The New York Times Reports on What the Rest of the Western Hemisphere Thinks About the Conflict Between the US and Venezuela
In a significant change in reporting at The New York Times, the newspaper yesterday became the first major news outlet in the English language media to report on what the rest of the governments in the Western Hemisphere think of U.S. policy toward Venezuela.
This is potentially important because this part of the story, which has heretofore been ignored, could begin to change many people’s perceptions of what is behind the problems in U.S.-Venezuelan relations, if other journalists begin to report on it. The Obama administration is more isolated in Latin America than even George W. Bush was, but hardly anyone who depends on the major hemispheric media would know that, because the point of view of governments other than the U.S. is not reported.
The Times article contains this very succinct and eloquent comment on the new U.S. sanctions against Venezuela from Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa:
“It ought to be a joke in bad taste that reminds us of the darkest hours of our America, when we received invasions and dictatorships imposed by the imperialists,” Mr. Correa wrote. “Can’t they understand that Latin America has changed?”
The last line really sums up the situation: They really don’t understand that Latin America has changed. One can follow all the foreign policy debates in Washington about Latin America, in the media or in journals such as Foreign Affairs, and there really is almost no acknowledgment of the new reality. In this sense the discussion of hemispheric relations is different from most other areas of U.S. foreign policy, e.g., Afghanistan, Iraq, even Israel and Palestine – where there is at least some debate that reaches the intelligentsia and the public. (The new Cold War with Russia is perhaps exceptional in the pervasiveness of a sheep-like mentality and uniformity of thinking – as Russia expert Stephen Cohen of Princeton has pointed out reminiscent of the 1950s; but it remains to be seen how long this can last, and even in this robust display of groupthink there is a small smattering of exceptions that break through.)
Latin America really has changed, drastically, and Correa’s view represents the vast majority of governments in the region, even if some are more diplomatic in their expression of it. This can be seen in the strong statements criticizing U.S. actions from regional organizations such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which includes every country in the hemisphere except the U.S. and Canada; and UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations). (The Times article mentioned that these two organizations “issued statements expressing concern,” although that was a bit of an understatement.)
More generally, the vast majority of Latin American governments now have a foreign policy independent of Washington, which has never been true before the 21st century; and they are also much more independent of Washington in their economic policies. As recently as 2002, for example, the U.S. was able to exert a major influence on the economic policy of even the region’s largest economy, Brazil, through the International Monetary Fund.
The White House’s latest move is seen throughout the region as so outrageous and threatening that it will likely be reversed, eventually, under pressure from Latin American governments. That is what happened in April 2013, when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry refused to recognize the results of Venezuela’s presidential election, even though there was no doubt about the outcome. At first, Washington was able to get OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, and the right-wing government in Spain, to join in refusing to recognize the result; but then these two allies gave in under pressure, and Kerry was left completely alone, whereupon Washington recognized the results.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has reminded American officials that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is against a nuclear deal with Iran, was also in the US in 2002 to push for the invasion of Iraq.
Netanyahu is set to use his next week’s address to a joint session of Congress to condemn a potential nuclear agreement with Iran.
During a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing on Wednesday, Kerry warned Congress about the controversial speech.
“The prime minister, as you will recall, was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq under George W. Bush, and we all know what happened with that decision,” Kerry said.
The top US diplomat was referring to testimony on the Middle East that Netanyahu delivered to Congress on Sept. 12, 2002.
During his speech, Netanyahu expressed strong support for Washington to oust former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Six months later, the US military bombarded the country.
“I think the choice of Iraq is a good choice, it’s the right choice,” Netanyahu said in 2002. “If you take out Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.”
Kerry also said on Wednesday that Netanyahu was wrong about Iran too because he had been “extremely outspoken about how bad the interim agreement was, calling it the ‘deal of the century for Iran.’”
The March 3 speech by Netanyahu has made the Obama administration furious as it comes ahead of crucial nuclear negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany that are working hard to reach a comprehensive nuclear accord.
Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice said the speech has “injected a degree of partisanship, which is not only unfortunate, I think it’s destructive of the fabric of the relationship.”
Netanyahu, who is trying to put pressure on US officials to stop a final deal, once again defended his trip to Washington on Tuesday, saying he would do everything to prevent the agreement.
“It is my obligation as prime minister to do everything that I can to prevent this agreement. Therefore, I will go to Washington… because the American Congress is likely to be the final brake before the agreement,” he said.
President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and John Kerry would not meet with the Israeli leader during his trip.
A number of Democrats announced that they would skip the speech.
“Russian aggression” – the bad faith mantra of dishonest brokers
Just as NATO allies Germany and France were undertaking a peace initiative with Russia and Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry turned up in Kiev at the same time, seeking to poison the talks before they started by spouting yet again the ritual U.S. accusation of “Russian aggression.” The incantation is meaningless without context. Its purpose is mesmerize a false consciousness. “Russian aggression” may or may not exist in the events of the past year, just like “Russian self-defense.” Reporting on the ground has been too unreliable to support any firm analysis, never mind the provocative “Russian aggression” the U.S. brandishes as a virtual call for war.
Western aggression, political and diplomatic more than military, is a cold reality and has been for two decades. The West, and especially the U.S., has yet to accept responsibility for 20 years of anti-Russian aggression, much less pull back from such perennial hostility. The Obama administration (parts of it at least, given the incoherence of the “administration”) has acted as if its pulling off an only-slightly-violent coup in Kiev in 2014 was a grand triumph. Worse, having grabbed a government on Russia’s borders, the Obama hawks carry on as if the only reasonable choice for Russia is to accept the success of this Western aggression.
Rarely is this context acknowledged in discussions of the natural fissures in Ukraine that feed sectarian civil war. Rather the issues are over-simplified – falsified – by the U.S. Secretary of State, consistent with a hidden agenda of provoking a military confrontation (at the very least) with Russia and eastern Ukrainians. That’s the subtext that makes sense of Kerry’s otherwise seeming blithering in Kiev on February 5:
We talked about the largest threat that Ukraine faces today, and that is Russia’s continued aggression in the east. There’s no other way to call it. We’re not seeking a conflict with Russia. No one is. … The president is reviewing all of his options. Among those options, obviously, is the possibility of providing defensive — defensive — assistance to Ukraine. And those discussions are going on. The president will make his decision, I am confident, soon.
Note the lie: “We’re not seeking a conflict with Russia. No one is.”
When Kerry said that, he was lying, he almost surely knew he was lying, and the question is whether his lie represents only the rogue war-faction in the U.S., or is part of a dicey good-cop/bad-cop routine out of Washington. The only way it’s true that “we’re not seeking a conflict” is that the U.S. is already engaged in conflict with Russia, decades-long and currently escalating. The lie of not seeking a conflict already engaged is used to mask the lie of “defensive weapons,” a military-diplomatic oxymoron of long standing. So the most obvious answer to the question of who wants war in Ukraine is elements of the U.S. government whose immediate challenge is to persuade its Kiev client that it’s a good idea to risk turning its country into more of a battlefield than it already is.
Kiev’s desire is more obscure, and likely divided. Having taken power in something of a slow-motion coup d’etat last spring, the government faced a restive-to-defiant population in eastern Ukraine. Rather than seeking to negotiate legitimate grievances with the eastern region, the Kiev government chose instead to escalate quickly, from political hostilities into civil war. When that didn’t work out militarily, when Kiev started losing what it started, it agreed on September 5 to terms of a ceasefire that it then failed to honor with consistency (as did the separatists). Now the Ukrainian president has been to Moscow for early peace talks, but only after he staked out a preposterous public position seeking to win with a losing negotiating hand what Kiev has already lost on the ground.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande in Kiev on February 5 (when Kerry was in town but not part of the meeting). In his public statement, Poroshenko referred self-servingly to September’s Minsk Agreement signed by Ukraine, Russia, and the break-away Ukrainian states that call themselves the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk. The only other Minsk signatory was the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), giving the agreement the tacit endorsement of Europe without any individual European nation signing on. The United States was not directly involved in the Minsk Agreement, but a week later expressed its support for finding a peaceful solution by sending American troops to take part in NATO military exercises in Ukraine’s western provinces.
Understood in its actual context, Poroshenko’s February 5 statement is ludicrously disingenuous:
The Minsk plan is very simple: immediate ceasefire; releasing all the hostages; closing the border, or renew the internationally recognized border on Ukrainian (side); withdrawal all of the foreign troops from the Ukrainian territory; launching very important process of the political regulation by the election on the municipal election, local election, under Ukrainian legislation in the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk.
All signatories must take Minsk accord seriously to avoid war
It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t urge compliance with the Minsk Agreement, even if that means different things to different people. Neither side in Ukraine has come close to significant compliance for any length of time. Poroshenko calls for the ceasefire, but omits the international monitoring called for in the agreement. He calls for closing the border with Russia, which is NOT part of the agreement. When he calls for the withdrawal of foreign troops, he omits mention of NATO. When he refers to elections, he omits Kiev’s failure to pass the legislation it promised, and he omits the elections that have already been held in the Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk [see “Election Note” at the end of this article]. Poroshenko also omits amnesty for separatists, improving humanitarian conditions in the region, and the recovery program, all of which are part of the Minsk Agreement.
Nevertheless, Poroshenko went to Moscow with his German and French colleagues to take part in peace talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin there on February 6, at Russia’s initiative. When similar talks had been proposed for mid-January, Chancellor Merkel had been instrumental in making sure they didn’t happen. This time her public posture going in was appropriately statesmanlike:
It is a question of peace and preserving the European peace order. It is a question of free self-determination of the people as part of this European peace order. And we are doing what we believe to be our duty at this time, namely trying to do everything in our power to end the bloodshed.
Merkel’s reference to “free self-determination” is diplomatically murky and allows for a wide range of possible solutions for the self-proclaimed Republics in eastern Ukraine, and even hints at a resolution for Crimea. Her focus on peace serves all the parties’ best interest, seeking to avoid a war that would, inevitably, cause much more suffering for Europe than the United States.
U.S. policy seems designed to turn Ukraine into the “European Iraq”
Presumably none of the parties meeting in Moscow on February 6 wants to see Ukraine become “another Iraq,” even if Ukraine is already part way there. Where Iraq had been a coherent, modern state with cultural cohesion despite its dictatorship, Ukraine has a long history of quasi-chaos, internal squabbling, and corruption. Where it took an American invasion and occupation to reduce Iraq to a near-failed state, the U.S. sees an opportunity now to manipulate proxies into destroying Ukraine (and even Russia) for the next generation or so.
Germany, France, Russia, and especially Ukraine must be acutely tuned to the potential horrors they face. After meeting for four hours, the parties were generally low key and discreet in what they said about the substance discussed. This reality produced European coverage by the BBC and others characterized by cautious hopefulness. U.S. media more typically characterized uncertainty as failure, offering the talismans of magical thinking and instant gratification in place of accuracy or analysis.
Whatever they were, the four-way talks in Moscow were not a failure. All sides called them “constructive,” which is diplo-speak for: there’s still a chance for a settlement. The parties are continuing the negotiations with apparent openness to a range of solutions. Hollande called this process “one of the last chances” to settle eastern Ukraine peacefully. Poroshenko has expressed hope for an early agreement to an “unconditional ceasefire” and one step toward reducing tensions. An unconditional ceasefire is beyond what was agreed to at Minsk in September, but creates no barrier to implementing the agreement later. Moscow’s tactful obliqueness leaving room for the parties to maneuver was in sharp contrast to the bloviating cries for war coming mostly from U.S. Senators and the vice-president at the simultaneous regional security gathering in Munich.
The lesson of Munich for 2015: “War in our time”?
Meeting for the 51st year in Munich during February 6-8, the Munich Security Conference (MSC) provided a setting for mostly U.S. hawks to try to undermine the chances for peace in Ukraine. Founded in 1963, the Munich conference identifies itself as
… a key annual gathering for the international ‘strategic community’… an independent forum dedicated to promoting peaceful conflict resolution and international cooperation and dialogue in dealing with today’s and future security challenges.
What the Munich conference seems to be is something of a foreign policy free-for-all to which almost anyone from anywhere can come and pontificate regardless of whether they hold any actual decision-making authority. The American delegation, including a dozen war-minded congress members, seems not to have gotten the memo about “promoting peaceful conflict resolution,” like the British lapdog also barking loudly for war.
Like any good multinational circus, the Munich show offered a variety of clown acts and sideshows to distract from the U.S. rush to war. The Turks decided not to take part rather than share a panel with Israelis. Non-office-holder Arnold Schwarzeneggar stumped to action on climate change. Some European Union members ganged up on Greece (again), this time for opposing some sanctions on Russia, while support for Greece (and peace) came from Cyprus, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic – most of which are closer to the likely war zone than those brave distant states ready to start a fight. In the Munich streets, some 2,000 peaceful protestors demonstrated against NATO, otherwise known as an American sphere of influence (if not a Trojan horse).
Joe Biden toes the official line, smoothly riffing on official lies
Other members of the American delegation included Kiev coup supporters Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Kerry, and assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland, none of whom showed any public willingness to look at the realities of the present or the past 20 years. Like a good apparatchik of the American war party, Biden’s address to the conference included a subtle version of the requisite “Russian aggression” trope, along with 45 minutes of neo-Cold-War boilerplate propaganda. In one of the more hilarious highlights of this taken-very-seriously by the media speech, Biden quoted himself from the same conference in 2009:
Six years ago at this podium, I said and I quote, ‘To paraphrase President Obama, it is time to press the reset button and reinvest in the many areas where we can and should be working together with Russia.’
That’s what everybody remembers. But they don’t often repeat what I then said.
I said, ‘We will also not recognize any nation having a sphere of influence. We will remain — it will remain our view that sovereign states have the right to make their decisions and choose their own alliances.’
I meant it when I said it then, and America means it as I repeat it now.
The “reset button” rhetoric did not include changing U.S. support for the relentless push for NATO to include countries on Russia’s border, a form of blatant – and mindless – political aggression. NATO, the European Union, Europe itself are all U.S. spheres of influence, no matter what the Biden-shills of the world may say. Even as he lied sanctimoniously about spheres of influence in 2009, his country was engaging in its half-century of punishing Cuba for not being a loyal and subservient of the American hemisphere of influence.
And when Biden claimed, “it will remain our view that sovereign states have the right to make their decisions and choose their own alliances,” an honest audience would have laughed as derisively at that as the same audience laughed at perceived absurdity from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during his address to the Munich conference.
Having destabilized Ukraine, the U.S. blames Russia for piling on
Remember how the present Ukraine crisis came about? In the fall of 2013, Ukraine was weighing a political, economic choice between a European proposal requiring exclusivity (and implying future NATO membership) and a somewhat more open Russian proposal (with no military alliance component). In Ukraine, as politically divided as ever, the western population yearned for Europe, the eastern population was content with Russia. When the legitimate, democratically-elected Ukraine government rejected the European offer, protesters mostly from western Ukraine launched the months-long Euro-Maidan demonstrations in Kiev (presumably with the connivance of the U.S. and others). In time, including on the scene visits from Biden (whose son reportedly has significant economic interests in Ukraine) and Nuland (with her cookies for the mob), the Maidan evolved into the coup d’etat that produced the current Ukraine government.
So when Biden says “that sovereign states have the right to make their decisions and choose their own alliances,” he lying. He’s lying about Ukraine and he’s lying about U.S. behavior in the present and the recent past (and the not so recent past as well, to be sure).
Somewhat measured language from the White House
On February 5, as the flurry of events in Kiev, Moscow, and Munich was beginning, the White House expressed some awareness that military escalation might only make matters worse in Ukraine. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, in part:
… the United States has been saying for some time that it’s a diplomatic negotiation that is required to bring this conflict in Ukraine to an end, that this is not something that’s going to be solved or resolved militarily, but rather through diplomatic negotiations. So we certainly are encouraging and supportive of ongoing efforts to try to find a peaceful diplomatic resolution to the conflict in Ukraine…. [But] we need serious engagement from the Russians and the separatists, the likes of which we’ve not seen before….
… the President is going to make a decision [on weapons to Ukraine] that he believes is in the broader national security interests of the United States…. But certainly the President takes very seriously the views of our allies and is going to consult very closely as we evaluate any needed strategic changes ahead…. [But] this conflict was not going to rise to the level of a military confrontation between the United States and Russia. The President has been very clear about that. So there are things that we are going to continue to avoid.
But one of the concerns that we have about providing military assistance is it does contain the possibility of actually expanding bloodshed, and that’s actually what we’re trying to avoid. The whole reason that we are trying to encourage both sides to sit down and hammer out a diplomatic agreement is to end the bloodshed and end the escalating conflict in that country.
The press secretary made no effort to offer a balanced analysis of the Minsk Agreement, blaming the separatist Republics and Russia for virtually all the problems. He did allow that Ukraine had not lived up to all its commitments under the agreement.
Who actually speaks for the United States?
The same day the White House offered this view, NATO ministers in Brussels adopted a plan to ring Russia’s European perimeter with a network of command centers and rapid reaction forces. According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, this plan is NATO’s biggest reinforcement of collective defense since the end of the Cold War. He added that the first six multinational command and control units would be established immediately in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria. Estonia and Latvia border on Russia. Poland and Romania border on Ukraine.
The Secretary of State is carrying on as if he believes that this might be his legacy moment. He’s acting as if he’s thinking: Hillary Clinton led the charge on Libya and made magnificent regional chaos there, so why shouldn’t I be able to top that, and make a mess of Ukraine, and possibly create global chaos?
But what if “Russian aggression” is real? As matters stand now, U.S. policy aggression for two decades has served as a self-fulfilling prophecy that creates “aggression” in response. What would happen if the U.S. especially, and the West in general, sent a clear signal that western aggression was over? How long would it take for Russia (or China) to trust that as reality? And would that persuade the Russians to relax what we now call their aggression? (We don’t hear much about “Chinese aggression” these days, but chances are that Kerry or Biden or someone already has that speech written.)
The course the U.S. has been on since 1990 has no good ending, unless one assumes that the Russians (or the Chinese) will fold under pressure. That seems unlikely. Nor does the result seem worth the risk. But also unlikely is a U.S. course change as long as we remain enamored of our own exceptional face in the magic mirror that keeps telling us we’re indispensable and can do no wrong. In Ukraine, today, probably the most dispensable nation is the U.S.
As this is written February 9, President Obama and Chancellor Merkel have met at the White House and offered vague public assurances that diplomatic efforts will continue to try to settle Ukraine issues peacefully. It’s not reassuring that Obama’s companions in his meeting with Merkel were committed aggressors: Biden, Kerry, and national security advisor Susan Rice. We don’t know if this President is strong enough to be in control of his administration as it speaks with conflicting voices. What we know pretty surely is that this is a moment when President Obama could actually earn his Nobel Peace Prize by calling off “American aggression.”
Or he could just follow the lead of the mindless, bi-partisan weapons-gaggle in Congress and elsewhere. The president could do the bidding of all those shrill demagogues who cry for escalating bloodshed, those grandstanding testosterone puffs who will never accept responsibility for the death and dismemberment they advocate. In that event, the President would once again ignore his own earlier wisdom when he once said: “Don’t do stupid stuff.”
Election Note [see above]: The Donetsk and Luhansk elections held November 2 were supported by Russia and rejected as illegitimate by Ukraine, as well as spokespersons for the European Union, Germany and others in the west. The election results mostly confirmed the local authority already in place, including the chief executive and parliamentary majorities in both Republics, which were popularly approved in referendums in May. An OSCE spokesperson called the November elections a violation of the spirit and letter of the Minsk Agreement, which seemed to contemplate such elections taking place on December 7, under Ukrainian law. Ukraine had excluded Donetsk and Luhansk from its presidential election in May and its parliamentary election in October. The last apparently legitimate presidential election held in Ukraine chose Viktor Yanukovych president in February 2010. Yanukovych, whose support reached 90% of the vote in some districts of Donetsk and Luhansk, was forced from office in February 2014 by the coup that emerged from the Maidan protest. Ukraine has almost 34 million voters in all, of which more than 5 million are (or were) in Luhansk and Donetsk. Another 1.8 million voters in Crimea have not taken part in the 2014 elections outside Crimea.
The Origin of Modern Terror and Crumbling Western Values
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | January 26, 2015
Do you ever solve problems by ignoring them? Most of us would say that is not possible, yet that is precisely what western governments do in their efforts to counteract what is called “Islamic terror.” Yes, there are vast and costly efforts to suppress the symptoms of what western governments regard as a modern plague, including killing many people presumed to be infected with it, fomenting rebellion and destruction in places presumed to be prone to it, secretly returning to barbaric practices such as torture, things we thought had been left behind centuries ago, to fight it, and violating rights of their own citizens we thought were as firmly established as the need for food and shelter. Governments ignore, in all these destructive efforts, what in private they know very well is the origin of the problem.
Have Islamic radicals always existed? Yes, we have records through the history of British and French empire-building of strange and fearsome groups. It appears every large religion has a spectrum of believers, always including at one end of the spectrum extreme fundamentalists. They are not a new phenomenon anywhere, so why has one group of them, in the sands of the Middle East, become part of our everyday awareness?
It is also nothing new that young men become hot-blooded and disturbed over what they regard as attacks upon their kind. Western society’s record of crusades, religious wars, colonial wars, and revolts, all total likely having no equal in the histories of the world’s peoples, offers countless examples of young men being angered by this or that circumstance and joining up or running off to fight.
George Bush told us today’s terrorists hate our freedom and democratic values, but like virtually every utterance of George Bush, that one was fatuous, explaining nothing. Nevertheless, his is the explanation pounded into public consciousness because governments and the corporate press never stop repeating versions of it, the Charlie Hebdo affair and its theatrical posturing over free speech being only the latest. Theatrical? Yes, when we know perfectly well that most of those who marched at the front of the parade in Paris are anything but friends of free speech.
All backward peoples are uncomfortable with certain western values, that being the nature of backwardness, and backwardness is a defining characteristic of all fundamentalist religious groups – Hasidic or ultra-Orthodox Jews, Mennonites, Roman Catholic Cardinals, cloistered nuns, Sikhs, and many others – who typically choose modes of dress, rules to obey, and even foods to eat having little or no relationship with the contemporary world and science. Of course, that is their right so long as they are peaceful and law-abiding.
Any fundamentalist group, pushed by more powerful people from outside their community, is entirely capable of, and even prone to, violence, and all human beings are capable of violence when faced with abuse and injustice. Centuries of religious wars and terrors in Europe about such matters as how the Mass is celebrated prove the proposition and should be held as a warning, but they are forgotten by most, if they were ever known. The tendency towards violence continues today amongst many fundamentalist faiths. In so relatively small and seemingly homogeneous a society as Israel, there are regular attacks from ultra-Orthodox Jews against the country’s worldly citizens or against fair-minded rules about such pedestrian matters as women riding buses or walking on a street. The attacks become quite violent – punching, spitting, burning down homes, and killing sometimes – and all go against what we call western values, but because the scale is fairly small, and our press also has a constant protective bias concerning all things Israeli, these events rarely make our mainline news. They must be found on the Internet.
It took Western Europe literally centuries to leave behind such recurrent and violent themes as witches and the need to burn them alive, the Evil Eye, casting out demons, execution for differences of belief, and countless other stupidities which characterized whole societies and destroyed lives. And if you want to go still further back, go to the Old Testament, a collection of ancient writing packed with violence, superstition, prejudice, and just plain ignorance, which Christians and others even today regard as containing important truths for contemporary life. Human progress, at least in some matters, takes a very long time indeed.
Our world has more backward people than most of us can imagine. The news does not feature their extremes and savageries because it serves no political purpose. In Africa, for example, we find practices and beliefs utterly repellent to modern minds: the practice of senior village men raping young girls as an accepted right, the genital mutilation of 3 million girls annually (an African, not an Islamic, practice), the hunting down and butchering such “strange” people as albinos, their parts to be eaten as medicine, and many others. In India, a country well on its way to becoming modern yet one with a huge backward population, we have practices such as marrying off mere girls to old men rich enough to pay dowries to poor parents. At one stroke this enriches the parents and relieves them of the burden of a child, a female child too, always viewed less favorably. The practice generates a large population of widows when the old husbands of girls married at, say, twelve die. These women are then condemned to entire lives as widows, never allowed to remarry, required to dress and eat in certain ways, and basically shunned to live in squalid equivalents of old folks homes, living entirely meaningless lives. India also has the practice of “bride burning” where new brides who are deemed unacceptable for various reasons become the prey of the groom’s family, literally being burned alive. There are many other barbarities in that society too, including “honor killing” and young women who are made inmates in certain temples to serve as glorified prostitutes.
Our press assiduously avoids much of the world’s horrors as it focuses on “Islamic extremism,” and politics are the only explanation for the bias. The press theme of Islamic terror and indeed real incidents of terror grow from a reality always taken for granted, never debated, and certainly never criticised: the elephant in the room, as it were, is Israel’s illegal and agonizingly long occupation of the Palestinians.
It may be not be important to our press and governments that Israel holds millions as prisoners, crippling the lives of generation after generation, or that Israel periodically strikes out in every direction – Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank – causing the deaths of many thousands, or that Israel is seen to bulldoze people’s homes and sacred monuments with complete impunity, but it very much matters to many millions of Muslims in the world, and some of them, fundamentalist men, strike out against it just as young men everywhere have sometimes struck out against keenly-felt hurts and injustice.
In western countries, under the hard influence of America, a country in turn under the hard influence of the world’s best organized and financed lobby, the Israel Lobby, we have come to regard Israel’s behavior as normal, but it is, of course, not normal, not in any detail. What is normal about holding several million people prisoner for half a century? What is normal about bulldozing homes and literally stealing the land upon which they stood? What is normal about declaring an honestly elected government as criminal and treating its people as though they were criminals? What is normal about limiting people’s opportunity to earn a living or to import some of the needs of life? What is normal about killing nearly a thousand children, as Israel has done just in Gaza, since 2008?
Pretending that Israel’s behavior is not the major cause of what screams from our headlines and news broadcasts has reached absurd levels. America has only vastly compounded the problem of Israel’s organized abuse of a people: it and its silent partners have destroyed Iraq, destroyed Libya, are working hard to destroy Syria, have seen to it that Egypt’s tens of millions again live under absolute government, ignore countless inequities and barbarities in secretly-helpful countries like Saudi Arabia, and carry out extra-judicial killings through much of the region. All of it is carried out on Israel’s behalf and with Israel’s cooperation. Can any reasonable person not see that this vast factory of death also manufactures countless grievances and vendettas? The stupidity is on a colossal scale, rooted in the notion that you can kill your way out of the terrible consequences of terrible policies.
In America, paid political shills (Newt Gingrich was one) have campaigned about there being no such thing as a Palestinian. Others (Dick Armey was one) have said that millions of Palestinians should be removed, all their land left conveniently to Israel. That last is an odd thing to say, isn’t it, considering there are supposed to be no such thing as Palestinians? And just what country would take millions of “non-existent” Palestinians? Obviously no politician with even pretence of integrity would say such things, and how can intelligent and successful people like America’s Jews take satisfaction in hearing politicians reciting such embarrassing scripts? But this is a good measure of the way intelligence and sound thinking are scorned in American politics. How can you achieve anything worth achieving without intelligence and sound thinking? You cannot, but that doesn’t stop American Presidents and Secretaries of State from carrying on the world’s longest-running dumb show, something called the “peace process.” The sombre, moose-like figure of John Kerry is photographed playacting at statesmanship while American-supplied arms just keep killing thousands of innocent people.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is reported to have informed the Palestinian delegation headed by Saeb Erekat that Washington will use its veto power at the UN Security Council against the Arab draft resolution which calls for an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestine territories occupied in 1967; AFP quoted a senior Palestinian official as saying.
Kerry had earlier said that Washington has not decided on the Security Council draft resolution saying: “The time is not right for speculation about a UN draft resolution that has not been submitted yet.”
He told reporters before his meeting with Erekat that it was imperative to help lower tensions. “Many of us share a deep sense of urgency about this. But we’re also very mindful that we have to carefully calibrate any steps that are taken for this difficult moment in the region,” he said.
Al-Jazeera’s Bureau Chief in Ramallah Walid Al-Omari said the Palestinian leadership delayed a meeting scheduled yesterday and will wait for the outcome of a meeting between the Palestinian delegation and a delegation of Arab foreign ministers, headed by Nabil Elaraby, with the US secretary of state and European foreign ministers.
On Monday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Kerry in Rome. Israel’s Channel 10 said that Netanyahu attempted to push the US to use its veto against the Palestinian draft resolution.
US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and a delegation from the Arab League in London Tuesday, hoping to avert a diplomatic crisis over a United Nation bid to force Israel to withdraw from West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Kerry will seek to persuade the Palestinians not to move ahead with a draft UN resolution seeking to set a two-year timetable for an end to the Israeli occupation of territories being considered for a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution.
Israel has occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank since the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed Jerusalem in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Zionist state – a move never recognized by the international community.
Kerry has spent the past two days jetting across Europe meeting his counterparts as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to gauge support for the Palestinian effort at the UN Security Council.
Netanyahu said late on Monday that growing European backing for a two-state solution could harm Israel.
“I said that the attempts of the Palestinians and of several European countries to force conditions on Israel will only lead to a deterioration in the regional situation and will endanger Israel,” he said in a statement.
“Therefore, we will strongly oppose this,” he added.
There is growing European impatience with the current status quo in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as several European parliaments in recent weeks have called on their governments to symbolically recognize a state of Palestine.
Netanyahu sought assurances from Kerry that Washington would block efforts by Palestinians and Europeans on Palestinian statehood.
“Our expectation is that the United States will stand by its position for the past 47 years that a solution to the conflict will be achieved through negotiations, and I do not see a reason for this policy to change,” Netanyahu told reporters after a meeting in Rome that lasted some three hours.
The two men “had a long and thorough discussion about Israel’s security and developments at the United Nations,” a State Department official said.
Before the meeting, Israel put the US on notice that it expected Washington to exercise its UN Security Council veto against any resolutions setting a time frame.
Netanyahu declined to comment on whether he was given an assurance by Kerry that the US would exercise its veto.
A source with knowledge of the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity said the Israeli leader had indeed asked for such an assurance.
Meanwhile, a senior State Department official said Washington had made clear in discussions that it would oppose certain moves.
“We’ve made clear throughout these discussions with all of our interlocutors that there are certain things we could never support. (I’m) not going to outline those publicly,” the official said.
The US administration opposes moves, like a UN resolution, that it says would bind negotiators’ hands – particularly any attempt to set a deadline for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank.
But a US veto risks running contrary to Washington’s avowed aim of a Palestinian state and would anger key Arab allies – many of whom are much-needed partners in the US-led coalition against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group.
Arab countries, however, have long been silent on the Palestinian cause or merely used it as a rhetorical talking point.
US officials have indicated that Washington did not find the Palestinian draft acceptable, but said that with matters still fluid, it was premature to take a position now on any particular Security Council resolution.
“Whether we have the nine votes at the Security Council or we don’t, the decision has been taken to present the Palestinian-Arab resolution in the Security Council on Wednesday,” said Wassel Abu Yousef, an official of the Palestine Liberation Organization, one of the highest Palestinian decision-making body, led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour said that “on Wednesday, most likely a draft will be put in blue.” This means the draft resolution could be put to a vote as soon as 24 hours later, though it does not guarantee it will be put to a vote.
Jordanian UN Ambassador Dina Kawar said she had not received any requests regarding action on the Palestinian draft.
When asked if she was expecting any developments at the Security Council this week, Kawar told reporters: “No, no, because Mr. Kerry is having meetings in Europe with a number of ministers, so we’re waiting to see what happens.”
From Rome, Kerry traveled to Paris to meet with counterparts from Britain, Germany and France to discuss their efforts to draft a separate UN resolution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
US officials said there was no consensus among the European powers on the best way to proceed.
Diplomatic sources say Paris is hoping to persuade the divided Palestinians to back their compromise resolution, rather than risk a US veto of the more muscular Arab version presented by Jordan last month.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told AFP they were looking for “a resolution which everyone can get behind.”
“Even if the Palestinians have a text in their hand, the Americans have already said that they will veto it,” Fabius said.
UN Middle East peace process envoy Robert Serry briefed the Security Council on Monday and said any resolution outlining the parameters of an Israeli-Palestinian final status agreement would be important, but “not a substitute for a genuine peace process that will need to be negotiated between both parties.”
In November 1988, Palestinian leaders led by Yasser Arafat declared the existence of a state of Palestine inside the 1967 borders and the state’s belief “in the settlement of international and regional disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the charter and resolutions of the United Nations.”
Heralded as a “historic compromise,” the move implied that Palestinians would agree to accept only 22 percent of historic Palestine, in exchange for peace with Israel. It is now believed that only 17 percent of historic Palestine is under Palestinian control following the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements.
It is worth noting that numerous pro-Palestine activists support a one-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians would be treated equally, arguing that the creation of a Palestinian state beside Israel would not be sustainable. They also believe that the two-state solution, which is the only option considered by international actors, won’t solve existing discrimination, nor erase economic and military tensions.
(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)
US Secretary of State John Kerry has called for a political solution to end the crisis in Syria, where tens of thousands people have been killed in the years-long conflict.
“[A]ll of our counterpart[s], all my colleague counterparts from every country agree with this, including Russia, Iran, there is no military solution. The only possible way for the Syrian civil war to end is through a negotiated political solution,” Kerry said during a speech to a Middle East policy conference in Washington on Sunday.
The top US diplomat also said Washington needs to be deeply involved in Mideast issues, adding that the region’s threats can become global if not attended appropriately.
Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since March 2011. Nearly 200,000 people have reportedly been killed and millions displaced due to the violence fueled by the militants.
The United States and its regional allies — especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — have been supporting the militants operating inside Syria since the beginning of the crisis.
The Obama administration has already outlined a $500 million program to train and arm 5,000 “moderate” militants in Syria to fight against ISIL and the Assad government, but according to the Pentagon, the number would be something between 12,000 and 15,000.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Kerry praised Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for uniting Iraqis against ISIL Takfiri militants.
He noted that common cause against extremists was already making progress against ISIL in Syria and Iraq. “Obviously, our commitment and our capacity will be measured over years. I understand that. But I have to tell you, that even in two and a half months, we are making steady, measurable progress.”
The ISIL terrorists, who were initially trained by the CIA in Jordan in 2012 to destabilize the Syrian government, now control large parts of Iraq and Syria.
Washington has launched hundreds of airstrikes against the ISIL militants in Iraq and Syria, which analysts regard as part of the US attempts to gradually spread its influence in the region.
Reports say thousands of private security contractors are being asked by the US government to consider joining the fight against ISIL in Iraq and Syria and possibly elsewhere in the Middle East.
The US government loves to “promote democracy” overseas, often at the barrel of a gun. Strangely enough, however, it often “deplores” actual elections being held in such places. Take Ukraine, for example. An election held last week by a group that forcibly seized power from a legitimately-elected government was hailed by the US administration as a great democratic achievement.
Said John Kerry about last week’s parliamentary election held by the post-coup government in Kiev:
We applaud Ukraine’s commitment to an inclusive and transparent political process that strengthens national unity. … The people of Ukraine have spoken, and they have again chosen to chart the course of democracy, reform, and European integration.
In this US-approved vote, the parties disapproved by the US were harassed and even essentially banned. But that’s OK.
However in eastern Ukraine, which refused to recognize February’s US-backed coup in the western part of the country, parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for tomorrow are scorned and even “deplored” by the US administration.
The White House condemned tomorrow’s elections in eastern Ukraine in no uncertain terms:
We deplore the intent of separatists in parts of eastern Ukraine to hold illegitimate so-called local ‘elections’ on Sunday, November 2. If held, these ‘elections’ would contravene Ukraine’s constitution and laws and the September 5 Minsk Protocol.
So much does the US administration hate the idea of unapproved people voting, that it even refused to call them elections, placing the very term in “scare quotes.”
Shortly after the February coup in Kiev, referenda were held in Crimea and in parts of eastern Ukraine to determine whether to remain tied to Kiev or declare independence from the new regime. Those elections were also condemned by the US.
“We reject the ‘referendum’ that took place today in the Crimean region of Ukraine. This referendum is contrary to Ukraine’s constitution,” said the White House immediately after the March vote in that region. The February coup was also contrary to Ukraine’s constitution but that did apparently not bother Washington.
Similarly, when referenda were held in eastern Ukraine this spring to determine that region’s future course, the White House spokesman condemned them as “illegal under Ukrainian law and a transparent attempt to create further division and disorder.”
When the wrong people hold votes, it seems, “division and disorder” are the result.
Those who overthrow democracy by force are legitimized – you might even say laundered – by an election they had no legal right to hold in the first place, while those who stood by previously-elected leaders and scheduled elections as a way out of the crisis caused by US interference are condemned, ignored, and not even recognized by the US government.
So here is the real message from the US government: elections overseas are only legitimate if we have pre-approved the parties allowed to stand and if we have pre-approved the outcome. The election must result in exactly the kind of “pro-West” government that we desire or we will begin destabilization and regime change, if completely ignoring the results does not do the trick.
Is that what John Kerry meant when he said, “you just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion”?
Secretary of State Kerry has earned an unenviable reputation for bombastic exaggeration at times when diplomatic caution is needed, a pattern that he has demonstrated again in rushing to judgment over the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
The last time a major war loomed on the near horizon, Secretary of State John Kerry played fast and loose with the facts. In a speech on Aug. 30, 2013, he solemnly claimed, no fewer than 35 times, “we know” that the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad was responsible for chemical attacks outside Damascus on Aug. 21.
Just a few days later it became abundantly clear that Kerry did not know. There was instead a great deal of uncertainty within the U.S. intelligence community. And, to their credit, my former colleagues in CIA and in the Defense Intelligence Agency stood their ground by refusing to say “we know.”
Indeed, the dog-not-barking moment in the Syria-sarin case was the absence of U.S. intelligence officials sitting behind Kerry when he testified about his supposed knowledge to the U.S. Congress. Unlike the tableau in 2003 when CIA Director George Tenet positioned himself behind Secretary of State Colin Powell to give silent endorsement to Powell’s false allegations about Iraqi WMD to the United Nations Security Council, Kerry had no such support when he made his case against Syria’s government, although the clueless U.S. mainstream news media failed to notice this significant absence.
We Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) tried to alert President Barack Obama to this lack of consensus among our former colleagues in a Memorandum for the President on Sept. 6. Determined to avoid a redux of the fraudulent intelligence performance on Iraqi WMD, our former colleagues refused to “fix the intelligence around the policy” – again. The opposition was so strong that not even the malleable CIA Director John Brennan could give Kerry the usual “Intelligence Assessment” he wanted. So the best the Obama administration could cook up was something called a “Government Assessment” bereft of verifiable evidence and shorn of the normal dissents that intelligence analysts file with traditional estimates.
The reason for this internal intelligence community resistance was that, from the start, it made little sense that Assad would have launched a sarin attack right outside Damascus just as UN inspectors were unpacking at their Damascus hotel, having arrived in Syria to examine another chemical incident that Assad was blaming on the rebels. Further, the evidence quickly began to accumulate that the Syrian rebels had sarin and that they may well have been the ones who released it on Aug. 21 in a scheme to push Obama across his “red line” against the use of chemical weapons and induce the U.S. military to join the civil war on the rebel side.
At the time, the rebels were increasingly desperate. They had suffered a string of setbacks earlier last summer. The Turks, who had been aiding the rebels, also were growing convinced that only open U.S. military involvement could avert a looming defeat. So they set out, with apparent support of hawks in the U.S. State Department, to mousetrap President Obama into “retaliating” against Syria for crossing the “red line.”
Kerry’s performance on Aug. 30 – with all his “we knows” – was a clarion call for attacking Syria and might have prevailed, were it not for the fact that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey intervened and talked sense to the President. Less than 24 hours after Kerry spoke, Obama surprised virtually everyone in Official Washington by announcing that he had decided not to attack Syria immediately as expected, but rather would go to Congress for authorization.
How close the world came to another U.S. war was underscored by the fact that after Obama’s decision, France, which had been eager to attack, had to be told to decrease the alert status of the fighter-bombers it had on the tarmac. Israel had to be told it could relax the highest-alert posture of its defenses.
On Sept. 1, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham angrily confirmed that Dempsey’s intervention had put the kibosh on their clearly expressed desire to attack Syria post-haste.
Kerry: Giving It the College Try
But an attack on Syria was still in play and Kerry gave a bravura performance in his Sept. 3 testimony to a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee whose leaders showed by their own remarks the degree to which they, too, were lusting for an attack on Syria. Kerry’s testimony on Syria included a transparent attempt to play down the effectiveness of al-Qaeda affiliates in gaining control of the armed opposition to Assad.
Kerry’s testimony drew a highly unusual personal criticism from Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a televised meeting of the Russian Presidential Human Rights Council on Sept. 4, Putin said, “He [Kerry] is lying, and he knows he is lying. It is sad.”
But Kerry continued to dissemble. Still arguing for war on Syria, Kerry was asked at the end of a Sept. 9 press conference in London whether there was anything Assad could do to prevent a U.S. attack. Kerry answered (quite dismissively, in view of subsequent events) that Assad could give up every one of his chemical weapons, but “he isn’t about to do that; it can’t be done.”
However, such a plan was already afoot, being pushed by Putin’s diplomats. Later that same day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Syrian counterpart announced that Syria had agreed to allow all its chemical weapons to be removed and destroyed. Cutting out Kerry, Obama had cut a deal directly with Putin. All Syria’s chemical weapons have now been destroyed.
So this is the backdrop against which to give credence, or not, to Kerry’s stacking up the evidence against Russia for the shoot-down of the Malaysian airliner on Thursday over Ukraine.
If the best the US can do to pin the blame for the Malaysia Flight 17 downing on Russia is to have Secretary of State John Kerry say that “circumstantial evidence” points to Moscow being behind it, we can be pretty certain it was not Russia at all.
Kerry’s credibility on such matters has been in the toilet since last August when he claimed during last year’s furor and push for war against Syria’s Basher al Assad that he had seen “clear and compelling evidence” that the Syrian government had used poison gas against its own people. That “evidence” turned out (clearly with Kerry’s knowledge) to have been ginned up, falsified and staged, and in the end it was evident that Syria had not been the guilty party. Had Kerry and the White House succeeded in duping the world and the American people the way President George W. Bush and VP Dick Cheney succeeded in duping them about Iraq’s “WMDs,” an armada of US planes and ships already in position around Syria would have begun a massive aerial bombardment of Syria sparking a whole new war in the Middle East, even as Iraq was already in the throes of a civil war.
Fortunately, John Kerry’s and the accommodating US corporate media’s lies that time were exposed, and that bloody catastrophe was averted.
Now, undeterred by that first attempt at a full-blown campaign of lies, Kerry and the Obama White House are at it again, trying to falsify a casus belli against Russia by blaming Moscow for the downing of a civilian airliner that killed 298 people.
The problem for Kerry and Washington’s warmongers is that the story they’re selling is ludicrous.
Ukraine’s military has a hundred or so Buk anti-aircraft missiles and dozens of mobile launchers which have been seen in a Kiev parade
Why on earth would the Russians (who have been scrupulously avoiding getting involved in the Ukraine fighting), have provided the separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine with Buk missiles capable of downing high-altitude planes? Such aircraft pose no threat to the rebels. What they fear is the Ukraine military’s ground attack aircraft and bombers, and their helicopter gunships and troop transport planes. And they already have demonstrated that they’ve got the weapons to deal with those, in the form of shoulder-fired, wire-guided missiles — weapons that don’t have the capability to down aircraft flying at anywhere near 33,000 feet.
The answer to that question is that Russia would gain nothing, and would stand to lose a lot by contributing to the downing of a civilian aircraft. In fact, we can see, in the desperate effort by Kerry to pin the blame on Russia, exactly whey they would never have wanted to do such a thing.
That goes for the separatist rebels, too. The last thing they would want would be to give reluctant NATO allies of the US in Europe a reason to join the war-mongering campaign of the US in backing the Ukrainian government’s “anti-terrorist” campaign against them. After all, the separatists have actually been doing pretty well at stymieing the Ukrainian military as it is. In addition, increasing numbers of Ukrainians in western Ukraine are growing frustrated with the corruption, incompetence and war-making of their government. How do the rebels then gain by angering Western European nations and the Ukrainian people? Answer: They don’t.
Indeed the only parties who could conceivably gain by the downing of a civilian airliner would be the US and Ukraine, if they thought they could manage to pin the blame on the Russians and/or the separatist rebels. (For those who find it hard to swallow the idea that the US would deliberately shoot down a plane carrying 298 civilians in order to get a war going, there is another theory out there: that the Ukrainians — or some rogue element of the Ukraine military — thought the plane was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s own “Air Force One” carrying him back from the Brazil World Cup. In fact the flight paths of the two plans actually intersected within a fairly short time frame according to some reports.)
Meanwhile, it has already been demonstrated that the “evidence” that the US and Ukraine are citing — an electronic communication allegedly between a rebel and a Russian general referring to the downing of Malaysian Flight 17, was made a day before the downing happened (a point not mentioned in the breathless corporate media reports). That sounds like something the CIA would have had a hand in, as many believe it did in the also bogus “notice” earlier this year allegedly calling on Jews in eastern Ukraine to register with rebel authorities. As for the claim that the rebels had in their possession a Buk missile launcher, and that it came from Russia, this is highly dubious. First of all, as mentioned, there was no reason for Russia to provide such a weapon to the rebels. Second, if the rebels, often described as a rag-tag group, ever got such sophisticated weapons, they would not have had the training to use it. Kerry is also saying that the US “has the trajectory” of a missile fired by a Buk launcher in rebel-held territory “near the scene of the crash,” but of course, he also said the US “had the trajectories” of the poison gas rockets and that they came from a Syrian military installation–a claim that later proved false.
On the other hand, Ukraine’s military is known to possess several dozen mobile Buk missile launchers in its arsenal, and some of these were known to have been moved into eastern Ukraine. Why Ukraine’s military would have done this, when the rebels have no air force, is a good question — one which the Russians are asking (but which the US corporate media have not bothered to speculate about).
So we have Kerry’s lies and the lies of other US government officials, backed by the same complicit and propagandistic US media that ran with their lies so unquestioningly in the Syria poison gas incident, with little but the alternative media and some of the foreign media to rely on for more honest and forthright investigation into this case. And we have the Ukrainian government, which has been charging all along, against all logic, that the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine are all “terrorists,” also claiming that it’s the Russians and the rebels who did the deed.
No doubt it will be a while before the truth comes out about this story. In the meantime, the best evidence that it was not the Russians and the rebels in Ukraine who shot down the plane is that Secretary of State Kerry is trying to convince us all that they did it.
Meanwhile everyone would do well to calm down and heed the warning of former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, a 27-year Agency veteran, now retired, who points to the campaign of lies orchestrated during the early Reagan administration concerning the Russian shoot-down of a Korean 747 back in 1983. While the Reagan White House and the Pentagon knew from captured radio transmissions between the Russian fighter pilot and his base that he made efforts to warn the Korean plane to land, including the firing of tracer bullets in the dark sky, and knew that he had become convinced he was dealing with a US military spy plane flying over a highly secret part of Russia’s western defenses, before he fired a missile to shoot it down, McGovern says they doctored those tapes to make it look like he had done the opposite, heartlessly shooting down a civilian plane on orders from Moscow. The goal of this official Washington lie, McGovern says, was to incite American hatred against the Soviet Union, which had been waning since the end of the Vietnam War.
McGovern also suggests that the US government covered up the true cause of the downing of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island in 1996, which he says may well have been caused by an errant US missile, and not, as claimed, by a spark in a fuel tank.
McGovern’s advice in this current campaign of deceit: “There is, sadly,…reason to kick the tires of any fancy truck carrying ‘intelligence’ offered by the U.S. with respect to the Malaysian Airline shoot-down.”
Thursday, May 15 marked Nakba Day, Yawm an-Nakba, “Day of Catastrophe”, the onset of the displacement of up to 800,000 Palestinians, at the time 67% of the population, followed by the destruction of over 500 villages since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, under the commitment agreed to by the then British Foreign Secretary, Lord Arthur Balfour, in November 1917.
This week: “Figures released by the Ramallah-based Central Bureau of Statistics … put the number of registered Palestinian refugees at 5.3 million. Those refugees live in 58 United Nations-run camps in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” Tragedy on a scale near unimaginable – ongoing.
Hardly the day to plan another one. However, undaunted, Britain’s current Foreign Secretary, William Hague (“I have been a Conservative Friend of Israel since I was sixteen”) hosted a meeting of the “Friends of Syria” group (Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and the US) to continue plotting to further decimate another Middle East country and overthrow yet another sovereign head of State.
As increasingly chilling, verified images appear of “opposition” – read insurgent – atrocities in Syria: beheadings, behandings, crucifixions, summary executions and, of course, cannibalism, Hague announced that: “the Syrian opposition would have its diplomatic status in the UK upgraded”, according to the BBC.
The Foreign Secretary was clearly following in his master’s footsteps since last week the Obama regime granted diplomatic foreign mission status to the “Syrian National Coalition” offices in New York and Washington, with a welcome present of a further promised $27 million increase in “non-lethal assistance to rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.” This brings the total US support for the above crimes to $287 million.
Strangely, two days before the London meeting, it was announced that Israel’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni was awarded “special mission” temporary diplomatic status to visit London, “to protect her against arrest and potential prosecution for alleged breaches of international law, including war crimes” relating to Israel’s attack on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009.
In December 2009 Livni cancelled a visit to Britain after an arrest warrant was issued by a London Court. “The British government subsequently changed the law on universal jurisdiction … in connection with international war crimes … Previously, citizens could apply directly to a Judge for an arrest warrant.”
Currently, London lawyers Hickman Rose working with Gaza’s Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) had again been seeking a warrant for Livni’s arrest, Hickman Rose requesting that the Crown Prosecution Service advise the police to apprehend her: “for suspected war crimes and to liaise with the Attorney General to approve criminal charges.”
PCHR Director Raja Sourani commented of the Foreign Office’s stunt: “As lawyers for the victims of widespread suspected Israeli war crimes, PCHR is very concerned that these kind of political acts endorse the ‘rule of the jungle’ rather than the ‘rule of law.’” Indeed.
The Foreign Office is remarkably selective when it comes to alleged war criminals. Livni’s visit met “all the essential elements for a special mission, and for avoidance of any doubt on the matter, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has confirmed consent to the visit as a special mission”, they commented.
The reason for Livni’s visit was shrouded in secrecy. What is known that the evening of the “Friends of Syria” meeting, she was to address a fund- raising dinner for the Jewish National Fund at London’s luxury Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel ($725 a night current lowest available rate, no wonder funds are needed.) But all those Foreign Office diplomatic sleights of hand to enable something she could have done by video-link?
Well, here’s a thought. Two days before Ms Livni’s arrival in London aided by the Foreign Office’s diplomatic goal post displacements, Major General Amos Yadlin, former Deputy Commander of the Israeli Air Force, who headed military intelligence between 2006-2010 said that “ Israel should weigh launching a military strike at Syria if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons against his civilian population …”
Preferable, though, mooted the General, would be a NATO led action led by the US, with Turkey the key country, establishing a no fly zone over Syria “at the very minimum.” Libya revisited. There should also be “standoff strikes” by NATO aircraft at strategic government targets.
“If Israel discovers that Assad is using chemical weapons against his people in mass attacks, it should intervene militarily”, said the representative of a regime who has used chemical weapons – not alone white phosphorous but also depleted uranium, both a chemical and radioactive weapon – against the Palestinians. Ironically, the article is headed: “Israel should punish Assad for killing civilians”, an expertise Israel has honed with impunity over sixty-six years.
Right on cue, on May 13th, in the lead to the London Conference, Human Rights Watch produced a report of “strong evidence” that Syrian government forces were using chlorine bombs.
Coincidentally, the previous day a letter had been sent to Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, querying the organization’s seemingly extraordinarily partisan relationship with the US government.1
A flavour of the content is at paragraph 2:
For example, HRW’s Washington advocacy director, Tom Malinowski, previously served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton and as a speechwriter to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In 2013, he left HRW after being nominated as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights & Labor under John Kerry.
The letter was also signed by former UN Assistant Secretary General, Hans von Sponeck, current UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk and over one hundred scholars
John Kerry was, of course, also in London for the meeting, two days after he and President Obama had met with alleged former brothel owner Ahmed al-Jabra, who heads the “Syrian National Coalition”, in Washington. Jabra too had hopped on a ‘plane to London to attend the up-market plotting venue. A world away from the prison cell in Syria where he allegedly spent time for drug dealing.
Al-Akhbar has written regarding Ahmed al-Jabra of security records showing him:
“as a fugitive wanted for criminal offenses, including fraud, corruption, and even assassination plots that were not carried out. According to the source, records show that Riyadh handed over ‘the suspect Ahmad al-Jarba’ to Damascus in 2008, on charges of drug trafficking, in accordance with an extradition agreement between Saudi and Syrian security services … Jarba was tried and sentenced to a prison term at the time.”
“ … another entry involving Jarba, which the Qatari security services undoubtedly also have in their records. After the coup staged by the outgoing Emir of Qatar Hamad against his father Khalifa al-Thani, the latter’s Foreign Minister fled to Syria, where he became a vocal supporter for restoring the previous Emir. At the time, according to the records, Emir Hamad’s people asked Ahmad al-Jarba to assassinate the exiled Qatari Foreign Minister … Al-Jarba even received payment after accepting to carry out the mission, the source claimed.”2
Perhaps these most serious allegations regarding the man who now has upgraded diplomatic status in the US and UK have passed the State Department and Whitehall by. Whatever, they certainly seem to play fast and loose with awarding diplomatic credentials. In context, if the real reason for the action over Justice Minister Livni’s status change was not so she could attend the plotting against Syria – just over three weeks before the Syrian Presidential election on 3rd June, which President Assad is widely expected to win – it would be beyond astonishing.
Incidentally, at the Jewish National Fund cash-making bash, Livni told an illuminating tale:
“Recalling her family history, the minister also jokingly confided to the audience that as Justice Minister it was ‘embarrassing that my parents met while they were robbing a British money train to buy weapons to fight against the British army.’
“Ms Livni told her audience: ‘The first thing I want to emphasise is my parents were freedom fighters and not terrorists. I am not willing to accept any comparison with terrorists like Hamas who are looking for civilians to kill.’”
Clearly this was a week of triumph for selective perception.
Meanwhile, double standards at all levels are the order of the days. Obama, Kerry and Hague repeat the same words: “(President) Assad has no place in Syria’s future” (will any one ever ask what business it is of theirs?) Syria’s election has been declared a “farce”, but that of the US imposed fascist Junta in Ukraine on 25th May is regarded by as a “vote crucial to finding a way out of the crisis and preventing the country from tearing apart further …”
“The US and its allies are working ‘to send a unified message to pro-Russian separatists …’” that interference will not be tolerated. Whilst in sovereign Syria they are giving ever escalating $millions and arms to up to 80 groups of foreign terrorists led by an alleged serial criminal to bloodily interfere at mass murderous level.
In all there is only one consistency: illegal interference in nation states and barely believable levels of double standards. Incidentally Mr al-Jarba refers to the coming “new Syria.” For anyone looking at the ruins of the US’ “new Iraq” and “new Libya”, that should be enough to send all banging on government doors, emailing, telephoning, demonstrating: “Never, ever again.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry seems to be on a personal mission to draw the US into an invasion of Syria. At the least, he remains determined to continue backing the rebellion against the Syrian government until the country is completely destroyed.
Meeting yesterday in London, the self-styled “Friends of Syria,” including, in addition to the US and UK, such model democracies as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, determined to increase assistance to those who for three years have fought to overthrow the Syrian government.
Kerry took the opportunity at the meeting to again accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons, apparently not at all chastened by his fraudulent claims to the same effect last year. “Raw data” suggests the Syrian government used chlorine gas recently, Kerry claimed this time. Very raw, no doubt.
Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on the same day that, “We’ve not seen any evidence” of additional chemical attacks. It seems that the US administration is at war with itself, with Kerry seeming to go rogue at every opportunity.
Recall last summer that Kerry said unambiguously that “we know” that Assad used chemical weapons in Ghouta. Also remember that he was completely wrong, having placed the US on the brink of invading another country on a trumped-up pretext.
But even though an agreement was reached last summer whereby the Syrian government agreed to give up its strategic chemical arsenal — an agreement that was kept — the US only intensified its support for regime change.
In fact, the US recently launched a pilot program to provide deadly TOW missiles to the “moderate” opposition. However, it has already been reported that these missiles almost immediately landed in the hands of radicals in Syria, including fighters from the notorious al-Nusra Front. In short, the US is providing some of the deadliest weapons in its arsenal to affiliates of al-Qaeda.
Were the indefinite detention provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act actually enforced, Secretary Kerry and much of the US Administration would currently be in custody, held incommunicado without charge or access to legal counsel. But such laws do not apply to those in charge of making or executing them.
Tragically, this ramping up of aid to the extremist-dominated rebels in Syria comes amid the first signs of a way out from the three year long nightmare. In Homs, considered the birthplace of the rebellion, government forces and rebels reached an agreement for a peaceful rebel withdrawal from the city. The years-long fight ended and almost immediately the population began returning to their city to begin rebuilding.
Had the US propaganda about the Assad regime been true, we would of course have seen government forces slaughtering the people upon their return. But in fact the opposite was true, as the Syrian flag was raised again in the city and the people set out to return to what is left of their homes.
As even the Los Angeles Times discovered:
“… a group of Christian women headed into the Old City to view the remains of their family home. The Christian minority is generally effusive about the “liberation” of an area central to their ancient identity. “The Army has swept away all of the bad people from our city,” said Hannan Ragap, 45, a mother of two who sported spike heels and jeans as she walked toward the Old City. In the adjacent Zahra district, people were savoring a victory against what many view as an existential threat from a radical Islamist force.
In Aleppo, still rebel-controlled, anti-government fighters are looking wearily but with hope at the peaceful surrender of Homs.
The publication al-Monitor quotes Syrian rebel “Abdel” fighting in Aleppo:
‘Let’s admit it: Time has come for an agreement,’ Abdel says. … The model, he says, is Homs, where cease-fires are now beginning to appeal to weary rebel fighters in Aleppo. ‘We are not surrendering, because we will prevent Assad from staying in power, but through other means. Nobody can prevail with weapons. Do you know what is there, on the western side, in the direction of this mortar? Do you know what I am shooting at? There is my house. I am shooting at my house.’
The absurdity of the struggle laid bare, a “rebel” reduced to shooting at his own house!
It is against this backdrop that the US seeks to actually intensify and prolong the war. It is against this backdrop that John Kerry continues to push for US involvement in Syria, to the point of again making wild claims with zero evidence. Listen to the disoriented but murderous rage in his voice.
The US Secretary of State yesterday condemned the upcoming presidential vote in Syria, saying, “Together, we are unified in saying that Assad’s staged elections are a farce. They’re an insult. They are a fraud on democracy, on the Syrian people and on the world.”
However, as even the United Arab Emirates’ English language The National (recall that UAE, being one of the “Friends of Syria” is far from pro-Assad), concludes:
But the dirty secret in Syria today is that, if the presidential election were free and fair, Bashar Al Assad would still win.
Kerry is again making up his own reality.
Meanwhile not a word from Kerry about a rebel car bombing yesterday that killed dozens of civilians. Not a word about rebels blocking water to civilians in Aleppo, creating a humanitarian disaster of horrific proportions. Some humanitarian disasters are more equal than others.
Has John Kerry gone mad? Can Obama for some reason not fire him? Are there any adults left?