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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 | , , , | 1 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

Probability of Nuclear War

By David Krieger | CounterPunch | June 16, 2017

Most people go about their lives giving minimal thought to the consequences or probability of nuclear war. The consequences are generally understood to be catastrophic and, as a result, the probability of nuclear war is thought to be extremely low. But is this actually the case? Should people feel safe from nuclear war on the basis of a perceived low probability of occurrence?

Since the consequences of nuclear war could be as high as human extinction, the probability of such an outcome would preferably be zero, but this is clearly not the case. Nuclear weapons have been used twice in the past 72 years, at a time when only one country possessed these weapons. Today, nine countries possess nuclear weapons, and there are nearly 15,000 of them in the world.

Nuclear deterrence, based upon the threat of nuclear retaliation, is the justification for possession of these weapons. It is, however, a poor justification, being unethical, illegal, and subject to catastrophic failure. Over the 72 years of the nuclear era, nuclear deterrence has come close to failing on many occasions, demonstrating weaknesses in the hypothesis that threat of retaliation will protect indefinitely against nuclear war.

I asked several individuals working for nuclear disarmament, all Associates of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, about their views on the probability of nuclear war.

Martin Hellman, a professor emeritus of electrical engineering at Stanford, had this to say: “Even if nuclear deterrence could be expected to work for 500 years before it failed and destroyed civilization – a time period that sounds highly optimistic to most people – that would be like playing Russian roulette with the life of a child born today. That’s because that child’s expected lifetime is roughly one-sixth of 500 years. And, if that ‘nuclear time horizon’ is more like 100 years, that child would have worse than even odds of living out his or her natural life. Not knowing the level of risk is a gaping hole in our national security strategy. So why does society behave as if nuclear deterrence were essentially risk free?”

I next asked John Avery, an associate professor of quantum chemistry at the University of Copenhagen, for his view of the probability of nuclear war by end of the 21st century. He responded:

“There are 83 remaining years in this century. One can calculate the probability that we will reach the end of the century without a nuclear war under various assumptions of yearly risk. Here is a table:

Yearly risk Chance of survival
1% 43.4%
2% 18.7%
3% 7.9%
4% 3.4%
5% 1.4%

“One has to conclude that in the long run, the survival of human civilization and much of the biosphere requires the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.”

Finally, I asked Steven Starr, a scientist at the University of Missouri, who responded in this way:

“I’m not sure if I can provide any sort of numerical value or calculation to estimate the risk of nuclear war in a given time period. However, I certainly would say that unless humans manage to eliminate nuclear arsenals, and probably the institution of war itself, then I think it is very likely that nuclear weapons will be used well before the end of the century.

“But I certainly would say that unless humans manage to eliminate nuclear arsenals, and probably the institution of war itself, then I think it is inevitable that nuclear weapons will be used well before the end of the century. There are just too many weapons in too many places/countries . . . something close to 15,000 nuclear weapons, right? . . . and there are too many conflicts and injustices and power-hungry people who have access to and control over these weapons. There are just too many possibilities for miscalculation, failures of technology, and simply irrational behavior, to imagine that we can continue to indefinitely avoid the use of nuclear weapons in conflict.

“Thus I am very happy to see that a treaty to ban nuclear weapons is now being negotiated at the UN. This proves to me that there are a great many people and nations that are fully aware of the nuclear danger and are taking action to stop it.”

Conclusions

The odds of averting a nuclear catastrophe are not comforting.

We are playing Nuclear Roulette with the futures of our children and grandchildren.

The only way to assure that the probability of nuclear war goes to zero is to eliminate all nuclear weapons.

One way to support the goal of nuclear zero is to support the Nuclear Ban Treaty currently being negotiated at the United Nations.

David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org).

June 16, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | 4 Comments

Nuclear Weapons Ban? What Needs to be Banned Is U.S. Arrogance

By Diana Johnstone | CounterPunch | June 16, 2017

In a context of almost total indifference, marked by outright hostility, representatives of over a hundred of the world’s least powerful countries are currently opening another three-week session of United Nations talks aimed at achieving a legally binding ban on nuclear weapons. Very few people even know this is happening.

Ban nuclear weapons? Ho hum… Let’s change the subject.

Let’s talk about Russian hacking instead, or the rights of trans-sexuals to use the toilet of their choice, or even about something really important: climate change.

But wait a minute. The damage to human society, and to “the planet”, from the projected rise of a few degrees of global temperature, while commonly described as apocalyptic, would be minor compared to the results of all-out nuclear war. More to the point, the degree of human responsibility in climate change is more disputed among serious scientists than the public is aware, due to the role of such contributing factors as solar variations  But the degree of human responsibility for nuclear weapons is unquestionably total. The nuclear war peril is manmade, and some of the men who made it can even be named, such as James Byrnes, Harry Truman and General Lester Groves. The United States government consciously and deliberately created this danger to human life on earth. Faced with the United States’ demonstrated capacity and moral readiness to wipe out whole cities with their devices, other countries built their own deadly devices as deterrents.  Those deterrents have never been used, which lulls the public into believing the danger is past.

But the United States, the only power already guilty of nuclear manslaughter, continues to perfect its nuclear arsenal and to proclaim its “right” to launch a “first strike” whenever it chooses.

The United States naturally calls for boycotting the nuclear arms ban conference.

On the occasion of an earlier such conference last March, President Trump’s gormless U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, wrapped her lame excuse in womanliness: “As a mom and a daughter there is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons,” she shamelessly uttered. “But we have to be realistic. Is there anyone that believes that North Korea would agree to a ban on nuclear weapons?”

Well, yes. There are many people who have obviously thought more about this than Nikki Haley and who are well aware that North Korea, surrounded by aggressive U.S. forces for seven decades, considers its little nuclear arsenal to be a deterrent, and would certainly give it up in exchange for a convincing end to the U.S. threat.

North Korea is a very odd country, an heir to the medieval “Hermit Kingdom” with an ideology forged in communist resistance to Japanese imperialism of the previous century. Its highly eccentric leadership is using advanced technology as an imitation Great Wall. An all-Korean peace settlement would solve the issue.

It is absurd to claim that the threat of nuclear war comes from Pyongyang rather than from the Pentagon. Hyping up Pyongyang’s “threat” is a way to pretend that the U.S. nuclear arsenal is “defensive”, when the reality is the other way around.

A legally binding ban on nuclear weapons is an excellent idea, approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations, and it would be fine for experts to work out all the technical and legal details, just in case – in case there is a huge change in the mental outlook that reigns in and around the District of Columbia.

NRA advocates like to defend their cause by proclaiming that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. It is more precise to say that people with guns kill people. Nuclear weapons don’t destroy the world. But people with nuclear weapons could destroy the world. What matters is what is in people’s heads.

During the height of the Cold War, my father, Dr. Paul H. Johnstone, worked for twenty years as senior analyst in the Pentagon’s Weapons Systems Evaluation Group (WSEG), where teams of experts tried to figure out what would happen in a nuclear war between the United States and Russia (the Soviet Union at that time, although they commonly referred to it as “Russia”). In his retirement he wrote a book recounting what he had learned from that experience, which has now been published by Clarity Press with the title From MAD to Madness. He found that apparently normal, even kind and considerate men were able to contemplate initiating general nuclear war and killing millions of fellow humans as a reasonable possibility.  Even if some of those millions were fellow Americans.

The result of one high-level study went like this: “the general consensus has been that while a nuclear exchange would leave the U.S. in a seriously damaged condition, with many millions of casualties and little immediate war supporting capability, the U.S. would continue to exist as an organized and viable nation, and ultimately would prevail, whereas the USSR would not.”

Twenty year later, my father commented: “This basic situation has not changed. Nuclear weapons are still there and analysts are still analyzing how to use them.”

And still forty years after that, the basic situation has not changed, except possibly for the worse. What is worse is not only the arsenal, which now aims at achieving such accuracy and underground penetration that it could wipe out an adversary’s command structure before it realizes what has happened. What is really much worse is the mentality that goes with those pretensions, notably the rise of a power-hungry clique called the “neoconservatives” that has in the past thirty years won official Washington over to its ambitions of US global supremacy. There is no longer an ideological enemy. There is just somebody else there who feels equally at home on this planet.

The current anti-Russia hysteria is nothing but a symptom of that mentality, which finds any challenge to US world domination to be intolerable.

Plans are surely being made to remove such intolerable challenges. This is not done in open congressional hearings with cameras. It is done in the military planning division of the Pentagon, preparing for any possible contingency.  Plans are surely being made right now to wage nuclear war against Russia and China, not to mention Iran. The executive summary for busy political leaders is apt to conclude optimistically that despite problems, the United States “will prevail”.

The United States with its nuclear arsenal is like a demented maniac with delusions of grandeur. The delusions are institutional rather than individual. Psychologists may be brought to the scene to try to cajole an individual maniac who has taken a schoolroom of children as hostages, but there is no known psychological treatment for such a mass delusion. Ostensibly normal Americans truly believe that their nation is “exceptional”. Their military doctrine does not talk about “defeating” but “destroying”. You may “defeat” an enemy in a war over some issue, but for the Pentagon, the enemy must be destroyed. To eventually serve this death machine, young Americans are being trained by movies and video games to view enemies as extraterrestrials, intruders in our world who can be wiped out, not real humans the way Americans are.

The fundamental reason that United States leaders feel obliged to maintain nuclear supremacy is their belief that “exceptional” America has a right and duty to possess an absolute power of destruction. So long as that mentality rules in Washington, there is no possibility of nuclear disarmament, and every possibility of nuclear war sooner or later. Nuclear disarmament – a totally necessary safety precaution for humanity – will be possible only when leaders in Washington recognize that other peoples also have a right and a will to live.

The real question is how to achieve this psychological transformation.

Ever since August 1945, we have heard it said that “Hiroshima must be a moral awakening”, bringing people together in common concern for humanity. That has not happened. Indeed, today, the moral slumber is deeper than ever.

Diana Johnstone is author of the introduction to her father’s book, From MAD to Madness, by Paul H. Johnstone, Clarity Press, 2017.  She can be reached at diana.johnstone@wanadoo.fr

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

Newly-deployed US rocket launchers may target Syrian army: Russia

Press TV – June 15, 2017

Russia says the US has deployed the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers from Jordan to its base in southern Syria, warning that the equipment could be used against Syrian government forces.

“The United States has moved two HIMARS multiple rocket launchers from Jordan to the At-Tanf US special forces base,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement released on Thursday.

It also accused the US, which is purportedly fighting terrorists, of having “repeatedly issued strikes on Syrian government forces fighting Daesh near the Jordanian border.”

Thus, the ministry said, “it’s not hard to guess that similar strikes will be continued against contingents of the Syrian army in the future using HIMARS.”

The deployment of any type of foreign weaponry on Syrian soil “must be approved by the government of the sovereign country,” it pointed out.

The statement further said Moscow is closely monitoring the situation on the Syrian-Jordanian border.

On Wednesday, an intelligence source first reported the US relocation of the HIMARS from Jordan to Syria.

The town of At-Tanf, home to a US base, is located in Syria’s Homs Province near a Syria-Iraq border crossing on the main Baghdad-Damascus highway.

On June 6, US warplanes attacked a Syrian military position on the road to At-Tanf, killing an unspecified number of people and causing some material damage.

The US claimed that the Syrian forces who came under the attack posed a threat to its forces and their terrorist allies in Syria.

On May 18, the US carried out a similar strike on a Syrian military convoy near At-Tanf.

The Syrian army has denounced the attacks, saying they demonstrate US support for terrorism, at a time when the Syrian army and its allies are making gains against Daesh militants.

The US and its allies have been bombarding what they call Daesh positions inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.

They have been accused of targeting and killing civilians, while failing to fulfill their pronounced goal of destroying Daesh.

June 15, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

How Vladimir Putin Sees the World

Oliver Stone interviewing Russian President Vladimir Putin in Showtime’s “The Putin Interviews.”
By Robert Parry | Consortium News | June 13, 2017

There was a time when I thought that it was the responsibility of an American journalist to hear all sides of a dispute and then explain the issue as fairly as possible to the American people, so they would be armed with enough facts to make their own judgments and act as the true sovereigns in a democracy.

I realize how naïve that must sound today as American journalism has shifted to a new paradigm in which the major news outlets view it as their duty to reinforce whatever the establishment narrative is and to dismiss or discredit any inconvenient facts or alternative analyses.

Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post and the rest of the mainstream media permit only the narrowest of alternative views to be expressed or they just pile into the latest groupthink whole hog.

So, that is why director Oliver Stone’s four-part series of interviews with Russian President Vladimir Putin on “Showtime” will surely draw near-universal outrage and ridicule from the big U.S. media. How dare anyone let Putin explain how he views the challenges facing the world? Can you believe that any right-thinking American would treat the Russian leader with civility and – god forbid – respect?

The new American media paradigm requires either endlessly insulting Putin to his face or aggressively blacking out his explanations, especially if they are based on information that puts the U.S. government in a negative light. The American people must be protected from this “Russian propaganda and disinformation.”

In other words, with the mainstream “guardians of truth” forewarning the American people not to watch Stone’s “The Putin Interviews,” the series will probably draw a relatively small viewership and the demonizing of Putin and Russia will continue unabated.

The American public can thus be spared some disturbing historical revelations and the unsettling vertigo that comes from hearing information that disrupts “what everyone knows to be true.”

In the “director’s cut” or long-form version of the four-part series that I watched, Stone does allow Putin to offer detailed explanations of his thinking on current crises, but also draws from Putin acknowledgements that might be surprising coming from a Russian leader. He also puts Putin in some uncomfortable binds.

–Regarding the Soviet Union’s development of the nuclear bomb in the late 1940s, Putin said Russian and German scientists were working on the project but got help from participants in the U.S. nuclear program:

“Our intelligence also received a lot of information from the United States. Suffice it to remember the Rosenberg spouses who were electrocuted. They didn’t acquire that information, they were just transferring that information. But who acquired it? The scientists themselves – those who developed the atomic bomb.

“Why did they do that? Because they understood the dangers. They let the genie out of the bottle. And now the genie cannot be put back. And this international team of scientists, I think they were more intelligent than the politicians. They provided this information to the Soviet Union of their own volition to restore the nuclear balance in the world. And what are we doing right now [with the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty]? We’re trying to destroy this balance. And that’s a great mistake.”

–Regarding the origins of modern Islamist terrorism, Putin said: “Al Qaeda is not the result of our activities. It’s the result of the activities of our American friends. It all started during the Soviet war in Afghanistan [in the 1980s] when the American intelligence officers provided support to different forms of Islamic fundamentalism, helping them to fight the Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

“So the Americans themselves nurtured both Al Qaeda and [Osama] bin Laden. But it all spun out of control. And it always happens. And our partners in the United States should have known about that. So they’re to blame.”

Stone noted how President Reagan’s CIA Director William Casey sought to exploit Islamic fundamentalism to destabilize Muslim parts of the Soviet Union and to achieve regime change in Moscow.

Putin added: “Those ideas are still alive. And when those problems in Chechnya and the Caucasus emerged [after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991], the Americans, unfortunately, supported those processes. We [Russians] assumed the Cold War was over, that we had transparent relations, with the rest of the world, with Europe and the U.S. And we certainly counted on support, but instead, we witnessed that the American Intelligence services supported terrorists.

“I’m going to say something very important, I believe. We had a very confident opinion back then, that our American partners in words were talking about support to Russia, the need to cooperate, including fighting terrorism, but in reality they were using those terrorists to destabilize the internal political situation in Russia.”

–Regarding NATO expansion into Eastern Europe,” Putin said, “There was a deal not to expand NATO eastward. [But] this deal was not enshrined in paper. It was a mistake made by Mr. Gorbachev [the last president of the Soviet Union]. In politics, everything must be enshrined in paper.

“My impression is that in order to justify its existence, NATO has a need of an external foe, there is a constant search for the foe, or some acts of provocation to name someone as an adversary.”

–Regarding NATO missile bases being installed in Eastern Europe, Putin said: “And what are we supposed to do. In this case we have to take countermeasures. We have to aim our missile systems at facilities that are threatening us. The situation becomes more tense. …

“There are two threats for Russia. The first threat, the placement of these anti-ballistic missiles in the vicinity of our border in the Eastern European countries. The second threat is that the launching pads of these anti-ballistic missiles can be transformed within a few hours into offensive missile launching pads. Look, if these anti-ballistic missiles are placed in Eastern Europe, if those missiles are placed on water, patrolling the Mediterranean and Northern Seas, and in Alaska, almost the whole Russian territory would be encircled by these systems.

“As you can see, that is another great strategic mistake made by our partners [a word that Putin uses to refer to the United States]. Because all these actions are going to be adequately answered by Russia. And this means nothing else but a new cycle of an arms race. …

“When the Soviet Union collapsed, they [American leaders] were under the illusion that the U.S. was capable of anything, and they could [act] with impunity. That’s always a trap, because in this situation the person or the country begins to commit mistakes. There is no need to analyze the situations, or think about the consequences. And the country becomes inefficient. One mistake follows another. And I think that is the trap the U.S. has found itself in.”

