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Analyst Dismisses White House Claims Pyongyang Behind WannaCry

Sputnik – 20.12.2017

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Monday, White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert announced that North Korea is responsible for the May 2017 “WannaCry” global cyberattack that targeted Windows computers and was allegedly aided by leaked National Security Agency technology.

In the article titled, “It’s Official: North Korea Is Behind WannaCry,” Bossert points the finger at North Korea for being behind the cybercrime in which millions of users’ computer data was encrypted and then ransomed for bitcoins. The attack slowed down after a mistake in WannaCry’s code revealed a kill switch that prevented infected computers from spreading the virus.

“Cybersecurity isn’t easy, but simple principles still apply. Accountability is one, cooperation another,” Bossert wrote in his article. “They are the cornerstones of security and resilience in any society. In furtherance of both, and after careful investigation, the US today publicly attributes the massive ‘WannaCry’ cyber attack to North Korea.”

In a White House press briefing Tuesday morning, Bossert claimed that the US came to this conclusion after a “careful investigation.”

“We don’t do this lightly,” Bossert said during the briefing. “We do so with evidence and with partners,” adding that Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom all agree that North Korea is responsible.

“While victims received ransom demands, paying did not unlock their computers,” the homeland security adviser wrote. “It was cowardly, costly and careless. The attack was widespread and cost billions, and North Korea is directly responsible.”

On Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear, financial policy analyst Daniel Sankey asserted his belief that North Korea is not behind the cyberattack.

“I’m a little suspicious myself. The drums of war have been beaten against [North Korea] for some time now and it’s very convenient that now this severe cyberattack is being laid against the doors of North Korea,” Sankey told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker.

“And of course, as usual, we can take the intelligence community’s word for it because they know better than us and they published it in the Wall Street Journal — so it must be North Korea,” he added sarcastically.

“I am a little skeptical because a big part of the virus was extorting various users to send bitcoin in exchange for access to their files again. In the end, they stole about $55,000 in bitcoin and that’s not enough money for North Korea to trouble itself with,” Sankey said.

“Also, what is North Korea going to do with bitcoin? They need commodities, they need cash, they need access to different markets. They don’t need bitcoin. How are they going to turn that into oil or coal or various other things they need? How are they going to convert that into a convertible currency? It’s really not feasible.”

Although Bossert said that the US did “not make the allegation lightly,” he didn’t provide any solid evidence and simply alluded to National Security Agency and Microsoft research. He also referred to the UK’s determination in October that North Korea was responsible for the attack.

In May, security firms discovered a link between the ransomware and southern China during an investigation of the code’s notes, which revealed that WannaCry’s creators were fluent in a form of Chinese very common in that region.

According to security firm Flashpoint, which conducted the analysis, “A typo in the note, “帮组” (bang zu) instead of “帮助” (bang zhu) meaning “help,” strongly indicates the note was written using a Chinese-language input system rather than being translated from a different version. More generally, the note makes use of proper grammar, punctuation, syntax, and character choice, indicating the writer was likely native or at least fluent.”

Although the linguistic analysis of the code did not reveal any Korean, the US has still confidently asserted that North Korea is responsible, and Sankey believes it’s because the underlying problem behind the attacks actually has nothing to do with the hackers but with intelligence communities, who may be actually be responsible for the crimes.

“I think that the real problem is that intelligence communities are becoming aware of vulnerabilities in these systems, and rather than working with the private sector to protect consumers and peoples’ data, they are just sitting on those vulnerabilities so that they can use them later to hack systems.”

In his editorial, Bossert concludes, “Mr. Trump has already pulled many levers of pressure to address North Korea’s unacceptable nuclear and missile developments, and we will continue to use out maximum pressure strategy to curb Pyongyang’s ability to mount attacks, cyber or otherwise.”

With the Trump administration’s increased use of aggressive language against North Korea’s continued nuclear weapon tests and with this new allegation that the country is responsible for WannaCry, it doesn’t appear that the relationship between the two is going to be getting better anytime soon.

December 20, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

SYRIA: US War Crime in Jabal Al Tharda, Deir Ezzor and the Implausible Denials

By Prof. Tim Anderson | 21st Century Wire | December 17, 2017

On 17 September 2016 a carefully planned US-led air raid on Jabal al Tharda (Mount Tharda), overlooking Deir Ezzor airport, slaughtered over 100 Syrian soldiers and delivered control of the mountain to DAESH / ISIS. After that surprise attack, the terrorist group held the mountain for almost a year, but did not manage to take the airport or the entire city. US-led forces admitted the attack but claimed it was all a ‘mistake’. However uncontested facts, eye witness accounts and critical circumstances show that was a lie. This article sets out the evidence of this crime, in context of Washington’s historical use of mercenaries for covert actions, linked to the doctrine of ‘plausible deniability’.

Syrian eyewitness accounts from Deir Ezzor deepen and confirm this simple fact: the US-led air raid on Syrian forces at Jabal al Tharda on 17 September 2016 was no ‘mistake’ but a well-planned and effective intervention on behalf of the terrorist group ISIS (DAESH in Arabic). After days of careful surveillance a devastating missile attack followed by machine gunning of the remaining Syrian soldiers helped ISIS take control of the strategic mountain, that same day.


Colonel Kanaan on the mountain. October 2017. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

Mercenary forces – like ISIS and the other jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria – were a staple of US intervention during the early decades of the cold war, deployed in more than 25 conflicts, such as those of the Congo, Angola and Nicaragua. Whatever their claimed aims and ideologies, they allowed for the ‘multiplication’ of US power and were associated with the doctrine of ‘plausible deniability’, where the ‘formal’ denial of the mastermind role in covert operations minimised damage to domestic public opinion and international relations (Voss 2016: 37-40).

That doctrine was discussed during the 1976 Church Committee hearings into CIA covert operations (especially assassinations and coups) and resurfaced during the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s (Hart 2005; Dorn 2010). The key idea behind the doctrine is to be able “to use violence without directly incriminating the [contracting out] regime” (Ron 2002). The use of terrorist proxy armies in Iraq and Syria, both overtly and covertly supported by US forces, is thoroughly consistent with this history.

By September 2016 a US-led coalition had been active in both Iraq and Syria for more than two years, supposedly to help Iraq fight ISIS, but without permission to enter Syria. The foreign powers tried to side-step that legal problem by claiming the invitation from Iraq allowed them to conduct cross border raids against ISIS (Payne 2017). By this time the Russian air force had been assisting Syria for almost a year against multiple terrorist groups, all of them, as senior US officials would admit (Biden in RT 2014 and Usher 2014; Dempsey in Rothman 2014), armed and financed by the US and its allies.


Syrian solider at the front line against ISIS, on the Euphrates. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

Contrary to the stated aims, there is little evidence the US-led group did anything to fight ISIS in Syria. Washington’s group sat back and watched ISIS twice take over Palmyra (in 2015 and 2016), then did nothing to help the Syrian Army take back Palmyra and Deir Ezzor. Most US activity focused on bombing Syrian infrastructure and helping a Kurdish-led separatist force (the SDF) replace ISIS in the city of Raqqa. On the other hand, the 17 September air raid positively helped ISIS in attempts to wrest the remaining parts of Deir Ezzor from the Syrian Army.

US, Australian, British and Danish forces quickly admitted their role in that attack, but claimed the slaughter of over 100 Syrian soldiers was a ‘mistake’. Now mistakes in war do happen. However they are usually associated with a single, unprepared incident. This attack was well-planned, sustained and achieved a key objective in the attempt to drive ‘the Syrian regime’ from Deir Ezzor. Assisting extremists create an ‘Islamic State’ in eastern Syria, US intelligence wrote back in August 2012, was “exactly” what Washington wanted so as “to weaken the regime in Damascus” (DIA 2012).

One year later, as Syrian forces re-took the whole of Deir Ezzor city from ISIS, I spoke with the commanding officer at Jabal al Tharda on that day, Colonel Nihad Kanaan, one of 35 survivors of the US-led attack. He confirmed US admissions that surveillance aircraft had overflown the mountain days before. He also said that the Syrian Army had held the mountain for many months and that their position was clearly marked with Syrian flags. One year later he still showed shock at recalling attack aircraft return to finish off his wounded comrades, with line-of-sight machine-gunning (Kanaan 2017).

That Washington could block most western media from serious study of this treacherous attack, simply by saying ‘sorry, mistake’, is testament to the near absence of critical media voices, at a time of war. The surprise attack was treacherous, not only to the Syrians whom the US had promised to not attack, but to the western populations who mostly believed what their governments said: that they were in Iraq and Syria ‘to fight ISIS’.

It was not that the denials over the crime at Jabal al Tharda were particularly ‘plausible’, just that they had been made. Formal denial was enough, it seems, to stop the western corporate and state media in its tracks. The practice of ‘plausible deniability’ was never so much intended to fool those familiar with the facts, as it was to set up a shield of formal denial which might be used to deflect or discredit ‘potentially hostile’ investigations (Voss 2016: 40; Bogan and Lynch 1989: 205). In past and present propaganda wars, less importance is given to independent evidence than to insistent repetition, denunciation and distraction.

This paper is a prosecuted case, not reportage where one side says this and the other side says that. I have announced my conclusion at the outset and intend to demonstrate that case with evidence. I also support the idea that readers are entitled to see all evidence, including the cover story of the criminals. However in this case the crime and its authors, I suggest, can be convincingly established by uncontested facts. Review of the Syrian perspective simply helps deepen our understanding of the conflict.

1. Uncontested facts

There are eight elements of this massacre where the facts are virtually uncontested:

1: First, the attack was on the forces of a strategic opponent, whom the US wished to overthrow, weaken or ‘isolate’;

2:  Second, there was no semblance of provocation;

3: Third, this was a well-planned operation, with days of advance surveillance;

4: Fourth, the attack was sustained and effective, meeting conventional military objectives;

5: Fifth, there was both immediate and longer term benefit to ISIS;

6: Sixth, the US gave false locality information to the Russians before the attack, and their ‘hotline’ to Russia was defective during the attack;

7: Seventh, the US made false claims about being unable to identify Syrian troops;

8: Eighth, the US ‘investigation’ was hopelessly partisan, self-serving and forensically useless; there was no attempt to even contact the Syrian side.

Let’s look at each element in a little more depth

ONE: the attack was on a strategic opponent

Syrian forces were seen as adversaries. This was no ‘friendly fire accident’. The political leadership of the US-led operation had called for the dismissal or overthrow of the Syrian Government and had provided material support to armed opponents of the Government since mid-2011. The terrorist group ISIS had a campaign to create an Islamic State in the region and that objective was shared by Washington. US intelligence, in August 2012, had expressed satisfaction at extremist plans for a “salafist principality” (i.e. an Islamic State) in eastern Syria, “in order to isolate the Syrian regime” (DIA 2012).

