Syria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Bashar Ja’afari says the current tumult in the Middle East, including the crisis in his country, is a scheme by the West to safeguard Israel’s interests, Press TV reports.
“This is a geopolitical plan that is not only targeting Syria exclusively, although Syria is very important for either the success or failure of this plan, but it is targeting the whole area,” said Ja’afari Wednesday in an exclusive interview with Press TV in New York.
He said the main goal of the Western plot “is to secure for a long time the interests of Israel and preventing the establishment of Palestinian state in Palestine.”
“So they need to open up a new front, a kind of deviation, from the focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian question to another focus which might be a war between Muslims and Muslims,” he added.
He further underlined that the West intends to incite divisions among Muslims under the false notion of a Sunni-Shia conflict to provoke wars between Muslim countries in the region.
The Syrian envoy went on to reiterate that the huge participation of Syrian voters in the country’s presidential election served as big “NO” message to foreign interference in their country’s internal affairs.
“Our message would be a friendly message… [that] we want to have friends and we want to have normal, bilateral relationship with everybody. We do not interfere into the American domestic affairs. Please don’t interfere into our own domestic affairs.”
According to official figures, President Bashar al-Assad won nearly 90 percent of the votes cast in Syria’s presidential race. Syria’s Supreme Constitutional Court announced that over 73 percent of the 15.8 million eligible voters had taken part in the election.
An Open Letter to the Graduates of West Point: Refuting President Obama’s Lies, Omissions and Distortions
On May 2014 President Obama delivered the commencement address to the graduates of United States Military Academy at West Point. Beyond the easy banter and eulogy to past and present war heroes, Obama outlined a vision of past military successes and present policies, based on a profoundly misleading diagnosis of the current global position of the United States.
The most striking aspect of his presentation is the systematic falsification of the results of past wars and current military interventions. The speech is notable for the systematic omissions of the millions of civilian deaths inflicted by US military interventions. He glosses over the growth of NSA, the global police state apparatus. He presents a grossly inflated account of the US role in the world economy. Worst of all he outlines an extremely dangerous confrontational posture toward rising military and economic powers, in particular Russia and China.
Distorting the Past: Defeats and Retreats Converted into Victories
One of the most disturbing aspects of President Obama’s speech is his delusional account of US military engagements over the past decade. His claim that, “by most measures America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world”, defies belief. After 13 years of warfare, the US has failed to defeat the Taliban. Washington is in full retreat and leaves behind a fragile puppet regime which will likely collapse. In Iraq the US was forced to withdraw after killing several hundred thousand civilians and fueling a sectarian war which has propelled a pro-Iranian regime to power. In Libya, the NATO war devastated the country, destroyed the Gadhafi government,thus undermining reconciliation, and bringing to power bands of terrorist Islamic groups profoundly hostile to the United States.
Washington’s effort to broker an accord between Palestine and Israel was a dismal failure, largely because of the Obama regime’s spineless attitude toward Israel’s land grabs, and new “Jews only” settlements. The craven pandering to the Jewish power configuration in Washington hardly speaks for the world’s “greatest power” … by any measure.
Through your economic studies you are surely aware that the US has been displaced by China in major markets in Latin America, Asia and Africa. China poses a major economic challenge: it does not have overseas bases, Special Forces’ operations in seventy-five countries; it does not pursue military alliances and does not militarily intervene in countries. Obama’s expansion of the US military presence off China’s coast speaks to an escalation of bellicose behavior, contrary to his assertions of “winding down” overseas military operations.
Obama speaks of defending “our core interests” militarily.Yet he threatens China over disputed piles of rocks in the South China Sea, overlooking the “core interests” of the 500 biggest US corporations with hundreds of billions of dollars invested in the most dynamic economy in the world and the second biggest trading nation.
Obama spoke of the threat of “terrorism” yet his policies have encouraged and promoted terrorism. Washington armed and promoted the Islamic terrorists which overthrew Gadhafi; backs the Islamic terrorists invading Syria; provides 1.5 billion in military aid to the Egyptian military dictatorship which is terrorizing the political opposition, via assassinations and arrests of thousands of political dissidents. The US backed the violent overthrow of the elected regime in the Ukraine and is backing the client regime’s terror bombing of the pro-democracy Eastern regions. Obama’s “anti-terrorism” rhetoric is in fact a cover for state terrorism, which closes the door on peaceful resolution of overseas conflicts, and leads to the multiplication of violent opposition groups.
Obama speaks to “our success in promoting partnerships in Europe and in the world at large”. Yet his bellicose policies toward Russia has deeply divided the US from the leading countries in the European Union. Germany has multi-billion dollar trade agreements with Russia and objects to harsh sanctions as does Italy, Holland and Belgium. Latin America has relegated the US centered Organization of American States to the dust bin of history and moved toward regional organizations which exclude the US. Washington has no “partners” backing its hostile policies toward Venezuela and Cuba. In Asia, Washington’s efforts to forge an economic bloc excluding China, runs against the deep and comprehensive ties that link South Korea, Taiwan and Southeast Asia to China. Washington’s closest partners are the least dynamic and most repressive: Israel, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states in the Middle East; Egypt, Morocco and Algeria in North Africa; Colombia in Latin America ; and motley groups of sub-Sahara despots and Kleptocrats who squirrel billions of dollars into oversees bank accounts in New York and London far in excess of their countries’ health and educational budgets.
Obama’s diagnosis of the position of the US in the world is fundamentally flawed: he grossly understates the military losses, the decline of economic power,and the growing divisions between former regional allies. Above all he refuses to recognize the profound loss of faith by the majority of Americans in Washington’s foreign military and trade policies. The flawed diagnosis, the deliberate distortions of present global realities and the deep misreading of domestic public opinion cannot be overcome by new deceptions, bigger lies and the continuation and escalation of military interventions, in which you, the newly minted officers, will serve as cannon fodder.
Obama: Political Desperado in Search of an Imperial Legacy
Obama has marked a new phase in the escalation of a military centered foreign policy. He is presently engaged in a major military build-up of air and ground troops and military exercises in the Baltic States and Poland… all of which is pointing toward Russia and signaling that a possible ‘First Strike’ strategy is underway. Obama has been seized by a manic global military escalation. He is expanding naval forces off China’s coast. He has dispatched hundreds of Special Forces to Jordan to train and arm mercenaries invading Syria. He is intervening militarily in the Ukraine to bolster the Kiev regime. He has dispatched hundreds of military forces throughout Africa. He has allocated $1 billion for military expenditure along the European frontiers with Russia and $5 billion to boost the capacity of despotic regimes to repress popular insurgencies under the pretext of “fighting terrorism”.
Obama’s ‘vision’ of US foreign policy is clearly and unmistakably colored by a propensity to engage in highly dangerous military confrontations. His resort to multiple “Special Forces” operations, his increasing reliance on military proxies, is a reversion to 19th century colonial policies. Recruiting soldiers from one oppressed country to conquer another, is a throwback to old style empire building. When Obama speaks of “American leadership, as indispensable for world order” he deceives no one. The Washington centered world order is disintegrating. Disorder is the consequence of military intervention attempting to delay the inevitable.
The Obama Administration’s involvement in the violent coup in the Ukraine is a case in point: as a consequence of the rise to power of a junta headed by a billionaire “President”,power sharing with neo-fascists that country is disintegration, civil war rages and the economy is bankrupt. Obama’s war on Libya has led to a Hobbesian world in which warlords fight jihadists over shrinking oil sales. In Syria US backed ‘rebels’ have destroyed the economy and the social fabric of civil society.
No major country in South America follows US ‘leadership’. Even in the United States few American citizens back Obama’s hostile policies to Cuba and Venezuela.
Obama’s duplicitous rhetoric of talking peace and preparing wars has lost credibility. Obama is preparing to commit you, the newly commissioned officers of West Point, to new overseas wars opposed by the majority of Americans.
