in President Obama’s team still look upon the Balkans as the last geopolitically significant area where they can assert their “credibility” by postulating a maximalist set of objectives as the only outcome acceptable to the United States, and duly insisting on their fulfillment. We have already seen this pattern with Kosovo, and we’ve seen an attempt to stage its replay in Bosnia under the ongoing demand for unitarization.
The U.S. policy in the Balkans—just like its policy in Libya last year and in Syria today –facilitates the jihadist agenda. American goals paradoxically coincide with the regional objectives of those same Islamists who confront America in other parts of the world. Far from enhancing peace and regional stability, such policies continue to encourage pan-Islamic agitation for the completion of an uninterrupted Green Corridor in the Balkans by linking its as yet unconnected segments. It destabilizes Bosnia by encouraging constant Muslim demands for the abolition of the Republika Srpska, and it destabilizes Serbia in the Raska region (“Sanjak”). It encourages greater-Albanian aspirations against Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece, and Serbia. It encourages escalation of Turkey’s neo-Ottoman ambitions in the region. It is destructive and harmful.
In all cases the immediate bill will be paid by the people of the Balkans, as it is already being paid by Kosovo’s disappearing Serbs; but long-term costs of the U.S. policy in the Balkans will haunt the West. By encouraging its Albanian clients to proclaim independence, the U.S. administration has made a massive leap into the unknown, potentially on par with Austria’s July 1914 ultimatum to Serbia. The fruits will be equally bitter. In the fullness of time both America and Europe will come to regret the criminal folly of their current leaders. Remarkably, the continuing automatic-pilot policy directed against the Serbs is taking place without any serious debate in Washington on the ends and uses of American power, in the Balkans or anywhere else. Obama’s and Bush’s rhetoric differ, but they are one regime, identical in substance and consequence. Its leading lights will go on disputing the validity of the emerging balance-of-power system because they reject the legitimacy of any power in the world other than that of the United States, controlled and exercised by themselves. Theirs is, indeed, the global equivalent of the Brezhnev Doctrine.
The quest for hegemony leads to a counter-coalition which defeats it. The proponents of American exceptionalism nevertheless scoff at history’s warnings provided by Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, the Kaiser’s in 1918, or Hitler’s in 1945, as inapplicable in the post-history that they seek to construct. They confront the argument that no vital American interest worthy of risking a major war is involved in Georgia, or Syria, or the Balkans, with the claim that the whole world is America’s near-abroad. It is therefore essential for the emerging powers to refuse in principle to accept the validity of Washington’s ideological assumptions and the legitimacy of its associated geopolitical claims. At the same time, the key “liberal hawks” in the Obama Administration remain anchored in Madeleine Albright’s hubris: “If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall.”
The premises of an imperial presidency—which in world affairs translates into the quest for dominance and justification for interventionism—remain unchallenged, as we are witnessing in Syria today and as we shall witness in Iran tomorrow. (We are witnessing it in America, too, with Obama’s unrestrained use of the Presidential executive order—an extreme emergency measure—as a tool for overriding the will of the Legislative branch.) American meddling in the Balkans has been paradigmatic of the problem. It remains unaffected by the ongoing financial crisis manifest in a 16-trillion public debt, just as Moscow’s late-Cold War adventurism—so tragically manifested in Afghanistan—was enhanced, rather than curtailed, by the evident shortcomings of the Soviet political and economic system.
[Excerpts from Dr. Trifkovic’s paper presented in Belgrade at The Gorchakov Foundation conference European Security: The Balkan Angle on June 27, 2012.]
Once some powerful people in Washington decide that they want a war, they do not give up until they get it. The proponents of an American-led NATO intervention in Syria were on the defensive in April, when government forces were winning on the ground and the political balance inside the Beltway seemed to be favoring restraint. In May they regrouped and reconsidered their strategy. Now they are back with a vengeance.
President Obama appeared to be unenthusiastic about intervention, as was apparent during his meeting with Vladimir Putin at Los Cabos on June 18 when his remarks fell short of demanding President Bashar al-Assad’s removal from power. His more hawkish rhetoric at home indicates that he was merely trying not to irritate Putin by explicitly demanding regime change.
By now the proponents of Operation Syrian Freedom have put together four key ingredients needed for the pendulum to swing their way:
- Atrocity management is the key: the staged slaughter of civilians in Houla by the rebels last month, reminiscent of similar stunts in the Balkans—notably the Račak “massacre” that preceded the U.S.-led NATO war against Serbia in 1999—produced exactly the kind of reaction its perpetrators were hoping for. More similar incident are likely to follow.
- Misrepresentation of the insurgency as a fully-fledged civil war between two sides—one virtuous, the other unredeemably evil—is all but complete. Once the misnomer “civil war” is routinely used and accepted as accurate, it becomes easier to advocate intervening on the “good” side in that war. Arming the insurgents and helping them with air power is also possible—that was done in Libya—but the political consensus-building is more difficult this time.
- The assertion that intervention is a moral imperative and a test of American “leadership,” which the rest of the world supposedly hopes for and expects, is equally predictable. The narrative has been developing since Gulf War I and it matured under Clinton. Only the names of villains and victims need to be filled in.
- Last but not least, there is the claim that intervention is a geopolitical necessity, because the Russians are already involved by arming government forces and because a regime change in Damascus would be a blow to Iran’s position in the region. Nothing to do with the Syrian people, even though they would be the ones to pay the price of intervention in blood, like their Iraqi neighbors have done.
This last point is particularly worthy of attention, in view of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deliberate misrepresentation of facts regarding the delivery of Russian helicopters to the Syrian government. On June 12 Clinton expressed concern over the alleged sale of Russian helicopters to Syria, saying that if the Syrian government got possession of such lethal weapons, it “will escalate the conflict quite dramatically.”
The Russians replied that the helicopters had been sold and delivered to Syria a long time ago, that they were sent to Russia for refurbishing and were now being shipped back. On June 13 Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia was merely fulfilling its contractual obligations, signed and paid for long before the outbreak of the rebellion. He went on to allude to U.S. sales of arms to Bahrain—which faces latent unrest following last year’s protests that ended in bloodshed—by saying, “We are not supplying to Syria or anywhere else things that are used in fighting with peaceful demonstrators, in contrast to the United States, which is regularly sending such special means to countries in the region. For some reason, the Americans consider this to be in order.”
Victoria Nuland, spokesperson for the US State Department, effectively confirmed the Russian version and contradicted her boss when she declared on June 14 that “these are helicopters that have been out of the fight for some six months or longer. They are freshly refurbished.” An anonymous senior Pentagon official told The New York Times that Clinton had “exaggerated a little bit”—that is, lied—in order “to put the Russians in a difficult situation.”
For a Madam Secretary to lie is nothing new: Madeleine Albright did it routinely in the 1990s to justify the Bosnian intervention and the war against the Serbs. For her current successor to resort to falsehoods in order to provoke the Russians is remarkable, however, especially as it happened less than a week ahead of last Monday’s meeting between Obama and Putin. There are three possible explanations: that she was misinformed, which is unlikely; that she was acting on her own accord, which is possible; or that she was deliberately raising tension over Syria, which is most probable.