The US had not admitted providing finance and arms to ISIS / DAESH, but several senior US officials acknowledged in 2014 that their ‘Arab allies’ had done so (Anderson 2016: Ch.12). After the attack US and Australian officials referred to their victims as forces aligned with the ‘Syrian regime’ (Johnston 2016; Payne 2017), reinforcing the fact that the assailants did not recognise Syrian soldiers as part of a legitimate national army.

TWO: no suggestion of provocation

There was no suggestion of any provocation, as had happened in previous ‘mistakes’; for example where a pilot had mistaken gunfire or fireworks for a hostile attack. This attack was premeditated.

THREE: a well-planned operation, with substantial surveillance

All sides agree this was a carefully planned operation, with surveillance days in advance. Colonel Nihad Kanaan, the Syrian Arab Army commanding officer on ‘Post Tharda 2’ (a military post on the second of three peaks of Tharda mountain range) that day, told this writer that US-coalition surveillance aircraft were seen “repeatedly circling” the area on 12 September, 5 days before the attack (Kanaan 2017). US reports confirm this. On the day of the attack the New York Times cited US Central Command saying that “coalition forces believed they were striking a DAESH fighting position that they had been tracking for a significant amount of time before the strike” (Barnard and Mazzetti 2016). A US military report, some weeks after the attack, said a “remotely piloted aircraft” (RPA) was sent to “investigate” the area the day before and two RPAs revisited the same area on the 17th, identifying two target areas with tanks and personnel (Coe 2016: 1).


General Aktham at the bridge to Raqqa, one of many destroyed by US planes. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne wrote that “target identification was based on intelligence from a number of sources”, and that the US-led group had “informed Russian officials prior to approving air strikes on the DAESH position” (Payne 2017). Australian Chief of Joint Operations Vice-Admiral David Johnston pointed out that his country’s contribution to the attack had included “an Australian E7 Wedgetail airborne early warning and control and 2 FA-18 hornet strike fighters” (Johnston 2016).  The Wedgetail E-7 is based on a Boeing 737 and came into operation in 2015. It is an intelligence and control aircraft said to have “tonnes of electronic wizardry” (Military Shop 2014) and to be “the most advanced air battlespace management capabilities in the world” (RAAF 2017). All this speaks of a well-planned and technologically capable operation.

Further, surveillance of the area over two years meant the US group were well aware of the strategic troop placements. Kuwait based Journalist Elijah Magnier, who had followed the battles around Deir Ezzor, said that defence of the airport depended on ‘four interconnected Syrian army positions on the Thardah mountain range. Largely because of these elevated fire power positions the “daily attacks’ by ISIS on the airport had failed (Porter 2016: 6). Fabrice Balanche, a leading French expert on Syria, adds that the Syrian Army had held positions along the Tharda range “from March 2016 until the US air strikes”, when ISIS took control (in Porter 2016: 6).

FOUR: the attack was sustained and effective, meeting conventional military objectives

The attack was carried out for an extended period and destroyed the Syrian Arab Army post, killing more than 100 soldiers and destroying tanks and all heavy equipment (O’Neill 2016; Kanaan 2017). The Syrian commander says the attack “continued for 1.5 hours, from 5.30 to 7pm”, as night fell (Kanaan 2017). There is some disagreement over exact times. Syrian Army Command said the attack began at about 5pm while US CentCom said the attack began earlier but “was halted immediately when coalition officials were informed by Russian officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military” (Barnard and Mazzetti 2016). However the US military confirms that this sunset attack was extended, lasting for just over an hour (Coe 2016: 1).

The Syrian command said at first that 62 soldiers had been killed and 100 injured (RT 2016). Within a short time the numbers killed had been raised to “at least 80” (Killalea 2016). In addition, three T-72 tanks, 3 infantry vehicles and anti-aircraft gun and 4 mortars were destroyed (MOA 2016). A surviving solider said he saw planes “finishing with machine guns our soldiers who tried to take refuge … I saw with my own eyes the death of about 100 soldiers” (SFP 2016).

Colonel Kanaan puts the final number of dead at 123, with 35 survivors (Kanaan 2017). The US side did not bother reporting numbers killed, with General Richard Coe at first mentioning “15 dead regime loyalists” (Watkinson 2016) then late simply saying “Syrian regime/aligned forces were struck” (Coe 2016: 2). There is no report of ISIS forces on the mountain being struck by the coalition aircraft that day; nor any day over the next year.

FIVE: the attack created immediate and longer term benefit to ISIS

The Syrian side made it clear that the massacre had allowed an almost simultaneous ISIS attack on and takeover of the hill. After planes had pounded the Army position on the mountain, ISIS quickly moved in and took full control of the mountain range (FNA 2016a). Within hours they had posted video of themselves standing on the bodies of the Syrian soldiers, killed by the air strikes (Charkatli 2016). The US side failed to comment on the immediate consequence of their attack, but they did not contradict the Syrian and Russian reports. Colonel Nihad Kanaan confirms that, as the US strikes were being carried out, ISIS attacked the Syrian Army post at Thardah 2. Survivors had to flee, as they did not have time to repel the DAESH attack (Kanaan 2017). Syrian Army defences meant that ISIS did not manage to take the airport, but Syrian forces did not retake the mountain until early September 2017, when the Syrian Army broke the siege and began to liberate the entire city (Brown 2017).


Victory! Father and son at Deir Ezzor markets. October 2017. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

SIX: false information to and delayed communications with Russia

The US military report admits that “incorrect information [was] passed to the Russians” about the locale of the attack. They said:

“the strikes would occur 9 kilometres south of DAZ ‘airfield’. However this information was incorrect, as the strikes were planned approximately 3 to 6 kilometres south of the airfield and 9 kilometres south of Dayr az Zawr city. This may have affected the Russian response to the notification and caused considerable confusion in the DT process” (Coe 2016: 3).

Brigadier General Richard Coe agreed with reporters that this misleading information prevented a Russian intervention: “had we told them accurately, they would have warned us”, he admitted (Porter 2016: 4). Providing false information to Russia was quite consistent with a plan to protect the attack from any unwanted interference.

After that, there was yet another ‘mistake’. The US military admits there was a half hour delay in responding to a Russian alarm (that the US was striking Syrian forces) on their specially constructed ‘hotline’. The US military tried to shift blame for this delay to the Russian caller:

“when the Russians initially called at 1425Z, they elected to wait to speak to their usual point of contact (POC) rather than pass the information immediately to the Battle Director. This led to a delay of 27 minutes, during which 15 of the 37 strikes were conducted” (Coe 2016: 3).

The less benign view of this event was that the ‘hotline’ was left unattended during the attack. Haddad (2017) reported that: “During the attack, a hotline between Russia and US forces was reportedly left unattended for 27 minutes” (Haddad 2017). Certainly Russia had to ring twice to pass on the urgent message (McLeary 2016) and, by that time, the attack was virtually complete.

SEVEN: the US made false claims about non-identification of Syrian forces

The US military apologia relies heavily on claims that, despite their several days of surveillance, they identified “irregular forces” on the mountain. US General Coe claims that “in many ways, the group looked and acted like the (Islamic State) forces we have been targeting for the last two years” (Dickstein 2016). Echoing this story, Australian Vice-Admiral David Johnston, Chief of Joint Operations said

“in many ways these forces looked and acted like DAESH fighters the coalition has been targeting for the last 2 years. They were not wearing recognisable military uniforms or displaying identifying flags or markings” (Johnston 2016).

Colonel Kanaan said they had flags flying. The US military confirms this, admitting that they received a report about sighting a “possible [Syrian] flag … 30 minutes prior to the strike”, but did nothing about it (Coe 2016: 2). Could ‘doing nothing’ have been just another ‘mistake’, in such a well-planned operation? It tends to corroborate the case for a deliberate strike, with some attempt at cover up, for “plausible deniability”.

EIGHT: the US ‘investigation’ was hopelessly partisan

A brief report issued in November exonerated US forces of any wrong doing. It did admit some critical facts, as noted above. But this was the US military investigating itself. US General Richard Coe said:

We made an unintentional, regrettable error, based on several factors in the targeting process” (Watkinson 2016).

The ‘errors’ relied upon were a series of random or ‘human’ mistakes and misidentification of the Syrian troops, supposedly because they were dressed in an irregular way. No attempt was made to contact the Syrian side (Coe 2016; Dickstein 2016). By reference to principles of criminal law some admissions made in this report are important and would be admissible evidence in a criminal trial. But the conclusions of the US report are entirely ‘self-serving’ and ‘recent inventions’ after the event. For that reason they are forensically worthless.

Summing up, the US-led air attack was a pre-meditated, brutal and effective massacre of the armed forces of a declared opponent. It gave an immediate and longer term advantage to one of the terrorist groups the US and its allies (as Biden and Dempsey admitted) were covertly supporting.

Even before we consider the Syrian perspective, uncontested facts destroy the feeble claim that this well planned and treacherous crime was a ‘mistake’. The US military admits that it gave false information to its Russian counterparts, then admits that its ‘hotline’ did not function properly during the attack. Despite all their sophisticated technology and days of surveillance, they pretend they could not distinguish between entrenched Syrian troops and terrorist ISIS gangs. They admit they had a report of a Syrian flag, but claim they just neglected it.

Having carried out a devastating attack on Syrian forces that day, allegedly by ‘mistake’, they did not return even once over the following year to attack the ISIS encampment on the mountain. This is as flimsy a cover story as any criminal has ever presented in court. If the commanders of this appalling massacre ever faced criminal charges, no independent tribunal could fail to convict.


Syrian soldiers at the Eurphrates, October 2017. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

2. The cover story

The ‘defence’ case centres around three matters.

First, they say that the 2014 request for assistance against ISIS from the Government of Iraq gave authority to the US coalition to venture into Syria.

Second, they insist that there was no intent to kill Syrian soldiers.

Third, they argue that their slaughter of soldiers was due to poor intelligence and mistaken identification.

Other aggravating factors were random ‘errors’. Then, by way of general excuse, and alluding to the supposed bases of human error, there was reliance on the ‘complexity’ of the situation. US CentCom, in its apologia, said ‘Syria is a complex situation’ (RT 2016); a phrase echoed by Australian Prime Minister Turnbull who said “it is a very complex environment” (Killalea 2016). None of this is compelling but, as was mentioned at the outset, the history of ‘plausible deniability’ rests not so much on its actual plausibility as on formal denials; that is thought sufficient to distract, intimidate and raise doubts.