Obama will send you to war zones in which you will be pitted against popular insurgencies, in which you will be despised by the surrounding population. You will be asked to defend an Administration which has pillaged the Treasury to bail out the 15 biggest banks, who paid $78 billion dollars in fines between 2012 – 2013 for fraud and swindles and yet their CEO’s received double digit pay increases. You will be told to fight wars for Israel in the Middle East. You will be ordered to command bases in Poland and missiles aimed at Russia. You will be sent to the Ukraine to advise neo-Nazis in the National Guard. You will be told to subvert Latin American military officials in hopes of inciting a military coup and converting independent progressive governments into neo-liberal client states.
Obama’s vision does not resonate with your hopes for an America committed to democracy, freedom and development. You face the choice of serving a political desperado intent on launching unjust wars at the behest of billionaire swindlers and armchair militarists or resigning your commission and joining the majority of American people who believe that America’s “leadership” should be directed at reducing the wealth and power of an unelected oligarchy in this country.
On May 23, 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) trade show in Tampa, Florida to share her vision of “smart power” and to explain the State Department’s crucial role in extending the reach and efficacy of America’s growing “international counterterrorism network.”
First, there is such a thing as a “Special Operations Forces Industry Conference trade show.” Without some keen reporting by David Axe of Wired, that peculiar get-together might’ve flown completely under the radar—much like the shadowy “industry” it both supports and feeds off of like a sleek, camouflaged lamprey attached to a taxpayer-fattened shark.
Second, “special operations” have officially metastasized into a full-fledged industry. United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is located at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa and, therefore, conveniently located near the special operations trade show, which happened again this year at the Tampa Convention Center. The theme was “Strengthening the Global SOF Network” and the 600,000-square-foot facility was filled with targets of opportunity for well-connected and well-heeled defense contractors.
According to the SOFIC website, this year’s conference afforded attendees “the opportunity to engage with USSOCOM Program Executive Officers, Science and Technology Managers, Office of Small Business Programs and Technology & Industry Liaison Office representatives, and other acquisition experts who will identify top priorities, business opportunities, and interests as they relate to USSOCOM acquisition programs.”
Third, Hillary’s widely-ignored speech marked a radical departure from the widely-held perception that the State Department’s diplomatic mission endures as an institutional alternative to the Pentagon’s military planning. Instead, Secretary Clinton celebrated the transformation of Foggy Bottom into a full partner with the Pentagon’s ever-widening efforts around the globe, touting both the role of diplomats in paving the way for shadowy special ops in so-called “hot spots” and the State Department’s “hand-in-glove” coordination with Special Forces in places like Pakistan and Yemen.
Finally, with little fanfare or coverage, America’s lead diplomat stood before the shadow war industry and itemized the integration of the State Department’s planning and personnel with the Pentagon’s global counter-terrorism campaign which, she told the special operations industry, happen “in one form or another in more than 100 countries around the world.”
If this isn’t entirely unexpected, consider the fact that under then-Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, the State Department fought attempts by the Pentagon to trump its authority around the globe and, as reported by the Washington Post, “repeatedly blocked Pentagon efforts to send Special Operations forces into countries surreptitiously and without ambassadors’ formal approval.”
But that was before Hillary brought her “fast and flexible” doctrine of “smart power” to Foggy Bottom and, according to her remarks, before she applied lessons learned from her time on the Senate Armed Services Committee to launch the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, which she modeled on the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review. That Pentagon-style review spurred the creation of the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations to “advance the U.S. government’s foreign policy goals in conflict areas.”
According to a Congressional Research Service analysis, the initial intent of the Conflict Bureau was to replace the ineffectual Office of the Coordinator of Reconstruction and Stabilization, which was created in 2004 to help manage “stabilization” efforts in two nations the U.S. was actively destabilizing—Afghanistan and Iraq.
But the new, improved bureau does more than just react to messes made by unlawful invasions or direct costly remediation efforts in war zones—it also collaborates with “relevant partners” in the Department of Defense and NATO “to harmonize civilian and military plans and operations pertaining to conflict prevention, crisis response, and stabilization.”
This integrated relationship between State and Defense was confirmed by U.S. Special Operations chief Admiral William McRaven shortly after Hillary’s speech. When asked about the “unlikely partnership,” McRaven assured DefenseNews that SOCOM has “an absolutely magnificent relationship with the State Department” and that SOCOM doesn’t “do anything that isn’t absolutely fully coordinated and approved by the U.S. ambassador and the geographic combatant commander.”
As David Axe aptly described it in Wired, “Together, Special Operations Forces and State’s new Conflict Bureau are the twin arms of an expanding institution for waging small, low-intensity shadow wars all over the world.”
In fact, during Hillary’s time as America’s chief diplomat, the State Department embraced the shadowy edge of U.S. foreign policy where decision-makers engage in activities that look like war, sound like war and, if you were to ask civilians in places like Yemen and Pakistan, feel a lot like war, but never quite have to meet the Constitutional requirement of being officially declared as war.
The Whole-of-Government Shift
Once upon a time, “low-intensity shadow wars” were the Congressionally-regulated bailiwick of the Central Intelligence Agency. But 9/11 changed everything. However, the excesses of the Bush Administration led many to hope that Obama could and would change everything back or, at least, relax America’s tense embrace of “the dark side.”
Although the new administration did officially re-brand “The War on Terror” as “Overseas Contingency Operations,” Team Obama employed an increasingly elastic interpretation of the 9/11-inspired Authorization for Use of Military Force and expanded covert ops, special ops, drone strikes and regime change to peoples and places well-beyond the law’s original intent, and certainly beyond the limited scope of CIA covert action.
Obama’s growing counter-terrorism campaign—involving, as Secretary Clinton said, “more than 100 countries”—took flight with a new, ecumenical approach called the “Whole-of-Government” strategy. Advanced by then-Secretary of Defense Bill Gates and quickly adopted by the new administration in early 2009, this strategy catalyzed an institutional shift toward inter-agency cooperation, particularly in the case of “state-building” (a.k.a. “nation building”).
During remarks to the Brookings Institution in 2010, Secretary Clinton explained the shift: “One of our goals coming into the administration was… to begin to make the case that defense, diplomacy and development were not separate entities, either in substance or process, but that indeed they had to be viewed as part of an integrated whole and that the whole of government then had to be enlisted in their pursuit.”
Essentially, the Whole-of-Government approach is a re-branded and expanded version of Pentagon’s doctrine of “Full-Spectrum Dominance.” Coincidentally, that strategy was featured in the Clinton Administration’s final Annual Report to the President and Congress in 2001. It defined “Full-Spectrum Dominance” as “an ability to conduct prompt, sustained, and synchronized operations with forces tailored to specific situations and possessing freedom to operate in all domains—space, sea, land, air, and information.”
In 2001, Full-Spectrum Dominance referred specifically to 20th Century notions of battlefield-style conflicts. But the “dark side” of the War on Terror stretched the idea of the battlefield well-beyond symmetrical military engagements. “Irregular warfare” became the catchphrase du jour, particularly as grinding campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq exposed the reality that the full spectrum still wasn’t enough.
An assessment by the Congressional Research Service identified the primary impetus for the Whole-of-Government “reforms” embraced by Team Obama as the “perceived deficiencies of previous inter-agency missions” during the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those missions failed to address a myriad of problems created—culturally, economically and politically—by the wholesale bombing and occupation of those countries. The Full-Spectrum was half-baked. Lesson learned.
But the lesson wasn’t that the U.S. should avoid intervention, regime change or unleashing nascent civil, ethnic or religious conflicts. Instead, the lesson was that the “Whole-of-Government” must be marshaled to fight a worldwide array of Overseas Contingency Operations in “more than 100 countries.”
This Whole-of-Government shift signaled a renewed willingness to engage on variety of new fronts—particularly in Africa—but in a “fast and flexible” way. With other agencies—like the State Department—integrated and, in effect, fronting the counter-terrorism campaign, the military footprint becomes smaller and, therefore, easier to manage locally, domestically and internationally.
In some ways, the Whole-of-Government national security strategy is plausible deniability writ-large through the cover of interagency integration. By merging harder-to-justify military and covert actions into a larger, civilian-themed command structure, the impact of the national security policy overseas is hidden—or at least obfuscated—by the diplomatic “stabilization” efforts run through the State Department—whether it’s the Conflict Bureau working against Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa, “stabilizing” post-Gaddafi Libya or spending $27 million to organize the opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime.
