A US-led military maneuver has begun in western Ukraine, amid continued fighting between government troops and pro-Russian forces in the country’s east.
The military drill, dubbed “Rapid Trident 14,” started early Monday near Ukraine’s border with Poland and involves 1,300 troops from over a dozen countries.
According to the US army, the troops come from 12 NATO members, including Germany, the UK, Poland, Norway and Canada, as well as non-members Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova.
The eleven-day drills will take place near the western city of Yavoriv and will not involve the live firing of weapons.
The US Defense Ministry said the exercise will increase interoperability among Ukraine and the participating nations.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey earlier announced that NATO member states have begun supplying weapons to the country’s forces despite a truce between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russians.
Meanwhile, heavy fighting between government troops and pro-Russian forces continues around the eastern city of Donetsk. According to Donetsk city hall officials, six civilians were killed on Sunday in heavy shelling around the city and its airport.
Kiev accused pro-Russians of threatening the truce by intensifying attacks against government positions. This is while, on September 13, the pro-Russia forces defending a checkpoint near the village of Olenivka, south of Donetsk accused the Ukrainian army of violating the truce.
The ceasefire agreement was reached between Kiev and the pro-Russians on September 5, after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko hammered out a compromise deal aimed at ending the heavy fighting.
Eugene V. Debs nearly 100 years ago was a political prisoner in the United States for the “crime” of opposing the United States government’s participation in World War I and conscription of people to fight in that war. In March of 1919, the US Supreme Court, pointing to the Espionage Act of 1917 for justification, upheld Debs’ conviction by a trial jury and ten-year prison sentence for making antiwar comments in a June 16, 1918 Canton, Ohio speech.
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote the Supreme Court’s short Debs v. United States opinion that upheld the conviction and ten-year prison sentence of Debs for two charges that Holmes described as follows:
This is an indictment under the Espionage Act of June 15, 1917… It has been cut down to two counts, originally the third and fourth. The former of these alleges that on or about June 16, 1918, at Canton, Ohio, the defendant caused and incited and attempted to cause and incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny and refusal of duty in the military and naval forces of the United States and with intent so to do delivered, to an assembly of people, a public speech, set forth. The fourth count alleges that he obstructed and attempted to obstruct the recruiting and enlistment service of the United States and to that end and with that intent delivered the same speech, again set forth.
In effect, Debs was incarcerated for exercising his right to free speech regarding two political matters — the US government choosing to participate in World War I and the US government using the draft to help fight that war. One may expect the justices to have reread the First Amendment to the US Constitution and promptly overturned Debs’ conviction. However, Holmes explains that a prior Supreme Court decision had already settled the inapplicability of Debs’ First Amendment defense.
The prior Supreme Court decision, announced just seven days earlier, was for the case Schenck v. United States. The Supreme Court’s Schenck opinion allowed Holmes in the Debs opinion to bypass offering ridiculous contortions of logic to justify throwing a prominent labor and political leader in prison for criticizing the heart of the US government’s war policy. Instead, Holmes could just summarily deem Debs’ conviction and sentence constitutional and legitimate based on precedent. Here is how Holmes, again writing for the Supreme Court, argued in the court’s Schenck opinion that a flier opposing the draft was not protected under the First Amendment:
We admit that, in many places and in ordinary times, the defendants, in saying all that was said in the circular, would have been within their constitutional rights. But the character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done. Aikens v. Wisconsin, 195 U.S. 194, 205, 206. The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. It does not even protect a man from an injunction against uttering words that may have all the effect of force. Gompers v. Bucks Stove & Range Co., 221 U.S. 418, 439. The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree. When a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right.
So there you have it: the First Amendment protects your free speech so long as that speech cannot affect US government policy, or at least so long as your free speech cannot pose a serious threat to something the Supreme Court thinks it is very important to promote, such as the US government participating in World War I and forcing Americans to fight in that war.
Debs was an eloquent opponent of this war, and for that, coupled with his prominence in American labor and politics, he was imprisoned.
In addition to his labor union activities, Debs had run four times as the Socialist Party nominee for US president before his conviction, winning more votes each time. In his last pre-imprisonment run in 1912, Debs won over 900,000 votes — 6.0% nationwide.
In 1920, while serving his prison term, Debs again ran for president, winning a few thousand more votes than in 1912 and 3.4% nationwide.
Debs knew his June 16, 1918 Canton, Ohio speech — despite his care in presenting the speech such that it would comply with US government speech restrictions — could lead to his imprisonment. Indeed, in his speech, Debs talks of other individuals who had been imprisoned for the “crime” of exercising their right to free speech. Debs explains near the beginning of the speech why he spoke anyway:
I realize that, in speaking to you this afternoon, there are certain limitations placed upon the right of free speech. I must be exceedingly careful, prudent, as to what I say, and even more careful and prudent as to how I say it. I may not be able to say all I think; but I am not going to say anything that I do not think. I would rather a thousand times be a free soul in jail than to be a sycophant and coward in the streets.
NATO member states have started supplying weapons to Ukraine, the country’s Defense Minister said on TV. His comments came a few days after a similar statement by a Ukrainian presidential aide sparked a diplomatic scandal and a rash of denials.
In an interview with Channel 5, Ukrainian Defense Minister Valery Geletey said that he had held verbal consultations with the defense ministers of the “leading countries of the world, those that can help us, and they heard us. We have the supply of arms under way.”
“This process has begun, and I feel that this is exactly the way we need to go,” the minister said.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who attended the Sept. 4-5 NATO summit in Wales, announced that he had negotiated direct modern weapons supplies with a number of NATO member states.
Poroshenko claimed that some of the NATO member states said during bilateral consultations they are ready to supply Ukraine with lethal and non-lethal arms, including “high precision weapons,” as well as with medical equipment.
