Nuclear power supporters like to say, “Nuclear waste disposal is a political, not a scientific problem.” Scientists refute this slogan every day.
A case in point is the Canadian Environment Minister’s second “do over” order issued to Ontario Power Generation regarding the company’s waste dump idea. The 15-page order, issued April 5, rejected the company’s sophomoric answers to a previous “not good enough” finding by Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna.
OPG wants to bury 7 million cubic feet of radioactive waste in a deep hole less than a mile from Lake Huron, on its own property on the Bruce Peninsula, northwest of Toronto. It’s there that OPG runs the world’s biggest rad’ waste production complex — the Bruce Nuclear Station — eight old power reactors in varying states of repair and disrepair.
The company proposes digging 2,231 feet down into part of its 2,300-acre compound on Lake Huron, and burying all sorts of radioactive material (everything except waste fuel rods), including a “significant amount” of carbon-14, a cancer agent with a deadly radioactive “life” of 57,300 years — i.e. ten 5,730-year radioactive half-lives. After two years of public hearings into the question of placing long-lasting poisons next to a major source of drinking water, a federal Joint Review Panel in 2015 recommended approval of the project to Minister McKenna.
McKenna was to make a decision by March 1, 2016, but instead demanded better work from OPG. On Feb. 18, 2016, the Minister ordered the company to produce details about alternate dump sites. OPG submitted shockingly shabby generalizations Dec. 28, 2016, and McKenna’s April 5 reply is an understated denunciation of OPG’s obfuscations and evasions. Beverly Fernandez, founder of Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, told Clinton, Michigan’s The Voice, “OPG has been given a failing grade on its most recent report regarding burying its radioactive nuclear waste less than a mile from the Great Lakes. OPG has now been issued a strong set of new challenges to answer.”
For example, the company has the nerve to [state] that, “All underground facilities (office, tunnel, emplacement room) will be constructed in accordance with the seismic requirements of the latest edition of the National Building Code at the time of the construction.” In fact, as the Minister’s rejection of OPG’s attempted snow-job pointed out, “There are no specific seismic requirements in the National Building Code for underground facilities…. Provide a revised version…”
A public servant doing her job
In requiring a study of alternate potential sites for deep disposal, Minister McKenna ordered OPG to make “specific reference to actual locations.” Instead, OPG tried to get away with citing two enormous geological regions that it said might be suitable. As Jennifer Wells and Matthew Cole reported in the Toronto Star, OPG’s “actual locations” covered an area of 726,052-square-kilometres — about 75% of the Province of Ontario. This blatant attempt at scamming the government didn’t fool McKenna, a public servant who is actually doing her job.
In one of OPG’s more garish displays of environmental racism, the company’s Dec. 2016 report failed to analyze or even acknowledge the land use Treaty Rights of Indigenous or First Nation peoples. Minister McKenna’s April 5 rebuke rightly demands that OPG provide “a description of the land and resource uses for the alternative locations that highlight the unique characteristics of these locations from the perspective of Indigenous peoples.
McKenna’s lengthy critique amounts to “strike two” against OPG, and the Minister’s refutation was praised by community leaders and watchdogs around the Great Lakes. So far, 187 cities, townships, counties, states and provinces in the Great Lakes Basin have passed resolutions opposing the dump. Columnist Jim Bloch in The Voice asked, “How many swings will the Canadian government give Ontario Power Generation before the firm strikes out in its request to build a nuclear waste dump on the shores of Lake Huron?” The answer may be “no more.”
As befits questions of persistent cancer agents and how to package and keep them out of drinking water for thousands of years, McKenna’s April 5 rebuke lists 23 complex and technically dumbfounding dilemmas that could doom the Lake Huron dump plan. Professor Erika Simpson at the University of Western Ontario reviewed McKenna’s critique and wrote April 7, “It will take OPG perhaps a decade to come up with all the information that is now required … given all the overwhelming problems identified.”
Beverly Fernandez summed up the opposition as well as anyone. “Given the overwhelming opposition to this plan and the potential for massive consequences to the Great Lakes, no responsible government would approve a plan that endangers the drinking water of 40 million people, and a $6 trillion Great Lakes economy.”
John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.
Paris – The 2017 French Presidential election marks a profound change in European political alignments. There is an ongoing shift from the traditional left-right rivalry to opposition between globalization, in the form of the European Union (EU), and national sovereignty.
Standard media treatment sticks to a simple left-right dualism: “racist” rejection of immigrants is the main issue and that what matters most is to “stop Marine Le Pen!” Going from there to here is like walking through Alice’s looking glass. Almost everything is turned around.
On this side of the glass, the left has turned into the right and part of the right is turning into the left.
Fifty years ago, it was “the left” whose most ardent cause was passionate support for Third World national liberation struggles. The left’s heroes were Ahmed Ben Bella, Sukarno, Amilcar Cabral, Patrice Lumumba, and above all Ho Chi Minh. What were these leaders fighting for? They were fighting to liberate their countries from Western imperialism. They were fighting for independence, for the right to determine their own way of life, preserve their own customs, decide their own future. They were fighting for national sovereignty, and the left supported that struggle.
Today, it is all turned around. “Sovereignty” has become a bad word in the mainstream left.
National sovereignty is an essentially defensive concept. It is about staying home and minding one’s own business. It is the opposite of the aggressive nationalism that inspired fascist Italy and Nazi Germany to conquer other countries, depriving them of their national sovereignty.
The confusion is due to the fact that most of what calls itself “the left” in the West has been totally won over to the current form of imperialism – aka “globalization”. It is an imperialism of a new type, centered on the use of military force and “soft” power to enable transnational finance to penetrate every corner of the earth and thus to reshape all societies in the endless quest for profitable return on capital investment. The left has been won over to this new imperialism because it advances under the banner of “human rights” and “antiracism” – abstractions which a whole generation has been indoctrinated to consider the central, if not the only, political issues of our times.
The fact that “sovereignism” is growing in Europe is interpreted by mainstream globalist media as proof that “Europe is moving to the right”– no doubt because Europeans are “racist”. This interpretation is biased and dangerous. People in more and more European nations are calling for national sovereignty precisely because they have lost it. They lost it to the European Union, and they want it back.
That is why the British voted to leave the European Union. Not because they are “racist”, but primarily because they cherish their historic tradition of self-rule.
The Socialist Party shipwreck
As his five-year presidency drew to its ignominious end, François Hollande was obliged by his drastic unpopularity to let his Parti Socialiste (PS) choose its 2017 presidential candidate by primary. In a surprising upset, the Socialist government’s natural candidate, prime minister Manuel Valls, lost to Benoit Hamon, an obscure member of the PS left wing who refused to vote for the unpopular, neo-liberal, anti-labor laws designed by Hollande’s economic advisor, Emmanuel Macron.
To escape from the unpopularity of the PS, Macron formed his own movement, “En Marche!” One after another, Valls, Hollande and other prominent PS leaders are tiptoeing away, leaving Hamon at the helm of the sinking ship. As Hamon justifiably protests against their betrayal, the party bigwigs pledge their support to Emmanuel Macron.
Macron ostentatiously hesitates to welcome his shopworn converts into the fold, fearing that their conversion makes it too obvious that his “En Marche!” is a clone of the right wing of the PS, on the way to becoming the French subsidiary of the U.S. Democratic Party in its Clintonian form. Macron proclaims that he is neither left nor right, as discredited politicians from both left and right jump on his bandwagon, to his embarrassment.
Hamon himself appears to be unaware that the basic cause of the Socialist Party’s shipwreck is its incompatible devotion to two contrary principles: traditional social democracy, and the European Union (EU). Macron, Hollande and their fellow turncoats at least have made their choice: the European Union.
