Britain will order four new nuclear submarines, Prime Minister David Cameron has announced at the Conservative party conference in Manchester.
In a clear message to anti-Trident Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, the PM said four new submarines would be ordered to replace the existing fleet, which will be retired.
In his first conference speech since the Tories won a parliamentary majority in May’s general election, Cameron used the occasion to present a strong opposition to Corbyn’s foreign policy stance, highlighting the importance of a strong nuclear deterrent.
He told a packed hall that the nuclear deterrent is the country’s “ultimate insurance policy,” adding that the government would commit to the NATO defense spending target of 2 percent of GDP.
On Dec. 26, 2009, a U.S. Special Operations team flew from Kabul to Ghazi Khan village in the Narang district of Kunar province. They attacked three houses, where they killed two adults and eight children. Seven of the children were handcuffed before they were shot. The youngest was 11 or 12, three more were 12, and one was 15. Both the United Nations and the Afghan government conducted investigations and confirmed all the details of the attack.
U.S. officials conducted their own inquiry, but no report was published and no U.S. military or civilian officials were held accountable. Finally, more than five years later, a New York Times report on Joint Special Operations Command’s (JSOC) Seal Team 6 named it as the U.S. force involved. But JSOC operations are officially secret and, to all practical purposes, immune from accountability. As a senior U.S. officer told the Times, “JSOC investigates JSOC, that’s part of the problem.”
Accountability for the U.S. attack on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz on Saturday, killing at least 22 people, is likely to be just as elusive. The bilateral security agreement that President Karzai refused to sign, but which President Ghani signed in September 2014, provides total immunity from Afghan law for U.S. forces and officials. So whoever should be held legally responsible for the massacre at the hospital will only be subject to accountability under U.S. military and civilian legal systems, which routinely fail to prosecute anyone for similar war crimes.
What makes this attack unique is not that U.S.-led forces attacked a hospital or killed civilians, but that, for the first time in many years, a Western NGO found itself operating behind enemy lines in territory controlled by Anti-Coalition Forces (ACF) or Taliban. Doctors Without Borders (or MSF for its French initials) thus found itself subject to U.S. rules of engagement under which Afghans have lived and died in their thousands for the past 14 years, effectively excluded from the protections formally guaranteed to civilians, the wounded and medical facilities by the Geneva Conventions.
While UN officials have condemned the attack on MSF in Kunduz, the UN itself has been complicit in the under-reporting of civilian casualties in ACF-held territory in Afghanistan. The UN has issued reports on civilian casualties based only on the small number of civilian deaths that it has fully investigated. When Western officials and media have cited these numbers as estimates of total civilian deaths in Afghanistan, the UN has failed to correct that misleading and dangerous impression.
For instance, when the UN documented 80 civilian killings in U.S. night raids in 2010, this was based on completed investigations of only 13 of the 73 incidents reported to the UN that year. Nader Nadery of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, who worked on the UN report, estimated that 420 civilians were killed in all 73 incidents.
But Nadery still failed to make it clear that these 73 incidents were only the ones reported to the UN, which had little or no access to ACF-held areas that were targeted by thousands of U.S. night raids and the bulk of 5,100 U.S. air strikes in 2010. U.S. officials and the Western media have used these absurdly low estimates of civilian casualties in Afghanistan to whitewash the deadly effects of 60,000 U.S. air strikes and thousands of special forces night raids over the past 14 years.
‘War Is Not Pretty’
As a former U.S. Navy Seal told the New York Times, “War is not this pretty thing the United States has come to believe it to be.” But it is not really “the United States” that has come to see war as a “pretty thing.” Rather it is our leaders who have targeted the American public with propaganda or “Stratcom” – “strategic communications” — to disguise the horrific reality of war, while providing JSOC and other U.S. forces with secrecy and legal cover to systematically violate the Geneva Conventions.
As retired Admiral James Stavridis told the Times, “If you want these forces to do things that occasionally bend the rules of international law, you certainly don’t want that out in public.”
While U.S. forces feel free to disregard the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law, the People On War survey conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) found that ordinary people in war-torn countries like Afghanistan hold strongly to the international legal conventions that are supposed to protect them.
This ICRC report did find the United States exceptional, not in believing war to be “pretty,” but in its failure to educate its people and its soldiers about the Geneva Conventions and the protections they guarantee to civilians in wartime.
While three-quarters of people in other developed countries knew that soldiers in war “must attack only other combatants and leave civilians alone,” only 52 percent of Americans were aware of this basic principle of military law. Twice as many Americans as people in other countries subscribed to an erroneous and lower legal standard that military operations should only “avoid civilians as much as possible.”
The ICRC concluded that, “Across a wide range of questions, in fact, American attitudes towards attacks on civilians were much more lax.”
U.S. officials claim that their air strikes are carefully designed and vetted by military lawyers and planners to ensure minimum “collateral damage,” but William Arkin discovered a dirty little secret about this process when he was invited to observe an attack on an alleged ACF leader in Afghanistan from the safety of the U.S. Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Qatar.
Arkin watched on a large TV screen as A-10 Warthog planes dropped two 500-pound bombs on a convoy of vehicles. U.S. officials explained that 1,000-pound bombs would have caused more casualties, while 150-pound Hellfire missiles might have missed their target, so the 500-pound bombs were carefully chosen to kill the target without causing unnecessary casualties.
But then one of the planes did something unexpected. It turned to make a second pass and blanketed the whole area with 30mm armor-piercing shells from its Gatling gun, which fires 65 shells per second. A “precision strike” had just turned into an indiscriminate massacre. A U.S. official quickly told Arkin that this was “not unauthorized.”
The dirty little secret Arkin had discovered was that, once such an operation is under way, special forces ground controllers in the area take full control, and the plans drawn up by lawyers and controllers far from the action no longer apply. Similar rules may have applied to the U.S. air strikes on the MSF hospital in Kunduz, making it difficult for anyone in Washington or Kabul to stop them once they were under way.
Senior U.S. military officers have told Dana Priest of the Washington Post that more than 50 percent of U.S. special forces night raids target the wrong person or house. But that didn’t stop President Obama making them a central tactic in his escalation of the war in Afghanistan, boosting the number of night raids from 20 raids in May 2009 to 1,000 per month a year later.
There is no reason to believe that U.S. air strikes are more accurate or based on better intelligence than night raids by special operations forces. British military adviser Kamal Alam explained to the BBC last Friday that Russian air strikes in Syria are likely to be more accurate than U.S. ones because they have the critical advantage of being guided by Syrian military intelligence on the ground.
Alam noted that even the Iraqi government depends on Syrian military intelligence in its campaign against the Islamic State, and added that this is a source of embarrassment to U.S. officials, who have no such human intelligence capabilities in Syria or Iraq.
Maybe the attack on the MSF hospital in Kunduz will force more Americans to confront the ugly reality of the devastating air war our country has waged across half a dozen countries for 14 years. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “America’s Endless Air Wars.”]
Whether any institution can succeed in holding U.S. officials legally accountable for the bombing of the MSF hospital or not, it may finally bring home the horrors and the indiscriminate nature of our country’s endless air war to millions of Americans. U.S. propaganda will try to portray this as a tragic isolated incident. It is not. It is a war crime, and only the latest in a 14-year-long policy of systematic war crimes.