NATO has had repeatedly said that the alliance is not going to supply any weapons or military equipment to Ukraine. At the same time, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the alliance would not interfere if member states made decisions of their own regarding arms supply to Ukraine.
When Poroshenko’s aide Yury Lutsenko wrote on his Facebook page that the US, along with France, Italy, Poland and Norway, would supply modern weapons to Ukraine, the news prompted all the countries mentioned in Lutsenko’s post to say they had no information about supplies.
Last Sunday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was the first to deny the arms delivery, saying he was not aware of a secret deal to supply Ukraine with lethal weapons.
Shortly afterward, Norway, Italy, and Poland also denied the report.
The six parties, which formed what is known as the “Nationalist and Leftist Parties Coalition”, said in a statement that the Jordanian government needed to fight radical thinking by cultural, economic and social means.
Six Jordanian political parties on Saturday warned the government of their country against joining an international coalition being formed by the United States against the militant Islamic State (IS) organization.
They said they opposed any foreign military intervention in the region, calling on Arab resistance movements to fight against what they described in their statement as “colonial plans.”
Jordan was one of ten Arab countries that attended a meeting in the western Saudi city of Jeddah on Friday on means of countering IS, which had overrun large territories in both Syria and Iraq.
In a communiqué issued following the meeting, the U.S. said each of the ten states were essential in the fight against IS, which seems to be getting close to Jordan too.
On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the radical movement was getting closer to his country’s eastern border, in an apparent reference to Jordan.
While the United States, United Kingdom and NATO are pushing for war with Russia, it behooves people and their governments around the world to take a clear stand for peace and against violence and war, no matter where it comes from. We are at a dangerous point in our history of the human family and it would be the greatest of tragedies for ourselves and our children if we simply allowed the war profiteers to take us into a third world war, resulting in the death of untold millions of people.
NATO’s decision at its summit in Wales (September 4-5) to create a new 4,000 strong rapid reaction force for initial deployment in the Baltics is a dangerous path for us all to be forced down, and could well lead to a third world war if not stopped. What is needed now are cool heads and people of wisdom and not more guns, more weapons, more war.
NATO is the leadership which has been causing the ongoing wars from the present conflict in the Ukraine, to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and others.
NATO’s latest move commits its 28 member states to spend two percent of their gross domestic product on the military, and to establish a series of three to five bases in Eastern Europe where equipment and supplies will be pre-positioned to help speed deployments, among other measures.
This decision by the United States/NATO to create a high readiness force with the alleged purpose of countering an alleged Russian threat reminds me of the war propaganda of lies, half-truths, insinuations and rumors to which we were all subjected in order to try to soften us all up for the Iraq war and subsequent horrific wars of terror which were carried out by NATO allied forces.
According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OCSE) observation team, NATO’s reports, including its satellite photos which show Russian combat forces engaged in military operations inside sovereign territory of Ukraine, were based on false evidence.
While NATO is busy announcing a counter-invasion to the non-existent Russian invasion of Ukraine, people in Ukraine are calling out for peace and negotiations, for political leadership which will bring them peace, not weapons and war.
This spearhead military force will be provided by allies in rotation and will involve also air, sea and special forces. We are also informed by a NATO spokesperson that this force will be trained to deal with unconventional actions, from the funding of separatist groups to the use of social media, intimidation and black propaganda.
No doubt the current Western media’s demonization of President Vladimir Putin and the Russian people, by trying to inculcate fear and hatred of them, is part of the black propaganda campaign.
NATO’s latest proposals of 4,000 soldiers, and a separate force of 10,000 strong British-led joint expeditionary force also proposed, is a highly aggressive and totally irresponsible move by the United States, United Kingdom and NATO. It is breaches the 1997 agreement with Moscow under which NATO pledged not to base substantial numbers of soldiers in Eastern Europe on a permanent basis.
NATO should have been disbanded when the Warsaw Pact disintegrated but it was not and is now controlled by the United States for its own agenda. When speaking of NATO, one of President Bill Clinton’s officials said “America is NATO”. Today NATO, instead of being abolished, is re-inventing itself in re-arming and militarizing European states and justifying its new role by creating enemy images – be they Russians, IS (the Islamic State), and so on.
In an interdependent, interconnected world, struggling to build fraternity, economic cooperation and human security, there is no place for the Cold War policies of killing and threats to kill and policies of exceptionalism and superiority. The world has changed. People do not want to be divided and they want to see an end to violence, militarism and war.
The old consciousness is dysfunctional and a new consciousness based on an ethic of non-killing and respect and cooperation is spreading. It is time for NATO to recognize that its violent policies are counterproductive. The Ukraine crisis, groups such as the Islamic State, etc., will not be solved with guns, but with justice and through dialogue.
Above all, the world needs hope. It needs inspirational political leadership and this could be given if President Barack Obama and President Putin sat down together to solve the Ukraine conflict through dialogue and negotiation and in a non-violent way.
We live in dangerous times, but all things are possible, all things are changing … and peace is possible.
There’s nothing like a war and the bombing of a foreign bogeyman to unite Americans. Since President Barack Obama made his nationwide announcement last week of open-ended war to destroy the militant ISIS network in Iraq and Syria – a terror network covertly set up by the US in the first place – the polls show a majority of American public now supporting the call for all-out air strikes.
And American politicians on both sides of Congress are also united in their support for the president’s burnished war effort. House Republican leader John Boehner has opposed Obama on all manners of domestic policies, but when it comes to going on a foreign blitzkrieg, well, that’s a “compelling case.”