The Twilight of the Traditional Right
The great advantage of Republican candidate François Fillon is that his policies are clear. Unlike Hollande, who tried to disguise his neoliberal policies as something else, and based his claim to be on the left on “societal” issues (gay marriage), Fillon is an unabashed conservative. His policies are designed to reduce the huge national debt. Whereas previous governments (including his own, when he was President Sarkozy’s Prime Minister) beat around the bush, Fillon won the Republican nomination by a program of sharp cutbacks in government spending. Fillon claims that his austerity measures will lead French capitalists to invest in France and thus save the country’s economy from being completely taken over by foreign corporations, American retirement funds and Qatar. This is highly doubtful, as there is nothing under EU rules to encourage French investors to invest in France rather than somewhere else.
Fillon departs from EU orthodoxy, however, by proposing a more independent foreign policy, notably by ending the “absurd” sanctions against Russian. He is more concerned about the fate of Middle East Christians than about overthrowing Assad.
The upshot is that Fillon’s coherent pro-capitalist policy is not exactly what the dominant globalizing elite prefers. The “center left” is their clear political choice since Tony Blair and Bill Clinton revised the agendas of their respective parties. The center left emphasis on human rights (especially in faraway countries targeted for regime change) and ethnic diversity at home fits the long-term globalist aims of erasing national borders, to allow unrestricted free movement of capital. Traditional patriotic conservatism, represented by Fillon, does not altogether correspond to the international adventurism of globalization.
The Schizophrenic Left
For a generation, the French left has made “the construction of Europe” the center of its world view. In the early 1980s, faced with opposition from what was then the European Community, French President François Mitterrand abandoned the socializing program on which he been elected. Mitterrand nursed the hope that France would politically dominate a united Europe, but the unification of Germany changed all that. So did EU expansion to Eastern Central nations within the German sphere of influence. Economic policy is now made in Germany.
As the traditional left goal of economic equality was abandoned, it was superseded by emphatic allegiance to “human rights”, which is now taught in school as a veritable religion. The vague notion of human rights was somehow associated with the “free movement” of everything and everybody. Indeed the official EU dogma is protection of “free movement”: free movement of goods, people, labor and (last but certainly not least) capital. These “four freedoms” in practice transform the nation from a political society into a financial market, an investment opportunity, run by a bureaucracy of supposed experts. In this way, the European Union has become the vanguard experiment in transforming the world into a single capitalist market.
The French left bought heavily into this ideal, partly because it deceptively echoed the old leftist ideal of “internationalism” (whereas capital has always been incomparably more “international” than workers), and partly due to the simplistic idea that “nationalism” is the sole cause of wars. More fundamental and complex causes of war are ignored.
For a long time, the left has complained about job loss, declining living standards, delocalization or closure of profitable industries, without recognizing that these unpopular results are caused by EU requirements. EU directives and regulations increasingly undermine the French model of redistribution through public services, and are now threatening to wipe them out altogether – either because “the government is bankrupt” or because of EU competition rules prohibit countries from taking measures to preserve their key industries or their agriculture. Rather than face reality, the left’s reaction has mostly been to repeat its worn-out demand for an impossible “Social Europe”.
Yet the dream of “social Europe” received what amounted to a fatal blow ten years ago. In 2005, a referendum was called to allow the French to approve a Constitution for united Europe. This led to an extraordinary popular discussion, with countless meetings of citizens examining every aspect of this lengthy document. Unlike normal constitutions, this document froze the member States in a single monetarist economic policy, with no possibility of change.
On May 29, 2005, French voters rejected the treaty by 55% to 45%.
What seemed to be a great victory for responsible democracy turned into its major failure. Essentially the same document, renamed the Lisbon Treaty, was ratified in December 2007, without a referendum. Global governance had put the people in their place. This produced widespread disillusion with politics as millions concluded that their votes didn’t matter, that politicians paid no attention to the will of the people.
Even so, Socialist politicians continued to pledge undying allegiance to the EU, always with the prospect that “Social Europe” might somehow be possible.
Meanwhile, it has become more and more obvious that EU monetarist policy based on the common currency, the euro, creates neither growth nor jobs as promised but destroys both. Unable to control its own currency, obliged to borrow from private banks, and to pay them interest, France is more and more in debt, its industry is disappearing and its farmers are committing suicide, on the average of one every other day. The left has ended up in an impossible position: unswervingly loyal to the EU while calling for policies that are impossible under EU rules governing competition, free movement, deregulation, budgetary restraints, and countless other regulations produced by an opaque bureaucracy and ratified by a virtually powerless European Parliament, all under the influence of an army of lobbyists.
Benoit Hamon remains firmly stuck on the horns of the left’s fatal dilemma: determination to be “socialist”, or rather, social democratic, and passionate loyalty to “Europe”. While insisting on social policies that cannot possibly be carried out with the euro as currency and according to EU rules, Hamon still proclaims loyalty to “Europe”. He parrots the EU’s made-in-Washington foreign policy, demanding that “Assad must go” and ranting against Putin and Russia.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon Grasps the Nettle
Not only is the drab, conformist Hamon abandoned by his party heavies, he is totally upstaged on the left by the flamboyant Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a maverick ready to break the rules. After years as a PS loyalist, Mélenchon broke away in 2005 to oppose the Constitutional Treaty, gaining prominence as a fiery orator. In 2007, he left the Socialist Party and founded the Parti de Gauche (Left Party). Allied with the much weakened Communist Party, he came in fourth in the first round of the 2012 Presidential election with 11% of the vote. This time he is running for President with his own new movement, La France Insoumise, which can be translated in a number of ways, including “the France that does not submit”.
Submit to what? Mainly, to the euro and to the antisocial, neoliberal policies of the European Union that are ruining France.
French flags and la Marseillaise have replaced the Internationale at Mélenchon rallies. “The Europe of our dreams is dead,” he acknowledges, vowing to “end the nightmare of dictatorship by banks and finance”.
Mélenchon calls for outright disobedience by violating EU treaties that are harmful to France. That is his Plan A. His Plan B is to leave the EU, in case Plan A fails to convince Germany (the current boss) and the others to agree to change the treaties. But at best, Plan B is an empty threat to strengthen his hand in theoretical negotiations. France is such a crucial member, he maintains, that a French threat to leave should be enough to force changes.
Threatening to leave the EU is just part of Mélenchon’s vast and complicated program which includes calling a national convention to draft a constitution for France’s “sixth Republic” as well as major ecological innovation. Completely changing both France and the European Union at the same time would require the nation to be in a revolutionary effervescence that is by no means visible. It would also require a unanimity among the EU’s 28 member States that is simply impossible.
But Mélenchon is canny enough to have recognized the basic problem: the enemy of jobs, prosperity and public services is the European Union. Mélenchon is by far the candidate that generates the most excitement. He has rapidly outdistanced Hamon and draws huge enthusiastic crowds to his rallies. His progress has changed the shape of the race: at this moment, he has become one of four front-runners who might get past the first round vote on April 23 into the finals on May 7: Le Pen, Macron, Fillon and himself.
The Opposites are (almost) the Same
A most remarkable feature of this campaign is great similarity between the two candidates said to represent “the far left”, Mélenchon, and “the far right”, Marine Le Pen. Both speak of leaving the euro. Both vow to negotiate with the EU to get better treaty terms for France. Both advocate social policies to benefit workers and low income people. Both want to normalize relations with Russia. Both want to leave NATO, or at least its military command. Both defend national sovereignty, and can thus be described as “sovereignists”.
The only big difference between them is on immigration, an issue that arouses so much emotion that it is hard to discuss sensibly. Those who oppose immigration are accused of “fascism”, those who favor immigration are accused of wanting to destroy the nation’s identity by flooding it with inassimilable foreigners.
In a country suffering from unemployment, without jobs or housing to accommodate mass immigration, and under the ongoing threat of Islamist terror attacks, the issue cannot be reasonably reduced to “racism” – unless Islamic terrorists constitute a “race”, for which there is no evidence. Le Pen insists that all French citizens deserve equal treatment regardless of their origins, race or religion. She is certain to get considerable support from recently nationalized immigrants, just as she now gets a majority of working class votes. If this is “fascism”, it has changed a lot in the past seventy years.
