The largely unobservant public had previously been under the impression that the Baltic Sea was a zone of peace and stability, thinking that all the region’s states lived in harmony with one another. This may have been the case prior to 1991, but immediately afterwards, NATO’s expansion into the Baltic basin seriously upset the balance of power, as the incorporation of Poland and the former Soviet Baltic States in 1999 and 2004 attests. Through this manner, NATO was able to surround Kaliningrad and directly push up against part of Russia’s western border.
The military tension remained just below the surface (literally), until Shadow NATO states Sweden and Finland started initiating highly publicized ‘Russian sub’ scares, designed with the sole intent of scaring their publics into formal NATO membership and opening up an additional front in the New Cold War. Taking it further, this is all part of NATO’s new policy of regional blocs, as Brussels hopes to see the formation of a ‘Viking Bloc’ that would apply pressure against Russia in the Arctic. The most dangerous development, however, is with Finland, which is capitalizing off of the sea scare to call up nearly one million reservists (1/5 of the total population) in the event of a “crisis situation”, thereby presenting a dangerous test run in conflict escalation that might be applied all over Europe in the future.
To put everything into focus, it’s best to begin by documenting the latest hysteria stemming from supposed ‘Russian sub’ sightings. Sweden started the trend when it claimed to be hunting a believed-to-be Russian sub back in October, and when nothing came out of the stunt except for a scared public and a couple million dollars spent, Stockholm continued to insist that it had evidence that a foreign sub did trespass through its waters, but curiously kept the details to itself. Be that as it may, it didn’t stop legislators from increasing the defense budget by a whopping $1.18 billion for the period 2016-2020, earmarking an additional $945 million for the future purchase of two subs, and announcing plans to reopen a military base on the Baltic island of Gottland. The ultimate irony is that there was never a ‘Russian sub’ to begin with, and that it was eventually revealed that the whole scandal started over a simple workboat, thus making it seem like Sweden exaggerated the situation simply to push through more defense funding and militarize its society against Russia.
Being the regional leader that it is, it appears as though Sweden’s spectacle of the phantom Russian sub rubbed off on Finland, which soon after its latest elections began detonating underwater charges against its own suspected ‘Russian sub’. Finnish political analyst Jon Hellevig assessed that this was simply Helsinki’s application of Stockholm’s decades-long tactic of using phantom Russian subs to increase the population’s acceptance of future NATO membership. While Finland isn’t a de-jure member of the alliance, both it and Scandinavian military hegemon Sweden signed a NATO host nation agreement last fall to intensify their relations with the bloc, essentially making them Shadow NATO members in an even deeper capacity than Ukraine has become (the latter of which has been the bone of contention sparking the New Cold War in the first place).
Given such a relationship, it may not even be needed for either state to formally join NATO at this point, since the alliance can already reap the resultant military advantages of their territory in any possible anti-Russian crisis scenario. However, putting the provocative issue up for a referendum vote or making a unilateral government decision in this regard might be a forthcoming tactic towards creating the aforementioned crisis needed to ‘justify’ the indefinite hosting of NATO troops in those countries. It’s quite clear that Sweden is already de-facto participating in NATO, since they just partook in the group’s “Dynamic Mongoose” anti-submarine drills off the Norwegian coast. This would have obviously raised eyebrows among its domestic citizenry had it not been for the earlier ‘Russian sub’ scare that created the social pretext for its acceptance, showing how such false crises can be manipulated by the media for predetermined military gain.
The Viking Bloc
Everything going on in Scandinavia right now, from the phantom ‘Russian sub’ scares to the de-facto NATO-ization of the region’s last formal holdouts, is designed to create the northern component of NATO’s regional bloc strategy. In sum, the alliance is reverting to history and using Polish interwar leader Josef Pilsudski’s Intermarum concept to establish a Baltic-to-Black-Sea coalition of anti-Russian states to which it can more efficiently outsource its military prerogatives, all per the Lead From Behind strategy. The ‘Viking Bloc’ which consists of the Greater Scandinavian states of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Finland (centered on Sweden, possibly incorporating Estonia and Latvia as well) is envisioned to complement the emerging Commonwealth Bloc of Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine (centered on Poland), and the forthcoming Black Sea Bloc of Romania, Bulgaria, and Moldova (centered on Romania, possibly even expanded to Georgia).
Focusing more specifically on the characteristics of the Viking Bloc, its members have a maritime identity, so it’s predicted that they’ll focus their activity on the Baltic Sea, North Sea, and Arctic Ocean, accordingly making them all one large naval base. Sweden’s demographic and economic strength makes it the obvious leader amongst the identified members and the control node of its activity, while wealthy Norway can provide the natural resources needed to keep it running. Denmark controls the entrance to and from the Baltic Sea, and together with its colony country of Greenland, Iceland, and Norway, the three can patrol the North Sea and Arctic Ocean in hunting ‘Russian subs’. It’s also not a coincidence that all of these states are members of the Arctic Council, meaning that this dialogue configuration has essentially become one of confrontation between North America & the Viking Bloc on one side and Russia on the other. The odd member out of this naval configuration is Finland (also a member of the Arctic Council), which has recklessly adapted a land-based anti-Russian policy that’s bound to ratchet up tension with its neighbor. One should also note that the Viking Bloc’s members signed a multilateral defense cooperation agreement in April that basically institutionalized the organization as an official regional bloc.
The Finnish Amphibian
The most dangerous sub-bloc strategy being adopted by NATO is its Finnish affiliate’s advance preparation of 900,000 reservists in the event of a “crisis situation”, which obviously could only refer to a military conflict with Russia. The Finnish government is trying to account for all of its former reservists aged 20-60 in order to inform them of what their “crisis situation” role would be, as well as to collect updated information about them. This dramatic movement of anti-Russian initiatives from sea onto land represents an amphibious strategy that’s likely only in its initial test-run phase. NATO wants to gauge Russia’s reaction and monitor its response in order to fine-tune this template for eventually export throughout the bloc as a whole.
The Finnish Amphibian is a very simple strategy. All that the practicing states or regional blocs have to do is report on a phantom ‘Russian sub’ sighting, preferably with as much media paranoia as possible but providing no proof whatsoever, and then use the subsequent buzz to justify the potential mobilization of a massive land-based reservist force. This leads to the militarization of society within the targeted state and initiates a siege mentality that makes its citizens feel as though they’re constantly under some type of Russian attack. None of the accusations have to be proven, let alone even seen by the citizens themselves, so long as the media and supportive political figures repeat the chorus of conflict enough to make it believable. An added touch would be to implement Sweden’s strategy of publicly accusing 1/3 of all Russian diplomats there as being spies, which when coupled with the existing paranoia about phantom ‘Russian subs’, sends the populace’s paranoia into overdrive and all but assures that they’ll support whichever military or surveillance solutions their government or NATO suggests.
NATO’s northernmost regional fighting group, the Viking Bloc, owes its speedy creation to the utilization of phantom ‘Russian sub’ scare tactics to galvanize support for this new initiative. Greater Scandinavia is rapidly being transformed into one giant NATO naval base that’s meant to confront Russia on the neighboring high seas. As destabilizing as that is, it moves into the realm of flashpoint danger with the fact that Finland is preparing to mobilize 1/5 of its population against Russia, thus presenting an amphibious land-based component to the majority sea-focused strategy. Even worse, the template of using false sea-based scares to ‘justify’ massive land-based mobilizations could likely be applied elsewhere in Europe, thereby serving as an ideal model of militarization all throughout NATO. It’s this hybrid of media-military strategic collaboration that may eventually prove to be more destabilizing than the unveiling of the Viking Bloc itself.
A proposed declarative resolution by a group of MEPs has called on the European Union to step up sanctions against Russia, provide Ukraine with weaponry and further strengthen NATO forces in Eastern Europe, should Russia refuse to return Crimea to Ukraine or fail to abide by the Minsk ceasefire, a press statement for the body stated Tuesday.
The aggressively worded document, drafted Monday and liaised by Romanian MEP Ioan Pascu for the parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, warns that increased Russian military presence in Crimea necessitates EU nations to strengthen their military capabilities, stating that NATO must give its East European members a “strong strategic reassurance.”
Commenting on the proposed resolution, Pascu suggested to the EU’s news service that the strengthening of Russian defense capabilities in Crimea is “in practice creating another launching pad, of the proportions of Kaliningrad, this time in the Black Sea.” The MEP threatened that “in one year the defensive force which existed there has been transformed into a strike force… with which Russia can threaten Central Europe, the Balkans, Southern Europe and also [the] Eastern Mediterranean and even the Middle East.”
Supported by MEPs from Lithuania, Estonia, Poland and Spain, the belicose resolution, pending Foreign Affairs Committee approval, also accuses Russian authorities of mistreating the Crimean Tatars. Furthermore, it suggests that Russia may next move to cut off Ukraine from the Black Sea entirely by annexing its coastal territories. Pending approval, the belligerent document will face a vote at the parliament’s upcoming session in June, asking “EU member states to speak with one united voice,” regarding “EU relations with Russia.”
French President Francois Hollande has confessed that the country delivered various kinds of weapons, including lethal ones, to foreign-backed militants fighting in Syria, a new book reveals.
“We began when we were certain they (weapons) would end up in the right hands. For the lethal weapons it was our services who delivered them,” Hollande told author Xavier Panon in an interview in May last year.
The book, titled “In the corridors of French diplomacy,” is coming out in France this month.
According to Hollande, France sent canons, machine guns, rocket launchers and anti-tank missiles to the militants fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2012 despite an arms embargo.
The European Union’s arms embargo on Syria’s foreign-sponsored militants was in place from March 2011 to May 2013.
The book also discloses a series of diplomatic and military measures against the Syrian administration by the French government both under Hollande and previous president Nicolas Sarkozy.
One of the moves was a series of planned August 2013 air raids against the Syrian government allegedly for its use of chemical weapons, which Washington and its Western allies rescinded after a diplomatic deal, under which Syria agreed to eliminate its stockpile of chemical weapons by mid-2014.
The planned attacks had two objectives, to change the “political order” in Syria and to destabilize Russia, which supports Damascus, in order to pressure Moscow into changing its approach to the crisis, a political advisor told the author.
Syria has been grappling with a deadly crisis since March 2011. The US and its regional allies – especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – have been supporting the militants operating inside Syria since the beginning of the crisis.
The violence fueled by Takfiri groups has so far claimed the lives of over 222,000 people, according to the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says over 7.2 million people have been internally displaced, and more than 3 million have been forced to flee the country.