The Pass Key
The cover of diplomacy has traditionally been an effective way to slip covert operators into countries and the State Department’s vast network of embassies and consulates still offers an unparalleled “pass-key” into sovereign nations, emerging hot spots and potential targets for regime change. In 2001, the Annual Report to the President and Congress foresaw the need for more access: “Given the global nature of our interests and obligations, the United States must maintain the ability to rapidly project power worldwide in order to achieve full-spectrum dominance.”
Having the way “pre-paved” is, based on Hillary’s doctrinal shift at State, a key part of the new, fuller-spectrum, Whole-of-Government, mission-integrated version of diplomacy. At the SOFIC’s Special Operations Gala Dinner in 2012, Hillary celebrated the integration of diplomatic personnel and Special Operations military units at the State Department’s recently created Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications—a “nerve center in Washington” that coordinates “military and civilian teams around the world” and serves “as a force multiplier for our embassies’ communications efforts.”
As with most doors in Washington, that relationship swings both ways and mission-integrated embassies have served as an effective force multiplier for the Pentagon’s full spectrum of activities, particularly around Africa.
In his 2011 testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Africa, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Don Yamamoto noted that State had “significantly expanded the number of DoD personnel who are integrated into embassies across the continent over the past three years,” and read a surprisingly long laundry list of collaborative efforts between State and the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), including: “reduction of excess and poorly secured man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS); Defense Sector Reform in Liberia, DRC, and South Sudan; counterpiracy activities off the Somali coast; maritime safety and security capacity building; and civil-military cooperation.”
It seems that “civil-military cooperation” is a primary focus of the State Department in Africa. Most notably, Yamamoto told Congress that “embassies implement Department of State-funded Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs, which further U.S. interests in Africa by helping to professionalize African militaries, while also assisting our African partners to be more equipped and trained to work toward common security goals.”
As the ever-vigilant Nick Turse recently reported, U.S. presence on the continent has only grown since that testimony was given in 2011. On TomDispatch.com, Turse identified the infamous attack on Benghazi on September 11, 2012 as the catalyst for “Operation New Normal”—the continent-wide response to, quite ironically, the political potboiler still simmering around Secretary Clinton. Whether or not Congressional Republicans find anything more than incompetence at the root of Benghazi, the U.S. military certainly finds itself in a “new normal” of increased activity in response to the forces—and the weaponry—unleashed by U.S.-led regime change in Libya. According to Turse, the U.S. is “now conducting operations alongside almost every African military in almost every African country and averaging more than a mission a day.”
Those missions are, of course, integrated with and augmented by the State Department’s Conflict Bureau which has used a variety of state-building programs and its diplomatic “pass key” in places like Libya, Nigeria, Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and six other African nations, all to develop a growing roster of “host country partners.”
Establishing “host country partners” is the nexus where the State Department, its Conflict Bureau and the AFRICOM meet—implementing the Whole-of-Government strategy in emerging or current conflict zones to fuse a mounting counter-terrorism campaign with stabilization, modernization and state-building initiatives, particularly in oil and resource-rich areas like the Niger River Delta, Central Africa and around AFRICOM’s military foothold on the Horn of Africa.
As Richard J. Wilhelm, a Senior Vice President with defense and intelligence contracting giant Booz Allen Hamilton, pointed out in a video talk about “mission integration,” AFRICOM’s coordination with the Departments of State and Commerce, USAID is the “most striking example of the Whole-of-Government approach.”
And this is exactly the type of “hand-in-glove” relationship Secretary Clinton fostered throughout her tenure at State, leveraging the resources of the department in a growing list of conflict areas where insurgents, terrorists, al-Qaeda affiliates, suspected militants or uncooperative regimes threaten to run afoul of so-called “U.S. interests”.
Ultimately, it became a hand-in-pocket relationship when Clinton and Defense Secretary Gates developed the Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF) to “incentivize joint planning and to pool the resources of the Departments of State and Defense, along with the expertise of other departments, to provide security sector assistance for partner countries so they can address emergent challenges and opportunities important to U.S. national security.”
Although he’s been criticized as feckless and deemed less hawkish than Secretary Clinton, President Obama’s newly-proposed Counterterrorism Partnership Fund (CTPF) is the logical extension of the Clinton-Gates Global Security Contingency Fund and epitomizes the Whole-of-Government shift.
The $5 billion Obama wants will dwarf the $250 million pooled into the GSCF and will, the President said at West Point, “give us flexibility to fulfill different missions including training security forces in Yemen who have gone on the offensive against al Qaeda; supporting a multinational force to keep the peace in Somalia; working with European allies to train a functioning security force and border patrol in Libya; and facilitating French operations in Mali.”
That “flexibility” is exactly what Hillary Clinton instituted at State and touted at the SOFIC conference in 2012. It also portends a long-term shift to less invasive forms of regime change like those in Yemen, Libya, Syria and Ukraine, and an increased mission flexibility that will make the Authorization for the Use of Military Force functionally irrelevant.
Normalizing the War on Terror
The ultimate outcome of this shift is, to borrow from Nick Turse, yet another “new normal”—the new normalization of the War on Terror. What the adoption of the Whole-of-Government/mission integration approach has done is to normalize the implementation of the re-branded War on Terror (a.k.a. Overseas Contingency Operations) across key agencies of the government and masked it, for lack of the better term, under the rubric of stabilization, development and democracy building.
It is, in effect, the return of a key Cold War policy of “regime support” for clients and “regime change” for non-client states, particularly in strategically-located areas and resource-rich regions. Regimes—whether or not they actually “reflect American values”—can count on U.S. financial, military and mission-integrated diplomatic support so long as they can claim to be endangered… not by communists, but by terrorists.
And because terrorism is a tactic—not a political system or a regime—the shadowy, State Department-assisted Special Ops industry that fights them will, unlike the sullen enthusiasts of the Cold War, never be bereft of an enemy.
The Left Forum’s tenth annual conference was held this year at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, part of the City University of New York. Left Forum describes itself as “convening “the largest annual conference of a broad spectrum of left and progressive intellectuals, activists, academics, organizations and the interested public.”
The rather enigmatic theme for Left Forum 2014 was “Reform and/or Revolution: Imagining a World of Transformative Justice,” but one heard no mention of justice for the victims of sixty-nine years of US-NATO genocide presently ongoing in a dozen Muslim nations in the Middle-East and Africa as being a reason for either “reform” or “revolution.” The entire focus of the three day event, save in a a very small number of the three-hundred-and-eighty panel/workshops, was on “reform and/or revolution” to benefit Americans in America.
For this writer, the actual theme of Left Forum 2014 seems to have been: Martin Luther King was Wrong!: Americans CAN make a better America WHILE still continuing to kill the poor overseas in spite of the cost in human and financial resources that SHALL NOT stop Americans from making progress on social and justice issues at home.
Martin Luther King Jr. said:
I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such. “I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly … for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence. … Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. … I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak … for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and … in sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportion relative to the rest of the population.
A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then … I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war.
Martin Luther King cried out, “For the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence I cannot be silent!”
But Cornel West, now of New York Theological Seminary, the keynote speaker at Left Forum 2014’s Opening Plenary, and Harry Belafonte and Angela Davis, who spoke at its Feature Event, were silent on the sixty-seven years of US-NATO genocide overseas, the ongoing US-NATO slaughter of Muslims in a dozen nations in the Middle East and Africa and the covert violence around the world for “unjust predatory investments” that Rev. King condemned. Amazingly, their cries and exhortations were to fight for justice for Americans at home. Left Forum 2014 was a truly an ‘America First’ proposition.
All three most beloved African American celebrities of the Left railed against the injustices suffered by African Americans, Native Turtle Islanders, Latin Americans, and non-heterosexuals (including one supposes those returning from military duty in one or the more of the nations under military occupation or attack, and from US military bases in more than a hundred and fifty nations.)
The shouting was mainly about getting a better deal for Americans in America, Americans who King had held responsible for atrocity wars and covert genocide on three continents since 1945. Yours truly was uncomfortably aware that he sat in a college gymnasium filled with knowledgeable people, who, by virtue of their anti-government stance and protests, felt themselves innocent of the massive atrocities that King held himself responsible for, along with his fellow Americans.