The US apologia was repeated by its collaborators. Australian involvement in Syria had already been criticised at home (Billingsley 2015). After the attack on Jabal al Tharda, this writer wrote to ask Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about the massacre and the legal basis for Australian air force presence in Syria. Defence Minister Marise Payne responded on 4 May 2017, addressing the legal question in the following way. Australia’s presence in Syria, the Minister claimed, came from a request made by the Government of Iraq for international assistance against DAESH/ISIS:

The legal basis for ADF operations against DAESH in Syria is the collective defence of Iraq … The Government of Syria has, by its failure to constrain attacks upon Iraqi territory originating from DAESH bases within Syria, demonstrated that it is unable to prevent DAESH attacks” (Payne 2017).

Indeed, two Iraqi ministers of foreign affairs had made requests to the UN Security Council in June 2014 (Zebari 2014) and again in September 2014 (al Ja’fari 2014). Those requests referred to “thousands of foreign terrorists of various nationalities” coming across the border from eastern Syria (Zebari 2014). Both requests also stressed the need to respect national sovereignty. So the US-led forces might have relied on this argument, had they helped Syria reclaim its eastern cities and regions from ISIS. However, as discussed above, they did not.

On the general legal authority question there is one relevant matter. The Australian side was not so confident about its own law, before the strike. Two weeks before the attack it was said that the chief of the Australian Defence Forces Mark Binskin had “fears that Australian Defence Force members could be prosecuted in Australian courts for military actions that are legal internationally [sic]” (Wroe 2016). It is not clear why they were considering this matter at that time, two years after they had committed forces to Iraq and Syria.

The general apologia for the massacre relied on a supposed lack of intent. “We had no intent to target Syrian forces,” said Air Force Brigadier General Richard Coe. He blames, in part, the soldiers’ form of clothing. “The group looked and acted like the (Islamic State) forces we have been targeting for the last two years” (Dickstein 2016). In addition, Coe claimed, the soldiers displayed “friendly” interactions with other groups in an Islamic State “area of influence.” He blamed the massacre on “human factors,” including miscommunications and an optimistic view of the intelligence (Dickstein 2016).

Taking the ‘mistake’ cover story at face value (i.e. assuming that the attack was aimed at ISIS, and defending Syrian forces), some western commentators quickly suggested the massacre of Syrian soldiers represented an alarming turn to US coalition air support for the ‘Syrian regime’. Time magazine said “the location of the strike in Deir al-Zour suggested the raid could have been a rare, even unprecedented attempt to assist regime forces battling ISIS”. Similarly, Faysal Itani, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council tweeted: “U.S. airstrikes on ISIS in such close proximity to regime positions are unusual. Arguably constitute close air support for regime” (Malsin 2016). Following the same logic, but in open disbelief, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin asked:

“Why would, all of a sudden, the United States chose to help the Syrian Armed forces, defending Deir Ezzor? After all they did nothing when ISIL was advancing on Palmyra … All of a sudden the United States decides to come to the assistance of Syrian armed forces defending Deir Ezzor?” (Hamza 2016).

Of course, they did not decide to do that, nor did they ‘assist’ Syrian forces. Nor did Russia believe the attack was a mistake. Damascus was also under no such illusions. President Bashar al Assad, invoking the wider antagonistic role of the US, said the surprise attack “was a premeditated attack by the American forces … the raid continued more than one hour, and they came many times” (Haddad 2017).

The US report of November 2016 became the core of explanations from US collaborators in the attack. Australian Vice-Admiral David Johnston gave more detail on Australian involvement in the Jabal al Tharda attack before he presented the official US version of events (Johnston 2016). The coalition air contingent, which included Australian aircraft, had “conducted multiple air strikes against what was believed to be DAESH fighters near Deir Ezzor”, he said. The Australian contingent had included “an Australian E7 Wedgetail airborne early warning and control and 2 FA-18 hornet strike fighters”, along with aircraft from the US, UK and Denmark.  These planes carried out the attack “under the coordination and control of the US combined air operations centre” (Johnston 2016). The Australians were thus deeply involved in intelligence and coordination.

Johnston repeated the self-exonerating conclusions of the US report: “The air strikes were conducted in full compliance with the rules of engagement and the laws of armed conflict”. The investigation found that the decisions that identified the targets as DAESH fighters were supported by the information available at the time … [there was] no evidence of deliberate disregard of targeting procedures or rules of engagement” (Johnston 2016). He repeated the line that situation on the ground in Syria was “complex and dynamic. In many ways these forces looked and acted like DAESH fighters … They were not wearing recognisable military uniforms or displaying identifying flags or markings” (Johnston 2016).

A typical shallow Australian media review of the incident would admit that “something went badly wrong”; but then asserted, based more on loyalty than anything else: “no credible person suggest the RAAF pilots committed war crimes; everyone knows things go wrong in war” (Toohey 2016). Yet some independent, more detailed western commentaries expressed stark disbelief at the cover story. David MacIlwain complained about the failure of media scrutiny of Australia’s role in Iraq and Syria, asking why US coalition forces had not returned immediately to the mountain to correct their “mistake” (Macilwain 2016). Lawyer James O’Neill said, far from a mistake, “what happened at Deir Ezzor is entirely consistent with the long-standing American aim of regime change in Syria” (O’Neill 2016).

This “error” which killed over 100 soldiers who were defending Deir Ezzor from ISIS, was the only serious attack on what US coalition forces “believed to be DAESH fighters” near Deir Ezzor city. US-led forces would do nothing to help liberate Deir Ezzor. The ‘innocent massacre’ story just does not accord with known facts

3. The Syrian Perspective

For those not bound by wartime propaganda attempts to demonise or prohibit the ‘enemy’ media (a demand which results in reliance on US, British and French media), a Syrian perspective on the crime at Jabal al Tharda helps deepen our understanding. Sources in this section are Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi, Iranian and Russian. We can speak of a Syrian perspective from the wider view, concerning the particulars of the attack and of events after that attack.

In the wider view the Syrian side has seen the US as the mastermind of all terrorist groups in Syria, making use of regional allies in particular Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel and Turkey. The Syrian armed forces make little distinction between ISIS and the western jihadist groups, which collaborate from time to time and whose members pass from one to the other, depending mainly on pay rates (Lucente and Al Shimale 2015). When Aleppo was liberated ISIS flags were seen alongside those of the al Nusra led coalition (RT 2016). Both international terrorist groups fought together for many years with the other jihadist groups which western governments had tried to brand as ‘moderate rebels’ (e.g. Paraszczuk 2013; Mowaffaq 2015).

The Syrian Government has regularly expressed ‘strong condemnation’ of US attacks on civilians and infrastructure, calling the group a “rogue coalition” which had  added “new bloody massacres” to its record of “war crimes and crimes against humanity” (RT 2017).

US forces mounted several direct attacks on Syrian forces, over 2015-2017. An online investigative group has compiled information of four such attacks, between mid-2015 and mid 2017: on Saeqa airbase in Deir Ezzor (December 2015); on Jabal al Tharda (September 2016); on Shayrat Airbase (April 2017) and an attack on an SU-22 aircraft near Tabqa (June 2017) (MMM 2017). In June 2017 the US group also attacked Syrian forces near the southern al Tanf border crossing (Islam Times 2017). All attacks had different pretexts.

US bombing in Deir Ezzor at the time of the Jabal al Tharda attack (in the name of anti-ISIS operations) was notable for its destruction of infrastructure, in particular the destruction of seven bridges across the Euphrates in September and October 2016 (Syria Direct 2016; SANA 2016). Syrian Army sources told Iranian media that the US aimed to extend its influence in the region and stop the Syrian Army’s advance, as also to cut supply routes between the provinces and separate Deir Ezzor’s countryside from the city’ (FNA 2016a). Syrian General Aktham told me that the US bombing of bridges was to isolate Deir Ezzor, when the city was under siege from ISIS (Aktham 2017).

Direct US support for ISIS had been reported many times in Iraq, over 2014-2015. This was mainly to do with arms drops and helicopter evacuation assistance, as Iraqi forces struggled to contain a strong ISIS offensive. Iraqi MP Nahlah al Hababi said in December 2014 that the US coalition was “not serious” about air strikes on ISIS; she added that “terrorists are still receiving aid from unidentified fighter jets in Iraq and Syria” (FNA 2015a).

In February 2015 there were multiple and more specific reports. The Salahuddin Security Commission said that “unknown planes threw arms … to the ISIL” in Tikrit city (FNA 2015c). Majif al Gharawi, an Iraqi MP on the country’s Security and Defence Commission said that the US was “not serious” in its anti-ISIS fight, and that it wanted to prolong the war to get its own military bases in Mosul and Anbar (FNA 2015b). Jome Divan, member of the Sadr bloc in the Iraqi parliament, said the US coalition was “only an excuse for protecting the ISIL and helping the terrorist group with equipment and weapons” (FNA 2015b). Khalef Tarmouz, head of the al Anbar Provincial Council, told Iranian media that his Council had discovered weapons that were made in the USA, Europe and Israel, in areas liberated from ISIS in the al Baghdadi region (FNA 2015b). Hakem al Zameli, head of the National Security and Defence Committee, reported that Iraqi forces had shot down two British planes carrying weapons for ISIS, and that US planes had dropped weapons and food for ISIS in Salahuddin, al Anbar and Diyala provinces (FNA 2015b).

In other words, within a few months of the US military re-entering Iraq in late 2014, on a ‘fight ISIS’ pretext, there were several reports of exactly the reverse, from senior Iraqi figures. Although these reports were in English, none of them reached the western media. Apparently those channels had no interest in listening to those actually affected by ISIS, or perhaps they just saw it as unthinkable that their own governments were lying to cover up their support for terrorism.

On the Jabal al Tharda massacre, the Syrian Government immediately said that the strike was no mistake but “a very serious and flagrant aggression” which had aided DAESH (Barnard and Mazzetti 2016). President Assad said the troops were deliberately targeted, pointing out that there had been an hour of bombing (Watkinson 2016). “It was a premeditated attack by the American forces, because ISIS was shrinking”, said the Syrian President (Haddad 2016). Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested the attack must have been deliberate:

“Our American colleagues told us that this airstrike was made in error. This ‘error’ cost the lives of 80 people and, also just ‘coincidence’, perhaps, ISIS took the offensive immediately afterwards … [But] how could they make an error if they were several days in preparation?” (Putin in RT 2016).

Russian spokesperson Maria Zakharova said the attack showed the world that “The White House is defending ISIS” (FNA 2016a). More detail was hinted at. President of the Syrian Parliament, Hadiya Khalaf Abbas, said that Syrian intelligence had intercepted an audio recording between the US and ISIS before the airstrike on Deir Ezzor (Christoforou 2016). Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar al Jaafari denounced the attack as a movement from proxy aggression to “personal aggression”, lamenting the US renunciation of the Russian-US agreement of 9 September to combat al Nusra and ISIS (Mazen 2016).


Col Kanaan at the attack site, at Jabal al Tharda. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

The detail of eye-witness evidence gives a fuller picture. In October 2017, as the Syrian Army was liberating Deir Ezzor city, Syrian film-maker Sinan Saed and I interviewed Colonel Nihad Kanaan at Jabal al Tharda, where the attack took place.  He told us they had seen US coalition surveillance aircraft on 12 September. On the day of the attack:

“Five Coalition aircraft began attacking the site. The fifth aircraft had a synchronized [line of sight] machine gun … I had 2 T-72 tanks, 2 BMP tanks, a 57mm gun on its base, and a 60mm mortar on a base. The aircraft first began attacking the arsenal. They did this by circling the site at very close distance. Once they were done targeting the arsenal, they began targeting the soldiers with perfect precision” (Kanaan 2017).


Col Kanaan at the attack site, at Jabal al Tharda. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

He says the raid continued for 1.5 hours, using missiles, bombs and machine guns. As the attack took place, ISIS launched “a very heavy attack” from the north-west shoulder of the mountain, using:

“all types of weapons- 14.5 mm, mortars, BKC machine guns and every other weapon they had. This was happening at the same time. They [ISIS] were attacking the post while the aircraft were bombing from above” (Kanaan 2017).

ISIS was using the US-coalition air strikes as cover as they advanced on the army posts, showing “connection and coordination between the US Coalition and ISIS”. The post fell and the airport was then cut off from the Maqaber road. “Then 2 aircraft bombed the actual airport from the Tharda 2 post” (Kanaan 2017).


Col Kanaan at the attack site, at Jabal al Tharda. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

Colonel Kannan’s group was flying Syrian flags, as the US military would later admit:

“When the Coalition aircraft attacked the post, the post had 3 Syrian flags up – one at the entrance, one in the middle and one at the forefront, and the soldiers were wearing the official military uniforms of the Syrian Arab Army … It is not true what the media reported, that the attack was a mistake. It was very clear that their target was the Syrian army and the Syrian soldiers. The Syrian flags were there, and the Syrian army uniforms were showing, and the site was so obviously belonging to the Syrian army. At the same time, ISIS were attacking us under their cover; the Coalition aircraft didn’t even shoot one bullet at them” (Kanaan 2017).


Eyewitness to the attack, Dr al Abeid in surgery at Deir Ezzor hospital. October 2017. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

There were other eye witnesses. A wounded solider saw dozens of his comrades being finished off with aircraft machine gunning (SFP 2016). Two days before speaking with Colonel Kanaan I had met Doctor Abd al Najem al Abeid, surgeon and head of Deir Ezzor health. As he rushed to the surgery from a group meeting I asked him a question about which I was embarrassed:

‘have you seen any sign of the US coalition helping remove DAESH [ISIS] from Deir Ezzor?’

I asked it this way because I wanted the answer to an open question for a western audience. But as I asked I also apologised, because I knew that the question, to an educated Syrian, would be rather insulting. He immediately said that the US forces had only helped ISIS and that he had seen the attack on Jabal al Tharda. He watched in shock for more than half an hour, as the aircraft attacked the strategic mountain base he knew was guarding the city (Abeid 2017). After that he rushed off to surgery to dig ISIS drone shrapnel from the abdomen of a young boy.


Children in Deir Ezzor, after liberation by the Syrian Arab Army. October 2017. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

After the massacre, reports of US forces providing logistic and intel support to ISIS, aiding regroupings and evacuations came from all along the Euphrates in late 2017, as Syrian forces took back Deir Ezzor. In September Press TV reported that the US had evacuated 22 DAESH commanders from Deir Ezzor.

This writer was in the city for 4 days in late October, as it was being liberated. On 26 August a US air force helicopter was reported as taking two DAESH commanders “of European origin” with family members. On 28 August another 20 DAESH field commanders were also taken by US helicopters from areas close to the city (Press TV 2017a). Then in November Muhammad Awad Hussein told Russian media he had seen US helicopters evacuate more DAESH fighters, after an airstrike outside al Mayadin, a city south of Deir Ezzor (Press TV 2017b). The anti-Syrian Government and British-based ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’ confirmed that US helicopters were transferring DAESH fighters out of eastern Syria. Four DAESH members, including three Egyptians, and a civilian were taken from a house in Beqres, a suburb of Deir Ezzor which had been used as an arms depot (UFilter 2017).

Lebanese and Iranian media corroborated these reports. US forces were backing up ISIS with intelligence during the Syrian Army troops’ operation to liberate the town of Albu Kamal in Southeastern Deir Ezzur, according to the Secretary-General of Iraq’s al-Nujaba Resistance Movement Sheikh Akram al-Ka’abi. The al-Mayadeen news network quoted Sheikh al-Ka’abi saying that the US forces tried hard to push the Syrian army’s operation in Albu Kamal towards failure, and that US forces were targeting pro-government resistance forces before the AbuKamal battle, in ultimately unsuccessful attempts to block their advances (FNA 2017).

In late 2017 the Russian Defence Ministry announced it had evidence that “the US-led coalition provides support for the terrorist group Islamic State”. The US military had twice rejected Russian proposals to bomb identified ISIS convoys retreating from al Bukamal, saying that they enjoyed the protection of international law. That shielding of the terrorist group and its heavy weapons allowed them to regroup and carry out new attacks (TNA 2017). At the same time the US backed deals by the Kurdish-led SDF militia to allow ISIS fighters and their families to leave Raqqa for other parts of the region (Paterson 2017).

A senior Syrian General in Deir Ezzor confirmed to me helicopter evacuations from three points on the east bank of the Euphrates: south Deir Ezzor, east al Mayadeen and al Muhassan. He also spoke of US satellite intelligence being passed to ISIS. From this catalogue of US coordination and collaboration I asked him: ‘you must feel that you are fighting a US command?’ “100%” he responded (General SR 2017).

4. Assessment

As the Syrian Army liberated eastern Syria, over 2016-2017, the US military tried to slow its advance by a series of covert and overt actions. The massacre of more than 100 soldiers at Jabal al Tharda was one of five direct US attacks on Syrian forces, since 2015. Mistakes do happen in war, but this was no isolated mistake. The US-led attack on this strategic anti-ISIS base, protecting Deir Ezzor city, was a pre-meditated slaughter of Syrian forces which allowed ISIS to advance its plan to take the city. As it happened, Syrian Army defences meant that they did not do that. A series of uncontested facts make it clear this was a well-planned and deliberate strike, in support of ISIS. The US military gave false information to its Russian counterparts about the attack, left their ‘hotline’ unattended and hid evidence that showed they knew Syrian forces held the mountain. Having destroyed Syrian forces on that base, they did not return to attack ISIS on the mountain. Their cover story was weak and, while it served to block investigation by the western media, does not hold up to any serious scrutiny.

No independent tribunal would fail to convict US coalition commanders of this bloody massacre. 

US and Australian denials over their responsibility for the 17 September 2016 massacre at Jabal al Tharda are not credible, on any close examination. However they did serve their immediate purpose. Most of the western corporate and state media was stopped in its tracks. Yet the crime was “entirely consistent with the long standing American aim of regime change in Syria … [and] the Australian Government provided a willing chorus to the regime change demands of the Americans” (O’Neill 2016).

North American, British and Australian arms sales to the chief ISIS sponsors, the Saudis, could proceed without interruption or scrutiny (Begley 2017; Brull 2017). The cold war doctrine of ‘plausible deniability’, as on many previous occasions, helped deflect ‘potentially hostile’ investigations. Nevertheless, I urge closer examination of this crime, using conventional principles of criminal law, considering the uncontested evidence and ignoring the intimidation of war propaganda. Particularly adventurous western observers might even read the Syrian perspective, drawing on Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi, Iranian and Russian sources. That would help deepen their understandings of the conflict.

Watch video with Prof Tim Anderson in Deir Ezzor,  made by Sinan Saed and Nisreen Al Khadour:

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December 17, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

War Commemoration Porn: Remembrance Day Celebrations

By Binoy Kampmark | Dissident Voice | November 11, 2017

The officials are called one by one to lay wreathes, a ceremony of mechanical efficiency.  With each laying comes the sense of wonder at how this could happen. Political figures are the first to vote in parliaments and side with the executive when it comes to wars. The temptations of human drives to tempt, and then succumb to death, were there long before Sigmund Freud identified them.

In the Australian capital, there were many wreaths, so many uniformed, deodorised dignitaries distant from the cries of battle and the horror of engineered slaughter. There were the expected, the usual, the normal: the most medalled of them all, the Governor General, the various Chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force.

There was the Chief Justice of the Australian High Court making her appearance. There was even the ceremonial didgeridoo player. Various associations also featured: those dealing with the incapacitated; the matter of war widows, the issue of legacies. It seemed like a vast who’s who of the military complex, which is exactly what it was.

The Australian response here is, in some ways, more tragic than most. Retained, generally white Ghurkhas for imperial causes (there were those of other races in the Australian armed forces at points), they flitted between theatres to be slaughtered at the behest of not-so-grand strategies that mangled the word “freedom” and confused it for politics. In battle, such a word has little meaning, about as significant, in fact, as a wreath. What matters is survival.

Across media networks, the word freedom was uttered as an automatic response, a genetically programmed insistence that the deaths of the Great War had been somehow necessary and, importantly, productive.

That disposition was sown by such figures as King George V, who had issued a request to the people of the British Empire to suspend ordinary activities for two minutes on the hour of the armistice “which stayed the worldwide carnage of the four preceding years and marked the victory of Right and Freedom”.

In 1997, the Australian Governor-General, Sir William Deane, proclaimed that November 11 be deemed Remembrance Day, insisting that a minute’s silence be observed at 11 am on November 11 each year, a pause to reflect, more broadly, sacrifices made by the Australian armed forces.

Modern representatives of this view abound, and they are, unsurprisingly, effusive in the veterans’ organisations. There were the remarks, for instance, of Richard Embleton from the Geelong Returned and Services League, who reflected on the tens of thousands of wool poppies laid out before Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance. “You only have to look around Australia [to see] how free we are and how important it is.”

To justify mass murder and death, the word sacrifice has become the indispensable substitute for political folly, the ultimate apologia for the misguided and sanctimonious. Consider the words of Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann’s commemorative address. “In Belgium, around 13,000 Australians paid the ultimate price – it is a price that those who lived there and their descendants have not forgotten in the last 100 years.”

For Cormann, being himself Belgian-born, the fallen had particular significance. Australian soldiers had, in effect, come to defend the land of his ancestors. “In the country of my birth, Australians marched to defend and to die for the land of my family.”

