The New York Times’ downward spiral into a neoconservative propaganda sheet continues with another biased lead article, this one on how the Syrian war has heightened U.S.-Russia tensions. The article, bristling with blame for the Russians, leaves out one of the key reasons why the partial ceasefire failed – the U.S. inability to separate its “moderate” rebels from Al Qaeda’s jihadists.
The article, written by Michael R. Gordon and Andrew E. Kramer (two of the paper’s top national security propagandists), lays the fault for the U.S. withdrawal from Syrian peace talks on Russian leaders because of their “mistrust and hostility toward the United States,” citing a comment by former White House official Andrew S. Weiss.
Gordon and Kramer then write that the cessation of hostilities agreement came undone because of the “accidental bombing of Syrian troops by the American-led coalition and then because of what the United States claimed was a deliberate bombing by Russian aircraft and Syrian helicopters of a humanitarian convoy headed to Aleppo.” (The Times doesn’t bother to note that the Russians have questioned how “accidental” the slaughter of 62 or so Syrian troops was and have denied that they or the Syrian government attacked the aid convoy.)
The article continues citing U.S. intelligence officials accusing Russia and Syria of using indiscriminate ordnance in more recent attacks on rebel-held sections of Aleppo. “Unfortunately, Russia failed to live up to its own commitments,” said a State Department statement, according to Gordon and Kramer.
However, left out of the article was the fact that the U.S. government failed to live up to its commitment to separate U.S.-backed supposedly “moderate” rebels from Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, which has recently changed its name to the Levant (or Syria) Conquest Front. By contrast, this key point was cited by Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, which noted:
“Russia has complained that Washington wasn’t upholding its end of the bargain by failing to separate U.S.-backed Syrian rebels from more extremist groups tied to al Qaeda.”
Doubling Down with Al Qaeda
Indeed, The Wall Street Journal has actually done some serious reporting on this crucial topic, publishing an article from Turkey on Sept. 29, saying:
“Some of Syria’s largest rebel factions are doubling down on their alliance with an al Qaeda-linked group, despite a U.S. warning to split from the extremists or risk being targeted in airstrikes.
“The rebel gambit is complicating American counterterrorism efforts in the country at a time the U.S. is contemplating cooperation with Russia to fight extremist groups. It comes after a U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire collapsed last week and the Syrian regime and its Russian allies immediately unleashed a devastating offensive against rebel-held parts of Aleppo city that brought harsh international condemnation. …
“The two powers have been considering jointly targeting Islamic State and the Syria Conquest Front — formerly known as the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front — a group that is deeply intermingled with armed opposition groups of all stripes across Syria’s battlefields. The U.S. has also threatened to attack any rebels providing front-line support to the group. …
“Some rebel groups already aligned with Syria Conquest Front responded by renewing their alliance. But others, such as Nour al-Din al-Zinki, a former Central Intelligence Agency-backed group and one of the largest factions in Aleppo, said in recent days that they were joining a broader alliance that is dominated by the Front. A second, smaller rebel group also joined that alliance, which is known as Jaish al-Fateh and includes another major Islamist rebel force, Ahrar al-Sham. …
“In a call with Mr. Kerry on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Syrian rebels ‘refused to follow the U.S.-Russian agreement…but instead merged with [Nusra Front].’”
So, it should be clear that a major obstacle to the agreement was the failure of the U.S. government to persuade its clients to break off alliances with Al Qaeda’s operatives, a connection that many Americans would find deeply troubling. That public awareness, in turn, would undermine the current neocon P.R. campaign to get the Obama administration to supply these rebels with anti-aircraft missiles and other sophisticated weapons, or to have U.S. warplanes destroy the Syrian air force in order to impose a “no-fly zone.”
Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, the powerful role of Al Qaeda and its spinoff, the Islamic State, has been a hidden or downplayed element of the narrative that has been sold to the American people. That story line holds that the war began when “peaceful” protesters were brutally repressed by Syria’s police and military, but that version deletes the fact that extremists, some linked to Al Qaeda, began killing police and soldiers almost from the outset.
However, since The New York Times is now a full-time neocon propaganda sheet, it does all it can to hide such troublesome realities from its readers, all the better to jazz up the hatred of Syria and Russia.
As the Times and the Journal both made clear in their articles on Tuesday, the neocon agenda now involves providing more American armaments to the rebels either directly through the CIA or indirectly through U.S. regional “allies,” such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.
Though pitched to the American people as “humanitarian” assistance needed to shoot down Syrian and Russian planes, the arming-up of the rebels will likely extend the war and the bloodletting even longer while strengthening Al Qaeda and the Islamic State,.
If the new U.S. weapons prove especially effective, they could even lead to the collapse of the Syrian government and bring about the neocons’ long-desired “regime change” in Damascus. But the ultimate winners would likely be Al Qaeda and/or the Islamic State, which could be expected to follow up with the mass slaughter of Christians, Alawites, Shiites, secular Sunnis and other “heretics.”
More likely, however, the U.S.-supplied weapons would just cause the war to drag on indefinitely with an ever-rising death toll. But don’t worry, the dead will be blamed on Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad.
Although never mentioned in the mainstream U.S. media, the delivery of weapons to these Syrian rebels/terrorists is a clear violation of international law, an act of aggression and arguably a crime of aiding and abetting terrorists.
International law is something that the Times considers sacrosanct when the newspaper is condemning a U.S. adversary for some violation, but that reverence disappears when the U.S. government or a U.S. “ally” is engaged in the same act or worse.
So, it is understandable why Gordon and Kramer would leave out facts from their story that might give Americans pause. After all, if the “moderate” rebels are in cahoots with Al Qaeda, essentially serving as a cut-out for the U.S. and its “allies” to funnel dangerous weapons to the terror organization that carried out the 9/11 attacks, Americans might object.
Similarly, if they were told that the U.S. actions violate international law, they might find that upsetting, too, since many Americans aren’t as coolly hypocritical as Official Washington’s neocons and liberal war hawks.
Beyond the devolution of The New York Times into a neocon propaganda organ, Gordon and Kramer have their own histories as propagandists. Gordon co-wrote the infamous “aluminum tube” story in September 2002, launching President George W. Bush’s ad campaign for selling the Iraq War to the American people. Gordon also has gotten his hands into disinformation campaigns regarding Syria and Ukraine.
For instance, Gordon and Kramer teamed up on a bogus lead story that the State Department fed to them in 2014 about photographs supposedly taken of soldiers in Russia who then turned up in other photos in Ukraine – except that it turned out all the photos were taken in Ukraine, destroying the premise of the story and forcing an embarrassing retraction. [For more on that screw-up, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Another NYT-Michael Gordon Special?”]
For his part, Kramer has been a central figure in the Times’ anti-Russian propaganda regarding Ukraine. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Is Lost in Its Ukraine Propaganda.”]
So, between the Times’ neocon institutional bias – and the apparent personal agendas of key correspondents – one can expect very little in the way of balanced journalism when the topics relate to the Middle East or Russia.
Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari says Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights is a direct threat to regional stability and security.
Jaafari made the remarks while addressing the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.
He noted the Israel’s support for terrorist groups in Golan also escalates the conflict in Syria, where according to UN estimates, over 400,000 people have died in a foreign-sponsored conflict, which started in March 2011.
He further stressed that economic measures imposed by the US and EU on Syria are directly affecting the nation and have led to problems including food shortage and a decline in healthcare standards.
“The terrorism and extremism which our region suffers from is the biggest obstacle in the face of development,” he said.
Syria says Israel and its Western and regional allies are helping Takfiri militant groups operating inside the Arab country. Moreover, the Syrian army has repeatedly seized huge quantities of Israeli-made weapons and advanced military equipment from the foreign-backed militants inside Syria.
Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria after the 1967 Six-Day War and later occupied it in a move that has never been recognized by the international community.
The regime has built tens of illegal settlements in the area ever since and has used the region to carry out a number of military operations against the Syrian government.
“Police are specialists in violence. They are armed, trained, and authorized to use force. With varying degrees of subtlety, this colors their every action. Like the possibility of arrest, the threat of violence is implicit in every police encounter. Violence, as well as the law, is what they represent.”—Author Kristian Williams
How do you protect yourself from flying fists, choking hands, disabling electrified darts and killing bullets?
How do you defend yourself against individuals who have been indoctrinated into believing that they are superior to you, that their word is law, and that they have the power to take your life?
Most of all, how can you maintain the illusion of freedom when daily, Americans are being shot, stripped, searched, choked, beaten and tasered by police for little more than daring to frown, smile, question, challenge an order or just exist?
The short answer: you can’t.
Now for the long answer, which is far more complicated but still leaves us feeling hopeless, helpless and vulnerable to the fears, moods and misguided training of every cop on the beat.
If you ask police and their enablers what Americans should do to stay alive during encounters with law enforcement, they will tell you to comply (or die).
It doesn’t matter where you live—big city or small town—it’s the same scenario being played out over and over again in which Americans are being brainwashed into believing that anyone who wears a government uniform—soldier, police officer, prison guard—must be obeyed without question, while government agents, hyped up on their own authority and the power of their uniform, ride roughshod over the rights of the citizenry.
For example, a local law enforcement agency in Virginia has started handing out a guide—developed in cooperation with a group of African American pastors—on how to interact with police. The purpose of this government resource, according to the police, is to make sure citizens feel “comfortable” and know what to do when interacting with police in order to “promote public safety and respectful interaction.”
Curiously, nowhere in the “Guide to Interacting with Police” is there any mention of the Constitution, or the rights of the citizenry, other than the right to remain silent.
In fact, the primary point stressed throughout the bilingual guide aimed at “building trust and cooperation,” is that citizens should comply, cooperate, obey, not resist, not argue, not make threatening gestures or statements, avoid sudden movements, and submit to a search of their person and belongings.
The problem, of course, is what to do when compliance is not enough.
I’m not talking about the number of individuals—especially young people—who are being shot and killed by police for having a look-alike gun in their possession, such as a BB gun. I’m not even talking about people who have been shot for brandishing weapons at police, such as scissors.
I’m talking about the growing numbers of unarmed people are who being shot and killed for just standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.
Killed for standing in a “shooting stance.” In California, police opened fire on and killed a mentally challenged—unarmed—black man within minutes of arriving on the scene, allegedly because he removed a vape smoking device from his pocket and took a “shooting stance.”
Killed for holding a cell phone. Police in Arizona shot a man who was running away from U.S. Marshals after he refused to drop an object that turned out to be a cellphone.
Killed for behaving oddly and holding a baseball bat. Responding to a domestic disturbance call, Chicago police shot and killed 19-year-old college student Quintonio LeGrier who had reportedly been experiencing mental health problems and was carrying a baseball bat around the apartment where he and his father lived.
Killed for opening the front door. Bettie Jones, who lived on the floor below LeGrier, was also fatally shot—this time, accidentally—when she attempted to open the front door for police.
Killed for being a child in a car pursued by police. Jeremy David Mardis, six years old and autistic, died after being shot multiple times by Louisiana police in the head and torso. Police opened fire on the car—driven by Jeremy’s father, Chris Few, who was also shot—and then allegedly lied, claiming that they were attempting to deliver an outstanding warrant, that Few resisted arrest, that he shot at police (no gun was found), and that he tried to ram his car into a police cruiser. Body camera footage refuted the police’s claims.
Killed for attacking police with a metal spoon. In Alabama, police shot and killed a 50-year-old man who reportedly charged a police officer while holding “a large metal spoon in a threatening manner.”
Killed for running in an aggressive manner holding a tree branch. Georgia police shot and killed a 47-year-old man wearing only shorts and tennis shoes who, when first encountered, was sitting in the woods against a tree, only to start running towards police holding a stick in an “aggressive manner.”
Killed for crawling around naked. Atlanta police shot and killed an unarmed man who was reported to have been “acting deranged, knocking on doors, crawling around on the ground naked.” Police fired two shots at the man after he reportedly starting running towards them.
Killed for hunching over in a defensive posture. Responding to a domestic trouble call, multiple officers with the Baltimore County police forced their way inside a home where, fearing for their safety and the safety of others,” three officers opened fire on an unarmed 41-year-old man who was hunched over in a defensive posture. The man was killed in front of his two young daughters and their mother.
Killed because a police officer accidentally pulled out his gun instead of his taser. An Oklahoma man suspected of trying to sell an illegal handgun was shot and killed after a 73-year-old reserve deputy inadvertently fired his gun instead of his taser. “Oh! I shot him! I’m sorry!” the deputy cried out.
Killed for wearing dark pants and a basketball jersey. Donnell Thompson, a mentally disabled 27-year-old described as gentle and shy, was shot and killed after police—searching for a carjacking suspect reportedly wearing similar clothing—encountered him lying motionless in a neighborhood yard. Police “only” opened fire with an M4 rifle after Thompson first failed to respond to their flash bang grenades and then started running after being hit by foam bullets.
Killed for telling police you lawfully own a firearm and have a conceal-and-carry permit. Philando Castile was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop allegedly over a broken tail light. As he was reaching for his license and registration, Castile explained to police that he had a conceal-and-carry permit. That’s all it took for police to shoot Castile four times in the presence of his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter.
Killed for leaving anywhere at all when a police officer pulls up. Deravis Caine Rogers was killed after starting to drive away from an apartment complex right around the same time as a police officer pulled up. Despite the fact that the police officer had no reason to believe Rogers was a threat or was suspected of any illegal activity, the officer fired into Rogers’ passenger side window.
Killed for driving while deaf. In North Carolina, a state trooper shot and killed 29-year-old Daniel K. Harris—who was deaf—after Harris initially failed to pull over during a traffic stop.
Killed for being homeless. Los Angeles police shot an unarmed homeless man after he failed to stop riding his bicycle and then proceeded to run from police.
Killed for being old and brandishing a shoehorn. John Wrana, a 95-year-old World War II veteran, lived in an assisted living center, used a walker to get around, and was shot and killed by police who mistook the shoehorn in his hand for a 2-foot-long machete and fired multiple beanbag rounds from a shotgun at close range.
Killed for having your car break down on the road. Terence Crutcher, unarmed and black, was shot and killed by Oklahoma police after his car broke down on the side of the road. Crutcher was shot in the back while walking towards his car with his hands up.
Killed for holding a garden hose. California police were ordered to pay $6.5 million after they opened fire on a man holding a garden hose, believing it to be a gun. Douglas Zerby was shot 12 times and pronounced dead on the scene.
Shot seven times for peeing outdoors. Eighteen-year-old Keivon Young was shot seven times by police from behind while urinating outdoors. Young was just zipping up his pants when he heard a commotion behind him and then found himself struck by a hail of bullets from two undercover cops. Allegedly officers mistook Young—5’4,” 135 lbs., and guilty of nothing more than taking a leak outdoors—for a 6’ tall, 200 lb. murder suspect whom they later apprehended. Young was charged with felony resisting arrest and two counts of assaulting a peace officer.
Now you can make all kinds of excuses to justify these shootings, and in fact that’s exactly what you’ll hear from politicians, police unions, law enforcement officials and individuals who are more than happy to march in lockstep with the police. However, to suggest that a good citizen is a compliant citizen and that obedience will save us from the police state is not only recklessly irresponsible, but it is also deluded and out of touch with reality, because in the American police state, compliance is no longer enough.
Frankly, as these incidents make clear, the only truly compliant, submissive and obedient citizen in a police state is a dead one.
If you’re starting to feel somewhat overwhelmed, intimidated and fearful for your life and your property, you should be.
As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, “we the people” are now at the mercy of law enforcement officers who have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to “serve and protect.”
Sad, isn’t it, how quickly we have gone from a nation of laws—where the least among us had just as much right to be treated with dignity and respect as the next person (in principle, at least)—to a nation of law enforcers (revenue collectors with weapons) who treat us all like suspects and criminals?
Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute.
The Bank of Ireland has been criticised after shutting the account of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), the latest in a string of similar moves by European banks.
IPSC has formally complained, following the closure of its account which it uses to lodge donations, and intends to take a case to the Financial Services Ombudsman.
Earlier this year, the Bank of Ireland requested information from IPSC about its funding and how funds were spent, in response to which, IPSC submitted its audited accounts.
According to IPSC, the Bank of Ireland has “failed to give a specific explanation of why it was closing the accounts.”
Kevin Squires, IPSC coordinator told TheJournal.ie : “Bank of Ireland’s silence speaks volumes. Honestly it’s hard to not view this as part of a wider campaign which has seen banks close accounts in the UK, Austria and France.”
“In the last year or so we have had €1,200 go to Palestine to pay for Palestinian scarves, which is a tiny amount. That’s trade with Palestine. It’s not like we’re sending money to people there.”
Vice-President of Sinn Fein and a Teachta Dala for Dublin Central, Mary Lou McDonald, said the decision was “outrageous”.
“The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign are an established advocacy group that have spent years protesting against the treatment of the Palestinian people. To close their account citing that they associate with a ‘high risk country’… this is not only outrageous; this is insulting to the Palestinian people.”
“Bank of Ireland cannot stay silent on this matter,” she added.
The following is from a statement by the IPSC:
This denial of banking rights, the ensuing loss of income and the potential reputational damage to the IPSC comes in the context of similar seemingly coordinated attacks on Palestine solidarity organisations across Europe and the United States. Numerous bank accounts belonging to such organisations have been closed in France, Germany, Austria and the UK. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that this attack on the IPSC’s ability to bank – which is, in effect, the ability to function at all – is political in nature and forms part of this wider attack on organisations that advocate for peaceful action to secure Palestinian rights enshrined in international law.
Israel has boasted of conducting a global campaign of ‘lawfare’ – using legal and other punitive threats to silence and attack supporters of Palestinian rights. This attack on the IPSC It appears to be part of this campaign, a politically motivated measure to silence a human rights organsiation that campaigns for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it fulfils its obligations under international law – a campaign the Irish government views as an entirely “legitimate” means of protest “intended to pressure Israel into ending the occupation.”
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) has finished all preparations, in cooperation with unnamed Jewish groups, to build a big synagogue called the Jewel of Israel in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem.
It will be located about 200 meters away from the western side of the Aqsa Mosque.
According to the Palestinian news website Qpress, the new synagogue project will cost around 48 million shekels, mostly from the Israeli government and the rest from wealthy Jews.
The synagogue will be composed of six floors, two underground, and will be built on the ruins of an Islamic historical site dating back to the Ottoman and Mamluk eras.
The project is part of a large-scale Israeli plan aimed at planting religious Jewish structures in the heart of Old Jerusalem to change the Islamic and Arab identity of the holy city.
It will be the second massive Jewish edifice in the Old City after the Hurva synagogue, which was built in 2010.
Rights groups have condemned Theresa May’s plan for the British military to opt out of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The British prime minister, who has long been pushing to scrap the human rights act, will announce plans to opt out from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), during the Conservative party conference.
Defending the move, May said earlier today: ‘Our troops, our men and women of our armed forces go out there and put their lives on the line in order to defend us… So I think it’s absolutely right that the government should say to our troops: ‘We are on your side.’”
May had previously called to “put an end to vexatious claims” against British troops, following a number of high profile cases over the actions of British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The government says the litigation has cost the Ministry of Defence more than £100 million since 2004.
By opting out of parts of the European Convention of Human Rights, British troops fighting abroad will be protected from lawsuits. However, the procedure of opting out, called “derogation”, does not include serious offences with respect to the right to life, prohibitions on torture, slavery and retrospective criminal penalties.
Rights groups who have criticised the move say that the majority of claims against the military were not vexatious and were connected to protections which could not be derogated, such as prohibition of torture.
Critics have also said that allegations against British troops are anything but “spurious nonsense” as there are perfectly valid and serious allegations of human rights abuse that have been prosecuted in the courts. The Ministry of Defence has already paid millions in compensation to victims of abuse in Iraq for a total of 326 cases.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) are still not able to reopen the hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz a year after it was bombed by American planes as a US investigation has failed to ensure the tragedy won’t repeat itself, the head of MSF Office in Brussels told RT.
The infamous US airstrike on October 3, 2015 killed 42 people, including three children, at the Doctors Without Borders or Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz.
MSF informed the Americans that the hospital was targeted 11 minutes into the attack, but the airstrike continued for another half an hour.
The head of the MSF Office in Brussels, Michael Hoffman, described the bombing as “severe,” saying that it “completely destroyed the hospital building.”
“Ever since that attack we’ve been trying to figure out from the parties in this conflict – the Afghan government and the international force, led by the US, why this hospital was attacked,” Hoffman told RT.
Doctors Without Borders had “clear agreements in place with the warring parties: Taliban, Afghan government and the US that they knew that this hospital was there and they agreed with it,” Hoffman stressed.
The US carried out its own investigation into the incident, calling it an “honest mistake,” apologizing before the aid group and providing cash to reconstruct the medical facility.
But the MSF isn’t satisfied with the results of the American enquiry as they were only allowed to see a “quite heavily redacted report – 890 pages from a 3,000-page paper – that was accessible to the general public.”
According to Hoffman, the US investigation into the attack on the hospital left a number of key questions unanswered.
“There’s nothing in this report that gives any insight into the role of the Afghan military forces. They were the ones doing the operation [against Taliban] in Kunduz city and they were the ones who called in air support from the US,” he said.
“The second thing that we really don’t understand from this report is how this building lost its protected status, why it was decided that it was legitimate target,” the MSF official said.
Doctors Without Borders believe that that only “an independent investigation” will be able to clarify the reasons for the tragedy, Hoffman stressed.
“Right from the start, we stated that in our view the most relevant international body to investigate those issues is the Independent Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC) based in Switzerland,” he said.
“IHFFC sent a request to the governments of Afghanistan and the US. As far as we know, they have not received a response. We are just assuming that this means ‘no,’ but we don’t know,” the MSF official added.
There is a hypocritical disconnect in Western and especially U.S. foreign policy. When it comes to Israel, the U.S. is quick to claim “Israel has a right to defend itself.” For Syria, that same right does not seem to exist.
When Israel executed intense bombing campaigns against Gaza in 2008, 2012 and 2014 the U.S. justified the attacks. At the United Nations on July 18, 2014, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said, “President Obama spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning to reaffirm the United States’ strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself…. Hamas’ attacks are unacceptable and would be unacceptable to any member state of the United Nations. Israel has the right to defend its citizens and prevent these attacks.”
Israel claimed it was simply responding defensively. The human rights group BtSelem reports that over the decade between June 2004 and July 2015, Palestinians launched over 8,700 rockets and 5,000 mortars from Gaza into Israel. But the total number of civilians killed over 10 years was 28 for an average of fewer than three persons per year. Using this as a justification, Israel has attacked by air and invaded every few years inflicting far heavier casualty rates on the Palestinians in Gaza. For example, Israeli attacks on Gaza in Summer 2014 killed more than 2,000 Gazans, the vast majority of them civilians and many of them children.
With so few deaths and little damage caused by the rockets from Gaza, it seems Palestinians have launched these as almost symbolic protest against Israeli repression. The Gazan economy is hugely restricted, the borders are closed and even the sky and ocean are off limits. Many people would say that Israel is keeping the entire population of Gaza in prison-like circumstances. In addition, many residents of Gaza are descendants of refugees from nearby Israeli towns and cities. Under the Geneva Conventions and U.N. Resolution 194, they have the right to return but have been deprived of this in addition to most other rights.
In summary, Palestinians have launched rockets and mortars to protest Israeli occupation and apartheid policies. The Palestinians are not seeking the overthrow of the Israeli state so much as recognition of their rights and an end to the Occupation. Casualties from the rockets have been few. In response, the West has given Israel a virtual free pass to attack Palestinians in Gaza and unleash horrific bombing in densely populated urban areas where there are huge civilian casualties.
The disproportionate nature of these Israeli attacks suggests that the Israeli government is not defending itself; it is imposing punishment on a captive and defenseless population.
Syrian State Under Real Attack
The situation in Syria is dramatically different. The armed opposition in Syria has inflicted a huge number of deaths and damage in its five-year campaign to overthrow the government. Data from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is sympathetic to the opposition, show the following number of casualties since March 2011: Pro Government forces (army and militias) – 105,000; Anti Government forces – 101,000; Civilians – 86,000.
These numbers reveal the intensity of the violence and how wrong it is for critics to blame President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian government for all the deaths. As shown, soldiers and militias defending the state make up the largest number of casualties.
The conflict in Aleppo is currently in the news. Aleppo was the largest city in Syria and the industrial and financial engine. The largest and most effective opposition force in Aleppo is Al Qaeda’s affiliate Nusra Front, which is recognized to be “terrorist” even by the U.S. and was never part of the “cessation of hostilities.” There are other factions and fighting groups in Aleppo also seeking to destroy the Syrian state. Most of the groups are explicitly Wahhabi sectarian and hostile to secularism, Christianity and moderate Islamic faiths.
The opposition in Syria is heavily armed with weapons, ammunition and explosives. Daily they launch hell cannon missiles into western Aleppo, killing randomly in this government-controlled part of the city. Car bombs have killed thousands of civilians and soldiers. Tunnel bombs have killed thousands more.
Aleppo was relatively quiet until summer of 2012 when thousands of armed fighters invaded and occupied neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city. The “rebels” were disliked by the majority of the population from the start. This was documented even by Western journalists such as James Foley and Stephen Sotloff, who went there inclined to be sympathetic to the opposition. (Foley and Sotloff were later captured and beheaded by Islamic State jihadists.)
Martin Chulov of the Guardian described East Aleppo in 2015 and estimated its population at just 40,000. In sharp contrast, there is a large population of about 1.5 million Syrians living in the rest of the city. This is reflective of the reality: the vast majority of Syrians support the government and hate the terrorists. This includes many who are critical of the Baath Party and who want reforms but not violence and destruction. This important fact is generally ignored by Western media. (The current situation in western Aleppo is described here by journalist Eva Bartlett.)
In contrast with Israeli’s periodic wars on Gaza, the Syrian government is truly fighting to defend itself – and its civilian population – against an armed opposition that is violent, sectarian and unpopular with the large majority of Syrians.
Adding to the legitimacy of the Syrian government’s right to defend itself, the armed opposition in Syria has been heavily supported by foreign governments. Western states and their Gulf allies have supplied weapons, training, logistical support and salaries for many thousands of fighters. Qatar’s Al Jazeera has broadcast misinformation, fabricated stories and heavily biased reporting from the start.
The same governments have been complicit in the recruitment and travel to Syria by thousands of foreigners from all parts of the globe. European, North American and Australian governments “looked the other way” as their citizens were recruited and then traveled to Syria via Turkey to join ISIS or Nusra. According to one study, over 12,000 foreigners including 3,000 from Europe and North America traveled to Syria in the first three years of the conflict. That was before ISIS peaked. Only in the last year, following terrorist actions in the West, have Western governments started arresting or detaining recruits and recruiters.
Violating International Law
The situation in Syria is more extreme but has similarities to the situation in Nicaragua in the 1980s when the Reagan administration was covertly arming and financing the Contras, a rebel army that inflicted death and destruction across parts of Nicaragua. On June 27, 1986, the International Court of Justice ruled:
“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”.
The court also decided that the U.S. should make reparations to Nicaragua for injury caused by the violations. The U.S. ignored the ruling and later withdrew from the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.
The former Nicaragua Foreign Minister and former President of the United Nations General Assembly, Father Miguel D’Escoto, has written “What the U.S. government is doing in Syria is tantamount to a war of aggression, which, according to the Nuremberg Tribunal, is the worst possible crime a State can commit against another State.” (Personal correspondence quoted with permission)
Some foreign governments seeking “regime change” in Damascus have poured huge amounts of money into what is called “smart” or “soft power” via the funding of an array of organizations with nice sounding names to control the narrative and influence public opinion.
There is the Syrian Justice and Accountability Centre, initiated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to prepare for victor’s justice. There is the Syrian Network for Human Rights which largely ignores the deaths of Syrian soldiers and seeks U.S./NATO intervention. There is the Syrian Civil Defense also known as the White Helmets, a support group for Al Qaeda/Nusra but most importantly a political lobbying tool actively campaigning for U.S./NATO intervention.
All of these organizations, and many more, are said to be “Syrian” and “independent.” But they were all created after the conflict began and they are all funded by the foreign governments that seek to overthrow the Syrian government.
These and other organizations support the opposition in various ways, demonize the Syrian government and romanticize the opposition. They are part of the reason why many people around the world believe that the anti-government protests in 2011 only became violent after peaceful protests were brutally crushed, which is untrue. There were seven police killed in the first protests in Deraa. That was soon followed by dozens of soldiers being massacred in Deraa and Banyas at the end of March and in April 2011.
By justifying the continued “rebel” violence, this “soft power” acts in concert with “hard” or military power. For example the White Helmets was originally called the Syrian Civil Defense and began with a military contractor training some Syrians in Turkey. This group was then rebranded as the “White Helmets” by a New York marketing company called “The Syria Campaign.” Since then, the “feel good” White Helmets brand has been heavily promoted.
As a measure of the marketing success, the White Helmets recently won the Right Livelihood Award for 2016 and are even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Ironically, there is a REAL Syrian Civil Defense working since 1953 and a REAL White Helmets/CascosBlancos from Argentina which have received little recognition alongside the slick new “White Helmets” created and promoted by the shadowy PR firm.
Soft power distorts the reality in the conflict. Thus we are not told that the Syrian government is defending against terrorists but that the “Assad regime” is ‘”targeting hospitals and civilian markets.” Are the claims true? My investigation of the claims regarding the Doctors Without Borders/MSF supported “Al Quds Hospital” in April 2016 revealed that the accusations were full of contradictions, inconsistencies and unverified accusations.
The “hospital” was an unmarked building; the damage was unclear; the number of deaths varied wildly and could not be verified. The photographic evidence, supplied by the ubiquitous White Helmets, was dubious. The investigation resulted in a open letter to MSF. So far they have failed to corroborate or document their accusations and claims.
Doctors Without Borders/MSF continues to issue politically biased messages. Their Oct 2 tweet about a “bloodbath in East Aleppo” led to false accusations that two teenagers were killed by Syrian government bombing when they were actually killed by terrorist bombing.
Currently the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM), funded by France and other countries, has been at the forefront accusing Syria and Russia of intentionally bombing an underground hospital. Is the story real or fabricated propaganda? The Russians and Syrians are trying to fight the terrorists; why would they waste resources and generate negative publicity by attacking a hospital? The reports seem to be based on phone or skype conversations with sources of unknown reliability.
The narrative promoted by “soft power” is that the Syrian government is an unpopular dictatorship dominated by the Alawi religious group. Is that true? On the contrary, key ministries including Defense and Foreign Affairs are held by Sunni leaders. The majority of the Syrian Arab Army are Sunni. Visitors to Syria readily meet mothers who are proud of their sons who died defending their country against foreign-backed terrorism.
The narrative promoted by “soft power” is that the Syrian uprising was largely progressive, secular, and seeking democracy. This myth makes for a good rationalization for effectively supporting the “regime change” war against Syria, but it is contradicted by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. In a classified report from August 2012, the DIA analyzed the conflict as follows: “THE SALAFIST [sic], THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, AND AQI [“Al Qaeda in Iraq,” now known as ISIS or the Islamic State] ARE THE MAJOR FORCES DRIVING THE INSURGENCY IN SYRIA.”
“Soft power” in Syria has involved the creation and funding of Syrian groups who convey a message supportive of the “regime change” goals. For example there is a group in the town of Kafranbel which produces an English language banner each week. The group is provided with the message by a foreign source and the group holds the banner to be photographed and displayed on social media in the West. Most of the locals probably have no clue what it says.
Then there is the Aleppo Media Center which creates videos for influencing Western audiences, and the White Helmets previously discussed. These Western-created groups are the examples of the “Syrian Revolution” by those who promote this narrative. What kind of “revolution” is on contract with the U.S. State Department?
Current Situation and Coming Crisis
The Syrian government, with the support of the majority of Syrian people, is doing its best to defend itself against an onslaught financed by some of the wealthiest and most powerful countries on earth. The Syrian Army and popular militias have suffered huge losses but are advancing. In the last year, Russia has provided crucial air support. Unlike the invasion of Syrian land and air space by the U.S., the Russian intervention is in compliance with international law because it followed a request for assistance from Syria’s internationally recognized government, whereas the U.S. government and its allies have no such permission.
Currently the Syrian government and allies are seeking to drive Nusra and other terrorist groups from eastern Aleppo. If that is successful, they could then focus on ISIS in Raqqa and the remaining terrorists in other parts of the country. Unlike densely populated Gaza, the opposition-held areas of Aleppo have very few civilians left. Although civilian casualties happen in all wars, it makes no sense that the Syrian military would target civilians. On the contrary, the government has opened corridors to facilitate civilians and fighters to leave Aleppo.
Largely unreported in the West, the Syrian government has an active reconciliation program which allows former gunmen to move to a different area or return to society. This has been successfully used to clear the last remnant of terrorists from Al Waer near Homs and Darraya near Damascus. Many thousands of Syrian fighters who were coerced or bribed into joining the opposition have laid down their arms, signed an agreement and rejoined society.
In contrast with the frenzy and alarm in Western media and political circles, there is a growing optimism and hope among the vast majority of people in Aleppo. Syrian journalist Edward Dark recently tweeted “Aleppo soon will be freed from the jihadis that invaded & destroyed it. After 4 years of hell its people will finally know peace.” They are looking forward to the final defeat or expulsion of the terrorists who invaded the city in 2012.
What will the foreign enemies of Syria do to prevent this? Will they continue or escalate their campaign to destroy Syria as they destroyed Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya? Are they prepared to risk potential World War III with Russia? In the last month Turkey sent troops into northern Syria and the U.S. attacked the Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor, killing at least 62 soldiers. The U.S. claims this was an accident, but many believe it was intentional.
Since the collapse of the cessation of hostilities, “soft power” propaganda has escalated. Accusations that the Syrians and Russians are targeting hospitals are linked to new social media campaigns to “Save Aleppo.” Two things are clear:
–The public should be wary of media stories based on the claims of biased actors and not supported by solid evidence
–The Syrian government has the right to defend itself against foreign-funded violent extremists seeking to destroy it.
Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist and member of Syrian Solidarity Movement.
Once again a story that Trump did nothing illegal is somehow front page news. His crime this time? Continuing to legally rent out office space to a bank already in a building he bought 18 years ago.
So the big news is that Donald Trump’s real estate organization rented space to an Iranian bank later linked to Iran’s nuclear program.
Bank Melli, one of Iran’s largest state-controlled banks, was already a tenant in 1998 when Trump purchased the General Motors Building, above, in Manhattan, but he kept them on for another five years, until 2003.
— There is no evidence and it is highly unlikely that Trump himself knew every one of the hundreds of tenants in a building he bought in 1998. In fact, the building occupies a full city block, with 1,774,000 net leasable square feet (the bank rented 8,000 square feet.)
— U.S. security authorities allowed Bank Melli to legally operate offices in the U.S., so renting to them is not a story.
— Bank Melli was prohibited from conducting bank transactions in the U.S., and did not conduct transactions, but kept an office in New York in hopes sanctions might one day be eased.
— Bank Melli operated fully in the open. The U.S. Department of the Treasury could have shut them down at any time, or sanctioned Trump for dealing with them if it wished. It did not.
— The bank itself (not Trump) was only sanctioned by Treasury in 2007, four years after it left Trump’s building. However, the Huffington Post helpfully notes (emphasis added) “[Unnamed] Experts told the Center for Public Integrity that the bank likely supported proliferation activity and Iran’s military years before the Treasury Department publicly condemned the bank,” something the owners of the rental building presumably should have been aware of somehow.
— The Center for Public Integrity reveals on its website that the Bank Melli “as being controlled by the Iranian government” since 1999. Actually in its own publically available history, the Bank notes it served as the nation’s central bank, issuing currency, from 1931.
While the media is enjoying this story, it ignores the broader picture. Despite sanctions and trade embargoes, over the past decade the United States government allowed American companies to do billions of dollars in business with Iran and other countries blacklisted as state sponsors of terrorism.
At the request of companies from Kraft Food and Pepsi to some of the nation’s largest banks, the Treasury Department across multiple administrations granted some 10,000 licenses for deals involving sanctioned countries.
The media is so full of sh*t on these stories their eyes are brown.
There is a specter haunting the establishment media, the specter of a Trump presidency. This idea is apparently so terrifying that no unethical and hypocritical action is too extreme for “mainstream” journalists to take if it they believe it will damage Trump’s presidential prospects.
Enter the Russian threat. Russian President Vladimir Putin has become this election cycle’s boogeyman with the campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton constantly invoking him as if he is her actual opponent. She invokes Putin, even though Clinton has extensive connections to Putin and his inner circle.
The establishment media, taking its cues from the Clinton campaign, is now peddling any unhinged conspiracy theory if it somehow connects Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. The theories collapse under the slightest of scrutiny, but that seems to make no difference in the rapidity with which they are published.
The latest backfire was a claim that the Twitter hashtag “#TrumpWon” was started in Russia before it trended. This would, in theory, prove Russia was trying to meddle in the U.S. election.
Not long after the story went viral, it became undeniably clear it was hoax. The Washington Post, a major center for unhinged conspiracy theories about Russia, had to concede the claim was “probably false.”
But this admission is unlikely to stop the Washington Post from publishing deranged ramblings from Legatum Institute’s Anne Applebaum, who recently speculated that Putin is engaging in a covert action program to help Trump win the presidential election. (Whether Applebaum believes her own statements is unclear, but they are nonetheless very self-serving.)
That these Manchurian candidate stories keep falling apart, or are exposed as Clinton campaign propaganda, is irrelevant to the establishment media because Trump is such an existential threat so the rules no longer matter.
Recently, a columnist for the New York Times admitted it was not possible to cover Trump objectively, that “you have to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century.”
What this ultimately translates into is doing the bidding of the Clinton campaign, which the establishment media has done with glee. So, as long as the Clinton campaign peddles paranoia about Russia, regardless of how this hearkens back to the Cold War, expect numerous journalists to follow suit.
National newspapers were ‘unimpressed by Jeremy Corbyn’s victory’ in the Labour leadership election, Roy Greenslade noted in the Guardian, surprising no-one. Corbyn secured almost 62% of the 506,000 votes cast, up from the 59% share he won in 2015, ‘with virtually no press backing whatsoever’.
In reality, of course, Corbyn did not just lack press backing. He won in the face of more than one year of relentless corporate media campaigning to politically, ethically, professionally, psychologically and even sartorially discredit him. That Corbyn survived is impressive. That he won again, increased his vote-share, and took Labour Party membership from 200,000 to more than 500,000, is astonishing.
None of this moves journalists like the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, who commented: ‘there’s been no big new idea or vision this week that Labour can suddenly rally round’.
Polly Toynbee explained: ‘I and many Guardian colleagues can’t just get behind Corbyn’. Why? ‘Because Corbyn and McDonnell, burdened by their history, will never ever earn the trust of enough voters to make any plans happen.’
Toynbee fails to recognise the nature and scale of the problem. In supporting Corbyn, the public is attempting to shape a genuinely democratic choice out of the sham choices of corporate-owned politics. This awesome task begins with the public waking up to the anti-democratic role of the corporate media in defending, of course, corporate-owned politics. So-called ‘mainstream media’ are primarily conduits for power rather than information; they are political enforcers, not political communicators. To the extent that the public understands this, change is possible.
Supported by non-corporate, web-based media activism, Corbyn has already smoked out these media to an extent that is without precedent. Many people can see that he is a reasonable, compassionate, decent individual generating immense grassroots support. And they can see that all ‘mainstream’ media oppose him. It could hardly be more obvious that the corporate media speak as a single biased, elitist voice.
The Benghazi Massacre – No Real Evidence
The smearing of Corbyn fits well with the similarly uniform propaganda campaign taking the ‘threat’ of Iraqi ‘WMD’ seriously in 2002 and 2003. Then, also, the entire corporate media system assailed the public with a long litany of fraudulent claims. And then there was Libya.
Coming so soon after the incomplete but still damning exposure of the Iraq deception – with the bloodbath still warm – the media’s deep conformity and wilful gullibility on the 2011 Libyan war left even jaundiced observers aghast. It was clear that we were faced with a pathological system of propaganda on Perpetual War autopilot.
The pathology has been starkly exposed by a September 9 report into the war from the foreign affairs committee of the House of Commons. As with Iraq, this was no mere common-or-garden disaster; we are again discussing the destruction of an entire country. The report summarised:
The result was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of ISIL in North Africa.
The rationale for ‘intervention’, of course, was the alleged threat of a massacre by Gaddafi’s forces in Benghazi. The report commented:
The evidence base: our assessment
Despite his rhetoric, the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence… Gaddafi regime forces targeted male combatants in a civil war and did not indiscriminately attack civilians. More widely, Muammar Gaddafi’s 40-year record of appalling human rights abuses did not include large-scale attacks on Libyan civilians. (Our emphasis)
Professor Joffé [Visiting Professor at King’s College London] told us that:
the rhetoric that was used was quite blood-curdling, but again there were past examples of the way in which Gaddafi would actually behave… The evidence is that he was well aware of the insecurity of parts of the country and of the unlikelihood that he could control them through sheer violence. Therefore, he would have been very careful in the actual response… the fear of the massacre of civilians was vastly overstated.’
Analyst and author Alison Pargeter agreed with Professor Joffé, concluding that there was no ‘real evidence at that time that Gaddafi was preparing to launch a massacre against his own civilians’. Related claims, that Gaddafi used African mercenaries, launched air strikes on civilians in Benghazi, and employed Viagra-fuelled mass rape as a weapon of war, were also invented.
These are astonishing comments. But according to the Lexis-Nexis media database, neither Professor Joffé nor Pargeter has been quoted by name in the press, with only the Express and Independent reporting that ‘available evidence’ had shown Gaddafi had no record of massacres; a different, less damning, point.
As disturbingly, the report noted:
We have seen no evidence that the UK Government carried out a proper analysis of the nature of the rebellion in Libya… It could not verify the actual threat to civilians posed by the Gaddafi regime….
In other words, the UK government’s relentless insistence on the need to support freedom-loving rebels against a genocidal tyranny were invented ‘facts’ fixed around policy.
That the war was a crime is hardly in doubt. Lord Richards (Baron Richards of Herstmonceux), chief of the defence staff at the time of the conflict, told the BBC that Cameron asked him ‘how long it might take to depose, regime change, get rid of Gaddafi’. British historian Mark Curtis describes the significance:
Three weeks after Cameron assured parliament in March 2011 that the object of the intervention was not regime change, he signed a joint letter with President Obama and French President Sarkozy committing to “a future without Gaddafi”.
That these were policies were illegal is confirmed by Cameron himself. He told Parliament on 21 March 2011 that the UN resolution “explicitly does not provide legal authority for action to bring about Gaddafi’s removal from power by military means”.
Cameron, then, like Blair, is a war criminal.
The ‘Moral Glow’ From a ‘Triumphant End’
The foreign affairs committee’s report is awesomely embarrassing for the disciplined murmuration of corporate journalists who promoted war.
At a crucial time in February and March 2011, the Guardian published a long list of news reports boosting government propaganda and opinion pieces advocating ‘intervention’ on the basis of the West’s supposed ‘responsibility to protect’, or ‘R2P’. Guardian columnist, later comment editor (2014-2016), Jonathan Freedland, wrote an article titled: ‘Though the risks are very real, the case for intervention remains strong.’
Brian Whitaker, the Guardian’s former Middle East editor, wrote: ‘the scale and nature of the Gaddafi regime’s actions have impelled the UN’s “responsibility to protect”.’
Menzies Campbell, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, and Philippe Sands, professor of law at University College London, wrote in the Guardian: ‘International law does not require the world to stand by and do nothing as civilians are massacred on the orders of Colonel Gaddafi…’
An Observer leader agreed: ‘The west can’t let Gaddafi destroy his people.’ And thus: ‘this particular tyranny will not be allowed to stand’.
No doubt with tongue firmly in Wodehousian cheek, as usual, Boris Johnson wrote in the Telegraph :
The cause is noble and right, and we are surely bound by our common humanity to help the people of Benghazi.
If Colonel Gaddafi is permitted to murder hundreds or thousands of his citizens from the air, and we stand by and let it happen, then our inaction will return to haunt us… We have a side here, let’s be on it. (Aaronovitch, ‘Go for a no-fly zone or regret it,’ The Times, February 24, 2011)
Later, a Guardian leader quietly celebrated:
But it can now reasonably be said that in narrow military terms it worked, and that politically there was some retrospective justification for its advocates as the crowds poured into the streets of Tripoli to welcome the rebel convoys earlier this week.
Simon Tisdall commented in the same newspaper: ‘The risky western intervention had worked. And Libya was liberated at last.’
An Observer editorial declared: ‘An honourable intervention. A hopeful future.’
The BBC’s Nick Robinson observed that Downing Street ‘will see this, I’m sure, as a triumphant end’. (BBC, News at Six, October 20, 2011) Robinson appeared to channel Churchill:
Libya was David Cameron’s first war. Col. Gaddafi his first foe. Today, his first real taste of military victory.
The BBC’s chief political correspondent, Norman Smith, declared that Cameron ‘must surely feel vindicated’. (BBC News online, October 21, 2011) In Washington, the BBC’s Ian Pannell surmised that Obama ‘is feeling that his foreign policy strategy has been vindicated – that his critics have been proven wrong’. (BBC News online, October 21, 2011)
The BBC’s John Humphrys asked: ‘What apart from a sort of moral glow… have we got out of it?’ (BBC Radio 4 Today, October 21, 2011)
Andrew Grice, political editor of the Independent, declared that Cameron had ‘proved the doubters wrong.’ Bitterly ironic then, even more so now, Grice added: ‘By calling Libya right, Mr Cameron invites a neat contrast with Tony Blair.’
An editorial in the Telegraph argued that Gaddafi’s death ‘vindicates the swift action of David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy in halting the attack on Benghazi’. Telegraph columnist Matthew d’Ancona (now writing for the Guardian) agreed: ‘It is surely a matter for quiet national pride that an Arab Srebrenica was prevented by a coalition in which Britain played an important part…’
An Independent leader observed:
Concern was real enough that a Srebrenica-style massacre could unfold in Benghazi, and the UK Government was right to insist that we would not allow this.
The Times, of course, joined the corporate herd in affirming that without ‘intervention’, there ‘would have been a massacre in Benghazi on the scale of Srebrenica’. (Leading article, ‘Death of a dictator,’ The Times, October 21, 2011)
But even voices to the left of the ‘mainstream’ got Libya badly wrong. Most cringe-makingly, Professor Juan Cole declared:
The Libya intervention is legal and was necessary to prevent further massacres… If NATO needs me, I’m there.
Robert Fisk commented in the Independent that, had ‘Messrs Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama stopped short after they saved Benghazi’, disaster could have been avoided.
Ironically, in an article ostensibly challenging the warmongers’ hysterical claims, Mehdi Hasan wrote in the New Statesman:
The innocent people of Benghazi deserve protection from Gaddafi’s murderous wrath.
Even Noam Chomsky observed:
The no-fly zone prevented a likely massacre… (Chomsky, ‘Making the Future: Occupations, Interventions, Empire and Resistance,’ Hamish Hamilton e-book, 2012, p.372)
To his credit, then Guardian columnist Seumas Milne (now Corbyn’s director of communications and strategy) was more sceptical. He wrote in October 2011:
But there is in fact no evidence – including from other rebel-held towns Gaddafi re-captured – to suggest he had either the capability or even the intention to carry out such an atrocity against an armed city of 700,000.
Media Reaction to the Report
The media reaction to the MPs’ demolition of their case for war made just five years earlier inevitably included some ugly evasions. A Guardian editorial commented of Libya:
It is easy in retrospect to lump it in with Iraq as a foreign folly…
It is indeed easy ‘to lump it in’, it is near-identical in key respects. But as a major war crime, not a ‘folly’.
… and there are important parallels – not least the failure to plan for stabilisation and reconstruction.
The preferred media focus being, as usual, so-called ‘mistakes’, lack of planning; rather than the fact that both wars were launched on outrageous lies, ended in the destruction of entire countries, and were driven by greed for resources. With impressive audacity, the Guardian preferred to cling to deceptions exposed by the very report under review:
But it is also important to note differences between a gratuitous, proactive invasion and a response to a direct threat to the citizens of Benghazi, triggered by the spontaneous uprising of the Libyan people. Memories of Srebrenica spurred on decision-makers. (Our emphasis)
In fact, propagandistic use of Srebrenica from sources like the Guardian ‘spurred on decision-makers’. The whole point of the MPs’ report is that it found no ‘real evidence‘ for a massacre in Benghazi. Similarly, the Guardian’s ‘spontaneous uprising’ is a debunked version of events peddled by government officials and media allies in 2011, despite the fact that there is ‘no evidence that the UK Government carried out a proper analysis of the nature of the rebellion in Libya’. In fact, the MPs’ report makes a nonsense of the Guardian’s claims for a humanitarian motive, noting:
On 2 April 2011, Sidney Blumenthal, adviser and unofficial intelligence analyst to the then United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, reported this conversation with French intelligence officers to the Secretary of State:
According to these individuals Sarkozy’s plans are driven by the following issues:
a. A desire to gain a greater share of Libya oil production,
b. Increase French influence in North Africa,
c. Improve his internal political situation in France,
d. Provide the French military with an opportunity to reassert its position in the world,
e. Address the concern of his advisors over Qaddafi’s long term plans to supplant France as the dominant power in Francophone Africa.
The Guardian apologetic continued:
Perhaps most critically, western intervention – fronted by France and the UK, but powered by the US – came under a United Nations security council resolution for the protection of civilians, after the Arab League called for a no-fly zone.’
But this, again, is absurd because the resolution, UNSCR 1973, ‘neither explicitly authorised the deployment of ground forces nor addressed the questions of regime change’, as the MPs’ report noted. NATO had no more right to overthrow the Libyan government than the American and British governments had the right to invade Iraq.
In 2011, it was deeply disturbing to us that the barrage of political and media propaganda on Libya received far less challenge even than the earlier propaganda on Iraq. With Guardian and BBC ‘humanitarian interventionists’ leading the way, many people were misled on the need for ‘action’. In a House of Commons vote on March 21, 2011, 557 MPs voted for war with just 13 opposing. Two names stand out among the 13 opponents: Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.
Predictably, last month’s exposure of the great Libya war fraud has done nothing to prompt corporate journalists to rethink their case for war in Syria – arguments based on similar claims from similar sources promoting similar ‘humanitarian intervention’. Indeed, as this alert was being completed, the Guardian published an opinion piece by former Labour foreign secretary David Owen, calling for ‘a no-fly zone (NFZ), with protected land corridors for humanitarian aid’ in Syria, because: ‘The humanitarian imperative is for the region to act and the world to help.’
In February 2003, the Guardian published a piece by the same David Owen titled: ‘Wage war in Iraq for the sake of peace in the Middle East.’ In 2011, Owen published an article in the Telegraph, titled: ‘We have proved in Libya that intervention can still work.’ He had himself ‘called for… intervention’ that February.
The Perpetual War machine rolls on.
Media Lens is a UK-based media watchdog group headed by David Edwards and David Cromwell. The second Media Lens book, Newspeak: In the 21st Century by David Edwards and David Cromwell, was published in 2009 by Pluto Press.
Photo by Jordi Bernabeu Farrús | CC By 2.0
Everyone claims to want to end the war in Syria and restore peace to the Middle East.
Well, almost everyone.
“This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,” said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York told the New York Times in June 2013. “Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here.”
Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, stressed the same points in August 2016:
“The West should seek the further weakening of Islamic State, but not its destruction… Allowing bad guys to kill bad guys sounds very cynical, but it is useful and even moral to do so if it keeps the bad guys busy and less able to harm the good guys… Moreover, instability and crises sometimes contain portents of positive change… The American administration does not appear capable of recognizing the fact that IS can be a useful tool in undermining Tehran’s ambitious plan for domination of the Middle East.”
Okay, not exactly everyone.
But surely the humanitarian website Avaaz wants to end the war and restore peace.
Or does it?
Avaaz is currently circulating a petition which has gathered over a million signatures and is aiming at a million and a half. It is likely to get them, with words like this:
“100 children have been killed in Aleppo since last Friday.
“Enough is enough!”
Avaaz goes on to declare: “There is no easy way to end this war, but there’s only one way to prevent this terror from the skies — people everywhere demanding a no-fly zone to protect civilians.”
No-fly zone? Doesn’t that sound familiar? That was the ploy that served to destroy Libya’s air defenses and opened the country to regime change in 2011. It was promoted zealously by Hillary Clinton, who is also on record as favoring the same gambit in Syria.
And when the West says “no-fly”, it means that some can fly and others cannot. With the no-fly zone in Libya, France, Britain and the United States flew all they wanted, killing countless civilians, destroying infrastructure and allowing Islamic rebels to help themselves to part of the country.
The Avaaz petition makes the same distinction. Some should fly and others should not.
“Let’s build a resounding global call to Obama and other leaders to stand up to Putin and Assad’s terror. This might be our last, best chance to help end this mass murder of defenseless children. Add your name.”
So it’s all about mass murder of defenseless children, and to stop it, we should call on the drone king, Obama, to end “terror from the skies”.
Not only Obama, but other “good” leaders, members of NATO:
“To President Obama, President Erdogan, President Hollande, PM May, and other world leaders: As citizens around the globe horrified by the slaughter of innocents in Syria, we call on you to enforce an air-exclusion zone in Northern Syria, including Aleppo, to stop the bombardment of Syria’s civilians and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those most in need.”
The timing of this petition is eloquent. It comes exactly when the Syrian government is pushing to end the war by reconquering the eastern part of Aleppo. It is part of the massive current propaganda campaign to reduce public consciousness of the Syrian war to two factors: child victims and humanitarian aid.
In this view, the rebels disappear. So do all their foreign backers, the Saudi money, the Wahhabi fanatics, the ISIS recruits from all over the world, the U.S. arms and French support. The war is only about the strange whim of a “dictator”, who amuses himself by bombing helpless children and blocking humanitarian aid. This view reduces the five-year war in Syria to the situation as it was portrayed in Libya, to justify the no-fly zone: nothing but a wicked dictator bombing his own people.
For the public that likes to consume world events in fairy tale form, this all fits together. Sign a petition on your computer and save the children.
The Avaaz petition does not aim to end the war and restore peace. It clearly aims to obstruct the Syrian government offensive to retake Aleppo. The Syrian army has undergone heavy losses in five years of war, its potential recruits have in effect been invited to avoid dangerous military service by going to Germany. Syria needs air power to reduce its own casualties. The Avaaz petition calls for crippling the Syrian offensive and thus taking the side of the rebels.
Wait – but does that mean they want the rebels to win? Not exactly. The only rebels conceivably strong enough to win are ISIS. Nobody really wants that.
The plain fact is that to end this war, as to end most wars, one side has to come out on top. When it is clear who is the winning side, then there can be fruitful negotiations for things like amnesty. But this war cannot be “ended by negotiations”. That is an outcome that the United States might support only if Washington could use negotiations to impose its own puppets – pardon, pro-democracy exiles living in the West. But as things stand, they would be rejected as traitors by the majority of Syrians who support the government and as apostates by the rebels. So one side has to win to end this war. The least worst outcome would be that the Assad government defeats the rebels, in order to preserve the state. For that, the Syrian armed forces need to retake the eastern part of Aleppo occupied by rebels.
The job of Avaaz is to get public opinion to oppose this military operation, by portraying it as nothing but a joint Russian-Syrian effort to murder civilians, especially children. For that, they call for a NATO military operation to shoot down (that’s what “no-fly” means) Syrian and Russian planes offering air support to the Syrian army offensive.
Even such drastic measures do not aim to end the war. They mean weakening the winning side to prevent it from winning. To prolong a stalemate. It means – to use the absurd expression popular during the Bosnian war – creating an “even playing field”, as if war were a sports event. It means keeping the war going on and on until nothing is left of Syria, and what is left of the Syrian population fills up refugee camps in Europe.
As the New York Times reported from Jerusalem in September 2013, “The synergy between the Israeli and American positions, while not explicitly articulated by the leaders of either country, could be a critical source of support as Mr. Obama seeks Congressional approval for surgical strikes in Syria.” It added that “Israel’s national security concerns have broad, bipartisan support in Washington, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the influential pro-Israel lobby in Washington, weighed in Tuesday in support of Mr. Obama’s approach.” (This was when Obama was planning to “punish President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons without seeking to force him from power” – before Obama decided to join Russia in disarming the Syrian chemical arsenal instead, a decision for which he continues to be condemned by the pro-Israel lobby and the War Party.) AIPAC’s statement “said nothing, however, about the preferred outcome of the civil war…”
Indeed. As the 2013 report from Jerusalem continued, “as hopes have dimmed for the emergence of a moderate, secular rebel force that might forge democratic change and even constructive dialogue, with Israel, a third approach has gained traction: Let the bad guys burn themselves out. ‘The perpetuation of the conflict is absolutely serving Israel’s interest,’ said Nathan Thrall, a Jerusalem-based analyst for the International Crisis Group.”
The plain truth is that Syria is the victim of a long-planned Joint Criminal Enterprise to destroy the last independent secular Arab nationalist state in the Middle East, following the destruction of Iraq in 2003. While attributed to government repression of “peaceful protests” in 2011, the armed uprising had been planned for years and was supported by outside powers: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States and France, among others. The French motives remain mysterious, unless linked to those of Israel, which sees the destruction of Syria as a means to weaken its arch rival in the region, Iran. Saudi Arabia has similar intentions to weaken Iran, but with religious motives. Turkey, the former imperial power in the region, has territorial and political ambitions of its own. Carving up Syria can satisfy all of them.
This blatant and perfectly open conspiracy to destroy Syria is a major international crime, and the above-mentioned States are co-conspirators. They are joined in this Joint Criminal Enterprise by ostensibly “humanitarian” organizations like Avaaz that spread war propaganda in the guise of protecting children. This works because most Americans just can’t believe that their government would do such things. Because normal ordinary people have good intentions and hate to see children killed, they imagine that their government must be the same. It is hard to overcome this comforting faith. It is more natural to believe that the criminals are wicked people in a country about which they really understand nothing.
There is no chance that this criminal enterprise will ever arouse the attention of the prosecutors at the International Criminal Court, which like most major international organizations is totally under U.S. control. For example, the United Nations Undersecretary General for Political Affairs, who analyses and frames political issue for the Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, is an American diplomat, Jeffrey Feltman, who was a key member of Hillary Clinton’s team when she was carrying out regime change in Libya. And accomplices in this criminal enterprise include all the pro-governmental “non-governmental” organizations such as Avaaz who push hypocrisy to new lengths by exploiting compassion for children in order to justify and perpetuate this major crime against humanity and against peace in the world.
Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. She can be reached at email@example.com