Perhaps the most galling pill to swallow was the presence on stage of progressive media Democracy Now director Amy Goodman, long committed to false reporting to destroy the government and the population that supports it in Syria, having had a dedication to the destruction of beautiful, democratic and prosperous Libya and third world hero Muammar Gaddafi, and to dutiful backing of the Orange, Green and now Ukrainian “revolutions” sponsored by CNN and arranged by CIA and its many foreign branches.
I was gratified to find that quite a few panel facilitators and speakers at the three day conference were very knowledgeable and outspoken about the perfidy and treachery of Amy Goodman — and just as angry about her role in contributing to the death and maiming of so many innocent citizens by disseminating false propaganda in support of US-NATO bombings and funding of terror.
In fact, the panels I sought out were run and attended by dedicated scholars well aware of the traitorous nature of so many of those who pride themselves in being leftists and progressives critical, or even damning, of their government without realizing that not working firstly to stop the carnage of US-NATO deadly military operations and CIA’s equally deadly covert activities makes Leftists and Progressives more responsible for the genocide continuing than anyone else. For as the segment of society most informed about the horror of American actions overseas, yet refraining from referring to them as prosecutable crimes against humanity, not calling for their prosecution, and not seeking justice for America’s victims, makes such intellectuals, professors, historians and journalists accessories after the fact, even in some cases before the fact, for backhandedly protecting criminals in hindering the arrest and bringing to justice of all fellow Americans responsible. … Full article
With everyone’s attention focused on the European elections or President Barack Obama’s speech at West Point or the Ukraine, a story by Eric Schmitt in The New York Times on Tuesday may not have caught your attention. I believe, however, that it provides an insight into some of the major problems of American foreign policy.
What Mr. Schmitt reports is that the U.S. has set up covert programs to train and equip native teams patterned on their instructors, the U.S. Army Delta Force, in several African countries. The program was advocated by Michael A. Sheehan who formerly was in charge of special operations planning in the Department of Defense and is now, according to Mr. Schmitt, holder of the “distinguished chair at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.”
Mr. Schmitt quotes him as saying, “Training indigenous forces to go after threats in their own country is what we need to be doing.” So far allocated to this effort, Mr. Schmitt writes, is $70 million, and the initial efforts will be in Libya, Niger, Mali and Mauritania.
How to do this, according to the senior U.S. officer in Africa, Major General Patrick J. Donahue II, is complex: “You have to make sure of who you’re training. It can’t be the standard, ‘Has the guy been a terrorist or some sort of criminal?’ but also, what are his allegiances? Is he true to the country or is he still bound to his militia?”
So let me comment on these remarks, on the ideas behind the program, its justification and the history of such efforts. I begin with a few bits of history. (Disclosure: I am in the final stages of a book that aims to tell the whole history, but the whole history is of course much too long for this note.)
Without much of the rhetoric of Mr. Sheehan and General Donahue and on a broader scale, we have undertaken similar programs in a number of countries over the last half century. Iran, Turkey, Indonesia, Guatemala, Egypt, Iraq, Thailand, Chad, Angola to name just a few. The results do not add up to a success almost anywhere.
Perhaps the worst (at least for America’s reputation) were Chad where the man we trained, equipped and supported, Hissène Habré, is reported to have killed about 40,000 of his fellow citizens. In Indonesia, General Suharto, with our blessing and with the special forces we also had trained and equipped, initially killed about 60,000 and ultimately caused the deaths of perhaps 200,000. In Mexico, the casualties have been smaller, but the graduates of our Special Forces program have become the most powerful drug cartel. They virtually hold the country at ransom.
Even when casualties were not the result, the military forces we helped to create and usually paid for carried out the more subtle mission of destroying public institutions. If our intention is to create stability, the promotion of a powerful military force is often not the way to do it. This is because the result of such emphasis on the military often renders it the only mobile, coherent and centrally directed organization in societies lacking in the balancing forces of an independent judiciary, reasonably open elections, a tradition of civil government and a more or less free press.
Our program in pre-1958 Iraq and in pre-1979 Iran certainly played a crucial role in the extension of authoritarian rule in those countries and in their violent reactions against us.
General Donahue suggests that we need to distinguish among the native soldiers we train and empower those who are “true to the country.” But how? We supported Hissène Habré so long that we must have known every detail of his life. He is now on trial as war criminal. General Suharto has never been charged (nor have those Americans who gave him a “green light”) for his brutal invasion of East Timor. Both probably believed that they met General Donahue’s definition of patriotism.
And in Mali, our carefully trained officers of the Special Forces answered what they thought was both patriotic and religious duty by joining the insurgency against the government we (and we thought they) supported. We have a poor record of defining other peoples’ patriotism.
And, in the interest of more urgent objectives, we have been willing to support and fund almost anyone as long as we think he might be of value. General Manuel Noriega, our man in Panama, went on to spend 22 years in an American prison after we invaded his country and fought the soldiers we had trained.
Indeed, we have a poor record of even knowing who the people we train are. After the Turkish army carried out one of its coups in the 1960s, when I was the member of the Policy Planning Council responsible for the Middle East, I asked the appropriate branch of the Defense Department who were the new leaders, all of whom had been trained in America, often several times during the years. The answer was that no one knew. Even in army records, they were just Americanized nicknames.
And, more generally, our sensitivity to the aspirations, hopes and fears of other people is notoriously crude or totally lacking. Growing out of the Cold War, we thought of many of them as simply our proxies or our enemies.
Thus, we found Chad not as a place with a certain population but just as a piece of the Libyan puzzle, and today we think of Mali in the same way. Now we are talking of training “carefully selected” Syrian insurgents to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. Do we have any sense of what they will overthrow him for?
Beyond these, what might be considered “tactical” issues are “strategic,” legal and even moral considerations. I leave aside the legal and moral issues — such as what justification we have to determine the fate of other peoples — as they do not seem very persuasive among our leaders.
But just focus on the long-term or even middle-term results of the new policy: the most obvious is that we meddle in and take some responsibility for the politics of an array of countries in which we have little direct interest. And often with the obvious danger of a deeper, more expensive and more painful result. We are close to this commitment in Syria.
Less obvious is that our activities, no matter how carefully differentiated, will be seen to add up to an overall policy of militarism, support of oppressive dictatorships, and opposition to popular forces. They also meld into a policy of opposition to the religion of over a billion people, Islam. And they do so at great expense to our expressed desires to enable people everywhere, including at home, to live healthier, safer and decent lives.
I end with a prediction: in practically every country where Mr. Sheehan’s and General Donahue’s program is employed, it will later be seen to have led to a military coup d’etat.
William R. Polk is a veteran foreign policy consultant, author and professor who taught Middle Eastern studies at Harvard. President John F. Kennedy appointed Polk to the State Department’s Policy Planning Council where he served during the Cuban Missile Crisis. His books include: Violent Politics: Insurgency and Terrorism; Understanding Iraq; Understanding Iran; Personal History: Living in Interesting Times; Distant Thunder: Reflections on the Dangers of Our Times; and Humpty Dumpty: The Fate of Regime Change.
The Pentagon has been secretly backing a U.S. Special Operations program to build elite units to fight “terrorism” in Libya, Niger, Mauritania and Mali, the New York Times revealed Monday.
The program was launched last year and is backed by millions of dollars in classified Pentagon funds. U.S. military trainers, including members of the Green Berets and Delta Force, are working with African “commandos” to “build homegrown African counterterrorism teams,” according to the Times.
According to the reporting, $70 million in Pentagon funds is going towards “training, intelligence-gathering equipment and other support” for commandos in Nigeria and Mauritania. And $16 million is going towards commandos in Libya. In Mauritnaia, $29 million has been allotted for “logistics and surveillance equipment in support of the specialized unit.” According to the Times, the program in Mali “has yet to get off the ground as a new civilian government recovers from a military coup last year.”
The U.S. military has for years been increasing its role across the continent of Africa, including the expansion of AFRICOM, drone attacks in Somalia, air strikes and arms shipments to Libya, and more.
The sweeping electoral victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India is the latest expression of the world-wide advance of a new power bloc which promises to impose a New World Order harnessing ethno-religious fanaticism and narrowly trained technocrats to capitalist absolutism.
The far-right is no longer at the margins of western political discourse. It is center-stage. It is no longer dependent on contributions by local militants; it receives financing from the biggest global corporations. It is no longer dismissed by the mass media. It receives feature coverage, highlighting its ‘dynamic and transformative’ leadership.
Today capitalists everywhere confront great uncertainty, as markets crash and endemic corruption at the highest levels erode competitive markets. Throughout the world, large majorities of the labor force question, challenge and resist the massive transfers of public wealth to an ever reduced oligarchy. Electoral politics no longer define the context for political opposition.
Capitalism, neither in theory nor practice, advances through reason and prosperity. It relies on executive fiats, media manipulation and arbitrary police state intrusions. It increasingly relies on death squads dubbed “Special Forces” and a ‘reserve army’ of para-military fanatics.
The new power bloc is the merger of big business, the wealthy professional classes, upwardly mobile, elite trained technocrats and cadres of ethno-religious fanatics who mobilize the masses.
Capitalism and imperialism advances by uprooting millions, destroying local communities and economies, undermining local trade and production, exploiting labor and repressing social solidarity. Everywhere it erodes community and class solidarity.
Ethno-Religious Fanatics and Elite Technocrats
Today capitalism depends on two seemingly disparate forces. The irrational appeal of ethno-religious supremacists and narrowly trained elite technocrats to advance the rule of capital. Ethno-religious fanatics seek to promote bonds between the corporate-warlord elite and the masses, by appealing to their ‘common’ religious ethnic identities.
The technocrats serve the elite by developing the information systems, formulating the images and messages deceiving and manipulating the masses and designing their economic programs.
The political leaders meet with the corporate elite and warlords to set the political-economic agenda, deciding when to rely on the technocrats and when to moderate or unleash the ethno-religious fanatics.
Imperialism operates via the marriage of science and ethno-religious fanaticism- and both are harnessed to capitalist domination and exploitation.
India: Billionaires, Hindu Fascists and IT “Savants”
The election of Narendra Modi, leader of the BJP and long-time member of the Hindu fascist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) para-military organization was based on three essential components:
(1) Multi-billion rupee funding from corporate India at home and abroad.
(2) Thousands of upwardly mobile IT technocrats mounting a massive propaganda campaign.
(3) Hundreds of thousands of RSS activists spreading the “Hindutva” racist doctrine among millions of villagers.
The Modi regime promises his capitalist backers that he will “open India”– namely end the land reserves of the tribes, convert farmland to industrial parks, deregulate labor and environmental controls.
To the Brahmin elite he promises to end compensatory quotas for lower castes, the untouchables, the minorities and Muslims. For the Hindu fascists he promises more temples. For foreign capitalists he promises entry into all formerly protected economic sectors. For the US, Modi promises closer working relations against China, Russia and Iran… The BJP’s ethno-religious Hindu fanaticism resonates with Israel’s notion of a “pure”Jewish state. Modi and Netanyahu have longstanding ties and promise close working relations based on similar ethno-racist doctrines.
Turkey: The Transition to Islamic-Capitalist Authoritarianism
Turkey under the rule of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party has moved decisively toward one-man rule: linking Islam to big capital and police state repression. Erdogan’s ‘triple alliance’ is intent on unleashing mega-capitalist projects, based on the privatization of public spaces and the dispossession of popular neighborhoods. He opened the door to unregulated privatization of mines, communications, banks – leading to exponential growth of profits and the decline of employment security and a rising toll of worker deaths. Erdogan has shed the mask of ‘moderate Islam’ and embraced the jihadist mercenaries invading Syria and legislation expanding religious prerogatives in secular life. Erdogan has launched massive purges of journalists, public officials, civil servants, judges and military officers. He has replaced them with ‘party loyalists’; Erdogan fanatics!
Erdogan has recruited a small army of technocrats who design his mega projects and provide the political infrastructure and programs for his electoral campaigns. Technocrats provide a development agenda that accommodates the foreign and domestic crony corporate elite.
The Anatolian Islamists, small and medium provincial business elite, form the mass base – mobilizing voters, by appealing to chauvinist and ethnocentric beliefs. Erdogan’s repressive, Islamist, capitalist regime’s embrace of the “free market” has been sharply challenged especially in light of the worst mining massacre in Turkish history: the killing of over 300 miners due to corporate negligence and regime complicity. Class polarization threatens the advance of Turkish fascism.
Israel and the “Jewish State”: Billionaires , Ethno-Religious Fanatics and Technocrats
Israel, according to its influential promoters in the US, is a ‘model democracy’. The public pronouncements and the actions of its leaders thoroughly refute that notion. The driving force of Israeli politics is the idea of dispossessing and expelling all Palestinians and converting Israel into a ‘pure’ Jewish state. For decades Israel, funded and colonized by the diaspora, have violently seized Palestinian lands, dispossessed millions and are in the process of Judaizing what remains of the remnant in the “Occupied Territories”.
The Israeli economy is dominated by billionaires. Its “society” is permeated by a highly militarized state. Its highly educated technocrats serve the military-industrial and ethno-religious elite. Big business shares power with both.
High tech Israeli’s apply their knowledge to furthering the high growth, military industrial complex. Medical specialists participate in testing the endurance of Palestinian prisoners undergoing torture (“interrogation”). Highly trained psychologists engage in psych-warfare to gain collaborators among vulnerable Palestinian families. Economists and political scientists, with advanced degrees from prestigious US and British universities (and ‘dual citizenship’) formulate policies furthering the land grabs of neo-fascist settlers. Israel’s best known novelist, Amos Oz condemned the neo-fascist settlers who defecate on the embers of burnt-out mosques.
Billionaire real estate moguls bid up house prices and rents “forcing” many “progressive” Israelies, who occasionally protest, to take the easy road of moving into apartments built on land illegally and violently seized from dispossessed Palestinians. ‘Progressives’ join neo-fascist vigilantes in common colonial settlements. Prestigious urbanologists further the goals of crude ethno-racist political leaders by designing new housing in Occupied Lands. Prominent social scientists trade on their US education to promote Mid-East wars designed by vulgar warlords. Building the Euro American Empire: Riff-Raff of the World Unite!
Empire building is a dirty business. And while the political leaders directing it, feign respectability and are adept at rolling out the moral platitudes and high purposes, the ‘combatants’ they employ are a most unsavory lot of armed thugs, journalistic verbal assassins and highly respected international jurists who prey on victims and exonerate imperial criminals.
In recent years Euro-American warlords have employed “the scum of the slaughterhouse” to destroy political adversaries in Libya, Syria and the Ukraine.
In Libya lacking any semblance of a respectable middle-class democratic proxy, the Euro-American empire builders armed and financed murderous tribal bands, notorious jihadist terrorists, contrabandist groups, arms and drug smugglers. The Euro-Americans counted on a pocketful of educated stooges holed up in London to subdue the thugs, privatize Libya’s oil fields and convert the country into a recruiting ground and launch pad for exporting armed mercenaries for other imperial missions.
The Libyan riff-raff were not satisfied with a paycheck and facile dismissal: they murdered their US paymaster, chased the technocrats back to Europe and set-up rival fiefdoms. Gadhafi was murdered, but so went Libya as a modern viable state. The arranged marriage of Euro-American empire builders, western educated technocrats and the armed riff-raff was never consummated. In the end the entire imperial venture ended up as a petty squabble in the American Congress over who was responsible for the murder of the US Ambassador in Benghazi.
The Euro-American-Saudi proxy war against Syria follows the Libyan script. Thousands of Islamic fundamentalists are financed, armed, trained and transported from bases in Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Libya to violently overthrow the Bashar Assad government in Syria. The world’s most retrograde fundamentalists travel to the Euro-American training bases in Jordan and Turkey and then proceed to invade Syria, seizing towns, executing thousands of alleged ‘regime loyalists’ and planting car bombs in densely populated city centers.
The fundamentalist influx soon overwhelmed the London based liberals and their armed groups.
The jihadist terrorists fragmented into warring groups fighting over the Syrian oil fields. Hundreds were killed and thousands fled to Government controlled regions. Euro-US strategists, having lost their original liberal mercenaries, turned toward one or another of the fundamentalist groups. No longer in control of the ‘politics’ of the terrorists, Euro-US strategists sought to inflect the maximum destruction on Syrian society. Rejecting a negotiated settlement, the Euro-US strategists turned their backs on the internal political opposition challenging Assad via presidential elections.
In the Ukraine, the Euro-Americans backed a junta of servile neo-liberal technocrats, oligarchical kleptocrats and neo-Nazis, dubbed Svoboda and the Right Sector. The latter were the “shock troops” to overthrow the elected government, massacre the federalist democrats in Odessa and the eastern Ukraine, and back the junta appointed oligarchs serving as “governors”.
The entire western mass media white-washed the savage assaults carried out by the neo-Nazis in propping up the Kiev junta. The powerful presence of the neo-fascists in key ministries, their strategic role as front line fighters attacking eastern cities controlled by pro-democracy militants, establishes them as central actors in converting the Ukraine into a military outpost of NATO.
Euro-America Empire Building and the Role of Riff-Raff
Everywhere the Euro-American imperialists choose to expand – they rely on the ‘scum of the earth’: tribal gangs in Libya, fundamentalist terrorists in Syria, neo-Nazis in the Ukraine.
Is it by choice or necessity? Clearly few consequential democrats would lend themselves to the predatory and destructive assaults on existing regimes which Euro-US strategists design. In the course of imperial wars, the local producers, workers, ordinary citizens would “self-destroy”, whatever the outcome. Hence the empire builders look toward ‘marginal groups’, those with no stake in society or economy. Those alienated from any primary or secondary groups. Footloose fundamentalists fit that bill – provided they are paid, armed and allowed to carry their own ideological baggage. Neo-Nazis hostile to democracy have no qualms about serving empire builders who share their ideological hostility to democrats, socialists, federalists and culturally ‘diverse’ societies and states. So they are targeted for recruitment by the empire builders.
The riff-raff consider themselves ‘strategic allies’ of the Euro-American empire builders. The latter, however, have no strategic allies – only strategic interests. Their tactical alliances with the riff-raff endure until they secure control over the state and eliminate their adversaries. Then the imperialists seek to demote, co-opt, marginalize or eliminate their ‘inconvenient’ riff-raff allies. The falling out comes about when the fundamentalists and neo-Nazis seek to restrict capital, especially foreign capital and impose restrictions on imperial control over resources and territory. At first the empire builders seek ‘opportunists’ among the riff-raff, those willing to sacrifice their ‘ideals’ for money and office. Those who refuse are relegated to secondary positions distant from strategic decision-making or to remote outposts. Those who resist are assassinated or jailed. The disposal of the riff-raff serves the empire on two counts. It provides the client regime with a fig leaf of respectability and disarms western critics targeting the extremist component of the junta.
The riff-raff, however, with arms, fighting experience and financing, in the course of struggle, gains confidence in its own power. They do not easily submit to Euro-US strategies. They also have ‘strategic plans’ of their own, in which they seek political power to further their ideological agenda and enrich their followers.
The riff-raff, want to ‘transition’ from shock troops of empire into rulers in their own right. Hence the assaults on the US embassy in Libya, the assassination of Euro-American proxies in Syria, Right Sector riots against the Kiev junta.
A new power bloc is emerging on a global scale. It is already flexing its muscles. It has come to power in India, Turkey, Ukraine and Israel. It brings together big business, technocrats and ethno-religious fascists. They promote unrestrained capitalist expansion in association with Euro-American imperialism.
Scientists, economists, and IT specialists design the programs and plans to realize the profits of local and foreign capitalists. The ethno-fascists mobilize the ‘masses’ to attack minorities and class organizations threatening high rates of returns.
The Euro-Americans contribute to this ‘new power bloc’ by promoting their own ‘troika’ made up of ‘neo-liberal clients’, fundamentalists and neo-Nazis to overthrow nationalist adversaries. The advance of imperialism and capitalism in the 21st century is based on the harnessing of the most advanced technology and up-to-date media outlets with the most retrograde political and social leaders and ideologies.
Thursday, May 15 marked Nakba Day, Yawm an-Nakba, “Day of Catastrophe”, the onset of the displacement of up to 800,000 Palestinians, at the time 67% of the population, followed by the destruction of over 500 villages since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, under the commitment agreed to by the then British Foreign Secretary, Lord Arthur Balfour, in November 1917.
This week: “Figures released by the Ramallah-based Central Bureau of Statistics … put the number of registered Palestinian refugees at 5.3 million. Those refugees live in 58 United Nations-run camps in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” Tragedy on a scale near unimaginable – ongoing.
Hardly the day to plan another one. However, undaunted, Britain’s current Foreign Secretary, William Hague (“I have been a Conservative Friend of Israel since I was sixteen”) hosted a meeting of the “Friends of Syria” group (Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and the US) to continue plotting to further decimate another Middle East country and overthrow yet another sovereign head of State.
As increasingly chilling, verified images appear of “opposition” – read insurgent – atrocities in Syria: beheadings, behandings, crucifixions, summary executions and, of course, cannibalism, Hague announced that: “the Syrian opposition would have its diplomatic status in the UK upgraded”, according to the BBC.
The Foreign Secretary was clearly following in his master’s footsteps since last week the Obama regime granted diplomatic foreign mission status to the “Syrian National Coalition” offices in New York and Washington, with a welcome present of a further promised $27 million increase in “non-lethal assistance to rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.” This brings the total US support for the above crimes to $287 million.
Strangely, two days before the London meeting, it was announced that Israel’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni was awarded “special mission” temporary diplomatic status to visit London, “to protect her against arrest and potential prosecution for alleged breaches of international law, including war crimes” relating to Israel’s attack on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009.
In December 2009 Livni cancelled a visit to Britain after an arrest warrant was issued by a London Court. “The British government subsequently changed the law on universal jurisdiction … in connection with international war crimes … Previously, citizens could apply directly to a Judge for an arrest warrant.”
Currently, London lawyers Hickman Rose working with Gaza’s Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) had again been seeking a warrant for Livni’s arrest, Hickman Rose requesting that the Crown Prosecution Service advise the police to apprehend her: “for suspected war crimes and to liaise with the Attorney General to approve criminal charges.”
PCHR Director Raja Sourani commented of the Foreign Office’s stunt: “As lawyers for the victims of widespread suspected Israeli war crimes, PCHR is very concerned that these kind of political acts endorse the ‘rule of the jungle’ rather than the ‘rule of law.’” Indeed.
The Foreign Office is remarkably selective when it comes to alleged war criminals. Livni’s visit met “all the essential elements for a special mission, and for avoidance of any doubt on the matter, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has confirmed consent to the visit as a special mission”, they commented.
The reason for Livni’s visit was shrouded in secrecy. What is known that the evening of the “Friends of Syria” meeting, she was to address a fund- raising dinner for the Jewish National Fund at London’s luxury Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel ($725 a night current lowest available rate, no wonder funds are needed.) But all those Foreign Office diplomatic sleights of hand to enable something she could have done by video-link?
Well, here’s a thought. Two days before Ms Livni’s arrival in London aided by the Foreign Office’s diplomatic goal post displacements, Major General Amos Yadlin, former Deputy Commander of the Israeli Air Force, who headed military intelligence between 2006-2010 said that “ Israel should weigh launching a military strike at Syria if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons against his civilian population …”
Preferable, though, mooted the General, would be a NATO led action led by the US, with Turkey the key country, establishing a no fly zone over Syria “at the very minimum.” Libya revisited. There should also be “standoff strikes” by NATO aircraft at strategic government targets.
“If Israel discovers that Assad is using chemical weapons against his people in mass attacks, it should intervene militarily”, said the representative of a regime who has used chemical weapons – not alone white phosphorous but also depleted uranium, both a chemical and radioactive weapon – against the Palestinians. Ironically, the article is headed: “Israel should punish Assad for killing civilians”, an expertise Israel has honed with impunity over sixty-six years.
Right on cue, on May 13th, in the lead to the London Conference, Human Rights Watch produced a report of “strong evidence” that Syrian government forces were using chlorine bombs.
Coincidentally, the previous day a letter had been sent to Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, querying the organization’s seemingly extraordinarily partisan relationship with the US government.1
A flavour of the content is at paragraph 2:
For example, HRW’s Washington advocacy director, Tom Malinowski, previously served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton and as a speechwriter to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In 2013, he left HRW after being nominated as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights & Labor under John Kerry.
The letter was also signed by former UN Assistant Secretary General, Hans von Sponeck, current UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk and over one hundred scholars
John Kerry was, of course, also in London for the meeting, two days after he and President Obama had met with alleged former brothel owner Ahmed al-Jabra, who heads the “Syrian National Coalition”, in Washington. Jabra too had hopped on a ‘plane to London to attend the up-market plotting venue. A world away from the prison cell in Syria where he allegedly spent time for drug dealing.
Al-Akhbar has written regarding Ahmed al-Jabra of security records showing him:
“as a fugitive wanted for criminal offenses, including fraud, corruption, and even assassination plots that were not carried out. According to the source, records show that Riyadh handed over ‘the suspect Ahmad al-Jarba’ to Damascus in 2008, on charges of drug trafficking, in accordance with an extradition agreement between Saudi and Syrian security services … Jarba was tried and sentenced to a prison term at the time.”
“ … another entry involving Jarba, which the Qatari security services undoubtedly also have in their records. After the coup staged by the outgoing Emir of Qatar Hamad against his father Khalifa al-Thani, the latter’s Foreign Minister fled to Syria, where he became a vocal supporter for restoring the previous Emir. At the time, according to the records, Emir Hamad’s people asked Ahmad al-Jarba to assassinate the exiled Qatari Foreign Minister … Al-Jarba even received payment after accepting to carry out the mission, the source claimed.”2
Perhaps these most serious allegations regarding the man who now has upgraded diplomatic status in the US and UK have passed the State Department and Whitehall by. Whatever, they certainly seem to play fast and loose with awarding diplomatic credentials. In context, if the real reason for the action over Justice Minister Livni’s status change was not so she could attend the plotting against Syria – just over three weeks before the Syrian Presidential election on 3rd June, which President Assad is widely expected to win – it would be beyond astonishing.
Incidentally, at the Jewish National Fund cash-making bash, Livni told an illuminating tale:
“Recalling her family history, the minister also jokingly confided to the audience that as Justice Minister it was ‘embarrassing that my parents met while they were robbing a British money train to buy weapons to fight against the British army.’
“Ms Livni told her audience: ‘The first thing I want to emphasise is my parents were freedom fighters and not terrorists. I am not willing to accept any comparison with terrorists like Hamas who are looking for civilians to kill.’”
Clearly this was a week of triumph for selective perception.
Meanwhile, double standards at all levels are the order of the days. Obama, Kerry and Hague repeat the same words: “(President) Assad has no place in Syria’s future” (will any one ever ask what business it is of theirs?) Syria’s election has been declared a “farce”, but that of the US imposed fascist Junta in Ukraine on 25th May is regarded by as a “vote crucial to finding a way out of the crisis and preventing the country from tearing apart further …”
“The US and its allies are working ‘to send a unified message to pro-Russian separatists …’” that interference will not be tolerated. Whilst in sovereign Syria they are giving ever escalating $millions and arms to up to 80 groups of foreign terrorists led by an alleged serial criminal to bloodily interfere at mass murderous level.
In all there is only one consistency: illegal interference in nation states and barely believable levels of double standards. Incidentally Mr al-Jarba refers to the coming “new Syria.” For anyone looking at the ruins of the US’ “new Iraq” and “new Libya”, that should be enough to send all banging on government doors, emailing, telephoning, demonstrating: “Never, ever again.”
As NATO and its US masters edge the US and EU closer to war with Russia over Ukraine, it might be appropriate to have a look at NATO’s last “success” story.
Yesterday in Libya, where NATO bombs fell just over three years ago to “liberate” the people from Gaddafi, Islamist militias in Benghazi were under helicopter and warplane attack by a paramilitary force headed by former general Khalifa Haftar. The former general first emerged in Libya back in 2011, having left his long-time home base in the US state of Virginia where his ties to the CIA were an open secret.
Yesterday’s attack by Haftar’s paramilitary group was said to have been joined by some of the Libyan armed forces. At the same time, Libya’s acting prime minister, Abdullah al-Thinni, condemned the attacks as “a coup against the revolution.” The acting prime minister continued, “Air force units that bombed targets in Benghazi today did so illegally, without any orders from us.”
Ironically, the Islamist militias under attack in Benghazi — presumably at the behest of the Obama administration — were not long ago instrumental to the US and NATO when they started the uprising against Gaddafi.
So who runs the government in Libya when some armed forces units attack “the revolution” in Benghazi at the command of a CIA-affiliated former general?
As the Interventions Watch blog points out, claims that Gaddafi was bombing Benghazi from the air provided the main trigger for the NATO attack on Libya. So what will western cheerleaders for that attack say when now a CIA-affiliated militia and parts of the country’s armed forces are actually bombing Benghazi from the air?
If the 2011 NATO attack on Libya was such a success, why is chaos the only thing that reigns in Libya? And why are US military assets being moved from Spain to Sicily over fears of increasing unrest in Libya?
With this great “success” under its belt, we can hardly wait for NATO’s next act: a war with Russia over Ukraine.
It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.
— Voltaire, 1694-1778
It is impossible not to gain the impression that the criteria for being awarded prestigious honors for services to “peace”, “humanity” or “distinguished public service” is a candidate who is duplicitous, vicious, stone-hearted and above all prepared to kill, plan killings or rejoice in killing on an industrial scale as brutally as can be devised.
Moments after being informed of the horrific death of Libyan Leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “Wow!” then unforgettably and chillingly laughed, telling a television crew: “We came, we saw, he died.” Asked if her recent visit to Libya might have had anything to do with his death, she “… rolled her eyes” and said “I’m sure it did.”
Six months later, in April 2012, Clinton received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service. The following month she received the Champions for Change Award for Leadership, and in May 2013, the inaugural Warren Christopher Public Service Award.
Madeleine Albright’s comment, when US Ambassador to the UN, on “60 Minutes” (12th May 1996) that the price of the lives of half a million children who had died as a result of US-driven UN sanctions on Iraq, was: “a hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth it”, was no bar to her receiving, under two years later, the 1998 International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award: “For extraordinary contributions to the cause of … human freedom … The list of those who have received the Freedom Award reveals the remarkable ability of an individual to shape history and change for the better a world moving toward freedom for all.”
The “freedom of the grave” comes to mind.
Other recipients have been John McCain (2001) George H.W. Bush, whose regime vowed to “reduce Iraq to a pre-industrial age” – and did, in 1991 – and Bill Clinton whose Presidency (1993-2001) in addition to several massive bombings and unending daily ones (all illegal) oversaw, manipulated and pressured the UN to continue to implement the most draconian embargo in the organization’s history and ensure that children, the sick, went on dying in ever greater numbers every year of his Presidency. They were both honored in 2005.
In 2008 the Award went to Kofi Annan, during whose tenure as UN Secretary General (1997 – 2006) involved Iraq’s tragedy and “thirty four major armed conflicts.”
Annan was entrusted with oversight of international commitment to the UN’s fine founding pledge by: “We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war … to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person …” In the event he merely bleated mildly from time to time that some humanitarian holocaust was “regrettable”, “unfortunate” or that he was “concerned.”
Moreover, Kofi Annan’s son, Kojo, had profited from the pitiful UN-Iraq “Oil for Food” deal as children were dying, with former US Federal Reserve Chairman saying, on behalf of a Committee set up to investigate: “Our assignment has been to look for mis- or mal-administration in the oil-for-food programme, and for evidence of corruption within the U.N. organization and by contractors. Unhappily, we found both.”