Nicolas J S Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. He also wrote the chapters on “Obama at War” in Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.
The US regime change policy for Syria has been a catastrophe. More than 200,000 killed and an entire country reduced to rubble at least partly because President Obama decided that “Assad has lost his legitimacy.” How is it that the president of a country 6,000 miles away has the authority to decide whether another leader belongs in office or not? What if Rouhani in Iran decided that Obama had lost his legitimacy for killing a number of American citizens by drone without charge or trial? Would we accept that?
At least three years of US efforts to train rebels to overthrow the Syrian government has produced, as General Lloyd Austin, Commander of US Central Command, testified last month, “four or five” trained and vetted “moderates” in Syria. The $500 million appropriated for this purpose has disappeared.
The neocon solution to this failure to overthrow Assad and “degrade and destroy” ISIS is to increase the bombing and lead a ground invasion of Syria. The confusing policy of fighting Assad and also fighting his enemies does not seem to bother the neocons. They want us to forget all about their recent failures in Libya and Iraq and to try the same failed strategy one more time.
But something dramatic happened last week. Russian president Vladimir Putin delivered a speech at the United Nations criticizing the US policy of partnering with one set of extremists – al-Qaeda and its allies – to attack both ISIS and Assad. “Do you realize now what you have done?” asked Putin.
Shortly after Putin’s UN speech, he requested and was granted authority from the Russian parliament to use force in Syria in response to the Syrian government’s request for assistance against the rebels. Russian fighters and bombers began flying sorties over Syria almost immediately. In less than a week of Russian bombing, considerable damage appears to have been done to both ISIS and to al-Qaeda affiliates – some of which are considered allies by the US and were actually trained by the CIA.
It may be tempting to cheer Russian military action in Syria, as it seems ISIS is finally suffering some considerable losses. Press reports suggest large numbers of desertions in their ranks after the Russian attacks. All of a sudden what looked to be an inevitable ISIS takeover of Syria once Assad was overthrown, seems far less likely with the Russians on the scene.
But I cannot cheer the bombs, whether they are Russian bombs or US bombs or French or British bombs. I do not believe a terrorist group created by foreign intervention in the region will be solved by more foreign intervention in the region. Bombs represent a total failure of policy. They destroy a country’s economy and infrastructure.
I wish the American people would finally demand that their government end its destructive policy of trying to change any regime that does not bow to Washington’s demands. I wish Congress respected our Constitution enough to demand that the president seek a declaration of war before attacking a foreign country. I wish President Bush and his neocon advisors had never decided to overthrow the Syrian government. I wish President Obama had fired the neocons who led him from one foolish intervention to another. I wish the CIA had not trained rebels to fight alongside al-Qaeda in Syria. I wish we would reject the shrill cries of the warmongers. I wish the US media was more than just a propaganda arm of the US government.
I am not thrilled that Russia is bombing Syria. I wish nobody was bombing Syria.
NATO has started its biggest exercise since 2002 with 36,000 international troops from 30 states, including non-NATO nations, participating in the drills which are taking place at sea, in the air and across the territory of three European states.
The alliance has kicked off its massive “Trident Juncture 2015” exercises which will last until November 16. Along with the NATO member states, seven more partner nations are participating in the drills: Australia, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Sweden and Ukraine.
Some 36,000 troops as well as more than 60 warships and about 200 aircraft will participate in the drills which makes it the biggest since 2002 when about 40,000 troops took part in NATO’s “Strong Resolve” military exercise.
“The purpose of the exercise is to train and test the NATO Response Force, a highly ready and technologically advanced multinational force made up of land, air, maritime and Special Forces components,” said General Hans Lothar Domrose, the Commander of Joint Force Command Brunssum.
“Enhancing our response forces is a key part of NATO’s overall effort to adapt to emerging security challenges. TRJE15 [Trident Juncture 2015] has been designed to ensure that our concepts and procedures will work in the event of a real crisis because our job is to always be prepared to defend the people, territory, and values of this Alliance,” he added.
The drills will consist of two parts: the Command Post Exercise (CPX) for Strategic and Operational level staff, and the Live Exercise (LIVEX) for tactical level troop engagements.
The CPX, which will last until October 16, will include “training, evaluation and certification activities” of the command structure of the NATO Response Force. The European Union and the African Union are also going to participate in the CPX.
LIVEX will be held in Italy, Portugal and Spain between October 21 and November 6. NATO air forces, land forces as well as maritime forces will conduct a number of exercises – for example, responding to a simultaneous, wide-scale attack of a group of 20 enemy ships, numerous aircraft and four submarines.
In late August-September NATO conducted the greatest airborne drills in Europe since the end of the Cold War. About 5,000 soldiers from 11 NATO member states participated in the “simultaneous multinational airborne operations.”
NATO has significantly stepped up its military presence and activity along the Russian border, including in the Baltic states and eastern Europe, since Russia’s reunification with Crimea and the outbreak of conflict in eastern Ukraine, which the alliance blames on Moscow.
Russia views NATO’s ongoing expansion and constant military activity as hostile and destabilizing, repeatedly warning that Moscow will respond to NATO approaching Russian borders “accordingly.”
Southeast Asian elites “forgot” about those tens of millions of Asian people murdered by the Western imperialism at the end of and after the WWII. They “forgot” about what took place in the North – about the Tokyo and Osaka firebombing, about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs, about the barbaric liquidation of Korean civilians by the US forces. But they also forgot about their own victims – about those hundreds of thousands, in fact about the millions, of those who were blown to pieces, burned by chemicals or directly liquidated – men, women and children of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, the Philippines and East Timor.
All is forgiven and all is forgotten.
And once again the Empire is proudly “pivoting” into Asia; it is even bragging about it.
It goes without saying that the Empire has no shame and no decency left. It boasts about democracy and freedom, while it does not even bother to wash the blood of tens of millions off its hands.
All over Asia, the “privileged populaces” has chosen to not know, to not remember, or even to erase all terrible chapters of the history. Those who insist on remembering are being silenced, ridiculed, or made out to be irrelevant.
Such selective amnesia, such “generosity” will very soon backfire. Shortly, it will fly back like a boomerang. History repeats itself. It always does, the history of the Western terror and colonialism, especially. But the price will not be covered by the morally corrupt elites, by those lackeys of the Western imperialism. As always, it will be Asia’s poor who will be forced to pay.
After I descended from the largest cave in the vicinity of Tham Pha Thok, Laos, I decided to text my good Vietnamese friend in Hanoi. I wanted to compare the suffering of Laotian and Vietnamese people.
The cave used to be “home” to Pathet Lao. During the Second Indochina War it actually served as the headquarters. Now it looked thoroughly haunted, like a skull covered by moss and by tropical vegetation.
The US air force used to intensively bomb the entire area and there are still deep craters all around, obscured by the trees and bushes.
The US bombed the entirety of Laos, which has been given a bitter nickname: “The most bombed country on earth”.
It is really hard to imagine, in a sober state, what the US, Australia and their Thai allies did to the sparsely populated, rural, gentle Laos.
John Bacher, a historian and a Metro Toronto archivist once wrote about “The Secret War”: “More bombs were dropped on Laos between 1965 and 1973 than the U.S. dropped on Japan and Germany during WWII. More than 350,000 people were killed. The war in Laos was a secret only from the American people and Congress. It anticipated the sordid ties between drug trafficking and repressive regimes that have been seen later in the Noriega affair.”
In this biggest covert operation in the U.S. history, the main goal was to “prevent pro-Vietnamese forces from gaining control” over the area. The entire operation seemed more like a game that some overgrown, sadistic boys were allowed to play: Bombing an entire nation into the Stone Age for more than a decade. But essentially this “game” was nothing else than one of the most brutal genocides in the history of the 20th century.
Naturally, almost no one in the West or in Southeast Asia knows anything about this.
I texted my friend: “What I witnessed a few years ago working at the Plain of Jars was, of course, much more terrible than what I just saw around Tham Pha Thok, but even here, the horror of the US actions was crushing.” I also sent her a link to my earlier reports covering the Plain of Jars.
A few minutes later, she replied: “If you didn’t tell me… I would have never known about this secret war. As far as we knew, there was never a war in Laos. Pity for Lao people!”
I asked my other friends in Vietnam, and then in Indonesia. Nobody knew anything about the bombing of Laos.
The “Secret War” remains top-secret, even now, even right here, in the heart of the Asia Pacific region, or more precisely, especially here.
When Noam Chomsky and I were discussing the state of the world in what eventually became our book “On Western Terrorism – From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare”, Noam mentioned his visit to the war-torn Laos. He clearly remembered Air America pilots, as well as those hordes of Western journalists who were based in Vientiane but too busy to not see and to not ask any relevant questions.
“In the Philippines, the great majority of people is now convinced that the US actually ‘liberated’ our country from the Japanese”, my left-wing journalist friends once told me.
Dr. Teresa S. Encarnación Tadem, Professor of Political Science of University of the Philippines Diliman, explained to me last year, face to face, in Manila: “There is a saying here: “Philippines love Americans more than Americans love themselves.”
I asked: “How is it possible? The Philippines were colonized and occupied by the United States. Some terrible massacres took place… The country was never really free. How come that this ‘love’ towards the US is now prevalent?”
“It is because of extremely intensive North American propaganda machine”, clarified Teresa’s husband, Dr. Eduardo Climaco Tadem, Professor of Asian Studies of University of the Philippines Diliman. “It has been depicting the US colonial period as some sort of benevolent colonialism, contrasting it with the previous Spanish colonialism, which was portrayed as ‘more brutal’. Atrocities during the American-Philippine War (1898 – 1902) are not discussed. These atrocities saw 1 million Philippine people killed. At that period it was almost 10% of our population… the genocide, torture… Philippines are known as “the first Vietnam”… all this has been conveniently forgotten by the media, absent in the history books. And then, of course, the images that are spread by Hollywood and by the American pop culture: heroic and benevolent US military saving battered countries and helping the poor…”
Basically, entirely reversing the reality.
The education system is very important”, added Teresa Tadem. “The education system manufactures consensus, and that in turn creates support for the United States… even our university – University of the Philippines – was established by the Americans. You can see it reflected in the curriculum – for instance the political science courses… they all have roots in the Cold War and its mentality.”
Almost all children of the Asian “elites” get “educated” in the West, or at least in so-called “international schools” in their home countries, where the imperialist curriculum is implemented. Or in the private, most likely religious/Christian schools… Such “education” borrows heavily from the pro-Western and pro-business indoctrination concepts.
And once conditioned, children of the “elites” get busy brainwashing the rest of the citizens. The result is predictable: capitalism, Western imperialism, and even colonialism become untouchable, respected and admired. Nations and individuals who murdered millions are labeled as carriers of progress, democracy and freedom. It is “prestigious” to mingle with such people, as it is highly desirable to “follow their example”. The history dies. It gets replaced by some primitive, Hollywood and Disney-style fairytales.
In Hanoi, an iconic photograph of a woman pulling at a wing of downed US military plane is engraved into a powerful monument. It is a great, commanding piece of art.
My friend George Burchett, a renowned Australian artist who was born in Hanoi and who now lives in this city again, is accompanying me.
The father of George, Wilfred Burchett, was arguably the greatest English language journalist of the 20th Century. Asia was Wilfred’s home. And Asia was where he created his monumental body of work, addressing some of the most outrageous acts of brutality committed by the West: his testimonies ranged from the first-hand account of the Hiroshima A-bombing, to the mass murder of countless civilians during the “Korean War”. Wilfred Burchett also covered Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, to name just a few unfortunate places totally devastated by the United States and its allies.
Now his books are published and re-printed by prestigious publishing houses all over the world, but paradoxically, they do not live in sub-consciousness of the young people of Asia.
The Vietnamese people, especially the young ones, know very little about the horrific acts committed by the West in their neighboring countries. At most they know about the crimes committed by France and the US in their own country – in Vietnam, nothing or almost nothing about the victims of the West-sponsored monsters like Marcos and Suharto. Nothing about Cambodia – nothing about who was really responsible for those 2 millions of lost lives.
The “Secret Wars” remain secret.
With George Burchett I admired great revolutionary and socialist art at the Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts. Countless horrible acts, committed by the West, are depicted in great detail here, as well as the determined resistance struggle fought against US colonialism by the great, heroic Vietnamese people.
But there was an eerie feeling inside the museum – it was almost empty! Besides us, there were only a few other visitors, all foreign tourists: the great halls of this stunning art institution were almost empty.
Indonesians don’t know, because they were made stupid!” Shouts my dear old friend Djokopekik, at his art studio in Yogyokarta, He is arguably the greatest socialist realist artist of Southeast Asia. On his canvases, brutal soldiers are kicking the backsides of the poor people, while an enormous crocodile (a symbol of corruption) attacks, snaps at, and eats everyone in sight. Djokopekik is open, and brutally honest: “It was their plan; great goal of the regime to brainwash the people. Indonesians know nothing about their own history or about the rest of Southeast Asia!”
Before he died, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, the most influential writer of Southeast Asia, told me: “They cannot think, anymore… and they cannot write. I cannot read more than 5 pages of any contemporary Indonesian writer… the quality is shameful…” In the book that we (Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Rossie Indira and I) wrote together – “Exile” -, he lamented that Indonesian people do not know anything about history, or about the world.
Had they known, they would most definitely raise and overthrow this disgraceful regime that is governing their archipelago until these days.
2 to 3 million Indonesian people died after the 1965 military coup, triggered and supported by the West and by the religious clergy, mainly by Protestant implants from Europe. The majority of people in this desperate archipelago are now fully conditioned by the Western propaganda, unable to even detect their own misery. They are still blaming the victims (mainly Communists, intellectuals and “atheists”) for the events that took place exactly 50 years ago, events that broke the spine of this once proud and progressive nation.
Indonesians almost fully believe the right wing, fascist fairytales, fabricated by the West and disseminated through the local mass media channels controlled by whoring local “elites”… It is no wonder: for 50 nasty years they have been “intellectually” and “culturally” conditioned by the lowest grade Hollywood meditations, by Western pop music and by Disney.
They know nothing about their own region.
They know nothing about their own crimes. They are ignorant about the genocides they have been committing. More than half of their politicians are actually war criminals, responsible for over 30% of killed men, women and children during the US/UK/Australia-backed occupation of East Timor (now an independent country), for the 1965 monstrous bloodletting and for the on-going genocide, which Indonesia conducts in Papua.
Information about all these horrors is available on line. There are thousands of sites carrying detailed and damning evidence. Yet, cowardly and opportunistically, the Indonesian “educated” populace is opting for “not knowing”.
Of course, the West and its companies are greatly benefiting from the plunder of Papua.
Therefore, the genocide is committed, all covered with secrecy.
And ask in Vietnam, in Burma, even in Malaysia, what do people know about East Timor and Papua? The answer will be nothing, or almost nothing.
Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Philippines – they may be located in the same part of the world, but they could be as well based on several different planets. That was the plan: the old divide-and-rule British concept.
In Manila, the capital of the Philippines, a family that was insisting that Indonesia is actually located in Europe once confronted me. The family was equally ignorant of the crimes committed by the pro-Western regime of Marcos.
The western media promotes Thailand as the “land of smiles”, yet it is an extremely frustrated and brutal place, where the murder rate is even(on per capita basis) higher than that in the United States.
Thailand has been fully controlled by the West since the end of the WWII. Consequently, its leadership (the throne, the elites and the military)have allowed some of the most gruesome crimes against humanity to take place on its territory. To mention just a few: the mass murder of the Thai left wing insurgents and sympathizers (some were burned alive in oil barrels), the murdering of thousands of Cambodian refugees, the killing and raping of student protesters in Bangkok and elsewhere… And the most terrible of them: the little known Thai participation in the Vietnam invasion during the “American War”…the intensive use of Thai pilots during the bombing sorties against Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as handing several military airports (including Pattaya) to the Western air forces. Not to speak about pimping of Thai girls and boys (many of them minors) to the Western military men.
The terror that the West has been spreading all over Southeast Asia seems to be forgotten, or at least for now.
Let’s move on!” I heard in Hanoi and in Luang Prabang.
But while the Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian people are busy “forgiving” their tormentors the Empire has been murdering the people of Iraq, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Ukraine, and all corners of Africa.
It was stated by many, and proven by some, particularly in South America, where almost all the demons have been successfully exercised, that there can be no decent future for this Planet without recognizing and understanding the past.
After “forgiving the West”, several nations of Southeast Asia were immediately forced into the confrontation with China and Russia.
When “forgiven”, the West does not just humbly accept the great generosity of its victims. Such behavior is not part of its culture. Instead, it sees kindness as weakness, and it immediately takes advantage of it.
By forgiving the West, by “forgetting” its crimes, Southeast Asia is actually doing absolutely nothing positive. It is only betraying its fellow victims, all over the world.
It is also, pragmatically and selfishly, hoping for some returns. But returns will never come! History has shown it on many occasions. The West wants everything. And it believes that it deserves everything. If not confronted, it plunders until the end, until there is nothing left – as it did in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Iraq or in Indonesia.
Renowned Australian historian and Professor Emeritus at Nagasaki University in Japan, Geoffrey Gunn, wrote in this essay:
“The US wields hard power and soft power in equal portions or so it would appear. Moving in and out of East Asia over the last four decades I admit to being perplexed as to the selectivity of memories of the American record. Take Laos and Cambodia in the 1970s where, in each country respectively, the US dropped a greater tonnage of bombs than dumped on Japanese cities during World War II, and where unexploded ordinance still takes a daily toll. Not so long ago I asked a high-ranking regime official in Phnom Penh as to whether the Obama administration had issued an apology for this crime of crimes. “No way,” he said, but then he wasn’t shaking his fist either, just as the population appears to be numbed as to basic facts of their own history beyond some generalized sense of past horrors. In Laos in December 1975 where I happened to be when, full of rage at the US, revolutionaries took over; the airing of American crimes – once a propaganda staple – has been relegated to corners of museums. Ditto in Vietnam, slowly entering the US embrace as a strategic partner, and with no special American contrition as to the victims of bombing, chemical warfare and other crimes. In East Timor, sacrificed by US President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to the Indonesian generals in the interest of strategic denial, and where some 30 percent of the population perished, America is forgiven or, at least, airbrushed out of official narratives. Visiting the US on a first state visit, China’s President Xi Jinping drums up big American business deals, a “new normal” in the world’s second largest economy and now US partner in the “war against terror,” as in Afghanistan. Well, fresh from teaching history in a Chinese university, I might add that history does matter in China but with Japan as an all too obvious point of reference.”
“China used to see the fight against Western imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism as the main rallying cry of its foreign policy”, sighs Geoff, as we watch the bay of his home city – Nagasaki. “Now it is only Japan whose crimes are remembered in Beijing.”
But back to Southeast Asia…
It is all forgotten and forgiven, and the reason “why” is clear, simple. It pays to forget! “Forgiveness” brings funding; it secures “scholarships” just one of the ways Western countries spread corruption in its client states and in the states they want to draw into their orbit.
The elites with their lavish houses, trips abroad, kids in foreign schools, are a very forgiving bunch!
But then you go to a countryside, where the majority of Southeast Asian people still live. And the story there is very different. The story there makes you shiver.
Before departing from Laos, I sat at an outdoor table in a village of Nam Bak, about 100 kilometers from Luang Prabang. Ms. Nang Oen told me her stories about the US carpet-bombing, and Mr. Un Kham showed me his wounds:
“Even here, in Nam Bak, we had many craters all over, but now they are covered by rice fields and houses. In 1968, my parents’ house was bombed… I think they dropped 500-pound bombs on it. Life was unbearable during the war. We had to sleep in the fields or in the caves. We had to move all the time. Many of us were starving, as we could not cultivate our fields.
I ask Ms. Nang Oen about the Americans. Did she forget, forgive?
“How do I feel about them? I actually can’t say anything. After all these years, I am still speechless. They killed everything here, including chicken. I know that they are doing the same even now, all over the world…”
She paused, looked at the horizon.
“Sometimes I remember what was done to us… Sometimes I forget”. She shrugs her shoulders. “But when I forget, it is only for a while. We did not receive any compensation, not even an apology. I cannot do anything about it. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, and I cry.”
I listened to her and I knew, after working for decades in this part of the world: for the people of Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and East Timor, nothing is forgotten and nothing is forgiven. And it should never be!
Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His latest books are: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”.
The U.S. government has dropped hundreds of thousands of tons of bombs on Iraq alone in the last dozen years – and even hailed the start of the bombing campaign in 2003 as “shock and awe” – but now has coyly and repeatedly decried the Syrian government’s supposed use of crude “barrel bombs.”
This hyper-hypocritical propaganda theme was given voice in President Barack Obama’s Sept. 28 speech to the United Nations General Assembly when he denounced anyone who doesn’t favor “regime change” in Syria as advocating “support [for] tyrants like Bashar al-Assad, who drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent children.”
Yet, Obama offered no criticism of various U.S. administrations and American allies that have leveled whole cities, killing countless men, women and children. That slaughter has included two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in 1945 and the devastation of Indochina during the 1960s and 1970s with more bomb tonnage than was dropped in all of World War II. Millions, including countless children, were killed in these bombing campaigns.
More recently, Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush ordered the devastation of Fallujah and other Iraqi cities to suppress resistance to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. Obama himself has boasted of ordering military strikes in seven countries, mostly aerial bombardments with many confirmed civilian dead.
In 2014, Israel used American warplanes and armaments to blast apart Gaza killing some 2,100 people – the vast majority civilians and many of them children, including four little boys playing on a beach. President Obama not only refrains from criticizing Israel’s indiscriminate use of these devastating weapons but stays silent on Israel’s rogue nuclear stockpile and today ponders which giant “bunker buster” bombs should be added to Israel’s bristling arsenal.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is dropping U.S.-supplied ordnance, reportedly including cluster bombs, on the helpless population of Yemen with Obama’s tacit approval and reportedly with U.S. intelligence assistance.
On Monday, the Saudi air force apparently bombed a wedding party on Yemen’s Red Sea coast killing more than 130 people, including women who had taken refuge in a tent, according to various news reports.
One surviving relative said it was difficult to determine the exact number of dead because the bodies were blasted into so many bloody pieces. “I saw no body intact,” said Ahmed Altabozi, the uncle of one of the victims.
Yet, while President Obama has avoided any direct public rebukes of U.S. or allied militaries for their slaughter of civilians, he singled out Syria’s embattled government for using a homemade weapon in its desperate fight against terrorists of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front.
Further, Obama claimed that President Assad dropped the “barrel bombs to massacre innocent children” when there is no evidence that Assad had any such intent. Obama’s comment amounted to crude and deceptive propaganda.
By contrast, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launches one of his periodic “lawn mowing” operations against the people of Gaza and many children are cut down in the process, Obama stands mute, apparently judging that the exercise in recurring butchery is just one of those “price is worth it” moments.
Obviously, any killing of civilians in wartime is to be deplored – whoever is dropping the bombs and whatever the weapon’s degree of lethality – but it was still stunning to watch Obama apply such selective outrage. Indeed, much of the UN General Assembly seemed genuinely shocked by Obama’s blatant double standards.
Propaganda Buzz Phrase
But it’s really all par for the course. Whenever propagandists develop their “themes” for a conflict, they look for certain “hot button” phrases that make the behavior of a “black-hatted enemy” appear particularly venal. “Barrel bomb” has become the propaganda buzz phrase of choice associated with the Syrian conflict.
Yet, it seems likely this clumsy, improvised weapon – supposedly dropped from helicopters – would be far less lethal than rocket-propelled bombs delivered from afar by jet planes or drones, the approach favored by the U.S. government and its “allies.”
Civilians would have a much better chance to seek safety in a bomb shelter before some “barrel bomb” is shoved out the door of a helicopter than when a sophisticated U.S.-made bomb arrives with little or no warning, as apparently happened to the victims of that wedding in Yemen.
And that is not to mention the U.S. bombs that involve depleted uranium, napalm, phosphorous and cluster munitions, which present other humanitarian concerns. However, while U.S.-assisted or U.S.-directed slaughters of civilians attract little attention in the mainstream U.S. media, there are endless denunciations of the Syrian government’s “barrel bombs.”
The propaganda drumbeat is such that the American people are told that they must support “regime change” in Syria even if it risks opening the gates of Damascus to a victory by the Islamic State and Al Qaeda terrorists.
This odd “humanitarian” equation, tallied up by the State Department and “human-rights” NGOs, holds that to secure revenge for Syria’s alleged use of “barrel bombs,” the world must accept the possibility of the black flag of Sunni terrorism flying over a major Mideast capital while its streets would run red with the blood of Christians, Alawites, Shiites and other “heretics.”
Then, apparently, the United States would have little choice but to lead a massive expeditionary force into Syria to oust the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, ensuring the deaths of hundreds of thousands more innocents and sending millions more fleeing into a destabilized Europe.
But such is the power of propaganda in managing public perceptions. Use a phrase like “barrel bomb” over and over again as if it is a uniquely evil weapon when, in fact, it is far less lethal and destructive than the ordnance that the United States routinely deploys or hands out to its “allies” like candy on Halloween. Soon the people lose all perspective and are open to manipulation. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Power of False Narrative.”]
Once the U.S. public is softened up with the propaganda and psy-ops – also known as “strategic communications” or Stratcom – the only acceptable option is “regime change” in Syria even if that prospect holds the likelihood of a far worse human catastrophe.
By hearing “barrel bomb” enough times, the judgment of American citizens is clouded and any practical suggestion for a realistic political settlement of Syria’s conflict is deemed “appeasement” of a tyrant, which was the clear message of President Obama’s UN tirade.
And, thus, the killing continues; the chaos grows worse.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Petition to UK Parliament: A Few Reasons Why
The word genocide comes to mind.
— Weapons expert Dai Williams, letter to Tony Blair warning of consequences of Iraq action, 13th October 2002
On Saturday, September 26, Ahmed Mahdi Al Faqi was arrested and delivered to the International Criminal Court at The Hague. He is charged with war crimes, the deliberate destruction of religious or historical monuments in Mali and especially the irreplaceable ancient shrines of Timbuktu, in 2012.
The ICC’s Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Nesouda described the destruction in Timbuktu as “a callous assault on the dignity and identity of entire populations and their religious and historical roots.”
Timbuktu City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the 16th and 17th Centuries this academic and cultural beacon boasted 180 schools and universities, drawing students and scholars from across the Muslim world.
“The people of Mali deserve justice for the attacks against their cities, their beliefs and their communities”, states Nesouda.
On the same day as Al Faqi’s arrest a petition to the British Parliament was released to “Arrest Tony Blair for war crimes in the Middle East and for misleading the public.”
Britain is a signatory to the 123 nation-backed ICC. Thus the petition’s aims are possible.
Blair indeed blatantly misled the public and the Parliament he headed. The disinformation was breathtaking and the result was “a callous assault on the dignity and identity of entire populations and their religious and historical roots.” The people of Iraq too deserve “justice for the attacks against their cities, their beliefs and their communities.”
On September 24, 2002 Blair addressed Parliament. He began:
Today we published a 50-page dossier detailing the history of Iraq’s WMD, its breach of UN resolutions and the current attempts to rebuild the illegal WMD programme.
It was, broadly, fifty pages of obfuscations, untruths and economies with the truth. For instance, he stated that the UN weapons Inspectors met with “obstruction”; e.g.:
… finally in late 1998, the UN team were forced to withdraw. As the dossier sets out, we estimate on the basis of the UN’s work that there were: up to 360 tonnes of bulk chemical warfare agents, including one and a half tonnes of VX nerve agent; up to 3,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals; growth media sufficient to produce 26,000 litres of anthrax spores; and over 30,000 special munitions for delivery of chemical and biological agents … All of this was missing or unaccounted for.
Of course, no such chemical and biological agents existed – and in 1998 the UN Inspectors had fled to the safety of Bahrain on the orders of Richard Butler, who then headed the team, having been tipped off that the US and UK were to bomb Iraq again, illegally, in time for Christmas.
To clarify “obstruction.” As one who was in Iraq numerous times during the UN weapons inspectors tenures and who witnessed their arrogant, discourteous, uncivil behavior towards Iraqis staggering financially under the weight of the crippling embargo. Iraq was, however, charged for their accommodation, vehicles, living expenses, salaries. “Obstruction” became a sick game.
“Obstructions” were noted and reported to the UN as non-co-operation on behalf of the Iraqi authorities, building a case for further bombing or invasion. These almost invariably occurred when the weapons inspectors turned up unannounced, out of hours so the facility to be inspected was, naturally, deserted. They would drive away and note it as an obstruction – or if they called the owner or manager and he had to get dressed and drive for an hour to get there to let them in, that too was an “obstruction.”
Other “obstructions” would be to turn up on Friday, the Sabbath, or on public holidays, when only security guards were there. They needed the permission of their boss to allow any one into the facility. As they made the telephone call for that permission, it was noted as an “obstruction.” There are uncounted other examples of the devious wickedness perpetrated in the name of the UN.
The fifty page dossier, Blair assured, confirmed (Saddam Hussein’s) “WMD programme is active, detailed and growing. The policy of containment is not working. The WMD programme is not shut down. It is up and running.” It was “… important we explain our concerns over Saddam to the British people.” Moreover “… he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes.”
Destroyed munitions plants had been rebuilt, and “in addition, we know Saddam has been trying to buy significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
It was all a pack of lies, the latter claim comprehensively trashed by Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Iraq has vast amounts of uranium, discovered, marked and mapped by the British in the 1950s and had they been developing a weapons programme, had no need to buy it from anywhere.
Saddam Hussein had, in fact, closed down his nuclear programme shortly after the 1991 attack.
As for the rebuilt munitions plants, a number of them were visited by former UN Under Secretary General, Hans von Sponeck and myself as these stories circulated. They remained in ruins or trashed, devoured by overgrown undergrowth and deserted.
Saddam Hussein, said Blair, “could begin a conflict” of which “the consequences” could “engulf the whole world.” What an irony that the consequences of US and UK actions in Iraq and throughout the region in their demented “Crusade” indeed now endangers all the Middle East, North Africa and drawn into combat, the madness, are countries as far away as Australia, Canada and Europe. Much of the world.
Three weeks after Blair’s fantasy assurances to Parliament, weapons research expert Dai Williams wrote to him warning of the illegalities of the weapons the UK and US coalition would use. They would be “… directly in contravention of Articles 35 and 55 of the 1st Protocol additional to the Geneva Conventions. They are, put simply, weapons of indiscriminate effect.”
The letter, headed, “Use of Uranium weapons in Afghanistan and Iraq: Hazards for civilians and ground forces”, begins:
In recent weeks I have been alarmed by your support for US plans to launch another major military offensive on Iraq, ostensibly to destroy Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
Williams makes clear it will be the UK and US who will be using weapons of mass and indiscriminate destruction: “These weapons are large radiological bombs.”
Last week I was advised of US Patent Number 6,389,977 (1997) for a ‘shrouded aerial bomb.’ This is the patent for a series of guided weapons using the upgraded BLU-109/B warhead. Claim 5 of this patent states: “The shrouded aerial bomb as claimed in Claim 1, wherein the penetrating body is formed of depleted uranium. This and 6 other US patents verify the development of guided weapons and sub-munitions with Uranium warheads …”
An additional problem is emerging from my recent investigations. It seems likely that US arms manufacturers may be using standard, not depleted uranium in new weapons i.e. Uranium metal with the same isotopic mix as natural uranium (99.3% U238, 0.7% U235).“ The full Report was attached to the letter.
This would explain why researchers in Hungary and Greece detected increased airborne Uranium dust soon after the Balkans bombing began, but that it appeared to be natural, not depleted uranium … Independent researchers are now alert to this possibility. I hope Ministry of Defence staff are also considering it. Unfortunately standard uranium is more radioactive than depleted uranium.
Depleted uranium has a cancer inducing, birth deforming “half-life” of 4.5 billion years. Crimes against humanity do not come bigger.
In context, in 1991, the UK Atomic Energy Authority warned the government of the day regarding the Iraq attack that “If fifty tonnes” of the residual radioactive dust remained “in the region” from the bombing, there would be “half a million extra cancer deaths by the end of the century”; i.e., 2000. Their prediction was an understatement.
Williams issued a stark warning:
I guess that the UK Storm Shadow cruise missile, also suspected of using Uranium components, has been tested in Afghanistan and will be operational in a new attack on Iraq. Other known or suspected Uranium weapons not needed in Afghanistan (e.g. anti-tank systems) will also be used in large quantities in Iraq.
The implication is that at least 1,500 tons of Uranium weapons will be used to prosecute US war plans in Iraq, greatly increasing existing Uranium contamination from 1991 and jeopardizing allied troops and Iraqi civilians alike.
Can you justify using known weapons of indiscriminate effect to defeat supposed weapons of mass destruction? The US has scant regard for international law in its military operations. What is your Government’s view on knowingly using weapons of indiscriminate effect in Iraq?
This letter puts you on notice of that issue. UK forces are accountable to you. The use of such weapons contravening international law must be a political, not military decision, preferably decided by Parliament.
The letter warns:
Regardless of your obligations under international law … I suggest you have moral obligations in this matter.
How will you justify risking the slow death of tens of thousands of people whose lives will be irreversibly affected by Uranium contamination? The word genocide comes to mind. This may not concern President Bush. I hope it will concern you, your Cabinet and all MPs asked to support your plans now you are alerted to the latest evidence about Uranium weapons.
With respect Prime Minister I suggest you need a lot more facts before you commit more UK troops to a new war in Iraq. At this time you face being drawn by the Pentagon and US Government into the greatest military scandal since Agent Orange in Vietnam.
Since Williams prophetic words former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has declared the Iraq decimation illegal, stating:
I have indicated it is not in conformity with the UN Charter, from our point of view, and from the Charter point of view it was illegal.
The UN’s former Chief weapons Inspector, Hans Blix has echoed this view, telling the UK Iraq Inquiry:
I am of the firm view that it was an illegal war. There can be cases where it is doubtful, maybe it was permissible to go to war, but Iraq was, in my view, not one of those.
Numerous international law experts concur, as have many legally led public Inquiries such as the 2011 Kuala Lumpur War Crime Tribunal, a seven Member panel chaired by former Malaysian Federal Court Judge, Abdul Kadir Sulaiman.
The five panel tribunal unanimously decided that the former US and British leaders had committed crimes against peace and humanity, and also violated international law when they ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
UNESCO has described the destruction and pillage of Iraq “cultural cleansing.”
If a man is deemed a war criminal for the terrible destruction of history in Mali is delivered to the ICC, Bush and Blair – whose actions destroyed virtually the whole of Iraq, a swathe of its history and set in train the ongoing destruction, indeed genocide, should be treated no differently. Tony Blair’s assertions in Parliament in 2002 were integral in the excuse for the illegal invasion and ongoing bloodbath now also engulfing Syria.
If you care for the law, for humanity, if eligible, please sign the petition.
Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq and author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books.
TBILISI – Georgia has become the fourth nonmember state to be a member of the NATO Response Force (NRF), Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said Tuesday.
The NRF is a technologically-advanced high-readiness unit comprising land, air, and maritime forces within the alliance. The initiative was launched in 2002, and members created an operational group in 2014, as a response to changing security needs. Finland, Sweden and Ukraine also participate in the NRF program.
“We will be the fourth non-member country in the NFR, which indicates the high level of cooperation between the Georgian Armed Forces and the Alliance,” Garibashvili said as cited by the Georgian news portal Agenda.ge.
He added that the Georgian contribution to the NRF includes 130 soldiers.
Institutional cooperation between Georgia and NATO began in 1994, when Georgia became a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. The country’s cooperation with the organization intensified in 2004 after a Rose Revolution which led to the forced resignation of President Eduard Shevardnadze.
The special attention that the United States has been paying to Central Asia, while actively seeking ways to implement a strategy of global leadership in the region that is now fully recognized as the center of Eurasia, has been covered in numerous articles, including those published in NEO.
According to the geopolitical concept of the recognized American political scientist Zbigniew Brzezinski: Those who control Eurasia control the world. Therefore, Washington’s steps to strengthen American influence in the region in the long run are completely predictable. The pivotal role in this policy is played by the US military bases in the region and military cooperation ties. After all, according to the globalist logic of the White House, American influence in any region must be supported by the “adequate” military force. The 9/11 events in the US and the consequent anti-terrorist intervention in Afghanistan have become a pretext for a major military deployment of American and NATO troops in Central Asia.
By the way, the ongoing engagement of US troops in Afghanistan confirms the notion that the presence of US and NATO forces in this country has little to do with the “struggle for democracy”. The true purpose of the military intervention in Afghanistan was the creation of powerful military bases, as the geographical position of this country is pretty unique in terms of the strategic freedom it provides. From this area Washington can launch a massive attack against Russia’s Urals and Siberia, different facilities in Central Asia, Iran, Pakistan, India and China. For this reason from the very start of the US invasion of Afghanistan, Shindand and Bagram Air Bases were transformed into massive construction sites where a large number of surface and underground facilities being built.
It happens so that for Pentagon Central Asia serves as a base for applying pressure on Russia, China, Iran and the entire Eurasian continent, it also plays a pivotal role in the post-conflict settlement in Afghanistan, since it may form a joint military alliance under the banner of opposition to the Islamic state.
In an effort to strengthen its positions in Central Asia under the above mentioned pretext, the United States has sent invitations to join the anti-ISIL military coalition to both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. To add some momentum to the matter the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central Asia at the U.S. Department of State Daniel Rosenblum has recently visited Tashkent, while the commander of United States Central Command general John Lloyd James Austin III made a trip to Dushanbe. In the course of their visits American emissaries discussed the situation in Afghanistan, regional security, and the advantages of cooperation with the United States “in the fight against international extremism” with regional authorities. Of course, a particular emphasis was made on the “need” to stay away from integration with Russia.
It is clear that in dealing with Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan “messengers of Washington” tried to make active use of the fact that those states today are free from obligations of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which is headed by Russia, and therefore they are free to pursue military cooperation with the US. Therefore, Washington and Tashkent signed a document that provides the latter with free shipments of military equipment in the next five years. American equipment, trucks, military vehicles for a total worth of 6.2 million dollars will be just granted to this Central Asian state. This year, the United States has handed over to Uzbekistan armored class M-ATV, as well as armored repair and recovery equipment to support them, 308 cars and 20 repairs trucks with a total cost of at least 150 million dollars.
In dealing with Uzbek authorities American envoys had to mind the fact that the country entered the international counter-terrorism coalition immediately after September 11, 2001, while establishing special relations with a number of Western countries. As a result, the territory of the Republic at the time was housing a US military base, while the German Air Force had the opportunity to use the airfield in Termez, near the border with Afghanistan. Cooperation with Germany has been prolonged recently for a couple more years, though Tashkent is stressing the fact that the airfield in Termez is not a foreign military base. There’s little wonder to this fact, since the presence of foreign military bases was prohibited by law in Uzbekistan after the Andijan events, therefore in 2005 at the request of the Uzbek authorities American soldiers had to pack and leave.
Uzbekistan, is seeking ways to retain non-aligned status, and has no plans to allow any foreign military bases on its territory, on top of that it remains reluctant to send Uzbek troops abroad. This was pretty much the answer that the President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov has given to Washington’s offer to join a coalition against the Islamic state.
However, Washington’s attempts to strengthen its military and political influence in Central Asia are far from over. Such efforts will certainly continue, despite the apparent reluctance of regional players to burden themselves with military obligations to the United States. America has severely damaged its reputation, therefore nobody believes in its peacemaking aspirations anymore, since the wars it has been waging are only leading to the suffering and misery of the civilian population of the countries it invades.
There was stunned silence in the General Assembly Hall on Monday as U.S. President Barack Obama warned leaders against falling back to pre-United Nations days, in which strong nations imposed their will by force against the weak. There was apparent disbelief as he said it was Russia and China that wanted a “return to the rules that applied for most of human history and that pre-date this institution.”
These ancient rules included the “belief that power is a zero-sum game; that might makes right; that strong states must impose their will on weaker ones; that the rights of individuals don’t matter; and that in a time of rapid change, order must be imposed by force.”
The silence in the chamber came because everything Obama ascribed to others perfectly describes U.S. behavior from the end of the Second World War until today.
Since 1945, the U.S. has participated in dozens of documented invasions and overthrows of sovereign governments that resisted U.S. hegemony — the strongest nation imposing its will militarily on the weak. Among the best known are the 1953 and 1954 coups in Iran and Guatemala, and the invasions of Vietnam and Iraq. There were other democracies overthrown to install monarchies or dictatorships, such as Mobutu in Congo in 1961, Suharto in Indonesia in 1965 and Pinochet in Chile in 1973.
There was a setback to the American militarists with the loss in Vietnam, but a decade later Ronald Reagan was back at it, starting with a small invasion of Grenada. George H.W. Bush pounded Panama in 1989 and then devastated Iraqi forces in 1991 with an air and ground campaign, leading to his declaration that “we’ve kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all.” Thirty years after the defeat in Vietnam, his son, George W. Bush, staged a full-scale 2003 invasion of Iraq, unleashing utter chaos that’s led to the most fearsome terrorist power in history.
Yet Obama on Monday was blaming Russia and China for the mess Washington has created, saying, “We see some major powers assert themselves in ways that contravene international law.” Obama cited Russia’s “annexation” of Crimea and “further aggression” in Eastern Ukraine.
He didn’t mention the documented U.S. orchestrated coup against a democratically-elected president in Kiev, which eastern Ukrainians have resisted. Russia has helped them but the U.S. with all its fancy surveillance that can find out almost any detail of your private life has yet to come up with a scrap of evidence of a Russian “invasion” of Ukraine.
At heart is either Obama’s willful ignorance of Ukraine, a clumsy attempt at disinformation, or as Vladimir Putin suggested in his U.N. speech a half hour later, a big measure of self-deception.
Obama said Ukrainians favor the West. That may be true of most western Ukrainians but not the whole country. Then, he said the U.S. has “few economic interests” in Ukraine. That’s woefully ignorant or a blatant lie. Monsanto has a big interest. Then there’s Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and a John Kerry family friend joining the board of Burisma Holdings, Ukraine’s largest private gas producer, just after the coup.
And the country’s finance minister is an American, Natalie Jaresko, who was given Ukrainian citizenship on the day she began the job. Why put an American government official in charge of the treasury of a foreign country?
Despite Russia’s “aggression,” Obama said he did not want a new Cold War — just U.S. bases encircling Russia, and China. In the South China Sea, the “U.S. makes no territorial claims,” Obama said, and only has an altruistic interest in protecting freedom of navigation and resolving disputes peacefully and not by “the law of force.” Yet, when the International Court of Justice ruled the U.S. mining of Nicaraguan harbors in the 1980s was illegal, the U.S. just ignored it.
On Syria, Obama (and his junior partners in Europe) insist that President Bashar al-Assad must leave office, as though that would make ISIS lay down its arms. “Realism … requires a managed transition away from Assad and to a new leader, and an inclusive government that recognizes there must be an end to this chaos so that the Syrian people can begin to rebuild,” the President said.
Obama’s position presupposes that the war would end as soon as a new Syrian leader calls off the fight. Instead ISIS is fighting not only to topple Assad, but to take Damascus from whoever may take Assad’s place. They want the capital. It doesn’t matter who is in charge.
Putin argues that Assad’s military is the most effective ground force (along with the Kurds) against the monstrous group and that all nations who want ISIS defeated should work with Assad. “Similar to the anti-Hitler coalition, it could unite a broad range of parties willing to stand firm against those who, just like the Nazis, sow evil and hatred of humankind,” Putin said.
While this is the most practical approach, it would be politically difficult for Western leaders, after three years of calling for Assad’s ouster, to reverse course. Instead the West blames Russian “ambition” in its military build-up in Syria rather than seeing it as a move to help Syria defeat this scourge that came about partly by the West playing around with terrorists who turned into a Frankenstein monster.
“The Islamic State itself did not come out of nowhere,” Putin told the Assembly. “It was initially developed as a weapon against undesirable secular regimes.” He added that it was irresponsible “to manipulate extremist groups and use them to achieve your political goals, hoping that later you’ll find a way to get rid of them or somehow eliminate them.”
Russia warned from three years ago that this could happen. “I’m urged to ask those who created this situation: do you at least realize now what you’ve done?” Putin asked. “But I’m afraid that this question will remain unanswered, because they have never abandoned their policy, which is based on arrogance, exceptionalism and impunity.”
Though Obama told the U.N. that he could essentially blow up the whole world if he wanted to, he’s decided to be a nice guy and seek diplomacy over confrontation with Russia and China. “I lead the strongest military that the world has ever known,” he boasted to the quiet hall, “and I will never hesitate to protect my country or our allies, unilaterally and by force where necessary.”
“I stand before you today believing in my core that we, the nations of the world, cannot return to the old ways of conflict and coercion,” Obama said. “We cannot look backwards.” Obama might try looking into a mirror instead.
Joe Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist based at the U.N. since 1990. He has written for the Boston Globe, the London Daily Telegraph, the Johannesburg Star, the Montreal Gazette, the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers. He can be reached email@example.com and followed on Twitter at @unjoe.
One day after Ukraine announced that US instructors would start training the country’s special forces, President Obama has authorized the provision of up to $20 million to Ukraine via the State Department to fund training and other similar activities.
“The authority… to direct the drawdown of up to $20 million in defense articles and services of the Department of Defense and military education and training to provide assistance for the Government of Ukraine,” the Presidential Memorandum says, specifying that another $1.5 million could be used to offer “nonlethal commodities and services.”
The announcement of additional funds allocated for the training of Ukrainian troops follows a statement by President Petro Poroshenko, who said that American instructors will start training Ukrainian special-operations troops this November.
“We have agreed that the best US instructors will finally start training the Ukrainian special forces, our special-operations troops, starting from November,” Poroshenko said in New York after meeting representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora living in the US.
The new US assistance will aid other foreign military instructors, including Americans, who are already training the Ukrainian National Guard.
“This is mutual exchange, mutual assistance. This is interesting not only to Ukrainians, to learn from American partners how to fight. This is interesting to Americans, to learn how to beat Russia,” Poroshenko said, according to Interfax.
Since the Ukrainian crisis began last year, the Obama administration has already provided Kiev authorities with more than $244 million in “non-lethal” military assistance, but despite repeated calls from Kiev, Washington has so far been reluctant to send “lethal” military aid
Aviation giant Boeing Co. is spending money on lobbyists and court cases in an effort to cover up one of the worst nuclear disasters in American history and avoid paying millions to clean up the still-contaminated site.
In 1959, the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) north of Los Angeles leaked more than 300 times the allowable amount of radiation into surrounding neighborhoods, according to an in-depth investigation by NBC4 Southern California. That contamination is now linked to up to a 60% increase in cancer in the area.
After a power surge occurred in one of the nuclear reactors, operators of the facility for weeks deliberately released radiation into the atmosphere to avoid a nuclear detonation similar to Chernobyl.
Boeing’s acquisition of SSFL in 1996 has prevented any proper investigation into current radiation levels at the site and stalled any cleanup efforts, according to the NBC4 investigation.
In 2007, the California legislature passed a law asserting that Boeing was obligated to clean up SSFL, even though it did not own the site at the time of the accident. A higher court invalidated the law, ruling it was too stringent.
Eventually, California’s EPA drafted agreements for the Department of Energy, NASA, and Boeing to commit to a cleanup. Boeing was the only entity that refused to sign.
A recent media report about Washington’s plans to upgrade nuclear bombs in Western Germany resulted in Russia expressing concern, but the United States denied allegations of violating the
Linda Adams, the former head of the state EPA, told NBC4 that Boeing hired “a large army of lobbyists … to do everything they could to stop a cleanup to that level.”
The lobbyists included “Peter Weiner, a former environmental aide to Gov. Jerry Brown, Winston Hickox, a former head of the California EPA, and Robert Hoffman, the former chief lawyer of the Department of Toxic Substance Control. All three left government service and have worked on behalf of Boeing to kill a full cleanup of Santa Susana.”
Boeing also gave thousands of dollars in campaign donations to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Gov. Jerry Brown, Sen. Barbara Boxer and California Sen. Kevin De Leon.
De Leon is the Chairman of the Committee that confirmed Barbara Lee as Director of the Department of Toxic Substance Control, which is the agency tasked with forcing Boeing to conduct a cleanup.
Lee admitted to NBC4 that SSFL “has a lot of contamination,” but does not “believe there is a current exposure to communities.”
In 2012, Boeing put together a PR team with a campaign strategy to “target media” and put out the message that the “site poses no risk to human health today,” NBC4 reported.
A University of Michigan study found that rates of cancer were 60% higher in the area around SSFL than in other regions. Boeing dismissed the analysis, saying it found no proof of health side effects due to radiation.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Hal Morgenstern, accused Boeing of manipulating his work. Morgenstern wrote in a letter to California State Senator Joe Simitian, Chair of the Committee on Environmental Quality:
“I would like to make it clear to your Committee that Boeing’s claim made about the conclusion of our study is false. We did not conclude that there was no excess cancer in the communities surrounding SSFL. Furthermore, Boeing’s quotes from our report were taken out of context, and they failed to report our specific findings that contradicted their claim.”
Morgenstern noted that cancers such as thyroid, bladder, and lymph tissue were both tested for and found.