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Canadian, US complaints about Russian election meddling hypocritical

By Yves Engler · June 23, 2017

If a guy does something bad to someone else, but then complains later when another person does that same thing to him, what do we say? Stop being a hypocrite. Either you change direction or you got what you deserved.

Does the same moral logic apply to countries?

Purported Russian meddling in U.S., French and other elections has received significant attention recently. “Russian meddling abroad underscores need for electoral reform in Canada” declared a rabble.ca headline this week while CBC noted “Russian attempts to infiltrate U.S. election systems found in 21 states: officials.” An earlier Globe and Mail headline stated “Russia was warned against U.S. election meddling: ex-CIA head,” while a Global News story noted “Canada should worry about Russian interference in elections: former CSIS head.”

Interference in another country’s election is an act of aggression and should not happen in a just world so these accusations deserve to be aired and investigated. But, how can one take the outrage seriously when the media commentators who complain about Russia ignore clear-cut Canadian meddling elsewhere and the decades-long history of U.S. interference in other countries’ elections around the world, including in Canada.

Ottawa has interfered in at least one recent Ukrainian election. Canada funded a leading civil society opposition group and promised Ukraine’s lead electoral commissioner Canadian citizenship if he did “the right thing” in the 2004-05 poll. Ottawa also paid for 500 Canadians of Ukrainian descent to observe the elections. Three years after Globe and Mail reporter Mark MacKinnon explained: “[Canadian ambassador to the Ukraine, Andrew Robinson] began to organize secret monthly meetings of western ambassadors, presiding over what he called “donor coordination” sessions among 20 countries interested in seeing Mr. [presidential candidate Viktor] Yushchenko succeed. Eventually, he acted as the group’s spokesman and became a prominent critic of the Kuchma government’s heavy-handed media control. Canada also invested in a controversial exit poll, carried out on election day by Ukraine’s Razumkov Centre and other groups that contradicted the official results showing Mr. Yanukovich [winning].”

Canada has also interfered aggressively in Haitian elections. After plotting, executing and consolidating the 2004 coup against Jean Bertrand Aristide’s government, Canadian officials interceded in the first election after the coup. In 2006 Canada’s then-chief electoral officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, led a team of Canadian observers to Haiti for elections that excluded the candidate — Father Gérard Jean Juste — of Haiti’s most popular political party Fanmi Lavalas. With the country gripped by social upheaval after widespread fraud in the counting, including thousands of ballots found burned in a dump, Kingsley released a statement claiming, “the election was carried out with no violence or intimidation, and no accusations of fraud.” Chair of the International Mission for Monitoring Haitian Elections, Kingsley’s statement went on to laud Jacques Bernard, the head of the electoral council despite the fact that Bernard had already been widely derided as corrupt and biased even by other members of the coup government’s electoral council.

In the 2010 election Ottawa intervened to bring far-right president Michel Martelly to power (with about 16 per cent of the votes, since the election was largely boycotted). Canada put up $6 million for elections that excluded Fanmi Lavalas from participating. After the first round, our representatives on an Organization of American States Mission helped force the candidate the electoral council had in second place, Jude Celestin, out of the runoff. The Center for Economic and Policy Research explained, “the international community, led by the U.S., France, and Canada, has been intensifying the pressure on the Haitian government to allow presidential candidate Michel Martelly to proceed to the second round of elections instead of [ruling party candidate] Jude Celestin.” Some Haitian officials had their U.S. visas revoked and there were threats that aid would be cut off if Martelly’s vote total wasn’t increased as per the OAS recommendation.

Half of the electoral council agreed to the OAS changes, but half didn’t. The second round was unconstitutional, noted Haïti Liberté’s Kim Ives, as “only four of the eight-member Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) have voted to proceed with the second round, one short of the five necessary. Furthermore, the first round results have not been published in the journal of record, Le Moniteur, and President Préval has not officially convoked Haitians to vote, both constitutional requirements.”

The absurdity of the whole affair did not stop the Canadian government from supporting the elections and official election monitors from this country gave a thumbs-up to this farcical exercise in “democracy.” Describing the fraudulent nature of the elections, Haiti Progrès explained “the form of democracy that Washington, Paris and Ottawa want to impose on us is becoming a reality.”

Washington has, of course, interfered in hundreds of elections in dozens of countries, including Italy, France, Greece, Chile, Ecuador, Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Australia and, yes, Canada.

You haven’t heard about that one?

During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis the Kennedy administration wanted Ottawa’s immediate and unconditional support in putting the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) on high alert. Diefenbaker hesitated, unsure if Washington was telling him the full story about Soviet/Cuban plans or once again bullying the small island nation.

Not happy with Diefenbaker’s attitude during the Cuban Missile Crisis or his ambivalence towards nuclear weapons in Canada, President John F. Kennedy worked to precipitate the downfall of his minority Conservative government. Kennedy preferred Lester Pearson’s Liberals who criticized Diefenbaker on Cuba and were willing to accept nuclear-armed Bomarc missiles.

“In the fall of 1962,” notes Peter McFarlane in Northern Shadows: Canadians and Central America, “the State Department began to leak insulting references about Diefenbaker to the U.S. and Canadian press.” Articles highly critical of the Canadian prime minister appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek and other major U.S. media outlets. On January 3 the outgoing commander of NATO, US General Lauris Norstad, made a surprise visit to Ottawa where he claimed Canada would not be fulfilling her commitments to the north Atlantic alliance if she did not acquire nuclear warheads. Diefenbaker believed the US general came to Canada “at the behest of President Kennedy” to set the table “for Pearson’s conversion to the United States nuclear policy.”

A future prime minister, Pierre Trudeau, concurred. He asked: “Do you think that General Norstad, the former supreme commander of allied forces in Europe, came to Ottawa as a tourist on January 3 to call publicly on the Canadian government to respect its [nuclear] commitments? Do you think it was by chance that Mr. Pearson, in his speech of January 12, was able to quote the authority of General Norstad? Do you think it was inadvertent that, on January 30, the State Department gave a statement to journalists reinforcing Mr. Pearson’s claims and crudely accusing Mr. Diefenbaker of lying?… you believe that it was by coincidence that this series of events ended with the fall of the [Diefenbaker] government on February 5?”

A State Department official, Willis Armstrong, described Kennedy’s attitude towards the March 1963 Canadian election: “He wanted to intervene and make sure Pearson got elected. It was very evident the president was uptight about the possibility that Pearson might not win.” Later Kennedy’s Secretary of State Dean Rusk admitted, “in a way, Diefenbaker was right, for it was true that we preferred Mike Pearson.”

During the 1963 election campaign Kennedy’s top pollster, Lou Harris, helped Pearson get elected prime minister. Kennedy backed Harris’ move, though he opposed an earlier request for the pollster to help British Labour leader Harold Wilson, which Harris then declined. Since Harris was closely associated with the US president the Liberals called Kennedy’s pollster by a pseudonym.

Washington may have aided Pearson’s campaign in other ways. Diefenbaker wondered if the CIA was active during the 1963 election while External Affairs Minister Howard Green said a U.S. agent attended a couple of his campaign meetings in B.C.

To Washington’s delight, Pearson won the election and immediately accepted nuclear-armed Bomarc missiles.

The lesson? Perhaps Washington and Ottawa should treat other countries in the same way they wish to be treated. Perhaps it is time for a broader discussion about election meddling.

June 23, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

A warrior prince rises in Arabia as the monarch of all he surveys

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | June 22, 2017

The royal decree of June 21 by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman appointing his son Mohammed bin Salman as the Crown Prince and next in line to the throne is a watershed event in Middle East politics. Such a development has been expected for some time, but when it actually happened, it still looks momentous and somewhat awesome.