–Regarding the prospect of nuclear war, Putin said, “I don’t think anyone would survive such a conflict.” Regarding U.S. plans for creating a missile shield, he said, “There is a threat deriving from the illusion of being protected, and this might lead to more aggressive behavior. That is why it is so important to prevent unilateral actions. That is why we propose to work jointly on the anti-ballistic missile system.”

–Regarding the American neoconservatives who now dominate the U.S. foreign policy establishment and the major news media, Stone described “the neoconservative element as being so hungry to make their point, to win their case that it’s dangerous.” Putin responded, “I fear them too.”

–In an interview on Feb. 16, 2016, Stone asked about the U.S. presidential campaign to which Putin replied, “We are going to be ready to work with whoever gets elected by the people of the United States. I said that on several occasions and that’s the truth. I believe nothing is going to change no matter who gets elected. … The force of the United States bureaucracy is very great. And there are many facts that are not visible to the candidates until they become President. And the moment one gets to real work, he or she feels the burden. …

“My colleague, Barack Obama, promised to close Guantanamo. He’s failed to do that. But I’m convinced that he sincerely wanted to do that. … Unlike many partners of ours, we never interfere within the domestic affairs of other countries. That is one of the principles we stick to in our work.”

–In a February 2017 interview, which was added amid the escalation of charges that Russia interfered in the U.S. election, Stone noted that Donald Trump is “your fourth president” and asked, “what changes?”

“Almost nothing,” Putin said with a wry smile. “Life makes some changes for you. But on the whole, everywhere, especially in the United States, the bureaucracy is very strong. And bureaucracy is the one that rules the world.”

Asked about alleged Russian interference to help Trump, Putin responded: “You know, this is a very silly statement. Certainly, we liked President Trump and we still like him because he publicly announced that he was ready to restore American-Russian relations. … Certainly, we’ve got to wait and see how, in reality, in practice, the relations between our two countries are going to develop. …”

Stone: “So why did you bother to hack the election then?”

Putin: “We did not hack the election at all. It would be hard to imagine any other country – even a country such as Russia would be capable of seriously influencing the electoral campaign or the outcome of an election. … any talk about our influencing the outcome of the U.S. election is all lies. They are doing it for a number of reasons.

“First, they are trying to undermine the legitimacy of President Trump, create conditions that must preclude us from normalizing our relations, and they want to create additional instruments to wage an internal political war. And Russia-U.S. relations in this context are just a mere instrument in the internal political fight in the U.S. … We know all their tricks.”

–Regarding cyber-war and the possibility that U.S. intelligence planted malware and back-doors in software sold to Russia, Putin said, “Well, you will probably not believe me, but I’m going to say something strange. Since the early 1990s, we have assumed that the Cold War is over. We thought there was no need to take any additional protective measures because we viewed ourselves as an integral part of the world community.

“We didn’t have any equipment of our own. Our companies, our state institutions and administrative departments, they were buying everything – hardware and software. And we’ve got much equipment from the U.S., from Europe, and equipment is used by the Intelligence Services and by the Defense Ministry. But recently we certainly have become aware of the threat that all of that poses.

“Only during recent years, have we started to think about how we can ensure technological independence, as well as security. Certainly we give it much thought, and we take appropriate measures. … We had to catch up with others.”

In an aside to Putin’s translator within earshot of Putin, Stone remarked: “He’s acting funny about this story, like he’s guilty a bit.”

–Regarding the dangers to Russia from U.S. cyber-warfare, Putin said: “It is almost impossible to sow fear among the Russian citizens. … And secondly, the economies that are more sophisticated, in technological terms, they are more vulnerable to this type of attack. But in any case, this is a very dangerous trend. A very dangerous avenue for competition to pursue and we need some rules to be guided by.”

When Stone raised the possibility of a treaty, Putin said, “I don’t want to say that, but you are simply drawing this information from me. You make me say that. One and a half years ago, in Autumn 2015, we came up with a proposal that was submitted to our American counterparts. We suggested that we should work these issues through and arrive at a treaty, an agreement on the rules to be guided by in this field. The Americans didn’t respond, they kept silence, they didn’t give us any reply.”

–Regarding allegations of Putin’s wealth, Stone asked, “Is there someway you could make your personal wealth clearer?”

Putin responded indirectly: “I remember when I moved to Moscow from St. Petersburg [in the 1990s], I was astounded and shocked by how many crooks had gathered here in Moscow and their behavior was so astounding, I couldn’t get used to it for a very long time. Those people didn’t have any scruples at all. … My task was to differentiate between power and money.”

Stone: “So there are no bank accounts in Cyprus?”

Putin: “No, and never have been. That’s just nonsense, and if that were the case we would have had to face it a long time ago.”

–Although Putin remained disciplined and controlled during the long sit-downs with Stone, the Russian president appeared most uncomfortable when Stone pressed him about his future plans and the risk of a leader viewing himself as indispensable to a nation.

Citing the possibility that Putin would have been in power – as either prime minister or president – for 24 years if he were to run for president again and win, Stone asked, “Do you feel that Russia needs you that badly?”

Putin: “The question you have asked whether Russia needs anyone that bad – Russia itself will decide. An alteration in power certainly has to exist. … In the end, let me reiterate – the citizens of Russia are going to make the final decision. Concerning the 2018 elections, I’d like to say there are things, things that should have some intrigue and mystery. So I am not going to answer that part of the question.”

Stone: “I said if…”

Putin: “We shouldn’t speak in the subjunctive mood.”

Stone then suggested more transparency in the next election.

A stern Putin responded: “Do you think our goal is to prove anything to anyone? Our goal is to reinforce our country.”

Stone: “That is a dangerous argument. It works both ways. Those who abuse power always say it’s a question of survival.”

Putin: “We are not talking about survival and we are not trying to justify ourselves. Certainly taking into account all the negative tendencies you’ve been talking about – the Soviet legacy, the Imperialist legacy, it’s something in the past. But we also have to think about the positive legacy. Russia has been built for a thousand years; it has its own traditions. We have our notions of what is just and unjust, we have our own understanding of what defines an efficient government.

“This is not a question of helping someone cling to power or to claim it for myself. This is about ensuring economic growth and sustaining it, improving our defense capabilities, and not just during periods of crisis and difficulties.”

Stone: “Mr. Putin, I don’t doubt for one moment your pride in serving Russia or that you are a son of Russia to me, and you have done very well by her. We all know the price of power. When we’re in power too long no matter what, the people need us but at the same time we’ve changed and we don’t even know it.”

Putin: “Indeed, this is a very dangerous state. If a person in power feels that they have lost it, this bond connecting this person to the country and to the rank-and-file citizens of the country, then it’s time for them to go.”

June 13, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 3 Comments

Britain’s Real Terror Apologists

By Finian Cunningham | Sputnik | June 11, 2017

Despite a vicious smear campaign to denigrate Britain’s Labour leader as a “terrorist sympathizer,” Jeremy Corbyn still pulled off an amazing achievement in the general election.

Hardly has a politician in any Western state been so vilified with character assassination, and yet he has proven to be most popular Labour leader in Britain since the Second World War.

After weeks of trailing his Conservative rival Theresa May in the polls, Corbyn’s socialist manifesto appealed to a record number of voters – closing the gap between the parties to only two percentage points behind the Tories.

This was in spite of a concerted media campaign to destroy Corbyn in the eyes of the British public as a “terrorist stooge.” The irony here is that the Conservative party is forming a governing coalition with a little-known Northern Ireland party whose history is steeped in British state terrorism. (More on that in a moment.)

For Corbyn, the election outcome was a stunning moral victory. For Prime Minister May it was a humiliating defeat. The Conservatives lost their overall majority in the British parliament and now they have to rely on this reactionary fringe party from Northern Ireland to form a government.

May called the snap election because she thought her party would increase its majority and also because she calculated that Corbyn’s socialist direction of Labour would be wiped out. Many Blairite naysayers in his own party thought so too.

The opposite happened. The British public largely rejected May and her neoliberal capitalist, pro-austerity, pro-NATO policies. They instead rallied behind Corbyn. Granted, the Tories still won the election – only narrowly – but the surge in support for Labour under Corbyn means that he has galvanized a party that stands a strong chance of winning if another election is called. And that could be soon, perhaps in the coming months owing May’s shaky ad hoc government collapsing.

Another riveting factor in all this is that Corbyn’s success came amid a torrential Tory and right-wing media campaign to denigrate him as a terrorist sympathizer. The propaganda onslaught was conducted for months since May called the election back in April. And it grew to a frenzy as election day approached last Thursday, especially when the opinion polls showed Labour steadily whittling away the earlier Conservative support.

The day before the public went to the polling booths, the Daily Mail ran the front page headline: “Apologist for terror,” with Jeremy Corbyn’s photo below. It looked like a “wanted poster” from the Wild West. The only thing missing was the subhead with the words: “Wanted dead or alive.”

The scurrilous allegation pounded over and over by the largely pro-Conservative British media that Corbyn is “soft on terrorism” stems from his otherwise principled history of campaigning on international justice and peace.

Over his 35 years as an MP, he has voiced consistent support for Palestinian rights under illegal Zionist occupation; he has supported Hezbollah resistance against Israeli and American aggression; and during the conflict in Northern Ireland, Corbyn gave a voice to Irish Republicans who were being assailed by British military violence.

Many other international causes could be mentioned, such as Corbyn opposing British government weapons dealing with the despotic Saudi regime which is propagating terrorism in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

He has also campaigned to abandon nuclear weapons and is critical of NATO’s reckless expansion in Europe, which have earned him the jingoistic pillorying by the British establishment of “being soft on Russia.”

Corbyn has never condoned terrorism. Rather he has always sought to properly put it in a wider context of other parties also, unaccountably, using terrorism and thus fueling conflict.

This brings us to so-called Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) from Northern Ireland whose 10 MPs Theresa May’s Tories are now relying on to form a government. This party was formed in the early 1970s by the firebrand Protestant preacher Ian Paisley. While Paisley mellowed in later years before his death in 2014, he spent most of his career preaching vile hatred against Catholics and Irish Republicans, whom he saw as a threat to the political union between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain. In British-run Northern Ireland, it wasn’t acceptable to have a democratic aspiration for an independent Ireland. You were either a pro-British unionist or a “threat.” So much for British democracy.

Senior members of Paisley’s pro-British party played a crucial role in smuggling massive caches of weapons into Northern Ireland during the 1980s to illegally arm unionist paramilitaries. These paramilitaries went on to murder hundreds of innocent people simply because they were Catholics, who tended to be Republican. A favored tactic of these paramilitaries was to storm into pubs and homes and indiscriminately mow people down with assault rifles.

One notorious pro-British killer was Gusty Spence who belonged to the Ulster Volunteer Force paramilitary. He later expressed remorse and deplored Ian Paisley, the DUP founder, as the person who incited him to murder innocent Catholics due to his sectarian hate speech.

The paramilitary murder gangs were not just supported covertly by members of the DUP. The British government of Margaret Thatcher – Theresa May’s predecessor and political heroine – orchestrated these same death squads in a covert policy of “dirty war.”

British military intelligence colluded with the pro-unionist militants to assassinate Republican politicians and ordinary Catholics alike in a covert policy of state-sponsored terrorism. The objective was to terrorize people in submitting to British rule over Northern Ireland, rather than allowing the island country to become united and independent.

The British government provided intelligence and cover for the death squads and the unionist politicians had helped supply the AK-47 assault rifles and Browning handguns smuggled from Apartheid South Africa.

This secret dirty war policy of the British government and their unionist proxies in Northern Ireland has been uncovered by investigative journalists such as Paul Larkin (see his groundbreaking book “A Very British Jihad: Collusion, Conspiracy and Cover-up in Northern Ireland”); as well as human rights campaign groups like Belfast-based Relatives for Justice and Pat Finucane Centre.

Not even the present government of Theresa May can deny this murderous legacy in Ireland, although there is a determined silence now as she fights for her political survival in the wake of the British election disaster.

It is a proven fact that May’s Conservative party and the unionist politicians whom she is now partnering with to govern Britain were complicit in terrorism.

Northern Ireland has since gained a peace settlement in which unionist and republican politicians have been able to work together to form a local governing administration. The Irish peace process was possible partly because of the courageous and principled intervention by British politicians like Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn has never apologized for terrorism. He has sought to overcome it by making politics work. The same cannot be said for Theresa May’s Conservative party. It was an accomplice and an apologist for a covert policy of state-sponsored terrorism during Northern Ireland’s recent 30-year conflict.

The very party whom she is now allied with for governing Britain – the DUP – were also apologists for paramilitaries who routinely smashed their way into family homes and slaughtered victims in cold blood in front of their loved ones.

The ongoing muted policy of May’s government and her unionist proxies about their murderous legacy in Ireland is a testimony to who the real apologists for terror are.

June 12, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment