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 email@example.com.
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 ✆ firstname.lastname@example.org
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 ✆email@example.com
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 ✆ firstname.lastname@example.org
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 ✆ email@example.com
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.
Address given on Monday, August 29, at the international conference Central Europe, the EU and the new Russia at the Czech Parliament in Prague.
More than two decades after the end of the Cold War, NATO is an obsolete and harmful anachronism. It has morphed into a vehicle for the attainment of misguided American strategic objectives on a global scale. Its mutation from a defensive alliance into a supranational force based on the nebulous doctrine of “humanitarian intervention” started with the air war against Serbia in 1999 and was completed with the Libyan intervention in the spring and summer of 2011. NATO in its mature form is beyond redemption or reform. It should be disbanded.
The Soviet Union came into being as a revolutionary state that challenged any given status quo in principle. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, however, Russia has been trying to articulate her goals and define her policies in terms of traditional national interests. By contrast, the early 1990’s witnessed the beginning of America’s attempt to assert her status as the only global hyperpower. Instead of declaring victory and disbanding NATO in the early 1990’s, the Clinton administration successfully redesigned it as a mechanism for open-ended out-of-area interventions at a time when every rationale for its existence had disappeared.
Following the air war against Serbia, NATO’s area of operations became unlimited and its “mandate” self-generated. Another round of NATO expansion came under George W. Bush. In April 2007, he signed the Orwellian-sounding NATO Freedom Consolidation Act, which extended U.S. military assistance to aspiring NATO members, specifically Georgia and Ukraine. Further expansion, according to former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, was “historically mandatory, geopolitically desirable.” A decade earlier, Brzezinski readily admitted that NATO’s enlargement was not about U.S. security in any conventional sense, but “about America’s role in Europe—whether America will remain a European power and whether a larger democratic Europe will remain organically linked to America.” Such attitude is the source of endless problems for America and Europe alike.
President Obama and his foreign policy team have failed to grasp that a problem exists, let alone to act to rectify it. There has been a change of officials, but the regime is still the same—and America is still in need of a new grand strategy. The threat to Europe’s security does not come from Russia or from a fresh bout of instability in the Balkans. The threat to Europe’s security and to her survival comes from the deluge of inassimilable aliens within the gates and from collapsing birthrates. These problems are due to the moral and cultural decay, not to any shortage of soldiers and weaponry.
More than three decades after the occupation of Prague in 1968 the USSR was gone and the Warsaw Pact dismantled, but the principles of the Brezhnev Doctrine are not defunct. They survive in the neoliberal guise. No “interests of world socialism” could beat “universal human rights” when it came to determining where and when to intervene. The key difference is only in the limited scope of the Soviets’ self-awarded outreach. It applied only to the “socialist community,” as opposed to the unlimited, potentially world-wide scope of “responsibility to defend.” The “socialist community” led by Moscow stopped on the Elbe, after all. It was replaced by the “International Community” led by Washington, which stops nowhere and constructs as it goes along a self-referential framework for the policy of permanent global interventionism. It precludes any meaningful debate about the correlation between ends and means of American power: we are not only wise but virtuous; our policies are shaped by “core values” which are axiomatic, and not by prejudices. The foreign policy community in Washington remains oblivious to the fact that, after a brief period of American mono-polar dominance (1991-2008), the world’s distribution of power is now characterized by asymmetric multipolarity. It is the an inherently unstable model of international relations.
The doctrine of global interventionism has been given an updated form in NATO’s much-heralded “Strategic Concept” (SC), adopted at the summit in Lisbon almost a year ago. Last week liberal interventionists and their neoconservative twins on both sides of the Atlantic were jubilant as Libyan rebels took over Tripoli. From now on, “[t]he right question for the United States and its allies isn’t whether to help oppressed people fight for freedom, it’s when,” declared The Washington Post on August 24. Yet again NATO has intervened militarily in pursuit of formally stated goals which had little to do with its hidden agenda and which produced results “objectively” detrimental to Western interests. As the country braces itself for the second half of the double-dip recession, the Balkan Syndrome of the 1990’s has been transferred to a grander, strategically more significant scene.
In the meantime the key strategic issue, NATO’s attitude toward Russia, remains unresolved. The Strategic Concept asserts that “NATO poses no threat to Russia,” with which it seeks “a true strategic partnership.” President Barack Obama greeted President Dmitri Medvedev in Lisbon as “my friend and partner.” It was left to Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, to articulate Moscow’s misgivings: “The NATO gamekeepers invite the Russian bear to go hunting rabbits together. The bear doesn’t understand: why do they have bear-hunting rifles?” We’ve heard statements like Obama’s before: In 1997 Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin signed the NATO-Russia Founding Act, which was soon violated by the Kosovo war in 1999 and NATO’s eastward expansion.
In Lisbon Russia was invited to cooperate with NATO in missile-defense development, but only after the plan was completed in Washington and Brussels. Russia is expected to provide transit of NATO supplies to and from Afghanistan, but she has no say in shaping the mission itself. Moscow is asked “to increase transparency on its nuclear weapons in Europe and relocate these weapons away from the territory of NATO members,” but no corresponding commitment is made to the relocation of NATO’s missile-defense system away from Russia’s own borders. Russia’s involvement is indispensable to the European missile defense which lacks feasibility without integrating Russia’s radar stations. Furthermore, Russia as a permanent Security Council member still retains an important role when NATO launches operations requiring the UN approval. At the same time, NATO is not offering Russia anything practical in return. A strategic or any other serious partnership between Russia and NATO stands no chance. Russia and NATO have inherently divergent interests that cannot be resolved merely by bombastic press releases. NATO remains at the top of the list of external threats Russia faces today.
On the plus side, Ukraine and Georgia are no longer serious candidates for membership. The financial crisis makes the further reduction of European military budgets inevitable. Whatever new NATO missions are conjured in Washington, the lack of political will in “Old Europe” to sign on will be coupled with the material inability to do so in a meaningful way.
Also on the plus side, it is in the interest of European stability that Vladimir Putin will declare his candidacy, and next year will get elected President of Russia yet again. Western Russophobes on both sides of the Atlantic are hoping that this will not happen, and a new round of Putin’s demonization is already under way in the U.S. media. In fact, any scenario other than a new Putin presidency is not only unrealistic; it is also harmful to European stability because it would create the impression that Russia is divided and that it can be manipulated and reduced to the impotence of the Yeltsin era. False impressions and false hopes, but as we know political misconceptions based on erroneous assumptions may have serious consequences.
NATO is devoid of a coherent mission and strategic purpose. Between 1949 and 1991 it was successful in providing security against the threat of a hostile totalitarian power. Today, it is detrimental to the security in Europe and irrelevant to the security of its members. It should not be reformed; it should be abolished.
Regardless of whether Muammar Qaddafy is killed, brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, or exiled, his regime has collapsed beyond recovery. After a five-month air war against his forces NATO has succeeded in decisively tipping the balance on the ground in favor of the rebels. This does not mean that the war in Libya is over, however. It is only entering a new, more complicated stage.
The new chapter is heralded by a flamboyant half-Irish rebel commander,Husam Najjair, announcing that the first thing his forces will do “is set up checkpoints to disarm everyone, including other rebel groups.” Otherwise it will be a bloodbath, he said, since “all the rebel groups will want to control Tripoli.” Najjair’s Tripoli Brigade is only one among several “rebel groups,” however, and it is unimaginable that others will willingly surrender their weapons and thus accept his authority. Najjair’s statement merely reflects a mindset likely shared by his erstwhile allies who now view each other as rivals.
The United States, Britain and France have encouraged, financed, armed, and—crucially—provided 150 days of air support to the rebels in the name of protecting civilians. They have finally succeeded in bringing down Qaddafy. This had been their objective all along, regardless of the UNSC resolution authorizing limited action for supposedly humanitarian goals. They are therefore responsible for what happens on the ground in the days and weeks to come—and they will do nothing about it.
After the U.S. Army deposed Saddam, Iraq was the scene of a protracted vendetta and simultaneous bloody struggle for power which the occupying “Coalition” forces were unable and unwilling to prevent. The absence of such forces on the ground in Libya means that the rebels will be even freer to settle their political, personal and tribal scores with Qaddafy’s supporters as they deem fit—which will be a nasty business—and to try to “disarm” each other, which will exacerbate rather than prevent a bloodbath. Many ordinary Libyans with no commitment to either side will become as nostalgic for Qaddafy’s days as their Iraqi counterparts turned wistful for the predictable stability of Saddam’s rule only months after his fall.
It is an even bet that eventual winners will be Cyrenaica’s Jihadists of different hues—the best armed and organized rebel faction by far—who are different in style but not in substance from the Shia clerics who are now in charge in Baghdad. It is also possible that there will be no clear winner for a long time. The disintegration of the Libyan state, the revival of tribal core loyalties and the ineffectiveness of the Transitional National Council (TNC) have the potential to turn Libya into a more sophisticated version of Somalia. The tribes are already arming themselves and moving away from the central state. A Hobbesian free-for-all would turn Libya into a hotbed of regional instability and a safe haven for the assorted Fourth Generation Warriors, such as Al-Qaeda in the Arab Maghreb.
Yet again NATO has intervened militarily in pursuit of formally stated goals which had little to do with its hidden agenda and which produced results “objectively” detrimental to Western interests. Just as the Kosovo intervention was not about “preventing genocide” but about handing over the southern Serbian province to Washington’s KLA clients, the Libyan intervention was not about “protecting civilians” but about bringing down Qaddafy. The Balkan Syndrome of the 1990’s has been transferred to a grander, strategically more significant scene. If it is the purpose of the United States and its European NATO partners to replace Arab dictators with hard-line Islamists, they have done equally well in Mesopotamia and in north Africa. Watch out for the neocon-neolib chorus demanding the replay of the Libyan success in Syria.
Only one spectacle in recent weeks proved more nauseating than the Commander-in-Chief fine-tuning the Afghan drawdown to suit his re-election timetable. It was Barack Obama’s attempt to justify continued American participation in the illegal and unnecessary war in Libya by claiming that—far from being a war—it does not even merit the designation of hostilities.
Back in 1998 Bill Clinton offered an existentialist explanation to the Grand Juryof why he was not lying when he told his aides that “there’s nothing going on” between him and Monica Lewinsky: “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” For sheer presidential sophistry this gem stood unassailable until June 15, when in reply to House Speaker John Boehner’s letter the White House made a number of remarkable assertions about the Libyan intervention:
The President is of the view that the current U.S. military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorization, because U.S. military operations are distinct from the kind of “hostilities” contemplated by the Resolution’s 60 day termination provision. U.S. forces are playing a constrained and supporting role in a multinational coalition, whose operations are both legitimated by and limited to the terms of a United Nations Security Council Resolution that authorizes the use of force.
“U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces,” Obama’s legal team added, “nor do they involve the presence of U.S. ground troops, U.S. casualties or a serious threat thereof, or any significant chance of escalation into a conflict characterized by those factors.” In other words, according to the White House, if the Libyan government forces were able to shoot back as they are bombed, we would have the kind of “hostilities” to which the 60-day limit would apply; but since they have no means of fighting back—since all the fire goes one way, with no “exchanges with hostile forces”—the War Powers Resolution does not apply. Oddly enough, it did apply in the early days of the Libyan intervention, when the Administration cited the War Powers Act as the legal basis of its ability to conduct operations for 60 days without first seeking a declaration of war from Congress.
Denying that the United States is engaged in “hostilities” in Libya is patently absurd; Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) was right to declare that “it doesn’t pass a straight-face test.” The claim that there is no “significant chance of escalation” is refuted by the evidence of missile strikes against residential neighborhoods, as the list of viable military targets is exhausted. And, as CNN legal analyst Mary Ellen O’Connell pointed out, “the U.S. had better be involved in hostilities or else our forces are engaged in unlawful killing.” They have deployed manned and unmanned aircraft to fire missiles and drop bombs. They are the type of weapons only permissible for use in armed conflict hostilities. If using such weapons does not constitute hostilities, in the course of which killing without warning is considered justified, then the result of their use is murder.
A hundred days into the war, the justification for the Libyan intervention remains unclear. The UN Security Council Resolution 1973 authorized military action “to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack.” A week into the operation the White House strongly denied that regime change is part of its mission in Libya. Six days later, on March 28, Obama declared that the intervention was necessary so that “democratic impulses” are not “eclipsed by the darkest form of dictatorship.” So it was about spreading democracy, after all—but in the same address the President denied this by saying that “broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.”
Within days, however, American cruise missiles were launched against Gaddafy’s compounds with the obvious intention of killing him and thus deciding the issue in favor of the rebels. The objective of removing him from power, once openly acknowledged, soon became non-negotiable. “Would this be an example of a President misleading the nation into an (illegal) war? Or did the goal of the war radically change oh-so-unexpectedly a mere few weeks after it began?” wondered Glenn Greenwald in Salon.com on June 25. “Everyone can make up their own mind about which is more likely.”
Many members of Congress did just that on June 24 by rejecting the poisoned chalice in the form of a misnamed “de-funding” bill. In fact that bill would have stopped spending for some war purposes, but explicitly authorized it for others. That is why dozens of anti-Libya-war members in both parties voted against the “de-funding” bill. Had it passed, the White House legal alchemists would have used it to claim that the Congressional approval of somefunds for the Libyan operation was tantamount to its effective authorization of the war itself. As Greenwald points out, the outcome was no victory for Obama:
After all, the Clinton administration—after the House failed in 1999 to authorize bombing for the Kosovo war—continued the bombing anyway by claiming the House had ‘implicitly’ authorized that war by appropriating some funds for it, and Obama White House lawyers would have almost certainly made the same exploitative claim here. As Ron Paul—echoing the spokesperson for House progressives—said in explaining his NO vote on ‘de-funding’, the bill “masquerades as a limitation of funds for the president’s war on Libya but is in fact an authorization for that very war… instead of ending the war against Libya, this bill would legalize nearly everything the President is currently doing there.”
A particularly galling reason for what the President is doing there was cited by the outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates: intervention in Libya “was considered a vital interest by some of our closest allies… that have come to our support and assistance in Afghanistan.” In other words, America was obliged to attack Libya not because that country threatened U.S. security but because the politicians in Paris and London decided that it would be a good idea—and America owed them one for helping out in Kandahar. By the same token, the U.S. Air Force should be on standby whenever one or another American ally from the Coalition_of_the_Willing is in need of some aerial firepower.
On balance, the most harmful consequence of our “engagement” with Libya, from the standpoint of the American interest, is the brazen manner Obama and his legal team have deployed in evading the strictures of the War Powers Resolution of 1973. The White House claims not only that U.S. action in Libya is made legitimate by the United Nations, but that such UN authorization per se makes Congressional approval unnecessary. This is some light years from candidate Obama declaring, in 2008, that “the President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
The claim that a war involving the United States can be “legitimated” by a multinational agency—the UN, or NATO, or the Arab League—is legally absurd. It is also immoral and potentially treasonous. It opens the way to any number of future “engagements” which bear no relevance to American interests, security, or welfare.
On June 14 I was the keynote speaker at a press briefing in Kiev organized by The American Institute in Ukraine on the problem of Pridnestrovie (Transnistria). The Russian and Ukrainian majority of that self-proclaimed republic straddling the eastern bank of the Dniestr declared secession from Moldova after a brief but bloody conflict in 1991 and proclaimed the “Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic” (PMR). It has not been recognized by any state, however, and the issue has remained unresolved for the past two decades. It is a complex post-Soviet “frozen conflict” par excellence. The diplomatic quadrille still played around it is quaintly reminiscent of the geopolitical games that preceded the advent of postmodern diplomacy.
My remarks at the AIU event were thematically a follow-up on my previous presentation in Ukraine’s capital, exactly a year ago. This time I focused on a set of proposals which Ukraine should consider in devising its own long-term settlement plan within the current “5+2” negotiating framework. The overall solution, I suggested, should be based on the Åland Islands’ model of extensive and internationally guaranteed self-rule. These Baltic islands inhabited by Swedes are under Finland’s nominal sovereignty but enjoy international guarantees of their special status. The guarantees originated with the League of Nations ninety years ago and were reiterated by the United Nations after the Second World War.
When Finland was offered membership of the EU the Ålands were entitled to a separate vote of their own on whether they wanted to join the Union. Likewise, I suggested, all Moldovan international treaties should be separately approved by Pridnestrovie; if not ratified by the entity’s Assembly—e.g., on an eventual NATO membership for Moldova—such treaties could apply to the rest of Moldova, but they would not be applicable to Pridnestrovie. The entity’s full autonomy should be anchored in a UN Security Council resolution, it should be guaranteed by the powers currently facilitating the negotiating process, and enshrined in a new Moldovan Constitution. The entity’s capital city, Tiraspol, should have the right to veto any subsequent attempt to change the division of authority between Pridnestrovie and the Moldovan government in Kishinev. Legislative powers should bedivided between Kishinev and Tiraspol and not delegated to Pridnestrovie by Moldova.
Having presented my views and outlined possible solutions in as much detail as could be done in half an hour, I was surprised to see a news report of the event by the Interfax news agency—the regional equivalent of the Associated Press—which was released some two hours later. It was at significant odds with both the tone and substance of my remarks.
“It is in the interests of Ukraine to maintain an open[-ended] status quo position,” the report correctly quoted me as saying, yet omitted the key second half of the same sentence: “… but in practice an enduring settlement is needed, and the decision-makers in Kiev should take a proactive role in reaching it.”
The omission was significant. Advising President Viktor Yanukovich and his government to stick to the status quo—which the report has me doing—is not nearly the same as (1) saying that the status quo may be desirable from Ukraine’s point of view but that is not feasible because all parties need a long-term solution; and (2) adding that the quest for such a long-term solution demands Ukraine’s hands-on diplomatic engagement. In view of my proposals concerning such engagement, it is obvious that the “status quo” part of the sentence merely described what is rather than advised what should be.
More erroneously still, the news item asserted that “Trifkovic said that Ukraine should encourage Moldova’s position, which foresees equidistance from both Russia and the West.” In fact I said the opposite, that “Ukraine should encourage Moldova’s eventual move towards equidistance from both Russia and the West.” Moldova is currently ruled by an unpopular pro-Romanian coalition which is likely to lose elections due later this month. Its position is that Transnistria is an integral part of Moldova and should be reintegrated, plain and simple. For Ukraine to support the position of that government now, on the grounds that it “foresees equidistance from both Russia and the West”—which it emphatically does not—would be ridiculous. Uttering such nonsense is some light years away from supporting (as I did) Moldova’s shift to pragmatic non-alignment, which is desirable and likely when a new government is formed after the election.
The host of the event, AIU President Anthony Salvia, was also misquoted in the same news item. In his introductory remarks he said that an important contribution to settling the conflict would be the replacement of Igor Smirnov as Pridnestrovian president. “He has brought the country that he has ruled for twenty years to a dead end,” Salvia said, and should be replaced by someone better equipped to give his land the international legitimacy it badly needs so that a solution may be found. Yet the news item misquoted him as saying that “the best way to solve this situation would be the replacement of Igor Smirnov.” The self-evident difference between a necessary condition and thesufficient prerequisite to the solution in Pridnestrovie has eluded the subeditors entrusted with the story.
The flawed Interfax news report was promptly (and by the look of it, eagerly) carried in verbatim translation by dozens of newspapers, radio and TV stations and websites in Romania and by the pro-Romanian media in Moldova itself. “Ukraine should maintain the status quo, says U.S. expert,” their headlines declared, as well as “Americans in Kiev say: Solution to Transnistria—Smirnov’s resignation!” The Interfax story turned out to be an unexpected and welcome gift to the promoters of a Greater Romania, one of the most destabilizing and anachronistic “projects” actively pursued anywhere in Europe. The whole thing was surreal, on par with the Albanians gleefully quoting Sergei Lavrov for “saying” that Kosovo should be internationally recognized.
The trouble with many journalists of our time, East and West, is that they lack the education and natural skills of their peers from earlier generations. The latter were expected to have a nose for a story and an ear for its nuances, just as a pianist was and still is expected to have an ear not only for the music but also for the composer’s intent.
The issue of possible mistranslation notwithstanding, the discrepancy between the overall tenor of Mr. Salvia’s and my remarks and the resulting report should have been spotted at a senior editorial level. That it was not spotted should be a cause of concern to the upholders of journalistic standards in the former Soviet lands. The alternative to maintaining those standards is an ever-tighter stranglehold of the CNN and its ilk on what the global village is allowed to know and how its denizens should think about what they think they know.
Fabricating a Pretext for a US-NATO “Humanitarian Intervention”
By Michel Chossudovsky…
There is evidence of gross media manipulation and falsification from the outset of the protest movement in southern Syria on March 17th.
The Western media has presented the events in Syria as part of the broader Arab pro-democracy protest movement, spreading spontaneously from Tunisia, to Egypt, and from Libya to Syria.
Media coverage has focussed on the Syrian police and armed forces, which are accused of indiscriminately shooting and killing unarmed “pro-democracy” demonstrators. While these police shootings did indeed occur, what the media failed to mention is that among the demonstrators there were armed gunmen as well as snipers who were shooting at both the security forces and the protesters.
The death figures presented in the reports are often unsubstantiated. Many of the reports are “according to witnesses”. The images and video footages aired on Al Jazeera and CNN do not always correspond to the events which are being covered by the news reports.
There is certainly cause for social unrest and mass protest in Syria: unemployment has increased in recent year, social conditions have deteriorated, particularly since the adoption in 2006 of sweeping economic reforms under IMF guidance. The IMF’s “economic medicine” includes austerity measures, a freeze on wages, the deregulation of the financial system, trade reform and privatization. (See IMF Syrian Arab Republic — IMF Article IV Consultation Mission’s Concluding Statement, http://www.imf.org/external/np/ms/2006/051406.htm, 2006)
With a government dominated by the minority Alawite (an offshoot of Shia Islam), Syria is no “model society” with regard to civil rights and freedom of expression. It nonetheless constitutes the only (remaining) independent secular state in the Arab world. Its populist, anti-Imperialist and secular base is inherited from the dominant Baath party, which integrates Muslims, Christians and Druze.
Moreover, in contrast to Egypt and Tunisia, in Syria there is considerable popular support for President Bashar Al Assad. The large rally in Damascus on March 29, “with tens of thousands of supporters” (Reuters) of President Al Assad is barely mentioned. Yet in an unusual twist, the images and video footage of several pro-government events were used by the Western media to convince international public opinion that the President was being confronted by mass anti-government rallies.
Tens of thousands of Syrians gather for a pro-government rally at the central bank square in Damascus March 29, 2011. (Reuters Photo)
Syrians display a giant national flag with a picture of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad during a pro-government rally at the central bank square in Damascus March 29, 2011. (Reuters Photo)
The “Epicenter” of the Protest Movement. Daraa: A Small Border Town in southern Syria
What is the nature of the protest movement? From what sectors of Syrian society does it emanate? What triggered the violence?
What is the cause of the deaths?
The existence of an organized insurrection composed of armed gangs involved in acts of killing and arson has been dismissed by the Western media, despite evidence to the contrary.
The demonstrations did not start in Damascus, the nation’s capital. At the outset, the protests were not integrated by a mass movement of citizens in Syria’s capital.
The demonstrations started in Daraa, a small border town of 75,000 inhabitants, on the Syrian Jordanian border, rather than in Damascus or Aleppo, where the mainstay of organized political opposition and social movements are located. (Daraa is a small border town comparable e.g. to Plattsburgh, NY on the US-Canadian border).
The Associated Press report (quoting unnamed “witnesses” and “activists”) describes the early protests in Daraa as follows:
The violence in Daraa, a city of about 300,000 near the border with Jordan, was fast becoming a major challenge for President Bashar Assad, …. Syrian police launched a relentless assault Wednesday on a neighborhood sheltering anti-government protesters [Daraa], fatally shooting at least 15 in an operation that began before dawn, witnesses said.
At least six were killed in the early morning attack on the al-Omari mosque in the southern agricultural city of Daraa, where protesters have taken to the streets in calls for reforms and political freedoms, witnesses said. An activist in contact with people in Daraa said police shot another three people protesting in its Roman-era city center after dusk. Six more bodies were found later in the day, the activist said.
As the casualties mounted, people from the nearby villages of Inkhil, Jasim, Khirbet Ghazaleh and al-Harrah tried to march on Daraa Wednesday night but security forces opened fire as they approached, the activist said. It was not immediately clear if there were more deaths or injuries. (AP, March 23, 2011, emphasis added)
The AP report inflates the numbers: Daraa is presented as a city of 300,000 when in fact its population is 75,000; “protesters gathered by the thousands”, “casualties mounted”.
The report is silent on the death of policemen which in the West invariably makes the front page of the tabloids.
The deaths of the policemen are important in assessing what actually happened. When there are police casualties, this means that there is an exchange of gunfire between opposing sides, between policemen and “demonstrators”.
Who are these “demonstrators” including roof top snipers who were targeting the police.
Israeli and Lebanese news reports (which acknowledge the police deaths) provide a clearer picture of what happened in Daraa on March 17-18. The Israel National News Report (which cannot be accused of being biased in favor of Damascus) reviews these same events as follows:
Seven police officers and at least four demonstrators in Syria have been killed in continuing violent clashes that erupted in the southern town of Daraa last Thursday.
…. On Friday police opened fire on armed protesters killing four and injuring as many as 100 others. According to one witness, who spoke to the press on condition of anonymity, “They used live ammunition immediately — no tear gas or anything else.”
…. In an uncharacteristic gesture intended to ease tensions the government offered to release the detained students, but seven police officers were killed, and the Baath Party Headquarters and courthouse were torched, in renewed violence on Sunday. (Gavriel Queenann, Syria: Seven Police Killed, Buildings Torched in Protests, Israel National News, Arutz Sheva, March 21, 2011, emphasis added)
The Lebanese news report, quoting various sources, also acknowledges the killings of seven policemen in Daraa: They were killed “during clashes between the security forces and protesters… They got killed trying to drive away protesters during demonstration in Dara’a”
The Lebanese Ya Libnan report quoting Al Jazeera also acknowledged that protesters had “burned the headquarters of the Baath Party and the court house in Dara’a” (emphasis added)
These news reports of the events in Daraa confirm the following:
1. This was not a “peaceful protest” as claimed by the Western media. Several of the “demonstrators” had fire arms and were using them against the police: “The police opened fire on armed protesters killing four”.
2. From the initial casualty figures (Israel News), there were more policemen than demonstrators who were killed: 7 policemen killed versus 4 demonstrators. This is significant because it suggests that the police force might have been initially outnumbered by a well organized armed gang. According to Syrian media sources, there were also snipers on rooftops which were shooting at both the police and the protesters.
What is clear from these initial reports is that many of the demonstrators were not demonstrators but terrorists involved in premeditated acts of killing and arson. The title of the Israeli news report summarizes what happened: Syria: Seven Police Killed, Buildings Torched in Protests.
The Daraa “protest movement” on March 18 had all the appearances of a staged event involving, in all likelihood, covert support to Islamic terrorists by Mossad and/or Western intelligence. Government sources point to the role of radical Salafist groups (supported by Israel)
Other reports have pointed to the role of Saudi Arabia in financing the protest movement.
What has unfolded in Daraa in the weeks following the initial violent clashes on 17-18 March, is the confrontation between the police and the armed forces on the one hand and armed units of terrorists and snipers on the other which have infiltrated the protest movement.
Reports suggest that these terrorists are integrated by Islamists. There is no concrete evidence as to which Islamic organizations are behind the terrorists and the government has not released corroborating information as to who these groups are.
Both the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (whose leadership is in exile in the UK) and the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir (the Party of Liberation), among others have paid lip service to the protest movement. Hizb ut Tahir (led in the 1980s by Syrian born Omar Bakri Muhammad) tends to “dominate the British Islamist scene” according to Foreign Affairs. Hizb ut Tahir is also considered to be of strategic importance to Britain’s Secret Service MI6. in the pursuit of Anglo-American interests in the Middle East and Central Asia. (Is Hizb-ut-Tahrir another project of British MI6? | State of Pakistan).
Hizb ut-Tahrir anti-Assad rally in Tripoli, Lebanon (40 km from Syrian border), April 22, 2011. Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in Syria
Syria is a secular Arab country, a society of religious tolerance, where Muslims and Christians have for several centuries lived in peace. Hizb ut-Tahrir (the Party of Liberation) is a radical political movement committed to the creation of an Islamic caliphate. In Syria, its avowed objective is to destabilize the secular state.
Since the Soviet-Afghan war, Western intelligence agencies as well as Israel’s Mossad have consistently used various Islamic terrorist organizations as “intelligence assets”. Both Washington and its indefectible British ally have provided covert support to “Islamic terrorists” in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and Libya, etc. as a means to triggering ethnic strife, sectarian violence and political instability.
The staged protest movement in Syria is modelled on Libya. The insurrection in Eastern Libya is integrated by the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) which is supported by MI6 and the CIA. The ultimate objective of the Syria protest movement, through media lies and fabrications, is to create divisions within Syrian society as well as justify an eventual “humanitarian intervention”.
Armed Insurrection in Syria
An armed insurrection integrated by Islamists and supported covertly by Western intelligence is central to an understanding of what is occurring on the ground.
The existence of an armed insurrection is not mentioned by the Western media. If it were to be acknowledged and analysed, our understanding of unfolding events would be entirely different.
What is mentioned profusely is that the armed forces and the police are involved in the indiscriminate killing of protesters.
The deployment of the armed forces including tanks in Daraa is directed against an organized armed insurrection, which has been active in the border city since March 17-18.
Casualties are being reported which also include the death of policemen and soldiers.
In a bitter irony, the Western media acknowledges the police/soldier deaths while denying the existence of an armed insurrection.
The key question is how does the media explain these deaths of soldiers and police?
Without evidence, the reports suggest authoritatively that the police is shooting at the soldiers and vice versa the soldiers are shooting on the police. In a April 29 Al Jazeera report, Daraa is described as “a city under siege”.
“Tanks and troops control all roads in and out. Inside the city, shops are shuttered and nobody dare walk the once bustling market streets, today transformed into the kill zone of rooftop snipers.
Unable to crush the people who first dared rise up against him – neither with the secret police, paid thugs or the special forces of his brother’s military division – President Bashar al-Assad has sent thousands of Syrian soldiers and their heavy weaponry into Deraa for an operation the regime wants nobody in the world to see.
Though almost all communication channels with Deraa have been cut, including the Jordanian mobile service that reaches into the city from just across the border, Al Jazeera has gathered firsthand accounts of life inside the city from residents who just left or from eyewitnesses inside who were able to get outside the blackout area.
The picture that emerges is of a dark and deadly security arena, one driven by the actions of the secret police and their rooftop snipers, in which soldiers and protestors alike are being killed or wounded, in which cracks are emerging in the military itself, and in which is created the very chaos which the regime uses to justify its escalating crackdown. (Daraa, a City under Siege, IPS / Al Jazeera, April 29, 2011)
The Al Jazeera report borders on the absurd. Read carefully.
“Tanks and troops control all roads in and out”, “thousands of Syrian soldiers and their heavy weaponry into Daraa”
This situation has prevailed for several weeks. This means that bona fide protesters who are not already inside Daraa cannot enter Daraa.
People who live in the city are in their homes: “nobody dares walk … the streets”. If nobody dares walk the streets where are the protesters?
Who is in the streets? According to Al Jazeera, the protesters are in the streets together with the soldiers, and both the protesters and the soldiers are being shot at by “plain clothes secret police”, by “paid thugs” and government sponsored snipers.
The impression conveyed in the report is that these casualties are attributed to infighting between the police and the military.
But the report also says that the soldiers (in the “thousands”) control all roads in and out of the city, but they are being shot upon by the plain clothed secret police.
The purpose of this web of media deceit, namely outright fabrications –where soldiers are being killed by police and “government snipers”– is to deny the existence of armed terrorist groups. The later are integrated by snipers and “plain clothed terrorists” who are shooting at the police, the Syrian armed forces and local residents.
These are not spontaneous acts of terror; they are carefully planned and coordinated attacks. In recent developments, according to a Xinhua report (April 30, 2011), armed “terrorist groups” “attacked the housing areas for servicemen” in Daraa province, “killing a sergeant and wounding two”.
While the government bears heavy responsibility for its mishandling of the military-police operation, including the deaths of civilians, the reports confirm that the armed terrorist groups had also opened fire on protesters and local residents. The casualties are then blamed on the armed forces and the police and the Bashar Al Assad government is portrayed by “the international community” as having ordered countless atrocities.
The fact of the matter is that foreign journalists are banned from reporting inside Syria, to the extent that much of the information including the number of casualties is obtained from the unverified accounts of “witnesses”.
It is in the interest of the US-NATO alliance to portray the events in Syria as a peaceful protest movement which is being brutally repressed by a “dictatorial regime”.
The Syrian government may be autocratic. It is certainly not a model of democracy but neither is the US administration, which is characterized by rampant corruption, the derogation of civil liberties under the Patriot legislation, the legalisation of torture, not to mention its “bloodless” “humanitarian wars”:
“The U.S. and its NATO allies have, in addition to U.S. Sixth Fleet and NATO Active Endeavor military assets permanently deployed in the Mediterranean, warplanes, warships and submarines engaged in the assault against Libya that can be used against Syria at a moment’s notice.
On April 27 Russia and China evidently prevented the U.S. and its NATO allies from pushing through an equivalent of Resolution 1973 against Syria in the Security Council, with Russian deputy ambassador to the UN Alexander Pankin stating that the current situation in Syria “does not present a threat to international peace and security.” Syria is Russia’s last true partner in the Mediterranean and the Arab world and hosts one of only two Russian overseas naval bases, that at Tartus. (The other being in Ukraine’s Crimea.)” (Rick Rozoff, Libyan Scenario For Syria: Towards A US-NATO “Humanitarian Intervention” directed against Syria? Global Research, April 30, 2011)
The ultimate purpose is to trigger sectarian violence and political chaos within Syria by covertly supporting Islamic terrorist organizations.
What lies ahead?
The longer term US foreign policy perspective is “regime change” and the destabilization of Syria as an independent nation-state, through a covert process of “democratization” or through military means.
Syria is on the list of “rogue states”, which are targeted for a US military intervention. As confirmed by former NATO commander General Wesley Clark the “[The] Five-year campaign plan [includes]… a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan” (Pentagon official quoted by General Wesley Clark).
The objective is to weaken the structures of the secular State while justifying an eventual UN sponsored “humanitarian intervention”. The latter, in the first instance, could take the form of a reinforced embargo on the country (including sanctions) as well as the freezing of Syrian bank assets in overseas foreign financial institutions.
While a US-NATO military intervention in the immediate future seems highly unlikely, Syria is nonetheless on the Pentagon’s military roadmap, namely an eventual war on Syria has been contemplated both by Washington and Tel Aviv.
If it were to occur, at some future date, it would lead to escalation. Israel would inevitably be involved. The entire Middle East Central Asian region from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Chinese-Afghan border would flare up.
Michel Chossudovsky is an award-winning author, Professor of Economics (Emeritus) at the University of Ottawa, Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) and Editor of globalresearch.ca. He is the author of The Globalization of Poverty and The New World Order (2003) and America’s “War on Terrorism” (2005). He is also a contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. His writings have been published in more than twenty languages. He spent a month in Syria in early 2011.
Iraq: Let us not forget what “humanitarian intervention” looks like.
Libya: Let us not be confused as to why Libya alone has been singled out for “humanitarian intervention”.
On April 9, Condoleezza Rice delivered a talk in San Francisco. Or tried to. The former Secretary of State was interrupted repeatedly by cries from the audience of “war criminal” and “torturer”. (For which we can thank our comrades in Code Pink and World Can’t Wait.) As one of the protesters was being taken away by security guards, Rice made the kind of statement that has now become standard for high American officials under such circumstances: “Aren’t you glad this lady lives in a democracy where she can express her opinion?” She also threw in another line that’s become de rigueur since the US overthrew Saddam Hussein, an argument that’s used when all other arguments fail: “The children of Iraq are actually not living under Saddam Hussein, thank God.” 1
My response to such a line is this: If you went into surgery to correct a knee problem and the surgeon mistakenly amputated your entire leg, what would you think if someone then remarked to you how nice it was that “you actually no longer have a knee problem, thank God.” … The people of Iraq no longer have a Saddam problem.
Unfortunately, they’ve lost just about everything else as well. Twenty years of American bombing, invasion, occupation and torture have led to the people of that unhappy land losing their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women’s rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives … more than half the population either dead, disabled, in prison, or in foreign exile … the air, soil, water, blood and genes drenched with depleted uranium … the most awful birth defects … unexploded cluster bombs lie in wait for children … a river of blood runs alongside the Euphrates and Tigris … through a country that may never be put back together again.
In 2006, the UN special investigator on torture declared that reports from Iraq indicated that torture “is totally out of hand. The situation is so bad many people say it is worse than it has been in the times of Saddam Hussein.” Another UN report of the same time disclosed a rise in “honor killings” of women. 2
“It is a common refrain among war-weary Iraqis that things were better before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003,” reported the Washington Post on May 5, 2007.
“I am not a political person, but I know that under Saddam Hussein, we had electricity, clean drinking water, a healthcare system that was the envy of the Arab world and free education through college,” Iraqi pharmacist Dr. Entisar Al-Arabi told American peace activist Medea Benjamin in 2010. “I have five children and every time I had a baby, I was entitled to a year of paid maternity leave. I owned a pharmacy and I could close up shop as late as I chose because the streets were safe. Today there is no security and Iraqis have terrible shortages of everything — electricity, food, water, medicines, even gasoline. Most of the educated people have fled the country, and those who remain look back longingly to the days of Saddam Hussein.” 3
And this from two months ago:
“Protesters, human rights workers and security officials say the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has responded to Iraq’s demonstrations in much the same way as many of its more authoritarian neighbors: with force. Witnesses in Baghdad and as far north as Kirkuk described watching last week as security forces in black uniforms, tracksuits and T-shirts roared up in trucks and Humvees, attacked protesters, rounded up others from cafes and homes and hauled them off, blindfolded, to army detention centers. Entire neighborhoods … were blockaded to prevent residents from joining the demonstrations. Journalists were beaten.” 4
So … can we expect the United States and its fellow thugs in NATO to intervene militarily in Iraq as they’re doing in Libya? To protect the protesters in Iraq as they tell us they’re doing in Libya? To effect regime change in Iraq as they’re conspiring, but not admitting, in Libya?
Similarly Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria … all have been bursting with protest and vicious government crackdown in recent months, even to a degree in Saudi Arabia, one of the most repressive societies in the world. Not one of these governments has been assaulted by the United States, the UK, or France as Libya has been assaulted; not one of these countries’ opposition is receiving military, financial, legal and moral support from the Western powers as the Libyan rebels are — despite the Libyan rebels’ brutal behavior, racist murders, and the clear jihadist ties of some of them. 5 The Libyan rebels are reminiscent of the Kosovo rebels — mafiosos famous for their trafficking in body parts and women, also unquestioningly supported by the Western powers against an Officially Designated Enemy, Serbia.
So why is only Libya the target for US/NATO missiles? Is there some principled or moral reason? Are the Libyans the worst abusers of their people in the region? In actuality, Libya offers its citizens a higher standard of living. (The 2010 UN Human Development Index, a composite measure of health, education and income ranked Libya first in Africa.) None of the other countries has a more secular government than Libya. (In contrast some of the Libyan rebels are in the habit of chanting that phrase we all know only too well: “Allah Akbar”.) None of the others has a human-rights record better than that of Libya, however imperfect that may be — in Egypt a government fact-finding mission has announced that during the recent uprising at least 846 protesters were killed as police forces shot them in the head and chest with live ammunition. 6 Similar horror stories have been reported in Syria, Yemen and other countries of the region during this period.
It should be noted that the ultra-conservative Fox News reported on February 28: “As the United Nations works feverishly to condemn Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi for cracking down on protesters, the body’s Human Rights Council is poised to adopt a report chock-full of praise for Libya’s human rights record. The review commends Libya for improving educational opportunities, for making human rights a “priority” and for bettering its “constitutional” framework. Several countries, including Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia but also Canada, give Libya positive marks for the legal protections afforded to its citizens — who are now revolting against the regime and facing bloody reprisal.”
Of all the accusations made against Gaddafi perhaps the most meaningless is the oft-repeated “He’s killing his own people.” It’s true, but that’s what happens in civil wars. Abraham Lincoln also killed his own people.
Muammar Gaddafi has been an Officially Designated Enemy of the US longer than any living world leader except Fidel Castro. The animosity began in 1970, one year after Gaddafi took power in a coup, when he closed down a US air force base. He then embarked on a career of supporting what he regarded as revolutionary groups. During the 1970s and ’80s, Gaddafi was accused of using his large oil revenues to support — with funds, arms, training, havens, diplomacy, etc — a wide array of radical/insurgent/terrorist organizations, particularly certain Palestinian factions and Muslim dissident and minority movements in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia; the IRA and Basque and Corsican separatists in Europe; several groups engaged in struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa; various opposition groups and politicians in Latin America; the Japanese Red Army, the Italian Red Brigades, and Germany’s Baader-Meinhof gang.
It was claimed as well that Libya was behind, or at least somehow linked to, an attempt to blow up the US Embassy in Cairo, various plane hijackings, a bomb explosion on an American airliner over Greece, the blowing up of a French airliner over Africa, blowing up a synagogue in Istanbul, and blowing up a disco in Berlin which killed some American soldiers. 7
In 1990, when the United States needed a country to (falsely) blame for the bombing of PanAm flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, Libya was the easy choice.
Gaddafi’s principal crime in the eyes of US President Ronald Reagan (1981-89) was not that he supported terrorist groups, but that he supported thewrong terrorist groups; i.e., Gaddafi was not supporting the same terrorists that Washington was, such as the Nicaraguan Contras, UNITA in Angola, Cuban exiles in Miami, the governments of El Salvador and Guatemala, and the US military in Grenada. The one band of terrorists the two men supported in common was the Moujahedeen in Afghanistan.
And if all this wasn’t enough to make Gaddafi Public Enemy Number One in Washington (Reagan referred to him as the “mad dog of the Middle East”), Gaddafi has been a frequent critic of US foreign policy, a serious anti-Zionist, pan-Africanist, and pan-Arabist (until the hypocrisy and conservatism of Arab governments proved a barrier). He also calls his government socialist. How much tolerance and patience can The Empire be expected to have? When widespread protests broke out in Tunisia and Egypt, could Washington have resisted instigating the same in the country sandwiched between those two? The CIA has been very busy supplying the rebels with arms, bombing support, money, and personnel.
It may well happen that the Western allies will succeed in forcing Gaddafi out of power. Then the world will look on innocently as the new Libyan government gives Washington what it has long sought: a host-country site for Africom, the US Africa Command, one of six regional commands the Pentagon has divided the world into. Many African countries approached to be the host have declined, at times in relatively strong terms. Africom at present is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. According to a State Department official: “We’ve got a big image problem down there. … Public opinion is really against getting into bed with the US. They just don’t trust the US.” 8 Another thing scarcely any African country would tolerate is an American military base. There’s only one such base in Africa, in Djibouti. Watch for one in Libya sometime after the dust has settled. It’ll be situated close to the American oil wells. Or perhaps the people of Libya will be given a choice — an American base or a NATO base.
And remember — in the context of recent history concerning Iraq, North Korea, and Iran — if Libya had nuclear weapons the United States would not be attacking it.
Or the United States could realize that Gaddafi is no radical threat simply because of his love for Condoleezza Rice. Here is the Libyan leader in a March 27, 2007 interview on al-Jazeera TV: “Leezza, Leezza, Leezza … I love her very much. I admire her, and I’m proud of her, because she’s a black woman of African origin.”
Over the years, the American government and media have fed us all a constant diet of scandalous Gaddafi stories: He took various drugs, was an extreme womanizer, was bisexual, dressed in women’s clothing, wore makeup, carried a teddy bear, had epileptic fits, and much more; some part of it may have been true. And now we have the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, telling us that Gaddafi’s forces are increasingly engaging in sexual violence and that they have been issued the impotency drug Viagra, presumably to enhance their ability to rape. 9 Remarkable. Who would have believed that the Libyan Army had so many men in their 60s and 70s?
As I write this, US/NATO missiles have slammed into a Libyan home killing a son and three young grandchildren of Gaddafi, this after repeated rejections of Gaddafi’s call for negotiations — another heartwarming milestone in the glorious history of humanitarian intervention, as well as a reminder of the US bombing of Libya in 1986 which killed a young daughter of Gaddafi.
Two more examples, if needed, of why capitalism can not be reformed
Transocean, the owner of the drilling rig that exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico a year ago, killing 11 workers and sending two hundred (200) million gallons of oil cascading over the shoreline of six American states, has announced that (through using some kind of arcane statistical method) it had “recorded the best year in safety performance in our Company’s history.” Accordingly, the company awarded obscene bonuses on top of obscene salaries to its top executives. 10
In Japan, even as it struggles to contain one of history’s worst nuclear disasters, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has proposed building two new nuclear reactors at its radiation-spewing power plant. The plan had taken shape before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and TEPCO officials see no reason to change it. The Japanese government agency in charge of approving such a project has reacted in shocked horror. “It was just unbelievable,” said the director of the agency. 11
Which leads us to A.W. Clausen, president of Bank of America, speaking to the Greater Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, in 1970:
“It may sound heretical to some in this room to say that business enterprise is not an absolute necessity to human culture … Ancient Egypt functioned more than 3000 years without anything resembling what we today understand by the term ‘corporate enterprise’ or even ‘money’. Within our span of years, we have witnessed the rise of the Soviet Socialist empire. It survives without anything you or I would call a private corporation and little that approaches our own monetary mechanism. It survives and is far stronger than anyone might have expected from watching its turbulent beginnings in 1917 … It is easy to mislead ourselves into thinking that there is something preordained about our profit-motivated, free-market, private-enterprise system — that is, as they used to say of gold, universal and immutable.”
Items of interest from a journal I’ve kept for 40 years, part III
- Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez memoir, Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story, pages 349-350: April 6, 2004. Sanchez was in Iraq in video teleconference with President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. One major American offensive was in operation, another about to be launched. According to Sanchez, Powell was talking tough that day: “We’ve got to smash somebody’s ass quickly, “Powell said. “There has to be a total victory somewhere. We must have a brute demonstration of power.” Then Bush spoke: “At the end of this campaign al-Sadr must be gone. At a minimum, he will be arrested. It is essential he be wiped out. Kick ass! If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can’t send that message. It’s an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal. … There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!”
- Noam Chomsky: “If there is really authentic popular participation in the decision-making and the free association of communities, yeah, that could be tremendously important. In fact that’s essentially the traditional anarchist ideal. That’s what was realized the only time for about a year in Spain in 1936 before it was crushed by outside forces, in fact all outside forces, Stalinist Russia, Hitler in Germany, Mussolini’s fascism and the Western democracies cooperated in crushing it. They were all afraid of it.”
- To Hitler, America was both the enemy and a role model, inspiring in its imperial seizure of great territories by force, its use of slave labor, its eradication of native populations.
- NATO’s secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, made clear in a speech to the Brookings Institution in Washington in 2008 that western interests in Afghanistan went well beyond good governance to the strategic interest in having a permanent military presence in a state that borders central Asia, China, Iran and Pakistan.
- CIA Special Collections of documents; “Instances Of the Use of US Armed Forces Abroad, 1798 – 2010“
- Michael Collon: “Let’s replace the word ‘democratic’ by ‘with us’, and the word ‘terrorist’ by ‘against us’.”
- Ron Paul: “Those who caution that leaving Iraq would be a disaster are the same ones who promised the conflict would be a ‘cake-walk’.”
- Spc. Alex Horton, 22, writing in a blog while a marine in Iraq in 2007: “In the future, I want my children to grow up with the belief that what I did here was wrong, in a society that doesn’t deem that idea unpatriotic.”
- Henry Kissinger in a 1970 memo to Nixon: “The example of a successful elected Marxist government in Chile would surely have an impact on –– and even precedent value for –– other parts of the world, especially in Italy; the imitative spread of similar phenomena elsewhere would in turn significantly affect the world balance and our own position in it.”
- Paul Craig Roberts: “International polls show that the rest of the world regard the US and Israel as the greatest dangers to world peace. Americans claim that they are fighting wars against terrorism, but it is US and Israeli terrorism that worries everyone else.”
- Chris Hedges: “If you are a young Muslim American and head off to the Middle East for a spell in a fundamentalist ‘madrassa,’ or religious school, Homeland Security will probably greet you at the airport when you return. But if you are an American Jew and you join hundreds of teenagers from Europe and Mexico for an eight-week training course run by the Israel Defense Forces, you can post your picture wearing an Israeli army uniform and holding an automatic weapon on MySpace.”
- “The US has never had a ‘foreign policy’ but a fanatical domestic policy which, once it had bled through to the Pacific, sought new hosts on which to feed.” Patrick Wilkinson
- C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite (1956): “The only seriously accepted plan for ‘peace’ is a fully loaded pistol. In short, war or a high state of war preparedness is felt to be the normal and seemingly permanent condition of the United States.”
- The United States goes around the world sprinkling democracy dust.
- Iran, the latest threat to life as we know it.
- “Iran hit back at US allegations that it has failed to crack down on fugitive al-Qaeda members, calling on Washington to apologize to the world for its own past support of the network. ‘The Americans should present a full apology to the international community for the support they gave to al-Qaeda,’ said the foreign ministry, referring to a period in the 1980s when millions of dollars of covert US aid was channeled — through the Pakistani secret service — to Islamist groups battling the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.” (Agence France Presse, June 2, 2003)
- Tom Hayden: They believe that the exposure of the generals to a civilian academic atmosphere may humanize the process of war-making, not worrying that the actual danger may be the militarizing of the university.
- Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, in his 2007 book, “The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World”: “I’m saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: The Iraq war is largely about oil.”
After an avalanche of commentary, Greenspan backpedaled and obfuscated in his comments. He insisted he was talking about “oil security” and “the global economy”. But this was just proving his own point that mentioning oil as a motivation for war is “politically inconvenient”. It’s no way to get young men to kill other young men who’ve never done them any harm.
- The American people have no more authentic control over their government than do people in countries that we call dictatorships, particularly on issues of foreign policy.
- Video of Rice talk ↩
- Associated Press, September 21, 2006 ↩
- Common Dreams, August 20, 2010 ↩
- Washington Post, March 4, 2011↩
- Washington Times, February 24, 2011; The Telegraph (London), March 25, 2011; Alexander Cockburn, “Libya, Oh What a Stupid War; Fukushima, Cover-Up Amid Catastrophe”; “Al Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq” (PDF), Combating Terrorism Center, US Military Academy, West Point, NY, December 2007 ↩
- Associated Press, April 20, 2011 ↩
- Gaddafi’s history of supporting terrorism, real and alleged: William Blum, Killing Hope, chapter 48 ↩
- The Guardian (London), June 25, 2007 ↩
- Reuters news agency, April 29, 2011 ↩
- Washington Post, April 1, 2011 ↩
- Washington Post, April 6, 2011
Russia is different. The Americans, the Brits and the French by and large approve of their forces’ Libya bombing spree (yes, some doubt that it’s a good bang for the buck). The Russians are flatly against it, with no ifs, ands or buts. The Russian Ambassador in Tripoli, Vladimir Chamov, came back to a hero’s welcome in Moscow. President Dmitri Medvedev had dismissed him publicly after the Ambassador sent him a cable. In the five-points cable leaked to media, the Ambassador called Medvedev’s response to Libya crisis a “betrayal of Russian national interests”. (Meanwhile, the sides climbed down a bit: the Foreign Office said Chamov was not “fired”, just “called back” from Tripoli, and retained his ambassadorial rank and salary, while Chamov denied he had used the word “betrayal”.)
The Russians do not like the Western intervention in Libya. The rebels do not appear genuine, note the Russian bloggers; they are a peculiar mixed bag of Kaddafi’s ex-ministers fired for corruption, al-Qaeda mujahedeen, well-clod riff-raff beefed up by SAS soldiers and supported by these best friends of every Arab, American cruise missiles. The Russian media discovered that the first reports of massive civil casualties inflicted by the ruthless Kaddafi apparently were invented by editors in London and Paris. More civilians were killed by the Western intervention than by the government fighting the rebels. The mass-readership Komsomolskaya Pravda published reports from the Russian expats in Libya that flatly disproved claims of Kaddafi’s planes bombing residential quarters: this was done by the French and British bombers.
The Russians tend to a conspiratorial view of politics. They presume that the Arab risings were organised by their enemy: some “orange” Western forces, NED, CIA, Mossad, you name it, in order to create chaos, Iraq-style. They quote Israeli and American doctrines for the promotion of “constructive chaos”.And then they support Kaddafi, or even feel sympathy for Mubarak. This is especially true for patriotic Russians who remember that Kaddafi stood by Russia in 2008 during the Georgia conflict, and for a business community who were involved in many projects in Libya from gas to railways.
President Dmitri Medvedev has good reason to regret the haste with which he joined in the Western media onslaught, for he will be blamed for what already looks to Russians as Kosovo II. Probably he was misled by his media advisers who suggested he should jump on the internationally-acceptable media bandwagon of “stop the massacre in Libya”, and on he jumped. The first reports of the alleged massacre were still reverberating when President Medvedev warned Kaddafi of “crimes against humanity”, and later on he added that Kaddafi is persona non grata in Russia. Medvedev supported the decision to pass Libya’s case to ICC; though by that time he could have learned from the Russians present in Libya that nothing all that extraordinary took place in the country; that it was nothing beyond a small-scale rising on the way to being put down. It could be compared to Los Angeles riots of 1965 (threescore dead and thousands wounded) or of 1992 (fifty dead and thousands wounded), except that the LA blacks had no Tomahawks for aerial support.
Medvedev is also perceived as the man who ordered his Ambassador in the Security Council to abstain. Russia and China usually vote in agreement if they intend to go against the will of the world sheriff – ever since the fateful Zimbabwe vote in 2008 when Russia activated its veto for the first time since God-knows-when and stopped the West-proposed sanctions against the African nation. Then, the BBC reported, the UK foreign secretary David Miliband said Russia used its veto despite a promise by President Dmitry Medvedev to support the resolution. This time, apparently, Medvedev prevailed and acquiesced in what looks now as another Suez campaign (if you can still remember 1956, when the Brits and the French had tried to liberate Egypt from its Hitler-on-the-Nile, Gamal Abdel Nasser, and keep the Canal for themselves).
A few days later, the strongman of Russia, Vladimir Putin, roundly criticised this step of Medvedev; he called the Western intervention, “a new crusade”, and proposed the Western leaders should “pray for their souls and ask the Lord’s forgiveness” for the blood shed. People loved it. Medvedev tried to rebuff with a meaningless “don’t you speak of crusades”, but even he could not find anything positive about the NATO campaign in Libya.
Now as always, the Russians’ gut reaction is against any Western intervention. They were against American interventions in Vietnam and Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan, against British and French colonial wars – just like you were, my wonderful readers, the enlightened spiritual minority in the West. The Russians do not believe that the reasons for the Western intervention have anything to do with love of democracy, human rights or value of human life. For them, a rose is a rose is a rose, a Western intervention is a Western intervention, one of many they were on the receiving end of.
However, Medvedev did not let the Western intervention march on for purely sentimental reasons of “supporting Europe”. The idea is, better let NATO be occupied in the South than in the East. Libya is much less important for Russians than Georgia, Ukraine or even Afghanistan. If this beast has to eat somebody, let it better be somebody in the Maghreb, where the Russians never had strong positions anyway. A WPR writer called this turn a “Tilsit moment” for NATO: acknowledging the immutability of the West’s Eastern borders in exchange for a free hand in the South flank. That is why Poland was unhappy with the Odyssey Dawn operation: instead of being on the frontline of the most important confrontation, this southern switch left the Poles in a geopolitical cul-de-sac.
Indeed we should not be captivated by East-West thinking. As the US slowly declines, the European powers begin to reassess their role. The Libya war is a French project. The Libya war was started by Sarkozy as an attempt to rebuild the French Empire in North Africa fifty years after the Evian treaty ostensibly sealed its fate. This was his old idea, and he called for the establishment of a Mediterranean Union during his election campaign. The MU project was supported by Israelis – and now Bernard Henry Levy is the foremost proponent on the intervention. Turkey strongly opposed the MU and now the Turks oppose the intervention in their subtle way, as Eric Walberg has correctly described. Italy supported the MU and expectedly supported the intervention. Germany was against the MU and is against the intervention. From this point of view, the intervention in Libya is the beginning of a new wave of European colonization of the Maghreb.
A Russian observer noticed an uncanny resemblance of this operation to one that occurred one hundred years ago in Libya during the previous colonisation wave. Then, recently united aggressive Italy in search for its empire decided to seize Libya, an Ottoman province. Then, as now, the newspapers wrote of freedom-loving Libyans suffering under the Ottoman heel and of the Italians’ moral duty to liberate them. The Turks were in a bad shape and they tried to find a face-saving way to surrender. They proposed to hand Libya over to Italians for management and colonization provided the suzerainty should remain with the Sublime Porte. The Italians refused, and their Dawn Odyssey began. The Turks fought valiantly, and among them a young officer proved his valour: that was Mustafa Kemal, later nicknamed Ataturk. A lone voice against intervention was that of young Italian socialist Benito Mussolini. The Italians’ Libya campaign was the first ever air bombing, exactly one hundred years ago in 1911, and history has preserved the name of the first bomber, Flt Lt Giulio Gavotti, who was the first man ever to perform a bombing run.
Modern Russia is not the USSR; it has few world-wide ambitions. It is worried about its own part of the world, and is not keen to get involved elsewhere. For the Russians, Europe’s drive south is not a threat, rather a resumption of France’s regional role. That is why the Russians abstained at UNSC. So it will be the task of the enlightened forces of the West to stop the aggression – instead of relying on the Russian veto.
President Kaddafi succeeded in annoying a lot of people in a lot of places. He annoyed both the French and the Russians by striking deals and then not sticking to them. Wikileaks cables refer to that many times, notably in 10PARIS151 saying: “the French are growing increasingly frustrated with the Libyans’ failure to deliver on promises regarding visas, professional exchanges, French language education, and commercial deals. “”We (and the Libyans) speak a lot, but we’ve begun to see that actions do not follow words in Libya.” He annoyed the Saudis and worse, he annoyed his own people.
We are certainly against the intervention; but the case of supporting Kaddafi is not all that clear-cut. Muammar Kaddafi was/is a dual figure: on one hand, an autochthonous leader who provided his countrymen with the highest standard of living in Africa, with generous subsidies, free medical care and education, who supported the vision of One State in Palestine/Israel and befriended Castro and Chavez. On the other hand, for the last five years Kaddafi and his clique have been busy dismantling the Libyan welfare state, privatising and cannibalising their health and education systems, hoarding wealth, dealing with transnational oil and gas companies to their personal advantage. The “New Kaddafi” took away a lot of social achievements and did not give his people elementary political freedoms. His support of One State in Palestine dried up in 2002, a long time ago.
My friends in Tripoli do not support Kaddafi. They are certainly against western intervention, but they dislike the old colonel for his dictatorial habits. They are grown-ups, they want to be involved in the decision-making, they do not like corruption, they also want bigger role for Islam. In their eyes, Kaddafi kept his anti-imperialist rhetoric for public use, but his praxis was Western and neo-liberal. It is fine that Kaddafi teased the Saudi royals and brandished his sword against the western leaders; but at the same time he gave away Libyan wealth to the foreigners. So while certainly standing against the intervention, we should not forget that not all anti-Kaddafi forces are Western stooges or al-Qaeda fighters.
Politics do not provide a bed of laurels to recline on. With all due respect to Muammar Kaddafi and his past achievements, he overstayed his prime time. There are reasons to hope he will survive the storm; we heartily wish him the defeat of the interventionist forces. But that should be a departure point for democracy in Libya, not necessarily democracy-European style, but a better way for Libyans to participate in forging their own lives.
By Diana Johnstone | counterpunch.org…
Video from: youtube.com
Libya: Is This Kosovo All Over Again?
Another NATO Intervention?
Less than a dozen years after NATO bombed Yugoslavia into pieces, detaching the province of Kosovo from Serbia, there are signs that the military alliance is gearing up for another victorious little “humanitarian war”, this time against Libya. The differences are, of course, enormous. But let’s look at some of the disturbing similarities.
A demonized leader.
As “the new Hitler”, the man you love to hate and need to destroy, Slobodan Milosevic was a neophyte in 1999 compared to Muammar Qaddafi today. The media had less than a decade to turn Milosevic into a monster, whereas with Qaddafi, they’ve been at it for several decades. And Qaddafi is more exotic, speaking less English and coming before the public in outfits that could have been created by John Galliano (another recently outed monster). This exotic aspect arouses the ancestral mockery and contempt for lesser cultures with which the West was won, Africa was colonized and the Summer Palace in Beijing was ravaged by Western soldiers fighting to make the world safe for opium addiction.
The “we must do something” chorus.
As with Kosovo, the crisis in Libya is perceived by the hawks as an opportunity to assert power. The unspeakable John Yoo, the legal advisor who coached the Bush II administration in the advantages of torturing prisoners, has used the Wall Street Journal to advise the Obama administration to ignore the U.N Charter and leap into the Libyan fray. “By putting aside the U.N.’s antiquated rules, the United States can save lives, improve global welfare, and serve its own national interests at the same time,” Yoo proclaimed. And another leading theorist of humanitarian imperialism, Geoffrey Robertson, has told The Independent that, despite appearances, violating international law is lawful.
The specter of “crimes against humanity” and “genocide” is evoked to justify war.
As with Kosovo, an internal conflict between a government and armed rebels is being cast as a “humanitarian crisis” in which one side only, the government, is assumed to be “criminal”. This a priori criminalization is expressed by calling on an international judicial body to examine crimes which are assumed to have been committed, or to be about to be committed. In his Op Ed piece, Geoffrey Robertson made it crystal clear how the International Criminal Court is being used to set the stage for eventual military intervention. The ICC can be used by the West to get around the risk of a Security Council veto for military action, he explained.
“In the case of Libya , the council has at least set an important precedent by unanimously endorsing a reference to the International Criminal Court. […] So what happens if the unarrested Libyan indictees aggravate their crimes – eg by stringing up or shooting in cold blood their opponents, potential witnesses, civilians, journalists or prisoners of war?” [Note that so far there are no “indictees” and no proof of “crimes” that they supposedly may “aggravate” in various imaginary ways.) But Robertson is eager to find a way for NATO “to pick up the gauntlet” if the Security Council decides to do nothing.]
“The defects in the Security Council require the acknowledgement of a limited right, without its mandate, for an alliance like NATO to use force to stop the commission of crimes against humanity. That right arises once the council has identified a situation as a threat to world peace (and it has so identified Libya, by referring it unanimously to the ICC prosecutor).”
Thus referring a country to the ICC prosecutor can be a pretext for waging war against that country! By the way, the ICC jurisdiction is supposed to apply to States that have ratified the treaty establishing it, which, as I understand, is not the case of Libya – or of the United States. A big difference, however, is that the United States has been able to persuade, bully or bribe countless signatory States to accept agreements that they will never under any circumstances try to refer any American offenders to the ICC. That is a privilege denied Qaddafi.
Robertson, a member of the UN justice council, concludes that: “The duty to stop the mass murder of innocents, as best we can if they request our help, has crystallized to make the use of force by Nato not merely ‘legitimate’ but lawful.”
Twelve years ago, most of the European left supported “the Kosovo war” that set NATO on the endless path it now pursues in Afghanistan. Having learned nothing, many seem ready for a repeat performance. A coalition of parties calling itself the European Left has issued a statement “strongly condemning the repression perpetrated by the criminal regime of Colonel Qaddafi” and urging the European Union “to condemn the use of force and to act promptly to protect the people that are peacefully demonstrating and struggling for their freedom.” Inasmuch as the opposition to Qaddafi is not merely “peacefully demonstrating”, but in part has taken up arms, this comes down to condemning the use of force by some and not by others – but it is unlikely that the politicians who drafted this statement even realize what they are saying.
The narrow vision of the left is illustrated by the statement in a Trotskyist paper that: “Of all the crimes of Qaddafi, the one that is without doubt the most grave and least known is his complicity with the EU migration policy…” For the far left, Qaddafi’s biggest sin is cooperating with the West, just as the West is to be condemned for cooperating with Qaddafi. This is a left that ends up, out of sheer confusion, as cheerleader for war.
The mass of refugees fleeing Kosovo as NATO began its bombing campaign was used to justify that bombing, without independent investigation into the varied causes of that temporary exodus – a main cause probably being the bombing itself. Today, from the way media report on the large number of refugees leaving Libya since the troubles began, the public could get the impression that they are fleeing persecution by Qaddafi. As is frequently the case, media focuses on the superficial image without seeking explanations. A bit of reflection may fill the information gap. It is hardly likely that Qaddafi is chasing away the foreign workers that his regime brought to Libya to carry out important infrastructure projects. Rather it is fairly clear that some of the “democratic” rebels have attacked the foreign workers out of pure xenophobia. Qaddafi’s openness to Africans in particular is resented by a certain number of Arabs. But not too much should be said about this, since they are now our “good guys”. This is a bit the way Albanian attacks on Roma in Kosovo were overlooked or excused by NATO occupiers on the grounds that “the Roma had collaborated with the Serbs”.
Osama bin Laden.
Another resemblance between former Yugoslavia and Libya is that the United States (and its NATO allies) once again end up on the same side as their old friend from Afghan Mujahidin days, Osama bin Laden. Osama bin Laden was a discreet ally of the Islamist party of Alija Izetbegovic during the Bosnia civil war, a fact that has been studiously overlooked by the NATO powers. Of course, Western media have largely dismissed Qaddafi’s current claim that he is fighting against bin Laden as the ravings of a madman. However, the combat between Qaddafi and bin Laden is very real and predates the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Indeed, Qaddafi was the first to try to alert Interpol to bin Laden, but got no cooperation from the United States. In November 2007, the French news agency AFP reported that the leaders of the “Fighting Islamic Group” in Libya announced they were joining Al Qaeda. Like the Mujahidin who fought in Bosnia, that Libyan Islamist Group was formed in 1995 by veterans of the U.S.-sponsored fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Their declared aim was to overthrow Qaddafi in order to establish a radical Islamist state. The base of radical Islam has always been in the Eastern part of Libya where the current revolt broke out. Since that revolt does not at all resemble the peaceful mass demonstrations that overthrew dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, but has a visible component of armed militants, it can reasonably be assumed that the Islamists are taking part in the rebellion.
Refusal of negotiations.
In 1999, the United States was eager to use the Kosovo crisis to give NATO’s new “out of area” mission its baptism of fire. The charade of peace talks at Rambouillet was scuttled by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who sidelined more moderate Kosovo Albanian leaders in favor of Hashim Thaci, the young leader of the “Kosovo Liberation Army”, a network notoriously linked to criminal activities. The Albanian rebels in Kosovo were a mixed bag, but as frequently happens, the US reached in and drew the worst out of that bag.
In Libya, the situation could be even worse.
My own impression, partly as a result of visiting Tripoli four years ago, is that the current rebellion is a much more mixed bag, with serious potential internal contradictions. Unlike Egypt, Libya is not a populous historic state with thousands of years of history, a strong sense of national identity and a long political culture. Half a century ago, it was one of the poorest countries in the world, and still has not fully emerged from its clan structure. Qaddafi, in his own eccentric way, has been a modernizing factor, using oil revenues to raise the standard of living to one of the highest on the African continent. The opposition to him comes, paradoxically, both from reactionary traditional Islamists on the one hand, who consider him a heretic for his relatively progressive views, and Westernized beneficiaries of modernization on the other hand, who are embarrassed by the Qaddafi image and want still more modernization. And there are other tensions that may lead to civil war and even a breakup of the country along geographic lines.
So far, the dogs of war are sniffing around for more bloodshed than has actually occurred. Indeed, the US escalated the Kosovo conflict in order to “have to intervene”, and the same risks happening now with regard to Libya, where Western ignorance of what they would be doing is even greater.
The Chavez proposal for neutral mediation to avert catastrophe is the way of wisdom. But in NATOland, the very notion of solving problems by peaceful mediation rather than by force seems to have evaporated.
Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions.She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org