US Navy destroyer, the USS Truxtun, has crossed Turkey’s Bosphorus and entered the Black Sea. With the Crimea Peninsula getting ready to hold a referendum on independence from Ukraine in a week, the US is ramping up its military presence in the region.
USS Truxton is heading to “previously planned” training exercises with the Bulgarian and Romanian navies, AFP reported earlier. At the same time, Fox News declared that NATO’s bolstering presence in the Black Sea is a “defensive” measure to counter “Russian military aggression” in Ukraine.
The situation in Ukraine is close to financial and humanitarian catastrophe, urging mass protests in eastern regional centers against self-proclaimed government in Kiev. The autonomous Crimea region is preparing to hold a March-16 referendum on whether it wants to remain part of Ukraine or join Russia, after ousted President Viktor Yanukovich fled the country and the opposition imposed a central government.
Subsequently, Russia’s upper chamber of the parliament approved the possibility of Moscow deploying troops to Ukraine and particularly to Crimea – but only to protect ethnic Russians in Crimea.
On Friday night, Vladimir Putin’s Press Secretary, Dmitry Peskov, warned of possible ethnic cleansing of the Russians in Crimea if the people who seized power in Kiev also grasp autonomy.
Peskov stressed that Russians in Crimea and eastern Ukraine are “scared and are asking for help from Russia”.
“We fully understand the fears that now prevail in the East [of Ukraine,” Peskov acknowledged.
However, the US State Department doesn’t see any possible danger to millions of ethnic Russians.
Russians make up well over 17 percent of Ukraine’s 45 million population, whereas in Crimea Russians are over 58 percent of the autonomy’s nearly two million population.
“There are no confirmed reports of threats to ethnic Russians,” Eric Rubin said, testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Mr Rubin is a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.
USS Truxton, with a crew of about 300, is an Arleigh Burke class destroyer equipped with the Aegis combat system, which integrates the ship’s radar, sensors and missile weapons to engage anti-ship missile threats. The warship is part of the USS George W. Bush Carrier Strike Group currently stationed in Greece. The carrier is not expected to move into the Black Sea in respect of the Montreux Convention of 1936, which closed Turkish Bosphorus and Dardanelles for ships with deadweight over 45,000 tons. With its 97,000 tons, the USS George W. Bush is the world’s largest warship.
USS Truxton has taken up the baton of American military presence in the region from frigate USS Taylor, which ran aground in the Turkish port of Samsun in the Black Sea last month, with a broken propeller hub and blades. On Friday, a tugboat began to tow the damaged warship to Greece’s island of Crete, where it will be repaired at the US Navy base in Souda Bay.
USS Truxton will reportedly stay in the Black Sea till mid-March. The Montreux Convention allows a warship of any non-Black Sea country to stay in the region for 21 days only.
During the military conflict between Russia and Georgia in August 2008, an American ship was also present in the Black Sea with reconnaissance and an officially proclaimed humanitarian mission. In September 2008, the US costal guard ship, Dallas, docked at Sevastopol harbor with a secret mission and had to leave in haste because of mass local protest.
Given the present conditions, an American battleship is highly unlikely to get anywhere near the Crimea shores, let alone Sevastopol, without a risk of repeating a hasty exit from the past.
On February 12, 1988, a Ticonderoga-class cruiser, the USS Yorktown, and a Spruance-class destroyer, the USS Caron, had to flee from Soviet territorial waters off the Crimean Peninsula. After the two American warships ignored the Soviet Navy’s demands to leave country’s territorial waters immediately, the Soviet frigate, Bezzavetny, simply rammed both American ships, forcing them to comply with international maritime rules.
Obama Worse Than Reagan
Heads-up, veterans of the nuclear freeze movement in the US, the anti-Euromissile campaigns in Western Europe, and the various anti-nuclear weapons efforts in New Zealand, Australia and Japan. Incoming.
We spent much of the eighties resisting Ronald Reagan’s new Cold War, and his new nuclear weapons of all shapes and sizes. We pushed back against his giant ‘defense’ budgets and countered his harrowing rhetoric. We knew Star Wars was a scam, and the MX missile a danger. We grimaced at his appointments to key policymaking positions, and scoffed at his insincere arms control efforts.
In the end, we prevailed (after a sort). We get much of the credit for preventing planetary incineration that seemed frighteningly close at the time (Gorbachev deserves some too). Professional activists, Plowshares heroes, and a handful of stalwart others stayed in the anti-nuclear weapons movement trenches. Although nukes were not abolished with the end of the Cold War, most of the rest of us nonetheless moved on to fight other evils, and to work on one or more better world construction projects.
It’s time to return. President Obama released his FY 2015 budget on Tuesday, March 4. Ready for this? It asks for considerably more money (in constant dollars) for nuclear weapons maintenance, design and production than Reagan spent in 1985, the historical peak of spending on nukes: $8.608 billion dollars, not counting administrative costs (see graph below). The Los Alamos Study Group crunched the numbers for us.
Next year’s request tops this year’s by 7%. Should the President’s new Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative be approved, yet $504 million more would be available for warhead spending. The OGSI is $56 billion over and above the spending agreed to in the December 2013 two-year budget (unlikely to pass given that it’s an election year, would be paid for by increased taxes on the retirement funds of the rich, and reduced spending in politically dicey areas like crop insurance).
Increased lucre for the nuclear weapons complex maintains Obama’s inconsistency on the Bomb. He wrote his senior thesis at Columbia on the arms race and the nuclear freeze campaign. Two months after his first inauguration, he uttered these words in Prague: “So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
The Pentagon’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review promised to avoid “new military missions or . . . new military capabilities” for nuclear weapons (don’t laugh, you’d be surprised how imaginative those guys can be). 2011 was even better: Obama signed the New START Treaty. It limits the number of operationally deployed nuclear warheads to 1550, a 30% decrease from the previous START Treaty, signed in 2002. New START also lowered limits on the number of launch platforms — ICBMs, ballistic missile launching subs, and nuke-equipped bombers.
At the same time, his State Department refuses—under first Hilary Clinton and now John Kerry—to present the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the Senate for ratification out of timidity over expected resistance (never mind that the US has essentially figured out ways to circumvent the Treaty’s spirit if not letter; the CTB was once the ‘holy grail’ for arms control and disarmament advoates).
That same State Department refrains—under both Hilary Clinton and John Kerry—from getting tough with Pakistan over its years-long obstruction of United Nations-sponsored negotiations over a global ban on the stuff needed to make bombs. (Pakistan is the country building them faster than any other; how about: ‘we’ll ground the killer drones in exchange for a fissile material cut-off?’). And Obama now wants to outspend Reagan on nuclear weapons maintenance, design and production.
Winding down nuclear weapons spending, and eventually abolishing the things (for which no negotiations are underway) has been the right thing to do since the first bomb exploded in the New Mexico desert in 1945. State Department support for the coup in Ukraine and the resultant saber rattling (echoes of August 1914?) make it as urgent as ever.
Steve Breyman was 2011-12 William C. Foster Visiting Scholar Fellow in the Euro-Atlantic Security Affairs Office of the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance at the US Department of State where he worked fruitlessly on reforming nuclear weapons policy.
[NATO's goal is] to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.
— Hastings Ismay, first NATO Secretary-General
Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.
— James Madison (1751-1836), fourth American President
The hazards associated with American foreign policy since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 should appear obvious to all, because it is precisely this policy that has caused the crisis in Ukraine with all its negative consequences for the coming months and years.
President Barack Obama was candid in admitting it on March 3, 2014: “we are indicating to the Russians [that] if in fact they continue on the current trajectory they’re on, then we are examining a whole series of steps — economic, diplomatic— that will isolate Russia.”
Well, it is precisely this desire to expand NATO and to isolate Russia by incorporating all the countries bordering Russia into NATO; i.e., a strategy of geopolitical and military encirclement of Russia, which has provoked that country when it felt threatened in its national security.
This is easy to understand.
For example, what would the United States do if a hypothetical Russian Empire were to incorporate Mexico or Canada into a military alliance? To ask the question is to answer it. Why is it so difficult to understand that the best way to start a war is to threaten a country’s vital interests?
The truth is that NATO should have been disbanded after the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991, and especially after the Warsaw Pact was itself dismantled. Europe should have then moved to build an expanded Europe of nations, large, democratic and peaceful, within a framework of economic and political cooperation and peace. But no! The United States wanted to take advantage of the situation and demanded that everything fell into the military-financial U.S. empire.
That is the source of many problems.
In my book The New American Empire, originally published in 2003, just before the onset of the Iraq war, I pointed out the dangers of the American global imperial ambition and explained the reasons. The Middle East was the first to suffer under this global policy of interventionism. And now, Europe as a whole, most unfortunately, may have to pay the price for this unbridled American hubris, under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, although that policy goes back to George H. Bush and Bill Clinton.
This is why President Obama and his neocon advisers do not think beyond their nose, as was the case for the not-too-bright George W. Bush, when they adopted such a global imperialist ideology.
In 2008, it just happened that I wrote an article in which I advanced the idea that Europe had a vital interest in disbanding that relic of another age: NATO. Indeed, we must blame European leaders not to have understood that the fundamental interest of Europe was not to blend into the American Empire but rather to build an independent and united Europe. Because that reality has not been well understood, Europe is now running the risk of falling prey to a new Cold War with divisive and ruinous conflicts, while the United States will try to pull the chestnuts out of the fire, with the U.K. as its convenient ally from within Europe.
It may be not too late for European leaders to rectify the situation. This would, however, require wisdom and the courage to tell the American neo-cons who have designed American foreign policy for a quarter of a century that they are not masters of the world and that the European Union has no intention to pursue an aggressive policy of military encirclement of Russia. Point to the line.
Rather, on the contrary, Russia should be invited to join an expanded Europe of nations, large, democratic and peaceful within a framework of economic cooperation and peace.
What is needed of them is vision, insight, and a spirit of independence, which currently seems to be lacking badly in many current European governments.
Carelessness and the current European abdication in letting Washington decide European foreign policy may serve the interests of the American empire, but this could lead Europe to disaster.
The author can be reach at: email@example.com
Military historian Max Hastings and education minister Michael Gove say we should should blame the Germans for World War I and celebrate the victory for ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’. Archaeologist Neil Faulkner disagrees.
Max Hastings has his new book on 1914 out already (Catastrophe: Europe goes to war, 1914). In it he pulls no punches. Even the dustcover proclaims the forthright revisionist message.
‘He [the author] finds the evidence overwhelming that Austria and Germany must accept the principal blame for the outbreak. While what followed was a vast tragedy, he argues passionately against the ‘poets ‘view’ that the war was not worth winning. It was vital to the freedom of Europe, he says, that the Kaiser’s Germany should be defeated.’
UK secretary of state for education, Michael Gove, writing in the Daily Mail, takes the same view:
The First World War may have been a uniquely horrific war, but it was also plainly a just war… The ruthless social Darwinism of the German elites, the pitiless approach they took to occupation, their aggressively expansionist war aims and their scorn for the international order all made resistance more than justified.
So there you have it. Just as the rulers of Britain and France argued at the time, it was all Germany’s fault. Never mind that Britain had the largest empire in the world, ruling over one-fifth of the world’s land mass and one-quarter of its people. Never mind that Britain’s navy was almost the twice the size of Germany’s. Never mind that Britain had formed a military alliance with Russia and France, leaving Germany’s rulers feeling corralled and threatened in an arms race they were losing.
This is not to exonerate the Kaiser. It is simply to say that he was no worse than the rulers of Britain and France. All were imperialists and warmongers. All were prepared to plunge the world into an industrialised war for the power and profit of a few. The vast majority of humanity – the vast majority of the people these rulers were supposed to represent – had no interest in the war. The conscripted workers and peasants of Europe were the victims of a millionaires’ war.
‘No poet,’ says Hastings, ‘ever identified a route by which the British, French, and Belgian people could have escaped the conflict, save by accepting the Kaiser’s domination of Europe.’ This claim appears in a Daily Mail article in June this year headlined Sucking up to the Germans is no way to remember our Great War heroes, Mr Cameron‘.
But this is nonsense. There was a Europe-wide movement against war. Just days before Germany’s declaration of war there were 100,000 anti-war demonstrators on the streets of Berlin. Across Germany, during four days of mass protest in the final days of peace, there had been no fewer than 288 anti-war demonstrations involving up to three-quarters of a million people.
Across Europe that last summer of peace, as millions of people took action against their own rulers, there was a widespread mood of internationalism and solidarity. But when the leaders of all the mainstream parties lined up in support of the war effort, they reinforced a tide of jingoism that the killed the anti-war movement and swept the people of Europe into internecine carnage.
But that mood would resurface, and when it did, beginning in 1917, it would be charged with bitterness at the slaughter and impoverishment, becoming a giant wave of revolution crashing across the continent, ending the war, toppling tyrants, and shaking the foundations of the entire social order.
‘Far from dying in vain,’ continues Hastings, ‘those who perished … between 1914 and 1918 made as important a contribution to our privileged, peaceful lives today as did their sons in World War II.’
And Michael Gove agrees:
‘For all our mistakes as a nation, Britain’s role in the world has also been marked by nobility and courage. Indeed, the more we reflect on every aspect of the war, the more cause there is for us to appreciate what we owe to our forebears and their traditions.’
These are extraordinary claims. The British and the French used their victory in 1918 to re-divide the world, helping themselves to German colonies, hacking off chunks of German territory in Europe, and imposing crippling reparations payments on the German people.
Meantime, to control their enlarged empires in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, they gunned down protestors demanding democracy and independence. This imperialist carve-up – ‘a peace to end all peace’ – created the preconditions for the Second World War two decades later.
The cost of the First World War was 15 million dead. The cost of the sequel was 60 million dead. More human beings have been killed by war in the last century than in the whole of the rest of human history put together.
The immense potential of industrial society to provide the goods and service we all need has, again and again, been turned into its opposite: means of destruction and waste on an unprecedented scale.
This is not something to be rationalised into a choice between ‘good’ empires and ‘bad’ empires; a choice between ‘democratic’ Britain and France as against ‘autocratic’ and ‘expansionist’ Germany. This is to trivialise historical events, reducing them to little more than a banal discussion about who sent the final ultimatum, who mobilised first, who fired the first shot.
Max Hastings and Michael Gove want us to side with one empire against another. He wants us to wave a Union Jack, celebrate a British victory, and promote the lie that the 15 million dead of the First World War were ‘a necessary sacrifice’.
What is required is an analysis that roots tragedies like the First World War, and all the other imperialist conflicts of the last century, in the madness of a world divided into competing corporations and warring nation-states.
No Glory – the real History of the First World War
Neil Faulkner’s new pamphlet published by No Glory in War
More details and how to buy…
Neil Faulkner is a First World War archaeologist and editor of Military History Monthly. He is one of the founders of the No Glory in War campaign.
The effect of the Parliament’s decision not to attack Syria last year is still reverberating through the Western military establishment.
Let’s not forget that the decision was forced on the political elite. In the days before the vote the BBC was openly speculating that any such decision would re-ignite Iraq war levels of protest. They cited opinion polling going back a decade to show that anti-war opinion had become entrenched in the UK.
Many MPs in the lobbies did not hide the fact that they were embarrassed at the Iraq vote in 2003 and were unwilling to follow the government into another deeply unpopular conflict.
More recently the Guardian has reported that the Ministry of Defence is worried that multi-culturalism in Britain has made the country systematically averse to war: ‘The MoD is still taking stock of the surprise decision of the House of Commons last summer to reject military intervention to punish President Assad of Syria for the use of chemical weapons against rebel forces’.
In fact the situation is so serious that it is impacting on the defence review, ‘A growing reluctance in an increasingly multicultural Britain to see UK troops deployed on the ground in future operations abroad is influencing the next two strategic defence reviews, according to senior figures at the Ministry of Defence’.
In the wake of the Syria vote, Robert Gates, US imperial Grandee and former Defense Secretary and director of the CIA who served under both Bush and Obama, has said the defence spending cuts in the UK mean that the ‘special relationship’ is over and that Britain ‘won’t have full spectrum capabilities and the ability to be a full partner as they have been in the past’.
This combination of a crisis in public support for military adventures and the usual push-back from the military over defence cuts is casting a new light over the debate about the 100 year commemoration of the First World War.
David Cameron has long made it clear that huge set-piece public spectaculars are part of the government’s way of getting through the recession. The Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics were part of this ‘no bread and circuses’ strategy.
The First World War commemoration was initially thought of mainly in this register, although it was always also going to be about refurbishing the standing of the military as well.
But now, as neo-con Michael Gove’s recent intervention into the debate has made clear, it’s become an ideological offensive bound up with the post-Syria vote crisis of interventionism. Remember Gove was incandescent at the loss of the Syria vote, publically and abusively bawling out Labour MPs in the House of Commons corridors because the vote, he said, had ‘got to him’.
So make no mistake, this will be a full scale British establishment operation.
The Queen will be at a special event at Glasgow Cathedral on 4th August because the city is hosting the Commonwealth Games which end the day before. The plan is that across the country, flags on public buildings will fly at half mast on the anniversary of the outbreak of war. The day will end with a vigil at Westminster Abbey to be ‘attended by scouts, cubs and brownies’ as well as members of the Armed Forces. This will be replicated around Britain in churches, town halls, and other venues.
Ministers hope this will allow people to mark the conflict which ravaged the continent ‘with sorrow and with pride’ and have set aside £10 million just for funding art, drama and music projects linked to the war, from a total government funding for the commemoration of £50 million. According to the Daily Telegraph, a government source said ‘We are keen to ensure that this [will be] a centenary programme that the country can come together on’.
The BBC are planning major, all year coverage. There will be 1,000 books published this year alone on the First World War.
The anti-war movement must meet this ideological operation by the government just as it has met its previous pro-war propaganda efforts. The No Glory campaign, initiated by the Stop the War Coalition, has made a great start. Its initial letter is approaching 15,000 signatures, its website is drawing thousands of visitors every week, the No Glory pamphlet, The Real History of World War One, is a best seller and thousands of pounds were donated in the first few hours of its financial appeal to help fund its events and activities.
But we need to do more. No pro-war article, speech or event should go unchallenged. We need to get into the colleges and schools where these commemorations are being planned. We need to sustain the cultural events that are critical of the war.
The image of the First World War has been established in the popular mind as the most disastrous war ever. The Tories and the establishment hate that fact. And they are out to reverse it.
We cannot let that happen. The more the dead and injured of the First World War are forgotten in a rush of chauvinistic nostalgia, the more likely it is that dead will pile up in future conflicts. This is not just a battle to remember the past correctly. It’s about political priorities in the present. It’s about keeping the peace in the future.
It is sometimes instructive to learn a bit of history to reflect on current events because if we do not learn from history, we are bound to repeat the tragic history of useless wars. This came to me as I read about the escalating situation in Ukraine, where the US and western countries invested heavily to dislodge the Ukraine (strategically located on the Black Sea) from Russian influence. The coup that toppled the elected government in the capital and Russia’s strong influence in the mostly Russian Speaking Crimean peninsula of the Ukraine threatens to ignite another Crimean war (a prelude to many more European wars).
The Crimean war 1854-1856 was a devastating and useless conflict that was started with a with an incident here in Palestine (then under Ottoman Rule). The British were in the midst of an industrial economic boom (at least for the elites, the workers were essentially enslaved). To fuel this industrial boom, Britain (and to a lesser degree France) were aiming to expand their empires. The weak Ottoman empire seemed a target. Russia’s influence on the religious Holy Places was high. This was understandable considering that most Palestinian Christians at the time and even still today are Orthodox (especially around the holy sites of Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem).
Russian intellectuals had gone through a period of Westernization before the 1850s and then grew disillusioned with the west and its hypocrisy. Those who considered themselves Patriotic Russians thus became increasingly oriented towards Czar Nicholas and the Orthodox Church and increasingly opposed to the Western Encroachments on the borders of Russia.
When France instigated a provocation by Catholic supporters challenging long standing Orthodox traditions at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, a fury of high level diplomatic lobbying ensued with threats and counter threats that escalated to the Crimean war. Alyce Mange wrote that “The Crimean War (1854-1856) was a war fought ostensibly for the preservation of the Ottoman Empire but actually for the curtailment of Russian encroachment.”
The war was costly to all sides concerned even though the Russian empire lost to the alliance of the three empires (Britain, France, Ottomans). But the origin of the problem remained here in Palestine where competing Russian, British, and French interests remained until the first draft of the Sykes-Picot agreement (which divided their influences). Russia withdrew and so it remained for Britain and France to divide the spoils of WWI in the “Near East/Middle East” (I prefer the term Western Asia to these colonial terms). In parallel, there was the growth of the world Zionist movement that got from France and Britain the infamous Jules Cambon and Arthur Balfour Declarations (1917) partially as quid pro quo for the Zionists lobbying the US to enter the war.
Fast forward from 1854 to 2014 and we see again the beating of war drums for hegemony with triggers in Palestine. The circumstances differ but I am afraid this could also degenerate into a useless devastating war.
The Zionist movement was unhappy about the lack of progress in their efforts (using others) to destroy the Iran-Syria-Lebanon axis. A big part of their failure to achieve success in pushing for more conflicts (as they did with Iraq) is due to the fact that Russia (and China) refuse to go along and realized that the end-game is total Western hegemony in Western Asia (with Israel assuming even more power over Western foreign policies). The Russians and Chinese also took lessons from the disastrous US attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan and NATO attacks on Libya which had terrible consequences (including spreading radicalism and terrorism around the area). They calculated that they must draw a line.
The Zionist movement became involved (as they do frequently) because their key members are in the US State Department and also heavily influential in France and Britain. They thought that we must break Russia’s will to resist encroachment in Western Asia.
Ukraine seemed like an ideal “soft belly” for Russia. It seems possible that reports such as this one on Israelis involved in the protests in Kiev may have some basis. But most Israeli meddling is not done via Israelis but via their now obedient people working for the US government.
It is not a coincidence that protests escalated in Ukraine and Venezuela. I do not know what will happen, but suggest that all wars are useless and counterproductive (to all sides); the history of the 1854 Crimean war should give us pause.
What I suggest is that the talk about democracy by Western leaders like Kerry, Obama, Hollande and company is wearing thin. Most people know that democracy is not achieved by coups against elected governments (whether in Egypt or Ukraine) and certainly not done on behalf of countries who support dictatorships everywhere that are friendly to their interests (see Saudi Arabia as a glaring example).
For the good people of Ukraine (both in the East and the West), do not let your country be used for power politics again. But also I suggest that they remember who their neighbors for the next few hundred years will be (hint it is not Israel or the US or England). But even those countries will not remain immune from destabilization and change if they do not learn to share this planet earth and respect other people. Remember might does not make right and even great empires fell before. This brings me back to the point I always emphasize” READ HISTORY (objectively and not tribally).
Worst Man for the Job
Nothing is quite as nauseating as watching the hypocrisy and hubris with which President Obama ‘warns’ the Russian president not to ‘interfere’ in Ukraine, telling the Russians there would be ‘costs to pay.’ It’s a surreal move, echoed by his equally creepy and out-of-touch consigliore and chief “diplomat,” the morally bankrupt John Kerry. Astonishing in its audacity and lack of regard for history, truth or facts, this bellicose blather seems aimed only at the idiots over whom he presides, the fools and tools in congress and the press, and his bought-and-paid-for lackeys in European capitals.
Outside the bubble, the sabre rattling is alarming and threatening. Having stood the issue completely on its head, No Drama Obama ignores how it looks to Russia, China and anyone with a skeptical mind. It is so jarring that it leaves only two options: is he crazy or does he really want war? That’s why the Russian Senate, offended to the core, asked President Putin to recall the US ambassador over Obama’s remarks.
How oblivious or arrogant do you have to be to spend $5 billion dollars destabilizing a country (the actual total is undoubtedly much higher), have your diplomats caught on tape planning a coup, bring a gang of fascist thugs to power on Russia’s doorstep–whose first order of business is to outlaw the Russian language, conduct a purge of opposing parties, threaten the Russian-speaking population, threaten to restore Ukraine’s nuclear status and provoke and threaten Russia non-stop… and have the *balls* to lecture anyone about interfering? Oh, add to the pot that you have done the same exact thing in several other countries in the past few years alone. It simply boggles the mind.
Continue poking Putin by suggesting he is being a “bully” when he moves to protect the Russian naval base, protect Russians, and listen to the wishes of the elected government of the region who ask for his support, as as new protests erupted across eastern Ukraine rejecting the putschists in Kiev, with Russian flags being raised over government buildings and protesters brandished signs saying “In Russia We Have Brothers. In Europe We Are Slaves” and “Where We Are, It is Also Russia.” This is called an ‘invasion’ by the people who bought and organized a fascist coup. Bizarro World.
But why do I focus on Obama? After all, he is little more than an irrelevant placeholder president, a sort of ventriloquist’s dummy for the vested interests and forces that put him where he is. Furthermore, I am not a fan of any Great Man theory of history that implies superhuman powers to people instead of historical forces. Accordingly, I don’t really go in for ad hominem attacks, which seems to be the only stock-in-trade of the western media, whose searing, eternal question seems to be who is the next Hitler.
Maybe it’s because I’m in the grip of the question the rest of the world is pondering: is he crazy or does he really want war? I can’t get past wondering whether he is sleepwalking through his presidency, having given over control of his administration to a foreign policy apparatus gone wild–or if he indeed believes the hypocritical warmongering crap that escapes his mouth. In short, Either he eats babies for breakfast or he has no clue that he is being led by the nose by psychopaths.
It’s important because in either case he is perhaps the most dangerous man who has ever held the office. His chief flaw is *exactly* the puzzle piece that is *least* amenable to being a leader at this historical juncture. It is a horrific perfect storm, and one that has allowed him to blunder disastrously close to World War III on at least two occasions.
The measure of the man has always told us he was an extremely glib politician. On watching an early speech of his, my wife was shocked at what all the fuss was about, and actually quoted King Herod out loud to the TV: “Take him away/ He’s got *nothing* to say!” Yeah, she’s funny like that. But still, glibness isn’t always hollowness. We got more of a glimpse when he joked casually about sending drones after any boys who had designs on his precious daughters. Later, referring to the boys he actual did mow down with his drones, he joked to aides–equally casually, we assume–that he never thought he ‘would wind up being so good at killing people.’
But the clincher for me is one memory which still haunts me from campaign 2008: a late rally in some Florida dump where Clinton explained (actually apologizing for going off script) that Obama was The Guy because he had said to the council of elders behind closed doors–you tell me what’s the right thing to do and I’ll sell it. At the time I did a double take, and it raised the hairs on the back of my neck. This is not a leader, a president, or even a thinker at all, but a glorified and willing Pitchman-in-Chief, a sort of real life Clayton Bigsby selling an ideology he is too blind to see.
It was a bit of the mask slipping… and it was incredibly ominous. I felt it and said so to my wife at the time, but she had checked out long before. Never thought he was anything more than a charlatan and a whore – from the first time she heard him, actually. Damn, I envy her clarity sometimes. It’s like they made a clone of Truman in a test tube, only this time not a hick… scary. Jimmy Burns led Truman around on a leash, and this misplaced trust in Wise Men led to war crimes such as Hiroshima and Nagasaki, among others.
In another famous example, Kennedy stupidly let the Bay of Pigs invasion proceed, as he was advised by ‘wiser men’ who told him it was already in the pipeline. However, he wisely vetoed air support, realizing that is was a stupid plan laid out by zealots. Obama has neither the balls nor the intelligence to pull off any such thing. There was a flicker over Syria in August, but it appears to have been a mirage brought on by Russian missiles and wiser generals. He has the fatal flaw which makes all smart men stupid: heeding the counsel of fools and those with their own secret agenda masquerading as Wise Men.
The zealots who have his ear have been in power for a long time, and they are the kind of fanatics who avoid scrutiny in public and accountability even to themselves, so stupid or proud that they still see chasing the Russians out of Afghanistan as their greatest triumph, and take no responsibility for having created, from the ground up, the very concept of militarized global jihad.
Even cutting him the most possible slack, he listens to them–and that makes him delusional, a hollow man issuing idle threats. As logic dictates, it is the US who should be worrying about costs, starting with billions to set the coup in motion. That will turn out to have been a pittance.
He is now a dangerous man being counseled by dangerous men. Just today, listening to his smug, arrogant self humiliate a heckler, someone trying to shout a tiny bit of truth through the noise, is truly chilling. The trouble is, Obama may not be lying. He really doesn’t know what the guy is talking about, and doesn’t know that this is the plan–at what may be the most dangerous moment in history–and will go along with whichever three loudest advisers tell him is the right thing. The saddest and scariest part is that he doesn’t even seem to know it–a true button pusher. Soulless.
But this is a measure of the man. At a friendly, fundraising event, with full control and no opposition, he could have said anything he wanted, could have made some sensible retort. Instead he chose to be mean and demeaning, calling the guy a drunk and implying that he is crazy. So now I have to add Bad Man to my list. No lie lives forever, and some day his uppance will come, as Stewie Griffin says. He richly deserves the place he has earned in history, and I have lost interest in splitting hairs: enabler, dupe or antichrist–take your pick.
Writer, singer, linguist and activist Daniel Patrick Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Translations of articles are available in in up to 30 languages.
The world’s largest military alliance seems annoyed about Russia’s “lack of transparency” over military drills at a very “delicate time.” NATO, however, has its own long history of war games all over the globe.
Western politicians have leveled criticism at Russia for planned drills on its own territory, seemingly glossing over the many joint military exercises Western powers, namely the US and NATO forces, have conducted on foreign soil over the years.
This week, US and South Korean forces began their annual joint military drills, which will last until mid-April. The Foal Eagle exercise is conducted near Iksan and Damyan, South Korea.
The drills prompted a stern reaction from North Korea, which slammed the exercises as “a serious provocation” that could plunge the region into “a deadlock and unimaginable holocaust.”
The US joined Greece, Italy, and Israeli forces at Ovda air base in southern Israel for the ‘Blue Flag’ air-training drills in November 2013. The drills were called the “largest international aerial exercise in history,” by Israeli news outlet Haaretz.
According to Israel National News reports the exercises are geared towards “simulating realistic engagements in a variety of scenarios, based on Israel’s experience with air forces of Arab armies in previous engagements.”
Poland and Latvia
NATO’s ‘Steadfast Jazz’ training exercise was held in November 2013, in Latvia and Poland. The drills included air, land, naval, and special forces.
Over 6,000 military personnel from around 20 NATO countries and allies took part in the largest NATO-led drills of their kind since 2006.
In October, NATO also held anti-aircraft drills in Bulgaria, along with the Greek and Norwegian air forces. The exercises were held to test responses in conditions of radio interference, according to the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense.
In May 2013, the US joined 40 other countries in the Persian Gulf for maritime war games. The US Navy said the mass exercises are aimed at “enhancing capability to preserve freedom of navigation in international waterways.”
The drills provoked a sharp response from the Iranian government who voiced concerns at how the maneuvers came in the run-up to the Iranian elections.
In August 2012, US Marines joined Japanese troops for military drills in the western Pacific. The drills were held in part in Guam, a US holding, just as an old territory dispute reemerged between Japan and China over islands in the East China Sea.
“China will not ignore hostile gestures from other nations and give up on its core interests or change its course of development,” the Chinese Communist Party stated in response to the drills, warning the US and Japan not to “underestimate China’s resolve to defend its sovereignty.”
The US joined 16 other nations in May 2012 for military exercises in Jordan near the Syria border. The ‘Eager Lion’ drills included 12,000 soldiers from the participating countries, Turkey, France, and Saudi Arabia among them.
Denying accusations that the violence in Syria had nothing to do with the drills, the US claimed it was “designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships through a joint, entire-government, multinational approach, integrating all instruments of national power to meet current and future complex national security challenges.
In August 2010, the US Navy joined Vietnamese forces for drills in the South China Sea, to the dismay of China. Sovereignty claims in the South China Sea have long been a subject of debate and animosity among Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, and Malaysia, though China’s territorial declarations have been the most aggressive.
Ukraine welcomed a fleet of NATO warships for a two-week period of military drills in July 2010. Operation ‘Sea Breeze-2010′ focused on joint anti-terror exercises, despite Kiev’s decision not to enter the NATO alliance. Some 3,000 international military personnel were said to be a part of the drills.
Ukraine began hosting the Sea Breeze exercises in 1997, as part of its commitment to join the alliance. In 2009, the Ukrainian parliament voted against the drills, curtailing then-President Viktor Yuschenko’s efforts to seek NATO membership.
In May 2009, 15 NATO countries held a series of controversial military exercises in Georgia less than a year after it launched an offense against its breakaway region of South Ossetia. Russia called the maneuvers “dubious provocation” saying it may encourage the country’s regime to carry out new attacks.
With the predictable failure of the Syrian peace conference, the call for the Obama administration to wage a humanitarian war to save civilians in Syria is once again being championed by some elements of the mainstream media in the U.S. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, since certain powerful voices in the U.S. corporate media have long been in lock-step with some of the most hawkish elements in the Obama administration regarding the use of force in Syria.
A sober, clear-eyed analysis of the logic of the decisions by the Obama administration suggest that the failure of the peace conference was a programmed outcome. The inescapable conclusion as to why the conference was even held, therefore, is that administration hawks saw the failure of the conference as a valuable public relations weapon to move public opinion in favor of more direct military involvement.
Before I am accused of being overly cynical or even conspiratorial, a review of the decisions made in the days and weeks leading up to the conference provides more than adequate evidence to support this contention.
If the Obama administration had been even remotely committed to brokering some kind of diplomatic solution, would it have insisted that all of the parties to the talks be bound by the terms of the Geneva communiqué that called for “regime change” in the form of a transitional government? Would the administration have excluded Iran or been committed to pretending that the “legitimate opposition” was represented by the Syrian National Coalition, a motley crew of slavish opportunist exiles who everyone knows have no real connection to the political and military situation on the ground?
The propaganda value of the talks seems to be the only plausible explanation for why the administration would engineer the elaborate charade in Geneva. The decision to hold the talks knowing that they were going to lead to failure is where the real cynicism lies.
As I have argued since the beginning of this manufactured conflict, peace and particularly the humanity of the Syrian people are the last things on the minds of U.S. policy-makers. The often-invoked concerns for the starving people of Homs and all of the other innocents in this brutal conflict continue to be no more than a crude subterfuge to allow the administration to pursue its broader regional geostrategic objective – the elimination of the Syrian state.
That is why the Islamic fundamentalist groups that U.S. intelligence services helped to arm, train and deploy with destructive efficiency (without much real concern if they were affiliated with al-Qaeda) have targeted all of the institutions of the Syrian state – schools, hospitals, government agencies, electrical stations, water and sanitation facilities, food distribution networks – as part of their strategy. Generalized mayhem, reducing the population to dependence on their networks and territorial dismemberment have all moved the administration toward realization of its strategic objective. But because of the successes of the Syrian armed forces and the uncertainties generated as a result of internal conflicts breaking out among Islamist forces in the country, Washington decision-makers want to make sure that the Syrian government is not able to retake or re-consolidate its influence in contested zones. This can only be assured as a result of more direct military intervention on the part of the U.S. and its allies.
So the next act in this macabre play is now centering on the very real sufferings of the Syrian people. The administration’s man at the U.N., Lakhor Brahimi, set this direction in motion by skillfully moving the peace talks toward the issue of humanitarian concerns. No longer needing the chemical weapons excuse, the administration along with its coterie of collaborationist human rights organizations and media apologists, are now demanding U.N. access to the areas where the Syrian governmental forces have hemmed in the armed groups.
Taking a page from its Libyan playbook on how to manipulate the public to support war, the Obama administration had a draft U.N. Security Council resolution circulated that placed the full blame on the Syrian government for the humanitarian situation in the country.
The language in the resolution was seen as so one-sided and belligerent by some U.N. members that it had no chance of being supported, which of course was the real objective. Orchestrated by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, the resolution appeared aimed at invoking a veto in the Security Council that would set the stage for another illegal NATO-led military assault on the Syrian armed forces. Instead, a resolution was passed over the weekend that some characterized as more balanced because it called on “all sides” to allow humanitarian aid to reach civilians and condemned acts of terror. But all of the delegations understand that this compromise resolution is primarily targeting the Syrian government.
This concern for the humanity of the Syrians is comical if it was not so deadly serious. Sen. John McCain – the same Vietnam-era war criminal who was silent on the uprising of the people in Bahrain, the slaughter of innocent civilians in the various military assaults by Israel in Gaza and who supported the illegal war against Iraq that resulted in the deaths of over a million Iraqi’s – loudly condemned the Obama administration for not doing more for people suffering in Syria.
McCain as well as the hawks in the Obama administration and in the media know that they have a powerful weapon with the imperial and racist notion of the U.S. government’s “responsibility to protect.” The New York Times, Washington Post and a number of other major newspapers are now on record suggesting that the “use of force” by the Obama administration to end the starvation of innocents trapped in besieged cities is morally justified.
No one can deny the reality of tens of thousands of innocents suffering from the savage brutality of war. And who can disagree with relieving the sufferings of innocent civilians trapped in the middle of warring factions? U.S. decision-makers are well aware that most polling data suggest that when issues of humanitarian concerns are introduced, public support for more direct involvement in Syria shifts from a majority that is opposed to a slight majority that would support it.
So the U.S. public has been saturated over the last two weeks with stories about the trapped civilians, the cruel al-Assad government opposing humanitarian access and the innocent American administration that only wants to help the suffering Syrian people. The sad part of all of this is that with the anti-war and anti-imperialist movement in shambles, suffering from a combination of institutional weakness, marginalization and the effects of the “liberal virus” that has confused and disarmed U.S. radicals, the administration may very well be successful in maneuvering the public into supporting more direct military involvement.
The consequence of all of this for the people of Syria will be more violent destruction, brutality and displacement. But I am sure that the pro-imperialist and pro-war Democrats in the Obama administration have concluded that for the Syrian people, freedom – as they define it – is “worth the price” in death and destruction. And they will not see any irony in this.
Ajamu Baraka is a human rights activist and organizer. Baraka is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C.
The Israeli military deployed a new division to the border with Syria in a move described as “a significant boost to border security and stability,” the Jerusalem Post reported on Sunday.
The 210th Regional Bashan Division replaced the 36th Armor Division and the Har Dov sector, which have been stationed on the occupied Golan Heights for 40 years.
The 36th Armor Division will become “an all-purpose wartime division, designed to be sent to any combat arena, such as Lebanon or Gaza, to support other divisions,” while the 210th Regional Bashan Division, with it’s “enhanced capabilities” backed by air defense systems and intelligence operations, will also have the ability “to carry out a ground maneuver in enemy territory.”
The deployment, dubbed “historic” has been planned months in advance, spurred by the volatile events across the border in Syria particularly in terms of fears that “there is no Syrian state sovereignty in areas bordering the southern Golan Heights, and global jihadi forces are expected to get stronger in such areas,” the Jerusalem Post said, citing Israeli intelligence assessments.
“The military sources said they do not expect Syria to recover from the civil war and go back to being a sovereign state in the foreseeable future, and they described the conflict as a strategic change that will be studied in future textbooks on Middle East history. It is impossible to know how Syria will turn out,” the report said.
“The IDF’s map of territory controlled by the Assad regime and the rebels is changing continuously,” it added.
Furthermore, the Jerusalem Post report noted that the 210th Division will be assisted by “a recently created Combat Intelligence Collection battalion, active along the Syrian border, and by a new security fence complete with electro-optical surveillance means and radars.”
The 210th Division will also have the ability to conduct military operations without seeking higher approval.
84-Year-Old Pacifist Nun Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison after Exposing Lack of Security at Nuclear Weapons Site
Three anti-nuclear protesters, including an elderly Roman Catholic nun, will spend multiple years in prison for breaching security at a key weapons facility previously known as the “Fort Knox of uranium.”
Sister Megan Rice, 84, and two other members of the group Transform Now Plowshares embarrassed the U.S. Department of Energy and its security contractor at the Y-12 Nuclear Complex in Tennessee two years ago.
The three activists managed to enter the top-security grounds and travel all the way to a key building that houses 400 metric tons of highly enriched uranium used in nuclear warheads.
Rice along with Michael Walli, then 64, and Greg Boertje-Obed, then 57, had enough time to paint slogans like “The fruit of justice is peace” and splash bottles of human blood on the bunker wall before private security guards arrived on the scene.
They were convicted last year on two felony counts: damaging government property and obstructing the national defense, a sabotage charge. But they were not sentenced until February 18, 2014.
Rice received a prison term of two years and eleven months, while Walli and Boertje-Obed each got five years and two months because of earlier protest-related arrests.
“Please have no leniency with me,” Rice told the judge prior to her sentencing. “To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest honor for me.”
U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar asked prosecutors before handing down the sentences what harm the activists caused at Y-12.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Theodore responded that the defendants “had destroyed the ‘mystique’ of the ‘Fort Knox of uranium.’”
The August 2012 break-in at the complex prompted multiple federal reviews of security procedures, including congressional hearings, a report by the Energy Department’s inspector general (IG), and an independent commission review.
In the wake of the embarrassing episode, the Energy Department set about to test security readiness at nuclear weapons sites across the country. At Y-12, the IG discovered, the security knowledge exam itself was compromised when personnel disseminated it, along with the answers, ahead of time.
To Learn More:
Y-12 Protestors “Destroyed the Mystique” of Nuclear Security (by Lydia Dennett, Project On Government Oversight)
How the Obama Administration Charged 3 Pacifists with Violent Acts of Sabotage (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
The 82-Year-Old Nun Who Breached U.S. High-Security Nuclear Complex (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)