But would it be that commemorations were the sombre stuff of true reflection, a genuine appraisal of flaws, errors and disaster. The New South Wales Governor, David Hurley, suggested that current and future generations “interpret through their own lens and their own filter” the legacy of the Great War.

Such lenses and filters have yet to be changed. An example of its ossification, and fixation, is the cult of poppies, an effort of mass indoctrination that has done everything to dissuade modern generations from pondering the errors of their ancestors’ ways.

To not wear the unfortunately misused flower invites criticism and crucifixion from the veneration police. When the world football federation FIFA decided to ban the poppy from the shorts of the Scotland and England teams in 2016, ripples of propagandistic hysteria made their way through converts.

“Our football players,” claimed British Prime Minister Theresa May with clichéd consistency, “want to recognise and respect those who have given their lives for our safety and security.” England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland used the symbol in defiance, and were duly fined.

The reasoning from FIFA was unusually relevant: the poppy was a political symbol, and therefore an inappropriate part of sporting attire. Unfortunately, the organisation went back on its ban this year, a reversal pressed upon them by the UK football authorities.

To that end, each ceremony retains, in its message, the promise of future war, the next murderous gamble and suicidal play of politics and the failings of the opportunistic classes. The ones slaughtered are rarely the ones making the decisions. The ideologue remains desk bound; the bureaucrat stays behind to order things far from the front line.

The Great War, the war to end all wars, is touchingly remembered by some but genuinely ignored in its lessons. It sowed future revolutions, and produced more conflicts, notably the greatest of them all, the Second World War. It saw the destruction of the aristocratic classes – for many, a good thing; and the death of a generation. It brought, to Australia, a melancholic disposition. It introduced, into European life, pessimism and depression even as it uprooted the established social order.

To best remember and commemorate the fallen and those “caught up” – an expression always used in November every year – the resort to needless wars and destructive foreign interventions could be a start. That start, notably among such countries as Australia, has yet to be made. War retains an intoxicating sweetness for those who have never tried it.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at: bkampmark@gmail.com.

November 12, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

From the Battle of Beersheba to the War on Syria: Australia Is Complicit in Israel’s Crimes

By David Macilwain | American Herald Tribune | November 6, 2017

On a sunny Saturday morning in late December 2008, new police recruits were gathered outside the town hall in Gaza city for their graduation ceremony. Tensions were high in the strip because of persistent threats from the IDF that they would strike hard against Hamas militants if any more rockets were fired into Israeli territory, but it was a Jewish holiday and the recruits were relaxed.

Ten minutes later those 40 recruits lay dead, along with 180 others in 24 police stations and in Hamas offices across Gaza, mown down by a barrage of fire from Israeli jets and armed drones. So began the 22 day massacre named “Operation Cast Lead”, during which the IDF slaughtered at least 1400 civilians and laid waste to 40,000 homes as well as Gaza’s water and sewage treatment works and power station.

The inhuman generals and soldiers of the IDF used every tool in their armoury to inflict pain, not on the militants and their home-made rockets – who remained unbowed – but on all the ordinary and defenceless citizens of Gaza – old men and young girls, infants and mothers; whole families even were butchered in this sadistic and unrestrained barbarity.

While one tool in Israel’s armoury – nuclear weapons – didn’t feature in Operation Cast Lead, it was the only exclusion. Gaza was shelled from the sea, and by tanks from behind. Missiles were fired from Predator Drones, and from fighter jets, some with mere explosives and others with “Flechette” shells, DIME shells and White Phosphorus. And when a ground invasion was launched following the initial “softening up”, Israeli snipers and tanks committed more unspeakable crimes, using children as human shields.

Gaza was also hit with 5 tonne bunker busters, putting on a great show for the Israelis who had gathered on a nearby hill at the invitation of the IDF and the Defence Minister Ehud Barak. They were so proud of their skin-eating incendiaries that Barak even used video of the spectacular White Phosphorus showers in his campaign for election. It didn’t work, as Netanyahu was elected, but Israelis never got to see the horrific pictures of children with burns through to the bone caused by the illegal use of this chemical weapon.

Meanwhile in the Western world, which was already well on the way to its current state of “collective unconsciousness” of the state of Palestine thanks to the power of the Israel lobby on Western media, there was no outcry against Israel’s brutality, or calls for it to stop its attack. Israel had carefully framed the narrative months before, breaking a six-month long ceasefire by launching a provocative airstrike on November 4th. Hamas had kept to the ceasefire and controlled the militants responsible for rocket fire, which was the last thing that Israel wanted; a new rocket “attack” on Israel soon followed its provocation as expected, and Israel was “forced to respond in self-defence”.

As the birthplace of Rupert Murdoch and his paper “The Australian”, the view of Australians on Israel’s latest atrocity against its indigenous inhabitants was as ill-informed as in other Western countries. Supporters of Palestine and human rights were pilloried as supporters of “terrorism”, and both parties in Parliament supported “Israel’s right to self-defence”. This was despite near zero casualties of Israelis, who were never seriously threatened by Hamas’ rockets, and the assault went on until just before the inauguration of President Obama when Israel announced a “unilateral ceasefire”.

While there was a group of MPs in the Australian Labor party who supported the Palestinian cause, they also mostly supported groups like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, as well as the UN. These groups were consistent in calling for “both sides” to refrain from violence, as well as supporting the “Peace Process” and the “two-state solution”; all positions that failed to identify Israel as the aggressor and to hold it responsible for the death and destruction inflicted by its “most moral army in the world”.

There was however a significant amount of protest from other parts of the world, and calls for an investigation at the UN led to an inquiry visiting Gaza and later issuing the “Goldstone Report”, which accused “both sides” of war crimes. The Australian Labor government of Kevin Rudd rejected its findings as biased against Israel, when any fair-minded person could see that Israel had not only committed multiple war crimes but that it had launched the attack on Gaza’s captive population for its own entirely illegitimate reasons – not in “self-defence”.

The defining point in the Australia-Israel relationship however occurred in June 2009, when Deputy PM Julia Gillard visited Israel, as reported in the Melbourne Age:

In front of an elite audience of Israeli politicians, academics and cultural figures at a dinner at the landmark King David Hotel, senior Israeli minister Isaac Herzog paid a warm tribute to Ms. Gillard for her support for Israel during the Gaza conflict in January.

“You stood almost alone on the world stage in support of Israel’s right to defend itself,” enthused Mr. Herzog, an act of courage he said would never be forgotten by the people of Israel.

Ms. Gillard was Acting Prime Minister when Israel launched a three-week offensive against Hamas that resulted in the deaths of more than 1300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

At the time, Ms. Gillard condemned Hamas for shelling southern Israel, but pointedly refused to criticise Israel’s response, although she did urge it to be “very mindful” of civilian casualties.

Lest we forget!

Because the Australia-Israel relationship blossomed last week in a way that should offend the senses of all decent Australians and Israelis, as well as alarm the citizens of Syria and Lebanon who find themselves in Israel’s firing line. Marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, in which allied forces including hundreds of Australian horsemen overran Turkish defences in the town, marking the beginning of the end of Ottoman control in the Levant, Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull interpreted it like this, for the benefit of his Israeli friends; (no Palestinian representatives were invited to the celebration and re-enactment, despite “Arabs” being partners in the Allied campaign.) – and referencing the Balfour agreement that followed:

“Had the Ottoman rule in Palestine and Syria not been overthrown, the declaration would have been empty words. But this was a step for the creation of Israel.

“While those young men may not have foreseen — no doubt did not foresee — the extraordinary success of the state of Israel, its foundations, its resilience, its determination, their spirit was the same.

“And, like the state of Israel has done ever since, they defied history, they made history, and with their courage they fulfilled history. Lest we forget.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the Anzac soldiers for their bravery, saying the liberation of Beersheba, “allowed the Jewish people to re-enter the stage of history”.

Mr Netanyahu used his address at the solemn ceremony to warn against attacks on Israel, saying, “We attack those who seek to attack us.”

Nice sentiment!

While Turnbull and Netanyahu have evidently forgotten that Israel wasn’t created for another thirty years, or would rather that we “remembered” it as something our brave forbears fought for, neither the Palestinians who were subsequently evicted from their lives in Beersheba and into the Gaza “refugee camp”, nor the Arab cameleers who took part in the assault have forgotten the betrayal. This came with unseemly haste, as the Balfour declaration was issued a mere three days later.

In the days before the Beersheba ceremony, the Australian contingent led by Turnbull, but including the current Labor leader Bill Shorten, had worked hard to forge new partnerships and business links with Israel in the things that Israel does well – surveillance, counter terrorism and defence, and IT industries. Australia already has significant links with Israel in these and other areas, which has made it the focus of some BDS activity at home. But even as conditions in Gaza and the West Bank have continued to worsen and illegal settlements grown into effectively an annexation of Palestinian land, the BDS movement has been stifled.

All of this does not augur well. Australia and Israel are already “collaborating” in Syria, as far as they are both indirectly and directly supporting terrorist groups fighting the Syrian Army and its Hezbollah allies. As recent Israeli actions on the Lebanese-Syrian border and in the occupied Golan Heights demonstrate a bull-headed approach to a conflict that Israel should now be withdrawing from, these moves towards strengthening the alliance with Australia – which already has close links with the UAE and other Persian Gulf states – look all too much like forward planning for a long-feared new war on South Lebanon.

And who could forget the last one, where Hezbollah successfully prevailed against the IDF in 2006? The children of South Lebanon, who lost arms and legs to “dud” cluster bomblets for years afterwards have not forgotten. And those who learnt of his crime at the time have not forgotten the “retribution” commanded by Moshe Kaplinsky, where Israeli aircraft dropped an estimated 3.7 million cluster bombs in the last three days of the assault, and after ceasefire terms had been agreed.

While there were decent men in the IDF who at least recognised this monstrous war crime they had been ordered to commit, it had no ill effect on General Kaplinsky’s “executive” career. Rather the opposite in fact, as an examination of the records of Israel’s leaders would show. It’s not something we should forget.

November 6, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Clinton, Assange and the War on Truth

By John Pilger | CounterPunch | October 20, 2017

On 16 October, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation aired an interview with Hillary Clinton: one of many to promote her score-settling book about why she was not elected President of the United States.

Wading through the Clinton book, What Happened, is an unpleasant experience, like a stomach upset. Smears and tears. Threats and enemies. “They” (voters) were brainwashed and herded against her by the odious Donald Trump in cahoots with sinister Slavs sent from the great darkness known as Russia, assisted by an Australian “nihilist”, Julian Assange.

In The New York Times, there was a striking photograph of a female reporter consoling Clinton, having just interviewed her. The lost leader was, above all, “absolutely a feminist”. The thousands of women’s lives this “feminist” destroyed while in government — Libya, Syria, Honduras — were of no interest.

In New York magazine, Rebecca Traister wrote that Clinton was finally “expressing some righteous anger”. It was even hard for her to smile: “so hard that the muscles in her face ache”. Surely, she concluded, “if we allowed women’s resentments the same bearing we allow men’s grudges, America would be forced to reckon with the fact that all these angry women might just have a point”.

Drivel such as this, trivialising women’s struggles, marks the media hagiographies of Hillary Clinton. Her political extremism and warmongering are of no consequence. Her problem, wrote Traister, was a “damaging infatuation with the email story”. The truth, in other words.

The leaked emails of Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, revealed a direct connection between Clinton and the foundation and funding of organised jihadism in the Middle East and Islamic State (IS). The ultimate source of most Islamic terrorism, Saudi Arabia, was central to her career.

One email, in 2014, sent by Clinton to Podesta soon after she stepped down as US Secretary of State, discloses that Islamic State is funded by the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Clinton accepted huge donations from both governments for the Clinton Foundation.

As Secretary of State, she approved the world’s biggest ever arms sale to her benefactors in Saudi Arabia, worth more than $80 billion. Thanks to her, US arms sales to the world – for use in stricken countries like Yemen – doubled.

This was revealed by WikiLeaks and published by The New York Times. No one doubts the emails are authentic. The subsequent campaign to smear WikiLeaks and its editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, as “agents of Russia”, has grown into a spectacular fantasy known as “Russiagate”. The “plot” is said to have been signed off by Vladimir Putin himself.  There is not a shred of evidence.

The ABC Australia interview with Clinton is an outstanding example of smear and censorship by omission. I would say it is a model.

“No one,” the interviewer, Sarah Ferguson, says to Clinton, “could fail to be moved by the pain on your face at that moment [of the inauguration of Trump] … Do you remember how visceral it was for you?”

Having established Clinton’s visceral suffering, Ferguson asks about “Russia’s role”.

CLINTON: I think Russia affected the perceptions and views of millions of voters, we now know. I think that their intention coming from the very top with Putin was to hurt me and to help Trump.

FERGUSON: How much of that was a personal vendetta by Vladimir Putin against you?

CLINTON: … I mean he wants to destabilise democracy. He wants to undermine America, he wants to go after the Atlantic Alliance and we consider Australia kind of a … an extension of that …

The opposite is true. It is Western armies that are massing on Russia’s border for the first time since the Russian Revolution 100 years ago.

FERGUSON: How much damage did [Julian Assange] do personally to you?

CLINTON: Well, I had a lot of history with him because I was Secretary of State when ah WikiLeaks published a lot of very sensitive ah information from our State Department and our Defence Department.

What Clinton fails to say – and her interviewer fails to remind her — is that in 2010, WikiLeaks revealed that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had ordered a secret intelligence campaign targeted at the United Nations leadership, including the Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon and the permanent Security Council representatives from China, Russia, France and the UK.

A classified directive, signed by Clinton, was issued to US diplomats in July 2009, demanding forensic technical details about the communications systems used by top UN officials, including passwords and personal encryption keys used in private and commercial networks.

This was known as Cablegate. It was lawless spying.

CLINTON:  He [Assange] is very clearly a tool of Russian intelligence. And ah, he has done their bidding.

Clinton offered no evidence to back up this serious accusation, nor did Ferguson challenge her.

CLINTON: You don’t see damaging negative information coming out about the Kremlin on WikiLeaks. You didn’t see any of that published.

This was false. WikiLeaks has published a massive number of documents on Russia – more than 800,000, most of them critical, many of them used in books and as evidence in court cases.

CLINTON:  So I think Assange has become a kind of nihilistic opportunist who does the bidding of a dictator.

FERGUSON:  Lots of people, including in Australia, think that Assange is a martyr for free speech and freedom of information. How would you describe him? Well, you’ve just described him as a nihilist.

CLINTON:  Yeah, well, and a tool. I mean he’s a tool of Russian intelligence. And if he’s such a, you know, martyr of free speech, why doesn’t WikiLeaks ever publish anything coming out of Russia?

Again, Ferguson said nothing to challenge this or correct her.

CLINTON: There was a concerted operation between WikiLeaks and Russia and most likely people in the United States to weaponise that information, to make up stories … to help Trump.

FERGUSON: Now, along with some of those outlandish stories, there was information that was revealed about the Clinton Foundation that at least in some of the voters’ minds seemed to associate you ….

CLINTON: Yeah, but it was false!

FERGUSON: … with the peddling of information …

CLINTON: It was false! It was totally false!  …..

FERGUSON: Do you understand how difficult it was for some voters to understand the amounts of money that the [Clinton] Foundation is raising, the confusion with the consultancy that was also raising money, getting gifts and travel and so on for Bill Clinton that even Chelsea had some issues with? …

CLINTON: Well you know, I’m sorry, Sarah, I mean I, I know the facts ….

The ABC interviewer lauded Clinton as “the icon of your generation”. She asked her nothing about the enormous sums she creamed off from Wall Street, such as the $675,000 she received for one speech at Goldman Sachs, one of the banks at the centre of the 2008 crash. Clinton’s greed deeply upset the kind of voters she abused as “deplorables”.

Clearly looking for a cheap headline in the Australian press, Ferguson asked her if Trump was “a clear and present danger to Australia” and got her predictable response.

This high-profile journalist made no mention of Clinton’s own “clear and present danger” to the people of Iran whom she once threatened to “obliterate totally”, and the 40,000 Libyans who died in the attack on Libya in 2011 that Clinton orchestrated. Flushed with excitement, the Secretary of State rejoiced at the gruesome murder of the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi.

“Libya was Hillary Clinton’s war”, Julian Assange said in a filmed interview with me last year. “Barack Obama initially opposed it. Who was the person championing it?  Hillary Clinton. That’s documented throughout her emails … there’s more than 1700 emails out of the 33,000 Hillary Clinton emails that we’ve published, just about Libya. It’s not that Libya has cheap oil. She perceived the removal of Gaddafi and the overthrow of the Libyan state — something that she would use in her run-up to the general election for President.

“So in late 2011 there is an internal document called the Libya Tick Tock  that was produced for Hillary Clinton, and it’s the chronological description of how she was the central figure in the destruction of the Libyan state, which resulted in around 40,000 deaths within Libya; jihadists moved in, ISIS moved in, leading to the European refugee and migrant crisis.

“Not only did you have people fleeing Libya, people fleeing Syria, the destabilisation of other African countries as a result of arms flows, but the Libyan state itself was no longer able to control the movement of people through it.”

This – not Clinton’s “visceral” pain in losing to Trump nor the rest of the self-serving scuttlebutt in her ABC interview  — was the story. Clinton shared responsibility for massively de-stabilising the Middle East, which led to the death, suffering and flight of thousands of women, men and children.

Ferguson raised not a word of it. Clinton repeatedly defamed Assange, who was neither defended nor offered a right of reply on his own country’s state broadcaster.

In a tweet from London, Assange cited the ABC’s own Code of Practice, which states: “Where allegations are made about a person or organisation, make reasonable efforts in the circumstances to provide a fair opportunity to respond.”

Following the ABC broadcast, Ferguson’s  executive producer, Sally Neighbour, re-tweeted the following: “Assange is Putin’s bitch. We all know it!”

The slander, since deleted, was even used as a link to the ABC interview captioned ‘Assange is Putins (sic) b****. We all know it!’

In the years I have known Julian Assange, I have watched a vituperative personal campaign try to stop him and WikiLeaks. It has been a frontal assault on whistleblowing, on free speech and free journalism, all of which are now under sustained attack from governments and corporate internet controllers.

The first serious attacks on Assange came from the Guardian which, like a spurned lover, turned on its besieged former source, having hugely profited from WikiLeaks’ disclosures. With not a penny going to Assange or WikiLeaks, a Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. Assange was portrayed as “callous” and a “damaged personality”.

It was as if a rampant jealousy could not accept that his remarkable achievements stood in marked contrast to that of his detractors in the “mainstream” media. It is like watching the guardians of the status quo, regardless of age, struggling to silence real dissent and prevent the emergence of the new and hopeful.

Today, Assange remains a political refugee from the war-making dark state of which Donald Trump is a caricature and Hillary Clinton the embodiment. His resilience and courage are astonishing. Unlike him, his tormentors are cowards.

October 20, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Plans to Dump Nuclear Waste on Australian Aboriginal Sacred Site May Be Halted

Sputnik – 26.09.2017

Plans to transport nuclear waste from Britain to a sacred Aboriginal site in southern Australia could now be put on hold.

Proposals to ship nuclear waste from northern Scotland to a heritage site considered important to indigenous groups in Australia may be halted.

Campaigners acting for Aboriginal Australians are challenging a bid to transfer the waste from Dounreay, Caithness, to a proposed new dump located at Wallerberdina, 280 miles north of Adelaide.

They insist the potential location for what would be Australia’s first nuclear dump would infringe on a historical site rich in burial mounds, fossilized bones and stone tools and considered sacred by Aboriginals.

Under an agreement reached in 2012, all waste from Australia, Belgium, Germany and Italy that is processed at the Scottish facility must be returned to the country of origin.

Now the Scottish government has indicated that all concerns voiced by indigenous peoples must be taken into account before the waste is transferred by ship, presently planned for 2020.

A government spokesman said it would continue to work with the UK government and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to decide where the shipment should be sent.

“Any concerns expressed by indigenous peoples must be addressed in full and action taken, to ensure that vulnerable communities do not suffer future adverse impacts. We recognize that the management of nuclear waste must take full account of human rights and equality obligations, including the importance of ensuring that security and waste management arrangements protect public safety and avoid harmful environmental impacts,” the government said in a statement.

‘Creating More Problems’

Earlier Gary Cushway, a dual Australian-British citizen, had written to the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon raising the concerns of the residents from the Adnyamathanha community, who live on land adjacent to the proposed dump site at Wallerberdina.

“Radioactive waste is a problem we need to deal with, but shifting the problem on to remote indigenous communities isn’t fixing the problem. It is just creating more problems for indigenous communities that have been mistreated for centuries already,” Mr. Cushway wrote.

In pressing the Scottish government, Mr. Cushway said it was an opportunity to correct the past mistakes of the UK government who tested nuclear weapons on indigenous homelands in South Australia, forcing many of them to be moved from their properties.

The federal Australian government has identified two possible locations for the national waste dump site, having previously been thwarted by campaigns by indigenous and community groups since the 1990s.

No date has, so far, been set for a final decision, although federal government ministers are aware they face a strong backlash if they select the Wallerberdina option as it borders an Indigenous Protected Area where they are still permitted to hunt.

In addition, the state government of South Australia took the decision in June, 2017, to reject plans to cite any of the sites there.