For a start, 31-year old MbS, whom many tend to deride as the “warrior prince”, has earned a reputation for being rash in the use of force. The extremely brutal war in Yemen is his signature foreign-policy project. Saudi Arabia, famous for its caution and its glacial pace of decision-making, has changed remarkably since MbS trooped in alongside King Salman to the centre stage of the Saudi regime in January 2015.

Considering King Salman’s age and health condition, MbS is being positioned in advance so that there will be no succession struggle. MbS has been steadily tightening his grip on the key instruments of power through the past 2-year period – national security apparatus and intelligence, armed forces and oil industry – in a grim power struggle with the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who has now lost the game and is retiring from the arena.

With the vast powers of patronage vested in MbS as the Crown Prince, make no mistake, the winner takes it all. In short, the Persian Gulf’s – nay, Middle East’s – power house is about to get a new ruler who is only 31 and he may lead Saudi Arabia for decades.

The timing of the shift in the power fulcrum cannot but be noted. It is exactly one month since US President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia. Trump’s visit revived the Saudi-American alliance, which was adrift during the second term of President Barack Obama. MbS has emerged as the Trump administration’s number one interlocutor in the Saudi regime, superseding Nayef who used to be the favorite of the Obama administration.

MbS has forged links at personal level with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. In a rare gesture, the Prince invited Kushner and wife Ivanka Trump to his residence for a private meal during father-in-law Trump’s visit to Riyadh. So, Saudi-US relations from now onward will be a cozy, exclusive, secretive family affair imbued with a “win-win” spirit – as it used to be in the halcyon days when the Bush family was holding power in the US.

Trump’s visit to Riyadh signalled that Saudi Arabia has regained its stature as the US’ number one partner in the Muslim Middle East. Trump has publicly endorsed the Saudi stance in their standoff with Qatar, which, incidentally, is widely attributed to MbS.

MbS is widely regarded as the mastermind of the tough policy policy to isolate Qatar to make it submissive and has personally identified with the virulently anti-Iran thrust in the Saudi regional strategies. Therefore, MbS’ ascendancy impacts Middle East politics along the following fault lines:

·         The war in Yemen;

·         The standoff with Qatar;

·         The Saudi-Iranian tensions;

·         The nascent Saudi-Israeli regional axis;

·         Situation in Syria and Gaza and/or Lebanon; and,

·         The crackdown in Bahrain.

It remains to be seen whether the unity of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) can be preserved. MbS enjoys personal rapport with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. But other GCC states — Kuwait, Oman and Qatar — will have a profound sense of unease about the “warrior prince” and this may lead to some major realignments in the Persian Gulf.

On the one hand, MbS may advance a normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. If that happens, Israel breaks out of isolation and the Arab-Israeli conflict can never be the same again. Again, it is conceivable that MbS may throw the Palestinians under the bus. On the other hand, Iran too may finally succeed in breaching the GCC cordon that Saudi Arabia had erected, which in turn, may somewhat blur the sectarian divide in the Muslim Middle East and bring about a convergence of interests with Qatar and Turkey as regards perceived Saudi hegemony.

MbS is a man in  a hurry. He has radical ideas to transform Saudi society and its economy under the rubric of Vision 2030. He has brought in western-educated technocrats into the governmental apparatus, replacing the Old Guard. How the conservative religious establishment views these winds of change remains the big ‘unknown unknown’ — especially MbS’ management style such as his openness to out-of-the-box thinking, his uniquely public profile in a deeply conservative country, his risk-taking character and his willingness to break conventions.

There is indeed a lot of pent-up disaffection within Saudi Arabia, which makes the period of reform and transition very tricky. The example of Shah’s Iran readily comes to mind. In the ultimate analysis, therefore, the big question is Who is the real MbS?

Clearly, his conduct so far cannot be the yardstick to fathom his personality, since it was primarily a swift, decisive action plan to elbow out the incumbent Crown Prince and take his job. Now that MbS’ actual hold over the levers of power is going to be unchallenged, his priorities can also change. Indeed, there are intriguing sides to his personality – his personal role in forging Saudi Arabia’s working relationships with Moscow, his determination to reduce the economy’s dependence on oil, his appeal to the Saudi youth as the harbinger of “change” and so on. The bottom line is that social and political stability in the country is vital for the success of Vision 2030, in which MbS has staked his prestige, envisaging wide-ranging structural reforms, geo-economic restructuring and the infusion of massive investments.

King Salman’s recent visit to China underscored that MbS understands the potential linkage between his Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Of course, China is highly receptive to the idea, too. Deals worth $65 billion were signed in Beijing during King Salman’s visit. Similarly, MbS has been a frequent visitor to the Kremlin and enjoys some degree of personal rapport with President Vladimir Putin. The OPEC decision on cut in oil production has been a joint enterprise in which Putin had a “hands-on” role. Rosneft has signalled interest in acquiring shares in Aramco when its “privatisation” begins next year, and at the recent meet of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, the two countries agreed to set up a joint energy investment fund.

MbS, who is Saudi Defence Minister, has also intensified his country’s military cooperation with Russia and China. A notable project will be the Chinese drone factory to be set up in Saudi Arabia. Again, Russia is in talks currently for the sale of T-80 battle tanks to Saudi Arabia, among other weaponry.

Suffice to say, MbS is quite aware of the seamless possibilities that the multipolar world setting offers. It is useful to remember that MbS is a unique Saudi prince who never attended a western university. He is far from a greenhorn in the world of politics either, having begun as fulltime advisor to the council of ministers in 2007.

Indeed, his trademark is his assertiveness in foreign policies that stands in sharp contrast with the traditional Saudi style, and, which, therefore, looks aggressive. But then, it needs to be factored in that the war in Yemen and the strident anti-Iran outlook are immensely popular in the domestic opinion in terms of the surge of Saudi nationalism. The big question, therefore, will be how he deploys the surge of nationalism — amongst the youth, in particular — in his hugely ambitious plan to reform and modernise the country. Traditionally, Saudi rulers used to derive legitimacy from the approval of the Wahhabist religious establishment. (Read an Al Jazeera write-up on MbS’s profile here.)

June 22, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Resist This: The United States Is At War With Syria

By Jim Kavanaugh | The Polemicist |June 20, 2017

The United States is at war with Syria. Though few Americans wanted to face it, this has been the case implicitly since the Obama administration began building bases and sending Special Ops, really-not-there, American troops, and it has been the case explicitly since August 3, 2015, when the Obama administration announced that it would “allow airstrikes to defend Syrian rebels trained by the U.S. military from any attackers, even if the enemies hail from forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.” With the U.S. Air Force—under Trump, following Obama’s declared policy—shooting down a Syrian plane in Syrian airspace, this is now undeniable.  The United States is overtly engaged in another aggression against a sovereign country that poses no conceivable, let alone actual or imminent, threat to the nation. This is an act of war.

As an act of war, this is unconstitutional, and would demand a congressional declaration. The claim, touted by Joint Chiefs’ Chairman, Gen. Dunford, that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against al-Qaeda provides constitutional justification for attacking the Syrian government is patently false and particularly precious. In the Syrian conflict, it’s the Syrian government that is the enemy and target of al-Qaeda affiliates; it’s the U.S. and its allies who are supporting al Qaeda. The authorization to fight al-Qaeda has been turned into an authorization to help al-Qaeda by attacking and weakening its prime target!

Will President Trump ask for a relevant congressional authorization? Will any Democratic or Republican congresscritter demand it? Is the Pope a Hindu?

Would it make any difference? Why should Trump bother? Obama set the stage when he completely ignored the War Powers Act, the Constitution, Congress, and his own Attorney General and legal advisers, and went right ahead with a war on Libya, under the theory that, if we pretend no American troops are on the ground, it isn’t really a war or “hostilities” at all. Which I guess means if the Chinese Air Force starts shooting down American planes in American airspace in defense of Black Lives Matter’s assault on the White House, it wouldn’t really be engaging in an act of war.

It’s impossible to overstate the danger in these executive war-making prerogatives that Obama normalized—with the irresponsible connivance of his progressive groupies, who pretend not to know where this would lead. In 2012, referring to the precedent of Obama’s policies, Mitt Romney said: “I don’t believe at this stage, therefore, if I’m president that we need to have a war powers approval or special authorization for military force. The president has that capacity now.” Following Obama, for Trump, and every Republican and Democratic president, it now goes without saying.

In terms of international law, as an aggressive, unprovoked aggression against a country that makes no threat of attack on the U.S., it is also patently illegal, and all the political and military authorities undertaking it are war criminals, who would be prosecuted as such, if there were an international legal regime that had not already been undermined by the United States.

Syria is now under explicit attack by the armed forces of the U.S., Turkey, and other NATO states. Sixteen countries have combat aircraft buzzing around Syrian airspace under the effective command of the United States, and a number of them have attacked Syria’s army.

Americans, and certainly self-identified “progressives,” have to be crystal clear about this: American armed forces have no right to be in Syria, have no right to restrict the Syrian government from using any of its airspace, or to prevent it from regaining control of any of its own territory from foreign-backed jihadi armies.

The Syrian state and its allies (Iran and Russia), on the other hand, are engaged in the legitimate self-defense of a sovereign state, and have the right to respond with full military force to any attack on Syrian forces or any attempt by the United States to balkanize or occupy Syrian territory, or to overthrow the Syrian government. Whether and how they do respond will depend on their own military/political calculus, about which they have so far been quite careful and restrained. It would be the height of foolishness, as well as arrogance, for Americans to presume they can bully these actors into submission with an infinite series of discrete aggressions, with no sharp counterattack. Unfortunately, the world has not yet seen the limits of American arrogance.

So please, do not pretend to be shocked, shocked, if Syria and its allies fight back, inflicting American casualties. Don’t pose as the morally superior victim when Americans are killed by the people they are attacking. And don’t be preaching about how everyone has to support our troops in a criminal, unconstitutional, aggressive attack on a country that has not threatened ours in any way. American soldiers and pilots executing this policy are not heroes, and are not fighting to protect America or advance democracy; they are the international equivalent of home invaders, and as such are legitimate targets with no claim to “self-defense.” The only heroic act they could do is refuse their superiors’ illegitimate orders to engage in this aggression.

In response to American attacks, the Syrian Army has every right to strike back at the American military apparatus, everywhere. Every casualty of this war, however big it gets, is the ethico-political responsibility of the attacking party – US. The first responsibility of every American is not to “support our troops,” but to stop this war. Right now. Before it gets worse.

It’s quite obvious, in fact, that the United States regime is deliberately making targets of its military personnel, in the hopes of provoking a response from Syrian or allied armed forces that will kill some Americans, and be used to gin up popular support for exactly the kind of major military attack on Syria and/or Russia and/or Iran that the American people would otherwise reject with disgust. Anyone who professes concern for “our troops” should be screaming to stop that.

It’s also quite clear now that the War on ISIS is a sham, that ISIS was always just a pretext to get the American military directly involved in attacking the Syrian army and destroying the coherence of the Syrian state. If the U.S. wanted to defeat ISIS, it could do so easily by coordinating their actions with, and not against, the forces who have been most effectively fighting it: the Syrian Arab Army, Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah.

Instead, it’s attacking the Syrian army precisely because it has been defeating ISIS and other jihadi forces, and regaining its own territory and control of its own border with Iraq. The U.S. does not want that to happen. At the very least—if it cannot immediately engender that massive offensive to overthrow the Baathist government—the U.S. wants to control part of the border with Iraq and to occupy a swath of eastern Syria. It wants to establish permanent bases from which to provision and protect jihadi armies, achieving a de facto partitioning of the Syrian state, maintaining a constant state of armed attack against the Damascus government, and reducing Syria to a weakened, rump state that can never present any effective resistance to American, Israeli, or Saudi designs on the region.

This is extremely dangerous, since the Syrians, Russians, and Iranians seem determined not to let this happen. Consistent with his own incompetence and his admiration for tough guys, Trump seems to have abrogated authority to his generals to make decisions of enormous political consequence. Perhaps that’s why aggressive actions like the shoot-down of the Syrian plane have been occurring more frequently, and why it’s not likely they’ll abate. There’s a dynamic in motion that will inevitably lead each side to confront a choice of whether to back down, in a way that’s obvious, or escalate. Generals aren’t good at backing down. A regional or global war is a real possibility and becomes more likely with every such incident.

Though most American politicians and media outlets do not want to say it (and therefore, most citizens cannot see it clearly enough), such a war is the objective of a powerful faction of the Deep State which has been persistent and determined in seeking it. If the generals are loath to back down in a battle, the neocons are adamant about not backing down on their plans for the Middle East. They will not be stopped by anything less than overwhelming popular resistance and international pushback.

The upside of these attacks on Syrian forces is that they wipe the lipstick off the pig of the American project in Syria. It’s a regime-change, nation-destroying war that has nothing to do with democracy or human rights, and everything to do with the anti-democratic, chaos-creating designs of the most nefarious regimes in the region and the world. Everyone—European countries who profess concern for international law and stability, and the American people who are fed up with constant wars that have no benefit for them—can see exactly what kind of blatant aggression is unfolding, and decide whether they want to go along with it.

In that regard, any self-identified “liberal” or “progressive” American—and particularly any such American politician—who spent (and may still spend) their political energy attacking Bush, et. al., for that crazy war in Iraq, and who goes along with, or hesitates to immediately and energetically denounce this war, which is already underway, is a political hypocrite, resisting nothing but the obvious.

June 21, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Spoiling for a Wider War in Syria

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | June 20, 2017

The U.S. mainstream media’s near universal demonization of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin – along with similar hatred directed toward Iran and Hezbollah – has put the world on a path toward World War III.

Ironically, the best hope for averting a dangerous escalation into a global conflict is to rely on Assad, Putin, Iran and Hezbollah to show restraint in the face of illegal military attacks by the United States and its Mideast allies inside Syria.

In other words, after the U.S. military has bombed Syrian government forces on their own territory and shot down a Syrian warplane on Sunday – and after Israel has launched its own strikes inside Syria and after Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have financed and armed jihadists to overthrow Assad – it is now up to the Syrian government and its allies to turn the other cheek.

Of course, there is also a danger that comes from such self-control, in that it may encourage the aggressors to test the limits even further, seeing restraint as an acceptance of their impunity and a reason to ignore whatever warnings are issued and red lines drawn.

Indeed, if you follow The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and other big U.S. news outlets, perhaps the most striking groupthink that they all share is that the U.S. government and its allies have the right to intervene militarily anywhere in the world. Their slogan could be summed up as: “International law – that’s for the other guy!”

In this upside-down world of American hegemony, Assad becomes the “aggressor” when he seeks to regain control of Syrian territory against armed insurgents, dominated by Al Qaeda and Islamic State (ISIS), or when he protests the invasion of Syrian territory by foreign forces.

When Assad legally seeks help from Russia and Iran to defeat these foreign-armed and foreign-backed jihadists, the U.S. mainstream media and politicians treat his alliances as improper and troublemaking. Yet, the uninvited interventions into Syria by the United States and its various allies, including Turkey and Israel, are treated as normal and expected.

Demanding Escalation

The preponderance of U.S. media criticism about U.S. policy in Syria comes from neoconservatives and liberal interventionists who have favored a much more ambitious and vigorous “regime change” war, albeit cloaked in prettier phrases such as “safe zones” and “no-fly zones.”

So, you have Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal editorial, which praises Sunday’s U.S. shoot-down of a Syrian military plane because it allegedly was dropping bombs “near” one of the U.S.-backed rebel groups – though the Syrians say they were targeting an Islamic State position.

Although it was the U.S. that shot down the Syrian plane over Syria, the Journal’s editorial portrays the Russians and Syrians as the hotheads for denouncing the U.S. attack as a provocation and warning that similar air strikes will not be tolerated.

In response, the Journal’s neocon editors called for more U.S. military might hurled against Syria and Russia:

“The risk of escalation is real, but this isn’t a skirmish the U.S. can easily avoid. Mr. Assad and his allies in Moscow and Tehran know that ISIS’s days are numbered. They want to assert control over as much territory as possible in the interim, and that means crushing the SDF [the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces].

“The Russian threat on Monday to target with anti-aircraft missiles any U.S. aircraft flying west of the Euphrates River in Syria is part of the same intimidation strategy. Russia also suspended a hotline between the two armed forces designed to reduce the risk of a military mistake. Iran, which arms and assists Mr. Assad on the ground, vowed further Syrian regime attacks against SDF, all but daring U.S. planes to respond amid the Russian threat.

“The White House and Pentagon reacted with restraint on Monday, calling for a de-escalation and open lines of communication. But if Syria and its allies are determined to escalate, the U.S. will either have to back down or prepare a more concerted effort to protect its allies and now U.S. aircraft.

“This is a predicament President Obama put the U.S. in when his Syrian abdication created an opening for Vladimir Putin to intervene. Had the U.S. established a no-fly or other safe zone to protect refugees, the Kremlin might have been more cautious.”

As senior U.S. commanders have explained, however, the notion of a sweet-sounding “no-fly or other safe zone” would require a massive U.S. military campaign inside Syria that would devastate government forces and result in thousands of civilian deaths because many air defenses are located in urban areas. It also could lead to a victory for Al Qaeda and/or its spinoff, Islamic State, a grisly fate for most Syrians.

Propaganda Value

But the “safe zone” illusion has great propaganda value, essentially a new packaging for another “regime change” war, which the neocons lusted for in Syria as the follow-on to the Iraq invasion in 2003 but couldn’t achieve immediately because the Iraq War turned into a bloody disaster.

Instead, the neocons had to settle for a proxy war on Syria, funded and armed by the U.S. government and its regional allies, relying on violent jihadists to carry out the brunt of the fighting and killing. When Assad’s government reacted clumsily to this challenge, the U.S. mainstream media depicted Assad as the villain and the “rebels” as the heroes.

In 2012, the Defense Intelligence Agency, then under the direction of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, warned that the U.S. strategy would give rise to “a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria.”

Flynn went further in a 2015 interview when he said the intelligence was “very clear” that the Obama administration made a “willful decision” to back these jihadists in league with Middle East allies. (Flynn briefly served as President Trump’s national security adviser but was ousted amid the growing Russia-gate “scandal.”)

Only in 2014, when Islamic State militants began decapitating American hostages and capturing cities in Iraq, did the Obama administration reverse course and begin attacking ISIS while continuing to turn a blind-eye to the havoc caused by other rebel groups allied with Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, including many outfits deemed “moderate” in the U.S. lexicon.

But the problem is that almost none of this history exists within the U.S. mainstream narrative, which – as the Journal’s neocon editors did on Tuesday – simply depicts Obama as weak and then baits President Trump to show more military muscle.

What U.S. National Interests?

The Journal editorial criticized Trump for having no strategy beyond eradicating ISIS and adding: “Now is the time for thinking through such a strategy because Syria, Russia and Iran know what they want. Mr. Assad wants to reassert control over all of Syria, not a country divided into Alawite, Sunni and Kurdish parts. Iran wants a Shiite arc of influence from Tehran to Beirut. Mr. Putin will settle for a Mediterranean port and a demonstration that Russia can be trusted to stand by its allies, while America is unreliable. None of this is in the U.S. national interests.”

But why isn’t this in U.S. national interests? What’s wrong with a unified secular Syria that can begin to rebuild its shattered infrastructure and repatriate refugees who have fled into Europe, destabilizing the Continent?

What’s the big problem with “a Shiite arc of influence”? The Shiites aren’t a threat to the United States or the West. The principal terror groups – Al Qaeda and ISIS – spring from the extremist Saudi version of Sunni Islam, known as Wahhabism. I realize that Israel and Saudi Arabia took aim at Syria in part to shatter “the Shiite arc,” but we have seen the horrific consequences of that strategy. How has the chaos that the Syrian war has unleashed benefited U.S. national interests?

And so what that Russia has a naval base on the Mediterranean Sea? That is no threat to the United States, either.

But what is the alternative prescription from the Journal’s neocon editors? The editorial concludes: “The alternative would be to demonstrate that Mr. Assad, Iran and Russia will pay a higher price for their ambitions. This means refusing to back down from defending U.S. allies on the ground and responding if Russia aircraft or missiles attempt to take down U.S. planes. Our guess is that Russia doesn’t want a military engagement with the U.S. any more than the U.S. wants one with Russia, but Russia will keep pressing for advantage unless President Trump shows more firmness than his predecessor.”

So, rather than allow the Syrian government to restore some form of order across Syria, the neocons want the Trump administration to continue violating international law, which forbids military invasions of sovereign countries, and keep the bloodshed flowing. Beyond that, the neocons want the U.S. military to play chicken with the other nuclear-armed superpower on the assumption that Russia will back down.

As usual, the neocon armchair warriors don’t reflect much on what could happen if U.S. warplanes attacking inside Syria are shot down. One supposes that would require President Trump to authorize a powerful counterstrike against Russian targets with the possibility of these escalations spinning out of control. But such craziness is where a steady diet of neocon/liberal-hawk propaganda has taken America.

We are ready to risk nuclear war and end all life on the planet, so Israel and Saudi Arabia can shatter a “Shiite arc of influence” and so American politicians don’t have to feel the rhetorical lash of the neocons and their liberal-hawk sidekicks.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

June 20, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Illegal Occupation, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

US police arrest anti-nuclear weapons activists at UN

Press TV – June 20, 2017

A number of anti-nuclear weapons activists have been arrested in New York during a protest against Washington’s decision to boycott negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

The arrests were made after the activists chanting slogans such as “US join the talks, ban the bomb,” blocked the entrances to the US mission to the United Nations.

The protesters sat in front of the doors before the police moved in. police said they warned the demonstrators that they would be arrested if they did not leave the place.

In March, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced that the United States, Britain and France had decided not to join talks on a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

The United Nations is currently holding a second round of negotiations about the issue.

The world body adopted a resolution in December to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading toward their total elimination and encouraged all member states to participate.

A total of 113 nations voted in favor of the resolution but 35 countries, including the United States, Britain and France, voted against it. Thirteen countries abstained.

According to the US military’s recent declaration, the United States has 806 deployed ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missile), SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missile), and heavy bombers as well as 1,722 deployed nuclear warheads.

The Pentagon is also equipped with a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV), a highly advanced version of the intercontinental nuclear missile carrying several independent warheads.

June 20, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 1 Comment

US Risks Wider War by Downing Syrian Plane

By Gilbert Doctorow | Consortium News | June 19, 2017

The Pentagon’s announcement that the U.S. military had shot down a Syrian warplane inside Syrian territory merited only inside-the-paper treatment at The New York Times and The Washington Post on Monday, but it became the featured article on the Russian version of Google News citing a Moscow newspaper reporting a warning from Russia’s Federation Council that “the USA can receive a return blow in Syria.”

