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How the World Ends

Baiting Russia is not good policy

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • May 24, 2016

Last week I attended a foreign policy conference in Washington that featured a number of prominent academics and former government officials who have been highly critical of the way the Bush and Obama Administrations have interacted with the rest of the world. Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago was on a panel and was asked what, in his opinion, has been the most notable foreign policy success and the most significant failure in the past twenty-five years. The success was hard to identify and there was some suggestion that it might be the balancing of relationships in strategically vital Northeast Asia, which “we have not yet screwed up.” If I had been on the panel I would have suggested the Iran nuclear agreement as a plus.

As for the leading foreign policy failure there was an easy answer, “Iraq” which was on everyone in the room’s lips, but Mearsheimer urged one not to be so hasty. In reality the Iraq disaster has killed hundreds of thousands, has cost trillions of dollars and has unleashed serious problems for the Mideast region in general while allowing the rise of ISIS, but in “realistic foreign policy terms” it has not been a catastrophic event for the United States, which had hardly been seriously injured by it apart from financially and in terms of reputation.

Mearsheimer went on to say that, in his opinion, there is a far greater disaster lurking and that is the total mismanagement of the relationship with Russia ever since the downfall of communism. He cited the drive by Washington democracy promoters to push Ukraine into the western economic and political sphere as a major miscalculation as they failed to realize or did not care that what takes place in Kiev was to Moscow a vital interest. To that observation I would add the legacy of the spoliation of Russia’s natural resources carried out by Western carpetbaggers working with local grifters turned oligarchs under Boris Yeltsin, the expansion of NATO to Russia’s doorstep initiated by Bill Clinton, and the interference in Russia’s internal affairs by the U.S. government, to include the Magnitsky Act. There have also been unnecessary slights and insults delivered along the way, to include sanctions on Russian officials and refusal to attend the Sochi Olympics, to cite only two examples.

It should also be noted that much of the negative interaction between Washington and Moscow is driven by the consensus among the western media and the inside the beltway crowd that Russia is again or perhaps is still the enemy du jour. Ironically, the increasingly negative perception of Russia is rarely justified as a reaction in defense of any identifiable serious U.S. interests, not even in the fevered minds of Senator John McCain and his supporting neocon claque. But even though the consequences of U.S. hostility towards Russia can be deadly serious, the Obama Administration is already treating Georgia and Ukraine as if they were de facto members of NATO. Hillary Clinton, who has called Vladimir Putin another Adolf Hitler, has pledged to bring about their admittance into the alliance, which would not in any way make Americans more secure, quite the contrary, as Moscow would surely be forced to react.

A number of speakers observed that while Russia is no longer a superpower in a bipolar system it is nevertheless a major international player, evident most recently in its successful intervention in Syria. Moscow has both nuclear and advanced conventional arsenals that would be able to inflict severe or even fatal damage on the United States if animosity should somehow turn to armed conflict. Given that reality, if the United States has but a single foreign policy imperative it would be to maintain a solid working relationship with Russia but somehow the hubris inspired recalibration of the U.S. role in the world post the Cold War never quite figured that out, opting instead to see Washington as the “decider” anywhere and everywhere in the world, able to use the “greatest military ever seen” to do its thinking for it. This blindness eventually led to a de facto policy of regime change in the Middle East and a turn away from détente with the Russians.

The comments of John Mearsheimer and other speakers became particularly relevant when I returned home and flipped on my computer to discover two news items. First, NATO, with Washington’s blessing, has admitted Montenegro into the alliance. I must confess that I had not thought about Montenegro very much since reading how Jay Gatsby showed narrator Nick Carraway his World War I medal from that country in chapter 4 of The Great Gatsby. But perhaps in a “Lafayette We Are Here” moment to return the favor bestowed on Gatsby, the inclusion of Montenegro now means that under Article 5 of the NATO treaty the United States is obligated to go to war to defend Montenegran territorial integrity, something that few Americans would find comprehensible. Russia, which is directly threatened by the NATO alliance even though NATO claims that that is not the case, protested to no avail.

And the second article was far, far worse. It was in The New York Times, so it must be true: “The United States Justice Department has opened an investigation into state-sponsored doping by dozens of Russia’s top athletes… The United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York is scrutinizing Russian government officials, athletes, coaches, antidoping authorities and anyone who might have benefited unfairly from a doping regimen… Prosecutors are believed to be pursuing conspiracy and fraud charges.”

Yes folks, the United States government, which has long claimed jurisdiction over any and all groups and individuals worldwide who might even implausibly be linked to terrorism is now extending its writ to athletes who take performance enhancing drugs anywhere in the world. Particularly if those athletes are Russians. Having read the article with disbelief I slapped myself in the face a couple of times just to make sure that I wasn’t imagining the whole thing but after the post-concussive vertigo abated there it was still sitting there looking back at me in black and white with a banner headline and a color photo, Justice Department Opens Investigation Into Russian Doping Scandal.

Being somewhat of a skeptic, I looked at the byline, expecting to see Judith Miller of weapons of mass destruction fame, but no it was Rebecca Ruiz. Could it be a nom de plume? I thought I might be on to something so I reread the piece more slowly second time around. How does Washington justify going after the Russkies? The article noted “In their inquiry, United States prosecutors are expected to scrutinize anyone who might have facilitated unclean competition in the United States or used the United States banking system to conduct a doping program.” The article added that some Russian athletes allegedly have run in the Boston Marathon, though they did not win, place or show. If they popped an amphetamine before using their Visa card to dine at Chuck e Cheese when sojourning in Bean Town they are toast, as the expression goes. Likewise for the handful of Russian athletes who have apparently participated in international bobsled and skeleton championships in Lake Placid, N.Y.

And of course there is a Vladimir Putin angle. The Russian sports minister, who has been implicated in the scandal, was appointed by Putin in 2008, so it’s all about Russia and Putin which makes it fair game. FBI investigators and U.S. courts are now prepared to go after Russians living in Russia for alleged crimes that may or may not have occurred in the United States based on the flimsiest of grounds to establish jurisdiction. Since much of the world’s financial dealings transit through American banks in some way or another the whole world becomes vulnerable to unpleasant encounters with the U.S. criminal justice system. If the accused choose to offer no defense to the frivolous prosecutions they will be found guilty in absentia and fined billions of dollars before having their assets seized, as happened recently to the Iranians, who had nothing to do with 9/11 but are nevertheless being hounded to prove themselves innocent.

My point is that the Russians are not exactly failing to notice what is going on. No one but Victoria Nuland and the Kagans actually want a war but Moscow is being backed into a corner with more and more influential Russian voices raised against détente with a Washington that seems to be intent on humiliating Russians at every turn as part of a new project for regime change. Many Russian military leaders have quite plausibly come to believe that the continuous NATO expansion and the stationing of more army units right along the border means that the United States wants war.

Russia’s generals base their perception on what they have very clearly and unambiguously observed. When Russia acts defensively, as it did in Georgia and Ukraine, it is accused of aggressive action, is sanctioned and punished. When the Western powers probe Russian borders with their warships and surveillance aircraft they claim that it is likewise aggression when Moscow scrambles a plane to monitor the activity. Washington in its own warped view is always behaving defensively from the purest of motives and Moscow is always in the wrong. But picture for a moment a reverse scenario to include a Russian missile cruiser lounging just outside the territorial limits off Boston or New York to imagine what the U.S. reaction might be.

Washington’s misguided policy towards Russia under both Republican and Democratic presidents indeed has the potential to become the greatest international catastrophe of all time, as Professor Mearsheimer observed. U.S. provocations and the regular promotion of a false narrative that Russia is both threatening and seeking to recreate the Soviet Union together suggest to that country’s leaders that Washington is an implacable foe. The bellicose posturing inadvertently strengthens the hands of hard line nationalists in Russia while weakening those who seek a formula for accommodation with the West. To be sure, Russia is no innocent in the international one upmanship game but it has been more sinned against than sinned. And the nearly constant animosity directed against Russia by the Obama Administration should be seen as madness as the stakes in the game, a possible nuclear war, are, or should be, unthinkable.

May 24, 2016 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Obama Accused Russia of Showing No Interest in Nuke Reduction

Sputnik – May 23, 2016

US President Barack Obama tried to show Russia in a bad light when he said that Moscow is not doing enough to reduce its stockpile of nuclear weapons, but Russia has many reasons for not accepting Washington’s initiative, Svobodnaya Pressa asserted.

“The US president mentioned Russia, but preferred not to name other members of the official nuclear club, including China, the United Kingdom and France,” the media outlet noted, pointing out that several other nations are believed to have nuclear weapons, including India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

Another major reason for Russia to keep its nukes intact involves Washington. The US has not ratified the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which bans all nuclear weapons in all environments. Moscow ratified the deal in 2000, but CTBT will only enter force when all signatories ratify it.

In addition, Moscow, according to the Svobodnaya Pressa, has to consider the funds that the US allocates for defense purposes – nearly $600 billion a year. Washington’s “gargantuan” military budget, as analyst Finian Cunningham described it, exceeds those of other big spenders, including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, the UK, Germany, Japan and India.

But this is not the whole picture – alliances and affiliations also matter.”Three of these countries [France, the UK and Germany] are NATO members, while Japan has been a longtime US ally. This means that the gap [in military spending] between the US and Russia is even wider,” the media outlet explained.

Last week, Obama told Japan’s public broadcaster NHK that “we can go further” in reducing the stockpiles of Russian and US nuclear weapons “but so far Russia has not shown its self interest in doing more.”

Russian lawmaker Vyacheslav Tetekin pointed out that the US foreign policy is “disingenuous.”

“Any disarmament initiatives launched by US hawks, who are pretending to be ‘doves of peace,’ serve merely as an instrument designed to weaken their opponents. The Pentagon is making every effort to deploy its missile defense system, upgrading its nuclear weapons. Meanwhile they are offering Moscow to stop,” he said.

Earlier this month, the US-made Aegis Ashore base became operational in Romania. The site is part of a larger initiative aimed at creating a missile shield to cover the US and Europe from Iranian ballistic missiles. Russian officials have called the system a threat to the country, as well as global security.In this context, Moscow has no other option than to keep its nukes. Defense analyst Mikhail Alexandrov noted that Russia’s “nuclear weapons guarantee the country’s national security.”

Read more: Kim Jong Un Vows to Avoid Using Nukes Unless Sovereignty Violated

May 24, 2016 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama Won’t Apologize for US Genocide on Visit to Vietnam

teleSUR | May 22, 2016

U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday headed for his first visit to Vietnam, a trip officially aimed at sealing the transformation of an old enemy into a new partner to help counter China’s growing assertiveness in the region and viewed by veteran communists in the Asian nation as an attempt by Washington to undermine their one-party rule.

However, there is no apology planned by Obama for the massive U.S. bombing of the Asian nation that killed over 3.6 million people, injured over 5 million, left close to 900,000 children orphans and turned 200,000 women into prostitutes, apart from spraying millions of hectares with highly toxic pesticides that affected over 4 million people. The U.S. intervention also left a million women widowed and 11 million people displaced.

But four decades after the Vietnam war that deeply divided opinion in America, Obama aims to boost defense and economic ties with the country’s communist rulers while also prodding them on human rights, aides say.

His visit has been preceded by a debate in Washington over whether Obama should use the three-day visit starting Monday to roll back an arms embargo on Hanoi, one of the last vestiges of wartime animosity.

That would make Beijing uncomfortable, because its government resents U.S. efforts to forge stronger military bonds with its neighbors amid rising tensions in the disputed South China Sea. But there was no immediate word of a final U.S. decision on the issue.

Vietnam’s government earlier this month said lifting the embargo would show mutual trust and that buying arms from its partners was “normal”.

Bilateral U.S.-Vietnam trade has swelled 10 times over since ties were normalized in 1995 to around US$45 billion now. Vietnam is Southeast Asia’s biggest exporter to the United States, with textiles and electronics the largest volumes.

Washington wants Vietnam to open up on the economic front and move closer militarily, including increased visits by U.S. warships and possibly access to the strategic harbor at Cam Ranh Bay, U.S. officials say.

While Vietnam wants warmer ties, some among the party’s old guard remain suspicious that the U.S. endgame is to undermine their one-party rule.

On May 27, Obama is also scheduled to visit Japan, where he is expected to visit Hiroshima. Again, he has no plans to apologize for the nuclear bombing there.

May 23, 2016 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Militarism, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Pakistan slams US drone strike reportedly killing Taliban chief

Press TV – May 22, 2016

Pakistan has denounced the US drone strike believed to have killed the Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour.

In a statement issued to the media, Pakistan’s foreign office said the drone strike was a violation of its sovereignty, adding that information about the drone strike was shared with the prime minister and the army chief after the strike.

“It may be recalled that the fifth meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) held on 18th May had reiterated that a politically negotiated settlement was the only viable option for lasting peace in Afghanistan and called upon the Taliban to give up violence and join peace talks,” the statement said.

Afghanistan’s spy agency known as National Security Directorate (NDS), senior officials in Kabul and some militant sources on Sunday confirmed that the Taliban leader was killed after the US drones targeted his vehicle in a remote area of in a remote area of south-west Pakistan, near the Afghan border, on Saturday.

On Saturday, the US Department of Defense announced in a statement that it had mounted the strike against Mansour “in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.”
File photo shows a picture of the leader of Taliban militant group, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour.

The Pentagon announced on Saturday that the operation had been authorized by President Barack Obama.

The development comes as relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been tense in recent years over the ongoing militancy.

Senior Afghan officials blame elements inside the Pakistani spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), for supporting the Taliban militants and sheltering its leadership, while Islamabad blames the Afghan government for giving shelter to the militants on its side of the border.

Moreover, senior officials in Kabul have been frustrated by what they see as Islamabad’s refusal to honor a pledge to force Taliban leaders based in Pakistan to join negotiations.

They have long blamed Pakistan for turning a blind eye to the Taliban militant group whose leadership is widely believed to be based in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar, near the border.

The Taliban has seen a string of defections ever since the news about the death of its founder and long-time leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, broke in late July 2015.

Mullah Omar died at a hospital in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi in April 2013.

Pakistan, which wields influence on the insurgent group, mediated the first round of direct peace talks between delegates from the Afghan government and the Taliban last summer, but a planned second meeting was canceled after news broke that Taliban’s founder and long-time leader Mullah Omar had died two years ago. In recent months, a four-member group comprising Afghanistan, the United States, China and Pakistan has been attempting to revive the talks.

There have also been growing differences among Taliban elements over the negotiations, with some vowing to fight for power instead of taking part in the talks.

May 22, 2016 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Obama’s US exceptionalism statements rival Hitler quotes’ – top Russian judge

RT | May 19, 2016

The chairman of the Russian Constitutional Court has said that Barack Obama’s statements about American exceptionalism were very similar to propaganda used by Nazi Germany and equally dangerous to world peace.

“The idea of specialness, exceptionality and unique rights of the American state and American people has been used in US internal political rhetoric for quite a while, but in the recent years it is being actively and persistently offered in US foreign policy documents and public speeches on international politics delivered by US officials,” Judge Valery Zorkin said at the St Petersburg international legal forum on Thursday.

“Any unbiased and educated person would see that this statement by Obama is an almost exact copy of leading politicians and propaganda specialists of the Third Reich, including Adolph Hitler… In essence, Obama is using the exact same thing that Nazi bosses said about the German exceptionalism when they started the world war,” he added.

The judge also said that in his view the exceptionalism concept had direct influence on the modern US concepts of military planning and these concepts see the main objective of all activities as reaching such degree of military might that the United States remains out of reach of other nations, on land, sea, in air and in space.

According to Zorkin, the same applies to the US doctrines on development of mass media and electronic communications – the US authorities see their goal as establishing absolute global domination of their country in the global information space. This idea also constantly appears in Obama’s public speeches.

“Obama says that Americans and the USA are an exceptional people and an exceptional state and thus they can pretend for much more than any other people or state. In other words, he follows the plot of James Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ dystopia and, while formally not rejecting the principle of equality of sovereign states and peoples, fixed by the UN Charter, he still declares that Americans and America are ‘more equal’ than any other country and the rest of the planet’s population,” RIA Novosti quoted the judge as saying.

Zorkin also told his colleague at the forum that he considered such approach to be a blatant violation of international legal norms.

Russian politicians and officials have repeatedly addressed the topic of American exceptionalism when talking on bilateral relations with the US and of international politics in general. In particular, in mid-2015 President Vladimir Putin said in his speech before the UN General Assembly that attempts to influence internal politics of sovereign nations should not be tolerated regardless of where they are taking place and who are making such attempts.

“It seems that some nations are not learning from others’ mistakes, but keep repeating them. The export of so-called ‘democratic’ revolutions continues.” Putin said.

“I cannot help asking those who have caused this situation, ‘Do you realize now what you have done?’” he said. “But I am afraid the question will hang in the air, because policies based on self-confidence and belief in one’s exceptionality and impunity have never been abandoned.”

READ MORE:

‘American exceptionalism’ hampers its war on terror – Lavrov

Violence instead of democracy: Putin slams ‘policies of exceptionalism and impunity’ in UN speech

May 19, 2016 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Illegal Occupation, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Obama’s ‘Killer’ Policies May Be Carried On by His Political Twin

By Martin Berger | New Eastern Outlook | 18.05.2016

Those American citizens that have put their trust in Barack Obama back when he was running for president must be infinitely disappointed while reading countless articles about Obama’s actual policies. These are not just failures, but incredibly deadly ones.

For instance, Forbes would note that from 1999 to 2014 the suicide rate in the United States went up by 24%, while among certain ethnic and demographic sub-groups the situation looks even more surreal. For instance, over the same time period, Native American women saw an increase in suicide of 89%. America’s current level of suicide is abnormally high and it’s a huge change from the not too distant past. And Russia has nothing to do with it, even though the rule of thumb in Washington today is to push blame on it for every single thing that goes wrong. President Barack has even stated that global crises such as Ebola, ISIS and Russian aggression have made the world spin so fast, nobody is able to control it.

The The New York Post would note:

Middle-aged people laid off and unable to find work are taking another way out They’re killing themselves.. Especially in economically depressed states. People in need of work are twice as likely to take their own lives as employed people, and people fired in their 40s and 50s find it hardest to get hired again. That makes boosting economic growth a life-or-death issue for many. But you would not know it listening to President Obama and Hillary Clinton. President Obama whitewashes reality, claiming the “American economy is pretty darn good right now. “False. The Obama economy is stalled.

In his article for The Washington Post American historian David Mereniss underlined that President Obama came to office with the goal of changing “the trajectory of America”. However, he failed to keep his promises. In the end, this will be Obama’s enduring domestic legacy.

Obama’s rise to power was facilitated by the promise he made to stop US wars, but has he fulfilled this promise? The Atlantic reminds us than when Barack Obama first entered the White House, with George W. Bush’s long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ongoing, he stated that “he was not seeking new dragons to slay.” Instead he elected to scale back America’s commitments overseas and shift responsibilities to allies. But you could be forgiven for thinking the dragons have stubbornly remained, and even multiplied, on Obama’s watch.

During Obama’s time in office the US military would have allocated more money to war-related initiatives than it did under Bush: 866 billion dollars under Obama. Obama has unleashed 372 drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Pakistan, according to data gathered by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 112 strikes in Yemen and 19 in Somalia. In fiscal year 2014, US special-operations forces were deployed to 133 countries, or roughly 70 percent of the entire world. The size of SOCOM has expanded by almost 25 percent since Obama took office.

In turn, Hillary Clinton is eager to urge the US to carry on its militaristic policies, so it’s no wonder that Obama has recently made a joke at his final correspondents’ dinner that he can see Hillary Clinton in his seat.

In Obama’s term, the US national debt increased by 8.3 trillion dollars, according to a new report released by the US Treasury. The debt of the federal government increased by 8,314,529,850,339.07 dollars in President Barack Obama’s first seven years in office, according to official data published by the US Treasury. That 13,213,630,160,947.51 dollars increase in the debt during the Bush-Obama years equals 112,219.57 dollars for each of the 117,748,000 households that were in the country as of September. When Obama completed his seventh year in office, the federal debt was 18,941,406,899,252.15 dollars.

It’s therefore not surprising that The Huffington Post would note a bitter split within American society. It would note:

Republicans and Democrats may as well have been living in different countries for the past eight years. When President Barack Obama delivered his final State of the Union address, he was speaking to two very different countries. One of them he leaves happier and better off than it was when he started his tenure in the White House nearly eight years ago, with an improving economy and a dominant international position. The other is, by almost every measure, worse.

A majority of Democrats in a new HuffPost poll say that since Obama took office, their own lives have improved, the economy has gotten better and the United States has retained its role as the most powerful nation on Earth. Republicans disagree on all three points. The partisan divide over the president’s legacy, and the direction of the country as a whole, transcends all other demographic lines, far outstripping age, race, region or income level. the only real point of agreement between the parties, in fact, is the near-universal sentiment that partisanship has worsened over the past eight years.

Therefore, one shouldn’t view US elections as a new prime time reality show, as it is being presented to us by the establishment, since it remains eager to replace Barack Obama with Hillary Clinton. But we shouldn’t forget that the influential alternative media source the Global Research has described Hillary Clinton as Barack Obama’s political twin for a reason, since she’s devoted to the ideas of American expansionism and militarism.

The presidential elections should serve as an emergency brake for those Americans that have somehow survived Obama’s killer policies. Those who are still able to elect a true leader that would be able to mend American society and raise the international prestige of the US, instead of carrying on the irresponsible policies that may destroy America along with the better part of this world.

May 19, 2016 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Economics, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Crosstalk: Syria Lessons

RT | May 18, 2016

The Obama administration again says it supports the peace process to end the Syrian proxy war. However, there is still the demand for a political transition defined by Washington. And this demand is backed up by threats. Has this conflict entered a new stage for Syria and the region?
CrossTalking with Mohammad Marandi, Richard Weitz, and Kevork Almassian.

May 18, 2016 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Illegal Occupation, Video, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

US Agenda in Syria Is War, Not Peace

By Stephen Lendman | May 18, 2016

Syria is Obama’s war, complicit with Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. It objective remains regime change, wanting Syrian sovereign independence destroyed, the nation transformed into another US vassal state.

John Kerry and other US policymakers maintain the pretense of wanting things resolved diplomatically – preventing it by undermining three rounds of Geneva talks since 2012.

Conflict resolution is as simple as America and its rogue allies ending support for ISIS and other terrorist groups. They can’t exist without it.

Instead, escalated support looks likely, Washington’s strategy of choice. Following Tuesday’s Russia/US co-chaired International Syria Support Group (ISSG) meeting in Vienna, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said Assad has “two choices.”

“(E)ither he will be removed through the political process or… by force. We believe” the latter choice should have been implemented “a long time ago.”

He suggested escalated conflict ahead. Rogue Western and regional officials demanding Assad must go runs counter to fundamental international law.

Syrians alone may decide who’ll lead them. Assad remains overwhelmingly popular for good reason. He’s holding Syria together during its most troubled time in memory.

John Kerry left no doubt where Washington stands, insisting on illegitimate political transition. The vast majority of Syrians reject it.

Saying “(n)o one can be remotely satisfied with the situation in Syria’s” ignores the Obama administration’s full responsibility for over five years of US naked aggression against a nonbelligerent sovereign state.

Tuesday’s meeting like numerous earlier ones accomplished nothing. Endless war rages. Ceasefire is pure fantasy. Peace talks collapsed with no agreed date on another round.

Peaceful conflict resolution remains unattainable because Washington rejects it. US warplanes continue attacking Syrian infrastructure and government sites on the phony pretext of combating ISIS.

Growing numbers of US and allied combat troops operate in northern Syria, aiding terrorists wage war on government forces while claiming otherwise.

Russia’s diplomatic efforts failed. Washington continues undermining them. It wants Syria transformed into another US vassal state.

The longer US policymakers obstruct peaceful conflict resolution, the greater the risk of direct confrontation with Russia.

Things seem headed in this direction. The possibility should scare everyone. Moscow calls combating terrorism its top priority in Syria.

Washington supports what Russia opposes. An inevitable clash of civilizations looms.


Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. His new book as editor and contributor is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.

May 18, 2016 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Poof! It’s Forgotten

Five Ways the Newest Story in Iraq and Syria is… That There Is No New Story

By Peter Van Buren | TomDispatch | May 15, 2016

One of the most popular apps these days is Snapchat. It allows the sender to set a timer for any photo dispatched via the app, so that a few seconds after the recipient opens the message, the photo is automatically deleted. The evidence of what you did at that party last night is seen and then disappears. POOF!

I hope you’ll forgive me if I suggest that the Iraq-Syria War against the Islamic State (ISIS) is being conveyed to us via Snapchat. Important things happen, they appear in front of us, and then… POOF!… they’re gone. No one seems to remember them. Who cares that they’ve happened at all, when there’s a new snap already arriving for your attention? As with most of what flows through the real Snapchat, what’s of some interest at first makes no difference in the long run.

Just because we now have terrifyingly short memories does not, however, mean that things did not happen. Despite the POOF! effect, events that genuinely mattered when it comes to the region in which Washington has, since the 1980s, been embroiled in four wars, actually did occur last week, last month, a war or two ago, or, in some cases, more than half a century in the past. What follows are just some of the things we’ve forgotten that couldn’t matter more.

It’s a Limited Mission — POOF!

Perhaps General David Petraeus’s all-time sharpest comment came in the earliest days of Iraq War 2.0. “Tell me how this ends,” he said, referring to the Bush administration’s invasion. At the time, he was already worried that there was no endgame.

That question should be asked daily in Washington. It and the underlying assumption that there must be a clear scope and duration to America’s wars are too easily forgotten. It took eight long years until the last American combat troops were withdrawn from Iraq. Though there were no ticker tape parades or iconic photos of sailors smooching their gals in Times Square in 2011, the war was indeed finally over and Barack Obama’s campaign promise fulfilled…

Until, of course, it wasn’t, and in 2014 the same president restarted the war, claiming that a genocide against the Yazidis, a group hitherto unknown to most of us and since largely forgotten, was in process. Air strikes were authorized to support a “limited” rescue mission. Then, more — limited — American military power was needed to stop the Islamic State from conquering Iraq. Then more air strikes, along with limited numbers of military advisers and trainers, were sure to wrap things up, and somehow, by May 2016, the U.S. has 5,400 military personnel, including Special Operations forces, on the ground across Iraq and Syria, with expectations that more would soon be needed, even as a massive regional air campaign drags on. That’s how Washington’s wars seem to go these days, with no real debate, no Congressional declaration, just, if we’re lucky, a news item announcing what’s happened.

Starting wars under murky circumstances and then watching limited commitments expand exponentially is by now so ingrained in America’s global strategy that it’s barely noticed. Recall, for instance, those weapons of mass destruction that justified George W. Bush’s initial invasion of Iraq, the one that turned into eight years of occupation and “nation-building”? Or to step a couple of no-less-forgettable years further into the past, bring to mind the 2001 U.S. mission that was to quickly defeat the ragged Taliban and kill Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. That’s now heading into its 16th year as the situation there only continues to disintegrate.

For those who prefer an even more forgotten view of history, America’s war in Vietnam kicked into high gear thanks to then-President Lyndon Johnson’s false claim about an attack on American warships in the Gulf of Tonkin. The early stages of that war followed a path somewhat similar to the one on which we now seem to be staggering along in Iraq War 3.0 — from a limited number of advisers to the full deployment of almost all the available tools of war.

Or for those who like to look ahead, the U.S. has just put troops back on the ground in Yemen, part of what the Pentagon is describing as “limited support” for the U.S.-backed war the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates launched in that country.

The new story is also the old story: just as you can’t be a little pregnant, the mission never really turns out to be “limited,” and if Washington doesn’t know where the exit is, it’s going to be trapped yet again inside its own war, spinning in unpredictable and disturbing directions.

No Boots on the Ground — POOF!

Having steadfastly maintained since the beginning of Iraq War 3.0 that it would never put “American boots on the ground,” the Obama administration has deepened its military campaign against the Islamic State by increasing the number of Special Operations forces in Syria from 50 to 300. The administration also recently authorized the use of Apache attack helicopters, long stationed in Iraq to protect U.S. troops, as offensive weapons.

American advisers are increasingly involved in actual fighting in Iraq, even as the U.S. deployed B-52 bombers to an air base in Qatar before promptly sending them into combat over Iraq and Syria. Another group of Marines was dispatched to help defend the American Embassy in Baghdad after the Green Zone, in the heart of that city, was recently breached by masses of protesters. Of all those moves, at least some have to qualify as “boots on the ground.”

The word play involved in maintaining the official no-boots fiction has been a high-wire act. Following the loss of an American in Iraqi Kurdistan recently, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter labeled it a “combat death.” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest then tried to explain how an American who was not on a combat mission could be killed in combat. “He was killed, and he was killed in combat. But that was not part of his mission,” Earnest told reporters.

Much more quietly, the U.S. surged — “surge” being the replacement word for the Vietnam-era “escalate” — the number of private contractors working in Iraq; their ranks have grown eight-fold over the past year, to the point where there are an estimated 2,000 of them working directly for the Department of Defense and 5,800 working for the Department of State inside Iraq. And don’t be too sanguine about those State Department contractors. While some of them are undoubtedly cleaning diplomatic toilets and preparing elegant receptions, many are working as military trainers, paramilitary police advisers, and force protection personnel. Even some aircraft maintenance crews and CIA paramilitaries fall under the State Department’s organizational chart.

The new story in Iraq and Syria when it comes to boots on the ground is the old story: air power alone has never won wars, advisers and trainers never turn out to be just that, and for every soldier in the fight you need five or more support people behind him.

We’re Winning — POOF!

We’ve been winning in Iraq for some time now — a quarter-century of successes, from 1991’s triumphant Operation Desert Storm to 2003’s soaring Mission Accomplished moment to just about right now in the upbeat third iteration of America’s Iraq wars. But in each case, in a Snapchat version of victory, success has never seemed to catch on.

At the end of April, for instance, Army Colonel Steve Warren, a U.S. military spokesperson, hailed the way American air power had set fire to $500 million of ISIS’s money, actual cash that its militants had apparently forgotten to disperse or hide in some reasonable place. He was similarly positive about other recent gains, including the taking of the Iraqi city of Hit, which, he swore, was “a linchpin for ISIL.” In this, he echoed the language used when ISIS-occupied Ramadi (and Baiji and Sinjar and…) fell, language undoubtedly no less useful when the next town is liberated. In the same fashion, USA Today quoted an anonymous U.S. official as saying that American actions had cut ISIS’s oil revenues by an estimated 50%, forcing them to ration fuel in some areas, while cutting pay to its fighters and support staff.

Only a month ago, National Security Adviser Susan Rice let us know that, “day by day, mile by mile, strike by strike, we are making substantial progress. Every few days, we’re taking out another key ISIL leader, hampering ISIL’s ability to plan attacks or launch new offensives.” She even cited a poll indicating that nearly 80% of young Muslims across the Middle East are strongly opposed to that group and its caliphate.

In the early spring, Brett McGurk, U.S. special envoy to the global coalition to counter the Islamic State, took to Twitter to assure everyone that “terrorists are now trapped and desperate on Mosul fronts.” Speaking at a security forum I attended, retired general Chuck Jacoby, the last multinational force commander for Iraq 2.0, described another sign of progress, insisting that Iraq today is a “maturing state.” On the same panel, Douglas Ollivant, a member of former Iraq commander General David Petraeus’s “brain trust of warrior-intellectuals,” talked about “streams of hope” in Iraq.

Above all, however, there is one sign of success often invoked in relation to the war in Iraq and Syria: the body count, an infamous supposed measure of success in the Vietnam War. Washington spokespeople regularly offer stunning figures on the deaths of ISIS members, claiming that 10,000 to 25,000 Islamic State fighters have been wiped out via air strikes. The CIA has estimated that, in 2014, the Islamic State had only perhaps 20,000 to 30,000 fighters under arms. If such victory statistics are accurate, somewhere between a third and all of them should now be gone.

Other U.S. intelligence reports, clearly working off a different set of data, suggest that there once were more than 30,000 foreign fighters in the Islamic State’s ranks. Now, the Pentagon tells us, the flow of new foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria has been staunched, dropping over the past year from roughly 2,000 to 200 a month, further incontrovertible proof of the Islamic State’s declining stature. One anonymous American official typically insisted: “We’re actually a little bit ahead of where we wanted to be.”

Yet despite success after American success, ISIS evidently isn’t broke, or running out of fighters, or too desperate to stay in the fray, and despite all the upbeat news there are few signs of hope in the Iraqi body politic or its military.

The new story is again a very old story: when you have to repeatedly explain how much you’re winning, you’re likely not winning much of anything at all.

It’s Up to the Iraqis — POOF!

From the early days of Iraq War 2.0, one key to success for Washington has been assigning the Iraqis a to-do list based on America’s foreign policy goals. They were to hold decisive elections, write a unifying Constitution, take charge of their future, share their oil with each other, share their government with each other, and then defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq, and later, the Islamic State.

As each item failed to get done properly, it became the Iraqis’ fault that Washington hadn’t achieved its goals. A classic example was “the surge” of 2007, when the Bush administration sent in a significant number of additional troops to whip the Iraqis into shape and just plain whip al-Qaeda, and so open up the space for Shiites and Sunnis to come together in an American-sponsored state of national unity. The Iraqis, of course, screwed up the works with their sectarian politics and so lost the stunning potential gains in freedom we had won them, leaving the Americans heading for the exit.

In Iraq War 3.0, the Obama administration again began shuffling leaders in Baghdad to suit its purposes, helping force aside once-golden boy Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and pushing forward new golden boy Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to — you guessed it — unify Iraq. “Today, Iraqis took another major step forward in uniting their country,” National Security Adviser Susan Rice said as Abadi took office.

Of course, unity did not transpire, thanks to Abadi, not us. “It would be disastrous,” editorialized the New York Times, “if Americans, Iraqis, and their partners were to succeed in the military campaign against the Islamic State only to have the politicians in Baghdad squander another chance to build a better future.” The Times added: “More than 13 years since Saddam Hussein’s overthrow, there’s less and less reason to be optimistic.”

The latest Iraqi “screw-up” came on April 30th, when dissident Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr’s supporters broke into the previously sacrosanct Green Zone established by the Americans in Iraq War 2.0 and stormed Iraq’s parliament. Sadr clearly remembers his history better than most Americans. In 2004, he emboldened his militias, then fighting the U.S. military, by reminding them of how irregular forces had defeated the Americans in Vietnam. This time, he was apparently diplomatic enough not to mention that Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese 41 years ago on the day of the Green Zone incursion.

Sadr’s supporters crossed into the enclave to protest Prime Minister Abadi’s failure to reform a disastrous government, rein in corruption (you can buy command of an entire army division and plunder its budget indefinitely for about $2 million), and provide basic services like water and electricity to Baghdadis. The tens of billions of dollars that U.S. officials spent “reconstructing” Iraq during the American occupation of 2003 to 2011 were supposed to make such services effective, but did not.

And anything said about Iraqi governmental failures might be applied no less accurately to the Iraqi army.

Despite the estimated $26 billion the U.S. spent training and equipping that military between 2003 and 2011, whole units broke, shed their uniforms, ditched their American equipment, and fled when faced with relatively small numbers of ISIS militants in June 2014, abandoning four northern cities, including Mosul. This, of course, created the need for yet more training, the ostensible role of many of the U.S. troops now in Iraq. Since most of the new Iraqi units are still only almost ready to fight, however, those American ground troops and generals and Special Operations forces and forward air controllers and planners and logistics personnel and close air support pilots are still needed for the fight to come.

The inability of the U.S. to midwife a popularly supported government or a confident citizen’s army, Washington’s twin critical failures of Iraq War 2.0, may once again ensure that its latest efforts implode. Few Iraqis are left who imagine that the U.S. can be an honest broker in their country. A recent State Department report found that one-third of Iraqis believe the United States is actually supporting ISIS, while 40% are convinced that the United States is trying to destabilize Iraq for its own purposes.

The new story is again the old story: corrupt governments imposed by an outside power fail. And in the Iraq case, every problem that can’t be remedied by aerial bombardment and Special Forces must be the Iraqis’ fault.

Same Leadership, Same Results — POOF!

With the last four presidents all having made war in Iraq, and little doubt that the next president will dive in, keep another forgotten aspect of Washington’s Iraq in mind: some of the same American leadership figures have been in place under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and they will initially still be in place when Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump enters the Oval Office.

Start with Brett McGurk, the current special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIS. His résumé is practically a Wikipedia page for America’s Iraq, 2003-2016: Deputy Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran from August 2013 until his current appointment. Before that, Senior Advisor in the State Department for Iraq, a special advisor to the National Security Staff, Senior Advisor to Ambassadors to Iraq Ryan Crocker, Christopher Hill, and James Jeffrey. McGurk participated in President Obama’s 2009 review of Iraq policy and the transition following the U.S. military departure from Iraq. During the Bush administration, McGurk served as Director for Iraq, then as Special Assistant to the President, and also Senior Director for Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2008 McGurk was the lead negotiator with the Iraqi Government on both a long-term Strategic Framework Agreement and a Security Agreement to govern the presence of U.S. forces. He was also one of the chief Washington-based architects of The Surge, having earlier served as a legal advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority from nearly the first shots of 2003.

A little lower down the chain of command is Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland.  He is now leading Sunni “tribal coordination” to help defeat ISIS, as well as serving as commanding general of the Combined Joint Task Force. As a colonel back in 2006, MacFarland similarly helped organize the surge’s Anbar Sunni Awakening movement against al-Qaeda in Iraq.

And on the ground level, you can be sure that some of the current colonels were majors in Iraq War 2.0, and some of their subordinates put their boots on the same ground they’re on now.

In other words, the new story is the old story: some of the same people have been losing this war for Washington since 2003, with neither accountability nor culpability in play.

What If They Gave a War and No One Remembered?

All those American memories lost to oblivion. Such forgetfulness only allows our war makers to do yet more of the same things in Iraq and Syria, acts that someone on the ground will be forced to remember forever, perhaps under the shadow of a drone overhead.

Placing our service people in harm’s way, spending our money in prodigious amounts, and laying the country’s credibility on the line once required at least the pretext that some national interest was at stake. Not any more. Anytime some group we don’t like threatens a group we care not so much about, the United States must act to save a proud people, stop a humanitarian crisis, take down a brutal leader, put an end to genocide, whatever will briefly engage the public and spin up some vague facsimile of war fever.

But back to Snapchat. It turns out that while the app was carefully designed to make whatever is transmitted quickly disappear, some clever folks have since found ways to preserve the information. If only the same could be said of our Snapchat wars. How soon we forget. Until the next time…


Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during the “reconstruction” of Iraq in his book We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. He writes about current events at We Meant Well. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent. His next work will be a novel, Hooper’s War.

May 17, 2016 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

North Korea, Following China and India, Pledges No-First-Use of Nuclear Weapons–So Could Obama

By John Laforge | CounterPunch | May 16, 2016

North Korea’s May 7 declaration that it would not be first to use nuclear weapons was met with official derision instead of relief and applause. Not one report of the announcement I could find noted that the United States has never made such a no-first-use pledge. None of three dozen news accounts even mentioned that North Korea hasn’t got one usable nuclear warhead. The New York Times did admit, “US and South Korean officials doubted that North Korea has developed a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile that would deliver a nuclear payload to the continental United States.”

Nuclear “first use” means either a nuclear sneak attack or the escalation from conventional mass destruction to the use of nuclear warheads, and presidents have threatened it as many as 15 times. In the build-up to the 1991 Persian Gulf bombing, US officials including then Def. Sec. Dick Cheney and Sec. of State James Baker publicly and repeatedly hinted that the US might use nuclear weapons. In the midst of the bombardment, Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., and syndicated columnist Cal Thomas both explicitly promoted nuclear war on Iraq.

In April 1996, President Bill Clinton’s deputy Defense Secretary Herald Smith publicly threatened to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear Libya — which was a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty — for allegedly building a secret weapons plant. When Clinton’s Defense Secretary William J. Perry was questioned about this threat he repeated it, saying, “[W]e would not forswear that possibility.” (The Nonproliferation Treaty forbids a nuclear attack on other state parties.)

In “Presidential Policy Directive 60” (PD 60) of Nov. 1997, Clinton made public the nuclear first use intentions of his war planners. US H-bombs were now being aimed at nations identified by the State Department to be “rogues.” PD 60 alarmingly lowered the threshold against nuclear attack possibilities. The Clinton doctrine “would allow the US to launch nuclear weapons in response to the use of chemical or biological weapons,” the Los Angeles and New York Times reported. (Arguing that we need H-bombs to deter chemical attacks is like saying we need nuclear reactors to boil water.) Throwing deterrence policy under the bus, Clinton then “ordered that the military … reserve the right to use nuclear arms first, even before the detonation of an enemy warhead.”

Clinton’s order was an imperious rebuke to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) — the nation’s highest scientific advisory group — which recommended six months earlier, on June 18, 1997, that the US, “declare that it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in war or crisis.” In April 1998, Clinton’s US Embassy reps in Moscow coldly refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons against Iraq, saying, “… we do not rule out in advance any capability available to us.”

Again, in January and February 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell and White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer declined to explicitly exclude nuclear weapons as an option in a war on Iraq, saying US policy was not to rule anything out, Wade Boese of the Arms Control Association reported. Additionally, Def. Sec. Donald Rumsfeld said at a Feb. 13 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that official policy dictated that the US, “… not foreclose the possible use of nuclear weapons if attacked.”

Putting an end to these ultimate bomb scares would bring US action in line with Presidential speechifying which has regularly denounced “nuclear terrorism.” An international agreement on “non-nuclear immunity,” adopted by five nuclear-armed states May 11, 1995, has not quelled charges of hypocrisy made against them. The pact is full of exceptions – e.g., PD 60 — and is nonbinding. Only China has made this unequivocal pledge: “At no time and under no circumstances will China be the first to use nuclear weapons and [China] undertakes unconditionally not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries and nuclear-free zones.” India has made a similar no-first-use promise.

A formal US renunciation of first use would let cooler heads prevail by ending the debate over so-called “threshold” use of the Bomb. It would also end the blatant public duplicity of proclaiming that nuclear weapons are only for deterrence while preparing for attacks “before the detonation of an enemy warhead.”

Pledging “no first use” would save billions of dollars in research, development and production, as well as the cost of maintaining first-strike systems: B61 H-bombs, Trident submarine warheads, Cruise and land-based missile warheads.

Significantly, nuclear war planners who have used their first-strike “master card” believe they were successful — the way a robber can get a bag of cash using a loaded gun but without pulling the trigger. They want to keep their ghastly “ace” up their sleeve, and they have manufactured a heavy stigma against formally renouncing nuclear first use, since to do so might further call into question the official “winning” reasons for having tested radiation bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

The US should embrace China’s unambiguous language and promise never to use nuclear weapons first or against non-nuclear states. If President Obama wants to ease world tensions without apologizing for Hiroshima when he visits the iconic city, he could replace Clinton’s presidential directive with his own, declaring that the US will never again be the first to go nuclear.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

May 16, 2016 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Escalations in a New Cold War

By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | May 14, 2016

If the United States ever ends up stumbling into a major conventional or nuclear war with Russia, the culprit will likely be two military boondoggles that refused to die when their primary mission ended with the demise of the Soviet Union: NATO and the U.S. anti-ballistic missile (ABM) program.

The “military-industrial complex” that reaps hundreds of billions of dollars annually from support of those programs got a major boost this week when NATO established its first major missile defense site at an air base in Romania, with plans to build a second installation in Poland by 2018.

Although NATO and Pentagon spokesmen claim the ABM network in Eastern Europe is aimed at Iran, Russia isn’t persuaded for a minute. “This is not a defense system,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday. “This is part of U.S. nuclear strategic potential brought [to] . . . Eastern Europe. . . Now, as these elements of ballistic missile defense are deployed, we are forced to think how to neutralize emerging threats to the Russian Federation.”

Iran doesn’t yet have missiles capable of striking Europe, nor does it have any interest in targeting Europe. The missiles it does have are notoriously inaccurate. Their inability to hit a target reliably might not matter so much if tipped with nuclear warheads, but Iran is abiding by its stringently verified agreement to dismantle programs and capabilities that could allow it to develop nuclear weapons.

The ABM system currently deployed in Europe is admittedly far too small today to threaten Russia’s nuclear deterrent. In fact, ABM technology is still unreliable, despite America’s investment of more than $100 billion in R&D.

Nonetheless, it’s a threat Russia cannot ignore. No U.S. military strategist would sit still for long if Russia began ringing the United States with such systems. That’s why the United States and Russia limited them by treaty — until President George W. Bush terminated the pact in 2002.

President Reagan’s famous 1983 “Star Wars” ABM initiative was based on a theory developed by advisers Colin Gray and Keith Payne in a 1980 article titled “Victory is Possible”: that a combination of superior nuclear weapons, civil defense programs, and ballistic missile defenses could allow the United States to “prevail” in a prolonged nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

Such nuclear superiority, Gray argued, could back up “very large American expeditionary forces” fighting in a future conflict “around the periphery of Asia.” By limiting damage to the U.S. homeland, missile defenses would neutralize Russia’s nuclear deterrent and help the United States “succeed in the prosecution of local conflict . . . and — if need be — to expand a war.”

Gray published that latter observation in a 1984 volume edited by Ashton Carter, who as President Obama’s Secretary of Defense now champions the new missile shield in Europe. So it should come as little wonder that Moscow is going all out these days in a sometimes ugly campaign to remind the world of its nuclear potency, lest NATO take advantage of Russia’s perceived weakness.

Russian Tough Talk

Moscow spokesmen have warned that Romania could become a “smoking ruins” if it continues to host the new anti-missile site; threatened Denmark, Norway and Poland that they too could become targets of attack; and announced development of a new generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to penetrate the U.S. missile shield.

Secretary Carter responded this month that “Moscow’s nuclear saber-rattling raises troubling questions about . . .  whether they respect the profound caution that nuclear-age leaders showed with regard to brandishing nuclear weapons” — even as he announced new details of a $3.4 billion military buildup to support NATO’s combat capabilities.

U.S. military leaders say they are drawing up even bigger funding requests to send more troops and military hardware to Eastern Europe, and to pay for new “investments in space systems, cyber weapons, and ballistic missile defense designed to check a resurgent Russia.”

Speaking in February at security conference in Munich, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called for an end to such confrontation, noting that “almost every day [NATO leaders] call Russia the main threat for NATO, Europe, the U.S. and other countries. It makes me wonder if we are in 2016 or in 1962.”

But stepped-up conflict comes as a godsend to the Pentagon and its contractors, which only a few years ago faced White House plans for major cutbacks in funding and troop strength in Europe. It allows them to maintain — and increase — military spending levels that today are greater than they were during the height of the Cold War.

U.S. and other NATO leaders justify their buildup by pointing to Russia’s allegedly aggressive behavior — “annexing” Crimea and sending “volunteers” to Eastern Ukraine. They conveniently neglect the blatant coup d’état in Kiev that triggered the Ukraine crisis by driving an elected, Russian-friendly government from power in February 2014. They also neglect the long and provocative record of NATO expansion toward Russia’s borders after the fall of the Soviet Union, contrary to the pledges of Western leaders in 1990.

That expansion was championed by the aptly named Committee to Expand NATO, a hot-bed of neoconservatives and Hillary Clinton advisers led by Bruce Jackson, then vice president for planning and strategy at Lockheed Martin, the country’s largest military contractor. In 2008, NATO vowed to bring Ukraine — the largest country on Russia’s western border — into the Western military alliance.

Cold War Warnings

George Kennan, the dean of U.S. diplomats during the Cold War, predicted in 1997 that NATO’s reckless expansion could only lead to “a new Cold War, probably ending in a hot one, and the end of the effort to achieve a workable democracy in Russia.”

Last year, former Secretary of Defense William Perry warned that we “are on the brink of a new nuclear arms race,” with all the vast expense — and dangers of a global holocaust — of its Cold War predecessor.

And just this month, President Obama’s own former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned that NATO’s plans to deploy four battalions to the Baltic States could result “very quickly in another Cold War buildup here, that really makes no sense for either side.”

If “we continue to build up the eastern flank of NATO, with more battalions, more exercises, and more ships and more platforms,” he told an audience at the Atlantic Council, “the Russians will respond. I’m not sure where that takes you.”

Nobody knows where it takes us, and that’s the problem. It could take us all too easily from small provocations to a series of escalations by each side to show they mean business. And given the trip-wire effect of nuclear weapons stored on NATO’s soil, the danger of escalation to nuclear war is entirely real.

As foreign policy expert Jeffrey Taylor commented recently, “The Obama administration is setting the stage for endless confrontation, and possibly even war, with Russia, and with no public debate.”

Returning to the days of the Cold War will buy less security and more danger. As President Obama contemplates what he will say about the lessons of nuclear war in Hiroshima, he should fundamentally reconsider his own policies that threaten many more Hiroshimas.

May 15, 2016 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Escalations in a New Cold War

By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | May 14, 2016

If the United States ever ends up stumbling into a major conventional or nuclear war with Russia, the culprit will likely be two military boondoggles that refused to die when their primary mission ended with the demise of the Soviet Union: NATO and the U.S. anti-ballistic missile (ABM) program.

The “military-industrial complex” that reaps hundreds of billions of dollars annually from support of those programs got a major boost this week when NATO established its first major missile defense site at an air base in Romania, with plans to build a second installation in Poland by 2018.

Although NATO and Pentagon spokesmen claim the ABM network in Eastern Europe is aimed at Iran, Russia isn’t persuaded for a minute. “This is not a defense system,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday. “This is part of U.S. nuclear strategic potential brought [to] . . . Eastern Europe. . . Now, as these elements of ballistic missile defense are deployed, we are forced to think how to neutralize emerging threats to the Russian Federation.”

Iran doesn’t yet have missiles capable of striking Europe, nor does it have any interest in targeting Europe. The missiles it does have are notoriously inaccurate. Their inability to hit a target reliably might not matter so much if tipped with nuclear warheads, but Iran is abiding by its stringently verified agreement to dismantle programs and capabilities that could allow it to develop nuclear weapons.

The ABM system currently deployed in Europe is admittedly far too small today to threaten Russia’s nuclear deterrent. In fact, ABM technology is still unreliable, despite America’s investment of more than $100 billion in R&D.

Nonetheless, it’s a threat Russia cannot ignore. No U.S. military strategist would sit still for long if Russia began ringing the United States with such systems. That’s why the United States and Russia limited them by treaty — until President George W. Bush terminated the pact in 2002.

President Reagan’s famous 1983 “Star Wars” ABM initiative was based on a theory developed by advisers Colin Gray and Keith Payne in a 1980 article titled “Victory is Possible”: that a combination of superior nuclear weapons, civil defense programs, and ballistic missile defenses could allow the United States to “prevail” in a prolonged nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

Such nuclear superiority, Gray argued, could back up “very large American expeditionary forces” fighting in a future conflict “around the periphery of Asia.” By limiting damage to the U.S. homeland, missile defenses would neutralize Russia’s nuclear deterrent and help the United States “succeed in the prosecution of local conflict . . . and — if need be — to expand a war.”

Gray published that latter observation in a 1984 volume edited by Ashton Carter, who as President Obama’s Secretary of Defense now champions the new missile shield in Europe. So it should come as little wonder that Moscow is going all out these days in a sometimes ugly campaign to remind the world of its nuclear potency, lest NATO take advantage of Russia’s perceived weakness.

Russian Tough Talk

Moscow spokesmen have warned that Romania could become a “smoking ruins” if it continues to host the new anti-missile site; threatened Denmark, Norway and Poland that they too could become targets of attack; and announced development of a new generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to penetrate the U.S. missile shield.

Secretary Carter responded this month that “Moscow’s nuclear saber-rattling raises troubling questions about . . .  whether they respect the profound caution that nuclear-age leaders showed with regard to brandishing nuclear weapons” — even as he announced new details of a $3.4 billion military buildup to support NATO’s combat capabilities.

U.S. military leaders say they are drawing up even bigger funding requests to send more troops and military hardware to Eastern Europe, and to pay for new “investments in space systems, cyber weapons, and ballistic missile defense designed to check a resurgent Russia.”

Speaking in February at security conference in Munich, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called for an end to such confrontation, noting that “almost every day [NATO leaders] call Russia the main threat for NATO, Europe, the U.S. and other countries. It makes me wonder if we are in 2016 or in 1962.”

But stepped-up conflict comes as a godsend to the Pentagon and its contractors, which only a few years ago faced White House plans for major cutbacks in funding and troop strength in Europe. It allows them to maintain — and increase — military spending levels that today are greater than they were during the height of the Cold War.

U.S. and other NATO leaders justify their buildup by pointing to Russia’s allegedly aggressive behavior — “annexing” Crimea and sending “volunteers” to Eastern Ukraine. They conveniently neglect the blatant coup d’état in Kiev that triggered the Ukraine crisis by driving an elected, Russian-friendly government from power in February 2014. They also neglect the long and provocative record of NATO expansion toward Russia’s borders after the fall of the Soviet Union, contrary to the pledges of Western leaders in 1990.

That expansion was championed by the aptly named Committee to Expand NATO, a hot-bed of neoconservatives and Hillary Clinton advisers led by Bruce Jackson, then vice president for planning and strategy at Lockheed Martin, the country’s largest military contractor. In 2008, NATO vowed to bring Ukraine — the largest country on Russia’s western border — into the Western military alliance.

Cold War Warnings

George Kennan, the dean of U.S. diplomats during the Cold War, predicted in 1997 that NATO’s reckless expansion could only lead to “a new Cold War, probably ending in a hot one, and the end of the effort to achieve a workable democracy in Russia.”

Last year, former Secretary of Defense William Perry warned that we “are on the brink of a new nuclear arms race,” with all the vast expense — and dangers of a global holocaust — of its Cold War predecessor.

And just this month, President Obama’s own former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned that NATO’s plans to deploy four battalions to the Baltic States could result “very quickly in another Cold War buildup here, that really makes no sense for either side.”

If “we continue to build up the eastern flank of NATO, with more battalions, more exercises, and more ships and more platforms,” he told an audience at the Atlantic Council, “the Russians will respond. I’m not sure where that takes you.”

Nobody knows where it takes us, and that’s the problem. It could take us all too easily from small provocations to a series of escalations by each side to show they mean business. And given the trip-wire effect of nuclear weapons stored on NATO’s soil, the danger of escalation to nuclear war is entirely real.

As foreign policy expert Jeffrey Taylor commented recently, “The Obama administration is setting the stage for endless confrontation, and possibly even war, with Russia, and with no public debate.”

Returning to the days of the Cold War will buy less security and more danger. As President Obama contemplates what he will say about the lessons of nuclear war in Hiroshima, he should fundamentally reconsider his own policies that threaten many more Hiroshimas.

May 15, 2016 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

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