The Russians responded by announcing they would send two warships and a support vessel to the Syrian port of Tartus, where Russia maintains her only naval base in the Mediterannean. A Russian navy official said the ships will carry an unspecified number of marines, supposedly to protect Russians in Syria if necessary. Each ship is capable of carrying up to 300 marines and a dozen tanks. That would make it the largest known Russian troop deployment to Syria to date.
Once the “civil war” paradigm is in place, the next stage of the escalation is predictable: Saudi Arabia and the Emirates will provide the funds and Jihadist volunteers for the rebels, Turkey will be the staging post, while America and NATO will provide the weapons and trainers. It is eerily reminiscent of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s 1979 “brilliant idea” to train, arm and equip Islamic fundamentalists as a tool against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The fruits will be the same. A post-Assad Syria—however fragmented—would become a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism and Jihad terrorism.
That Syria is becoming an increasingly contentious issue in the relations between Washington and Moscow is an unnecessary and potentially dangerous development entirely of the Administration’s own making. That the strategic rationale for such behavior is lacking is unsurprising. All major interventions of the past two decades—Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya—have been self-defeating, illegal, and beneficial to the warriors in the path of the Prophet. Syria would be no exception.
Syria’s a battle zone. Western generated violence is to blame, not Assad. America’s media scoundrels claim otherwise. They want him ousted by any means, including war.
An April 9 Wall Street Journal commentary said “Syrian government forces (keep) bombing and killing….” Assad “reneged on (his) promises to end the bloodshed.”
Washington “and its allies (are) doing little or nothing to depose (his) regime. (The) illusion of diplomatic progress serves as cover for the Assads of the world to do more killing. Your move, President Obama.”
Like all scoundrel media commentators, Journal contributors blame victims, not villains. Their readers are betrayed, not informed.
Wall Street Journal contributor Fouad Ajami long ago sold out to imperial interests for whatever he gets in return. He showed it in an op-ed headlined, “A Kosovo Model for Syria,” saying:
“In the Obama world, the tendency to wait has become official policy: It is either boots on the ground or head in the sand.”
He’d “be wise to consider the way Bill Clinton dealt with the crisis of Kosovo in 1999. He authorized a NATO air campaign against Serbia that began on March 23, 1999, the very same day a bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress voted to support it.”
Bombing Yugoslavia for 78 days violated international law, as well as US constitutional and statute laws. It was also humanitarian hypocrisy.
Congress didn’t declare war. The Security Council didn’t authorize it. Yugoslavia didn’t threaten America, other NATO members or neighboring states. Nonetheless, Clinton got the war he wanted.
It was lawless, premeditated aggression. Ajami thinks it’s a good thing. So do other scoundrel media contributors like him. Yale Law Professor Bruce Ackerman said America “suffered one casualty in the (Serbia/Kosovo) war. (The) rule of law (was) blown to pieces.”
While Congress appropriated funds for the war, it never authorized it. Presidents can’t do it on their own. It hasn’t stopped them since WW II. Roosevelt’s war was the last one Congress declared. Failure to do so made others following it illegal, Obama’s wars included.
Ajami claimed Clinton acted responsibly. Obama “has a similar opportunity” to oust Assad “without a massive American commitment.” Failure leaves “only the shame of averting our eyes from Syrian massacres.”
Shamefully, many others agree with him.
On April 21, a Washington Post editorial said it’s time for “Plan B.”
“THE ONLY good news about Syria since the Obama administration’s embrace of an unworkable United Nations peace plan is the hints that it is beginning to consider alternatives.”
Assad “will never be induced by diplomacy to end his assaults on Syrian cities, allow peaceful demonstrations or release political prisoners….”
Obama has “to recognize these realities and embrace options that actually can advance its stated goal of ending Mr. Assad’s rule.”
“Mr. Assad will fall only when his attacks are blocked and countered; it follows that U.S. policy should aim at that.”
The Post urges “feckless diplomacy” ended in favor of immediate military action. Hawkish throughout the conflict, its position heads toward boiling over. Can war be far behind?
Hillary Clinton’s notoriously hawkish. So is UN envoy Susan Rice. Critics call her “Rice-a-phony.” She’s an over-ambitious zealot angling for Clinton’s job. Her rhetoric makes some observers gasp. It gives diplomacy a bad name and then some.
After Security Council Resolution 2043 passed, authorizing up to 300 unarmed military Syrian monitors, she couldn’t hold back.
She said “300 or even 3,000 (won’t halt Assad) from waging (his) barbaric campaign of violence against the Syrian people.” Only “intensified external pressure (can halt his) murderous rampage.”
She suggested tough measures are coming, saying “let there be no doubt: we, our allies and others in this body are planning and preparing for those actions….if the Assad regime persists in the slaughter of the Syrian people.”
The Post also wants tough talk followed by tougher action. Minimally it supports “modest military force.” Perhaps it considers Serbia/Kosovo a template. Perhaps it needs brushing up on US and international law, as well as who initiated lawless conflict and who confronted it responsibly.
Syria was calm and peaceful until Washington unleashed its dogs. US Special Forces direct them on the ground. So do UK ones. They attack hard and soft targets alike. They have Turkish safe haven sanctuaries. Post and other media scoundrels omit what’s most important.
Ignoring Obama administration lies and its own, a New York Times editorial headlined “Assad’s Lies,” saying:
Assad “reneged on nearly every promise made. (So-called) “activists reported that Syrian troops fired tear gas and bullets on thousands of protesters….Ban Ki-moon (claims he’s) failing to provide needed food and medicine to 230,000 displaced people, and refusing to allow outside agencies to help.”
“Activists” cited are stooges for power. Throughout the conflict, Times articles, op-eds, and editorials shamelessly blamed Assad for Western generated crimes. Ban Ki-moon does the same thing. Kofi Annan did it before him.
Both have shameless records of failure and betrayal. Assurance it would turn out that way got them their jobs. Only imperial loyalists qualify. Only media scoundrels claim otherwise or say nothing about their support for lawless wars and inaction to stop them.
Although Western generated violence displaced thousands of Syrians, no one has precise counts how many. ICRC officials report Assad cooperates delivering aid. Only areas plagued by insurgent violence makes it hard. When security forces quell it, residents thank Assad. They’d be helpless without him.
The Times said his “cruelty and blindness were predictable. What is unfathomable is why Russia and China continue to support him….Even now, Russian officials put much of the blame for the bloodshed on the fractured, mostly peaceful opposition forces, not the Syrian Army with its heavy weapons.”
“Russia sells arms to Syria….China seems determined to deny the West another ‘win….’ “
Times opinion writers mock truth and full disclosure. Anyone trying better find another line of work. Only imperial loyalty matters. Facts are sacrificed to support it.
In response to insurgent violence, Assad confronts it responsibly. Syrians count on him. He’s their only means of defense. Russia and China are the only permanent Security Council members preventing Washington from getting another war trophy – so far.
Hopefully Russia does supply Assad arms and other aid. Washington, NATO partners, and regional despots like Saudi Arabia and Qatar do it. Turkey provides safe haven sanctuaries. Rule of law inviolability’s a non-starter. Only imperial dominance matters.