Republicans and Democrats can’t seem to finalize on how much budget cuts to slash ordinary American citizens with, but they sure can close ranks on drumming up an extra $500 million to pour more weapons into war-torn Syria. It must be the “smell of napalm in the morning” that stimulates their erogenous zones.
Beyond the US, however, the newly formed “international coalition” for the American-led fight against ISIS, also known as IS or ISIL, is far from united. Indeed, early signs are that Anti-Terror Team USA is self-imploding from its own internal contradictions and dubious criminal nature.
Earlier this week, on the day before Obama’s 9/11 reminder speech for expanding the fraudulent war on terror, his secretary of state John Kerry was scouring the Middle East soliciting allies to bomb extremists in Iraq and Syria. On Wednesday, Kerry was telling CNN that such a coalition would involve “40 participating nations.”
After tours of Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Kerry was able to dragoon just 10 Arab states into joining the US bombing manifest.
‘Arab States Give Tepid Support To US Fight Against ISIS,’ reported the New York Times on September 12. These states include Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf medieval oil sheikhdoms of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman, plus Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. That’s hardly a constellation of legal probity and virtue; more like a rogue’s gallery of serial human rights violators.
A joint communiqué signed in the Saudi Red Sea port city of Jeddah stated a “shared commitment to stand united against the threat posed by all terrorism”. But the NYT noted: “The underlying tone was one of reluctance.” Even two of the signatories, Egypt and Jordan, expressed uneasy reservations about US plans to bomb ISIS into oblivion, despite signing up to the communiqué.
The Magnificent Ten in Jeddah vowed to: end financing of extremist groups; prevent the flow of weapons to such groups; halt the supply of fighters; curb the spread of extremist ideology; and increase humanitarian aid to Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia also promised to set up training camps for “moderate rebels” who would allegedly counteract the extremist ISIS network.
That chore list sounds rather more like a confession of past crimes that some of these US allies have been up to over the past three years: financing, arming, manning and promoting ISIS and its ilk to create a humanitarian catastrophe in Syria and Iraq. As for Wahhabi head-chopping Saudi Arabia setting up training camps to counteract its very own Wahhabi-sponsored head-chopping extremists in ISIS that’s just a risible joke.
Kerry tried to put a brave face on his dysfunctional regional posse. “Arab nations play a critical role, indeed a leading role,” he said in Jeddah, with a bravado that belied the fact that this proposed bombing campaign against ISIS is a US-led operation to give itself a license to bomb Syria for its long-held regime-change objective; the only critical role that these Arab puppets have is to give the covert campaign a veneer of Arab consent so that it doesn’t look like American imperialism on another criminal, murderous rampage – which it is.
NATO member Turkey, although non-Arab, dealt a blow from the outset to the US coalition by refusing to sign up. The Ankara government said it would not allow American warplanes to use its territory for air strikes against ISIS either in Iraq or Syria. Turkey has nearly 50 of its citizens currently held in captivity by the extremist groups in Syria and said that its “hands were tied.”
Ankara has also been a covert arms supplier of ISIS and other extremists, such as Jabhat al Nusra, along with the US and other NATO members, in a bid to oust the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad since mid-March 2011. That regime-change plan in Syria has failed miserably, with Assad winning overwhelmingly a presidential election last June, thus disproving the Western propaganda campaign of a popular revolution rising up against a tyrant.
Where the covert Western-backed terrorist campaign has failed on the ground, now Washington wants to add air power under the guise of “destroying” the ISIS terror network – a network that it in fact has spawned for the purpose of regime change in Syria. What are the bets that any US-led bombing of ISIS in Iraq and Syria will soon morph into US air strikes on Assad government forces, which is the main target for Washington, not its CIA-sponsored mercenaries in ISIS?
Turkey is mindful of blowback terrorism if it were to publicly join in US-led air strikes against ISIS. All of the Arab bombing coalition are no doubt mindful of the same treacherous contradiction, hence their reported reluctance to sign up to the scheme, as the New York Times noted.
Meanwhile, Russia, Syria and Iran immediately warned of the legal consequences of Obama’s bombing strategy. The Iraqi government has approved, so that gives Washington a claim on legality for continuing its strikes against ISIS in the north of that country. But not so the Syrian government.
Russia’s foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said that without the consent of the Syrian government in Damascus or a UN Security Council mandate, any US-led air strikes on ISIS inside Syrian territory would amount to “a gross violation of international law”. The Syrian authorities added that any such US intervention would be “an act of aggression on a sovereign country.”
Obama claims that he has “executive war powers” to bomb and kill whomever he wants, under the fascistic post-9/11 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF). But this White House Murder Inc. policy is increasingly threadbare and morally abhorrent. All the more so because Washington is exhorting the European Union to slap tougher economic sanctions on Russia for allegedly intervening militarily in Ukraine – which Moscow adamantly says it is not and moreover points out that there is no evidence of.
The dubious legality, not to mention logistical viability, of Washington’s latest bomb-first-ask-questions-later proposals to defeat the Frankenstein monster of its own creation in Iraq and Syria is cause for pause among even America’s pathetic European lackeys.
The French are balking at the prospect of bombing its former Syrian colony. French President Francois Hollande said: “France is ready to act, but once the political accord is there and in respect of international law.” That’s French diplomacy-speak for: “Don’t count on us being caught complicit in American war crimes.”
Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was even more categorical in spurning the US-led coalition. Speaking in Berlin the day after Obama’s bravura televised speech to his nation, Germany’s top diplomat said of possible air strikes: “To be quite clear, we have not been asked to do so and neither will we do so.”
Britain’s Foreign Minister Philip Hammond also ruled out British involvement in US-led air strikes inside Syria. Hammond said his government supported the US-led coalition – placating the megalomaniac Yanks – but he told Reuters : “Let me be clear: Britain will not be taking part in any air strikes in Syria. We have already had that discussion in our parliament last year and we won’t be revisiting that position.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron appeared to quickly snub Hammond later on Friday when he said that “nothing was being ruled out” as far as British warplanes are concerned in possible Syria operations with the Americans.
Nevertheless, despite Cameron’s obviously compensatory bluster, it seems clear that the US-led campaign to “destroy ISIS” is already running out of commitment, even among Washington’s most dutiful, pathetically servile allies; and no wonder, too. This US-led anti-terror bombing coalition is such a barrel of volatile lies, unstable contradictions and inflammatory expediency it is bound to implode before it even starts to roll.
Official Washington’s ever-influential neoconservatives and their “liberal interventionist” allies see President Barack Obama’s decision to extend U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State terrorists into Syria as a new chance to achieve the long-treasured neocon goal of “regime change” in Damascus.
On the surface, Obama’s extraordinary plan to ignore Syrian sovereignty and attack across the border has been viewed as a unilateral U.S. action to strike at the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but it could easily evolve into a renewed effort to overthrow Bashar al-Assad’s government, ironically one of ISIS’s principal goals.
ISIS began as part of the Sunni resistance to George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq which had elevated Iraq’s Shiite majority to power. Then known as “al-Qaeda in Iraq,” the terrorist group stoked a sectarian war by slaughtering Shiites and bombing their mosques.
Changing its name to ISIS, the group shifted to Syria where it joined with U.S.-backed rebels seeking to overthrow Assad’s regime which was dominated by Alawites, a branch of Shiite Islam. Then, this summer, ISIS returned to Iraq where it routed Iraqi government forces in a series of battles and conducted public executions, including beheading two U.S. journalists.
In his national address Wednesday, Obama said he will order U.S. air attacks across Syria’s border without any coordination with the Syrian government, a proposition that Damascus has denounced as a violation of its sovereignty. Thus, the argument will surely soon be heard in Washington that Assad’s government must be removed as a military prerequisite so the attacks on ISIS can proceed. Otherwise, there could be a threat to U.S. aircraft from Syria’s air defenses.
That would get the neocons back on their original track of forcing “regime change” in countries seen as hostile to Israel. The first target was Iraq with Syria and Iran to follow. The goal was to deprive Israel’s close-in enemies, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestine’s Hamas, of crucial support. The neocon vision got knocked off track when Bush’s Iraq War derailed and the American people balked at the idea of extending the conflict to Syria and Iran.
But the neocons never gave up on their vision. They simply kept at it, clinging to key positions inside Official Washington and recruiting “liberal interventionists” to the “regime change” cause. The neocons remained focused on Syria and Iran with hopes of getting U.S. bombing campaigns going against both countries. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Dangerous Neocon-R2P Alliance.”]
The neocons’ new hope has now arrived with the public outrage over ISIS’s atrocities. Yet, while pushing to get this new war going, the neocons have downplayed their “regime change” agenda, getting Obama to agree only to extend his anti-ISIS bombing campaign from Iraq into Syria. But “regime change” in Damascus has remained a top neocon priority.
In a New York Timesop-ed on Aug. 29, neocon Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham avoided the “r-c” phrase couching their words about Syria’s civil war in the vague language of resolving the conflict, but clearly meaning that Assad must go.
The hawkish pair wrote that thwarting ISIS “requires an end to the [civil] conflict in Syria, and a political transition there, because the regime of President Bashar al-Assad will never be a reliable partner against ISIS; in fact, it has abetted the rise of ISIS, just as it facilitated the terrorism of ISIS’ predecessor, Al Qaeda in Iraq.”
Though the McCain-Graham depiction of Assad’s relationship to ISIS and al-Qaeda is a distortion at best – in fact, Assad’s army has been the most effective force in pushing back against the Sunni terrorist groups that have come to dominate the Western-backed rebel movement – the op-ed’s underlying point is obvious: an initial step in the U.S. military operation against ISIS must be “regime change” in Damascus.
The neocons are also back to their old sleight-of-hand conflating the terrorists fighting the Assad government with the Assad government. In the op-ed, McCain and Graham cite Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson supposedly calling “Syria ‘a matter of homeland security’” – when he actually said in the linked speech from last February:
“We are very focused on foreign fighters heading to Syria. Based on our work and the work of our international partners, we know individuals from the U.S., Canada and Europe are traveling to Syria to fight in the conflict. At the same time, extremists are actively trying to recruit Westerners, indoctrinate them, and see them return to their home countries with an extremist mission.”
In other words, “Syria” was not the problem cited by Johnson but rather the “foreign fighters heading to Syria” and the possibility that they might “return to their home countries with an extremist mission.” The distinction is important, but McCain and Graham want to blur the threat to confuse Americans into seeing “Syria” as the problem, not the extremists.
A similar approach was taken by Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, one of the Obama administration’s top liberal war hawks. On Sept. 4, she sought to conflate recent allegations that Assad may not have surrendered all his chemical weapons with the possibility that any remaining weapons might fall into the hands of ISIS terrorists.
“Certainly if there are chemical weapons left in Syria, there will be a risk” that they could end up in the hands of ISIS, Power said. “And we can only imagine what a group like that would do if in possession of such a weapon.”
If any of these rhetorical tactics are ringing a bell, it’s because they are reminiscent of how the neocons frightened the American people into supporting the Iraq War in 2002-03. Back then, Bush administration officials blended unsubstantiated claims about Iraq’s WMDs with the prospect of them being shared with al-Qaeda.
In both cases – Iraq then and Syria now – the existence of those dangerous chemical weapons was in serious doubt and, even if they did exist, the two governments – of Saddam Hussein then and Bashar al-Assad now – were hostile to the Sunni fundamentalists in al-Qaeda and now its spinoff, ISIS.
Yet, this effort to confuse the American public – by manipulating their lack of knowledge about the power relationships in the Middle East – might work once more, by putting “black hats” on both Assad and ISIS and blurring the fact that they are bitter enemies.
In the weeks ahead, Assad also will surely be portrayed as obstructing the U.S. attacks on ISIS. He likely will be blamed for a lack of cooperation with the airstrikes even though it was the Obama administration that refused to coordinate with Assad’s government.
ISIL or ISIS?
Among anti-neocon “realists” inside the U.S. intelligence community, the concern about how these airstrikes into Syria might lead to dangerous mission creep is so great that I’m told that some senior analysts are even suspicious of President Obama’s repeated use of the acronym “ISIL” – for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – instead of the more common “ISIS,” referring only to Iraq and Syria.
The concern is that “the Levant” suggests a larger area including all “Mediterranean lands east of Italy,” that theoretically could include everything from Turkey to Palestine and Jordan to parts of Egypt. One source said inclusion of the phrase “ISIL,” instead of “ISIS,” in any “use of force” resolution could be significant by creating a possibility of a much wider war.
In his speech to the nation on Wednesday, Obama continued to use the acronym “ISIL” but his references to U.S. military operations were limited to Iraq and Syria.
The most controversial part of Obama’s speech was his open declaration to conduct cross-border attacks into Syria in clear violation of international law. He also vowed to increase military support for rebels fighting to overthrow the Assad government.
Obama declared that “we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition” and he requested additional resources from Congress. He added: “We must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all,” a further suggestion that “regime change” is again in play.
Exactly what Obama thinks he can get from the Syrian opposition is a mystery, since he himself stated in an interview just last month that the notion that arming the supposedly “moderate” rebels would have made a difference in Syria has “always been a fantasy.”
He told the New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman: “This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards.”
Nevertheless, Obama has now trotted out that old “fantasy” in connection with his plan to extend the war against ISIS into Syria. Obama also knows that many of the previous Syrian “moderates” who received U.S. weapons later unveiled themselves to be Islamists who repudiated the U.S.-backed opposition and allied themselves with al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra Front. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Syrian Rebels Embrace Al-Qaeda.”]
Given that record – and Obama’s knowledge of it – what is one to make of the deceptive formulation that he presented to the American people on Wednesday night?
One explanation could be that Obama plans a more direct – albeit secretive – U.S. role in removing Assad and putting a new regime into power in Damascus. Or Obama might be simply pandering to the neocons and liberal hawks who would have gone berserk if he had acknowledged the obvious, that the smart play is to work quietly with Assad to defeat ISIS and al-Nusra Front.
The other smart play might be for Obama to resume his behind-the-scenes cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin who helped engineer Syria’s agreement to surrender its chemical weapons arsenal last year and who could presumably broker a quiet agreement between Obama and Assad to allow the U.S. airstrikes now.
Though the U.S. neocons and “liberal interventionists” exploited the Ukraine crisis to drive a wedge between the two leaders, Obama might want to reconsider that estrangement and accept the help of Russia – as well as Iran – in achieving a goal that they all agree on: defeating ISIS and other Sunni terrorist groups. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.”]
Yet, in Wednesday’s speech, Obama seemed to go out of his way to insult Putin by decrying “Russian aggression” in Ukraine where the U.S. government has accused Moscow of violating Ukraine’s sovereignty by crossing the border into eastern Ukraine and aiding ethnic Russian rebels. Obama claimed that Washington’s own intervention in Ukraine was “in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny.”
Yet the realities in Kiev, whose government is backed by the U.S., and in Damascus, whose government is despised by Washington, have eerie parallels. In Syria, Assad, a longtime dictator, won a recent election that was truncated by civil strife. In Ukraine, the current government was established by a February coup d’etat that overthrew an elected president and is now headed by a president elected by only a portion of the population, excluding much of the rebellious east.
Yet, in one country – Ukraine – the United States says outside intervention even by a neighbor to protect a population under military assault is illegal “aggression,” while in the other country – Syria – it is entirely okay for the United States to send its military halfway around the world, cross Syria’s borders to carry out bombing raids while also arming militants to overthrow the internationally recognized government.
Typically, neither Obama nor the U.S. mainstream press made note of the hypocrisy. But the bigger question now is will the neocons hijack Obama’s bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria to achieve one of their most beloved goals, regime change in Damascus.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Obama’s ISIS speech would have provoked outrage if Bush gave it. Now, however, Democrats and Republicans are united over foreign war to such an extent that a prolonged military campaign without congressional approval barely raises an eyebrow. So one year after an attack on Syria was rejected by the American public bombs will be dropping after all.
More surprising than the bi-partisan escalation of Middle East war is the complete absence of strategy. Obama’s speech ignored the fundamental causes of ISIS’ rise, while putting forth a military strategy of pure fantasy. The only guarantee of Obama’s war strategy is the unnecessary prolonging of the Syrian conflict and the further growth of Islamic extremism. It’s as if President Obama hasn’t figured out the ABC’s of terrorism: the more you bomb, the more extremists you create. It isn’t rocket science.
The 13-year “war on terror” has fundamentally failed, creating an exponential growth in Islamic extremism, now sprawling across the very epicenter of the Middle East where its presence before was miniscule.
The president’s speech ignored how his strategy to fight the secular Syrian government — funding, training, and arming the Syrian rebels — has directly contributed to creating giant militias of Islamic extremists, filled with money and jihadists from Obama’s Gulf state allies of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait. If not for the U.S.-backed rebels in Syria, the conflict would have ended long ago, and ISIS would have remained marginal.
But instead of admitting that this failed approach helped create ISIS, Obama has doubled down on his ludicrous plan to further arm and finance the “moderate” opposition in Syria. The New York Times discussed the holes in Obama’s strategy:
“… Mr. Obama is still wrestling with a series of challenges, including how to train and equip a viable ground force to fight ISIS inside Syria, how to intervene without aiding President Bashar al-Assad, and how to enlist potentially reluctant partners like Turkey and Saudi Arabia.”
None of these issues are to be resolved, only compounded. Of course President Assad will benefit if Obama attacks his enemy ISIS, in the same way that ISIS has been benefitting the last two years from the U.S.-backed proxy war against President Assad.
Further exposing these issues is the highly regarded Middle East journalist Patrick Cockburn, who predicted Obama’s foolish speech with precision:
“So far it looks as if Mr. Obama will dodge the main problem facing his campaign against Isis. He will not want to carry out a U-turn in U.S. policy by allying himself with President Assad, though the Damascus government is the main armed opposition to Isis in Syria. He will instead step up a pretense that there is a potent “moderate” armed opposition in Syria, capable of fighting both Isis and the Syrian government at once. Unfortunately, this force scarcely exists in any strength and the most important rebel movements opposed to Isis are themselves jihadis such as Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and the Islamic Front. Their violent sectarianism is not very different to that of Isis.”
Later in the article Cockburn explains that the negligible moderate force is dominated by the CIA.
Obama dared not say explicitly that his plan to fight ISIS included a plan to fight the Syrian government, but that’s exactly what he implied by continuing to arm, fund, and train a “moderate” Syrian opposition that is fighting both ISIS and Assad.
Obama’s bombing campaign against ISIS can thus rapidly transition into a regime change bombing of the Syrian Government, as happened in the U.S.-led NATO bombing campaign in Libya that began as “humanitarian intervention” and veered into regime change after the first bomb dropped.
Before he announced the expansion of the war Obama claimed legal authorization to bomb without Congressional approval. The U.S. House Judiciary Chair issued a different opinion. And Democrats, too, had a different opinion when Bush was in office.
But now many congressmen from both parties would like Obama to act without Congress, since midterm elections are nearing and no congressman wants to be on record voting for war, since Americans are fed up with it. Better to skip democracy and have the president declare war unilaterally, war weary voters be damned.
Lastly, Obama failed to mention that perpetual war is the new normal for the U.S. government, no matter which party is elected. By not addressing any of the above-mentioned issues, a serious analysis was shelved in favor of the Bush Jr. circular logic that can be used to rationalize war forever, creating new generations of Islamic extremists that will justify permanent war. There can be only one real solution: remove the U.S. military from the Middle East.
Shamus Cooke can be reached at email@example.com
Obama took to the airwaves yesterday, oh so coincidentally, on the eve of September 11, to roll out his latest “smart war.” And it comes, oh so coincidentally, just before Congressional midterms when every member of Congress fears like the plague to be painted as a dove, just as happened in 2002 before Bush II took us to war.
Whatever role ISIS plays in this, Syria is certainly the target. It is telling that when it comes to money, Obama is asking Congress only for funding to train the Syrian “moderate rebels” in that bastion of Sunni moderation, Saudi Arabia.
The rationales that Obama is peddling make no sense. If the barbarity of beheading were the actual trigger of this latest onslaught on the Middle East, then the U.S. would not be sending our “moderate” trainees to Saudi Arabia where beheading is a well respected national past time – far more popular than allowing women to drive automobiles.
And if the barbarity that has motivated Obama were the wanton taking of American life, then we would be training Jewish “moderates” to overthrow the Apartheid State of Israel. For let us remember that the IDF bulldozed the American Rachel Corrie into the ground when she stood in the way of the destruction of Palestinian housing. And it was Israel that killed the American citizen living in Turkey, Furkan Dogan, who was on the Mavi Marmara in the Gaza Flotilla. And it was Israel that tried to blow the USS Liberty out of the water killing 34 American sailors and wounding 171.
No, it is not the beheadings nor the loss of American life that move Obama. Syria is now to be bombed. That is an act of war. In fact, arming rebels to overthrow a government is an act of war but there will be no declaration of war – just a vote to supply the funds for the mythical “moderate” rebels.
We are told that only ISIS leaders will be targeted in Syria. But Syria has not approved bombing its territory so it does not believe that story. And let us suppose that U.S. planes are overhead when Assad’s forces are attacking “moderate” rebels that the U.S. is arming and training. Is it credible that there will be no bombing of the Syrian forces?
And ISIS remains a mysterious entity, springing up out of nowhere and carrying arms that are supplied by American and Saudi agencies. In Iran, as was reported in the NYT yesterday on the front page, the great majority of “the street” believes it is an American/Israeli/Saudi creation. It may be true that ISIS has got out of control and that Saudi Arabia now fears it, but that could also be another fiction. All we know for sure is that Syria and Iraq are to be bombed again. And also that ISIS emerged only after our invasion, bombing and continuing presence in Iraq.
Syria, of course, was on the list of targets that General Wesley Clarke revealed to us stating that there was a hit list in the Middle East and North Africa of seven countries, “starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” And miraculously the schedule has been modified only slightly perhaps because Assad has put up such fierce resistance.
And other lies are in the air. Obama tells us that there will be not “boots on the ground,” but he also admits that he has sent over a thousand additional troops to Iraq. Are they barefoot? In fact, the lies will only grow more intense and be repeated more frequently in the days to come as the war propaganda machine swings into ever higher gear.
As far as the election of 2008 goes, Obama promised peace, and Hillary war. But so far Obama has been in perfect synch with his hawkish adversary who has been especially keen to assault Syria. The election debate was a sham.
So we may expect Syria to be targeted and Iran next. But Iran is supported by Russia already under attack in its West via Ukraine. Can Russia allow Iran to be the next target? Can Iran allow Syria to fall to the U.S. Empire? It is quite clear where this is going. The dream of the U.S. Empire to dominate the Eurasian land mass is being implemented: Damascus, Tehran, Moscow and finally Beijing unless nuclear war breaks out first. Obama and the rest of the imperial elite are flirting with Armageddon.
On the eve of 9/11 President Obama announced a new U.S. war of aggression. Emergency response actions are urgently needed.
Obama lied last night just like Bush and Colin Powell lied in 2003 and Lyndon Johnson did in 1964. He told us how terrible ISIS is, how barbaric. He will announce a new “Coalition of the Willing”. He is using the Big Lie to launch another war.
But ISIS is not the “reason” the U.S. is going to war. ISIS is the PRETEXT. It is the latest of a string of pretexts from the Maine in 1898 to Vietnam’s Gulf of Tonkin in 1964 to “weapons of mass destruction” in 2003, pretexts/lies to maintain an empire.
ISIS is barbaric? It is the Pentagon that is barbaric. What are more barbaric than U.S. bombs in Syria and Iraq? U.S. drones wipe out whole wedding parties from Pakistan to Yemen, slaughtering men, women and yes, children.
It was U.S. war and occupation that killed more than a million Iraqis and destroyed that country. It was U.S. arms that fed Syria’s civil war, killing hundreds of thousands and half-destroying that country. Now Obama wants to destroy the other half.
ISIS grew from the poison of U.S. wars, arms and the cynical policy of inflaming sectarian divisions. Stop the Pentagon from waging war on the people and the people there will take care of ISIS. Continuing to wage war will arouse a billion people against the U.S. and its war machine.
The Bush “War on Terror” militarized every police force in the U.S. targeting people of color. The prison population soared. It globalized invasive surveillance and locked thousands in secret detention and solitary confinement. Now Obama promises a new “war on terror” reaching years into the future. We say NO!”
President Obama plans to increase funding and training of “moderate rebels” in Syria while escalating air strike operations against ISIS in Iraq and into Syria. From Central America in the 80s to Syria today, the US has supported proxy armies in violation of international law.
Syria: Civil War or War of Aggression?
The conflict in Syria has caused staggering destruction and bloodshed.The death toll is approaching 200,000 out of total population of 22 million. Somewhere between 70 and 100 thousand of the dead are Syrian soldiers and militia. The conflict has pitted the Syrian government supported by a majority of the population (documented here and here) against domestic and international fighters, many on salary and actively supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Egypt, USA, France and Britain.
While Syria’s President is of Alawi religious background, the Defense Minister is Sunni Muslim and the Foreign Minister is Christian. The majority of soldiers are Sunni. In fact it is a secular country where it’s considered impolite to ask one’s religion. With changes in the Constitution the country is no longer a one party state although the socialist Baath Party is still dominant. Higher education and healthcare are free. While any Syrian can start his or her own business with modest restrictions and taxes, foreign corporations investing in Syria are limited to 49% ownership. Thus the country is not under the thumb of Wall Street or the International Monetary Fund, and you do not see Burger King/Pizza Hut/Bank of America or Bank of London in downtown Damascus. The country has lots of economic and social challenges but compared to other countries in the Arab world is a bastion of secularism and independence from Western domination.
The international opponents are not hidden. They are the active members of the “Friends of Syria” openly dedicated to overthrowing the Damascus government. Some of their plans and actions are public information. After one conference it was publicly recorded that US would provide communications and non-lethal equipment while Saudi Arabia and Qatar would supply and fund the weapons and arms. Meanwhile Turkey has provided logistical support and the base of operations of the external arm and rebel command. At the conferences these foreign powers have also taken it on themselves to decide who is the “legitimate representative” of the Syrian people. The assertion that the US has not supported the rebels is false. As just one piece of evidence: during the winter 2012/2013 three thousand TONS of weapons were delivered to the rebels.
An Earlier War of Aggression: USA vs Nicaragua
During the 1980’s the US funded, trained and supplied weapons to the Contra rebels fighting the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Nicaragua took the situation to the World Court, claiming the US was in violation of international law which prohibits countries from financing military forces to attack another country. On June 27, 1986 the International Court at the Hague issued its legal ruling:
Decision of the International Court at the Hague
Decides that the United States of America, by training, arming, equipping, financing and supplying the “contra” forces or otherwise encouraging, supporting and aiding military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua, has acted, against the Republic of Nicaragua, in breach of its obligation under customary international law not to intervene in the affairs of another State.
By “training, arming, equipping, financing and supplying” the military rebel groups waging war against the Damascus government, the US and “friends” are committing the same crime that the USA did in the 1980’s.
The Negroponte Connection
There is an additional connection between Central America and Syria: the creation and management of the “Contra” rebels was overseen by the US Ambassador to Honduras, John Negroponte. In addition. he managed US policy supportive of the military dictatorships which used death squads in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Ambassador Negroponte later went to Baghdad where he was US Ambassador and head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in 2004-2005, when death squads and sectarian bloodshed in Iraq began. His deputy in Baghdad was Robert S. Ford. Mr Ford went on to be US Ambassador to Syria in the period leading up to the outbreak of violence in March 2011. Later in 2011, US Ambassador Ford was expelled from Syria because he was considered an instigator of violence and protest. Ambassador Ford had publicly encouraged the protests and was suspected of much more. Since his expulsion from Syria and up until earlier this year, Robert S. Ford has been the lead American in charge of managing US policy of ‘regime change’ in Syria.
Ignoring the Most Serious Crimes
The violation of Syrian sovereignty should have been exposed and publicly criticized by international justice organizations and United Nations’ officials. Unfortunately the major rights organizations are guided by liberal interventionists and the United Nations has become dominated by US and Western interests. For example Human Rights Watch is significantly funded by liberal billionaire George Soros while Executive Director Roth is a member of the 1% club with annual compensation of nearly half a million dollars ($477K in 2011). That might not matter except that Human Rights Watch (HRW) has been good at documenting specific violations and transgressions but does not distinguish between major and minor violations of international law and ignores or minimizes the most extreme violations of international law by powerful countries. For example, 9 months after the US invasion of Iraq HRW reported that it was “not a humanitarian invasion” and explained why it did not support or oppose the invasion. More recently HRW does not distinguish between Israeli violations in maintaining the prison of Gaza and periodically massacring thousands of Palestinians versus the Palestinian response of random rockets which are largely harmless. They have prominently focused on war crimes of the Syrian “regime”, but ignored the fact that many of the rebels are mercenaries supplied with weapons and paid by foreign governments. HRW soft pedals the violations of the major abusers and comes down hard on the victims. They ignore the “supreme crime” of initiating war by the US and “friends” while vigorously denouncing the transgressions of the Assad government. By not differentiating between crimes, and favoring the powerful, they effectively use international law as another tool of the powerful.
Meanwhile the United Nations has come under the dominance of the United States. For example the head political authority (Deputy Secretary for Political Affairs) is the former US Ambassador to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman. When you see UN reports and statements on situations, consider the source. Another real world example of what this means: In Syrian refugee camps run by the United Nations Syrian youth are recruited to join the rebels while UN officials pretend not to see.
Violating Air Space of Sovereign Syria
Under international agreement “Every state has complete and exclusive sovereignty over airspace above its territory.” President Obama is proposing to ignore the international agreement and to send military jets into Syrian airspace without authorization. The pretext is to attack ISIS but it’s likely this would simply be the foot in the door with attacks on Syrian soldiers to eventually follow. The rationale for NATO entering Libyan air space was to create a “no fly zone” to prevent a humanitarian crisis. But the emergency justifications turned out to be a fraud and the “no fly zone” quickly turned into devastating bombing attacks on the Libyan government.
ISIS does not recognize the Iraqi Syrian border but obviously there is an internationally recognized border, regardless whether it is recognized by a terrorist organization such as ISIS. Another legal fig leaf for the violation of Syrian sovereignty is that since ISIS has murdered American citizens in Syria, the US can intervene to attack the perpetrators. Again, this is without legal basis. Will Obama cook up a legal “justification” as the Bush Administration did to justify torture, rendition, etc etc?
Selective Use of American Deaths
In the past weeks the media have given extensive sensational coverage about the deaths of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. Their beheading murders are being used to justify US military escalation and violations of international law. Ironically, both writers documented how unpopular the “moderate rebels” are and Steven Sotloff was reportedly sold to ISIS by one of the “moderate rebels” favored by President Obama. Unknown to most Americans many journalists have been killed in the Syrian conflict.
In sharp contrast, there was relatively little media attention when Americans were murdered in Central America by “our” rebel Contras and “our” Salvadoran dictatorship. Benjamin Linder was a young American engineer who went to Sandinista Nicaragua to help with development in rural areas. He was murdered by the US funded Contras. What was the reaction? Very little. In El Salvador four American nuns who were critical of the military dictatorship were murdered. The US reaction? Jeanne Kirkpatrick , US Ambassador to the UN, did not even express remorse let alone anger or outrage. Instead she remarked that “they were not just nuns”.
From Central America in the 1980’s to Syria and the Middle East today there is a consistency in US policy. Governments which challenge US domination are demonized. Surrogate armies to overthrow them are sometimes created. Bloodshed and mayhem follows. Individual American deaths are ignored or sensationalized depending on whether it benefits US policy. International law is ignored or used as another weapon against the victim.
It’s time for a realistic look at the Syrian government and rebels, including ISIS. It’s time to demand that the US start respecting instead of trampling on international law.
Rick Sterling is a founding member of Syria Solidarity Movement. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Did you know that the US government’s counterterrorism chief Matthew Olson said last week that there’s no “there’s no credible information” that the Islamic State (Isis) is planning an attack on America and that there’s “no indication at this point of a cell of foreign fighters operating in the United States”? Or that, as the Associated Pressreported, “The FBI and Homeland Security Department say there are no specific or credible terror threats to the US homeland from the Islamic State militant group”?
Located in Boston, Northeastern University is a four-year college and graduate school offering degrees in law, political science, African American studies, and various other fields. The school seems to be generally well thought of, and is even involved in a research program to develop high-resolution images of human brain activity. But recently the university, or more specifically some of its faculty members, has come under attack by Zionists.
This of course is not new. Faculty members who criticize Israel have found themselves targeted at one university after another in America. Norman Finkelstein is probably one of the more famous cases in point, but he is not by any means the only one. Attacks at Northeastern have focused in the main on Denis Sullivan, professor of International Affairs and director of the school’s Middle East Center for Peace, Culture and Development; Economics Professor M. Shahid Alam; and Berna Turam, who also teaches in the International Affairs program.
On July 5, 2013 the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) wrote a letter to the university’s president, Joseph Aoun, calling for Sullivan’s and Alam’s dismissal, and also complaining about a campus student group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), whose activities—along with classroom comments made by the professors cited—are said to be causing Jewish students at Northeastern to “feel unsafe and uncomfortable.” … continue
This article will examine some of the connections between the US and UK National Security apparatus and the appearance of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory beginning after the accident at Three Mile Island. … continue
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