Over the past 15 years the US has been engaged in a series of wars, which has led many writers to refer to the ‘rise of militarism’ – the growth of an empire, built primarily by and for the projection of military power – and only secondarily to advance economic imperialism.
The rise of a military-based empire, however, does not preclude the emergence of competing, conflicting, and convergent power configurations within the imperial state. These factions of the Washington elite define the objectives and targets of imperialist warfare, often on their own terms.
Having stated the obvious general fact of the power of militarism within the imperialist state, it is necessary to recognize that the key policy-makers, who direct the wars and military policy, will vary according to the country targeted, type of warfare engaged in and their conception of the war. In other words, while US policy is imperialist and highly militaristic, the key policymakers, their approach and the outcomes of their policies will differ. There is no fixed strategy devised by a cohesive Washington policy elite guided by a unified strategic vision of the US Empire.
In order to understand the current, seemingly endless wars, we have to examine the shifting coalitions of elites, who make decisions in Washington but not always primarily for Washington. Some factions of the policy elite have clear conceptions of the American empire, but others improvise and rely on superior ‘political’ or ‘lobbying’ power to successfully push their agenda in the face of repeated failures and suffer no consequences or costs.
We will start by listing US imperialist wars during the last decade and a half. We will then identify the main policy-making faction which has been the driving force in each war. We will discuss their successes and failures as imperial policy makers and conclude with an evaluation of “the state of the empire” and its future.
Imperial Wars: From 2001-2015
The current war cycle started in late 2001 with the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. This was followed by the invasion and occupation of Iraq in March 2003, the US arms support for Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 2006, the proxy invasion of Somalia in 2006/7; the massive re-escalation of war in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007-2009; the bombing, invasion ‘regime change’ in Libya in 2011; the ongoing proxy-mercenary war against Syria (since 2012), and the ongoing 2015 Saudi-US invasion and destruction of Yemen. In Europe, the US was behind the 2014 proxy putsch and violent ‘regime change’ in Ukraine which has led to an ongoing war against ethnic Russian speakers in south-east Ukraine, especially the populous industrial heartland of the Donbas region.
Over the past 15 years, there have been overt and covert military interventions, accompanied by an intense, provocative military build-up along Russia’s borders in the Baltic States, Eastern Europe (especially Poland), the Balkans (Bulgaria and Romania) and the mammoth US base in Kosovo; in Central Europe with nuclear missiles in Germany and, of course, the annexation of Ukraine and Georgia as US-NATO clients.
Parallel to the military provocations encircling Russia, Washington has launched a major military, political, economic and diplomatic offensive aimed at isolating China and affirming US supremacy in the Pacific.
In South America, US military intervention found expression via Washington-orchestrated business-military coup attempts in Venezuela in 2002 and Bolivia in 2008, and a successful ‘regime change’ in Honduras in 2009, overthrowing its elected president and installing a US puppet.
In summary, the US has been engaged in two, three or more wars since 2001, defining an almost exclusively militarist empire, run by an imperial state directed by civilian and military officials seeking unchallenged global dominance through violence.
Washington: Military Workshop of the World
War and violent regime change are the exclusive means through which the US now advances its foreign policy. However, the various Washington war-makers among the power elite do not form a unified bloc with common priorities. Washington provides the weapons, soldiers and financing for whichever power configuration or faction among the elite is in a position, by design or default, to seize the initiative and push their own war agenda.
The invasion of Afghanistan was significant in so far as it was seen by all sectors of the militarist elite, as the first in a series of wars. Afghanistan was to set the stage for the launching of higher priority wars elsewhere.
Afghanistan was followed by the infamous ‘Axis of Evil’ speech, dictated by Tel Aviv, penned by presidential speech-writer, David Frum and mouthed by the brainless President Bush, II. The ‘Global War on Terror’ was the thinly veiled slogan for serial wars around the world. Washington measured the loyalty of its vassals among the nations of Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America by their support for the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. The Afghan invasion provided the template for future wars. It led to an unprecedented increase in the military budget and ushered in Caesar-like dictatorial presidential powers to order and execute wars, silencing domestic critics and sending scores of thousands of US and NATO troops to the Hindu Kush.
In itself, Afghanistan was never any threat and certainly no economic prize for plunder and profit. The Taliban had not attacked the US. Osama Bin Laden could have been turned over to a judicial tribunal – as the governing Taliban had insisted.
The US military (with its Coalition of the Willing or COW) successfully invaded and occupied Afghanistan and set up a vassal regime in Kabul. It built scores of military bases and attempted to form an obedient colonial army. In the meantime, the Washington militarist elite had moved on to bigger and, for the Israel-centric Zionist elite, higher priority wars, namely Iraq.
The decision to invade Afghanistan was not opposed by any of Washington’s militarist elite factions. They all shared the idea of using a successful military blitz or ‘cake-walk’ against the abysmally impoverished Afghanistan as a way to rabble rouse the American masses into accepting a long period of intense and costly global warfare throughout the world.
Washington’s militarist elites fabricated the link between the attacks on 9/11/2001 and Afghanistan’s governing Taliban and the presence of the Saudi warlord Osama Bin Laden. Despite the ‘fact’ that most of the ‘hijackers’ were from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and none were Afghans, invading and destroying Afghanistan was to be the initial test to gauge the highly manipulated and frightened American public’s willingness to shoulder the burden of a huge new cycle of imperial wars. This has been the only aspect of the invasion of Afghanistan that could be viewed as a policy success – it made the costs of endless wars ‘acceptable’ to a relentlessly propagandized public.
Flush with their military victories in the Hindu Kush, the Washington militarists turned to Iraq and fabricated a series of increasingly preposterous pretexts for war: Linking the 9/11 ‘jihadi’ hijackers with the secular regime of Saddam Hussein, whose intolerance for violent Islamists (especially the Saudi variety) was well documented, and concocting a whole fabric of lies about Iraqi ‘weapons of mass destruction’ which provided the propaganda basis for invading an already disarmed, blockaded and starved Iraq in March 2003.
Leading the Washington militarists in designing the war to destroy Iraq were the Zionists, including Paul Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams, Richard Perle, and a few Israel-centric Gentile militarists, such as Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. The Zionists had a powerful entourage in key positions in the State Department, Treasury and the Pentagon.
There were ‘outsiders’ – non-Zionists and militarists within these institutions, especially the Pentagon, who voiced reservations – but they were brushed aside, not consulted and ‘encouraged’ to retire.
None of the ‘old hands’ in the State Department or Pentagon bought into the hysteria about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, but to voice reservations was to risk one’s career. The manufacture and dissemination of the pretext for invading Iraq was orchestrated by a small team of operatives linking Tel Aviv and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz’s Office of Special Plans, a tight group of Zionists and some Israelis headed by Abram Shulsky (Sept. 2002-June 2003).
The US war on Iraq was an important part of Israel’s agenda to ‘re-make the Middle East’ to establish its unchallenged regional hegemony and execute a ‘final solution’ for its own vexing ‘Arab (native Palestinian) problem’: It was made operational by the powerful Zionist faction within the Executive (White House), which had assumed almost dictatorial powers after the attack on 9/11/2001. Zionists planned the war, designed the ‘occupation policy’ and ‘succeeded wildly’ with the eventual dismemberment of a once modern secular nationalist Arab state.
In order to smash the Iraqi state – the US occupation policy was to eliminate (through mass firings, jailing and assassination) all high level, experienced Iraqi civil, military and scientific personnel – down to high school principals. They dismantled any vital infrastructure (which had not been already destroyed by the decades of US sanctions and bombing under President Clinton) and reduced an agriculturally advanced Iraq to a barren wasteland which would take centuries to recover and could never challenge Israel’s colonization of Palestine, let alone its military supremacy in the Middle East. Naturally, the large Palestinian Diaspora refugee population in Iraq was targeted for ‘special treatment’.
But Zionist policymakers had a much larger agenda than erasing Iraq as a viable country: They had a longer list of targets: Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Libya, whose destruction was to be carried out with US and NATO blood and treasure (and not a single Israeli soldier).
Despite the fact that Iraq did not even possess a functioning air force or navy in March 2003 and Afghanistan in late 2001 was rather primitive, the invasions of both countries turned out to be very costly to the US. The US completely failed to benefit from its ‘victory and occupation’, despite Paul Wolfowitz’ boasts that the pillage of Iraq’s oil fields would pay for the entire project in a ‘few months’. This was because the real Zionist plan was to destroy these nations – beyond any possibility for a quick or cheap imperialist economic gain. Scorching the earth and salting the fields is not a very profitable policy for empire builders.
Israel has been the biggest winner with no cost for the ‘Jewish State’. The American Zionist policy elite literally handed them the services of the largest and richest armed forces in history: the US. Israel-Firsters played a decisive role among Washington policy-makers and Tel Aviv celebrated in the streets! They came, they dominated policy and they accomplished their mission: Iraq (and millions of its people)was destroyed.
The US gained an unreliable, broken colony, with a devastated economy and systematically destroyed infrastructure and without the functioning civil service needed for a modern state. To pay for the mess, the American people faced a spiraling budget deficit, tens of thousands of American war casualties and massive cuts in their own social programs. Crowning the Washington war-makers’ victory was the disarticulation of American civil and constitutional rights and liberties and the construction of a enormous domestic police state.
After the Iraq disaster, the same influential Zionist faction in Washington lost no time in demanding a new war against Israel’s bigger enemy – namely Iran. In the ensuing years, they failed to push the US to attack Tehran but they succeeded in imposing crippling sanctions on Iran. The Zionist faction secured massive US military support for Israel’s abortive invasion of Lebanon and its devastating series of blitzkriegs against the impoverished and trapped people of Gaza.
The Zionist faction successfully shaped US military interventions to meet Israel’s regional ambitions against three Arab countries: Yemen, Syria, and Libya. The Zionists were not able to manipulate the US into attacking Iran because the traditional militarist faction in Washington balked: With instability in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US was not well positioned to face a major conflagration throughout the Middle East, South Asia and beyond – which a ground and air war with Iran would involve. However, the Zionist factions did secure brutal economic sanctions and the appointment of key Israel-Centric officials within the US Treasury. Secretary Stuart Levey, at the start of the Obama regime, and David Cohen afterwards, were positioned to enforce the sanctions.
Even before the ascendancy of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Tel Aviv’s military objectives after Iraq, including Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, and Yemen had to be spaced over time, because the non-Zionist factions among Washington’s elite had been unable to integrate occupied Afghanistan and Iraq into the empire.
Resistance, armed conflict and military advances in both Afghanistan and Iraq never ceased and are continuing into their 2nd decade. As soon as the US would withdraw from a region, declaring it ‘pacified’, the armed resistance would move back in and the local sepoys would defect to the rebels or take off for London or Washington with millions in pillaged loot.
‘Unfinished wars’, mounting casualties and spiraling costs, with no end in sight, undermined the agreement between the militarist and the Zionist factions in the Executive branch. However, the massively powerful Zionist presence in the US Congress provided a platform to bray for new and even bigger wars.
Israel’s vicious invasion of Lebanon in 2006 was defeated despite receiving massive US arms supplies, a US funded ‘Iron Dome’ missile defense system and intelligence assistance. Tel Aviv could not defeat the highly disciplined and motivated Hezbollah fighters in South Lebanon despite resorting to carpet bombing of civilian neighborhoods with millions of banned cluster munitions and picking off ambulances and churches sheltering refugees. Israelis have been much more triumphal murdering lightly armed Palestinian resistance fighters and stone-throwing children.
Libya: A Multi-faction War for the Militarists (without Big Oil)
The war against Libya was a result of multiple factions among the Washington militarist elite, including the Zionists, coming together with French, English and German militarists to smash the most modern, secular, independent state in Africa under President Muammar Gaddafi.
The aerial campaign against the Gaddafi regime had virtually no organized support within Libya with which to reconstruct a viable neo-colonial state ripe for pillage. This was another ‘planned dismemberment’ of a complex, modern republic which had been independent of the US Empire.
The war succeeded wildly in shredding Libya’s economy, state, and society. It unleashed scores of armed terrorist groups, (who appropriated the modern weapons of Gaddafi’s army and police) and uprooted two million black contract workers and Libyan citizens of South Saharan origin forcing them to flee the rampaging racist militias to the refugee camps of Europe. Untold thousands died in rickety boats in the Mediterranean Sea.
The entire war was carried out to the publicly giddy delight of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her ‘humanitarian interventionist’ lieutenants (Susan Rice and Samantha Power), who were utterly ignorant as to who and what the Libyan “opposition” represented. Eventually, even Hillary’s own Ambassador to Libya would be slaughtered by … the same victorious US-backed ‘rebels’ (sic) in the newly liberated Bengazi!
The Zionist faction destroyed Gaddafi (whose capture, grotesque torture and murder was filmed and widely disseminated), eliminating another real adversary of Israel and supporter of Palestinian rights. The US militarist faction, which led the war, got nothing positive – not even a secure naval, air, or training base – only a dead Ambassador, millions of desperate refugees flooding Europe, and thousands of trained and armed jihadists for the next target: Syria.
For a while Libya became the main supply-line for Islamist mercenaries and arms to invade Syria and fight the secular nationalist government in Damascus.
Once again the least influential faction in Washington turned out to be the oil and gas industry, which lost lucrative contracts it had already signed with the Gaddafi regime. Thousands of highly trained foreign oil workers were withdrawn. After Iraq, it should have been obvious that these wars were not ‘for oil’!
Ukraine: Coups, Wars, and Russia’s ‘Underbelly’
With the US-orchestrated coup and intervention in Ukraine, the militarist factions once again seized the initiative, establishing a puppet regime in Kiev and targeting Russia’s strategic ‘soft underbelly’. The plan had been to take over Russia’s strategic military bases in Crimea and cut Russia from the vital military-industrial complexes in the Donbas region with its vast iron and coal reserves.
The mechanics of the power grab were relatively well planned, the political clients were put in power, but the US militarists had made no contingencies for propping up the Ukrainian economy, cut loose from its main trading partner and oil and gas supplier, Russia.
The coup led to a ‘proxy war’ in the ethnic-Russian majority regions in the south east (the Donbas) with four ‘unanticipated consequences’. 1) a country divided east and west along ethno-linguistic lines, (2) a bankrupt economy made even worse by the imposition of an IMF austerity program, (3) a corrupt crony capitalist elite, which was ‘pro-West by bank account’, (4) and, after two years, mass disaffection among voters toward the US puppet regime.
The militarists in Washington and Brussels succeeded in engineering the coup in Ukraine but lacked the domestic allies, plans and preparations to run the country and successfully annex it to the EU and NATO as a viable country.
Apparently the militarist factions in the State Department and Pentagon are much more proficient in stage managing coups and invasions than in establishing a stable regime as part of a New World Order. They succeed in the former and fail repeatedly in the latter.
The Pivot to Asia and the Pirouette to Syria
During most of the previous decade, traditional global strategists in Washington increasingly objected to the Zionist faction’s domination and direction of US war policies focused on the Middle East for the benefit of Israel, instead of meeting the growing challenge of the new world economic superpower in Asia, China.
US economic supremacy in Asia had been deeply eroded as China’s economy grew at double digits. Beijing was displacing the US as the major trade partner in the Latin American and African markets. Meanwhile, the top 500 US MNCs were heavily invested in China. Three years into President Obama’s first term the ‘China militarist faction’ announced a shift from the Middle East and the Israel-centric agenda to a ‘pivot to Asia’, the source of 40% of the world’s industrial output.
But it was not profits and markets that motivated Washington’s Asia faction among the militarist elites – it was military power. Even trade agreements, like the TransPacific Partnership (TPP), were viewed as tools to encircle and weaken China militarily and undermine its regional influence.
Led by the hysterical Pentagon boss Ashton Carter, Washington prepared a series of major military confrontations with Beijing off the coast of China.
The US signed expanded military base agreements with the Philippines, Japan, and Australia; it participated in military exercises with Vietnam, South Korea, and Malaysia; it dispatched battleships and aircraft carriers into Chinese territorial waters.
The US confrontational trade policy was formulated by the Zionist trio: Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker, Trade Negotiator Michael Froman (who works for both the Asia militarist and Zionist factions), and Treasury Secretary Jake Lew. The result was the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), involving 12 Pacific countries while deliberating excluding China. Washington’s Asian militarist faction planned to militarize the entire Pacific Basin, in order to dominate the maritime trade routes and, at a moment’s notice, choke off all of China’s overseas markets and suppliers – shades of the series of US provocations against Japan leading up to the US entering WW2.
The ‘Asia-militarist faction’ successfully demanded a bigger military budget to accommodate its vastly more aggressive posture toward China.
Predictably, China has insisted on defending its maritime routes and has increased its naval and air base building and sea and air patrols. Also, predictably, China has countered the US-dominated TPP by setting-up a one hundred billion dollar Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), while contributing to the multi-billion dollar BRICS Bank. Meanwhile, China even signed a separate $30 billion dollar trade agreement with Washington’s strategic ‘partner’, Britain. In fact, Britain followed the rest of the EU and joined the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank – despite objections from Washington’s “Asia faction”.
While the US depends heavily on its military pacts with South Korea and Japan, the latter nations have been meeting with China – their most significant trading partner – to work on expanding and deepening economic ties.
Up until 2014, the “business-with-China faction” of the Washington elite played a key role in the making of US-Asia policy. However, they have been eclipsed by the Asia militarist-faction, which is taking US policy in a totally different direction: Pushing China out as Asia’s economic superpower and escalating military confrontation with Beijing now heads Washington’s agenda.
Ashton Carter, the US Defense Secretary, has China, the second most important economy in the world in the Pentagon’s ‘cross-hairs’. When the TPP failed to curtail China’s expansion, the militarist faction shifted Washington toward a high risk military course, which could destabilize the region and risk a nuclear confrontation.
The Pirouette: China and Syria
Meanwhile in the Levant, Washington’s Zionist faction has been busy running a proxy war in Syria. The pivot to Asia has had to compete with the pirouette to Syria and Yemen.
The US joined Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Gulf Emirates, and the EU in sponsoring a replay of the Libyan ‘regime change’ — sponsoring proxy terrorists from around the globe into invading and devastating Syria. Damascus has been attacked from all sides for the ‘crime’ of being secular and multi-ethnic; for being pro-Palestinian; for being allied with Iran and Lebanon; for having an independent foreign policy; and for maintaining a limited representative (but not necessarily democratic) government. For these crimes, the West, Israel and the Saudis would have Syria fractured into an ethnically cleansed ‘tribal state’ – something they had accomplished in Iraq and Libya.
The US militarist faction (personified by Secretary of Defense Carter and Senators McCain and Graham) have funded, trained and equipped the terrorists, whom they call ‘moderates’ and had clearly expected their progeny to follow Washington’s directions. The emergence of ISIS showed just how close these ‘moderates’ stuck to Washington’s script.
Initially, the traditional militarist wing of Washington’s elite resisted the Zionist faction’s demand for direct US military intervention (American ‘boots on the ground’). That is changing with recent (very convenient) events in Paris.
Warfare: From Piecemeal Interventions to Nuclear Confrontation
The Washington militarists have again committed more US soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan; American fighter planes and Special Forces are in Syria and Yemen. Meanwhile, US naval armadas aggressively patrol the coasts of China and Iran. The militarist-Zionist ‘compromise’ over Syria was comprised of an initial contingent of 50 US Special Forces to join in ‘limited’ combat roles with (“loyal” sic) Islamist mercenaries – the so-called moderates. There are commitments for greater and heavier weaponry to come, including ground to air missiles capable of shooting down Russian and Syrian military jets.
Elite Factional Politics: An Overview
How does the record of these competing factions, formulating US imperial war policies in the Middle East over the past 15 years stack up? Clearly there has been no coherent imperial economic strategy.
The policy toward Afghanistan is remarkable for its failure to end the longest war in US history – over 14 years of occupation! The recent attempts by US-led client NATO forces to withdraw have been immediately followed by military advances by the nationalist-Islamist resistance militia – the Taliban, which controls much of the countryside. The possibility of a collapse of the current puppet in Kabul has forced the militarists in Washington to retain US bases – surrounded by completely hostile rural populations.
The Afghan war’s initial appearance of success triggered new wars – inter alia Iraq. But taking the long view, the Afghan war, has been a miserable failure in terms of the stated strategic goal of establishing a stable client government. The Afghan economy collapsed: opium production (which had been significantly suppressed by the Taliban’s poppy eradication campaign in 2000-2001) is the now predominant crop – with cheap heroin flooding Europe and beyond. Under the weight of massive and all pervasive corruption by ‘loyal’ client officials – the Afghan treasury is empty. The puppet rulers are totally disconnected from the most important regional, ethnic, religious and family clans and associations.
Washington could not ‘find’ any viable economic classes in Afghanistan with which to anchor a development strategy. They did not come to terms with the deep ethno-religious consciousness rooted in rural communities and fought the most popular political force among the majority Pashtu, the Taliban, which had no role in the attack on ‘9/11’.
They artificially slapped together a massive army of surly illiterates under Western imperial command and watched it fall apart at the seams, defect to the Taliban or turn their own guns on the foreign occupation troops. These “mistakes”, which accounted for the failure of the militarist faction in the Afghanistan war were due, in no small part, to the pressure and influence of the Zionist faction who wanted to quickly move on to their highest priority, a US war against Israel’s first priority enemy – Iraq – without consolidating the US control in Afghanistan. For the Zionists, Afghanistan (envisioned as a ‘cake-walk’ or quick victory) was just a tool to set the stage for a much larger sequence of US wars against Israel’s regional Arab and Persian adversaries.
Before the militarists could establish any viable order and an enduring governmental structure in Afghanistan, attention shifted to a Zionist-centered war against Iraq.
The build-up for the US war against Iraq has to be understood as a project wholly engineered by and for the state of Israel, mostly through its agents within the US government and Washington policy elite. The goal was to establish Israel as the unchallenged political-military power in the region using American troops and money and preparing the ground for Tel Aviv’s “final solution” for the Palestinian ‘problem’; total expulsion…
The US military and occupation campaign included the wholesale and systematic destruction of Iraq: Its law and order, culture, economy and society – so there would be no possibility of recovery. Such a vicious campaign did not resonate with any productive sector of the US economy (or for that matter with any Israeli economic interest).
Washington’s Zionist faction set about in a parody of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge to identify and destroy any competent, experienced Iraqi professional, civil servant, scientist, intellectual, or military official capable of re-organizing and re-building the county and war-battered society. They were assassinated, arrested, tortured, or driven into exile. The occupation deliberately encouraged religious parties and traditional tribes to engage in inter-communal massacres and ethnic cleansing. In other words, the Zionist faction did not pursue the traditionally understood policy of empire building which would incorporate the second tier functionaries of a conquered state to form a competent client regime and use Iraq’s great oil and gas wealth to build its economy. Instead they chose to impose a scorched earth policy; setting loose organized sectarian armies, imposing the rule of grotesquely corrupt ex-pats and placing the most venal, sectarian clients in positions of power. The effect has been to transform the most advanced, secular Arab country into an ‘Afghanistan’ and in less than 15 years destroying centuries of culture and community.
The goal of the ‘Zionist strategy’ was to destroy Iraq as Israel’s regional rival. The cost of over a million Iraqi dead and many millions of refugees did not prick any conscience in Washington or Tel Aviv.
After all, Washington’s traditional ‘militarist faction’ picked up the bill (costing hundreds of billions) which they passed on to the American taxpayers (well over one trillion dollars) and used the deaths and suffering of tens of thousands of American troops to provide a pretext for spreading more chaos. The result of their mayhem includes the specter of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which they may consider to be a success – since hysteria over ISIS pushes the West ‘closer to Israel’.
The sheer scale of death and destruction inflicted on the Iraqi population by the Zionist faction led to thousands of highly competent Ba’athist officers, who had survived ‘Shock and Awe’ and the sectarian massacres, to join armed Islamist Sunnis and eventually form the ISIS. This group of experienced Iraqi military officers formed the strategic technical core of ISIS which launched a devastating offensive in Iraq in 2014 – taking major cities in the north and completely routing the US-trained puppet armies of the ‘government’ in Baghdad. From there they moved into Syria and beyond. It is fundamental to understanding the roots of ISIS: The Zionist faction among US militarist policymakers imposed a deliberate ‘scorched earth’ occupation policy, which united highly trained nationalist Ba’athist military officers with young Sunni fighters ,both locals and increasingly foreign jihadist mercenaries. These deracinated members of the traditional Iraqi nationalist military elite had lost their families to the sectarian massacres; they were persecuted, tortured, driven underground, and highly motivated. They literally had nothing left to lose!
This core of ISIS leadership stands in stark contrast to the colonial, corrupt, and demoralized army slapped together by the US military with more cash than morale. ISIS quickly swept through half of Iraq and came within 40 miles of Baghdad.
The US militarist faction faced military defeat after eight years of war. They mobilized, financed, and armed their client Kurdish mercenaries in northern Iraq and recruited the Shia Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to appeal to the Shia militia.
ISIS exploited the Western-backed Islamist uprising in Syria and extended their sweep well across the border. Syria had accepted a million Iraqi refugees from the US invasion, including many of Iraq’s surviving experienced nationalist administrative elite. The US militarists are in a dilemma – another full-scale war would not be politically feasible, and its military outcome uncertain… Moreover the US was aligned with dubious allies – especially the Saudis – who had their own regional ambitions. Turkey and Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Kurds were each eager to expand their power territorially and politically.
In the midst of this, the traditional Washington militarists are left with no overall viable imperialist strategy. Instead they improvise with faux ‘rebels’, who claim to be moderates and democrats, while taking US guns and dollars and ultimately joining the most powerful Islamist groups – like ISIS.
Throwing a wrench into the machinery of Israeli-Saudi hegemonic ambitions, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have sided with the secular Syrian government. Russia finally moved to bomb ISIS strongholds – after identifying a significant ISIS contingent of militant Chechens whose ultimate aims are to bring war and terror back to Russia.
The US-EU war against Libya unleashed all the retrograde mercenary forces from three continents (Africa, Asia and Europe) and Washington finds itself with no means to control them. Washington could not even protect its own consulate in their ‘liberated’ regional capital of Benghazi – the US ambassador and two intelligence aides were killed by Washington’s own ‘rebels’. The competing and cooperating factions of the Washington militarist elite placed Libya on a steaming platter: Serving up invasion, regicide and hundreds of thousands of refugees, which they did not bother to even ‘season’ with any plan or strategy – just unadulterated scorched earth against another opponent of Zionism. And a potentially lucrative strategic neo-colony in North Africa has been lost with no accountability for the Washington architects of such barbarism.
Latin America: The Last Outpost of the Multi-Nationals
As we have seen, the major theaters of imperial policy (the Middle East and Asia) have been dominated by militarists, not professional diplomats-linked to the multi-national corporations. Latin America stands as something of an exception. In Latin America, US policymakers have been guided by big business interests. Their main focus has been on pushing the neo-liberal agenda. Eventually this has meant promoting the US-centered ‘free trade’ agreements, joint military exercises, shared military bases, and political backing for the US global military agenda.
The ‘militarist faction’ in Washington worked with the traditional business faction in support of the unsuccessful military coups in Venezuela (2002 and 2014), the attempted coup in Bolivia 2008, and a successful regime change in Honduras (2010).
To harass the independent Argentine government which was developing closer diplomatic and trade ties with Iran, a sector of the US Zionist financial elite (the ‘vulture fund’ magnate Paul Singer) joined forces with the Zionist militarist faction to raise hysterical accusations against President Cristina Kirchner over the ‘mysterious’ suicide of a Israel-linked Argentine prosecutor. The prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, had devoted his career to ‘cooking up a case’ against Iran with the aid of the Mossad and CIA for the unsolved, bombing the Buenos Aires Jewish community center in 1994. Various investigations had exonerated Iran and the Nisman Affair was an intense effort to keep Argentina from trading with Iran.
The Washington business faction operated in a mildly hostile Latin America for most of the past decade. However, it was able to recover influence, via a series of bilateral free trade agreements and took advantage of the end of the commodity cycle. The latter weakened the center-left regimes and moved them closer to Washington.
The ‘excesses’ committed by the US backed military dictatorships during the nineteen sixties through eighties, and the crisis of the neo-liberal nineties, set the stage for the rise of a relatively moderate business-diplomatic faction to come to the fore in Washington. It is also the case that the various militarist and Zionist factions in Washington were focused elsewhere (Europe, Middle East and Asia). In any case the US political elite operates in Latin America mostly via political and business proxies, for the time being.
From our brief survey, it is clear that wars play a key role in US foreign policy in most regions of the world. However, war policies in different regions respond to different factions in the governing elite.
The traditional militarist faction predominates creating confrontations in Ukraine, Asia and along the Russian border. Within that framework the US Army, Air Force, and Special Forces play a leading, and fairly conventional, role. In the Far East, the Navy and Air Force predominate.
In the Middle East and South Asia, the military (Army and Air Force) factions share power with the Zionist faction. Fundamentally the Zionists dictate policy on Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine and the militarists follow.
Both factions overlapped in creating the debacle in Libya.
The factions form shifting coalitions, supporting wars of interest to their respective power centers. The militarists and Zionists worked together in launching the Afghan war; but once launched, the Zionists abandoned Kabul and concentrated on preparing for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which was of far greater interest to Israel.
It should be noted that at no point did the oil and business elite play any significant role in war policy. The Zionist faction pushed hard to secure direct US ground intervention in Libya and Syria, but was not able to force the US to send large contingents of ground troops due to opposition from the Russians as well as a growing sector of the US electorate. Likewise, the Zionists played a leading role in successfully imposing sanctions against Iran and a major role in prosecuting banks around the world accused of violating the sanctions. However, they were not able to block the military faction from securing a diplomatic agreement with Iran over its uranium enrichment program – without going to war.
Clearly, the business faction plays a major role in promoting US trade agreements and tries to lift or avoid sanctions against important real and potential trade partners like China, Iran and Cuba.
The Zionist faction among Washington elite policymakers takes positions which consistently push for wars and aggressive policies against any regime targeted by Israel. The differences between the traditional militarist and Zionist factions are blurred by most writers who scrupulously avoid identifying Zionist decision-makers, but there is no question of who benefits and who loses.
The kind of war which the Zionists promote and implement – the utter destruction of enemy countries – undermines any plans by the traditional militarist faction and the military to consolidate power in an occupied country and incorporate it into a stable empire.
It is a serious error to lump these factions together: the business, Zionist, and various militarist factions of the Washington policy making elite are not one homogeneous group. They may overlap at times, but they also differ as to interests, liabilities, ideology, and loyalties. They also differ in their institutional allegiances.
The overarching militarist ideology which permeates US imperialist foreign policy obscures a deep and recurrent weakness – US policymakers master the mechanics of war but have no strategy for ruling after intervening. This has been glaringly evident in all recent wars: Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine, etc. Improvisation has repeatedly led to monumental failures: from financing phantom armies to bleeding billions to prop-up incompetent, kleptocratic puppet regimes. Despite the hundreds of billions of public money wasted in these serial disasters, no policymaker has been held to account.
Long wars and short memories are the norm for Washington’s militarist rulers who do not lose sleep over their blunders. The Zionists, for their part, do not even need a strategy for rule. They push the US into wars for Israel, and once having destroyed ‘the enemy country’ they leave a vacuum to be filled by chaos. The American public provides the gold and blood for these misadventures and reaps nothing but domestic deterioration and greater international strife.
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | November 19, 2015
Mass murder, as that which just occurred in Paris, is always distressing, but that does not mean we should stop thinking.
Isn’t it rather remarkable that President Hollande, immediately after the event, declared ISIS responsible? How did he know that? And if he was aware of a serious threat from ISIS, why did he not take serious measures in advance?
Within days of Friday 13, French forces assaulted an apartment with literally thousands of bullets being fired, killing a so-called mastermind, Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Just how are you instantly elevated to the rank of “mastermind”? And if security people were previously aware of his exalted status, why did they wait until after a disaster to go after him?
Well, the ugly underlying truth is that, willy-nilly, France for years has been a supporter of ISIS, even while claiming to be fighting it. How do I know that? Because France’s foreign policy has virtually no independence from America’s. It could be described as a subset of American foreign policy. Hollande marches around with his head held stiffly up after getting off the phone at the Élysée Palace, having received the day’s expectations from Washington. He has been a rather pathetic figure.
So long as it is doing work the United States wishes done, ISIS remains an American protectorate, and regardless of Hollande’s past rhetoric, he has acted according to that reality. But something may just have changed now.
It is important to note the disproportionate attention in the West to events in Paris. I say disproportionate because there are equally ugly things going on in a number of places in the Middle East, but we do not see the coverage given to Paris. We have bombs in Lebanon and Iraq. We have daily bombings and shootings in Syria. We have cluster bombs and other horrors being used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. And of course, there are the ongoing horrors of Israel against Palestinians.
We have endless interviews with ordinary people in Paris, people who know nothing factual to help our understanding, about their reaction to the terror, but when was the last time you saw personal reactions broadcast from Gaza City or Damascus? It just does not happen, and it does raise the suspicion that the press’s concern with Paris is deliberately out of proportion. After all, Israel killed about twenty times as many people in Gaza not very long ago, and the toll was heavily weighted with children, many hundreds of them. Events in Paris clearly are being exploited for highly emotional leverage.
Leverage against what? Arabs in general and Muslims in particular, just part of the continuing saga of deliberately-channeled hate we have experienced since a group of what proved (after their arrest) to be Israeli spies were reported on top of a truck, snapping pictures and high-fiving each other as the planes hit the World Trade Center in 2001. What those spies were doing has never been explained to the public. I’m not saying Israel is responsible for 9/11, but clearly some Israeli government interests were extremely happy about events, and we have been bombarded ever since with hate propaganda about Muslims, serving as a kind of constant noise covering the crimes Israel does commit against Palestinians and other neighbors.
It is impossible to know whether the attack in Paris was actually the work of ISIS or a covert operation by the secret service of an ISIS supporter. The point is a bit like arguing over angels on a pinhead. When you are dealing with this kind of warfare – thugs and lunatics of every description lured into service and given deadly toys and lots of encouragement to use them – things can and do go wrong. But even when nothing goes wrong in the eyes of sponsors for an outfit like ISIS, terrible things are still happening. It’s just that they’re happening where the sponsors want them to happen and in places from which our press carefully excludes itself. Terrible things, for example, have been happening in the beautiful land of Syria for four or five years, violence equivalent to about two hundred Paris attacks, causing immense damage, the entire point of which is to topple a popularly-supported president and turn Syria into the kind of rump states we see now in Iraq.
A covert operation in the name of ISIS is at least as likely as an attack by ISIS. The United States, Israel, Turkey, and France are none of them strangers to violent covert activities, and, yes, there have been instances before when a country’s own citizens were murdered by its secret services to achieve a goal. The CIA pushed Italian secret services into undertaking a series of murderous attacks on their own people during the 1960s in order to shake up Italy’s “threatening” left-wing politics. It was part of something called Operation Gladio. Operation Northwoods, in the early 1960s, was a CIA-planned series of terrorist acts on American civilians to be blamed on Cuba, providing an excuse for another invasion. It was not carried out, but that was not owing to any qualms in the CIA about murdering their own, otherwise no plan would have ever existed. The CIA was involved in many other operations inside the United States, from experiments with drugs to ones with disease, using innocent people as its subject-victims.
There have been no differences worth mentioning between Hollande’s France and America concerning the Middle East. Whatever America wants, America gets, unlike the days when Jacques Chirac opposed the invasion of Iraq, or earlier, when de Gaulle removed France’s armed forces from integration within NATO or bravely faced immense hostility, including a coup attempt undertaken by French military with CIA cooperation, when he abandoned colonialism in Algeria.
If anything, Hollande has been as cloyingly obsequious towards America’s chief interest in the Middle East, Israel, as a group of Republican Party hopefuls at a Texas barbecue fund-raiser sniffing out campaign contributions. After the Charlie Hebdo attack, Hollande honored four Jewish victims of the thugs who attacked a neighborhood grocery store with France’s highest honor, the Legion of Honor. I don’t recall the mere fact of being murdered by thugs ever before being regarded as a heroic distinction. After all, in the United States more than twenty thousand a year suffer that fate without recognition.
Israel’s Netanyahu at the time of the Charlie Hebdo attack actually outdid himself in manic behavior. He barged into France against a specific request that he stay home and pushed himself, uninvited, to the front row of the big parade down the Champs-Élysées which was supposed to honor free speech. He wanted those cameras to be on him for voters back home watching.
Free speech, you might ask, from the leaders of Egypt, Turkey, the UAE, and Israel, who all marched in front? Well, after the free-speech parody parade, the Madman of Tel Aviv raced around someone else’s country making calls and speeches for Jewish Frenchmen to leave “dangerous” France and migrate “home” to Israel. It would in fact be illegal in Israel for someone to speak that way in Israel to Israelis, but illegality has never bothered Netanyahu. Was he in any way corrected for this world-class asinine behavior? No, Hollande just kept marching around with his head stiffly up. I guess he was trying to prove just how free “free speech” is in France.
But speech really isn’t all that free in France, and the marching about free speech was a fraud. Not only is Charlie Hebdo, the publication in whose honor all the tramping around was done, not an outlet for free speech, being highly selective in choosing targets for its obscene attacks, but many of the people marching at the head of the parade were hardly representatives of the general principle.
France itself has outlawed many kinds of free speech. Speech and peaceful demonstrations which advocate a boycott of Israel are illegal in France. So a French citizen today cannot advocate peacefully against a repressive state which regularly abuses, arrests, and kills some of the millions it holds in a form of bondage. And Hollande’s France enforces this repressive law with at least as much vigor as Israel does with its own version, in a kind of “Look, me too,” spirit. France also has a law which is exactly the equivalent of a law against anyone’s saying the earth is flat: a law against denying or questioning the Holocaust. France also is a country, quite disgracefully, which has banned the niqab.
Now, America’s policy in the Mideast is pretty straightforward: subsidize and protect its colony Israel and never criticize it even on the many occasions when it has committed genuine atrocities. American campaign finance laws being what the are, politics back home simply permits no other policy. The invasion of Iraq, which largely was intended to benefit Israel through the elimination of a major and implacable opponent, has like so many dark operations backfired. I call the invasion a dark operation because although the war was as public as could be, all of America’s, and Britain’s, supposed intelligence about Iraq was crudely manufactured and the reasons for undertaking an act which would kill a million people and cripple an entire country were complete lies.
America’s stupid invasion created new room for Iran to exert its influence in the region – hence, the endless noise in Israel and Saudi Arabia about Iran – and it led directly to the growth of armed rabble groups like ISIS. There were no terrorists of any description in Saddam’s Iraq, just as there were no terrorists in Gadhafi’s Libya, a place now so infested with them that even an American ambassador is not safe.
Some Americans assert that ISIS happened almost accidentally, popping out of the dessert when no one was looking, a bit like Athena from the head of Zeus, arising from the bitterness and discontents of a splintered society, but that view is fatuous. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens by accident in this part of the world. Israel’s spies keep informed of every shadowy movement, and America always listens closely to what they say.
It is silly to believe ISIS just crept up on America, suddenly a huge and powerful force, because ISIS was easy for any military to stop at its early stages, as when it was a couple of thousand men waving AK-47s from the backs of Japanese pick-up trucks tearing around Iraq. Those pick-up trucks and those AK-47s and the gasoline and the ammunition and the food and the pay required for a bunch of goons came from somewhere, and it wasn’t from Allah.
A corollary to America’s first principle about protecting Israel is that nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in Israel’s neighborhood that is not approved, at least tacitly, by the United States. So whether,
in any given instance of supply and support for ISIS, it was Israel or Saudi Arabia or Turkey or America – all involved in this ugly business – is almost immaterial. It all had to happen with American approval. Quite simply, there would be hell to pay otherwise.
As usual in the region, Saudi Arabia’s role was to supply money, buying weapons from America and others and transshipping them to ISIS. Ever since 9/11, Saudi Arabia has been an almost pathetically loyal supporter of America, even to the extent now of often cooperating with Israel. That couldn’t happen before an event in which the majority of perpetrators proved to be Saudi citizens and which led to the discovery that large amounts of Saudi “go away” money had been paid to Osama bin Laden for years. But after 9/11, the Saudis feared for the continuation of their regime and now do what they are told. They are assisted in performing the banking function by Qatar, another wealthy, absolute state aligned with the United States and opposing the rise of any possibly threatening new forces in its region.
Of course, it wasn’t just the discoveries of 9/11 that motivated Saudi Arabia. It intensely dislikes the growing influence of Iran, and Iran’s Shia Muslim identity is regarded by Sunni sects in Saudi Arabia in much the way 17th century Protestantism was viewed by an ultramontane Catholic state like Spain. The mass of genuine jihadists fighting in Syria – those who are not just mercenaries and adventurers or agents of Israel or Turkey or the Saudis – are mentally-unbalanced Sunni who believe they are fighting godlessness. The fact that Assad keeps a secular state with religious freedom for all just adds to their motivation.
ISIS first achievement was toppling an Iraqi government which had been excessively friendly to Iran in the view of Israel, and thereby the United States. Iraq’s army could have stopped them easily early on but was bribed to run away, leaving weapons such as tanks behind. Just two heavy tanks could have crushed all the loons in pick-up trucks. That’s why there was all the grotesque propaganda about beheadings and extreme cruelty to cover the fact of modern soldiers running from a mob. ISIS gathered weapons, territory, and a fierce reputation in an operation which saw President al-Maliki – a man disliked by the United States for his associations with Iran and his criticism of American atrocities – hurriedly leave office.
From that base, ISIS was able to gain sufficient foothold to begin financing itself through, for example, stolen crude sold at a discount or stolen antiquities. The effective splitting up of Iraq meant that its Kurdish population in the north could sell, as it does today, large volumes of oil to Israel, an unheard of arrangement in Iraq’s past. ISIS then crossed into Syria in some force to go after Assad. The reasons for this attack were several: Assad runs a secular state and defends religious minorities but mainly because the paymasters of ISIS wanted Assad destroyed and Syria reduced in the fashion of Iraq.
Few people in the press seem to have noted that ISIS never attacks Israel or Israeli interests. Neither does it attack the wheezingly-corrupt rulers of Saudi Arabia, the Islamic equivalent of ancient Rome’s Emperor Nero. Yet those are the very targets a group of genuine, independent warrior-fundamentalists would attack. But ISIS is not genuine, being supplied and bankrolled by people who do not want to see attacks on Israel or Saudi Arabia, including, notably, Israel and Saudi Arabia. ISIS also is assisted, and in some cases led, by foreign covert operators and special forces.
There does seem to be a good deal of news around the idea of France becoming serious in fighting ISIS, but I think we must be cautious about accepting it at face value. Putin is reported as telling ship commanders in the Mediterranean to cooperate and help cover the French aircraft carrier approaching. Hollande keeps calling for American cooperation too, as Putin has done for a very long time, but America’s position remains deliberately ambiguous. A new American announcement of cooperation with Turkey in creating a “safe zone” across the border with northern Syria is a development with unclear intentions. Is this to stop the Kurds Erdogan so despises fighting in the north of Syria from establishing themselves and controlling the border or is it a method for continued support of ISIS along the that border? Only time will tell.
I do think it at least possible Hollande may have come around to Putin’s view of ISIS, but America has not, and the situation only grows more fraught with dangerous possibilities. I’ve long believed that likely America, in its typically cynical fashion, planned to destroy ISIS, along with others like al-Nusra, once they had finished the dirty work of destroying Syria’s government and Balkanizing the country. In any event, Israel – and therefore, automatically, America – wants Assad destroyed, so it would be surprising to see America at this point join honestly with Putin and Hollande.
America has until now refused Russia any real support, including such basic stuff as sharing intelligence. It cooperates only in the most essential matters such avoiding attacks on each other’s planes. It also has made some very belligerent statements about what Russia has been doing, some from the America’s Secretary of Defense sounding a lot like threats. Just the American establishment’s bully-boy attitude about doing anything which resembles joining a Russian initiative does not bode well.
After all, Putin has been portrayed as a kind of Slavic Satan by American propaganda cranking stuff out overtime in support of Ukraine’s incompetent coup-government and with the aim of terrifying Eastern Europe into accepting more American weapons and troops near Russia’s border, this last having nothing to do with any Russian threat and everything to do with America’s aggressive desire to shift the balance of power. How do you turn on a dime and admit Putin is right about Syria and follow his lead?
And there are still the daily unpleasant telephone calls from Israel about Assad. How do you manoeuvre around that when most independent observers today recognize Assad as the best alternative to any other possible government. He has the army’s trust, and in the end it is the Syrian army which is going to destroy ISIS and the other psychopaths. Air strikes alone can never do that. The same great difficulty for Hollande leaves much ambiguity around what he truly means by “going to war against ISIS.”
It is an extremely complicated world in which we live with great powers putting vast resources towards destroying the lives of others, almost killing thousands on a whim, while pretending not to be doing so. We live in an era shaped by former CIA Director Allen Dulles, a quiet psychopath who never saw an opportunity for chaos he did not embrace.
The only way to end terror is to stop playing with the lives of tens of millions in the Middle East, as America has done for so long, and stop supporting the behaviors of a repressive state which has killed far greater numbers than the madmen of ISIS could dream of doing, demanding instead that that state make peace and live within its borders. But, at least at this stage, that is all the stuff of dreams.
What a difference a single massacre can make!
• Just a week ago the EU couldn’t possibly figure out anything to do to stop the influx of “refugees” from all those countries the US and NATO had bombed into oblivion. But now, because “Paris changed everything,” EU’s borders are being locked down and refugees are being turned back.
• Just a week ago it seemed that the EU was going to be swamped by resurgent nationalism, with incumbent political parties poised to get voted out of power. But now, thanks to the Paris massacre, they have obtained a new lease on life, because they can now safely embrace the same policies that a week ago they branded as “fascist.”
• Just a week ago the EU and the US couldn’t possibly bring themselves to admit that they are utterly incompetent when it comes to combating their own creation—ISIS, that is—and need Russian help. But now, at the après-Paris G-20 summit, everybody is ready to line up and let Putin take charge of the war against terrorism. Look—the Americans finally found those convoys of tanker trucks stretching beyond the horizon that ISIS has been using to smuggle out stolen Syrian crude oil—after Putin showed them the satellite photos!
Am I being crass and insensitive? Not at all—I deplore all the deaths from terrorist attacks in Iraq, in Syria, in Lebanon, and in all the other countries whose populations did absolutely nothing to deserve such treatment. I only feel half as bad about the French, who stood by quietly as their military helped destroy Libya (which did nothing to deserve it).
Note that after the Russian jet crashed in the Sinai there weren’t all that many Facebook avatars with the Russian flag pasted over them, and hardly any candlelight vigils or piles of wreaths and flowers in various Western capitals. I even detected a whiff of smug satisfaction that the Russians got their comeuppance for stepping out of line in Syria.
Why the difference in reaction? Simple: you were told to grieve for the French, so you did. You were not told to grieve for the Russians, and so you didn’t. Don’t feel bad; you are just following orders. The reasoning behind these orders is transparent: the French, along with the rest of the EU, are Washington’s willing puppets; therefore, they are innocent, and when they get killed, it’s a tragedy. But the Russians are not Washington’s willing puppet, and are not innocent, and so when they get killed by terrorists, it’s punishment. And when Iraqis, or Syrians, or Nigerians get killed by terrorists, that’s not a tragedy either, for a different reason: they are too poor to matter. In order to qualify as a victim of a tragedy, you have to be each of these three things: 1. a US-puppet, 2. rich and 3. dead.
Also, you probably believe that the terrorist attacks in Paris were the genuine article—nobody knew it would happen, and it couldn’t have been stopped, because these terrorists are just too clever for the ubiquitous state surveillance to detect. Don’t feel bad about that either; you are just believing what you are told to believe. You probably also believe that jet fuel can melt steel girders and that skyscrapers collapse into their own footprints (whether they’ve been hit by airplanes or not). You can certainly believe whatever you like, but here are a couple of easy-to-understand tips on telling what’s real from what’s fake:
1. If it’s fake, the perpetrators are known immediately (and sometimes beforehand). If it’s real, then the truth is uncovered as a result of a thorough investigation. So, for instance, on 9/11 the guilty party were a bunch of Saudis armed with box cutters (some of whom are, paradoxically, still alive). And in Paris we knew right away that this was done by ISIS—even before we knew who the perpetrators were. And when that Malaysian jet got shot down over Ukraine, we knew right away that it was the Russians’ fault (never mind that on that day the Ukrainians deployed an air defense system, and also scrambled a couple of jets armed with air-to-air missiles— against an enemy that doesn’t have an air force). Note, however, how we still don’t know what happened with the Russian jet over Sinai. That case is still under investigation—as it should be. If it’s real, officials stall for time and urge caution while scrambling to find out what happened. When it’s fake, the officials are ready to go with the Big Lie, and then do everything they can to make it stick, suppressing what shreds of evidence can be independently gathered.
2. If it’s fake, then you should also expect cute little touches: designer logos for publicity campaigns ready to launch at a moment’s notice, be it “Je suis Charlie” or that cute little Eiffel Tower inscribed in a peace symbol. There weren’t any props to go with the Russian jet disaster—unless you count that tasteful Charlie Hebdo cartoon of a jihadi rocket having anal sex with an airliner. There might also be a few traditional tidbits designed to feed a media frenzy, such as a fake passport found lying next to one of the perpetrators—because when terrorists go on suicide missions they always take their fake passports with them. The people who are charged with designing these events lack imagination and usually just go with whatever worked before.
We should certainly expect there to be more fake massacres of this sort—whenever the political situation becomes sufficiently fraught to call for one—because at this point ready-to-go jihadi terrorist cells are something of a sunk cost and can be deployed very cheaply and effectively. Of course we should grieve for the victims, but there is something far more important at stake than mere human lives, which are, deplorably, becoming cheaper with each passing year. We should grieve for the truth.
By Brenda Heard | Aletho News | November 16, 2015
On 15 November, The New York Times published an article entitled “Beirut, Also the Site of Deadly Attacks, Feels Forgotten.” It highlights the disparity between the global solidarity expressed for Paris following the deadly 13 November attacks and the lack thereof expressed for Beirut after it too was attacked the day prior. But the headline suggests a petulant attitude from Lebanese who “feel forgotten,” as though they were a bratty child or a sniveling spouse.
Granted The Times expresses a degree of compassion for Beirut’s victims, who like those in Paris “were killed at random, in a bustling urban area, while going about their normal evening business.” But The Times also seems to be trying to wiggle out of appearing heartless in a previous Times article’s headline–“Deadly Blasts Hit Hezbollah Stronghold in Southern Beirut”—a headline that it now explains was “changed to be more precise.” The Times withdrew the headline’s phraseology “Hezbollah Stronghold,” which it admitted, “risks portraying a busy civilian, residential and commercial district as a justifiable military target.”
With images of civilian victims in circulation, the casual sneer of “Hezbollah stronghold,” quickly trumpeted by Reuters and the Associated Press, did seem rather. . . misleading. Yet despite even The Times’ own characterization of the stricken Bourj el-Barajneh municipality as typical “working-class Beirut, where Palestinians, Christians and Syrian refugees (mostly Sunnis) live, work and shop,” these descriptions are colored with an overriding exemption: “Hezbollah maintains tight security control” of the area. Only Reuters gives slight mention to the contradiction of this so-called “Hezbollah Bastion” hosting numerous Lebanese Army checkpoints.
So with a curious twist, The Times manages to undo the cliché “innocent civilian” as victim of a terror attack. The Beirut victims may have been civilian, the article concedes, but how dare they consider themselves innocent and thus worthy of solidarity. After all, the article tells us, Hezbollah is highly popular there. So why change and half-apologise for the phrase “Hezbollah stronghold”? Because The Times asserts that a Hezbollah stronghold would be a “justifiable military target.” And that assertion comes dangerously close to approving of this ISIS bombing, dangerously close to the sentiment expressed by a commenter on one of the initial UK reports: “So one bunch of barbaric Islamist terrorists has declared war on another bunch of barbaric Islamist terrorists. We should be celebrating. A win-win for the West and the civilized world.”
Sadly, this comment is mild in comparison to many across the web. They laugh and they rage with a brute callousness that is diametrically opposed to the compassion and solidarity expressed toward the French. When The Times article discussed how the Lebanese felt “forgotten,” it missed the point. It quoted Lebanese blogger Dr Elie Fares saying that “When my people died, no country bothered to light up its landmarks in the colors of their flag.” But if you read his article in its entirety, you will see that he was not bemoaning a lack of attention. Equally disturbed by the lack of concern from his fellow Lebanese, Fares was lamenting a lack of shared humanity. As he stated in a previous article, “The politics maybe change, but with so many victims dying for so little, petty politics become irrelevant.”
As Westerners, of course we are sickened by the violence inflicted upon our neighbors in Paris. We rightfully feel sad and scared. But the challenge is to be able to feel the pain of non-Western societies as well. How many times do we scroll right past headlines of a bombing in an Iraqi marketplace? a mass shooting in Latin America? a typhoon in Asia? Their skin may be brown or black, they make speak what sounds like noise to us, they may even eat with their hands. But they are parents and children, friends and lovers, brothers and sisters. They enjoy a cup of tea and laugh at a funny television show. But even if they view god or government differently than we do, their falling victim to indiscriminate killing should be neither accepted, nor applauded. Unless we want to live forever in fear, we need to condemn brutality and to nurture the notion of live and let live—consistently.
Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah received telephone calls from Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal and his deputy Ismail Haniyeh expressing their condemnation of the terrorist bombings in Burj el-Barajneh.
Meshaal offered his condolences on the martyrdom of around 43 people, and stressed “the sympathy of the Palestinian people with the Lebanese and their support in the face of this painful tragedy.”
Meshaal and Haniyeh assured that the Palestinians who were allegedly involved in the blast were not refugees in Lebanon, reported al-Joumhouria newspaper on Saturday. Meshaal and Hanieh had informed the Lebanese Speaker Nabih Berri that the names mentioned by the ISIL terrorists were not of refugees, but of individuals who had died in Syria over two years ago.
The so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack, alleging it was executed by two Palestinians and a Syrian.
The Lebanese Army said two men wearing suicide vests carried out the attacks. A military statement added that the body of a third suicide attacker who had failed to blow himself up was found at the scene of the second blast.
Lebanon’s former President Emile Lahoud says the Israeli regime has benefited most from political assassinations in the country, including that of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, Press TV reports.
In an exclusive interview with Press TV, segments of which were aired on Saturday, Lahoud rejected accusations that the Syrian government and Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah had a role in the 2005 assassination of Hariri.
The Tel Aviv regime was the entity that largely benefited from Hariri’s killing and other assassinations in Lebanon, Lahoud stated.
He also cited as a proof the fact that the satellites that were watching over the area where Hariri was killed in Beirut belonged to Israel and the United States. Neither Tel Aviv nor Washington later accepted to share their data and images on the assassination, he said.
The former Lebanese president said the West and Israel have accused everybody in Lebanon for the killing, so that they can divert public attention from their own potential role in the incident.
Lahoud said the assassination of Hariri showed that the United States and Saudi Arabia have been doing what Israel wants them to do in the Middle East.
The neoconservative Washington Free Beacon is reporting that the Israeli air force has attacked a Syrian government-controlled missile base near Syria’s border with Lebanon. The Beacon cites a pro-rebel website that claims:
Israeli planes breached Lebanese and Syrian airspace and bombed the Syrian regime’s 155th Brigade [base] in the Qutayfa area, destroying a number of missile warehouses.
If the report is accurate it would suggest that Israel is attacking military facilities of the Syrian government to the benefit of ISIS and the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria, at least according to the latest battle map released by the Institute for the Study of War (when coordinated with a Google map search for Qutayfah, Syria).
Israel has routinely violated Syrian airspace to bomb Syrian territory and uses any stray rocket fire into Israel-occupied Golan Heights as a pretext to hit Syrian government positions inside the country.
Recently Israel has been forced to back down from its routine flights over Syrian airspace by the arrival of Russian fighters, and after at least one Israeli close call with sophisticated Russian fighter jets a hotline was reportedly set up for the two countries to avoid any clashes in the area.
Though these reports of Israel hitting Syrian government assets to the benefit of ISIS in the area should be taken with a grain of salt, if true this would mark yet another very volatile variable in an already very complicated and dangerous part of the world. If the Russians are busy bombing ISIS and al-Nusra positions in the area north of Damascus toward Aleppo, how will Moscow take to Tel Aviv making it difficult for Syrian ground forces to take advantage on the ground of their operations in the air?
The Saudi embassy in Lebanon is exerting direct pressure on the Lebanese authorities over the involvement of one of its princes in a major drugs smuggling attempt.
Early on Monday, a gendarmerie inspection unit at Beirut’s Rafiq al-Hariri International Airport foiled an attempt to smuggle two tons of Captagon pills to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.
Security Sources told Al-Manar that Saudi Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Fawwaz Al-Shaalan met Lebanese Interior Minister Nuhad al-Machnouk later on Monday.
The sources said that Riyadh is trying hard to exclude the prince from the trial process.
Prince Abdel Mohsen Bin Walid Bin Abdulaziz was detained along with four of his companions: Mubarak Bin Ali Bin Ayed Al-Harthi, Zeyad Bin Sameer Bin Ahmad Al-Hakim, Bandar Bin Saleh Bin Marzouk Al-Sharari, Yahya Bin Shaem Bin Saad Al-Shammari.
The five were caught with two tons of Captagon that were found in the prince’s private jet inside 40 boxes and suitcases.
“There is one scene I will always remember. There was one child. The mother died, but he was trying to take milk from his mother. He was still alive.”
Jamili’s face betrays little emotion as she recalls the scene from thirty-three years ago. She has told the story many times, and perhaps it has lost some of its power in its retelling. Jamili works for Beit Atfal Assamoud, an NGO that provides medical, social and educational services to the residents of the Shatila refugee camp on the southern outskirts of Beirut, and she is talking about her experiences during the massacre of 1982.
“The best way to forget about the horrible things that have happened in the past is to work, to help,” she tells me.
There are currently fifty-nine Palestinian refugee camps scattered throughout the Middle East. When Zionist forces instituted a policy of ethnic cleansing aimed to dispossess the Palestinians of their land in 1947-1948, close to 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes. The camps were built to house the refugees in the short term, but as the problem persisted, so did the camps. It is estimated that there are currently 2.5 million Palestinian refugees living in the camps, which are located in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza.
Shatila is probably the most well-known of all the Palestinian refugee camps. In September of 1982, a local Christian militia, known as the Phalange, aided by its Israeli allies, entered Shatila and bordering Sabra, engaging in an orgy of torturing and killing that lasted several days. It is estimated that 3000 people died in this massacre, which has become one of the enduring symbols not only of the Lebanese civil war, but also of the continuing disregard in which Israel holds the Palestinian people.
Jamili was born in 1958, during Lebanon’s first civil war, and she moved with her family from Baalbek, site of the spectacular Roman ruins, to Shatila at the age of one. Although she was not alive during the Nakba – the Catastrophe – and the original establishment of the camp that followed it, she has heard countless stories from her relatives about this time. In the fifty-seven years since her move, she has witnessed all of the tragedies that have befallen Shatila. She can associate each event in the history of the camp with an episode in her life. Her history has become intertwined with that of Shatila.
“My house was destroyed seven times,” she tells me, “and we rebuilt it seven times.”
I have now been in Shatila almost four weeks, and as of yet, I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to anybody about their personal experiences during the massacre. When I first arrived, I was expecting that the tragic events of 1982 would somehow cast an enormous shadow over the camp, that it was something everybody was still dealing with on some level. And so I was hesitant to discuss this topic with anybody for fear that I might bring up some memories that might be best left undisturbed. But when I was introduced to Jamili a few days ago as part of a visit to Beit Atfal Assamoud, she began talking about the massacre immediately. When I asked her if we could discuss the matter in greater detail, she agreed to give me an interview.
We are sitting in comfortable black chairs in her office. A fan whirs in a corner of the room, making the heat a little less oppressive. There is an enormous sleek, black desk behind her, at which I have yet to see her sit. Jamili’s work involves connecting with the residents of the camp who come to seek her help, and I suspect she feels a big desk between them would make them feel uncomfortable.
Israel invaded Lebanon on June 6, 1982 in order to rid the country of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which had fled Jordan during Black September in 1970 and had since established a presence in the refugee camps of Beirut. Israel killed roughly 20,000 people, mostly civilians, during the invasion, and it managed to drive out the PLO.
“During the invasion, 90% of the camp was destroyed. We left Shatila and stayed in Hamra (a Beirut neighborhood a few miles north of Shatila). The people lived in schools and cinemas. My house had five rooms, but when we returned to the camp, we found that only one room was left standing.”
In August of that year, Israel pressured the Lebanese parliament to choose Bashir Gemayal, leader of the Israel-allied Maronites, as president. However, Gemayal was assassinated on September 14, and the Maronite Christian community, especially the Phalange, a brutal Maronite militia, blamed the Palestinians for his death. By this time the PLO had already left the camps, and only women, children and old men remained.
“The PLO had left. All of our youths were in prison,” says Jamili.
The international force that had overseen the evacuation of the PLO had by now departed, and the residents of Shatila were completely exposed.
Yassir Arafat had foreseen this possibility. In the negotiations for his departure from Beirut, he had expressed concern for the safety of the civilians he would be leaving behind in the camps. The US and the government of Lebanon had given their word that Israel would not be allowed to enter West Beirut and had ensured the safety of the Palestinians remaining in the camps. But these promises proved to be empty.
On the day following Gemayal’s murder, Wednesday, September 15, the Israelis seized West Beirut, entrusting to the Phalange, whose hatred for the Palestinians had been inflamed by the assassination of their leader, the task of cleaning up the refugee camps.
On the evening of the following day, Thursday, the Phalange finally entered Sabra and Shatila, and the carnage began almost immediately. David Hirst provides a chilling description in his book Beware of Small States :
“They broke into houses and killed their occupants. Sometimes they tortured before they killed, gouging out eyes, skinning alive, disemboweling. Women and small girls were raped, sometimes half a dozen times, before, breasts severed, they were finished off with axes. Babies were torn limb from limb and their heads smashed against walls.”
Unaware of the massacre, Jamili and her family sought shelter in a mosque in the center of the camp from the Phalange bombs that were falling on West Beirut.
“The houses, after the Israeli invasion, were not strong. The mosque was strong and standing. All of our neighbors left their houses, because they were weak. And we sat in the mosque. People came from outside and said there will be a massacre. Some people didn’t believe them. Where would we go? At the beginning we didn’t believe. But when many people came covered with blood and told terrible stories, then we were afraid.”
A group of old men decided to try to find a high-ranking Israeli officer and convince him to stop the bloodshed. Jamili’s father was among them, but at the last minute he opted to stay behind, a decision that most likely saved his life.
“And these men, until now we don’t know where they are. They went to tell they Israelis there are only children in the camp. They went to protect the camp. But they killed them. They were all friends of my father. Until now nobody really knows what happened. ”
As darkness fell in the evening, the violence continued. The Israelis fired flares over the camp to aid the militia with its grizzly work.
“They lit the streets of the camp. The hopeless thing is that the children saw the lights, and it made them feel happy. But we explained to them that it was the Israelis throwing bombs. Many houses burned. One bomb hit a neighbor’s house, and my father went to help put the fire out.”
Jamili spent that terrifying night in the mosque with her family.
“In the morning, at six o’clock, a group of women, children and old men came and entered the camp and passed by the mosque. They were crying and shouting, and then we believed that a massacre was going to happen.”
On Friday many of the residents of Sabra and Shatila escaped and made their way to two nearby hospitals – the Gaza and Akka hospitals.
“We carried our children and didn’t take anything. We went to the Gaza hospital.”
But even in the hospitals the terrified residents of the camp were not safe from the murderous intentions of the Phalange. In fact, on that day the militia entered the Akka hospital and murdered some of the wounded as they lay in their beds.
“The doctors and the nurses said ‘Don’t stay here. They will come to get you. Please leave this area.’”
“So we left. At that time I was with my family and all of my relatives. There were hundreds of people in the streets, carrying their children.”
Jamili’s destination was Hamra, the Beiruti neighborhood where she and her family had spent the bulk of the Israeli invasion. They had lived in a friend’s apartment, and they still had the key. That night they spent in an unfinished building on the way to Hamra.
“It had no doors or windows, but at least we had a place. In the morning hundreds of people from the camp came and shouted, and we felt that it was dangerous and that we must leave.”
On Saturday morning they were stopped by Israeli soldiers.
“They allowed the women and children to pass, but the young men had to stay. My brothers and uncles had to return back while the women and children continued to Hamra. Our men were not with us, and we were afraid. What would happen to them? We were running away from danger, and they were going to danger.”
By now journalists had entered Shatila, and news of the massacre had spread. When Jamili and her family reached Hamra they went to a supermarket to meet its owner, a man they knew. He was astonished to see them.
“’You are still alive?’ he asked us.”
By ten o’clock on Saturday morning the last of the Phalange had left Sabra and Shatila. The killing was over.
“I am lucky. I didn’t see anybody killed in front of me. But I saw the bodies. The mosque was filled with bodies. You can see the houses that were destroyed and the legs of the children appear from these houses. I saw all this.”
When Jamili saw the pictures in a newspaper, she was horrified. She imagined that all the bodies she saw belonged to her relatives, whom she had been forced to abandon outside of Hamra.
“All youths wear sport shoes and jeans and t-shirts. Their bodies were facing down. We felt that all our men had been killed. We decided to return back to the camp. On Monday morning we entered Sabra, and we were afraid to enter the camp. We saw the bodies in the street. I couldn’t stand. We couldn’t continue. We knew that all our relatives had died. I went to my house. I walked a few meters and then returned back. Because I was afraid to find out what happened.”
But it turned out that her male relatives had found shelter in a school outside the camp.
“When I saw them I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I felt foolish. When I found out that my whole family was safe, it was a perfect day.”
Jamili sighs. Her brown eyes glisten. Telling the story has brought back memories and emotions.
The massacre was over, but the problems for the residents remained, as the camp was almost entirely destroyed and had to be rebuilt.
“We had a group of about twenty girls. We could stand against the enemy. We were not afraid. What choice did we have? To die? To live or die, it was the same.”
And so Jamili and her friends threw themselves into the task of rebuilding the camp, because, among other things, it helped them forget what had happened. But one cannot forget such an event.
Jamili leans closer, her face showing the confusion, the inability to accept what had happened so many years ago. How could one group of human beings do this to another?
“Why did Israel make the massacre? For the children? For the old men? Nobody could imagine that a massacre would happen. Why? For whom? We didn’t have any men. Some of them left, and some of them died. Some of them went to prison.”
Today, thirty-three years later, Shatila faces a multitude of problems. The camp, originally built for 4000 residents, is contained in an area that is in the shape of a square of side length less than one kilometer. With the recent influx of refugees from the war in Syria, the current population is estimated to be close to 25,000. This high concentration of people makes itself felt in the ubiquitous crowds that fill the narrow alleyways, in the piles of garbage that accumulate too quickly for the trash removal workers to keep up with, in the many buildings that extend skyward to accommodate the residents, and in the lack of open spaces in the camp. Living conditions are horrifying. Electricity is cut for at least twelve hours a day, and the tap water is so salty that it corrodes the faucets. Guns are present throughout the camp, and tensions, already high because of the extreme overcrowdedness, often explode to the point of physical conflict. (One week after my arrival in the camp two people were murdered during a dispute over a motorcycle parking spot.)
Most of the people in the camp dream of going back to their village in Palestine. And so it is with Jamili.
“Our problems will stop when we return. Why cannot we return to our homeland? My village is empty. It has been destroyed. Until now nobody lives there. Why must we live in this bad situation?”
As Israel moves further and further to the right, it appears as unlikely as ever that Jamili or any of the other millions of Palestinian refugees will ever be able to return to their homes. As their wait continues into its seventh decade, the international community appears to be losing interest even in providing material support for them. Until a few weeks ago, a UNRWA budget shortfall threatened to close all schools in the refugee camps, an action that would have been a disaster for the residents. Saudi Arabia and a few other nations came up with the funding at the last minute, but the message that the world doesn’t care about the refugees was delivered, regardless. These are dangerous times for the Palestinian refugees, and it is crucial that the international community, especially the West, who bears responsibility for their displacement in the first place, doesn’t forget about their plight.
 David Hirst, Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East
Richard Hardigan is a university professor in the United States.
Protests about the lack of proper city sanitation services have quickly escalated into full-blown calls for regime change.
Lebanese protesters demonstrated in Beirut this weekend as part of the “You Stink” movement, which was organized by citizens fed up with the garbage that had been piling up in their streets for weeks.
What began as an expression of legitimate grievances, however, quickly spiraled into the world’s latest Color Revolution attempt.
Some radical youth started throwing rocks and petrol bombs at police officers (uncannily reminiscent of the earlier hijacking of the peaceful-intentioned “Electric Yerevan” protests), which resulted in a forceful counter-response that was then immediately used to ‘justify’ the movement’s transformation into one of open regime change ends.
The thing is, however, Lebanon doesn’t really have a functioning government to begin with, having been without a President for over a year. If the Prime Minister steps down as he threatened to do, then it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis that might bring the formerly civil war-torn and multi-confessional state back to the brink of domestic conflict.
Any significant destabilization in Lebanon is bound to have a serious impact on Syria, which would be put in a difficult position by the potential cutoff of the strategic Beirut-to-Damascus highway and the possible redeployment of valuable Hezbollah fighters back to their homeland.
A Little About Lebanon
The tiny Middle Eastern state of about four and a half million people is marked by a demographic and political complexity that could hinder a speedy resolution to the current crisis. It’s necessary to be aware of some of its specifics in order to better understand the origins of the current stalemate and where it might rapidly be headed.
Unilaterally sliced out of Syria during the early years of the French mandate, the territory of Lebanon hails what is generally recognized as the most diverse population in the Mideast. Eighteen religious groups are recognized in the country’s constitution, including Alawites, Druze, Maronite Catholics, Sunnis, and Shiites.
This eclecticism of religious communities is presided over by something referred to as the National Pact, an unwritten understanding that the President will always be Maronite, the Prime Minister will be Sunni, and the Speaker of Parliament will be Shiite, among other stipulations (and with a few historical exceptions).
Complementary to this concept is the country’s unique political system called confessionalism, whereby Christians and Muslims share equal seats in the unicameral parliament, but each group’s respective composition is determined proportionally by sect. Originally meant to be a temporary solution when it was first enacted in the 1920s, it was later refined by the 1989 Taif Agreement that ended the lengthy civil war and has remained in place to this day.
Crawling To A Crisis
The current crisis in Lebanon was long in the making, and it’s the result of many embedded problems that spilled over with the garbage protests. The economy has always been fragile, in that it’s highly dependent on tourism and banking – hardly the prerequisites for a stable system.
The overwhelming influx of over 1 million Syrian refugees over the past couple of years (on top of the nearly half a million Palestinian ones already present in the country) contributed to the country’s economic malaise, with the International Labor Organization quoting a 34% unemployment rate for youth between the ages of 15-24. It’s thus of no surprise then that there were plenty of disaffected young people eager and available to protest when the “You Stink” opportunity finally arose.
Lebanon’s economic troubles have been exacerbated by its enormously high debt-to-GDP ratio that has the dubious honor of being one of the world’s worst at 143%. It’s of such magnitude that Prime Minister Tammam Salam just announced that the government might not be able to pay salaries next month.
This economic dysfunction persists despite the discovery of large amounts of offshore oil and gas that have yet to be extracted. Part of the reason for this is that the country is in the midst of a political impasse stemming from parliament’s inability to agree upon a new president after the former one finished his term in May 2014.
Since the president appoints the prime minister, if Salam resigns like he threatened to do if Thursday’s upcoming Cabinet meeting yields no results, then the country would enter completely uncharted territory that might prompt more pronounced unrest and guarantee a period of heightened uncertainty.
The arrangement of political forces is thus that two men have the possibility to be president – Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea. Each represents one of the two main trans-religious political coalitions, the 8 March Alliance and the 14 March Alliance, respectively, and both want parliament to end its impasse as soon as possible.
Their similarities end there, however, since Aoun is in an alliance with multipolar-oriented Hezbollah, while Geagea is closely tied to former Prime Minister and dual Lebanese-Saudi billionaire powerbroker Saad Hariri.
Wikileaks’ latest releases from the Saudi Foreign Ministry prove that Hariri still has intimate contacts with the Saudi royal family and intelligence services, and that Geagea once begged the kingdom to bankroll his party’s finances. Therefore, although the presidency itself is largely ceremonial, it’s the diametrically competing visions of these two parties and the potential for street clashes between their supporters during the Color Revolution tumult that creates serious concern about Lebanon’s future, and consequently, could be expected to have negative repercussions for Syria.
The regional backdrop in which all of this occurs is that the US and its allies are in a ‘race to the finish’ to ‘win’ their various Mideast wars before the tens of billions of dollars of frozen Iranian funds are returned to Tehran, which would then partially disseminate it to its regional allies Hezbollah and Syria.
Additionally, Russia has made remarkable diplomatic progress in trying to reconcile all sides in Syria and assemble a coordinated anti-ISIL coalition, raising the US’ fears that its window of ‘opportunity’ for accomplishing regime change there may unexpectedly be drawing to a close.
It’s thus under these conditions that the organic protests in Beirut were almost immediately hijacked by radical Color Revolutionaries in order to create chaos along Syria’s western border.
The intent behind the calculated state collapse being attempted at the moment in Lebanon is to disrupt the Beirut-to-Damascus highway that serves as one of the two main lifelines to the Syrian capital, the other being the Damascus-to-Latakia highway. Shutting down the Lebanese route would make Syria wholly dependent on the Latakian one that’s vulnerable to an “Army of Conquest” offensive, which if successful, would cripple the country by de-facto blockading the capital.
At the same time, in the event that Beirut reaches its breaking point, some Hezbollah units currently deployed to Syria would be compelled to return back to the home front to assist in the inevitable power struggle there. The withdrawal of part (or all) of this valuable fighting contingent would make the military situation much more difficult for the Syrian Arab Army, both in defending the Damascus-to-Latakia corridor and in securing the Lebanese border from becoming a ‘second Turkey’ of terrorist infiltration.
Conclusively, it’s for these strategic reasons why it strongly appears that externally directed forces were ordered to exploit Lebanon’s existing tensions at this specific time. They engineered a Color Revolution attempt by using the “You Stink” protests as a semi-plausible cover, and this was timed to coincide with the ‘race to the finish’ being played out all across the Mideast.
Lebanon can still pull away from the brink, provided that Thursday’s upcoming Cabinet meeting resolves the presidential crisis and placates the country’s main political parties, but it will have to tread very carefully in containing sectarian temptations and avoiding the trap of escalatory Color Revolution provocations.
Thomas Friedman in The New York Times argues for approval of the Iran nuclear deal, and on the way to this conclusion he hauls readers through a morass of false narratives and murky ethics, all of them invoked on behalf of Israel.
The column, however, does more than reveal the contortions of Israeli propaganda. It also points up a defect in the Times op-ed pages: The section allows writers to assert almost any claim without having to supply evidence to the readers, and although the newspaper says that it fact-checks even its editors, plenty of misinformation appears in the op-ed pages.
Thus we have Friedman’s latest, “If I Were an Israeli Looking at the Iran Deal,” which lays out a series of bald statements about Iran, Mideast history and the Israeli military that point to one overriding premise: Israel is a lonely moral force in the midst of lunatic regimes.
Friedman asserts, among other things, that Iran “regularly cheated” in order to expand its nuclear capability and aided Lebanon in “an unprovoked war” against Israel in 2006. Israel, however, “tries to avoid hitting civilian targets,” follows “Western mores” and pursues “war without mercy” only “when it has to.”
We are told, in other words, that Iran is an existential threat to Israel, bent on its destruction. Oddly, just as Friedman’s column was appearing in the Times, the newspaper also published a rebuttal to his claim in a story titled “Reporting From Iran Jewish Paper Sees No Plot to Destroy Israel.”
Here we learn that many Iranians support a two-state solution in Palestine-Israel and that Jewish Iranians are “basically well-protected second-class citizens—a broadly prosperous, largely middle-class community whose members have no hesitation about walking down the streets of Tehran wearing yarmulkes.”
If readers took the time to check out some of Friedman’s specific claims, they would find that the “unprovoked war” of 2006 was something else again. Israel was actually planning to attack Lebanon and seized on one incident (among many skirmishes on both sides) to unleash its arsenal on the country.
They would discover that Iran has not “regularly cheated its way” in its nuclear program. Instead, as investigative journalist Gareth Porter notes, “The evidence adduced to prove that Iran secretly worked on nuclear weapons represents an even more serious falsification of intelligence than we saw in the run-up to the war in Iraq.”
As for Friedman’s claim that the “Israeli army tries to avoid hitting civilian targets,” many readers already know that rights groups have cast grave doubts on this particular bit of propaganda. Most recently, we have heard from Breaking the Silence and Amnesty International, as both groups have exposed the criminal policies and actions that left so many civilians dead last summer in Gaza.
This sloppy approach to the facts is appalling, but even worse in this particular piece is the moral quagmire he creates in justifying Israel’s war crimes. Israel is forced to kill civilians, he says, because it faces enemies that stop at nothing. Therefore, Israel will “play by local rules” because “for all its Western mores it will not be out-crazied.”
Friedman would have it both ways: Israel is a moral society and Israel is the toughest, meanest guy on the block. If Hezbollah or Hamas fire rockets, he writes, Israel “will not be deterred by the threat of civilian Arab casualties.” The threat that concerns him here is the damage to Israel’s reputation, not the deaths of innocent Arabs.
He finds Iran’s alleged nuclear cheating particularly egregious because the country had signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. This observation, however, does not prevent him from threatening Iran with Israel’s nukes: “[Israel] not only possesses 100 to 200 nuclear weapons,” he writes, “it can deliver them to Iran by plane, submarine and long-range rocket.”
Israel, on the other hand, has never signed the NPT and has never allowed inspectors into its nuclear plant, but this is no matter to Friedman. Iran, which has signed the treaty and allows inspections of its facilities, finds this state of affairs used against it in his bizarre moral universe.
Friedman presents Iran as one of the “crazies” that force Israel to break from its “Western mores,” but he can maintain this stance only by ignoring a little-discussed fact: Iran has forbidden the production and use of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical warfare and nuclear arms.
Even when Iraq attacked Iranians with poison gas during the eight-year war, Iran refused to retaliate in kind. Two supreme leaders have pronounced a fatwa against such weapons, including nuclear arms, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Ali Khameini. Iran’s nuclear program, they declared, can only be pursued for peaceful purposes, and under the Iranian system, their word is the law of the land.
No wonder we hear not a word of this from Friedman (or the Times): Iran’s fatwa contrasts starkly with the Israeli stance on its own nuclear program.
In Friedman’s piece, facts that would expose his fraudulent narratives are excluded, in spite of the newspaper’s claim to fact-check even opinion pieces and editorials. Readers are denied even the minimal links that appear in most news stories.
Friedman’s columns appear twice a week in the Times. He has won awards for reporting and commentary, and he is a member of the Pulitzer Prize board. Such is the state of mainstream American journalism today.
The World Food Program (WFP) has slashed by half its food assistance for Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon due to a funding crisis.
Muhannad Hadi, the WFP’s regional director for the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, announced the decision on Friday.
Hadi said the international community must help the food assistance branch of the United Nations to continue its drive to keep refugees from going hungry.
The WFP official further urged international donors to increase their contributions, otherwise “it will be only a matter of months before we face the same situation again.”
The WFP said that the most vulnerable of the Syrian refugees living outside camps in Jordan will receive USD 14 per person in August while the rest will get only USD 7 each.
The agency will also provide the Syrian refugees in Lebanon with USD 13.5 per month, which is half of their initial entitlement.
The development comes as the WFP is currently underfunded and needs USD 168 million to keep helping Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and Turkey through October.
Syria has been grappling with a foreign-sponsored crisis since March 2011. The violence fueled by Takfiri terrorist groups has reportedly left over 230,000 people dead so far.
More than 4 million Syrians have left their country since the beginning of the conflict, according to latest figures released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Lebanon is home to 1,172,753 Syrian refugees while Jordan hosts more than 629,000 refugees, with about 100,000 housed in refugee camps and the rest living in Jordanian communities.
In a joint report published on July 23, the WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned of worsening food insecurity in the Arab country, saying that the ongoing crisis is pushing more people into poverty and hunger.
Approximately 9.8 million Syrians are estimated to be “food insecure,” with 6.8 million of them “severely food insecure,” according to the report.