The article in Moskovsky Komsomolets and several similar accounts in other leading Russian print media recounted the warning issued by the Deputy Chairman of the Committee on International Affairs in Russia’s upper house, Vladimir Jabarov, that the shoot-down of the Syrian SU-22 bomber on Sunday by the U.S.-led coalition can lead to “a major conflict.” The Senator noted that Syrian air space is protected both by a Syrian operated S-300 ground to air defense system and by Russian-operated state-of-the-art S-400 missiles.

Jabarov called for diplomats of the interested parties to meet as soon as possible to discuss the incident. And he warned, in dark tones, that the plane’s destruction could lead to a return attack from the Syrian armed forces. The article also quotes the first deputy chairman of Russia’s Committee on Defense and Security in the upper chamber, Frants Klintsevich, describing the shoot-down as “a provocation directed against Russia.”

The Syrian government said its bomber was operating against Islamic State forces near Raqqa, though the U.S. coalition claimed Syrian forces and the plane had attacked rebels, called the Syrian Democratic Forces and operating under the guidance of U.S. Special Forces.

It perhaps should go without saying that under international law the Syrian government has the right to operate inside Syrian airspace and that the U.S. military has no legal right to have personnel inside Syria (since they lack the Syrian government’s permission) let alone to attack the Syrian military or its allied forces. Another curious feature about this situation is that the U.S. mainstream media sees nothing illegal or unusual about the U.S. military operating inside another country uninvited and shooting down government aircraft.

That assumption that the U.S. military has the right to intervene in any conflict of its choosing was reflected in the decision by the Times and Post to minimize coverage of the shoot-down of the Syrian bomber and accept uncritically the Pentagon’s explanation that the shoot-down was in response to Syrian government attacks on U.S.-backed forces. (The Wall Street Journal did lead its Monday print edition with a story about the shoot-down of the Syrian plane, but also acted as if the U.S. military was within its rights in doing so.)

Given the potential for a dangerous U.S. military showdown with Russia, whose forces have been invited into Syria by the internationally recognized government, the Kremlin initially tamped down concern about the clash. Russian state television on Sunday night and into Monday paid almost no attention to the shoot-down, apparently awaiting a decision on a suitable response to the American “provocation.”

That response came on Monday when the Russian military command once again declared that the deconflicting hotline between U.S.-allied and Russian forces on air movements over Syria has been severed. That is to say the Russians reinstated the response they made following Donald Trump’s Tomahawk missile attack on a Syrian air base in April. In effect, this Russian action halts all flights into the area from the U.S. aircraft carrier that launched the plane that shot down the Syrian bomber. In line with that decision, the Kremlin warned that all allied air operations near where the Russian air force is flying will be targeted and destroyed.

U.S. Reactions

Only then did The New York Times and The Washington Post begin to react to the seriousness of the confrontation. The former produced an analytical article entitled “Russia Warns U.S. After Downing of Syrian Warplane,” published Monday at its Web site. The Post did the same under the heading “Russia threatens to treat U.S. coalition aircraft as targets over Syria.”

These articles are unusual in one respect: they quote extensively from official Russian sources, including the accusation that the U.S. actions in Syria are in violation of international law. They also mention the dynamism of the Syrian armed forces in bringing the fight to the east of the country even if this means pushing against U.S.-assisted rebels.

What these newspapers do not explain is how and why the Syrian army has been energized to pursue national unification: namely it is the direct result of freeing up Syrian forces, which had been tied down in the west, through the implementation of “deconfliction” settlements that Iran, Turkey and Russia hammered out in the so-called Astana talks earlier this spring. Those settlements never received U.S. approval, though Moscow hoped they would become a platform for a broader U.S.-Russian understanding regarding possible areas of cooperation before the first meeting between Presidents Putin and Trump.

Instead, the U.S. shoot-down of the Syrian bomber, the first direct U.S. attack on a Syrian aircraft in the six-year conflict, signals a return to the Pentagon’s actions undermining the accommodating policies of a U.S. president in Syria. Last September, when Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reached agreement on a partial cease-fire in Syria with the support of President Obama, a U.S. air attack killing Syrian troops in the besieged eastern outpost of Deir Ezzor scuttled the arrangement.

Now it appears that the Pentagon may be sabotaging another possibility of accommodation between Putin and Trump by escalating the U.S. military intervention in Syria at a time when the Syrian government has been consolidating its control over large swaths of Syria. The latest clash also heightens the possibility that Russian air defenses may shoot down a U.S. warplane and push tensions to even a higher level.


Gilbert Doctorow is an independent political analyst based in Brussels. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015. His forthcoming book Does the United States Have a Future? will be published on 1 September 2017.

June 19, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

CONFIRMED: Kurdish forces are now the enemy of Syria

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | June 19, 2017

Those who said that Kurdish forces did not mean Syria harm have been proved manifestly incorrect.

Many have long suspected that Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in Syria are doing so in pursuit of a uniquely self-interested goal, that of carving out a large autonomous region from legal Syrian territory or otherwise unilaterally proclaiming an independent state on sovereign Syrian soil.

Now, the Kurdish dominated and strongly US backed SDF has confirmed that it will “retaliate” against any incursions of the Syrian Arab Army into what it now considers its territory.

This is proto-annexation in all but name. The only troops who have the ultimate right to move anywhere they want within Syria and attack any and all targets that the government feels are a threat to Syrian security and sovereignty are the forces of the Syrian Arab Army and their allies.

Any ally who acts unilaterally is de-facto no longer an ally but an aggressor and a security risk.

According to SDF spokesperson Talal Selowas,

“Since June 17, 2017, the regime’s forces…have mounted large-scale attacks using planes, artillery, and tanks in regions liberated by our fighters during battles for the city of Tabqa and the Euphrates Dam three months ago”.

Selowas furthermore promised “retaliation” for Syrian troops moving as they see fit In Syria.

The statement from the SDF makes it abundantly clear that they intend to keep the territory they have “liberated”. From the Syrian perspective, an occupational force of Syrian territory which refuses to allow Syria free movement of its forces on its own territory is acting as an aggressor. Any state in the world would view this in the same manner, just ask any US historian of the American Civil War.

As Kurdish forces are now unambiguously American proxies, this development has confirmed once and for all that American mission creep has led to attempts by US proxies to do what ISIS have been doing for years: illegally occupying Syrian territory with the goal of annexation.

June 19, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | 1 Comment

More radiation accidents ‘likely’ if Hanford funding cut – Energy Dept official

RT | June 16, 2017

The aging infrastructure at the largest US nuclear waste site at Hanford, Washington is breaking down, making incidents involving the release of radiation more likely, according to the senior Energy Department official at the site.

The Hanford site, located along the Columbia River near Richland, Washington, stores nuclear waste dating back to the early days of the US atomic program. Workers at the site have been repeatedly exposed to toxic fumes and “burps” of radiation, with crumbling structures posing a continued risk of radioactive release.

The official deadline for cleanup at the site is 2060. Doug Shoop, who runs the Energy Department operations office at Hanford, told AP this week that some of the structures at Hanford could collapse before then.

“The infrastructure is not going to last long enough for the cleanup,” Shoop said in an interview. “It will be another 50 years before it is all demolished.”

The site’s annual cleanup budget is $2.3 billion, but Shoop says that fully decontaminating the 580-square mile (1,502 square kilometer) site will cost at least $100 billion. President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget cuts Hanford’s funding by $120 million.

Shoop’s comments come after two incidents, a month apart, that involved collapsing infrastructure at the site. On June 8, demolition work at a 1940s-era plutonium extraction plant caused a release of radiation, but the levels were declared low enough to be safe.

The plant processed 24,000 tons of irradiated uranium fuel rods to remove plutonium for nuclear weapons during the Cold War. It hasn’t been operational since 1967.

Hundreds of workers were evacuated and portions of the site were placed on lockdown after the roof of a 1950s rail tunnel storing radioactive waste and contaminated rail cars collapsed on May 9, opening a 20-foot-wide sinkhole.

The 360-foot (110-meter) long tunnel held eight railroad cars that transported waste in the 1950s, and were buried there until they can be decontaminated. The dirt that fell into the gunnel prevented the release of radiation into the air, officials said. Workers have since filled in the sinkhole and covered the tunnel with tarpaulins.

“There are a whole bunch of things analogous to the tunnels,” Shoop said.

Hanford has 177 underground tanks made of steel, which contain more that 54 million gallons (204 million liters) of radioactive and chemical waste. In April 2016, some 20 workers at the site workers requested medical evaluations on because of potential exposure to chemical vapors and toxic fumes.

“We are sending people into environments no one was expected to go to,” Shoop said. “Is there the potential for more alarms? Absolutely.”

Built during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project to develop the nuclear bomb, Hanford still contains roughly 53 million gallons – over 2,600 rail cars – worth of high-level nuclear waste, left from the production of plutonium for the US nuclear weapons program.

June 17, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | Leave a comment

The lies that are told to justify Canadian foreign policy

By Yves Engler · June 16, 2017

Lies, distortions and self-serving obfuscations are to be expected when political and business leaders discuss far away places.

In a recent Toronto Star column Rick Salutin observed that “foreign policy is a truth-free, fact-free zone. When leaders speak on domestic issues, citizens at least have points of reference to check them against. On foreign affairs they blather freely.”

Salutin vividly captures an important dynamic of political life. What do most Canadians know about our government’s actions in Afghanistan or Haiti? Most of us have never been to those countries and don’t know anyone living there, from there or even who’ve been there. We are heavily dependent on media and politicians’ portrayals. But, as I detail in A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation, international correspondents generally take their cue from the foreign policy establishment or diplomats in the field.

Journalists are prepared to criticize governments and corporations to a certain extent on “domestic” issues, but the spirit of “challenging power” largely disappears regarding foreign policy. One reason is that nationalism remains an important media frame and the dominant media often promotes an “our team” worldview.

Another explanation is the web of state and corporate generated ideas institutes, which I review in A Propaganda System, that shape the international discussion. In a forthcoming second volume I look at the Canadian Left’s contribution to confusing the public about international policies.

The state/corporate nexus operates largely unchallenged in the Global South because there is little in terms of a countervailing force. Instead of criticizing the geo-strategic and corporate interests overwhelmingly driving foreign policy decisions, the social democratic NDP has often supported them and contributed to Canadians’ confusion about this country’s international affairs. The NDP endorsed bombing Serbia and Libya and in recent years they’ve supported military spending, Western policy in the Ukraine and the dispossession of Palestinians. The NDP has largely aligned with the foreign policy establishment or those, as long time NDP MP Libby Davies put it, who believe a “Time Magazine version” of international affairs.

Closely tied to the NDP, labour unions’ relative indifference to challenging foreign policy is another reason why politicians can “blather freely” on international affairs. On many domestic issues organized labour represents a countervailing force to the corporate agenda or state policies. While dwarfed by corporate Canada, unions have significant capacities. They generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual dues and fund or participate in a wide range of socially progressive initiatives such as the Canadian Health Coalition, Canadian Council for Refugees and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. But, unions rarely extend their broader (class) vision of society to international affairs. In fact, sometimes they endorse unjust international policies.

To the extent that politicians’ “blathering” is restrained it is largely by other countries. The recent political conflict in the Ukraine provides an example. Canadian politicians have aggressively promoted a simplistic, self-serving, narrative that has dominated the media-sphere. But, there is a source of power countering this perspective. Moscow financed/controlled media such as RT, Sputnik and others have offered a corrective to the Western line. A comparatively wealthy and powerful state, Russia’s diplomats have also publicly challenged the Canadian media’s one-sided portrayal.

An important, if rarely mentioned, rule of foreign policy is the more impoverished a nation, the greater the gap is likely to be between what Canadian officials say and do. The primary explanation for the gap between what’s said and done is that power generally defines what is considered reality. So, the bigger the power imbalance between Canada and another country the greater Ottawa’s ability to distort their activities.

Haiti provides a stark example. In 2004 Ottawa helped overthrow Haiti’s elected government and then supported an installed regime that killed thousands. Officially, however, Ottawa was “helping” the beleaguered country as part of the “Friends of Haiti” group. And the bill for undermining Haitian democracy, including the salaries of top coup government officials and the training of repressive cops, was largely paid out of Canada’s “aid” to the country.

A stark power imbalance between Ottawa and Port-au-Prince helps explain the gulf between Canadian government claims and reality in Haiti. Describing the country at the time of Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s ouster, former Globe and Mail foreign editor Paul Knox observed, “obviously, in the poorest country of the Americas, the government is going to have fewer resources at its disposal to mount a PR exercise or offensive if it feels itself besieged.”

With a $300 US million total budget for a country of eight million, the Haitian government had limited means to explain their perspective to the world either directly or through international journalists. On the other hand, the Washington-Paris-Ottawa coup triumvirate had great capacity to propagate their perspective (at the time the Canadian International Development Agency and Foreign Affairs each spent 10 times the entire Haitian budget and the Department of National Defence 60 times). The large Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince worked to influence Canadian reporters in the country and their efforts were supplanted by the Haiti desks at CIDA and Foreign Affairs as well as the two ministries’ communications departments and Canadian military officials.

While an imbalance in communications resources partly explains the coverage, there is also a powerful ideological component. The media’s biased coverage of Haiti cannot be divorced from ‘righteous Canada’ assumptions widely held among the intelligentsia. As quoted in an MA thesis titled “Covering the coup: Canadian news reporting, journalists, and sources in the 2004 Haiti crisis”, CBC reporter Neil McDonald told researcher Isabel McDonald the Canadian government was “one of the most authoritative sources on conflict resolution in the world.”

According to Isabel McDonald’s summary, the prominent correspondent also said, “it was crazy to imagine Canada would be involved in a coup” and that “Canadian values were incompatible with extreme inequality or race-based hegemony”, which Ottawa’s policies clearly exacerbated in Haiti. (Neil Macdonald also said his most trusted sources for background information in Haiti came from Canadian diplomatic circles, notably CIDA where his cousins worked. The CBC reporter also said he consulted the Canadian ambassador in Port-au-Prince to determine the most credible human rights advocate in Haiti. Ambassador Kenneth Cook directed him to Pierre Espérance, a coup backer who fabricated a “massacre” used to justify imprisoning the constitutional prime minister and interior minister. When pressed for physical evidence Espérance actually said the 50 bodies “might have been eaten by wild dogs.”)

The Canadian Council on Africa provides another example of the rhetoric that results from vast power imbalances and paternalist assumptions. Run by Canadian corporations operating on the continent, the council said it “focuses on the future of the African economy and the positive role that Canada can play meeting some of the challenges in Africa.”

Similar to the Canadian Council on Africa, the Canadian American Business Council, Canada China Business Council and Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce also seek to advance members’ profit-making potential. But, the other lobby groups don’t claim humanitarian objectives. The primary difference between the Canadian Council on Africa and the other regional lobby organizations is the power imbalance between Canada/the West and African countries, as well as the anti-African paternalism that dominates Canadian political culture. A group of Canadian corporations claiming their aim was to meet the social challenges of the US or UK would sound bizarre and if they said as much about China they would be considered seditious. (Ironically the US-, Britain- and China-focused lobby groups can better claim the aid mantle since foreign investment generally has greater social spinoffs in more independent/better regulated countries.) But, paternalist assumptions are so strong — and Africans’ capacity to assert themselves within Canadian political culture so limited — that a lobby group largely representing corporations that displace impoverished communities to extract natural resources is, according to the Canadian Council on Africa’s previous mission statement, “committed to the economic development of a modern and competitive Africa.”

To counter the “fact free zone” individuals need to educate themselves on international issues, by seeking alternative sources of information. More important, we should strengthen internationalist social movements and left media consciously seeking to restrict politicians’ ability to “blather freely”.

June 16, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

US Fails to Comply with Chemical Weapons Convention While Using Internationally Banned Weapons

By Peter KORZUN | Strategic Culture Foundation | 16.06.2017

Russia strictly complies with its commitments in accordance with the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (the Chemical Weapons Convention – CWC). On June 12, it announced that all sarin chemical agent stockpiles had been destroyed. Before that Russia had also eliminated the stockpiles of mustard gas and soman. All in all, Russia has destroyed 99% of all stockpiles. The ones left are sophisticated munitions; it takes time to eliminate them. The remaining 1% of stockpiles is to be destroyed till the end of the year.

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is an international arms control treaty that outlaws the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons and their precursors. It is administered by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an intergovernmental organization based in The Hague, the Netherlands. The OPCW receives states-parties’ declarations detailing chemical weapons (CW)-related activities or materials and relevant industrial activities. After receiving declarations, the OPCW inspects and monitors states-parties’ facilities and activities that are relevant to the convention, to ensure compliance.

The CWC entered into force in 1997. 192 states have joined the convention.

The United States promised, but failed, to destroy its stocks by 2012. The complete destruction is expected to take place only by the end of 2023 at best. The efforts to neutralize the remaining munitions have slowed to a trickle in recent years. The Army’s Pueblo Chemical Depot in southern Colorado still has a long way to go to full operational capacity expected to be reached no earlier than 2018. The Blue Grass Army Depot near Richmond, Kentucky, is being built and is expected to start operations only somewhere in 2023 – roughly eleven years after the date the US promised to destroy all the stockpiles, and eight, may be nine, years after the Russian Federation.

While raising ballyhoo over chemical weapons in Syria, the US fails to meet its international obligations. Other nations have also asked for extensions of deadlines but the United States is evidently not in a hurry to comply with the CWC and the delays are really impressive. If the US finally meets its promise of destroying all chemical weapons by the end of 2023, the process will have taken more than a quarter of a century and cost an estimated $40bn.

Meanwhile, technological and political challenges have resulted in lengthy delays. The snags on the way are multiple.

Unlike Russia, the US does not hesitate to use white phosphorus munitions. The weapon does not fall into the category of chemical weapons but as an incendiary weapon. Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons «prohibits the use of said incendiary weapons against civilians (already forbidden by the Geneva Conventions) or in civilian areas».

In fragrant violation of international law, the United States used white phosphorous shells in Iraq during the assault on Fallujah in 2004. At present, the incendiary munitions are used in Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa Syria. In 2015, the United States used depleted uranium (DU) in Syria. It promised not to use DU but did it.

Although no sole treaty explicitly banning the use of DU is yet in force, it is clear that using DU runs counter to the basic rules and principles enshrined in written and customary International Humanitarian Law (IHW). Article 36 of the Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions requires to ensure that any new weapon, means or method of warfare does not contravene existing rules of international law. General principles of the laws of war/IHL prohibit weapons and means or methods of warfare that cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering, have indiscriminate effects or cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment.

Banned by more than a hundred nations, US cluster bombs are used against civilians in Yemen.

In April, President Trump said the alleged Syria’s chemical attack «crossed many, many lines» to justify the US cruise missiles’ strike. Today, the reports about white phosphorous shells used by the US in Iraq and Syria are coming in. What about the US crossing the lines? Is there a better example of hypocrisy?

Police used tear gas and other chemical irritants against Occupy protesters in 2011. Tear gas is prohibited for use against enemy soldiers in battle by the Chemical Weapons Convention. The protesters in Oakland were civilians, so, formally, the police action did not constitute a breach of international law! It’s just that the police failed to give them the protection required for those who oppose the US military on a battlefield.

Known for its penchant to moralize and teach others, the United States is the biggest international law violator in the world. It uses banned weapons and ignores humanitarian norms and principles. It has already crossed all the possible lines implementing the policy of double standards but nothing stops it from high fallutin’ accusations against others. The pot just can’t stop calling the kettle black.

June 16, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Syria, Iran and N. Korea: Will Trump Attempt to Finish the Neocon Hitlist?

By Steven MacMillan – New Eastern Outlook – 16.06.2017

In Donald Trump’s short time in office, he has already shown his propensity to use military force. From dropping the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used on Afghanistan, to launching 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Iraq (oh wait, Syria), there is no doubt that the Trump administration has a prominent militaristic streak. 

But is this just for starters? If Trump stays in power for the duration of his term, is there a major war, or even multiple wars, on the horizon? Judging by the rhetoric and actions already taken by the Trump administration, it will be a miracle if the US does not start a major war in the near future. Coincidentally, the main countries in the sights of the Trump administration just happen to be the three countries that the neoconservatives pinpointed for regime change 17 years ago, but have not yet been dealt with.

1997 marked the birth of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a neoconservative think tank of catastrophic proportions. It was founded by William Kristol, the longtime editor of the Weekly Standard, who also served as the chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle, and Robert Kagan, a former State Department official who is now a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute. A long list of neocons belonged to the group, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz.

PNAC’s stated objectives included the desire to “shape a new century favourable to American principles and interests,” “increase defense spending significantly,” and challenge “regimes hostile to US interests and values.” In September 2000, the PNAC group released a report titled: Rebuilding America’s Defenses – Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century.’ The introduction to the report clearly expressed PNAC’s desire to maintain US supremacy in the world:

At present, the United States faces no global rival.  America’s grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possiblePreserving the desirable strategic situation in which the United States now finds itself requires a globally preeminent military capability both today and in the future.” 

In order to maintain this supremacy, the report called for the Defense Department to be at the forefront of experimenting with transformative technologies, a move that would require a dramatic increase in defense spending.

Curiously, the report – published one year prior to 9/11 – argued that this transformation would likely be a “long one” unless an event on the scale of “Pearl Harbor” occurred:

“To preserve American military preeminence in the coming decades, the Department of Defense must move more aggressively to experiment with new technologies and operational concepts, and seek to exploit the emerging revolution in military affairs… The effects of this military transformation will have profound implications for how wars are fought, what kinds of weapons will dominate the battlefield and, inevitably, which nations enjoy military preeminence…

The Pentagon [however], constrained by limited budgets and pressing current missions, has seen funding for experimentation and transformation crowded out in recent years.  Spending on military research and development has been reduced dramatically over the past decade… Any serious effort at transformation must occur within the larger framework of U.S. national security strategy, military missions and defense budgets… The process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor” (p.50-p.51).

Under the guise of missile capability, the report then pinpointed five countries that the neocons, in conjunction with the CIA, considered “deeply hostile” to the US:

“Ever since the Persian Gulf War of 1991… the value of the ballistic missile has been clear to America’s adversaries. When their missiles are tipped with warheads carrying nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, even weak regional powers have a credible deterrent, regardless of the balance of conventional forces.  That is why, according to the CIA, a number of regimes deeply hostile to America – North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria – ‘already have or are developing ballistic missiles’ that could threaten U.S allies and forces abroad. And one, North Korea, is on the verge of deploying missiles that can hit the American homeland.  Such capabilities pose a grave challenge to the American peace and the military power that preserves that peace” (p.51-p.52).

This report was published approximately three years prior to the invasion of Iraq, and approximately 11 years prior to both the war in Libya and the start of the proxy war in Syria. The central point I am getting at here is that the wars we have seen unfold, and the wars to come, are not just short-term actions taken by the administration who happens to be in power at that particular time. They are planned years and sometimes decades prior to the first shot being fired. Regardless of which party the President belongs to – George Bush invaded Iraq with a blue tie on, whilst Barack Obama bombed Libya with a red one on – the same regime-change-agenda continues.

Two Down, Three to Go

Although there were other reports that marked more countries that the neocons considered ‘hostile’ to the US, or more accurately, hostile to US (Western) imperial ambitions, the September 2000 report focused on five countries. With Iraq and Libya already ‘liberated,’ three countries are still on the hitlist: Syria, Iran and North Korea. Coincidentally (or not), these are some of the main countries that the Trump administration is targeting, and we are only a few months into Trump’s reign.

 Syria: Trump has already bombed Syrian government forces – or forces fighting on the side of the Syrian government – on multiple occasions since being elected. After Trump bombed Syria back in April, both Kagan and Kristol praised him, yet demanded more blood. Even though they claimed not to be major supporters of Trump during the campaign, many Bush-era hawks were – including Rumsfeld, the former Defense Secretary. The Trump administration has also admitted sending hundreds of US troops – which includes Marines – into Syria, officially in order to fight against ISIS (through training and advising rebel forces), yet it’s clear the move has as much to do with the Syrian and Iranian governments than anything else.  

Iran: Throughout Trump’s campaign for the White House, he repeatedly criticized both Iran and North Korea. Trump has always been a severe critic of the Iranian nuclear deal, and a loyal supporter of the state of Israel, meaning war with Iran seems more probable that not. In fact, Iran has claimed that Trump and Saudi Arabia are behind the recent terror attacks in Tehran, which ISIS has claimed responsibility for.

During his trip to Saudi Arabia last month, Trump took the opportunity to take another jab at Iran. In February, the US Defence Secretary, James “Mad Dog” Mattis, called Iran the “biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world,” completely ignoring the role Saudi Arabia plays in exporting terrorism. It appears as though the Trump administration is in the process of deciding which path to Persia it thinks is going to be the most effective.

North Korea: In relation to North Korea, the Trump administration has essentially backed the country into a corner, producing the obvious response from North Korea: an (attempted) show of strength. A country that the US carpet bombed during the Korean war – which included using napalm – it hardly seems likely that North Korea is just going to give in to US threats, considering the resentment many in the country still feel towards America.

This is not a defense of North Korea, but the Trump administration making one provocative statement after another has hardly reduced tensions in the region.  In March, Mattissaid that “reckless” North Korea has “got to be stopped.” The following month, Trump said North Korea is a problem that “will be taken care of.” Although Mattis has acknowledged that a conflict with North Korea would be “catastrophic,” the Trump administration appears to be willing to ratchet up tensions regardless.

In contrast, both Russia and China have emphasised that dialogue and diplomacy trump threats. Speaking in May, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, said that “we have to stop intimidating North Korea” and “return to dialogue” with them, after affirming that Russia “is against expanding the pool of nuclear powers, including North Korea.” Also in May, the Chinese Foreign Ministry called for the US and North Korea to “stop irritating each other,” and advocated “dialogue and negotiation.”

It also important to note that the North Korean issue is really about a lot more than just North Korea. As Paul Craig Roberts has highlighted, the North Korean ‘crisis’ has everything to do with Russia and China. Similar to how the US used the Iranian ‘threat’ to put anti-ballistic missile systems close to Russia’s borders, the North Korean crisis can be used to deploy anti-ballistic missiles systems next to the eastern borders of Russia and China. In a positive development however, the South Korean government has just announced (at the time of writing anyway) that it will halt the deployment of the US anti-ballistic missile system – known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) – on its territory for potentially up to a year, citing environmental concerns.

If the Trump administration and the neocons are actually reckless enough to try and force regime change in all three countries in the near future, this brings the US into direct confrontation with both Russia and China. And if a hot war between these three nuclear powers erupts, this would mark the end of human civilization as we know it.

June 16, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

‘US House & Senate at war with President Trump over foreign policy’

RT | June 15, 2017

Trump needs to sit down with House Republicans and get them to stop delegitimizing his power by conceding to Democrats that the Russians somehow put him in office, Daniel McAdams, executive director of the Ron Paul Institute, told RT America.

New anti-Russian sanctions were approved by the US Senate in a 97-2 vote on Tuesday. The measures target Russia’s energy sector, individuals accused of cyberattacks, and companies supplying arms to the Assad government in Syria.

The bill also turns Obama-era sanctions against Russia into law. That means President Trump will not be able to rescind them without a vote in Congress.

RT:  These sanctions would restrict the White House from easing sanctions without congressional approval. Do you see this as ironic, since Obama passed so many executive orders?

DM: I certainly think it is an attempt to strip the president of his legitimate constitutional foreign-policy making powers. I am certainly not one to cheer the executive branch practice of hogging power from the rest of the other two branches. But this is a case of a brazen grab. What is amazing, this is not a divided government. These are a Republican-controlled House and Senate at war with their own president, attacking his stated foreign policy, the centerpiece of his own policy as a candidate, i.e. improving relations with Russia. There is a deep, deep problem with the congressional Republicans on this.

RT:  These sanctions are in relation to Moscow’s so-called interference in the 2016 US elections. Do we have any substantial to prove to back up these allegations?

DM: That is the amazing thing – if you say something, if you repeat a lie, or at least something non-proven often enough, apparently it’s supposed to become conventional wisdom, but nobody has yet said what the Russians actually did. Did they monitor the elections? Well every country monitors the elections of other countries. Did they actually do something to affect the results, or attempt to affect the results? Nobody has said that. The supposed 17 intelligence agencies that came to that conclusion – it is an absolute canard. It was at most – and [former CIA chief] John Brennan admitted this in May – at most it was three agencies, and it was not an international agency, intelligence community full assessment. It was, as he put it, ‘handpicked analysts’ who went through some of the data. And where does some of this data come from? It came from CrowdStrike – a discredited company with ties to the very biased anti-Russian Atlantic Council. They are the only organization that did the forensic analysis of the DNC computers. The FBI didn’t even have a chain of evidence control; they never even looked at the computers. So where is the evidence? I am willing to accept it, if there is some, but there hasn’t been any presented.

RT:  Is this due to bipartisanship in Congress? It seems we have the NeverTrumpers, like Lindsey Graham, threatening the president basically to pass this or he’ll be ‘betraying democracy.’ What are your thoughts, shouldn’t we be focused more on fixing healthcare and passing tax reform at this point?

DM: This is certainly not what he [Trump] ran on. He almost ran on a non-interventionist foreign policy. At least he certainly seems to have borrowed some points form Ron Paul even. But the thing is now that he is in power – he has got to go down; he has got to go to the House, where these measures are slightly less popular than in the Senate. That is where sanctions will go to next. He needs to sit down with House Republicans and he needs to set them straight on this. They have to stop conceding this point of the Democrats that the Russians somehow put him into office, completely delegitimizing his presidency. He needs to find a way through the strength of his ability to persuade people to end this Republican-led congressional war on his foreign policy.

June 16, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | | Leave a comment