What is significant is that despite their differences, the two most charismatic candidates both speak of restoring national sovereignty. Both evoke the possibility of leaving the European Union, although in rather uncertain terms.
The globalist media are already preparing to blame the eventual election of a “sovereignist” candidate on Vladimir Putin. Public opinion in the West is being prepared for massive protests to break out against an undesired winner, and the “antifa” militants are ready to wreak havoc in the streets. Some people who like Marine Le Pen are afraid of voting for her, fearing the “color revolution” sure to be mounted against her. Mélenchon and even Fillon might face similar problems.
As a taste of things to come, on April 20, the EU Observer published an article entitled “Russia-linked fake news floods French social media”. Based on something called Bakamo, one of the newly established “fact-check” outfits meant to steer readers away from unofficial opinion, the article accused Russian-influenced web sites of favoring Marine Le Pen, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, François Fillon, Francois Asselineau, and Philippe Poutou. (They forgot to mention one of the most “sovereignist” candidates, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, currently polling in sixth place.) Since a large majority of the eleven candidates, including three of the four front-runners, are strongly critical of the EU and of NATO and want to improve relations with Russia, it would seem that Putin wouldn’t have to make a great effort to get a more friendly French government next time around. On the other hand, the EU Observer article is only a small sample of blatant “interference in the French election” on the part of the globalists on behalf of their favorite, Emmanuel Macron, the most enthusiastic Europhile.
The Future of France
Among those listed as alleged Russian favorites, François Asselineau is by far the most thorough critic of the European Union. Systematically ignored by the media since he founded his anti-EU party, the Union Populaire Républicain (UPR), ten years ago, François Asselineau has thousands of ardent supporters who have plastered his poster all over the country. His tireless didactic speeches, reproduced on internet, have driven home several key points:
– there is no way to improve the EU from the inside, because any change would require unanimity among 27 member states who disagree on key issues.
– the only solution for France is to use Article 50 of the EU treaties to withdraw entirely, as the United Kingdom is currently doing.
– only by leaving the EU can France save its public services, its social benefits, its economy and its democracy.
– it is only by restoring its national sovereignty that genuine democratic life, with confrontation between a real “left” and “right”, can be possible.
– by leaving the EU, France, which has over 6,000 treaties with other countries, would not be isolated but would be joining the greater world.
Asselineau is a single issue candidate. He vows that as soon as elected, he would invoke Article 50 to leave the EU and immediately apply to Washington to withdraw from NATO. He emphasizes that none of the other critics of the EU propose such a clear exit within the rules.
Other candidates, including the more charismatic Mélenchon and Le Pen, echo some of Asselineau’s arguments. But they are not ready to go so far as to advocate a clear immediate break with the EU, if only because they realize that the French population, while increasingly critical of the euro and alienated from the “European dream”, is still fearful of actually leaving, due to dire warnings of disaster from the Europeists.
The first round campaign is an opportunity for Asselineau to present his ideas to a wider audience, preparing public opinion for a more coherent “Frexit” policy. By far the most fundamental emerging issue in this campaign is the conflict between the European Union and national sovereignty. It will probably not be settled in this election, but it won’t go away. This is the major issue of the future, because it determines whether any genuine political life is possible.
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
“We are fighting in Korea so we won’t have to fight in Wichita, or in Chicago, or in New Orleans, or in San Francisco Bay.”
— President Harry S Truman, 1952
Why has this tiny nation of 24 million people invested so much of its limited resources in acquiring nuclear weapons? North Korea is universally condemned as a bizarre and failed state, its nuclear posture denounced as irrational.
Yet North Korea’s stance cannot be separated out from its turbulent history during the 20th Century, especially its four decade long occupation by Japan, the forced division of the Korean peninsula after World War II, and, of course, the subsequent utterly devastating war with the United States from 1950-1953 that ended in an armistice in which a technical state of war still exists.
Korea is an ancient nation and culture, achieving national unity in 608 CE, and despite its near envelopment by gigantic China it has retained its own unique language and traditions throughout its recorded history. National independence came to an end in 1910 after five years of war when Japan, taking advantage of Chinese weakness, invaded and occupied Korea using impressed labor for the industries Japan created for the benefit of its own economy. As always the case for colonization the Japanese easily found collaborators among the Korean elite Koreans to manage their first colony.
Naturally a nationalist resistance movement emerged rapidly and, given the history of the early 20th Century, it was not long before communists began to play a significant role in Korea’s effort to regain its independence. The primary form of resistance came in the form of “peoples’ committees” which became deeply rooted throughout the entire peninsula, pointedly in the south as well. It was from these deeply political and nationalistic village and city committees that guerrilla groups engaged the Japanese throughout WWII. The parallels with similar organizations in Vietnam against the Japanese, and later against the French and Americans, are obvious. Another analogous similarity is that Franklin Roosevelt also wanted a Great Power trusteeship for Korea, as for Vietnam. Needless to say both Britain and France objected to this plan.
When Russia entered the war against Japanese in August of 1945 the end of Japanese rule was at hand regardless of the atomic bomb. As events turned out Japan surrendered on 15 August when Soviet troops had occupied much of the northern peninsula. It should be noted that American forces played no role in the liberation of Korea from Japanese rule. However, because the Soviets, as allies of the U.S., wished to remain on friendly terms they agreed to the division of Korea between Soviet and American forces. The young Dean Rusk, later to become Secretary of State under Kennedy and Johnson, arbitrarily drew a line of division across the 38th Parallel because, as he said, that would leave the capital city, Seoul, in the American zone.
Written reports at the time criticized Washington for “allowing” the Red Army into Korea but the fact was it was the other way around. The Soviets could easily have occupied the entirety of Korea but chose not to do so, instead opting for a negotiated settlement with the U.S. over the future of Korea. Theoretically the peninsula would be reunited after some agreement between the two victors at some future date.
However, the U.S. immediately began to favor those Koreans who had collaborated with the Japanese in the exploitation of their own country and its people, largely the landed elites, and Washington began to arm the provisional government it set up to root out the peoples’ committees. For their part the Soviets supported the communist nationalist leader, Kim Il-Sung who had led the guerrilla army against Japan at great cost in lives.
In 1947 the United Nations authorized elections in Korea, but the election monitors were all American allies so the Soviets and communist Koreans refused to participate. By then the Cold War was in full swing, the critical alliance between Washington and Moscow that had defeated Nazi Germany had already been sundered. As would later also occur in Vietnam in 1956, the U.S. oversaw elections only in the south of Korea and only those candidates approved by Washington. Syngman Rhee became South Korea’s first president protected by the new American armed and trained Army of the Republic of Korea. This ROK was commanded by officers who had served the Japanese occupation including one who had been decorated by Emperor Hirohito himself and who had tried to track down and kill Kim Il Sung for the Japanese.
With Korea thus seemingly divided permanently both Russian and American troops withdrew in 1948 though they left “advisers” behind. On both sides of the new artificial border pressures mounted for a forcible reunification. The fact remained that much of rural southern Korea was still loyal to the peoples committees. This did not necessarily mean that they were committed communists but they were virulent nationalists who recognized the role that Kim’s forces had played against the Japanese. Rhee’s forces then began to systematically root out Kim’s supporters. Meanwhile the American advisers had constantly to keep Rhee’s forces from crossing the border to invade the north.
In 1948 guerrilla war broke out against the Rhee regime on the southern island of Cheju, the population of which ultimately rose in wholesale revolt. The suppression of the rebellion was guided by many American agents soon to become part of the Central Intelligence Agency and by military advisers. Eventually the entire population was removed to the coast and kept in guarded compounds and between 20,000 and 30,000 villagers died. Simultaneously elements of the ROK army refused to participate in this war against their own people and this mutiny was brutally suppressed by those ROK soldiers who would obey such orders. Over one thousand of the mutineers escaped to join Kim’s guerrillas in the mountains.