September 26, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Fanciful Terrors: Bomb Plots and Australian Airport Security

By Binoy Kampmark | Dissident Voice | July 31, 2017

In the classroom of international security, Australia remains an infant wanting attention before the older hands.  During the Paris Peace talks, Prime Minister William Morris (“Billy”) Hughes screamed and hollered Australia’s wishes to gain greater concessions after its losses during the Great War, urging, among other things, a more punitive settlement for Germany.

In the post-September 2001 age, recognition comes in different forms, notably in the field of terrorism.  Australian authorities want recognition from their international partners; Australian security services demand attention from their peers. The premise of this call is simple if masochistic: Australia is worth torching, bombing and assailing, its values, however obscure, vulnerable before a massive, inchoate threat shrouded in obscurantism.

Over the weekend, the security services again displayed why adding fuel to the fire of recognition remains a burning lust for the Australian security complex. The inner-city suburb of Surry Hills in Sydney, and the south-western suburbs of Lakemba, Wiley and Punchbowl, witnessed raids and seizures of material that could be used to make an improvised explosive device.

What was notable here was the domesticity behind the alleged plot. Focus was specific to Surry Hills in what was supposedly an attempt to create an IED involving a domestic grinder and box containing a multi-mincer.  At stages, those with a culinary inclination might have been confused: were Australia’s best and brightest in the front line of security getting excited about the ill-use kitchen appliances might be put to?

The arrest provided yet another occasion Australian audiences are becoming familiar with: individuals arrested and detained, usually with no prior convictions let alone brush with the law, while the celebratory stuffing is sought to file charges under anti-terrorism laws.

But this was not a time for ironic reflection.  Australians needed to be frightened and reassured, a necessary dialectic that governments in trouble tend to encourage. First, comes the fear of death, launched by a sinister fundamentalist force; then comes the paternal reassurance of the patria: those in blue, green and grey will protect you.

Without even questioning the likelihood of success in any of these ventures (would this supposed device have ever gotten onto a plane?), such networks as Channel Nine news would insist that this could be the “13th significant conspiracy to be foiled by Australian authorities since the country’s terror threat level was raised to ‘probable’ in 2014.”

The Herald Sun was already dubbing this a Jihadi “meat mincer bomb plot”, happy to ignore the obvious point that details were horrendously sketchy. The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, deemed the conspiracy “elaborate”. (The foe must always be elevated to make the effort both worthwhile and free of folly.) The AFP Commissioner, Andrew Colvin, was convinced that this was “Islamic-inspired terrorism.  Exactly what is behind this is something we will need to investigate fully.”

Depending on what you scoured, reports suggested that this was a “non-traditional” device which was set to be used for an “Islamist inspired” cause.  The usual cadre of experts were consulted to simply affirm trends they could neither prove nor verify, with the “lone wolf” theme galloping out in front.

John Coyne of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Border Security Program, for instance, plotted a kindergarten evolution for his audience: planes were used in September 2001; then came regionally focused incidents such as the Bali bombings, and now, in classic fatuity, “a new chapter arising or a return chapter almost”. “This is much more panned and deliberate, if the allegations are correct.”

Rita Panahi, whose writings prefer opinion to the inconvenience incurred by looking at evidence, cheered the weekend efforts and issued a reminder: “Remember the weekend’s terror raids next time you have to surrender a tube of sunscreen as you pass through airport security a second time, this time barefooted and beltless, and fearful you might miss your flight.”

For Panahi, this was a case that was done and dusted. These were “wannabe jihadis” (dead cert); they had plotted to inflict “mayhem and destruction on Australian soil” (naturally) and Australians needed to understand that an ungainly super structure of intrusive security measures were indispensable to security. Thank the counter-terrorism forces, luck and distance.

Such occasions also provide chicken feed for pecking journalists, many of whom have ceased the task of even procuring their beaks for the next expose.  Indeed, some were crowing, including one on ABC 24, that the “disruption” of an “imminent” attack had taken place at speed; that this “cell” had little chance of ever bringing their device to an aircraft.  Evidence and scrutiny are ill-considered, and the political classes are permitted to behave accordingly.

The Border Protection Minister, Peter Dutton, never happy to part with anything valuable on the subject of security, refused to confirm whether there had been an international dimension, a tip-off from intelligence agencies, or assistance.

“There will be lots of speculation around what the intent was,” claimed Dutton, “but obviously all of us have been working hard over recent days and we rely upon the expertise of the Federal Police and ASIO and other agencies.” He observed that there was “a lot of speculation around” which he did not wish to add to.

He need not have bothered, given that the opinion makers have formed a coalition of denial and embellishment so vast and enthusiastic so as to make Australia matter in the supposed global jihadi effort. It would come as a crushing disappointment to the infant in that room of international relations to realise otherwise.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at: bkampmark@gmail.com.

August 1, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | 1 Comment

Roll of Shame

By Craig Murray | June 24, 2017

These are the 15 countries which shamefully voted against a UN General Assembly Resolution on Thursday which proposed to seek an opinion from the International Court of Justice on Britain’s continued colonial possession of the Chagos Islands. In the most absolute example of ethnic cleansing in modern history, less than 50 years ago the UK deported by force the entire population of the Chagos Islands to make way for the US military base on Diego Garcia, and to this day refuses to allow them to return.

The Dirty 15

USA
UK
Israel
Australia
New Zealand

The above are of course arguably the five countries in the world most profoundly implicated in the usurpation and destruction of native populations

Afghanistan
Albania
Bulgaria
Croatia
Hungary
Japan
Lithuania
Maldives
Montenegro
South Korea

This second small group is dominated by countries with a particularly close security relationship with the United States on which they place particular reliance in relation to a perceived threat.

It must however be heartening that the US and UK could round up so very few supporters for their utterly immoral stance. It is particularly worth noting that none of the major players within the EU backed the UK.

The US and UK are also remarkably silent on the blockade of Qatar by their ally Saudi Arabia. The release of Saudi demands including the closing down of Al Jazeera TV and other media outlets including the excellent Middleeasteye.net show the Saudis’ true motives. Frankly I am shocked by the failure of the mainstream media in the West seriously to question the ludicrous Saudi claim that this attack on Qatar is over support for terrorism.

Mohammed Bin Salman was appointed by his father the King as Crown Prince in Saudi Arabia on 21 June. Bin Salman has been directing the major affairs of the state for the last three years. The ferocity of the prosecution of the war in Yemen is very much his baby. Bin Salman’s master plan, which he has driven through with much skill, is for a far more aggressive Saudi Arabia leading the conservative forces in the Middle East, above all in fierce opposition to Iran and Shia interests. To this end he has forged a conservative alliance incorporating Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and the United States.

US and UK involvement in the war in Yemen goes beyond the enthusiastic supply of the bombs and aircraft which have killed thousands of children. Both have had special forces on the ground, and the CIA has yet again been deeply implicated in the detention, extreme torture and murder of opponents.

The Bin Salman plan is dressed up as “pro-Western” and media hacks paint him as a “reformer” because he wishes to expand a network of McDonalds in the Kingdom. But as Iran slowly does reform, and sticks meticulously to the terms of the internationally guaranteed nuclear agreement, Saudi paranoia towards its regional “rival” becomes ever more dangerous. The Iranians deserve respect for the moderation with which they reacted to the Saudi sponsored terror attack on their parliament itself. But such provocations will increase.

Saudi support for ISIL, Al Qaeda, Al Nusra and the numerous other jihadist groups will only increase as Saudi Arabia seeks to deploy them in its sectarian war against the Shia and their allies. For that reason there is no prospect of terrorist violence in Syria declining. Indeed the United States shooting down of a Syrian jet in “self-defence” was almost certainly an indication that the Syrians were at the time targeting jihadist forces reinforced by US special forces. Israeli bombing and missile sorties against Syrian regime targets in support of jihadist rebels are finally being regularly reported in mainstream media.

I do not hold up Qatar or its ruling aristocracy as a paragon of virtue. But it seeks a more pacific relationship with Iran, and has more developed economic relationships including on shared offshore fields. Qatar has also consistently shown greater interest in the plight of the Palestinians, and more scepticism towards Israel, than Bin Salman is happy with. Qatar also has problems with the brutal military dictatorship of Egypt.

Most worryingly to Saudi Arabia, these slightly more liberal attitudes are closer to the views of the “arab street”, where there is disquiet at Saudi Arabia’s obvious but officially denied relationship with Israel. Qatar also has a media which can reflect these views to a wider Arab audience. Even though, following previous Saudi threats, al Jazeera’s content has been toned down, the Saudis see the station as an intolerable direct threat.

There is public fatigue in the West with regard to the affairs of the Middle East. This is a mistake as the situation is more dangerous than ever. The UK and USA both look likely to support the Saudis and Israel in their determination for conflict with Iran. The EU and Russia – and anybody not harbouring a death wish – will be working to keep the Iranian nuclear deal together. Bin Salman has chosen his time well, with slightly crazed right wing regimes in Washington, London and Tel Aviv willing to back his adventurism. The blockade of Qatar is but a symptom of something much more dangerous.

June 25, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Australia finds no funds diverted in World Vision probe, further debunking Israeli claims against al-Halabi

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network – March 22, 2017

In yet another blow to the propaganda-driven case against Palestinian aid worker Mohammed al-Halabi, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reported on Tuesday, 21 March that “an internal review into World Vision funding in Gaza has uncovered nothing to suggest any diversion of government aid funding to Hamas.”

Al-Halabi was seized by Israeli occupation forces at the Beit Hanoun/Erez crossing and in August 2016, Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, went on a propaganda offensive, claiming that Halabi had redirected World Vision funds to the Palestinian resistance organization, Hamas. Israeli occupation officials declared that he had diverted $43 million in charitable funds to the Palestinian resistance, including a video from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accusing Palestinians of not caring about their people.  The amounts cited dwarfed the actual budget to which al-Halabi had access, by all accounts.  These seemingly impossible claims were made after nearly a month of interrogation, during which Halabi was subjected to torture and inhumane treatment.

The claims against Halabi were accompanied by similarly touted claims against civil engineer Waheed Bursh, a contractor with the UN Development Program, also accused of redirecting resources to the Palestinian resistance – in his case, rubble from the Israeli bombing of Gaza. However, despite the large-scale publicity surrounding Borsh’s arrest, he was released seven months later, indicating that no serious charges were ever made. He was cited as a “witness” againat al-Halabi, and later confirmed that he completely denied any allegations against the aid worker.

“The news DFAT found no evidence of the misuse of World Vison funds comes as Mr Halabi’s trial continues in Israel. He has rejected a plea deal offered by Israeli authorities and has pleaded not guilty, claiming he is innocent of all charges,” reported the Australian Brodcasting Corporation. The plea agreement he rejected would have seen him imprisoned for three years, a short sentence which again indicates a lack of serious charges or evidence in the case.

Indeed, rather than presenting any evidence to back up the widely-publicized public claims against World Vision and Halabi, Israeli occupation officials have instead submitted additional, lesser charges against Halabi that have no relation to diverting funds or his work with World Vision; two such charges are those of  “passing information to the enemy” and of “aiding and abetting the enemy in a time of war,” with the enemy in question being Palestinians in Gaza. Al-Halabi is, himself, of course, a Palestinian living under occupation and siege in Gaza.

He is also charged with giving small donations of his own money, rather than redirecting World Vision funds, to charities and mosques in Gaza.  ABC notes that “One incident detailed accuses El Halabi of allegedly giving ‘300 Israeli shekels on a monthly base to a charity managed by Hamas’…Another says the defendant transferred ‘hundreds of shekels during 2015-2016 to a mosque managed by Hamas’… No details are given of the ‘millions’ of dollars Israeli intelligence officials initially accused El Halabi of diverting.” 100 NIS is approximately $26 USD.

“So far, our own ongoing forensic audit has not uncovered any money subverted and to hear DFAT say their investigation hasn’t either is consistent and is very good news,” said Tim Costello of World Vision.

Despite the severe lack of evidence or credibility for Israeli claims in this case, World Vision’s work in Gaza – and government funding from the Australian and German governments – have been shut down. Over 100 Palestinian workers for World Vision have lost their jobs in Gaza in an area already suffering from massive unemployment and poverty.

March 22, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Netanyahu calls for international forces in Gaza

Palestine Information Center – February 26, 2017

NAZARETH – Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu has suggested deploying international forces in the Gaza Strip as a security solution to deal with the Gaza Strip.

According to Israel’s Channel 2, Netanyahu made his remarks during his meeting on Sunday morning in Sydney with Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop.

The two sides discussed several regional issues and Israel’s concerns over taking legal action against its officials at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Netanyahu told the Australian minister that he did not oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state with the presence of Israeli security control over the entire West Bank and limited Palestinian sovereignty.

He also expressed his rejection of any presence of peacekeeping forces in the West Bank because of Israel’s bad experience with such forces, and called for dispatching them to Gaza.

He urged the minister to make efforts to prevent the ICC from putting pressure on Israel and dissuade it from seeking to try Israeli officials accused of committing war crimes against Palestinians.

He said that Australia could influence other countries to act against the ICC and force it to reduce its investigations and fact-finding missions on claims related to war crimes.

The two officials also talked about Iran, its nuclear program and its intervention in regional problems and agreed on promoting relations and cooperation between the two sides in the areas of security, intelligence, economy and technology.

February 26, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 3 Comments

Ukraine, Crimea and the Push for War

By James ONeill – New Eastern Outlook – 19.02.2017

There are currently three major flash points in the world, where a false step could rapidly lead to escalation and a major war from which human civilization would be the main loser. Those flashpoints are the Middle East, the South China Sea and Ukraine/Crimea. In each of them Australia has made major missteps, invariably at the request of the Americans, and where Australia’s national interest is either non-existent or the opposite of the actions that have been taken.

The recent upsurge in fighting in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine, collectively referred to as Donbass, where Ukrainian forces have vastly increased the artillery barrage of civilian areas has sharpened the likelihood of a more serious war breaking out. In these circumstances the responsibility of the media to accurately report what is happening and why is high. Yet, as is so often the case, we are treated to a non-stop barrage of misinformation and outright propaganda.

The reincorporation of Crimea into the Russian Federation in March 2014 is invariably portrayed as the result of an “invasion” and “annexation” and that peace can only be restored with Crimea’s return to Ukraine.

This is not only a rewriting of history; it also ignores the crucial historical background of that region of the world and how that is relevant to the present day. A brief history is in order, if only because it is not something that the mainstream media will ever state, as wedded as they are to a narrative whose sole purpose is the demonization of Russia and of President Putin.

Ukraine itself has only had its modern borders since 1945. Prior to that time part had come under the sway of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and another part had been incorporated into Tsarist Russia in 1667. Following the peasant revolt of 1768/69 there was a partitioning between the Austrian empire and the Russian empire. It has therefore to a greater or lesser extent been a part of the Russian empire for more than 300 years. To give that some perspective, it is a longer period than either the United States or Australia has been a nation state.

Following the Ukrainian War of Independence from 1917-1921 it was absorbed into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics where it remained until the break up of the USSR in 1991.

Crimea has had a similarly chequered history. Prior to the Crimean War 1853-56 when Australian troops fought with the British and the Turks against Russia, Crimea had been part of the Russian Empire. Catherine the Great defeated the Ottomans in 1783 and thereafter Crimea was part of Russia. That war was fought on Crimean soil. Prior to the Ottomans, Crimea had for the previous 2000 years been variously parts of the Greek, Roman, Mongol and other empires. Then as now it occupied a strategic position on the Black Sea. The Crimean War had as a primary target the Russian naval base at Sevastopol. Which is further evidence that nothing really changes.

After the Russian Revolution Crimea became an autonomous Republic within the USSR and stayed there until 1954. In that year, following a resolution of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR it was transferred to Ukraine.

There are various theories as to why the transfer was made, one popular version being that it was a symbolic gesture marking the 300th anniversary of Ukraine becoming part of the Tsardom of Russia. The actual reasons do not matter so much as two other factors that were operative.

The first was that as an integral part of the USSR it did not make a great deal of political difference as to which State Crimea was nominally attached. The second factor was that neither the Russian people nor the Crimeans were consulted about the decision.

There things remained until February 2014 when a coup was mounted against the lawful government of Ukraine. The Australian media refuse to acknowledge that it was a coup, and that the coup was organized and paid for ($5 billion dollars) by the Americans, as the chief organizer, then Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland freely acknowledged to a congressional committee.

The Crimeans, as indeed also the residents of the Donbass region, were extremely unhappy with the takeover in Kiev of a frankly fascist government. The people of eastern Ukraine, including Crimea, are overwhelmingly ethnic Russian, speak the Russian language as their first language, intermarry with Russians across the border, and culturally identify with Russia.

A referendum was hastily organized and held on 16 March 2014. The result was that there was an 83% turnout, and 96.77% of those who voted were in favour of being readmitted to the Russian Federation. That result was condemned by the US and Australia, among other nations. The main objections stated were that the vote was held after Russian troops had “invaded” Crimea, and that the Crimeans had no right to hold such a referendum.

In one form or another those objections have been repeated by the western media ever since. An added claim is that the “annexation” of Crimea is further evidence of “Russian aggression” in general and that of Mr Putin in particular.

The facts are rather different. First, let us look at the “invasion” claim. There were already 25,000 Russian troops in Crimea. They were there pursuant to a treaty with the Ukrainian government, mainly associated with the very important Russian naval base at Sevastopol. It will be recalled that that naval base was a major target of the British and allied forces in the Crimean War more than 150 years earlier.

There was absolutely no evidence that the presence of Russian troops prevented the free exercise of the vote by Crimeans in the referendum, except indirectly in that their presence certainly deterred Ukraine from military intervention.

Independent polls conducted after the referendum, for example by the German Gfk polling organisation showed that 82% of those polled supported the referendum result and only 4% opposed it. Other, including American, polling organisations, obtained similar results.

The second major claim is that the referendum was “unlawful” and as such not recognised by the western powers. This is a classic example of western hypocrisy. Western governments are perfectly willing to accept independence referenda when it suits their geopolitical purposes to do so. There are a number of recent examples.

In April 1993 Eritrea held a referendum to establish its independence from Ethiopia. Only Eritreans were able to vote. It passed overwhelmingly. There was no objection from the US or Australia.

On 17 February 2008 Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. There was no referendum. Not only did the US not object, they bombed Serbia to encourage the government to accept the result. Australia protested neither the declaration of independence nor the illegal bombing.

The International Court of Justice gave an advisory opinion on Kosovo’s declaration of independence on 23 July 2010. The Court noted that previous declarations of independence being declared invalid had to be seen in their specific context. Importantly, the Court noted as a general principle that there was an absence of a general prohibition against unilateral declarations of independence under international law.

The important factual difference in Crimea’s case is the long history of the peninsula as a part of Russia; its ethnic and linguistic ties to Russia; and that there was a referendum with the overwhelming majority of citizens voting to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia.

In September 2014 the people of Scotland voted in a referendum of whether or not they would remain a part of the United Kingdom or become a separate sovereign nation. In that case the referendum was narrowly lost although a mooted second referendum following the Brexit vote in the UK may well have a different result.

Again, neither the US nor Australia claimed that the Scots were not entitled to have a referendum, nor that they would refuse to recognise the result.

The final point to be made in this context is that in 1970 the United Nations General Assembly passed by acclamation (i.e. without dissent from either Australia or the United States) a Declaration on Principles of International Law .

In the section of the Resolution regarding “the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples” was the following passage:

By virtue of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, all peoples have the right to freely determine, without external interference, their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development, and every State has the duty to respect this right in accordance with the provisions of the Charter.

What the Crimeans have done is no more nor less than they are entitled to in accordance with this Declaration. It is Australia, the United States and others that condemn Crimea and the Russians who are in breach of their legal and moral obligations.

A further illustration of western hypocrisy over Crimea and the Donbass is the total silence over the ongoing military assault against the civilian population of Donbass. The Minsk 2 Accords, initiated by France and Germany, and agreed to by Russia and Ukraine, contained a number of provisions designed to recognise the legitimate aspirations of the people of Donbass.

The Minsk 2 Accord provided, inter alia, for a ceasefire; a pullback of Ukrainian troops; for the Ukrainian Rada to pass specific laws relating to the governance of Donbass; and to amend the Ukrainian constitution to incorporate decentralization as a key component.

All of these provisions have been ignored and violated. Instead of condemning the Ukrainian violations and failure to carry out its obligations, the US and its allies have continued to blame Russia. Immediately after the US election, Senators McCain and Graham travelled to Kiev and urged Ukraine to keep fighting, promising American support.

There is no evidence that they did so with the support of then President –elect Trump and their authority to do so is unclear. The immediate result of the US Senator’s visit was an upsurge in the bombardment of villages and towns in the Donbass region.

There is an equally stunning silence from the Australian authorities. They seem incapable of understanding history, incapable of recognizing the efforts made by the Russians to create an economic arrangement that would benefit Ukraine through open association with both the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union; and of recognizing the grave potential for war posed by the reckless expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders.

Instead of recognizing the historical and geopolitical realities, including that Ukraine is now a failed state ruled by neo-fascists, they continue to parrot the tired cliché that the Russians are to blame.

Upon such fatal ignorance are wars often started.

James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law.

February 19, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment