“Show me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are” — ancient proverb.
The conflicts in Ukraine, Venezuela, and Syria have one thing in common: the U.S. government is in favor of the groups who aspire to topple — or who have toppled — the government in power. Thus, U.S. politicians are giving either political, financial, or military support to these “opposition” movements.
But in all three cases there are leading groups steering the “opposition” that want absolutely nothing to do with democracy — these groups are as far-right as politics gets: European-style fascism in Ukraine, Islamic extremism in Syria, and in Venezuela the elite-favored tradition of military dictatorships.
But there has been a virtual U.S. media blackout as to the leadership of the movements in Ukraine, Syria, and Venezuela, and for good reason; if these groups come to power, the country will be far worse off than it is now. The American public would give zero support to these groups if they knew the truth, which is why the level of U.S. media misinformation about these groups is as Orwellian as the workings of Obama’s NSA.
Take Ukraine for example. The day after democratically elected government forces fled from the capital Kiev, the successful opposition political leaders sucked the enthusiasm out of the “revolution” when they informed the public that they would be presiding over a “doomed” transitional government , because they “have to make some unpopular decisions.” The new nominee for Prime Minister called his new cabinet a “Kamikaze government.”
The government is suicidal because they are seeking loans from western financial institutions — like the IMF and European Commission — that come at a heavy price; in exchange for money Ukraine will have to implement a massive austerity program where the living standards of Ukrainians will be destroyed in Greek-like fashion.
This was the original reason why the now-ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych began to lean towards Russia, since Putin agreed to give Ukraine the money with no strings attached. Of course, this background information — which is crucial to understanding the events in Ukraine — was simply ignored in the western media, which misleadingly referred to the protests as “pro-EU protests.” It’s true that the suppression of a small pro-EU protest helped ignite wider sections of the population against the Ukrainian government, but the average Ukrainian would of course, not risk life and limb only to be torn asunder by a pro-EU austerity program.
The U.S. media also ignored the motor force of the Ukrainian protesters: the Ukrainian fascist party Svoboda, whose already-large presence in the Ukrainian parliament has been empowered because of the protests. There was yet another U.S. media blackout about the role of Svoboda in the protests, whose members or sympathizers acted as the shock troops against the democratically elected government. As writer Mike Whitney recently noted:
“The United States helped defeat Nazism in World War 2. Obama helped bring it back.”
It’s possible that once the current transitional government completes its austerity-suicide mission, the Svoboda party could then take total power and seek to funnel the immense anger of the austerity programs into anti-Russia and anti-Jewish sentiment. Svoboda was already rewarded for its role in the protests and given six ministerial posts in the transitional government, including the deputy prime minister and the powerful Secretary of the Security and National Defense Committee. But once the transitional government discredits itself with austerity, Svoboda will blame the senior member of the coalition, the “Fatherland” party, and seek to boost itself into total power.
This nightmarish scenario seems entirely possible now, and if it happens, Svoboda will undoubtedly be indebted to President Obama and the U.S. media for their role in giving the protests political cover, not to mention the critical role played by the U.S. in helping strategize the overthrow of Yanukovych — the audio recording of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland goes intoMachiavellian detail about how the U.S. was working to bring about the coup ; and the significance of this incredible recording was ignored by the U.S. media, which reduced the story to how “rude” Nuland had acted by uttering an expletive about the European Union.
In Syria, Obama has consistently relied on the right-wing extremists as the leaders of the opposition against the Assad government. The role of these al-Qaeda style Islamic extremists has been ignored by the media, even as their atrocities pile up on Youtube.
Syria was one of the most modern, cosmopolitan countries in the Middle East and is now being dragged back to the Dark Ages by Obama’s “allies” on the ground, who would like Syria to look like Saudi Arabia, another “close ally” of the U.S., where there is no such thing as political, religious, or labor-related freedoms.
The Islam of Saudi Arabia is the far-right type favored by the dictatorial monarchy that rules the country. Like its fascist friends of Ukraine, the U.S. is relying on another ultra-right ideology in Syria in order to bring a pro-U.S. government to power.
The newest coalition of Syrian opposition ground forces calls itself the Islamic Front. The U.S. media portrays this group as the “good rebels,” versus the al-Qaeda rebels who are also fighting the Syrian Government. But of course, the U.S. media kept quiet when the most powerful militia inside the Islamic Front, Ahrar al Sham, declared itself to be the “real” representative of al-Qaeda in Syria ( U.S. politicians had long known that Ahrar al Sham was ideologically linked to al-Qaeda ).
If Obama gets his way and the Islamic Front comes to power, Syria will experience a cultural devolution along similar lines of the Taliban-era Afghanistan. In the meantime, Obama and the U.S. media will continue to give crucial political support to an opposition that deserves none.
Venezuela, too, has recently been in the news, with far-right led opposition protests that the Obama administration is backing 100 percent. An excellent article in the Guardian by Mark Weisbrotoutlined the subtle and more direct ways that the Obama administration was giving political and financial support to the Venezuela opposition protests.
In dutiful fashion the U.S. media stayed on message. In a recent pro-opposition op-ed in the New York Times , it was nonchalantly declared, “Clearly, Venezuela is sliding toward dictatorship,” even though there were municipal elections that were just completed across the country, and in the previous year presidential elections occurred, which by all standards were “free and fair.”
If the Venezuelan opposition comes to power, we know exactly what they will do. When they took power briefly in a U.S.-backed military coup in 2002 they immediately disbanded all the democratic institutions that governed the country, since they prefer the type of political system that served them well during their hundreds of years of pre-Chavez dictatorships.
Of course, anybody who sympathizes with the above “opposition” movements are not automatically members of the far-right. One of the successes in this political strategy is the far-right movement’s attempt to tap into existing frustrations, and when the political flames are stoked, the energy is quickly exploited by those leading the movement in an attempt to violently overthrow the government.
Why does the Obama administration choose this type of foreign policy? The main reason is that the above-targeted countries had slid out of the U.S. orbit of control, and only these far-right groups are interested in getting their country back into the U.S. orbit. Ultimately, U.S. capitalists gain mountains of profit when a country is dependent on U.S. loans, U.S.-made weapons, manufactured goods, foodstuffs, etc.
This is why the U.S. establishment — now represented by the Obama administration — will not simply leave Latin America, the Middle East, or Eastern Europe to be independent or fall into the orbit of a competing regional power like Russia. There is simply too much profit at stake. Peace is not an option.
In order to stop the never-ending warmongering of U.S. foreign policy, the U.S. government itself must be fundamentally transformed. The U.S. establishment that favors the capitalist economic system will endlessly provoke wars for profit, while an economic system without a profit-motive will have no need for foreign wars.
http://www.economist.com/news/ briefing/21597974-can-ukraine- find-any-leaders-who-will- live-up-aspirations-its- battered-victorious
http://www.longwarjournal.org/ archives/2014/02/zawahiris_ chief_repr.php
http://www.theguardian.com/ commentisfree/2014/feb/18/ venezuela-protests-us-support- regime-change-mistake
As the Russian Sochi Winter Olympics date approaches, a wave of suicide bombings in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad, site of the decisive resistance to German invasion in 1942), have wreaked death and uncertainty in the region. On 29 December 2013 a suicide bomber exploded at the Volgograd railway station, killing the bomber and 16 more. A day later another suicide bombing on a trolleybus killed at least 15 people. The attacks come just a few weeks before the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics begin on February 7 on the Black Sea near the border to Georgia.
Those most recent attacks followed an October 21 suicide attack in which a bomb carried by a female suicide bomber exploded on a passenger bus carrying 40 people. The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, reported that at least 5 people died in the blast and 17 others were injured. The suicide bomber had been identified as 30-year-old Naida Asiyalova of Dagestan. Since 1999 Mujahideen Sunni Salafists, often from Saudi Arabia or other Arab countries, have tried to incite an Islamic revolution and install Sharia law in Dagestan from neighboring Chechnya as well as in Chechnya.
The recent new wave of suicide bombing attacks in the region has led many to believe they are the work of radical Mujahideen Salafist Sunnis led by an erratic Jihadist from Chechnya, Doku Umarov, who sometimes goes by the Arabized name, Dokka Abu Usman. Umarov has unilaterally proclaimed himself underground President of the unrecognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI), and later, the self-proclaimed Emir of the Russian North Caucasus, declaring it an Islamic state of the Caucasus Emirate. In doing so he announced, “I will serve the word of Allah and work to kill the enemies of Allah in all the time that he gives me to live on this earth.” 
In Russia he is called the “Russian bin Laden.” In March 2011, the United Nations Security Council Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee added Umarov to the list of individuals allegedly associated with al-Qaeda, the Saudi-financed loose network of international Jihadist bands which had been trained during the 1980’s Afghan war against the Soviet Union by CIA, Saudi, Israeli and Pakistani intelligence services. AL-Qaeda is a name for a database set up by Saudi intelligence to keep track of all the Arab and other Muslim mercenaries working in defeating the Russians in Afghanistan during the 1980s.
Umarov has claimed responsibility for gruesome suicide bombings, using women called ?black widows” whose husbands had been killed fighting Jihad against Russian security forces. Umarov openly claimed responsibility for the 2010 Moscow Metro bombings and the 2011 Domodedovo International Airport bombing in Moscow. The person who did the Metro bombing was a 17-year old Mujahideen widow, Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova
Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova, 17, posing with her late husband Umalat Magomedov. She became a “black widow” suicide bomber, carrying out the Moscow metro bombings in April 2010 (Reuters)
In June 2013, Umarov called for his followers in and outside the Caucasus to use “maximum force” to ensure the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics do not take place: “They plan to hold the Olympics on the bones of our ancestors, on the bones of many, many dead Muslims buried on our land by the Black Sea. We as Mujahideen are required not to allow that, using any methods that Allah allows us.” 
All indications point to the terrorists controlled by Umarov being behind the latest “Black Widow” suicide bombings in Volgograd. Naida Asiyalova, who blew herself up in the suicide bombing in Volgograd in October, is from Dagestan. She was reported “in love” with another suicide bomber before she “did her duty” to the jihad of Umarov. She was also a close friend of the woman implicated in the most recent Volgograd station bombing.All indications to date point to Doku Umarov’s Chechyn terrorist organization for these recent terror bombings in Russia.
The US State Department has just issued an Advisory Alert to US citizens going to Sochi as a response even though Volgograd is several hundred kilometers away.
Russia’s Mujahideen terrorists
Soon after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Halliburton, the world’s largest oil services company, then led by Dick Cheney, determined that the Caucasus and the region around the former Soviet Union’s Caspian Sea contained staggering volumes of untapped oil. Some said it was a “new Saudi Arabia.” As part of broader Washington strategy of then-president George H.W. Bush, US intelligence began moving veterans of the bloody Afghan Mujahideen campaign into the Caucasus and Caspian region to facilitate independence from the Soviet Union and open the door for US and British oil companies to control the key oil regions.
Two “retired” CIA operatives close to former CIA head Bush, Ted Shackley and General (Ret.) Richard Secord set up a CIA “front” fake Azeribaijan oil company called Mega Oil. It was a cover to fly in hundreds of Mujahideen veterans from Afghanistan as “oilworkers.”
In 1991 Richard Secord along with veterans of US operations in Laos, and later of Oliver North’s operations with the Contras, turned up in Baku, Azerbaijan under the cover of MEGA Oil. This was when George H.W. Bush supported an oil pipeline stretching from Azerbaijan across the Caucasus to Turkey. Dick Cheney was then Bush senior’s Defense Secretary. MEGA never found oil. But MEGA operatives in Azerbaijan engaged in military training, passed “brown bags filled with cash” to members of the Azeri government, and set up an airline on the model of the CIA’s Vietnam era Air America which flew hundreds of mujahedin mercenaries from Afghanistan into Azerbaijan and the Caucasus, especially Chechnya. 
A faction of the CIA and US intelligence tied to the neo-conservatives and the US military industrial complex, have been involved in bringing fanatical Jihadist Islam into the traditionally Sufi peaceful Islam of the Caucasus region. Osama bin Laden actively moved from Afghanistan into Bosnia, then Kosovo and on into Chechnya after 1995, where his principal ally, fellow Saudi Jihadist, Ibn al-Khattab was leader of the Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya fighting the Russians. Chechnya happened to be the transit region for a major Russian oil pipeline from Baku into Russia for Caspian oil, something Washington was determined to block. Journalist Ali Soufan notes that by 1996, “the United States had been on the side of Muslims in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya.”
At the time of the Beslan school massacre in Russia near the Georgia border in September 2004, Umarov’s Jihadists, including Arab Mujahideen, were partly financed with US money via a Washington-based NGO called ACDI/VOCA. Much of the money that the US Government-funded NGO received for the project reportedly came from a US Department of Agriculture Food for Peace Project. Apparently the food they dispensed was in the form of Kalashnikovs and hand grenades, not grain and apples.
According to veteran Caucasus-based journalist Jeffrey Silverman, Doku Umarov is today an “asset” controlled and guided by a Washington-based think-tank called Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. The board of the Potomac Institute reads like a who’s who of retired US military and intelligence people. According to Washington insider reports, Potomac is not entirely what it appears to be.
It is rather, these sources report, a front for Israeli intelligence, a group of US neo-conservatives, both working with Saudi Arabian intelligence. Two of Potomac’s key people involved in the Caucasus are reported to be Prof. Jonah Alexander, who heads the institute’s International Center for Terrorism Studies, and Ambassador (ret) David Smith.
Alexander has taught at Tel Aviv University and headed an interesting-sounding project, “Terrorism, Gray Area and Low Level Conflict,” for the US Global Strategy Council, a group founded by Ray Cline, former Deputy Director of the CIA. David J. Smith is Director of the Georgian Security Analysis Center (GSAC) at the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies in Tbilisi, Georgia. Between 2002 and 2006 Smith was US Member of the International Security Advisory Board, assisting Georgia to “build democracy and establish functional national security institutions.” By all indications, he did a rather poor job if that really was what he was building.
Many of the Arab and Chechyn Jihadist terrorists plaguing Russia in recent years have been infiltrated into Chechnya from the Pankisi Gorge region across the border in Georgia, where a pro-US Saakashvili regime at the time obviously “looked the other way.” Reportedly Saakashvili’s brother worked in London for BP, the head of the Anglo-American oil pipeline consortium that owns the BTC pipeline from Baku through Georgia to Turkey.
Contrary to outward appearance, there has been intimate cooperation between Saudi and Israeli intelligence services on matters of common strategic interest for years. Reportedly the ties began when Prince Bandar was Saudi Ambassador to Washington.
If all this is true, it would suggest that Umarov’s latest suicide attacks in Russia are part of a “revenge” operation of Netanyahu and Saudi Intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, to sabotage the Sochi Olympics, for Putin’s role in winning Obama away from war against Syria last fall and openly seeking a diplomatic resolution of the Iran nuclear problem. Saudi Arabia’s Bandar and Netanyahu, who admitted they were in cooperation, both were reportedly livid against Putin for sabotaging their Jihad in Syria.
Against Obama too
That the Saudis and Israel’s Netanyahu are actively working as well to sabotage Obama’s Iran diplomacy is also clear. On October 30, 2013, Sheldon Adelson, an Israeli-American billionaire with dual passports, a financier friend of Netanyahu who owns Las Vegas casinos, called on US Congress. He reportedly told his friends in Congress to pass new sanctions against Iran designed to sabotage the Iran-Obama talks. Adelson was the main financial backer in 2012 of Mitt Romney to defeat Obama, who has become a bitter Netanyahu foe. Adelson apparently feels that Obama has slowly been distancing from Bush and Cheney’s strong tilt to the hawkish US neo-conservatives tied to the US-Israeli military industrial complex around Netanyahu’s Likud Party.
The Republican Jewish Coalition — led by GOP financial donor Sheldon Adelson — is asking its members to call their senators and urge them to pass a new round of sanctions on Iran amid efforts from top Obama administration officials to persuade Congress to delay such measures to allow time for negotiations with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program to “gain traction.” 
The Volgograd bombings are a part of a global political shift taking place with factions declaring war inside major governments. Washington is split today between a “pro-Israel” faction largely in Congress, and on the opposite side, a mix of nationalists who seem to be trying to define a genuine American interest in all the wars around the world. Reportedly General Martin E. Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the military’s highest body in the Pentagon, and others around President Obama are moving to distance Washington from the Saudi-Israeli war strategy which they have realized as against American interest.
The realization in and around the White House and State Department that the US Government was being manipulated by Israeli and Saudi false intelligence was the real reason, according to Washington reports, for the abrupt decision by President Obama last summer to halt the planned war against Syria. Obama was told that the “evidence” of a Syrian government chemical weapons attack on civilians had been doctored by Saudi and Israeli intelligence to force Obama to finally declare war. 
That was why Obama surprisingly and inexplicably embraced the Putin mediation offer to remove the chemical weapons and why Assad quickly agreed. Obama was himself strongly against military action in Syria. The chemicals used in Syria reportedly were supplied by Prince Bandar to the rebels, not from Syrian Government forces.  The intelligence intercepts given President Obama purporting to be tapes of Syrian Army commanders discussing the chemical attack were given to Washington by Israeli intelligence by Israeli Defence Forces’ 8200 unit and were also reportedly faked.
Now this same network seems to have activated a revenge attack against Putin and Obama for foiling their stratagems. It’s a high risk gamble by Netanyahu and Saudi Prince Bandar that could severely boomerang against them.
In a noteworthy footnote to the entire gruesome Doku Umarov drama, on January 17, Moscow Times reported on a social media message sent out by Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov, claiming that he had “new evidence” that rebel leader Doku Umarov was dead. Kadyrov wrote in an Instagram, “According to our information, Umarov is dead and we are looking for his body.” He claimed that Umarov had been killed during a Russian Special Forces operation. The report has not been confirmed by Moscow. The Kadyrov report has to be taken with more than a little grain of salt. The flamboyant Chechyn President has issued such messages before, the last time in December, when he wrote that Umarov was “mostly likely already dead or will be soon.” Whether dead or alive, it seems most likely that Doku Umarov is little more than a “cover” for the darker networks running terror against Putin’s Russia in the Caucasus, and that darker network is Moscow’s real problem.
Al Jazzera English, Chechen rebel chief denies quitting Europe, Al Jazeera English., August 12, 2010.
 Miriam Elder. Russian Islamist Doku Umarov calls for attacks on 2014 Winter Olympics, theguardian.com. August 12, 2013.
 EIN News, Russia’s deadly black widow cult that threatens Olympians, January 02, 2014, accessed in
 Peter Dale Scott, The Falsified War on Terror: How the US Has Protected Some of Its Enemies, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 40, No. 2, October 7, 2013.
 Ali H. Soufan, The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda (New York: Norton, 2011), p. 62.
 Henry Kamens, Did CIA train the Boston Bombers in Georgia?, April 2013
 The information on the Potomac Institute and Umarov was made available to the author from Jeffrey Silverman, an investigative journalist based in the Caucasus who has researched the subject for more than twenty two years.
 SourceWatch, Global Strategy Council, 23 July, 2013, accessed in http://www.sourcewatch.
 Ibid. ; As well, for bios on Smith and Alexander, the website of Potomac Institute accessed inhttp://www.potomacinstitute.
 Jeffrey Silverman, op. cit.
 Umberto Bacchi, Israel Negotiating Historic Alliance with Saudi Arabia over Iran’s Nuclear Weapons, Ooctober 3, 2013, accessed in http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/
 Stephen J. Sniegoski , Would Romney Pursue a Neocon War Agenda?, accessed inhttp://home.comcast.net/~
 Ben Armbruster, Group Led By Billionaire Sheldon Adelson Pushes Congress To Undermine Iran Talks, October 30, 2013, accessed in http://thinkprogress.org/
 Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh, Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack, MintPress, August 29, 2013, accessed in http://www.mintpressnews.
 Seymour Hersh, Whose Sarin?, London Review of Books, August 12, 2013, accessed inhttp://home.comcast.net/~
 Moscow Times, Chechen Leader Kadyrov Again Says Rebel Leader Umarov is Dead, 17 January 2014,
RIA Novosti, accessed in http://www.themoscowtimes.
 Moscow Times, Chechen Leader Says ‘Rat’ Rebel Chief Is Likely Dead, 20 December 2013, accessed inhttp://www.themoscowtimes.
he media spin machine is again kicking into high gear, perfectly timed to accompany the “Geneva II” Syria peace talks. The lies are necessary to give the Obama administration an upper hand in the peace negotiations, which are not being used to pursue peace, but instead, to accomplish the Obama administration’s longstanding goal of Syrian regime change. Here are the top three Western media lies about the Syrian peace talks.
1) The removal of Syrian Bashar al-Assad was an agreed upon “precondition” for the Geneva II peace talks.
This lie has been repeated over and over by government and media alike. It has zero basis. The Obama administration claims that this precondition was expressed in the “Geneva communiqué,” which was a road map agreement meant to guide the Geneva II peace talks, agreed upon by some of the major parties of the negotiations, including Russia.
The communiqué does indeed call for a negotiated political transition, but nowhere does it state that such a transition cannot include President Assad. Such a condition would have been outright rejected by Russia.
In fact, the Geneva communiqué includes this crucial statement:
“[a transition government] could include members of the present [Syrian] government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent.” Nowhere does it specifically mention or imply President Assad would have to leave power first.
The Los Angeles Times recently stepped out of line and exposed this lie:
“[John] Kerry regularly cites the “Geneva communiqué,” a kind of peace road map hammered out in June 2012 during a United Nations-organized summit. But the document does not explicitly call for Assad’s ouster.”
The Obama administration’s constant repeating of this lie only causes divisions in the peace process, undermining the chances that the peace process will succeed.
The Obama administration is especially adamant about this “Assad must go” precondition because it knows that, if free and fair elections were held tomorrow in Syria – as part of a UN-backed “transitional process” – President Assad would likely win. This is the result of the ethnic and religious minorities in Syria that have rallied behind President Assad, since they’ve witnessed the consistent religious sectarian atrocities committed by the U.S.-backed rebels (which the U.S. media loves to ignore or minimize).
Assad would probably win an election since there is also simply no one else on the government side or the opposition side with his name recognition or popularity. The U.S.-backed rebel war in Syria has vastly strengthened Assad’s political hand, but you wouldn’t know it from the Western, anti-Syrian media.
Demanding Assad’s ouster also does not reflect the situation on the ground. The U.S.-backed rebels have never controlled more than one Syrian city, namely Raqaa, which is dominated by al-Qaeda and is governed under a Taliban-style interpretation of Islamic law, which includes a strict ban on music. Thus, the rebels don’t have the ground power that would even enable them to make the demand that “Assad must go”.
2) The U.S.-backed rebel militias are “moderate” Islamic groups.
The fact that this lie can even be uttered publicly without encountering ridicule is a major success of Western media propaganda. The media narrative paints the U.S.-backed “good” rebels fighting both the Syrian government and the “bad” al-Qaeda linked rebels.
But the “good” rebels in the U.S.-backed Islamic Front share the same vision for Syria’s future as the al-Qaeda rebels: a fundamentalist version of Sharia law, where women live in virtual house arrest and where religious minorities are second class citizens (non-Sunni Muslims would simply be butchered, as they are on a regular basis in Syria, which is again minimized or ignored in the Western media.)
The “moderate rebel” lie was further exposed recently when a top leader in the most powerful militia, Ahrar al Sham, within the Islamic Front declared Ahrar al Sham to be the “real” representative of al-Qaeda in Syria, as opposed to the rival al-Qaeda faction that the Islamic Front had recently begun fighting.
Ahrar al Sham has long been known to be an al-Qaeda type Islamist extremist group; the Western media simply chose to ignore it. But when it was recently made official, the US media chose to continue its ignoring stance, since actually reporting on it would destroy their “moderate rebel” lie. The Western media also continues to ignore the fact that the “moderate” U.S.-backed Islamic Frontissued a joint statement that aligned itself to the extremist views of Ahrar al Sham, the “real” al-Qaeda.
3) New Evidence of Syrian government “industrial scale” torture.
The Western media recently blasted the “breaking news” of brand new evidence showing massive “Nazi-like” torture and murder by the Syrian government, released at the beginning of the Syrian peace talks. This may or may not be true, but the lie here is that the Western media promoted the “evidence” as being unquestionably true, when the story doesn’t reach first base when it comes to evidence-based journalism.
All we really know is that there are hundreds of pictures of dead people that a “trusted source” says were killed by the Syrian government. The trusted source was designated as such by pro-Western intellectuals, who have earned professional “credibility” by helping convict war criminals in the International Criminal Court [ICC]. But as author Diane Johnstone pointed out in her excellent book “Fools Crusade,” about the war against Yugoslavia – as well as in other articles – the ICC has long been used by western powers as a tool to create a pretext for war, or a tool to justify a war after the fact.
The evidence of the “NAZI-like” atrocities was written in a study paid for by the government of Qatar, which has long funneled cash, guns, and Jihadis to Syria in aid of the anti-government rebels.
Again, we don’t know if the story is true or not. But such an important investigation should be conducted by the UN or another more objective institution. The same biased dynamic occurred in relation to the infamous chemical weapons attack, where no real evidence was provided, though an unending string of “experts” were quoted in the Western media, testifying to the guilt of the Syrian Government. But when Pulitzer prizewinning journalist Seymour Hersh reported that the Obama administration lied about the rebels not having the capacity to perform such an attack, the Western media simply ignored the legend of journalism. The wrench in the propaganda machine was simply dislodged.
How do these lies become such permanent fixtures in the Western media? An excellent article in the Guardian newspaper recently discussed in depth the principal sources the Western media has used to understand the Syrian conflict.
The article exposed the incredible bias of some of the most important Western media sources on Syria, which is why they were handpicked in the first place to be “expert” sources: they had political agendas that were aligned with the US government’s foreign policy decisions. The other side of the conflict was completely ignored, except when it was targeted for ridicule. Thus, Americans and Europeans have a completely one-sided, if not fantasy-based perspective of what is happening in Syria. This has been systematic since the beginning of the conflict, as happened with the Yugoslav, Afghan, Iraq, and Libya wars.
The result of this media-led ignorance could result in yet more unnecessary deaths in a country that now has millions of refugees and over a 100,000 dead. Obama seems like he intends to exploit these peace talks with the intention of blaming the Syrian government for their failure. Having failed to defeat Assad on the battlefield in a proxy war, the Obama administration is trying to win the propaganda war. And once peace talks have failed, talk of war will resume, since “all other options have failed.”
It was the winter of 1939, only a few months earlier the Soviet Union and Hitler’s Third Reich had signed a partially secret accord known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact; essentially a non-aggression treaty which divided Europe down the middle between the fascists and the communists. Hitler would take the West, and Stalin would take the East. Stalin’s war machine had already steamrolled into Latvia. Lithuania, and Estonia. The soviets used unprecedented social and political purges, rigged elections, and genocide, while the rest of the world was distracted by the Nazi blitzkrieg in Poland. In the midst of this mechanized power grab was the relatively tiny nation of Finland, which had been apportioned to the communists.
Apologists for Stalinist history (propagandists) have attempted to argue that the subsequent attack on Finland was merely about “border territories” which the communists claimed were stolen by the Finns when they seceded from Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution. The assertion that the soviets were not seeking total dominance of the Finns is a common one. However, given the vicious criminal behavior of Russia in nearby pacified regions, and their posture towards Finland, it is safe to assume their intentions were similar. The Finns knew what they had to look forward to if they fell victim to the iron hand of Stalin, and the soviet propensity for subjugation was already legendary.
The Russian military was vastly superior to Finland’s in every way a common tactician would deem important. They had far greater numbers, far better logistical capability, far better technology, etc, etc. Over 1 million troops, thousands of planes, thousands of tanks, versus Finland’s 32 antiquated tanks, 114 planes which were virtually useless against more modern weapons, and 340,000 men, most of whom were reservists rallied from surrounding farmlands. Finland had little to no logistical support from the West until the conflict was almost over, though FDR would later pay lip service to the event, “condemning” soviet actions while brokering deals with them behind the scenes. Russian military leadership boasted that the Finns would run at the sound of harsh words, let alone gun fire. The invasion would be a cakewalk.
The battle that followed would later be known as the “Winter War”; an unmitigated embarrassment for the Soviets, and a perfect example of a small but courageous indigenous guerrilla army repelling a technologically advanced foe.
To Fight, Or Pretend To Fight?
Fast forward about seven decades or so, and you will discover multiple countries around the globe, including the U.S., on the verge of the same centralized and collectivized socialist occupation that the Finnish faced in 1939. The only difference is that while their invasion came from without, our invasion arose from within. The specific methods may have changed, but the underlying face of tyranny remains the same.
In America, the only existing organization of people with the slightest chance of disrupting and defeating the march towards totalitarianism is what we often refer to as the “Liberty Movement”; a large collection of activist and survival groups tied together by the inexorable principles of freedom, natural law, and constitutionalism. The size of this movement is difficult to gauge, but its social and political presence is now too large to be ignored. We are prevalent enough to present a threat, and prevalent enough to be attacked, and that is all that matters. That said, though we are beginning to understand the truly vital nature of our role in America’s path, and find solidarity in the inherent values of liberty that support our core, when it comes to solutions to the dilemma of globalization and elitism, we are sharply divided.
While most activist movements suffer from a complete lack of solutions to the problems they claim to recognize, constitutional conservatives tend to have TOO MANY conceptual solutions to the ailments of the world. Many of these solutions rely upon unrealistic assumptions and methods that avoid certain inevitable outcomes. Such strategies center mostly on the concepts of “non-aggression” or pacifism idealized and romanticized by proponents of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and the anti-war movements of the 1960′s and 1970′s. The post-baby boomer generations in particular have grown up with an incessant bombardment of the “higher nature” of non-violence as a cure-all for every conceivable cultural ailment.
We have been taught since childhood that fighting solves nothing, but is this really true?
I can understand the allure of the philosophy. After all, physical confrontation is mentally and emotionally terrifying to anyone who is not used to experiencing it. The average “reasonable” person goes far out of their way on every occasion to avoid it. Most of the activists that I have met personally who deride the use of force against tyrannical government have never actually been in an outright confrontation of any kind in their lives, or if they have, it ended in a failure that scarred them. They have never trained for the eventuality. Many of them have never owned a firearm. The focus of their existence has been to hide from pain, rather than overcome their fears to achieve something greater.
There is nothing necessarily wrong with becoming an “intellectual warrior”, unless that person lives under the fantasy that this alone will be enough to defeat the kind of evil we face today.
Non-aggression methods rely on very specific circumstances in order to be effective. Most of all, they rely on a system of government that is forced to at least PRETEND as if it cares what the masses think of it. Gandhi’s Indian Independence Movement, for example, only witnessed noticeable success because the British government at that time was required to present a semblance of dignity and rule of law. But what happens if a particular tyranny reaches a point where the facade of benevolence disappears? What happens when the establishment turns to the use of the purge as a tool for consolidation? What happens when the mask comes completely off?
How many logical arguments or digital stashes of ethereal Bitcoins will it take to save one’s life or one’s freedom then?
Arguments For And Against Violent Action
The position against the use of “violence” (or self defense) to obstruct corrupt systems depends on three basic debate points:
1) Violence only feeds the system and makes it stronger.
2) We need a “majority” movement in order to be successful.
3) The system is too technologically powerful – to fight it through force of arms is “futile”, and our chances are slim to none.
First, violence does indeed feed the system, if it is driven by mindless retribution rather than strategic self defense. This is why despotic governments often resort to false flag events; the engineering of terrorist actions blamed on scapegoats creates fear within the unaware portions of the population, which generates public support for further erosion of freedoms. However, there is such a thing as diminishing returns when it comes to the “reach, teach, and inspire” method.
The escalation of totalitarianism will eventually overtake the speed at which the movement can awaken the masses, if it has not done so already. There will come a time, probably sooner rather than later, when outreach will no longer be effective, and self defense will have to take precedence, even if that means subsections of the public will be shocked and disturbed by it. The sad fact is, the faster we wake people up, the faster the establishment will degrade social stability and destroy constitutional liberties. A physical fight is inevitable exactly because they MAKE it inevitable. Worrying about staying in the good graces of the general populace or getting honest representatives elected is, at a certain point, meaningless. I find it rather foolish to presume that Americans over the next decade or two or three have the time needed to somehow inoculate the system from within. In fact, I’m starting to doubt that strategy has any merit whatsoever.
Second, the idea that a movement needs a “majority” of public backing to shift the path of a society is an old wives tale. Ultimately, most people throughout history are nothing more than spectators in life, watching from the sidelines while smaller, ideologically dedicated groups battle for superiority. Global developments are decided by true believers; never by ineffectual gawkers. Some of these groups are honorable, and some of them are not so honorable. Almost all of them have been in the minority, yet they wield the power to change the destiny of the whole of the nation because most people do not participate in their own futures. They merely place their heads between their legs and wait for the storm to pass.
All revolutions begin in the minds and hearts of so-called “outsiders”. To expect any different is to deny the past, and to assume that a majority is needed to achieve change is to deny reality.
Third, I’m not sure why non-aggression champions see the argument of statistical chance as relevant. When all is said and done, the “odds” of success in any fight against oligarchy DO NOT MATTER. Either you fight, or you are enslaved. The question of victory is an afterthought.
Technological advantage, superior numbers, advanced training, all of these things pale in comparison to force of will, as the Finnish proved during the Winter War. Some battles during that conflict consisted of less than a hundred Finns versus tens-of-thousands of soviets. Yet, at the end of the war, the Russians lost 3500 tanks, 500 aircraft, and had sustained over 125,000 dead (official numbers). The Finns lost 25,000 men. For every dead Finn, the soviets lost at least five. This is the cold hard reality behind guerrilla and attrition warfare, and such tactics are not to be taken lightly.
Do we go to the Finnish and tell them that standing against a larger, more well armed foe is “futile”? Do we tell them that their knives and bolt action rifles are no match for tanks and fighter planes? And by extension, do we go to East Asia today and tell the Taliban that their 30 year old AK-47′s are no match for predator drones and cruise missiles? Obviously, victory in war is not as simple as having the biggest gun and only the uneducated believe otherwise.
The Virtues Of Violence
The word “violence” comes with numerous negative connotations. I believe this is due to the fact that in most cases violence is used by the worst of men to get what they want from the weak. Meeting violence with violence, though, is often the only way to stop such abuses from continuing.
At Alt-Market, we tend to discuss measures of non-participation (not non-aggression) because all resistance requires self-sustainability. Americans cannot fight the criminal establishment if they rely on the criminal establishment. Independence is more about providing one’s own necessities than it is about pulling a trigger. But, we have no illusions about what it will take to keep the independence that we build. This is where many conceptual solutions are severely lacking.
If the system refuses to let you walk away, what do you do? If the tyrants would rather make the public suffer than admit that your social or economic methodology is better for all, how do you remove them? When faced with a cabal of psychopaths with deluded aspirations of godhood, what amount of reason will convince them to step down from their thrones?
I’m sorry to say, but these questions are only answered with violence.
The Liberty Movement doesn’t need to agree on the “usefulness” of physical action because it is coming regardless. The only things left to discern are when and how. Make no mistake, one day each and every one of us will be faced with a choice – to fight, or to throw our hands in the air and pray they don’t shoot us anyway. I certainly can’t speak for the rest of the movement, but in my opinion only those who truly believe in liberty will stand with rifle in hand when that time comes. A freedom fighter is measured by how much of himself he is willing to sacrifice, and how much of his humanity he holds onto in the process. Fear, death, discomfort; none of this matters. There is no conundrum. There is no uncertainty. There are only the chains of self-defeat, or the determination of the gun. The sooner we all embrace this simple fact, the sooner we can move on and deal with the dark problem before us.
Source: Brandon Smith | Alt-Market
Should we trust Obama to be honest in his peace talks with Iran and Syria? His lightning shift from warmonger to peacemaker surprised everyone, including his closest regional allies — Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey — not to mention the entire U.S. congress, many of whom seem intent on sabotaging the Iran peace talks by imposing more war-provoking sanctions.
Let’s not forget that Obama was minutes away from blasting Syria into the Stone Age, but as he stared into the abyss of war he blinked at the last moment. Obama hid the consequent humiliation behind a hastily agreed upon chemical weapons deal proposed by Russia, which served to buy him time to think about the regional war he damn near started.
And now suddenly Obama is acting uncharacteristically rational. He’s agitating for peace among his anti-Syria coalition of close regional allies, namely Turkey and the Gulf Monarchy Sunni Islam dictatorships (Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, etc.). Obama is pressuring them to stop sending money, arms, and Sunni Islamic extremist fighters into Syria to topple Assad, so that peace can be pursued instead, a 180 degree shift in strategy. This has already seemed to have had an effect with Qatar and Turkey.
It’s crucial to remember that Obama could have pursued a peaceful path for well over a year, when Russia and Syria first proposed peace talks. Obama ignored the proposals and John Kerry publicly ridiculed them, so confident they were that the U.S.-backed rebels would topple Assad. This strategy pushed Syrian civilization into barbarism, and peace talks were again proposed last spring — but Obama’s rebels boycotted the talks, since Obama had a plan to help the rebels topple the regime via a Libyan-style U.S. military bombing campaign.
So Syrian blood was allowed to keep flowing. For at least two years Obama oversaw and coordinated — via the CIA — the Syrian “arms trafficking pipeline” — as The New York Times called it — which has helped drive the death count to over 100,000 and made millions more refugees.
Without the massive support from the U.S., its allies, and “private donors” (oil-rich “royalty” from the Gulf state monarchies), this “civil war” would have unquestionably ended long ago.
It was only after Obama decided not to bomb Syria — and shifted towards peace talks — did his prized Syrian rebels agree to go to the negotiating table (keep in mind that Obama’s rebels are mostly talking heads with no real power on the ground; the Islamic extremist rebels dominate the ground and continue to boycott negotiations).
Obama had long insisted that “Assad must go,” but Assad is still in power and stronger than ever, with large sections of the population — though especially the ethnic and religious minorities — choosing him over the Islamic extremist rebels who would come to power in his place — the same rebels who are fighting to transform Syria into a Taliban-era Afghanistan.
The rebels already have a mini-Afghanistan in portions of the “liberated” areas of Syria where Raqqa is considered to be the largest city ever administered by al-Qada-style Islamic extremists. Shockingly, there remain some stubborn holdouts among the political left who consider these extremist-controlled areas to be “liberated” proof of a “revolution” in Syria.
Now, the U.S.-Russia initiated “Geneva II” Syria peace accords appear to be serious negotiations, not only because Obama’s rebels were finally encouraged to participate, but also because Obama’s regional allies are furious, Saudi Arabia and especially Israel, who expressed its anger by using fighter jets to yet again bomb Syria, the fourth time this year.
Ultimately, Obama will have to prove via action that he is sincere in peace talks. It’s entirely possible that the peace talks are a mere tactic intended to engage in a more strategic war.
For example, if the Syrian government can be blamed for the possible failure of the Geneva II peace talks, a new war motive will be ready-made for Obama to sell to the American public, more convincing than the prior chemical weapons attack.
How will we know Obama is pursuing peace talks with good intentions? If he puts forth proposals that are universally accepted as reasonable, as opposed to provocative.
If he makes unreasonable demands on the Syrian government, we’ll know he intends to bait Assad into rejecting the proposal in an attempt to prime the U.S. and European public for war. Identifying such a provocative proposal will be easy: the purpose of such peace negotiations would be to copy the conditions on the battlefield and paste them to a peace treaty; the side winning the war wins the peace.
The Syrian government is in the dominant position on the battlefield, and thus has huge leverage in sincerely conducted peace talks. But if Obama demands that a precondition to any talks is the removal of President Assad, this will be an obvious provocation to ruin the talks. Obama has recently implied that he’s backing off of this proposal that’s popular among the rebels, but it’s still possible that he may make a similarly unrealistic proposal with the intention of provoking a rejection, with the intention to wage war.
It’s possible that Obama recently attempted this aggressive negotiating tactic against Iran during the ongoing nuclear talks. The initial peace deal that was offered — that Iran was willing to accept — was a bad deal for Iran, proving that Iran was overeager for peace and sanctions relief.
It is also possible that by offering such a lousy deal Obama meant to provoke Iran — as Peter Lee recently suggested in an excellent article — but the failure of the talks fell on the French, who at the last minute ruined the deal by making additional unreasonable demands which the Iranians did not accept. This suggests that events didn’t go as Obama intended, since he’d prefer that Iran be blamed for any failure rather than the French.
If Obama is acting honestly about completing peace talks with Iran and Syria, the entire Middle East will have to change as a consequence, since U.S. allies in the region went “all in” against Syria at Obama’s request, upsetting their domestic populations via massive war-immigration flows and fighting that spilled over the borders of Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.
Political and social tension rose throughout the Middle East, infecting several countries with heavy doses of religious sectarianism, the main weapon used against the Syrian Government. Even if peace is secured for the moment, the thousands of foreign fighters in Syria will return home as heroes to many, destabilizing their countries as happened after the Afghanistan Jihad that gave birth to al-Qada and the Taliban — also backed by the U.S. and the Gulf monarchies.
Shifting the entire Middle East back to a peaceful status quo won’t be easy; Obama used U.S. foreign power as a lever that pivoted the entire Middle East against Syria and Iran, and pivoting back isn’t so simple. Close allies have lost faith in the promises of the U.S. and will be less willing in the future to follow Obama into wild adventures that destabilize the Middle East with absolutely nothing to show for it, except blood, corpses, and general misery.
Obama’s peace talks could be easily sabotaged — even if he is acting with sincerity. Several recent events in the region were likely conducted with the intention of undermining the talks. The recent terrorist bombing near the Iranian embassy in Lebanon, the continued Israel airstrikes against Syria, and the possibility of more U.S. sanctions against Iran could undermine any potential peace, while strengthening the right wing of Iran, Israel, and the U.S, which would inevitably lead back to yet another pivot, shifting back to the path of war and a resumption of a U.S. bombing campaign against Syria.
Even if talks are successful, the Middle East will remain a turbulent region, as long as competing world powers — the U.S., EU, China, and Russia — are competing for raw materials, markets, and other profitable business activity. In fact, the shift in strategy is only a different means to accomplish the same end: to push Russian and Chinese influence out of the region all the while maintaining U.S. hegemony.
If Obama is serious about peace talks, he must prove it by pressuring his regional allies publicly and privately to do what’s necessary for peace, as well as condemning Israel in front of the world stage if it continues to act provocatively, while also publicly denouncing the Democrats and Republicans if they try to provoke war with fresh sanctions.
Only this kind of consistency is capable of ensuring a temporary peace with Iran and Syria, and anything less will prove that Obama is implicitly pursuing the path of war by other means.
We came, we saw, we stayed. Forever. That’s the essence of the so-called Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) to be struck between the Obama administration and Afghanistan – over 12 years after the start of the never-ending War on Terror.
President Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry define it as a ‘strategic partnership’. If that’s the case, it’s one of the most lopsided in history; Afghan President Hamid Karzai is no more than a sartorially impeccable American puppet.
Kerry announced the so-called BSA in Washington on Wednesday even before a Loya Jirga (‘Grand Council’, in Pashto) of 2,500 Afghan tribal leaders, clerics, members of parliament and merchants started their four-day deliberations in a tent on the grounds of the Polytechnical University in Kabul on Thursday.
But then Karzai, probably in his last major speech as president, pulled off a fabulous stunt. He knows he is, and will be, accused of selling Afghanistan down the (Panjshir) river. He knows he is sacrificing Afghan sovereignty for years to come – and there will be nasty blowback for it.
So once again he channeled Hamid the Actor, and played his best honest broker impersonation, stressing the BSA should be put off until the Afghan presidential elections in April 2014, and be signed by his successor.
It was high drama
“There’s a mistrust between me and the Americans. They don’t trust me and I don’t trust them. I have always criticized them and they have always propagated negative things behind my back,” he claimed.
I have been to Jirgas in Afghanistan; even looking at those inscrutable, rugged tribal faces is a spectacle in itself. So what were they thinking in Kabul? Of course they did not trust the Americans. But did they trust Karzai? Could they see this was all an act?
A consultative Loya Jirga cannot veto the BSA. Even the Jirga chairman, Sibghatullah Mojadeddi, stressed Karzai may sign without any consultation. Yet Karzai insists he will not sign without the Loya Jirga’s approval.
Many members of the Afghan parliament and the entire Afghan opposition already voted with their feet, boycotting the Jirga. Not to mention the Taliban – essential to any agreement on the future of Afghanistan – and the still fully weaponized Hezb-e-Islami. Everyone is eagerly waiting to hear Taliban supremo Mullah Omar’s take on the whole kabuki.
The BSA ‘negotiation’ has been like an extended Monty Python sketch. Washington has always insisted US soldiers can break into Afghan homes at will and remain immune to any sort of Afghan prosecution. Otherwise the Americans will leave for good at the end of 2014, leaving just the poorly trained and largely corrupt Afghan National Army (ANA) to fight the Taliban.
Up until Karzai’s latest stunt, the Obama administration considered the deal was in the bag. Just look at the letter Obama sent to Karzai.
And by the way, no apologies. National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Washington does not need to apologize for killing and injuring tens of thousands of civilians in Afghanistan since 2001, not to mention occupying vast swathes of the country. Earlier, a Karzai spokesman said that would be the case.
If in doubt, just listen to super-hawk US Senator Lindsay Graham, who told Reuters, “I’m stunned. Apologize for what? Maybe we should get the Afghan president to apologize to the American soldiers for all the hardship he’s created for them.”
There’s nothing ‘residual’ about a US occupation to be disguised as ‘forces’ necessary to train and ‘advise’ the roughly 350,000 soldiers and police which are part of ANA, built from scratch over the last few years.
And what we’re talking about here is a deal starting in 2015 and in effect up to 2024 ‘and beyond’.
The final agreement is not much different from this previously leaked working draft. An update has been circulating this week in the Pentagon and the US Congress. The Pentagon, via Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, justifies the whole thing by the proverbial need to ‘maintain Afghanistan’s security’ and make sure foreign aid is not being squandered (as it has always been).
There will be plenty of US military outposts and bases; Afghan bases and other bases of which the US has ‘exclusive use’. Bagram, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Mazar-e-Sharif are inevitably on the list. Once again, this is the US Empire of Bases – so well characterized by the late Chalmers Johnson – in pristine form.
Marine General Joseph Dunford, the current US/NATO military commander in Afghanistan, wants up to 13,000 troops to stay, not including security guards and the cream of the crop, the counterterrorism gang. In theory, these forces won’t engage in combat “unless otherwise mutually agreed.” The draft text emphasizes, “US military operations to defeat Al-Qaeda and its affiliates may be appropriate in the common fight against terrorism.”
Translation: a future festival of raids by Special Forces, and a counter-terror free-for-all.
The draft text only mentions, vaguely,” full respect for Afghan sovereignty and full regard for the safety and security of the Afghan people, including in their homes,” as Obama also mentioned in his letter to Karzai.
And there’s absolutely nothing on the critical issue of drones based in Afghan bases that have been used for incinerating the odd commander but also scores of innocent civilians in the Pakistani tribal areas.
All about pivoting to Asia
The Maliki government in Baghdad had the balls to confront the Pentagon and veto the immunity for US forces – effectively kicking out the occupying force in Iraq. Hamid Karzai, for his part, caved in on virtual every US demand. The key question in the next few months is for what; Mob-style protection if he stays in Afghanistan, or the equivalent of the FBI’s witness protection program if he moves to the US?
Even assuming the Loya Jirga endorses the BSA (not yet a done deal) and Karzai’s successor signs it (with Karzai removing himself from the tight spot), to say this opens a new Pandora’s box is an understatement.
The occupation, for all practical purposes, will continue. This has nothing to do with fighting the War on Terror or jihad. There’s no Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The few remnants are in Waziristan, in Pakistani territory. The US is – and will remain – essentially at war with Afghan Pashtuns who are members of the Taliban. And the Taliban will keep staging their spring and summer offensives as long as there are any foreign occupiers on Afghan soil.
The drone war will continue, with the Pentagon and the CIA using these Afghan bases to attack Pashtuns in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Not to mention that these US bases, to be fully operational, need unrestricted access to the Pakistani transit routes from the Khyber Pass and the Quetta-to-Kandahar corridor. This means Islamabad keeps profiting from the scam by collecting hefty fees in US dollars.
No one knows yet how the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will respond to this. Not only Russia and China – who are adamantly opposed to US bases in Afghanistan – but also Iran and India, SCO observers and two countries that can sway Afghanistan away from the Taliban in a non-military way.
We just need to picture, for instance, a practically inevitable future development; Washington deciding to deploy the US missile defense system in Afghanistan (it already happened in Turkey). Russia and China already see that the US may have lost the economic race for Central Asia – as China clinches deal after deal in the context of expanding its New Silk Road(s) grand strategy. What’s left for Washington is – guess what – bits and pieces of the same old Pentagon Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine, as in military bases to ‘monitor’ both China and Russia very close to their borders.
What’s certain is that both Russia and China – not to mention Iran – all see this Operation Occupy Afghanistan Forever for what it is; yet another (military) chapter of the American ‘pivoting to Asia’.
Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia.
In my last column I emphasized that it was important for American citizens to demand to know what the real agendas are behind the wars of choice by the Bush and Obama regimes. These are major long term wars each lasting two to three times as long as World War II.
Forbes reports that one million US soldiers have been injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
RT reports that the cost of keeping each US soldier in Afghanistan has risen from $1.3 million per soldier to $2.1 million per soldier.
Matthew J. Nasuti reports in the Kabul Press that it cost US taxpayers $50 million to kill one Taliban soldier. That means it cost $1 billion to kill 20 Taliban fighters. This is a war that can be won only at the cost of the total bankruptcy of the United States.
Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes have estimated that the current out-of-pocket and already incurred future costs of the Afghan and Iraq wars is at least $6 trillion.
In other words, it is the cost of these two wars that explain the explosion of the US public debt and the economic and political problems associated with this large debt.
What has America gained in return for $6 trillion and one million injured soldiers, many very severely?
In Iraq there is now an Islamist Shia regime allied with Iran in place of a secular Sunni regime that was an enemy of Iran, one as dictatorial as the other, presiding over war ruins, ongoing violence as high as during the attempted US occupation, and extraordinary birth defects from the toxic substances associated with the US invasion and occupation.
In Afghanistan there is an undefeated and apparently undefeatable Taliban and a revived drug trade that is flooding the Western world with drugs.
The icing on these Bush and Obama “successes” are demands from around the world that Americans and former British PM Tony Blair be held accountable for their war crimes. Certainly, Washington’s reputation has plummeted as a result of these two wars. No governments anywhere are any longer sufficiently gullible as to believe anything that Washington says.
These are huge costs for wars for which we have no explanation.
The Bush/Obama regimes have come up with various cover stories: a “war on terror,”
“we have to kill them over there before they come over here,” “weapons of mass destruction,” revenge for 9/11, Osama bin Laden (who died of his illnesses in December 2001 as was widely reported at the time).
None of these explanations are viable. Neither the Taliban nor Saddam Hussein were engaged in terrorism in the US. As the weapons inspectors informed the Bush regime, there were no WMD in Iraq. Invading Muslim countries and slaughtering civilians is more likely to create terrorists than to suppress them. According to the official story, the 9/11 hijackers and Osama bin Laden were Saudi Arabians, not Afghans or Iraqis. Yet it wasn’t Saudi Arabia that was invaded.
Democracy and accountable government simply does not exist when the executive branch can take a country to wars in behalf of secret agendas operating behind cover stories that are transparent lies.
It is just as important to ask these same questions about the agenda of the US police state. Why have Bush and Obama removed the protection of law as a shield of the people and turned law into a weapon in the hands of the executive branch? How are Americans made safer by the overthrow of their civil liberties? Indefinite detention and execution without due process of law are the hallmarks of the tyrannical state. They are terrorism, not a protection against terrorism. Why is every communication of every American and apparently the communications of most other people in the world, including Washington’s most trusted European allies, subject to being intercepted and stored in a gigantic police state database? How does this protect Americans from terrorists?
Why is it necessary for Washington to attack the freedom of the press and speech, to run roughshod over the legislation that protects whistleblowers such as Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, to criminalize dissent and protests, and to threaten journalists such as Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald, and Fox News reporter James Rosen?
How does keeping citizens ignorant of their government’s crimes make citizens safe from terrorists?
These persecutions of truth-tellers have nothing whatsoever to do with “national security” and “keeping Americans safe from terrorists.” The only purpose of these persecutions is to protect the executive branch from having its crimes revealed. Some of Washington’s crimes are so horrendous that the International Criminal Court would issue a death sentence if those guilty could be brought to trial. A government that will destroy the constitutional protections of free speech and a free press in order to prevent its criminal actions from being disclosed is a tyrannical government.
One hesitates to ask these questions and to make even the most obvious remarks out of fear not only of being put on a watch list and framed on some charge or the other, but also out of fear that such questions might provoke a false flag attack that could be used to justify the police state that has been put in place.
Perhaps that was what the Boston Marathon Bombing was. Evidence of the two brothers’ guilt has taken backseat to the government’s claims. There is nothing new about government frame-ups of patsies. What is new and unprecedented is the lockdown of Boston and its suburbs, the appearance of 10,000 heavily armed troops and tanks to patrol the streets and search without warrants the homes of citizens, all in the name of protecting the public from one wounded 19 year old kid.
Not only has nothing like this ever before happened in the US, but also it could not have been organized on the spur of the moment. It had to have been already in place waiting for the event. This was a trial run for what is to come.
Unaware Americans, especially gullible “law and order conservatives,” have no idea about the militarization of even their local police. I have watched local police forces train at gun clubs. The police are taught to shoot first not once but many times, to protect their lives first at all costs, and not to risk their lives by asking questions. This is why the 13-year old kid with the toy rifle was shot to pieces. Questioning would have revealed that it was a toy gun, but questioning the “suspect” might have endangered the precious police who are trained to take no risks whatsoever.
The police operate according to Obama’s presidential kill power: murder first then create a case against the victim.
In other words, dear American citizen, you life is worth nothing, but the police whom you pay, are not only unaccountable but also their lives are invaluable. If you get killed in their line of duty, it is no big deal. But don’t you injure a police goon thug in an act of self-defense. I mean, who do you think you are, some kind of mythical free American with rights?
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 book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is now available
Source: Paul Craig Roberts
Iran to Follow?
Damascus – Additional easing of Syrian sanctions is expected by mid-November according to staff at the US Treasury Department’s Office of Financial Asset Control (OFAC).
Pressure on Obama from Putin is part of the ‘price tag’ for Russia’s role in bailing out the American president, whose chemical weapons ‘redline’ became something of an albatross. But another reason for the relaxation is that the White House believes it needs to communicate to Damascus that prospects for better relations, and possibly even some cooperation, are not completely dead, despite the 32-month crisis still raging in the Syrian Arab Republic.
This second easing of sanctions will show more balance and neutrality than those of last June, which were perceived as supporting Saudi and Gulf aid to the rebels while weakening the Assad government just as the Syrian Army had begun gaining back ground from the rebels. At that time, licenses for exports of certain goods related to reconstruction of infrastructure were allowed in areas held by the rebels. Specifically, OFAC indicated that license applications would be accepted for commodities, technology and software related to water supply and sanitation, agricultural production and food processing, power generation, oil and gas production, construction and engineering, transportation, and educational infrastructure. Most benefited would be rebel-controlled areas.
No doubt it is with a deep patriotic spirit of wanting to help out their fellow Americans, that the US Treasury Departments heavily pro-Zionist OFAC asks US citizens to “consult our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) to find answers to your most commonly-asked questions about how Syrian and Iranian sanctions may affect your own families and your business.”
That is unlikely to be easy given the obfuscatory legalize of the sanctions texts.
There are currently three types of sanctions that the U.S. government has imposed against Syria. The most comprehensive sanction, called the Syria Accountability Act (SAA) of 2004, prohibits the export of most goods containing more than 10% U.S.-manufactured component parts to Syria. Another sanction, resulting from the USA Patriot Act, was levied specifically against the Commercial Bank of Syria in 2006. The third type of sanction contains many Executive Orders from the President that specifically deny certain Syrian citizens and entities access to the U.S. financial system due to their participation in proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, association with Al Qaida, the Taliban or Osama bin Laden; or destabilizing activities in Iraq and Lebanon.
Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act
In May 2004, the President signed E.O. 13338 implementing the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act (SAA) which imposes a series of sanctions against Syria for its support for terrorism, involvement in Lebanon, weapons of mass destruction programs, and the destabilizing role it is playing in Iraq.
In addition, the Treasury Department’s Statement of Policy indicated that OFAC would consider on a case-by-case basis applications to permit certain services in the agricultural sector, as well as in the Syrian telecommunication industry, enabling private citizens better access to the Internet, while certain petroleum transactions benefiting rebel forces were also authorized. OFAC also revised Syria General License 11 and replaced it with General License 11A authorizing NGOs to engage in activities to preserve the cultural heritage of the country, including museums, historic buildings and archaeological sites.
The new lifting of sanctions, tentatively scheduled to be announced next month, will help the Assad government because international banking and trade prohibitions are expected to be reduced. At the same time, US officials are discussing with their Russian “partners” a number of proposals that would acknowledge the right of the Syrian people to choose who to support in next year’s Presidential elections without Washington insisting that Syrian President Bashar Assad step down as part of a “transition to democracy.”
In addition, the White House is telling Congressional leaders, loudly enough for all to hear, that the president’s recent waiving of restrictions on supplying arms to Syrian rebels was much more limited than depicted in mainstream media reports. In fact, the waiver—on certain portions of the Arms Export Control Act—authorizes only specific transfers to “vetted” members of the opposition and to NGOs in Syria. The defense items to be provided are described as those “necessary for the conduct of …operations inside or related to Syria, or to prevent the preparation, use, or proliferation of Syria’s chemical weapons.” Who was to be responsible for “vetting” the opposition members was not specified, nor were the particular articles detailed. But significantly the White House claims this is not a general waiver, but rather one with regard to a single specific contemplated transaction. Defense companies do not now have a blanket license to ship their wares to the Syrian opposition. This is because Section 40(g) of the Arms Export Control Act, 22 U.S.C. § 2780 (g), specifically gives the President authority to waive the provisions of the Act with respect to a specific transaction should he find that the waiver is “essential to the national security interests of the United States” and should he make the requisite report on the waiver to Congress. His determination on that finding directs the Secretary of State to make the required report to Congress.
The main opposition to White House plans to lessen the civilian targeting sanctions comes, as usual, from the US Congressional Zionist lobby. Israel’s supporters in Congress seek to prevent any lessening of US sanctions—against Iran first, and Syria second. Two days of talks are about to begin in Vienna between experts from the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany) and their Iranian counterparts, who will discuss technical issues relating to Tehran’s nuclear program and international sanctions. The meeting will help lay the groundwork for the next round of diplomatic negotiations, scheduled to take place in Geneva on November 7-8, and it is anticipated that the White House will accede to EU and Russian proposals to send a reciprocal good faith response to Tehran by lifting some of the sanctions targeting Iranian civilians. Although the P5+1 and Tehran have agreed to keep the contents of their negotiations secret, the general aim of the talks has been for Iran to reduce its capacity to enrich uranium and certain other nuclear activities in return for relief from the sanctions regime, which is strangling the nation’s economy. The main hurdles include verification of any concessions Iran makes and the sequencing of any reduction in sanctions.
Signs of progress were visible earlier this week in comments made after separate talks between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency. In a rare joint statement, both sides called the talks “very productive”—a significant departure from eleven previous meetings in recent years, all of which failed to achieve progress in resolving what the IAEA has called the “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear program. The new joint statement also indicates that a document discussed in past meetings has been set aside and a new approach taken.
Eager as it is for negotiations to succeed, the Obama administration has also echoed the Zionist lobby’s contention that “no deal is better than a bad deal.” Yet if the talks fail, international support for sanctions will likely begin to fall apart, reducing U.S. leverage even further.
The world is watching, particularly U.S. allies in Europe and Asia, as well as regional “friends” like Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. Though reportedly interested in lifting some of the sanctions on Syria and Iran, the White House is facing stiff opposition from Tel Aviv and Riyadh, with both governments criticizing the US for its lack of resolve in Syria and its presumed conciliatory attitude toward Iran.
Secretary of State John Kerry is reportedly slated to continue meetings with Saudi-Israeli officials in an attempt to tamp down their growing angst.
He was an experiment, really. One of the first recruits for a new kind of warfare in which men and machines merge. He flew multiple missions, but he never left his computer. He hunted top terrorists, saved lives, but always from afar. He stalked and killed countless people, but could not always tell you precisely what he was hitting. Meet the 21st-century American killing machine. Who’s still utterly, terrifyingly human.
From the darkness of a box in the Nevada desert, he watched as three men trudged down a dirt road in Afghanistan. The box was kept cold—precisely sixty-eight degrees—and the only light inside came from the glow of monitors. The air smelled spectrally of stale sweat and cigarette smoke. On his console, the image showed the midwinter landscape of eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar Province—a palette of browns and grays, fields cut to stubble, dark forests climbing the rocky foothills of the Hindu Kush. He zoomed the camera in on the suspected insurgents, each dressed in traditional shalwar kameez, long shirts and baggy pants. He knew nothing else about them: not their names, not their thoughts, not the thousand mundane and profound details of their lives.
He was told that they were carrying rifles on their shoulders, but for all he knew, they were shepherd’s staffs. Still, the directive from somewhere above, a mysterious chain of command that led straight to his headset, was clear: confirmed weapons. He switched from the visible spectrum—the muted grays and browns of “day-TV”—to the sharp contrast of infrared, and the insurgents’ heat signatures stood out ghostly white against the cool black earth. A safety observer loomed behind him to make sure the “weapon release” was by the book. A long verbal checklist, his targeting laser locked on the two men walking in front. A countdown—three…two…one…—then the flat delivery of the phrase “missile off the rail.” Seventy-five hundred miles away, a Hellfire flared to life, detached from its mount, and reached supersonic speed in seconds.
It was quiet in the dark, cold box in the desert, except for the low hum of machines.
He kept the targeting laser trained on the two lead men and stared so intently that each individual pixel stood out, a glowing pointillist dot abstracted from the image it was meant to form. Time became almost ductile, the seconds stretched and slowed in a strange electronic limbo. As he watched the men walk, the one who had fallen behind seemed to hear something and broke into a run to catch up with the other two. Then, bright and silent as a camera flash, the screen lit up with white flame.
Airman First Class Brandon Bryant stared at the scene, unblinking in the white-hot clarity of infrared. He recalls it even now, years later, burned into his memory like a photo negative: “The smoke clears, and there’s pieces of the two guys around the crater. And there’s this guy over here, and he’s missing his right leg above his knee. He’s holding it, and he’s rolling around, and the blood is squirting out of his leg, and it’s hitting the ground, and it’s hot. His blood is hot. But when it hits the ground, it starts to cool off; the pool cools fast. It took him a long time to die. I just watched him. I watched him become the same color as the ground he was lying on.”
That was Brandon Bryant’s first shot. It was early 2007, a few weeks after his twenty-first birthday, and Bryant was a remotely-piloted-aircraft sensor operator—a “sensor” for short—part of a U.S. Air Force squadron that flew Predator drones in the skies above Iraq and Afghanistan. Beginning in 2006, he worked in the windowless metal box of a Ground Control Station (GCS) at Nellis Air Force Base, a vast sprawl of tarmac and maintenance hangars at the edge of Las Vegas.
The airmen kept the control station dark so they could focus on controlling their MQ-1B Predators circling two miles above the Afghan countryside. Bryant sat in a padded cockpit chair. He had a wrestler’s compact build, a smooth-shaved head, and a piercing ice blue gaze frequently offset by a dimpled grin. As a sensor, his job was to work in tandem with the drone’s pilot, who sat in the chair next to him. While the pilot controlled the drone’s flight maneuvers, Bryant acted as the Predator’s eyes, focusing its array of cameras and aiming its targeting laser. When a Hellfire was launched, it was a joint operation: the pilot pulled a trigger, and Bryant was responsible for the missile’s “terminal guidance,” directing the high-explosive warhead by laser to its desired objective. Both men wore regulation green flight suits, an unironic Air Force nod to the continuity of military decorum in the age of drone warfare.
The Air Force’s go-to drone: The MQ-1 Predator.
Since its inception, the drone program has been largely hidden, its operational details gathered piecemeal from heavily redacted classified reports or stage-managed media tours by military public-affairs flacks. Bryant is one of very few people with firsthand experience as an operator who has been willing to talk openly, to describe his experience from the inside. While Bryant considers leakers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden heroes willing to sacrifice themselves for their principles, he’s cautious about discussing some of the details to which his top-secret clearance gave him access. Still, he is a curtain drawn back on the program that has killed thousands on our behalf.
Despite President Obama’s avowal earlier this year that he will curtail their use, drone strikes have continued apace in Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan. With enormous potential growth and expenditures, drones will be a center of our policy for the foreseeable future. (By 2025, drones will be an $82 billion business, employing an additional 100,000 workers.) Most Americans—61 percent in the latest Pew survey—support the idea of military drones, a projection of American power that won’t risk American lives.
And yet the very idea of drones unsettles. They’re too easy a placeholder or avatar for all of our technological anxieties—the creeping sense that screens and cameras have taken some piece of our souls, that we’ve slipped into a dystopia of disconnection. Maybe it’s too soon to know what drones mean, what unconsidered moral and ethical burdens they carry. Even their shape is sinister: the blunt and featureless nose cone, like some eyeless creature that has evolved in darkness.
For Bryant, talking about them has become a sort of confessional catharsis, a means of processing the things he saw and did during his six years in the Air Force as an experimental test subject in an utterly new form of warfare.
Looking back, it was really little more than happenstance that had led him to that box in the desert. He’d been raised poor by his single mom, a public-school teacher in Missoula, Montana, and he struggled to afford tuition at the University of Montana. In the summer of 2005, after tagging along with a buddy to the Army recruiting office, he wandered into the Air Force office next door. His friend got a bad feeling and bailed at the last minute, but Bryant had already signed his papers. In short order he was running around at Lackland Air Force Base during Warrior Week in the swelter of a Texas summer. He wasn’t much for military hierarchy, but he scored high on his aptitude tests and was shunted into intelligence, training to be an imagery analyst. He was told he would be like “the guys that give James Bond all the information that he needs to get the mission done.”
Most of the airmen in his intel class were funneled into the drone program, training at Creech Air Force Base in the sagebrush desert an hour north of Las Vegas. Bryant was told it was the largest group ever inducted. His sensor-operator course took ten weeks and led into “green flag” exercises, during which airmen piloted Predators and launched dummy Hellfires at a cardboard town mocked up in the middle of the desert. The missiles, packed with concrete, would punch through the derelict tanks and wrecked cars placed around the set. “It’s like playing Dungeons & Dragons,” says Bryant. “Roll a d20 to see if you hit your target.” His training inspector, watching over his shoulder, would count down to impact and say, “Splash! You killed everyone.”
Within a few months he “went off” to war, flying missions over Iraq at the height of the conflict’s deadliest period, even though he never left Nevada.
His opening day on the job was also his worst. The drone took off from Balad Air Base, fifty miles outside Baghdad in the Sunni Triangle. Bryant’s orders, delivered during a pre-shift mission briefing, were straightforward: a force-protection mission, acting as a “guardian angel” over a convoy of Humvees. He would search out IEDs, insurgent activity, and other threats. It was night in the U.S. and already daylight in Iraq when the convoy rolled out.
From 10,000 feet, Bryant scanned the road with infrared. Traffic was quiet. Everything normal. Then he spotted a strange circle, glowing faintly on the surface of the road. A common insurgent’s technique for laying IEDs is to douse a tire with gasoline, set it afire on a roadway, and dig up the softened tar beneath. The technique leaves a telltale heat signature, visible in infrared. Bryant, a fan ofThe Lord of the Rings, joked that it looked like the glowing Eye of Sauron.
Flying a drone can feel like a deadly two-person video game—with a pilot (left) and sensor (right).
Bryant pointed the spot out to the pilot, who agreed it looked like trouble. But when they tried to warn the convoy, they realized they couldn’t. The Humvees had activated their radio jammers to disrupt the cell-phone signals used to remotely detonate IEDs. The drone crew’s attempts at radio contact were as useless as shouting at the monitor. Brandon and his pilot patched in their flight supervisor to brainstorm a new way to reach them. They typed frantically back and forth in a group chat, a string of messages that soon included a cast of superiors in the U.S. and Iraq. Minutes passed, and the convoy rolled slowly toward the glowing circle. Bryant stared at the screen, heart pounding, scarcely breathing. The lead Humvee rolled across the eye. “Nothing happens,” says Bryant. “And we’re kind of like, maybe it was a mistake. Everyone’s like Whew, good on you for spotting it, but we’re glad that it wasn’t what you thought it was.” He remembers exhaling, feeling the nervous tension flow out of him.
“And the second vehicle comes along and boom.…”
A white flash of flame blossomed on the screen. Bryant was zoomed in as close as he could get, toggling his view between infrared and day-TV, watching in unblinking horror as the shredded Humvee burned. His headset exploded with panicked chatter from the ground in Iraq: What the fuck happened? We’ve got guys down over here! Frantic soldiers milled around, trying to pull people out of the smoldering wreckage. The IED had been tripped by either a pressure plate or manual detonation; the radio jammers would have done nothing to prevent it. Three soldiers were severely wounded, and two were killed.
“I kind of finished the night numb,” Bryant says. “Then you just go home. No one talked about it. No one talked about how they felt after anything. It was like an unspoken agreement that you wouldn’t talk about your experiences.”
The pace of work in the box unraveled Bryant’s sense of time. He worked twelve-hour shifts, often overnight, six days a week. Both wars were going badly at the time, and the Air Force leaned heavily on its new drone fleet. A loaded Predator drone can stay aloft for eighteen hours, and the pilots and sensors were pushed to be as tireless as the technology they controlled. (Bryant claims he didn’t get to take leave for the first four years he served.)
Even the smell of that little shed in the desert got to Bryant. The hermetically sealed control center was almost constantly occupied—you couldn’t take a bathroom break without getting swapped out—and the atmosphere was suffused with traces of cigarette smoke and rank sweat that no amount of Febreze could mask. One bored pilot even calculated the number of farts each cockpit seat was likely to have absorbed.
Mostly the drone crews’ work was an endless loop of watching: scanning roads, circling compounds, tracking suspicious activity. If there was a “troops-in-contact” situation—a firefight, ground troops who call in a strike—Bryant’s Predator could be called to the scene in minutes with its deadly payload. But usually time passed in a haze of banal images of rooftops, walled courtyards, or traffic-snarled intersections.
Sitting in the darkness of the control station, Bryant watched people on the other side of the world go about their daily lives, completely unaware of his all-seeing presence wheeling in the sky above. If his mission was to monitor a high-value target, he might linger above a single house for weeks. It was a voyeuristic intimacy. He watched the targets drink tea with friends, play with their children, have sex with their wives on rooftops, writhing under blankets. There were soccer matches, and weddings too. He once watched a man walk out into a field and take a crap, which glowed white in infrared.
Bryant came up with little subterfuges to pass the long hours at the console: sneaking in junk food, mending his uniforms, swapping off twenty-minute naps with the pilot. He mastered reading novels while still monitoring the seven screens of his station, glancing up every minute or two before returning to the page. He constructed a darkly appropriate syllabus for his occupation. He read the dystopian sci-fi classic Ender’s Game, about children whose violent simulated games turn out to be actual warfare. Then came Asimov, Bryant pondering his Three Laws of Robotics in an age of Predators and Hellfires. A robot may not injure a human being….
Bryant took five shots in his first nine months on the job. After a strike he was tasked with lingering over a site for several haunting hours, conducting surveillance for an “after-action report.” He might watch people gather up the remains of those killed and carry them to the local cemetery or scrub the scene by dumping weapons into a river. Over Iraq he followed an insurgent commander as he drove through a crowded marketplace. The man parked in the middle of the street, opened his trunk, and pulled two girls out. “They were bound and gagged,” says Bryant. “He put them down on their knees, executed them in the middle of the street, and left them there. People just watched it and didn’t do anything.” Another time, Bryant watched as a local official groveled in his own grave before being executed by two Taliban insurgents.
Keepsakes from Bryant’s service are proudly displayed in his mother’s classroom.
In the early months Bryant had found himself swept up by the Big Game excitement when someone in his squadron made “mind-blowingly awesome shots, situations where these guys were bad guys and needed to be taken out.” But a deep ambivalence about his work crept in. Often he’d think about what life must be like in those towns and villages his Predators glided over, like buzzards riding updrafts. How would he feel, living beneath the shadow of robotic surveillance? “Horrible,” he says now. But at first, he believed that the mission was vital, that drones were capable of limiting the suffering of war, of saving lives. When this notion conflicted with the things he witnessed in high resolution from two miles above, he tried to put it out of his mind. Over time he found that the job made him numb: a “zombie mode” he slipped into as easily as his flight suit.
Bryant’s second shot came a few weeks after targeting the three men on that dirt road in Kunar. He was paired with a pilot he didn’t much like, instructed to monitor a compound that intel told them contained a high-value individual—maybe a Taliban commander or Al Qaeda affiliate, nobody briefed him on the specifics. It was a typical Afghan mud-brick home, goats and cows milling around a central courtyard. They watched a corner of the compound’s main building, bored senseless for hours. They assumed the target was asleep.
Then the quiet ended. “We get this word that we’re gonna fire,” he says. “We’re gonna shoot and collapse the building. They’ve gotten intel that the guy is inside.” The drone crew received no further information, no details of who the target was or why he needed a Hellfire dropped on his roof.
Bryant’s laser hovered on the corner of the building. “Missile off the rail.” Nothing moved inside the compound but the eerily glowing cows and goats. Bryant zoned out at the pixels. Then, about six seconds before impact, he saw a hurried movement in the compound. “This figure runs around the corner, the outside, toward the front of the building. And it looked like a little kid to me. Like a little human person.”
Bryant stared at the screen, frozen. “There’s this giant flash, and all of a sudden there’s no person there.” He looked over at the pilot and asked, “Did that look like a child to you?” They typed a chat message to their screener, an intelligence observer who was watching the shot from “somewhere in the world”—maybe Bagram, maybe the Pentagon, Bryant had no idea—asking if a child had just run directly into the path of their shot.
“And he says, ‘Per the review, it’s a dog.’ ”
Bryant and the pilot replayed the shot, recorded on eight-millimeter tape. They watched it over and over, the figure darting around the corner. Bryant was certain it wasn’t a dog.
If they’d had a few more seconds’ warning, they could have aborted the shot, guided it by laser away from the compound. Bryant wouldn’t have cared about wasting a $95,000 Hellfire to avoid what he believed had happened. But as far as the official military version of events was concerned, nothing out of the ordinary had happened. The pilot “was the type of guy to not argue with command,” says Bryant. So the pilot’s after-action report stated that the building had been destroyed, the high-value target eliminated. The report made no mention of a dog or any other living thing. The child, if there had been a child, was an infrared ghost.
The closest Bryant ever got to “real” combat—the roadside bombs and mortar fire experienced by combat troops—was after volunteering to deploy to Iraq. He spent the scorching summer and fall of 2007 stationed at the airfield in Balad, flying Predators on base-defense missions—scanning the area for insurgents. Some troops thanked the drone crews for being “angels in the sky,” but more often they were the butt of jokes, mocked as “chair-borne rangers” who would “only earn a Purple Heart for burning themselves on a Hot Pocket.”
Bryant struggled to square the jokes with the scenes that unfolded on his monitors. On one shift, he was told by command that they needed coordinates on an insurgent training compound and asked him to spot it. There was a firing range, and he watched as a group of fighters all entered the same building. One of the issues with targeting insurgents was that they often traveled with their families, and there was no way to tell who exactly was in any given building. Bryant lasered the building as he was ordered. Moments later, smoke mushroomed high into the air, a blast wave leveling the entire compound. An F-16, using Bryant’s laser coordinates as guidance, had dropped a 1,000-pound bomb on the building—ten times the size of a Hellfire. “They didn’t actually tell us that they were gonna blow it up,” says Bryant. “We’re like, ‘Wow, that was nice of you to inform us of that.’ ”
In 2008, Bryant was transferred to a new post in “the shittiest place in the world,” a drone squadron out of Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, New Mexico, where, Bryant says, “the air is not oxygen, it’s basically cow shit.” He continued as an operator for several more years, but his directive had changed. He was now mainly tracking high-value targets for the Joint Special Operations Command—the same secret-shrouded branch of the service that spearheaded the hunt for Osama bin Laden. “We were going after top dudes. They started showing us PowerPoint presentations on who these people are,” he says. “Why we’re after him, and what he did. I liked that. I liked being able to know shit like that.”
Bryant has never been philosophically opposed to the use of drones—he sees them as a tool, like any other, that can be used for good ends, citing their potential use to fight poachers, or to monitor forest fires. For him it’s about who controls them, and toward what ends. “It can’t be a small group of people deciding how they’re used,” he says. “There’s got to be transparency. People have to know how they’re being used so they’re used responsibly.”
Transparency has not been the defining feature of U.S. drone policy over the last decade. Even as Bryant was being trained to operate drones in our very public wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a parallel and clandestine drone war was being waged in places like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Since 2004, the CIA has carried out hundreds of strikes in Pakistani territory, cutting secret deals with Pakistani intelligence to operate a covert assassination program. Another covert CIA drone base was operated from Saudi Arabia, launching strikes against militants in the lawless and mountainous interior of Yemen. While Bryant never flew for the CIA itself, their drone operators were drawn directly from the Air Force ranks.
While stationed in Clovis, among the highest-value targets Bryant’s squadron hunted was Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born Yemeni imam and Al Qaeda recruiter. Al-Awlaki was ultimately killed by a CIA drone strike in Yemen in September 2011 (as was his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, a few weeks later). But Bryant claims his Air Force squadron “did most of the legwork” to pinpoint his location.
By 2011, Bryant had logged nearly 6,000 hours of flight time, flown hundreds of missions, targeted hundreds of enemies. He was in what he describes as “a fugue state of mind.” At the entrance to his flight headquarters in Clovis, in front of a large bulletin board, plastered with photographs of targets like al-Awlaki, he looked up at the faces and asked: “What motherfucker’s gonna die today?”
It seemed like someone else’s voice was speaking, some dark alter ego. “I knew I had to get out.”
By the spring of 2011, almost six years after he’d signed on, Senior Airman Brandon Bryant left the Air Force, turning down a $109,000 bonus to keep flying. He was presented with a sort of scorecard covering his squadron’s missions. “They gave me a list of achievements,” he says. “Enemies killed, enemies captured, high-value targets killed or captured, stuff like that.” He called it his diploma. He hadn’t lased the target or pulled the trigger on all of the deaths tallied, but by flying in the missions he felt he had enabled them. “The number,” he says, “made me sick to my stomach.”
Total enemies killed in action: 1,626.
Since speaking out about drones, Bryant has been a target.
“After that first missile hit, I didn’t really talk to anyone for a couple weeks.” Bryant spoke to me while driving his beat-up black Dodge Neon in looping cursive circles around his hometown of Missoula. A yellow support-the-troops sticker on his bumper was obscured by a haze of road salt. The car’s interior was festooned with patches from the different units he’d served with; in the back seat was a military pack stuffed with equal parts dirty laundry and bug-out gear. The gray midwinter sky weighed on a procession of strip malls and big-box stores; the snowy crenellations of the Bitterroot Range stretched far away to the south. He stared ahead as though watching the scene of his shot on an endless loop. “I didn’t know what it meant to kill someone. And watching the aftermath, watching someone bleed out, because of something that I did?”
That night, on the drive home, he’d started sobbing. He pulled over and called his mother. “She just was like, ‘Everything will be okay,’ and I told her I killed someone, I killed people, and I don’t feel good about it. And she’s like, ‘Good, that’s how it should feel, you should never not feel that way.’ ”
Other members of his squadron had different reactions to their work. One sensor operator, whenever he made a kill, went home and chugged an entire bottle of whiskey. A female operator, after her first shot, refused to fire again even under the threat of court martial. Another pilot had nightmares after watching two headless bodies float down the Tigris. Bryant himself would have bizarre dreams where the characters from his favorite game, World of Warcraft, appeared in infrared.
By mid-2011, Bryant was back in Missoula, only now he felt angry, isolated, depressed. While getting a video game at a Best Buy, he showed his military ID with his credit card, and a teenage kid behind him in line spoke up. “He’s like, ‘Oh, you’re in the military; my brother, he’s a Marine, he’s killed like thirty-six dudes, and he tells me about it all the time.’ And I turn around and say, ‘If you fucking ever talk like this to me again, I will stab you. Don’t ever disrespect people’s deaths like that ever again.’ ” The kid went pale, and Bryant took his game and left.
At the urging of a Vietnam veteran he met at the local VA office, Bryant finally went to see a therapist. After a few sessions, he just broke down: “I told her I wanted to be a hero, but I don’t feel like a hero. I wanted to do something good, but I feel like I just wasted the last six years of my life.” She diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder.
It was an unexpected diagnosis. For decades the model for understanding PTSD has been “fear conditioning”: quite literally the lasting psychological ramifications of mortal terror. But a term now gaining wider acceptance is “moral injury.” It represents a tectonic realignment, a shift from a focusing on the violence that has been done to a person in wartime toward his feelings about what he has done to others—or what he’s failed to do for them. The concept is attributed to the clinical psychiatrist Jonathan Shay, who in his book Achilles in Vietnam traces the idea back as far as the Trojan War. The mechanisms of death may change—as intimate as a bayonet or as removed as a Hellfire—but the bloody facts, and their weight on the human conscience, remain the same. Bryant’s diagnosis of PTSD fits neatly into this new understanding. It certainly made sense to Bryant. “I really have no fear,” he says now. “It’s more like I’ve had a soul-crushing experience. An experience that I thought I’d never have. I was never prepared to take a life.”
In 2011, Air Force psychologists completed a mental-health survey of 600 combat drone operators. Forty-two percent of drone crews reported moderate to high stress, and 20 percent reported emotional exhaustion or burnout. The study’s authors attributed their dire results, in part, to “existential conflict.” A later study found that drone operators suffered from the same levels of depression, anxiety, PTSD, alcohol abuse, and suicidal ideation as traditional combat aircrews. These effects appeared to spike at the exact time of Bryant’s deployment, during the surge in Iraq. (Chillingly, to mitigate these effects, researchers have proposed creating a Siri-like user interface, a virtual copilot that anthropomorphizes the drone and lets crews shunt off the blame for whatever happens. Siri, have those people killed.)
In the summer of 2012, Bryant rejoined the Air Force as a reservist, hoping to get into the famed SERE program (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape), where he would help train downed pilots to survive behind enemy lines. After so much killing, he wanted to save people. But after a severe concussion in a training accident, he dropped out and returned once more to Missoula. He walked with a cane, had headaches and memory lapses, and fell into a black depression.
During the worst of it, Bryant would make the rounds of Missoula’s dozens of roughneck bars and drink himself to blackout on whiskey and cokes, vanishing for days or weeks on end. Many of those nights he would take his government-issued minus-forty-degree sleeping bag and pull into a parking lot in the middle of town next to the Clark Fork river. There’s a small park with a wooden play structure there, built to look like a dragon with slides and ladders descending from it. He would climb to the little lookout deck at the top, blind drunk, and sleep there, night after night.
He doesn’t remember much of that hazy period last summer, but his mother, LanAnn, does. Several times he had left a strange locked case sitting out on the kitchen table at her house, and she had put it back in the closet. The third day she woke to find the case open, with a loaded Sig Sauer P226 semi-automatic pistol lying out. Terrified that he might kill himself, she gave it to a friend with a locked gun safe. She’d only told her son about it a week earlier. He had no memory of any of it.
“I really thought we were going to lose him,” LanAnn Bryant says now.
Something needed to change. Bryant hoped that by going to the press, people would understand drone crews’ experience of war, that it was “more than just a video game” to them. In the fall, he spoke to a reporter for the German newsweekly Der Spiegel. The story was translated into English, and the British tabloid Daily Mail picked it up, posting it with the wildly inaccurate headline drone operator followed orders to shoot a child…and decided he had to quit. The story went viral.
The backlash from the drone community was immediate and fierce. Within days, 157 people on Bryant’s Facebook page had de-friended him. “You are a piece of shit liar. Rot in hell,” wrote a former Air Force comrade. In a sort of exercise in digital self-flagellation, Bryant read thousands of Reddit comments about himself, many filled with blistering vitriol and recrimination. “I read every single one of them,” he says. “I was trying to just get used to the negative feelings.” The spectrum of critics ranged from those who considered drone warfare a crime against humanity to combat veterans who thought Bryant was a whiner. He’d had death threats as well—none he took seriously—and other people said he should be charged with treason and executed for speaking to the media. On the day of one of our interviews, The New York Times ran an article about the military’s research into PTSD among drone operators. I watched as he scanned a barrage of Facebook comments mocking the very idea that drone operators could suffer trauma:
>I broke a fucking nail on that last mission!
>Maybe they should wear seatbelts
>they can claim PTSD when they have to do “Body Collection & Identification”
And then Bryant waded in:
>I’m ashamed to have called any of you assholes brothers in arms.
>Combat is combat. Killing is killing. This isn’t a video game. How many of you have killed a group of people, watched as their bodies are picked up, watched the funeral, then killed them too?
>Yeah, it’s not the same as being on the ground. So fucking what? Until you know what it is like and can make an intelligent meaningful assessment, shut your goddamn fucking mouths before somebody shuts them for you.
Bryant’s defense—a virtual battle over an actual war—left him seething at his keyboard. He says that when flying missions, he sometimes felt himself merging with the technology, imagining himself as a robot, a zombie, a drone itself. Such abstractions don’t possess conscience or consciousness; drones don’t care what they mean, but Bryant most certainly does. Now he plans to study to be an EMT, maybe get work on an ambulance, finally be able to save people like he always wanted. He no longer has infrared dreams, no longer closes his eyes and sees those strange polarized shadows flit across them.
Bryant closed his laptop and went out into the yard, tossing a tennis ball to his enormous bounding Japanese mastiff. Fingers of snow extended down through the dark forests of the Bitterroot, and high white contrails in the big sky caught the late-afternoon sunlight. The landscape of western Montana, Bryant observed, bears a striking resemblance to the Hindu Kush of eastern Afghanistan—a place he’s seen only pixelated on a monitor. It was a cognitive dissonance he had often felt flying missions, as he tried to remind himself that the world was just as real when seen in a grainy image as with the naked eye, that despite being filtered through distance and technology, cause and effect still applied. This is the uncanny valley over which our drones circle. We look through them at the world, and ultimately stare back at ourselves.
The following articles examine the official and witness stories from the days of the Bin Laden Raid in Pakistan 2011. What really happened that day we still do not know, and the U.S. government and military certainly continue to lie and obfuscate.
21st Century Wire reports on eyewitness testimony and asks whether the SEAL Team 6 casualties from the 2011 chopper crash in Afghanistan were actually killed during the raid itself.
DeadLine Live reveals how the SEAL families are pushing for answers and coming to the conclusion that there’s been a cover-up one way or another.
In all, nothing concrete is being released by official channels (except lucrative book deals and public-myth-creation movies) and the truth is a non-story to the mainstream media. Once again vital information is being brought to the forefront by the alternative media in a continued push to learn what really happened.
Did Part of SEAL Team Six Die in a Helicopter Explosion During the Bin Laden Raid?
From: 21st Century Wire
21st Century Wire says…
What the public were told by the US government via the corporate media, and what actually happened during the White House’s much-celebrated “Bin Laden Raid” in 2011 – are not the same.
One thing which becomes clearer by the day about the fabled Bin Laden Raid which took place in Abbotabad, Pakistan, is that the US government has intentionally deceived the public about what happened. In other words, what President Obama described when he addressed the American people following “the raid” – was a work of pure fiction.
The following interview appeared on Pakistani broadcast channel, Sama TV, and includes a translation in English from an eye witness on the scene. If the translation is accurate, then this eye witness blows the lid off of another plank in the White House’s fictional drama.
The following is an interview with Muhammad Bashir, who lives next door to the alleged ”compound” of Osama bin Laden. He claims that the first US helicopter suffered an explosion, which killed all of its US military occupants, somewhere between 10 and 20 men.
Based on this man’s testimony, we have to ask the question: did the White House cover this up in order to protect the Dear Leader from a devastating “Jimmy Carter moment” (1979 Iran hostage rescue cock-up). That’s certainly what this looks like at first glance. Would Obama lie to protect his and his party’s political legacy? We’ll let the readers answer that question.
“It seems that although initially, the TV station was overjoyed with this interview, they changed their tune, twenty four hours later (for some unknown reason)”. You decide why…
So the original lie, the 9/11 Operation, was covered up by the next lie – the Bin Laden Raid. Following on to this, it only stands to reason that the Abbotabad lie should be concealed by the next lie. The next lie is that no one knows where Bin Laden’s body is. In stark contrast to President Obama’s declaration that bin Laden was “buried at sea”, US Navy Sailors on the USS Carl Vinson have stated on record did not witness an at-sea burial of Osama bin Laden. Therefore, someone is lying. Did Barack Obama chop down the cherry tree?
Read the full article at: 21stcenturywire.com
“Wreckage inside the compound Monday morning. U.S. forces lost a helicopter in the raid due to a mechanical problem and later destroyed it. ” (The Wall Street Journal)
“Reuters says it is confident of the authenticity of the purchased images because photos in the set, including this one, appear to show a wrecked helicopter from the assault, matching details from photos taken independently on Monday. ” (The Wall Street Journal)
Red Ice Creations: Here’s an article published shortly after the raid, May 3, 2011 by The Associated Press. Inflammatory language, threats of danger, and propagandist statements demonstrate the high emotions around the event – so much for incredulity of the press and actual investigative reporting! This “news” reads like it came right from the DOD Press Office.
U.S. analyzing material seized during bin Laden raid
Navy SEALs who killed the world’s most-wanted terrorist seized a trove of al-Qaida documents during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.
The CIA is already poring over confiscated hard drives, DVDs and other documents. The agency is looking for inside information on al-Qaida, including clues that might lead to his presumed successor, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahri. Al-Qaida under al-Zawahri would likely be further radicalized, unleashing a new wave of attacks to avenge bin Laden’s killing by U.S. troops in Pakistan.
Al-Zawahri’s extremist views and his readiness to use deadly violence are beyond doubt.
The Associated Press
Article from: news10.net
Red Ice Creations: This following post from DeadlineLive.info points out that the families of the SEAL Team 6 crash are right to have suspicions about the crash and the soldiers’ deaths, but the Washington Times piece seems to be misdirecting blame, and as always, hiding real possibilities:
Families suspect SEAL Team 6 crash was “inside job”
By Jack Blood | DeadlineLive
* When reading this we want to keep in mind who the “Taliban” are, and who they work for, etc… And who the Govt / Cops in Kabul are paid by etc…
By Propagandist at the Washington (Mooney) Times
Questions haunt the families of Extortion 17, the 2011 helicopter mission in Afghanistan that suffered the most U.S. military deaths in a single day in the war on terrorism.
Every day, Charlie Strange, the father of one of the 30 Americans who died Aug. 6, 2011, in the flash of a rocket-propelled grenade, asks himself whether his son, Michael, was set up by someone inside the Afghan government wanting revenge on Osama bin Laden’s killers — SEAL Team 6.
“Somebody was leaking to the Taliban,” said Mr. Strange, whose son intercepted communications as a Navy cryptologist. “They knew. Somebody tipped them off. There were guys in a tower. Guys on the bush line. They were sitting there, waiting. And they sent our guys right into the middle.”
Doug Hamburger’s son, Patrick, an Army staff sergeant, also perished when the CH-47D Chinook descended to a spot less than 150 yards from where armed Taliban fighters watched from a turret.
He asks why the command sent his son into Tangi Valley toward a “hot landing zone” in a cargo airship instead of a special operations helicopter. The souped-up choppers — the MH-47 and the MH-60 Black Hawk, which SEAL Team 6 rode the stealth version of to kill bin Laden — are flown by Night Stalker pilots skilled in fast, ground-hugging maneuvers to avoid detection.
“When you want to fly them into a valley, when you’ve got hillsides on both sides of it with houses built into sides of the valley, that is an extremely dangerous mission,” Mr. Hamburger said. “The MH, the new model, they’ve got radar that will pick up an incoming missile or incoming RPG. They’re faster. They’re quicker on attack. They’re more agile. So there was every reason in the world to use the MH that night.”
Sith Douangdara, whose 26-year-old son, John, was a Navy expeditionary specialist who handled warrior dog Bart, said he has lots of unanswered questions.
“I want to know why so many U.S. servicemen, especially SEALs, were assembled on one aircraft,” he said. “I want to know why the black box of the helicopter has not been found. I want to know many things.”
Read the full article at: deadlinelive.info
Source Compilation: Red Ice Creations
I could barely make out Barack Obama’s Syria speech to the nation on my old car radio as I negotiated the narrow curves of Route 79 on the western banks of the Mississippi River in central Missouri last Tuesday night. What I could hear sounded very much like more of Obama’s by now standard if stunning arch-mendacity.
“To Take This Debate to Congress”
Looking at the speech transcript and video online recently, my suspicions were richly confirmed. Speaking from the end of the same long red carpet where George W. Bush delivered his demented announcement of the invasion of Iraq, Obama claimed that he has turned to Congress for authorization to use force against Syria because “I’m…the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy” and “believe[s]…it [is] right, in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security, to take this debate to Congress.”
That is certainly a lie. He did no such thing in the case of Libya, subjected to a five-week U.S. bombing campaign (though it posed no “direct or imminent threat to [Americans’] security”) because he didn’t have to, politically. This time it’s different, as the liberalMiddle East historian Juan Cole has explained: “Obama did not need Congress in the case of Libya. He had the Arab League, the UN Security Council, and NATO…But [he has] became more and more isolated [on Syria]. The Arab League declined to call for intervention… Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and other Arab countries forthrightly denounced the idea of foreign military intervention in Syria, a very different stance than many of them took in 2011 with regard to Libya…Then NATO declined to get involved, with Poland, Belgium, and others expressing reluctance…Then the British Parliament followed suit.” Failure to garner any meaningful fig leaf of formal international support is why Obama ran to Congress this time.
“I Possess the Authority”
Obama claimed he has gone to Congress “even though I possess the authority to order military strikes.” The former “liberal” constitutional law professor with a degree from Harvard Law certainly knows that the U.S. Constitution grants war-making authority in Congress alone. He should know further that it is thoroughly criminal under international law for him to attack any sovereign nation in the absence of any direct or imminent threat to the U.S.
Claims of Humanitarian Concern
Obama’s claim to be moved to act by civilian deaths in Syria, citing the horrors of “children writhing in pain, and going still on a cold hospital floor.” This claim is contradicted by the grim determination with which he has regularly murdered innocent civilians (including large numbers of women and children) in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and elsewhere – “collateral damage” in the dirty global war on/of terror he inherited from Cheney-Bush and then expanded. One horrific example – neither the first nor the last among many – occurred in the May of 2009. That’s when U.S. air-strikes killed 140 civilians in Bola Boluk, a village in western Afghanistan’s Farah Province. Ninety-three of the dead villagers torn apart by U.S. explosives were children. Just 22 were males 18 years or older. Villagers brought tractor trailers full of the pieces of human bodies to the provincial governor’s office to prove that the casualties had occurred. “Everyone at the governor’s office was crying, watching that shocking scene,” one observer reported.”
The initial response of the Obama administration and Pentagon to this appalling incident (one of many mass civilian-butchering U.S. aerial killings in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other parts of the Muslim world under Obama) was to absurdly blame the civilian deaths on “Taliban grenades.” Obama’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed “regret” about the loss of innocent life, but the administration refused to issue an apology or acknowledge U.S. responsibility for the blasting apart of civilian bodies in Farah Province.
The matter was quickly dropped and forgotten, sent down George Orwell’s memory hole, with deep media complicity, as the Pentagon wrote checks to the Afghan government to give families a couple thousand dollars per corpse. The U.S. subsequently conducted a dubious “investigation” that reduced the civilian body count drastically and blamed the Taliban for putting civilians in the way of U.S. bombs.
There have been many crimes like Bola Boluk under Obama. People who command glass houses of a sociopathic, mass-murderous empire should not expect to be taken seriously when throw “humanitarian” stones at other butchers.
If Obama is so dismayed by the spectacle of a government “killing its own people,” why is he not calling for missile strikes against the military dictatorship in Egypt, which recently slaughtered hundreds if not thousands of civilians to stop popular protests against the regime? Is it okay to kill your own civilians as long as you are a U.S.-allied regime and/or do the killing with “conventional” weapons?
But why does Obama think we should believe that he can advance humanitarian goals by lobbying cruise missiles at anyone? Two days after Obama’s speech, the New York Times published an Opinion-Editorial from Russian president Vladimir Putin. “The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders,” Putin reasonably observed. “A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.”
Selective History and Terrible Weapons
In his discussion of the past horrors of chemical weapons (by European powers during World War I and by the Nazi holocaust) last Tuesday night, Obama deleted the United States’ vicious deployment of dioxin during the Vietnam War. That example of chemical warfare caused an explosion of birth defects among other terrible results in Southeast Asia. The president also failed to mention that Washington helped Saddam Hussein use nerve gas against Iranian soldiers and the U.S. Marines used white phosphorous in their massive assaults on the civilian population of Fallujah, Iraq in November of 2004.
Will Obama threaten Tel Aviv with cruise missiles for using white phosphorous against Palestinian civilians in Gaza? Of course not: the Palestinians are officially unworthy victims, like the East Timorese and countless others who have been killed and tortured by governments that are allied with the inherently good United States and therefore officially incapable (like the U.S.) of crimes against humanity.
Obama painted out Syria as a rogue state because it has not signed a treaty against chemical weapons like “189 governments that represent 98 percent of humanity.” He did not mention that Syria’s neighbors Syria and Egypt (both U.S. allies) have also not signed the treaty.
Obama had nothing to say, of course, about the even greater dreadfulness of nuclear and radioactive ordnance. The U.S. stands alone in having incinerated and poisoned civilians with atomic weapons – quite unnecessarily in August of 1945. And thanks to America’s deployment of depleted uranium in Iraq, the toxic legacy of the U.S. attacks on Fallujah was worse was that of the atom-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. An epidemic of cancer, leukemia, and birth defects quickly followed in Fallujah.[5A]
“We Know the Assad Regime was Responsible”
“We know,” Obama said, “the Assad regime was responsible” for the Syrian chemical weapons attack of August 21, 2013. Not so. The proof offered by the president, a former lawyer, was hardly impressive. It contained nothing remotely like a smoking gun. Obama made no attempt to disprove other theories of what might have happened, including some German journalists’ finding that the attack was conducted by a rogue Syrian officer acting without Assad’s approval. Nor did he address what left commentator Glen Ford rightly calls “credible reports (everybody’s reports are more credible than the Americans) that rebels under U.S. allied control were told to prepare to go on the offensive following an American retaliation to chemical attack that would be blamed on Assad’s forces.”
“No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria,” Putin wrote in his Times editorial: “But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with [Islamic] fundamentalists.” That is a reasonable judgment.
Nobody should doubt the monstrosity of the Assad regime, but Obama’s proof of Assad’s culpability for the attack in questions amounts pretty much to this: “because I say so.”
“These Things Happened:” The Memory Hole
“When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory,” Obama said. “But these things happened. The facts cannot be denied.”
An interesting thing to hear from an American president! “From the end of World War Two through the present, the U.S. Empire has caused “the extinction and suffering of countless human beings. The United States,” William Blum Pilger noted eight years ago, “attempted to overthrow fifty governments, many of them democracies, and to crush thirty popular movements fighting tyrannical regimes. In the process, twenty-five countries were bombed, causing the loss of several million lives and the despair of millions more.”
The leading American imperial crimes include a massive U.S. assault on the peasant nation of Vietnam – an epic attack that killed 3 million Indochinese – and the illegal invasion of oil-rich Mesopotamia, whose terrible human consequences (including at least 2 million Iraqis dying prematurely) remain essentially unmentionable in “mainstream” (dominant) U.S. media. Chemical weapons were deployed in both of these grand imperial transgressions.
Over these decades, the U.S. has been what Noam Chomsky calls “ a rogue state, the leading rogue state, radically violating international law, refusing to accept international convention” and even maintaining “self-authorization to commit genocide.”
Is it any wonder that, as Putin noted in the Times, “Millions around the world …see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan ‘you’re either with us or against us’” (emphasis added).
“The Anchor of Global Security”
There should be little surprise that knowledgeable observers the world over cringe and/or roll their eyes when U.S. presidents say things like this, from Obama’s Tuesday night address:”My fellow Americans, for nearly seven decades, the United States has been the anchor of global security…The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world is a better place because we have borne them” (emphasis added).
That is a blatant lie, as Obama surely knows. Tell it to the survivors of the millions who have been snuffed out by rogue state America, consistently identified by the global populace for many years as the leading threat to peace and security in the world. Tell it to the people of Chile. Two days ago they commemorated the 40th anniversary of their 9/11 – the September 11, 1973 coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of socialist president Salvador Allende. The coup was assisted and supported by Washington, determined to install a vicious military dictatorship that executed thousands of leftists and others and became a leading center of international terror. The U.S. would not permit the continued existence of democratic socialist government in “our hemisphere.”
What would Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., say about Obama’s claim that the U.S. has been “the anchor of global security” since World War II? In 1967, well within the timeframe of Obama’s sweeping historical claim, King identified the U.S. as “the leading purveyor of violence in the world today.” The Vietnamese, King said, “must see Americans as strange liberators” as they “languish under our bombs….as we he herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps. They know they must move or be destroyed by bombs. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops [with chemical weapons]. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one ‘Vietcong’-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them – mostly children…” 
Looking at the historical literature on the Cuban Missile Crisis and subsequent moment of supreme nuclear danger, a living King (who would be 84 today had he not been assassinated or perhaps executed inside “the anchor of global security” exactly one year to the day after publicly declaring his opposition to the Vietnam War at the Riverside Church in New York City) today might also like to mention (among other things) the remarkable degree to which the Ahabs of Washington have been willing to risk global thermonuclear war (very barely averted in October 1962) in their quest for unchallenged global supremacy.
“It Never Happened”
But in the U.S, and indeed across much of the West, the record of ongoing, mass-murderous American criminality is airbrushed out of the official history and mass culture. It is tossed down Orwell’s memory hole, consistent with Big Brother’s dictum in Nineteen Eighty Four: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” As Harold Pinter noted in his biting acceptance of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Literature, the reigning Western cultural authorities behave as if U.S. crimes simply did not occur. When it comes to America’s transgression against civilized norms and international law, “nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening,” Pinter added, “it never happened. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.” Dominant U.S.-led Western cultural codes mandate that the only victims meriting acknowledgement and compassion are those assaulted by officially designated enemies. The larger number victimized by the U.S. and its clients and allies (e.g., the Palestinians suffering under Israeli occupation and apartheid) do not qualify for sympathy or even existence. They don’t exist. The crimes against them didn’t take place.
Detour and Lost Cool
Eleven minutes into his war speech, Obama had to strangely shift gears and acknowledge the need to delay his hoped-for war vote in light of Russia and Syria’s last-minute proposal to demolish Syria’s chemical weapons under international supervision and control. He tried to save militaristic face by attributing the Russian and Syrian move to his threatened use of force. He seemed to expect his listeners to preposterously believe that a peaceful, diplomatic, and international solution is his idea. Obama wants us to think that the United Nations route was his preferred path all along.
That’s nonsense. Obama is an aggressive commander of a rogue military state that prefers force and unilateral action in the names of unimpeded hegemony and “American exceptionalism.” He and many of his fellow fake-humanitarian cruise missile liberal imperialists have been itching for a bigger war in the Middle East, one that will let him attack the great regional enemy Iran and wrap the remainder of his lame-duck presidency in the splendor of war-fed patriotism.
Like the British Parliament’s vote against attacking Syria, Putin and Assad’s peace gambit is a great humiliation for Obama. It knocked more stuffing out of his failing fake-humanitarian effort to rally a reluctant, war-weary citizenry plagued by massive domestic problems (including remarkably durable “homeland” poverty and unemployment alongside stunning, New Gilded Age levels of inequality that have only increased under Obama’s supposedly progressive presidency) behind another expensive imperial campaign.
Expect the defeated president to do his best to get the nation back on a unilateral war footing. For now, he has been defeated not simply by other politicians but also by public opinion – by the citizenry in whose name he claims to speak. Imagine that. Along the way, Barack “The Empire’s New Clothes” Obama may well have lost his public cool, the swagger in his step, once and for all. Syria may prove his undoing –the moment when the outwardly nice and smooth-talking “leader” is most clearly revealed for what he really is: a cold-blooded sociopath and pathological liar. That’s long overdue, but its better late than never.
Paul Street (email@example.com) is the author of many books, including The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (2010), Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (2008), Crashing the Tea Party (2011), and They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm Publishers, forthcoming in January 2014).
2. Carlotta Gall and Taimoor Shah, “Civilian Deaths Imperil Support for Afghan War,” New York Times, May 6, 2009.
3. Gall and Shah, “Civilian Deaths;”
4. Paul Street, “Niebuhr Lives, Civilians Die in the Age of Obama,” ZNet (June 15, 2009), read athttp://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/21701. By contrast around the same time in 2009, there was a brief media frenzy over a very different occurrence, enough to elicit a full apology and to fire a White House official. The problem was that the White House had scared New Yorkers with an ill-advised Air Force One photo-soot flyover of Manhattan that reminded people below of 9/11. SeeChristina Boyle, “President Obama Calls Air Force One Flyover ‘Mistake’ After Low-Flying Plane Terrifies New York,” New York Daily News, April 28, 2009; Michel Muskai, “Presidential Plane’s Photo-Op Over New York Coast as Much as $357,000,” Los Angeles Times, May 9, 2009; Peter Nicholas, “Louis Caldera Resigns Over Air Force One Flyover Fiasco,” Los Angeles Time, May 9, 2009.
5. Vladimir Putin, A Plea for Caution From Russia,” New York Times, September 12, 2013.
5A. Patrick Cockburn, “Toxic Legacy of U.S. Assault on Fallujah ‘Worse Than Hiroshima,” The Independent, July 24, 2010,http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/toxic-legacy-of-us-assault-on-fallujah-worse-than-hiroshima-2034065.html; “Fallujah More Radioactive Than Hiroshima,” RT, uploaded on July 29, 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWIy9-cfMIo. A useful history of U.S. use and encouragement of chemical and biological weapons at home and abroad can be found in William Blum,Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (Monroe. ME: Common Courage, 2005), 136-160.
6. Glen Ford, “Obama’s Humiliating Defeat,” Black Agenda Report (September 11, 2013),http://www.blackagendareport.com/content/obama%E2%80%99s-humiliating-defeat
7. Blum, Rogue State, 1-2. Honduras and Libya must (at the very least) be added to the list of countries where the U.S. has acted to overthrow governments since Blum wrote. Libya and Somalia must (at the least) added to the list of countries bombed by the U.S.
8 Noam Chomsky, “Instead of Illegal Threat to Syria, U.S. Should Back Chemical Weapons Ban in All Nations,” Democracy Now! (September 11, 2013), http://www.democracynow.org/2013/9/11/chomsky_instead_of_illegal_threat_to
9. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam – a Time to Break the Silence” (Riverside Church, New York City, April 4, 1967), audio recording at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k29PAUSyrlA
10. Noam Chomsky, Address to Left Forum, New York City, 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yvHMtgac0Q
11.Quoted in John Pilger, Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire (New York: Nation Books, 2007), 4.
Via Z Net
Countdown to Apocalypse Now?
Tehran — Truth told, it’s a bit intense these days in Tehran as in most other countries in this region, and this observer fairly soon may be on what just might be the last Tehran-Damascus flight for some time in light of what could occur in the coming days.
Not that one is in any hurry to leave the Islamic Republic. I love Iran and its people, who in their basic values and outlook on life are about as American as apple pie. Iranians think a lot like me and my friends back home, and Americans think a lot like them, this despite the extremist, politically motivated portrayals of each other designed by their governments.
I have been attending the Habilian Association (families of Iranian terror victims) Congress on Terrorism and Terror Victims in Tehran, and continuing also an undertaking with students from Tehran University to survey the effects of the US-led economic sanctions. Both endeavors presented an excellent opportunity to listen to Iranian views on a number of current events. The students are examining a sanctions scheme that targets their families and countrymen, and part of their work involves a definition of “economic terrorism” (a term employed by the Pentagon when done by someone other than the US government or its allies). Rather amazing in their clarity of thinking, they exhibit truly inspiring optimism and humanity in these ominous times.
As it happens, economic terrorism was also one of the topics at the Iranian Congress on Terrorism, and the American delegation decided to focus solely on that subject during its presentation, a presentation that was months in preparation. As part of its work, the delegation presented a Draft International Convention outlawing the use of economic sanctions targeting civilians for political purposes, including regime change. Elaborating on the history of economic terrorism, the group urged the Tehran-based Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to use its newfound international political power to lead the campaign for global ratification of the new draft convention, and to present it to the United Nations during next month’s opening session of the General Assembly. NAM leaders promised to study the draft and to arrange a consultative follow-up meeting(s).
Sanctions targeting a civilian population for the political purpose of forcing regime change constitutes an act of terrorism as defined by several US government agencies—this was the position of the American delegation, and it would apply to any government, including their own, with a deep history of targeting peoples with economic sanctions (Cuba, Vietnam, China, Korea, Iran, and Nicaragua, among others, come to mind).
For accuracy’s sake, it should be said that, unexpectedly, due to last minute visa problems, the whole US delegation at the Congress ended up being comprised of a total number of—well, one international lawyer. A last minute effort was indeed made to coax Jeffrey Feltman, who never has visa problems to this observer’s knowledge, and who was staying at the same hotel, to attend the Terrorism Congress, hence doubling the size, weight, and authority of the US delegation. Mr. Feltman was even offered the chairmanship of the American delegation as an incentive, but, regretfully, the gentleman declined, citing other commitments.
Getting visas to visit Iran and especially Syria these days is no easy feat for Americans, given ‘payback’ or reciprocal changes in policy at both countries’ foreign ministries. Last year, revised guidelines were sent out by both governments on how to process visa requests submitted by Americans. US citizens wanting to travel to certain countries these days pay a stiff price for their government’s actions.
Talking with average Iranians and shop keepers, and especially students, one gets a fairly good idea of just how engaged public opinion is in Iran on current events. It offers a very different picture than that presented by the western media, beholden as they are to their corporate paymasters, but this is beginning to be true of much of the non-western media as well. Here on the street one finds, even in the face of the ever-rising cost of living and near-rampant inflation and the suffering they engender, pride at how this country has resisted the US-led sanctions. A common view expressed in informal discussions—and also at the Congress—is that while there are many states who practice terrorism of one kind or another, including economic terrorism, the US is unusual in that its foreign relations record argues strongly that it is officially committed to international economic terrorism. Moreover, that this is on a scale far exceeding other actors on the world stage.
One professor summarized for this observer his analysis of the effect of US-led sanctions, noting the severe impact on Iranian consumers at the grocery store, dramatically shrinking their real income, as well as government efforts to maintain some subsidies to lessen their impact. He also discussed innovative ways both the government and private sectors have been able to lessen the impact of some of the sanctions, while completely skirting others, mentioning as well a ‘circle the wagons’ public spirit that has arisen in unexpected ways, leading to, among other things, neighborhood initiatives designed to help one’s neighbors with economic problems.
One finds also among Iranians a smoldering anger over the current chemical weapons ‘red line’ issue in Syria, along with an awareness that this may well lead to regional war. The American campaign to bomb Syria is viewed here as utmost American governmental hypocrisy. More than one interlocutor expressed disdain, remembering the Reagan administration’s actions during the late 1980s, when not only did the White House take no action when Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons—against Iranian forces as well as “his own people”—but the United States also aided the attacks by providing intelligence and firing coordinates. In other words, finding Iranians to kill, and providing gas to murder them with.
The Tehran Times wrote yesterday: “U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Saddam Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.” The effects of these US-facilitated gas attacks are seen everywhere in Iran today, in the skin scars and poor health of its hundreds of thousands of victims.
“How can the American people accept this double standard, where its ok and your government will help to gas Iranians and your enemy’s population?” is a common question put to this observer.
There is visible excitement and even a sort of joy this morning that the UK Parliament, to its great credit, just voted to reject the Cameron government’s motion authorizing British forces to boom Syria. A taxi driver expressed his hope that “Your Congress will follow the lead of the British Parliament?” Iranians appear to view the Parliamentary vote as a victory for themselves. Given the Islamic Republic’s role as a key pillar of resistance to the Zionist occupation of Palestine and US-Israel regional hegemonic goals, few here, if any, believe the US attack on Syria is not aimed at them.
As the war drums become nearly deafening in certain capitals, public expressions in Iran regarding the grave prospects that are looming appear to this observer less knee-jerk rhetoric than in recent years. No doubt there are many reasons for this, including the results of the recent elections in Iran—viewed here as an encouraging sign of stability and democracy in the region. Tehran made clear to Jeffrey Feltman this week that it is ready for serious cooperation in order to peacefully resolve the crisis in Syria.
As Hossein Mousavian, a researcher at Princeton University, recently pointed out, the cooperation of the US and Iran in 2001 regarding Afghanistan, resulting in the fall of the Taliban and al-Qaeda (at least for a while), is a blueprint for a new collaboration. Writes Mousavian: “This collaboration should not be limited to Syria. The Middle East requires management for the time, and therefore, crisis management (of this and other crises) would be a useful path for this collaboration.” This observer believes much of the Iranian and American public would agree, and that there are hopeful signs during this feared apocalyptic period.
The ”responsibility to protect” (R2P) doctrine invoked to legitimize the 2011 war on Libya has just transmogrified into ”responsibility to attack” (R2A) Syria. Just because the Obama administration says so.
On Sunday, the White House said it had ”very little doubt” that the Bashar al-Assad government used chemical weapons against its own citizens. On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry ramped it up to ”undeniable” – and accused Assad of ”moral obscenity”.
So when the US bombed Fallujah with white phosphorus in late 2004 it was just taking the moral high ground. And when the US helped Saddam Hussein to gas Iranians in 1988 it was also taking the moral high ground.
The Obama administration has ruled that Assad allowed UN chemical weapons inspectors into Syria, and to celebrate their arrival unleashed a chemical weapons attack mostly against women and children only 15 kilometers away from the inspectors’ hotel. If you don’t believe it, you subscribe to a conspiracy theory.
Evidence? Who cares about evidence? Assad’s offer of access for the inspectors came ”too late”. Anyway, the UN team is only mandated to determine whether chemical weapons were deployed – but not by who, according to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman.
As far as the Obama administration and UK Prime Minister David ”of Arabia” Cameron are concerned – supported by a barrage of corporate media missiles – that’s irrelevant; Obama’s ”red line” has been crossed by Assad, period. Washington and London are in no-holds-barred mode to dismiss any facts contradicting the decision. Newspeak – of the R2A kind – rules. If this all looks like Iraq 2.0 that’s because it is. Time to fix the facts around the policy – all over again. Time for weapons of mass deception – all over again.
The Saudi-Israeli axis of fun
The window of opportunity for war is now. Assad’s forces were winning from Qusayr to Homs; pounding ”rebel” remnants out of the periphery of Damascus; deploying around Der’ah to counterpunch CIA-trained ”rebels” with advanced weapons crossing the Syrian-Jordanian border; and organizing a push to expel ”rebels” and jihadis from suburbs of Aleppo.
Now, Israel and Saudi Arabia are oh so excited because they are getting exactly what they dream just by good ol’ Wag the Dog methods. Tel Aviv has even telegraphed how it wants it: this Monday, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper headlined with ”On the Way to Attack” and even printed the ideal Order of Battle. (see photo)
Months ago, even AMAN, the Intelligence Directorate of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) concluded that Assad was not a fool to cross Obama’s chemical weapon ”red line”. So they came up with the concept of ”two entwined red lines”, the second line being the Syrian government ”losing control of its chemical weapons depots and production sites”. AMAN then proposed different strategies to Washington, from a no-fly zone to actually seizing the weapons (implying a ground attack).
It’s now back to the number one option – air strikes on the chemical weapons depots. As if the US – and Israel – had up-to-the-minute intelligence on exactly where they are.
The House of Saud had also telegraphed its wishes – after Prince Bandar bin Sultan, aka Bandar Bush, was appointed by King Abdullah as head of Saudi General Intelligence. Abdullah’s hard on is explained by his mother and two of his wives coming from an influential, ultra-conservative Sunni tribe in Syria. As for Bandar Bush, he has more longevity than Rambo or the Terminator; he’s back in the same role he played in the 1980s Afghan jihad, when he was the go-to guy helping the CIA to weaponize president president Ronald Reagan’s ”freedom fighters”.
Jordan – a fiction of a country totally dependent on the Saudis – was easily manipulated into becoming a ”secret” war operation center. And who’s in charge? No less than Bandar’s younger half-brother, and deputy national security adviser, Salman bin Sultan, also known as ”mini-Bandar”. Talk about an Arab version of Dr Evil and Mini Me.
Still, there are more CIA assets than Saudis in the Jordanian front.
The importance of this report cannot be overstated enough. It was initially leaked to Lebanon’s Al-Safir newspaper. Here’s Bandar’s whole strategy, unveiled in his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, already reported by Asia Times Online. After trying – for four hours – to convince Putin to drop Syria, Bandar is adamant: ”There is no escape from the military option.”
Mix Kosovo with Libya and voila!
Former president Bill Clinton resurfaced with perfect timing to compare Obama’s options in Syria to Reagan’s jihad in Afghanistan. Bubba was right in terms of positioning Bandar’s role. But he must have inhaled something if he was thinking in terms of consequences – which include everything from the Taliban to that mythical entity, ”al-Qaeda”. Well, at least al-Qaeda is already active in Syria; they don’t need to invent it.
As for that bunch of amateurs surrounding Obama – including R2P groupies such as Susan Rice and new Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, all of them liberal hawks – they are all suckers for Kosovo. Kosovo – with a Libya add-on – is being spun as the ideal model for Syria; R2P via (illegal) air strikes. Right on cue, the New York Times is already frantically parroting the idea.
Facts are, of course, absent from the narrative – including the blowing up of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade (a remix in Syria with the Russian embassy?) and getting to the brink of a war with Russia.
Syria has nothing to do with the Balkans. This is a civil war. Arguably the bulk of the Syrian urban population, not the country bumpkins, support Damascus – based on despicable ”rebel” behavior in places they control; and the absolute majority wants a political solution, as in the now near-totally torpedoed Geneva II conference.
The Jordanian scheme – inundating southern Syria with heavily weaponized mercenaries – is a remix of what the CIA and the Saudis did to AfPak; and the only winner will be Jabhat al-Nusra jihadis. As for the Israeli solution for Obama – indiscriminate bombing of chemical weapons depots – it will certainly result in horrendous collateral damage, as in R2A killing even more civilians.
The prospects remain grim. Damn another coalition of the willing; Washington already has the British and French poodles in the bag, and full support – in air-con safety – from the democratic Gulf Cooperation Council petro-monarchies, minion Jordan and nuclear power Israel. This is what passes for ”international community” in the newspeak age.
The Brits are already heavily spinning that no UN Security Council resolution is needed; who cares if we do Iraq 2.0? For the War Party, the fact that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said Syrian ”rebels” could not promote US interests seems to be irrelevant.
Washington already has what it takes for the Holy Tomahawks to start flying; 384 of them are already positioned in the Eastern Mediterranean. B-1 bombers can be deployed from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. And bunker-busting bombs will certainly be part of the picture.
What happens next requires concentric crystal balls – from Tomahawks to a barrage of air strikes to Special Ops commandos on the ground to a sustained air campaign lasting months. In his long interview to Izvestia, Assad gives the impression he thinks Obama is bluffing.
What’s certain is that Syria won’t be a ”piece of cake” like Libya; even depleted on all fronts, Gaddafi resisted for eight long months after NATO started its humanitarian bombing. Syria has a weary but still strong army of 200,000; loads of Soviet and Russian weapons; very good antiaircraft systems; and full support from asymmetrical warfare experts Iran and Hezbollah. Not to mention Russia, which just needs to forward a few S-300 air defense batteries and relay solid intelligence.
So get used to how international relations work in the age of newspeak. General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s army in Egypt can kill hundreds of his own people who were protesting against a military coup. Washington couldn’t care less – as in the coup that is not a coup and the bloodbath that is not a bloodbath.
No one knows for sure what exactly happened in the chemical weapons saga near Damascus. But that’s the pretext for yet another American war – just a few days before a Group of 20 summit hosted by Putin in St Petersburg. Holy Tomahawk! R2A, here we go.
Source: Pepe Escobar | Asia Times
“We’re extremely disappointed that the Russian government would take this step despite our very clear and lawful requests in public and in private to have Mr. Snowden expelled to the United States to face the charges against him,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. He added that Barack Obama might now boycott a bilateral meeting with Putin in September, due to be held when the President travels to St. Petersburg for a G20 summit on September 5-6.
“Russia has stabbed us in the back, and each day that Mr. Snowden is allowed to roam free is another twist of the knife,” says Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). He urged Obama to insist on moving out of Russia the G20 summit.
Russia’s action is a “disgrace and a deliberate effort to embarrass the United States… a slap in the face of all Americans,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said. “Now is the time to fundamentally rethink our relationship with Putin’s Russia, he added. Mc Cain and his GOP colleague Lindsey Graham suggested the United States should retaliate by completing all missile-defense programs in Europe and proceeding with further expansion of NATO to include Russia’s neighbor Georgia.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) predicted that Snowden is “going to want to get back to the United States in any way possible after he realizes what it’s like to live in a totalitarian state.”
We are not going to discuss now which is more “totalitarian,” Putin’s Russia or Obama’s America; my views on the kind of society we live in are presented here. We are also not going to join the “Traitor or Hero” debate on Snowden. Two technical points need to be made in the context of the White House and Congressional reactions to Snowden’s Russian asylum: (1) America has granted asylum to the Chechen “foreign minister,” the spokesman for one of the most barbarian regimes in recent history, who is wanted in Russia for terrorism; and (2) America “renditions” Russian citizens from third countries to have them tried for crimes allegedly committed in Russia without informing the Russian authorities.
Imagine the No. 3 leader of a terrorist separatist movement in southern Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, a group guilty of murdering thousands of unarmed Anglos—airline passengers, theatergoers, women, hospital patients, and schoolchildren—being granted political asylum in Russia and living openly for over a decade in a posh part of Moscow, courtesy of Russia’s taxpayers. One can only imagine the paroxysm of rage in the White House and on the Hill. Diplomatic relations would be severed. McCain-Graham would urge nuking Russia.
No needs to imagine much, just reverse the roles. Ilyas Akhmadov, foreign minister and chief global media advocate of the short-lived “Chechen Republic,” until 2000 was the third highest-ranking leader of that blood-soaked monstrosity, after Aslan Maskhadov and Shamil Basayev. To take but one exampke, he was directly responsible for the atrocities of the Chechen terrorist regime, including the invasion of the Russian Republic of Dagestan in the summer of 1999 when hundreds of unarmed men, women, and children were murdered. According to the UNHCR, 32,000 people were driven from their homes. And yet Akhmadov was granted political asylum in the United States in 2003, in spite of Russia’s repeated and amply documented demands for his extradition for a variety of terrorist offenses. As Professor Robert Bruce Ware asked eight years ago (“Response to Brzezinski,” Johnson’s Russia List, March 20, 2005), if the U.S. was right to declare the entire Taliban government a terrorist organization, why is Russia not right to declare the self-designed Chechen government—Akhmadov included—a terrorist organization?
If we would think it wrong of Russia to grant political asylum to Mullah Omar, then why do we not think that it is wrong for the United States to grant political asylum to Illyas Akhmadov? Why didn’t Illyas Akhmadov resign from the Chechen government when Dagestan was invaded? … Exactly what record is there that Illyas Akhmadov ever issued a public statement repudiating the invasions of Dagestan while those invasions were in progress, or supporting the extradition of the invasions’ leaders? If the 9/11 [attacks] made Bin Laden a terrorist, and if the Oklahoma City blast made McVeigh a terrorist, then why didn’t his public acceptance of responsibility for the Ingushetia raids make Aslan Maskhadov a terrorist? And if his public acceptance of responsibility for those raids made Maskhadov a terrorist, then why doesn’t it implicate those who represented him, such as Illyas Akhmadov, in charges of terrorism? And if it does make Illyas Akhmadov a terrorist then why is he enjoying political asylum and a prestigious professional position at the expense of the American taxpayer?
“Harboring terrorists, their henchmen and sponsors undermines the unity and mutual trust of parties to the antiterrorist front,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the U.N. General Assembly in 2004. “We cannot have double standards while fighting terrorism and it cannot be used as a geopolitical game,” President Vladimir Putin declared in December of that year. But Maskhadov remains in his Wodley Park mansion in Washington D.C. to this day, courtesy of your tax dollars. Back in 2004e was also given a generous State Department grant that enabled him to maintain an office with a secretary at the National Endowment for Democracy, to keep a busy travel schedule,e and to retain the services of a PR agency.
Akhmadov is an utterly nasty piece of work, so much so that in 2004 then-House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), and the Immigration and Border Security subcommittee chairman John Hostettler (R-IN) jointly demanded that Attorney General John Ashcroft review the ruling that granted Akhmadov political asylum. “If the United States had evidence that Mr. Akhmadov was involved in terrorist activities, it is unclear why he was not barred from asylum as a terrorist and as a danger to the security of our nation,” they wrote to Ashcroft in September of that year—but to no avail. “I’m not exaggerating when I say that one of the happiest days of my life was when I called Ilyas to tell him that he would be able to stay in America,” averred America’s über-Russophobe Zbigniew Brzezinski, as quoted by Akhmadov’s publicist and Zbig’s nephew Matthew in the Washington Post (March 20, 2005).
It would be equally interesting to imagine the reaction of McCain et al. if Russia routinely resorted to the arrest of American citizens in third countries—Belarus or Kazakhstan, say—and their extradition to Moscow for trial on various charges. That is exactly what the U.S. is doing to Russians. The most recent case concerns Aleksander Panin, a 24-year-old Russian computer programmer from Tver. Panin was arrested at the airport after visiting the Dominican Republic in May, swiftly transferred to a Federal prison in Georgia, and charged with a variety of cyber crimes committed in Russia—and all that without Moscow’s consent or knowledge. The case only became known a month later. “Of course, we are seriously concerned with yet another arrest of a Russian citizen with a U.S. warrant in a third country… The fact that such practices are becoming a vicious tendency is absolutely unacceptable and inadmissible,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. “We have repeatedly told the US that if there are demands for our citizens, it is necessary to send relevant requests to the Russian law enforcement authorities on the basis of the 1999-bilateral agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal cases. However, this is still not being done.”
There are several cases similar to Panin’s. On July 22 Dmitry Ustinov, a Russian citizen, was extradited to the U.S. from Lithuania and accused of smuggling night-vision goggles. In November 2010, Russian citizen Viktor Bout was extradited from Bangkok to the United States, where he was convicted of involvement in the illegal arms trade. In May 2010 a Russian pilot, Konstantin Yaroshenko, was arrested in Liberia and taken to the U.S. on charges of drug trafficking. In 2011 was sentenced to 20 years in prison for allegedly conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States.
The practice of having Russian citizens arrested in some pliant third country and delivered to the U.S. to be tried for alleged crimes committed outside America is a legal novelty which has the potential to create a great deal of trouble for U.S. citizens, too, and especially for American businessmen working in the former Soviet Central Asia. But as the cases of Snowden and Akhmadov indicate, all too many people in Washington still act in accordance with Madeleine Albright’s psychotic doctrine of imperial exceptionalism—“we are America, we are the indispensable nation”—which is as profoundly un-American as it is irritating to the rest of the world. (Another gem of hers is “I’ve never seen America as an imperialist or colonialist or meddling country.”)
The delusions of late-imperial grandeur die hard, but in the fullness of time they will die nevertheless; the sooner, the better.
As Washington loses its grip on the world, defied by Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and now Russia, the US government resorts to public temper tantrums. The constant demonstration of childishness on the part of the White House and Congress embarrasses every American.
Washington’s latest outburst of childish behavior is a response to the Russian Immigration Service granting US whistleblower Edward Snowden asylum in Russia for one year while his request for permanent asylum is considered. Washington, having turned the US into a lawless state, no longer has any conception of legal procedure. Law is whatever serves Washington. As Washington sees it, law is nothing but Washington’s will. Any person or country that interferes with Washington’s will is behaving unlawfully.
Because Obama, like Bush before him, routinely disobeys US law and the US Constitution, the White House actually thinks that Russian President Putin should disobey Russian and international law, overturn the Russian Immigration Service’s asylum decision, and hand over Snowden to Washington.
Washington expected Russia to hand over Snowden simply because Washington demanded it. Like a two-year old, Washington cannot conceive that its demands don’t take precedence over international law and the internal legal procedures of every country. How dare Russia stand up for law against “the indispensable nation.”
The White House spokesman, who is so unimpressive that I cannot remember his/her name/gender, declared that the White House moron might punish Putin by not going to visit him in Moscow next month. I doubt Putin cares whether the WH moron shows up.
The WH moron’s term of office is close to an end, but Putin, unless the CIA assassinates him, will be there for another decade. Moreover, every Russian leader has learned that a US president’s word means nothing. Clinton, the two Bushes and the current WH moron violated every agreement that Reagan made with Gorbachev. Why would the president of Russia, a nation ruled by law, want to meet with a tyrant?
Not to be outdone by the WH in childish behavior, members of the House and Senate added their two-bits to America’s embarrassment. Congressional morons “reacted furiously,” according to news reports, and warned “of serious repercussions in US-Russian relations.” Here we have another extraordinary demonstration of Washington’s hubris. Only Russia has to worry about repercussions in the relationship. Washington doesn’t have to worry. His Imperial Majesty will simply deny Putin an audience.
Congress seems unaware of its schizophrenia. On the one hand Congress is outraged about the National Stasi Agency’s illegal and unconstitutional spying–especially on Congress–and is attempting to defund the Stasi Agency’s surveillance program. The amendment to the military spending bill by Justin Amash, a Republican from Michigan, almost passed. The amendment was barely defeated by votes purchased by the spy industry.
On the other hand, despite its outrage over being spied upon, Congress wants the scalp of the brave hero, Edward Snowden, who informed them that they were being spied upon. Here we have a demonstration of the historical stupidity of government–shoot the messenger.
Only a few right-wing crazies believe that universal surveillance of every American is necessary to US security. The National Stasi Agency will fight hard and blackmail every member of the House and Senate, but the blackmail itself will lead to the National Stasi Agency’s wings being clipped, or so we can hope. If it is not done soon, the Stasi Agency will have time to organize a false flag event that will terrify the sheeple and bring an end to the attempts to rein in the rogue agency.
The United States is on the verge of economic collapse. The alleged “superpower,” a bankrupt entity, was unable after 8 years of efforts to occupy Iraq and had to give up. After 11 years the “superpower” has been defeated in Afghanistan by a few thousand lightly armed Taliban, and is now running for cover with its tail between its legs.
Washington compensates for its military impotency by committing war crimes against civilians. The US military is a great killer of women, children, village elders, and aid workers. All the mighty “superpower” can do is to lob missiles shot from pilotless drones into farm houses, mud huts, schools, and medical centers.
The schizophrenic denizens of Washington have made Americans a hated people. Those with the foresight to know to escape from the growing tyranny also know that wherever they might seek refuge, they will be seen as vermin from the most hated nation and subjected to being scapegoated as spies and evil influences, and at risk of being decimated in reprisals against Washington’s latest atrocity.
Washington has destroyed the prospects of Americans both at home and abroad.
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 book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is now available.
Source: Paul Craig Roberts
Amitai Etzioni has raised an important question: “Who authorized preparations for war with China?” Etzioni says that the war plan is not the sort of contingency plan that might be on hand for an improbable event. Etzioni also reports that the Pentagon’s war plan was not ordered by, and has not been reviewed by, US civilian authorities. We are confronted with a neoconized US military out of control endangering Americans and the rest of the world.
Etzioni is correct that this is a momentous decision made by a neoconized military. China is obviously aware that Washington is preparing for war with China. If the Yale Journal knows it, China knows it. If the Chinese government is realistic, the government is aware that Washington is planning a pre-emptive nuclear attack against China. No other kind of war makes any sense from Washington’s standpoint. The “superpower” was never able to occupy Baghdad, and after 11 years of war has been defeated in Afghanistan by a few thousand lightly armed Taliban. It would be curtains for Washington to get into a conventional war with China.
When China was a primitive third world country, it fought the US military to a stalemate in Korea. Today China has the world’s second largest economy and is rapidly overtaking the failing US economy destroyed by jobs offshoring, bankster fraud, and corporate and congressional treason.
The Pentagon’s war plan for China is called “AirSea Battle.” The plan describes itself as “interoperable air and naval forces that can execute networked, integrated attacks-in-depth to disrupt, destroy, and defeat enemy anti-access area denial capabilities.”
Yes, what does that mean? It means many billions of dollars of more profits for the military/security complex while the 99 percent are ground under the boot. It is also clear that this nonsensical jargon cannot defeat a Chinese army. But this kind of saber-rattling can lead to war, and if the Washington morons get a war going, the only way Washington can prevail is with nuclear weapons. The radiation, of course, will kill Americans as well.
Nuclear war is on Washington’s agenda. The rise of the Neocon Nazis has negated the nuclear disarmament agreements that Reagan and Gorbachev made. The extraordinary, mainly truthful 2012 book, The Untold History of the United States by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, describes the post-Reagan breakout of preemptive nuclear attack as Washington’s first option.
During the Cold War nuclear weapons had a defensive purpose. The purpose was to prevent nuclear war by the US and USSR each having sufficient retaliatory power to ensure “mutually assured destruction.” MAD, as it was known, meant that nuclear weapons had no offensive advantage for either side.
The Soviet collapse and China’s focus on its economy instead of its military have resulted in Washington’s advantage in nuclear weaponry that, according to two US Dr. Strangeglove characters, Keir Lieber and Daryl Press, gives Washington first-strike capability. Lieber and Press write that the “precipitous decline of Russia’s arsenal, and the glacial pace of modernization of China’s nuclear forces,” have created a situation in which neither Russia nor China could retaliate to Washington’s first strike.
The Pentagon’s “AirSea Battle” and Lieber and Press’ article in Foreign Affairs have informed China and Russia that Washington is contemplating pre-emptive nuclear attack on both countries. To ensure Russia’s inability to retaliate, Washington is placing anti-ballistic missiles on Russia’s borders in violation of the US-USSR agreement.
Because the American press is a corrupt government propaganda ministry, the American people have no idea that neoconized Washington is planning nuclear war. Americans are no more aware of this than they are of former President Jimmy Carter’s recent statement, reported only in Germany, that the United States no longer has a functioning democracy.
The possibility that the United States would initiate nuclear war was given reality eleven years ago when President George W. Bush, at the urging of Dick Cheney and the neocons that dominated his regime, signed off on the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review.
This neocon document, signed off on by America’s most moronic president, resulted in consternation and condemnation from the rest of the world and launched a new arms race. Russian President Putin immediately announced that Russia would spend all necessary sums to maintain Russia’s retaliatory nuclear capability. The Chinese displayed their prowess by knocking a satellite out of space with a missile. The mayor of Hiroshima, recipient city of a vast American war crime, stated: “The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the central international agreement guiding the elimination of nuclear weapons, is on the verge of collapse. The chief cause is US nuclear policy that, by openly declaring the possibility of a pre-emptive nuclear first strike and calling for resumed research into mini-nukes and other so-called ‘useable nuclear weapons,’ appears to worship nuclear weapons as God.”
Polls from all over the world consistently show that Israel and the US are regarded as the two greatest threats to peace and to life on earth. Yet, these two utterly lawless governments prance around pretending to be the “world’s greatest democracies.” Neither government accepts any accountability whatsoever to international law, to human rights, to the Geneva Conventions, or to their own statutory law. The US and Israel are rogue governments, throwbacks to the Hitler and Stalin era.
The post World War II wars originate in Washington and Israel. No other country has imperial expansionary ambitions. The Chinese government has not seized Taiwan, which China could do at will. The Russian government has not seized former constituent parts of Russia, such as Georgia, which, provoked by Washington to launch an attack, was instantly overwhelmed by the Russian Army. Putin could have hung Washington’s Georgian puppet and reincorporated Georgia into Russia, where it resided for several centuries and where many believe it belongs.
For the past 68 years, most military aggression can be sourced to the US and Israel. Yet, these two originators of wars pretend to be the victims of aggression. It is Israel that has a nuclear arsenal that is illegal, unacknowledged, and unaccountable. It is Washington that has drafted a war plan based on nuclear first strike. The rest of the world is correct to view these two rogue unaccountable governments as direct threats to life on earth.
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 book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is now available.
Source: Paul Craig Roberts