These are minimal examples of how political pigs ears become polished silk purses. Now President Obama who, as Sherwood Ross has written, “has already bombed six countries (Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq) is risking a possible escalation of the Ukraine crisis he nurtured, into World War III against Russia”, was, on 7th May, awarded the 2014 Ambassador for Humanity Award by the Shoah Foundation.
The Shoah Foundation was established by Steven Spielberg to document the Holocaust, but has since expanded to document other modern genocides. Their new Ambassador’s actions should keep them occupied for a good while.
President Obama’s commitment to democracy and human rights has long been felt”, Spielberg said in a statement. “As a constitutional scholar and as President, his interest in expanding justice and opportunity and all is remarkably evident.”
The timing of the Award may outdo even the other more farcical honors, since, as Ross points out, according to Russian expert, Professor Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois:
Obama now has broken the promise President George H.W. Bush gave to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that if he agreed to the reunification of Germany, NATO would move no farther east, toward Russia’s boundaries. The Obama administration and NATO are maneuvering humanity into a reverse Cuban Missile Crisis right on the borders of Russia. Can World War III be far behind?
Further, NATO is planning larger number of combat forces in Eastern Europe, thus “the dreaded Cold War, with all its staggering cost, with all its immeasurable weight of fear, begins again.”
But even the first year of the Obama Presidency marked a year zero for many. In 2009 at least seven hundred Pakistani civilians were obliterated in drone strikes. Those also killed, accused of terrorism, had no trial, no lawyer, no right of reply. They were simply executed under the US Commander in Chief’s personal policy.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism to January of this year:
Since Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the CIA has launched 330 strikes on Pakistan – his predecessor, President George Bush, conducted 51 strikes in four years. And in Yemen, Obama has opened a new front in the secret drone war.
Across Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, the Obama administration has launched more than 390 drone strikes (since 23rd January 2009) eight times as many as were launched in the entire Bush presidency. These strikes have killed more than 2,400 people …
In Yemen, under US drones: “Last year saw the highest civilian casualty rate since Obama first hit the country in 2009.”
It is not drones alone. For example, a week to the day after Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize:
On December 17 2009, a US Navy submarine launched a cluster bomb-laden cruise missile at a suspected militant camp in al Majala, southern Yemen.
The missile hit a hamlet inhabited by “one of the poorest tribes in Yemen. Shrapnel and fire left at least forty one civilians dead, including at least twenty one children and twelve women – five of whom were pregnant.
In his Nobel acceptance speech he defended the use of force as “not only necessary, but morally justified.” A constitutional lawyer who has, figuratively, burned his law books.
But the President started as he continues. Three days after becoming Ambassador for Humanity, the US announced a “pilot programme” which is sending anti-tank weapons to terrorists in Syria. Lest it be forgotten, these groups have been videoing themselves crucifying, beheading, removing and eating the organs of victims, chopping off hands and dragging people behind moving vehicles. Under the Commander in Chief aka Ambassador for Humanity, the “pilot project” is an experiment trying to establish whether the weapons will “fall into the wrong hands.” Nauseatingly farcical.
Gulag Guantanamo is still open with the untried, condemned to incarceration until time unknown and legally unaccounted for, another pre-2009 election pledge condemned to the trash bin of history.
Iraq’s citizens continue to be bombed with US missiles, under the US proxy Prime Minister.
At home, under this Presidency, the US has the highest first day of life infant mortality rate in the industrialized world, a survey released this week has found.
The US is in the top five countries with the world’s highest execution rates.
In 2011 Pew Research found that “the median black household had about seven per cent of the wealth of its white counterpart, down from nine per cent in 1984, when a Census survey first began tracking this sort of data.”
Change we can believe in?
It has to be wondered whether President Obama pondered on this as he headed to California and his Award ceremony in Air Force One, costing $228,288 per hour.
The prison population of America, at 2.4 million (2013 figures) is just the tip of the iceberg, including “around three thousand children locked up for things that aren’t crimes for adults, ‘such as running away, truancy and incorrigibility.’” See woeful details here.
As this is finished, news comes in of “Obama left alone as agents moonlight”. Shock, horror. Who protects the villagers of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia from the Ambassador for Humanity’s drones?
Perhaps the Nobel Committee could lead the way in ending these outrageous Awards by starting with rescinding a few of their own. It would be a start.
The New York Times is today running an article on France’s attempt to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, via a U.N. Security Council Resolution.
The article reports that the Resolution has been tailored ‘to address American sensitivities, according to several people who have seen the text’.
What are those sensitivities? Well, according to the article:
In Syria, it faces another quandary: the Golan Heights, disputed territory that is claimed by both Syria and Israel. The United States has long worried that any referral to the court could implicate Israel, a close ally, and bring it before the tribunal.
The draft text, which could be circulated to all 15 members of the Council next week, gets around the problem by defining the conflict narrowly, as involving the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, its allied militias, and armed opposition forces between March 2011 and the present. It proposes to refer that “situation” to the court in a carefully worded bid to save Israel from becoming ensnared.
So, one ‘sensitivity’ is that any referral to the ICC could open up Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights to legal review. This is obviously unacceptable to the U.S., and so France has worded the resolution in such a way that Israel will be immune from any kind investigation.
Here’s the second ‘sensitivity’:
The second way in which it addresses American concerns is that it exempts “current or former officials or personnel” of countries that have not ratified the Rome Statute — except Syria. That way, if American soldiers are ever involved in the Syrian conflict, they would be immune from prosecution.
So the Resolution will see to it that U.S. troops and political leaders would also be immune from prosecution if they are ‘ever involved’ – never mind that they are involved *now*.
There is a certain kind of liberal who places great faith in the ICC as a means of resolving conflicts and holding war criminals and human rights abusers to account. Personally, I think that faith is quite badly misplaced.
The ICC in it’s current incarnation is far too open to political manipulation and pressure from the stronger states of the world to be considered a neutral arbiter. This potential Resolution, which grants the U.S. and Israel immunity from prosecution, demonstrates that clearly.
(Incidentally, if it’s vetoed by Russia and or China, watch certain liberals scream about how Russia and China don’t care about accountability, while remaining totally silent about the fact that the Resolution would grant certain parties to the conflict total immunity)
You can look at Libya circa 2011-2014 as another example of this.
In February 2011, during the early stages of the civil war there, the situation was referred to the ICC by the U.N. Security Council, under pressure from the U.S., Britain and France. Many of us at the time suspected this referral was less about securing justice for victims than it was about further delegitimising the Gadaffi regime as a prelude to military ‘intervention’.
What has happened since has only reinforced that idea.
The only people indicted by the ICC so far have been former Gadaffi regime officials. This is despite the fact there is copious evidence from bodies like the U.N. that rebel forces also committed war crimes and Crimes against Humanity. In May 2012, the post-Gadaffi Libyan authorities even passed a law which essentially granted those accused of war crimes from within the rebel ranks immunity from prosecution.
You would think, then, that because the Libyan authorities can’t or won’t investigate rebel crimes themselves, that the ICC might issue indictments. But to date? Nothing.
The Libyan authorities have also refused to hand over former Gadaffi regime officials wanted by the court.
As Sarah Leah Whitson from Human Rights Watch put it in 2012, ‘it will be hard to avoid the conclusion that the NTC merely used the ICC as a political tool against Qaddafi, rather than as a tool of justice for the citizens of a nation long deprived of independent courts’.
The same is undoubtedly true of those in the ‘international community’ who pushed for the referral, in my opinion. It was simply a means to an end, the end being regime change. I see no reason to believe that their motivation in attempting to refer Syria is any different.
There could even be grounds for the ICC to investigate NATO over their conduct in Libya.
One of the worst rebel crimes in Libya was the attack on Tawergha in August 2011, in which people were systematically murdered, tortured and displaced on a mass scale. It was an attack that was heavily coordinated with NATO forces, according to Al Jazeera.
The ICC won’t be investigating these potential crimes any time soon, of course. Why? We return to today’s New York Times article for the answer:
Because Syria was also not a party to the statute, the International Criminal Court can open an investigation only with a Security Council referral. It did so with Libya in 2011. That resolution also had language that specifically protected American soldiers from potential prosecution.
It’s because the U.S. granted themselves immunity from prosecution in that conflict as well, as part of their ‘push for international justice’, Empire style.