LAS VEGAS — Luxury buses pulled up to the front entrance of the private hangar here where Sheldon Adelson keeps his corporate jets, dropping off Republican donors to hear Jeb Bush speak.
But Adelson arrived late — and in more extravagant style, pulling right into the massive structure in his Maybach limousine with dark tinted windows trailed by a second Maybach carrying glaring bodyguards.
The grand entrance was vintage Adelson. And it kicked off a Republican Jewish Conference four-day retreat this past weekend in which the 80-year-old casino mogul wowed his guests with a distinct blend of megawatt GOP politics and Vegas opulence, keeping them — and the political class, as a whole — waiting and wondering about what would come next.
The guessing game is creating anxiety among Republican Party elites eager to avoid a repeat of 2012, when Adelson and his family dumped more than $20 million into a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich’s long-shot GOP presidential campaign. The Adelsons went on to give even more money to help Mitt Romney, but by the time he was the party’s nominee, the damage was done. The infusion to boost Gingrich roiled and prolonged the primary and hurt the party’s chances of winning the White House.
When Adelson summoned Bush and Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey, John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin to Las Vegas for the annual spring RJC meeting, GOP stalwarts hoped it might mean the megadonor was committing to get behind one of the establishment favorites for 2016, and not going rogue again.
But interviews with Adelson intimates, an analysis of his political alliances and reporting from the Las Vegas retreat suggest that the headstrong billionaire isn’t a new man, but the same gambler he has always been: a true wild card.
“If anybody tells you what Sheldon is going to do, or how or why he is going to do it, they don’t know Sheldon. Sheldon makes up his own mind,” said Ari Fleischer, a longtime Adelson confidant. Fleischer, an RJC board member, was scheduled to lead a board discussion about what Republicans are doing to improve on their 2012 effort.
The possibility that Adelson might use his checkbook to upend the 2016 primary “is worrisome,” Fleischer conceded, though he stressed the same could be said of other very wealthy Republicans.
The new big-money political landscape — in which a handful of donors can dramatically alter a campaign with just a check or two — explains both the eagerness of busy governors to make pilgrimages to Las Vegas, and the obsession with divining Adelson’s 2016 leanings.
All manner of national media flocked to Adelson’s Venetian casino and resort hotel, which hosted the RJC meeting. But reporters were kept away from Adelson by coalition staff, as well as casino and personal security, and his team turned down interview requests, including for an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
As Adelson whizzed around his Venetian kingdom on a motorized scooter during the retreat, he was often trailed by GOP operatives, politicians and fellow donors eager to assess his state of mind, advise him on what he should do or just lavish him with praise and gratitude.
The son of poor Jewish immigrants, Adelson was raised in a working-class Massachusetts town. He amassed a fortune estimated at $40 billion today by following his gut and bucking conventional wisdom, forging a business- and family-travel industry in Las Vegas and rushing into the uncertain middle-class gambling market in the Macao region of China.
He donates huge sums to Israeli causes and has ramped up his domestic political giving in recent years, culminating in an unprecedented $100 million spending spree in 2012. Despite his paltry success rate, he has said he intends to spend even more in future campaigns.
At a closed-press Saturday night gala, Adelson quipped that he couldn’t oblige a request from the RJC for a $50 million contribution because the group’s executive director, Matt Brooks, didn’t have change for $1 billion.
Neither Adelson’s speech nor his private conversations over the weekend provided those closest to him with any clearer sense of which way his gut was leading him in the 2016 presidential race, leaving all grasping at clues.
“His priority is Israel. So, if you look at his vetting process, I haven’t sat in any of the meetings, but I assure you that the first question is ‘tell me where you are on the safety and security of the state of Israel,’” said GOP bundler Fred Zeidman, a Houston private equity investor who is friendly with Adelson.
All the prospective candidates who turned up in Vegas stressed their support for Israel in speeches and private meetings with Adelson. There were several veiled swipes at GOP politicians and prospective presidential candidates with more noninterventionist foreign policy perspectives, like Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, who are considered unlikely candidates for Adelson’s support. Yet most of the governors who were invited to Vegas have fairly limited foreign policy chops.
Walker conceded as much in a Saturday speech, explaining foreign affairs is “not an area that governors typically look at,” though he mentioned that he is commander in chief of the Wisconsin National Guard. He also sought to forge cultural common ground with RJCers by explaining that he lights a menorah at the governor’s mansion during Hannukah and named one of his two sons Matthew — which means “gift from God” in Hebrew.
Christie’s efforts at playing the Israel card backfired when he inadvertently used a term [occupied territories] for disputed Middle East territory during a Saturday speech that offended Adelson and some of his guests. The New Jersey governor apologized in a private meeting in the casino mogul’s Venetian office shortly afterward.
The foreign policy deficit may, in fact, be a side effect of another factor Adelson has identified as important, according to sources close to him — “executive experience.” That could potentially rule out prospective candidates with more hawkish foreign policy attitudes, like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
Kasich of Ohio played straight to Adelson.
“Sheldon and I were kind of talking about his background. I come from a little town outside of Pittsburgh called McKees Rocks — it was very blue collar,” Kasich said, in one of several Adelson-related non sequiturs.
Even when he discussed his effort to clamp down on prescription drug dissemination, he said Adelson — who took as many as 25 medications in a day in 2001 to manage pain from a neurological condition, and whose wife, Miriam Adelson, is a physician who specializes in treating drug addiction — “is someone who knows about this.”
Some possible candidates who seem to meet Adelson’s criteria either weren’t invited or didn’t come to Las Vegas, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. He has both executive experience and a track record of supporting Israel, but seems to face electability hurdles similar to those that hamstrung Gingrich.
Yet late last year, when Adelson at a Zionist Organization of America dinner presented the Adelson Defender of Israel award to Huckabee, he called the ordained Southern Baptist minister “a great politician,” as well as “a great person, a great American and a great Zionist.” Since then, the two have met privately twice — once with their spouses — and are “very good friends [who] share a deep commitment to Israel,” according to a source close to Huckabee.
Mel Sembler — a Florida mall developer, former U.S. ambassador to Italy and major GOP rainmaker — in 2012 urged Adelson to halt his Gingrich super PAC funding stream for the good of the party, as did fellow RJC board member Zeidman. As Sembler boarded a bus taking donors from Adelson’s Palazzo hotel to the Bush speech at the private hangar Thursday night, he suggested that Adelson may have recalibrated his approach based on the 2012 failure. “Sheldon has his own mind, but he’s learned. He’s learned a lot. He’s matured.”
Plus, Zeidman suggested that Adelson’s personal feelings on the various 2016 possibilities won’t factor into his decision as they did in 2012. “None of them have a 20-year history like Newt Gingrich did,” Zeidman said of the former House speaker’s relationship with Adelson.
The goal of hearing from the candidates was to start a vetting process that will produce a consensus — one that includes Adelson — of the best candidate, according to Sembler.
“We’re going to talk about that one,” he said. “We’re going to support the best candidate we can possibly get. That’s who we’re going to support.”
Adelson may have done that in his closed-door meetings with the candidates (he also met privately with House Speaker John Boehner, who was in town for other business). But when it came to the official RJC sessions, the mogul was often late and frequently seemed more interested in kibitzing than in official business. “He mingles pretty good,” remarked Rep. Billy Long of Missouri, as he left a Friday evening Shabbat dinner at which the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. spoke.
Adelson — who is not known as a morning person and also was nursing a cold — skipped Saturday morning speeches from Walker and former Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton. He entered the hall midway through Christie’s address, walking with the help of a bodyguard to a reserved seat in the front row as Christie talked about his governing style.
He showed up 20 minutes late to a Friday morning RJC board meeting, zipping up to the entrance on his scooter flanked by two Hebrew-speaking bodyguards, one of whom helped him to his feet to walk into the meeting. As other board members queued up to greet him, Adelson perused the breakfast buffet of bagels, lox, pastries and eggs, using his fingers to sample a pinch of shredded cheddar cheese in a serving bowl. The spread was certified kosher by Rabbi Tzvi Braunstein and the Chabad of Southern Nevada, according to an agenda.
“Who let you in here?” he demanded when POLITICO approached. “You can’t come in. This is a private meeting,” he said, rejecting a question about whether he’d try to avoid a costly and protracted primary this time around. “You can ask anything you want, but you’ll have to talk to the wall, because I’m not talking to you,” he said, as one of his bodyguards stepped in, ushered POLITICO from the room, and later called hotel security to bar the reporter from the adjacent hallways.
At the meeting, board members got a briefing on Senate races and were informed of efforts by the group to assist hawkish allies including Sens. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and GOP Senate nominee Bill Cassidy of Louisiana in their 2014 Senate primaries. The weekend’s private events drew appearances by Reps. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Cory Gardner of Colorado, both running for Senate, as well as Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin.
Other closed-press sessions included a scotch tasting, a poker tournament and a panel on “the lessons of 2012 and the current path forward for the GOP.” Then there were VIP discussions and photo ops with former Vice President Dick Cheney, Walker and Kasich, four Jewish prayer services for the more devout, and a Saturday night gala featuring a speech by Cheney. He warned against “what I sense to be an increasing strain of isolationism, if I could put it in those terms, in our own party. It’s not taking over, by any means, but there is without question a body of thought now that’s supported by many Republicans and some candidates that the United States can afford to turn its back on that part of the world.”
Cheney said “it’s crucial” to have candidates with muscular foreign policies and for Republicans to “take back the Senate and take back the White House so we can deal with what has been developing” around the world.
Regardless of any shared ideology on foreign policy or other issues, an adviser to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum suggested it’s distasteful for the party’s prospective candidates to be flocking to court Adelson.
“It sets a bad precedent for a billionaire to say ‘come hither’ this early on, and some people actually do,” said John Brabender, who was a leading strategist on Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign and is helping him build a political foundation that could serve as a springboard to a 2016 campaign. Santorum, who is an ardent defender of Israel, didn’t attend the RJC meeting, and Brabender questioned the optics for the possible 2016 rivals who did. “I don’t know why any prospective candidate wants to be seen as the mainstream Republican, because that’s got negative connotations among most Republican primary voters.”
The narrative that holds Adelson went rogue in 2012 and now is realigning himself with the GOP mainstream is flawed, asserted RJC president Matt Brooks, who works closely with Adelson. “The notion that somehow he was a rube and got duped and made awful investments in 2012, and has all these lessons to learn, is misreading what happened,” said Brooks. “The fact is, Republicans got wiped out all across the board. So it’s not like everybody else won and he was the outlier who put his money into losing causes.”
Except that Adelson is distinct from other conservative megadonors in his willingness to choose sides in primaries, then go it alone, seemingly immune from peer pressure. The only conservative donors who rival his spending power, Charles and David Koch, mostly avoid major involvement in primary fights and focus instead on building consensus among a wide network of donors. Plus, they try — increasingly unsuccessfully — to keep a lower profile.
Still, there is growing overlap between Koch world and the Adelson-RJC crew, with Adelson attending a 2012 Koch donor seminar and Tim Phillips, president of the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity group, attending his first RJC meeting last weekend.
Democrats have mostly kept their deepest pockets in line, thanks to a smaller universe of super PACs and megadonors, and greater ideological unity — not to mention the rallying of deep pockets behind early presumed front-runner Hillary Clinton.
“The parties have to some degree switched procedures,” said Fleischer. “Republicans used to be the hierarchical, organized party.” Now, though, “Democrats, because they have the White House, and because so many of them are lined up behind Hillary, if she runs, are the hierarchical party, at least for the moment.”
Still, he said, all it takes is one headstrong billionaire to throw everything into chaos, and nobody can stop it.
“If you think that people like Sheldon or George Soros or Tom Steyer are going to be influenced by the thinking of others, you don’t know the mindset of highly successful, entrepreneurial individuals who have made it their own way their whole lives,” said Fleischer. “At the end of the day, these individuals are going to do what they think is the best right thing to do, and it may not necessarily be reflective of the good of the greater party.”
Also on POLITICO:
Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski has signed a resolution approving the organization of a joint Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian brigade, whose creation has been in the works since 2007.
When brought to full operation in 2017, the brigade is set to constitute 4,500 servicemen. They will operate separately from the three countries’ respective militaries, but will take part in NATO exercises and missions. Preliminary drills are scheduled for later this year. The brigade will be stationed at its headquarters in Libulin, Poland. So far, it only houses 250 servicemen and 50 command staff contributed by the Polish military.
The joint force was discussed as far back as 2007, but the agreement to create it was signed by the three countries’ defense ministers in September 2014, in response to the Ukrainian crisis and what they call Russian aggression.
Creating the joint force is “part of a wider plan … to support Ukraine, among others, in the area of modernization,” President Bronislaw Komorowski said as cited by Reuters.
He also urged other European countries to spend more on defense. To that end, President Komorowski has suggested excluding defense spending from EU rules on budget deficit limits. This means that EU nations will be able to allocate more money to the military without fearing increased budget controls from Brussels. Komorowki’s offer comes at a time of heightened tensions with Russia.
Poland now has the fifth-strongest army in the EU, and has ambitious plans to modernize it, spending about $36 billion until 2022. However, the Polish government is unhappy about a lack of similar eagerness in some of the other European nations, the Rzeczpospolita newspaper reports.
While NATO is advising its member states to spend the maximum allowed of three percent of GDP on defense, most are spending far less: Germany allocates 1.2 percent of its GDP, the Netherlands 1.3 percent and Spain under 1 percent. France is the only Western European country that is boosting defense spending. However, some Eastern European nations are increasing their military expenses citing what they call Russian aggression. Lithuania, for instance, wants to allocate twice as much on defense as last year.
Three sets of military exercises kicked off in Europe on Monday, involving thousands of servicemen from a variety of NATO nations and their allies, amid a wave of similar action across the area.
Estonia is holding its largest-ever military drills. Named Siil-2015 (Hedgehog), the maneuvers involve about 13,000 personnel. The number includes about 7,000 reservists, along with members of the volunteer Estonian Defense League.
Siil-2015, scheduled to last until May 15, also involves forces from the US, the UK, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Belgium, Poland and the Netherlands. American troops, who are staying in Estonia as part of the massive training operation Atlantic Resolve, will bring four Abrams main battle tanks to the exercise. British, Belgian and German air defense units, as well as several NATO warplanes, will also take part.
The Lithuanian Army is holding its own maneuvers as part of the largest national drills called Zaibo Kirtis (Lightning Strike). The training involves over 3,000 troops. It is focused on joint action by the army and civilian authorities against so-called hybrid threats combining both military and non-military methods of fighting, according to Army Commander Major-General Jonas Vytautas Zukas.
In a statement cited by TASS, the major-general said: “The exercises will simulate situations when the Interior Ministry’s forces and resources are insufficient to neutralize various extreme situations unrelated to the direct repulsion of an imaginary enemy’s attack and the army should be involved.”
Lightning Strike will also be testing the country’s mobilization system and cyber security works, according to the Defense Ministry’s press release.
In Norway, NATO and its allies have gathered for annual anti-submarine exercises. About 5,000 servicemen from 10 NATO countries and Sweden are taking part. The drills, codenamed Dynamic Mongoose, involve simulated sub hunts utilizing surface vessels, aircraft and a variety of radar and sonar technologies. The US, Germany and Sweden are providing the submarines.
The two-week exercise follows reports of a suspected foreign underwater vessel off the coast of Finland, which prompted the use of depth charges to scare it off. In autumn last year, a similar scare triggered a week-long search in the sea near Stockholm, for what later turned out to be a civilian workboat. In the latter case, the finger of blame was unequivocally pointed at Russia, amid rising tensions over the Ukrainian conflict.
When speaking to the media about Dynamic Mongoose, NATO commanders avoided sending a message to any country in particular: “Obviously we’re aware of the incidents that have happened in some of our partner nations’ waters,” NATO Rear Admiral Brad Williamson said. “I think what it does is it focuses our efforts and our training here.”
The Prize: Extinction
Don’t expect the concept of extinction or omnicide to roll off the lips of nuclear warriors. Their brains focus on the win-ability of nuclear war to the exclusion of all other possibilities. Let’s take a minute to examine the myopic mindset of nuclear strategists and what we should be doing about it.
The story of nuclear weapons begins with the dropping of an atomic bomb named Little Boy on the city of Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. Since then, many authors have written and exposed this event as being more about starting a new war with our ally Russia than about ending WWII, more about continuing war so that the vast fortunes made by the US arms industry from WWII could continue indefinitely into the future.
Ever since Little Boy, the US has threatened Russia with nuclear bombs, and even had Russia ringed with nuclear weapons by 1951.1 Today the US is parading its nuclear arsenal in Ukraine along the Russian border in an unimaginable display of blatant aggression. Note that Russia is not posturing the same way by having Russian troops lined along the border of Canada or Mexico. The US claim that Russian aggression forces them to Russia’s doorstep with nuclear weapons is patently false. The Russian army remains in Russia, while the US military and its many mercenary armies are not only in Ukraine but run rampant across the planet.
Continuous aggressive nuclear posturing by the US over the years was memorialized in a military strategy called Escalation Dominance, wherein, rungs on a ladder of aggression escalate violence incrementally up the ladder until full domination is achieved. The principle of this stratagem was Dean Acheson, who laid out this plan in a now declassified top secret National Security Council Memorandum: NSCM-68, which was then received by President Harry S. Truman on April 14, 1950. It originated in the bowels of a secret meeting between the State Department and the Council on Foreign Relations in 1939 explicitly detailing the role of a US empire as a replacement for the British Empire.2
The Council was set up in 1921 as a bridgehead to bring America’s emerging power under the umbrella of the British throne. This had already been partially accomplished by modeling the Ivy League colleges after Cambridge. Imperial-minded professors were given free range to preach the gospel of privilege for an elite few. As Britain fell from the top position of colonial power, the aristocracy, although now in the back seat, remained in the lead limousine of a new arising phenomenon called globalization—turning the world into a singular vast colony for elite domination.
The Council produces an influential magazine called Foreign Affairs. Council director Isaiah Bowen wrote in 1942 that the US must secure areas “strategically necessary for world control.” Foreign Affairs editor Edwin Gay wrote, “When I think of the British Empire as our inheritance, I think simply of the natural right of succession.” America was on track to take over the world, country after country, in domino fashion. British imperialism reaching around the globe using American muscle would be distasteful to the American people, who thought they had escaped British influence through their revolution, so the creeping dominoes of world control had to be blamed on some other targeted enemy, still ally at the time, Russia.
Professors Michio Kaku and Daniel Axelrod summarized the new state of affairs:
The advent of atomic warfare gave a new twist to the plans to assume the mantle of the British Empire: just as the British used the battleship as an ultimate weapon of intervention, the US would use the atomic bomb. According to the Council’s study groups, naval superiority, which protected and expanded British investments around the world, would be replaced by atomic superiority. Gunboat Diplomacy would be replaced by Atomic Diplomacy. Pax Britannia would give way to Pax Americana.3
A US new world order was rising out of the crumbling British, French, and German colonial empires. Financial barons from Wall Street were eager to be the architects of this new world order. About 100 senior bankers and lawyers jelled into what was called the “old boys’ network or “national security establishment.”4 Like aristocracies of old, their enemy was any populist sharing of power. The people of America were to be left out, while the US Constitution was to be ignored or used only in limited cases to shore up the old boys grip on power.
The aristocracies of old Europe were now to be demoted to puppet dictators. For example, exiled White Russians and members of the Tsarist aristocracy who fled Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution would be allowed to set up a puppet government for Wall Street. Russia had to be dismembered to expose its vast resources to the new world order, the new internationalists.
Back home, Constitutionally-minded Republicans and Democrats were not keen on American expansionism, as imperialism emanating from any country is anathema to a global plurality of democracies. Non-interventionist Congressmen wanted the US to remain isolated, sovereign, and independent, leaving other countries to fend for themselves, choosing their own respective sovereign destinies in the spirit of freedom. This friction came to a head when a fistfight broke out in a Senate chamber between internationalist Dean Acheson and his arch-enemy, Senator Ken Wherry from Nebraska.
Acheson was an impeccable member of the Eastern Establishment, growing up as a member of the upper class. His father became an Anglican minister then bishop of Connecticut after serving as a British Army Officer. His family was steeped in the traditions and mores of British colonialism. His mother grew up in a wealthy banking family with business interests in England and Canada. As part of the old-boy network, he attended colleges like Groton and Yale, “where it was considered the birthright and perhaps even the duty of his social class to intervene in the affairs of other nations.”5
Acheson saw most Americans as his social inferior, including the low-class haberdasher from Missouri, President Truman. Acheson hated the right-wing Republican isolationists who opposed the interventionist policies of the Council. In his typical condescending manner, he called the isolationists “sub-humans” and “apes,”6 unenlightened by his own troglodytic tendencies of greed and selfish acquisitiveness through ruthless means.
Like Acheson, the Dulles brothers, John Foster and Allen, were sons of a well-to-do clergyman. As boys, they tagged along with their grandfather to conferences around the world that introduced them to international power politics. They, too, attended exclusive schools like Princeton, which were modeled after aristocrat-controlled Cambridge University in England. John Foster traveled extensively during WWII, making intimate friends with members of the British Colonial Office.
Lord Cranbourne argued that Britain could no longer run its Empire alone, and that US elites should join and help lead a new bigger British world empire. America supposedly had escaped the grip of the British Empire, only to have the likes of John Foster Dulles aspire to yoke Americans right back into the ranks of British servitude. No wonder there was a fistfight in the Senate chamber.
The Dulles brothers father, Allen Macy Dulles, reared his boys to embrace missionary Christianity. The world was to be led by a new imperial ministry and their weapon of choice for global domination was nuclear Escalation Dominance. Students at Groton even coined a name for it, muscular Christianity. The age-old “divine right of kings” seems to have changed only in faces and names. The new theological kings declare “onward Christian soldiers” with nuclear weapons at their side and an image of Armageddon as doable. President Reagan puzzled over the possibility of Armageddon, uncertain whether or not God was commanding him to destroy earth or to leave it in the hands of God.
Psychopathology in Aristocracy
Aristocrats commonly suffer from profound delusional thinking and Severe Narcissistic Personality. They live a seeming fairytale life style, floating above the normal mundane chores of life, like having to cook or clean, never having to wash dishes, clothes or toilets. Being raised like veal, as in a confined ideological world, lends itself to psychological anemia and disconnected thinking from reality, thus, setting the stage for delusional thinking. The unusual degree of pampering in their upbringing includes coaching them to believe that their station in life is above the masses, even elevated in some theocratic families to the status of demigod, born of and “chosen” by God to lead lower classes. By self-pronouncing, without question, that their power is derived by God, they need not defer to the people themselves. The masses are, in effect, irrelevant and completely disposable. History is rife with examples of the aristocracy amusing themselves with killing lower people, like in the Roman coliseums. Disconnection from reality causes some elites to become perplexed by the distaste of the masses being subjected to the cruelties of servitude.
In the nuclear age, profound consequences follow from a toxic brew of distorted, disconnected, and arrogant thinking. From secret minutes of the National Security Council, Allen Dulles repeatedly bewailed the ignorance of the American people, “who draw an ‘artificial’ distinction between nuclear and conventional weapons and cannot realize that atomic bombs should be treated like bullets.”7 By losing touch with the fire power difference of bullet that kills one person versus an atomic bomb, like Little Boy, that fell on Hiroshima and indiscriminately killed 100,000 plus civilians reveals a callous disrespect for life almost too incomprehensible to imagine.
In addition, the lust for power adds an aggravating element of addiction to the toxic mix of disassociation, as exemplified by Dulles. Pursuit of power can become so engrossing and self-absorbing as to preclude the outside world, disconnecting critical brain functions from life and consequences of intended actions, not unlike a drug addict, totally obsessed with a perceived need to rob and kill to acquire money for the next fix. Keep in mind too, that not all members of the very rich become psychopaths.
John Kenneth Galbraith grew up among the elite but didn’t lose his sanity. He often lamented, however, the fact of being hopelessly outnumbered by the others in the Council “who felt it was natural, proper, and even Christian to apply force against other nations.”8 Having self-declared demigod status, “Thou shalt not kill” was meant only for the lower-class masses. Being the indispensible exception, as part of the white mans’ burden, the son’s of theologians all too often become entrenched in the perceived higher missionary work of eradicating the world of nonbelievers.
Adding another dimension to the toxic stew is the love of war, love of mass murder, which is so prevalent in military circles. John Hersey’s book: The War Lovers tells the story of how the fascination with annihilation drives men to obsess over death, like a moth flirting forward to test a candle’s flame.
Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark warned:
The pitiful mentality and ethic that can tirelessly banter, threaten, and toy with omnicide cannot be permitted to wield such power… The obvious joy that men like Teller, Kaysen, LeMay, Rostow, Kissinger, Haig, Brzezinski, Allen, and Reagan reflect in wielding such power provides a clear warning of our peril.9
We certainly can add the names of Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, Netanyahu, and a slew of neoconservatives. While working in a Top Secret war room, I personally witnessed officers planning wars of untold destruction. If necrophilia exudes a tone, then the prevailing mood in that war room was necrophilia. The clear warning is that we have allowed civilization to drift into the hands of necrophiliacs.
General Patton said that war is the “cataclysmic ecstasy of violence.” Nazi torturers described an almost orgasmic fascination with killing—almost a feeling of omnipotence. One psychopath described to Dr. Helen Caldicott how, as a boy, he experienced feelings of ecstasy by piercing the belly of a frog with a stick and watching it squirm and burn to death as he roasted it over a fire.10
These individuals are disconnected from humanity and reality, lost in pleasure seeking and intoxication with power, the power to destroy. The ultimate climax would be to destroy all life, creating a planetary-wide necropolis, as exemplified by the sinking of the gods into the sea, as the final climax in Wagner’s opera, Twilight of the Gods, which fascinated and held captive the mind of Adolf Hitler.
The general public finds it difficult to relate to this whole discussion of torture, narcissistic demigods, and necrophiliacs because the masses do not suffer the drama of these disturbed personalities. It takes one to know one, or you have to study psychopathology. Psychopaths flock together in the high echelons of power, out of view of the general populace. Therefore, the general public, out of ignorance, fails to conceive of remedies that could address such a strange disconnection from reality.
Keep in mind that psychopathology in war is not exclusive to other countries. As part of NATO, Canada plays a junior role in US gang murders around the planet. Nuclear threats to Russia and Iran are ongoing. This puts the Prime Minister’s office right in the thick of things, even escalating tensions in neighboring countries. Stephen Harper now claims that his administration can escape unharmed from bombing Syria and Libya, because (a) the US has world courts in a head lock, unable to prosecute him for war crimes, and (b) that victim countries cannot fight back because they lack the missiles required to shoot down Canadian fighter-bombers flying at high altitudes.
Of course, bombing little weak countries evokes mass casualties, mass murder. So Harper is claiming, in effect, that he can get away with a bloodbath scot-free. Does this evoke from you an image of a national hero personally bearing arms in a fight to stop a foreign invading army of Canada, or does it solicit more of an image of an emasculated leader who hides his cowardice behind the apron of a western gang murder force called NATO? Since none of the civilians he will have killed will ever have had the right to be tried for any crime, should he not personally go there to accuse, convict, condemn, then slay all these people with his own two hands in a spectacular showing of imperial just cause? You be the judge.
NATO consistently makes a patently false claim that bombing countries is done in order to free them. These countries are left in ruble. Churches, schools, hospitals, drinking water and food supplies are all destroyed in what NATO calls their responsibility to protect, the pretext they use to self-invite their bombing campaigns.
The real reason is stated behind closed doors, far away from the evening television news. The real goal is to further imperialism, to clear the land of all obstacles so that western corporations can access and take all the resources for free [more accurately, to be dominant over economic relations]. Dead people don’t complain or resist the taking of their lands. Psychopaths drive these wars of conquest.
These bombings constitute wars of aggression, what the UN now defines as the most egregious human behavior ever imagined. Yet, this is the current state of world affairs. For the record, US war-planners created and exploded the first atomic weapons over Japan in 1945. Their descendants have gone on to use tactical nuclear weapons in eight countries. No other country has used atomic or nuclear weapons on another country.11
The use of nuclear weapons has become so routine, that killing and poisoning the landscape of other countries has become part of an American nuclear culture. Imbued into the political landscape, nuclear weapons are never discussed in Congress, in Parliament, or the nightly news as weapons of mass destruction.
In fact, they are now claimed to be conventional weapons, you know, like rocks and spears. War-planners claim they are defensive weapons. Logically, this means that any number of them could be exploded over North-American soil to stop an incoming invasion. Can you imagine nuclear bombs going off all over the country in the name of protecting the land? I can’t. It’s just another example of disconnected, ignorant, and arrogant thinking.
Final Analysis: Sanity as a Path to Recovery
The most fundamental war facing humanity is the conflict between psychopathology and sanity. If we intend to survive, we need to begin a new mode of thinking. If we don’t we will continue to drift toward unparalleled catastrophe as Einstein warned us. We need to start educating ourselves about the causes and cures of wars. This new endeavor could be called warology. To some degree, each of you needs to become a warologist.
You need to understand that the role of Escalation Dominance in nuclear power politics, as carefully researched and explained by professors Kaku and Axlerod, is a move towards a state of total global domination and servitude. Seeking absolute power over other human beings is seeking the power of gods, the ultimate folly of an egocentric narcissistic personality, a self-anointed demigod that finds little room for other people on this earth except in the service of the narcissist’s pleasures.
Nuclear-war planners live in a world of make-believe, where they disconnect themselves from reality. They have to pretend that a god gives them the right to make and use hideous weapons of mass destruction. They have to pretend that the bomb dropped on Hiroshima did not produce mass destruction and ought not be of any more concern than a bullet. They have to pretend that evaporating people is part of a new normal. They have to pretend that shooting off nuclear weapons all over the world would be a permissible defensive posture. They have to pretend that by disallowing any media discussion of the use of nuclear weapons renders such weapons automatically safe for use. They have to pretend that nuclear weapons are not offensive weapons, which involves war crimes of the highest dimension.
The public is not trained to directly change the egomaniac delusions of the demigods, but it must not fall prey to collusion by accepting another set of delusional beliefs:
— that we are completely innocent and therefore free of all responsibility;
— that we are helpless;
— that our voices won’t count even if we do express ourselves;
— that public opinion is 100% ignored by the politicians;
— that any effort we put forward must show immediate results and rewards;
— that we can control nuclear war once it breaks out;
— that since an all-out nuclear war has not yet happened, it never will, so we can relax and ignore the problem.
You would likely scrub this last belief if you informed yourself of the many near misses we’ve had. For instance, in a single 18 month period, fail-safe mechanisms malfunctioned 151 times, and there were 32 broken arrow accidents between 1950-1980 alone.12
Sanity must come to power. To be sane, we have to live in the real world, not fantasy-land. Pretending that nuclear weapons are legitimate, legal, defensive weapons is insane. War-planners are insane, but what about the rest of us? Are we absolutely innocent? We must own our part.
We allow nuclear posturing to go on as if nothing has changed with the splitting of the atom. We look the other way. We, too, pretend that nuclear weapons are legal by virtue of our silence.
A thick blanket of nothingness hangs over the land: no media debate, too little rational-fear, too little rational-anger, considering the massive number of deaths thus far. If our collective-psyche is too numb to register fear, anger, and remedial action, then we need to question our own sanity. Is censoring a public debate in the media sufficient to make us numb and unwittingly insane? Well, we better start talking about it.
Sanity requires rational thought, rational discussion, and remedial action. Any one of the following: making, storing, transporting, using, or threatening to use nuclear weapons is an international war crime, yet collectively, we have not created the proper courts to enforce war crime statutes.
Independent war crimes tribunals already have been conducted, showing the world how proper legal proceedings are done, like the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal and the International Tribunal on U.S./NATO War Crimes Against Yugoslavia. We, the people of the world, need to get behind the findings of these tribunals and push. This will take precious time that we can hardly spare. Meanwhile, the people of the world have a right to vote on the question of extinction, exactly where an all-out nuclear war is leading.
What to do right now
Would it not be logical for everyone in the world who has a computer to contact the White House with a clear message that nuclear war is not an option? Please don’t pretend that stopping nuclear war is the job of someone else, someone out there in fairyland.
We should not need to be told that having and raising children with a long bloodline loses all of its meaning and value when extinction arrives. Surely, a fight for the survival of posterity is something worth waging. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: “No nation or individual, can be permitted to possess the power to destroy the world.”
The good news is that public opinion does have a dramatic effect on governments. Professors Kaku and Axlerod give ample examples of where, when, and how public opinion pulled nuclear policy makers back from triggering nuclear war.
Contact the White House. Keep contacting the President from time to time. Don’t expect a response, but they do count votes, pro and con, to every subject people raise and praise or complain about.
If you need to be energized, borrow a little psychological power from the movie, Network. You first have to get mad as hell. Get off your chairs, but I don’t want you to go to the window and shout out, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more.”
Instead, I want you to go to your computers and type “The White House” into your web search window. When you get on site, click on “Contact US.” Find the blue box that says, “Submit comments online.” Click on it. Fill out the required information. In the comment window, I want you to type just three words, “No Nuclear War.” That’s it. Hit the send button.
If you then spread this message through social media, millions of people could flood the White House with a message too large in number for the President to ignore. This gives the President ammunition to show to the Pentagon warriors who are itching to conduct nuclear war. Be proud of yourselves. Tell your children and friends that you are at work on the right side of history.
- Caldicott, Dr. Helen. Missile Envy: The Arms Race and Nuclear War. 1984. William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York, 69.
- Kaku, Michio and Axlerod, Daniel. To Win a Nuclear War: The Pentagon’s Secret War Plans. 1987. Black Rose Books, Montreal-New York, 63.
- Kaku & Axelrod, 64.
- Kaku & Axelrod, 39.
- Kaku & Axelrod, 67.
- Kaku & Axelrod, 69.
- Kaku & Axelrod, 314.
- Kaku & Axelrod, 161.
- Kaku & Axelrod, viii.
- Caldicott, 296-297.
- Eight countries attacked with tactical nuclear weapons—one country with atomic bombs—all sponsored by the US government: Egypt by Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War; Iraq in 1991 US attack called Desert Storm; Yugoslavia during 1999 US continuous bombing raid of 78 days and nights; after 9/11: Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Africa, Libya, Syria.
- Caldicott, 17, 44.
Bo Filter is a social scientist, speaker, and author of The Cause of Wars and Aggression: Book 1.
Body Counts, Drones, and “Collateral Damage” (aka “Bug Splat”)
In the twenty-first-century world of drone warfare, one question with two aspects reigns supreme: Who counts?
In Washington, the answers are the same: We don’t count and they don’t count.
The Obama administration has adamantly refused to count. Not a body. In fact, for a long time, American officials associated with Washington’s drone assassination campaigns and “signature strikes” in the backlands of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen claimed that there were no bodies to count, that the CIA’s drones were so carefully handled and so “precise” that they never produced an unmeant corpse — not a child, not a parent, not a wedding party. Nada.
When it came to “collateral damage,” there was no need to count because there was nothing to tote up or, at worst, such civilian casualties were “in the single digits.” That this was balderdash, that often when those drones unleashed their Hellfire missiles they were unsure who exactly was being targeted, that civilians were dying in relatively countable numbers — and that others were indeed counting them — mattered little, at least in this country until recently. Drone war was, after all, innovative and, as presented by two administrations, quite miraculous. In 2009, CIA Director Leon Panetta called it “the only game in town” when it came to al-Qaeda. And what a game it was. It needed no math, no metrics. As the Vietnam War had proved, counting was for losers — other than the usual media reports that so many “militants” had died in a strike or that some al-Qaeda “lieutenant” or “leader” had gone down for the count.
That era ended on April 23rd when President Obama entered the White House briefing room and apologized for the deaths of American aid worker Warren Weinstein and Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto, two Western hostages of al-Qaeda. They had, the president confessed, been obliterated in a strike against a terrorist compound in Pakistan, though in his comments he managed not to mention the word “drone,” describing what happened vaguely as a “U.S. counterterrorism operation.” In other words, it turned out that the administration was capable of counting — at least to two.
And that brings us to the other meaning of “Who counts?” If you are an innocent American or Western civilian and a drone takes you out, you count. If you are an innocent Pakistani, Afghan, or Yemeni, you don’t. You didn’t count before the drone killed you and you don’t count as a corpse either. For you, no one apologizes, no one pays your relatives compensation for your unjust death, no one even acknowledges that you existed. This is modern American drone reality and the question of who counts and whom, if anyone, to count is part of the contested legacy of Washington’s never-ending war on terror.
A Brief History of the Body Count
Once upon a time, of course, enemy deaths were a badge of honor in war, but the American “body count,” which would become infamous in the Vietnam era, had always been a product of frustration, not pride. It originated in the early 1950s, in the “meat-grinder” days of the Korean War, after the fighting had bogged down in a grim stalemate and signs of victory were hard to come by. It reappeared relatively early in the Vietnam War years as American officials began searching for “metrics” that would somehow express victory in a country where taking territory in the traditional fashion meant little. As time went on, the brutality of that war increased, and the promised “light at the end of the tunnel” glowed ever more dimly, the metrics of victory only grew, and the pressure to produce that body count, which could be announced daily by U.S. press spokesmen to increasingly dubious journalists in Saigon did, too. Soon enough, those reporters began referring to the daily announcements of those figures as the “Five O’Clock Follies.”
On the ground, the pressure within the military to produce impressive body counts for those “Follies” resulted in what GIs called the “Mere Gook Rule.” (“If it’s dead and it’s Vietnamese, it’s VC [Viet Cong].”) And soon enough anything counted as a body. As William Calley, Jr., of My Lai massacre fame, testified, “At that time, everything went into a body count — VC, buffalo, pigs, cows. Something we did, you put it on your body count, sir… As long as it was high, that was all they wanted.”
When, however, victory proved illusory, that body count came to appear to ever more Americans on the home front like grim slaughter and a metric from hell. As a sign of success, increasingly detached from reality yet producing reality, it became a death-dealing Catch-22. As those bodies piled up and in the terminology of the times a “credibility gap” yawned between the metrics and reality, the body count became a symbol not just of a war of frustration, but of defeat itself. It came, especially after the news of the My Lai massacre finally broke in the U.S., to look both false and barbaric. Whose bodies were those anyway?
In the post-Vietnam era, not surprisingly, Washington would treat anything associated with the disaster that had been Vietnam as if it were radioactive. So when, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration’s top officials began planning their twenty-first-century wars in a state of exhilarated anticipation, they had no intention of reliving anything that reeked of Vietnam. There would be no body bags coming home in the glare of media attention, no body counts in the battle zones. They were ready to play an opposites game when it came to Vietnam. General Tommy Franks, who directed the Afghan invasion and then the one in Iraq, caught the mood perfectly in 2003 when he said, “We don’t do body counts.”
There would be no more “Five O’clock Follies,” not in wars in which victory was assured for “the greatest force for freedom in the history of the world” and “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known” (as presidents took to calling the U.S. military). And that remains official military policy today. Only recently, for instance, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby responded to a journalist’s question about how many Islamic State fighters and civilians U.S. air power had recently killed in Washington’s latest war in Iraq this way: “First of all, we don’t have the ability to — to count every nose that we shwack [sic]. Number two, that’s not the goal. That’s not the goal… And we’re not getting into an issue of body counts. And that’s why I don’t have that number handy. I wouldn’t — I wouldn’t have asked my staff to give me that number before I came out here. It’s simply not a relevant figure.”
From 2003 to 2015, official policy on the body count has not reflected reality. The U.S. military has, in fact, continued to count bodies. For one thing, it kept and reported the numbers on America’s war dead, bodies that truly counted, though no one would have called the tallies a body count. For another, from beginning to end, the military has been secretly counting the dead on the other side as well, perhaps to privately convince themselves, Vietnam-style, that they were indeed winning in wars where a twenty-first-century version of the credibility gap appeared all too quickly and never left the scene. As David Axe has written, the military “proudly boasts of the totals in official documents that it never intends for public circulation.” He added, “The disconnect over wartime body counts reflects a yawning gap between the military’s public face and its private culture.”
To Count or Not to Count, That Is the Question
But here was the oddest thing: whatever the military might have been counting, the fact that it stopped counting in public didn’t stop the body count from happening. It turned out that there were others on this planet no less capable of counting dead bodies. In the end, the cast of characters producing the public metrics of this era simply changed and with it the purpose of the count. The newcomers had, you might say, different answers to both parts of the question: Who counts?
Over the last century, as “collateral damage” — the deaths of civilians, rather than combatants — has become ever more the essence of war, the importance of who is dying and in what numbers has only increased. When the U.S. military began refusing to make its body count part of a public celebration of its successes, civil society stepped in with a very different impulse: to shame, blame, and hold the military’s feet to the fire by revealing the deeper carnage of war itself and what it does to society, not just to the warriors.
While the previous counters had pretended that all bodies belonged to enemies, the new counters tried to make “collateral damage” the central issue of war. No matter what the researchers who have done such counts may say, most of them are, by their nature, critiques of war, American-style, and included in them were no longer just the bodies, civilian and military, found on the battlefield, but every body that could somehow be linked to a conflict or its fallout, its side effects, its afteraffects.
Think of this as a new numerology of defeat or disaster or slaughter or shame. In the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, distinctly non-military outfits took up this counting or estimating process. In 2004 and 2006, the Lancet, a British medical journal, published studies based on scientific surveys of “excess Iraqi deaths” since the American invasion of 2003 and, in the first case, came up with an estimated 98,000 of them and in the second with 655,000 (a much-criticized figure); such studies by medical and other researchers have never stopped. More recent counts of such deaths have ranged from 500,000 in 2013 to one million or 5% of the Iraqi population this year.
The most famous enumeration of civilian casualties in Iraq, however, comes from the constantly upgraded tally — based on published media reports, hospital and morgue records, and the like — of Iraq Body Count, the independent website that bills itself as “the public record of violent deaths following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.” At this moment, its most up-to-date top estimate for civilian deaths since that invasion is 156,000 (211,000, including the deaths of combatants). And these figures are considered by the site and others as distinctly conservative, no more than what can be known about a subject of which much is, by necessity, unknown.
In Afghanistan, there has been less tallying, but the U.N. Mission there has kept a count of civilian casualties from the ongoing war and estimates the cumulative figure, since 2001, at 21,000 (though again, that is undoubtedly a conservative figure). However, when it comes to the American drone campaigns in Pakistan and Yemen, in particular, where the Obama administration has adamantly resisted the idea of significant civilian casualties, the civilian counters have been there under the most impressively difficult circumstances, sometimes with representatives on the ground in distant parts of Pakistan and elsewhere. In a world in which drone operators refer to the victims of their strikes as “bug splat” and top administration officials prefer to obliterate those “bugs” a second time by denying that their deaths even occurred, the attempt to give them back their names, ages, and sexes, to remind the world of what was most human about the dead of our new wars, should be considered a heroic task.
The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, in particular, has done careful as well as dogged work tabulating drone casualties in Pakistan and Yemen, including counts and estimates of all those killed by drones, of civilians killed by drones, and of children killed by drones. It even has a project, “Naming the Dead,” that attempts to reattach names and other basic personal information — sometimes even photos — to the previously nameless dead (721 of them so far). The Long War Journal (a militarized exception to the rule when it comes to the counters of this era) has also kept a record of what it could dig up about drone deaths in Pakistan and Yemen, as has the New America Foundation on Pakistan. In 2012 the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic studied the three sources of such counts and issued a report of its own.
Among the more fascinating reports, the human-rights group Reprieve recently considered claims to drone “precision” and surgical accuracy by doing its own analysis of the available data. It concluded that, in trying to target and assassinate 41 enemy figures in Pakistan and Yemen over the years, Washington’s drones had managed to kill 1,147 people without even killing all the figures actually targeted. (As Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian wrote, “The drones came for Ayman Zawahiri on 13 January 2006, hovering over a village in Pakistan called Damadola. Ten months later, they came again for the man who would become al-Qaida’s leader, this time in Bajaur. Eight years later, Zawahiri is still alive. Seventy-six children and 29 adults, according to reports after the two strikes, are not.”)
In other words, when it came to counting, civil society rode to the rescue, though the impact of the figures produced has remained limited indeed in this country. In some ways, the only body count of any sort that has made an impression here in recent years has been sniper Chris Kyle’s 160 confirmed Iraqi “kills” that played such a part in the publicity for the blockbuster movie American Sniper.
In his public apology for deaths that were clearly embarrassing to him, President Obama managed to fall back on a trope that has become ever more politically commonplace in these years. Even in the context of a situation in which two innocent hostages had been killed, he congratulated himself and all Americans for the exceptional nature of this country. “It is a cruel and bitter truth,” he said, “that in the fog of war generally and our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes — sometimes deadly mistakes — can occur. But one of the things that sets America apart from many other nations, one of the things that makes us exceptional is our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes.”
Whatever our missteps, in other words, we Americans are exceptional killers in a world of ordinary ones. This attitude has infused Obama’s global assassination program and the White House “kill list” that goes with it and that the president has personally overseen. Pride in his killing agenda was evident in the decision to leak news of that list to the New York Times back in May 2012. And this version of American exceptionalism fits well with the exceptionalism of the drone itself — even if it is a weapon guaranteed to become less exceptional as it spreads to more countries (in part through recently green-lighted U.S. drone sales to allies).
On the rarest of occasions, Obama admitted in that White House briefing room, drone strikes even kill exceptional people (like us) who need to be attended to presidentially, whose deaths deserve apologies, whose lives are to be highlighted in special media accounts, and whose value is such that recompense is due to their families. In most of the places the drone goes, however, those it kills by mistake are, by definition, unexceptional. They deserve neither notice nor apology nor recompense. They count for nothing.
One thing makes the drone a unique weapon in the world of the uncounted dead on a planet where killing otherwise seems like a dime-a-dozen activity: its pilot, its “crew,” those who trigger the launch of its missiles are hundreds, even thousands of miles away from danger. Though we speak loosely about drone “warfare,” the way that machine functions bears little relation to war as it was once defined. Conceptually, the drone represents a one-way street of destruction. Because in its version of “warfare” only one side can be hurt, its “signature” is slaughter, not war, no matter how carefully it may be used. It is an executioner’s weapon.
In part because of that, it’s also a blowback weapon. Though it may surprise Americans, those to be slaughtered, the hunted, don’t take to the constant buzz of drones in their skies in a kindly fashion. They reportedly exhibit the symptoms of PTSD; they are resentful; they grasp the unfairness and injustice that lies behind the machine and its form of “warfare” and are unimpressed with the exceptionalism of the Americans using it. As a result, drones across the Greater Middle East have been the equivalent of recruitment posters for those who want revenge and so for extremist outfits everywhere.
Drones should be weapons of shame and yet, despite the recent round of criticism here in the wake of the hostage killings, their use is still widely supported in Washington and among the public. The justification for their use, whatever “legal” white papers the Obama administration has produced as cover, is simple enough: power. We send them across sovereign boundaries as we wish in search of those we want to kill because we can, because we are us.
So all praise to the few in our world who think it worth the bother to count those who count for nothing to us. They do matter.
“Slaughter Yemenis civilians, and win a free Bentley.” That pretty much sums up Saudi Arabia’s frivolous four-week military jamboree in Yemen otherwise known as Op “Decisive Storm”, if not its entire foreign (and now military) policy in the region; it may have been a “slip of the tweet” on the part of Saudi Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal, a Forbes top 100 billionaire who offered via his Twitter account to award Saudi fighter-jet pilots a fleet of 100 Bentley luxury cars, a bonus if you will, for their (bombing) services rendered; nonetheless it paints a vivid, albeit repulsive, picture of how politics are conducted in the oil-rich sheikhdoms of the Gulf: at the deviant whims of their Kings and Princes.
No wonder the Arab World is a complete mess of constant wars and conflicts; everything is subject to the often violent impulses of the ruling monarchies in the GCC club who now seem more than intent on leading the entire region, Kamikaze style, into a sectarian abyss with no foreseeable point of return; and Op Decisive storm, a codename that was shamelessly borrowed from America’s wars on the Arab World, was just that; a violent outburst that started, ended and now has even morphed into Op “Restoring Hope” at the mere sectarian fancies of Saudi Arabia with the helpless lot of Arab governments tagging along for the now routine trip of bombing yet another Arab country back to the stone age, and when you have a seemingly bottomless well of petrodollars, wield all the clout of mainstream media and a far-reaching religious authority; then forming a military coalition, especially one that is purely based on vicious sectarian grounds, is almost as easy as picking players for a football squad.
This is, in a nutshell, how the Saudi Government managed to crowbar eight countries into a military coalition comprising a mishmash of Gulf Cooperation Council members (sans Oman), Gulf Cooperation Council rejects (Jordan and Morocco) and Gulf Cooperation Council scroungers (Egypt and Sudan) to intervene in Yemen against a local political movement that just so happens to adhere to a religious sect that is often faintly (and inaccurately) traced back to Shia Islam. You could almost instantly smell the vile stench of oil and sectarianism all over Saudi Arabia’s latest, ongoing still, disastrous endeavor in Yemen.
The Saudis’ delusional sales pitch this time was that Iran (who else?) was about to take over Yemen via local militant “Shia” proxies attempting a coup against the “legitimate” government of outgoing/incoming/fleeing president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi (still holed up in Riyadh till now); therefore a military intervention with all (Sunni) guns blazing was in urgent order to safeguard “legitimacy” and maintain “stability” in an already impoverished and war-torn Yemen, and we know just how much the GCC club adores peace and stability in the region, its horrific portfolio of destabilization handiwork in Libya, Syria and Iraq is a bloody testament to that.
Of course legitimacy in this (Saudi) context refers to a flip-flopping, weakling of an interim president who, only with the help of Saudi money and support, managed to win a presidential election where he was actually the only candidate on the ballot, a president who outstayed both his tenuous welcome and his presidential term, resigned, fled to the port city of Aden, rescinded his resignation and declared himself president again only to flee once more, chased after by his people, into the waiting arms of the Saudis (perhaps better known to everyone else as his sole meal tickets) but of course not before demanding that his oil-rich patrons bomb his own country into smithereens because evidently that’s what “legitimate” presidents do, at least in the GCC’s book (of horrors).
Show me one of Saudi Arabia’s (many) lackeys in the region who didn’t ask for foreign military intervention into his own country, and I’ll show you Flying Pigs! The standard refrain of extending open invitations for foreign powers to wage devastating wars is strictly (and curiously) espoused by those whom the Saudi Kingdom considers (or designates) “legitimate representatives” of their people. From the Bahraini monarchy to the current Libyan government to the 14th of March alliance in Lebanon and the entirety of the Syrian opposition mismatched posses; not one of these handpicked Saudi puppets has missed an opportunity to ask, in fact beg, for the bombardment of his own country by a foreign government, as if it’s a mandatory rite of passage for those who wish to be on the Saudi payroll/leash and get the GCC’s stamp of approval. And this Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi (none) character, whose return to power in Yemen was the only stated goal behind Saudi Arabia’s genocide in Yemen, is no different.
We’re told that the current blitzkrieg in Yemen is all about “restoring legitimacy”, but it’s near-impossible to take that claim seriously without bursting into an uncontrollable wave of laughter; none of the Saudi-led coalition members are exactly known for their democratic credentials, on the contrary; If you played a word-association game, the words “dictatorship”, “tyranny” and “authoritarianism” (or any random combination thereof) would elicit every single time the exact member list of the coalition currently bombing Yemen today into their warped versions of democratic rule and legitimacy.
In fact the war on Yemen is essentially nothing but an ego-boost for the Saudis in response to what’s perceived by the Kingdom as Iran’s growing influence in the region especially after an interim nuclear deal was signed with the west; a shot of (military) adrenaline for the oil-rich Kingdom to assert its political relevance and nothing beyond that at a time when its foreign policy is beginning to resemble a non-stop tragic-comedy of errors and blunders.
This ego-trip masquerading as a military operation has left, so far, more than a 1,000 Yemenis killed, countless others wounded and the wanton destruction of the country’s infrastructure; and although we’re thankfully spared the sight of Saudi-led coalition forces’ spokesman waffling around, trying in vain to finagle a military feat out of indiscriminately bombing civilian areas in Yemen in his daily briefings (or awkward rendezvous with his pro-war, GCC-funded media entourage); the war still goes on, given a new lease of life under a new codename; “Restoring Hope”, despite its “rosy” moniker which has tasteless PR written all over it, promises to be just as vicious and devastating as Decisive Storm if not more; now that free Bentleys are at stake here for outstanding achievements in criminality, I’m sure these hefty royal “incentives” will show in the destructive zeal the next time coalition pilots fly their sorties and drop their load of explosives on unsuspecting Yemenis.
We were told that Decisive Storm had “fulfilled its objectives”, according to a statement by Saudi Defense Ministry. What objectives? We don’t know; deposed Yemenis president is still in Riyadh and the Houthis along with the Yemenis army control much of the ground in Yemen, now unless the real objective was the step-by-step reenactment of Israel’s wars on the Gaza strip, in which case: mission accomplished indeed with flying colors (or overflowing blood of Yemenis!), the Saudis cannot claim any success whatsoever beyond reducing the country to debris and waste; a feat that was bizarrely celebrated in GCC-funded media as a “decisive blow” to Iranian influence in the region.
At the start of Operation Decisive Storm; then Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., current foreign minister, Adel Al-Jubeir said that the military operation was “…designed to protect the people of Yemen and its legitimate government from a takeover by a violent extremist militia”; protecting the people of Yemen… by bombing them into blind submission and a state of near-servitude, to keep the country an impoverished Saudi implantation and nothing more, I mean how dare the Yemenis even entertain the outrageous notion of self-determination when (Saudi) fate has ordained they be reduced to nothing more than an Oil-rich Kingdom’s backyard for gutter politics and inglorious exploits (or Achilles heel for that matter).
And no, in his statement; Ambassador Al Jubair was not referring to Al Qaida or the Islamic State militias which have been laying all manner of terror and destructive waste to Libya, Iraq and Syria with complete financial, logistical, political and ideological cover from the legitimacy-loving GCC folk, by “violent extremist militia”; Al Jubair was referring to the Ansarullah group; an indigenous Yemeni faction accused of being a mere tail for Iran, you know unlike the very independent Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, when in fact it does enjoy considerable political sway and popularity in Yemen.
Al Jubair also said that “all of Saudi Arabia’s allies were consulted before launching military operations in Yemen”. I’m guessing the consultations went something like this: the Saudis telling their allies to jump and everyone replying in unison, with a-cheese-eating-grin on their faces: “how high? … and please write those checks out to cash”.
And that’s the long version too.
“Coalition of the Willing…. to Get Paid from the GCC”
Only Pakistan, which the Saudis were hoping would join in the fun of leveling another impoverished Arab country into rubble; solely based on its “Sunni credentials” of course… and nuclear power, managed to bow out of this “coalition of the unwitting” escapade; thanks, ironically, to the only problem the Saudis can’t just fix or deal with no matter how much money they throw at it: Democracy… or a semblance thereof; when the Pakistani Parliament unanimously voted to remain neutral in the war on Yemen (i.e.: not to be a member of the GCC’s Suicide Squad parade).
There you can find a group of people with enough sense about them not to blindly follow the Saudis’ caprices into the Yemenis quagmire for a handful of cash and oil barrels, and heed instead the national interests of their own country first. Sadly this was not the case with the rest of coalition members whom are mostly made up of Arab governments posing as hired yes-men for Saudi Arabia (or yes-men posing as governments for that matter).
First we have Egypt; fresh out of an economic bash in Sharm Al Sheikh, which will sure keep Egypt locked in a tight GCC financial death grip for years to come, with billions of (petro) dollars dropping off his pockets; General Abdel Fattah al Sisi (“legitimate” President of Egypt, lest we forget, because this war is all about defending legitimacy against coup’d’etats) was the first in line to fully commit to Operation Decisive Storm, ground-troop-warts and all.
The man who sold himself to Egyptians as the Second Coming of President Jamal Abdel Nasser trampled all over Nasser’s legacy by fighting the Saudis’ dirty war in Yemen in an unholy alliance with the reactionaries of the Gulf (to paraphrase Nasser himself who’s probably rolling in his grave right about now).
Suddenly and at the flick of a (Saudi) switch; Egypt’s priorities were reshuffled beyond recognition or even the slightest bit of logic to best suit the GCC’s depraved interests in the region; the Houthis taking control of the Yemeni capital somehow became an existential threat to Cairo’s national security, trumping even threats coming from a terrorism-infested Sinai peninsula or over 1,000 km of open borders with the abyss of lawlessness and violence that is Libya today. And Bab Al Mandeb Strait in Yemen became the top priority for Sisi’s Egypt at a time when the land of the Nile faces potential drought and is threatened with the vanishing face of its landmark river, thanks to Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam, along with another coalition member: Sudan.
Desperately wanting to prove that he too can wade in sectarian blood with the best of them; Sudanese President Omar al Bashir, probably lured by the promise of future-petrodollar-riches and the perfect opportunity to break his ICC-imposed isolation, stumbled over himself to heed Saudi Arabia’s call to (Sunni) arms and bomb some “infidel” Yemenis into god-forsaken oblivion (according to Sudanese state owned media). Never mind the embarrassing fact that the Sudanese “Air Force”, which is now dropping its load of bombs with a wanton exuberance on Yemeni civilians, stood completely idle and useless when Israel, on more than one occasion, practically used the entire country of Sudan as an open-field target practice for its fighter jets and F-16s under the pretext of targeting weapons’ depots and convoys destined for Palestinian Resistance factions in Gaza. Talk about priorities gone south.
It was only two years ago when the Saudis practically humiliated Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir when they blocked their own airspace to his plane as he was heading to… yes you guessed it, Iran to attend the inauguration of then newly elected president Rouhani, and now here is Al Bashir jumping into (criminal) action alongside the Saudis to bomb another Arab country into the throes of sectarian discord and potential partition.
Give that a moment’s thought and you might get a headache: Sudan, a country which itself is still reeling from a Western-sponsored partition scheme, is actively (and foolishly) participating in carving up yet another Arab country into two warring entities. There’s an almost Alice-in-Wonderland feel to it.
GCC hopefuls Jordan and Morocco of course happily tagged-along with the Saudis into yet another sectarian misadventure in what’s starting to look like a long drawn out series of auditions to join the GCC club which entail the two tiny monarchies to get down and dirty in the destruction of other Arab countries for the benefit (and amusement) of the Saudis; starting with Libya and Syria, and God knows where it’s going to go after Yemen; but you can be sure it’ll be under the spurious pretext of the “Shiite threat”,
And then you have the Arab League whose complete transformation from a schlocky, ineffectual entity into the proverbial make a wish foundation for the imperial West was epitomized in full shameless splendor in the unfortunate case of Yemen.
Gone are the days when the Arab League would grovel at the feet of NATO governments to intervene militarily somewhere in the Arab world or co-conspire with the West for yet another foreign invasion of one of its member states, now the Arab League, essentially nothing more than a mere echo chamber for the mercurial whims of the GCC nowadays, is finally taking matters into its own unreliable hands and summoning its American-made military might.
No time for niceties of the UNSC resolutions under the seventh chapter sort à la Libya or good-ol’ fashioned UN sanctions; Nah, the Arab League will no longer stoop to such pedestrian and banal methods, in the latest Arab League summit in Sharm Al Shaikh, the one which hastily rubber-stamped the Saudi war on Yemen, Arab leaders decided to resurrect a 65-year old near-dead defense pact and form a joint military force, which was about as thoughtful and welcome a notion as a fourth Netanyahu term, to counter… the Shiite threat in Yemen; kind of makes you yearn for the not-so-distant days when Arab Summits were all about vacuous, fig-leaf statements and “strong-worded” condemnations at best and public bickering and laughable finger-pointing at worst.
To put things into proper, albeit depressing perspective; neither Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine nor America’s criminal invasion of Iraq has ever prompted Arab governments to even get near that defense pact; the GCC’s unhealthy obsession with Iran, bordering on hysteria, did.
Sectarianism is the New Black
“The Israel occupation of Palestine does not exist; it is a figment of our collective imagination. Iran is the enemy and Netanyahu and co. are allies.” that’s the only way we can reconcile ourselves with the bleak reality of the Arab world today which can be summed up in one word: Iranophopia… on Wahhabi steroids.
It’s quite telling when Netanyahu’s latest address to the Congress and the entirety of the last Arab league summit seem blurred into one big anti-Iran screed; Netanyahu could’ve made the same exact firebrand speech in Sharm Al Shaikh, steeped in anti-Iran buffoonery and short on intelligence, and it wouldn’t have seemed out of place or different… except for the number of standing ovations which I suspect would have been significantly higher than what he received from the jump-and-applaud-every-other-line U.S. Congress back in March.
So Iran… or Shiism (two interchangeable terms in GCC political discourse) is the enemy, evidently the alleged threat posed by Iran (and represented through the mere “presence” of Shiite indigenous communities in some Arab countries) supersedes the real existential threat posed by the Israeli expansionist project in Palestine (does anybody remember Palestine these days?) and beyond, notions like “Arab unity” and “Arab joint military pact”, which were constantly mocked by the monarchies of the Gulf as “wooden language” whenever they’re used in the context of the Palestine/Israel conflict, are now being used (and abused with a xenophobic fervor) by the GCC-camp only in relation to Iran.
So the GCC is perfectly fine with droves of illegal European settlers migrating all the way to Palestine, expelling Palestinians from their lands and squatting comfortably in their midst, but when it comes to indigenous Yemenis for instance, god forbid they “march towards the city of Aden”.
Pan-Arabism is for suckers; sectarianism is the new black in the Arab world… in the literal and most depressing sense of the word. The map of the Arab world has been reconfigured into areas of contending Saudi and (alleged) Iranian influence, and feuding mini-statelets laden with sectarian discord and internal bloodletting thanks only to Saudi Arabia’s growing and self-inflected paranoia against the “Shiite threat”.
Nothing makes sense in the Arab world unless put in a sectarian bracket; this is what more than ten years’ worth of a constant barrage of fear-mongering against Shiites has yielded so far; a trail of failed Arab states and conflict-ridden regions.
The Saudis (controlling the majority of media outlets in the Arab World along with the rest of the GCC) have managed to turn a minority religious sect, approximately one-fifth of the world’s Muslims if not less, into the new big bad boogeyman for the remaining majority of Muslims, and what started as laughable, clumsy attempts courtesy of the GCC at provoking friction among Muslims in the wake of Bush’s invasion of Iraq; is now a no-holds-barred sectarian confrontation engulfing the Arab world where everything from suicide bombings all the way up to F-16s goes, with Israel comfortably cheering from the sidelines, unencumbered in its occupation of Palestine, as both sides of the Sunni-Shiite divide tear each other to shreds.
Speaking of Israel; “the coalition of willing… to get paid from the GCC” is taking entire pages right out of the Israeli military’s own scorched-earth playbook by carpet-bombing civilian areas, vital infrastructure, schools, hospitals, factories, dairy plants, airports, one football stadium and, on at least two occasions, refugee camps, all the while imposing a no-fly-zone (we all know how the GCC is fond of those) coupled with a draconian siege reminiscent of that forgotten Israeli blockade on Gaza, which by the way, went totally unreferenced in the final statement of the latest gung-ho Arab Summit. Collective punishment is the name of the military campaign here, a strict “disciplinary” treatment delivered via extensive aerial bombardment to keep the Yemeni population in check and obediently toeing the Saudi line. I wonder where we have seen all of this before.
The parallels between Operation Decisive Storm/Restoring Hope and Israel’s own criminal wars on Gaza are ominously striking and equally horrid; the guilty-by-nonexistent-association doctrine, pioneered and espoused by Israel to justify its deliberate targeting of civilians by deeming all Palestinians in Gaza, including newborns and children, to be members of Hamas, was adopted with a demented zeal by the GCC in their own military misadventure in Yemen.
Thus all these ashen-faced victims of the coalition’s bombing campaign are militant “Shia Houthis”, and every charred skeleton, burned beyond recognition and crumbling in the arms of a shrieking loved one, is that of an Iranian agent’s, or so it’s reported in the callous sectarian coverage of Gulf-funded media which seem to fetishize the murder of Yemenis and the destruction of the country’s infrastructure with frenzied abandon, even the “courtesy” of at least shoving some of the nameless casualties of the air strikes under the euphemism of “Collateral Damage” is not extended to the Yemenis; just like it wasn’t extended to the Libyans when the city of Sirte was virtually flattened to the ground during Operation “Odyssey Dawn for Benghazi/Living Hell for the rest of the country”, these weren’t residential areas and universities that NATO was bombing back then we were told, but Gaddafi’s military command and control centers. In Yemen it’s Houthis’ training camps or “concentration centers”, whatever that means.
The deliberate de-Yemenization and even dehumanization of the victims of Operation Decisive Storm/Restoring Hope is practiced on a daily basis on Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya channels. Constantly referring to the victims of the bombing campaigns strictly as “Houthis”, prompting the viewer to think they’re an invasive alien breed and not indigenous people comprising almost 40% of the Yemeni population, while true Yeminis, according to the GCC, are those Hadi-supporters pathetically paraded all over Gulf-funded networks rallying in support of the Saudi airstrikes on their country.
Aljazeera Arabic TV talk-show host Faisal Al Qasem (known for his vulgar and trashy persona which makes Jerry Springer look like the paragon of classy journalism) summed up the entire sordid coverage of GCC funded media of the war on Yemen when he screamed at one of his guests; “look at the Houthis, just look at their faces… they don’t even look like us Arabs”.
Remember those leaflets with badly translated, “pseudo-apologetic” Arabic messages that the Israeli Army used to dump on Gazans before bombing the living daylights out of them with all manner of cluster ammunition and dime bombs? Well the same leaflets with the same exact clumsy messages are being dropped on Yemenis courtesy of the GCC’s coalition of the unwitting in another disgusting display of kinship verging on pathological idol-worship towards the IOF’s criminal tactics. Thus claims by Houthi rebels that the coalition is using White Phosphorous (Israel’s favorite weapon of choice) may not be that farfetched; the harrowing images trickling out of Yemen and shown on (few) Media outlets are proof positive that Yemen is being used as a test ground for GCC’s multi-billion dollar, American-made arsenal of death and destruction, including the use of internationally banned weapons.
The complete lack of subtlety in borrowing from the Israeli military’s book (of terrorism) and openly recycling its brand of criminality up to the smallest details against the Yemenis leaves no doubt that the alliance between the GCC and the Zionist entity has taken another gigantic leap forward into an all-hands-on-deck political, military and diplomatic integration.
The war on Yemen, like all wars waged on defenseless populations including Israel’s mass murdering sprees against Palestinians, is nothing but an ego boost, Decisive Storm/Restoring Hope was probably prompted by the Interim nuclear agreement Iran managed to strike with the West last month; I don’t even want to imagine how the Saudis will react if and when a full comprehensive deal is reached come June 30.
Saudi Arabia has deployed a “limited” ground force to Yemen’s southern port city of Aden on Sunday, officials said.
“A limited coalition force entered Aden and another force is on its way” to the southern port city, said the official who requested anonymity.
The Saudi-led coalition has been conducting an air on Yemen since March 26 but this is the first reported ground deployment inside the country. The strikes have claimed the lives of many civilians, mostly women and children.
A leading member of a militia loyal to fugitive President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, told AFP that the force “will start helping us in fighting the Houthis and (former president Ali Abdullah) Saleh’s forces”.
He said the troops will mainly back Al-Qaeda militants around the international airport, which was the focus of renewed heavy fighting overnight.
Other militia commanders confirmed that a few dozen coalition soldiers, mostly Saudis and Emiratis, were on the ground in Aden.
Coalition spokesman Ahmed Assiri had said repeatedly during the first phase that a ground intervention was on the table ‘if needed’.
The US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee has approved funding for Israel’s missile systems and an amendment authorizing research and development of an anti-tunneling system.
The committee allocated $474 million for the Iron Dome short-range missile system, the David’s Sling medium-range system and the Arrow program. The bills are now awaiting approval from the US Senate.
The $267.6 million funds for research on the anti-tunneling system show Washington and Tel Aviv’s concern about the underground tunnels in the Gaza Strip.
The tunnels are used by the Palestinian resistance movement of Hamas to bring in vital goods and other necessities for the people living under Israel’s blockade of the coastal enclave.
The Gaza Strip has been under a crippling Israeli siege since 2007. The blockade, which has cut off the territory from the outside world, has led to an economic and humanitarian crisis in the densely-populated enclave.
On April 30, the UN urged Israel to end its crippling blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has urged the US Congress to approve the funds.
“AIPAC urges the full House and Senate to include these vital funds in the final versions of the Fiscal Year 2016 defense authorization and appropriations bills,” AIPAC said in a statement.
The United States provides Israel with some $8.5 million in military aid per day, adding up to over $3 billion annually.
On April 30, 1975, Saigon fell. The last Americans fled the country. Vietnam was reunited, as it was supposed to have been twenty years earlier according to an international agreement sabotaged by Washington. The Vietnam War, which had been going on for thirty years ever since France began its attempt to reconquer its lost Indochinese colonies, finally came to an end.
For the Vietnamese who died in that war, there will be no minute of silence, no solemn commemoration, no “duty to remember”, no vows of “never again”. After all, the millions of Vietnamese who died are not considered victims of “genocide”. They were merely killed by years of massive bombing and the systematic slaughter of a people who wanted to be independent. What’s so special about that?
In old Europe we are warned every day against repeating the crimes of Nazism, a phenomenon that has been dead for over half a century. In contrast, the sources of the slaughter in Vietnam have remained alive and active, whether through U.S. policy in Central America or Southern Africa and now for several years in the Middle East. The “war against terror” has already cost over a million lives and is far from over.
What do our great European humanitarians have to say on this subject? Do those who deplore the rising number of refugees drowning in the Mediterranean see the connections? Do they realize that the same United States military drive to remake the world is the fundamental source of these ongoing disasters? How many calls do we hear to leave the sinking ship of U.S. imperialist wars? To make a real peace with Russia and Iran? To end our policy of perpetual intervention as obedient auxiliaries of the United States?
At the time of the Vietnam war, enlightened European leaders, Olaf Palme in Sweden and De Gaulle in France, openly stood up against U.S. policy. Intellectuals like Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre mobilized public opinion against war. Demonstrations took place even in countries that were far from the conflict. And today? Nothing. Public opinion was almost entirely in favor of the war that destroyed Libya, notably on “the left”.
The end of the war in Vietnam was the end of an era, the era of national liberation struggles which no doubt constituted the most important political movement of the 20th century. In the West, it marked the start of the reconstruction of imperial ideology under the cover of “human rights”. Instead of stopping liberation struggles, the emphasis would be on subverting and destroying countries that had gained independence. The media-savvy campaign to arouse “solidarity” with the plight of Vietnamese boat people and victims of the Khmer Rouge massacres in Cambodia enabled a large sector of the French and U.S. intelligentsia to drop any effort to understand the causes and effects of events. After all, the Khmer rouge would never have taken power without the combination of U.S. bombing of the Cambodian countryside and regime change in Phnom Penh. Analysis was shoved aside in favor of immediate emotional reaction to unexplained events. A moralism without context favored the invention of “the right of humanitarian intervention” in order to destroy national sovereignty, international law and the United Nations Charter.
In France, the anti-communist “new left” that emerged from May ’68, influenced by the intellectual bluff of Bernard-Henri Lévy and cohorts, completely reversed the position of the old left. Whereas the traditional left defended international peace and opposed U.S. interventionism, the “new left” welcomed every uprising regardless of political content and showed no concern for the underlying relationship of forces. All that mattered were the “human rights” as defined and highlighted by mainstream media.
Today that new left is at a dead end, whether in the Middle East or in relations with Russia or China, along with the American policy that it has helped to disguise ideologically. Forty years after Vietnam gained its freedom, it is high time for new evaluations and drastic changes. But who has the courage to meet these challenges?
Translation by Diana Johnstone.