Iraq is planning to officially ask Russia for airstrikes against Daesh in a bid to purge the Takfiri militant group from the territories it controls in the west and north of the Arab country.
“We might be forced to ask Russia to launch airstrikes in Iraq soon. I think in the upcoming few days or weeks Iraq will be forced to ask Russia to launch airstrikes and that depends on their success in Syria,” the head of the Iraqi parliament’s defense and security committee, Hakim al-Zamili, said on Wednesday, urging Moscow to play a bigger role than the United States in fighting terrorists in Iraq.
Baghdad has long criticized the ineffectiveness of the aerial military campaign by Washington and its allies against alleged Daesh positions in Iraq. However, Moscow’s recent military intervention against the terrorists in Syria has raised hopes of a similar move in Iraq.
“We are seeking to see Russia have a bigger role in Iraq. … Yes, definitely a bigger role than the Americans,” Zamili said.
The senior Iraqi legislator also expressed hope that a newly-established security and intelligence-sharing command center which includes Iran, Iraq and Syria and Russia and is set to begin work in Iraq, could make the anti-Daesh battle more effective.
“We believe that this center will develop in the near future to be a joint operation command to lead the war against Daesh in Iraq,” he added.
Russia has been pounding the positions of Daesh and other militant groups in Syria for a week, a move which has clearly irritated the United States and other Western governments. Washington accuses Russia of targeting the so-called moderate militants in Syria, but Moscow denies the charges, saying it chooses its targets based on intelligence provided by the Syrian army. Russia has also sought to play down the significance of US-fabricated distinction between militants in Syria.
Earlier in the day, Russian officials said they would consider an airborne operation against Daesh Takfiri terrorists in Iraq if they received a formal request from the Arab country on the issue.
Valentina Matviyenko, the Russian Federation Council speaker, said Russian leaders would be open to study “the political and military expediency” of an operation in Iraq in case of official request by Iraq.
The U.S. government has dropped hundreds of thousands of tons of bombs on Iraq alone in the last dozen years – and even hailed the start of the bombing campaign in 2003 as “shock and awe” – but now has coyly and repeatedly decried the Syrian government’s supposed use of crude “barrel bombs.”
This hyper-hypocritical propaganda theme was given voice in President Barack Obama’s Sept. 28 speech to the United Nations General Assembly when he denounced anyone who doesn’t favor “regime change” in Syria as advocating “support [for] tyrants like Bashar al-Assad, who drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent children.”
Yet, Obama offered no criticism of various U.S. administrations and American allies that have leveled whole cities, killing countless men, women and children. That slaughter has included two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in 1945 and the devastation of Indochina during the 1960s and 1970s with more bomb tonnage than was dropped in all of World War II. Millions, including countless children, were killed in these bombing campaigns.
More recently, Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush ordered the devastation of Fallujah and other Iraqi cities to suppress resistance to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. Obama himself has boasted of ordering military strikes in seven countries, mostly aerial bombardments with many confirmed civilian dead.
In 2014, Israel used American warplanes and armaments to blast apart Gaza killing some 2,100 people – the vast majority civilians and many of them children, including four little boys playing on a beach. President Obama not only refrains from criticizing Israel’s indiscriminate use of these devastating weapons but stays silent on Israel’s rogue nuclear stockpile and today ponders which giant “bunker buster” bombs should be added to Israel’s bristling arsenal.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is dropping U.S.-supplied ordnance, reportedly including cluster bombs, on the helpless population of Yemen with Obama’s tacit approval and reportedly with U.S. intelligence assistance.
On Monday, the Saudi air force apparently bombed a wedding party on Yemen’s Red Sea coast killing more than 130 people, including women who had taken refuge in a tent, according to various news reports.
One surviving relative said it was difficult to determine the exact number of dead because the bodies were blasted into so many bloody pieces. “I saw no body intact,” said Ahmed Altabozi, the uncle of one of the victims.
Yet, while President Obama has avoided any direct public rebukes of U.S. or allied militaries for their slaughter of civilians, he singled out Syria’s embattled government for using a homemade weapon in its desperate fight against terrorists of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front.
Further, Obama claimed that President Assad dropped the “barrel bombs to massacre innocent children” when there is no evidence that Assad had any such intent. Obama’s comment amounted to crude and deceptive propaganda.
By contrast, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launches one of his periodic “lawn mowing” operations against the people of Gaza and many children are cut down in the process, Obama stands mute, apparently judging that the exercise in recurring butchery is just one of those “price is worth it” moments.
Obviously, any killing of civilians in wartime is to be deplored – whoever is dropping the bombs and whatever the weapon’s degree of lethality – but it was still stunning to watch Obama apply such selective outrage. Indeed, much of the UN General Assembly seemed genuinely shocked by Obama’s blatant double standards.
Propaganda Buzz Phrase
But it’s really all par for the course. Whenever propagandists develop their “themes” for a conflict, they look for certain “hot button” phrases that make the behavior of a “black-hatted enemy” appear particularly venal. “Barrel bomb” has become the propaganda buzz phrase of choice associated with the Syrian conflict.
Yet, it seems likely this clumsy, improvised weapon – supposedly dropped from helicopters – would be far less lethal than rocket-propelled bombs delivered from afar by jet planes or drones, the approach favored by the U.S. government and its “allies.”
Civilians would have a much better chance to seek safety in a bomb shelter before some “barrel bomb” is shoved out the door of a helicopter than when a sophisticated U.S.-made bomb arrives with little or no warning, as apparently happened to the victims of that wedding in Yemen.
And that is not to mention the U.S. bombs that involve depleted uranium, napalm, phosphorous and cluster munitions, which present other humanitarian concerns. However, while U.S.-assisted or U.S.-directed slaughters of civilians attract little attention in the mainstream U.S. media, there are endless denunciations of the Syrian government’s “barrel bombs.”
The propaganda drumbeat is such that the American people are told that they must support “regime change” in Syria even if it risks opening the gates of Damascus to a victory by the Islamic State and Al Qaeda terrorists.
This odd “humanitarian” equation, tallied up by the State Department and “human-rights” NGOs, holds that to secure revenge for Syria’s alleged use of “barrel bombs,” the world must accept the possibility of the black flag of Sunni terrorism flying over a major Mideast capital while its streets would run red with the blood of Christians, Alawites, Shiites and other “heretics.”
Then, apparently, the United States would have little choice but to lead a massive expeditionary force into Syria to oust the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, ensuring the deaths of hundreds of thousands more innocents and sending millions more fleeing into a destabilized Europe.
But such is the power of propaganda in managing public perceptions. Use a phrase like “barrel bomb” over and over again as if it is a uniquely evil weapon when, in fact, it is far less lethal and destructive than the ordnance that the United States routinely deploys or hands out to its “allies” like candy on Halloween. Soon the people lose all perspective and are open to manipulation. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Power of False Narrative.”]
Once the U.S. public is softened up with the propaganda and psy-ops – also known as “strategic communications” or Stratcom – the only acceptable option is “regime change” in Syria even if that prospect holds the likelihood of a far worse human catastrophe.
By hearing “barrel bomb” enough times, the judgment of American citizens is clouded and any practical suggestion for a realistic political settlement of Syria’s conflict is deemed “appeasement” of a tyrant, which was the clear message of President Obama’s UN tirade.
And, thus, the killing continues; the chaos grows worse.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Petition to UK Parliament: A Few Reasons Why
The word genocide comes to mind.
— Weapons expert Dai Williams, letter to Tony Blair warning of consequences of Iraq action, 13th October 2002
On Saturday, September 26, Ahmed Mahdi Al Faqi was arrested and delivered to the International Criminal Court at The Hague. He is charged with war crimes, the deliberate destruction of religious or historical monuments in Mali and especially the irreplaceable ancient shrines of Timbuktu, in 2012.
The ICC’s Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Nesouda described the destruction in Timbuktu as “a callous assault on the dignity and identity of entire populations and their religious and historical roots.”
Timbuktu City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the 16th and 17th Centuries this academic and cultural beacon boasted 180 schools and universities, drawing students and scholars from across the Muslim world.
“The people of Mali deserve justice for the attacks against their cities, their beliefs and their communities”, states Nesouda.
On the same day as Al Faqi’s arrest a petition to the British Parliament was released to “Arrest Tony Blair for war crimes in the Middle East and for misleading the public.”
Britain is a signatory to the 123 nation-backed ICC. Thus the petition’s aims are possible.
Blair indeed blatantly misled the public and the Parliament he headed. The disinformation was breathtaking and the result was “a callous assault on the dignity and identity of entire populations and their religious and historical roots.” The people of Iraq too deserve “justice for the attacks against their cities, their beliefs and their communities.”
On September 24, 2002 Blair addressed Parliament. He began:
Today we published a 50-page dossier detailing the history of Iraq’s WMD, its breach of UN resolutions and the current attempts to rebuild the illegal WMD programme.
It was, broadly, fifty pages of obfuscations, untruths and economies with the truth. For instance, he stated that the UN weapons Inspectors met with “obstruction”; e.g.:
… finally in late 1998, the UN team were forced to withdraw. As the dossier sets out, we estimate on the basis of the UN’s work that there were: up to 360 tonnes of bulk chemical warfare agents, including one and a half tonnes of VX nerve agent; up to 3,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals; growth media sufficient to produce 26,000 litres of anthrax spores; and over 30,000 special munitions for delivery of chemical and biological agents … All of this was missing or unaccounted for.
Of course, no such chemical and biological agents existed – and in 1998 the UN Inspectors had fled to the safety of Bahrain on the orders of Richard Butler, who then headed the team, having been tipped off that the US and UK were to bomb Iraq again, illegally, in time for Christmas.
To clarify “obstruction.” As one who was in Iraq numerous times during the UN weapons inspectors tenures and who witnessed their arrogant, discourteous, uncivil behavior towards Iraqis staggering financially under the weight of the crippling embargo. Iraq was, however, charged for their accommodation, vehicles, living expenses, salaries. “Obstruction” became a sick game.
“Obstructions” were noted and reported to the UN as non-co-operation on behalf of the Iraqi authorities, building a case for further bombing or invasion. These almost invariably occurred when the weapons inspectors turned up unannounced, out of hours so the facility to be inspected was, naturally, deserted. They would drive away and note it as an obstruction – or if they called the owner or manager and he had to get dressed and drive for an hour to get there to let them in, that too was an “obstruction.”
Other “obstructions” would be to turn up on Friday, the Sabbath, or on public holidays, when only security guards were there. They needed the permission of their boss to allow any one into the facility. As they made the telephone call for that permission, it was noted as an “obstruction.” There are uncounted other examples of the devious wickedness perpetrated in the name of the UN.
The fifty page dossier, Blair assured, confirmed (Saddam Hussein’s) “WMD programme is active, detailed and growing. The policy of containment is not working. The WMD programme is not shut down. It is up and running.” It was “… important we explain our concerns over Saddam to the British people.” Moreover “… he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes.”
Destroyed munitions plants had been rebuilt, and “in addition, we know Saddam has been trying to buy significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
It was all a pack of lies, the latter claim comprehensively trashed by Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Iraq has vast amounts of uranium, discovered, marked and mapped by the British in the 1950s and had they been developing a weapons programme, had no need to buy it from anywhere.
Saddam Hussein had, in fact, closed down his nuclear programme shortly after the 1991 attack.
As for the rebuilt munitions plants, a number of them were visited by former UN Under Secretary General, Hans von Sponeck and myself as these stories circulated. They remained in ruins or trashed, devoured by overgrown undergrowth and deserted.
Saddam Hussein, said Blair, “could begin a conflict” of which “the consequences” could “engulf the whole world.” What an irony that the consequences of US and UK actions in Iraq and throughout the region in their demented “Crusade” indeed now endangers all the Middle East, North Africa and drawn into combat, the madness, are countries as far away as Australia, Canada and Europe. Much of the world.
Three weeks after Blair’s fantasy assurances to Parliament, weapons research expert Dai Williams wrote to him warning of the illegalities of the weapons the UK and US coalition would use. They would be “… directly in contravention of Articles 35 and 55 of the 1st Protocol additional to the Geneva Conventions. They are, put simply, weapons of indiscriminate effect.”
The letter, headed, “Use of Uranium weapons in Afghanistan and Iraq: Hazards for civilians and ground forces”, begins:
In recent weeks I have been alarmed by your support for US plans to launch another major military offensive on Iraq, ostensibly to destroy Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
Williams makes clear it will be the UK and US who will be using weapons of mass and indiscriminate destruction: “These weapons are large radiological bombs.”
Last week I was advised of US Patent Number 6,389,977 (1997) for a ‘shrouded aerial bomb.’ This is the patent for a series of guided weapons using the upgraded BLU-109/B warhead. Claim 5 of this patent states: “The shrouded aerial bomb as claimed in Claim 1, wherein the penetrating body is formed of depleted uranium. This and 6 other US patents verify the development of guided weapons and sub-munitions with Uranium warheads …”
An additional problem is emerging from my recent investigations. It seems likely that US arms manufacturers may be using standard, not depleted uranium in new weapons i.e. Uranium metal with the same isotopic mix as natural uranium (99.3% U238, 0.7% U235).“ The full Report was attached to the letter.
This would explain why researchers in Hungary and Greece detected increased airborne Uranium dust soon after the Balkans bombing began, but that it appeared to be natural, not depleted uranium … Independent researchers are now alert to this possibility. I hope Ministry of Defence staff are also considering it. Unfortunately standard uranium is more radioactive than depleted uranium.
Depleted uranium has a cancer inducing, birth deforming “half-life” of 4.5 billion years. Crimes against humanity do not come bigger.
In context, in 1991, the UK Atomic Energy Authority warned the government of the day regarding the Iraq attack that “If fifty tonnes” of the residual radioactive dust remained “in the region” from the bombing, there would be “half a million extra cancer deaths by the end of the century”; i.e., 2000. Their prediction was an understatement.
Williams issued a stark warning:
I guess that the UK Storm Shadow cruise missile, also suspected of using Uranium components, has been tested in Afghanistan and will be operational in a new attack on Iraq. Other known or suspected Uranium weapons not needed in Afghanistan (e.g. anti-tank systems) will also be used in large quantities in Iraq.
The implication is that at least 1,500 tons of Uranium weapons will be used to prosecute US war plans in Iraq, greatly increasing existing Uranium contamination from 1991 and jeopardizing allied troops and Iraqi civilians alike.
Can you justify using known weapons of indiscriminate effect to defeat supposed weapons of mass destruction? The US has scant regard for international law in its military operations. What is your Government’s view on knowingly using weapons of indiscriminate effect in Iraq?
This letter puts you on notice of that issue. UK forces are accountable to you. The use of such weapons contravening international law must be a political, not military decision, preferably decided by Parliament.
The letter warns:
Regardless of your obligations under international law … I suggest you have moral obligations in this matter.
How will you justify risking the slow death of tens of thousands of people whose lives will be irreversibly affected by Uranium contamination? The word genocide comes to mind. This may not concern President Bush. I hope it will concern you, your Cabinet and all MPs asked to support your plans now you are alerted to the latest evidence about Uranium weapons.
With respect Prime Minister I suggest you need a lot more facts before you commit more UK troops to a new war in Iraq. At this time you face being drawn by the Pentagon and US Government into the greatest military scandal since Agent Orange in Vietnam.
Since Williams prophetic words former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has declared the Iraq decimation illegal, stating:
I have indicated it is not in conformity with the UN Charter, from our point of view, and from the Charter point of view it was illegal.
The UN’s former Chief weapons Inspector, Hans Blix has echoed this view, telling the UK Iraq Inquiry:
I am of the firm view that it was an illegal war. There can be cases where it is doubtful, maybe it was permissible to go to war, but Iraq was, in my view, not one of those.
Numerous international law experts concur, as have many legally led public Inquiries such as the 2011 Kuala Lumpur War Crime Tribunal, a seven Member panel chaired by former Malaysian Federal Court Judge, Abdul Kadir Sulaiman.
The five panel tribunal unanimously decided that the former US and British leaders had committed crimes against peace and humanity, and also violated international law when they ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
UNESCO has described the destruction and pillage of Iraq “cultural cleansing.”
If a man is deemed a war criminal for the terrible destruction of history in Mali is delivered to the ICC, Bush and Blair – whose actions destroyed virtually the whole of Iraq, a swathe of its history and set in train the ongoing destruction, indeed genocide, should be treated no differently. Tony Blair’s assertions in Parliament in 2002 were integral in the excuse for the illegal invasion and ongoing bloodbath now also engulfing Syria.
If you care for the law, for humanity, if eligible, please sign the petition.
Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq and author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books.
Clandestine American-led interventions have fuelled the explosion in terror networks across the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. Yet amid this American legacy of international violence, Obama was charged with painting a rose-tinted view of the world that was breath-taking in its distortion and absurdity.
US President Barack Obama is someone to almost pity. For he has the unenviable task of standing before the nations of the world and smugly spouting endless falsehoods — as he did, yet again, during his address to the UN General Assembly.
By contrast, Russian President Vladimir Putin in his address to the UN may not have displayed the same oratorical flourishes as Obama, but far more importantly Putin spoke about some of the most pressing international problems with words that were the plain truth.
When Putin spoke about the UN and international law being undermined by “exceptional” unilateral actions of the United States, he was able to put his finger on the crux of why conflict, chaos and terrorism are raging in so many parts of the world.
And if we are trying to fix these problems, genuinely, then what the world needs is an accurate diagnosis. Putin delivered that, while Obama just added further layers of obfuscation and misinformation, making such problems ever-more insoluble.
As Putin clearly indicated, illegal US-led regime-change operations that subvert international law and the UN Charter are at the root of ongoing, widespread conflicts, from Afghanistan to Iraq, from Libya to Syria and to Ukraine.
These clandestine American-led interventions have also fuelled the explosion in terror networks across the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. Putin provided the most logical, rational and credible explanation that allows for collective solutions. Supporting the sovereign government of Syria to defeat foreign-backed terrorism in that country is one such solution.
Yet amid this American legacy of international violence, Obama was charged with painting a rose-tinted view of the world that was breath-taking in its distortion and absurdity.
On Syria, the American president sought to ascribe the violence and growth of terrorism in that country as being due to “tyrannical”
Bashar al-Assad who “attacked peaceful protesters” back in 2011. This falsification by Obama flies in the face of admissions by Washington — in declassified documents — that it hatched secret plans for regime change in Syria as early as 2006.
The Pentagon has also admitted in declassified documents that it sponsored jihadist extremists like Islamic State to wage war against the Assad government for the “willful” objective of regime change. In both instances, the US government indicts itself of heinous crimes.
Nevertheless, Obama blithely regaled the UN with claims that his government is “supporting the steady emergence of strong democracies accountable to their people instead of any foreign power” — while, unbelievably, ignoring the long and execrable history of American-sponsored regime change in every corner of the globe.
This American criminal expertise in violating international law and democratic rights of nations spans at least a century. During the early 20th century decades, Major General Smedley Butler in his book, ‘War is a Racket’, described how the Pentagon’s military muscle was used to ransack Latin America and the Caribbean to install despotic regimes in order to make the hemisphere “safe” for Wall Street banks and US corporations.
Then following the Second World War, the US ruling class applied their regime-change dexterity in every continent over the subsequent seven decades up to the present day. From the early postwar European states of Greece, Italy and France where nationalist or socialist governments were thwarted or subverted, right up to the most recent cases of Libya, Syria and Ukraine.
In between, we have the notorious cases of US subversion and coups in Guatemala, Iran, Cuba, Brazil, Indonesia, Chile, Nicaragua, Honduras — to mention just a few. For a complete list of scores of American dirty operations across the world, see William Blum’s book ‘Killing Hope’.
Obama describes US involvement in Libya in 2011 as “helping to prevent a massacre”; and he claims Washington is helping to resolve conflict in Syria and supporting democracy in Ukraine. But in each case, as in countless other countries down through the decades, Washington’s finger-prints are all over the crime scenes and point to its illegal schemes for overthrowing governments and “deterring democracy”, as Noam Chomsky puts it.
But perhaps the ultimate regime change that American rulers engaged in was not against some far off African, Asian or Latin American land.
The most audacious act of criminality was against one of their own democratically elected governments.
In 1963, the brutal assassination of President John F Kennedy as he drove through Dallas in a motorcade was unmistakably a covert regime-change operation. The slaying of Kennedy happened only three weeks after US intelligence were implicated in the murder of Washington’s puppet-dictator in South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem.
Kennedy, whose policies were viewed as being anti-war and amenable to mediation with the Soviet Union and revolutionary Cuba, had made powerful enemies within the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon’s military-industrial complex. The sophistication and political context of Kennedy’s assassination, the vast official cover-up, including the murder of the alleged assassin, the patsy Lee Harvey Oswald, all point to a covert operation to get rid off the president.
American corporate-controlled news media to this day treat the subject of who really killed Kennedy as an off-limits “conspiracy theory”. But reading an array of investigative literature, such as James Douglass’ ‘JFK and the Unspeakable’, as well as testimony of attorney, the late Jim Garrison, it is scarcely disputable that President Kennedy was assassinated by powerful and secretive elements within the American ruling class.
The objective was to replace Kennedy with a president who would be more obedient to the strategic interests of the American military-industrial complex. Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B Johnson, was such a figure, paving the way for the escalation of the Vietnam War in the mid-1960s and heightened hostilities towards the Soviet Union and Cuba, including numerous attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro.
Returning to the UN address delivered by Barack Obama this week, at one point he bragged: “I lead the strongest military that the world has ever known, and I will never hesitate to protect my country or our allies, unilaterally and by force where necessary.”
This is the kind of unquestioning militarism and use of unilateral military force that America’s ruling class expects from White House occupants. Breaking international law, violating the UN Charter and implementing regime change — no matter how murderous — and then spouting lies with squeaky clean rhetoric, these are the qualifications that an American president must demonstrate to the dark, ruling forces within his country.
Otherwise, the fate of an independent, democratic leader would be the same as that of JFK. For regime change, and all its attendant criminality, is as American as mama’s homemade apple pie.
Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria have agreed to establish a joint information center in Baghdad to coordinate their operations against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL/ISIS) militants, according to sources.
“The main goal of the center will be gathering, processing and analyzing current information about the situation in the Middle East – primarily for fighting IS,” a military-diplomatic source told Russian news agencies on Saturday.
The information center in the Iraqi capital will be headed by an officer of one of the founding countries on a rotating basis. Rotation will take place every three months. According to the source, Iraq will run the center for the next three months.
Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria may also use the information center to coordinate anti-IS combat plans, the source said, adding that the agreement is a milestone for uniting the region’s countries in the war on terrorism – primarily on Islamic State militants.
On Friday, the US TV-Channel Fox News reported the four countries were establishing a “coordination cell” in Baghdad, but Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Vladimir Putin, denied this. “We have already said there are many reports which are not true,” he told news agencies.
Recent media reports indicate Russia is boosting its cooperation with Syria and other Middle East countries in the fight against terrorism.
Western media say Russia is sending warplanes and tanks to Syria and building a military base in Latakia, but Russian officials deny this, saying Moscow is continuing to supply Syria with weapons in accordance with bilateral contracts.
“Russia has never made a secret of military-technical cooperation with Syria. Our country has long been supplying weapons and military equipment to Syria under the existing bilateral contracts,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement on September 9.
Syria hopes that Russia’s counter-terror policy will be more effective than the US-led anti-IS coalition.
“Moscow is acting within the framework of international law, respecting the sovereignty of our country and in coordination with Syria,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told RT. “We do not hide anything under the table. We regard Russia as our friend and strategic ally which is honest in its actions.”
Russia has long insisted on the creation of an international anti-terrorist coalition, to coordinate the efforts with the Syrian Army in combating the jihadists on the ground.
The refugee crisis in Europe could be easily solved. The problem is that the real solution would not suit the the political establishment of the United States or Western Europe. We’ve distilled what needs to be done down to 5 simple steps.
- Stop funding and arming rebel groups attempting to overthrow the Syrian government. It’s well established that these weapons have been ending up in the hands of ISIS and its affiliates. This has caused nothing but chaos and destruction. Money being funneled into these shady operations should be immediately redirected to an intensive reconstruction effort.
- Pressure Turkey and Jordan to cut off ISIS supply routes, and impose sanctions on any country facilitating the sale of oil from IS territory or allowing funds or materials to reach them. No army can function if their supply chain is broken. It’s not an accident these routes start at the Turkish and Jordanian borders.
- Support the Syrian government. An entire year of U.S. airstrikes in Syria have utterly failed to destroy or even significantly weaken ISIS. Of course this is because the real strategy isn’t to bring ISIS down, but rather to contain them and allow them to weaken Assad gradually. If Washington really wanted to stop this group, they would take a hint from Russia and provide the Syrian government with weapons, training and logistical support to enable them to push ISIS back. This means Washington and its allies would have to officially abandon all plans for a forced regime change. They might not like Assad, but the majority of the citizens of Syria support him. In fact he has more support within his country than Obama or the U.S. congress have in America. And at various intervals he’s had more support than Congress and Obama combined. Any government installed after a U.S. backed regime change will be viewed as a puppet government, and will therefore lack the legitimacy needed to stabilize the region. If you need evidence of this, just look at Afghanistan or Iraq.
- Provide direct assistance to rebuild housing, infrastructure and businesses destroyed by the conflict. In the short term temporary refugee camps should be set up in areas outside of the conflict zone, and food and medical supplies shipped in on a regular basis. Yes this will cost money, but so has the five year regime change push that created the problem in the first place.
- Return the refugees to these stabilized regions. It is in no one’s interest to flood Europe with masses of unemployed refugees. Doing so will only lead to heightened tensions and will strengthen xenophobic movements. These people don’t need to be transplanted into the ghettos of Europe, they need their homes back.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has thrown U.S. policymakers what amounts to a lifeline to pull them out of the quicksand that is the Syrian war, but Official Washington’s neocons and the mainstream U.S. news media are growling about Putin’s audacity and challenging his motives.
For instance, The New York Times’ lead editorial on Monday accused Putin of “dangerously building up Russia’s military presence” in Syria, even though Putin’s stated goal is to help crush the Sunni jihadists in the Islamic State and other extremist movements.
Instead, the Times harrumphs about Putin using his upcoming speech to the United Nations General Assembly “to make the case for an international coalition against the Islamic State, apparently ignoring the one already being led by the United States.”
The Times then reprises the bizarre neocon argument that the best way to solve the threat from the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and other jihadist forces is to eliminate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his military who have been the principal obstacles to an outright victory by the Sunni terrorist groups.
The dreamy Times/neocon prescription continues to be that “regime change” in Damascus would finally lead to the emergence of the mythical “moderate” rebels who would somehow prevail over the far more numerous and far better armed extremists. This perspective ignores the fact that after a $500 million training project for these “moderates,” the U.S. military says four or five fighters are now on the battlefield inside Syria. In other words, the members of this U.S.-trained brigade can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
But rather than rethink Official Washington’s goofy “group think” on Syria – or provide readers a fuller history of the Syrian conflict – the Times moves on to blame Putin for the mess.
“No one should be fooled about Russia’s culpability in Syria’s agony,” the Times writes. “Mr. Putin could have helped prevent the fighting that has killed more than 250,000 Syrians and displaced millions more, had he worked with other major powers in 2011 to keep Mr. Assad from waging war on his people following peaceful anti-government protests. … Mr. Assad would probably be gone without the weapons aid and other assistance from Russia and Iran.”
This “group think” ignores the early role of Sunni extremists in killing police and soldiers and thus provoking the harsh retaliation that followed. But the Syrian narrative, according to The New York Times, is that the “white-hat” protesters were simply set upon by the “black-hat” government.
The Times’ simplistic story-line fits neatly with what the influential neoconservatives want the West to believe, since the neocons have had Syria on their “regime change” list, alongside Iraq and Iran, since the list was compiled as part of Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s 1996 political campaign. The Times’ narrative also leaves out the crucial role of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other U.S. “allies” in supporting Al Qaeda and its Islamic State spinoff.
Bush’s Unaccounted-for Cash
Further complicating Official Washington’s let’s-blame-Putin Syrian narrative is the unintended role of President George W. Bush and the U.S. military in laying the groundwork for these brutal Sunni extremist movements through the invasion of Iraq last decade. After all, it was only in reaction to the U.S. military presence that “Al Qaeda in Iraq” took root in Iraqi and then Syrian territory.
Not only did the ouster and execution of Sunni leader Saddam Hussein alienate the region’s Sunnis, but Bush’s desperation to avert an outright military defeat in Iraq during his second term led him to authorize the payment of billions of dollars to Sunni fighters to get them to stop shooting at American soldiers and to give Bush time to negotiate a U.S. troop withdrawal.
Beginning in 2006, those U.S. payments to Sunni fighters to get them to suspend their resistance were central to what was then called the “Sunni Awakening.” Though the program preceded Bush’s “surge” of troops in 2007, the bought-and-paid-for truce became central to what Official Washington then hailed as the “successful surge” or “victory at last.”
Besides the billions of dollars paid out in pallets of U.S. cash to Sunni insurgents, Bush’s “surge” cost the lives of another 1,000 U.S. soldiers and killed a countless number of Iraqis, many just going about their daily lives until they were blown apart by powerful American munitions. [See, for example, the “Collateral Murder” video leaked by Pvt. Bradley/Chelsea Manning]
But what the U.S. intelligence community is only now assessing is the collateral damage caused by the bribes that the Bush administration paid to Sunni insurgents. Some of the cash appears to have become seed money for the transformation of “Al Qaeda in Iraq” into the Islamic State as Sunnis, who continued to be disenfranchised by Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government, expanded their sectarian war into Syria.
Besides the Iraqi Sunnis, Syria’s secular government, with Assad and other key leaders from the Alawite branch of Shiite Islam, also was set upon by home-grown Sunni extremists and foreign jihadists, some of whom joined the Islamic State but mostly coalesced around Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and other radical forces. Though the Islamic State had originated as “Al Qaeda in Iraq” (or AQI), it evolved into an even more bloodthirsty force and, in Syria, split off from Al Qaeda central.
U.S. intelligence followed many of these developments in real time. According to a Defense Intelligence Agency report from August 2012, “AQI supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning, both ideologically and through the media. … AQI declared its opposition of Assad’s government because it considered it a sectarian regime targeting Sunnis.”
In other words, Assad’s early complaint about “terrorists” having infiltrated the opposition had a basis in fact. Early in the disorders in 2011, there were cases of armed elements killing police and soldiers. Later, there were terrorist bombings targeting senior Syrian government officials, including a July 18, 2012 explosion – deemed a suicide bombing by government officials – that killed Syrian Defense Minister General Dawoud Rajiha and Assef Shawkat, the deputy defense minister and Assad’s brother-in-law.
By then, it had become clear that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and other Sunni-ruled countries were funneling money and other help to jihadist rebels seeking to oust Assad’s regime, which was considered a protector of Christians, Shiites, Alawites and other minorities fearing persecution if Sunni extremists prevailed.
As the 2012 DIA report noted about Syria, “internally, events are taking a clear sectarian direction. … The salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria. … The West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition; while Russia, China, and Iran support the regime.”
The DIA analysts already understood the risks that AQI represented both to Syria and Iraq. The report included a stark warning about the expansion of AQI, which was changing into the Islamic State or what the DIA referred to as ISI. The brutal armed movement was seeing its ranks swelled by the arrival of global jihadists rallying to the black banner of Sunni militancy, intolerant of both Westerners and “heretics” from Shiite and other non-Sunni branches of Islam.
As this movement strengthened it risked spilling back into Iraq. The DIA wrote: “This creates the ideal atmosphere for AQI to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi [in Iraq], and will provide a renewed momentum under the presumption of unifying the jihad among Sunni Iraq and Syria, and the rest of the Sunnis in the Arab world against what it considers one enemy, the dissenters [apparently a reference to Shiite and other non-Sunni forms of Islam]. ISI could also declare an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of its territory.”
Facing this growing Sunni terrorist threat — which indeed did spill back into Iraq — the idea that the CIA or the U.S. military could effectively arm and train a “moderate” rebel force to somehow compete with the Islamists was already delusional, yet that was the “group think” among the Important People of Official Washington, simply organize a “moderate” army to oust Assad and everything would turn out just great.
On Oct. 2, 2014, Vice President Joe Biden let more of the cat out of the bag when he told an audience at Harvard’s Kennedy School: “our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria … the Saudis, the emirates, etc., what were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad, except the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.” [Quote at 53:20 of clip.]
In other words, much of the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition actually has been involved in financing and arming many of the same jihadists that the coalition is now supposedly fighting. If you take into account the lost billions of dollars that the Bush administration dumped on Sunni fighters starting in 2006, you could argue that the U.S.-led coalition bears primary responsibility for creating the problem that it is now confronting.
Biden made a similar point at least in reference to the Persian Gulf states: “Now all of a sudden, I don’t want to be too facetious, but they have seen the lord. … Saudi Arabia has stopped funding. Saudi Arabia is allowing training [of anti-Islamic State fighters] on its soil … the Qataris have cut off their support for the most extreme elements of terrorist organizations, and the Turks … [are] trying to seal their border.”
But there remain many doubts about the commitment of these Sunni governments to the cause of fighting the Islamic State and even more doubts about whether that commitment extends to Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and other jihadist forces. Some neocons have even advocated backing Al Qaeda as the lesser evil both vis a vis the Islamic State and the Assad regime.
Yet, the Times editorial on Monday blamed Putin for a big chunk of the Syrian mess because Russia has dared support the internationally recognized Syrian government in the face of vicious foreign-supported terrorism. The Times casts no blame on the United States or its allies for the Syrian horror.
The Times also hurled personal insults at Putin as part of its equally one-sided narrative of the Ukraine crisis, which the editorial writers have summarized as simply a case of “Russian aggression” or a “Russian invasion” – ignoring the behind-the-scenes role of neocon Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland in orchestrating the violent overthrow of Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.
In Monday’s editorial, the Times reported that President Barack Obama “considers Mr. Putin a thug,” though it was President Obama who boasted just last month, “I’ve ordered military action in seven countries,” another inconvenient fact that the Times discreetly leaves out. In other words, who’s the “thug”?
Yet, despite all its huffing and puffing and calling Putin names, the Times ultimately concludes that Obama should test out the lifeline that Putin has tossed to Obama’s Syrian policy which – with all its thrashing and arm waving – is rapidly disappearing into the quicksand. The editorial concluded:
“Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in London on Friday, made it clear that America would be looking for ‘common ground’ in Syria, which could mean keeping Mr. Assad in power temporarily during a transition. The Russians should accept that Mr. Assad must go within a specific time frame, say six months. The objective is a transition government that includes elements of the Assad regime and the opposition. Iran should be part of any deal.
“America should be aware that Mr. Putin’s motivations are decidedly mixed and that he may not care nearly as much about joining the fight against the Islamic State as propping up his old ally. But with that in mind there is no reason not to test him.”
Kerry’s apparent willingness to work with the Russians – a position that I’m told Obama shares – is at least a sign that some sanity exists inside the State Department, which initially mounted an absurd and futile attempt to organize an aerial blockade to prevent Russia from flying in any assistance to Syria.
If successful, that scheme, emanating from Nuland’s European division, could have collapsed the Syrian regime and opened the gates of Damascus to the Islamic State and/or Al Qaeda. So obsessed are the neocons to achieve their long-held goal of “regime change” in Syria that they would run the risk of turning Syria over to the Islamic State head-choppers and Al Qaeda’s terrorism plotters.
However, after the requisite snorting and pawing of hooves, it appears that the cooler heads in the Obama administration may have finally asserted themselves – and perhaps at The New York Times as well.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
The US’ obsessive insistence that “Assad must go” is the most dangerous expression of American arrogance in years.
White House Press Secretary Joshua Earnest channeled President Obama’s famous chant that “Assad must go” when he claimed during a regular press briefing that:
“The international community has decided that it’s time for Assad to go. He clearly has lost legitimacy to lead. He has lost the confidence of those citizens of his country — at least the ones that — or I guess I should say particularly the ones that he is using the resources of the military to attack.”
The arrogance on display is both stupefying and dangerous. The problem in Syria isn’t, nor ever has been, President Assad – it’s always been the US’ arrogance in dictating demands and then militarily enforcing them after they’ve been rejected.
Syria’s ills are directly traceable to the failure of American foreign policy in the Mideast. The US rabidly went on a regime change streak that began during the Bush years, with former Supreme Allied Commander of Europe for NATO General Wesley Clark revealing in his 2007 memoirs that a senior general showed him a memo and said:
“‘Here’s the paper from the Office of the Secretary of Defense [then Donald Rumsfeld] outlining the strategy. We’re going to take out seven countries in five years.’ And he named them, starting with Iraq and Syria and ending with Iran.”
Earlier that year, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh wrote an expose in The New Yorker in which he detailed, among other proposed regional regime change specifics, that the Bush Administration was planning to use the Muslim Brotherhood to launch a Gulf-funded sectarian war against the Syrian government.
At the time, the reason was supposedly because of Damascus’ closeness to Tehran, but later information as reported by The Guardian reveals that the decision to build a Friendship Pipeline between Iran, Iraq, and Syria in 2010, and Damascus’ rejection of a similar one from Qatar, likely had a lot to do with why the anti-government terrorist plan was pushed forward for activation the year after.
Beginning in 2011, the Mideast was rocked by the so-called “Arab Spring”, which Russian General Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov would in hindsight categorize as a theater-wide Color Revolution during an official conference on the topic last year in Moscow.
What the US had wanted to do is overthrow all of the Mideast’s republics (even those allied with the US such a Egypt) in order to bring a transnational Muslim Brotherhood clique to power in each of them that would thus make it a lot easier to control the entire region.
Think of it as the neocons’ version of a 21st-century communist party, but directed towards control of the Mideast and not Europe (which has the EU for that).
The Gulf Monarchies were not targeted because of their staunch pro-American allegiance and the potential that any domestic disruption would have in upsetting the US’ economic interests there.
Between the pro-American Gulf Monarchies and the pro-American EU thus lay a handful of republics that weren’t so firmly under the US’ sway (or not at all influenced by it like Syria), so in order for the US to securely control the broad swatch of Afro-Eurasia stretching from Iceland to Yemen, it needed to overthrow those governments, ergo the “Arab Spring” Color Revolutions.
The People’s Will
But something went wrong as it always does with the US’ plans, and it was that the Syrian people wholeheartedly rejected the Muslim Brotherhood’s ploy at regime change, instead favoring to preserve the secular and multicultural society that Syrian civilization is historically known for.
For this simple reason, the Color Revolution attempt was a dismal failure from the very beginning, hence why the US and its allies (notably Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia) sought to transform it into an Unconventional War by arming their proxies and ordering them to escalate their soft coup attempt into a hard one.
The resultant Hybrid War that’s been raging for the past four and a half years is thus a manifestation of the US’ geopolitical obsession for regime change. Far from realizing that the people had resoundingly rejected such an approach from the very beginning, the US and its allies dug in by reinforcing their proxy elements inside the country and allowing foreign fighters to flood into Syria via the Turkish border.
Amidst this external onslaught being launched against them, the Syrian people continued to bravely soldier on and democratically show the rest of the world that they supported their government.
A constitutional referendum in 2012 passed by an 89% margin and with the participation of 57% of the population, while President Assad was reelected in 2014 with 88.7% of the vote in which 73% of the electorate took part.
Both sets of numbers trump the civil society participation and political legitimacy of Western countries and their leaders, and as President Assad once said, there is no way he could remain in office during this war if he didn’t truly have the support of the vast majority of the population.
It’s also telling that most of the country’s refugees haven’t fled the country, but have instead decided to stay in their homeland and seek safety under the protection of the Syrian Arab Army, which currently provides security to around 80% of Syria’s citizens.
Be that as it is, the US and its allies stubbornly ignored the people’s will, and instead continued to blindly pump weapons and fighters into the country in clear confirmation of the adage that insanity is “repeating the same thing over again but expecting different results”.
Ground Zero In The War On Terror
All of those fighters and weapons that the US and its allies were shipping into Syria were bound to lead to some major problems, chief among them the rise of ISIL, but this was actually predicted and supported by the US government a couple years ago. Judicial Watch published a declassified report that it received in May from a Freedom Of Information Act request that proves that the Pentagon’s Defense Information Agency thought that:
“If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”
This bombshell dovetails with what Syrian Ambassador to Russia Riyad Haddad recently said in an interview where he accused the US of using terrorism to promote regime change in his country. President Putin followed up at the CSTO summit by warning countries of the risks inherent in employing double-standards towards terrorists and directly or indirectly using them to further certain tactical objectives.
In order to stem the tide of terror that the US unleashed in the Mideast, Russia is rapidly moving forward with assembling an inclusive anti-ISIL coalition, and President Putin is expected to use his keynote speech at the UN General Assembly later this month to make his case that the situation is far too pressing to care about regime change, and that the world must unite in supporting Syria as it fights on its behalf on the frontlines against terror.
American arrogance got the world into this mess, but if you ask Russia, it’ll be Syrian humility that gets it out in one piece.
The Financial Times recently reported that Nobel Peace Prize recipient Barack Obama has conducted ten times more drone strikes than his predecessor George W. Bush. As far as we can tell, that number is somewhere in the ballpark of 500 strikes and spans a wide array of countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. We can’t know for sure exactly how many drone attacks have taken place, who is conducting them, how many people have been killed by them, or how many other countries have been victim.
It’s important to Obama that the extent of his drone wars remain secret. His peaceful veneer would quickly disintegrate if we had an accurate Obama-death-toll. Drone wars have been kept so secret, in fact, that Obama’s former Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, revealed that he was instructed not to acknowledge or discuss their existence. A handful of investigative journalist groups like The Long War Journal have been left conducting important but difficult guess work about Obama’s drone wars, as if putting together a large puzzle one small piece at a time.
All the while, the American public is left clueless as to the activities being conducted in their name. Obama proclaims that “a decade of war is over,” while behind the scenes he expands the scope of the War on Terror. As a result of our being kept largely ignorant of our government’s actions, we are all the more astounded when the consequences of such wars come to fruition.
The phenomenon of blowback results from the American government’s actions abroad which cause tremendous resentment within local populations. When retaliation for these actions arrives at our shores or against Americans abroad, as it inevitably does, the American public is shocked and appalled, wondering what could possibly prompt such heinous actions. Hungry for answers, Americans are then fed simple explanations by politicians, such as, “they hate our way of life,” or “their religion commands them to commit such acts.” Never are we provided the context in which such reprisals occur. And because so many Americans willingly accept the state’s spoon-fed version of events, they largely tolerate a domestic police and surveillance state that is said to keep them safe from such “terrorists.”
Tribal areas of Afghanistan surveyed about the psychological effects of drones reveal a people living in terror, unable to sleep, with children often kept home from school for fear they’ll be targeted. Though generally out of sight, drones can constantly be heard buzzing overhead, creating a persistent state of fear. Despite our being told of the precision of drone strikes, subject populations have described massive civilian casualties and widespread destruction of property.
Consequently, large swaths of these foreign populations living under drones view the United States in a negative light. One Pew Research Center study found that three quarters of Pakistanis now view Americans as the enemy. One would expect similar numbers from the many other countries across the Middle East and Africa in which America now conducts drone strikes. Blowback is not limited to those directly terrorized by drones either. General Stanley McChrystal stated “resentment created by [drones] … is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”
Though it’s shrouded in secrecy, this new form of American warfare will be Obama’s legacy. The “sanitization” of war offered by drones (introduced on a grand scale by Obama) all but ensures America will never again be without foreign conflict at the hands of crazed politicians. As drone technology continues to improve, the rest of the world will be more at risk of attack by the American war machine, and Americans less safe as a result. As Obama’s time in the White House winds down, let’s remember that he escalated the War on Terror. He’s offered his successors the safety of precedent to fall back on and opened new frontiers for American military demolition. Barack Obama had the opportunity to curtail America’s destructiveness around the world, and instead, he amplified it.
KITCHENER, Ontario — As this is being written, Congress is experiencing extensive and dramatic hand-wringing as it decides between doing what is best for the country and the world or doing what is best for the American Israel Political Affairs Committee. This is no easy task for members of Congress, especially Democrats who, on the one hand, want to assure a “victory” for President Barack Obama, but who are also loathe to displease the Israeli lobby. Whether preventing a war factors into their deliberations is not known.
AIPAC and its countless minions in Congress are painting the recent agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, plus Germany), as nothing short of the end of Israel.
If this deal preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons is approved, they warn darkly, Iran will secretly develop nuclear weapons. This will mean the destruction of Israel, they say. But if it isn’t approved, Iran will develop such weapons. This, they say, will also mean the destruction of Israel. Feel free to re-read those sentences whenever time allows.
From this point of view, the only alternative is war, with the ostensible purpose of destroying Iran’s nuclear capabilities — capabilities that the Islamic Republic has always said are for peaceful energy purposes. Yet the risk of Iran ever having nuclear weapons is too great. If it did obtain them, then Israel would have a hostile nation to counterbalance its power in the Middle East, and, of course, it doesn’t want that competition. And whatever Israel wants, the U.S. wants. Hence the fear-mongering.
This is a tried-and-true method in the U.S. of getting wars started: Tell lies about some situation that can be construed as a threat to U.S. security (or in this case, Israel’s national security, which seems to be threatened by just about everything), get the populace riled up with jingoistic fervor, watch pompous politicians proclaim their great patriotism on the evening news, and then go bomb some country or other.
The U.S. again gets to flex its international muscle, the citizenry is, for some bizarre reason, proud of the destruction the country has caused, the weapons manufacturers spend all their time tallying their astronomical profits, and all is once again right in the twisted world of U.S. governance.
A few examples will suffice to show that this means of starting wars has been used repeatedly. The examples discussed herein do not by any means represent an exhaustive list, but only show that lying to the world to make the citizenry believe that the U.S. or its citizens had been threatened in some way, and that war was the only response, is business as usual in the U.S.
The War of 1812 (June 18, 1812 – Feb. 18, 1815)
Less than 40 years after the American Revolution, the still-new U.S. government felt constrained in areas of international trade, despite tremendous growth in such trade in the years leading up to the war. In 1811, Britain issued an Order-in-Council, excluding American salted fish from the West Indian colonies and imposing heavy duties on other U.S. imports. This, the U.S. could not countenance.
Additionally, although the heady concept of Manifest Destiny would not actually be defined for several more years, territorial expansion was always on the minds of the leaders of the fledgling nation. Canada, with its rich abundance of natural resources and wide expanses of land, was coveted.
The Battle Lake Borgne Hornbrook, War of 1812.
Yet trade and expansion were not foremost on the minds of the populace, at least not sufficiently for them to support a war. But many nations at this time had a policy of impressment, wherein the ships of another country were boarded, and their sailors kidnapped and forced to work for the kidnapping navy. This was something with which the common man and woman could identify. Although this wasn’t a common occurrence, it was exaggerated and combined with the trade issues to introduce the rallying cry of “Free Trade and Sailor’s Rights,” Carl Benn wrote in his 2003 book “Essential Histories: The War of 1812.” However, this wasn’t a simple, spontaneous cry of justice. It seems to have been promoted by annexationists running the government, and was sufficient for the U.S. to start an unsuccessful war against Canada.
Spanish-American War (April 25, 1898 – Aug 12. 1898)
Fast-forward to the end of the 19th century. On Feb. 15, 1898, the battleship Maine exploded in Havana harbor, killing 266 men. According to Hyman George Rickover, in his 1976 book “How the Battleship Maine was Destroyed”:
“Lieutenant Frank F. Fletcher, on duty at the Bureau of Ordnance, wrote in a personal letter to [Lieutenant Albert] Gleaves: ‘The disaster to the Maine is the one topic here now. Everybody is gradually settling down to the belief that the disaster was due to the position of the magazine next to the coal bunkers in where there must have been spontaneous combustion.’”
Theodore Roosevelt (center front, just left of the flag) and his “Rough Riders,” 1898.
The official inquiry into the disaster, however, concluded that an underwater mine had been the culprit. With the battle cry “Remember the Maine,” the U.S. quickly declared war on Spain.
But this “inquiry” was more than a bit flawed. Two widely-recognized experts in ordnance volunteered their services for the investigation, but were not invited to participate. One of them, Prof. Philip Alger, had greatly displeased Secretary of the Navy, and future president, Theodore Roosevelt, when he commented on the disaster in an interview for the Washington Evening Star a few days after it happened. He said, in part, the following, as reproduced by Rickover:
“As to the question of the cause of the Maine’s explosion, we know that no torpedo that is known to modern warfare, can of itself cause an explosion of the character of that on board the Maine. We know of no instances where the explosion of a torpedo or mine under a ship’s bottom has exploded the magazine within. It has simply torn a great hole in the side or bottom, through which water entered, and in consequence of which the ship sunk. Magazine explosions, on the contrary, produce effects exactly similar to the effects of the explosion on board the Maine. When it comes to seeking the cause of the explosion of the Maine’s magazine, we should naturally look not for the improbable or unusual causes, but those against which we have had to guard in the past.”
But Roosevelt was anxious to establish the U.S. as a world power, especially in terms of its Navy. By accusing Spain of blowing up the ship, he had the perfect excuse to launch the Spanish-American War.
The Vietnam War (major U.S. involvement: 1964 – 1975)
Off the coast of China and northern Vietnam is the Gulf of Tonkin, which was the staging area for the U.S. Seventh Fleet in the early 1960s. On the evening of Aug. 4, 1964, the U.S. destroyers Maddox and the C. Turner Joy were in the gulf, when the Maddox’s instruments indicated that the ship was under attack or had been attacked. Both ships began firing into the darkness, with support from U.S. warplanes. However, they “later decided they had been shooting at ghost images on their radar. … The preponderance of the available evidence indicates there was no attack.”
U.S. Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over Vietnam. (Photo by the U.S. Army Operations in Vietnam R.W. Trewyn, Ph.D.)
Yet something needed to be done about Vietnam, with anti-Communist hysteria still rampant in the U.S., and this gave Congress the perfect ploy to escalate the war. This non-incident was presented to the world as an act of aggression against the U.S. Congress quickly passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. By the end of the following year, the number of U.S. soldiers invading Vietnam increased from 23,000 to 184,300. Eleven years later, with over 55,000 U.S. soldiers dead, hundreds of thousands wounded, and, by conservative estimates, 2,000,000 Vietnamese dead, the U.S. fled Vietnam in defeat.
The Gulf War (Aug. 2, 1990 – Feb. 28, 1991)
In order to gain support for the Gulf War of 1990, Congress and President George Bush relied heavily on what is commonly referred to as the Nayirah testimony. In early October 1990, a 15-year-old girl referred to only as “Nayirah,” who claimed to have been a hospital volunteer, testified of seeing babies dumped by Iraqi soldiers from hospital incubators. This, in the eyes of Congress and the president, highlighted the monstrosity of Iraq, and was widely used to gain support for the war.
However, like nearly all of the information the government feeds to the citizenry to start its wars, this testimony was all lies. “Nayirah” was actually the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S. She later admitted that she had once visited the hospital in question, but only for a few minutes. She did see an infant removed from an incubator, but only very briefly. A group called Citizens for a Free Kuwait had hired one of the world’s foremost public relations firms, Hill and Knowlton, to create the illusion of legitimacy for an invasion. They coached “Nayirah” on what to say and how to say it when she appeared before Congress.
We will do no more than mention the U.S.’s drafting of a letter for Grenada to send to the U.S., requesting military intervention when that small island nation’s government was overthrown in 1983. Nor will we dwell on the weapons of mass destruction that Iraq was said to possess in 2002, which justified in the eyes of U.S. citizens the disastrous 2003 invasion of that nation. But as we look at this ugly record of lies that the U.S. has used to expand its territory, power and/or influence around the world, we must consider that it is once again using the same tactics to march the nation toward war with Iran.
The U.S. for generations was successful in deceiving its citizens, and a good part of the world, that it was a beacon of freedom and peace, despite the fact that it has been at war for most of its bloody existence. That myth began to crack during the Vietnam War, broke into pieces with the Iraq War, and may have been dealt a fatal blow by the U.S.’s support of Israeli atrocities in 2014.
Regardless of the outcome of the congressional vote on the Iran agreement, the U.S. will find itself less able to lie its way into corporate wars in the future. That capacity diminished during the lead-up to the Iraqi invasion, and while no one ever went broke betting on the gullibility and short-term memory of the U.S. citizenry, people are beginning to wake up. When they finally do, much of the carnage in the world will end. That day cannot come soon enough.