A Munich court has rejected a US soldier’s plea for asylum six years after his application was filed. The soldier deserted his post in southern Germany after being ordered to return to Iraq, where he feared he would be forced to take part in war crimes.
Andre Shepherd, 39, deserted his post at Katterbach Kaserne military base in southern Germany in 2007 after being told he would have to return to Iraq for a second tour. He claims he felt that he would be forced to take part in what he called “war crimes” if he did.
However, that excuse failed to hold up in court and the case was dismissed on Thursday, with presiding Judge Josef Ruber ruling that Shepherd had failed to exercise all available options to leave the military before deserting, making no attempt to join another military unit.
Ruber also said that Shepherd – who served as an Apache helicopter mechanic for the US Army – was unable to prove that he would have been forced to commit war crimes on returning to Iraq, Deutsche Welle reported.
The ruling is the latest in what has become a drawn out case for Shepherd, who initially filed his asylum application in 2008. His original plea was denied by the Federal Ministry for Refugees in 2011, prompting the former soldier to file an appeal under a European directive that protects military deserters who have witnessed human rights violations in combat and consequently fear persecution.
That appeal was taken to the European Court of Justice, which last year remanded the case back to the German court, which ultimately ruled against Shepherd on Thursday.
Shepherd’s lawyer plans to appeal the latest verdict, according to DPA news agency.
In a statement to AP, the US Army in Europe said it was aware of Shepherd’s case, but was not seeking to take part in any legal proceedings.
“We do not, as a general policy, proactively pursue deserters,” the statement said. “However, should Shepherd be returned to US Army custody, his case would be handled as would every other deserter returned to US custody, in accordance with applicable laws and regulations and on its own merit.”
Shepherd maintains the right to remain in Germany despite the Thursday ruling, as his wife is German.
The 39-year-old is the first Iraq War veteran to pursue refugee status in Germany, and only the second US soldier to ever have done so in the European country.
Shepherd claims that American forces have done “anything that anyone can possibly imagine in terms of war crimes committed in world history,” telling RT in 2011 that they were “continuing to do this on a daily basis.”
“The soldiers were being attacked, but they didn’t know from where, so they just shot randomly in different directions,” Shepherd said, recalling his Iraq experience.
Even being a helicopter mechanic in Iraq was troubling his conscience.
“I am sitting here and thinking: What am I doing? I’m putting together a lethal machine that is just killing innocent people,” Shepherd was quoted as saying in 2009.
‘Bad day for democracy’
Germany’s highest court has rejected the opposition parties’ bid to make the government reveal to a parliamentary commission investigating the activities of the US NSA spy agency in Germany, the spy targets they had jointly worked on.
The head of the Left Party in the NSA parliamentary commission, Martina Renner, said the ruling was a “bad day for democracy,” which signaled that the “secret services can continue doing what they want, undisturbed by parliamentary control,” Zeit reported.
The ruling is a response to a complaint filed by two opposition parties, The Greens and the Left Party, in September 2015 following reports that the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) intelligence agency had collaborated with the NSA, helping it eavesdrop on European firms and prominent politicians.
The Constitutional Court’s October ruling, that was made public only this Tuesday, said the US was against sharing the sensitive spy target list, and doing so without US permission would hamper German intelligence agencies’ ability to cooperate with counterparts in the future, Reuters reported.
Anna Biselli of the digital research organization Netzpolitik called the Constitutional Court’s ruling “a blow for any clarification on the activities of the BND and the NSA and for the entire parliamentary monitoring of secret services.”
“The government has been successful with its universal argument that the state’s welfare is in danger if the list is revealed. Unfortunately, this argument is widely used to avoid giving out information. This makes the parliament’s job of monitoring the BND effectively very difficult, although that is exactly one of its responsibilities,” she told Deutsche Welle.
Biselli said that one of the commission’s key tasks was to look into the selectors list, which included search parameters from the NSA that the German spy agency to track millions of surveillance targets worldwide.
“The commission wanted to look into the list of selectors because it wanted to know which targets the BND illegally spied on for the NSA,” Biselli said. In the course of its investigation, it was found that the BND monitored sensitive targets, including European governments, institutions and corporations.
“There were several million, probably 13 to 14 million selectors [used to spy on targets], controlled together with the NSA over the course of 10 years,” Greens politician Konstantin von Notz, who is on the parliamentary committee investigating NSA activities, said in an interview with Deutschlandfunk on Wednesday.
“There are probably hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of European and German victims. There will be companies, journalists, probably politicians monitored for years, and this is unpleasant at the very least, and it will all remain under the seal of secrecy,” he added.
The NSA spied on German chancellors and their offices for over a decade, a WikiLeaks report revealed last year. Leaked NSA intercepts indicated that the US tapped the phones of the political offices of the last three German chancellors – Angela Merkel, Gerhard Schröder (in office 1998–2002) and Helmut Kohl (chancellor from 1982 to 1998) – and targeted at least 125 phone numbers of top German officials.
Another scandalous revelation made in April last year suggested that the German BND foreign intelligence agency helped the NSA spy on European firms and officials.
Political pundits in the US, who saw their election predictions turned on their heads, are now scrambling for an insightful explanation of how Hillary Clinton could have failed to win. Well, there’s one big reason. The anti-establishment protests that marked the whole trajectory of the US election came to a head on Nov. 8. The American people had not only lost their faith in the powers-that-be – which try to equate their own needs with the interests of the broader nation – but they had also stopped trusting the dominant media outlets that are so intertwined with that system. Trump was not only battling his political opponents, he was also opposed by many from his own party who defected to Clinton’s side. He faced resistance from the mainstream media, including an estimated 50 of the leading American newspapers and magazines, as well as virtually all of the major television channels. It is difficult to imagine how Trump managed to break through the «consensus» that was aimed against him. It appears that some instinctive, universal sympathy was roused toward someone who, like the Paul Bunyan of American folk tales, was willing to single-handedly take on the world. The fact that the traditional media was able to exert so little influence is evidence that they are losing ground to the Internet and other more cutting-edge ways of communicating. It seems that Trump was also better able than others to harness this technological revolution.
It is possible that one of the new president’s first steps in his revolution will be to begin a housecleaning of the American media landscape. In his «100 Day Action Plan» for his new administration, Trump has already announced that he will do battle with anyone who is «trying to stifle the voice of the American people». He has singled out AT&T’s desire to purchase Time Warner, which owns CNN and many other media assets, as an example of how big capital is taking over the channels that influence public opinion. Trump stated that as president he would not approve this deal, «because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few». Amazon, which owns the Washington Post and thus avoids a high tax bill, is a similar case in point. Yet another example – the television channel NBC, in which Comcast has acquired a majority stake, also «concentrates too much power in its hands». The list goes on. Trump feels that we now have one superstructure that manipulates the thoughts and behaviors of voters, thereby contaminating their minds. Deals like these «destroy democracy» and the Trump administration has vowed to try to break them up.
The publications that could be affected by these reorganizations are close to panicking. Their prestige is declining, as are their stock prices. The Washington Post, for example, is behaving very oddly right now. It published an article claiming that the blame for all the filth and professional sleaziness that has filled the pages of American newspapers, including its own, can be placed on… Russia.
The New York Times has not yet reached this conclusion and remains absolutely dumbfounded, claiming that what was once an «implausible fantasy» is now a fait accompli that has «placed the United States on a precipice». You can, however, agree with that publication’s conclusion that during the election Trump used the «judo move of turning the weight of a complacent establishment against it».
Television channels reorganize quickly. They are not yet singing Trump’s praises, but are putting many of their previous assessments on hold. It is easier for them to simply broadcast pictures of events while refraining from comment. Political analysts who don’t have the backing of powerful organizations and corporations are in a more difficult position – they need to respond instantly. Yesterday they considered Trump anathema, but today the number of his «long-time» supporters is growing rapidly, and one topic predominates among them. If the new president wants his policies to work, he needs to get advice from these «indispensables», otherwise he will fail. There are quite a large number of those who want to lend Trump their own broad shoulders and minds – the very same that have already pushed the US into so many misadventures. To what extent these «eternal gurus» will manage to latch onto Trump – and how much success he will have bringing fresh blood into his administration – will largely depend on whether the newly-elected master of the White House sticks to the script he has promised. The most militant of them – neocons such as William Kristol – are already glancing toward the future vice-president Mike Pence, hoping to make him an agent of their influence over Trump.
Outside the US, the prize for the most ridiculous reaction to Trump’s win should probably be awarded to French President François Hollande. He was completely unprepared for Clinton’s defeat, and what he said was not only incongruous with French gallantry but also common sense. «The American people have just expressed their opinion… They chose Donald Trump to be the president of the United States», Hollande reluctantly admitted, adding with a sigh, «and I therefore congratulate him, as is natural between two democratic heads of state». Meaning that he personally would have never done so on his own. «This election opens up a period of uncertainty», added Hollande, «I must be very clear about that». Although probably after such a «warm greeting» it will be difficult for him to count on having a relationship with Trump. But it’s possible he won’t have much time left for that anyway.
The former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who is favored to win the upcoming French presidential elections in April and May 2017, is pretty much already celebrating his own victory and is not concealing his joy at Trump’s election. Sarkozy emphasizes that the outcome of the US election signifies a «rejection of a monolithic mindset» on trade and immigration issues. With leaders like Donald Trump in the US and Vladimir Putin in Russia, France should also have a strong leader at the helm – there is no longer «any place for helplessness and weakness».
In Berlin Angela Merkel is of course too rational to give way to emotions like Hollande’s and merely responded to Trump’s victory in keeping with diplomatic protocol. However, she was clearly feeling some unease about her future political destiny. The changes in Washington could have a negative impact on the prospects for the CDU party that she leads during the Bundestag elections in the fall of 2017. Plus, Merkel has been copying Clinton’s unsuccessful tactical approach. For example, the German business newspaper Handelsblatt reported her sudden announcement that the Germans were «having to deal with Internet attacks by Russian hackers and with news from the Russian media that provide false information». She claims that «this could influence next year’s German elections». It is unlikely that such a plan of attack, which didn’t work out for Clinton, can help Merkel in any way.
It is not unusual to opine that Trump’s victory is being welcomed, first and foremost, by the world’s alt-right. That’s an oversimplification. Although there are many Trump opponents in the US who are unhappy with his conciliatory words about Russia and his preference for non-interference in the affairs of others, it’s more the case that there are some who are known as traditionalists who have specific hopes for him. In some sense the Trump phenomenon is a conservative revolution at the hands of the US and global «mainstream» who are pushing back against the aggressive hold over them by those in the minority. Statistics show that the majority of the US population favor Trump, while only a minority supported Clinton. And democracy is after all a political form of governance in which power belongs to the majority. Soon we shall see how Trump is going to act on this issue.
On the airwaves of the German radio station Deutschlandfunk, there is a children’s program, “Cockatoo,” which relays news about international affairs to children, including news about Russia. However the quality of coverage leaves much to be desired.
The following message aired on October 19, Sputnik Germany reports.
“Russian President Putin is waging two wars now: in Ukraine and in Syria. German Chancellor Merkel and French President Hollande want to make Putin stop the wars. But it seems like it does not work, because Putin does not observe international rules. He thinks that he should extend Russian influence throughout the world by all means, including wars. German Chancellor Merkel and French President Hollande repeated many times that Putin seriously violates human rights in Syria.”
The radio program goes on to paint a picture of Russian ‘atrocities’ in Syria: “Russian planes are bombing hospitals and UN humanitarian convoys. That is why many Syrians flee to Germany with their families. Russian soldiers are fighting in Ukraine too, despite the agreements.”
Then the German journalists explain to kids why everybody should join together and blame Putin. “We do not know yet how to stop Putin. We can put pressure on him if we stop selling certain goods to Russia. This is called ‘sanctions’. But to do that, all the Europeans have to agree, which has not been done yet.”
According to Sputnik Germany, the author of this message is Deutschlandfunk journalist Marcus Pindur, who is known for his devotion to transatlantic narratives and his enmity for Russia.
Sputnik Germany addressed Deutschlandfunk’s representatives, asking them to comment on their stance on such messages being broadcast in a news program for children. The radio station’s press secretary Eva Sabine Kuntz said that she “does not see in the text any wrong or biased statements which stretch reality.”
It appears that no one in Deutschlandfunk is confused about the fact that Russia’s participation in the attack on the UN humanitarian convoy has not been proved, while a group of independent experts from the group ‘Friends of Syria’ argue that the incident was staged.
Nor is there any evidence of Russia bombing Syrian hospitals. Russian Army General Stuff notified that not a single document or fact proving Moscow’s implication in civilian deaths has been provided.
The same applies to the Ukrainian conflict, in which Russia is not participating.
However not every German media source is sympathetic to Deutschlandfunk’s stance. For example, the analytic website NachDenkSeiten is questioning whether such ‘fairytales’ meet the definition of “incitement of ethnic hatred.”
The German organization “Regular Public Media Conference,” in its turn, commented that “Cockatoo” programs are insidious because kids, unlike adults, are not able to analyze information on such complicated issues as the Syrian and Ukrainian conflicts, and cannot form their own opinion.
When under the veil of an educational program they are brainwashed using taxpayer money, it pushes the envelope too far. Sputnik Germany’s reporter expressed hope that the “Cockatoo” program about Russia was just an unpleasant confusion, and next week they will say something about the USA, for example.
Western European nations are facing growing pressure to end their financial contributions to the Clinton Foundation and investigate its spending, investment analyst Charles Ortel told Sputnik.
“The penny has dropped: The governments have decided not to fund Clinton Foundation activities anymore,” Ortel said Tuesday. “Canada, Sweden and Ireland are countries that may undertake investigations or end their practice of contributing large sums to the Clinton Foundation.”
He was commenting after Norway and Australia announced last weekend that they were ending their annual contributions to the charity, founded in 1997 by then-US President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton.
According to the New York Post, the incoming presidential administration of Donald Trump will ask foreign governments investigate how the foundation spent hundreds of millions of donor dollars that it said went to provide low-cost medicine to treat AIDS patients in Africa, among other programs.
Ortel explained that government leaders around the world who had approved big yearly donations to the foundation presumed Hillary Clinton would be elected president on November 8. Her unexpected loss to Trump, however, has led to popular pressure in those countries for governments to disclose the fate of their donations.
“Governments now realize to their shock and horror there are numerous questions that regulators should have asked,” Ortel asserted. “Why didn’t regulators in different countries ask these questions about the enormous unmonitored donations to the Clinton Foundation before?” Germany’s Environment Ministry is being investigated about a donation to the Clinton charity of 4.5 million euros.
In an interview with Sputnik in Germany that was published Tuesday, left-wing member of parliament Niema Movassat questioned why information about his government’s connection to the foundation scandal is coming out only now.
In Ortel’s view, the German investigation illustrates the importance of a provision in New York state law requiring charities to specify in detail how they spend donors’ money.
“The Clinton Foundation has not complied with that requirement,” according to Ortel, a former executive at financial firms Chart Group and Dillon, Tead & Co. He predicted that questions about the foundation will fuel a “media frenzy” worldwide, as public demands for investigations into individual governments’ donations grow. “The German people and the American people deserve answers,” Ortel said. “We need an accounting: How many governments around the world have sent money to the Clinton Foundation? For what projects? In what amounts?”
In 2007, the UK government – led by Prime Minister Tony Blair and then Gordon Brown, both close political allies and personal friends of the Clintons – approved a grant of 1 billion pounds over 20 years to the charity, Ortel pointed out.
It is hard to imagine a more resilient, more heroic nation than Syria!
With only 17 million inhabitants (according to the 2014 estimate), Syria is now facing the mightiest coalition on Earth – a coalition that consists of virtually all traditional Western colonialist and neo-colonialist nations.
It is also facing some of the cruelest and deadliest inventions of the West – the extremist and murderous post- and pseudo-Islamic groupings, similar to those that were already unleashed against the Soviet Union during the war in Afghanistan.
Because of the tremendous determination of its people, Syria is still standing! But it is standing against all odds. Its Golan Heights are illegally occupied by Israel, its borders constantly violated by the Turkish military, and by the West’s ‘special forces’ and air force.
Syria’s “political opposition” was created, then groomed and financed by the United States and Europe, in the style of “Color Revolutions”, as has happened in all other socialist countries that the West has been trying to destabilize and return under its deadly rule. Millions of Syrian people have been, during the last six deadly years, terrorized, slaughtered and intimidated by jihadi cadres, implanted by the West and its regional allies: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Israel and others.
It is a terrible and uneven fight! Some of the greatest historical cities on Earth, like Aleppo and Palmira, now lie in ruins and ashes. What the European Christian crusaders failed to fully destroy, is now collapsing under the imperialist onslaught. Like everywhere else on Earth, everything that dares to struggle against Western colonialism is being consistently devastated and burned. Almost everyone who resists is mercilessly slaughtered. Hundreds of thousands of Syrian people have already lost their lives. And with each new day, the awful count is rising.
But Syria is standing!
5 million Syrian people have already been forced to leave their country. Now they are being scattered all over the Middle East: throughout Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and Turkey. Some have even gone as far as Europe, Canada and Chile.
How much more can one country endure?
And how can the rest of the world just stand by and watch as it is put through hell?
The answer is obvious: the rest of the world does not know; it does not understand! The propaganda coming out of the Western mass media outlets and indoctrination-spreading institutions is so thorough, so professional, that to most people all over the world everything related to Syria appears to be blurry, murky, and incredibly complex. President al-Assad is demonized on a daily basis. Heroic resistance is called the “regime’s brutal actions”, pro-western terror groups are described as “moderate opposition.”
In reality, Syria is suffering because it is refusing to kneel; because it is unwilling to prostitute itself; because it will never beg its torturers to stop, allowing them to grab everything above and under the surface.
The Empire never forgives disobedience. Its fundamentalist terror methods are the most brutal ever invented and implemented on Earth.
All around Syria, countries already lie in ashes. The Middle East hardly exists, anymore. And most of the Syrian people understand: it is perhaps better to die standing, than to live in shackles, on one’s knees, controlled by the kleptomaniacal Western colonialist states!
The more terrible the terror that the West is spreading worldwide in general and in this part of the world in particular, the more vicious its vitriolic propaganda is, the brainwashing indoctrination that flows incessantly from London, New York and Paris.
If one watches the BBC, there is no hint of objectivity left, anymore. The ranks are closed and the West is united in its final drive to discredit absolutely everything that is still fighting for survival, against its global terrorist exploits.
President al-Assad of Syria, the heroic Syrian army and the closest Syria’s allies – Russia and Iran – are being relentlessly demonized, as if it were them who began that monstrous war! And Hezbollah, which is fighting countless epic battles against the ISIS, sits firmly on the West’s terrorist list.
Everything seems to be twisted and perverted, upside down.
But what really should one expect from the expansionist hordes, from the bastions of imperialism? Or has the British (or French) propaganda been any different, when their colonialist countries have for centuries been grabbing and devastating countless foreign states and territories, slaughtering hundreds of millions of innocent people? Wasn’t anyone who resisted Western conquest always thoroughly ridiculed and demonized?
Countries like UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Portugal and others, have centuries of experience in how to humiliate victims, how to justify their own heinous acts, how to brainwash their own populations and even some of their victims! And the United States, the direct product of Europe, its muscular offspring, is just using the same, only a bit more vulgar, propaganda tactics.
Nothing rational and objective can be expected from the people of Europe or North America, anymore. Except for a few of those insignificant protests and rebellious acts, the Western population is in a total slumber, indifferent towards the horrors that are being administered by its regime all over the globe. There is hardly any pressure to stop acts of terror against Syria. The only thing that seems to matter to Europeans is how to stop the flow of refugees from the devastated countries.
What a shame! What a thorough shame, people of Europe and North America! Your regime is murdering millions, in one country after another, and you are not even capable of recognizing what goes on… instead you are blaming the victims and those rushing to their rescue!
Now your biggest enemy is Russia. Because Russia (same as China) is clearly unwilling to dance to your fatal tune! Because Russia, for many decades, stood by almost all oppressed countries, and supported the de-colonization of the world, in all of its corners. Like China, Cuba and North Korea have always done.
Russia is now defending Syria. Not because it needs natural resources, not because it wants to plunder. It is doing so simply because it is right thing to do. It does it because if the world is abandoned fully to Western imperialism, there will actually soon be no world at all, or at least there will be no world worth inhabiting!
“Our country is a socialist country. For us it’s more important to consider the benefits to the entire nation than to particular individuals. I have spent more than 50 years dedicating my life to education, which is the backbone of our country, especially now… Sometimes I feel like quitting my job and returning to teaching at Damascus University, but I know that I am still needed where I am now,” I was told by Dr. Farah Motlak, Deputy Minister of Education of the Syrian Arab Republic.
We met in Cairo, Egypt, at a regional conference. I asked him about the Western propaganda against his country. He replied, shaking his head:
“I am not even angry… I am just endlessly sad. The media attacks; the propaganda that is pouring from the West is clearly designed to destroy our country. But we have hope, and we will continue our struggle.”
The international meetings and conferences clearly show how divided even the Arab world is itself. Syria is a symbol. To some, it is a symbol of resilience, of heroism. To others, mainly to those who are funded and consequently conditioned by the West, it represents everything that is evil.
But Egypt itself (where I’m writing this essay), just three years after the pro-Western military coup, is in ruins. Economically it has become a basket case. It is completely devastated, socially.
Of course its destruction is on a “lighter scale”, compared to Iraq, Libya or Yemen. But it is still bad enough: during the coup in 2013, at least 1,000 but most likely 2,000 people were murdered by the junta, while tens of thousands were injured. An estimated 10,000 people are now in prisons all over the country; most of them in terrible conditions; many are being tortured, women prisoners are habitually raped.
“The counter revolution has triumphed,” explained Dr. Mohammed Shafik, a member of the Revolutionary Socialist Movement. “All opposition parties and organizations have been squashed. Thousands of revolutionaries have been imprisoned; hundreds executed by court orders or liquidated by the police… Neoliberalism is taking hold… people are suffering.”
But Western propaganda shows no appetite for criticizing the Egyptian military junta. It is, after all, essentially pro-Western; it is capitalist and to a great extent it is submissive to the Empire and to its allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia.
As with almost all ‘client’ states of the West, Egypt will never be able to truly improve the lives of the majority of its citizens. The country is already stuck deeply and has been, for decades, in a perpetual social slumber. Those benefiting from the situation are the Western powers and their regional allies, as well as the servile Egyptian elites and the grotesquely colossal, omnipotent military.
If Syria were to surrender, the Egyptian scenario would be ‘the best’ it could hope for. But most likely, it would meet the terrible fate of Iraq or Libya.
62 Syrian soldiers were reported killed in a U.S.-led coalition airstrike on the Syrian military base Deir el-Zour, on September 17, in Eastern Syria.
The planes destroyed the base housing soldiers that were involved in a battle with ISIS. Almost immediately, the ISIS took over the hill and the area, in what appeared to be a clearly coordinated operation between the West and the “Islamic State”, against the Syrian government forces.
A few days later, a humanitarian convoy was hit near the city of Aleppo. Without presenting any evidence, the West immediately pointed a finger at the Syrian government and Russia. But the Russian Ministry of Defense released images of a US predator drone operating in the area during the attack, and called for a thorough investigation.
The war goes on. The suffering of Syrian people continues.
There is one simple point that is being constantly overlooked by the West:
The legitimate government of Syria invited Russia, its close ally. It asked Moscow for help, to fight ISIS and other terrorist groups implanted by the West and its allies.
Nobody invited the West!
Or perhaps those groups that the West itself created and supported inside Syria invited it?
Both Syrian government forces and Russia are fighting brutal foreign invaders who are attempting to destroy one of the oldest nations on Earth and take control over the entire Middle East.
Syria is at the frontline of the battle against Western imperialism. And so is Russia. And also Iran, while China is joining!
The sacrifice made by the Syrian people is tremendous. But against all odds, the deadly advance of the imperialists may be stopped here, after all.
As I wrote earlier, the price may be terrible. Aleppo is turning into the Middle-Eastern Stalingrad. But the heroic Syrian nation has made its choice: it will fight brutal and barbaric invaders, as it fought the crusaders under the leadership of great Sultan Saladin.
The alternative would be slavery, something unacceptable for the Syrian people!
Wolfgang Jung, a retired German teacher from Kaiserslautern, Germany, has done everything to try to get the government to close Ramstein Airbase.
In April, he filed a lawsuit in a federal court, saying that the deadly drone strikes using the base were a violation of international law.
His case has been dismissed, but he hasn’t lost hope.
Interviewed by Sputnik Deutschland, the spritely 88-year-old explained that his case, filed in April at the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig, had been dismissed, because his claim supposedly ‘did not concern him personally’.
“I filed a lawsuit against the use of the Ramstein Airbase, which violates international law and the German constitution,” the retired teacher said. He added that over the course of four years, Ramstein has become central to the US drone war in Afghanistan.
“My case was dismissed. It was not even considered. I was simply denied the right to bring my suit,” Jung noted, explaining that he was told that he “personally was not affected by the military drones,” and therefore “cannot sue.”
Frustrated by the result, the retiree-turned-activist suggested that “according to the logic of the court, German citizens do not have the right to file a lawsuit against actions that are illegal under international law originating from US military bases on German territory.”
The Jewish Holocaust occupies a unique position in modern Western society, in that questioning the facts of the Holocaust is suppressed and vilified on a global scale as no other topic of human history. Why is research into the Holocaust so problematic? Why is it that serious research by scientists, historians and other academics is rejected out of hand as immoral? Why is the suppression of research into ANY aspect of history acceptable?
At present there are 14 countries that criminalise ‘Holocaust denial’, i.e. publicly questioning, or disseminating research that questions, any aspect of the approved Holocaust narrative: Canada plus 13 European countries including Germany, Austria and France. In many of these countries legislation was passed decades after the end of WWII, in France only in 1990. As recently as 2015 a German court convicted 87 year old Ursula Haverbeck of ‘Holocaust denial’ and sentenced her to 10 months prison. Other revisionists who have served jail sentences include the German publisher Ernst Zündel and the British historian David Irving, who was arrested, sentenced and imprisoned in Austria in 2005. Academic Robert Faurisson was convicted in France of holocaust denial in 2006 and given a three month suspended sentence. In Germany convictions are rising steadily: in 2000 there were more than 2,666 violations of the Holocaust denial law STGB 130, as compared with 437 in 1987.
Even where Holocaust revision is legal, those who are involved in it or support it in any way are liable to be vilified, persecuted and generally treated as lepers. British academics like Irving and Nicholas Kollerstrom saw their careers destroyed, and every effort is made to deny revisionists any sort of platform; it goes without saying that they are subjected to vindictive trolling on social media. Some, like Faurisson and Zündel, have been physically assaulted on more than one occasion. After pro-Palestine activist Paul Eisen wrote an article ‘The Holocaust Wars’ in which he suggested there were questions to answer about the Holocaust, he experienced an extraordinary campaign of vilification and ostracism, especially from the pro-Palestine movement he had given so much to. That he was Jewish himself was no defence against the charge of antisemitism. As Eisen himself says, ‘I had metamorphosed into that lowest of animal life forms, the maggot at the bottom of the food chain – a Holocaust denier’.
Paul Eisen saw an unexpected rise in his profile during the 2015 campaign for election of the leader of the UK Labour Party. It was discovered that Jeremy Corbyn had had some links with Eisen in the past, including appearing on the same platform as him. The media, who had hardly been supportive of Corbyn’s candidature, had a field day accusing Corbyn of associating with a Holocaust denier. Jeremy Corbyn’s response to accusations of an association with Eisen was unequivocal : ‘had I known he was a Holocaust denier I would have had nothing to do with him […]. Obviously Holocaust denial is vile and wrong’. (From 2.47 mins in the following)
There are two principle assumptions relating to the Holocaust, both implicit in Corbyn’s denial of Paul Eisen:
- It is an an indisputable fact that Adolf Hitler planned to exterminate the Jews of Europe, that he did so by gassing them with cyanide in specially constructed gas chambers, and that he was thus responsible for the deaths of 6 million Jews
- People who question any of these premises, do so ONLY because they are neo-Nazis and white supremacists, who wish to conceal the crimes of the Nazis while at the same time sharing their ideology. They are ‘Holocaust deniers’, and all Holocaust deniers are of necessity antisemitic.
The immutability of these two premises leads to another, that anyone who questions any aspect of the Holocaust or who supports the right of others to question the Holocaust, is at best morally compromised, and probably downright evil, deserving responses ranging from suspicion, condemnation, vilification, isolation, hate mail, through to arrest and imprisonment, sometimes for many years. Those who accept unreservedly the two premises are automatically morally superior to anyone who smells a rat.
In 2012 Piers Morgan interviewed the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and asked him about his attitude to the Holocaust. I say ‘asked’, but Morgan puts his own position very clearly.
Morgan states that ‘it is an indisputable fact’ that over 6 million Jews were annihilated by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. ‘Do you dispute that 6 million Jews died or no.’ Although Ahmadinejad tries to voice his suspicions about the narrative, aroused principally because so much effort goes into suppressing research, Morgan is unmovable: the Holocaust is a fact: either you believe in it or not (subtext: and if you don’t it’s because you choose to, because you are a bad person).
The biologist Richard Dawkins sees Holocaust debate in precisely the same terms as Piers Morgan:
So according to Richard Dawkins, too, the Holocaust’ is an immutable fact, and those who question it are intellectually on a par with people who think the earth is flat, and morally on a par with racists. Again, the Holocaust is presented as just one fact, a single package – you either believe in it or you don’t.
What is particularly interesting about Dawkins’ position is that he is one of the leaders of the New Atheist movement, ostensibly dedicated to pointing out all that’s wrong with religion. One might have thought he would be sensitive to the features of the Holocaust narrative and the protectors of its memory that are evocative of the most intolerant religions, for example Catholicism in medieval times. Criminalising Holocaust denial is like burning Bruno Giordano at the stake for claiming that the earth goes round the sun.
A number of writers have in fact analysed the parallels between the Holocaust and religion, most notably the Israeli writers Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Shraga Elam, Gilad Atzmon, and Yoshua Shalev. Their arguments have been summarised as follows: Most Jews today are either atheists or shun the religion of Judaism. Therefore, the Jewish people had to adopt belief in the ‘Holocaust’ as their new religion. They have spread this religion all over the world. ‘Holocaust’ museums are the new houses of worship and are present in most major cities. The new religion has its commandments, its decrees, its prophets, its high priests, its circle of saints, its rituals and its pilgrimages. It knows neither mercy, nor forgiveness, nor clemency but only the duty of vengeance. The Holocaust religion is coherent enough to define the new ‘antichrists’ (the Deniers) and it is powerful enough to persecute them (Holocaust denial laws).
The ‘Ten Commandments’ of this ‘Holocaust Religion’ have been enunciated as follows:
- Remember what Amalek (the Non-Jews) has done to thee.
- Thou shalt never compare THE HOLOCAUST with any other Genocide.
- Thou shalt never compare the Nazi crimes with those of Israel.
- Thou shalt never doubt the number of 6 million Jewish victims.
- Thou shalt never doubt that the majority of them died in gas chambers.
- Thou shalt not doubt the central role of SATAN Hitler in the extermination of the Jews.
- Thou shalt never doubt the right of Israel to exist as the Jewish state.
- Thou shalt not criticize the leading Jewish organizations and the Israeli government.
- Thou must never criticize Jewish organizations and the Zionist leadership for abandoning the European Jewry in the Nazi era
- Thou shalt take these commandments literally and never shew mercy to them that doubt!
So what if you question this Holocaust religion? There is an almost universal assumption that if you don’t believe in the Holocaust it is not because you have an inquiring mind, it’s because you are innately evil. The belief underlying the draconian legislation relating to Holocaust denial would seem to be that the Holocaust is only questioned by neonazis, whose ‘denial’ is motivated by hate and so they should be locked up before they contaminate anyone else.
I have to confess that when I recently learned of the existence of Ursula Haverbeck and her prison sentence for ‘Holocaust denial’, in a European country in the 21st century, for carrying out, as I saw it, serious research into history, I was shocked to the core. I mentioned this to various acquaintances here in Wellington, who were equally horrified, not at the imprisonment of Ursula Haverbeck, but at the thought that I appeared to be questioning the Holocaust narrative. I was quickly made to understand that if I thought there was something worrying, something odd about this punitive response to historical research, it indicated a moral flaw in my makeup.
Soon after I had a twitter exchange with one Daniel Finkelstein, peer of the British realm, ex-editor of The Times. I came across his savage indictment of a prolific tweeter, who had defended David Irving, the notorious ‘Holocaust denier’. When I commented that the said person ‘opposes land theft (in Palestine), ethnic cleansing and child abuse – what’s not to like? Finkelstein, twitter handle ‘Dannythefink’, responded by asking me what I thought of the Holocaust. The exchange continued as follows:
It comes as no surprise that Daniel Finkelstein, who is in total support of dispossession, ethnic cleansing and cruelty in Palestine, assumes morally superiority to me, since I have spoken in defense of a man who has spoken in defense of a man who does research into a field of history. And of course I have refused to commit myself to the undeniability of the Holocaust package …
One can assume that all these experts on the Holocaust, who know enough to be confident of the immutable truth of the Holocaust narrative, whether it be Piers Morgan, Dawkins, or Daniel Finkelstein, would also know another immutable truth about the Holocaust, that the Director of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss was tortured for three days and three nights, and that his testicles were smashed beyond repair,as happened to 137 out of 139 Germans ‘interrogated’ before the Nuremberg trials. One can assume that this makes no difference to their perception of the Holocaust narrative, and they will remain confident of their moral superiority to those of us who are distressed and alarmed by the knowledge that German witness statements at Nuremberg were obtained under the most brutal torture. (From Höss’s confession was derived the figure of 4 million deaths at Auschwitz; the figure was later revised down to 1 million.)
‘Holocaust denial’ is generally conflated with antisemitism, ‘Jew hate’ or racism, and so automatically deserving of vilification. However, even if revisionism is considered to be intrinsically antisemitic, protectors of the Holocaust narrative like to bolster their case by pointing to more general indicators of racism in the culprit.
To the uninitiated the best-known Holocaust revisionist is probably the British historian David Irving, who was convicted of Holocaust denial in an Austrian court and sentenced to three years in prison. Irving was interviewed by Tim Sebastian on the BBC’s Hardtalk in 2000. The programme’s style is intended to be aggressive, but when I watched the programme in 2000, knowing nothing about either Irving or Holocaust denial, I was repelled by Sebastian’s overt hostility to Irving, and I believe that any other impartial person would be too. (Sebastian underlined his antagonism by refraining from shaking Irving’s hand at the end of the interview.)
Sebastian suggests that to deny the gas chambers is hurtful and tasteless (Holocaust denial is immoral per se). But like many others he feels the need to shore up this assumption by showing that there is other evidence that David Irving is a racist, and though he has few examples to work with he is relentless on this point. Irving’s suggestion that he is no more racist than millions of other people is brushed aside with the rather strange claim from the interviewer that there is no evidence for this whatsoever (so only Holocaust deniers are racist). Furthermore, it would appear that honest but naive David Irving confessed in an interview with the Independent that he once called someone a ‘nigger’, something he immediately regretted and remained bitterly ashamed of. As someone put it in the comments below the YouTube video, David Irving is probably the most honest person on the planet.
Another protector of the Holocaust narrative is Max Blumenthal, an American Jew who has a profile as a supporter of the rights of Palestinians. Blumenthal has attracted criticism from some pro-Palestine activists, who see him as an ‘antizionist’ zionist (AZZ), or gatekeeper, due to his attacks on other activists such as Alison Weir and Gilad Atzmon, his opposition to criticism of Jewish power, his prioritising of antisemitism and Holocaust denial, and his peddling of the NATO narrative on Syria; Gilad Atzmon sees him as racist, agressive and supremacist. In 2008 Blumenthal attended a meeting by David Irving when he was touring the States, and created this video:
The video is interesting for several reason. Blumenthal has interspersed his footage with clips from old German propaganda films promoting Germans superiority – of course if you question the Holocaust you must be a Nazi and white supremacist. Like Piers Morgan he presents the question of the Holocaust in bald holistic terms, with no allowance for individual aspects, or degrees of doubt. ‘Are you a Holocaust denier’, he asks, pretty much as one might ask ‘are you a paedophile?’
And as Holocaust denial is such a heinous crime, Blumenthal is justified in first finding out the location of the meeting (given freely to him by David Irving), and then outing Irving to the Vicar of the church hosting the meeting as a ‘Holocaust denier’. The smugness, the self-satisfaction of Blumenthal are palpable; he clearly sees himself as a hero, where others might just see a manipulative sneak. In any case we are left in no doubt that Max Blumenthal, the anti-German racist, the Palestine activist who along with Israel promotes the destruction of Syria, is morally superior to the ‘Holocaust denier’ David Irving, regardless of the latter’s transparent integrity.
The claim that ‘Holocaust denial’ is innately antisemitic was blown out of the water when Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, took into his head to declare that the Holocaust was the brainchild of the Palestinian grand mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin Husseini (so not Hitler afterall), that Hitler only wanted to expel the Jews, not exterminate them (thereby breaking Commandment 6, see above). There was anger and ridicule in Israel and amongst Jews abroad and Netanyahu was forced to climb down. Although Netanyahu was in general accused of ‘playing into the hands of Holocaust deniers’, he was actually guilty of Holocaust denial as it is defined, ie questioning an aspect of the Holocaust discourse – any German who made Netanyahu’s claim would be arrested. If one accepts the ruling that says ‘Holocaust denial’ is antisemitic, Netanyahu must be antisemitic. Which is clearly nonsense – Netanyahu’s racism does not lie in antisemitism, but in an overweening belief in Jewish exceptionalism.
It could be that those protecting the approved version of the Holocaust with such intolerance, aggression, and hate are absolutely right, that 6 million Jews died, in gas chambers, according to a plan drawn up by Adolf Hitler. I wouldn’t know – I haven’t done the research necessary for me to form an opinion.
However it is manifestly clear that those who question or deny the Holocaust are not united by a common neo-Nazi philosophy, of a type that on the one hand insists that Hitler was not guilty of the crimes attributed to him and on the other claims ‘Hitler was right’ to commit these crimes. Mainstream Holocaust revisionists are academics, philosophers, German patriots or Palestine activists. They do not necessarily support the far-right – many of them probably vote for left of centre parties. Some of them are notable for their immense compassion, such as Paul Eisen, who has always been a strong advocate of justice for Palestine. All of them have shown great courage and integrity, and are prepared to look for the truth and to speak it as they see it.
Regardless of the facts of the matter, criminalisation of responsible research into the Holocaust, and the vilification and isolation of those who carry it out, or even those who simply support their right to do so, is an outrageous denial of academic endeavour and historiography as a discipline. Anyone who supports such criminalisation, vilification and isolation is NOT morally superior but in fact morally and intellectually compromised. Furthermore, any honourable person with a modicum of intelligence and a modicum of courage will fight for the right of all people to carry out research into any branch of history, without treating one particular aspect as sacred and therefore exempt from scrutiny.
German Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s recent criticism of NATO behavior is that of a man watching a tidal wave of destruction gathering force, similar to ones that have engulfed his country twice before in the 20th century.
What we shouldn’t do now is inflame the situation further through saber-rattling and warmongering… Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security is mistaken… We are well-advised to not create pretexts to renew an old confrontation… [It would be] fatal to search only for military solutions and a policy of deterrence. – German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, commenting on NATO’s recent military exercises in Poland and the Baltics.
His dread is not to be dismissed since it comes from a man who is in a position to know what the US is up to. His words reflect the fears of ever more people across all of Eurasia, from France in the West to Japan in the East.
Under the euphemism of “containment,” the US is relentlessly advancing its new Cold War on Russia and China. Its instrument in the West is NATO, and in the East, Japan, and whatever other worthies can be sharked up.
It is a Cold War that grows increasingly hotter, with proxy wars now raging in Eastern Ukraine and Syria and with confrontations in the South China Sea. There is an ever-growing likelihood that these points of tension will flare up into an all-out military conflict.
In the West, this conflict will begin in Eastern Europe and Russia, but it will not stop there. All the European NATO countries would be on the front lines. In the East, the conflict will take place in the Western Pacific in the region of China’s coast and in the peninsulas and island countries in the region, including Japan, the Philippines, and Indochina.
In each case the US will be an ocean away, “leading from behind,” as Barack Obama would put it, or engaged in “offshore balancing” as some foreign policy “experts” might term it.
No matter the “victors” – all of Eurasia, from France in the West to Japan in the East – would be devastated. No matter the outcome, the US could escape unscathed and “win” in this sense. And all Eurasian nations would lose. It would be World War II redux.
One can get a sense of what this means in the case of economic conflict by looking at the minimal economic warfare now being waged on Russia in the form of sanctions. Those sanctions are hurting both Russia and the rest of Europe. The US is untouched.
The same is also true for military conflict. Want to know what it would look like? Look at Eastern Ukraine. All of Eurasia could come to resemble that sorry nation in the event of a military conflict pitting the US and its allies against Russia and China. Eurasia, be forewarned!
The goal of the US foreign policy elite would clearly be for Russia and China to “lose,” but even if they “won,” they would be brought low, leaving the US as the world’s greatest economic and military power as it was in 1945.
Europe is beginning to awaken to this. We have Steinmeier’s plea above. But it is not only Germany that is worried. The French Senate wants an end to the sanctions imposed on Russia. Business people in many Western European countries, most notably in Germany and Italy, European farmers who export to Russia and tourist entrepreneurs like those in Turkey and Bulgaria, also want an end to sanctions and military exercises. Parties of the Right want an end to domination by NATO and Brussels, both controlled by the US. The Brexit is just one rumbling of such discontent.
All these nations are growing increasingly aware of the fate that awaits them if overt conflict erupts with Russia. The people of Germany want none of it. Likewise, the people of Japan are stirring against the US effort to goad Japan into fighting China. All remember the devastation of WWII.
Let’s recall the casualty figures, i.e., deaths, among the principal combatants of WWII:
Soviet Union – 27,000,000 (14 percent of the population);
China – 17,000,000 (3.5 percent);
Germany –7,000,000 (8.5 percent);
Japan – 2,800,000 (4 percent).
By comparison, for the US, safely far offshore, the number was 419,000 (0.32 percent)!
And for a few other countries that “got in the way” of the major adversaries:
Yugoslavia – 1,500,000 (9 percent)
Poland – 6,000,000 (17 percent)
French Indochina – 1,600,000 (6.11 percent)
Philippines – 527,000 (3.29 percent)
One wonders what the leaders of Poland or the Philippines or some elements in Vietnam are thinking when they take a belligerent attitude to Russia or China in order to please the US.
The problem with this US strategy is that it could easily spill over into a nuclear conflict. Then the US too would be reduced to radioactive rubble. The Western policy elite must be betting that Russia and China would not respond to a conventional war with a nuclear response.
However, Vladimir Putin has made it clear that in any war with the West, the US will feel the impact at once. The neocons and the rest of the US foreign policy elite must be betting that Putin is bluffing and that he would never use nuclear weapons. So, the US is safe and the suffering will be confined to Europe and Asia.
But that assumption is a dangerous one. Russia and China might respond with a conventional weapons attack on US cities. In WWII, Germany was able to wreak considerable devastation using conventional bombs on England delivered by airplanes and V-2 rockets. Similarly, the US was able to do enormous damage to Germany and to Japan with conventional weapons, especially firebombing as in Tokyo and Dresden.
Today, technology has advanced greatly, and US cities have nuclear power plants nearby. What is the likely outcome of a conventional war waged against US cities? Do we wish to find out? And once it begins, where is the firewall against an all-out nuclear exchange? Where are the neocons and the rest of the US foreign policy elite taking us? Certainly, the damage will begin with Eurasia, but Americans would do well to worry that great swarms of chickens might come home to roost in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. This is not the 20th Century.
For some, the scenario above might seem unduly alarmist. They might doubt that the US elite would be capable of consciously unleashing such a vast bloodletting. For those, it is useful to recall the words of President Harry S. Truman, who said in 1941, when he was still a Senator and before the US had entered WWII: “If we see that Germany is winning the war, we ought to help Russia; and if that Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and in that way let them kill as many as possible…”
Is that not what happened?
People of Eurasia, beware.
Only nine percent of Germans support NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe, a new YouGov poll found. Two-thirds also agreed with Germany’s Foreign Minister, who recently said the military alliance should abandon its “sabre-rattling” at Russia’s doorstep.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier drew much flak from local media for saying earlier in June that NATO’s “war-mongering” near Russia’s borders only adds fuel to an “old confrontation.” However, a recent survey shows that the majority of Germans largely agree with him.
Some 64 percent of respondents share Steinmeier’s views, according to a poll conducted by YouGov at the request of DPA news agency, according to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Only 16 percent rejected the Foreign Minister’s statement, and just 9 approved of the German government’s plan to send hundreds of troops to the Baltics in order to help deter what NATO calls “Russian assertiveness.”
On June 18, Foreign Minister Steinmeier slammed NATO’s plan, in which Germany is expected to play a lead role, to deploy both troops and military equipment to the Baltics.
Speaking to Bild am Sonntag newspaper, he said, “Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security is mistaken.” NATO’s “saber-rattling and warmongering” only aggravate already extant tensions in the region and will not help restore trust and dialogue with Moscow, he added.
It would be “fatal to now narrow the focus to the military, and seek a remedy solely through a policy of deterrence,” the German FM said, before stressing, “We are well-advised to not create pretexts to renew an old confrontation.”
The statement sparked a barrage of accusations in the German media, with some newspapers calling the FM’s comments “a gift to Putin” and “an unprecedented act of disloyalty.”
However, several days later Gernot Erler, the German government’s coordinator for Russia, echoed Steinmeier’s remarks, telling Passauer Neue Presse, “Decisions to station troops and military operations swing wildly from one side to another. It is dangerous.”
“This is exactly the kind of developments which lead to uncontrolled situations, even war,” Erler said.
Earlier in June, NATO green-lighted the deployment of a 4,000-strong force in the Baltic countries and Poland, in addition to the more than 1,000 troops already stationed there on a rotational basis.
On Wednesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said that NATO and the US have deployed “about 1,200 pieces of military equipment, including 30 combat jets” in the region.
Moscow has repeatedly criticized NATO’s build-up in Eastern Europe, calling it a needless provocation and promising an adequate response.
A significant crack has been unexpectedly opened in the wall of Europe’s disciplined obedience to the United States. I’m not only referring to the possible long-term consequences for U.S.-European relations in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, but the unlikely blow against Washington’s information war on Moscow delivered by Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who a week ago shockingly accused the North Atlantic Treaty Organization of “war-mongering” against Russia.
Since the Bush administration’s twisting of events in the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, which the E.U. blamed on Georgia, Western populations have been subjected to the steady message that Russia is a “threat” to the West and is guilty of “aggression.” This reached a peak with the false narrative of events in Ukraine, in which blatant evidence of the West’s complicity in a violent coups d’état was omitted from corporate media accounts, while Russia’s assistance to eastern Ukrainians resisting the coup has been framed as a Russian “invasion.”
The disinformation campaign has reached the depths of popular culture, including the EuroVision song contest and sports doping scandals, to ensure widespread popular support for U.S. hostile intentions against Russia.
The Russian “aggression” narrative, based largely on lies of omission, has prepared the way for the U.S. to install a missile-shield in Romania with offensive capabilities and to stage significant NATO war games with 31,000 troops on Russia’s borders. For the first time in 75 years, German troops retraced the steps of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
U.S. Designs on Russia
The U.S. is eyeing a post-Putin Russia in which a Wall Street-friendly leader like Boris Yeltsin can be restored to reopen the country to Western exploitation. But Vladimir Putin is no Yeltsin and has proven a tough nut for the U.S. to crack. Washington’s modus operandi is to continually provoke and blame an opponent until it stands up for itself, as Putin’s Russia has done, then accuse it of “aggression” and attack in “self-defense.”
In this way, Washington builds popular support for its own version of events and resistance to the other side of the story. Unfortunately it is not a new trick in the U.S. playbook.
“The statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception,” wrote Mark Twain.
So suddenly, after many years of an air-tight, anti-Russia campaign believed unquestioningly by hundreds of millions of Westerners, comes Steinmeier last week blurting out the most significant truth about Russia uttered by a Western official perhaps in decades.
“What we shouldn’t do now is inflame the situation further through saber-rattling and warmongering,” Steinmeier stunningly told Bild am Sontag newspaper. “Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security is mistaken.”
Instead Steinmeier called for dialogue with Moscow. “We are well-advised to not create pretexts to renew an old confrontation,” he said, saying it would be “fatal to search only for military solutions and a policy of deterrence.”
In keeping with the U.S. propaganda strategy, the U.S. corporate media virtually ignored the remarks, which should have been front-page news. The New York Times did not report Steinmeier’s statement, but two days later ran a Reuter’s story only online leading with the U.S. military’s rejection of his remarks.
NATO General: Russia is No Threat
Just a day after Steinmeier was quoted in Bild, General Petr Pavel, chairman of NATO’s military committee, dropped another bombshell. Pavel told a Brussels press conference flat out that Russia was not at a threat to the West.
“It is not the aim of NATO to create a military barrier against broad-scale Russian aggression, because such aggression is not on the agenda and no intelligence assessment suggests such a thing,” he said.
What? What happened to Russian “aggression” and the Russian “threat?” What is the meaning then of the fear of Russia pounded every day into the heads of Western citizens? Is it all a lie? Two extraordinary on-the-record admissions by two men, Steinmeier, the foreign minister of Europe’s most powerful nation, and an active NATO general in charge of the military committee, both revealing that what Western officials repeat every day is indeed a lie, a lie that may be acknowledged in private but would never before be mentioned in public.
Two years ago I was in a background briefing with a senior European ambassador at his country’s U.N. mission in New York and could hardly believe my ears when he said talk about Russia’s threat to Eastern Europe was “all hype” designed to give NATO “a reason to exist.” Yet this same ambassador in public Security Council meetings would viciously attack Russia.
But the hype is about more than just saving NATO. The fear campaign feeds the American and European military industries and most importantly puts pressure on the Russian government, which the U.S. wants overthrown.
Were these remarks made out of the exasperation of knowing all along that the Russian threat is hype? Were they made out of genuine concern that things could get out of hand under reckless and delusional leaders in Washington leading to a hot war with Russia?
Neither man has been disciplined for speaking out. Does this signal a change in official German thinking? Will German businessmen who deal with Russia and have opposed sanctions against Moscow over Ukraine, which were forced on Germany by the U.S., be listened to?
Were Steinmeier’s remarks a one-off act of rebellion, or is Germany indeed considering defying Washington on sanctions and regime change in Moscow? Is the German government finally going to act in Germany’s own interests? Such a move would spark a European defiance of the United States not seen since the days when Charles de Gaulle pulled France out of NATO in 1966 to preserve French independence.
The last time European governments broke with Washington on a major issue was the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Then France and Germany joined Russia on the U.N. Security Council in blocking the war’s authorization (although Britain supported it). But France and Germany then voted for a resolution several months later that essentially condoned the invasion.
It’s Up to the European Public
One has to ask whether a conditioned German public is ready to see through the lies about Russia. Last November, I flew from St. Petersburg to Berlin and discussed this very question with a number of well-educated Germans.
I had visited Russia for the first time since 1995, 20 years before to the month. Those were the days of the Yeltsin-Jeffery Sachs Russia, of the unbridled neoliberal capitalism of the Wall Street-oligarch alliance that plundered the country leaving millions of Russians destitute. Outside train stations I saw homeless encampments replete with campfires. Policemen were stopping motorists for bribes. I ran from two men intent on robbing me until I lost them in a Metro station. That’s the Russia the neocons in Washington and the knaves and buccaneers on Wall Street want to see again.
The Russia I saw in St. Petersburg and Moscow, 20 years later, was orderly and prosperous, as modern as any European city. It is a testament to Russia’s resistance to American attempts to restore its political and financial control. Russia is a capitalist country. But on its own terms. It is fully aware of American machinations to undermine it.
In Berlin I met several Germans, educated, liberal and completely aware, unlike most Americans, of how the United Sates has abused its post-World War II power. And yet when I asked them all why there are still U.S. military bases in Germany 70 years after the war and 25 years after the Cold War ended, and who the Americans were protecting them from, the universal answer was: Russia.
History shows European fears of Russia to be completely overblown. Germany and other Western powers have invaded Russia three times in the last two centuries: France in 1812, U.S., Britain and France in the 1918 Russian Civil War, and Germany again in 1941. Except for Imperial Russia’s incursion into East Prussia after war was declared on it in 1914, the reverse has never been true.
In his memoirs Harry Truman admitted that false fear of Russia was the “tragedy and shame of our time” during the Cold War that he had much to do with in part to revive the U.S. post-war economy with military spending. George Kennan, the State Department official who advised a non-military containment of the Soviet Union, conceded as early as 1947 that Soviet moves in Eastern Europe were defensive and constituted no threat. In the 1990s, Kennan also decried NATO’s expansion towards Russia’s borders.
With its vast natural resources, Russia has been the big prize for the West for centuries, and is still today in neocon-driven Washington. But Germany, especially, has benefited from trade with Russia and has no need to join the U.S. imperial project.
The British voters’ decision, days after Steinmeier’s extraordinary remark, could herald significant change in Europe, which may be approaching an historical junction in its relationship with the United States. Growing anti-E.U. sentiment has spread across the continent, including calls for similar referenda in several countries.
British voters evidently saw through the hype about the Russian “threat,” as a majority did not buy British Prime Minister David Cameron’s scare tactic ahead of the vote that Brexit would make it harder to “combat Russian aggression.”
Britain has been called Washington’s Trojan horse in the E.U. The thinking is that without Britain, the E.U. would be freer to chart its own course. But as Alexander Mercouris explained here, Obama bypasses London to call Merkel directly with his demands. Still, removing Britain’s voice from the E.U., though more crucially not from NATO, opens space for more independent voices in Europe to emerge.
“I worry that we will have less clout on our own,” former British Ambassador to the United States Peter Westmacott told The New York Times. “In the future, we won’t have as much influence on Europe’s response to Putin’s transgressions, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, or the E.U.’s foreign and security policy. … And we will be less able to ensure it is U.S.-friendly.”
But that could be a good thing. If German leaders conclude the United States is pushing Europe into a disastrous war with Russia, could we see a Charles de Gaulle moment in Berlin? Merkel doesn’t seem to have it in her. Three days after Steinmeier’s remarks, she told a news conference she favored increased German spending for NATO to counter Russian “threats.”
Instead it will require a revolt by an awakened citizenry against the E.U. and elected European governments that refuse to stand up to Washington, mostly because it benefits their own class interests, to the detriment of the majority.
The Future of the EU
European social democracy had been probably the best social and political system ever devised on earth, maybe the best that is humanly possible. Europe could have been a model for the world as a neutral power committed to social justice. As late as 1988, Jacques Delors, then president of the European Commission, promised the British Trades Union Congress that the E.U. would be a “social market.”
Instead the E.U. allowed itself to be sold out to unelected and unaccountable neoliberal technocrats now in charge in Brussels. European voters, perhaps not fully understanding the consequences, elected neoliberal national governments slavishly taking Washington’s foreign policy orders. But Brexit shows those voters are getting educated. Unity is a great ideal but E.U. leaders have refused to accept that it has to benefit all Europeans.
The E.U.’s Lisbon Treaty is the only constitution in the world that has neoliberal policies written into it. If it won’t reform — and the arrogance of the E.U.’s leaders tells us it won’t — it will be up to the people of Europe to diminish or dismantle the E.U. through additional referenda. That would give liberated European nations the chance to elect anti-neoliberal national governments, accountable to the voters, which can also chart foreign policies independent of Washington.
The danger is that the right-wing sentiment that has driven a large part of the anti-Establishment movements in Europe (and the U.S.) may elect governments that grow even closer to Washington and impose even harsher neoliberal policies.
That is a risk that may need to be taken in the hope that the anti-Establishment left and right can coalesce around shared interests to put an end to the elitist European project.
Joe Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist based at the U.N. since 1990. He has written for the Boston Globe, the London Daily Telegraph, the Johannesburg Star, the Montreal Gazette, the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @unjoe.
Sharply criticizing NATO war games in Eastern Europe, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Bild am Sonntag newspaper that inflaming the standoff with Russia would endanger European security and increase risk of reviving an “old confrontation.”
The ongoing large-scale Anakonda-16 NATO military maneuvers in Poland, simulating the repulsion of “Russian aggression” against the country, are counterproductive, Deutsche Welle cited German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier as telling Bild am Sonntag newspaper, in an interview to be published Sunday.
“Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security is mistaken,” Steinmeier said ahead of the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw beginning July 8. “We are well-advised to not create pretexts to renew an old confrontation,” he emphasized.
Rather than inflaming the situation further “through saber-rattling and warmongering,” there ought to be more space for dialogue and cooperation with Moscow, Steinmeier said.
It would be “fatal to now narrow the focus to the military, and seek a remedy solely through a policy of deterrence,” German FM said, calling to give way to diplomacy instead of military posturing.
Calling for dialogue and a diplomatic approach, Steinmeier also mentioned the necessity of maintaining military preparedness of NATO.
The alliance should also consider the possibility to “renew discussions about the benefits of disarmament and arms control for security in Europe,” he said.
The Anaconda drills have become NATO’s largest exercise in Europe since the Cold War, bringing to Poland over 31,000 troops from 24 NATO member states and “partner nations,” including the US, the UK, Germany, Canada, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and others.
Moscow has once again pointed out that augmentation of NATO military presence in Eastern Europe and Baltics is unjustified, stressing that Russia has no plans whatsoever to interfere with any country in the region.
“I am convinced that every serious and honest politician is well aware that Russia will never invade any NATO member. We have no such plans,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated.
The NATO summit in Warsaw is set to put “Russian threat” issue high on the agenda, as the gathering will be making the final decision on stationing additional NATO troops in Eastern Europe.
More NATO troops deployed to Poland will be sending “a clear signal that an attack on Poland will be considered an attack on the whole Alliance,” the bloc’s Secretary General told reporters following his meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda in early June.
The statements made by NATO leadership put Russian diplomats in a position where they have to deny the obvious.
“During the NATO secretary general’s recent visit to Poland, officials in this country [Poland] made statements suggesting that from now on Russia would know that any attack on Poland would mean an attack on NATO as a whole. This is completely absurd because they are discussing a non-existent problem. There are no plans for any attacks on Poland,” Russian envoy to NATO Aleksandr Grushko said in an interview with TV channel Russia-24.
Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on Friday, President Vladimir Putin said that NATO has “an absolutely slapdash attitude to our position on anything,” adding that it was the US that had unilaterally quit the missile defense treaty, which was initially signed to “provide strategic balance in the world.”
NATO “needs a foreign enemy, otherwise what would be the reason for the existence of such an organization,” said the Russian leader. The conflict in Ukraine, caused by a bloody coup supported by the US and its European NATO allies, was forced on that country “to substantiate the very existence of the North Atlantic alliance,” the Russian president concluded.
Putin assured his audience that he does not want to proceed to a new Cold War, as “no one wants it.”“However dramatic the logic of the development of international relations might seem on the outside, it’s not the logic of global confrontation,” he explained.