Unless stopped, the entire Mediterranean Basin to Russia and China’s borders will be US controlled territory. If achieved, their sovereignty is next. Both countries know it. They’re not about to back off and do nothing. Hopefully, they’ve drawn red lines they’ll challenge if crossed.
The Times accused both countries of “tarnishing their global reputations.” It claims they’re “alienating governments and people throughout the region….And when (Assad) falls – and he will – the people of Syria will blame them for their complicity in this bloodbath. Their enabling just gives (Assad) more time to kill….(A) wider war (is) more likely.”
The last statement’s the only true one. The Arab street depends on whatever help Russia and China provide. Brutal despots oppress them – notably in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. They’re perhaps Washington’s closest allies. In return, they’re free to commit unspeakable crimes and atrocities.
The Times stopped only short of urging war. Perhaps it’s coming in time. It supports all imperial wars. Watch for a future editorial calling for another couched in humanitarian intervention language.
Scoundrel media never report truths. They never get it right. They never apologize after the fact. They support power and privilege only. No matter the huge body count, one war after another is cheerled in an endless cycle of violence, destruction, and human misery.
How long before Obama launches another one. Scoundrel media support smooths the way. Increasingly it looks likely. Syria tops the queue. Can Iran be far behind?
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Holy Triumvirate — The United States, NATO, and the European Union — or an approved segment thereof, can usually get what they want. They wanted Saddam Hussein out, and soon he was swinging from a rope. They wanted the Taliban ousted from power, and, using overwhelming force, that was achieved rather quickly. They wanted Moammar Gaddafi’s rule to come to an end, and before very long he suffered a horrible death. Jean-Bertrand Aristide was democratically elected, but this black man who didn’t know his place was sent into distant exile by the United States and France in 2004. Iraq and Libya were the two most modern, educated and secular states in the Middle East; now all four of these countries could qualify as failed states.
These are some of the examples from the past decade of how the Holy Triumvirate recognizes no higher power and believes, literally, that they can do whatever they want in the world, to whomever they want, for as long as they want, and call it whatever they want, like “humanitarian intervention”. The 19th- and 20th-century colonialist-imperialist mentality is alive and well in the West.
Next on their agenda: the removal of Bashar al-Assad of Syria. As with Gaddafi, the ground is being laid with continual news reports — from CNN to al Jazeera — of Assad’s alleged barbarity, presented as both uncompromising and unprovoked. After months of this media onslaught who can doubt that what’s happening in Syria is yet another of those cherished Arab Spring “popular uprisings” against a “brutal dictator” who must be overthrown? And that the Assad government is overwhelmingly the cause of the violence.
Assad actually appears to have a large measure of popularity, not only in Syria, but elsewhere in the Middle East. This includes not just fellow Alawites, but Syria’s two million Christians and no small number of Sunnis. Gaddafi had at least as much support in Libya and elsewhere in Africa. The difference between the two cases, at least so far, is that the Holy Triumvirate bombed and machine-gunned Libya daily for seven months, unceasingly, crushing the pro-government forces, as well as Gaddafi himself, and effecting the Triumvirate’s treasured “regime change”. Now, rampant chaos, anarchy, looting and shooting, revenge murders, tribal war, militia war, religious war, civil war, the most awful racism against the black population, loss of their cherished welfare state, and possible dismemberment of the country into several mini-states are the new daily life for the Libyan people. The capital city of Tripoli is “wallowing in four months of uncollected garbage” because the landfill is controlled by a faction that doesn’t want the trash of another faction.1 Just imagine what has happened to the country’s infrastructure. This may be what Syria has to look forward to if the Triumvirate gets its way, although the Masters of the Universe undoubtedly believe that the people of Libya should be grateful to them for their “liberation”.
As to the current violence in Syria, we must consider the numerous reports of forces providing military support to the Syrian rebels — the UK, France, the US, Turkey, Israel, Qatar, the Gulf states, and everyone’s favorite champion of freedom and democracy, Saudi Arabia; with Syria claiming to have captured some 14 French soldiers; plus individual jihadists and mercenaries from Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Libya, et al, joining the anti-government forces, their number including al-Qaeda veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who are likely behind the car bombs in an attempt to create chaos and destabilize the country. This may mark the third time the United States has been on the same side as al-Qaeda, adding to Afghanistan and Libya.
Stratfor, the private and conservative American intelligence firm with high-level connections, reported that “most of the opposition’s more serious claims have turned out to be grossly exaggerated or simply untrue.” Opposition groups including the Syrian National Council, the Free Syrian Army and the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights began disseminating “claims that regime forces besieged Homs and imposed a 72-hour deadline for Syrian defectors to surrender themselves and their weapons or face a potential massacre.” That news made international headlines. Stratfor’s investigation, however, found “no signs of a massacre,” and declared that “opposition forces have an interest in portraying an impending massacre, hoping to mimic the conditions that propelled a foreign military intervention in Libya.” Stratfor added that any suggestions of massacres are unlikely because the Syrian “regime has calibrated its crackdowns to avoid just such a scenario. Regime forces have been careful to avoid the high casualty numbers that could lead to an intervention based on humanitarian grounds.”2
Reva Bhalla, Stratfor’s Director of Analysis, reported in a December 2011 email on a meeting she attended at the Pentagon about Syria: “After a couple hours of talking, they said without saying that SOF [Special Operation Forces] teams (presumably from US, UK, France, Jordan, Turkey) are already on the ground focused on recce [reconnaissance] missions and training opposition forces.” We know of Bhalla’s comments thanks to the 5 million Stratfor emails obtained by the Internet hacker group Anonymous in December and passed on to Wikileaks.3
Human Rights Watch has reported that both Syrian government security forces and Syria’s armed rebels have committed serious human rights abuses, including kidnapings, torture, and executions. But only the Holy Triumvirate can get away with the sanctions they love to impose. Assad’s wife is now banned from traveling to EU countries and any assets she may have there are frozen. Same for Assad’s mother, sister and sister-in-law, as well as eight of his government ministers. Assad himself received the same treatment last May.4Because the Triumvirate can.
On March 25, the US and Turkish governments announced that they were discussing sending non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition, implying quite clearly that until then they had not been engaged in such activity.5 But according to a US embassy cable, revealed by Wikileaks, since at least 2006 the United States has been funding political opposition groups in Syria as well as the London-based satellite TV channel, Barada TV, run by Syrian exiles, that beams anti-government programming into the country. The cable further stated that Syrian authorities “would undoubtedly view any U.S. funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change.”
Regime change in Syria has been on the neo-conservative wish list since at least 2002 when John Bolton, Undersecretary of State under George W. Bush, came up with a project to simultaneously break up Libya and Syria. He called the two states along with Cuba “The Axis Of Evil”. On a FOX News appearance in 2011 Bolton said that the United States should have overthrown the Syrian government right after they overthrew Saddam Hussein. Amongst Syria’s crimes have been their close relations with Iran, Hezbollah (in Lebanon), the Palestinian resistance, and Russia, and their failure to conclude a peace treaty with Israel, unlike Jordan and Egypt; all this constituting evidence to the Holy Triumvirate of Syria, like Aristide, being “uppity”.
The clinical megalomania of the Holy Triumvirate can scarcely be exaggerated. And never prosecuted.
A closing word from Cui Tiankai, Chinese vice foreign minister for United States affairs:
The US has the strongest military in the world and spends more than any other country. But the US always feels unsafe or insecure about other countries. … I suggest the United States spend more time thinking about how to make other countries feel less worried about the United States.6
President Obama’s Accomplishments
Last month, Alan S. Hoffman, an American professor from Washington University in St. Louis, was forbidden by the US Treasury Department to travel to Cuba to give classes in a course on biomaterials.7
At the same time, the State Department refused to grant two Cuban diplomats in Washington, DC permission to travel to New York City to speak at The Left Forum, the largest annual gathering of the left in the United States, which this year attracted over 5,000 people.8
The State Department has also been occupied recently with preventing Cuba from being invited to the Summit of the Americas in Colombia in April.9
And that’s just the past month.
I mention all this to keep in mind the next time President Obama or one of his supporters lists US relations with Cuba as one of his accomplishments.
And I still cannot go to Cuba legally.
Another claim the Obamabots are fond of making to defend their man is that he’s abolished torture. That sounds very nice, but there’s no good reason to accept it at face value. Shortly after Obama’s inauguration, both he and Leon Panetta, the new Director of the CIA, explicitly stated that “rendition” was not being ended. As the Los Angeles Times reported: “Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.”10
The English translation of “cooperate” is “torture”. Rendition is equal to torture. There was no other reason to take prisoners to Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Somalia, Kosovo, or the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, to name some of the known torture centers frequented by the home of the brave. Kosovo and Diego Garcia — both of which house very large and secretive American military bases — if not some of the other locations, may well still be open for torture business. The same for Guantánamo. Moreover, the executive order concerning torture, issued January 22, 2009 — “Executive Order 13491 — Ensuring Lawful Interrogations” — leaves loopholes, such as being applicable only “in any armed conflict”. Thus, torture by Americans outside environments of “armed conflict”, which is where much torture in the world happens anyway, is not prohibited. And what about torture in a “counter-terrorism” environment?
One of Mr. Obama’s orders required the CIA to use only the interrogation methods outlined in a revised Army Field Manual. However, using the Army Field Manual as a guide to prisoner treatment and interrogation still allows solitary confinement, perceptual or sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, the induction of fear and hopelessness, mind-altering drugs, environmental manipulation such as temperature and perhaps noise, and possibly stress positions and sensory overload.
After Panetta was questioned by a Senate panel, the New York Times wrote that he had “left open the possibility that the agency could seek permission to use interrogation methods more aggressive than the limited menu that President Obama authorized under new rules … Mr. Panetta also said the agency would continue the Bush administration practice of ‘rendition’ — picking terrorism suspects off the street and sending them to a third country. But he said the agency would refuse to deliver a suspect into the hands of a country known for torture or other actions “that violate our human values.”11
Just as no one in the Bush and Obama administrations has been punished in any way for war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and the other countries they waged illegal war against, no one has been punished for torture. And, it could be added, no American bankster has been punished for their indispensable role in the world-wide financial torture. What a marvelously forgiving land is America. This, however, does not apply to Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.
In the last days of the Bush White House, Michael Ratner, professor at Columbia Law School and former president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, pointed out:
The only way to prevent this from happening again is to make sure that those who were responsible for the torture program pay the price for it. I don’t see how we regain our moral stature by allowing those who were intimately involved in the torture programs to simply walk off the stage and lead lives where they are not held accountable.12
I’d like at this point to remind my dear readers of the words of the “Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”, which was drafted by the United Nations in 1984, came into force in 1987, and ratified by the United States in 1994. Article 2, section 2 of the Convention states: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
Such marvelously clear, unequivocal, and principled language, to set a single standard for a world that makes it increasingly difficult for one to feel proud of humanity. We cannot slide back.
From a document found at Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan after his assassination last May: A call to kill President Obama because “Obama is the head of infidelity and killing him automatically will make Biden take over the presidency. … Biden is totally unprepared for that post, which will lead the U.S. into a crisis.13
So … it would appear that the man America loved to hate and fear was no more knowledgeable of how United States foreign policy works than is the average American. What difference in the War on Terror — for better or for worse — against the likes of bin Laden and his al Qaeda followers could there have been over the past three years if Joe Biden had been the president? Biden was an outspoken supporter of the war against Iraq and is every bit the pro-Israel fanatic that Obama is. In his 35 years in the US Senate Biden avidly supported every American war of aggression including the attacks on Grenada in 1983, Panama in 1989, Iraq in 1991, Yugoslavia in 1999 and Afghanistan in 2001. Whatever was Osama bin Laden thinking?
And whatever was Joe Biden thinking when he recently said the following after hosting China’s presumptive next leader Xi Jinping in a visit to the United States?
America holds at least one key economic advantage over China. Because China’s authoritarian government represses its own citizens, they don’t think freely or innovate. “Why have they not become [one of] the most innovative countries in the world? Why is there a need to steal our intellectual property? Why is there a need to have a business hand over its trade secrets to have access to a market of a billion, three hundred million people? Because they’re not innovating.” Noting that China and similar countries produce many engineers and scientists but few innovators, Biden said, “It’s impossible to think different in a country where you can’t speak freely. It’s impossible to think different when you have to worry what you put on the Internet will either be confiscated or you will be arrested. It’s impossible to think different where orthodoxy reigns. That’s why we remain the most innovative country in the world.”14
Holy Cold War, Batman! This is exactly the kind of stuff we were told about the Soviet Union. For years and years. For decades. Then came Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to be put into Earth’s orbit. It was launched into an Earth orbit by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957. The unanticipated announcement of Sputnik 1′s success precipitated the Sputnik crisis in the United States and ignited the Space Race. The USSR’s launch of Sputnik spurred the United States to create the Advanced Research Projects Agency to regain a technological lead. Not only did the launch of Sputnik spur America to action in the space race, it also led directly to the creation of NASA. 15
- Washington Post, April 1, 2012
- Huffington Post, December 19, 2011
- See the document on WikiLeaks
- Washington Post, March 24, 2012
- Ibid., March 26, 2012
- Ibid., January 10, 2012
- Prensa Latina (Cuba), March 18, 2012
- See the video description on Cuba’s UN Ambassador at Left Forum ’12
- BBC News, “Ecuador to boycott Americas summit over Cuba exclusion“, April 3, 2012
- Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2009
- New York Times, February 6, 2009
- Associated Press, November 17, 2008
- Washington Post, March 16, 2012
- Ibid., March 1, 2012
- Wikipedia entry for Sputnik 1
Some weeks ago, Mexico’s second largest city was hit by over a dozen narco-blockades. Narcotraficantes shut down over a dozen intersections, evacuated citizens from buses and burned the empty vehicles (one bus driver didn’t get out in time). Meanwhile, the Mexican military executed a daring raid when they landed on Opus Dei school grounds to capture a head narcotics trafficker holed up in the nearby neighborhood.
The official story is that the narcos were retaliating for the Mexican government capture of one of their head honchos or that they were executing a diversion to allow other cartel members to escape the city.
Ironically, they later posted notes around town asking citizens for their forgiveness. It almost feels like this is Gotham and we’re living in a Batman movie, except, here there is no Dark Knight.
The US Agenda
Before we examine the issue further, it is necessary to state some clear facts:
1) The CIA and other US Government agencies have been caught running drugs into the U.S.
2) The DEA has been caught laundering money for drug cartels from Colombia to Mexico.
3) The ATF and the White House were caught selling tens of thousands of guns directly to Mexican drug cartels.
4) Attorney General Eric Holder has been caught stating that their goals are to demonize gun possession and create an anti-gun culture with the ultimate purpose of disallowing lawful firearm possession.
5) Operations Fast & Furious as well as Gunrunner were attempts at fomenting such an atmosphere.
Mexican Deep Politics
Dr. Peter Dale Scott is one of the preeminent researchers and authors on the topic of “deep politics” and the global drug trade. We had the great opportunity to speak with Dr. Scott for about an hour on these issues.
In his book American War Machine, he painstakingly details the nexus between the various actors. In this instance, these are mainly the US government, Mexican government and narco traffickers as well as middlemen in-between (i.e. the odd Iranian used-car salesman).
In 1947, the same year the CIA was created, the US government helped Mexico create its own agency called the Federal Security Directorate (DFS). The U.S. also assisted other countries in creating their own intelligence agencies (i.e. DINA in Chile, SIN in Haiti, etc.).
The CIA-DFS duo has been running drugs ever since. Indeed, the founder of the agency, Colonel Carlos Serrano had been caught in action. At the time, a State Department report noted the “Gestapo” powers of the DFS and how it was used “to get rid of their competition and control the business.” The main point of the DFS was not to stop the flow of drugs but to manage it and fight the communist left.
The DFS was essentially a CIA asset and many assets on the CIA payroll actually went on to become prominent politicians with at least one of them becoming the president of Mexico. Family members would then be drug trade contacts, such as was the case with Raul Salinas. Essentially, the US government was able to manipulate Mexican politics by proxy via the DFS. In a CIA report, out of six assessed Mexican agencies, despite the DFS having the worst record, the CIA went on to say that they would still work with them because they were the most “competent and capable!”
The CIA-DFS-Cartel Triad
Due to a scandal in 1985, the DFS morphed into CISEN at which time it lost its CIA protection because of the murder of a DEA agent. According to Peter Dale Scott, the institutional arrangements between the triad continued up until at least Ernesto Zedillo’s presidency (1995-2001).
One of the interesting things pointed out in American War Machine is that the agencies have their preferred cartels. The CIA and DFS/CISEN have cartels they are aligned with and make sure to support them against the competition. During the 1990s Salinas presidency, agencies and offices such as the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) were up to 95% under narco control at times.
The global drug trade is a key underlying factor in understanding world events. It has become the blood vessel of the global economy without which the system would collapse. It is what provides liquidity to the banks. It makes all those involved, from Afghanistan and Kosovo to Columbia and Wall Street, wealthy beyond imagination. It feeds the Prison-Industrial Complex with its drug offenders. It feeds the Military-Industrial Complex with the resulting violence and arms sales. It feeds the Pharmaceutical-Industrial Complex with the outlaw of natural medicine.
More importantly, it provides off-the-record cash for funding acts of terror, assassinations and other black operations by governments. Could you imagine the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) reaction assessing the receipts detailing how official government funds were used for the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr?
Other examples might include when Nicaraguan Contras were trained in Veracruz, Mexico by CIA/DFS narco assets. Or the case of E. Howard Hunt, who was deeply involved in the drug trade as well as the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Seeing as this is the way the cookie crumbles, I am not a terrible optimist. Decriminalization is the only hope, but there are too many politicians who stand to lose too much (i.e. Hillaryious Clinton). Even the Netherlands is turning back the clock by banning cannabis sales. Only time will tell. In the meantime, keep your noses clean.
Jorge Gato lives in Mexico and is a social sciences educator who is in the trenches daily, warding off severe cases of cognitive dissonance, mass indoctrination and unhealthy reasoning. He writes athttp://dissidentthinker.wordpress.com/.
Source: The Dollar Vigilante
“I need to get in and get out fast”
(BEIRUT) – Marie Colvin left Beirut on Valentine’s Day on a fateful mission to illegally enter Syria from Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley to Homs, Syria. Her clear intention was to document the conditions of the civilian population in Homs who had been under heavy attack for the preceding two weeks.
Marie, with more than a quarter century experience in the Middle East had made contact through friends in Beirut with some smugglers who agreed to take her and her colleague, French Photographer Remi Ochlik to a makeshift media center in the besieged flash point neighborhood of Baba Amr.
Marie promised apprehensive friends in Beirut that she would return “no later than one week maximum, certainly I’ll be back by your birthday Franklin! (Feb. 26)” she told this observer.
According to her mother, Rosemarie, who lives in New York City, Marie planned to arrive back in Beirut on February 22nd.
As it turned out, that was the day she was killed as eleven artillery shells slammed into her cramped quarters.
An accident? Eleven rockets fired into one 30 foot wide two story building? On the 19th day of shelling of the area?
Or was Marie and her colleagues targeted as is widely claimed by witnesses on the scene in Baba Amr?
Jean-Pierre Perrin, a journalist for the Paris-based Liberation newspaper who was with Marie until the day she died said the journalists had been told that the Syrian Army was ‘deliberately’ going to shell their center.
Marie Colvin’s mother, Rosemarie: “Telling the story was her life”
Mr Perrin said: ‘A few days ago we were advised to leave the city urgently and we were told: ‘If they (the Syrian Army) find you they will kill you‘.
‘I then left the city with Marie but then she decided to go back when she saw that the major offensive had not yet taken place.’
A very dark day
Marie’s joie de vie and charm earned her many good friends all over the World.
” I need to get in and get out fast”, Marie said as she waited to hear from her transport team in Beirut on February 13, 2011
Marie asked my help in getting a Visa to enter Syria. I was humbled that this highly accomplished career journalist (Marie was twice named foreign reporter of the year (2001 and 2010) in the British Press Awards.
She was given an International Women’s Media Foundation award for courage in journalism for her coverage of Kosovo and Chechnya. And the Foreign Press Association named her as journalist of the year in 2000) would seek my help as if I had any influence on such an issue.
I did give her contact information for friends in Syria, including Dr. Bouthania Shaaban and her brilliant associate Nizar, whose friendship I value very much.
I mentioned to Marie that I hoped they are both well but that I was worried about them. We used to see a lot of Bouthania on TV. One of her jobs was as Media adviser to Bashar Assad on TV but now nothing.
Bouthania is a great woman and Syrian nationalist from Homs whose eyes welled with tears as she explained to me not long ago that she could not visit her mother’s grave in Homs because she would be killed.
I urged Marie to try to meet with Bouthania who I am certain would help her if she possibly could. I am not sure if the two women ever did make contact.
It was clear to Marie’s friends that she needed to document the story of Homs and to tell the story and give a voice to the voiceless who had been under bombardment since February 3rd.
Her mom said Marie had been told twice by her editor to leave the country because of the danger she was facing, but Marie replied that she “wanted to finish one more story”.
The London Times editorialized that Marie’s reporting and subsequent death had strengthened global opposition to oppression and that “Marie stood for truth and courage, which, when brought together, are the greatest moral force on the planet.”
The Sunday Times editor John Witherow said in a statement that Colvin “believed profoundly that reporting could curtail the excesses of brutal regimes and make the international community take notice.”
Simon Kelner, chief executive of the Journalism Foundation wrote that: “Marie Colvin embodied all the qualities required of a great journalist: bravery, integrity and a fearless desire to seek the truth. At a time when newspapers are under intense scrutiny, her work is a reminder of the fundamental purpose of journalism, and her death, along with the French photographer Remi Ochlik, represents a dark day indeed.”
In her own words, Marie explained not long ago how she viewed a reporter’s job.
“You hear all this talk about the meaning of the media, the need for integrity etc etc,” she said during a November 2010, talk at London’s St Bride’s Church – the “journalists’ church” on Fleet Street at an event to honor fallen journalists.
“But isn’t it quite simple? You just try to find out the truth of what’s going on and report it the best way you can. And because we are kind of romantic, our sympathy goes towards the underdog.”
It was after the loss of her eye that Marie elaborated publicly on her reason for covering wars. She wrote of the importance of telling people what really happens and about “humanity in extremis, pushed to the unendurable”. She explained “My job is to bear witness. I have never been interested in knowing what make of plane had just bombed a village or whether the artillery that fired at it was 120mm or 155mm. I write about people so that others might understand the truth.”
Colvin in Chechnya in 1999. She was acknowledged by her peers as Britain’s foremost war correspondent. Photograph: Dmitri Beliakov/Rex
A true friend and a great humanitarian and journalist
Marie (on the right shaking hands with MG) helped the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen get one of the major final interviews with Col Gaddafi
I had known of Marie Catherine Colvin since the late 1980’s when we crossed paths at the Grand Hotel in Tripoli, currently a base for the Zintan militia, and like everyone then and since we basically sat around the hotel lobby for lots of hours waiting for an appointment with “the Brother Leader” or one of his associates for whatever reason brought us to Libya.
I followed Marie’s work over the years and was in contact in 2001 when she lost her left eye reporting on the Tamil resistance in Sri Lanka.
But I was honored to get to know Marie know much better during this past summer and fall, again in Libya, and we continued to stay in regular contact mainly via email.
It was following the August 21-2nd rout of the pro-Gadhafi defenders of Tripoli that Marie arrived in Tripoli from months of covering the rebels in the east and then in the west.
On August 22nd, the nearly empty Corinthia Bab al Africa hotel where I was staying suddenly filled with dozens of arriving Journalists who, like Marie, had been following the rebels advance toward what some were calling “the final battle at Tripoli”.
We immediately reconnected and began helping each other. She briefed me for hours on what had been going on in the east and I filled her in on what I knew about developments in Tripoli. Both of us, like just about everyone, were shocked how quickly Tripoli had fallen and how the claimed 65,000 well-trained loyalist defenders that the regimes persuasive spokesman Musa Ibrahim assured us would be waiting in all the streets and alleys and on every roof top of Tripoli for the expected arrival of the “NATO rebels” had suddenly vanished.
The arriving brigades of journalists were disappointed to find the 5 star Corinthia Hotel without water, or employers to clean the rooms, no electricity most of the time, not much worth eating or much else that they had looking forward to. Of course this did not mean the hotel would lower its astronomical room rates and the place made a financial killing as did the Rixos and Radisson Hotels.
I was able to show Marie a ‘secret’ bathroom off the lobby that no one had discovered and it was the only one in the Corinthia to my knowledge that was not filthy and overflowing. She also appreciated a hidden plug I showed her that worked off a hotel battery backup near the mezzanine that she could use to make coffee—which she always seemed in search of– and to charge her laptop and mobile.
In appreciation Marie supplied me with some of those cups of noodles things that I learned many in the international press survived on when amenities faded. Actually, some of them taste pretty good at 3 am as we would sit outside the hotel watching the city and the sea.
Marie was the only person I trusted with the knowledge that Mohammad, the black gentleman from Mali was hiding in my room from gangs of wannabe lynchers from Misrata. He got plenty of cups of noodles also.
Marie also met my Chadian princesses friends and she agreed immediately that the treatment I was receiving including the Sahara paste was just what my infected leg needed. Marie particularly enjoyed “Dr.Fatima’s cactus flower drink” since no whiskey or vodka was available.
November of 2010 with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall who became her friend and whom Marie liked very much.
She would let me ride with her as she investigated the stories she wanted to cover and she introduced me to Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn who was staying at the Radisson Hotel where conditions were only marginally better than Marie and I were experiencing. Sitting together on the Radisson patio I mentioned to Marie and Patrick that during the summer I used the swimming pool at the Radisson plenty. Patrick informed us that these days hotel guests would dip buckets of water from the swimming pool to flush their toilets.
Marie’ great sense of humor and concern for others made her a joy to be around and we kept in touch by phone and email while moving in and out of Libya.
She was a unwavering supporter of the Palestinian cause and wrote and produced documentaries, including Arafat: Behind the Myth for the BBC in 1990. She was equally at ease among royalty or peasants, although she preferred the company of the latter she once told me.
Marie Colvin ✆
Lovely to hear from you. How is Shatila camp these days? I haven’t been there for a while but
when I am next in Beirut I get a tour and briefing ok? How is Bayan al Hout?Please give her my love. Is everyone heartened by Abbas’ call for a State?
Sadly, I will miss you in Tripoli as I am scheduled to return on Sunday. Would it be possible for
you to send me Omar’s number? I would only contact him if you felt it was okay.
Obviously, no names to be used.
Send your news when you have a chance, hope all is well with you.
Bring something a bit warmer for this trip, the rain set in today although I’m sure it will stay hot for a while.
And she was ever ready to help facilitate a friend’s research projects:
Marie Colvin ✆ email@example.com
Hi Franklin. I am now in Misrata. I got a visa at the border, had to talk my way in. Essentially they seem aware that there is no real system for getting visas and will give them out if you arrive there. (Tunisian border crossing). How is Algiers? Have you seen_______ and family? When are you coming here – and let me know if you need help.
Marie Colvin ✆firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your concern dear. I am in Sirte. Terrible, macabre scene here and in Misrata.
More later, but otherwise all well,
Sincere regards, Marie
Marie Colvin ✆ email@example.com
I had a smile reading your Yuletide greeting, much appreciated and I heard your voice in each line.
When you have a chance, send news of your journey to Algeria.
Wish I could see you. I am in London, having returned from harrowing Misrata and Tripoli just days ago. Please call. I so hope you are well and I know you are fighting the good fight!
Marie took an interest in her friends work and often commented on particular articles she liked:
Shortly before she left for Homs I received a short final email from her on Saturday February 12, 2012 concerning a piece on the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and their struggle for civil rights.
Marie Colvin ✆ firstname.lastname@example.org
Powerful piece Franklin. Thank you for reminding us. Best regards, Marie
Marie’s final audio report was during the night of 21 February during British ITN news report from Homs from arguably the middle of the world’s most dangerous war zone: Marie reported: “The Syrians are not allowing civilians to leave … anyone who gets on the street is hit by a shell. If they are not hit by a shell they are hit by snipers. There are snipers all around on the high buildings. I think the sickening thing is the complete merciless nature. They are hitting the civilian buildings absolutely mercilessly and without caring and the scale of it is just shocking.”
The next morning 2/22/12, shortly before she died, Marie filed her final written report. It is testimony to the quality of her reporting, her humanity and her skill and passion in telling the human drama she witnessed.
A few excerpts:
“The scale of human tragedy in the city is immense. The inhabitants are living in terror. Almost every family seems to have suffered the death or injury of a loved one.
’They call it the widows’ basement. Crammed amid makeshift beds and scattered belongings are frightened women and children trapped in the horror of Homs, the Syrian city shaken by two weeks of relentless bombardment.
Among the 300 huddling in this wood factory cellar in the besieged district of Baba Amr is 20-year-old Noor, who lost her husband and her home to the shells and rockets.
“Our house was hit by a rocket so 17 of us were staying in one room,” she recalls as Mimi, her three-year-old daughter, and Mohamed, her five-year-old son, cling to her abaya.
“We had had nothing but sugar and water for two days and my husband went to try to find food.” It was the last time she saw Maziad, 30, who had worked in a mobile phone repair shop. “He was torn to pieces by a mortar shell.”
For Noor, it was a double tragedy. Adnan, her 27-year-old brother, was killed at Maziad’s side.
Everyone in the cellar has a similar story of hardship or death. The refuge was chosen because it is one of the few basements in Baba Amr. Foam mattresses are piled against the walls and the children have not seen the light of day since the siege began on February 4. Most families fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs.
The city is running perilously short of supplies and the only food here is rice, tea and some tins of tuna delivered by a local sheikh who looted them from a bombed-out supermarket.
A baby born in the basement last week looked as shell-shocked as her mother, Fatima, 19, who fled there when her family’s single-story house was obliterated. “We survived by a miracle,” she whispers. Fatima is so traumatized that she cannot breastfeed, so the baby has been fed only sugar and water; there is no formula milk.
Fatima may or may not be a widow. Her husband, a shepherd, was in the countryside when the siege started with a ferocious barrage and she has heard no word of him since.
Snipers on the rooftops of al-Ba’ath University and other high buildings surrounding Baba Amr shoot any civilian who comes into their sights. Residents were felled in droves in the first days of the siege but have now learnt where the snipers are and run across junctions where they know they can be seen. Few cars are left on the streets.
Almost every building is pock-marked after tank rounds punched through concrete walls or rockets blasted gaping holes in upper floors. The building I was staying in lost its upper floor to a rocket last Wednesday. On some streets whole buildings have collapsed — all there is to see are shredded clothes, broken pots and the shattered furniture of families destroyed.
It is a city of the cold and hungry, echoing to exploding shells and bursts of gunfire. There are no telephones and the electricity has been cut off. Few homes have diesel for the tin stoves they rely on for heat in the coldest winter that anyone can remember. Freezing rain fills potholes and snow drifts in through windows empty of glass. No shops are open, so families are sharing what they have with relatives and neighbours. Many of the dead and injured are those who risked foraging for food.
Fearing the snipers’ merciless eyes, families resorted last week to throwing bread across rooftops, or breaking through communal walls to pass unseen. “
Marie Catherine Colvin will never be far from the hearts of those who were honored to know her from her writings and sincere friendship. Marie’s murder is a great loss for all people of good will.
The Obama Administration’s “Defense Strategic Guidance” (DSG), which was unveiled on January 5 as part of the broader programmatic document, Sustaining US Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, has been greeted with neoconservative howls of rage. The document “sends a clear message to America’s adversaries: Go for it,” was the view of the Washington Times editorialist, “this mini-Quadrennial Defense Review is an eight-page admission of American impotence.”
It is nothing of the kind. Obama’s DSG replicates all of the flawed strategic assumptions of the Bush era. Reading a short statement at a press briefing at the Pentagon to unveil the DSG, President Obama spoke of “enduring national interests” in maintaining the unparalleled U.S. military superiority, “ready for the full range of contingencies and threats” amidst “a complex and growing array of security challenges across the globe.”
Obama made no attempt to outline the basis for his claim that the security threats to America are growing, or to provide his own definition of “enduring national interest.” The terms “full-range,” “contingencies,” “threats,” or “security challenges,” are not value-neutral. Obama used them within a paradigm which treats the entire world as a legitimate sphere of interest of the United States. The consequence is that there will be new wars, as unrelated to the realist understanding of this country’s national interest as have been those in the Balkans under Clinton or in Iraq and Afghanistan under Bush.
Far from heralding “the massive $450 billion in defense budget cuts over the next 10 years” the President stated that “global responsibilities demand leadership, the defense budget will still be larger than it was toward the end of the Bush administration.” This means that the rate of growth will slow down somewhat—and 45 billion a year is a drop in the $16 trillion ocean of debt—but there will be no “cuts.” Obama further stated that our defense spending “continues to be larger than roughly the next ten countries combined.” It is less than the rest of the world combined—the preferred neocon level of spending—but it is still much more than America needs, or can afford to spend.
The DSG claims that in the decades ahead it will be the task of the United States to “confront and defeat aggression anywhere in the world.” “Even when U.S. forces are committed to a large-scale operation in one region,” it declares, “they will be capable of denying the objectives of – or imposing unacceptable costs on – an opportunistic aggressor in a second region.” This means that the totality of what the DSG treats as American commitments and interests around the world will continue to exceed the ability of the United States to defend them.
A strategically innovative president would accept the limits of American power and seek to establish a rational correlation between its ends and means. He would turn America into a “normal” power pursuing limited political, economic, and military objectives in a world populated by other powers doing the same. But Obama and his team remain wholly unwilling to do any such thing (not to mention his likely Republican opponents). His view of America’s role in the world still produces strategic blueprints for new self-justifying interventions around the world—interventions which are not merely unnecessary but detrimental to U.S. interests. “Making the world safe for democracy” has morphed since 1917 into many strange pursuits: making Libya, Syria, and Bosnia safe for the Islamic radicals; making Kosovo safe for the KLA. Under Obama the bipartisan continuity of methods and objectives has remained intact. The continuity of imperial assumptions and practices remains unbroken.
The DSG is a flawed document. The key issue of ends and means of American military power is still unexplored, and will remain so regardless of what happens next November.
After meeting again to decide Syria’s fate, the Arab League again decided to extend its “monitoring mission” in Syria. However, some Arab League nations under U.S. diplomatic control are clamoring for blood. These countries — virtual sock puppets of U.S. foreign policy — want to declare the Arab League monitoring mission “a failure,” so that military intervention — in the form of a no fly zone — can be used for regime change.
The United States appears to be using a strategy in Syria that it has perfected over the years, having succeeded most recently in Libya: arming small paramilitary groups loyal to U.S. interests that claim to speak for the native population; these militants then attack the targeted government the U.S. would like to see overthrown —including terrorist bombings — and when the attacked government defends itself, the U.S. cries “genocide” or “mass murder,” while calling for foreign military intervention.
