Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s call for improved relations with Russia during his third debate with rival Hillary Clinton was sneered at as having a “bromance” with Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Barack Obama said in a speech.
“Your [Republican] party’s nominee for president was kissing up to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, the former KGB officer,” Obama said while campaigning for Clinton at Miami Gardens in Florida on Thursday.
Obama ridiculed Republicans for supporting a presidential candidate who had repeatedly advocated having good relations with Russia and its leader.
“You [Republicans] are OK with your nominee having a bromance with Putin,” he added to cheers from his audience.
In his debate with Clinton on Wednesday night, Trump said he had never met Putin and repeated his previously expressed opinion that good relations between the United States and Russia were desirable. Trump has also called for cooperation with Russia in fighting the Islamic State terror group.
My first book, Fooling America, examined Washington’s excited “conventional wisdom” around the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91 when nearly the entire political-punditry elite was thrilled about bombing the heck out of Iraq, inflicting heavy civilian casualties in Baghdad and slaughtering tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers as they fled from Kuwait.
Ironically, one of the few dissenters from this war lust was right-wing commentator Robert Novak, who actually did some quality reporting on how President George H.W. Bush rejected repeated peace overtures because he wanted a successful ground war as a way to instill a new joy of war among the American people.
Bush recognized that a brief, victorious ground war would – in his words – “kick the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all,” i.e. get Americans to forget their revulsion about foreign wars, a hangover from the bloody defeat in Vietnam.
So Novak, the anti-communist hardliner who often had baited other pundits for their “softness” toward “commies,” became on this occasion a naysayer who wanted to give peace a chance. But that meant Novak was baited on “The Capital Gang” chat show for his war doubts.
To my surprise, one of the most aggressive enforcers of the pro-war “group think” was Wall Street Journal Washington bureau chief Al Hunt, who had often been one of the more thoughtful, less warmongering voices on the program. Hunt dubbed Novak “Neville Novak,” suggesting that Novak’s interest in avoiding war in the Middle East was on par with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Adolf Hitler before World War II.
Months later when I interviewed Hunt about his mocking of Novak’s anti-war softness, Hunt justified his “Neville Novak” line as a fitting rejoinder for all the times Novak had baited opponents for their softness against communism. “After years of battling Novak from the left, to have gotten to his right, I enjoyed that,” Hunt said.
At the time, I found this tit-for-tat, hah-hah gotcha behavior among Washington’s armchair warriors troubling because it ignored the terrible suffering of people in various countries at the receiving end of American military might, such as the Iraqi civilians including women and children who were burned alive when a U.S. bomb penetrated a Baghdad bomb shelter, as well as the young Iraqi soldiers incinerated in their vehicles as they fled the battlefield.
In the 100-hour ground war, U.S. casualties were relatively light, 147 killed in combat and another 236 killed in accidents or from other causes. “Small losses as military statistics go,” Gen. Colin Powell wrote later, “but a tragedy for each family.” In Official Washington, however, the dead were a small price to pay for a “feel-good” war that let President Bush vanquish the psychological ghosts of the Vietnam War.
I also had the sickening sense that this “popular” war – celebrated with victory parades and lavish firework displays – was setting the stage for more horrors in the future. Already, neoconservative pundits, such as The Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer, were demanding that U.S. forces must go all the way to Baghdad and “finish the job” by getting rid of Saddam Hussein. A dangerous hubris was taking hold in Washington.
As we have seen in the decades since, the euphoria over the Persian Gulf victory did feed into the imperial arrogance that contributed to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. At that moment, when the neocons in George W. Bush’s administration were concocting excuses for finally marching to Baghdad, there were almost no voices among the big-shot commentators who dared repeat Robert Novak’s “mistake” of 1991.
Playing Joe McCarthy
I mention all this now because we are seeing something similar with the Democrats as they lead the charge into a dangerous New Cold War with Russia. The Democrats, who bore the brunt of the Red-baiting during the earlier Cold War, are now playing the roles of Senators Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon in smearing anyone who won’t join in the Russia-bashing as “stooges,” “traitors” and “useful idiots.”
When Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has one of his few lucid moments and suggests that the U.S. should cooperate with Russia rather than provoke more confrontations, he is denounced from many political quarters. But the attacks are most feverish from Democrats looking to give Hillary Clinton a boost politically and a diversionary excuse for her Wall Street speeches that she tried so hard to keep hidden until they were released by WikiLeaks from hacked emails of her longtime adviser John Podesta.
The Obama administration’s intelligence community has claimed, without presenting evidence, that Russian intelligence was behind the Democratic Party hacks as a way to influence the U.S. election, a somewhat ironic charge given the long history of the U.S. government engaging in much more aggressive actions to block the election of disfavored politicians abroad and even to overthrow democratically elected leaders who got in Washington’s way.
Rather than seeking to explain Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street bigwigs and other special interests, Podesta and other Democrats have simply piled on the Russia-bashing with suggestions that Trump is consorting with America’s enemies.
While the Democrats may consider this strategy very clever – a kind of karmic payback for the Republican red-baiting of Democrats during the Cold War – it carries even greater dangers than Al Hunt’s putting down Robert Novak for trying to save lives in the Persian Gulf War.
By whipping up a new set of whipping boys – the “evil” Russians and their “ultra-evil” leader Vladimir Putin – the Democrats are setting in motion passions that could spin out of control and cause a President Hillary Clinton to push the two nuclear powers into a crisis that – with a simple misjudgment on the part of either nation – could end life on the planet.
The US military has dramatically increased the number of its airstrikes in Libya in less than a month, new data shows, further cementing President Barack Obama’s record of taking more military action than any other American president.
American fighter jets and drones stationed aboard the amphibious assault vessel USS Wasp off the Libyan coast, have so far carried out 324 airstrikes in the country, according to data by the Pentagon’s Africa Command, which leads the operation.
This is more than two times the 161 air raids that the US had carried out in Libya until September 21.
According to a report by Reuters, American aircraft had conducted more than 30 strikes across Libya between Saturday and Monday.
Washington began the air campaign on August 1, under the pretext of taking out the Daesh (ISIL) Takfiri terrorists, who rose to power in the oil-rich country after the NATO-backed ousting and death of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Initially, the White House had claimed that the bombing campaign would be focused on the Libyan coastal city of Sirte, which fell to Daesh last year, and would end in a few “weeks.”
However, Obama silently extended the prolonged campaign for another month in late September.
The military intervention is likely to continue over the next months, as indicated by a US military official in a Fox News interview on Monday.
“We continue to work with GNA (the Government of National Accord) aligned forces as they clear through Sirte and we now have better intelligence,” the official told Fox on the condition of anonymity.
In addition to the bombing campaign, US troops have also been “in and out” of Libya, according to Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Gordon Trowbridge.
The Obama administration has set a new record in terms of military intervention abroad, carrying out airstrikes and ground operations in at least seven countries, namely Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Libya.
Earlier this year, Obama regretted meddling in Libya as his “worst mistake,” because it led to a power vacuum that gave rise to terrorist groups in the country.
Despite his repeated public statements opposing “American boots on the ground,” President Barack Obama—just shy of the end of his time in office— has been expanding U.S. military presence in war-torn Somalia as the Pentagon has deployed up to 300 U.S. special forces and increased airstrikes in the African country, the New York Times reported Sunday.
U.S. special operation troops have been “heavily involved” with Somali and African troops, U.S. and African officials told the newspaper, as part of operation “Somalia Campaign” which Obama has quietly and secretly spearheaded in a bid to fight the al-Qaida-aligned Shabab group.
The special forces are carrying out, along with other local troops, more than six raids a month against what they claim are extremist group positions.
Officials told the newspaper that the U.S. troops get to interrogate alleged militants first before they are passed on to local Somali authorities, which brings to mind the countless accounts of torture and brutal interrogation methods carried out by U.S. agents and soldiers in the past.
What’s more troubling is that information about the airstrikes—where hundreds of people are being killed—are not being made public.
One of the deadliest airstrikes by the U.S. in the county came in March when the Pentagon said its military jets killed more than 150 alleged Shabab fighters at what military officials called a “graduation ceremony.”
Another airstrike last month killed more than a dozen Somali government soldiers, who are supposedly U.S. allies against the Shabab, Somali officials told the New York Times.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon admits to very few of the hundreds of operations taking place in Somalia, labeling them as “self-defense strikes.”
However, analysts and observers of the conflict have said “this rationale has become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” meaning that the only reason U.S. forces are facing any threat at all from Shabab group is because of their very deployment into the country in the first place.
This year alone Obama has authorized airstrikes and covert operations in at least seven countries and the Somalia campaign comes as the outgoing president intends to pass on his administration’s model for how to carry out foreign interventions—like in Syria, Iraq and Libya—to his successor.
Somalia will be remembered as another large stain in Obama’s record as the country is considered one of the largest targets for Washington’s drone program that has been accused of killing civilians, with very loose guidelines on collateral damage.
Just a geography question. Or maybe it’s a different sort of question.
Do a web search for “USS Mason” and you will find countless “news” reports about how this poor innocent U.S. ship has been fired upon, and fired upon again, and how it has fired back “countermeasures” in self-defense.
But you might stumble onto one article from CNN (don’t watch the totally misleading video posted just above the text) that says:
“Officials Saturday night were uncertain about what exactly happened, if there were multiple incoming missiles or if there was a malfunction with the radar detection system on the destroyer.”
So, was the poor wittle innocent destroyer fired at or not?
The simple but apparently impossible point to grasp is that it does not matter. The United States destabilized Yemen with a massive killing spree known as a “drone war.” The United States armed Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemen with jets, supplied the jets, supplied the bombs (and cluster bombs), refueled the jets midair, provided the targeting information, provided the cover at the United Nations, and deployed its ships to the coast of Yemen as part of its effort to achieve U.S./Saudi power in Yemen through mass murder and devastation. If one group or another or nobody in Yemen fired some harmless shots at a U.S. ship the outcome is the same: zero legal or moral or practical justification to continue or escalate the killing, and zero logic in calling such escalation “defensive.”
Likewise, speculation — including in the CNN video posted just above its article — that Iran was behind the possibly fictional attacks on the U.S. ship does not matter. The conclusions that can be drawn are identical whether or not such baseless and wishful theories are true.
This is the point of my use of examples of past similar (non)-incidents like the Gulf of Tonkin Non-Incident in my book War Is A Lie. The point is not that because the U.S. military lied about Tonkin it’s likely to be lying again next time (though that’s a fair conclusion). The point is actually completely different. The point is that when you put U.S. ships on the coast of Vietnam and use them to fire on Vietnam, the question of whether anyone ever fires back is not a question of aggression against the United States of America.
Let’s recall what (didn’t) happen on August 4, 1964. U.S. war ships were on the coast of North Vietnam and were engaged in military actions against North Vietnam. So President Lyndon Johnson knew he was lying when he claimed the August 4 (non)-attack was unprovoked. And any ordinary person could have known he was lying without awaiting any classified leaks. One simply had to check to see which coast of the United States the Gulf of Tonkin was on. (Same with the Red Sea.)
Had the Gulf of Tonkin Incident happened, it could not have been unprovoked. The same ship that was supposedly attacked on August 4 had damaged three North Vietnamese boats and killed four North Vietnamese sailors two days earlier, in an action where the evidence suggests the United States fired first, although the opposite was claimed. In fact, in a separate operation days earlier, the United States had begun shelling the mainland of North Vietnam.
But the supposed attack on August 4 was actually, at most, a misreading of U.S. sonar. The ship’s commander cabled the Pentagon claiming to be under attack, and then immediately cabled to say his earlier belief was in doubt and no North Vietnamese ships could be confirmed in the area. President Johnson was not sure there had been any attack when he told the American public there had been. Months later he admitted privately: “For all I know, our navy was just shooting at whales out there.” But by then Johnson had the authorization from Congress for the war he’d wanted. There the parallel breaks down, of course, as President Barack Constitutional Scholar Obama cannot be bothered with Congressional authorizations. Yet he still requires a certain level of public tolerance.
In a 2003 documentary called The Fog of War, Robert McNamara, who had been Secretary of “Defense” at the time of the Tonkin lies, admitted that the August 4 attack did not happen and that there had been serious doubts at the time. He did not mention that on August 6 he had testified in a joint closed session of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees along with Gen. Earl Wheeler. Before the two committees, both men claimed with absolute certainty that the North Vietnamese had attacked on August 4.
McNamara also did not mention that just days after the Tonkin Gulf non-Incident, he had asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to provide him with a list of further U.S. actions that might provoke North Vietnam. He obtained the list and advocated for those provocations in meetings prior to Johnson’s ordering such actions on September 10. These actions included resuming the same ship patrols and increasing covert operations, and by October ordering ship-to-shore bombardment of radar sites (exactly what the U.S. just did in Yemen).
A 2000-2001 National Security Agency (NSA) report concluded there had been no attack at Tonkin on August 4 and that the NSA had deliberately lied. The Bush Administration did not allow the report to be published until 2005, due to concern that it might interfere with lies being told to get the Afghanistan and Iraq wars started.
On March 8, 1999, Newsweek had published the mother of all lies: “America has not started a war in this century.” No doubt Team Bush thought it best to leave that pretense undisturbed.
When the United States was lied more deeply into the Vietnam War, all but two senators voted for the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. One of the two, Wayne Morse (D-OR), told other senators that he had been told by the Pentagon that the alleged attack by the North Vietnamese had been provoked. Obviously any attack would have been provoked. But the attack itself was fictional, and that’s the point people seem to latch onto, missing the more important understanding that it does not matter.
Senator Morse’s colleagues did not oppose him on the grounds that he was mistaken, however. Instead, a senator told him, “Hell, Wayne, you can’t get into a fight with the president when all the flags are waving and we’re about to go to a national convention. All [President] Lyndon [Johnson] wants is a piece of paper telling him we did right out there, and we support him.”
Hell, Swanson, you can’t raise scruples about blowing people up in Yemen when traitors are failing to stand during the National Anthem and Hillary Clinton took big bucks from Saudi Arabia and Boeing into her family foundation to get those jets there and the Democrats are trying to paint Donald Trump as too dovish.
The desert town of Agadez in Niger is currently best known as a stop on the people-smuggling route between West Africa and Europe, but it is about to take its place in the geopolitical stage as the American military has announced it will build a drone base on its outskirts. Reportedly costing U.S. taxpayers as much of $100 million, the base is just the latest American play for military supremacy in Africa — Niger is the only country in that volatile region of the continent prepared to risk allowing Washington a base for its MQ-9 Reapers, the even more lethal successor to the notorious Predator drone.
While the U.S. is strengthening its military capabilities in the region, it is also forging deeper ties with Niger’s repressive government. President Mahamadou Issoufou was re-elected in March with a laughably high 92% of the vote. Suspicions about the legitimacy of the landslide win are warranted, considering the run-up to the election was marred by the jailing of a pro-opposition pop singer, the barring of nearly a quarter of voters from the race, and the fact that the opposition coalition withdrew its candidate, Hama Amadou, from the contest. The opposition cited unfair treatment between the two candidates, not least because Amadou was put in jail on spurious charges of “baby trafficking” and forced to campaign from behind bars. Issoufou’s American partners, however, promptly issued a laughable press release congratulating Issoufou on his win and reaffirming the US’s commitment to its “partnership with Niger on security, development, and democratic governance.”
The people of Niger have less to be pleased about. While President Issoufou and his military enjoy the lucrative revenue that comes with inviting the American military to pursue the endless War on Terror on Nigerien soil, everyday Nigerians continue to suffer. As the United Nations Human Development Index makes clear, Niger is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. Issoufou, for his part, seems to forget who he is meant to be representing, especially as he continues to grant French energy company Areva tax breaks as it mines uranium in the north of the country. No matter that the local population is affected by radiation without benefiting from the extraction taking place in their midst.
Far from being the exception, Niger is simply the latest in a long line of countries happy to take greenbacks in exchange for allowing the U.S. to pursue its hegemonic designs for Africa. Across the continent in Djibouti, to take just one example, Ismail Omar Guelleh has turned his tiny country – barely bigger than the state of New Jersey – into a massive multi-nation military base, with U.S. and Chinese warships nestled alongside each other. It is, according to American ambassador Thomas Kelly, a modern day equivalent of Casablanca in the 1940s. Specifically, he cites “all the different nationalities elbowing each other” and “all the intrigue”.
Like Niger, Djibouti exploits the “island of stability” narrative to make itself indispensable to international partners. Sadly, the money earned from all the military bases in the country does not trickle down to the population. 42% of Djiboutians live in extreme poverty, and another 48% are unemployed. Meanwhile, the U.S. turns a blind eye to “electoral hold-ups” like Guelleh’s re-election earlier this year. Washington said little in 2010, when President Guelleh amended the constitution to permit himself to seek his third and now fourth term in office. In the U.S. foreign policy calculus, it seems allegiance to autocrats will always trump the democratic commitment to human rights and popular sovereignty from the moment fuzzy words like “terrorism” or “security” come into play.
Sadly, this pattern goes back decades in Africa. The Reagan administration helped Chad’s former dictator Hissène Habré – dubbed ‘Africa’s Pinochet’ – into power and helped keep him there with millions of dollars in military aid and training for his bloodthirsty secret police. Habré, of course, was put on trial in Senegal in 2015 for crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes, and his historic conviction this year marked one of the rare instances when an African dictator has truly faced justice for their actions. In 2011, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak enjoyed $1.3 billion in aid from American partners and was seen as “an ideal partner for the United States, as long as Washington focused on stability in the present without much thought about long term implications.”
The “long term implications” are where Washington’s one-track mindset ends up burning American policymakers time and time again. Instead of helping to reinforce stability in any part of the world, be it West Africa, Central America, or the Middle East, US-backed dictators eventually fall. Their abuses, combined with the collateral damage wrought by U.S. actions (especially drone strikes), help stoke and perpetuate the grievances that allow the very terrorist groups Washington is targeting to thrive. As American aid and support goes to leaders that crush dissent and subvert the democratic order, as Issoufou is doing in Niger, the invariable result is widespread resentment against the U.S. and the West more generally.
Blaise Compaoré, the former president of Burkina Faso – a “key hub of the U.S. spying network” – is only one of the most recent to fall. Despite the fact that Compaoré’s early years in power were marked by a cozy relationship with Muammar Gaddafi and accusations that he sent mercenaries to fight United Nations peacekeepers in Sierra Leone, the U.S. security community embraced him as a partner. After a popular uprising in the streets of Ouagadougou blocked Compaoré’s attempt to extend his 27 years in power, the onetime army officer fled to Ivory Coast, leaving behind not only a tumultuous political legacy but also an impoverished country not altogether [free] from terrorist attacks like those conducted by al-Qaeda in January.
By getting into bed with African dictators, the U.S. simply sets up future problems for itself while ensuring life gets no better for the continent’s most vulnerable populations.
An American arms dealer, previously indicted for arming Libyan rebels, accused the US of using him as a scapegoat to protect Hillary Clinton. He says the government used his plan to ship weapons to Libya, some of which wound up in terrorists’ hands.
“I would say, 100 percent, I was victimized … to somehow discredit me, to throw me under the bus, to do whatever it took to protect their next presidential candidate,” Marc Turi told Fox News.
He says that he had specifically been targeted by the Obama administration for years. Eventually, he said, he “lost everything – my family, my friends, my business, my reputation.”
Indicted with four felony counts in 2014, Turi’s trial would have start on November 8, but the Department of Justice suddenly dropped charges against him last week.
Turi now says that the abrupt move was not just good luck for him, but rather let the US government avoid unwanted revelations, “especially in this election year.”
“Those transcripts from current as well as former CIA officers were classified,” Turi told Fox’s Catherine Herridge, referring to what would have been the major evidence against the US government. After two years of sparring over the evidence, the DOJ opted to toss out Turi’s case with prejudice.
“If any of these relationships [had] been revealed it would have opened up a can of worms. There wouldn’t have been any good answer for the US government especially in this election year,” he said.
The transcripts Turi referred to reportedly included his email exchange with Chris Stevens, America’s envoy to the Libyan opposition, in 2011. Turi was offering the government to supply Libyan rebels with conventional weapons through Qatar and UAE, to bypass the UN’s ban on direct sales. He called it “a zero footprint scheme.”
However, he told Fox News that he neither ever “shipped anything,” nor “even received the contract.”
“So all I received was an approval for $534 million to support our interests overseas. And it would have been the United States government that facilitated that operation from Qatar and UAE by way of allowing those countries to land their planes and land their ships in Libya,” he said.
Shortly after Turi’s exchange with Stevens, Hillary Clinton wrote in response to her aide Jake Sullivan’s memo, “fyi. the idea of using private security experts to arm the opposition should be considered.”
Turi believes it was not a coincidence that Clinton sent her email that day.
“When you look at this timeline, none of it was a coincidence. It was all strategically managed and it had to come from her own internal circle,” he said.
However, as he also told Fox News, he thinks those emails that contained any information about the weapons programs were deleted by Hillary Clinton and her team.
“It would have gone to an organization within the Bureau of Political Military affairs within the State Department known as PM/RSAT (Office of Regional Security and Arms Transfers.) That’s where you would find Jake Sullivan, Andrew Shapiro and a number of political operatives that would have been intimately involved with this foreign policy,” Turi said.
The email that Clinton sent to Sullivan, dated April, 8, 2011, was declassified and released on May 22, 2015, but that line about “private security experts” was redacted. The Select Committee on Benghazi, however, said it was one of the emails that highlighted “significant investigative questions.”
Nearly two years later, Clinton testified in front of the Senate about the 2012 Benghazi consulate attack, telling Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) that she did not know whether the US was involved in any weapons deals and arms transfers.
“With all the resources that they were throwing at me, I knew there would have to be some type of explanation of the operation that was going terribly wrong in Libya,” Turi said. “It is completely un-American … I was a contractor for the Central Intelligence Agency.”
Turi claims it was Clinton and the State Department that had the lead and people dealing with weapons flowing to Libya and Syria. What’s even more concerning is that, as Turi says, some arms might have ended in the hands of terrorists.
“Some [weapons] may have … [gone]out under control that we had with our personnel over there and the others went to these militia. That’s how they lost control over it,” Turi said. “I can assure you that these operations did take place and those weapons did go in different directions.”
He then did not rule out a possibility that terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda or Ansar al-Sharia and even Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) could have acquired those weapons.
“All of them, all of them, all of them,” he responded to Fox News.
However, with charges against Turi dropped, it is most likely that emails that could have exposed Clinton’s support for his “zero footprint” plan will remain secret.
“Documents that would have come out would be very embarrassing to the administration,” Daniel McAdams, Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, told RT. “What happened in Libya is that the US was pretending to send weapons to moderates and it ended up that they are all jihadists, all extremists.”
Conn M. Hallinan, a columnist for Foreign Policy in Focus, also said that if Turi’s case ever made it to trial, Clinton’s campaign would be ruined.
“Of course the United States was supplying weapons to the Libyan rebels. It’s very common for the US to use private contractors,” he told RT. “Libya was Hillary Clinton’s operation, she designed the entire Libya operation. That would have been a complete catastrophe and so she has backed herself away from it.”
The Internet has lately been filled with pictures of American military pilots rushing towards US warplanes closely resembling Russia’s Su-34, painted in a recognizable light blue paint scheme that has never been used in the US military, but is routinely used by the Russian Air Force.
But this was not a demonstration of US pilots finally filling the seats of Russian hardware, provoked by the fact that US military contractors failed to deliver a competitive fifth-generation fighter, alas. Though it’s true that the Lockheed Martin F-35 has been a bitter failure riddled by criticism from all sides, including the American “hawk in chief” – Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services, John McCain.
Regardless, what we’ve seen in the pictures is the direct implementation of the notorious American “plan B” in Syria, so now pro-American “eye-witnesses” can not simply claim that they’ve witnessed Russia’s involvement in alleged “war crimes” somewhere in Aleppo and other Syrian cities. They would now be able to provide pictures taken with their mobile devices to show the “evidence of criminal Russian activities in Syria.” Somewhere in Washington someone has assumed that the whole world would echo the demands of their obedient British and French client government to hold an “international tribunal regarding Russia’s aggression” after seeing such pictures.
In addition to the United States repainting its warplanes to resemble Russian military livery, it is also fairly obvious that America’s F-18 is fairly similar to the Russian Su-34 in appearance. In fact, only a military expert can tell the difference, but only when pictures are presented in high resolution. The folding wings of the American F-18 can only be seen in on the runway, and as for the vertical stabilizers of the F-18, they are only slightly different from the Russian Su-34.
Thus, if an American jet is to be filmed by somebody’s shaking hands on a smartphone, or even a semi-professional camera, it will be virtually indistinguishable from the Su-34.
The only notable distinguishing marks left on the repainted F-18 is a white star on a dark background. However, it’s tail features the bright red star all of Russian’s military jets bear.
In such circumstances, an American F-18, while being virtually indistinguishable from a Russian jet, can launch, wittingly or unwittingly, a classic false flag attack. The possible targets are plenty: humanitarian convoys, residential areas, or even US military personnel. Should this attack be filmed, Washington will end up having “irrefutable evidence” of “Russian aggression.”
As a matter of fact, Russia is already being accused of such aggression on a daily basis, but the problem is that nobody has seen any convincing evidence of such aggression. Repainting American planes to resemble Russian aircraft may be a solution to this problem.
But it must be pointed out that this attempt to launch a provocation against Russia comes from a very old book of CIA tricks. Back in 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis, Washington was also planning to use repainted aircraft,which would be used to take down a civilian airliner as a pretext for Washington to blame the Cuban Air Force. This story was told by US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in the documentary, “The Fog of War.”
But it’s a well-known fact that the US is an empire of lies, and there can be no doubt about that. Therefore, all the statements and actions of the White House should be taken with a grain of salt in order not to be fooled by yet another US-crafted lie.
© Sputnik/ Alexei Druzhinin
Four days after publicly accusing the Russian government of hacking into the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Obama Administration has announced plans for what it terms a “proportional” response.
On Friday, the US Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement formally accusing Moscow of attempting to influence the US election by hacking into servers belonging to the DNC. It followed a series of informal accusations against Russia for the hacks, also made without evidence. On Tuesday, the White House offered some idea of how it plans to respond.
“There are a range of responses that are available to the president and he will consider a response that is proportional,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.
“The president has talked before about the significant capabilities that the US government has to both defend our systems in the United States but also carry out offensive operations in other countries.”
Speaking to Radio Sputnik, Ohio State University Professor Emeritus of International Law John Quigley pointed out that the basis for the decision is largely ungrounded.
“Well, it seems a bit ambiguous. The statement said that it is consistent with methods used which is a formulation that falls short of saying that they definitely know what is going on,” Quigley said.
“Speculation a week or so ago was that the United States would not come out with these accusations because it raises the question of what it could do next,” he added. “The likelihood is that it will not do much. I think that probably the president wanted to make this information public but that he doesn’t really have in mind any specific countermeasure.”
The Russian government has dismissed the allegations against it as part of a “hysterical campaign.” Speaking to Russia’s Channel One broadcaster, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated, “When I discussed the issue with US Secretary of State [John] Kerry last time, I told him that we have had some consultations. After all, we also do not want our nationals to engage in cybercrime. This can be turned against Russia.”
“We do not want to cause any damage to other countries as well,” Lavrov detailed, adding, “It is funny, that there is quite a hysterical campaign underway in the context of the elections debates [suggesting] that we have hacked the sites of the Democratic Party and Pentagon.”
Lavrov said that Kerry expressed interest in bilateral consultations over the issue, but apparently the White House derailed the overture.
For nearly six years, Washington and its allies have gotten away with playing a cynical double game in Syria’s war. But now the mask is slipping to reveal the ugly face of Western involvement – it is openly siding with terrorists.
Russia was correct to veto a French-sponsored draft resolution at the UN Security Council this weekend. Along with American and British vigorous support, the French proposal centered on halting military flights over the besieged northern Syrian city of Aleppo.
As Russia’s foreign ministry commented, the French initiative was tantamount to giving air cover for insurgents dominated by the internationally proscribed terrorist group Jabhat al Nusra. In short, a no-fly zone protecting terrorists would have been imposed in violation of Syrian sovereign rights, as well as international law.
An alternative draft resolution put forward by Russia was subsequently nixed by the US, Britain and France. The Russian proposal was aimed at reviving the ceasefire arrangement declared last month by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Moscow’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. It reiterated the need for anti-government militants to dissociate from the proscribed terrorist groups affiliated with al Qaeda, including al Nusra and Daesh (ISIS).
Russia is calling for a general ceasefire, but it does not specify the condition of halting military flights over Aleppo.
If France and its Western allies were genuine about wanting to stop the violence, then why don’t they get behind the Kerry-Lavrov deal? They have evidently abandoned that ceasefire arrangement because it was exposing Western claims about supporting “moderate rebels” as distinct from “extremists” as a fallacy.
That the Kerry-Lavrov truce was immediately violated by the insurgents and that there was no separation of “moderates” and “extremists” showed once and for all that Western claims of supporting “legitimate rebels” are a farce. Washington, London and Paris are patently backing a terrorist army fighting for their objective of regime change in Syria.
Since Syria and its Russian ally resumed offensive operations to take the key battleground city of Aleppo on September 22, the Western sponsors of the terror proxies have become increasingly shrill in a media campaign to thwart that offensive.
America, Britain and France have decried “war crimes” allegedly committed by Syrian and Russian air strikes. John Kerry, ahead of the weekend spat at the UN, called for a probe into suspected war crimes attributed to Russia.
Western media have been saturated with unverified reports from the militant-held eastern Aleppo purporting to show Syrian and Russian air strikes on civilian centers, including hospitals. Much of the information coming out of eastern Aleppo is sourced from Western-funded“activists” who are embedded with the Nusra terrorists. Tellingly, Western media and governments are in effect peddling what is terrorist propaganda.
The Russian and Syrian governments deny Western claims. They say their military operations are targeting terrorist groups that are deliberately using the 250,000 civilian population in east Aleppo as human shields.
It is significant that the more the Syrian army and its allies among Iranian, Lebanese and Iraqi militia, as well as Russian air support, make advances to retake Aleppo, the more hysterical Western governments and media become about “war crimes”.
If we start from the premise that the conflict in Syria has from the outset been a Western-orchestrated covert war for regime change involving the sponsoring of a terrorist mercenary army, then the Western hysteria over Aleppo is perfectly understandable.
A defeat for the insurgents in Aleppo means the end of the Western criminal enterprise to install a pro-Western puppet regime in Syria. That would mark a historic blow to the prestige of Washington and its European allies in the Middle East. It would also further expose their criminal complicity.
By contrast, Russian influence in the strategic region would be elevated. And for good reasons too. Moscow will be seen as having stood by a sovereign nation to vanquish Western powers who have wreaked havoc in the region with illegal wars and regime-change subterfuges.
Given the high stakes, this is why Western powers are evidently becoming more desperate to impede Syrian and Russian military success against the insurgents. Western emotive denunciations against Syria and Russia have nothing to do with concern for human suffering. It is all about contriving a moralistic political pressure to hamper the campaign against the West’s terrorist project.
Seen in this context, French calls at the UN for a no-fly zone around Aleppo is a startling admission by the Western powers that they are trying to protect terrorist al Qaeda-affiliated organizations. It is a stunning revelation of the fraudulent and criminal nature of Western governments. Their claims of “fighting terrorism” which have justified overseas wars over the past 15 years are self-evidently bogus. Their claims of supporting a “pro-democracy uprising” in Syria are grotesque.
This giant fraud has, of course, been made possible because Western media corporations have gone along with the vile charade. These media organizations are equally complicit. Giving succor to war crimes is in itself a war crime, as international attorney Christoper Black points out.
Meanwhile, away from Aleppo and the Western distortion of what is happening there, the alternative media report that the US-led military coalition is destroying bridges on the Euphrates in the eastern province of Deir ez-Zor.
According to the Syrian Free Press and others, American air strikes have demolished seven major river crossings over the past week. The latest strike was on the al Syasia bridge north of the city of Deir ez-Zor, the largest bridge in the province.
Targeting civilian infrastructure is a war crime. It will prevent humanitarian aid convoys reaching civilians in government-held Deir ez-Zor. But more significantly, the US, French and British coalition – which is operating illegally in Syria in the first place – is working to block the Syrian army and Russian offensive against the Daesh terror stronghold of Raqqa. The bridges knocked out were providing key linkages for the Syrian and Russian forces from Deir ez-Zor towards Raqqa.
The US-led air strikes also give full meaning to the deadly American attack on the Syrian army base at Deir ez-Zor on September 17. Over 60 Syrian troops and nearly 200 more were wounded when US, British and Australian warplanes blasted the base in a sustained attack. Washington claimed it was an “accident”.
But to many other observers, the massacre was no accident. It was a deliberate assault by the Western coalition to end the Kerry-Lavrov pact because the failing ceasefire was exposing the systematic terror connections of the Western governments in Syria.
Washington and its allies are not just trying to give air cover to the terrorists in Syria indirectly by setting up so-called no-fly zones. They are evidently now giving the terrorists air fire-power.
As in the NATO regime-change war in Libya in 2011, the Americans, French and British are riding shotgun in the air for terrorists on the ground.
And the truly disgusting thing about this criminal collusion is that the Western powers claim to be concerned about international law, war crimes and human suffering.
Since the Snowden disclosures, it has been clear that the NSA conducts unconstitutional, dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international communications. However, it now appears that the NSA is using surveillance authorities to conduct an entirely new type of surveillance: requiring major companies to conduct mass e-mail wiretaps, which involve searching the content of all incoming traffic.
Last year, Yahoo, in response to a classified government order, scanned hundreds of millions of mail accounts for a “set of characters” or digital “signature” of a communications method purportedly used by a state-sponsored terrorist organization. The search was apparently performed on all messages as they arrived at Yahoo’s servers. All of this was done without input from Yahoo’s security team, potentially placing users’ security at risk and ultimately prompting the resignation of the company’s chief security information officer.
It appears that a secret court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), approved the surveillance—or at least approved the general procedures the government used to identify its targets. There are conflicting reports on what authority the government relied on.
Unfortunately, the news stories and Yahoo’s cryptic response leave more questions than answers. Yahoo’s ability to disclose information about this classified government program may be limited. But the Obama Administration owes the public far more information about this spying program, especially if it is going to fulfill its promise of increased transparency. As a start, the Obama Administration and other major tech companies should publicly answer the following questions:
1. What authority did the government rely on in compelling Yahoo to search its customers’ emails?
The million-dollar question – which remains unanswered – is what legal authority the government relied on for its demand to Yahoo. Initial reports suggested that the government may have relied on Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a highly controversial provision enacted as an amendment to FISA in 2008. More recently, however, news reports have stated that the government obtained what is known as a “traditional” FISA order under Title I of the statute. In either scenario, the surveillance would reflect a dramatic shift in the public understanding of how these authorities are used. Title I authorizes the government to search the communications of a particular person or entity. But, if news reports are accurate, it would mean that the government is now using this law to require that companies scan the content of all users’ incoming emails.
2. What is the program’s legal justification and has it been reviewed?
Whether government is relying on Section 702 or Title I, it seems to have strayed far from the original congressional intent. What is the government’s legal justification for this type of surveillance? And, if the surveillance was authorized by the FISC, was the court aware that its order required Yahoo to search the emails of hundreds of millions of innocent users?
In the past, the government and FISC have engaged in legal gymnastics to justify mass surveillance. The public and Congress have the right to know if this is happening yet again. The Obama Administration should release all legal memoranda it relied on in conducting the Yahoo surveillance, and it should disclose any relevant FISC opinions regarding the surveillance. If no such FISC opinions exist then the public deserves to know, as that itself is cause for concern.3. What types of content searches does the government believe it has the authority to conduct under Title I and Section 702, and are past statements about these authorities still accurate?
Intelligence officials have argued that surveillance programs conducted on U.S. soil are narrowly targeted because the government searches only for specific communication identifiers (like an email address) and not for keywords (like “bomb”). But the Yahoo story suggests that even this limitation may be falling to the wayside. If Yahoo conducted a broad search of its users’ incoming email for a “set of characters” or digital “signature,” that information may have been found in the content of communications. In other words, individuals may have been targeted not based on any preexisting suspicion about who they are or who they communicate with, but based solely on what they were communicating. Moreover, it is unclear whether this “signature” was used only by the target organization, or also by other wholly unaffiliated individuals. If the intelligence community is now engaging in this type of content-based surveillance, then the Obama Administration has a responsibility to set the record straight.
4. If the government relied on Section 702, did Yahoo attempt to filter out purely domestic communications?
Section 702 does not authorize the government to collect or search purely domestic communications. However, the stories contain no details about whether Yahoo made efforts to filter out purely domestic communications, and if so, how successful those efforts were. If such efforts were not made and the surveillance occurred under Section 702, then the Obama Administration should immediately disclose the number of purely domestic communications that were collected and searched under the order so that the public can fully assess the privacy implications.
5. If the government relied on Section 702, did the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board (PCLOB) know about this type of surveillance when they conducted their examination?
In 2014, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board issued a report on Section 702. While we disagreed with many of the report’s conclusions, there is no doubt that the PCLOB declassified important information about Section 702 to facilitate a more robust debate. However, the PCLOB’s public report makes no mention of the types of demands that were purportedly received by Yahoo. If the PCLOB was unaware that this surveillance was occurring under Section 702, why were they not informed? If they knew, why was this information withheld from the public? Either way, this further calls into question the conclusions in the PCLOB report and the adequacy of existing oversight mechanisms.
6. How are other major companies interpreting their obligations under Section 702 and Title I?
Major companies like Google have issued statements saying they have never received the types of demands described in the Yahoo stories and reaffirming that they would challenge such a demand. While we applaud these companies for their statements, more information is needed to fully understand how the government is using its surveillance authorities. Specifically, we urge major technology companies to make publicly available information on how they interpret Section 702 and Title I, and to describe the types of demands that they believe clearly fall outside the statutes’ purview. In this way, companies can help to fill the information abyss left by the Yahoo story and the intelligence community’s lack of transparency.
Russia has suspended a post-Cold War deal with the US on disposal of plutonium from decommissioned nuclear warheads. The decision was explained by “the hostile actions of the US” against Russia and Washington’s failure to observe the terms of the deal.
A decree signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin cites “the radical change in the environment, a threat to strategic stability posed by the hostile actions of the US against Russia, and the inability of the US to deliver on the obligation to dispose of excessive weapons plutonium under international treaties, as well as the need to take swift action to defend Russian security” as justification for suspending the deal.
While Russia suspended the plutonium reprocessing deal, it stressed that the Russian fissile material, which was subject to it, would not be used for any military purpose, be it production of new weapons or research.
The suspension decree has come into force, but it needs to be approved by the Russian parliament, which may overrule the president’s decision. Leonid Slutsky, who’s slated to be appointed head of the Foreign Relations Committee in the newly-elected parliament, said it would be given a priority.
“It’s a very important issue. It’s about taking swift action to protect Russian national security. We will deal with it as soon as the bill is submitted,” he told TASS.
The development was not entirely surprising, since Russia earlier expressed its dissatisfaction with how the US wants to handle plutonium reprocessing.
Washington decided it would be cheaper to mix nuclear materials with special diluents. Russia insisted that the US was violating the terms of the deal, which required it to use a nuclear reactor to transmute plutonium. Unlike the mixing technology, the latter method makes the process irreversible.
The treaty between the US and Russia, which regulates how the two countries are to dispose of plutonium from nuclear warheads decommissioned as part of the parallel reduction of the two countries’ Cold War arsenals, was signed in 2000. Each country was required to dispose of over 34 tons of fissile material by turning it into so-called MOX fuel and burning it in nuclear reactors.
However, costs for building a facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, where the US was supposed to fabricate MOX fuel from its plutonium, spiraled out of control. Under the Obama administration, the US decided that it would instead use the cheaper reversible process, arguing that it was in line with the spirit of the deal with Russia.
Russia expressed its concerns over the unilateral move in April, shortly after a nuclear security summit held in the US.
“We signed an agreement that the plutonium will be processed in a certain way, for which facilities would be purpose-built,” Putin said at the time. “We have met our commitments, and constructed the necessary facilities. The US has not.”
The US rejected the criticism from Russia. The “new US method would not require renegotiation of the agreement,” US State Department spokesperson Jennifer Bavisotto said.