A quarter of the way through TV programmes in the weekend on two leading Malayalam channels, it dawned on me that some woolly-headed local “strategic thinker” must have been spreading a yarn that World War III is in the offing because US President Donald Trump has abandoned his campaign pledges and has embraced the classic US imperialistic policies – and that the missile attack in Syria, the use of the ‘mother of all bombs’ in Afghanistan and the war clouds over North Korea were all symptomatic of the Armageddon.
Of course, I tried to reason by detailing empirical evidence that much of what is happening is due largely to the confusion prevailing in Washington under a president who is hopelessly besieged, and that things are in reality far from what meets the eye.
So, today, I laughed uncontrollably when the American press reports started appearing that, after all, Trump’s show of force in the Far East was a contrived playact. The formidable American armada, the Carl Vinson carrier strike force, apparently never really headed for North Korea! It was a charade!
I had suspected all along that some back-room deal between the US and China was going on and that the pantomime was complex and, perhaps, beyond belief. The first cloud of suspicion arose when the Chinese commentaries began hinting vaguely that if both Pyongyang and Washington showed restraint, it was not coincidental but there would have been a mutual awareness that neither side would push the envelope. Of course, Chinese commentators will never acknowledge whether Beijing acted as a guarantor of sorts to Pyongyang that Trump has no intentions to attack North Korea or decapitate the Kim Jong-un regime.
The Chinese and I are on the same page here, perhaps, being votaries of dialectical materialism. I too believe that the US economy is hardly in a position to start an imperial war anywhere on the planet, and that Trump knows this better than anyone in America. Which only, after all, explains his consistent campaign pledge that much as he’d build up the US military as by far the most powerful war machine that man ever knew and would restore American prestige and influence worldwide, he will not be an interventionist and will use American power most sparingly, only if US interests are threatened – and, most important, that the core of his foreign-policy doctrine is “America First”, as distinct from his predecessor Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton’s.
Now, let me reproduce the extracts from a Chinese commentary that appeared today in the Communist Party daily Global Times :
- Most observers say that the Korean Peninsula is approaching the most volatile point, but the possibility of a war remains slim. There are signs that the US President Donald Trump would resort to a tougher Pyongyang policy than his predecessor… However, it will not act rashly… Trump will not forget the promise he made during the presidential campaign. Though he vigorously believes American foreign policy comes from its military might, to “make America great again” can in no way rely entirely on military prowess. In the near future, the Trump administration will attach more importance to the economy, employment and immigration than to diplomacy… The new administration has made it clear that instead of seeking a regime change, it will put “maximum pressure” upon Pyongyang and calls for engagement with the North Korea regime, if and when it changes its behavior.
- US national interests and domestic politics, especially American citizens’ political appeal, have determined that Trump must give top priority to domestic affairs… It demonstrates the pragmatic and flexible side of the new government. If the US truly implements the new policy, the global community will see the world’s most powerful country spending more time and energy in dealing with domestic affairs. The future circumstances surrounding Pyongyang will likely enter a new phase.
Now, does it mean China will lower its guard? No way. Make no mistake, China won’t take chances with the unstable political environment in which Trump operates. Thus, explicit warnings have also been held out to the US that any attack on North Korea will inevitably trigger Chinese military intervention. This is what an editorial in Global Times warned on Tuesday:
- Chinese people will not allow their government to remain passive when the armies of the US and South Korea start a war and try to take down the Pyongyang regime. The Chinese will not let something like that happen, especially on the same land where the Chinese Volunteer Army once fought in the early 1950s. It is a land covered with the blood of Chinese soldiers who bravely fought in the early 1950s. Furthermore, if Pyongyang were to be taken by the allied armies of the US and South Korea, it would dramatically change the geopolitical situation in the Korean Peninsula.
Interestingly, government-owned China Daily reported today that President Xi Jinping in his capacity as the chairman of the Central Military Commission has stressed to the PLA commanders the imperative of being “combat ready”. (China Daily )
So, what lies ahead? My prognosis: Beijing is actively promoting direct talks between the US and North Korea without any pre-conditions, which can be expected in a near future. Would Trump get around to realising his wish to have a McDonald cheeseburger with Kim some day, as he once said? Welcome to the Trump era in world politics.
Democrats, liberals and some progressives might be feeling a little perplexed over what has happened to Russia-gate, the story that pounded Donald Trump every day since his election last November – until April 4, that is.
On April 4, Trump fully capitulated to the neoconservative bash-Russia narrative amid dubious claims about a chemical attack in Syria. On April 6, Trump fired off 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase; he also restored the neocon demand for “regime change” in Syria; and he alleged that Russia was possibly complicit in the supposed chemical attack.
Since Trump took those actions – in accordance with the neocon desires for more “regime change” in the Middle East and a costly New Cold War with Russia – Russia-gate has almost vanished from the news.
I did find a little story in the lower right-hand corner of page A12 of Saturday’s New York Times about a still-eager Democratic congressman, Mike Quigley of Illinois, who spent a couple of days in Cyprus which attracted his interest because it is a known site for Russian money-laundering, but he seemed to leave more baffled than when he arrived.
“The more I learn, the more complex, layered and textured I see the Russia issue is – and that reinforces the need for professional full-time investigators,” Quigley said, suggesting that the investigation’s failure to strike oil is not that the holes are dry but that he needs better drill bits.
Yet, given all the hype and hullabaloo over Russia-gate, the folks who were led to believe that the vague and amorphous allegations were “bigger than Watergate” might now be feeling a little used. It appears they may have been sucked into a conspiracy frenzy in which the Establishment exploited their enthusiasm over the “scandal” in a clever maneuver to bludgeon an out-of-step new President back into line.
If that’s indeed the case, perhaps the most significant success of the Russia-gate ploy was the ouster of Trump’s original National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was seen as a key proponent of a New Détente with Russia, and his replacement by General H.R. McMaster, a protégé of neocon favorite, retired Gen. David Petraeus.
McMaster was viewed as the key player in arranging the April 6 missile strike on Syria and in preparing a questionable “intelligence assessment” on April 11 to justify the rush to judgment. Although McMaster’s four-page white paper has been accepted as gospel by the mainstream U.S. news media, its many weaknesses have been noted by actual experts, such as MIT national security and technology professor Theodore Postol.
How Washington Works
But the way Official Washington works is that Trump was made to look weak when he argued for a more cooperative and peaceful relationship with Russia. Hillary Clinton dubbed him Vladimir Putin’s “puppet” and “Saturday Night Live” portrayed Trump as in thrall to a bare-chested Putin. More significantly, front-page stories every morning and cable news segments every night created the impression of a compromised U.S. President in Putin’s pocket.
Conversely, Trump was made to look strong when he fired off missiles against a Syrian airbase and talked tough about Russian guilt. Neocon commentator Charles Krauthammer praised Trump’s shift as demonstrating that “America is back.”
Trump further enhanced his image for toughness when his military dropped the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), nicknamed the “mother of all bombs,” on some caves in Afghanistan. While the number of casualties inflicted by the blast was unclear, Trump benefited from the admiring TV and op-ed commentaries about him finally acting “presidential.”
But the real test of political courage is to go against the grain on a policy that may be unpopular in the short term but is in the best interests of the United States and the world community in the longer term.
In that sense, Trump seeking peaceful cooperation with Russia – amid the intense anti-Russian propaganda of the past several years – required actual courage, while launching missiles and dropping bombs might win praise but actually make the U.S. position in the world weaker.
Trump, however, saw his fledgling presidency crumbling under the daily barrage of Russia-gate, even though there was no evidence that his campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the U.S. election and there wasn’t even clear evidence that Russia was behind the disclosure of Democratic emails, via WikiLeaks, during the campaign.
Still, the combined assault from the Democrats, the neocons and the mainstream media forced Trump to surrender his campaign goal of achieving a more positive relationship with Russia and greater big-power collaboration in the fight against terrorism.
For Trump, the incessant chatter about Russia-gate was like a dripping water torture. The thin-skinned Trump fumed at his staff and twittered messages aimed at changing the narrative, such as accusing President Obama of “wiretapping” Trump Tower. But nothing worked.
However, once Trump waved the white flag by placing his foreign policy under the preferred banner of the neoconservatives, the Russia-gate pressure stopped. The op-ed pages suddenly were hailing his “decisiveness.” If you were a neocon, you might say about Russia-gate: Mission accomplished!
Besides whipping Trump into becoming a more compliant politician, Russia-gate could claim some other notable achievements: it spared the national Democrats from having to confront their own failures in Campaign 2016 by diverting responsibility for the calamity of Trump’s election.
Instead of Democratic leaders taking responsibility for picking a dreadful candidate, ignoring the nation’s anti-establishment mood, and failing to offer any kind of inspiring message, the national Democrats could palm off the blame on “Russia! Russia! Russia!”
Thus, rather than looking in the mirror and trying to figure out how to correct their deep-seated problems, the national Democrats could instead focus on a quixotic tilting at Trump’s impeachment.
Many on the Left joined in this fantasy because they have been so long without a Movement that the huge post-inaugural “pussy hat” marches were a temptation that they couldn’t resist. Russia-gate became the fuel to keep the “Movement” bandwagon rolling. #Resistance!
It didn’t matter that the “scandal” – the belief that Russia somehow conspired with Trump to rig the U.S. presidential election – amounted to a bunch of informational dots that didn’t connect.
Russia-gate also taught the American “left” to learn to love McCarthyism since “proof” of guilt pretty much amounted to having had contact with a Russian — and anyone who questioned the dubious factual basis of the “scandal” was dismissed as a “Russian propagandist” or a “Moscow stooge” or a purveyor of “fake news.”
Another Russia-gate winner was the mainstream news media which got a lot of mileage – and loads of new subscription money – by pushing the convoluted conspiracy. The New York Times positioned itself as the great protector of “truth” and The Washington Post adopted a melodramatic new slogan: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”
On Thanksgiving Day, the Post ran a front-page article touting an anonymous Internet group called PropOrNot that identified some 200 Internet news sites, including Consortiumnews.com and other major sources of independent journalism, as guilty of “Russian propaganda.” Facts weren’t needed; no chance for rebuttal; the accusers even got to hide in the shadows; the smear was the thing.
The Post and the Times also conflated complaints against news outlets that dared to express skepticism toward claims from the U.S. State Department and some entrepreneurial sites that trafficked in intentionally made-up stories or “fake news” to make money.
To the Post and Times, there appeared to be no difference between questioning the official U.S. narrative on, say, the Ukraine crisis and knowingly fabricating pretend news articles to get lots of clicks. Behind the smokescreen of Russia-gate, the mainstream U.S. news media took the position that there was only one side to a story, what Official Washington chose to believe.
While it’s likely that there will be some revival of Russia-gate to avoid the appearance of a completely manufactured scandal, the conspiracy theory’s more significant near-term consequence could be that it has taught Donald Trump a dangerous lesson.
If he finds himself in a tight spot, the way out is to start bombing some “enemy” halfway around the world. The next time, however, the target might not be so willing to turn the other cheek. If, say, Trump launches a preemptive strike against North Korea, the result could be a retaliatory nuclear attack against South Korea or Japan.
Or, if the neocons push ahead with their ultimate “regime change” strategy of staging a “color revolution” in Moscow to overthrow Putin, the outcome might be – not the pliable new leader that the neocons would want – but an unstable Russian nationalist who might see a nuclear attack on the U.S. as the only way to protect the honor of Mother Russia.
For all his faults, Trump did offer a more temperate approach toward U.S.-Russian relations, which also could have tamped down spending for nuclear and other strategic weapons and freed up some of that money for infrastructure and other needs at home. But that was before Russia-gate.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.
Last week The Duran reported on the many “deplorables” turned off by Trump’s new found fancy for a US interventionist foreign policy.
Last week Trump also backtracked on much of his NATO pre-presidential stance.
He signed off on Montenegro’s membership to the alliance…which now means Serbia is completely surrounded by an aggressive military alliance, that has bombed it mercilessly in the past under false flag pretenses.
Trump also met with NATO head warmonger Stoltenberg, and reversed his NATO position from “obsolete” to, “it is not longer obsolete”.
French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is not amused with Trump’s swiveling foreign policy.
Le Pen said in an interview with France Info radio on Friday…
“Undeniably he [Trump] is in contradiction with the commitments he had made.”
“I am coherent, I don’t change my mind in a few days. He had said he would not be the policeman of the world, that he would be the president of the United States and would not be the policeman of the world, but it seems today that he has changed his mind.”
“Will he persist, or is it a political coup which facilitates his domestic policy, I have absolutely no idea. But I am coherent in my analyses. When something favors France I say so, when it doesn’t I say so too.”
And just so there is no confusion as to where Le Pen stands on France’s NATO position should she win the election…
“I consider that France does not have to submit to the calendar of the United States, so I want France to leave the integrated command of NATO.”
Le Pen, leader of The National Front, went on to say that while she does not know if Trump would continue to abandon his “America First” approach, she herself would stick to a France first approach if elected president.
Trump and Le Pen were seen as allies during the 2016 US presidential campaign. The two shared many nationalist policy stances on immigration and globalization. The French politician had said that Trump’s presidential win “shows that people are taking their future back.”
Le Pen’s criticism comes as other nationalist politicians around the world have taken issue with Trump’s recent policy changes. Trump ally and pro-Brexit leader Nigel Farage said he was “very surprised” at Trump’s decision to strike a Syrian airbase in retaliation for the regime’s alleged chemical weapons attack against civilians.
Le Pen has been a strong critic of NATO during the French presidential campaign and has included pulling France back from NATO in her campaign platform. The leader of the National Front party, on track to make it through to the run-off election on May 7, has recently seen her momentum slowed.
Sean Spicer apologizes for “Hitler” remark during interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN
It has been reported that after the flap erupted over his offhand reference to Hitler, White House spokesman Sean Spicer made a personal phone call to Sheldon Adelson to apologize.
Adelson is the staunch Zionist and casino billionaire who has provided extensive funding to Republican candidates for office. Back in 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie groveled out an apology to him after using the term “occupied territories” in reference to the West Bank, so it probably should come as no surprise that Spicer felt compelled to apologize as well.
But of course the apology comes at a time when the Trump administration has already prostrated itself to neocon wishes by launching a missile attack against Syria–an act which has heightened tensions with Russia and represents a dramatic departure from Trump’s previous campaign positions. Moreover, Adelson isn’t the only person Spicer has apologized to.
“You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said in an effort to justify the US missile strike. The remark was made at a press briefing on April 11. Later that day Spicer issued a public apology during an interview with Wolf Blitzer over CNN.
“As you know, six million Jews were killed in the holocaust, many of them with poison gas…” Blitzer prefaced the interview.
Spicer’s replies throughout the seven and a half minute segment (see video here ) were almost cringing.
“Frankly, I mistakenly used an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the holocaust, for which there is no comparison, and for that I apologize. It was a mistake to do that… I was trying to draw a comparison for which there shouldn’t have been one. It was insensitive and inappropriate… I should have stayed focused on the Assad regime and the dangers they have brought to their own people… it was a mistake, I shouldn’t have done it. I won’t do it again… it was inappropriate and insensitive…”
But despite the on-air contrition, Blitzer seemed reluctant to let the matter drop.
“Did you not know, Sean, there were gas chambers where the Nazis brought Jews in…” he demanded.
“Yes, clearly I’m aware of that… it was a mistake to do that…”
“Have you spoken to President Trump about your blunder today?”
“Obviously it was my blunder, as you put it correctly…”
So busy was Spicer apologizing that at one point in the interview he even committed a Freudian slip:
“I came out (to apologize) to make sure that we stay focused on what the president’s doing and his decisive action. I needed to make sure that I clarified, and not in any way shape or form any more of a distraction from the president’s decisive action in Syria and the attempts he’s making to destabilize the region and root ISIS out of Syria.”
Spicer obviously meant to refer to Trump’s attempts to “stabilize” rather than “destabilize” the region, but Blitzer, having witnessed the presidential spokesman supplicate himself, allowed the slip to pass without comment.
In its article on Spicer’s phone call to Adelson, The Forward notes that Spicer’s Hitler analogy was “made on the Jewish holiday of Passover.” The article also comments that the Jewish billionaire has a “special relationship” with Trump and was given “prime seats at Trump’s inauguration after pouring massive amounts of cash into the campaign.”
Despite all the apologies, the Anne Frank Center in New York has called for Spicer to be fired.
“On Passover no less, Sean Spicer has engaged in Holocaust denial, the most offensive form of fake news imaginable, by denying Hitler gassed millions of Jews to death,” said Steven Goldstein, the center’s executive director.
Spicer’s sin was nothing more than expressing himself in a clumsy manner; clearly he had no intentions of casting aspersions or doubt upon the holocaust religion. But such considerations apparently have little bearing. A punishment of some sort must be exacted.
“Spicer’s statement is the most evil slur upon a group of people we have ever heard from a White House press secretary,” Goldstein said. “President Trump must fire him at once.”
Trump has not responded, and in fact seems to be laying low on the controversy surrounding his press secretary. This is likely due to the fact that the president clearly has problems of his own.
In the past week or two his behavior has become strangely erratic. The man who once accused the mainstream media of spreading fake news suddenly latched onto a very suspicious and dubious report about a chemical weapons attack in Syria. On April 6, he ordered a missile attack against a Syrian airbase; at a press conference on April 12 he praised NATO (after having called it “obsolete” during his campaign); and on April 13, the US dropped a “mega bomb” in Afghanistan. Now Trump is engaged in a massive military buildup in the Korean peninsula, and just today the foreign minister of China warned that a war could break out “at any moment.”
All of this represents a startling and dramatic departure from Trump’s campaign promises of wanting better relations with Russia and keeping the US from becoming embroiled in useless wars–and as a result, support for Trump is in fact plummeting sharply among his political base.
One of his most prominent and vocal supporters during his campaign was Ann Coulter. So avid a fan was she that she even published a book entitled In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome! But you can listen to the interview below from April 7–one day after the attack on Syria–and hear for yourself how dismayed Coulter now is.
Losing the support of people like Coulter has to be a serious blow for Trump. Why would he risk it? One conclusion we might draw from all this is that it makes no difference who gets elected president–and that the policies and agenda of the deep state will remain in effect regardless. In other words, the president is really nothing but a puppet. But perhaps there’s more to it than that.
If you watch the video of his press conference of this past Wednesday–a joint press conference he gave with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg–clearly Trump is not enjoying himself. Maybe he simply has a personal dislike for Stoltenberg. It would be impossible, however, that he could be unaware of the fact that he is alienating people like Coulter. In any event, his behavior during the press conference is quite strange.
In fact, over the past two weeks or so Trump’s behavior has become so curious–on some levels almost bizarre–it is practically as if he has undergone some sort of demonic possession, although a perhaps a much more “earthly” explanation is the far-greater likelihood. My own guess: that someone has gotten to Trump, set him down, and “laid down the law” to him. That would be Jewish law, of course.
Trump may have acted with insufficient evidence as to whether the chemical weapons attack was actually the responsibility of Assad and the Syrian government. Would Syrian president Assad be foolish enough to launch a chemical attack against civilians, when a military response from the US would be possible, even likely? Peter Ford, a former UK ambassador to Syria, speaking on BBC Radio, said, “It doesn’t make sense that Assad would do it. Let’s not leave our brains outside the door when we examine evidence. It would be totally self-defeating as shown by the results… Assad is not mad.”
Critics of the US military response have suggested as a possible scenario for the chemical release in Idlib province that the Syrian government attack may have been a conventional bombing that exploded stored weapons in the possession of the Syrian rebels, which may have included chemical weapons.
Trump did not seek and obtain Congressional authorization for his act of war in attacking a Syrian Air Force base. Thus, the attack was illegal under US law. It is not the president’s prerogative to initiate attacks against sovereign nations without Congressional authorization. By acting without such Congressional authorization, Trump has placed himself and the presidency above the rule of law.
Trump did not seek and obtain authorization for his attack against Syria from the United Nations Security Council, as is required under international law. By failing to do so the US has put itself outside the boundaries of the UN Charter, which is also a part of US law, as well as other international law to which the US is bound.
Trump has further undermined US relations with Russia, and has harmed the chances of the US and Russia working cooperatively in resolving the Syrian conflict. Increased tensions between the US and Russia in Syria make conflict between these two nuclear powers more likely.
Trump has demonstrated to the world that in matters of war, as with tweeting, he is impulsive, shoots from the hip and is not constrained by US or international law. These characteristics are not generally accepted by other world leaders as being preferred qualities in a US president.
Trump’s impulsivity in ordering the attack sets a dangerous standard for someone in charge of the US nuclear arsenal. It demonstrates the extreme dangers of allowing a single individual to exercise control over a country’s nuclear arsenal.
Despite the illegality and inherent dangers of his military response, Trump seems to be getting a favorable response from the US media. Nearly all US mainstream media seems to have accepted the assumption that Assad was foolish enough to have launched a chemical attack, and have not questioned Assad’s responsibility for the chemical attack. It appears that neither the US government nor media have conducted a thorough investigation of responsibility for the chemical attack, which should have been done prior to a military response.
Referring to Trump’s ordering the missile strikes against Syria the evening before, a fawning Fareed Zakaria stated, “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night. I think this was actually a big moment.” Given Trump’s narcissism, this is the kind of positive response that is likely to keep him returning to impulsive and illegal uses of military force.
For his violations of US and international law in attacking Syria with 59 cruise missiles, it is highly likely that Trump will also be rewarded by the American people with an upward bump in his current ground-level job-approval rating. Too many Americans tend to like their presidents to be fast on the draw and follow the pattern of Ready, Fire, Aim.
In 2016 Donald Trump turned the political world upside down, and not just because his victory prevailed against conventional wisdom. Trump claimed to want a new direction in foreign policy. Gone would be the trade deals that sent American workers on a race to an endless bottom. He said that he wanted a new relationship with Russia and felt that the two countries might become partners in a war against terrorism. This terrorism resulted from the United States reliance on jihadists in order to effect regime change. While Hillary Clinton was an openly provocative war hawk, Trump gave an impression of wanting change.
But his attack on a Syrian airfield shows adherence to the worst of United States foreign policy tradition. In less than one week the Trump administration went from saying that “Assad’s fate will be decided by the Syrian people,” and “Our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out” to parroting Obama’s mantra that “Assad must go.” Vladimir Putin had already dispensed with calling the United States “our American partners.” He suspended Russia’s participation in an air safety agreement between the two countries. The likelihood of unintended consequence is now higher.
Trump was accused of being under Russian influence throughout the campaign and after his inauguration. Democrats used the charge to divert attention from their electoral failures, weaken the new president and force him to join the war party. They were determined to maintain foreign policy continuity and crush any nation that insisted on exercising sovereignty in the face of American attempts at full hegemony. They were also determined to crush Trump if he didn’t go along with their plans for a new American century.
The attack on the new president was unprecedented. After less than three months in office he was threatened with a severely damaged administration or impeachment. The Democrat’s vitriol had nothing to do with judicial appointments, deregulation of environmental protections or civil rights retreats back to the days of Jim Crow segregation. None of the issues which concern their base of supporters are the cause of their opposition. The fight was all about his willingness to carry on the drive for imperialism and the attempt to bring about regime change in Syria and in Russia too.
Years of demonizing Russia and president Vladimir Putin have had the desired impact. Democrats began by invoking the language of right wing discourse and endlessly repeated assertions of intelligence agencies. They are now praising him for bringing the world to the brink. Only one Democratic member of congress, Tulsi Gabbard, has dared to question the veracity of claims that the Syrian government used chemical weapons. The rest either heartily commend Trump or waffle by asking whether he should have asked for permission that they would surely have given.
The anti-war movement is weak, nearly killed off by the marketing that made Barack Obama look like a peace candidate. The U.S. Navy heads to Korea to threaten the DPRK which correctly points out that America’s aggressions force them to seek nuclear capability as a means of self-defense.
Syria is a living hell for millions of people because Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton wanted another notch on their regime change guns. Refugees flee from Libya and Syria because of their state sponsored terrorism. Trump is now making good on what his predecessors thought they could get away with easily when they began their plot in 2011.
In attacking Syria Trump upped the ante, bringing the world closer to war than even Obama did, and Democrats are praising him for it. The New York Times and the Washington Post both repeat lies about Assad and Putin and laud the man they disregarded just two weeks ago.
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both support his actions in Syria. Sanders says, “We must get rid of Assad.” He proves himself to be a phony progressive, supporting the empire while claiming there is some difference between himself and his once and future rival.
Trump is still bringing out all of the contradictions in America at this stage of disintegration and crisis. He is certainly no match for the neo-cons, who had no intention of moving backwards from their Obama glory days. Republicans like Lindsay Graham and John McCain talk of “boots on the ground” and corporate media talking head Brian Williams says that deadly bombs are “beautiful.”
And what of the resistance? The pink pussy hat wearers and their ilk? They too approve of an American hegemon willing to kill at the first sign of a propaganda lie. They aren’t resisting anything at all. Angela Merkel and Justin Trudeau have backed Trump too. If we didn’t know before, we now know who the imperialists are in this country and around the world.
The peace movement has an uphill climb. The demonization of Russia and Syria and the skillful manipulation of public opinion will make the work difficult. But someone must be willing to resist Trump and the Democrats too. Hillary Clinton was a threat to world peace but her electoral defeat did not mean the end of neocon dreams perpetrated by Democrats, Republicans and the corporate media.
The struggle is always the same. Presidents may be Democrats or Republicans. They may say they want to change foreign policy. But bloodshed persists. The fights against it must be equally relentless.
Margaret Kimberley can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.
Secretary of State Tillerson Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Moscow was supposed to prepare the way for a Trump-Putin summit either as a self-standing event or on the sidelines of the next G-20 meeting in Germany. The hope was that the summit would consolidate the turn toward normalization of relations that President Trump had promised in his electoral campaign.
But the 180-degree reversal in the foreign policy of the Trump administration marked by the launch of a missile strike on Syria last week changed the expectations for Tillerson’s visit dramatically, to the point that one of the most widely respected Russian political observers, Director of the Near East Institute Yevgeny Satanovsky, questioned why Tillerson’s visit is still on.
“It is not clear why Tillerson is coming,” Satanovsky said. “There is no reason at all for him to be received by Putin. Maybe it’s enough for him to talk to Maria Zakharova [spokeswoman of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs], perhaps with [Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov.”
Satanovsky’s pessimism was largely shared by other experts and officials who appeared on the most popular Russian TV news programs, including the talk shows Sixty Minutes, Evening and Sunday Evening with Vladimir Solovyov, News on Saturday with Sergey Brillyov, and News of the Week with Dmitry Kiselyov. Always popular with their Russian audiences, these shows drew in remarkably high visitor rates on the internet as posted on youtube.com, between a quarter million and half a million visits each.
Following President Trump’s missile strike on a Syrian air base on April 6, pressure grew on President Putin to respond with his own muscle-flexing. However, the Kremlin’s immediate response was restrained. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs simply announced the suspension of the 2015 Memorandum of Understanding with the United States on deconfliction. That agreement put in place communications channels within the region and rules for conduct meant to prevent and/or resolve incidents between the Russian and U.S.-led coalition forces operating in Syria.
By the evening of April 7, the popular Russian state television talk show Sixty Minutes informed its audience about two essential facts regarding the U.S. missile strike. First, the level of damage inflicted on the Syrian air base at Shayrat turned out to be minimal, totally out of keeping with what one might have anticipated from 59 Tomahawks launched by U.S. naval vessels in the Mediterranean.
Rossiya 1 war correspondent Yevgeny Poddubny presented footage he and his camera crew had taken at Shayrat just hours after the strike. It was clear that the landing strip itself was undamaged, that many hangars were similarly intact, and that the structural losses were limited to six out-of-date MIG23s that were being reconditioned and to some roadways and buildings of minor significance. The report also noted that a relatively small number of Syrian military personnel and civilians were killed and wounded.
Poddubny noted that not all of the cruise missiles seemed to have reached the target. Later news broadcasts clarified that only 23 of the 59 Tomahawks reached Shayrat.
The second fact, which tempered Russian anger about the attack, was news that the United States had given two hours advance warning to the Russians. This would have enabled them to withdraw any of their military personnel on the site and to avoid casualties that would call for retribution and spark a direct military confrontation.
But if the sting of the attack and its anti-Russian message were attenuated, there was from the outset some confusion among Official Russia over what message the strike was intended to deliver and to whom. There was also a great deal of interest in exploring the reasons for Donald Trump’s policy reversal on Syria and on Russia and interest in identifying the influencers behind the move so as to better understand what might come next and what to do about that.
Already in Sixty Minutes, the first authoritative view on what happened was put forward by Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party. For political reasons, i.e., policy disagreements with the current government, Zyuganov is a rare guest on Rossiya 1 and was likely invited on to rally unity among the Russian people in the face of the new threats and dangers coming from Washington.
His reading of Trump’s TV appearance announcing the missile strike was that the President looked “broken,” now in the thrall of the mafia that had been running the U.S. before his accession to power. Zyuganov noted that for once Trump was reading his text from a teleprompter and his voice seemed to be unsteady, highly emotional.
What Drove Trump
The discussion of what motivated Trump to act on Syria expanded later in the evening on a special edition of the Vladimir Solovyov talk show. The microphone was offered first to Vyacheslav Nikonov, chairman of the Duma Committee on Education who is better known in international circles for his years at the head of the NGO Russian World, sponsors of the Russian diaspora.
Since the U.S. presidential election in November 2016, Nikonov has appeared regularly on Rossiya 1 as a consistent advocate of Donald Trump in the expectation of very positive changes in U.S. foreign policy. But he was now caught out.
Nikonov said Trump was responding to popular outrage over pictures of children gassed to death that were featured on U.S. mass media so it appeared to Americans that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was poisoning his own people. However, if the villain in the piece was the media for an exploitative presentation, Nikonov acknowledged that there were aspects that were more generally disturbing, in particular, that Russian servicemen could have been on the base under attack. It seemed as if the right hand in America did not know what the left was doing and these contradictions do not bode well.
Igor Morozov, member of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs, reminded the Solovyov audience that the idea of attacking Syrian military infrastructure was not something dreamed up at the last second by the Trump administration. Its author was General James Mattis when he was U.S. Commander in the Middle East in 2013 and was removed for promoting policies that contradicted President Obama’s desire to withdraw from war operations in the region, taking down the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now Mattis is the Secretary of Defense and the cruise missile attack on the Shayrat air force base comes from his playbook.
In News on Saturday, host Sergey Brilyov remarked how ineffective the U.S. missile strike was in military terms, suggesting that it must be seen as a “signal” And that raised the question of a signal to whom? By process of exclusion, Brilyov recommended to his audience two possible addressees: China and the United States itself.
For Chinese President Xi, news of the American strike on Syria was delivered by Trump in the course of the state visit at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida. The blunt warning was that if Xi does not help to rein in the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, the United States would act on its own as it had just done in Syria.
But in Brilyov’s view the more important audience for Trump’s gesture was within the United States, within the political establishment, where he was fighting a desperate rearguard battle for his domestic policies against resistance from both hardline Republicans opposed to his foreign policy objectives and the whole of the Democratic Party.
Dmitry Kiselyov, Russia’s most senior news presenter, characterized Trump as a “tabula rasa,” without any experience in international politics who was now using America’s vast military potential to create a very dangerous situation. On his News of the Week program on Sunday evening, Kiselyov featured war correspondent Yevgeny Poddubny reporting again from the Shayrat air base and explaining how it was once again operational.
Poddubny also showed off the piles of canisters at the base which appeared in previous telecasts from the air field and were claimed by some Western media to represent the chemical warfare munitions stored there by the Assad regime. He carefully explained that these containers are standard issue and are used to load all kinds of munitions onto fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, so that they have no relation whatsoever to chemical weapons which were nowhere to be seen at the base.
Kiselyov detailed at length the about-face of U.S. foreign policy on Syrian “regime change” and the reversal on efforts to join with Russia to fight terrorism. Now, objectively, the United States was fighting on the side of the terrorists. All of this meant that Trump would fail as a “deal maker” with Russia, that it was improbable he could patch things up with Russia.
Kiselyov called the U.S. President’s action “impulsive” and unsupported by facts. It was done in the context of U.S. domestic political warfare. Trump’s entourage was changing, with strategic political adviser Steve Bannon being shunted to one side and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner rising in prominence.
Kiselyov reserved special scorn for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nicki Haley. He pulled up on screen both her accusations against Assad and the riposte from Russia’s Deputy Ambassador to the U.N. Vladimir Safronkov that the United States was afraid of an independent investigation into the chemical incident in Idlib because it would not support their narrative.
Kiselyov concluded his reportage on the U.S. attack with harsh words, condemning what he called a prima facie case of U.S. aggression. It was not a reaction to any concrete event but was taken “due to the total failure of Donald Trump’s policies at home.”
But he said Russia would react with reason and caution: “It is clear no one intends to declare war on the U.S. But we cannot let this whole affair pass without practical response.”
Specifically, he called for the U.N. Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to investigate the situation in Syria. They are the people who oversaw the removal and destruction of Assad’s chemical arsenal and production facilities, for which they won a Nobel Prize for Peace. Now they should be put back to work, he said.
Finally, Kiselyov ran a short interview with Yevgeny Satanovsky that summed up nicely the thinking of his peers: “All U.S. foreign policy actions are based on domestic political considerations. That is why they are so idiotic.”
The discussion of Trump’s missile strike continued on the Sunday Evening show of Vladimir Solovyov. After pointing to rumors of U.S. plans to destroy the North Korean regime with a similar attack, the host kicked off the discussion with a neat summary for his panel of how the U.S. is approaching world governance today: “The U.S. by itself decides which countries can exist, which cannot; which leaders will rule and who must be liquidated. The U.N. Security Council is not needed. The U.S. decides on its own what to do.”
A Cornered Trump
Alexei Pushkov, who was until September 2016 the chairman of the Duma Committee on Foreign Relations and is now chairman of the upper chamber’s Committee on Information, delivered a programmatic statement to explain what he believed happened:
“Trump is operating in a specific set of circumstances. The harder it is for the U.S. to manage the world, the more it tends to throw international rules to the wind. Trump has little opportunity to escape from the existing policies.
“The key question [regarding the chemical gas event at Idlib]: why would Assad use chemical weapons against this small town? He is winning the war. No one in the West has asked this question. Whose interests were served by this chemical event? It is good for American hawks, for [Sen. John] McCain, for the neighboring states which want to overthrow Assad. But it holds no advantages for Assad.
“We have not long ago heard [former National Security Adviser] Susan Rice and [former Secretary of State] John Kerry say that all of Assad’s chemical weapons were destroyed. So where did Assad get these bombs?
“Per The New York Post, Tillerson is coming to Moscow to deliver an ultimatum on removal of Assad. If he comes here with an ultimatum, then the talks will head into a dead end. The experience of the last three years shows that the language of ultimatum does not work with Russia.”
The microphone was then turned over to Yevgeny Satanovsky, a leading expert on the Near East who was more specific in his recommendations on what Russia must do now:
–Clean up the province of Idlib, or at least the city of Idlib, driving out the Al Qaeda fighters who are now installed there so that an independent investigation can begin into what happened leading to the poison gas deaths.
–Since the U.S. clearly wants to take the Assad government’s sole remaining enclave in Eastern Syria at Dar Ezzor and turn it over to the terrorists, Russia must do its best now to break the blockade there.
–Tillerson must be approached very carefully. See whether he has come to negotiate or just to conclude with a press conference at which he tells the media that Russia is hopeless, that the U.S. cannot work with Moscow, and that the U.S. will now deal with North Korea and everywhere else on its own.
Among the other panelists on the Sunday Evening show, retired Lt. General Yevgeny Buzhinsky dealt with the question of the forewarning which the Russians received from the United States before the missile launch, saying:
“Trump is sitting on two stools. This is very sad. Yes, the U.S. gave us one and a half hours, maybe two hours of advance warning of the attack. But how?
“There are several lines of communication between us. There is a Chief of General Staff to Chief of General Staff line, which is very fast. This was not used. Instead they used a line of communications set up by the 2015 Deconfliction Memorandum of Understanding, at the regional level, between Americans in Jordan and Russians in Syria.
“The message on the impending attack was sent to the U.S. command in Jordan in the middle of the night and the duty officer was in no rush to forward it to his Russian counterpart in Syria. The duty officer there sent it to Moscow, to the Ministry of Defense, which also did not rush to respond or to pass the message to the Syrians. Net result: the two hours was barely enough for the Russians to take necessary precautionary measures. The Russian Ministry was furious.”
No doubt this explains why the first Russian reaction to the whole affair was to suspend the Deconfliction Memorandum.
The Chemical Canard
Yakov Kedmi, another panelist on Skype from Tel Aviv, offered insights into why the allegations of a Syrian government chemical weapon attack was nothing more than a canard, an unfounded rumor.
Kedmi is a former Soviet citizen, one of the first Soviet Jews to demand and finally receive permission to leave the country for Israel at the end of the 1970s. In Israel he joined the intelligence services where he had a full career. Until three years ago, he was persona non grata in Russia but has since established a niche on Russian television as a valued expert on Middle East security questions.
“What is strange here is that if the Syrians used this [air] base to attack Idlib with chemical weapons, then there should be a bunker of such weapons at the base. That would be very easy to detect using the intelligence means available – satellite images, drones, etc.
“Israel follows all movements of munitions to and in Syria going to Hezbollah. We know which trucks are carrying what and where. The United States surely knows the same about what interests it. Yet when speaking of the attack on the base the Americans did not identify any bunker or location for such weapons. Supposedly they are still looking. This shows it is a canard.
“As for the Israeli government, they say Amen to whatever stupidities the Americans say. That is the situation in our country.”
Overall, Official Russia seems to have calmly adopted the cynical interpretation that Donald Trump bombed the Syrian air base on the basis of a manufactured pretext in order to gain the upper hand in his bitter fight with hardline Republicans and the entire Democratic Party over Russia-gate and to advance his domestic political agenda.
If this interpretation is true and is eventually revealed to the American people, they are not likely to appreciate Trump’s cynicism. If he launched a missile attack on Syria based on a lie, Trump would have squandered his political capital with those who voted for him and for his promised pro-détente foreign policy. It is now improbable that he will win them back.
At the same time, Trump has not shed for long the dogs that have been snarling and nipping at his heels. Already Sen. McCain has blamed the supposed chemical attack on Trump’s earlier repudiation of “regime change” in Syria.
Donald Trump’s moral standing was never very high, even among his supporters. But the recruitment of former Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson was seen as a victory for decency. Tillerson’s prepared remarks delivered at the opening of his confirmation hearings were crystal clear and bracing. He alluded to his training as an engineer who always followed the facts where they led him.
However, by loyally carrying the water for his boss on the alleged Syrian chemical attack, Tillerson has also damaged his credibility, drawing comparisons to Secretary of State Colin Powell who presented President George W. Bush’s bogus case for invading Iraq to the United Nations.
Patently, in this current matter of state importance, indeed a matter that bears on war and peace, Tillerson did nothing to establish the facts. Now, he brings his tattered credibility to Moscow where he will face Russian officials who no longer believe that they can trust the Trump administration.
Gilbert Doctorow is a Brussels-based political analyst. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015.
A world in turmoil, thank you Mr. Trump!
The real Donald Trump has been exposed. The man who promised a sensible and non-interventionist Middle Eastern policy and a reset with Moscow has now reneged on both pledges. His nitwit United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has directly linked Russia and Syria for punishment by the omnipotent Leader of the Free World lest anyone be confused.
The unconscionable attack on Syria based on the usual unsubstantiated allegations has shifted the playing field dramatically, with the “new sheriff in town” apparently intent on proving he is a real man who can play hardball with the rest of them. Last week Syria was blamed by all and sundry in the Establishment for an alleged chemical weapons attack just two days after the White House backed away from the Obama Administration demand that President Bashar al-Assad be removed. Was Syria dumb enough to use chemical weapons in a war that it is winning at a point when the overt hostility from Washington had been ratcheted down? Or was it staged by the so-called rebels?
And who benefits from weakening al-Assad of Syria? ISIS and al-Qaeda. Now that Trump has the bit between his teeth on how abysmal approval ratings can skyrocket if one starts a war, look forward to more of the same with my sources telling me that establishment a no-fly zone is currently being discussed in the Pentagon. A no-fly zone would be toe-to-toe with the Russkies to see who would blink first.
Meanwhile an aircraft carrier battle group is making its way to confront North Korea, which is being warned with the good old “all options are on the table” rhetoric which will almost certainly produce a schizophrenic result of some kind. If I were a resident of Seoul I would be moving out of the city tout suite as it is within range of Pyongyang’s massed heavy artillery batteries along the DMZ.
Trump, regarded by many including myself as the sensible “peace candidate,” appears to be preparing to engage militarily on multiple fronts worldwide. And things are particularly heating up in the Middle East and South Asia. More U.S. troops are being deployed to Iraq and also to Syria, in that latter case without any invitation from Damascus or legal justification or even a phony United Nations mandate, and thousands more soldiers will be returning to Afghanistan to “stabilize” the situation. Meanwhile Yemen continues to suffer as the U.S. supports Saudi aggression.
And it doesn’t help to look for enlightenment from the cheerleading Fourth Estate, which has been completely coopted by the Establishment point of view. In the eyes of the mainstream media the Syria narrative is all about the evils of its government which Washington is now pledging to remove. Russia meanwhile is indicted without evidence for trying to overthrow our democratic system and the recent terrorist attack in St. Petersburg would have been reported more extensively but for the fact that those Soviet holdovers probably deserved it. No one is asking why the United States should believe itself to be empowered to intervene anywhere unless it is actually being directly and seriously threatened by some other nation.
So it is all a mess, largely of our own creation due to our tendency to get involved in places regarding which we know nothing and could really care less about. And by supplementing all of that with our inclination to believe in the myth of our national Exceptionalism as a genuine force for good, you wind up with a witch’s brew that has fueled anti-Americanism worldwide, led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and emptied our treasury. Ambassador Chas Freeman has aptly perceived the U.S. government as the “foreign relations equivalent of a sociopath – a country indifferent to the rules, the consequences for others of its ignoring them, and the reliability of its word.”
As bad as that all seems, if I had to pick one place where our inability to discern right from wrong is likely to lead to the next major armed conflict, i.e. a real war, in fairly short order it would have to be Iran. The recent increase in tension between Washington and Tehran combined with the lack of any diplomatic dialogue mean that an actual shooting war might now be a “false flag,” fake intelligence report, or accidental naval encounter away. And once things start to sour, no one would stand up and say “Stop!” as the Trump Administration, Democrats, Republicans and the media all hate Iran.
I have long viewed this visceral hatred of Iran on the part of many Americans as a byproduct of the Iranian revolution and the occupation of the U.S. Embassy. Revolutionary Iran became overnight the dangerous “other,” a source of nightmares for the Washington Establishment. During my time in government, when the hostage taking at the embassy was still fresh, hating Iranians was almost a requirement in the national security community. More recently, Israel and its supporters have used Iran as a punching bag to maintain the myth that the Jewish State is existentially menaced by Tehran and its minions in the region. Being threatened in a serious way insures that the money tap from the U.S. Treasury will continue to be open and it also justifies many of Israel’s other transgressions as it chooses to portray itself as a nation under siege, ever the victim. More recently Saudi Arabia has jumped onto pretty much the same Iran band wagon, blaming Iran for all regional problems and providing justification for the ongoing slaughter in Yemen.
All of that is understandable enough, so far as it goes, but the generation of government officials who were around during the Iran hostage crisis is now retired, while the pleas of Israel and Saudi Arabia are generally best received while holding one’s nose if one has even a basic understanding of what is going on in the Middle East. But that would require some ability to establish a reasonable perspective on what is taking place and what is particularly disturbing is that some people in the government hierarchy who should know better apparently are just as delusional as some junior straight out of college scribbler for The Washington Post.
During his campaign Donald Trump repeatedly denounced the Iran Nuclear Agreement, to my mind one of only two foreign policy accomplishments of the outgoing Obama Administration. Trump said he would tear the agreement up and require Tehran to come up with something better “or else.” He has since backed off the tear-up theme, but has unfortunately appointed to high office a group of former military officers who appear to have swallowed the Iran-as-threat proposition hook-line-and-sinker.
There are some similarities between what is happening with Iran and what has been going on with Russia. Russia, it is being claimed, has been responsible for hundreds military intrusions that required a response from NATO in the Baltic. But Russia borders on the Baltic and it is part of its territorial waters, so what is really being said is that Moscow is operating in and around its own maritime coastal zone and it is NATO that is responded to as if it were a threat. Similarly, Iran, which sits on top of the Straits of Hormuz is accused of being aggressive when its small boats patrol in and around its coastal waters. It is the American Sixth Fleet that is the out of region intruder. Both Iran and Russia are being subjected to Washington’s belief that its writ runs worldwide and that it has a right to be the hegemon wherever it seeks to plant the flag.
I first encountered the Iran-as-threat crowd back in December 2015 when I listened in disbelief to a rambling speech by retired General Michael Flynn in Moscow. Ignoring the fact that Iran cannot actually threaten the United States or any genuine vital national interests, Flynn explained his concept of 21st century geo-political-economic strategy. At the time, I knew little about Flynn and his views, but I was particularly taken aback by a random shot he took at the Iranians, stating very clearly that they were responsible for “fueling four proxy wars in the Middle East.” He was presumably referring to Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen. The audience, which included a number of international journalists and genuine foreign-policy experts, became somewhat restless and began to mutter. Two minutes later, Flynn returned to the theme, mentioning the “terrible nuclear deal with Iran.”
Later, in December, Donald Trump’s then national-security adviser Michael Flynn, “officially” put Iran “on notice” while declaring that “The Trump Administration will no longer tolerate Iran’s provocations that threaten our interests. The days of turning a blind eye to Iran’s hostile and belligerent actions toward the United States and the world community are over.” He did not elaborate on what those “actions” were.
Trumps’ Pentagon Chief General James Mattis and his new National Security Adviser Lt. General H.R. McMaster have also taken shots at Iran, making clear their own assessments that Tehran constitutes a major threat both regionally and against the United States. But the most recent diatribe by an American General against Iran is perhaps one of the oddest indictments of that country. It came in a briefing provided by Army General Joseph Votel, Commander of the U.S. Central Command. Votel was testifying before the House Armed Services Committee regarding security issues relating to the greater Middle East. Votel told the congressmen, who were of course delighted to hear bad things about the Mullahs, that Iran is “one of the greatest threats to the U.S. today” and that it has increased its “destabilizing role” in the entire region.
How Iran, with its miniscule defense budget and complete inability to project power greatly threatens the United States has to remain a mystery, though Votel provided some elaboration. He said that Iran operates in “a gray area… just short of open conflict.” Per the general, Iran engages in “lethal aid facilitation,” uses “surrogate forces” and carries out cyber attacks. He also cited Iranian small boats harassing incidents involving U.S. warships, some of which “could be considered ‘unprofessional’ or ‘unsafe.’” Put it all together and Iran is “the greatest long-term threat to stability” for the entire Middle East. Votel then advocated disrupting Iran “through military means or other means.”
One has to ask if Votel or the congressmen cheering him on are mentally defective. I was a bit thrown by the Pentagonese expression “lethal aid facilitation,” but it must mean supplying weapons to Syria and other Iranian allies. Some congressman who had not had his brain phasered should have asked Votel if his indictment of Iran wasn’t for doing precisely what the United States has been doing only orders of magnitude greater. The United States arms the entire region and also provides lethal weapons to so-called rebels in Syria. And those rebels are U.S. surrogates, are they not? And as for cyber attacks, no one is better at it than the United States and its good buddy Israel. Does Stuxnet ring a bell? And what is the Sixth Fleet doing in the Persian Gulf in any event? Send the ships home and there won’t be any “incidents” involving Iranian speedboats.
Iran’s government admittedly is not to everyone’s liking for good reasons, but the country itself is only the enemy because we have been making it happen after empowering it’s government in the first place by bringing down Saddam Hussein. Iran’s own perspective appears to have evaded American critics. It is a country surrounded by enemies, constantly threatened, which views its relations with its few friends in Syria and Lebanon as defensive measures. I am accustomed to seeing and hearing nasty things about the Mullahs, but they usually come from Israeli and Saudi partisans who persist in falsely describing the Iranians as a global threat. It is in their interest to do so, and many pliable American politicians and media talking heads have picked up the refrain, so much so that a U.S. attack on Iran would likely be endorsed overwhelmingly by Congress and applauded in the media. The danger here is that there is a groupthink about Iran and war could happen in a heartbeat if someone does or says something really dumb to trigger it. Votel sounds stupid enough to do just that.
It seems Donald Trump was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. If he had not responded to the recent chemical attacks in Syria-whether they were at the behest of Assad or not-he would have been considered as callous, insensitive, and completely at line with the public bogeyman image most of the media enjoys perpetuating.
Then there was the option which he has taken, to fight back, which now paints him as a neo-con warmonger, happy to kowtow to the whims of the Saudis and Wahabists that seeks to encircle the strategic geopolitical land, air and sea mass surrounding Syria and to heighten the game of brinkmanship with Iran that it is set upon.
The move has also put to bed (though probably not for some) the assertion that Trump is Putin’s comrade in arms.
But is Trump striking the right enemy, or just the one Saudi Arabia gleefully wants him to? The investigation team, led by Swedish scientist Dr. Åke Sellström, concludes in particular that the environmental, chemical and medical samples collected [in 2013] provide “clear and convincing evidence” that surface-to-surface rockets containing the chemical weapons including nerve agent Sarin, were used. We know for a fact that it is the rebels (the head chopping moderates) who are using surface to surface rockets, not necessarily just the government.
Then there is the applause meted out by the British government in the wake of these strikes. The British people were misled regarding WMD’s in Iraq and the value of bombing Libya. After those terrible events, there should be a very high level of proof before we become involved in foreign military interventions. Where is the irrefutable proof that chemical weapons were used?
It makes no sense for Assad to use WMD when his forces are clearly winning. With the backing of Russia and Iran, Assad has no need for WMD and gains nothing from their use. However fabricating a chemical attack is of propaganda value to ISIS and other opposition forces.
Trump’s attack will certainly not help innocent Syrian civilians but does enable him to demonstrate his power to both Russia and China. Yet at the same time Trump is doing exactly what Trump said he would do and would even be bullied to do in the wake of moral justifications to act.
Supporters on the right-wing have criticised Trump for the missile strike. There is outrage and confusion. Trump has gone against his campaign pledge not to meddle in Syria. This presidency was elected on an isolationist platform.
66% of voters (2,500 votes cast) on the Alex Jones website are against the missile strike. These are the most vehement, hardcore, gun-toting Trump supporters.
All sides of the political spectrum are having to adjust to this abrupt change in Trump’s foreign policy, and a breach of his election campaign pledge. Just two months into his presidency, Trump’s supporters are beginning to think that Trump is not their man, that he has become the Swamp. A bit late for buyer’s remorse, perhaps.
The attack was reckless only in how it was as the result of a snap judgement, behaving outside international rules and laws. An attack that militarily achieves nothing but only a temporary restrain of Assad from using the alleged “chemical weapons”. For that matter, obviously the threats of the past did not work and this attack (by the way, well communicated in advance to avoid hurting Putin) will be of short effect too. The showing of disrespect to international bodies and alliances weakens any concerted pressure developed countries could make to settle political agreements between the factions and contain the barbarism.
The criminal intent, actions and disastrous results in the Iraq adventure that the US and UK started in 2003 is well known and one can only conclude that global takfiri terrorism was and is profiting massively, as well as the global military industry from this geopolitical piracy.
Believing or stating ‘the west’ has noble intentions and defends humanitarian values is denying all the evidence of the contrary and yet Trump was made to act by a public that demanded blood in the wake of the pictures that emerged.
In this case the bombing by the US of Syrian government targets is an act of war based on propaganda and prejudiced interpretations. The consequences of this kind of behaviour, mostly bringing tactical and strategic profit to global extremists and terrorists, is well known.
The lessons of the past are not learned, ignored, or simply overruled by the same old insane logic that caused Afghanistan to become the birthplace of Al Qaeda and Iraq the birthplace of ISIS and Libya a permanent base of lawlessness and global terrorism.
The near future in the middle east is uncertain. Apart from the measures that Russia and its allies will take, the sectarian divisions will only rage and so well will increased radicalisation. Trump has to be more open about his foreign policy to be able to walk with the least risk in the quagmire of the region and to justify himself to the main religious factions in the Middle East.
The problem we have here are the war scavengers who have supported Hillary Clinton, who said she would bomb all of Syria yesterday. Trump is naive in foreign policy, but a genius in diversion and marketing himself, who saw an opportunity to divert attention from his failures, and move his polls back up. Any military action by the US gets the cheerleaders to come out of their hibernation. That is exactly what is going on now. Trump’s regime has broken both international law and US domestic law/constitution by attacking another country without provocation. There is no authority for him to bomb the Syrian government, but Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are both supportive of Trump.
The corporate owned, government dictated US media are devotedly supporting the nonsense as well, with little attention being paid to how this single act is jeopardizing, US national security, and prolonging misery of the Syrian people.
Donald Trump entered military terra incognita on Thursday by launching an illegal Tomahawk missile strike on an air base in eastern Syria. Beyond the clear violation of international law, the practical results are likely to be disastrous, drawing the U.S. deeper into the Syrian quagmire.
But it would be a mistake to focus all the criticism on Trump. Not only are Democrats also at fault, but a good argument could be made that they bear even greater responsibility.
For years, near-total unanimity has reigned on Capitol Hill concerning America’s latest villains du jour, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Congressmen, senators, think-tank strategists, and op-ed analysts all have agreed that Putin and Assad are the prime enemies of “peace,” by which is meant global American hegemony, and that therefore the U.S. must stop at nothing to weaken or neutralize them or force them to exit the world stage.
Until recently, in fact, just about the only politically significant dissenter was Trump. Accusing reporters of twisting the news at a tumultuous press conference in late February, he told them, “Now tomorrow, you’ll say, ‘Donald Trump wants to get along with Russia, this is terrible.’ It’s not terrible. It’s good.”
But since getting along with Russia was terrible for America’s perpetually bellicose foreign-policy establishment, Official Washington declared war on Trump, building on Hillary Clinton’s charge during the last presidential debate that he was Putin’s “puppet.” It became the conventional wisdom that Trump was a “Siberian candidate” being inserted in the White House by a satanic Kremlin determined to bend freedom-loving Americans to its will.
As Inauguration Day approached, President Obama’s intelligence chiefs pulled out all stops to persuade the public that (a) Russian intelligence had engineered Clinton’s defeat by hacking the Democratic National Committee’s computers and placing thousands of embarrassing emails in the hands of WikiLeaks and that (b) Trump was somehow complicit in the effort.
The campaign was highly effective. The alleged Putin-Trump relationship was a major feature at the anti-Trump protests surrounding his inauguration and the major U.S. news media pounded on the Russia “scandal” daily.
On Feb. 13, barely four weeks after taking office, Trump crumbled under a mounting barrage of political abuse and gave National Security Adviser Michael Flynn the boot after it was revealed that he had talked with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition, supposedly in violation of the 1799 Logan Act, an absurd piece of ancient legislation that even The New York Times referred to as “a dusty, old law” that should have been repealed generations ago.
Under Media Pressure
A day later, the administration reeled again when the Times charged in a front-page exposé that “members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.”
The article provided no evidence and no names and said nothing about whether such contacts were knowing or unknowing, i.e., whether they involved a John le Carré-style midnight rendezvous or merely an exchange of pleasantries with someone who may or may not have been connected to the FSB, as Russia’s version of the CIA is known.
In a March 6 article entitled “Pause This Presidency,” Times columnist Charles M. Blow called for little less than a coup d’état: “The American people must immediately demand a cessation of all consequential actions by this ‘president’ until we can be assured that Russian efforts to hack our election … did not also include collusion with or cover-up by anyone involved in the Trump campaign and now administration.”
How “the American people” would demand such a cessation or who would provide such assurances was not specified.
On March 31, CNN quoted an unnamed senior administration official saying that Trump’s hopes of a rapprochement with Russia were fading because he “believes in the current atmosphere – with so much media scrutiny and ongoing probes into Trump-Russia ties and election meddling – that it won’t be possible to ‘make a deal.’”
Thus, Trump found himself increasingly boxed in by hostile forces. But he still tried to fulfill his promise to concentrate on defeating terrorists in Syria and Iraq. On March 30, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced that the U.S. administration “priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out,” but to concentrate on defeating Al Qaeda and ISIS instead.
But the more Trump contemplated his predicament in the following days, the more he realized how untenable it had come. Tuesday’s poison-gas incident in Idlib thus offered a way out regardless of who was actually responsible. The only way for Trump to make peace with the “deep state” in Washington was by waging war on Syria.
Finally, on Thursday, hours before Trump sent a volley of cruise missiles wafting towards Syria, Hillary Clinton taunted him by declaring that America “should take out his [Assad’s] airfields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people.” The effect was to all but force Trump to show that he was every bit as macho as the former First Lady.
Trump is certainly a fool for going ahead with such an attack in clear contravention of international law and entangling the United States more deeply into the complicated Syrian conflict. But the blame also should go to the people who frog-marched him to the precipice and then all but commanded him to step over the edge.
Within hours, all the usual suspects were congratulating one of the most scorned U.S. presidents in history for taking the leap.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said: “Making sure Assad knows that when he commits such despicable atrocities he will pay a price is the right thing to do.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi described Trump’s missile barrage as “a proportional response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons.”
Republican super-hawks Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, previously as anti-administration as any Democrat, issued a joint statement declaring that Trump “deserves the support of the American people,” while liberal heart-throb Sen. Elizabeth Warren also agreed that “the Syrian regime must be held accountable for this horrific act.”
The Guardian, as fiercely anti-Trump as it is anti-Putin and anti-Assad, conceded that “Donald Trump has made his point” and that the next step would be up to Russia. All in all, Trump had never gotten such good press. It’s clear that Official Washington was pleased with Trump’s handiwork and was eager to encourage him to do more.
But the missile barrage was not just an assault on Syria but on reason and good sense, too. Although the Washington Post’s Adam Taylor tried to make it seem that the only critics of the missile barrage are members of the alt-right “known for espousing racist, anti-Semitic and sexist points of view,” the fact is that criticism flowed in from other quarters.
At Alternet, Vijay Prashad pointed out that there were few independent observers in Khan Shaykhun, the farming town where the April 4 incident occurred, to provide an accurate account. Eyewitnesses “with the densest relationship to the armed opposition,” he wrote, “are the first to claim that this attack was done by the government.”
Consortiumnews’ Robert Parry pointed out that rather than dropping the gas themselves, Syrian or Russian warplanes could well have triggered an outbreak by bombing a facility containing “chemicals that the rebels were planning to use in some future attack.” Parry also noted that Al Qaeda, which controls Idlib province, could have “staged the incident to elicit precisely the international outrage directed at Assad as has occurred.”
[Previously, United Nations investigators have received eyewitness testimony from Syrians about rebels staging an alleged chlorine-bomb attack so it would be pinned on the Assad regime.]
Something similar may well have occurred in August 2013, a sarin-gas missile attack on the outskirts of Damascus that killed hundreds and that appears to have been launched from a rebel-controlled area two kilometers away. The two incidents are curiously parallel.
The August 2013 incident, which horrified the world and brought the Obama administration to the brink of its own attack on the Syrian government, occurred just days after a U.N. team had arrived in Damascus to investigate an alleged chemical attack by rebels against Syrian government troops some four months earlier.
It made little sense for the Assad regime to have invited U.N. investigators in and then launch a more horrific chemical-weapons attack just miles from the investigators’ hotel. It would be a bit like someone inviting a police inspector to dinner and then committing a murder in full view.
Not Making Sense
As one independent analysis noted in 2013, the Assad regime would have to have decided to carry out a large-scale attack “despite (a) making steady gains against rebel positions, (b) receiving a direct threat from the US that the use of chemical weapons would trigger intervention, (c) having constantly assured their Russian allies that they will not use such weapons, (d) prior to the attack, only using non-lethal chemicals and only against military targets.”
The Assad government would also have had to decide “to (a) send forces into rebel-held area, where they are exposed to sniper fire from multiple directions, (b) use locally manufactured short-range rockets, instead of any of the long-range high quality chemical weapons in their arsenal, and (c) use low quality sarin.”
All of which seems supremely unlikely, but much of the mainstream U.S. media still treats the 2013 sarin-gas attack as the undeniable case of Assad crossing Obama’s “red line” against using chemical weapons. And the highly dubious 2013 incident is cited as a key reason to believe that Assad has done it again. [Recently, The New York Times has quietly backed off the 2013 claims although not explicitly retracting its earlier reporting blaming the attack on the Assad regime.]
Assad would have possibly even stronger reasons not to deploy sarin gas on April 4, 2017. He would have to make a conscious decision to court world opprobrium at a time when the tide of the war was finally turning in his favor with the liberation of Aleppo last December and with most world leaders having concluded that the Assad regime was here to stay.
To have produced and deployed a sarin bomb would have meant deliberately risking military intervention more than three years after Syria reached an agreement with the United Nations to destroy its entire chemical-weapons stockpile so as to avoid … military intervention.
All of which seems supremely unlikely as well. It would be an act of suicide – and after holding off a combined U.S., Saudi, Qatari, and Turkish assault for half a decade or more, one thing that Assad does not appear to be is suicidal.
Although Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “there is no doubt in our mind that the Syrian regime under the leadership of Bashar al-Assad is responsible for this horrific attack,” in reality there is plenty of doubt.
Nevertheless, Trump decided to fire away before the facts were in because the enemy he is most worried about is not the one half a world away in Syria, but the Democratic-neocon alliance in his own backyard. The political warfare in Washington is now generating more agony from real wars in the Middle East.
My days of hoping for the best from Donald Trump – and at least appreciating the fact that he was not the neocon/liberal hawk that Hillary Clinton is – are over along with my hopes that he might implement his campaign promise and take U.S. foreign policy in a more positive, less warlike, direction.
From being possibly part of the solution, President Trump has become an integral part of the problem. And with his bigger-than-life ego, petulance and stubbornness, Commander-in-Chief Trump is potentially a greater threat to world peace than his weak-willed predecessor Barack Obama.
This week, Trump ignored Russian calls for an investigation into Tuesday’s alleged chemical gas attack in Idlib province before issuing hasty conclusions on culpability. Instead he accepted a narrative of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s guilt despite indications that the incident may have been either an accident (the release of poison gas at a damaged rebel warehouse) or a false-flag operation designed by Al Qaeda-affiliated rebels in Syria.
The Assad-did-it storyline was disseminated by the White Helmets and other phony NGOs that are financed by Washington and London, and that narrative was accepted by the White House. Without waiting for any comprehensive review, Trump ordered the firing of 50 or more Tomahawk missiles against a Syrian military air base in Homs province, thereby crossing all Russian “red lines” in Syria.
Until this point, the Kremlin had chosen not to react to signs coming from Washington that Trump’s determination to change course on Russia and U.S. global hegemony was failing. The wait-and-see posture antedated Trump’s accession to power when Russian President Vladimir Putin overruled the dictates of protocol and did not respond to Obama’s final salvo, the seizure of Russian diplomatic property in the U.S. and the eviction of Russian diplomats.
The Russians also looked the other way when the new administration continued the same neocon rhetoric from the tribune of the United Nations Security Council and during trips to Europe by Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson.
But the missile attack in Syria is a game-changer. The pressure on Putin to respond in some serious way will be immense. Putin has a cool mind and we may anticipate that the Russian response will come at a time of his choosing and in a manner that is appropriate to the seriousness of the U.S. offense. Look for a response by the end of the month.
In the meantime, we who have been hoping for a change of direction — for the rooting out of the neocons and liberal hawks at the heart of the Deep State — should recognize the dangers and the challenges ahead. One way or another, the White House must be told that arranging foreign policy moves out of purely domestic calculations, such as likely happened on Thursday, puts the nation’s very existence at risk.
Acting tough by striking out at Russia and its allies is not the way to form a coalition to pass a Republican tax bill or revive the repeal plans on Obamacare or divert attention from the Democrats’ obsessive investigations into Russia-gate. The same may be said of an alternative reading of the missile attack: that it was intended as a message to visiting Chinese President Xi that should there be no joint action to restrain North Korea, the United States will act alone and with total disregard for international law.
Either logic in the end is a formula for global suicide.
Gilbert Doctorow is a Brussels-based political analyst. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015. © Gilbert Doctorow, 2017
US President Donald Trump’s decision not focus on toppling Syrian President Bashar Assad marks the end of a 16-year-long master plan to effect regime change across the Middle East, former US Army Major Todd Pierce told Sputnik.
On Friday, White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said the United States should accept the political reality with respect to Assad and focus on eliminating Daesh, outlawed in Russia.
“The US policy going back to 2001 according to WikiLeaks has been the neoconservative fascist modeled plan of people like Richard Perle and Michael Ledeen to create the greatest chaos and catastrophe with the greatest human cost possible in Syria,” Pierce said on Friday.
The consistent US strategy to systematically destroy established governments across the entire Middle East region goes back to after the September 11, 2001, or 9/11 al-Qaeda attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in the United States, Pierce pointed out
Former NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark “revealed that immediately after 9/11, the Bush administration began to implement that plan with seven Mideast countries targeted for destruction, with Syria in line right behind Iraq,” Pierce said.
“That US policy was so successful in that diabolical purpose that we depopulated much of Syria with the people often having nowhere to go but to Europe, with that massive population shift to Europe in turn having consequences for European politics, as we have seen,” he stated.
Pierce said President Donald Trump should be applauded if he remained consistent in abandoning the strategy of systematically destabilizing and toppling Arab governments.
“If it is true that this fanatical militaristic scheme of the US government to target Assad for regime change is now to be considered in light of political reality, meaning to cease and desist [from] the war against Syria, the whole world should breathe a sigh of relief,” he said.
However, international opinion should also launch a campaign to bring the true architects of this program to trial at the International Court of Justice at The Hague in The Netherlands, Pierce insisted.
“They should also demand that the planners of this U.S. policy of human destruction be charged and tried as war criminals, as [former Serbian President] Slobodan Milosevic was,” he said.
Trump campaigned in the 2016 US presidential election on a policy of ending efforts to topple governments across the Middle East in the name of promoting agendas of democracy and human rights.