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Militarization of Space: US X-37B Space Plane Lands After Two-Year Mission

By Andrei AKULOV | Strategic Culture Foundation | 20.05.2017

With public attention focused on other things, the United States has been deploying new and more sophisticated weaponry in space. Step by step the Earth’s orbit is becoming primed for war.

On May 7, the X-37B landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after a 718 days mission in space. All in all, there have been four missions since 2010, each lasting longer than the previous one. Launched atop Atlas 5 rockets, the vehicles land like airplanes. The twin reusable vehicles, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle program, have amassed 2,086 cumulative days in space. The payloads and activities are largely classified. It is widely believed that the space planes are used for military purposes or are a weapon of some sort.

This X-37B carried at least two payloads on its latest voyage. The military revealed before the ship took off that it was carrying an experimental electric propulsion thruster to be tested in orbit and a pallet to expose sample materials to the space environment.

The unmanned X-37B resembles a miniature space shuttle. The vehicle is 29 feet (9 meters) long and has a wingspan of 15 feet, making it about one quarter of the size of NASA’s now-retired space shuttle. The unmanned robotic reusable vertical takeoff, horizontal landing spacecraft can re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and land autonomously. The robot can even adjust its course in space instead of following the same predictable orbit once it’s aloft. The spacecraft’s orbital endurance is enabled by its solar array, which generates power after deploying from its payload bay.

The altitudes used for military and exploration purposes today range from 0 to 20 km and from 140 km up. There is a void to be filled in between that is considered a potential theater of warfare. The X-37 is clearly a means to fill the void from «above» going down, while the Boeing X-51 (also known as X-51 Wave Rider) does it from «down» or from lower level going up. X-51 is an unmanned scramjet demonstration aircraft for hypersonic (Mach 6, approximately 4,000 miles per hour (6,400 km/h) at altitude) flight testing.

The X-37B project’s total cost is unknown because the budget has been classified since it was transferred to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It’s almost certainly a spy plane, or, at least, a testbed for space surveillance gear and a launch platform for miniature spy satellites. The vehicle’s payload is enough to accommodate some spy equipment like cameras and sensors.

The vehicle has no docking hatch, so it cannot be used for small-size deliveries to the ISS or any other orbital station. It was also called a testing model for a future «space bomber» that will be able to destroy targets from the orbit. Some question whether the X-37B itself might be a delivery system for a nuclear bomb – whether the spaceship is intended to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere on autopilot and dive-bomb an enemy target.

Dave Webb, chairman of the Global Network Against Weapons Nuclear Power in Space, said the X-37B «is part of the Pentagon’s effort to develop the capability to strike anywhere in the world with a conventional warhead in less than an hour», known as Prompt Global Strike. Some surmise the X-37B is a satellite-tracker or a satellite-killer. Or both.

It is generally believed that until now arms systems have not been stationed in space. Weapons of mass destruction are banned from space under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. But the Treaty does not prohibit the placement of conventional weapons in orbit. No international agreement on non-nuclear arms in space has been reached due to the objection of some states, including the United States. The US argues that an arms race in outer space does not yet exist, and it is therefore unnecessary to take any actions.

The US ballistic missile defense systems, its X-37B space planes, airborne lasers and GSSAP (Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program) spacecraft could be easily repurposed into weapons of space war. For years, Russia and China have pushed for the ratification of a legally binding United Nations treaty banning space weapons – a treaty that US officials and outside experts have repeatedly rejected as a disingenuous nonstarter. The United States does not come up with any initiatives of its own.

SALT I (1972), the first Soviet-American treaty on limiting strategic arms, included a mutual obligation not to attack spacecraft. In 1983 US President Ronald Reagan turned the tide by promoting the Strategic Defense Initiative that envisaged placing in space strike weapons to hit Soviet strategic missiles in flight. In 2002 President Bush Jr. abandoned the ABM treaty of 1972, which limited missile defense systems. Missile defense allows countries to develop offensive technologies under the pretense of defense. For example, Kinetic Energy Interceptors deployed in California and Alaska are launched into space to smash incoming missiles which presupposes the capability to destroy satellites as well. Obviously, the United States is ready to return to developing potential space strike systems, like, for instance, lasers, kinetic and particle beam systems.

The first ever draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT), was developed by Russia and backed by China to be introduced in 2008. The US opposed the draft treaty due to security concerns over its space assets despite the treaty explicitly affirming a State’s inherent right of self-defense.

In December 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted a Russian resolution, ‘No first Placement of Weapons in Outer Space‘. The United States, Georgia and Ukraine were the only countries that refused to back the Russian initiative. Russia said it was prepared to work in the context of other initiatives, and had been an active and constructive participant in European Union-initiated activities on a draft International Code of Conduct for Outer Space. However, progress can only be achieved through fully-fledged negotiations with the participation of all interested States on the basis of a clear mandate under the auspices of the United Nations.

The current administration is bent on achieving space supremacy. Mark Wittington writes in a Blasting News article, «One of the significant changes that the incoming Trump administration is contemplating in defense is the development of space-based weapons». It adds, «One idea that has kicked around for decades is a system that would consist of a tungsten projectile and a navigation system. Upon command, these ‘rods from God’ as they are poetically called would re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and would strike a target».

President Trump’s policy advisers Robert Walker and Peter Navarro call for bringing the «Star Wars» concept back. They want the president to make the US lead the way on emerging technologies that have the potential to revolutionize warfare. According to them, an increased reliance on the private sector will be the cornerstone of Trump’s space policy. Launching and operating military space assets is a multibillion-dollar enterprise employing thousands, spurring innovation, spinning off civilian applications like GPS, and fueling economic growth. Defense Secretary James Mattis calls for bigger investments into space exploration for defense purposes. A provision to encourage the Defense Department to start a research program for space-based anti-missile systems was inserted into the 2017 defense authorization bill.

The weaponization of space will undermine international security, disrupt existing arms control instruments and entail a string of negative effects (things like space debris). It may spark a devastating arms race distracting resources from the real problems faced by humanity today. Strategic stability would be destroyed because space weapons are global in scope and capable of covert and surprise attacks on any point on the planet at any point in time. The deployment of space-based technologies will result in the rejection of new treaties to regulate nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.

This year the world marks the 50th anniversary of the Outer Space Treaty, which entered into force in October 1967 – an arms control deal reached in the heat of the Cold War. It was possible then, it is possible today. The issue of preventing weaponization of space through an international treaty should become part of the Russia-US-China agenda. If these states come to agreement on the issue, the world would become a much better place.

May 21, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Iran offers peace after bellicose Saudi threats

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (Photo by Mehr News Agency )
Press TV – May 21, 2017

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Iran is ready to present peace to Saudi Arabia as a gift after the kingdom’s crown prince threatened to draw war into the Iranian territory.

“A Saudi official has recently threatened to ‘have the battle in Iran’. I declare formally and in the name of the government of Iran today that we are ready to present peace as a gift to the entire region, foremost to Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Zarif’s announcement came in an article published on the London-based al-Araby al-Jadeed media outlet on Saturday, in which he spelled out Iran’s conditions for peace.

“The realization of this issue, however, depends on the Saudi government ending its futile war and deadly attacks against the Yemeni people and abandoning its crackdown on the pro-democracy majority in neighboring countries,” he added.

He was reacting to Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman who recently said, “We will work to have the battle in Iran rather than in Saudi Arabia.”

Zarif said, “Some Arab governments have drawn our region into instability in recent years through escalating their destructive policies and measures.”

“Promoting and supporting extremist ideologies and presenting a violent and unrealistic image from Islam on the one hand, and sacrificing the interests of the regional countries through promotion of instability, bloodshed and fratricide on the other sums up these policies,” he said.

“These bellicose measures altogether would ultimately result in nothing other than serving the greatest enemies of the Muslim and Arab nations,” Zarif wrote.

The minister said the policy line currently being pursued by Saudi rulers is helping “the Iranophobia project which has been initiated and promoted by the Zionist regime for years.”

“Today, the stable Iran is seeking stability in the entire region because it knows that achieving security at home at the expense of insecurity among neighbors is basically impossible,” the article read.

Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia have escalated since the kingdom executed a prominent Shia cleric in January 2016.

The execution triggered angry protests in many countries, including Iran. Protesters attacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad, prompting Riyadh to cut diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic.

The rupture was followed by exceedingly belligerent remarks against Iran by Saudi officials, including Salman and Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

On Monday, though, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said its response to such comments was that it did not seek tensions with Saudi Arabia.

Iran is critical of Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen which has killed thousands of civilians and destroyed the impoverished nation’s infrastructure over the past two years.

Tehran has also lashed out at Riyadh’s assistance to militants fighting to topple the Syrian government as well as its contribution to the ongoing crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Bahrain.

Zarif touched on US President Donald Trump who is currently visiting Saudi Arabia on his first foreign tour since taking office.

“If the American president sees himself as a friend of the Riyadh regime and is loyal to his election campaign slogans, he should talk to it about the ways of containing Takfiri terrorists in the region and preventing other 9/11s from being repeated in Western countries by Saudi citizens.”

Zarif said, “Iran is ready to cooperate with regional and extra-regional countries on fighting terrorism and extremism and helping restore peace and tranquility in Syria.”

May 21, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 2 Comments

Turkey steps up training militants in northern Syria: Report

Press TV – May 20, 2017

Turkey has reportedly resumed an extensive campaign aimed at training the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants in northern Syria, purportedly to fight Kurdish forces and Daesh Takfiri terrorists.

Turkish special forces are training more FSA troops in using mortars, rocket launchers and machine guns, Anadolu news agency reported.

“It is no longer the old FSA in the field but a new FSA being born. These FSA members in training will show their difference in possible future operations,” the report quoted an unidentified military official as saying.

The report comes after Turkey declared in March an end to the first phase of its so-called military operation along with the FSA against Daesh and People’s Protection Units (YPG) Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the country would retaliate through a cross-border operation if the YPG poses a security threat.

Turkey deems the YPG a terror organization and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been engaged in a three-decade-long insurgency against Ankara in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast.

On Friday, Anadolu cited security sources as saying that the Turkish military had stepped up presence along its southern border and dispatched armored military vehicles and munitions to the area to respond to potential attacks by the YPG and PKK.

The Turkish military units and intelligence are currently monitoring Kurdish-controlled Afrin, Tel Abyad and Qamishli in northern Syria and the Iraqi border.

Since July 2015, Turkish air force has been carrying out operations against the PKK positions in the country’s troubled southeastern border region as well as in northern Iraq and neighboring Syria.

In early December 2015, Turkey deployed a contingent of its troops to the Bashiqa military camp north of Mosul, claiming that the move had been earlier coordinated with Iraqi officials. Baghdad swiftly denied the claim and ever since has called on Ankara to immediately withdraw its forces from the camp. Turkey, however, has so far refused to pull out its forces from the Iraqi soil.

In August 2016, Turkey also began a major military intervention in Syria, sending tanks and warplanes across the border, claiming that its military campaign was aimed at pushing Daesh from Turkey’s border with Syria and stopping the advance of Kurdish forces. Damascus denounces the operation as a breach of its sovereignty.

Ankara in late March announced the end of its military operations in Syria, but did not rule out the possibility of yet another military intervention in war-torn Syria.

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

If NATO Wants Peace and Stability it Should Stay Home

By Ulson Gunnar – New Eastern Outlook – 20.05.2017

A curious op-ed appeared in The National Interest, penned by Hans Binnendijk and David Gompert, adjunct senior fellows at the RAND Corporation. Titled, “NATO’s Role in post-Caliphate Stability Operations,” it attempts to make a case for NATO involvement everywhere from Libya to Syria and Iraq in fostering stability in the wake of a yet-to-be defeated Islamic State.

The authors propose that NATO step in to fill what it calls an impending “vacuum left as the caliphate collapses,” heading off alternatives including “chaos or Iran, backed by Russia, filling the void, with great harm to U.S. and allied interests in either case.” The op-ed never explains why Iran, neighboring Syria and Iraq, are less qualified to influence the region than the United States which exists literally oceans away and shares nothing in terms of history, culture, language or shared interests in stability and peace.

The op-ed would literally claim:

NATO is the only security organization with the skills and breadth to take on this task. The U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition of 68 partners is ill equipped to engage in this complex task. A more cohesive organization such as NATO should lead, but in ways that allow continued Arab participation. A creative version of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition could provide the answer.

It was an interesting choice by the authors to showcase one of NATO’s most stupendous and continuing failures in Afghanistan with mention of the ISAF, a force that not only has failed to bring stability to the Central Asia nation in over a decade and a half of occupation, but has presided over the emergence of the Islamic State there where previously it had no presence.

The reality of what NATO is versus what The National Interest op-ed attempts to pass it off as, resembles more of a sales pitch for a shoddy product than a genuine attempt at geopolitical analysis or problem solving. But the truth goes deeper still.

NATO is a Global Wrecking Ball, It Cannot Create Stability

The op-ed focuses primarily on proposing NATO roles for a post-Islamic State Libya, Iraq and Syria.

Libya is perhaps the most tragic of the three, with NATO having used direct military force in 2011 to topple the government of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in support of known extremists passed off at the time by both NATO spokespeople and the US-European media as “moderate rebels.”

The predictable fallout from this military campaign was the collapse of Libya as a relatively stable and unified nation-state into warring factions. The instability became fertile grounds for extremism, with many of the groups backed by NATO evolving into what is now the “Islamic State.”

The National Interest op-ed also makes mention of “Arab participation.” It should be remembered that the most extreme factions fighting in Libya were not only aided by direct NATO military intervention, but were armed and funded by Persian Gulf dictatorships as well, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

A similar pattern of sowing instability has unfolded in Syria, leading to, not averting the rise of the Islamic State.

And Iraq’s instability is a direct and lasting consequence of the US military invasion and occupation of 2003.

If nothing else, this exposes NATO and its members as a collective, global wrecking ball. Just as a wrecking ball cannot be used to construct a building on a vacant lot, NATO cannot be used to construct the conditions for stability across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Really Stopping the Islamic State Means Really Stopping Support for It 

Ultimately, what the op-ed calls for is the permanent occupation of the three nations by NATO forces ranging from special forces in Libya to the formal occupation of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.

Interestingly, the op-ed suggests that the NATO occupation force in Syria should not only be used to combat the Islamic State, but to also deter “Syrian military thrusts,” referring to the armed forces of the actual and only legitimate government in Syria.

This last point exposes fully what NATO is really interested in, and what this sales pitch is really advertising. NATO is not in MENA to defeat the Islamic State, it is merely using the Islamic State as a pretext to project Western hegemony across the region.

The closing paragraph states:

This NATO strategy cannot, and should not be expected to, settle the Syrian civil war, bring ethnic and sectarian harmony to Iraq, or create an effective Libyan state. What it could do is create conditions of stability in which lasting solutions at least have a chance. It can do so only if the U.S. is ready to call upon NATO to join it in filling the post-ISIS void and for the European allies to answer that call.

Certainly, NATO’s presence in Syria, Iraq or Libya will not bring any sort of stability. NATO has proven its absolute inability to achieve this in its 16 year occupation of Afghanistan. Claiming NATO occupation will “create conditions of stability in which lasting solutions at least have a chance” is merely NATO’s way of ensuring no matter the chaos it itself has created across MENA, it will hold a stake in the outcome if for no other reason because it has literally taken and occupies territory within the post-war region.

It is interesting that the Islamic State rose in the wake of US-led, NATO-backed violence stretching from North Africa to Central Asia and only began to suffer setbacks upon greater and more direct Russian and Iranian intervention.

The bombing of Islamic State and Jabhat Al Nusra logistical lines emanating from NATO-member Turkey’s borders by Russian warplanes, for example, inevitably led to huge gains by the Syrian Arab Army including the eventual liberation of Aleppo, the containment of Idlib and a significant retraction of Islamic State-held territory in eastern Syria.

The torrent of supplies feeding Islamic State and other fronts of extremist militancy flowing from Turkey is the admitted result of Persian Gulf sponsorship, which in turn, serves as an intermediary for US and NATO support for what the US Defense Intelligence Agency called in 2012 (.pdf) a “Salafist principality.”

The specific purpose of this “Salafist principality,” admittedly backed by Persian Gulf dictatorships, Turkey and what the US DIA refers to as “the West,” was to “isolate the Syrian regime.”  Clearly then, were NATO genuinely interested in defeating the Islamic State and undoing the damage it has done, it would begin by withdrawing it and its allies’ own support of the terrorist organization in the first place.

In short, if NATO truly wants to create stability across MENA, it merely needs to stop intentionally sowing instability.

Of course, a unilateral military bloc intentionally sowing chaos across an entire region of the planet is doing so for a very specific purpose. It is the same purpose all hegemons throughout human history have sought to divide and destroy regions they cannot outright conquer. A destroyed competitor may not be as favorable as a conquered, controlled and exploited competitor, but is certainly preferable to a free and independent competitor contributing to a greater multipolar world order. NATO, by embedding itself amid the chaos it itself has created, as it has proven in Afghanistan, only ensures further chaos.

Within this chaos, NATO can ensure if its own membership cannot derive benefit from the region, no one else will. A call like that featured in The National Interest for NATO to bring “stability” to the MENA region stands in stark contrast to the reality that everywhere NATO goes, chaos not only follows, it stays indefinitely until NATO leaves.

The best thing NATO can do for stability across MENA is to leave.

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Requiem for the Suicided: Dr. David Kelly

Corbett Report Extras | May 16, 2017

Famed microbiologist and UN weapons inspector Dr. David Kelly became the centre of a dispute between the BBC and the UK government over claims that the government had “sexed up” its dossier on Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction in order to sell the Iraq war to the public. He was found dead on Harrowdown Hill on July 18, 2003. It was ruled a suicide. Today we look at the troubling discrepancies, inconsistencies and questions surrounding that official verdict, and broach the question of what secrets Dr. Kelly may have taken to the grave…

SHOW NOTES AND MP3: https://www.corbettreport.com/?p=2311

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | Leave a comment

Donald Trump at a Lonely Crossroads

By Alastair Crooke | Consortium News | May 19, 2017

It is time to pause, take a deep breath, and reflect. It is very clear that Trump’s Presidency is at a crossroads. This is not because there is any evidence of any wrongdoing. To date, there is a torrent of innuendo, but zero “evidence.” Rather, events have converged at a point of inflection, not because the President might be impeached – that is improbable because the bar in terms of evidence, and of Congressional votes required, is very high – but because recent days have unmasked the sheer breadth and visceral animosity of the forces determined to “take down” the President, by whatever means present themselves.

President Trump faces a mainstream media (MSM) that has become hysterical in perceiving collusion with Russia everywhere – even to the extent of querying how Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Ambassador, and a Russian photographer could have been allowed access to the Oval Office, thereby compromising American “security.” Trump faces a coalition of Clintonites, “corporate” Republicans, neocons, and more significantly, a fifth column within the intelligence services which regards any attempt at détente with Russia to constitute prima facie treason.

In response to a question from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, who asked FBI Director James Comey in the Senate Judiciary Committee “what kind of threat” Russia presents “to the democratic process” (that is to say Graham’s question was not about Russia’s military capabilities, but on the threat to Western democracies), Comey answered: “Certainly, in my view, the greatest threat of any nation on Earth, given their [Russia’s] intention and their capability.”

One might reasonably conclude then, that Trump inevitably will be overwhelmed by this onslaught. Certainly the noise from the East Coast media bubble is overwhelming. And that, precisely, is the threat to the President: the drip, drip, of innuendo that Professor Stephen Cohen has dubbed “the accusation of treason.”

“And”, Cohen added, “we have a whole array of allegations that Putin helped him [Trump] get in the White House – to his [Trump’s] associates doing wrong things with Russians … This, [the allegations lacking any solid evidence] is beyond belief now … This has become a national security threat to us, in and of, itself.”

A Paralyzed Administration

And now a Special Prosecutor has been appointed. One commentator summed it up thus: “That’s how special prosecutors work … they hobble the president, drain away his political credibility, separate him from his supporters, and paralyze his administration. No legislator is willing to lend his support for fear of what the prosecutor might find. Each one will run for cover rather than work with Trump to get something done. In appointing a prosecutor, [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein has killed this Administration’s ability to function. No health care overhaul. No tax cuts. No government reform. All while we await the results of a nothing investigation into a nothing scandal.”

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

The noise is overwhelming, but it is nearly all emanating from the coastal élites who inevitably speak the loudest. Polls may say that Trump’s favorability rating is slipping. That is so; but the polls also speak to the growing polarity between the Republican base, and the coastal Establishment: 81 percent of Clinton voters support impeaching the President, but 83 percent of Trump voters adamantly oppose it. Equally 91 percent of Clinton supporters “disapprove” of Trump, whereas 86 percent of the Trump base “support” him. There is evidence that the “deplorables” have been deeply angered by the impeachment talk.

And here lies the “inflection point”: President Trump’s base is pretty clear in identifying the “game plan” (it is widely dissected on the New Right, and Alt Right sites): The onslaught is not about finding the “evidence” (which probably doesn’t exist): The “Russian interference” meme emerged primarily from the Democratic National Committee email leaks that were originally attributed to a Russian “hack” (rather than a “leak” by Seth Rich, since murdered), via a private company, Crowd Strike, (evidence that experts now contest); from the discredited “dirty dossier” of ex-British spy Christopher Steele; and from unmasked intercepts of Trump aides (which have as yet shown no evidence of electoral collusion).

It is rather the drip, drip of innuendo which is intended – the Trump base avers – to collapse the President’s ratings (among his base) to the point at which even the Republican members of Congress will abandon the President, and join the “movement” to remove him, via one or other of the provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

Obstruction of Justice is unlikely to serve: As George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley has said, former FBI Director James Comey’s memo offers “no proof for impeachment” of Trump. Turley noted: “Indeed, it raises as many questions for Comey as it does Trump in terms of the alleged underlying conduct.

“A good place to start would be with the federal law, specifically 18 U.S.C. 1503. The criminal code demands more than what Comey reportedly describes in his memo. There are dozens of different variations of obstruction charges ranging from threatening witnesses to influencing jurors. None would fit this case. That leaves the omnibus provision on attempts to interfere with the ‘due administration of justice.’

“However, that still leaves the need to show that the effort was to influence ‘corruptly’ when Trump could say that he did little but express concern for a longtime associate. The term ‘corruptly’ is actually defined differently under the various obstruction provisions, but it often involves a showing that someone acted ‘with the intent to secure an unlawful benefit for oneself or another.’ Encouraging leniency or advocating for an associate is improper but not necessarily seeking an unlawful benefit for him.”

What the point of inflection calls for (Trump’s supporters’ say), is to insist that the FBI investigation be concluded expeditiously, and that a counter-attack on the leaders of those forces (whomsoever they are), and on their “moles” — “embedded insurgents committed to forcing Trump from office” — who are leaking innuendo to the MSM, be prosecuted.

It is a crossroads. Trump has to halt the drumbeat, or see his Presidency crumble into dust. And the blade of “defamation politics” can be two-edged: Hillary Clinton was no paragon of virtue.

An Elusive Achievement

In this context, Trump now needs a policy achievement more than ever. A legislative success in the domestic arena is – evidently – not in prospect, but rather the political convulsions in D.C. may finally spook a somnolent and supine Wall Street to think about risk again (VIX, a litmus of market volatility, has been at historic lows) – especially as market insiders are warning their clients “not to expect to [be] bailed out by the Fed this time.” Indeed the entire Trump reflation program looks as if will be a long time coming (if it comes at all, this year).

At such times, foreign policy may come to the fore. We have already noted that the Astana Process has witnessed a White House, more ready than Obama’s, to work with Russia, Turkey and Iran, to reach some sort of settlement in Syria. The triumph of the “defeat” of ISIS in Raqa’a and Mosul might constitute just such an achievement to rally Trump’s base.

Trump was politically courageous in inviting Lavrov into the Oval Office (at a time when “the drumbeat” of Russia collusion was reaching a crescendo). It seems that Russia and its allies are ready to concede to Trump the taking of Raqa’a, (the Syrian Foreign Minister has effectively acknowledged this); and in return, Russia and Iran have been put on test by the White House.

The hostile rhetoric from Washington on Iran, has been notably absent since Astana, and the secondary sanctions waiver in connection with the JCPOA (the nuclear agreement) has been renewed. It seems Trump has realized that Generals James Mattis (Defense Secretary) and H.R. McMaster (National Security Adviser) were intent on leading the President back into a series of (unwinnable) wars – at least that seems to be the message of Astana which has put two negotiators, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson firmly in the driver’s seat.

But here too, the onslaught on the President, and on the Astana political process is likely to continue. Recall that President Obama, who was ever more hesitant than Trump – (never fully endorsing) Secretary of State John Kerry’s and FM Lavrov’s negotiating marathons – witnessed those political efforts sabotaged by his own Pentagon (the “accident” at Dier Azor, killing 68 Syrian Army soldiers defending their besieged base against ISIS militants), and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s public equivocation about sharing intelligence on ISIS and al-Qae’da with the Russians).

Already the signs of similar sabotage are present: i.e. the Acting Assistant Secretary of State Stuart Jones’s dubious announcement — on the eve of a Geneva round of Syria talks — that the U.S. had found evidence of a crematorium at a Syrian prison, in which the remains of mass executions of prisoners were burned. Two days later Jones resigned from the State Department, with a colleague noting that while Jones was retiring early for personal reasons, his departure was a case of “another senior government official with real competence leaving.” (Or, in other words another anti-Trump dissident leaving the ship.)

Even Anne Barnard of the New York Times noted that the timing of the crematorium allegations seemed “political.” Yes, indeed political, but directed at the Russians or at Trump? There are also reports that a contingent of U.S. and British Special Forces are operating in southern Syria to stymie any Syrian army or Hezbullah advance in order to regain control of the Syrian-Iraqi border. On Thursday, a U.S.-led airstrike hit Syrian military forces that were deemed too close to the U.S.-British base.

So President Trump should beware. Peace settlements require huge efforts to assemble, but can be undone in a moment. And Saudi Defense Minister Prince Mohammad bin Salman should note: Trump just might be more interested in defeating ISIS at this moment, than suffering a further Saudi lecture on the misdeeds of Iran. Though President Trump will be happy to receive whatever boodle with which the Saudis may care to shower him. Rumors say up to $300 billion – $400 billion in arms deals! “Quite nice,” as the Donald might say.

Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | 2 Comments

Britain Has a Real Choice on June 8 – and the Anti-Democratic Democrats Hate It

By Neil Clark – Sputnik – 19.05.2017

For the first time in a quarter of a century, the British electorate has an opportunity to make a clean break with the banker-friendly neoliberal policies which have dominated politics since the era of Margaret Thatcher and which have led to a major redistribution of wealth away from the majority to the super-rich.

Well, we can’t say we haven’t got a choice.

Labour’s manifesto, while still being nowhere as left-wing as the ones the pipe-puffing Harold Wilson won two elections on in 1974, nevertheless returns the party emphatically to the territory it occupied before the grinning faux-progressive Tony Blair came along in the mid-90s and turned Labour into a more socially liberal version of the Tories. There’s pledges to renationalize Britain’s railways — easily the most expensive in Europe — set up a publicly owned energy supplier and take water in England back into public ownership.

The rich will pay more tax, zero hours contracts will be outlawed and tuition fees will be scrapped. If it’s an exaggeration to call the manifesto socialist, then its certainly social democratic and offers hope of a better future for millions of ordinary Britons who have seen their living standards fall dramatically in recent years. By contrast the Tories have lurched still further to the hard right and their elite-friendly agenda could not be clearer.

There’s money a plenty to bomb Syria-and continue with the neocon policies of endless war — but not enough to provide pensioners with winter fuel payments or all infants with free school lunches. The desire of the elderly to pass on their property to their children will be hit by what has been labeled a new “Dementia Tax” to pay for social care. Pensioners will also be hit by replacing the “triple lock” on their state pensions with only a “double lock.” Meanwhile, corporation tax will fall to 17% by 2020 — the lowest rate of any developed economy.

On the railways, water and energy, the Tories only promise a continuation of the current privatized system which enriches a few and leaves the vast majority paying over the odds. The Tories are billing their manifesto as one for “mainstream Britain,” but the regressive policies in it would have old “One Nation” Tories from the 60s and 70s like Sir Ian Gilmour turning in their graves.

Labour — if it hadn’t been for the election of Jeremy Corbyn as party leader in 2015, would be offering only a slightly milder variation of the policies the Tories are putting forward now. That’s how our politics has worked since the 1990s. By narrowing the parameters of what was/wasn’t “politically acceptable” neoliberalism destroyed choice and by doing so destroyed democracy.

Evidence of this can be seen the huge increase in the numbers not bothering to vote at election time. 78.8% turned out in February 1974 — when a wide range of policies was on the menu- but in 2001, just 59.4% went along to the polling booth. Who can blame the absentees when the “choice” was between a neoliberal pro-war Labour party led by Tony Blair and a neoliberal pro-war Tory party led by William Hague?

Now though there’s policies on offer that we haven’t seen on election “menus” for many years. The howls of anguish from elite media pundits that the Labour party has abandoned the ludicrously misnamed “center ground” — and is actually campaigning on a program that puts the interests of ordinary people first — have been highly revealing. Commentators who believe in bombing Middle East countries to “spread democracy” are having a collective nervous breakdown now that democracy is breaking out at home. One pro-Iraq war commentator described Labour’s abandonment of Blairism as “bad news for democracy.”

Yes, that’s right- Jeremy Corbyn and his team offering genuinely popular policies which voters are calling for, such as renationalization of the railways — is “bad news for democracy.” You really couldn’t make it up, could you? For the anti-democratic democrats who dominate the UK commentariat “democracy” means that our leading parties have to offer more or less the same program.

They’ve all got to genuflect to the City of London, support privatization, cuts in corporation tax and the policies of “liberal interventionism,: aka Endless War, in the Middle East. In this Orwellian political landscape, to “provide a proper opposition” to the Tories, Labour has to offer what is fundamentally a Tory program. The parties must of course appear to have disagreements — but only about things that won’t affect the interests of the 1%.

The Establishment must not only control the government but the “opposition” too. That’s all changed with Jeremy Corbyn. As I wrote two years ago, at the time of the Labour leadership election:

“The attacks on Corbyn have been many, but in essence what these establishment commentators are saying is this: it’s outrageous that a man who doesn’t support neoconservatism or neoliberalism and who is implacably opposed to imperialism and endless war is standing for the leadership of one of Britain’s major parties.”

What the hysterical reaction to Labour’s manifesto demonstrates is that people having a real choice at election time is the last thing the fake democrats who pose as “progressives” want.

Their ideal scenario would be for the Tories to be “opposed” by a Labour party led by the ultra-Blairite David Miliband — meaning that whatever the election result nothing would change.

Corbyn’s program is far from revolutionary, but it does offer the majority of Britons the prospect of a new and much fairer economic settlement than the one which has imposed since the late 1970s. And the anti-democratic democrats in our midst are absolutely terrified that the people finally have an opposition which opposes.

Follow @NeilClark66 on Twitter

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

New North Korea-Russia Sea Route Throws Washington’s Ambitions Into Doubt

Sputnik – 18.05.2017

Moscow has kicked off its first North Korea-Russian ferry service following Washington’s expansion of its sanctions against Pyongyang. On May 18 the DPRK vessel Man Gyong Bong arrived at the free port of Vladivostok. According to RIA Novosti contributor Alexander Khrolenko, this is how Russia responded to US’ unilateral sanctions.

Following US Congress’ endorsement of new sanctions on North Korea’s ships and employees, Russia has established permanent maritime communication between the DPRK’s Rajin port and Vladivostok; according to RIA Novosti contributor Alexander Khrolenko, this is hardly a coincidence.

On May 18, North Korea’s vessel Man Gyong Bong arrived in the Russian port of Vladivostok. While Russia and the DPRK already have a railway connection, the Rajin-Vladivostok route has become the first service between the countries.

“It took about nine hours [for Man Gyong Bong] to cross the sea,” Khrolenko wrote, “It is planned that the ferry will transport Chinese tourists (from Hunchun) to Russia every week, Russian tourists to Rajin and North Korean workers to Vladivostok and back (from May 25).”

“The Man Gyong Bong has three dry cargo holds with a total capacity of 1,500 tons, which will probably not be empty on voyages,” the Russian journalist elaborated, “The ice-free port of Rajin is located in the North-Korean city of Rason which enjoys the status of a special economic zone with free business allowed. The free port of Vladivostok is also a zone of special customs, tax, investment and related regulation.”

Previously, the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly for expanding sanctions against Pyongyang. The bill bars vessels owned by the DPRK or by countries involved in trade with Pyongyang from operating in American waters or docking at US ports.

In accordance with the legislation, those countries which hire North Korean employees would be subjected to sanctions under the International Emergency Economic Power Act.

Khrolenko remarked that Congress even went so far as to maintain special control over Russia’s Far East ports of Vladivostok, Nakhodka and Vanino, as part of the measures.

Meanwhile, on May 16 US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haily urged other countries either to exert more pressure on North Korea or choose between Washington and Pyongyang.

“You either support North Korea or you support us, you are either with North Korea or not,” Haily said as quoted by Bloomberg.

“The free port of Vladivostok has already responded [to the US sanctions],” Khrolenko pointed out, referring to the ferry service linking North Korea and Russia.

The journalist noted that Russia is complying with the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2270 on restrictions against North Korea inked by President Vladimir Putin in December 2016. However, that doesn’t mean that the US has the right to impose its own police control on sovereign states, he added.

“No country and no international organization have authorized the US to monitor the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions by police or ‘cowboy’ methods,” Khrolenko wrote, adding that the bill supported by the US Congress contradicts the principle of sovereignty and calls into question international economic activity.

The journalist reminded his readers that Washington wants to track ships coming to Russia and other countries including China, Syria, Iran, and inspect cargo transported to certain ports of the DPRK.

He added that special US services can obtain the right to inspect ships and aircraft that have visited North Korea during the last 365 days.

Predictably, Washington’s unilateral initiative prompted criticism from Russian politicians.

Commenting on the issue, Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said that de jure the bill’s realization means “forced inspection of all vessels” by US warships. Such a scenario amounts to a declaration of war, Kosachev noted.

However, according to Khrolenko, the US congressmen’s plan to maintain control over the countries’ trade is nothing but wishful thinking.

“It is impossible to control the ports and economic activities of independent states from Washington,” the journalist noted, “As for the Far Eastern ports of Russia, the Americans may only conduct remote monitoring [of the region].”

“The US can also obtain information by using space reconnaissance means, remote hacking of the ports databases or agents in the field. Or they can simply inspect any vessel in neutral waters… Everything is possible, but taking into account the total volume of shipping and the capabilities of the Navy of the aforementioned countries [Russia, China, Iran, Syria], such control appears to be too dangerous,” he elaborated.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

The Existential Risk of Trusting ‘Intel’

By John V. Walsh | Consortium News | May 17, 2017

In Tom Lehrer’s ballad satirizing former Nazi rocket scientist Werhner von Braun’s cavalier attitude toward the deadly consequences of his work, there’s the line, “‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun.”

From MAD to Madness: Inside Pentagon Nuclear War Planning is the enlightening memoir by Paul Johnstone, a man who worked in the “department” that decided where “they” would come down. Johnstone labored there during WWII and then from 1949 to 1969, the initial period of the Cold War and the period covered by this book. On Aug. 29, 1949, the Soviet Union caught the world flat-footed when it set off its first nuclear bomb (just over four years after the United States dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

Thus began the years when frightened children scrambled under their desks by day and were tormented with mushroom cloud nightmares by night. The U.S. and the USSR stood on The Brink over the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Berlin Crisis when The Wall went up. Those years were the initial period of nuclear standoff called MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction).

What Johnstone saw as he went about his duties horrified him – and it should also horrify us. For it is the thesis of the Afterword, by the author’s daughter, the prominent political commentator Diana Johnstone, that after the demise of the Soviet Union, the U.S. moved quickly from “MAD to Madness.”

Madness refers to plans for a knockout nuclear first strike on Russia, aided and abetted by the latest missile defense boondoggle. That was a favorite fantasy of the generals in the post-WWII era. Whether we now live in another era of Madness, when a disabling first strike again dances in the heads of the Elite, or once again in an era of MAD is an open question in my mind. But Paul Johnstone’s memoir is a work of great importance in either case.

Paul Johnstone started out in Henry Wallace’s Department of Agriculture during the New Deal, but was moved to the Department of War after Pearl Harbor. His job was to pick targets for conventional bombs in Japan, although not the targets for the first atom bombs.

When the Cold War commenced, he studied how targets for nuclear weapons should be selected and how much damage The Bomb would do when dropped on various corners of the USSR. He also assessed the damage of Russian nukes landing in various corners of the U.S. He worked at the most august levels of U.S. intelligence: Air Force Intelligence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Office of Secretary of Defense.

Some of Johnstone’s studies became part of the Pentagon Papers, leaked by former Pentagon official Daniel Ellsberg. Johnstone gave the manuscript for this memoir to his daughter, Diana Johnstone, when he was on his deathbed in 1981.

Faulty Intelligence

A central message of the book is the inevitable failure of intelligence. This aspect of the memoir is hard to apprehend in all its facets without actually reading it. Why can “intelligence” not be trusted?

Secretary of State Colin Powell on Feb. 5, 2003

First the intelligence agencies lie – and do so quite consciously when it suits those who command them or the desires of those who command their commanders. Anyone who does not recognize this by now has not been paying attention. Intel did this most notoriously in recent years in the case of the non-existent WMD that led the U.S. to a multitrillion dollar war on the innocent people of Iraq – which we fight to this day even though Barack Obama declared the war “officially” over.

But even when the Intel agencies are trying to make honest estimates, they face other obstacles. This is the major lesson that Paul Johnstone delivers. Let us take a few examples. On the topic of trying to assess the damage done by nuclear weapons either on the USSR or on the U.S., he writes:

–“They (the effects of nuking a target) would be researched, and in time – much time – a lot would be learned about them, although not enough ever to provide the basis for predictive measurements. So men do what men always do. They calculated what was calculable as best they could, and generally ignored, or dismissed with mere mention by name, the factors that, however relevant and crucial, were incalculable. Or they would just make a wild guess. One problem was that whatever the uncertainties, those utilizing the information were rarely in a position to understand its degree of reliability.” (p. 39 of From Mad to Madness, hereafter FMTM)

So the “decision makers” for nuclear war could well be acting on intel that is “a wild guess,” and they would not know it! And here is Johnstone writing on the way that the “wild guesses” and other intelligence estimates come to be made, most notably about enemy capabilities – an essential if one plans to start a nuclear war:

–“I believe that, to anyone who has been deeply immersed in it and then has had the privilege of viewing it with some measure of detachment, military intelligence must seem a world of flickering light, dark shadows, mood music and whispered rumors, half heard against trumpeted accompaniment proclaiming dire threats that imperil us from outer darkness. Shapes are partly perceived at best, most commonly merely implied, often not seen at all, and often what you think you see is really not there at all. There are always some things you know you know, but you never know how many things there are that you have no evidence even to suspect. You do not know how much of what you see is deliberately staged to mislead you.

“What is seldom realized is that there is always a dominant mood that determines, more than the sharpest senses or the most acute reasoning, what you decide is out there and what is going on. Like all the world and all experience, it is kaleidoscopic; and the bits and pieces that flit before your eyes are what you thought you’d see before you looked.

“Always of course there are the true believers. The images immediately before their eyes are God’s own truth. It’s a matter of right or wrong, bright sunlight or utter darkness. Then there are those not fully convinced nor deeply caring, who find it least troublesome to see what others say they see. Like herded sheep they may once in a while say ‘baa,’ but though they may distrust the direction they are driven in, they feel reassured following the path forced on them by the pressure of the bodies next to them.” (FMTM, p. 63)

In other words, in the end, the data and analysis do little more than to confirm pre-existing sentiments and prejudices.

Agenda-Driven Intel

Then there were the “experts” who had their own agenda. A striking example is the “Special Studies Group” set up in the early 1950s in the Air Force Directorate of Intelligence.

Johnstone writes: “It was headed by Steve Possony, a Hungarian émigré who professed to be an expert on Communism in general and the Soviet Union in particular. Steve was the first of several Central European émigrés I met in the next few years who passed as experts on Communist Europe. … Others were Stausz-Hupé, Kissinger, Brzezinski and many lesser lights such as Leon Gouré and Helmut Sonnenfeldt. In every case I felt that they were thinking, consciously or otherwise, as representatives of a lost cause in their native land, and I always believed that they were used by the military because their ‘obsessions’ were so useful.” (FTFM, p.80)

Of course it is not clear who was using whom here. But we can think of a latter day equivalent in Bush 2 time when neoconservatives like Paul Wolfowitz dominated the Pentagon. As they ginned up the War on Iraq, it was all too clear that their loyalty to Israel came into play. For while the wars in the Middle East and North Africa did little to advance the interests of the U.S., costing it blood, treasure and new enemies like ISIS, those wars left in ruins potential adversaries of Israel in its neighborhood. There can be little doubt that the interests of Israel were served by these American “strategic thinkers.”

Johnstone goes on: “The one product of Possony’s group that I most distinctly remember was an annual appraisal of the strategic situation. And the reason I remember it, perhaps, is that every year that appraisal forecast a massive Russian land attack on Western Europe the following year. Several of us began to laugh about it after a while, but the forecast was always intoned awesomely and with superficial plausibility. I do not know whether many people who heard the briefings really believed the forecasts. I suspect many doubted it would really be next year, and thought it more likely the year after or even later. But even doubters approved the forecast because, they reasoned, it was better to err in this direction than to minimize the danger. Above all, it was good to say things that emphasized the need for strong defenses.” (FTFM, p. 80)

Alarmist warnings about impending Soviet invasions of Europe also were helpful in expanding U.S. military budgets.

The issues that Johnstone raises are relevant not only for scholars, but for each and every one of us since our very existence hangs by a thread increasingly frayed by the incessant anti-Russia drumbeat in our media. That drumbeat has reached a neo-McCarthyite crescendo in these days of Russia-gate where politicians crazed by hatred of Vladimir Putin like John McCain or hatred of Donald Trump like nearly every last Democrat hold sway.

A New Era of MAD

The relevance of the memoir is inescapable, and this is laid out with considerable insight in a preface and a postscript by Johnstone’s daughter, Diana, a journalist residing in Paris and a frequent commenter on French and U.S. politics. She is also the author of The Politics of Euromissiles (1984), Greens in the European Parliament – A New Sense of Purpose for Europe (1994), Fool’s Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions (2003), and Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton (2015).

She is careful of the conclusions she draws. In addition, Paul Craig Roberts’s Foreword adds a further dimension to the book since he worked with some of Paul Johnstone’s colleagues and also inside the Reagan cabinet when the first Cold War finally came to an end. (Regrettably here we are again – in Cold War 2.0.)

I remain unconvinced only by one conclusion of the book and that lies in Diana Johnstone’s Afterword. One thesis of the Afterword is that we went from the era of MAD back to the era of Madness, that is an attempt at a nuclear first strike, after the demise of the USSR. That may well have been true in the first decade of the Century when Russia was still on its back and China was relatively weak. (Diana Johnstone cites literature from this period to make her case. See also “The End of Mad”.)

George W. Bush was in power then, and the neocons were in the driver’s seat. Bush withdrew from the ABM treaty in June 2002, which opened the door to developing the ever elusive anti-missile system that would make possible a first-strike on Russia and/or China. (At times first strike capability is called “nuclear primacy”.) Those ABM plans persisted and have been implemented right up to the present with their deployment in Eastern Europe nominally against Iran and in South Korea nominally against the DPRK. They are in fact aimed at Russia and China, and no one is fooled by other claims, least of all Russia and China.

But we are now 15 years out from 2002 and Russia’s economy and military are much stronger under Putin. Moreover, China’s GDP was only about 18 percent of the U.S. GDP in Purchasing Power Parity terms in 2002; it is now in 2017 about 120 percent that of the U.S., and the gap grows daily. And of course military power grows out of economic power.

Things have changed. Certainly, the U.S. maintains a vast edge in its military capability, but is it enough for the neocons and neoliberalcons to realistically dream any longer of a nuclear first strike? I doubt it, but the grave danger is that they are living in the past and that their “intel” is telling them that nuclear primacy is still theirs. Why? Because the intel agencies might feel that is what their bosses want to hear.

After all, who wants to abandon past glory. Empires do not have a great track record when it comes to accepting decline. Living in the past is one of the things that might concern us after reading Paul Johnstone’s work. So it is a book of considerable importance for the moment. It warns us of the perilous age in which we live, and it tells us that the need to create a structure of peace in a multipolar world is urgent.

John V. Walsh is a founding member of “Come Home America” and formerly a Professor of Physiology and Neuroscience at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He can be reached at john.endwar@gmail.com .

May 18, 2017 Posted by | Book Review, Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Last to Die in Afghanistan: US Marines Back to Helmand

By Ulson Gunnar – New Eastern Outlook – 17.05.2017

Some 300 US Marines are once again being deployed to Helmand province, Afghanistan after upward to 20,000 US Marines had spent between 2009-2014 attempting, but clearly failing to secure the province for the US-installed client regime in the nation’s capital of Kabul.

The latest deployment of US forces in Afghanistan after allegedly “ending” combat operations and the “Afghanistan War” in 2014, exposes several realities surrounding US foreign policy that directly conflict with the political narratives emanating from Washington.

The War Isn’t Over 

The United States and members of its coalition involved in the invasion and now 16 plus year occupation of Afghanistan have not in fact ended the war, let alone won it. The fact that entire districts, and even provinces remain beyond the control of America’s client regime, and even those that are under Kabul’s control remain contested, reveals an ongoing conflict with little prospect of ending.

Fighters resisting the US occupation and the US-backed client regime have established networks that extend beyond Afghanistan’s borders far from where US forces can reach. Afghanistan’s neighbors have attempted to broker practical peace deals between groups like the Taliban and other factions within Afghanistan’s patchwork of tribes for the sake of long-term stability, undermining entirely the artificially imposed political order the US has attempted to create and maintain. 

Attempts at “nation building” have failed, with foreign contractors and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) seeking to profit from their activities within Afghanistan with little to no genuine interest in a collaborative and fundamentally constructive effort to develop the nation.

Attempts to build up local Afghan governance and military forces have also failed because of a fundamental disconnect with American objectives and the actual aspirations of the people the US is attempting to impose its version of governance upon.

The New York Times in an article titled, “Marines Return to Helmand Province for a Job They Thought Was Done,” explains the current situation in Helmand province:

The Marines’ new mission is a difficult one: to assist and train Afghan soldiers and police to defend the provincial capital. The Taliban control seven of the province’s 14 districts and are encroaching on five others. The government fully controls just two, local officials say.

The process of US Marines taking and holding towns, cities and districts only to have them fall immediately back into the armed opposition’s hands after withdrawing is a familiar one for US foreign policy. It is the same process that played out repeatedly in Southeast Asia as the United States struggled to impose its political will upon the people of Vietnam.

Ultimately the US conceded defeat in Vietnam with the nation then able to determine its own future for itself. Fear-mongering over the consequences of a communist Vietnam creating a cascading effect across all of Asia and placing entire nations under the control of the Soviet Union and communist China were revealed as unfounded. The people of Vietnam were just as adamantly opposed to being dictated to by their Asian neighbors as they were by French and American invaders.

Afghanistan is no different.

The War Has Nothing to do with “Terrorism” 

The entire premise for the initial invasion of Afghanistan was fighting terrorism. Predicated on the attack on September 11, 2001 in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania which cost nearly 3,000 lives and blamed on Al Qaeda, the invasion of Afghanistan was meant to strike at the senior leadership of the terrorist organization, including Osama Bin Laden.

Instead, from the beginning, the US invasion focused almost exclusively on regime change, targeting the ruling Taliban, not Al Qaeda. The invasion and toppling of the Taliban government transformed into a protracted occupation and counterinsurgency as the United States struggled to assert its political order via a supremely corrupt and incompetent client regime residing in Kabul.

And while time to time news stories would circulate regarding alleged US military operations targeting Al Qaeda, it is clear, specifically with the most recent deployment of US Marines to Helmand, that asserting, reasserting and struggling to maintain control over the Central Asian state remains America’s primary objective. 

In fact, within the body of the New York Times’ nearly 1,000 word article regarding the return of US Marines to Helmand province, Al Qaeda and “terrorism” weren’t mentioned once.

Sadly, actual terrorists, including Al Qaeda itself, have been intentionally bolstered by the US and its allies, specifically in Syria where weapons, training, money and other forms of material support are being funneled into their hands to carry out regime change by proxy against Damascus.

The common denominator defining US foreign policy appears to be  imposing Washington’s political will upon nations and regions, with terrorism serving as the most tenuous of excuses, and at other times, being used explicitly as a tool to carry out US foreign policy.

America, Its Client Regime Unwanted

Toward the end of the article, the New York Times admits (emphasis added):

But the biggest challenge for the Marines will be to help Afghan forces regain territory and hold it. Abdul Jabar Qahraman, President Ashraf Ghani’s former envoy in charge of operations in Helmand, said that for a long time the people of Helmand had sided with the Afghan forces, but that the government had repeatedly failed the civilian population and “left them handcuffed for the brutal enemy.” He said he expected that the Afghan forces would struggle to regain the population’s trust.

“There is no contact between the security forces and the local people,” Mr. Qahraman said. “People do not believe the promises of security forces, and the security forces always remain inside their bases, they don’t get out.”

It is clear that the problem is not just the “Taliban,” but rather the United States’ entire agenda, not only in Helmand province, or even in Afghanistan, but overseas in general. 

It is attempting to impose a self-serving political order that suits its sociopolitical and economic interests at the cost of peace, stability and security for entire regions of the planet. Its presence in Afghanistan and the proxies it has established to administer the nation to serve Washington’s interests are admittedly unwanted by the very people being administered.

The 300 US Marines who have dutifully deployed to Helmand will once again risk life and limb for a nebulous objective serving a geopolitical agenda divorced from the best interests of both the American and Afghan people.

Far from enhancing the national security of the United States, the costly, protracted occupation of Afghanistan is demonstrating tactical and strategic weakness, geopolitical ineptitude and exposing the dangerous shortsighted greed that drives US foreign policy at the cost of long-term, rational planning and implementation.

What 300 US Marines are supposed to accomplish that 20,000 couldn’t years before with a much larger NATO force supporting them is difficult to discern. Like during the late stages of the Vietnam War, it appears that US foreign policymakers are designating these US Marines as the “last to die” in Afghanistan for the sake of “saving face,” though 16 years onward and with the state of Afghanistan as it is, there is little left to save.  

Ulson Gunnar is a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer.

May 18, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

US and Turkey: The Balkanization of the Middle East

By James Petras | May 15, 2017

For the past 20 years Washington has aggressively pursued the age-old imperial strategy of ‘divide and conquer’ throughout the Middle East, Southwest Asia and East Africa. Frustrated at its inability to control national policy of various independent nation-states, Washington used direct and indirect military force to destroy the central governments in the targeted nations and create patchworks of tribal-ethno-mini-states amenable to imperial rule. Tens of millions of people have been uprooted and millions have died because of this imperial policy.

Washington’s strategy of fragmentation and secession follows closely the “Greater Israel Plan” set forth by Israeli politico-military writer Oded Yinon in February 1982 and published by the World Zionist Organization. Yinon maintained that the key to Israel’s domination of the Middle East rested on fostering ethno-religious and regional divisions. Following the Yinon Plan, in the first instance, Tel Aviv signed accords with Jordan and Egypt to break-up Arab regional support for the Palestinians. It then proceeded to fragment what remained of Arab-Palestine into small warring enclaves between the West Bank and Gaza. Israel then sub-divided and settled wide swatches of the West Bank with the collaboration of the corrupt ‘Palestinian Authority’ under Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel’s ‘divide and conquer’ strategy toward the Greater Middle East depended on its placement of ‘Israel First’ officials in top policymaking positions of the US Defense, State and Treasury Departments and the power of the Zionist Power Configuration (ZPC) — the so-called “Israel Lobby” – to control the US Congress and Presidency in matters related to Israel.

The Israeli Mid-East strategy of fragmenting and weakening pro-Palestinian governments thus become the official US policy toward Arab countries.

This policy has not been limited to the Arab Middle East: Israel and US policymakers intervened to undermine the ‘pro-Palestinian’ government of Sudan by supporting a secessionist war to create a huge resource-rich ‘Southern Sudan’ conglomeration of tribal warlords, leaving a devastated region of mass murder and famine.

Somalia, Libya and Ethiopia were also riven by regional wars financed and armed by the US with overt and covert Israeli operatives and advisers.

Israel’s policy to weaken, fragment and destroy viable developing countries, differed from the traditional policies of colonial regimes, which sought to conquer and exploit unified nation-states. Washington has blindly followed Israel’s imperial ‘model’ without assessing its impact on US interests and thus undermining its past practice of economic exploitation of viable nation states.

‘Israel First’ officials within the US federal administrative policy-making bodies played a decisive role in fabricating the pretexts for the 2003 US invasion and destruction of Iraq. They pushed fake ‘documents’ alleging Iraqi ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and they promoted a plan to sub-divide the country in three ethnically ‘cleansed’ regions: Kurds (as Israel’s allies) in the North, impoverished Sunnis in the center and easily controlled Shia tribal leaders in the South.

The policy of dismantling a central government and promoting regional fragmentation backfired on the US authorities in Iraq: Sunni insurgents, often trained by experienced Baathist (former Iraqi Army) officers, formed the ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS), which took over major cities, slaughtering all non-Arab, non-Sunni residents, and threatened to established an independent state. The Shia-led government in Baghdad turned to Iran for support, forcing the US, Israel and the Kurds to declare war against ISIS, while trying to retain the weakened Sunni tribal clients. No viable central government remains in the once powerful multiethnic republic of Iraq.

The US joined Saudi Arabia in invading and bombing Yemen to destroy the Houthi rebels and favor the Sunni Salafist groups allied to al Qaeda. The goal was to weaken Yemen and prevent popular Yemini revolts from spreading to Saudi Arabia as well as undermining any Houthi alliances with Iran and expression of support for Palestine.

The US directly invaded Afghanistan expecting to easily conquer and ‘neatly’ subdivide that enormous region and ‘skillfully’ pit the various regional ethno-tribal groups against each other – while setting up a lucrative and militarily strategic site for launching future wars against US (and Israeli) rivals in Iran, Central Asia and China.

The battle-hardened Afghan Islamist Pashtun guerrilla-fighters, led by the Taliban, and unified by ethno-religious, national, tribal and extended family ties and customs, have successfully resisted this divide and conquer strategy. They now control most of the countryside, infiltrating and influencing the armed forces and police and have driven the US forces into garrison airbases, reliant on dropping mega bombs from the stratosphere.

Meanwhile, blinded by the media propaganda reports of their ‘successes’, Washington and the NATO powers launched a bloody surrogate war against the secular nationalist government of Syria, seeking to divide, conquer and obliterate an independent, pro-Palestine, pro-Iran, ally of Russia.

NATO’s invading armies and mercenary groups, however, are sub-divided into strange factions with shifting allegiances and patrons. At one level, there are the EU/US-supported ‘moderate’ head-chopping rebels. Then there are the Turkey and Saudi Arabia-supported ‘serious’ head-chopping al Qaeda Salafists. Finally there is the ‘champion’ head-chopping ISIS conglomeration based in Iraq and Syria, as well as a variety of Kurdish armed groups serving as Israeli mercenaries.

The US-EU efforts to conquer and control Syria, via surrogates, mercenaries and terrorists, was defeated largely because of Syria’s alliance with Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Syria has effectively been ‘chopped up’ by competing imperial and regional powers leading to a possible confrontation among major powers. The US-Kurdish-Turkey conflict provides the most immediate danger of serious open warfare among major nations.

Among the myriad surrogate groups that Washington supported in its seemingly contradictory policy of violently overthrowing the Syrian government in Damascus while seizing territory from ISIS, Pentagon strategists have relied most heavily on the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (YPG). The US escalated its military support for the YPG, promising heavy arms and increased US ground and air support. Meanwhile, the YPG expanded its control of the Kurdish regions in Syria especially along the Turkish border, creating a powerful territorial tie of Syrian-Kurds with Turkish-Kurds and Iraqi-Kurds. The US generous supply of heavy weapons to the YPG has increased the Kurds capacity to fight Turkey for the establishment of a contiguous ‘Greater Kurdistan’. Moreover, the US government has publicly informed Turkey that its armed forces will provide a ‘shield’ to protect the YPG – and indirectly the PKK – from Turkish attack.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is acutely aware that the YPG’s goal is to partition Southeastern Turkey and Northern Syria and form a Kurdish state with Iraqi Kurdistan. US Defense Secretary James Mattis’ pledge that ‘Washington is committed to protecting its NATO ally (Turkey)’ is ambiguous at best and most likely a hollow promise. Washington is counting on the Kurds as a strategic ally against both Damascus and ISIS. Only after accomplishing their twin goals in Syria might the Pentagon turn against the Kurds and support the Turkish government.

Complicating this scenario, the Israelis have long-standing ties with the Iraqi Kurds as part of their own divide and conquer strategy. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv has been bombing Damascus, aiding ISIS fighters in southern Syria (with material and ‘humanitarian’ medical treatment) while supporting YPG against the Syrian and Turkish militaries.

The Erdoğan regime is in a quandary: A victory for the Kurdish YPG and their occupation of territory along its border will materially threaten the ‘unity of the Turkish state’. An armed, unified Kurdish presence in this region will result in enormous pressure on Erdoğan from the nationalist political parties and supporters and the Turkish Armed Forces. On the other hand, if Erdoğan launches cross border attacks on the Pentagon-supported YPG it will directly face US ground and air power.

President Erdoğan is clearly aware that the US was involved with the silent ‘Gulanist’ permeation of the Turkish state leading up to the 2016 abortive Gulanist coup. Erdoğan’s scheduled meeting with US President Donald Trump in mid-May may not resolve the impending Turkish-Kurdish confrontation in Syria where the US is committed to protecting the YPG.

Washington hopes to convince President Erdoğan that the YPG will hand this strategic territory over to an amorphous, minuscule puppet Arab-led militia, presumably made up of non-Kurdish collaborates of the US-NATO-Saudi war against Damascus. It is hard to imagine the veteran politician Erdoğan believing a Pentagon plan for the YPG to just hand over its territorial patrimony after having fought and died to secure the region. The US is in no position to force the YPG to surrender its gains because the YPG is crucial to the Washington-Israeli-Saudi plan to destroy the central government in Damascus and fragment Syria into weak tribal mini-states.

Erdoğan’s imminent failure to get Washington support for his war with the Kurds will force him to play his ‘nationalist’ card: There will be more pro-Palestine rhetoric, more opposition to a Cyprus accord, more pro-Russia posturing and the ‘discovery’ of more and greater ‘internal threats’ to the great Turkish State.

Will Erdoğan be able defuse the hostility among his own and independent nationalist supporters?

One point is clear: A territorially-based powerful Kurdish militia, armed by the US, will be a far more formidable threat to the unity of the Turkish state than the previous ill-armed rag-tag guerrillas in the mountains of northern Iraq.

It will be a humiliating defeat if Erdoğan surrenders to Pentagon demands and tolerates a US-YPG alliance on Turkey’s border. Erdoğan has some powerful options of his own: Turkey might deny the US Armed Forces access to its huge airbases in Turkey thus weakening NATO’s ‘southern flank’. A Turkish threat to withdraw from NATO altogether would have greater repercussions. Even the slightest hint of exercising these options would set off a ‘second coup’ against Erdoğan. This would involve a more serious US-NATO-backed uprising by senior Turkish officers, ‘nationalists’, democratic secularists and Kurds in major urban centers with ‘Gulanist’ politicians and bureaucrats waiting in the wings.

President Trump and the Pentagon may gain a foothold against Damascus with Kurdish surrogates in Northern Syria, but the loss of Turkey will be a strategic setback. Behind all of this confusion and devastation the partition of Syria and, eventually of Turkey, fits in very well with Greater Israel’s ‘Oded Yinon Plan’ for subdividing Muslim countries.

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

NATO is making up Russian threat to justify its own existence – former French intel chief

RT | May 16, 2017

NATO became obsolete after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the bloc is purposefully representing Russia as a security threat to justify its own existence, Yves Bonnet, former head of French counter-intelligence, told RT.

The Russians “are no longer ‘villains,’ the Soviet threat has vanished – primarily because the USSR doesn’t exist anymore,” Bonnet said.

The claims of Moscow’s aggressive behavior coming from the US-led military bloc’s officials are “exaggerated,” the former head of Directorate of Territorial Surveillance, or DST as its French abbreviation goes, which was dissolved in 2008, added.

“I believe that NATO intentionally fuels the perception of Russia as a threat… Like any organization, the North Atlantic Alliance wants to continue existing and the only reason for prolonging its existence is you… the Russians,” he said.

Picturing Russia as in international menace “doesn’t work anymore. I can assure you that the French people, fortunately, no longer believe it,” Bonnet added.

The former intelligence chief told French-language media outlet RT en Français that he was “very sad that France has again joined NATO.”

Paris withdrew from NATO in 1966 due to questioning its ability to resist the Soviet Union and developing its own nuclear deterrent, and only returned to the bloc 30 years later.

In the current historic moment, NATO “isn’t a useful organization, but a dangerous one,” Bonnet said, adding that “the North Atlantic Alliance should be disbanded altogether.”

“I saw what NATO did in Yugoslavia [in 1999], waging a war there without an international warrant… Now NATO is invading Afghanistan, although this country isn’t in the North Atlantic,” he said.

The intelligence veteran slammed the bloc’s policies towards Russia, saying that “it makes no sense to make the Russians worry. It’s completely pointless to make [the Russians] nervous. Don’t tease the ‘Russian bear.’”

He also dismissed claims that Russia tried to meddle with the French presidential elections, voiced shortly before the April 23 vote by the candidate of successful candidate Emmanuel Macron.

“I think that it’s exactly the opposite. The Russians didn’t interfere in the French election. But there was an open influence on the presidential campaign from numerous financial interests, both French and international, in particular Israeli, who supported the presidential campaign of Emmanuel Macron,” Bonnet said.

He expressed regret that “for political reasons” Paris is neglecting cooperation with intelligence services of Russia, Syria and other countries that are “directly fighting against terrorism.”

Such international cooperation would be more effective in tackling extremism in France than the emergencies law and other measures currently imposed by the country’s’ authorities, the former intelligence chief said.

May 16, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment