Not What the Neocons Planned…
One need not be prescient to understand the unfolding “Jihadi Spring” is fueling the plans and perhaps destiny of ascendant Islamists in this region with the increasing help of in-country nationalists, including remnants of the Iraqi Baath Party. This, according to more than a dozen ardent supporters of The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), known locally as DAASH whose representatives allowed this observer over the past six months to interview some of its supporters to discuss what they found inaccurate in a piece I wrote about DAASH actions in Raqqa, Syria. In that article I claimed that DAASH was selling Syria’s archeological treasures, just as they are selling Syria’s oil and in some instances, food warehouse contents, to the highest foreign bidder. There is no paucity of the latter.
The final “S” in the acronym “ISIS” relates to the Arabic word “al-Sham” which itself is variously used to refer to the Levant, Syria or even Damascus. But DAASH (ISIS) means the Levant or Eastern Mediterranean including Cyprus, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and southern Turkey. ISIS has just announced that Raqqa, the only one of 14 Governorates its controls in Syria, is now the “Capital” of their emerging “Caliphate” which so far is a swathe of territory encompassing much of eastern and northern Syria and western and northern Iraq. The Emir is to be their military strategist and leader and successor of Abu Mus‘ab Zarqawi, Dr. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Those interviewed at length include sympathizers, students of politics and of the Islamist ‘spring’ in Syria and Iraq, as well as a few shadowy claimed jihadist recruiters, some working with a claimed new specialized DAASH unit organized at the beginning of 2013 and which focuses exclusively on destroying the Zionist regime occupying Palestine. DAASH’s “Al Quds Unit” (AQU) is currently working to broaden its influence in more than 60 Palestinian camps and gatherings from Gaza, across Occupied Palestine, to Jordan, and Lebanon up to the north of Syria seeking to enlist support as it prepares to liberate Palestine.
DAASH believes, according to one of its claimed academic advisers, that the ummat al-Islamiyah (Islamic community), as a US Foreign Relations staffer, on 6/18/14 advised this observer, that the White House estimates that approximately six million Iraqi Sunni have recently become supportive of the armed action by DAASH. The support excludes its strict, indeed anti-social societal mores and abhorrence of current harsh realities of life in DAASH territory. The Islamist organization believes it currently has massive regional support for it rapidly expanding “revolution of the oppressed.” Large numbers in this region do appear to appreciate its recent successes, despite its history of calculated brutality for political purposes. DAASH urges the public to study its remarkable history that reaches back to 2003 when Abu Mus‘ab Zarqawi got out of prison in Jordan and headed to Afghanistan, gained valuable experience from if the trust of Osama Bin Laden, and then crossed over to Iraq to wage jihad against America. DAASH appears to be using sectarian appeals in Iraq and Syria much the same way Zawqawi did when he confronted the ascendant Shia militia following the US invasion and occupation.
DAASH supporters claim that it has been joined by more than a dozen Sunni groups such as one called Men of the Army of the Naqshbandia Order.” JRTN as it is known locally, was established in 2007 following the execution of Saadam Hussein and is made up of former Hussein regime loyalists, including intelligence officers and soldiers from his Republican Guards. If its alliance with DAASH holds, JRTN can contribute thousands of fighters with strong social roots in the community. One JRTN interlocutor explained to this observer, “As Sunni Muslims, DAASH can resolve differences between its views of Islam and those of the Ummah. First we need victory and to achieve that we need each other and if our Baathist partners decide to position themselves to be secular guardians of Sunni Arab nationalism that can be discussed later. The official website of the Naqshbandi Army includes a 1/1/2014 announcement: “To all our brothers and families of the tribes and factions we tell you, you are not alone in this battlefield.”
DAASH insists that it has become less active in killing anyone who works for the government of Syria or Iraq including rubbish collectors, a barbaric practice that alienated the Sunni population and that their support is growing as they increasingly provide the essential social services in the forming proto-Caliphate. “Zionists call us masked, sociopathic murderers but we are much more complicated and representative of those seeking justice than they portray us. Are we more barbaric than the Zionist terrorists who massacred at Dier Yassin, Shatila twice at Qana, and committed dozens of other massacres? History will judge us after we free Palestine.” A few years ago the CIA and others estimated that the Zionist occupation of Palestine will collapse in less than a decade. DAASH claims it can do the job in 72 months.
With respect to events surrounding its takeover of Mosel and other social media broadcast exhibitions of mass brutality, ISIS claims it was done for a purpose, the same purpose that other state and non-state actors have used over the past two decade and that is for 90% of the world 1.5 billion Muslims (Sunni) to free themselves from the oppression of the 10% (Shia).
Several reasons were given as to why Palestinians should hold out hope for ISIS succeeding in their cause when all other Arab, Muslim, and Western claimed Resistance supporters have been abject failures and invariably end up benefiting the Zionist occupation regime terrorizing Palestine. “All countries in this region are playing the sectarian card just as they have long played the Palestinian card but the difference with ISIS is that we are serious about Palestine and they are not. Tel Aviv will fall as fast as Mosul when the time is right”, a DAASH ally explained. Another gentleman insisted, “DAASH will fight where no one else is willing.”
ISIS appears uniformly contemptuous of the Zionist regime and its army and also appears eager to fight them in the near future despite expectation that the regime will use nuclear weapons. “Do you think that we do not have access to nuclear devises? The Zionists know that we do and if we ever believe they are about to use theirs we will not hesitate. After the Zionists are gone, Palestine will have to be decontaminated and rebuilt just like areas where there has been radiation released.”
DAASH supporters claim that it reaches out to local notables and tribal leaders and discuss their differences and seek their tribal counsel. DAASH claims that the Roman Catholic Vatican supports its own claims that when they captured Mosul last week they did not harm Christian residents or desecrate churches. In this they are supported by Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the Apostolic Nuncio (Pope’s envoy) in Iraq who this week told the media: “The guerrillas who are in control of Mosul have to date not committed any violent act or damaged the churches there.”
It is becoming clear that DAASH has set up well organized local administrations in areas it controls, including an Islamic court system and a local non-hostile police force which support public safety with measures such as closing shops for selling poor products in the souks and supermarkets and on the street, destroying cigarettes and whipping some individuals for disrespecting and insulting their neighbors, confiscating counterfeit medicines in addition to some death sentences for apostasy.
DAASH supporters claim that as soon as they ‘liberate” an area they invest in public works such as the new souk in Raqqa, installs new power lines and conducts training sessions on how citizens can do-it-yourself for more self-reliance with fixing infrastructure problems. In addition DAASH claims that it quickly fixes potholes, runs a low fare bus system, has established a ‘green’ program to build parks and plant trees and flowers, helps farmers with harvests and runs a zakat (alms-giving) organization. Moreover, ISIS has established a number of religious schools for children, including ones for girls where they can memorize the Koran and receive awards if successful, while also holding ‘fun days’ for kids including all the ice cream they can eat and inflatable slides. For their older counterparts, ISIS has established training sessions for new imams and preachers. Schedules for prayers and Koran lessons are posted at mosques. In a more worrisome development, ISIS runs training camps for “cub scouts” and houses these recruits for ‘instruction’. Several social media reports and a few eyewitness accounts appear to confirm that DAASH has developed health and welfare programs, operates bread factories and distributes free fruits and vegetables to needy families, passing the goods out personally as well as setting up a free food kitchen in Raqqa and an adoption agency to place orphans with families in their areas. Unlike the Taliban and some other regimes which exhibit paranoia about vaccination campaigns, DAASH claims to be more ‘modern” and actively promotes polio-vaccination in its areas to try stop its spread.
The social services that DAASH provides obviously do not ameliorate the deadly violence it carries out, but does suggest it is well-organized and has caught the interest of the Sunni Muslims who feel besieged by Shia. According to an al-Bagdadi relative, nearly the half a billion dollars that was snatched from Mosul’s central bank this month will help to win hearts and minds and correct some of its “bad press”. DAASH appears to ascribe to the cliché that half of any war is a rumor. It condemns the project of many satellite channels and claims that they do not objectively report the news but mainly spread rumors with sectarian instigation as the goal. On this point who can refute them?
DAASH supporters deny any interest in training and directing foreign fighters to attack Europe and other places, claiming that their goals are to establish an al-Sham Caliphate and liberate Palestine. With respect to exactly how DAASH intends to liberate Palestine, the Iraqi’s and now the Obama administration ar3 in possession of an encyclopedia of information about detailed DAASH plans, and tactics it will confront the Zionist occupiers with, according to a congressional staffer via email with this observer. Reportedly the employment of large numbers of militarily untrained foreign volunteers as suicide bombers, moving on foot wearing suicide vests, or driving vehicles packed with explosives is just the tip of a deep iceberg of what DAASH is planning.
The trove reportedly came from Iraqi intelligence sources that came upon it less than 48 hours before Mosul fell. Apparently a fellow known as “Abu Hajjar” a captured trusted DAASH messenger broke under Iraqi torture and turned over more than 160 computer flash sticks which contained the most detailed information to date about DAASH. The US intelligence community are still decrypting and analyzing the flash sticks.
Predictably, no sooner that this information reached the US Congress, than Congresswoman and Israeli agent, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen former Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and her partners at AIPAC went to work trying to get ahold copies of the flash sticks and share them with the Israeli Embassy and no doubt the Mossad. The current sense on Capitol Hill is reported to be that the Obama administration in not in the mood to share anything with Israel these days and certainly not with the Netanyahu regime which it loathes.
Time will reveal if DAASH achieves one or both of its objectives. Many believe if they eject the Zionist regime from Palestine, the expanding Islamist group will set in motion historic currents that in all likelihood will be rather different from the Ehud Omert-Condeleeza Rice fantasy of “a New Middle East.”
In any event, it is unlikely that Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Lebanon, among other countries in this region, are going to look much like what George Bush and Dick Cheney and their still active neocon advisers had in mind when they were beating the drums for a U.S. invasion of Iraq, Libya, and now Syria and Iran.
There’s something that doesn’t ring-true about the coverage of crisis in Iraq. Maybe it’s the way the media reiterates the same, tedious storyline over and over again with only the slightest changes in the narrative. For example, I was reading an article in the Financial Times by Council on Foreign Relations president, Richard Haass, where he says that Maliki’s military forces in Mosul “melted away”. Interestingly, the Haass op-ed was followed by a piece by David Gardener who used almost the very same language. He said the “army melts away.” So, I decided to thumb through the news a bit and see how many other journalists were stung by the “melted away” bug. And, as it happens, there were quite a few, including Politico, NBC News, News Sentinel, Global Post, the National Interest, ABC News etc. Now, the only way an unusual expression like that would pop up with such frequency would be if the authors were getting their talking points from a central authority. (which they probably do.) But the effect, of course, is the exact opposite than what the authors intend, that is, these cookie cutter stories leave readers scratching their heads and feeling like something fishy is going on.
And something fishy IS going on. The whole fable about 1,500 jihadis scaring the pants off 30,000 Iraqi security guards to the point where they threw away their rifles, changed their clothes and headed for the hills, is just not believable. I don’t know what happened in Mosul, but, I’ll tell you one thing, it wasn’t that. That story just doesn’t pass the smell test.
And what happened in Mosul matters too, because nearly every journalist and pundit in the MSM is using the story to discredit Maliki and suggest that maybe Iraq would be better off without him. Haass says that it shows that the army’s “allegiance to the government is paper thin”. Gardener says its a sign of “a fast failing state.” Other op-ed writers like Nicolas Kristof attack Maliki for other reasons, like being too sectarian. Here’s Kristof:
“The debacle in Iraq isn’t President Obama’s fault. It’s not the Republicans’ fault. Both bear some responsibility, but, overwhelmingly, it’s the fault of the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri Kamal al-Maliki.”
Of course, Kristof is no match for the imperial mouthpiece, Tom Friedman. When it comes to pure boneheaded bluster, Friedman is still numero uno. Here’s how the jowly pundit summed it up in an article in the Sunday Times titled “Five Principles for Iraq”:
“Iraq’s Shiite prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, has proved himself not to be a friend of a democratic, pluralistic Iraq either. From Day 1, he has used his office to install Shiites in key security posts, drive out Sunni politicians and generals and direct money to Shiite communities. In a word, Maliki has been a total jerk. Besides being prime minister, he made himself acting minister of defense, minister of the interior and national security adviser, and his cronies also control the Central Bank and the Finance Ministry.
Maliki had a choice — to rule in a sectarian way or in an inclusive way — and he chose sectarianism. We owe him nothing.” (Five Principles for Iraq, Tom Freidman, New York Times)
Leave it to Friedman, eh? In other words, the reason Iraq is such a mess, has nothing to do with the invasion, the occupation, the death squads, Abu Ghraib, the Salvador Option, the decimated infrastructure, the polluted environment, or the vicious sectarian war the US ignited with its demented counterinsurgency program. Oh, no. The reason Iraq is a basketcase is because Maliki is a jerk. Maliki is sectarian. Bad Maliki.
Sound familiar? Putin last week. Maliki this week. Who’s next?
In any event, there is a rational explanation for what happened in Mosul although I cannot verify its authenticity. Check out this post at Syria Perspectives blog:
“…the Iraqi Ba’ath Party’s primary theoretician and Saddam’s right-hand man, ‘Izzaat Ibraaheem Al-Douri, himself a native of Mosul…was searching out allies in a very hostile post-Saddam Iraq … Still on the run and wanted for execution by the Al-Maliki government, Al-Douri still controlled a vast network of Iraqi Sunni Ba’athists who operated in a manner similar to the old Odessa organization that helped escaped Nazis after WWII … he did not have the support structure needed to oust Al-Maliki, so, he found an odd alliance in ISIS through the offices of Erdoghan and Bandar. Our readers should note that the taking of Mosul was accomplished by former Iraqi Ba’athist officers suspiciously abandoning their posts and leaving a 52,000 man military force without any leadership thereby forcing a complete collapse of the city’s defenses. The planning and collaboration cannot be coincidental.” (THE INNER CORE OF ISIS – THE INVASIVE SPECIES, Ziad Fadel, Syrian Perspectives)
I’ve read variations of this same explanation on other blogs, but I have no way of knowing whether they’re true or not. But what I do know, is that it’s a heckuva a lot more believable than the other explanation mainly because it provides enough background and detail to make the scenario seem plausible. The official version–the “melts away” version– doesn’t do that at all. It just lays out this big bogus story expecting people to believe it on faith alone. Why? Because it appeared in all the papers?
That seems like a particularly bad reason for believing anything.
And the “army melting away” story is just one of many inconsistencies in the official media version of events. Another puzzler is why Obama allowed the jihadis to rampage across Iraq without lifting a finger to help. Does that strike anyone else as a bit odd?
When was the last time an acting president failed to respond immediately and forcefully to a similar act of aggression?
Never. The US always responds. And the pattern is always the same. “Stop what you are doing now or we’re going to bomb you to smithereens.” Isn’t that the typical response?
Sure it is. But Obama delivered no such threat this time. Instead, he’s qualified his support for al-Maliki saying that the beleaguered president must “begin accommodating Sunni participation in his government” before the US will lend a hand. What kind of lame response is that? Check out this blurb from MNI News:
“President Barack Obama Friday warned Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that the United States wants him to begin accommodating Sunni participation in his government, or see the United States withhold the help he needs, short of U.S. troops on the ground, to ward off an attack on Baghdad.
Obama added the emphasis of an appearance before TV cameras to his midday message, that while he will be considering options for some military intervention in the days ahead, the next move is up to Maliki.”
(Obama Warns Iraq’s Maliki,Looking for Sunni-Shia Accommodation, MNI)
Have you ever read such nonsense in your life? Imagine if , let’s say, the jihadi hordes had gathered just 50 miles outside of London and were threatening to invade at any minute. Do you think Obama would deliver the same message to UK Prime Minister David Cameron?
“Gee, Dave, we’d really like to help out, but you need to put a couple of these guys in your government first. Would that be okay, Dave? Just think of it as affirmative action for terrorists.”
It might sound crazy, but that’s what Obama wants Maliki to do. So, what’s going on here? Why is Obama delivering ultimatums when he should be helping out? Could it be that Obama has a different agenda than Maliki’s and that the present situation actually works to his benefit?
It sure looks that way. Just take a look at what Friedman says further on in the same article. It helps to clarify the point. He says:
“Maybe Iran, and its wily Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander, Gen. Qassem Suleimani, aren’t so smart after all. It was Iran that armed its Iraqi Shiite allies with the specially shaped bombs that killed and wounded many American soldiers. Iran wanted us out. It was Iran that pressured Maliki into not signing an agreement with the U.S. to give our troops legal cover to stay in Iraq. Iran wanted to be the regional hegemon. Well, Suleimani: “This Bud’s for you.” Now your forces are overextended in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, and ours are back home. Have a nice day.” (5 Principles for Iraq, Tom Friedman, New York Times)
Interesting, eh? Friedman basically admits that this whole fiasco is about Iran who turned out to be the biggest winner in the Iraq War sweepstakes. Naturally, that pisses off people in Washington, Tel Aviv and Riyadh to no end, so they’ve cooked up this goofy plan to either remove Maliki altogether or significantly trim his wings. Isn’t that what’s going on? And that’s why Obama is holding a gun to Maliki’s head and telling him what hoops he has to jump through in order to get US help. Because he’s determined to weaken Iran’s hegemonic grip on Baghdad.
Friedman also notes the Status of Forces agreement which would have allowed U.S. troops to stay in Iraq. Al Maliki rejected the deal which enraged Washington setting the stage for this latest terrorist farce. Obama intends to reverse that decision by hook or crook. This is just the way Washington does business, by twisting arms and breaking legs. Everybody knows this.
To understand what’s going on today in Iraq, we need to know a little history. In 2002, The Bush administration commissioned the Rand Corporation “to develop a Shaping Strategy for pacifying Muslim populations where the US has commercial or strategic interests.” The plan they came up with–which was called “US Strategy in the Muslim World after 9-11”– recommended that the US, “Align its policy with Shiite groups who aspire to have more participation in government and greater freedoms of political and religious expression. If this alignment can be brought about, it could erect a barrier against radical Islamic movements and may create a foundation for a stable U.S. position in the Middle East.”
The Bushies decided to follow this wacky plan which proved to be a huge tactical error. By throwing their weight behind the Shia, they triggered a massive Sunni rebellion that initiated as many as 100 attacks per day on US soldiers. That, in turn, led to a savage US counterinsurgency that wound up killing tens of thousands of Sunnis while reducing much of the country to ruins. Petraeus’ vicious onslaught was concealed behind the misleading PR smokescreen of sectarian civil war. It was actually a genocidal war against the people who Obama now tacitly supports in Mosul and Tikrit.
So there’s been a huge change of policy, right? And the fact that the US has taken a hands-off approach to Isis suggests that the Obama administration has abandoned the Rand strategy altogether and is looking for ways to support Sunni-led groups in their effort to topple the Al Assad regime in Damascus, weaken Hezbollah, and curtail Iran’s power in the region. While the strategy is ruthless and despicable, at least it makes sense in the perverted logic of imperial expansion, which the Rand plan never did.
What is happening in Iraq today was anticipated in a 2007 Seymour Hersh article titled “The Redirection.” Author Tony Cartalucci gives a great summary of the piece in his own article. He says:
“The Redirection,” documents…US, Saudi, and Israeli intentions to create and deploy sectarian extremists region-wide to confront Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hersh would note that these “sectarian extremists” were either tied to Al Qaeda, or Al Qaeda itself. The ISIS army moving toward Baghdad is the final manifestation of this conspiracy, a standing army operating with impunity, threatening to topple the Syrian government, purge pro-Iranian forces in Iraq, and even threatening Iran itself by building a bridge from Al Qaeda’s NATO safe havens in Turkey, across northern Iraq, and up to Iran’s borders directly…
It is a defacto re-invasion of Iraq by Western interests – but this time without Western forces directly participating – rather a proxy force the West is desperately attempting to disavow any knowledge of or any connection to.” (America’s Covert Re-Invasion of Iraq, Tony Cartalucci, Information Clearinghouse)
So, now we’re getting to the crux of the matter, right? Now we should be able to identify the policy that is guiding events. What we know for sure is that the US wants to break Iran’s grip on Iraq. But how do they plan to achieve that; that’s the question?
Well, they could use their old friends the Baathists who they’ve been in touch with since 2007. That might work. But then they’d have to add a few jihadis to the mix to make it look believable.
Okay. But does that mean that Obama is actively supporting Isis?
No, not necessarily. Isis is already connected to other Intel agencies and might not need direct support from the US. (Note: Many analysts have stated that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) receives generous donations from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both of whom are staunch US allies. According to London’s Daily Express: “through allies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the West (has) supported militant rebel groups which have since mutated into ISIS and other al‑Qaeda connected militias. ( Daily Telegraph, June 12, 2014)
What’s important as far as Obama is concerned, is that the strategic objectives of Isis and those of the United States coincide. Both entities seek greater political representation for Sunnis, both want to minimize Iranian influence in Iraq, and both support a soft partition plan that former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Leslie H. Gelb, called “The only viable strategy to correct (Iraq ‘s) historical defect and move in stages toward a three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south.” This is why Obama hasn’t attacked the militia even though it has marched to within 50 miles of Baghdad. It’s because the US benefits from these developments.
Does the US Government “support” or “not support” terrorism depending on the situation?
Have foreign Intel agencies supplied terrorist organizations in Syria with weapons and logistical support?
Has the CIA?
Has the Obama administration signaled that they would like to get rid of al Maliki or greatly reduce his power?
Is this because they think the present arrangement strengthens Iran’s regional influence?
Will Isis invade Baghdad?
No. (This is just a guess, but I expect that something has been already worked out between the Obama team and the Baathist leaders. If Baghdad was really in danger, Obama would probably be acting with greater earnestness.)
Will Syria and Iraq be partitioned?
Is Isis a CIA creation?
No. According to Ziad Fadel, “ISIS is the creation of the one man who played Alqaeda like a yo-yo. Bandar bin Sultan.”
Does Isis take orders from Washington or the CIA?
Probably not, although their actions appear to coincide with US strategic objectives. (which is the point!)
Is Obama’s reluctance to launch an attack on Isis indicate that he wants to diminish Iran’s power in Iraq, redraw the map of the Middle East, and create politically powerless regions run by warlords and tribal leaders?
Yes, yes and yes.
The erotic reliefs of Hindu temples with their gravity-defying and anatomy-challenging positions have found a new modern competitor in the Ukrainian crisis. Each party wants to get the Jews on their side, while claiming that the other side is anti-Jewish and a Jewish puppet at once. This impossible, Kama-Sutraesque position is the result of extremely confusing alliances: the Kiev regime lists devout Jews and fiery antisemites among its mainstays. The leading figures of the regime (including the president-elect) are of Jewish origin; strongman and chief financier Mr. Igor (Benya) Kolomoysky is a prominent Jewish public figure, the builder of many synagogues and a supporter of Israel. The most derring-do and pro-active force of the regime, the ultra-nationalists of the Svoboda party and the Right Sector, admire Hitler and his Ukrainian Quisling, Stepan Bandera, “liberators of Ukraine from the Judeo-Muscovite yoke”. Jews are ambivalent, and the sides are ambivalent about them, and a most entertaining intrigue has been hatched.
The Russians tried to pull Israel and American Jews to their side, with little success. President Putin condemned the antisemitism of the Svoboda party; he mentioned the desecration of the Odessa Jewish cemetery in his important talk. The Russians re-vitalised the World War Two narrative, fully identifying the Kiev regime with the Bandera gangs and the Nazi enemy. Still, this rhetoric is not taken seriously by Jews who refuse to feel threatened by cuddly Kolomoysky. “These Nazis are not against Jews, they are against Russians, so it is not a Jewish problem”, they say.
The Kiev regime mirrored the Russian attitude, if not Russia’s tactics. Being rather short of facts to brandish, they faked a leaflet from Donetsk rebels to local Jews calling upon them to register and pay a special poll tax “for the Jews support the Kiev regime”. This rude and improbable hoax was immediately and convincingly disproved, but not before it was used by, no less, Barak Obama and John Kerry. The American Jewish newspaper of record, The Forward, obfuscated the issue by saying that Russians and Ukrainians are antisemites by birth and their denials are to be taken with a grain of salt. This mud-slinging was effective – the hoax has made the front pages, while its debunking was published on the back pages.
The Russians had the facts on their side, and the West knew that: the US refused entry to Oleg Tyagnibok and other Svoboda leaders (now members of Kiev government) because of their antisemitism as recently as in 2013. But Russian appeals to Jewish and American sensitivities failed to make an impact. They know when to feign indignation and when to hush. Pro-Hitler commemorations are frequent in Estonia, Latvia, Croatia, and cause no lifting of a censorious brow, for these countries are solidly anti-Russian. In March of this year, the Obama administration’s special envoy on anti-Semitism, Ira Forman, flatly denied everything and said to the Forward that Putin’s assertions of Svoboda’s antisemitism “were not credible”. The US wants to decide who is an antisemite and who is not; like Hermann Goering wanted to decide who is a Jew and who is not in the Luftwaffe. In the Ukrainian crisis, the Jews remain divided, and follow their countries’ preferences.
Israel is neutral
Recently Prime Minister Netanyahu called President Putin. Putin is always available for and always courteous to Netanyahu, as opposed to President Obama, who shows signs of irritation. (Admittedly Obama has to listen to Netanyahu much more often and for hours.) Netanyahu apologised that he wouldn’t be able to come to St Petersburg for Israeli Culture Week; instead, old reliable Shimon Peres, Israel’s President, will make the trip. He apologised for leaking the news of this visit cancellation to the media, as well.
This is quite typical for the Israeli PM: at first, he asks for an invitation, Russia extends it, then he cancels his visit and leaks it to the press, thus earning brownie points with the Americans. He did it at the Sochi Olympic games, and now again, in St Petersburg. This is his way of expressing Israeli neutrality.
Israel is explicitly neutral in the Ukrainian crisis. Israelis walked out and did not vote on the UN GA Crimea resolution at all, annoying its American sponsors. The Israelis had a flimsy excuse: their Foreign Office was on strike. The Americans weren’t satisfied with this explanation. Strike or not, vote you must!
We learned from our Israeli colleagues the details of the Putin-Netanyahu phone conversation, which elaborated the reasons for Israeli neutrality. Israel is worried that as an asymmetric response to the US sanctions, Russia would deliver its potent air defence systems to Iran and Syria. Iran and Russia had signed a weapons supply contract a few years ago, Iran duly paid; then the shipment was suspended. Iran went to court demanding a massive compensation for the breach of contract. Likewise, the Syrians were supposed to get the S-300 surface-to-air missile system, able to protect its skies from Israeli raids. The deliveries commenced; PM Netanyahu beseeched Putin to put it on hold. Initially Putin objected, stressing the defensive nature of the system. Netanyahu told the Russian president that the S-300 would allow the Syrians to cover the whole North of Israel, at least all the way to Haifa, rendering important airfields unusable and endangering civil aviation as well. Putin agreed to stop the deliveries.
Vladimir Putin is friendly to Israel. He promised he would not allow the destruction of Israel; he promised to save its population if the situation should become truly dangerous. During the recent visit of PM Netanyahu to Moscow, Putin was not carried away by Netanyahu and Liberman’s hints of possible Israeli re-alliance with Moscow instead of Washington. He told the Israelis that their ties with the US are too strong for such a re-alliance being conceivable. Putin said that Russia is satisfied with the present level of friendship and does not demand that Tel Aviv weaken its ties with Washington. Putin visited Israel a few times, he received the Israeli PM in Kremlin. The Israeli ambassador Mme Golender sees Putin more often than do her American or French counterparts.
This friendly attitude has a down-to-earth reason: Putin is not fluent in English or French, while Mme Ambassador speaks Russian to him, eliminating the bothersome need of an interpreter. A deeper reason is Putin’s background: a scion of liberal elites, brought up in St Petersburg, schooled by ultra-liberal Mayor Sobchack, anointed by Boris Yeltsin, Putin is naturally friendly to Jews and to Israel. This friendly attitude annoyed some Russian ultra-patriots, who excitedly circulated his photo taken in the obligatory kippahnear the Wailing Wall. They also counted and recounted the names of Jewish oligarchs in Moscow.
True, some of them – Berezovsky, Gusinsky, Hodorkovsky – had to flee their Russian homeland, but the Russian president is surely not the Jewish-tycoons-Nemesis and the-new-Hitler he is sometimes made out to be. Abramovich and Friedman, to name just two, retain his trust and access. Putin does not mind any oligarch (Jewish or Gentile) – as long as he stays out of politics.
Putin is also friendly with Jewish intellectuals and gentlemen-of-the-media, even if they are outright hostile to him. Masha Gessen, Jewish Lesbian Putin-hater and magazine editor; Alexey Venediktov, Jewish chief editor of Echo Moskvy, a popular liberal medium that attacks Putin every day; many others enjoy access to Putin, – while no Russian nationalist including Dr Alexander Dugin can boast of having met with the president privately.
Putin’s affability does not turn him into a bountiful source for every Jewish initiative. He stopped S-300 deliveries to Iran, but rejected all Israeli overtures asking him to ditch Iran, or Syria, or Hamas. In the course of their last phone conversation, Netanyahu claimed the Israelis discovered proofs of Iranian nukes. Putin politely expressed his doubts and re-addressed him to IAEA. He agreed to receive the Israeli “experts” with their proofs in Moscow, but nothing came of it. Russia’s support for Palestine is unwavering, – there is a Palestinian embassy in Moscow, too.
Putin supported building of a spacious Jewish museum in Moscow and personally contributed to its budget – but Russian street advertising proclaims the Resurrection of Christ, Eastertide, and His Nativity at Christmas. No “season’s greetings”, but open affirmation of Christianity. Russia is not like the US or EU, where external signs of Christian faith are forbidden, Easter and Christmas can’t be mentioned and whatever Jews request must be done immediately. Western Jews are annoyed (so their organisations claim) by public displays of Christian faith, but Russian Jews do not mind; moreover, they intermarry, convert and enter the Church in previously unheard of numbers. They are not strongly pro-Israeli, those that were already left for Israel.
So the Jews of Russia are not an influential factor to the Russian President. Putin will do what is right according to the Christian faith, and what is good for Russia, as he understands it — and he can’t be convinced to give up really important points. Other considerations – such as friendship with Israel – would normally take a much lower place in his priorities. However, in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis, as the Russians are worried by sanctions and by threats of isolation, they try to pull Jews to their side. This makes them increasingly susceptible to Israeli manipulation, whether state-authorised or a private venture.
Last week, Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld visited Moscow. In 2003, he famously threatened Europe with nuclear destruction (the “Samson Option”), saying “Israel has the capability to take the world down with us, and that will happen before Israel goes under”. Now he has explained to Russians Israel’s new policy: While the US enters the period of its decline, Israel must diversify and hedge its bets by drawing close to Moscow, Beijing and Delhi, he wrote in Izvestia daily. Perhaps, but without going too far. A flirt – yes, switching sides – not yet.
Israel prefers to stick to its neutrality. This is easy, as the Israeli populace (excepting its Russians) is not interested in Russian/Ukrainian affairs, does not know the difference between Russia and the Ukraine and is rather unfriendly to Russians/Ukrainians. This goes for both the Left and Right; the Israeli Left is even more pro-American than the Israeli Right. As for Russian Israelis, they are equally divided between supporters of Russia and supporters of Kiev regime. While observing niceties towards Russia, Israel does not intend to side with Moscow. The Jewish oligarchs of Ukraine – Kolomoysky, Pinchuk, Rabinovich – are integrated within the Kiev regime, and they support Israeli right-wing on a large scale. Israeli businessmen are invested in the Ukraine, and the oligarchs are invested in Israel. Kolomoysky controls YuzhMash, the famed missile construction complex in Dnepropetrovsk, and holds the secrets of the Satan ballistic missile, the most powerful Russian strategic weapon. He allegedly intends to share these secrets with the Israelis. If Israel were to side with Moscow regarding Ukraine, the breach with Washington would be unavoidable, and Israel does not intend to provoke it.
Some marginal Israeli right-wingers support Russia; they claim that they represent Israeli public opinion and government. They try to collect on their promises before they deliver. However, this is not an ordinary scam: they are trying to turn Russia into a supporter of right-wing Zionism.
Consider Russian-Israeli far right activist Avigdor Eskin. He impossibly claims that the Israeli government has already decided to jump from the US train to join the Russian one, that Israeli commandos are on their way to fight for the Russians in Donetsk, that Israeli authorities intend to strip Mr Kolomoysky of his Israeli citizenship. Naturally, all that is a load of bunkum, but Russians swallow it hook, line and sinker.
Avigdor Eskin is a colourful personality: a convert to Jewish faith (his mother is not Jewish), an observant Jew, an ex-Kahanist who was arrested in Israel for an alleged attempt to desecrate Al Aqsa mosque and a Muslim cemetery, and who served two or three years in Israeli jail; he styles himself a “Rabbi” and wears a full beard. After serving his time in jail, he moved to Russia and built a network of Israel supporters among the Russian far right. His message is “Israel is a true friend of Russia, while Muslims are Russia’s enemies”. He also adds that Israeli settlers are anti-American and pro-Russian. (If you believe that, the tooth fairy is the next step.)
Recently he claimed that the Aliya Battalion of “experienced Israeli commandos and sharpshooters” came to warring Donbass to fight on the Russian side against the Kiev regime troops. The Aliya Battalion is a battalion in the sense Salvation Army is an army. This is an Israeli NGO, established by Russian Israelis of far-right Zionist persuasion and of some Russian military background. It is not a part of Israeli Army. For a short while, the NGO provided guards for Jewish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, but the settlements stopped using them as they were extremely unreliable. They boasted of murdering Palestinian civilians, of torturing and killing children, but this was just a sick sadist and racist fantasy, people say. Afterwards, the Battalion leaders turned its name into a profitable scam, roaming American Jewish communities and collecting donations for their supposedly secret activities. As this scam was exposed by Israeli TV (RTVI network; it is available on the YouTube), they had disappeared from the public eye. Now Avigdor Eskin resurrected the old scam, and made a lot of headlines in the Russian media.
Eskin found a soulmate in prominent Russian media man Vladimir Solovyev. The Solovyev is of partly Jewish origin, lived abroad, then returned to Russia; he runs an important political show Sunday Eveningon Russian TV. The Saker (a well-known blogger) described him as follows: “This show is hosted by a famous personality, Vladimir Solovyev, who is a very interesting guy. Solovyev is a Jew, and he is not shy about reminding his audience about it, who was even elected as a member of the Russian Jewish Congress. He is also a Russian patriot, and he is an outspoken supporter of Putin and his policies. His position on the Ukraine is simple: he as a Jew and as a Russian has zero tolerance for Ukrainian nationalism, neo-Nazism or Banderism. He is a determined and total enemy of the new Kiev regime.”
It is possible Solovyev is going through some personal identity crisis: from celebrating his Russian roots, he moved to proclaiming his Jewish origin. Alternatively, it is possible (and more likely) that the Russian decision-makers want to pull Jews on their side, and Solovyev is acting with US Jews in mind. Stalin did it, so Putin could repeat the trick. In 1942, as Nazi onslaught threatened Russia, Stalin had sent some Russian Jews to the US, to speak Yiddish to Jewish communities and lobby for the USSR. The American Jewish community surely carries some clout… Now Solovyev and others are trying to influence Jews abroad; or at least to show to their superiors they are trying.
The price Eskin extracts for his fantasy stories is high. In Solovyev’s prime time programme, he called for the destruction of al Aqsa mosque and for the building of the Jewish temple on its place. He called Palestinians “the people of Antichrist”. Even in Israel such statements can’t be voiced on public TV. In confused Moscow, Eskin was feted and given a place in another important political programme, that of Arcady Mamontov. Who is conning whom: is Eskin conning his Russian hosts, or are his media hosts using him to con their superiors, or are their superiors trying to con the Russian people? Or is Israel hedging its bets? Who knows?
Ukrainian Jews beg to differ
Jews came to the Ukraine a thousand years ago, perhaps from Khazaria. This is not a homogeneous community; rather, they represent several communities. A lot of them emigrated to Israel; even more moved to Russia. They speak Russian and usually do not speak Ukrainian, though they picked up the vernacular over last twenty years. Normally, they wouldn’t care about Ukraine’s independence, as Jews traditionally side with the strong, be it Poles under Polish rule, with Russians under Moscow rule, or with Germans under Vienna or Berlin. Now many of them have decided to side with the US or EU. One of the reasons why so many people of Jewish origin do well is that the ruling ethnic groups trust the Jews and rely upon their loyalty to the powerful and lack of compassion for their Gentile neighbours.
Another reason is the vague definitions. For last three or four generations, Jews have intermarried freely; children of these mixed marriages are often considered ‘Jews’. These are the ‘Jews’ to the present regime; often they have only one Jewish grandparent.
Ukraine, following its independence in 1991, moved into the Western sphere of influence, but Eastern Ukraine (Novorossia) retained its Russian character and links. Jews did well in both parts. Mr Kolomoysky is a prominent member of the Jewish community, and a mainstay of the Kiev regime. He is a ruthless businessman, famous for his raiding of others’properties and for his Mafia connections. Rumours connect him with many killings of business adversaries.
On the other side, in Kharkov, the Mayor and the district Governor (nicknamed Dopah and Gepah) are Jewish, and they can be considered pro-Russian. It was thought that Kharkov would become the centre of rising Novorossia; president Yanukovich fled to Kharkov hoping to find allies and supporters. But Dopa and Gepa disabused him, so he continued his flight all the way to the Russian city of Rostov. Their decision to remain loyal to Kiev did not work well for them: one was shot, and the second one has been imprisoned and his attempt to run for president thwarted.
Kharkov is also home to Mr. Hodos, a wealthy and prominent Jew who fought most valiantly against Habad, the Jewish spiritual movement of which Mr Kolomoysky is a prominent member. The Jews of Novorossia apparently support the general pro-Russian trend, though there are exceptions. Practically all Ukrainian Jews have relatives in Russia, and had Russian education.
Israel has a strong network of agents in the Ukraine. They snatched a Palestinian engineer and flew him to an Israeli dungeon, and that could not be done without support of Ukrainian security services. However, the stories of Israeli soldiers fighting in Ukraine are somewhat exaggerated: these are individuals of dual citizenship who act at their own will, not a state representatives.
US Jews are divided
US Jews are divided on the Ukraine, as they were divided on Palestine. Friends of Palestine, people with a strong anti-imperialist record and sound knowledge of East European history – Noam Chomsky and Stephen F. Cohen — recognised and renounced the US attempt to sustain their hegemony by keeping brazen Russia down. A subset of people, Gilad Atzmon aptly called AZZ (anti-zionist zionists), Trots and other faux-Leftist shills for NATO like Louis Proyect – called for American intervention and brayed for Russian blood.
The notorious Israel Lobby is strictly anti-Russian. The State Dept. official Victoria (“Fuck EU”) Nuland personally directed the Kiev coup; she handpicked the government and the president of the new American colony on the Dnieper River. Her husband, Robert Kagan, is a founder of FPI, the successor of infamous PNAC, the extremist Zionist think tank which promoted wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and pushed for a war with Iran. Now they attack Russia, but they do not forget about their support for Israel.
Consider a young American gender activist and journalist, James Kirchick. He entered the Neocon network by shilling for the Lobby. He pink-washed Israel (“Israel as the best friend of gays on earth, while the Palestinians are homophobes who deserve to be bombed”). After doing the Israeli stint, he moved on to fighting Russia. He worked for the CIA-owned and US Congress-funded Radio Free Europe; stage-managed the sensational Liz Wahl’s on-air resignation from the RT and protested alleged mistreatment of gays in Russia. His dirty tricks were revealed by Max Blumenthal, a Jewish American journalist, a known anti-Zionist (working together with a Palestinian Rania Khalek).
While Israel is neutral re Ukraine, Israeli friends in EU and US are hostile to Russia and supportive of American hegemony, while friends of Palestine stand for Russia’s challenge to the Empire. The French Zionist media philosopher Bernard Henri Levy is an example of the former, while Michel Chossudovsky of Global Research is a representative of the latter. Leading critical (“anti-Zionist”) websites Counterpunch, Antiwar, Global Research sympathise with Russia, while pro-Israeli sites are hostile to Russia.
Zionists are nasty and vicious enemies, but they make even worse friends. Edward N. Luttwak is friendly to Russia; he called upon the US to make up with Russia. Strategic union of Russia and America is necessary, he says. Who cares about Ukraine? And here is his pitch line: Russia should fight China for the US benefit. Another Zionist friend, Tony Blair, also calls for peace with Russia – so Russia can fight the Muslim world for Israel. Quite similar to Eskin who offers his pathetic support to Russia in order to neutralise her positive influence and defence of Palestine.
The bottom line: Israel remains neutral for its own reasons. While Jews as individuals differ on Ukraine, there is a correlation with their stand on Palestine and on Syria. Enemies of Putin in Russia, Ukraine, Europe and US do support Israel and are hostile to Palestine, to Syria of Bashar, to Venezuela of Chavez. And the most dangerous lot are those who support Israel and Russia, as they are surely plotting some mischief.
Now that I’m back here in America after personally observing Syria’s recent presidential elections, I’ve been totally amazed at some of the fabrications, gross exaggerations and out-right lies that my country’s mainstream media has come up with regarding these vote results.
“Election fraud in Syria!” the newspapers cry over and over again. “Assad forces Syrians to vote for him! The elections were coerced!” plus many many other words to that effect. And even President Obama jumped on the band wagon — after even he himself has committed election fraud of a sort, having run on a ticket of peace and more jobs and then giving us war and no jobs instead. To say nothing of when G.W. Bush stole the Florida and Ohio elections. Twice!
Well. I am here to tell you that what they are saying about the Syrian elections is just so much bull dookie. And how do I know? I was there. In Syria. They weren’t. Eye-witness accounts always trump outsourced fabrications. Hopefully.
And so in the name of setting the record straight, I’ve decided to type up all of my various 50 pages of notes that I took over there in order to show you, step by step, minute by minute, what actually happened over in Syria — to me personally.
This eye-witness account is going to be a long read — but an accurate one. Some good stuff happened. And some bad stuff. And some fun stuff too (fun stuff in a war zone? Huh?) But I dare you to read it. And if you do, I’m sure you will find that it will be just like you came along to Syria with me.
Here is the link.
PS: How much do you know about America’s new “Army of One”? It’s just not your father’s Army any more. Or even your son’s (or your daughter’s). The new U.S. Army appears to have gone totally mercenary — and its new source of recruits goes way far beyond just hiring some Blackwater guys sporting AK-47s or a Bangladeshi kitchen crew.
Under America’s new rules of war, recruiters don’t have offices on Main Street USA any more. Instead they have offices in poverty-stricken countries like Chechnya, Afghanistan, Somalia and South Sudan — any godforsaken hell-hole where there is over 50% employment. “Wanna interesting job with good pay,” American recruiters whisper into future soldiers’ ears. But the good pay these recruiters are offering is this: When these new soldiers come home in a box, their families might possibly be given burial expenses.
And, trust me, these new recruits are a whole different breed from your traditional G.I. Joe. They are angry. They are far from home. They have had a grueling hand-to-mouth childhood. Many of them are wingnut religious fanatics who think that the Bible and the Koran are all about slaughter and vengeance, not compassion and justice. And they truly do not care who they kill.
And did I already mention that these new recruits work for cheap? No need for pensions plans or VA hospitals or none of that other slacker stuff for them. These guys are the ultimate outsourcing/cheap labor Republican wet dream.
Too bad that the neo-Nazi blood-thirsty recruits that Wall Street and War Street have hired in Ukraine are refusing to work as cheaply as the ones that they send to Syria.
However, thanks to this new recruiting policy, no one back home in America whines and bellyaches any more because their sons and daughters have been killed while defending America’s military-industrial complex’s oil either. This is a win-win situation for American war mongers. The Bush dynasty and Mr. Cheney must be ecstatic right now. But Eisenhower must be rolling over in his grave.
In addition, these new fanatical terrorist jihadi wingnut recruits are actually really really good at doing what they have come to love best: Killing and looting. They just took over Mosul and Tikrit in Iraq, no small feat. And they have been driving Syria bananas over the last three years, like so many psychotic bedbugs. Forget the Marines! These new recruits are always Semper Fi — to whoever pays them peanuts to behead civilians and rape women. And Americans like you and me are paying billions to keep these wannabe butchers in the field.
Welcome to the new “Army of One”.
PPS: Perhaps I may be wrong about all those crazy-eyed jihadis and wingnut foreign fighters earning almost nothing in their American paychecks. I just read an article about how ISIS (the main jihadi gang of thugs operating in Syria) has pretty much sacked a lot of Syria’s wealth.
Basically ISIS has just swooped in and looted Syria like so many pirates — and now, with American and Saudi help, it is also looting Iraq too. Let me make one thing clear: These barbarians do not want to start an Islamic civil society in the Middle East. They just want to plunder. “Argh.”
According to Alakbar English, “ISIS currently controls many [oil] fields and is battling for control for more fields still. According to al-Nusra sources, one oil well south of Raqqa brings in up to $1.3 million per day, while other fields in and around Raqqa like Zamla, al-Tabaqa, and Kuniko bring in $500,000 per day, in addition to unknown revenues from the Jazal and Shaer oil fields, and al-Jafra (oil and gas)
“ISIS also profits from thousands of kidnappings and ransoms involving locals and foreigners, including journalists, as well as robbery and looting, including of archaeological sites and factories. For example, ISIS seized control of large factories in Aleppo, including the government-owned railway and cables factory, a batteries factory, and a tractor factory. In some cases, ISIS dismantled and sold their equipment and machinery. Al-Nusra sources put the resulting revenues at $1 million per month.
“In addition, ISIS has taken control of grains and cotton production in the eastern regions. For instance, al-Nusra accuses Amer al-Rafdan, one of the most prominent figures in ISIS, of stealing $5 million worth of cotton in Deir al-Zour alone. Meanwhile, al-Nusra sources say that ISIS has earned more than $25 million from al-Alia grain silos in Al-Hasakah.
“The conflict in Syria has also allowed ISIS to put its hands on a large arsenal of weaponry, consisting of both weapons seized in combat and weapons purchased directly from arms dealers, who are always willing to sell weapons to just about everyone.”
This is just plain scary. This is just like when the barbarians sacked and burned ancient Rome. And now the same Middle Eastern jihadi wingnuts who tried to sack and burn Syria have gone on to sack and burn Mosul and Tikrit too (not to mention Benghazi et al.) And Baghdad is next.
And one election observer I met in Damascus also brought up another good point. “Something about this advance does not add up. How could 1,500 fighters hold a town or a province? How come American satellites did not see this coming? Major advances like that are not easily done.” Not unless America and Saudi Arabia are offering up the technology and footing the bill. Duh.
Wall Street and War Street should be ashamed for supporting these kinds of hoodlums. And what if they come over here to sack and burn us next? “Sorry, I plan to be out of town that weekend,” just isn’t gonna wash. But, oops, too late now. The FBI has already claimed that Saudi and Chechen barbarians have already been active in Boston and New York.
These pirating wingnuts in ISIS are psychotic. The American military-industrial complex may think that their pirate crews in the Middle East are controllable — but, guys, this is not Halloween. You are playing with fire.
Last Tuesday’s sudden capture of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city (population 1.8 million), by a coalition of Sunni forces led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was swiftly followed by the fall of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s home town. By Thursday morning the insurgents were reported to have advanced to the city of Samarra, only 80 miles north of Baghdad. Their lightning success has thrown the U.S. policy in the region into disarray. It creates a new global flashpoint at a time when the Obama administration has its hands full trying to manage regional emergencies, mostly of its own making, in Ukraine and in the Far East.
The most remarkable feature of the ongoing rebel offensive is that the Iraqi army and police units, although superior to the attackers in numbers and equipment, are melting away without a fight. The collapse of their morale, and especially the apparent inability of the government in Baghdad to maintain any semblance of command and control, is without precedent in an even semi-functional modern state. (Mali comes to mind, but sub-Saharan Africa is in a dysfunctional league of its own.) In Mosul, the insurgents captured a vast treasure-trove of U.S.-supplied arms abandoned by the Iraqi army soldiers as they fled. Last January’s fall of Falluja and Ramadi – for which hundreds of U.S. Marines gave their lives in the first decade of this century – now appears to have been a mere dress rehearsal for Mosul. After hundreds of taxpayer billions and thousands of American lives wasted on the war in Iraq before the withdrawal, it is now evident that the additional $14 billion that the United States has spent on arming, training and equipping the Iraqi security forces since December 2011 were also wasted. Even before the latest rebel advance the Iraqi army was ineffective and plagued by mass desertions, especially among its Sunni soldiers. Now that army can be seen for what it is: a sectarian Shi’ite militia, very well armed and equipped but atrociously trained and even worse led. Its top brass is uninterested in defending Sunni-majority areas in the northwest of the country, and its rank-and-file is deeply divided along sectarian lines. Unable and unwilling to develop any sense of loyalty or common purpose among its non-Shia recruits, NCOs and officers, the Iraqi army effectively does not exist.
It is equally noteworthy that Islamic militants have now joined forces with the Baathist leaders and military commanders from Saddam’s era (“Former Regime Elements,” FREs). Most prominently they include former vice-president Izzat al-Douri, who has evaded capture by the “Coalition” and by the Iraqi government for over a decade. Prior to 2003, people like al-Douri – a Baathist secularist – and various hard-core jihadist movements trying to undermine Saddam’s regime were mortal enemies. Their present ability to join forces is entirely due to their shared disdain for the sectarian Shia government in Baghdad. Of course they will not be able to offer a joint “vision” for a Sunni state carved out of what remains of Iraq, but they are eminently able to ensure that one-third of this once-prosperous Arab state will no longer be controlled from the center. The majority-Shia regions – approximately one-half of the territory and two-thirds of the population – will become even more closely linked to Iran, thus making a mockery of Geroge W. Bush’s post-WMD rationale for starting the war.
Particularly ironic is the fact that ISIS is the main fighting force battling Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The ISIS-affiliated jihadists in Aleppo and Raqqa (under whatever temporary label) are to this day aided and abetted by the U.S. government. The arms and equipment shipped via Turkey and Jordan and meant for the elusive Syrian “moderates” invariably end up in extremist hands. Across the border, in Iraq, these same people are the enemy of America and her chosen regime in Baghdad. All along, the group’s ideology and objectives are the same. They are openly proclaimed: there is nothing secretive about the ISIS goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and southeastern Turkey.
There is no coherent U.S. strategy in Iraq, or by inevitable association, in Syria. Both have been pushed to the back-burner in recent months, and both have been based either on wishful thinking or on pig-headed mendacity. The current chaos in Iraq reminds us of the extent to which U.S. interventions abroad are bad in principle if no vital American security and economic interests are involved. Malaki has asked for American air strikes, and even the return of boots on the ground, but this must not happen. No American interest is at stake in the ongoing Iraqi mess, and therefore no U.S. involvement is justified. It never was. Foreign intervention becomes inexcusable if its likely outcome is worse than the status quo. In Iraq the U.S. should not become an active ally of the sectarian Shia regime that cannot and will not either co-opt or corrupt its Sunni co-nationals. In Syria, it is clear that the only likely alternative to Bashar is a nosedive into terrorist jihadist mayhem. Both outcomes would be far worse from the vantage point of U.S. interests, geopolitically as well as morally, than letting things be as they are. The Bush administration, the U.S. government was a problem in creating the bloody Iraqi mess in 2003 and managing it thereafter. Washington’s evil and insane “foreign policy community” cannot be a solution to Iraq’s problems now, and never will be.
While staying here in Damascus, I have heard the same thing said again and again from a whole array of sources, including foreign journalists, Syrian citizens and even Christian nuns. “This war on Syria is being fought by Al Qaeda operatives, fanatic Islamist jihadis, foreign fighters, terrorists and mercenaries for hire. And they are being financed by American money and given American weapons.” Yikes!
What this means to me personally is that my very own head (which I have actually become quite attached to) could possibly be blown off at any minute by fanatics and/or weapons bought and paid for by my very own tax dollars. Now that is a really confusing thought.
“War by proxy” is becoming a more and more frequently-used phrase here in Syria. The American military-industrial complex is now out-sourcing their war.
But, hey, that’s better than having American soldiers over here fighting and dying for Wall Street and War Street like they did in Iraq. Our soldiers’ jobs are being shipped overseas? That’s one example of outsourcing that is just fine by me.
Except, in the words of one local college professor I interviewed the other day, “We Syrians are fighting dirty enemies. This is a dirty war. The jihadists attack hospitals, power plants and schools. But the Syrian people are fighting back.” The professor also mentioned the discovery of vast new oil fields off the Syrian coast. And he found it ironic that the very first place that the jihadis, inquisionists, Taliban wannabes and Al Qaeda death squads attacked was in this oil-rich region. The original peaceful protests by Syrians themselves — before the Taliban wannabes arrived in force from overseas and turned Syria into a slaughterhouse — took place in Daraa, not in the oil fields. Hmmm.
“I also find it ironic that Americans are citing democracy as their primary reason for attacking Syria — while their biggest ally in this region is Saudi Arabia, a known dictatorship.” Not to mention the doubts that everyone has about American elections. Take Diebold for instance. And Florida and Ohio and that weird Supreme Court ruling that forced GWB down our throats. And voter ID cards and 92-year-old women turned away from the polls. But, hey, America is famous for exporting hypocrisy. Get over it, prof.
In Sweida, I talked with a young woman who spoke English and she said, “Living in Syria is like living in one of those Hollywood horror movies.” Slasher flicks. “These terrorists come here and they bomb our hospitals and schools, kill and rape women and children and even eat our flesh like cannibals. We Syrians just want this horror movie to stop.” And she was proud of Bashar Assad for standing up to these wannabe Freddy Kruegers. And most of the Syrians I have talked with feel the same way. “And you would too — if it happened to you.”
And it did happen to me too — sort of. I can hear the shelling outside Damascus going on night and day. Nerve-racking. I almost felt like a heroic citizen of London during the Blitz.
Syria’s president, Bashar Assad, has been playing the Great Game of political chess in this region like he is a grand master — and perhaps that’s why the American military-industrial complex hates him so much. But Syrians love him. They just do. It’s a Syrian thing. Remember what Maya Angelou said in “I know Why the Caged Bird Sings”? How she was being raped as a child and prayed for the Green Lantern to save her? Well President Assad, like it or not, is Syria’s Green Lantern.
Assad might have been a bit to enthusiastic in the past about suppressing dissidence. But please be aware that the inquisionist crazies and Al Qaeda freaks that have tried to invade Syria are so very much worse. Syrians weren’t totally behind Assad before the invasion — but they certainly are now, thanks to America’s military-industrial complex. Eisenhower warned us about the complex. He shoulda warned the Syrians too.
The only thing that I can truly fault Assad on presently are all those all-pervasive giant posters of him that you see everywhere — on buildings, in shops, on cars and buses, on T-shirts and even in elevators. Everywhere. He should stop doing that. He’s not just some Ken doll or even the next Brad Pitt. He’s a political genius who is trying save Syria from the bad guys. He should have understood by now that he has found a place in the hearts of the Syrians and just leave it at that.
PS: Observing the elections was fun. It was like attending a country-wide block party. Or, as Mother Agnes-Mariam said to me in an interview at the Dama Rose Hotel, “It would be impossible to coerce that many Syrians to vote out of fear. People actually went out from rebel-held territory to vote. Even the rebels voted.” So. Who are you going to believe about the authenticity of the Syrian elections? Mother Agnes-Mariam who said that they were valid — or Wall Street and War Street, who claim they were a fraud?
Are you going to believe the same people who lied to us about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction – or a mother-superior Christian nun?
PPS: In Homs, those nasty American-sponsored jihadists blew up a historic old Christian church — only to find an even older church lay buried under the newer church’s foundations. Built in 59 AD, this older church might actually been visited by the Apostles and Saint Paul himself. And these Taliban wannabes were happily trying to blow this older church up too. But apparently they got distracted by trying to break up the bones of some nearby Christian saints’ relics — and the old church was saved!
PPPS: I never did get to meet President Assad. “Apparently he has to keep his eye out for being assassinated by drones,” one journalist explained to me as to why Assad hadn’t come to the Dama Rose hotel. But still…I could have worn my cool “Berkeley High Water Polo Team” T-shirt that I had swiped from my daughter Ashley. I’m sure Assad would have been quite impressed.
Is Edward Snowden a radical? The dictionary defines a radical as “an advocate of political and social revolution”, the adjective form being “favoring or resulting in extreme or revolutionary changes”. That doesn’t sound like Snowden as far as what has been publicly revealed. In common usage, the term “radical” usually connotes someone or something that goes beyond the generally accepted boundaries of socio-political thought and policies; often used by the Left simply to denote more extreme than, or to the left of, a “liberal”.
In his hour-long interview on NBC, May 28, in Moscow, Snowden never expressed, or even implied, any thought – radical or otherwise – about United States foreign policy or the capitalist economic system under which we live, the two standard areas around which many political discussions in the US revolve. In fact, after reading a great deal by and about Snowden this past year, I have no idea what his views actually are about these matters. To be sure, in the context of the NBC interview, capitalism was not at all relevant, but US foreign policy certainly was.
Snowden was not asked any direct questions about foreign policy, but if I had been in his position I could not have replied to several of the questions without bringing it up. More than once the interview touched upon the question of whether the former NSA contractor’s actions had caused “harm to the United States”. Snowden said that he’s been asking the entire past year to be presented with evidence of such harm and has so far received nothing. I, on the other hand, as a radical, would have used the opportunity to educate the world-wide audience about how the American empire is the greatest threat to the world’s peace, prosperity, and environment; that anything to slow down the monster is to be desired; and that throwing a wrench into NSA’s surveillance gears is eminently worthwhile toward this end; thus, “harm” indeed should be the goal, not something to apologize for.
Edward added that the NSA has been unfairly “demonized” and that the agency is composed of “good people”. I don’t know what to make of this.
When the war on terrorism was discussed in the interview, and the question of whether Snowden’s actions had hurt that effort, he failed to take the opportunity to point out the obvious and absolutely essential fact – that US foreign policy, by its very nature, regularly and routinely creates anti-American terrorists.
When asked what he’d say to President Obama if given a private meeting, Snowden had no response at all to make. I, on the other hand, would say to Mr. Obama: “Mr. President, in your time in office you’ve waged war against seven countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria. This makes me wonder something. With all due respect, sir: What is wrong with you?”
A radical – one genuine and committed – would not let such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity pass by unused. Contrary to what his fierce critics at home may believe, Edward Snowden is not seriously at war with America, its government or its society. Does he have a real understanding, analysis, or criticism of capitalism or US foreign policy? Does he think about what people could be like under a better social system? Is he, I wonder, even anti-imperialist?
And he certainly is not a conspiracy theorist, or at least keeps it well hidden. He was asked about 9-11 and replied:
The 9/11 commission … when they looked at all the classified intelligence from all the different intelligence agencies, they found that we had all of the information we needed … to detect this plot. We actually had records of the phone calls from the United States and out. The CIA knew who these guys were. The problem was not that we weren’t collecting information, it wasn’t that we didn’t have enough dots, it wasn’t that we didn’t have a haystack, it was that we did not understand the haystack that we had.
Whereas I might have pointed out that the Bush administration may have ignored the information because they wanted something bad – perhaps of unknown badness – to happen in order to give them the justification for all manner of foreign and domestic oppression they wished to carry out. And did. (This scenario of course excludes the other common supposition, that it was an “inside job”, in which case collecting information on the perpetrators would not have been relevant.)
The entire segment concerning 9/11 was left out of the television broadcast of the interview, although some part of it was shown later during a discussion. This kind of omission is of course the sort of thing that feeds conspiracy theorists.
All of the above notwithstanding, I must make it clear that I have great admiration for the young Mr. Snowden, for what he did and for how he expresses himself. He may not be a radical, but he is a hero. His moral courage, nerve, composure, and technical genius are magnificent. I’m sure the NBC interview won him great respect and a large number of new supporters. I, in Edward’s place, would be even more hated by Americans than he is, even if I furthered the radicalization of more of them than he has. However, I of course would never have been invited onto mainstream American television for a long interview in prime time. (Not counting my solitary 15 minutes of fame in 2006 courtesy of Osama bin Laden; a gigantic fluke happening.)
Apropos Snowden’s courage and integrity, it appears that something very important has not been emphasized in media reports: In the interview, he took the Russian government to task for a new law requiring bloggers to register – the same government which holds his very fate in their hands.
Who is more exceptional: The United States or Russia?
I was going to write a commentary about President Obama’s speech to the graduating class at the US Military Academy (West Point) on May 28. When he speaks to a military audience the president is usually at his most nationalistic, jingoist, militaristic, and American-exceptionalist – wall-to-wall platitudes. But this talk was simply TOO nationalistic, jingoist, militaristic, and American-exceptionalist. (“I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.”) To go through it line by line in order to make my usual wise-ass remarks, would have been just too painful. However, if you’re in a masochistic mood and wish to read it, it can be found here.
Instead I offer you part of a commentary from Mr. Jan Oberg, Danish director of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research in Lund, Sweden:
What is conspicuously lacking in the President’s West Point speech?
- Any reasonably accurate appraisal of the world and the role of other nations.
- A sense of humility and respect for allies and other countries in this world.
- Every element of a grand strategy for America for its foreign and security policy and some kind of vision of what a better world would look like. This speech with all its tired, self-aggrandising rhetoric is a thin cover-up for the fact that there is no such vision or overall strategy.
- Some little hint of reforms of existing institutions or new thinking about globalisation and global democratic decision-making.
- Ideas and initiatives – stretched-out hands – to help the world move towards conflict-resolution in crisis areas such as Ukraine, Syria, Libya, China-Japan and Iran. Not a trace of creativity.
Ironically, on May 30 the Wall Street Journal published a long essay by Leon Aron, a Russia scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington. The essay took Russian president Vladimir Putin to task for claiming that Russia is exceptional. The piece was headed:
“Why Putin Says Russia Is Exceptional”
“Such claims have often heralded aggression abroad and harsh crackdowns at home.”
It states: “To Mr. Putin, in short, Russia was exceptional because it was emphatically not like the modern West – or not, in any event, like his caricature of a corrupt, morally benighted Europe and U.S. This was a bad omen, presaging the foreign policy gambits against Ukraine that now have the whole world guessing about Mr. Putin’s intentions.”
So the Wall Street Journal has no difficulty in ascertaining that a particular world leader sees his country as “exceptional”. And that such a perception can lead that leader or his country to engage in aggression abroad and crackdowns at home. The particular world leader so harshly judged in this manner by the Wall Street Journal is named Vladimir Putin, not Barack Obama. There’s a word for this kind of analysis – It’s called hypocrisy.
“Hypocrisy is anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised.” – Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoi, (1828-1910) Russian writer
Is hypocrisy a moral failing or a failing of the intellect?
The New Cold War is getting to look more and more like the old one, wherein neither side allows the other to get away with any propaganda point. Just compare any American television network to the Russian station broadcast in the United States – RT (formerly Russia Today). The contrast in coverage of the same news events is remarkable, and the stations attack and make fun of each other by name.
Another, even more important, feature to note is that in Cold War I the United States usually had to consider what the Soviet reaction would be to a planned American intervention in the Third World. This often served as a brake to one extent or another on Washington’s imperial adventures. Thus it was that only weeks after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the United States bombed and invaded Panama, inflicting thousands of casualties and widespread destruction, for the flimsiest – bordering on the non-existent – of reasons. The hostile Russian reaction to Washington’s clear involvement in the overthrow of the Ukrainian government in February of this year, followed by Washington’s significant irritation and defensiveness toward the Russian reaction, indicates that this Cold War brake may have a chance of returning. And for this we should be grateful.
After the “communist threat” had disappeared and the foreign policy of the United States continued absolutely unchanged, it meant that the Cold War revisionists had been vindicated – the conflict had not been about containing an evil called “communism”; it had been about American expansion, imperialism and capitalism. If the collapse of the Soviet Union did not result in any reduction in the American military budget, but rather was followed by large increases, it meant that the Cold War – from Washington’s perspective – had not been motivated by a fear of the Russians, but purely by ideology.
Lest we forget: Our present leaders can derive inspiration from other great American leaders.
White House tape recordings, April 25, 1972:
President Nixon: How many did we kill in Laos?
National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger: In the Laotian thing, we killed about ten, fifteen [thousand] …
Nixon: See, the attack in the North [Vietnam] that we have in mind … power plants, whatever’s left – POL [petroleum], the docks … And, I still think we ought to take the dikes out now. Will that drown people?
Kissinger: About two hundred thousand people.
Nixon: No, no, no … I’d rather use the nuclear bomb. Have you got that, Henry?
Kissinger: That, I think, would just be too much.
Nixon: The nuclear bomb, does that bother you? … I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes.
May 2, 1972:
Nixon: America is not defeated. We must not lose in Vietnam. … The surgical operation theory is all right, but I want that place bombed to smithereens. If we draw the sword, we’re gonna bomb those bastards all over the place. Let it fly, let it fly.
“Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.” – Michael Ledeen, former Defense Department consultant and holder of the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute
- William Blum, Killing Hope, chapter 50
- Jonah Goldberg, “Baghdad Delenda Est, Part Two”, National Review, April 23, 2002
Turkey seems fond of so-called ‘false flag’ operations. In 1955, for example, the Turkish government covertly bombed its own consulate in Thessaloniki, Greece and blamed it on Greeks. The following day, Turkey stage-managed massive anti-Greek riots in Istanbul that killed over a dozen Christians and caused hundreds of millions in damage.
Fast forward to March 2014. A leaked audiotape caught Turkish officials plotting to stage ‘false flag’ military attacks on their own territory and blame them on Syrians. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, General Yaşar Gürel, and Intelligence chief Hakan Fidan planned to use the attacks as an excuse to invade Syria. The title of this article could easily apply to that plot.
To close observers of the Caucasus, however, it could also describe a failed covert Turkish plan to attack Armenia two decades ago and turn the geopolitics of the region upside down.
In October 1993, two years after the USSR had splintered, an ethnic Chechen Muslim named Ruslan Khasbulatov – the Speaker, believe it or not, of the Russian Parliament – led a coup against beleaguered Russian President Boris Yeltsin. According to American, French, and Greek officials, Khasbulatov and Muslim Turkey had a secret agreement.
If his coup succeeded, Khasbulatov would order Russian troops to withdraw from Armenia, where they helped guard the latter’s border with Turkey. That would pave the way for Turkey to invade the landlocked Christian nation of just three million inhabitants.
History tells us that Turkey has always wanted to overrun Armenia. Doing so would create a path to Turkic-speaking Muslim Azerbaijan, the Caspian Sea, and, eventually, Central Asia. It’s called pan-Turkism.
In 1993, of course, Azerbaijan was losing its war with Armenians over the ancient, majority-Armenian province of Karabagh. Azerbaijan was, therefore, eager for Turkey to attack Armenia, and Turkey was ready to help Azerbaijan turn the tide.
The Plot Fails
Harkening back to the Armenian genocide, Turkish President Turgut Özal had threatened to teach Armenia “the lessons of 1915.” Tansu Çiller, Turkey’s prime minister, warned Armenia that she wouldn’t “sit back and do nothing.” Turkey was massing forces on Armenia’s western border and supplying Azerbaijan with weapons, military advisors, and paramilitary forces. Chechen militants and Afghan Mujahideen were already fighting alongside Azeris.
A successful Turkish attack on Armenia – Russia’s only military partner in the Caucasus – would have all but destroyed Russian influence in the region. That, in turn, would have increased the likelihood that Chechnya, and much of the Muslim North Caucasus, would eventually escape the Russian Bear’s grip. For a native-born Chechen like Khasbulatov, it would all be a dream-come-true.
But bombarded by Russian tanks, Speaker Khasbulatov, V.P. Alexander Rutskoi, and hundreds of rebel parliamentarians and supporters surrendered the Parliament building on October 4, 1993. The coup and the plot to invade Armenia had failed.
The Secret Pact
The Khasbulatov-Turkish pact was first revealed by Leonidas T. Chrysanthopoulos in his book Caucasus Chronicles (London: Gomidas, 2002). He was Greece’s ambassador to Armenia from July 1993 to February 1994. Chrysanthopoulos, now 68, has served as ambassador to Canada and Poland, and was recently Secretary General of the 12-country, Istanbul-based Black Sea Economic Cooperation organization.
France’s ambassador to Armenia, Mme. France de Harthing, told him that “French intelligence sources” confirmed that “the Turkish incursion into Armenia would take place immediately after Khasbulatov would have withdrawn the Russian troops from Armenia.” “This information,” wrote Chrysanthopoulos, “was later confirmed to me by my United States colleague,” Ambassador Harry J. Gilmore.
As a “pretext,” Turkey would claim to be targeting Kurdish PKK militant bases, which in fact have never existed, in Armenia. Such a “pretext” is similar, though not identical, to a ‘false flag.’
The Turkish strike would be “incursions of a limited nature,” though it’s unclear what “limited” meant. More likely, as Turkey wouldn’t find any PKK, the aim was to forge a permanent corridor across Armenia, link up with Azeri forces, and cleanse Karabagh of Armenians.
The U.S. and France have never, as far as is known, publicly denied the existence of the Khasbulatov-Turkish plot. Moreover, Chrysanthopoulos gives no indication that any country tried to talk Turkey out of its deal with Khasbulatov.
Is any of this relevant today?
Yes, because current Turkish, American, and NATO policies in the Caucasus strongly echo the 1993 Khasbulatov-Turkish plot. For two decades, the West has been trying to penetrate and dominate the Caucasus – Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia –and eventually cross the Caspian Sea into energy-rich Central Asia.
One piece of the plan has already been partially implemented: constructing oil and gas pipelines from Azerbaijan through Georgia and Turkey.
NATO’s remaining goal: absorb the entire Caucasus. NATO would thereby threaten Russia from the south, just as it now pressures Russia from the west with its absorption of much of Eastern Europe (and, NATO hopes, Ukraine).
Georgia and Azerbaijan are inclined to eventually join NATO. Armenia, however, is not, though it has excellent relations with NATO and the West. Armenia has little choice but to ally itself with Russia because the former faces an ongoing existential threat from NATO member Turkey, the 1993 plot being one example.
Armenia is the Caucasus’s linchpin. Had the Khasbulatov – Turkish quasi-‘false flag’ operation against Armenia succeeded, Russia would probably have lost, and NATO would have gained, the entire Caucasus. New provocations, including ‘false flags,’ by Turkey and NATO cannot, therefore, be ruled out.
Turkish, American, and NATO leaders must also be interrogated as to whether their policies in the Caucasus are leading to peace or war.
I’m here in Syria right now, and one of the big questions that journalists are asking both here and in America seems to be, “Is President Bashar Assad a good guy or a bad guy?”
Hard to tell.
Some people love him and some people hate him. As for me? I have mixed feelings about Assad.
I’m over in Damascus this week to serve as an observer for Syria’s presidential election. And I have discovered a few things so far:
First, under Assad’s government, anyone can get free medical care, free cancer medicine and a free eduction up through college — and with no usurious student loans attached either. To paraphrase the famous Pussycat Dolls, “Dontcha wish America’s government was hot like that!”
Second, after American and NATO militarists spent billions of dollars on sponsoring Al Qaeda and various other Islamic inquisitionalist/terrorist groups and those responsible for 9-11, and then encouraging these creepy guys to terrorize, brutalize and butcher Syrian civilians, bomb 300 Syrian schools and seize Syrian oil fields, then guess what the logical result might be? “Now Syrians really really really do not like the American powers that be.” Got it in one.
And so yet another country that used to be friendly to the USA now bites the dust. Yet another country now joins a really really really long list of other countries all over the world who already hate hate hate the American military-industrial complex. Wall Street and War Street.
Assad used to go along to get along with Wall Street and War Street. But those days are now long gone.
Now Assad and the Syrian people are fighting for their lives against a well-armed and well-trained group of brutal and fanatical butchers who are (literally in some cases) cannibalizing Syria.
If you were a Syrian citizen, who would you vote for in this election? What would you do if it was your home, your family and your city being attacked? I think that the answer is obvious. http://www.presstv.com/detail/2014/06/03/365384/bombs-and-ballots-in-damascus/
So. Here I am in Damascus, being an official election observer — as compared to those other unofficial foreign-fighter/terrorist/fanatic election observers from 87 countries who are here as guests of the U.S., Britain, Turkey, France and Saudi Arabia. And these brutal unofficial election observers’ instructions are simple. “Off with their heads!”
But hopefully mine will still remain attached.
PS: I am so honored to be here now in this joyful time of the Syrian elections — but I don’t really have the time or technology to write about all the amazing things that I have seen and heard here. But after I have digested all the intake I’ve absorbed recently in this amazing country, I do plan to write about it in more depth — and after I can get access to a larger keyboard of course.
President Barack Obama delivered his most belligerent and menacing speech to date at the US Military Academy at West Point. Aside from the lofty rhetoric we’ve come to expect in every Obama presentation, the president’s commencement address was a defiant restating of the Bush Doctrine of unilateral intervention, executive authority and endless warfare. The speech contained no new initiatives or surprises, but emphasized Obama’s unwavering support for the policies which have plunged large parts of the Middle East, Africa, and Eurasia into civil conflict, economic collapse and war. Obama defended US aggression on the grounds of “American exceptionalism”, the dubious idea that Americans are special and cannot be held to the same standards as others. The theory implies that Washington’s relentless war-mongering and killing of civilians cannot be prosecuted under international law because the US is a law unto itself.
“I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being,” said Obama. “But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it is our willingness to affirm them through our actions.”
Obama’s statement is deliberately misleading. As the president knows, the Bush administration notified U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the US would withdraw from the International Criminal Court Treaty in May 2002 just prior to the invasion of Iraq claiming that the ICC treaty put U.S. service members and officials at risk of prosecution by a court that is “unaccountable to the American people.” In retrospect, we can see that Bush and his lieutenants wanted to remove themselves from any accountability for the atrocities and crimes against humanity they planned to perpetrate in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Thus, exceptionalism does not affirm Washington’s willingness to comply with “international norms and the rule of law” as Obama says, but to absolve US leaders from any responsibility for their habitual war-making. As policy analyst Noam Chomsky has said many times, “If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.”
Here’s Obama again: “Let me repeat a principle I put forward at the outset of my presidency: The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it… International opinion matters, but America should never ask permission to protect our people, our homeland or our way of life.”
In other words, the United States will do whatever the hell it wants to and if you don’t like it: “Too bad”. This is the Bush Doctrine verbatim. The West Point oration proves that the new administration has simply modified the Bush credo to suit Obama’s pretentious speaking style. Strip out the visionary formulations, the grandiose bloviating, and the sweeping hand gestures and the ideas are virtually identical; unilateralism, preemption, and exceptionalism, the toxic combo that has spurred 13 years of war, occupation, regime change, black sites, extra-judicial assassinations, drone attacks, and hyperbolic state terror most of which has been directed at civilian populations whose only fault is that they occupy regions where vast petroleum reserves have been discovered or which have some fleeting strategic importance to Washington’s war planners. Here’s an excerpt from an article in the World Socialist Web Site titled “Obama’s West Point speech: A prescription for unending war” by Bill Van Auken:
“Obama is not elaborating here a policy of defensive war to be waged only in response to an attack or the threat of an imminent attack. He is spelling out that the US reserves the right to intervene militarily wherever it believes its “core interests”—i.e., the access of its corporations and banks to markets, raw materials, cheap labor and profits—are involved.
When he speaks of “our livelihoods” and “our way of life,” he is referring not to the ever-declining living standards of the American worker, but to the eight-figure compensation packages of American CEOs, whose fortunes are founded on the exploitation of the working populations and resources of the entire planet…
Everything put forward by Obama is a repudiation of international law and an endorsement of the policy of aggressive war practiced by the Nazis three-quarters of a century ago.” (Obama’s West Point speech: A prescription for unending war, Bill Van Auken, WSWS)
Here’s Obama again defending his malignant foreign policy in terms of “leadership”:
“America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will. The military that you have joined is, and always will be, the backbone of that leadership.”
Obama finds it easy to praise the people who fight his wars, even while he stealthily carries out a plan to privatize the Veterans Administration. Check out this blurb from an article titled “VA secretary resigns amid push to privatize US veterans’ health care”:
“Obama and members of Congress have responded to the VHA scandal with a breathtaking level of cynicism and hypocrisy, even by Washington standards … according to many lawmakers, the answer to this crisis is not the appropriation of funds to hire new doctors and other medical professionals, but the dismantling of the government program in order to provide a profit windfall to private insurers and health industry firms. The result of this policy will be less care at greater cost to veterans…
Under the “Veterans Choice Plan” being promoted by Rep. Andy Harris (Republican of Maryland), veterans could either choose to continue receiving care through the VHA or go to a private provider of their choosing. In what amounts to a voucher system, the federal government would cover the cost of insurance premiums and some out-of-pocket costs, depending on a veteran’s priority ranking…
The moves to privatize veterans’ health care underscore the hypocrisy of the bipartisan glorification of soldiers and veterans. It also sets a precedent for privatizing Medicare and Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor.” (VA secretary resigns amid push to privatize US veterans’ health care, WSWS)
Is there any doubt that Obama forced General Eric Shinseki to step down so he could start to dismantle the VA? And if Obama cares so much about veterans, then why hasn’t he spoken out before about other veteran-related issues like the epidemic of suicides, rapes, traumatic brain injury or PTSD? Obama’s phony outrage is just a headline-grabbing gimmick to conceal what’s really going on, which is the VA is being handed over to America’s insatiable health care tycoons on a silver platter.
Obama again: “For the foreseeable future, the most direct threat to America, at home and abroad, remains terrorism, but a strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks is naïve and unsustainable. I believe we must shift our counterterrorism strategy, drawing on the successes and shortcomings of our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, to more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold.”
Obama’s comment absurdly implies that the US has learned from its past mistakes and has fine-tuned the art of counterterrorism so it doesn’t involve the squandering of valuable resources. What a joke. It’s like listening to a Mafia hit-man boast that he ‘s learned how to save money on ammo by strangling his victims with his bare hands. This is also a good example of how the Dems think they’re more effective (and discreet) in executing the elitist/corporate agenda than their rivals in the GOP. As if that was the purpose of the party!
Obama also made a few perfunctory remarks about closing Guantanamo, ending indefinite detention and taking steps to address climate change. But clearly these had nothing to do with the main thrust of the speech which was to announce his intention to expand the wars abroad. Citing hotspots in Syria, Ukraine and the South China Sea, Obama promised to “lead” with the military, asserting, by implication, dominion over these regions where the US claims to have “national interests”. Obama is as committed as his predecessor, Bush, to rule by force of arms even though his current adversaries (Russia and China) are not ragtag militias in sandals, but nuclear-armed nation-states who could level the better part of the planet with a flip of the switch. Even so, Obama is determined to pursue the same provocative strategy whatever the risks increasing the probability of a miscalculation that ends in a mushroom cloud.
President Barack Obama’s commencement address at West Point on May 28 managed to displease pretty much everyone in the nation’s commentariat. Before making an overall assessment of its significance, it is necessary to examine the validity and implications of Obama’s individual statements.
“[B]y most measures America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world. Those who argue otherwise – who suggest that America is in decline or has seen its global leadership slip away – are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics.”
This key assertion, made at the beginning of the President’s address, does not stand to empirical scrutiny. In economic terms, America was far stronger vis-à-vis the rest of the world in 1945 than she is today. In more recent times, U.S. share of world GDP peaked in 1985 with just under 33 percent of global GDP (nominal). Between 2004 and 2014, United States’ share of global gross domestic product (GDP) adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP) has fallen from 22.5 percent to 18.5 percent, and it is expected to continue falling. By the end of this year China will overtake the United States in gross domestic product, which had originally been projected to happen by the end of this decade. Analysts concede will gradually shift the ability to confer advantages or disadvantages on other countries – in other words, power – in China’s favor.
In military terms, while America enjoyed the nuclear monopoly in 1945-49, her period of undisputed unipolar dominance was between 1991 (the collapse of the USSR) and 2008 (Russia’s counterattack in South Ossetia). Although the Pentagon budget will drop from $600 billion this year to $500 billion in 2015, it will continue to account for over a third of the global total. The unsatisfactory outcomes in Iraq and Afghanistan and dented America’s image of military invincibility. As the Economist commented on May 3, “The yawning gap between Uncle Sam and his potential foes seems bound to shrink.” The prevailing view among most critical analysts is that over the past decade the U.S. has suffered military reverses, and now faces severe global competition.
As for the “global leadership,” it is unclear what exactly Obama had in mind. Russia and China are creating a powerful Eurasian counterweight to what they rightly perceive as Washington’s continuing bid for the global hegemony. India’s new prime minister is a potential partner at best, and certainly loath to acknowledge America’s “leadership.” In the Islamic world, Obama’s attempts at appeasement – which started with the Cairo speech in 2009 – have not worked: The U.S. is now even more unpopular in the Muslim world than it was under George W. Bush. America is heartily disliked even in Turkey and Jordan, presumably our allies, not least because of the continuing drone strikes. American influence in Latin America is weaker now than at any time since Theodore Roosevelt, as manifested in the unanimous rejection of Washington’s efforts to effect a regime change in Venezuela. Members of the American elite class are hard pressed to name a single country with which the U.S. has better relations today than five years ago. The NSA global spying network has infuriated even some otherwise reliable American friends in Western Europe. Most “Old Europeans” are remarkably resistant to U.S. pressure to agree to serious sanctions against Russia.
On balance it appears that Barack Obama is the one misreading history and engaging in partisan politics.
“Meanwhile, our economy remains the most dynamic on Earth, our businesses the most innovative.”
In reality, by most value-neutral parameters the American economy is chronically weak and insolvent:
- Far from growing, the economy contracted in the first three months of this year at the annualized rate of one per cent, and it is unclear where future growth would come from. Gross domestic income is also falling sharply, for the first time in years.
- There are fewer workers, they are less efficient than a decade ago, and new employment is mostly in low-paying part-time jobs. Labor force participation (the percentage of Americans at work) is low, at levels not seen since the stagnant economy of the 1970s. One-fifth of 80 million American families do not have a single employed member.
- Government dependence has reached epidemic levels: the number of Americans getting money or benefits from the federal government exceeds the number of full-time workers in the private sector by more than 60 million. Welfare spending and entitlement payments account for 69 percent of the federal budget.
- One-third of all American households are living hand-to-mouth, one paycheck from poverty. The median annual income is 7.5 percent lower than in January 2008.
- The inflation-adjusted S&P500 is back to where it was in 2007. The single biggest buyer of stocks are the companies of the S&P500 itself. At $4 trillion, stock buybacks account for one-fifth of the total stock market value. The biggest buyback in market history added zero productive value to the companies concerned.
- The mountain of debt is nearing $17.5 trillion. The drivers of growing deficits and debt in the future are unfunded entitlement programs that are designed to transfer resources from working people to retirees. When the government pension and health care commitments which are missing from official budget figures are accounted for, the total national debt is nearly $95 trillion, more than seven times the published figure.
- The dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency is almost over. Russia and China have joined forces in “de-dollarization” of their mutual transactions and are looking for a more productive and safe use for their monetary reserves. Their recent gas deal is the beginning of the end for the petrodollar. Eventually Washington will have to choose between an outright default and hyperinflation, and the rest of the world is waking up to that fact.
Some “dynamism,” some “innovation”…
“America continues to attract striving immigrants.”
Obama’s statement is correct. It does not illustrate America’s alleged strength as was his intent, however; it underscores this country’s major weakness. Illegal immigration is spiraling out of control, the Border Patrol is overwhelmed. If the influx continues at current high levels, the U.S. population will increase to almost half a billion in 2060 – more than a 50 percent increase. New immigrants – mostly from the Third World, unskilled, uneducated, and a net drain on American resources – and their descendants will account for over one hundred million of that increase. On current form, English-speaking Americans of European origin will become a minority in their own country four decades from now. They will inhabit an increasingly overpopulated, polluted, lumpenproleterized, permanently impoverished country. America unfortunately does continue “to attract striving immigrants,” mostly illegal ones and of poor quality. This is far greater threat to the survival of the United States in a historically or culturally recognizable form than terrorism or any conceivable alliance of foreign powers. Barack Obama does not understand this, or does not care, or – just as likely – cherishes the prospect.
“The values of our founding inspire leaders in parliaments and new movements in public squares around the globe.”
By “public squares” Obama was probably alluding to Kiev’s Maidan. Indeed, it has propelled some “new movements” to global prominence, such as the Svoboda party and the Right Sector. The Founding Fathers would be horrified to learn that, in the opinion of the President of the United States, their values have inspired Messrs. Tyahnybok, Yarosh, and other blood-soaked heirs to Stepan Bandera. This is on par with Senator Joseph Lieberman saying, “The United States of America and the Kosovo Liberation Army stand for the same values and principles. Fighting for the KLA is fighting for human rights and American values.”
“And when a typhoon hits the Philippines, or schoolgirls are kidnapped in Nigeria, or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine, it is America that the world looks to for help.”
Obama is mixing apples (natural disasters) and pears (man-made ones). The problem of Islamic terrorism in Nigeria was exacerbated by the refusal of the Department of State under Hillary Clinton to place Boko Haram (“Secular Education is Sinful”) on the list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2011, despite the urging of the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, and over a dozen Senators and Congressmen. The de facto protection thus given to Boko Haram has enabled it to morph into a state-within-the-state with an estimated 300,000 followers.
It would be ironic if “the world” were to look to America for help in Ukraine (which in any event it does not), since the course of crisis there has been, overwhelmingly, of Washington’s own making, as manifested in Victoria Nuland’s famous phone call to Ambassador Pyatt. The new Drang nach Ostenmakes sense from the point of view of the liberal globalist-neoconservative duopoly: there is no better way to ensure U.S. dominance along the European rimland in perpetuity than drawing Europe back into NATO (i.e. U.S.) security orbit in general and subverting the Russo-German rapprochement in particular. The “masked men” in buildings are a direct consequence of American meddling.
“So the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century past, and it will be true for the century to come.”
It has never been true, it is not true now, and it never will be true. Madeleine Albright’s famous dictum was an arrogant statement by an immigrant ignorant of American history and a sign of her well-attested instability. It was reiterated in Bill Clinton’s 1996 speech, where he explained why he intervened, disastrously, in Bosnia: “The fact is America remains the indispensable nation. There are times when America, and only America, can make a difference between war and peace, between freedom and repression, between hope and fear.” That Obama has chosen to recycle such rubbish is a sign of intellectual and moral bankruptcy. “Indispensable” to whom, exactly? It is unimaginable for the leader of any other country in the world – Vladimir Putin, say, or Xi Jinping – to advance such a claim. It is tasteless at best and psychotically grandomaniac at worst, a latter day “Manifest Destiny” on steroids. The problem is that such hubristic delusions easily translate into non-negotiable foreign policy objectives. Resisting the will of the “indispensable nation” is ipso facto evil: Susan Rice’s condemnation of Chinese and Russian vetoes of the U.S.-supported UN Security Council resolution on Syria as “disgusting,” “shameful” and “unforgivable” comes to mind.
“Russia’s aggression towards former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors.”
Quite apart from the genesis of the crisis in Ukraine, to which “Russia’s aggression” hardly applies, Obama’s use of the term “former Soviet states,” plural, implies that in his opinion Ukraine is not the only “victim of Russia’s aggression.” Presumably he means Georgia, the only “former Soviet state” with which Russia has had a conflict since the collapse of the Soviet Union. If so, and there is no other explanation for his turn of his phrase, Obama has a dangerously flawed understanding of the August 2008 Georgian crisis.
Georgian then-President Mikheil Saakashvili’s order to attack South Ossetia’s capital, Tskhinvali, was a breathtakingly audacious challenge to Russia, to which she was bound to react forcefully. That response was promptly exploited, for the first time since Gorbachev, by the American mainstream media machine and the foreign-policy community in Washington to paint Russia as a rogue power that is not only dangerous but intrinsically malignant. The vehemence of that rhetoric exceeded anything ever said or written about jihad, before or after September 11. To be fair, Saakashvili was led to believe that he was tacitly authorized to act as he did. President George W. Bush had treated Georgia as a “strategic partner” ever since the Western-engineered “Rose Revolution” five years earlier, and in early 2008 he strongly advocated NATO membership for Georgia. Washington had repeatedly supported Georgia’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity,” which implied the right to use force to bring South Ossetia and Abkhazia to heel, just as it is supporting “resolute action” in Donetsk and Lugansk today. Saakashvili may be forgiven for imagining that the United States would have bailed him out if things went badly. It is noteworthy that he was not disabused of such notions. The calculus in Washington appears to have been based on a win-win scenario, not dissimilar to the current Ukrainian strategy. Had Georgian troops occupied South Ossetia in a blitzkrieg operation modeled after Croatia’s “Operation Storm,” while the Russians remained hesitant or ineffective, Moscow would have suffered a major strategic and (more importantly) psychological defeat after almost four years of sustained strategic recovery. If Russia intervened, however, she would be duly demonized and the U.S. would push for NATO consolidation with new vigor. “Old” Europeans – the Germans especially – would be pressed to abandon their détente with Moscow. A resentful Georgia would become chronically anti-Russian, thus ensuring a long-term American presence in the region.
In the event, like the Ukrainian army today, the Georgian army performed so poorly that a military fait accompli was out of its reach. Excesses against Ossetian civilians – just like the shelling of schools in Slavyansk today – made the “victim of aggression” narrative hard to sell, Obama’s “aggression” rhetoric notwithstanding.
“The question we face… is not whether America will lead but how we will lead, not just to secure our peace and prosperity but also extend peace and prosperity around the globe.”
It is unclear how, if at all, America will secure her own “peace and prosperity” in the years and decades to come, let alone how she can extend it “around the globe.” If this is a statement of Obama’s grand strategy, it is flawed in principle and unfeasible in detail. In this statement there is not a hint of an overall blueprint for action that matches our country’s resources to her vital interests. A sound grand strategy enables a state to deploy its political, military, economic, and moral resources in a balanced and proportionate manner, in order to protect and enhance its security and promote its well-being, never mind “the globe.” In Obama’s universe, however, there are no brains behind “indispensable,” heavy-handed diplomacy and military power. Obama creates a false dilemma (“the question we face”) unsupported by facts. China, India, Russia, the Muslim world and Latin America do not want to be “led,” quite the contrary. Old Europe is reluctant at best. Subsaharan Africa is an irrelevant mess. The question we face is not global leadership, but national survival.
“Regional aggression that goes unchecked, whether in southern Ukraine or the South China Sea or anywhere else in the world, will ultimately impact our allies, and could draw in our military. We can’t ignore what happens beyond our boundaries.”
This simultaneous dig at Russia and China reflects a hubristic world view that is unmatched by conflict-management resources. A sane American relationship with Moscow demands acceptance that Russia has legitimate interests in her “near-abroad.” Obama’ four-nation tour of East Asia last Aprilescalated existing U.S. military commitments to the region, created some new ones, deeply irritated China, and emboldened American allies and clients to play hardball with Beijing. Obama does not understand that it is extremely dangerous for a great power to alienate two of its nearest rivals simultaneously. The crisis in Ukraine is going on, but the situation in Asia is potentially more volatile. Dealing with both theaters from the position of presumed strength and trying to dictate the outcomes is perilous, as many would-be hegemons (Philip II, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm, Hitler), blinded by arrogance, have learned to their peril. Obama has continued the hegemonist habit of instigating crises at different spots around the world, even though the resources are scarce and the strategy is fundamentally faulty. An overtly anti-U.S. alliance between Russia and China is now in the making. U.S. overreach led to the emergence of a de facto alliance in the Eurasian Heartland, embodied in the gas deal signed in Shanghai. Russia and China are not natural allies and they may have divergent long-term interests, especially in Central Asia, but they are on the same page when it comes to resisting U.S. hegemony, pardon, “leadership.” In the early 1970’s Dr. Henry Kissinger wisely understood the benefits of an opening to Beijing as a means of pressuring Moscow on the Cold War’s central front. Back then the USSR was far more powerful than the People’s Republic. Today, by contrast, China is much more economically and demographically powerful than Russia, and for the United States the optimal strategy would dictate being on good terms with the weaker party in the triangle. America does not have a policymaker of Kissinger’s stature today, who would understand the potential of a long-term understanding with Moscow as a tool of curtailing Chinese ambitions along the Pacific Rim.
“America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will. The military that you have joined is, and always will be, the backbone of that leadership.”
The notion that “the world stage” demands a “leader” is flawed. It is at fundamental odds with the balance-of-power paradigm, which has historically secured the longest periods of peace and unprecedented prosperity to the civilized world. Today’s world is being multipolarized, whether Obama the Exceptionalist likes that or not. The very idea of the self-awarded “world leadership” would appear absurd in the days of Bismarck or Metternich. Washington has neither the resources nor the minds for such a role, even if it were called for.
“The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it — when our people are threatened; when our livelihoods are at stake; when the security of our allies is in danger.”
None of the above applied in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, or Libya… but enough of Obama. There was more rhetoric at West Point, including an ode to American exceptionalism and further references to America’s global leadership, but it just as tedious, vacuous and intellectually wanting as the first ten minutes of his address.
Overall, it is evident that the United States in Barack Obama’s final term has not given up the hegemonist habit of instigating crises at different spots around the world, even though the management resources are scarce and the strategy is fundamentally faulty. An overtly anti-U.S. alliance between Russia and China is now in the making. It will be a belated equivalent of the Franco-Russian alliance of 1893 – the predictable result of an earlier great power, Wilhelm’s Kaiserreich, basing its strategy on hubristic overestimation of its capabilities. U.S. overreach has led to the emergence of a de facto alliance in the Eurasian Heartland, embodied in last month’s energy agreement signed in Shanghai. Russia and China are not natural allies and they may have divergent long-term interests, especially in Central Asia, but they are on the same page when it comes to resisting U.S. hegemony.
In the early 1970’s Dr. Henry Kissinger wisely understood the benefits of an opening to Beijing as a means of pressuring Moscow on the Cold War’s central front. Back then the USSR was far more powerful than the People’s Republic. Today, by contrast, China is much more economically and demographically powerful than Russia, and for the United States the optimal strategy would dictate being on good terms with the weaker party in the triangle. It is unfortunate that America does not have a policymaker of Kissinger’s stature today, who would understand the potential of a long-term understanding with Moscow as a tool of curtailing Chinese ambitions along the Pacific Rim.
Judging by the West Point address, for the remaining two and a half years of Obama’s term U.S.-initiated global confrontations will continue as before. Instead of de-escalating the bloody mess to which she has made a hefty contribution, Victoria Nuland will continue encouraging her blood-soaked protégés in Kiev to seek a military end-game in the East. Instead of calming the South China Sea, Washington will continue encouraging its clients to be impertinent. And Putin and Xi will draw their conclusions: that they do have a powerful common enemy, a rogue regime not amenable to reason or rational calculus.
It cannot be otherwise, considering the Obama Administration’s 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance, which is but a rehash of the strategic assumptions of the Bush era. In Obama’s words from two years ago, our “enduring national interest” is to maintain the unparalleled U.S. military superiority, “ready for the full range of contingencies and threats” amid “a complex and growing array of security challenges across the globe.” The Guidance itself asserts that the task of the United States is to “confront and defeat aggression anywhere in the world.” This is not a grand strategy but a blueprint for disaster—especially when combined with the interventionists’ urge to “confront and defeat” not only aggression as such but also “aggression” resulting from internal conflicts irrelevant to the American interest (Syria, Ukraine) and putative threats to regional stability (Iran).
Obama is a more reluctant interventionist than McCain or Romney would have been, but he, too, does not recognize the limits of American power and does not correlate that power with this country’s security and prosperity. He fails to balance military and nonmilitary, short and long-term capabilities. He rejects the fact that the world is becoming multipolar again, while the relative power of the United States is in steady decline. Obama’s absence of a viable grand strategy produces policies that are disjointed, nonsensical, and self-defeating. He is prone, no less than his predecessor, to equate any stated political objective in some faraway land with America’s vital interests, without ever offering a coherent definition of those “vital” interests.
On both sides of the duopoly, the ideology of American exceptionalism and the doctrine of global dominance reign supreme. At a time of domestic economic weakness and cultural decline, foreign policy based on the American interest requires prudence, restraint, and a rational link between ends and means. Abroad, it demands disengagement from distant countries of which we know little; at home, a sane immigration policy.
It will not happen.
Jewish Quarter, the Old City, Damascus…
It’s always encouraging when one comes upon some inspiring human enterprise, here in Syria or elsewhere, that refutes the worn shibboleths and clichés about how this or that group, or this or that religion, hates others and won’t cease targeting them until they are destroyed and burning in Hell.
In Syria today there is much evidence to refute the claims, often politically motivated, that Jewish cultural heritage sites are being singled out for destruction by rabid anti-Semites. One example of this is the Eliyahu Hanabi Synagogue in the neighborhood of Jobar, on the outskirts of Damascus. For centuries, Jobar has been inhabited by a peaceful, mixed community of Muslims, Christians, and Jews, many of whom often attended events together at the synagogue.
Reports this week in Zionist media about the destruction of the 400-year-old (not 2000-year-old, as claimed, erroneously, by one report in Israeli media) synagogue, along with the loss of all its contents, are similar to reports over the past three years which turned out to be patently false. This observer has been waiting for clearance to visit the site, to learn exactly what happened there this week, to assess its current condition and inventory its religious artifacts, which comprise part of Syria’s, and humanity’s, collective heritage.
One of the more virulent charges to come forth this week, particularly from the colonial Zionist regime occupying Palestine, is the mantra of ‘see what the hatred of those Arabs for the Jewish people has done.’ Admittedly it’s an effective fund-raising mechanism—as well as a handy intimidation tool—for the Zionist lobby, as it scrabbles to retain control of the US government and American public sentiment, a public which seems to be growing increasingly vexed by the lobby’s actions and which are finally pulling back from rubber-stamping the crimes of the apartheid regime.
Jobar is a suburb of Damascus, and location-wise the Eliyahu Hanabi Synagogue (measuring approximately 17 meters long by 15.7 meters wide) sits undeniably at a crossroads, in an area that has been occupied by rebel forces since the beginning of the Syrian conflict—which means it was sure to get damaged. With each shelling of the district over the past three years, claims were made that the synagogue had been destroyed by government forces. One such report, published on April fool’s day in 2013 by the Times of Israel and widely circulated by Zionist media outlets, claimed that, “The 2,000-year-old Jobar Synagogue in the Syrian capital of Damascus—the country’s holiest Jewish site—was looted and burned to the ground by government forces.” The report was patently false but got spread far and wide, despite the fact that there have been no government forces in Jobar since the conflict began. Two copy-cat reports followed later in 2013, but they were equally false. Nearly a year later, however, in March of 2014, media reports conceded that the synagogue was still standing, with only minor damage, and that its contents appeared to be in good condition.
This observer has received credible reports about certain stolen artifacts, including gold chandeliers, from the Eliyahu Hanabi Synagogue being offered for sale. It is well known in Syria that certain militia and other opportunists have been financing themselves by selling this country’s cultural heritage whenever and wherever they get the opportunity. There is in fact a multi-million-dollar black market in this type of illicit trade. Security agencies in Syria, in coordination with INTERPOL, have been alerted to the thefts of Jewish property, just as with thefts of other antiquities, and they periodically issue what are referred to as “watch for and confiscate” lists of stolen artifacts.
It is not true…based upon this observer’s many personal experiences in Syria…that Arabs hate Jews, although they would have plenty of reasons to, or that animosities between the two peoples are irreversible and irretrievable, and the reason I say this is that increasingly, in the Middle East as well as globally, people are beginning to distinguish between Jews as individuals (as “people of the book” and basically more or less like the rest of us) and fascist Zionism—an ideology being exposed as the greatest enemy and threat to Jews everywhere.
The latest, but so far unverified, information received by this observer from rebel sources claiming to have “contacts” in the Jobar Synagogue indicate that some early 20th century artifacts, including gold chandeliers and icons, were stolen early on in the conflict, and also that the area surrounding the synagogue has been shelled sporadically over the past nearly two years, resulting in modest damage to the exterior walls. This information was obtained as of last month. Conditions may well have changed this week. Other Syrian sources indicate that there has been interior damage with some scattered rubble in the nave and prayer rooms of the temple. But there has been no confirmation to claims of thousands of manuscripts, including Bibles, being looted from Jobar. On the contrary, many documents, including Bibles and other artifacts, were transferred by the local Jobar Council, with the full cooperation of the Syrian government, to an Ottoman-era synagogue in the Old City of Damascus for safe keeping. The location, which this observer has visited and where many Jobar Synagogue artifacts are today in storage, is one of six areas in Syria currently listed on the World Heritage List of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The site currently has round-the-clock government security that continues to guard the Old City of Damascus. It is also one of the 11 synagogues that President Assad had promised in 2011 to repair and restore, but alas that’s a project that the rebellion has put on hold.
In light of all the unverified claims about the synagogue in Jobar, one is reminded again of the decade-long US/UK War against Iraq and the false reporting about what happened at certain archaeological sites in that country. Specifically we might recall the Iraqi Jewish artifacts that Ahmad Chalabi claimed he was able to ‘rescue’ for the Coalition Provisional Authority. Chalabi, of the ill-fated Iraqi National Congress, along with the Bush administration’s Coalition Provisional Authority, sought to gain some much needed good press for himself and pals Richard Perle, Nathan Sharansky, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, this after April 2003 reports of thousands of priceless ancient artifacts being looted from Iraqi museums. The war planners were being castigated for their failure to protect Iraq’s cultural treasures, and it soon became clear that some of Chalabi’s pronouncements regarding the fate of Jewish artifacts were false and politically self-serving. Discredited, Chalabi’s party did not win any seats in the December 2005 election.
Some suspect similar political grandstanding motives in the current reports about Jobar, and it may be a while before credible eyewitness accounts from the scene are gathered. At that point we will we know the truth about the fate of the Eliyahu Hanabi Synagogue and the whole of Jobar. A delegation, including a Jewish representative from Damascus as well as this observer, has been trying to visit the area, but armed conflict and the continued occupation of the synagogue by rebels has prevented us so far from gaining entry.
What’s important to note, though, is that the people of Syria and their government have made herculean efforts to avoid what happened in Iraq, and to assure the preservation of their global cultural heritage, of which Jewish antiquities is an important pillar. One example of these efforts is the fascinating case of the Dura-Europos Synagogue, discovered in 1932.
The synagogue in Dura Europos had survived in such good condition because of its location, near a small Roman garrison on the Euphrates River. Parts of the building, which abutted the main city wall, were requisitioned by the Roman army and filled with sand as a defensive measure against northern and eastern marauders. The city was abandoned after Rome’s fall, never to be resettled, and the lower walls of the rooms remained buried and largely intact until excavated. The archaeological dig discovered many Jewish wall-paintings and also Christian texts written in Hebrew. Especially interesting perhaps was the discovery of paintings in the synagogue depicting limited aspects of Mithraism, a religion practiced in the Roman Empire between the first and 4th centuries and that was especially popular within the ranks of the Roman legions. Named for the Persian god Mithra, many Syrians followed the cult, as did some Roman senators who resisted the ‘new’ Christianity.
Itemized in the list below are specific Jewish-Syrian antiquities, including Old-Testament-themed paintings, this observer has verified as being under protection. Keep in mind, these are only a few examples, among many thousands, that I have been advised appear to be in excellent condition as of late May 2014:
- The Torah niche from the ancient Synagogue of Dura Europos on which are drawings of the Prophet Abraham, including the scene of his offering his son. Also beside them a drawing of the candle stick and the temple façade.
- A drawing featuring the Prophet Ezra reading a papyrus, Prophet Moses in the flames of boxthorn, the Ark of the Covenant in the hands of Philistines, and David anointed as a king by Samuel.
- A number of paintings with themes from the Old Testament
- A drawing of the pharaoh and Moses as a child, and a beautiful painting of Abraham between the two symbols of the sun and the moon.
- A drawing representing the story of Mordechai and Esther and Elijah bringing life back to a baby.
Despite the current and legitimate focus on Jobar, the record of the Syrian people on preserving their cultural heritage, especially during the current crisis, is admirable. Two weeks ago this observer visited the old city of Homs, and spent a fair bit of time at the Um Al-Zenar Church of Saint Mary, Church of the Holy Belt, which dates from 52 AD. Tradition has it that this seat of the Syriac Orthodox archbishopric contains a venerated relic, and indeed the Bishop spoke to me about it one day as he shoveled rubble from around the altar. The relic is claimed to be a section of the belt of St. Mary, the mother of Jesus, and is said to be hidden near a below-ground spring. One arrives at the spring by walking down a long, very narrow, pitch black set of stone steps. The Holy Water that can be found there, a small pond in essence, is filled with fragments of stone and wood chunks from the fighting, yet supposedly this water has curative powers. I scooped up a couple of handfuls, and it was indeed very refreshing, but did nothing, so far, to cure my leg problem.
Be that as it may, this observer was struck by the number of parishioners, along with volunteers from the neighborhood, mostly Muslims, covered in dust and soot as they worked at cleaning out the rubble. In the courtyard in front of the church this observer stoked a still smoldering heap of burned bibles and other church documents and icons which I was told rebels had torched as they prepared to vacate the compound earlier this month. Two days after I departed Homs, the Um Al-Zenar Church, though a partially burned out shell devoid of pews and religious artifacts, held its first Holy Communion since the conflict began.
From my experience, Syrians, without exception, are deeply connected with their cultural heritage and do not distinguish all that much among its origins. Many Syrians are proud to help others protect and rebuild their damaged religious and cultural sites, and in fact it seems to be a unifying factor among this besieged population. People this observer speaks with as he travels around Syria to visit archeological sites seem to blame both sides for the damage, but they tend to focus more on the task of restoring their heritage sites. Space does not allow me to enumerate the countless examples of this, but I will mention one.
This observer was served tea one day by some members of the Jewish community in the old City of Damascus, including my friend Saul, who claims to be the last Jewish tailor in Syria, as well as the lovely elderly ladies known as ‘the Jewish sisters’ and whose apartment is near where St. Paul, according to tradition, converted to Christianity. The view expressed by my hosts that day—and I believe them—is that Jewish cultural heritage in Syria is being respected, protected and preserved with the same care as Muslim, Christian, and pagan antiquities.
When Will Evangelical Christians Start To See Through This Charade?
Ever since the George W. Bush administration, evangelical pastors and churches have been America’s loudest cheerleaders for virtually every act of war the U.S. has waged against foreign countries. For pastors such as John Hagee, wars of aggression in the Middle East are predicated upon the notion of protecting Israel–even though military meddling by the United States has only served to make life more dangerous for Israel. But leaving Israel out of the equation, evangelicals are the first to trumpet U.S. wars of aggression. I would even suggest that the favorite hymn of most evangelical churches these days is no longer John Newton’s “Amazing Grace,” but John McCain’s “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran.”
I would go even further to say that evangelical churches have become the very best friend that the military/industrial complex has ever had. It is congressmen and senators from districts and states heavily-laden with evangelical churches that continue to pump unlimited tax-dollars into the Warfare State. One could even make the argument that in most evangelical churches, Jesus’ adage “Blessed are the peacemakers” has been changed to “Blessed are the warmongers.”
Let’s set the record straight: perpetual war is a tool of elitists and globalists to enslave the U.S. citizenry. While we are killing thousands of people abroad (most of whom are innocents)–all in the name of “liberating” them–we are tightening the tyrannical noose around the necks of the American people. In the name of the “War on Terror,” the most sophisticated surveillance society in the history of mankind has been created right here in the continental United States. With the advent of the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under G.W. Bush, Washington, D.C., has constructed (and is continuing to construct) a burgeoning police state the likes of which Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, and Adolf Hitler could have only dreamed about. And for the most part, evangelicals are fine with it.
But what is really happening in those countries that these endless wars are supposedly “liberating?” And specifically, what is happening to the thousands and millions of Christians within those countries after having been “liberated” by Uncle Sam? After all, America’s evangelical churches of every denomination spend millions of dollars every year sending missionaries around the globe to evangelize folks. How many missionary slides have we seen? How many passionate, tearful sermons have we heard imploring us to get a burden for missions? One of the most sacred elements of any Christian church is its missions program.
So, on the one hand, evangelicals are weeping, praying, and giving millions of dollars to make Christians out of the peoples of the world and on the other hand, they are leading the charge for America’s efforts to rain death and destruction down upon those same people.
Aside from the utter inconsistency of the above, what are all of these endless wars accomplishing for the Christians who live inside the countries that we are “liberating?” What is all of these Christian-endorsed wars doing to the people of God around the world? The answer will shock most believers.
According to an Infowars.com report, “In areas where we spent hundreds of billions of dollars and where thousands of precious American lives were sacrificed, churches are regularly being bombed, Christians are being brutally beheaded, and laws have been passed to make it illegal for a Muslim to convert to Christianity. If we were not even able to provide the most basic of liberties and freedoms to the people living in those nations, what in the world did we actually accomplish by ‘liberating’ them?
“Just look at what has happened in Afghanistan. We have been at war in Afghanistan for more than a dozen years, and yet things are so bad for Christians in that country at this point that there is not a single church left . . .”
The report goes on to say, “We find a similar story in Iraq. It is estimated that before the invasion, there were up to 2 million Christians living in Iraq. Now that number is down to less than 450,000, and it is falling fast.
“In fact, things are so dire for Iraq’s Christian community that some Iraqi Christian leaders are warning that Christians may soon become ‘extinct’ in that nation…”
The report continues, “In Syria, the Obama administration is shamelessly allying with radical al-Qaeda jihadists in a desperate attempt to overthrow the Assad regime.
“As these jihadists torture, behead and even crucify Christian believers, the mainstream media in the United States is virtually silent about it.
“Why is the media being so quiet?
“Well, because exposing what is going on would make the Obama administration look bad.
Those carrying out this persecution of Christians in Syria are being directly funded and aided by the governments of the United States and Saudi Arabia.”
See the report at:
The same could be said for Christians in the country of Libya.
But remember that these wars of aggression began in earnest under the “Christian” George W. Bush administration and have been ongoing throughout the Barack Obama administration. In fact, Obama’s continuation of the Bush preemptive war policy is the one thing about the Obama administration that most evangelical Christians actually support.
And please understand that what has happened to Christians in Middle Eastern countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria has happened in every other country that U.S. government has chosen to pressure–either by military intervention or economic sanction–including Nigeria and The Sudan.
A report in National Review Online states, “Prominent indicators confirm that the U.S. is the chief facilitator of the persecution of Christians around the world today.
“According to the recently released 2014 World Watch List, which ranks the 50 nations where Christians are most persecuted, Syria is the third worst nation in the world in which to be Christian, Iraq is fourth, Afghanistan fifth, and Libya 13th. All four countries receive the strongest designation, ‘extreme persecution’ (other designations are ‘severe,’ ‘moderate,’ and ‘sparse’ persecution).
“Aside from being so closely and harshly ranked, these four nations have something else in common: heavy U.S. involvement. Three–Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya–were ‘liberated’ thanks to U.S. forces, while in the fourth, Syria, the U.S. is actively sponsoring ‘freedom fighters’ against the regime, many of whom would be better labeled ‘terrorists.’”
The author of this report, Raymond Ibrahim, concludes by saying, “I am often asked, ‘How can we help persecuted Christians?’ At this point, one must respond: ‘How about starting with getting the U.S. government to stop being the chief facilitator of Christian persecution?’ Altruism aside, it would be in the interests of all freedom-loving people–and especially their descendants.”
See the report at:
I wonder what the vast majority of evangelical Christians would think if they realized that their support for all of these preemptive wars around the world–especially in the Middle East–are actually the major cause of much of the persecutions against their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I shudder to think what America’s Christians will say to their fellow-believers in Heaven who were savagely martyred due to the wars of aggression that they, America’s Christians, so enthusiastically supported.
America’s Warfare State, complete with the military/industrial complex, is facilitating the most egregious persecution of Christians since the days of Stalin, Hitler, and Chairman Mao and is turning the land of the free into a giant police state. When will the American people start to see through this charade? When will America’s pastors and Christians start to see through this charade?
If America’s evangelical pastors and churches would end their constant support for all of these foreign wars, if they would recognize the danger–globally and domestically–that the military/industrial complex poses, and if they would start putting the interests of this country above their parochial preoccupations with favored foreign states and personal eschatological opinions and interpretations, the Warfare State would collapse.
The Church has always been the compass of the country; and right now, the compass is broken, and the ship of state is way off course.
Memorial Day is when we commemorate our war dead. Like the Fourth of July, Memorial Day is being turned into a celebration of war.
Those who lose family members and dear friends to war don’t want the deaths to have been in vain. Consequently, wars become glorious deeds performed by noble soldiers fighting for truth, justice, and the American way. Patriotic speeches tell us how much we owe to those who gave their lives so that America could remain free.
The speeches are well-intentioned, but the speeches create a false reality that supports ever more wars. None of America’s wars had anything to do with keeping America free. To the contrary, the wars swept away our civil liberties, making us unfree.
President Lincoln issued an executive order for the arrest and imprisonment of northern newspaper reporters and editors. He shut down 300 northern newspapers and held 14,000 political prisoners. Lincoln arrested war critic US Representative Clement Vallandigham from Ohio and exiled him to the Confederacy. President Woodrow Wilson used WWI to suppress free speech, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt used WWII to intern 120,000 US citizens of Japanese descent on the grounds that race made them suspect. Professor Samuel Walker concluded that President George W. Bush used the “war on terror” for an across the board assault on US civil liberty, making the Bush regime the greatest danger American liberty has ever faced.
Lincoln forever destroyed states’ rights, but the suspension of habeas corpus and free speech that went hand in hand with America’s three largest wars was lifted at war’s end. However, President George W. Bush’s repeal of the Constitution has been expanded by President Obama and codified by Congress and executive orders into law. Far from defending our liberties, our soldiers who died in “the war on terror” died so that the president can indefinitely detain US citizens without due process of law and murder US citizens on suspicion alone without any accountability to law or the Constitution.
The conclusion is unavoidable that America’s wars have not protected our liberty but, instead, destroyed liberty. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, “A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.”
Southern secession did pose a threat to Washington’s empire, but not to the American people.Neither the Germans of WWI vintage nor the Germans and Japanese of WWII vintage posed any threat to the US. As historians have made completely clear, Germany did not start WWI and did not go to war for the purpose of territorial expansion. Japan’s ambitions were in Asia. Hitler did not want war with England and France. Hitler’s territorial ambitions were mainly to restore German provinces stripped from Germany as WWI booty in violation of President Wilson’s guarantees. Any other German ambitions were to the East. Neither country had any plans to invade the US. Japan attacked the US fleet at Pearl Harbor hoping to remove an obstacle to its activities in Asia, not as a precursor to an invasion of America.
Certainly the countries ravaged by Bush and Obama in the 21st century–Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Pakistan, and Yemen posed no military threat to the US. Indeed, these were wars used by a tyrannical executive branch to establish the basis of the Stasi State that now exists in the US.
The truth is hard to bear, but the facts are clear. America’s wars have been fought in order to advance Washington’s power, the profits of bankers and armaments industries, and the fortunes of US companies. Marine General Smedley Butler said, “ I served in all commissioned ranks from a second Lieutenant to a Major General. And during that time, I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism.”
It is more or less impossible to commemorate the war dead without glorifying them, and it is impossible to glorify them without glorifying their wars.
For the entirety of the 21st century the US has been at war, not war against massed armies or threats to American freedom, but wars against civilians, against women, children, and village elders, and wars against our own liberty. Elites with a vested interest in these wars tell us that the wars will have to go on for another 20 to 30 years before we defeat “the terrorist threat.”
This, of course, is nonsense. There was no terrorist threat until Washington began trying to create terrorists by military attacks, justified by lies, on Muslim populations.
Washington succeeded with its war lies to the point that Washington’s audacity and hubris have outgrown Washington’s judgment.
By overthrowing the democratically elected government in Ukraine, Washington has brought the United States into confrontation with Russia. This is a confrontation that could end badly, perhaps for Washington and perhaps for the entire world.
If Gaddafi and Assad would not roll over for Washington, why does Washington think Russia will? Russia is not Libya or Syria. Washington is the bully who having beat up the kindergarden kid, now thinks he can take on the college linebacker.
The Bush and Obama regimes have destroyed America’s reputation with their incessant lies and violence against other peoples. The world sees Washington as the prime threat.
Worldwide polls consistently show that people around the world regard the US and Israel as the two countries that pose the greatest threat to peace. http://www.ibtimes.com/gallup-poll-biggest-threat-world-peace-america-1525008 and
The countries that Washington’s propaganda declares to be “rogue states” and the “axis of evil,” such as Iran and North Korea, are far down the list when the peoples in the world are consulted. It could not be more clear that the world does not believe Washington’s self-serving propaganda. The world sees the US and Israel as the rogue states.
The US and Israel are the only two countries in the world that are in the grip of ideologies. The US is in the grip of the Neoconservative ideology which has declared the US to be the “exceptional, indispensable country” chosen by history to exercise hegemony over all others. This ideology is buttressed by the Brzezinski and Wolfowitz doctrines that are the basis of US foreign policy.
The Israeli government is in the grip of the Zionist ideology that declares a “greater Israel” from the Nile to the Euphrates. Many Israelis themselves do not accept this ideology, but it is the ideology of the “settlers” and those who control the Israeli government.
Ideologies are important causes of war. Just as the Hitlerian ideology of German superiority is mirrored in the Neoconservative ideology of US superiority, the Communist ideology that the working class is superior to the capitalist class is mirrored in the Zionist ideology that Israelis are superior to Palestinians. Zionists have never heard of squatters’ rights and claim that recent Jewish immigrants into Palestine–invaders really–have the right to land occupied by others for millenniums.
Washington’s and Israel’s doctrines of superiority over others do not sit very well with the ”others.” When Obama declared in a speech that Americans are the exceptional people, Russia’s President Putin responded, “God created us all equal.”
To the detriment of its population, the Israeli government has made endless enemies. Israel has effectively isolated itself in the world. Israel’s continued existence depends entirely on the willingness and ability of Washington to protect Israel. This means that Israel’s power is derivative of Washington’s power.
Washington’s power is a different story. As the only economy standing after WWII, the US dollar became the world money. This role for the dollar has given Washington financial hegemony over the world, the main source of Washington’s power. As other countries rise, Washington’s hegemony is imperiled.
To prevent other countries from rising, Washington invokes the Brzezinski and Wolfowitz doctrines. To be brief, the Brzezinski doctrine says that in order to remain the only superpower, Washington must control the Eurasian land mass. Brzezinski is willing for this to occur peacefully by suborning the Russian government into Washington’s empire. ”A loosely confederated Russia . . . a decentralized Russia would be less susceptible to imperial mobilization.” In other words, break up Russia into associations of semi-autonomous states whose politicians can be suborned by Washington’s money.
Brzezinski propounded “a geo-strategy for Eurasia.” In Brzezinski’s strategy, China and “a confederated Russia” are part of a “transcontinental security framework,” managed by Washington in order to perpetuate the role of the US as the world’s only superpower.
I once asked my colleague, Brzezinski, that if everyone was allied with us, who were we organized against? My question surprised him, because I think that Brzezinski remains caught up in Cold War strategy even after the demise of the Soviet Union. In Cold War thinking it was important to have the upper hand or else be at risk of being eliminated as a player. The importance of prevailing became all consuming, and this consuming drive survived the Soviet collapse. Prevailing over others is the only foreign policy that Washington knows.
The mindset that America must prevail set the stage for the Neoconservatives and their 21st century wars, which, with Washington’s overthrow of the democratically elected government of Ukraine, has resulted in a crisis that has brought Washington into direct conflict with Russia.
I know the strategic institutes that serve Washington. I was the occupant of the William E.Simon Chair in Political Economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, for a dozen years. The idea is prevalent that Washington must prevail over Russia in Ukraine or Washington will lose prestige and its superpower status.
The idea of prevailing always leads to war once one power thinks it has prevailed.
The path to war is reinforced by the Wolfowitz Doctrine. Paul Wolfowitz, the neoconservative intellectual who formulated US military and foreign policy doctrine, wrote among many similar passages:
“Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere [China], that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”
In the Wolfowitz Doctrine, any other strong country is defined as a threat and a power hostile to the US regardless of how willing that country is to get along with the US for mutual benefit.
The difference between Brzezinski and the Neoconservatives is that Brzezinski wants to suborn Russia and China by including them in the empire as important elements whose voices would be heard, If only for diplomatic reasons, whereas the Neoconservatives are prepared to rely on military force combined with internal subversion orchestrated with US financed NGOs and even terrorist organizations.
Neither the US nor Israel is embarrassed by their worldwide reputations as the two countries that pose the greatest threat. In fact, both countries are proud to be recognized as the greatest threats. The foreign policy of both countries is devoid of any diplomacy. US and Israeli foreign policy rests on violence alone. Washington tells countries to do as Washington says or be “bombed into the stone age.” Israel declares all Palestinians, even women and children, to be “terrorists,” and proceeds to shoot them down in the streets, claiming that Israel is merely protecting itself against terrorists. Israel, which does not recognize the existence of Palestine as a country, covers up its crimes with the claim that Palestinians do not accept the existence of Israel.
“We don’t need no stinking diplomacy. We got power.”
This is the attitude that guarantees war, and that is where the US is taking the world. The prime minister of Britain, the chancellor of Germany, and the president of France are Washington’s enablers. They provide the cover for Washington. Instead of war crimes, Washington has “coalitions of the willing” and military invasions that bring “democracy and women’s rights” to non-compliant countries.
China gets much the same treatment. A country with four times the US population but a smaller prison population, China is constantly criticized by Washington as an “authoritarian state.” China is accused of human rights abuses while US police brutalize the US population.
The problem for humanity is that Russia and China are not Libya and Iraq. These two countries possess strategic nuclear weapons. Their land mass greatly exceeds that of the US. The US, which was unable to successfully occupy Baghdad or Afghanistan, has no prospect of prevailing against Russia and China in conventional warfare. Washington will push the nuclear button. What else can we expect from a government devoid of morality?
The world has never experienced rogue states comparable to Washington and Israel. Both governments are prepared to murder anyone and everyone. Look at the crisis that Washington has created in Ukraine and the dangers thereof. On May 23, 2014, Russia’s President Putin spoke to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, a three-day gathering of delegations from 62 countries and CEOs from 146 of the largest Western corporations.
Putin did not speak of the billions of dollars in trade deals that were being formalized. Instead Putin spoke of the crisis that Washington had brought to Russia, and he criticized Europe for being Washington’s vassals for supporting Washington’s propaganda against Russia and Washington’s interference in vital Russian interests.
Putin was diplomatic in his language, but the message that powerful economic interests from the US and Europe received is that it will lead to trouble if Washington and European governments continue to ignore Russia’s concerns and continue to act as if they can interfere in Russia’s vital interests as if Russia did not exist.
The heads of these large corporations will carry this message back to Washington and European capitals. Putin made it clear that the lack of dialogue with Russia could lead to the West making the mistake of putting Ukraine in NATO and establishing missile bases on Russia’s border with Ukraine. Putin has learned that Russia cannot rely on good will from the West, and Putin made it clear, short of issuing a threat, that Western military bases in Ukraine are unacceptable.
Washington will continue to ignore Russia. However, European capitals will have to decide whether Washington is pushing them into conflict with Russia that is against European interests. Thus, Putin is testing European politicians to determine if there is sufficient intelligence and independence in Europe for a rapprochement.
If Washington in its overbearing arrogance and hubris forces Putin to write off the West, the Russian/Chinese strategic alliance, which is forming to counteract Washington’s hostile policy of surrounding both countries with military bases, will harden into preparation for the inevitable war.
The survivors, if any, can thank the Neoconservatives, the Wolfowitz doctrine, and the Brzezinski strategy for the destruction of life on earth.
The American public contains a large number of misinformed people who think they know everything. These people have been programmed by US and Israeli propaganda to equate Islam with political ideology. They believe that Islam, a religion, is instead a militarist doctrine that calls for the overthrow of Western civilization, as if anything remains of Western civilization.
Many believe this propaganda even in the face of complete proof that the Sunnis and Shi’ites hate one another far more than they hate their Western oppressors and occupiers. The US has departed Iraq, but the carnage today is as high or higher than during the US invasion and occupation. The daily death tolls from the Sunni/Shi’ite conflict are extraordinary. A religion this disunited poses no threat to anyone except Islamists themselves. Washington successfully used Islamist disunity to overthrow Gaddafi, and is currently using Islamist disunity in an effort to overthrow the government of Syria. Islamists cannot even unite to defend themselves against Western aggression. There is no prospect of Islamists uniting in order to overthrow the West.
Even if Islam could do so, it would be pointless for Islam to overthrow the West. The West has overthrown itself. In the US the Constitution has been murdered by the Bush and Obama regimes. Nothing remains. As the US is the Constitution, what was once the United States no longer exists. A different entity has taken its place.
Europe died with the European Union, which requires the termination of sovereignty of all member countries. A few unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels have become superior to the wills of the French, German, British, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Greek, and Portuguese peoples.
Western civilization is a skeleton. It still stands, barely, but there is no life in it. The blood of liberty has departed. Western peoples look at their governments and see nothing but enemies. Why else has Washington militarized local police forces, equipping them as if they were occupying armies? Why else has Homeland Security, the Department of Agriculture, and even the Postal Service and Social Security Administration ordered billions of rounds of ammunition and even submachine guns? What is this taxpayer-paid-for arsenal for if not to suppress US citizens?
As the prominent trends forecaster Gerald Celente spells out in the current Trends Journal, “uprisings span four corners of the globe.” Throughout Europe angry, desperate and outraged peoples march against EU financial policies that are driving the peoples into the ground. Despite all of Washington’s efforts with its well funded fifth columns known as NGOs to destabilize Russia and China, both the Russian and Chinese governments have far more support from their people than do the US and Europe.
In the 20th century Russia and China learned what tyranny is, and they have rejected it.
In the US tyranny has entered under the guise of the “war on terror,” a hoax used to scare the sheeple into abandoning their civil liberties, thus freeing Washington from accountability to law and permitting Washington to erect a militarist police state. Ever since WWII Washington has used its financial hegemony and the “Soviet threat,” now converted into the “Russian threat,” to absorb Europe into Washington’s empire.
Putin is hoping that the interests of European countries will prevail over subservience to Washington. This is Putin’s current bet. This is the reason Putin remains unprovoked by Washington’s provocations in Ukraine.
If Europe fails Russia, Putin and China will prepare for the war that Washington’s drive for hegemony makes inevitable.
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. His latest books are, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and How America Was Lost. http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/
One Archeological Site At A Time…
Krac des Chevaliers, Between Homs and the Lebanese border.
Visiting archeological sites in Syria can arouse within one a rather sharp and distinct feeling of trekking along the same paths traveled a century ago by the field archaeologist, and later colonel in the British Army, T.E. Lawrence. Indeed there are a number of still-visible “Lawrence of Arabia” footprints to be found here—both in Damascus as well as deep in the Syrian countryside.
In Damascus, for instance, one may marvel at the Khan As’ad Pasha, the majestic 18th century residence of the Ottoman governor of Damascus—As’ad Pasha al-Azem—whose palatial domicile today houses the Museum of Arts and Popular Traditions. Most foreigners like to spend time at Azem, and Lawrence was frequently there as a guest of Emir Faisal, a son of Sharif Hussein, of Mecca. It was Faisal’s irregular troops that Lawrence fought alongside while sabotaging the railway lines of the overstretched Ottoman forces and significantly contributing to their defeat.
As Ottoman domination crumbled, in no small measure due to the Arab revolt around Damascus, Lawrence tried in vain to salvage something for the Arabs, whom he loved and admired even if he sometimes expressed his affection for them in an elitist English orientalist turn of phrase. By the summer of 1917, it had become clear to both Lawrence and Faisal that the four-century rule over Arabia by the Ottoman Turks was about to collapse, thanks in no small part to the revolt and the bravery and sacrifices of those who joined it. Also clear to Lawrence, if not to his friend Faisal, who was a bit naïve on the subject of Western history, was that his country, England, a pillar of the “Big Four” at the Versailles Peace Conference, conference which included the President Woodrow Wilson, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, France’s Georges Clemenceau and the Prime Minister of Italy, Vittorio Orlando was planning once again, and not for the last time, to stab the Arabs in the back and renege on the very promises that Lawrence had been commanded to deliver.
Photos of Lawrence and Faisal hang today on the walls of what was Lawrence’s bedroom and office at the Azem Palace—and it is clear from his facial expressions that Lawrence sensed what was coming to Syria and Palestine. Before he died, in a motorcycle accident shortly after his return to England at the age of 46, Lawrence increasingly discussed what he regarded as his personal failure, during the closing years of the war, when he told friends and family that he had failed to convince his superiors in the British government that Arab independence was in their interests. The secret Sykes-Picot Agreement between France and Britain, according to Lawrence, was an abject betrayal of the promises of independence he had made to the Arabs and for which he felt personally responsible.
This observer crossed paths with Lawrence, in a manner of speaking, once again a few weeks ago, at Palmyra, the archeological and UNESCO World Heritage site which lies across the Syrian desert to the northeast of Damascus. The area was recently liberated from Islamist jihadists, and it was here I came across the words of Lawrence himself, inscribed on a plaque: “Nothing in this scorching, desolate land could look so refreshing…Moslem story-tellers ascribe the building of Palmyra to the Jinn commandeered by Soloman…”
Frankly, this observer is reluctant to demure from Lawrence’s description, but in the many years since he spoke those words, it has become clear that the “Tadmor” (Arabic and Hebrew name for Palmyra) referred to in the Torah is not the Tadmor of Syria, but rather refers to a different site, one now lost to the sands of Palestine, if it ever existed at all. Lawrence in fact would probably be sorely vexed to learn that his words linking Palmyra to Soloman are today being misused by cheap, tawdry, Zionist land seekers prowling to assert a bogus claim over Palmyra in Syria as part of God’s putative philanthropy, with the expectation, undoubtedly, of swallowing more Arab land for the ever-expanding Eretz Israel. But the misuse of Lawrence’s quote at Palmyra for political purposes is a subject for another Syrian update.
Lawrence and Lamb also crossed paths (again in a manner of speaking that is) on 5/15/14 in the course of this observer’s six-hour excursion up and around the medieval fortress known as Krak des Chevaliers (Castle of the Kurds—who reportedly first inhabited the area in the 11th century). The Syrian Arab Army recaptured the castle and the nearby village of al-Hosn from rebel forces on March 20, 2014. Both the castle as well as the village of 10,000 had been seized by rebels (aka ‘takfiri terrorists’), with the “Krak” sustaining extensive damage from especially violent clashes in 2012 and again in July and August of 2013. My excellent companion and government guide during my day at the Krak was “Mohammad,” a Syrian army security commander with 40 troops under his command. The detachment has been stationed inside the fortress, this so as to keep anyone from attempting to retake it “by a nighttime sneak attack,” I was told.
Krac des Chevaliers..liberated from rebels on 3/20/14
Apparently a history buff, Mohammad’s first comment, as we began to ascend the steep three floors of medieval steps, was to quote—who else?—T.E. Lawrence.
“We are walking in the footsteps of Lawrence,” he informed me as we made our way, gazing from time to time at the marvelous, gothic ceilings. “He called this fortress—” then, to my surprise, reciting from memory: ‘perhaps the best preserved and most wholly admirable castle in the world, and a castle which forms a fitting commentary on any account of the Crusading buildings of Syria.”
Many historians have agreed with that assessment by Lawrence, including Hugh Kennedy, who wrote that “the defenses of the outer wall were the most elaborate and developed anywhere in the Latin east…the whole structure is a brilliantly-designed and superbly-built fighting machine.”
Indeed, Krak des Chevaliers is considered one of the greatest and best preserved castles in the world due to its unique architecture in terms of its defense facilities, building materials and decorations. In 2006, the castle was inscribed on the UNESCO List of World Heritage sites along with its “sister fort,” the Citadel of Saladin, further north in Lattakia.
Among the approximately 400 damaged or destroyed antiquity sites that are now back under government control, Krak des Chevaliers is viewed by locals as a sort of “success story” because, for sure, it is still standing! A major restoration project was begun in April, and is now well underway, with the effort being directed by fifteen fulltime restoration specialists, who in turn are assisted by volunteers. Government officials, including the Ministers of Culture and of Tourism, drop by from time to time and praise their work, and a “Krak des Chevaliers reopens to the public” event is scheduled for 6/1/14. Whether many foreign tourists (or any at all) will be able to attend the gala happening is dubitable.
But hopefully conditions will allow for the return of tourists to the country at some point soon. One of my traveling companions the day I feasted my eyes on the Krak was a Syrian tour operator who pronounces himself more than willing to pitch in and help rebuild the tourist industry, Syria’s second largest foreign-exchange earner, which in 2010, prior to the outbreak of the conflict, brought in more than $1.5 billion.
Less fortunate than the castle is the formerly picturesque village of al-Hosn, which too was packed with rebels, and where current conditions now rival those in some parts of the cities of Aleppo and Homs for complete and total destruction. This observer did not see one bird, one feral cat, or even a fly in what locals call “the village of death.” Two weeks ago, a four man unit from Mohammed’s battalion at Krak did discover two hold-over rebels hiding out in the rubble. They killed them on the spot.
After 12 centuries of invaders trying to conquer this land, and a number succeeding—such as when the Muslims took it from the Christians in the seventh century employing the time tested ‘surrender or starve’ tactic—things have a way of getting rebuilt and repaired. And this time will likely be no different.
This observer’s purpose in visiting Krak was to detail the damage caused by 18 months of fighting over the fortress. The notes I made on my trip on 5/15/14 include the following:
- Complete destruction of the staircase and halls in front of the internal building of the fort.
- Partial damage in the façade of the Hall of the Knights, including some damage to the decorations and arches inside the Hall.
- Traces of fire behind the church and damage to the library hall, opposite the leader’s tower, and a part of the staircase leading to the roof of the library hall.
- Damage in the façade of the King’s Daughter’s Tower and partial destruction in the wall between the tower and the roof of the church.
- Partial destruction in the entrance to the stairs in front of Qalawun Tower; damage and destruction in some parts of the tower itself.
- Damage to one wall of the warehouse adjacent to the main offices of the castles overlooking the courtyard.
- Destruction of a part of the pillar supporting the ceiling of the library tower opposite the tower of the knights.
- Severe damage in the office of the Ottoman House, as well as the administration offices.
- Partial damage and destruction of some walls in several places of the castle, including minor damage in the outer wall of the castle.
- Surface damage caused by domestic fires built by rebels for heating and cooking, this by the dozens of rebel families that occupied different areas of the vast fortress.
To this observer it is clear that the Syrian public and their officials, in all 14 of the country’s governorates, are committed to the complete restoration of their nation’s peerless and incomparable archeological heritage sites as soon as security conditions permit.
Imagine: you are dressed up for a night on Broadway, but your neighbours are involved in a vicious quarrel, and you have to gun up and deal with the trouble instead of enjoying a show, and a dinner, and perhaps a date. This was Putin’s position regarding the Ukrainian turmoil.
The Russians have readjusted their sights, but they do not intend to bring their troops into the two rebel republics, unless dramatic developments should force them.
It is not much fun to be in Kiev these days. The revolutionary excitement is over, and hopes for new faces, the end of corruption and economic improvement have withered. The Maidan street revolt and the subsequent coup just reshuffled the same marked deck of cards, forever rotating in power.
The new acting President has been an acting prime minister, and a KGB (called “SBU” in Ukrainian) supremo. The new acting prime minister has been a foreign minister. The oligarch most likely to be “elected” President in a few days has been a foreign minister, the head of the state bank, and personal treasurer of two coups, in 2004 (installing Yushchenko) and in 2014 (installing himself). His main competitor, Mme Timoshenko, served as a prime minister for years, until electoral defeat in 2010.
These people had brought Ukraine to its present abject state. In 1991, the Ukraine was richer than Russia, today it is three times poorer because of these people’s mismanagement and theft. Now they plan an old trick: to take loans in Ukraine’s name, pocket the cash and leave the country indebted. They sell state assets to Western companies and ask for NATO to come in and protect the investment.
They play a hard game, brass knuckles and all. The Black Guard, a new SS-like armed force of the neo-nazi Right Sector, prowls the land. They arrest or kill dissidents, activists, journalists. Hundreds of American soldiers, belonging to the “private” company Academi (formerly Blackwater) are spread out in Novorossia, the pro-Russian provinces in the East and South-East. IMF–dictated reforms slashed pensions by half and doubled the housing rents. In the market, US Army rations took the place of local food.
The new Kiev regime had dropped the last pretence of democracy by expelling the Communists from the parliament. This should endear them to the US even more. Expel Communists, apply for NATO, condemn Russia, arrange a gay parade and you may do anything at all, even fry dozens of citizens alive. And so they did.
The harshest repressions were unleashed on industrial Novorossia, as its working class loathes the whole lot of oligarchs and ultra-nationalists. After the blazing inferno of Odessa and a wanton shooting on the streets of Melitopol the two rebellious provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk took up arms and declared their independence from the Kiev regime. They came under fire, but did not surrender. The other six Russian-speaking industrial provinces of Novorossia were quickly cowed. Dnepropetrovsk and Odessa were terrorised by personal army of Mr Kolomoysky; Kharkov was misled by its tricky governor.
Russia did not interfere and did not support the rebellion, to the great distress of Russian nationalists in Ukraine and Russia who mutter about “betrayal”. So much for the warlike rhetoric of McCain and Brzezinski.
Putin’s respect for others’ sovereignty is exasperating. I understand this sounds like a joke, — you hear so much about Putin as a “new Hitler”. As a matter of fact, Putin had legal training before joining the Secret Service. He is a stickler for international law. His Russia has interfered with other states much less than France or England, let alone the US. I asked his senior adviser, Mr Alexei Pushkov, why Russia did not try to influence Ukrainian minds while Kiev buzzed with American and European officials. “We think it is wrong to interfere”, he replied like a good Sunday schoolboy. It is rather likely Putin’s advisors misjudged public sentiment. « The majority of Novorossia’s population does not like the new Kiev regime, but being politically passive and conservative, will submit to its rule”, they estimated. “The rebels are a small bunch of firebrands without mass support, and they can’t be relied upon”, was their view. Accordingly, Putin advised the rebels to postpone the referendum indefinitely, a polite way of saying “drop it”.
They disregarded his request with considerable sang froid and convincingly voted en masse for secession from a collapsing Ukraine. The turnout was much higher than expected, the support for the move near total. As I was told by a Kremlin insider, this development was not foreseen by Putin’s advisers.
Perhaps the advisors had read it right, but three developments had changed the voters’ minds and had sent this placid people to the barricades and the voting booths:
1. The first one was the fiery holocaust of Odessa, where the peaceful and carelessly unarmed demonstrating workers were suddenly attacked by regime’s thugs (the Ukrainian equivalent of Mubarak’s shabab) and corralled into the Trade Unions Headquarters. The building was set on fire, and the far-right pro-regime Black Guard positioned snipers to efficiently pick off would-be escapees. Some fifty, mainly elderly, Russian-speaking workers were burned alive or shot as they rushed for the windows and the doors. This dreadful event was turned into an occasion of merriment and joy by Ukrainian nationalists who referred to their slain compatriots as “fried beetles”. (It is being said that this auto-da-fé was organised by the shock troops of Jewish oligarch and strongman Kolomoysky, who coveted the port of Odessa. Despite his cuddly bear appearance, he is pugnacious and violent person, who offered ten thousand dollars for a captive Russian, dead or alive, and proposed a cool million dollars for the head of Mr Tsarev, a Member of Parliament from Donetsk.)
2. The second was the Mariupol attack on May 9, 2014. This day is commemorated as V-day in Russia and Ukraine (while the West celebrates it on May 8). The Kiev regime forbade all V-day celebrations. In Mariupol, the Black Guard attacked the peaceful and weaponless town, burning down the police headquarters and killing local policemen who had refused to suppress the festive march. Afterwards, Black Guard thugs unleashed armoured vehicles on the streets, killing citizens and destroying property.
The West did not voice any protest; Nuland and Merkel weren’t horrified by this mass murder, as they were by Yanukovich’s timid attempts to control crowds.
The people of these two provinces felt abandoned; they understood that nobody was going to protect and save them but themselves, and went off to vote.
3. The third development was, bizarrely, the Eurovision jury choice of Austrian transvestite Conchita Wurst for a winner of its song contest.
The sound-minded Novorossians decided they want no part of such a Europe.
Actually, the people of Europe do not want it either:
It transpired that the majority of British viewers preferred a Polish duo, Donatan & Cleo, with its We Are Slavic. Donatan is half Russian, and has courted controversy in the past extolling the virtues of pan-Slavism and the achievements of the Red Army, says the Independent.
The politically correct judges of the jury preferred to “celebrate tolerance”, the dominant paradigm imposed upon Europe.
This is the second transvestite to win this very political contest; the first one was Israeli singer Dana International.
Such obsession with re-gendering did not go down well with Russians and/or Ukrainians.
The Russians have readjusted their sights, but they do not intend to bring their troops into the two rebel republics, unless dramatic developments should force them.
Imagine: you are dressed up for a night on Broadway, but your neighbours are involved in a vicious quarrel, and you have to gun up and deal with the trouble instead of enjoying a show, and a dinner, and perhaps a date. This was Putin’s position regarding the Ukrainian turmoil.
A few months ago, Russia had made a huge effort to become, and to be seen as, a very civilized European state of the first magnitude. This was the message of the Sochi Olympic games: to re-brand, even re-invent Russia, just as Peter the Great once had, as part of the First World; an amazing country of strong European tradition, of Leo Tolstoy and Malevich, of Tchaikovsky and Diaghilev, the land of arts, of daring social reform, of technical achievements, of modernity and beyond — the Russia of Natasha Rostova riding a Sikorsky ‘copter. Putin spent $60 billion to broadcast this image.
The old fox Henry Kissinger wisely said:
Putin spent $60 billion on the Olympics. They had opening and closing ceremonies, trying to show Russia as a normal progressive state. So it isn’t possible that he, three days later, would voluntarily start an assault on Ukraine. There is no doubt that… at all times he wanted Ukraine in a subordinate position. And at all times, every senior Russian that I’ve ever met, including dissidents like Solzhenitsyn and Brodsky, looked at Ukraine as part of the Russian heritage. But I don’t think he had planned to bring it to a head now.
However, Washington hawks decided to do whatever it takes to keep Russia out in the cold. They were afraid of this image of “a normal progressive state” as such Russia would render NATO irrelevant and undermine European dependence on the US. They were adamant about retaining their hegemony, shattered as it was by the Syrian confrontation. They attacked Russian positions in the Ukraine and arranged a violent coup, installing a viciously anti-Russian regime supported by football fans and neo-Nazis, paid for by Jewish oligarchs and American taxpayers. The victors banned the Russian language and prepared to void treaties with Russia regarding its Crimean naval base at Sebastopol on the Black Sea. This base was to become a great new NATO base, controlling the Black Sea and threatening Russia.
Putin had to deal quickly and so he did, by accepting the Crimean people’s request to join Russian Federation. This dealt with the immediate problem of the base, but the problem of Ukraine remained.
The Ukraine is not a foreign entity to Russians, it is the western half of Russia. It was artificially separated from the rest in 1991, at the collapse of the USSR. The people of the two parts are interconnected by family, culture and blood ties; their economies are intricately connected. While a separate viable Ukrainian state is a possibility, an “independent” Ukrainian state hostile to Russia is not viable and can’t be tolerated by any Russian ruler. And this for military as well as for cultural reasons: if Hitler had begun the war against Russia from its present border, he would have taken Stalingrad in two days and would have destroyed Russia in a week.
A more pro-active Russian ruler would have sent troops to Kiev a long time ago. Thus did Czar Alexis when the Poles, Cossacks and Tatars argued for it in 17th century. So also did Czar Peter the Great, when the Swedes occupied it in the 18th century. So did Lenin, when the Germans set up the Protectorate of Ukraine (he called its establishment “the obscene peace”). So did Stalin, when the Germans occupied the Ukraine in 1941.
Putin still hopes to settle the problem by peaceful means, relying upon the popular support of the Ukrainian people. Actually, before the Crimean takeover, the majority of Ukrainians (and near all Novorossians) overwhelmingly supported some sort of union with Russia. Otherwise, the Kiev coup would not have been necessary. The forced Crimean takeover seriously undermined Russian appeal. The people of Ukraine did not like it. This was foreseen by the Kremlin, but they had to accept Crimea for a few reasons. Firstly, a loss of Sevastopol naval base to NATO was a too horrible of an alternative to contemplate. Secondly, the Russian people would not understand if Putin were to refuse the suit of the Crimeans.
The Washington hawks still hope to force Putin to intervene militarily, as it would give them the opportunity to isolate Russia, turn it into a monster pariah state, beef up defence spending and set Europe and Russia against each other. They do not care about Ukraine and Ukrainians, but use them as pretext to attain geopolitical goals.
The Europeans would like to fleece Ukraine; to import its men as “illegal” workers and its women as prostitutes, to strip assets, to colonise. They did it with Moldova, a little sister of Ukraine, the most miserable ex-Soviet Republic. As for Russia, the EU would not mind taking it down a notch, so they would not act so grandly. But the EU is not fervent about it. Hence, the difference in attitudes.
Putin would prefer to continue with his modernisation of Russia. The country needs it badly. The infrastructure lags twenty or thirty years behind the West. Tired by this backwardness, young Russians often prefer to move to the West, and this brain drain causes much damage to Russia while enriching the West. Even Google is a result of this brain drain, for Sergey Brin is a Russian immigrant as well. So are hundreds of thousands of Russian scientists and artists manning every Western lab, theatre and orchestra. Political liberalisation is not enough: the young people want good roads, good schools and a quality of life comparable to the West. This is what Putin intends to deliver.
He is doing a fine job of it. Moscow now has free bikes and Wi-Fi in the parks like every Western European city. Trains have been upgraded. Hundreds of thousands of apartments are being built, even more than during the Soviet era. Salaries and pensions have increased seven-to-tenfold in the past decade. Russia is still shabby, but it is on the right track. Putin wants to continue this modernisation.
As for the Ukraine and other ex-Soviet states, Putin would prefer they retain their independence, be friendly and work at a leisurely pace towards integration a la the European Union.
He does not dream of a new empire. He would reject such a proposal, as it would delay his modernisation plans.
If the beastly neocons would not have forced his hand by expelling the legitimate president of Ukraine and installing their puppets, the world might have enjoyed a long spell of peace.
But then the western military alliance under the US leadership would fall into abeyance, US military industries would lose out, and US hegemony would evaporate. Peace is not good for the US military and hegemony-creating media machine. So dreams of peace in our lifetime are likely to remain just dreams.
What will Putin do?
Putin will try to avoid sending in troops as long as possible. He will have to protect the two splinter provinces, but this can be done with remote support, the way the US supports the rebels in Syria, without ‘boots on the ground’. Unless serious bloodshed on a large scale should occur, Russian troops will just stand by, staring down the Black Guard and other pro-regime forces.
Putin will try to find an arrangement with the West for sharing authority, influence and economic involvement in the failed state. This can be done through federalisation, or by means of coalition government, or even partition. The Russian-speaking provinces of Novorossia are those of Kharkov (industry), Nikolayev (ship-building), Odessa (harbour), Donetsk and Lugansk (mines and industry), Dnepropetrovsk (missiles and high-tech), Zaporozhe (steel), Kherson (water for Crimea and ship-building), all of them established, built and populated by Russians. They could secede from Ukraine and form an independent Novorossia, a mid-sized state, but still bigger than some neighbouring states. This state could join the Union State of Russia and Belarus, and/or the Customs Union led by Russia. The rump Ukraine could manage as it sees fit until it decides whether or not to join its Slavic sisters in the East. Such a set up would produce two rather cohesive and homogeneous states.
Another possibility (much less likely at this moment) is a three-way division of the failed Ukraine: Novorossia, Ukraine proper, and Galicia&Volyn. In such a case, Novorossia would be strongly pro-Russian, Ukraine would be neutral, and Galicia strongly pro-Western.
The EU could accept this, but the US probably would not agree to any power-sharing in the Ukraine. In the ensuing tug-of-war, one of two winners will emerge. If Europe and the US drift apart, Russia wins. If Russia accepts a pro-Western positioning of practically all of Ukraine, the US wins. The tug-of-war could snap and cause all-out war, with many participants and a possible use of nuclear weapons. This is a game of chicken; the one with stronger nerves and less imagination will remain on the track.
Pro and Contra
It is too early to predict who will win in the forthcoming confrontation. For the Russian president, it is extremely tempting to take all of Ukraine or at least Novorossia, but it is not an easy task, and one likely to cause much hostility from the Western powers. With Ukraine incorporated, Russian recovery from 1991 would be completed, its strength doubled, its security ensured and a grave danger removed. Russia would become great again. People would venerate Putin as Gatherer of Russian Lands.
However, Russian efforts to appear as a modern peaceful progressive state would have been wasted; it would be seen as an aggressor and expelled from international bodies. Sanctions will bite; high tech imports may be banned, as in the Soviet days. The Russian elites are reluctant to jeopardize their good life. The Russian military just recently began its modernization and is not keen to fight yet, perhaps not for another ten years.
But if they feel cornered, if NATO moves into Eastern Ukraine, they will fight all the same.
Some Russian politicians and observers believe that Ukraine is a basket case; its problems would be too expensive to fix. This assessment has a ‘sour grapes’ aftertaste, but it is widespread. An interesting new voice on the web, The Saker, promotes this view. “Let the EU and the US provide for the Ukrainians, they will come back to Mother Russia when hungry”, he says. The problem is, they will not be allowed to reconsider. The junta did not seize power violently in order to lose it at the ballot box.
Besides, Ukraine is not in such bad shape as some people claim. Yes, it would cost trillions to turn it into a Germany or France, but that’s not necessary. Ukraine can reach the Russian level of development very quickly –- in union with Russia. Under the EC-IMF-NATO, Ukraine will become a basket case, if it’s not already. The same is true for all East European ex-Soviet states: they can modestly prosper with Russia, as Belarus and Finland do, or suffer depopulation, unemployment, poverty with Europe and NATO and against Russia, vide Latvia, Hungary, Moldova, Georgia. It is in Ukrainian interests to join Russia in some framework; Ukrainians understand that; for this reason they will not be allowed to have democratic elections.
Simmering Novorossia has a potential to change the game. If Russian troops don’t come in, Novorossian rebels may beat off the Kiev offensive and embark on a counter-offensive to regain the whole of the country, despite Putin’s pacifying entreaties. Then, in a full-blown civil war, the Ukraine will hammer out its destiny.
On a personal level, Putin faces a hard choice. Russian nationalists will not forgive him if he surrenders Ukraine without a fight. The US and EU threaten the very life of the Russian president, as their sanctions are hurting Putin’s close associates, encouraging them to get rid of or even assassinate the President and improve their relations with the mighty West. War may come at any time, as it came twice during the last century – though Russia tried to avoid it both times. Putin wants to postpone it, at the very least, but not at any price.
His is not an easy choice. As Russia procrastinates, as the US doubles the risks, the world draws nearer to the nuclear abyss. Who will chicken out?
(Language editing by Ken Freeland)