Though Washington claimed that these rebellions were fomented by the communists no evidence surfaced that the Soviets provided anything other than moral support. Most of the rebels captured or killed had Japanese or American weapons.
In North Korea the political system had evolved in response to decades of foreign occupation and war. Though it was always assumed to be a Soviet satellite, North Korea more nearly bears comparison to Tito’s Yugoslavia. The North Koreans were always able to balance the tensions between the Soviets and the Chinese to their own advantage. During the period when the Comintern exercised most influence over national communist parties not a single Korean communist served in any capacity and the number of Soviet advisers in the north was never high.
Nineteen forty-nine marked a watershed year. The Chinese Communist Revolution, the Soviet Atomic Bomb, the massive reorganization of the National Security State in the U.S. all occurred that year. In 1950 Washington issued its famous National Security Paper-68 (NSC-68) which outlined the agenda for a global anti-communist campaign, requiring the tripling of the American defense budget. Congress balked at this all-encompassing blueprint when in the deathless words of Secretary of State Dean Acheson “Thank God! Korea came along.” Only months before Acheson had made a speech in which he pointedly omitted Korea from America’s “Defense perimeter.”
The Korean War seemed to vindicate everything written and said about “the international communist conspiracy”. In popular myth on June 25, 1950 the North Korean Army suddenly attacked without warning, overwhelming surprised ROK defenders. In fact the entire 38th Parallel had been progressively militarized and there had been numerous cross border incursions by both sides going back to 1949. On numerous occasions Syngman Rhee had to be restrained by American advisers from invading the north. The Korean civil war was all but inevitable. Given postwar American plans for access globally to resources, markets and cheaper labor power any form of national liberation, communist or liberal democratic, was to be opposed. Acheson and his second, Dean Rusk, told President Truman that “we must draw the line here!” Truman decided to request authorization for American intervention from the United Nations and bypassed Congress thereby leading to widespread opposition and, later, a return to Republican rule under Dwight Eisenhower.
Among the remaining mysteries of the UN decision to undertake the American led military effort to reject North Korea from the south was the USSR’s failure to make use of its veto in the Security Council. The Soviet ambassador was ostensibly boycotting the meetings in protest of the UN’s refusal to seat the Chinese communists as China’s official delegation. According to Bruce Cumings though, evidence exists that Stalin ordered the Soviet ambassador to abstain. Why? The UN resolution authorizing war could have been prevented. At that moment the Sino-Soviet split was already in evidence and Stalin may have wished to weaken China, something which actually happened as a result of that nation’s subsequent entry into the war. Or he may have wished that cloaking the UN mission under the U.S. flag would have revealed the UN to be largely under the control of the United States, which indeed it was. What is known is that Stalin refused to allow Soviet combat troops and reduced shipments of arms to Kim’s forces. Later, however Soviet pilots would engage Americans in the air. The Chinese were quick to condemn the UN action as “American imperialism” and warned of dire consequences if China itself were threatened.
The war went badly at first for the U.S. despite numerical advantages in forces. Rout after rout followed with the ROK in full retreat. Meanwhile tens of thousands of southern guerrillas who had originated in peoples’ committees fought the Americans and the ROK. At one point the North Koreans were in control of Seoul and seemed about to drive American forces into the sea. At that point the commander- in-chief of all UN forces, General Douglas MacArthur, announced that he saw unique opportunities for the deployment of atomic weapons. This call was taken up by many in Congress.
Truman was loathe to introduce nukes and instead authorized MacArthur to conduct the famous landings at Inchon in September 1950 with few losses by the Marine Corps vaunted 1st Division. This threw North Korean troops into disarray and MacArthur began pushing them back across the 38th Parallel, the mandate imposed by the UN resolution. But the State Department claimed that the border was not recognized under international law and therefore the UN mandate had no real legal bearing. It was this that MacArthur claimed gave him the right to take the war into the north. Though the North Koreans had suffered a resounding defeat in the south, they withdrew into northern mountain redoubts forcing the American forces that followed them into bloody and costly combat, leading Americans into a trap.
The Chinese had said from the beginning that any approach of foreign troops toward their border would result in “dire consequences.” Fearing an invasion of Manchuria to crush the nascent communist revolution the Chinese foreign minister, Zhou En-Lai declared that China “will not supinely tolerate seeing their neighbors invaded by the imperialists.” MacArthur sneered at this warning. “… They have no air force… if the Chinese tried to get down to Pyongyang there would be a great slaughter… we are the best.” He then ordered airstrikes to lay waste to thousands of square miles of northern Korea bordering China and ordered infantry divisions ever closer to its border.
It was the terrible devastation of this bombing campaign, worse than anything seen during World War II short of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that to this day dominates North Korea’s relations with the United States and drives its determination never to submit to any American diktat.
General Curtis Lemay directed this onslaught. It was he who had firebombed Tokyo in March 1945 saying it was “about time we stopped swatting at flies and gone after the manure pile.” It was he who later said that the US “ought to bomb North Vietnam back into the stone age.” Remarking about his desire to lay waste to North Korea he said “We burned down every town in North Korea and South Korea too.” Lemay was by no means exaggerating.
On November 27, 1950 hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops suddenly crossed the border into North Korea completely overwhelming US forces. Acheson said this was the “worst defeat of American forces since Bull Run.” One famous incident was the battle at the Chosin Reservoir, where 50,000 US marines were surrounded. As they escaped their enclosure they said they were “advancing to the rear” but in fact all American forces were being routed.
Panic took hold in Washington. Truman now said use of A-bombs was under “active consideration.” MacArthur demanded the bombs… As he put it in his memoirs:
I would have dropped between thirty and fifty atomic bombs… strung across the neck of Manchuria… and spread behind us – from the Sea of Japan to the Yellow Sea- a belt of radioactive cobalt. It has an active life of between 60 and 120 years.
Cobalt it should be noted is at least 100 times more radioactive than uranium.
He also expressed a desire for chemicals and gas.
It is well known that MacArthur was fired for insubordination for publically announcing his desire to use nukes. Actually, Truman himself put the nukes at ready and threatened to use them if China launched air raids against American forces. But he did not want to put them under MacArthur’s command because he feared MacArthur would conduct a preemptive strike against China anyway.
By June 1951, one year after the beginning of the war, the communists had pushed UN forces back across the 38th parallel. Chinese ground forces might have been able to push the entire UN force off the peninsula entirely but that would not have negated US naval and air forces, and would have probably resulted in nuclear strikes against the Chinese mainland and that brought the real risk of Soviet entry and all out nuclear exchanges. So from this point on the war became one of attrition, much like the trench warfare of World War I. casualties continued to be high on both sides for the duration of the war which lasted until 1953 when an armistice without reunification was signed.
Of course the victims suffering worst were the civilians. In 1951 the U.S. initiated “Operation Strangle” which officials estimated killed at least 3 million people on both sides of the 38th parallel, but the figure is probably closer to 4 million. We do not know how many Chinese died – either solders or civilians killed in cross border bombings.
The question of whether the U.S. carried out germ warfare has been raised but has never been fully proved or disproved. The North accused the U.S. of dropping bombs laden with cholera, anthrax, plague, and encephalitis and hemorrhagic fever, all of which turned up among soldiers and civilians in the north. Some American prisoners of war confessed to such war crimes but these were dismissed as evidence of torture by North Korea on Americans. However, none of the U.S. POWs who did confess and were later repatriated were allowed to meet the press. A number of investigations were carried out by scientists from friendly western countries. One of the most prominent concluded the charges were true. At this time the US was engaged in top secret germ-warfare research with captured Nazi and Japanese germ warfare experts, and also experimenting with Sarin, despite its ban by the Geneva Convention. Washington accused the communists of introducing germ warfare.