This is the strategy that the U.S. is using to channel the Arab Spring into the bloody dead end of foreign military intervention.
For example, the U.S. media and government are fanatically giving the impression that, in Syria, the native population would like foreign militarily intervention to overthrow their authoritarian president, Bashar Assad. But facts are stubborn things.
After spinning these lies, The New York Times was forced to admit, in several articles, that there have been massive rallies in Syria in support of the Syrian government. These rallies are larger than any pro-government demonstration that the U.S. government could hope to organize for itself. The New York Times reports:
“The turnout [at least tens of thousands — see picture in link] in Sabaa Bahrat Square in Damascus, the [Syrian] capital, once again underlined the degree of backing that Mr. Assad and his leadership still enjoy among many Syrians, nearly seven months into the popular uprising. That support is especially pronounced in cities like Damascus and Aleppo, the country’s two largest.” (January 13, 2012).
The New York Times is forced to admit that the two largest cities — in a small country — support the government (or at least oppose foreign military intervention).
This was further confirmed by a poll funded by the anti-Syrian Qatar Foundation, preformed by the Doha Debates:
“According to the latest opinion poll commissioned by The Doha Debates, Syrians are more supportive of their president with 55% not wanting him to resign.” (January 2, 2012).
If people in Syria do not want foreign intervention — a likely reason that so many attended pro-Assad demonstrations — what about the so-called Free Syrian Army, which the United States has given immense credibility to and which claims to speak for the Syrian people?
The Free Syrian Army — like its Libyan counterpart — appears to be yet another Made-in-the-USA militant group, by route of its ally Turkey, a fact alluded to by the pro U.S.-establishment magazine, Foreign Affairs:
“Why does the Syrian [government] military not rocket their [Free Syrian Army] position or launch a large-scale assault? The FSA fighters are positioned about a mile from the Turkish border, near enough to escape across if the situation turned dire.”
The article also quotes a Free Syrian Army member who states: “Every [Free Syrian Army] group in Turkey has its own job,” Sayeed said. “[The Turks] gave us our freedom to move.” (December 8, 2011).
The article also mentions that the Free Syrian Army is calling for a “no fly zone” over certain regions of Syria, which would destroy the Syrian government military; the possible starting locations of this no fly zone are on the Syrian borders of either Turkey, Jordan, or Iraq — all three are either strong U.S. allies or client states.
A “no fly zone” is the new euphemism that means the U.S. and its European military junior partners in NATO will intervene to use their advanced fighter jets to destroy the Syrian military, as happened in Libya. In Libya the no fly zone evolved into a “no drive zone” and eventually a “no survival” zone for anything resembling the Syrian military — or anybody who armed himself in defense of the Libyan government.
As in Syria, Libya’s largest city, Tripoli, never had large anti-government demonstrations. The anti-Libyan government/pro-U.S. paramilitary group that attacked Libyan forces was so tiny that it took months to take power after 10,000 NATO bombing sorties (bombing missions) that destroyed large portions of Libya’s infrastructure, as documented by the independent Human Rights Investigations.
It’s totally unimaginable that any large section of Syrian society would invite a NATO-backed no fly zone, i.e. war, into Syria. The examples of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya are too glaring for any Middle Eastern nation not to notice. For the Free Syrian Army to demand a NATO invasion of Syria is enough to label the FSA a U.S. puppet group striving for political power, deserving to be condemned.
This strategy of using a proxy army to undermine an anti-U.S. government has a grisly past. This strategy is celebrated in the book Charlie Wilson’s War, which tells the true story of the U.S. government sending weapons and cash to Islamic extremists to wage a terrorist campaign against the Afghan government, which was an ally of the Soviet Union at the time. The attacks eventually led to the Afghan government asking for Soviet military re-enforcements, whose presence in Afghanistan created a degree of popular support for the extremists who eventually became known as the Taliban.
The same scenario also played itself out in Kosovo, where the tiny, U.S.-backed Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) began a terrorist campaign against the government of Yugoslavia, intending to separate Kosovo into an independent nation. When the Yugoslav government attempted to defend itself from the KLA — while imitating its violent tactics — the U.S. and other western governments labeled it genocide, and invaded Yugoslavia, calling it a “humanitarian invasion.” To this day the U.S. is one of few nations that recognizes Kosovo as an independent nation while Kosovo faithfully serves the interests of the United States.
The same proxy war strategy — by the U.S. and other European powers — played a crucial role in numerous wars throughout Africa, which culminated in the massive Congo War that killed over five million people, as French journalist Gerard Prunier describes in his book, Africa’s World War.
In Syria history is repeating itself, and some non-U.S. allies are very aware of it. The New York Times reports:
“[Russia's Foreign Minister] said that foreign governments [the U.S., Turkey, etc.] were arming ‘militants and extremists’ in Syria.”The Foreign minister also gave an accurate description of U.S. foreign policy towards Iran:
“Mr. Lavrov offered a similarly grave message about the possibility of a military strike against Iran, which he said would be a “catastrophe.” He said sanctions now being proposed against Tehran were “intended to have a smothering effect on the Iranian economy and the Iranian population, probably in the hopes of provoking discontent.” (January 19, 2012).
Most ominously, the Russian Foreign Minister said that U.S. foreign policy in Syria and Iran could lead to a “very big war,” i.e., a war that becomes regional or even international in scope, as other powers intervene to uphold their interests in the region.
Russia has offered a way to avoid war in Syria and is pursuing it through the UN Security Council; it is the same path being pursued by the pro-U.S. government in Yemen: maintaining the current government in power until elections are called. Unfortunately, Yemen is an ally of the U.S. and Syria is not — the U.S. and its allies are blocking the same approach in Syria in order to pursue war.
The Syrian government opposition bloc inside of Syria, the National Coordination Committee, opposes foreign military intervention. A leader of the NCC is Hassan Abdul Azim, who wisely states;
“We refuse on principle any type of military foreign intervention because it threatens the freedom of our country,” (January 19, 2012).
This is very likely the prevailing opinion inside of Syria, since the threat of no fly zones will result in the same mass bombings experienced by the citizens of Tripoli in Libya. The fake Syrian opposition outside of the country, The Syrian National Council, is yet another U.S. puppet — now allied with the Free Syrian Army —begging for a military invasion of Syria in order to “liberate” it. Of course the western media tells only the perspective of the pro-U.S. Syrian National Council.
The U.S. has proven on multiple occasions that military solutions solve nothing, having torn asunder the social fabric of Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Libya. The working people of Syria and Iran do not desire “help” from the U.S. government and its allies to prevent bloodshed. The working people of these countries could liberate themselves from their authoritarian governments, as did the Tunisians and Egyptians, which is precisely the point: the U.S. is intervening militarily to re-gain control over a region that slipped out of its hands during the Arab Spring. This military approach serves to push the working people of the targeted country into the hands of their government while creating a humanitarian catastrophe for the invaded nation. The working people of the United States have no interest in aggressive war and have a responsibility to learn about U.S. government propaganda so that they can demand its end in the streets.