Napalm was used extensively, completely and utterly destroying the northern capital of Pyongyang. By 1953 American pilots were returning to carriers and bases claiming there were no longer any significant targets in all of North Korea to bomb. In fact a very large percentage of the northern population was by then living in tunnels dug by hand underground. A British journalist wrote that the northern population was living “a troglodyte existence.” In the Spring of 1953 US warplanes hit five of the largest dams along the Yalu river completely inundating and killing Pyongyang’s harvest of rice. Air Force documents reveal calculated premeditation saying that “Attacks in May will be most effective psychologically because it was the end of the rice-transplanting season before the roots could become completely embedded.” Flash floods scooped out hundreds of square miles of vital food producing valleys and killed untold numbers of farmers.
At Nuremberg after WWII, Nazi officers who carried out similar attacks on the dikes of Holland, creating a mass famine in 1944, were tried as criminals and some were executed for their crimes.
So after a horrific war Korea returned to the status quo ante bellum in terms of political boundaries but it was completely devastated, especially the north.
I submit that it is the collective memory of all of what I’ve described that animates North Korea’s policies toward the US today which has nuclear weapons on constant alert and stations almost 30,000 forces at the ready. Remember, a state of war still exists and has since 1953.
While South Korea received heavy American investment in the industries fleeing the United States in search of cheaper labor and new markets it was nevertheless ruled until quite recently by military dictatorships scarcely different than those of the north. For its part the north constructed its economy along five-year plans and collectivized its agriculture. While it never enjoyed the sort of consumer society that now characterizes some of South Korea, its GDP grew substantially until the collapse of communism globally brought about the withdrawal of all foreign aid to north Korea.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, as some American policymakers took note of the north’s growing weakness Secretary of Defense Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz talked openly of using force finally to settle the question of Korean reunification and the claimed threat to international peace posed by North Korea.
In 1993 the Clinton Administration discovered that North Korea was constructing a nuclear processing plant and also developing medium range missiles. The Pentagon desired to destroy these facilities but that would mean wholesale war so the administration fostered an agreement whereby North Korea would stand down in return for the provision of oil and other economic aid. When in 2001, after the events of 9-11, the Bush II neo-conservatives militarized policy and declared North Korea to be an element of the “axis of evil.” All bets were now off. In that context North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, reasoning that nuclear weapons were the only way possible to prevent a full scale attack by the US in the future. Given a stark choice between another war with the US and all that would entail this decision seems hardly surprising. Under no circumstances could any westerner reasonably expect, after all the history I’ve described, that the North Korean regime would simply submit to any ultimatums by the US, by far the worst enemy Korea ever had measured by the damage inflicted on the entirety of the Korean peninsula.
(Acknowledgement to Bruce Cumings and I.F. Stone)
A series of moves by NATO’s Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) partner, the United Arab Emirates, has many observers in the Indian Ocean littoral nations wondering out loud whether the «North Atlantic» military pact is moving into the Indian Ocean and Arabian Peninsula, courtesy of an «outsourcing» deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations.
On January 27, while the world’s eyes were on the one-week old Donald Trump administration in Washington and believing that NATO would become a shell given Trump’s belief that it was «obsolete,» NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg helped open the NATO-Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) Regional Center in Kuwait. Gathered with Stoltenberg for the opening ceremony were the Secretary General of the GCC, representatives of the 28 members of the North Atlantic Council, and government officials from host Kuwait, as well as Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Oman. The opening of a NATO facility in the Persian Gulf represented an unprecedented leap by the bloc designed for the defense of the «North Atlantic» into far-off waters in Asia.
The Kuwait operation followed the signing of an Individual Partnership and Cooperation Program (IPCP) between NATO and the UAE last October. The agreement is designed to bolster existing links between NATO and the UAE on NATO-led operations and missions and enhanced interoperability. The de facto admission of the UAE into NATO follows several major military forays by the seven-member Gulf federation into the Indian Ocean and Horn of Africa. There is a belief that NATO is now using the UAE to extend its military and political influence around the Indian Ocean and associated waters, including the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Aden, and Red Sea.
NATO already has a sizeable military footprint in the Gulf region and Indian Ocean. The U.S. Fifth Fleet is homeported in the Bahrain capital of Manama. Al-Udeid airbase in Qatar remains one of America’s largest outposts in the Middle East. The base serves as the forward headquarters of United States Central Command, the United States Air Forces Central Command, No. 83 Expeditionary Air Group British Royal Air Force, and the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing of the U.S. Air Force. The UAE has its fair share of NATO and NATO partner military bases, including the Royal Australian Air Force facility at Al-Minhad airbase south of Dubai, a U.S. Air Force facility at the Al-Dhafra airbase near Abu Dhabi, the port of Jebel Ali in Dubai, and a naval base in Fujairah in the Arabian Sea.
There are also U.S. military bases at the Ali Al Salem Airbase, Camp Arifjan, Camp Buehring, and the Kuwait City naval base in Kuwait; the Masirah and Thumrait airbases in Oman; the Isa airbase in Bahrain; Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti; Eskan Village, outside of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Manda Bay, Kenya; Victoria International Airport on Mahé Island in the Seychelles; the Baledogle airbase in Somalia; and the large Naval Support Facility at Diego Garcia in the British Indian Ocean Territory. The U.S. has shown an interest in developing a maritime surveillance facility on the Australian-ruled Cocos Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean. U.S. Special Operations personnel have been spotted in Zanzibar, from which the U.S. military was ousted in 1964. A six-acre seaside site, said to be the new U.S. embassy complex in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, is believed by locals to also serve as a military base.
Under the guise of supporting the GCC coalition battling against Houthi-led rebels in Yemen’s bloody civil war, the UAE has been on a real estate buying spree in the region. Chief among the UAE’s prized acquisitions is the strategic island of Socotra in the Gulf of Aden. Long-sought by the United States as a naval and intelligence base since the end of the Cold War, there are reports that the exiled Yemeni president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, leased the islands of Socotra and Abd al-Kuri to the UAE in 2014, before fleeing to Saudi Arabia. Abd al-Kuri is a sparsely-inhabited island located 65 miles southwest of Socotra. Since the beginning of the Yemeni civil war, the UAE has taken advantage of the absence of a stable government in Yemen to expand its influence in Socotra. The UAE deal on Socotra was allegedly in return for the UAE’s support for Hadi and his Saudi allies in their military quest to wrest control of north Yemen from Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who seized control of the Yemeni capital of Sana’a.
Formerly a part of the Yemeni province of Hadhramaut, Socotra became a separate province in 2013. Before the former nation of South Yemen was granted independence by Britain, Socotra was a possession of the Mahra Sultanate of Qishn in Hadhramaut in the Protectorate of South Arabia. Hadi’s removal of Socotra from Hadhramaut control and his reported lease of the island to the UAE is not recognized by the pretender to the throne of the former Mahra Sultanate, Abdullah bin Isa. U.S. military operations in Yemen in support of the Saudi-led coalition is reportedly targeting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), but increasingly it appears that the actual targets for American drones, missiles, and special operations forces are tribes loyal to former rulers like bin Isa, Houthi rebels, and South Yemen independence fighters.
A UAE airline, Rotana Jet, now provides direct air service between Abu Dhabi and Socotra. Air Yemenia provides direct service between Socotra and Dubai.
There is reason to believe that the UAE was fronting for the United States in acquiring the lease on Socotra and that it is only a matter of time before U.S. and NATO personnel arrive on the island, likely under the guise of the ICI-NATO partnership. Some reports claim the lease is for 99-years, which is noteworthy for being the same period of time that the U.S. leased the Guantanamo Bay naval base from a newly-independent Cuba. The U.S. has abrogated the Guantanamo lease terms by refusing to depart from the base upon the lease’s termination in 1999.
Abu Dhabi is the home to the private military company Reflex Responses (R2), which is run by Blackwater’s founder Erik Prince. Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, is the Secretary of Education in the Trump cabinet. Prince is reported to have provided consulting to the Trump transition team by sneaking into meetings through a back door at the Trump Tower in Manhattan.
Middle East observers see R2 as a CIA contrivance that farms out mercenaries from such countries as Colombia, South Africa, and Chile to fight as U.S. proxies in wars such as the civil war in Yemen. R2’s operational personnel are headquartered at the Zayed Military City UAE military base outside of Abu Dhabi. Prince and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi jointly command some 1400 Colombians at the base whose officers are mainly American and British ex-military personnel.
The UAE has been engaged in further military real estate grabs in the Indian Ocean region. It recently signed an agreement with the unrecognized Republic of Somaliland to establish a major naval base at the port of Berbera on the Gulf of Aden.
In October 2015, UAE forces took control of the Yemeni island of Perim in the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The island had been under the control of Yemeni Houthi rebel forces battling the Saudi puppet government of Yemen. The UAE president has built a massive vacation palace on Mahé island in the Seychelles, at what was once a U.S. Air Force listening station.
Saudi Arabia is reportedly buying Faafu Atoll in the Maldives. The «mega project» planned for the atoll by the Saudis may be a joint commercial/naval base. The Maldivian government denies it is selling Faafu to the Saudis, but did admit to the Saudi $10 billion mega project. Atoll inhabitants are worried about the Saudi deal. A protest by Faafu islanders against the Saudi deal has taken place on the main island of Bilehdhoo.
The U.S. and NATO enjoy access to French military bases in Mayotte, near Madagascar; the French island of Reunion; and the Kerguelen archipelago in the southern Indian Ocean, near Antarctica. France also maintains facilities in Abu Dhabi at the Al-Dhafra airbase; the Mina Zayed naval base, and a French Foreign Legion base 50 miles from the city of Abu Dhabi.
The United States and NATO are militarizing the Indian Ocean region as much as they have the North Atlantic and Mediterranean. NATO and its masters in Washington, now allied with ICI partners in the Persian Gulf, are intent on pushing the «Atlantic Alliance» far beyond the Atlantic Ocean and into Indian and Pacific Ocean waters. The question remains. To what end?
American and Romanian military forces have taken part in a joint military exercise within the framework of the NATO.
The live-fire exercise, which involved US M1 Abrams tanks, was held at a combat training center in Smardan, Romania, about 260 kilometers from the capital, Bucharest, on Thursday.
The drill was part of the Justice Eagle 17 joint defense training exercises, being held until May 5.
The southeastern European country with 20 million people has been a NATO member since 2004 and has contributed troops to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is currently Washington’s regional ally and hosts a US ballistic missile system.
The US missile system, called “Aegis Ashore,” was set up in 2015 in a declared mission against missile threats.
Romania now plans to buy Patriot missiles from the US.
“Romania has announced their intent to enhance their defensive capability by procuring Patriot,” media sources quoted a senior Romanian Defense Ministry official as saying on Thursday.
The Patriot missile system would be part of an integrated air defense system that involves six F-16 fighter jets Romania recently purchased.
The procurements could put Romania in compliance with the NATO defense spending standard of two percent of gross domestic product. Romania did not reach that standard in 2016.
Russia, however, has said that it viewed Romania as a NATO outpost and a threat due to its hosting of the US missile system.
NATO has expanded its military presence across Europe to unprecedented levels in decades since the Crimean Peninsula’s separation from Ukraine and adhesion to Russia in March 2014.
The Western media deliberately exaggerate the number of people killed in the Syrian conflict to create a “humanitarian pretext” for a possible intervention in the war-torn country, Syrian President Bashar Assad told Sputnik in an exclusive interview.
The official death toll of the Syrian war is much lower than the numbers presented by the Western media and amounts to “tens of thousands, not… hundreds of thousands,” Assad told Sputnik.
He went on to say that the West adds the number of terrorists and foreign mercenaries killed to the official death toll, to make it higher and create an image of a humanitarian catastrophe of an unprecedented scale.
“So, the numbers that we’ve been hearing in the Western media during the last six years were not precise, [they were used] only to inflate the number just to show how horrible the situation is, to use it as humanitarian pretext to intervene in Syria,” the president said.
Speaking about chemical weapons allegedly possessed by terrorist groups, Assad said that he is “100 percent” sure that the extremists receive them “directly from Turkey.” He added that “there was evidence regarding this” and “many parties and parliament members in Turkey… questioned the government regarding those allegations.”
He went on to say that Turkey is in fact “the only route for the terrorists to get money, armaments, every logistic support, recruits, and this kind of material” as they “don’t have any other way to come from the north.”
He also reiterated his belief that Turkey’s actions in Syria, as well as those of the US, are an “invasion.” He said that such actions violate Syrian sovereignty, and that Damascus cannot simply tell them “they can stay” or “let’s negotiate” after they have entered Syria without official invitation.
“It is your land, you have to defend it, you have to go and fight,” Assad said, adding at the same time that “the priority now is to defeat the terrorists.”
He also emphasized the importance of Syria’s territorial integrity by saying that all issues regarding local self-government and “confederation” should be resolved within the framework of the Syrian legal system after the end of the conflict, and should be based on a broad social consensus.
“Syria is a melting pot of different cultures, different ethnicities, religions, sects, and so on. So, a single part of this social fabric cannot define the future of Syria; it needs consensus. So, … it’s better to wait and discuss the next constitution” together with all sections of Syrian society, he said.
Ever since President Trump of the United States declared President Assad of Syria guilty of the Khan Sheikhoun attack within hours of it happening and before any investigation had taken place, I have said that any investigation of the attack had been fatally prejudiced.
Especially after the US missile attack on Al-Shayrat air base, which resulted in people being killed, the honour and prestige of the President of the United States and of the Western alliance is bound up with a finding that President Assad and the Syrian military were guilty of the Khan Sheikhoun attack. Given the stakes involved, and given the enormous power of the US President and of the Western alliance, any truly independent and objective investigation of the Khan Sheikhoun attack is now impossible.
The Khan Sheikhoun attack took place on 4th April 2017, ie. 17 days ago. To date no independent investigator has visited the scene, and no attempt has been made to secure the crime scene to prevent tampering. Following the attack on the humanitarian convoy in September 2016, this is what I said about the importance of this:
It is sometimes possible to infer the truth of who was behind a particular attack by looking at the evidence, but can it actually be done in this case? The short answer I would say is no.
Since the attack is being called by some a war crime, it would seem a basic step first to secure and inspect what in that case would be a crime scene before drawing any inferences and making any accusations. Almost a week after the attack not only has that not been done, but no one seems to be in any hurry to do it.
With the crime scene not secured, the possibility of contamination or outright manipulation of the evidence is very real, especially given the strong incentive to do so of the Jihadi fighters who are in physical control of it. After all that is what many claim the Jihadi fighters did to the scene of the chemical attack on Ghouta in August 2013.
The Syrians have offered the OPCW inspectors access to the Al-Shayrat air base from where the US claims the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun was launched. The OPCW investigators have however declined to go there, and nor have they gone to Khan Sheikhoun itself, which is under Jihadi control. A joint Russia-Iranian proposal for the OPCW to set up a new inquiry, which would immediately despatch investigators to Al-Shayrat air base and Khan Sheikhoun, ran into opposition from the Western powers and was voted down by the OPCW Board yesterday.
There might be legitimate fears preventing the investigators going to Khan Sheikhoun, which is under Jihadi control, though the Jihadis did permit a journalist from the Guardian to travel there within days of the alleged chemical attack. However there can be no such fears about going to Al-Shayrat air base, which is firmly under the Syrian government’s control. The UN investigators who eventually investigated the attack on the humanitarian convoy in September 2016 ran into delays getting visas from the Syrian government to travel to Syria. The same is obviously not true in this case, with the Russians, the Iranians and the Syrians seemingly pulling out the stops to get the OPCW investigators to Al-Shayrat air base as soon as possible. In the event they are not going there, and there seems no wish or desire for them to go. Nor does there seem to be any rush to get the Jihadis who control Khan Sheikhoun to provide guarantees of access to the OPCW investigators so that they can visit the actual site of the alleged attack.
In the absence of any actual inspections of the scenes of the alleged crime, it looks like we are going to have another investigation carried out remotely, from the comfort of the OPCW’s headquarters in The Hague or from some other Western capital, as happened in the case of the investigation of the attack on the humanitarian convoy.
That this is highly unsatisfactory hardly needs to be said. Here however is what I said about it in connection with the investigation into the attack on the humanitarian convoy in September 2016, which was also carried out remotely
The Board of Inquiry’s findings are open to challenge. This is because of the delay in setting up the inquiry and the failure to secure the crime scene. As a result the Board of Inquiry was unable to carry out a physical inspection of the crime scene. Here is what the report says about this:
The Board was not allowed to visit the scene of the incident in Urem al-Kubra, the [Syrian] Government stating that it was unable to ensure the safety of the Board, given the ongoing military operations at that location. In this regard, the Board noted that 11 weeks had already elapsed by then since the date of the incident, by which time damaged vehicles had been removed and some destroyed structures had been repaired or rebuilt. Subsequent actions had therefore adversely affected the integrity of the site of the incident and consequently the availability of physical evidence. A visit to the site might therefore not have yielded commensurate results. The Board accordingly developed alternative methods of evidence collection.
All this is true but it is also deeply regrettable. As I said in my article of 26th September 2016 (see above) securing the crime scene immediately following the attack ought to have been the immediate priority. Realistically that would have required cooperation by all the Great Powers (including the US, Russia, Syria and Turkey) and probably a Resolution of the UN Security Council. The way the Western powers politicised the incident and sought to make political capital out of it made all that impossible, which is why an inspection of the crime scene has never happened.
Unfortunately without a proper inspection of the crime scene the Inquiry report is incomplete, and its findings open to challenge.
The bitter truth is that by now, 17 days after the attack, the crime scenes at both Khan Sheikhoun and Al-Shayrat air base have almost certainly been far too contaminated already to make fully secure findings possible. In the case of Al-Shayrat air base, the fact that immediately following the alleged chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun it was itself the subject of a missile attack by the US military, will of course have contaminated it further.
Alongside the OPCW’s failure to despatch investigators to the crime scene, the Russians are alleging that an attempt is underway to pack the OPCW investigation with Western investigators, with the Russians complaining that two Britons have been appointed to senior posts in the investigation.
I know nothing of these people and it may be that the Russian criticism of them is unfair. However I wonder what Western governments and the Western media would say if instead of Britons the OPCW had appointed Russians.
The Russians are now hinting that they are so dissatisfied with the way the OPCW investigation is being conducted that they are going to set up a parallel investigation of their own, though it is difficult to see how such a Russian investigation could gain access to Khan Sheikhoun unless it is recaptured by the Syrian army, which by the way is possible.
The Russians have conducted their own investigations of these sort of incidents in the past, and the results of any parallel investigation they set up into the Khan Sheikhoun affair should not be automatically discounted in advance. A Russian investigation into the Sarajevo market bombing of 1994, and one carried out by the Russian missile Almaz-Antey into the shooting down of MH17, both produced interesting results, though the Western media and Western governments and the ‘official’ investigations have either ignored them or suppressed or distorted their findings.
However those who will criticise any Russian decision to set up a parallel investigation into the Khan Sheikhoun attack as politicised and self-serving are of course right. That criticism does not however address the larger truth, which is that following the rush to pronounce President Assad and the Syrian military guilty within hours of the Khan Sheikhoun attack before any investigation had taken place, any investigation of the Khan Sheikhoun attack, irrespective of who carries it out, is now hopelessly prejudiced and politicised before it starts.
In the case of the attack on the humanitarian convoy in September 2016 the Board of Inquiry UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon set up at least tried to do a proper job, even though its failure to inspect the actual crime scene means its conclusions are incomplete and open to challenge.
However the report of that inquiry shows that it came under intense pressure behind the scenes from the Western powers to implicate the Russians in the attack. That it refused to do so, and (unlike the MH17 inquiry) refused to accept the US’s word about ‘evidence’ the US refused to show to it, or to rely on ‘evidence’ obtained via social media or the internet, was almost certainly due to the toughness and integrity of the inquiry’s chairman, an Indian military officer, who proved impervious to Western pressure, and who seems to have been determined that his inquiry would do a proper and honest job.
An OPCW inquiry staffed by citizens of the Western powers may not be so resistant to pressure. Even if the people who staff it are honest and decent, they will inevitably be concerned about the future of their careers if they produce a report that contradicts what was said by the President of the United States supported by all the other Western governments, especially over an issue where so much now is at stake.
In conclusion, the prospects of any sort of truly impartial and independent investigation taking place into what happened in Khan Sheikhoun on 4th April 2017 are now vanishingly small, and the failure to inspect the crime scene may have already made it physically impossible. The blame for that must rest with the President of the United States and with Western governments, who ignoring basic principles of due process, made a pronouncement of guilt before any investigation had taken place.
US Defense Secretary General James Mattis has arrived in Israel for talks expected to focus on Iran and Syria as well the strategic relations between Tel Aviv and Washington.
Mattis arrived in Tel Aviv Thursday afternoon from Cairo on the third leg of a week-long tour of the US allies in the Middle East.
Marking the first time he has visited Israel as the Pentagon chief, Mattis was greeted by an official honor guard at army headquarters in Tel Aviv on Friday morning.
He then met the Israeli minister for military affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, and is scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.
Mattis hopes to hear directly from Israeli leaders their concerns about regional issues, with Iran’s influence topping the list.
‘No doubt Syria has chemical weapons’
The conflict in Syria, where the US and Israel seek to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power, is also on the agenda, according to the prime minister’s office.
Israel was one of the first US allies to salute President Donald Trump for a recent missile strike on a Syrian airbase, where they alleged a suspected chemical attack originated.
Speaking during a press conference with Lieberman on Friday, Mattis said there can be “no doubt” that Syria has retained some chemical weapons and warned President Assad not to use them.
“There can be no doubt in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all. There is no longer any doubt,” he said.
The US, Israel and Saudi Arabia have been pushing to overthrow the Syrian government through the use of proxy militant forces in the country.
Iran has been lending advisory support to Syria in its battle against the foreign-backed militants, but has avoided direct military involvement in the conflict.
Known as the “Mad Dog,” Mattis has famously said the three gravest threats to US national security were “Iran, Iran, Iran.”
While in Riyadh on Wednesday, the Pentagon chief reiterated the Trump administration’s position that Iran seeks to “destabilize” the region.
He told reporters after meeting with senior Saudi officials that “everywhere you look if there is trouble in the region, you find Iran.”
US-Israeli ties reached a low point over the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, including the United States.
Former President Barack Obama pushed for the agreement, to the dismay of Netanyahu who argued it would only strengthen Iran in the region.
Israeli leaders were emboldened by the election of Donald Trump, who has described the nuclear accord as “the worst deal ever negotiated” and threatened to “rip it up.”
In his latest criticism on Thursday, Trump blasted the deal as “a terrible agreement” that “shouldn’t have been signed,” and accused Iran of “not living up” to its spirit.
PARIS – The office of French far-right National Front presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is saddened that the United States appears to continue its interventionist policies under President Donald Trump and hopes that this will not stoke tensions around the world, the candidate’s campaign manager David Rachline told Sputnik.
“A hope for the end of the American interventionism after Trump’s victory seems to be weakened. It is deeply sad and damaging for peace and stability in the world, and we hope that what seems to be the considerations of the US domestic policy won’t be a factor of increased tensions in the world,” Rachline said commenting on the recent US strikes on an airfield in Syria.
On April 6, the United States launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the military airfield in Ash Sha’irat. Trump said that the attack was a response to the alleged chemical weapons use in Syria’s Idlib province on Tuesday, which resulted in the death of over 80 people. Damascus denied the government’s involvement, with Syrian President Bashar Assad telling Sputnik that the attack in Idlib may have been “a false flag play” to justify the airstrike.
Le Pen herself condemned April 6 strike the next day after it was carried out and three days later urged Trump to be cautious in Syria, as military intervention in both Iraq and Libya ended up bringing danger rather than peace to civilians.
Theresa May’s Conservative Party has launched its general election bid with a fresh scaremongering campaign, arguing that unless Tories prevail, Vladimir Putin will win.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has already become a prominent figure in Britain’s upcoming general election, having been dragged into the pre-election debate by the Tories.
Facing widespread public criticism for not having a clear Brexit strategy and constantly implementing austerity measures, the Conservative Party has resorted to the now globally-tested method of using Vladimir Putin as a bogeyman to win more votes.
Earlier this week, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said Russia’s president would welcome a Labour Party victory.
Speaking at an event to mark the deployment of 800 British troops in Estonia as part of a NATO mission in the region, Fallon claimed that a “feeble and gutless” Corbyn plays into the hands of Moscow.
“Russia will be watching Labour’s feebleness that Jeremy Corbyn has not supported this deployment. He has questioned it. He has questioned this deployment.
“Russia will be watching that, will have noted that feebleness and will be watching it throughout this campaign,” the Defence Secretary said.
This rhetoric echoes an accusation made by Tory Armed Forces Minister Mike Penning, who claimed that Corbyn was in some way collaborating with the Russian government.
“The Labour leader would rather collaborate with Russian aggression than mutually support Britain’s NATO allies,” Penning said, referring to Labour’s concerns that further NATO deployment on Russia’s borders could escalate tensions.
In addition to accusing the main opposition leader of being in bed with the Kremlin, the Tories also warn that Vladimir Putin could try to hack the British elections in order to prevent the Conservative Party from winning.
For instance, Fallon made the unsubstantiated suggestion that Russian intelligence services will try to influence the upcoming elections through hacking, while at the same time assuring that the British security agencies are fully prepared for any cyberattacks.
“We took steps before the 2015 election to protect our systems against Russian interference, including our democratic systems.
“Those protections remain in place and we will obviously be watching for any of the kind of interference we have seen in continental elections and is alleged to have taken place in the American election but we are well protected,” Fallon said.
GCHQ, Britain’s cyber-intelligence agency, which is subordinate to Tory Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, made a show of going on high alert less than 24 hours after Theresa May announced the upcoming general election to fend off Russian cyberattacks.
“It is understood that GCHQ and the National Cyber Security Centre will be working with the Cabinet Office to deliver a safe election so the same thing does not happen here as happened in America,” a Whitehall source told the Times, referring to allegations that Russia had hacked the 2016 US elections to aid Donald Trump.
However, the report by the US intelligence community said that, even if the alleged Russian involvement had taken place, it could not make judgment as to whether it had affected the outcome of the American presidential elections.
Western establishment parties have consistently accused Russia of rigging elections in favor of its opponents, but the Russian government has staunchly denied these claims as “baseless and amateurish.”
Unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton claimed that Vladimir Putin has a personal “personal beef” against her, and thus ordered a cyber-attack on her election campaign.
Richard Ferrand, the campaign manager for Emmanuel Macron, a liberal candidate in France’s presidential election, has also argued that Putin is hacking his boss’s campaign.
“These attacks are coming from the Russian border,” Ferrand said.
“We want a strong Europe. That’s why we’re subject to attacks on our information system from the Russian state,” he said.
It’s already clear that the British general elections will not be exempt from the same anti-Russian scaremongering rhetoric, which critics say is an attempt to divert attention from the real issues.
The attempt by Western countries to derail Russia’s fact-finding initiative in Syria to examine the site of the chemical incident in Idlib province exposes their aim to topple the Syrian government, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
“I believe that it’s a very serious situation, because now it’s obvious that false information about the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government is being used to move away from implementing Resolution 2254, which stipulates a political settlement with the participation of all the Syrian parties, and aims to switch to the long-cherished idea of regime change,” Lavrov said, speaking at a press conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Astana.
UNSC Resolution 2254 calls for an inclusive government in Syria and a peace process that would involve a new constitution and free and fair elections.
According to the minister, the decision displayed “complete incompetence” on the part of his Western colleagues, who, in fact, are “prohibiting the OPCW from sending their experts to the site of the incident, as well as to the airfield from where aircraft loaded with chemical weapons allegedly flew out.”
“Yesterday [April 20], our proposal that experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] visit the sites of the suspected chemical attack in Syria was blocked by Western delegations without any explanations,” Lavrov said.
In the meantime, the UK and France claim their experts have received samples from the site of the incident, Lavrov added.
“London, Paris, and the OPCW have given no answers to our questions as to where they took these samples, who took them, or when they were delivered,” Lavrov stated.
“I think we are very close to this organization [OPCW] being discredited,” Lavrov added.
On Thursday, the OPCW’s executive council overwhelmingly rejected a proposal from Russia and Iran for a new investigation into the Idlib chemical incident.
The proposal had been amended to agree to Western demands that the investigation into the alleged attack be carried out by the existing OPCW fact-finding mission, but was defeated nonetheless.
The draft proposal seen by AFP called on the OPCW “to establish whether chemical weapons were used in Khan Sheikhoun and how they were delivered to the site of the reported incident.”
Both OPCW fact-checking missions tasked with looking into the Idlib incident are being headed by UK citizens, which Lavrov called “a very strange coincidence” that “runs contrary to the principles of an international organization.”
Earlier in April, an incident in the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun reportedly killed as many as 100 people and injured several hundred. The US has squarely laid the blame on Damascus, claiming that it hid chemical weapons stockpiles from the OPCW after pledging to hand them over in 2013.
Moscow, however, said a thorough investigation, including an on-site inspection in rebel-held territory, should be carried out before jumping to any conclusions. Russia has cautioned that the incident may have been a false flag operation meant to provoke a US attack against Syrian government forces.
WASHINGTON – US intelligence remains in a high-level of confusion about the capabilities of the Islamic State terror group (Daesh), including its chemical weapons arsenal, retired US Air Force Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski told Sputnik.
“The level of confusion in the US intelligence community is extremely high,” Kwiatkowski said on Thursday. “The political product from the US intelligence community seems incomplete and inaccurate, and likely not the result of an honest consensus among the intelligence agencies.”
The White House has accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of being responsible for the April 4 chemical attack in the village of Khan Shaykun in Idlib province because it alleges that no one else could have done it.
However, Kwiatkowski dismissed this reasoning as superficial and false.
“The White House is clearly wrong with ‘no one else could have done it.’ While it is not completely clear what type of chemical exploded in Idlib last week, we have known about Islamic State and rebel group possession of chemical agents and production of them for several years,” she pointed out.
Daesh and other forces in the region certainly have the capabilities and resources to mount limited chemical weapons attacks such as the one carried out in Khan Shaykhun, Kwiatkowski observed.
“They, as well as other state players or intelligence operations of various states are also capable of ensuring a chemical release pretty much anywhere in the region,” she said.
President Donald Trump and his advisers were misguided in imagining that Assad could have had any motive to use chemical weapons at a time when his army and air force had established a clear ascendancy over Daesh forces and were rolling them back without need to use such weapons, Kwiatkowski pointed out.
“To suggest that Assad had a motive to use a chemical weapon against civilians at this stage of the win is beyond comprehension, and that logic alone should lead to a broad investigation of cui bono, and how it happened,” she remarked.
The US government remains handicapped because it does not have a consistent Syria or Iraq policy, nor does it have a consistent Daesh policy, Kwiatkowski explained.
“Airstrikes launched in the absence of an intelligence consensus and of an actual military and political strategy are pointless,” she stated.
Daesh could have received chemical weapons from several sources, Kwiatkowski also said.
“We know or suspect that various parts of the Islamic State are resourced by Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, Turkey, Kuwait, Israel and the United States. We know that the Islamic State had been selling Iraqi oil on a black market, and this activity could have included funds to buy chemical weapons and their precursors,” she noted.
The use of chemical weapons by Daesh could now be blamed on Iraqi forces or on Assad’s forces, Kwiatkowski concluded.