The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warned last week that 20 million people are in danger of starvation because of conflicts and drought.
If you missed this shocking and very important news, then it’s no surprise, as it didn’t receive too many headlines – certainly not in the West. Those have been dominated instead by expressions of faux-outrage from the pro-war political and media Establishment over footage of children in Syria who appeared to have been the victims of a suspected chemical weapons attack, which the US and its allies were very quick to blame, without firm evidence, on Syrian President Bashar Assad.
How do we know that the Establishment concern we saw about child victims of war was insincere? It’s easy. True humanitarians care about all victims equally. The concern of phony humanitarians is only for those who have been killed, or who appear to have been killed, by an ‘Official Enemy’ of the Western elites – like Assad. This ‘outrage’ has to be expressed strongly, and very publicly, in order to build support for the bombing of the ‘Official Enemy’ country, and further the case for regime-change, which helps the arms industry and the 1% get even richer. However, if it’s an ally of the West or Western powers themselves responsible for the atrocities, it’s a very different story. Then it’s a case of: “Don’t mention the war!” Let’s change the subject as quickly as we can! Bellicose ‘liberal interventionists’ become as quiet as church mice.
What made the double standards even more glaring this week is the fact that a large proportion of those facing starvation, as identified by the UNHCR, are in Yemen, which has been bombed by staunch Western ally Saudi Arabia for two years now.
“In Yemen, which is experiencing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis with almost 19 million people in need of humanitarian help, around 17 million people are food insecure,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said.
The very same countries who are directly responsible for the “world’s largest humanitarian crisis” in 2017 are – surprise, surprise! – the ones who have sought to take the moral high ground over Syria. The same neocons and ‘liberal interventionists’ who screech “Something must be done about Assad!” on social media from 6 o’clock in the morning until 11 o’clock at night are quite happy for absolutely nothing to be done to stop the suffering in Yemen.
One man who did try to end the slaughter in the country was Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn- a consistent target of the Endless War lobby. Last October Labour put forward a motion in the British Parliament calling for the UK to suspend its support to Saudi Arabia. The resolution failed because over 100 Labour MPs either didn‘t turn up- or abstained. One of them was Corbyn’s deputy Tom Watson. ‘How can Labour ‘humanitarians’ support Saudi Arabia’? asked Stop the War’s Lindsey German.
Last week Watson broke with Corbyn yet again to issue a statement in favour of Trump’s illegal cruise missile strikes on Syria- saying, without any sense of irony, that they were a ‘a response to a clear violation of international law by the Syrian regime.’
When it comes to humanitarian humbug there’s no difference between right-wing Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories. Or, in America, between Democrats and Republicans. Vicar’s daughter Theresa May has spent most of the last few days robotically denouncing ‘the Assad regime’-which is battling ISIS and al-Qaeda and protects Syria’s Christian community from religious persecution. Yet just ten days ago the British Prime Minister was defending UK ties to Saudi Arabia on a trip to Riyadh. For all the moral grand-standing by May and Johnson and Trump and Tillerson, the bloodshed and chaos unleashed by the west and its allies in recent decades dwarfs any crimes that could be laid at Assad’s door. In 2015, it was revealed that at least 1.3m people, the vast majority of them Muslims, lost their lives in the US‘s so-called ‘War on Terror’ in just three countries; Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan- between 2001 and the end of 2013.
The Body Count death toll as I pointed out in my earlier OpEdge does not include deaths among the 3m refugees from Iraq subjected to privations, nor those killed in Libya and Yemen. But in spite of the mind-boggling numbers involved the victims of US-led military interventions are ’un-people’ who have been airbrushed out of western history.
Only Muslims killed by ‘Official Enemies’ are mourned- and splashed on the front pages of Establishment-friendly newspapers. When it comes to infanticide, the same grotesque double standards are on display. In a 1996 television interview about the impact of sanctions on Iraq, the US Secretary of State Madeline Albright was asked if the death of half a million Iraqi children was a price worth paying. She replied ‘I think this is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it’. Just imagine if Putin or Assad had said such a thing! In an interview with David Edwards of Media Lens, Denis Halliday, the former UN Assistant Secretary General- and the co-ordinator of the UN humanitarian oil for food programme – said that the shortage of food and medical supplies in Iraq was the direct responsibility of Washington and London. ’For the British government to say that the quantities involved for vaccinating kids are going to produce weapons of mass destruction, is just nonsense. That’s why I’ve deliberately used the word ‘genocide’ because this is a deliberate policy to destroy the people of Iraq’, Halliday said.
The genocide which preceded the Iraq war is a taboo subject in the west- like the genocide which came after it. Instead, we’re encouraged to focus solely on the ’heinous crimes’ of our ‘Official Enemies’. They- Assad, Gaddafi, Milosevic- are always ‘butchers’- ‘our’ leaders can never be called that- even if they kill millions more and illegally attack, or threaten to attack, different countries every few years.
Back to the UNHCR warning. In South Sudan, 100,00 people face starvation- and a further 1m are on the brink of famine. In northern Nigeria seven million people ‘are now struggling with food insecurity and need help’. The situation is perilous in Somalia too. Getting food supplies to these unfortunate people ought to be the number one priority for genuine humanitarians. But what was the top of the agenda for last week’s G7 meeting? How to get Russia to end its support for Assad!
This is the neocon agenda of the warmongering elites and not of those who really care about humanity. Next time you come across a ‘humanitarian’ saying that toppling Assad and ‘dealing’ with Putin is the most pressing issue, ask them why it’s more important than saving 20 million people close to starvation. They won’t have a satisfactory answer.
April 13, 2017
Welcome to New World Next Week – the video series from Corbett Report and Media Monarchy that covers some of the most important developments in open source intelligence news. This week:
Story #1: Slavery Returns To Africa As Migrants Sold At Open Markets In Libya
Story #2: Sessions Orders DOJ To End Forensic Science Commission, Suspend Review Policy
NWNW Flashback: FBI Crime Lab Unit Rife With Flawed Forensics (Jul. 31, 2014)
NWNW Flashback: Man Wrongly Convicted With Bite Mark Evidence Confronts Bite Mark Analysts (Feb. 23, 2017)
Dr. Frederic Whitehurst on the FBI Crime Lab
4 Ways The Crime Lab Can Frame You
Trump Flips On Five Key Campaign Promises In Under 24 Hours
Story #3: Daily Mail Deletes 2013 Article About Plan To Blame Syrian Gas Attack On Assad
Daily Mail in £100,000-Plus Payout Over Syrian Chemical Weapons Story
The Leaked Britam Defence Emails Are Fake – Don’t Fall for It!
Syria, Chemical Weapons And The Britam Defence Emails
PolitiFact Retracts ‘Mostly True’ Ruling That U.S. Removed ‘100 Percent’ of Syria’s Chemical Weapons
Google Adds “Fact Check” Flag To Search Results
#GoodNewsNextWeek: West Virginia Weed For The Win + Glyphosate-Free Lemonade & More
The United Nations has raised alarm over a climbing number of refugees passing through Libya who are being traded in so-called slave markets before being held for ransom and subjected to malnutrition and sexual abuse.
Migrants are typically traded for as little as $200 to $500, and are held for an average of two to three months, said the head of the UN migration agency’s Libya mission, Othman Belbeisi, in a Geneva press briefing on Tuesday.
He emphasized that “migrants are being sold in the market as a commodity,” cautioning that “selling human beings is becoming a trend among smugglers as the smuggling networks in Libya are becoming stronger and stronger.”
Many of the asylum seekers are used as day laborers in construction and agriculture, Belbeisi further stated, noting that although some are paid, others are forced to work without pay before being sold again to new buyers.
He also pointed to the extremely tragic fates that female refugees often encounter, saying, “About women, we heard a lot about bad treatment, rape and being forced into prostitution.”
According to a report released Tuesday by the agency, officially called the International Organization for Migration (IOM), its representatives have spoken to African refugees who recounted their experiences of being bought and sold in garages and parking lots in the southern Libyan city of Sabha, one of the nation’s main refugee smuggling hubs.
In the report, the IOM recounted the story of a Senegalese refugee – referred to as ‘SC’ to protect his identity — who spoke of being ‘bought’ and taken to his first ‘prison’ – a private home where more than 100 asylum seekers were beaten and held as hostages.
SC, the report added, was asked to pay 300,000 Central African Francs ($480) for his release, which he could not pay. He was then sold to another Libyan, who set his release price at 600,000 CFA ($970).
The Senegalese refugee further spoke of awful sanitary conditions and meals offered only once per day, adding that he was eventually able to get money from his family and work as an interpreter to avoid future beatings.
However, the IOM report added, others are not so lucky. Those who cannot pay are often killed or left to starve to death. They are buried without being identified.
“What we know is that migrants who fall into the hands of smugglers face systematic malnutrition, sexual abuse and even murder,” said IOM’s director of operations and emergencies, Mohammed Abdiker. “We are hearing about mass graves in the desert.”
The development came as Libya remains a major gateway for asylum seekers hoping to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea, with more than 450,000 people making the crossing over the past three years.
So far this year, of an estimated 26,886 refugees who have crossed into Italy, more than 600 are known to have drowned at sea while an unknown number perish during their journey north through the desert, according to press reports.
MOSCOW – Moscow hopes for fruitful negotiations with the US state secretary on his visit to Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday.
“In connection with the beginning of today’s working visit to Russia by US Secretary of State R. Tillerson, we would like to note that we are counting on productive negotiations,” the ministry said.
“This is important not only for the prospects of further bilateral interaction, but also for the general atmosphere in the international arena,” the ministry underscored.
Moscow hopes that Washington will agree to an unbiased investigation of the recent chemical weapons incident in Syria’s Khan Shaykhun.
“We firmly expect that Washington will agree to an objective investigation with the OPCW involvement of the incident with chemical poisoning on April 4 of the residents of Syria’s Khan Shaykhun. The West groundlessly accused Syria’s authorities of it, although militants of Jabhat al-Nusra [banned in Russia], who… produced landmines stuffed with poisonous substances, operate in that area,” the statement said.
On April 4, a chemical weapons incident in Syria’s Idlib province claimed the lives of some 80 people and inflicted harm on an additional 200 civilians. The Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, as well as a number of Western states, accused the Syrian government troops of carrying out the attack, while Damascus refuted these allegations, with a Syrian army source telling Sputnik that the army did not possess chemical weapons.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on April 5 that the airstrike near Khan Shaykhun by the Syrian air force hit a terrorist warehouse that stored chemical weapons slated for delivery to Iraq, and called on the UN Security Council to launch a proper investigation into the incident.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said April 6 that groundless accusations in the chemical weapons incident in Syria’s Idlib were unacceptable before the investigation into the matter had been carried out.
However, the incident was used as pretext for a US missile strike against the Ash Sha’irat airbase carried out late on April 6. US President Donald Trump characterized the strike as a response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government troops while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was a violation of the international law. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the US missile strike against the Syrian airfield as a strategic mistake.
Moscow expects Tillerson to detail Washington’s plans in Libya.
“We expect to hear what the US plans to do in Libya, which has in fact become shattered as a result of NATO’s military intervention, like Iraq,” the ministry said.
Libya has been in a state of turmoil since 2011, when a civil war broke out in the country and long-standing leader Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown, and the country was contested by two rival governments: the internationally-recognized Council of Deputies based in Tobruk and the Tripoli-based General National Congress.
In March 2011, several NATO states, including France, launched a military intervention in Libya aimed at ending all attacks against the civilians and establishing a ceasefire. Then-President of France Nicolas Sarkozy played an important part in promoting the EU sanctions against Gaddafi and urging for the intervention.
Russia awaits from the United States coherent clarifications on the whole range of issues of strategic stability and security in the Euro-Atlantic region.
“We await coherent clarifications of the US course on the whole range of issues of ensuring strategic stability and security in the Euro-Atlantic,” the statement read.
Russia is concerned that the United States hints at the possibility of a military scenario regarding North Korea.
“We are very much concerned over what Washington has conceived about the DPRK, hinting at the possibility of a unilateral military scenario. It is important to understand how this correlates with collective obligations on the issue of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in the UN Security Council resolutions,” the ministry said.
On Wednesday, North Korea reportedly launched a ballistic missile from Sinpho, South Hamgyong province, in the direction of the Sea of Japan.
On Saturday, US officials announced that aircraft carrier strike group was sent to the Korean peninsula amid rising tensions. On Sunday, US National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. Herbert McMaster said that US President Donald Trump had ordered preparation of all possible options in order to protect the United States and its partners from North Korean threat.
Since the beginning of 2016, North Korea has carried out a number of missile launches and nuclear tests, prompting worldwide criticism. As a result, the UN Security Council tightened the sanctions regime for North Korea in an attempt to force Pyongyang to stop ballistic missile launches and nuclear tests, including imposing a measure intended to affect the country’s trade, export of natural resources, arms trade and the banking sector.
Moscow is preparing for constructive cooperation instead of confrontation, but stands ready for any developments.
“We are ready for any eventuality, however proceed from the favorability of such work that will reduce international tension rather than raising it,” the statement said.
It added that “we are preparing not for confrontation, but for constructive cooperation. We hope the US side wants the same.”
Moscow hopes the United States does not refuse to take part in international consultations on Afghanistan this Friday.
“We hope that the US will not refuse to participate in international consultations on Afghanistan, whose next round will be held in Moscow on April 14,” the ministry said.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner told Sputnik last month that the US “does not plan to participate” in the international talks involving 12 countries. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow regretted Washington’s refusal to participate.
Afghanistan is in a state of political and social turmoil, with government forces fighting the continuing Taliban insurgency. The instability has persisted in the country since the 2001 US-led invasion to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
The lack of control and instability turned the country into home to the largest opium poppy production and distribution network in the world.
The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed hope that the United States would urge the Ukrainian government to adhere to the Minsk agreements.
“We especially hope that the United States will be able to neutralize the revanchist moods of the Ukrainian ‘party of war’ by using its influence on Kiev. Washington could also persuade the Kiev authorities to adhere strictly to their obligations under the Minsk agreements,” the statement read.
The Donbass conflict erupted in April 2014 as a local counter-reaction to the West-sponsored Maidan coup in Kiev that had toppled President Viktor Yanukovych in February. Residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions held independence referendums and proclaimed the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. Kiev has since been conducting a military operation, encountering stiff local resistance.
In February 2015, Kiev forces and Donbass independence supporters signed a peace agreement in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. The deal stipulates a full ceasefire, weapons withdrawal from the line of contact in Donbass, as well as constitutional reforms that would give a special status to the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Despite the agreement brokered by the Normandy Four states (Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine), the ceasefire regime is regularly violated, with both sides accusing each other of multiple breaches, undermining the terms of the accord.
Islamic State militants have managed to steal chemical weapons from underground storage facilities in Libya that were not properly guarded and the gas has already been used, a cousin of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi told RT Arabic in an exclusive interview.
“ISIS has managed to find some of the secret underground storage facilities, still holding chemical weapons, hidden in the desert. Unfortunately, they weren’t properly guarded,” said Ahmed Gaddafi Al-Dam, a cousin of Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader who was killed in 2011.
Al-Dam, the stolen gas was then trafficked to the northern part of the country and sold.
“There are two known cases of this chemical agent being stolen. I know this from my sources in Tripoli. In the first case, seven drums of sarin were stolen, and in the second, I think it was five.”
And the destructive chemicals have already been used, said Ahmed Gaddafi Al-Dam, who formerly was one of Gaddafi’s most trusted security chiefs. He recalled that during the recent clashes near the Al-Quds Mosque in Tripoli, security forces discovered a vehicle loaded with sarin.
“Unfortunately, those who had driven this vehicle into the city didn’t understand the dangers of this nerve agent, and how risky it was to bring it into an urban area, let alone ever use it. I don’t want to spread panic, but that’s the reality. And the world knows this very well,” he said.
Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS/ISIL) has already used chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria, according to numerous reports.
Earlier this month, Eren Erdem, a member of Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), told RT that IS terrorists in Syria had received all the necessary materials to produce deadly sarin gas via Turkey.
Both Russia and Egypt have denied reports alleging that Russian special forces have been deployed at an airbase near the Libyan border to support a military commander loyal to Libya’s eastern government.
“There are no Russian special forces in Sidi Barrani,” the Russian Defense Ministry’s official spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, said on Tuesday.
“Some Western media have been disturbing the public with such reports, citing anonymous sources for several years now… And ever more foolish and indecent with regard to American intelligence are the words of the ‘source’ quoted by Reuters, who said that ‘intelligence activity of the United States into the [actions] of the Russian military are complicated because of the involvement of contractors and agents in civilian clothes,’” Konashenkov added.
Citing US, Egyptian, and “diplomatic“ sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, Reuters had reported earlier that Russian special operations forces and drones were allegedly deployed at Sidi Barrani base, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the border between Egypt and Libya. The unnamed Egyptian security sources said the unit consisted of 22 members, but would not discuss their supposed mission, the agency stated, while suggesting that Russia had also flown six military units to Egypt’s Marsa Matrouh base in early February, which proceeded to Libya some 10 days later.
The chair of Russia’s Federal Defense and Security Committee, Victor Ozerov, branded the report a “hoax,” insisting that no deployment of special forces to Egypt or Libya had ever been brought before the Russian Parliament.
“Nobody addressed the Federation Council on the question of sending the Russian Armed Forces to either Egypt or Libya.
“The president of the Russian Federation has the right to use Russian armed forces abroad only with the consent of the Federation Council; this is a constitutional norm. No such request was submitted to the Federation Council [therefore] there is no legal reason to say that [Russian] servicemen could be in Egypt,” Ozerov told RIA Novosti news agency. The reports are “yet another anti-Russian attack,” Ozerov said, adding that “Russia has proved that it strictly adheres to international norms on the use of armed forces abroad.”
Egypt also dismissed the Reuters report.
“There is no foreign soldier from any foreign country on Egyptian soil. This is a matter of sovereignty,” Egyptian army spokesman Tamer al-Rifai said, as cited by Reuters.
The refuted allegations contend that Russian special forces have been deployed to support Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) that is loyal to Libya’s eastern government. The 73-year-old general had been an ally of Libyan strong-man Muammar Gaddafi, but joined the Western-backed uprising against the country’s long-time leader in 2011, which led to the Gaddafi’s death and a civil war that’s still raging.
After years of turmoil and fighting, with various factions vying for power, two rival governments emerged in Libya: the Council of Deputies based in Tobruk and the Tripoli-based General National Congress. With the UN’s help, in 2015, the two agreed to set up a Government of National Accord (GNA) that would form a Presidency Council. However, the Tobruk-based parliament supported by Haftar has refused to cooperate with the unity government, which it accuses of aligning with some of the country’s Islamist-leaning forces. Haftar’s forces have been fighting an alliance of Islamist militants and former rebels in Benghazi for two years now. The general maintains close relationships with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Russia. Haftar was in Russia twice last year, asking for military aid.
Last week, another Reuters report alleged that a force of several dozen armed private Russian security contractors had been operating in a part of Libya under Haftar’s control until February. The contractors were allegedly there to help mine sweep Benghazi, the head of the firm that allegedly hired them said, according to Reuters. However, the commander of Benina air base near Benghazi, Mohamed Manfour, said that the LNA had not received any military assistance from the Russian government or Russian military contractors, while denying that there were any Russian forces or bases in eastern Libya.
Russia has stressed that it “continues meticulously working with both power centers in Libya,” with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying that only the Libyan people can decide their country’s future.
“It’s clear that the country’s future must be determined by Libyans. We believe that attempts to impose a ready-made solution on them are counterproductive,” Lavrov said in a February interview with Russia’s Izvestiya newspaper.
Russia’s foreign minister also pledged to help unify Libya and foster dialogue at a recent meeting with Fayez Seraj, the leader of Libya’s UN-backed government.
The Libyan people are still suffering because Western powers continue to fuel the ongoing conflict there, the cousin of slain leader Muammar Gaddafi has said on the sixth anniversary of the Arab Spring, adding that the West should apologize and leave Libya alone.
“It is clear to everyone what is now happening in Libya: total destruction, people fleeing their homes, mass hunger. Our country has descended into total darkness, and our people are enduring suffering,” Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam, the cousin of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, told RT in an exclusive interview.
“On this anniversary of the Arab Spring, we must demand an apology to all Libyans – those whose homes were destroyed, those who were humiliated. On their behalf, I demand that the UN Security Council and the leading world powers apologize for what happened in 2011.”
Friday marked six years since the start of the Arab Spring, a wave of violent and non-violent protests that engulfed the Middle East and North Africa.
The civil unrest that broke out in Libya on this revolutionary tide came after the US-backed bombing campaign of the country toppled its long-time leader Gaddafi.
The nation has since been torn apart by fighting between different armed gangs and factions seeking control, including terrorist group Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), as well as two rival governments – the internationally-recognized government in Tobruk (GNA) and the Tripoli-based General National Congress (GNC) formed by Islamists. The two bodies agreed to form a unity government under an agreement proposed by the UN in December 2015, yet there still are numerous stumbling blocks which the sides have so far failed to overcome.
Gaddaf al-Dam stresses that the conflict was stirred up by the West, and that it should be held accountable.
“The war, the destruction of Libya, all that, in their own words, was a mistake. [The West] recognized that they caused the overthrow of a revolutionary regime in Libya. All of them, first of all, should apologize and correct all that they’d done. But the suffering Libyan people, living in basements, forced to flee their homes, see nothing of the sort six years on. No one even talks about it today. What is happening in Libya is a crime from all points of view,” Gaddaf al-Dam said.
He believes the international community was not only wrong to interfere in Libya in the first place, but must now stop its meddling to let Libya deal with the crisis itself.
“Unfortunately, the international community is still trying to manage the conflict in Libya – and doesn’t want to step aside. We are caught in a swamp. Every day there are meetings, in Tunisia, in Geneva… How much more of this? We are not children,” he stated, noting that the conflict in his view can only be solved through negotiations between representatives of all rival factions in Libya – including those who are now in prison, like Gaddafi’s son and former prominent political figure Saif al-Islam – and without foreign intervention.
Despite his calls to the West to let Libya manage the conflict on its own, Gaddaf al-Dam says the international community does not really want the crisis to end, seeing the war in Libya as only a part of the West’s bigger plot to destabilize all the Muslim states of the Middle East and North Africa.
“Ever since the 1980s Muammar Gaddafi warned of an existing conspiracy of Western countries against Libya. In fact, the plot was directed not only against Libya, but against all Muslim states. The implementation of this plan began with Afghanistan. Then came the destruction of Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya […]
“This hell, which was organized by Western countries in the region, aims to split the countries, and it is not only about Libya. […] Gaddafi in this regard was not an astrologist – he had the information and facts on his desk. He knew the history and was a revolutionary figure who tried to carry the values and principles of the 1969 revolution through the years. The aim of the revolution was to unite the Muslim Ummah [religious community] and the entire African continent, but as Gaddafi knew about [the West’s] plot and fought with it, he was killed,” Gaddaf al-Dam said.
The Libyan revolution of 1969, known as the al-Fateh Revolution or the 1st September Revolution, was a military coup that led to the overthrow of King Idris. It was carried out by the Free Officers Movement, a group of rebel military officers led by Colonel Gaddafi.
The months ahead may reveal the direction that U.S.-North Korean relations will take under the Trump administration. After eight years of ‘strategic patience’ and the Rebalance to Asia, those relations now stand at their lowest point in decades. Many foreign policy elites are expressing frustration over Washington’s failure to impose its will on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). There are increasing calls for a change in policy, but what kind of change do they have in mind? We may be at the point of a major transition.
President Trump has given mixed signals on North Korea, ranging from saying he is open to dialogue, to insisting that North Korea cannot be allowed to possess nuclear weapons and that he could solve the dispute with a single call to China. It is fair to say that any change in policy direction is possible, although deeply entrenched interests can be counted on to resist any positive movement.
Other than his frequently expressed hard line on China, Trump has not otherwise demonstrated much interest in Asian-Pacific affairs. That may mean an increased likelihood that he will defer to his advisors, and conventional wisdom may prevail. The more influence Trump’s advisors have on North Korea policy, the more dangerous the prospects.
National Security Advisor Michael Flynn could be a key figure. Back in November, he told a South Korean delegation that the North Korean nuclear issue would be a top priority for the Trump administration.  At around the same time, he told a Japanese newspaper that the North Korean government should not be allowed to last very long, and he has no intention of negotiating an agreement. 
Flynn has written that North Korea, Russia, China, Cuba and Venezuela are in a global alliance with radical Islam, a loopy concept if ever there was one.  It is a disturbing thought that a man so disconnected from reality is helping to shape policy.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo believes that Iran and North Korea cooperate in what he calls “an evil partnership.”  He has also called for the mobilization of economic and military powers against the DPRK. 
Establishment think tanks have churned out a number of policy papers, filled with recommendations for the new administration. Their advice is likely to fall on receptive ears among Trump’s advisors. How much influence they will have on Trump’s decision-making is another question, but he is hearing a single message from those around him and from the Washington establishment.
A common theme running through these think tank policy papers is the demand to punish China for its relations with the DPRK.
The most moderate set of proposals offered the Trump administration is the one produced by Joel Wit for the U.S.-Korea Institute, in that it at least calls for an initial stage that Wit terms “phased coercive diplomacy.” Initial diplomatic contacts would “explore whether agreements that serve U.S. interests are possible while at the same time” the U.S. would lay the groundwork for “increasing pressure” on North Korea. A modest scaling back of the annual U.S. war games could be offered as an incentive to North Korea, along with negotiations on a peace treaty, as long as the U.S. feels it can gain more from North Korean concessions.
At the same time, Wit calls for the new administration to “communicate toughness” and implement a “long-term deterrence campaign.” This would include the rotation of B-1 and B-52 bombers into South Korea on a regular basis, along with stationing nuclear weapons-armed submarines off the Korean coast.
While negotiations are underway, Wit wants the U.S. to direct a propaganda war against the DPRK, by increasing radio broadcasts and infiltrating portable storage devices containing information designed to destabilize the government. What he does not say is that such hostile measures can only have the effect of derailing diplomacy.
If North Korea proves less than compliant to U.S. demands, or if it prepares to test an ICBM, then Wit advises Washington to impose a total “energy and non-food embargo” on North Korea. Wit argues that China must accede to U.S. demands in the UN Security Council for what amounts to economic warfare on North Korea, or else the United States should impose “crippling sanctions” on the DPRK and secondary sanctions on China. By attacking the Chinese economy in this manner, Wit says this would send a message “that the United States would be prepared to face a serious crisis with China over North Korean behavior.” The arrogance is stunning. If China does not agree to American demands in the United Nations, then it is to be punished through U.S. sanctions. 
This is what passes as the “moderate” approach among Washington’s foreign policy establishment.
Wit is not alone in his eagerness to punish China. Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute believes that “the next round of penalties will probably have to be ones which have some sort of collateral fallout for China…Sanctions are fine, more sanctions are better,” he says. “Increasing the cost for China, I think, is the way to go.” 
Eberstadt argues that U.S. North Korea policy should “consist mainly, though not entirely, of military measures.” “It is time for Beijing to pay a penalty for all its support” for North Korea, he declares. “We can begin by exacting it in diplomatic venues all around the world.”  Displaying the presumption all too typical of Washington elites, he has nothing to say about how China might react to his hostile policy prescriptions. The assumption is that China should just take the punishment without complaint. That will not happen.
U.S. Navy Commander ‘Skip’ Vincenzo prepared a set of recommendations that proved so popular that it was jointly published by four think tanks. Vincenzo is looking ahead and planning for how the United States and South Korea could attack the DPRK without suffering great losses. He urges the Trump administration to conduct an information war to undermine North Korea from within. The aim would be “convincing regime elites that their best options” in a conflict “would be to support ROK-U.S. alliance efforts.” He adds that “easily understood themes such as ‘stay in your garrisons and you will get paid’ should target the military rank and file.” North Korean military commanders should be told they would be “financially rewarded” for avoiding combat. “The objective is to get them to act independently when the time comes with the expectation that they will benefit later.” 
Interesting phrase, ‘when the time comes.’ Vincenzo anticipates that military intervention in North Korea is only a matter of time. He clearly envisions a scenario like the U.S. invasion of Iraq, when many Iraqi units melted away rather than fight. The fantasy that the U.S. could repeat the Iraqi experience in the DPRK is based on a misjudgment of the Korean national character. Nor does it take into account that what followed the invasion of Iraq could hardly be construed as a peaceful development.
The Brookings Institute, despite its centrist reputation, encourages Trump to take actions that are savage and reckless. “The new president,” the Institute says, “should adopt an approach that focuses on North Korea’s main goal: regime survival… The United States and its allies and partners should make North Korea choose between nuclear weapons and survival.”
The Brookings Institute calls for all-out economic warfare on the North Korean people. “A more robust approach,” it advises, “should go after “the financial lifeblood of the North Korean regime in new ways: starving the regime of foreign currency, cutting Pyongyang off from the international financial and trading system, squeezing its trading networks, interdicting its commerce, and using covert and overt means to take advantage of the regime’s many vulnerabilities. A strong foundation of military measures must underline this approach.”
In a major understatement, the Institute admits that “such an approach carries risks.” Indeed it does, and it is the Korean people who would bear that cost, while Washington’s elites would face none of the consequences of their actions. What the Brookings Institute is calling for is the economic strangulation of North Korea, which would bring about the collapse of people’s livelihoods and mass starvation.
Like other think tanks, the Brookings Institute advocates targeting China, calling for the imposition of secondary sanctions on “Chinese firms, banks, and state-owned enterprises” that do business with North Korea.  The aim would be to cut North Korea off from all trade with China.
Walter Sharp, a former commander of U.S. Forces Korea, says that the United States should launch a preemptive strike if North Korea prepares to launch a satellite or test a ballistic missile. “The missile should be destroyed,” he declares. It is easy to imagine the violent response by the United States, were a foreign nation to attack one of its missiles on the launch pad. It is delusional to expect that North Korea not only wouldn’t respond in some manner but would have no right to do so. But Sharp advocates “overwhelming force” if North Korea retaliates, because, as he puts it, Kim Jong-un should know “that there is a lot more coming his way, something he will fear.”  If this sounds like a prescription for war, that is because it is.
It is a measure of how decades of militarized foreign policy have degraded public discourse in this country to such an extent that these lunatic notions are not only taken seriously, but advocates are sought out for advice and treated with respect.
With suggestions like that, it is not surprising that Walter Sharp was invited to join the task force that produced a set of recommendations on behalf of the Council on Foreign Relations. The task force calls for the early stages of negotiations to focus on a nuclear freeze, limitations on North Korean conventional forces and missile development, and inspection of nuclear facilities. Obligations on North Korea would be front-loaded, with absolutely nothing offered in return. The promise of a peace treaty and gradual normalization of relations would be back-loaded, contingent on full disarmament, an improvement on human rights, and allowing U.S. and South Korean media to saturate the DPRK. Certainly, that last demand would be a non-starter, as it is impossible to imagine that North Korea would agree to allow its media space to be dominated by hostile foreign entities.
Such a one-sided approach has no chance of achieving a diplomatic settlement. As a solution, the Council recommends that the United States continually escalate sanctions during the negotiating process.
The Council on Foreign Relations calls for the U.S., South Korea, and Japan to build up the capability to intercept North Korean missile launches, “whether they are declared to be ballistic missile tests or civil space launch vehicles.” If negotiations falter, it advises the three allies to shoot down North Korean missiles as soon as they are launched. That would be an act of war. And how does the Council on Foreign Relations imagine North Korea would respond to having a satellite launch shot down? It does not say.
Further development of North Korea’s nuclear program, the Council suggests, would require “more assertive diplomatic and military steps, including some that directly threaten the regime’s nuclear and missile programs and, therefore, the regime itself.”
“The United States should support enhanced information operations” against North Korea, the Council adds, to undermine the government and “strengthen emerging market forces.” Predictably enough, it advocates “severe economic pressure” on North Korea, as well as encouraging private companies to bring legal suits against nations and companies that do business with North Korea. 
It is not diplomacy that the Council on Foreign Relations seeks, but regime change, and its policy paper is filled with the language of the bully.
Bruce Bennett is a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corporation. He warns that North Korea’s desire for a peace treaty is a ruse. “In reality,” he says, “by insisting on a peace treaty, North Korea is probably not seeking peace, but war.” He goes on to claim that a peace treaty might lead to the withdrawal of U.S. forces, after which the North could be counted on to invade South Korea. Calls for a peace treaty, he adds, “should be regarded as nothing but a deceitful scam that could lead to the devastation of South Korea, a U.S. ally.”  This is an argument that other analysts also make, and is clearly delusional. But it serves as a good illustration of how in the blinkered mindset of Washington’s policy analysts, unsupported assertion takes the place of any sense of reality.
The Center for a New American Security has planted deep roots in the U.S. establishment. Ashton Carter, secretary of defense in the Obama administration, expressed the level of respect and influence that CNAS holds in Washington. “For almost a decade now,” Carter said, “CNAS has been an engine for the ideas and talent that have shaped American foreign policy and defense policy.” Carter added that “in meeting after meeting, on issue after issue,” he worked with CNAS members.  His comments reveal that this is an organization that has constant access to the halls of power.
The Center for a New American Security has produced a set of policy documents intended to influence the Trump administration. Not surprisingly, it favors the Rebalance to Asia that was initiated by President Obama, and advocates a further expansion of U.S. military forces in Asia.  It also wants to see greater involvement by NATO in the Asia-Pacific in support of the U.S. military. 
Patrick Cronin is senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at CNAS, and as such, he wields considerable influence on U.S. policy. Cronin asserts that “Trump will want to enact harsh sanctions and undertake a serious crackdown” on North Korean financial operations, but these steps should be of secondary importance. Trump should “double down” on the U.S. military buildup in the region, he says, and alliance strategy should send the message to Kim Jong-un that nuclear weapons would threaten his survival. There it is again: the the proposal to threaten North Korea’s survival if it does not abandon its nuclear program.
Regardless of diplomatic progress, Cronin believes the U.S. and its allies should conduct an information war against North Korea “at both elite and grassroots’ levels.” 
China is not to be ignored, and Cronin feels Trump will need to integrate “tougher diplomacy” with economic sanctions against China. 
It remains to be seen to what extent Trump will heed such advice. But the entire foreign policy establishment and mainstream media are united in staunch opposition to any genuinely diplomatic resolution of the dispute. Trump has expressed a healthy skepticism concerning CIA intelligence briefings. Whether that skepticism will be extended to the advice coming from Washington think tanks is an open question.
If the aim of these proposals is to bring about denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, then they are recipes for failure. But if the intent is to impose economic hardship on the North Korean people, while capitalizing on the nuclear issue as a pretext to dominate the region, then these think tanks know what they are doing. As always, human considerations mean nothing when it comes to serving corporate and imperial interests, and if they fully have their way, it will be no surprise if they succeed in bringing to the Korean Peninsula the same chaos and destruction that they gave to the Middle East. One can only hope that more reasonable voices will prevail during policy formulation.
What none of the policy papers address is the role that South Korea has to play. It is simply assumed that the status quo will continue, and South Korea will go along with any action the U.S. chooses to take, no matter how harsh or dangerous. In the mind of the Washington establishment, this is a master-servant relationship and nothing more.
That Koreans, north and south, may have their own goals and interests is not considered. The truly astonishing mass protests against South Korean President Park Geun-hye, which led to her impeachment, have opened up a world of possibilities. Whatever happens in the months ahead, it won’t be business as usual. U.S. policymakers are in a panic at the prospect of a more progressive and independent-minded government taking power after the next election in South Korea, and this is what lies behind plans to rush the deployment of a THAAD battery ahead of schedule. But in a sense, it may already be too late. Park Geun-hye, and by implication her policies, have been thoroughly discredited. It may well be that the harsher the measures Washington wants to impose on the DPRK, the less it can count on cooperation from South Korea. And it could be this that prevents the United States from recklessly plunging the Korean Peninsula into chaos or even war.
Let us imagine a more progressive government taking power in South Korea, engaging in dialogue with its neighbor to the north and signing agreements on economic cooperation. Were the U.S. so inclined, it could work together with such a government in South Korea to reduce tensions and develop economic ties with the DPRK. Rail and gas links could cross North Korea, connecting the south with China and Russia, and provide an economic boost to the entire region. North and South Korea could shift resources from military to civilian needs and start to dismantle national security state structures. The nuclear issue would cease to matter. All of those things could be done, but it would take a change in mentality in Washington and a willingness to defy the entire establishment.
Alas, it is far more likely that tensions will continue to be ratcheted up. Longstanding confrontation with Russia and China has been the keynote of U.S. policy, leading to the encirclement of those nations by a ring of military bases and anti-ballistic missile systems. The Rebalance to Asia aims to reinforce military power around China. North Korea, in this context, serves as a convenient justification for the U.S. military and economic domination of the Asia-Pacific.
Why is North Korea’s nuclear weapons program regarded as an unacceptable threat, whereas those of other nations are not? Why do we not see the United States imposing sanctions on Pakistan for its nuclear program, or conducting war games in the Indian Ocean, practicing the invasion of India? Why do we not hear calls for regime change in Israel over its nuclear program?
Instead, Pakistan is the fifth largest recipient of U.S. aid, slated to receive $742 million this year. India receives one-tenth of that amount, and the United States recently signed an agreement with it on military cooperation.  As for Israel, the United States has pledged to provide it with $38 billion in military aid over the next ten years. 
What is it about its nuclear weapons program that causes North Korea to be sanctioned and threatened, whereas the U.S. warmly embraces the others? Pakistan, India, and Israel have nuclear programs that are far more advanced than North Korea’s, with sizeable arsenals and well-tested ballistic missiles. The other major difference is that North Korea is the only one of the four nations facing an existential threat from the United States, and therefore has the greatest need of a nuclear deterrent.
There is no threat of North Korea attacking the United States. It has yet to test a re-entry vehicle, and so cannot be said to have the means of delivering a nuclear weapon. Furthermore, the nation will never have more than a small arsenal relative to the size of that owned by the U.S., so its nuclear weapons can only play a deterrent role.
The “threat” that North Korea’s nuclear program presents is twofold. Once North Korea succeeds in completing development of its program, the United States will lose any realistic possibility of attacking it. Whether the U.S. would choose to exercise that capability or not, it wants to retain that option.
The other aspect of the “threat” is that if the DPRK succeeds in establishing an effective nuclear weapons program, then other small nations facing U.S. hostility may feel emboldened to develop nuclear programs, thereby reducing the ability of the U.S. to impose its will on others.
It’s difficult to see why North Korea would ever give up its nuclear program. For one thing, according to U.S. State Department estimates, North Korea is spending anywhere from 15 to 24 percent of its GDP on the military.  This is unsustainable for an economy in recovery, and nuclear weapons are cheap in comparison to the expense of conventional armed forces. The DPRK is placing great emphasis on economic development, and a nuclear weapons program allows it to shift more resources to the civilian economy. 
Recent history has also shown that a small nation relying on conventional military forces has no chance of defending itself against attack by the United States. For a nation like North Korea, nuclear weapons present the only reliable means of defense.
North Korea attaches great importance to the signing of a peace treaty. After more than six decades since the Korean War, a peace treaty is long overdue and a worthy goal. But if the DPRK imagines that a peace treaty would provide a measure of security, I think it is mistaken. The U.S. was officially at peace with each of the nations it attacked or undermined.
What kind of guarantees could the United States possibly give North Korea to ensure its security in exchange for disarmament? An agreement could be signed, and promises made, and mean nothing. Libya, it should be recalled, signed a nuclear disarmament agreement with one U.S. administration, only to be bombed by the next. No verbal or written promise could provide any measure of security.
The one-sided record of U.S. negotiators is hardly an encouragement for North Korea to disarm either.
For example, shortly after the United States signed the September 2005 Joint Agreement with North Korea, U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill sought to reassure Congress that the United States was not about to begin to normalize relations, even though that is precisely what the agreement obligated it to do.
Normalization of relations, he explained to Congress, would be “subject to resolution of our longstanding concerns. By this, I meant that as a necessary part of the process leading to normalization, we must discuss important issues, including human rights, biological and chemical weapons, ballistic missile programs, proliferation of conventional weapons, terrorism, and other illicit activities.” North Korea “would have to commit to international standards across the board, and then prove its intentions.” Christopher Hill’s point was clear. Even if North Korea were to denuclearize fully, relations would still not move toward normalization. North Korea would only be faced with a host of additional demands. 
Indeed, far from beginning to normalize relations, within days of the signing of the September 2005 agreement, the Treasury Department designated Macao-based Banco Delta Asia as a “primary money-laundering concern,” despite a lack of any evidence to back that claim. U.S. financial firms were ordered to sever relations with the bank, which led to a wave of withdrawals by panicked customers, and the bank’s closure. The aim of the Treasury Department was to shut off one of the key institutions North Korea used to conduct regular international trade. That action killed the agreement.
The Libyan nuclear agreement provides the model that Washington expects North Korea to follow. That agreement compelled Libya to dismantle its nuclear program as a precondition for receiving any rewards, and it was only after that process was complete that many of the sanctions on Libya were lifted. It took another two years to remove Libya from the list of sponsors of terrorism and restore diplomatic relations.
Upon closer examination, these ‘rewards’ look more like a reduction in punishment. Can it be said that a reduction in sanctions is a reward? If someone is beating you, and then promises to cut back on the number of beatings, is he rewarding you?
It did not seem so to the Libyans, who often complained that U.S. officials had not rewarded them for their compliance. 
What the U.S. did have to offer Libya, though, were more demands. Early on, Undersecretary of State John Bolton told Libyan officials that they had to halt military cooperation with Iran in order to complete the denuclearization agreement. And on at least one occasion, a U.S. official pressured Libya to cut off military trade with North Korea, Iran, and Syria. 
American officials demanded that Libya recognize the unilateral independence of Kosovo, a position which Libya had consistently opposed.  This was followed by a U.S. diplomatic note to Libya, ordering it to vote against the Serbian government’s resolution at the United Nations, which asked for a ruling by the International Court of Justice on Kosovo independence. 
Under the circumstances, Libya preferred to absent itself from the vote, rather than join the United States and three other nations in opposing the measure.
The U.S. did succeed, however, in obtaining Libya’s vote for UN sanctions against Iran.  In response to U.S. directives, Libya repeatedly advised North Korea to follow its example and denuclearize. Under U.S. pressure, Libya also launched a privatization program and opened opportunities for U.S. businesses.
U.S. officials often urged the North Koreans to take note of the Libyan deal and learn from its example. These days, that example looks rather different, given the bombing of Libya by U.S. warplanes and missiles. Colonel Muammar Qaddafi was rewarded for his cooperation with the United States by being beaten, impaled on a bayonet, and shot several times. There is a lesson here, all right, and the North Koreans have taken due note of it.
It is time to challenge the standard Western narrative.
Under international space law, every nation has the right to launch a satellite into orbit, yet North Korea alone is singled out for condemnation and denied that right. The United States, with over one thousand nuclear tests,  reacts with outrage to North Korea’s five.
To quote political analyst Tim Beal, “The construction of North Korea as an international pariah is an expression of American power rather than, as is usually claimed, a result of the infringement of international law. In fact, the discriminatory charges against North Korea are themselves a violation of the norms of international law and the equal sovereignty of states.” 
Since 1953, North Korea has never been at war.
During that same period, to list only a sampling of interventions, the U.S. overthrew the government of Guatemala, sent a proxy army to invade Cuba, and bombed and invaded Vietnam, at the cost of two million lives. It bombed Cambodia and Laos, sent troops into the Dominican Republic, backed a military coup in Indonesia, in which half a million people were killed, organized a military coup in Chile, backed Islamic extremists in their efforts to topple a secular government in Afghanistan. The U.S. invaded Grenada, mined harbors and armed anti-government forces in Nicaragua, armed right-wing guerrillas in Angola and Mozambique, armed and trained Croatian forces and supplied air cover as they expelled 200,000 people from their homes in Krajina, bombed half of Bosnia, armed and trained the Kosovo Liberation Army, attacked Yugoslavia, invaded Iraq, backed the overthrow of governments in Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Georgia, Honduras, and many other nations, bombed Libya, and armed and trained jihadists in Syria.
And yet, we are told that it is North Korea that is the threat to international peace.
2017 could be a pivotal year for the Korean Peninsula. An energized population is bringing change to South Korea. We should join them and demand change here in the United States, as well. It is time to resist continued calls for a reckless and militarized foreign policy.
 Jesse Johnson, “Trump National Security Pick Tells South Koreans that North’s Nuke Program will be Priority,” The Japan Times, November 19, 2016.
 Chang Jae-soon, “Trump Names Former DIA Chief Mike Flynn as his National Security Advisor,” Yonhap, November 19, 2016.
 Edward Wong, “Michael Flynn, a Top Trump Adviser, Ties China and North Korea to Jihadists,” New York Times, November 30, 2016.
 Press Release, “Pompeo on North Korea’s Nuclear Test,” U.S. Congressman Mike Pompeo, January 16, 2016.
 Chang Jae-soon, “Trump’s Foreign Policy Lineup Expected to be Supportive of Alliance with Seoul, Tough on N.K.,” December 13, 2016.
 Joel S. Wit, “The Way Ahead: North Korea Policy Recommendations for the Trump Administration,” U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), December 2016.
 FPI Conference Call: North Korea’s Dangerous Nuclear Escalation,” The Foreign Policy Initiative, September 15, 2016.
 Nicholas Eberstadt, “Wishful Thinking has Prevented Effective Threat Reduction in North Korea,” National Review, February 29, 2016.
 Commander Frederick ‘Skip’ Vincenzo, “An Information Based Strategy to Reduce North Korea’s Increasing Threat: Recommendations for ROK & U.S. Policy Makers,” Center for a New American Security, U.S.-Korea Institute, National Defense University, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service Center for Security Studies,” October 2016.
 Evans J.R. Revere, “Dealing with a Nuclear-Armed North Korea: Rising Danger, Narrowing Options, Hard Choices,” Brookings Institute, October 4, 2016.
 Richard Sisk, “Former US General Calls for Pre-emptive Strike on North Korea,” Defense Tech, December 1, 2016.
 Mike Mullen and Sam Nunn, chairs, and Adam Mount, project director, “A Sharper Choice on North Korea: Engaging China for a Stable Northeast Asia,” Independent Task Force Report No. 74, Council on Foreign Relations, 2016.
 Bruce W. Bennett, “Kim Jong-un is Trolling America Again,” The National Interest, May 17, 2016.
 Ashton Carter, “Networking Defense in the 21st Century”, Remarks at CNAS, Washington, DC, Defense.gov, June 20, 2016.
 Mira Rapp-Hooper, Patrick M. Cronin, Harry Krejsa, Hannah Suh, “Counterbalance: Red Teaming the Rebalance in the Asia-Pacific,” Center for a New American Security, November 2016.
 Julianne Smith, Erik Brattberg, and Rachel Rizzo, “Translatlantic Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific,” Center for a New American Security, October 2016.
 Patrick M. Cronin, “4 Ways Trump Can Avoid a North Korea Disaster,” The Diplomat, December 13, 2016.
 Patrick M. Cronin and Marcel Angliviel de la Beaumelle, “How the Next US President Should Handle the South China Sea,” The Diplomat. May 2, 2016.
 “Foreign Assistance in Pakistan,” foreignassistance.gov
Rama Lakshmi, “India and U.S. Deepen Defense Ties with Landmark Agreement,” Washington Post, August 30, 2016.
 “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel,” everycrsreport.com, December 22, 2016.
 U.S. Department of State, “World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 2016,” December 2016.
 Bradley O. Babson, “After the Party Congress: What to Make of North Korea’s Commitment to Economic Development?” 38 North, May 19, 2016.Elizabeth Shim, “Kim Jong Un’s Economic Plan Targets Foreign Investment,” UPI, May 19, 2015.
 “The Six-Party Talks and the North Korean Nuclear Issue: Old Wine in New Bottles?” Hearing Before the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, October 6, 2005.
 “Libya Nuclear Chronology,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, February 2011.
 U.S. Department of State cable, “U/S Bolton’s July 10 Meeting with Libyan Officials, August 11, 2004.
 William Tobey, “A Message from Tripoli, Part 4: How Libya Gave Up its WMD,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, December 7, 2014.
 U.S. Embassy Tripoli cable, “Libya/UNSC: 1267, Iran and Kosovo, July 1, 2008.
 U.S. Embassy Tripoli cable, “Kosovo ICJ Resolution at UNGA — Libya,” October 6, 2008.
 “Libya Nuclear Chronology,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, February 2011.
 Tim Beal, “The Korean Peninsula within the Framework of US Global Hegemony,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, November 15, 2016.
Amnesty International (AI) has done some good investigations and reports over the years, which has won the group widespread support. However, less well recognized, Amnesty International has also carried out faulty investigations with bloody and disastrous consequences.
One prominent example is in Iraq, where AI “corroborated” the false story that Iraqi soldiers were stealing incubators from Kuwait, leaving babies to die on the cold floor. The deception was planned and carried out in Washington to influence the U.S. public and Congress.
A more recent example is from 2011 where false accusations were being made about Libya and Muammar Gaddafi as Western and Gulf powers sought to overthrow his government. AI leaders joined the campaign claiming that Gaddafi was using “mercenaries” to threaten and kill peacefully protesting civilians. The propaganda was successful in muting criticism of what became an invasion and “regime change.”
Going far beyond a United Nations Security Council resolution to “protect civilians,” NATO launched sustained air attacks and toppled the Libyan government leading to chaos, violence and a flood of refugees. AI later refuted the “mercenary” accusations but the damage was done.
Now, on Feb. 7, Amnesty International released a new report titled “Human Slaughterhouse: Mass Hangings and Extermination at Saydnaya Prison,” which accuses the Syrian government of executing thousands of political prisoners, a set of accusations that has received uncritical treatment in the mainstream news media.
Like the Iraq/Kuwait incubator story and the Libyan “mercenary” story, the “Human Slaughterhouse” report is coming at a critical time. It accuses and convicts the Syrian government of horrible atrocities against civilians – and AI explicitly calls for the international community to take “action.” But the AI report is deeply biased and amounts to a kangaroo-court conviction of the Syrian government.
AI’s Standards Ignored
The Amnesty International report violates the organization’s own research standards. As documented by Professor Tim Hayward here, the Secretary General of Amnesty International, Salil Shetty, claims that Amnesty does its research “in a very systematic, primary, way where we collect evidence with our own staff on the ground. And every aspect of our data collection is based on corroboration and cross-checking from all parties, even if there are, you know, many parties in any situation because of all of the issues we deal with are quite contested. So it’s very important to get different points of view and constantly cross check and verify the facts.”
But the Amnesty report fails on all counts: it relies on third parties, it did not gather its information from different points of view, and it did not cross-check with all parties. The report’s conclusions are not based on primary sources, material evidence or AI’s own staff; the findings are solely based on the claims of anonymous individuals, mostly in southern Turkey from where the war on Syria is coordinated.
Amnesty gathered witnesses and testimonies from only one side of the conflict: the Western- and Gulf-supported opposition. For example, AI consulted with the Syrian Network for Human Rights, which is known to seek NATO intervention in Syria. AI “liased” with the Commission for International Justice and Accountability, an organization funded by the West to press criminal charges against the Syrian leadership. These are obviously not neutral, independent or nonpartisan organizations.
If AI were doing what its Secretary General claims the organization always does, AI would have consulted with organizations within or outside Syria to hear different accounts of life at Saydnaya Prison. Since the AI report has been released, the AngryArab has published the account of a Syrian dissident, Nizar Nayyouf, who was imprisoned at Saydnaya. He contradicts many statements in the Amnesty International report, the type of cross-checking that AI failed to do for this important study.
Amnesty’s accusation that executions were “extrajudicial” is exaggerated or false. By Amnesty’s own description, each prisoner appeared briefly before a judge and each execution was authorized by a high government leader. We do not know if the judge looked at documentation or other information regarding each prisoner. One could argue that the process as described was superficial, but it’s clear that even if AI’s allegations are true, there was some kind of judicial process.
Amnesty’s suggestion that all Saydnaya prisoners are convicted is false. Amnesty quotes one witness who says about the court: “The judge will ask the name of the detainee and whether he committed the crime. Whether the answer is yes or no, he will be convicted.” But this assertion is contradicted by a former Saydnaya prisoner who is now a refugee in Sweden. In this news report, the former prisoner says the judge “asked him how many soldiers he had killed. When he said none, the judge spared him.” This is evidence that there is a judicial process of some sort and there are acquittals.
The Amnesty report includes satellite photographs with captions which are meaningless or erroneous. For example, as pointed out by Syrian dissident Nizar Nayyouf, the photo on page 30 showing a Martyrs Cemetery is “silly beyond silly.” The photo and caption show that the cemetery doubled in size. However, this does not prove hangings of prisoners who would never be buried in a “martyrs cemetery” reserved for Syrian army soldiers. On the contrary, it confirms the fact which Amnesty International otherwise ignores: Syrian soldiers have died in large numbers.
The Amnesty report falsely claims — based on data provided by one of the groups seeking NATO intervention — “The victims are overwhelmingly ordinary civilians who are thought to oppose the government.” While it’s surely true that innocent civilians are sometimes wrongly arrested, as happens in all countries, the suggestion that Saydnaya prison is filled with 95 percent “ordinary civilians” is preposterous. Amnesty International can only make this claim without facing ridicule because AI and other Western organizations have effectively “disappeared” the reality of Syria.
Other essential facts, which are completely missing from the Amnesty report, include:
–Western powers and Gulf monarchies have spent billions of dollars annually since 2011 to recruit, fund, train, arm and support with sophisticated propaganda a violent campaign to overthrow the Syrian government;
–As part of this operation, tens of thousands of foreign fanatics have invaded Syria and tens of thousands of Syrians have been radicalized and paid by Wahhabi monarchies in the Gulf to overthrow the government;
–More than 100,000 Syrian Army and National Defense soldiers have been killed defending their country. Most of this is public information yet ignored by Amnesty International and other mainstream media in the West. This “regime change” operation has been accompanied by a massive distortion and cover-up of reality.
–Without providing evidence, Amnesty International accuses the highest Sunni religious leader in Syria, Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, of authorizing the execution of “ordinary civilians.” While the Grand Mufti is a personal victim of the war’s violence – his son was murdered by terrorists near Aleppo – he has consistently called for reconciliation. Following the assassination of his son, Grand Mufti Hassoun gave an eloquent speech expressing forgiveness for the murderers and calling for an end to the violence.
What does it say about Amnesty International that it makes specific personal accusations, against people who have personally suffered, yet provides no evidence of guilt?
In the report, Amnesty uses sensational and emotional accusations in place of factual evidence. The title of the report is “Human Slaughterhouse.” And what goes with a “slaughterhouse”? A “meat fridge.” So, the report uses the expression “meat fridge” seven separate times, presumably in an attempt to strengthen the central metaphor of a slaughterhouse.
Even the report’s opening quotation is hyperbolic: “Saydnaya is the end of life – the end of humanity.” The report is in sharp contrast with fact-based objective research and investigation; it appears designed to manipulate emotions and thus create new public support in the West for another escalation of the war.
Yet, Amnesty International’s accusations that the Syrian government is carrying out a policy of “extermination” are contradicted by the fact that the vast majority of Syrians prefer to live in government-controlled areas. When the “rebels” were finally driven out of East Aleppo in December 2016, 90 percent of civilians rushed into areas under government control.
In recent days, civilians from Latakia province who had been imprisoned by terrorists for the past three years have been liberated in a prisoner exchange. [This video shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife meeting with some of the civilians.]
The Amnesty report is accompanied by a three-minute propaganda cartoon that reinforces the narrative that Syrian civilians who protest peacefully are imprisoned and executed. Echoing the theme of the report, the animation is titled “Saydnaya Prison: Human Slaughterhouse.” Amnesty International appears to be in denial that there are tens of thousands of violent extremists in Syria, setting off car bombs, launching mortars and otherwise attacking civilian areas every day.
Given the national crisis – with so many violent jihadists to confront – it makes little sense that Syrian security or prison authorities would waste resources on non-violent civilians although that does not mean that the Syrian government has clean hands either. Mistakes and abuses surely happen in this war like all wars.
But the AI report is more like the propaganda that has surrounded the Syrian conflict from the beginning, lacking in balance and reminiscent of the “perception management” used to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the West’s assault on Libya in 2011. AI’s hyperbole is also contradicted by the fact that Syria has many opposition parties that compete for seats in the National Assembly and campaign openly for public support from both the right and left of the Baath Party.
AI’s claim that Syrian authorities brutally repress peaceful protests further ignores the Syrian reconciliation process. For the past several years, armed opposition militants have been encouraged to lay down their weapons and peacefully rejoin society, a program largely unreported in Western media because it contradicts the “black hat” narrative of the Syrian government. [A recent example is reported here.]
The Amnesty report cites the “Caesar” photographs as supporting evidence for its “slaughterhouse” accusations but ignores the fact that nearly half those photographs show the opposite of what was claimed. The widely publicized “Caesar photographs” was a Qatari-funded hoax designed to sabotage the 2014 Geneva negotiations as documented here.
While the Amnesty report makes many accusations against the Syrian government, AI ignores the violation of Syrian sovereignty being committed by Western and Gulf countries. It is a curious fact that big NGOs such as Amnesty International focus on violations of “human rights law” and “humanitarian law” but ignore the crime of aggression, also called the crime against peace.
According to the Nuremberg Tribunal, aggression is “the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” Former Nicaraguan Foreign Minister and former President of the U.N. General Assembly, Father Miguel D’Escoto, is someone who should know. He says, “What the U.S. government is doing in Syria is tantamount to a war of aggression, which, according to the Nuremberg Tribunal, is the worst possible crime a State can commit against another State.” Amnesty International ignores this reality.
Background and Context
The co-author of this Amnesty International report is Nicolette Waldman (Boehland), who was uncritically interviewed on DemocracyNow! on Feb. 9. The background and previous work of Waldman shows the inter-connections between influential Washington “think tanks” and the billionaires’ foundations that fund “non-governmental organizations” – NGOs – that claim to be independent but are clearly not.
Waldman previously worked for the “Center for Civilians in Conflict,” which is directed by leaders from George Soros’s Open Society, the Soros-funded Human Rights Watch, Blackrock Solutions and the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).
CNAS may be the most significant indication of political orientation since it is led by Michele Flournoy, who was expected to become Secretary of Defense if Hillary Clinton had won the election. CNAS has been a leading force behind neoconservative and liberal-interventionist plans to escalate the war in Syria. While past work or associations do not always define new or future work, in this case the sensational and dubious accusations seem to align with those political goals. [Soros’s Open Society has also provided funds to Amnesty International.]
So what to make of Amnesty International’s new report? The once widely respected human rights organization has, in the recent past, let itself be used as a propaganda tool to justify Western aggression against Iraq and Libya, which seems to be the role that AI is playing now in Syria.
The Amnesty International report is a mix of hearsay accusations and sensationalism that tracks with the Western propaganda themes that have surrounded the Syrian war from the start. Because of Amnesty’s undeserved reputation for independence and accuracy, the report has been picked up and broadcast widely. Liberal and supposedly progressive media outlets have joined in dutifully echoing the questionable accusations.
Little or no skepticism is applied when the target is the Syrian government, which has faced years of foreign-sponsored aggression. If this report justifies another escalation of the conflict, as Amnesty International seems to want, the group will again be serving as a rationalizer for Western aggression against Syria, just like it did in Iraq and Libya.
Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He can be reached at email@example.com
We learned a few days ago that 19 rabbis were arrested in NYC during a protest at Trump International Hotel. The Rabbi operates within the T’ruah organisation, a rabbinical human rights group that was formed (in 2002) to convey an image of Judaic ethical and universal awareness.
patch.com reports that the rabbis sat down in the street in front of the Trump Hotel in an act of protest against Trump’s executive orders affecting Muslim immigrants and refugees. But T’ruah do not just oppose Trump’s policy as ordinary human beings or American patriots. They actually operate as ‘Jews.’
Chutzpah, as we know, is a Jewish invention and Rabbi Jill Jacobs, T’ruah’s executive director, has a lot of it in her disposal. “It makes a statement when we (Rabbis) are willing to put our bodies on the line.” she said. Perplexed Goyim may wonder how exactly Rabbi Jacobs puts her ‘body on the line’ (sitting down on the street in the middle of Manhattan)? The rabbi must have realised how ridiculous her statement was, as she then corrected herself. “Right now the people whose bodies are really on the line are people trying to get to America, and risking death to do so. The least that we can do is put our bodies a little bit on the line…to bring attention to the situation of refugees.”
Rabbi Kleinbaum also added a statement concerning rabbinical heroism. “I’m risking arrest today because America welcomed my own immigrant family to its shores, as it did millions of families before us who fled persecution.” But if Rabbi Kleinbaum is actually talking as an American Patriot who cares for American universal values, why is he protesting ‘as a Jew’? He should really protest as a proud American.
“As Jews, who know what it means to be targeted by discriminatory laws, we stand firmly with refugees fleeing war, persecution, and economic strife,” T’ruah Rabbis said in a statement.
Along the years I have developed an allergy to “as a” statements in general and “as a Jew” proclamations in particular. For one reason or another, rather often ‘as a Jew’ constructions happen to be grossly duplicitous. If Jews know so much about persecution how come their Jewish State is institutionally racist and discriminatory towards minorities and gentiles? If Jews are pro immigration, how come their Jewish State is vile in its attitude towards illegal immigration. If the Jews ‘stand firmly with refugees’ isn’t it about time their Jewish State invites millions of Palestinian refugees to return to the land that belongs to them and them alone? Do T’ruah rabbis openly support the Palestinian right of return? If they do, they manage to keep quiet about it.
But let’s take it further, can the T’ruah rabbis report to us how many Syrians have found a refuge in Jewish homes? How many refugees are living in rabbi Kleinbaum’s and Jacobs’ spare bedroom? Considering the war against Islam was a Zio-Con project, can the Rabbis tell us when is the last time they sat down in the street in front of Paul Wolfowitz’ or Bernard Henri Levy’s homes? After all, Henri Levy claimed that ‘as a Jew’ he ‘liberated’ Libya. Shouldn’t the T’ruah rabbis at least occupy the streets in front of the Israeli Embassy and AIPAC offices? After all, it was Israel and its lobby that pushed for war in Syria. It was Israel and its lobby that are directly involved in the creation of the refugee crisis in Syria.
I kindly advise T’ruah and other Jewish human rights groups to be slightly more economical with their duplicity. By now, the Goyim know. They see it all and their patience is about to run out.
President Trump has issued an executive order suspending entry to the U.S for people from Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, and Yemen (the order is called “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”). These same countries were the focus of the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015” under President Obama.
While reports on Trump’s ban emphasize that these are Muslim majority countries, analysts seem to have ignored another significant characteristic that these countries share.
With just a single exception, all of these countries were targeted for attack by certain top U.S. officials in 2001. In fact, that policy had roots that went back to 1996, 1991, 1980, and even the 1950s. Below, we will trace this policy back in time and examine its goals and proponents.
The fact is that Trump’s action continues policies influenced by people working on behalf of a foreign country, whose goal has been to destabilize and reshape an entire region. This kind of aggressive interventionism focused on “regime change” launches cascading effects that include escalating violence.
Already we’ve seen devastating wars, massive refugee movement that is uprooting entire peoples and reshaping parts of Europe, desperate and horrific terrorism, and now the horror that is ISIS. If this decades-long effort is not halted, it will be increasingly devastating for the region, our country, and the entire world.
2001 Policy Coup
Four-star general Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander, has described what he called a 2001 “policy coup” by a small group of people intent on destabilizing and taking over the Middle East, targeting six of the seven countries mentioned by Obama and Trump.
Clark described a chance meeting in the Pentagon in 2001 ten days after 911 in which he learned about the plan to take down these countries.
After meeting with then-Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Clark went downstairs to say hello to people on the Joint Staff who had worked for him in the past. One of the generals called him in.
‘Sir, you’ve got to come in and talk to me a second.” He told Clark, “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.”
Clark was shocked. He said, “We’re going to war against Iraq? Why?” The officer said he didn’t know. Clark asked if they had found information connecting Saddam to Al-Qaeda. The man said, “No, no, there’s nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq.”
A few weeks later, Clark went back to the Pentagon and spoke to the general again. He asked whether the U.S. was still planning to go to war against Iraq.
The general replied: “Oh, it’s worse than that.” Clark says that the general picked up a piece of paper and said, “I just got this down from upstairs today. This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.”
Clark asked, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.”
Clark said he was stunned: “I couldn’t believe it would really be true. But that’s actually what happened. These people took control of the policy of the United States.”
Clark says he then remembered a 1991 meeting he had with Paul Wolfowitz. In 2001 Wolfowitz was Deputy Secretary of Defense, and in 1991 he was Under Secretary of Defense of Policy, the number three position at the Pentagon.
Wolfowitz is a pro-Israel neoconservative who an associate has called “over the top when it comes to Israel.”
Clark describes going to Wolfowitz’s office in March of 1991. Clark said to Wolfowitz, “You must be pretty happy with the performance of the troops in Desert Storm.” Clark says Wolfowitz replied, “Not really, because the truth is we should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein, and we didn’t.”
Wolfowitz declared the U.S. had an opportunity to clean up “Syria, Iran, Iraq, before the next super power came on to challenge us.”
Clark says he was shocked at Wolfowitz’s proposal that the military should initiate wars and change governments, and that Wolfowitz believed that the U.S. should invade countries whose governments it disliked. “My mind was spinning.”
Clark says Scooter Libby was at that meeting. Libby is another pro-Israel neoconservative. In 2001 He was Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, and worked closely with the Office of Special Plans, which manufactured anti-Iraq talking points.
“This country was taken over by a group of people with a policy coup,” Clark said in his 2007 lecture. “Wolfowitz, Rumsfield, Cheney, and you could name a half dozen other collaborators from the Project for a New American Century. They wanted us to destabilize the Middle East, turn it upside down, make it under our control.”
(The Project for a New American Century was a think tank that operated from 1997-2006, and was replaced by the Foreign Policy Initiative.)
Clark continued: “Did they ever tell you this? Was there a national dialogue on this? Did Senators and Congressmen stand up and denounce this plan? Was there a full-fledged American debate on it? Absolutely not. And there still isn’t.”
Clark noted that Iran and Syria know about the plan. “All you have to do is read the Weekly Standard and listen to Bill Kristol, and he blabbermouths it all over the world – Richard Perle is the same way. They could hardly wait to finish Iraq so they could move into Syria.”
Clark says that Americans did not vote George Bush into office to do this. Bush, Clark pointed out, had campaigned on “a humble foreign policy, no ‘peace keeping,’ no ‘nation building.’”
Others have described this group, their responsibility for pushing the invasion of Iraq, and their pro-Israel motivation.
Neoconservatives, Israel, and Iraq
A 2003 article in Ha’aretz, one of Israel’s main newspapers, reported bluntly: “The war in Iraq was conceived by 25 neoconservative intellectuals, most of them Jewish, who are pushing President Bush to change the course of history.” (Ha’aretz often highlights the Jewish affiliation of important players due to its role as a top newspaper of the self-declared “Jewish State.”)
It gave what it termed “a partial list” of these neoconservatives: U.S. government officials Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Eliot Abrams, and journalists William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer. The article described them as “mutual friends who cultivate one another.”
The article included an interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who was quoted as saying:
“It’s the war the neoconservatives wanted. It’s the war the neoconservatives marketed. Those people had an idea to sell when September 11 came, and they sold it. Oh boy, did they sell it. So this is not a war that the masses demanded. This is a war of an elite.”
The article continued:
“Friedman laughs: ‘I could give you the names of 25 people (all of whom are at this moment within a five-block radius of this office) who, if you had exiled them to a desert island a year and a half ago, the Iraq war would not have happened.’”
Another Ha’aretz article described how some of these individuals, high American officials, gave Israeli leaders tips on how to manage American actions and influence US Congressmen, concluding: “Perle, Feith, and their fellow strategists are walking a fine line between their loyalty to American governments and Israeli interests.”
Ha’aretz reported that the goal was far more than just an invasion of Iraq: “at a deeper level it is a greater war, for the shaping of a new Middle East.” The article said that the war “was being fought to consolidate a new world order.”
“The Iraq war is really the beginning of a gigantic historical experiment…”
We’re now seeing the tragic and violent result of that regime-change experiment.
American author, peace activist, and former CIA analyst Kathleen Christison discussed the neoconservatives who promoted war against Iraq in a 2002 article. She wrote: “Although much has been written about the neo-cons who dot the Bush administration, their ties to Israel have generally been treated very gingerly.”
The Bush administration, she wrote, was “peppered with people who have long records of activism on behalf of Israel in the United States, of policy advocacy in Israel, and of promoting an agenda for Israel often at odds with existing U.S. policy.”
“These people,” she wrote, “who can fairly be called Israeli loyalists, are now at all levels of government, from desk officers at the Defense Department to the deputy secretary level at both State and Defense, as well as on the National Security Council staff and in the vice president’s office.”
Author Stephen Green wrote a meticulously researched 2004 expose describing how some of these individuals, including Perle and Wolfowitz, had been investigated through the years by U.S. intelligence agencies for security “lapses” benefiting Israel.
Yet, despite a pattern of highly questionable actions suggestive of treason, they continued to procure top security clearances for themselves and cronies. The neocon agenda also became influential in Britain.
(During the recent U.S. presidential election, neoconservatives were extremely hostile to Trump, and have been perturbed to have less influence in his administration they they expected to have with Hillary Clinton. They may be relieved to see him targeting their pet punching bags in the Middle East. It’s unclear whether neoconservatives will remain outside the White House’s inner circle for long: neocon Michael Ledeen is quite close to Trump’s recently named White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. And there is talk that Trump may appoint Elliott Abrams as Deputy Secretary of State.)
1996 plan against Iraq and Syria
The neocon regime-change strategy had been laid out in a 1996 document called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” It was written for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by a study group led by Richard Perle. Although Perle and the other authors were American citizens, the “realm” in question was Israel.
Perle was chairman of the United States Defense Policy Board at that time. He had previously been U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy.
The report stated that in the past, Israel’s strategy was to get the U.S. to use its money and weaponry to “lure Arabs” to negotiate. This strategy, the plan stated, “required funneling American money to repressive and aggressive regimes.”
The report recommended, however, that Israel go beyond a strategy just focused on Israel-Palestine, and address the larger region – that it “shape its strategic environment.”
It called for “weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria” and “removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.” The paper also listed Iran and Lebanon as countries to be dealt with (and Turkey and Jordan as nations to be used in the strategy).
The plan stressed that it was necessary to obtain U.S. support for the strategy, and advised that Israel use “language familiar to the Americans by tapping into themes of American administrations during the cold war … .”
Perle, Douglas Feith (who would be Deputy Under Secretary of Defense by 2001) and the other signatories of the report framed their proposal as a new concept, but the idea for Israel to reshape the political landscape of the Middle East had been discussed for years. (Lest we be unclear, “reshape the political landscape” means to change governments, something that has never been accomplished without massive loss of life and far-reaching repercussions.)
In 1992 Israeli leaders were already working to indoctrinate the public about an alleged need to attack Iran. Israeli analyst Israel Shahak wrote in his book Open Secrets that the goal would be “to bring about Iran’s total military and political defeat.”
Shahak reported: “In one version, Israel would attack Iran alone, in another it would ‘persuade’ the West to do the job. The indoctrination campaign to this effect is gaining in intensity. It is accompanied by what could be called semi-official horror scenarios purporting to detail what Iran could do to Israel, the West and the entire world when it acquires nuclear weapons as it is expected to a few years hence.”
1982 & 1950s Israeli plans to fragment the Middle East
A document called “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties,” proposed by Israeli analyst Oded Yinon, was published by the World Zionist Organization in 1982.
The document, translated by Israel Shahak, called for the dissolution of existing Arab states into smaller states which would, in effect, become Israel’s satellites.
In an analysis of the plan, Shahak pointed out: “[W]hile lip service is paid to the idea of the ‘defense of the West’ from Soviet power, the real aim of the author, and of the present Israeli establishment is clear: To make an Imperial Israel into a world power.”
Shahak noted that Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon planned “to deceive the Americans after he has deceived all the rest.”
Shahak wrote that reshaping the Middle East on behalf of Israel had been discussed since the 1950s: “This is not a new idea, nor does it surface for the first time in Zionist strategic thinking. Indeed, fragmenting all Arab states into smaller units has been a recurrent theme.”
As Shahak pointed out, this strategy was documented in a book called Israel’s Sacred Terrorism (1980), by Livia Rokach. Drawing on the memoirs of the second Prime Minister of Israel, Rokach’s book described, among other things, a 1954 proposal to execute regime change in Lebanon.
Returning to the present, let’s examine the situation in the “countries of concern” named by President Trump last week, by President Obama in 2015, and targeted by Wolfowitz et al in 2001.
Several years ago, journalist Glenn Greenwald commented on General Clark’s statement about the 2001 policy coup: “If you go down that list of seven countries that he said the neocons had planned to basically change the governments of, you pretty much see that vision… being fulfilled.”
Greenwald noted that the governments of Iraq, Libya, and Lebanon had been changed; the U.S. had escalated its proxy fighting and drone attacks in Somalia; U.S. troops were deployed in Sudan; “and the most important countries on that list, Iran and Syria, are clearly the target of all sorts of covert regime change efforts on the part of the United States and Israel.”
Below are sketches of what’s happened:
Iraq was invaded and the country destroyed. According to a 2015 NGO report, the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq had led to the deaths of approximately 1 million Iraqis – 5 percent of the total population of the country – by 2011. More than three million Iraqis are internally displaced, and the carnage continues. The destruction of Iraq and impoverishment of its people is at the root of much of today’s extremism and it’s been demonstrated that it led to the rise of ISIS, as admitted by former British Prime Minister and Iraq war co-perpetrator Tony Blair.
Libya was invaded in 2011 and its leader violently overthrown; in the post-Gaddafi power vacuum, a 2011 UN report revealed torture, lynchings and abuse. Five years on, the country was still torn by civil war and ISIS is reportedly expanding into the chaos. A 2016 Human Rights Watch report stated: “Libya’s political and security crisis deepened … the country edged towards a humanitarian crisis, with almost 400,000 people internally displaced.” Warring forces “continued with impunity to arbitrarily detain, torture, unlawfully kill, indiscriminately attack, abduct and disappear, and forcefully displace people from their homes. The domestic criminal justice system collapsed in most parts of the country, exacerbating the human rights crisis.” [Photos here]
Sudan: The U.S. engaged in so-called “nation-building” in Sudan, advanced the claim in 2005 that the government was perpetrating a genocide, and some U.S. players ultimately organized the secession of South Sudan from Sudan in 2011. (Neocon Israel partisan Elliott Abrams was one of these players.) One journalist reported the result: “[A]n abyss of unspeakable misery and bloodshed … . Tens of thousands have been killed, 1.5 million have been displaced, and 5 million are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.”
Somalia: There have been a number of U.S. interventions in Somalia, most recently a clandestine war under Obama using Special Operations troops, airstrikes, private contractors and African allies; Somali extremists, like others, repeatedly cite Israel’s crimes against Palestinians, enabled by the U.S., as motivators of their violent extremism.
Iran: Iran has long been targeted by Israel, and Israel partisans have driven the anti-Iran campaign in the U.S. Most recently there has been a public relations effort claiming that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, despite the fact that U.S. intelligence agencies and other experts do not support these accusations. Israel and the U.S. deployed a computer virus against Iran in what has been called the world’s first digital weapon. Young Iranian nuclear physicists have been assassinated by U.S. ally Israel, and the U.S. instituted a blockade against Iran that caused food insecurity and mass suffering among the country’s civilians. (Such a blockade can be seen as an act of war.) Democratic Congressman and Israel partisan Brad Sherman admitted the objective of the Iran sanctions: “Critics of sanctions argue that these measures will hurt the Iranian people. Quite frankly, we need to do just that.”
Yemen: The US has launched drone strikes against Yemen for years, killing numerous Yemeni civilians and even some Americans. In 2010, a few weeks after Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, he had the military use cluster bombs that killed 35 Yemeni women and children. The Obama administration killed a 16-year-old American in 2011, and a few days ago U.S. forces under Trump killed the boy’s sister. In 2014 American forces attacked a wedding procession, and in 2015 the Obama administration admitted it was making war on Yemen. Today over two million Yemeni children suffer from malnutrition. The Yemeni regime that we’re attacking became politically active in 2003 as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Syria: In an email revealed by Wikileaks, Hillary Clinton wrote that the “best way to help Israel” was to overthrow the Syrian regime.
Syria seems to be a poster child for the destruction recommended by Israeli strategists. As the UK Guardian reported in 2002: “Disorder and chaos sweeping through the region would not be an unfortunate side-effect of war with Iraq, but a sign that everything is going according to plan.”
Half the Syrian population is displaced – 5 million have fled the country and another 6 million are internally displaced – and over 300,000 are dead from the violence. Major cities and ancient sites are in ruins and the countryside devastated. Amnesty International calls it “the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.”
While the uprising against a ruthless dictator was no doubt begun by authentic Syrian rebels, others with questionable agendas flowed in, some supported by the U.S. and Israel. Israel’s military intelligence chief said Israel does not want ISIS defeated. Israel’s defense minister has admitted that Israel has provided aid to ISIS fighters.
A major factor in Syria’s chaos and the rise of ISIS was the destruction of Iraq, as revealed by in-depth interviews with ISIS fighters by researchers for Artis International, a consortium for scientific study in the service of conflict resolution:
“Many assume that these fighters are motivated by a belief in the Islamic State… but this just doesn’t hold for the prisoners we are interviewing. They are woefully ignorant about Islam and have difficulty answering questions about Sharia law, militant jihad, and the caliphate.”
“More pertinent than Islamic theology is that there are other, much more convincing, explanations as to why they’ve fought for the side they did.”
One interviewee said: “The Americans came. They took away Saddam, but they also took away our security. I didn’t like Saddam, we were starving then, but at least we didn’t have war. When you came here, the civil war started.”
The report noted that the fighters “came of age under the disastrous American occupation after 2003.”
“They are children of the occupation, many with missing fathers at crucial periods (through jail, death from execution, or fighting in the insurgency), filled with rage against America and their own government. They are not fueled by the idea of an Islamic caliphate without borders; rather, ISIS is the first group since the crushed Al Qaeda to offer these humiliated and enraged young men a way to defend their dignity, family, and tribe.”
The leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was imprisoned for eight months in the infamous Abu Ghraib, a U.S.-run Iraqi prison known for grotesque torture of prisoners. Photos published at that time show U.S. soldiers smiling next to piles of naked prisoners and a hooded detainee standing on a narrow box with electrical wires attached to his outstretched hands.
An Abu Ghraib interrogator later revealed that Israelis trained them in the use of techniques used against Palestinians. General Janis Karpinski (in charge of the unit that ran the prison) and others say that Israelis were involved in interrogations. It was reported that the head of the defense contracting firm implicated in the torture at Abu Ghraib prison had close ties to Israel and had visited an Israeli training camp in the West Bank.
Another major factor in the rise of anti-Western extremism is the largely unconditional support for Israel’s violent oppression of Palestinians. As a UN report documented, “The scale of human loss and destruction in Gaza during the 2014 conflict was catastrophic and has … shocked and shamed the world.”
Professor John Mearsheimer of and Professor Stephen Walt of Harvard have written that U.S. policies promoted by the Israel lobby have given “extremists a powerful recruiting tool, increases the pool of potential terrorists and sympathizers, and contributes to Islamic radicalism around the world.” Osama Bin Laden cited U.S. support for Israeli crimes against Palestinians among his reasons for fighting the U.S. The U.S. gives Israel over $10 million per day.
Reaction to the Trump executive order
Thousands of people across the U.S. have opposed Trump’s order for the extreme hardship it imposes on multitudes of refugees. The focus on Muslims (Trump has said that Christians might be exempted) has caused outrage at such religious discrimination and unfair profiling (the large majority of Muslims strongly oppose extremism).
Individuals across the political spectrum from Code Pink to the Koch brothers have decried the order. The Kochs issued a strong statement against it:
“We believe it is possible to keep Americans safe without excluding people who wish to come here to contribute and pursue a better life for their families. The travel ban is the wrong approach and will likely be counterproductive. Our country has benefited tremendously from a history of welcoming people from all cultures and backgrounds. This is a hallmark of free and open societies.”
New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who supported the Iraq War and suggests God sent him to guard Israel, choked back tears at a press conference and called the order “mean-spirited and un-American.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), known for its fervent pro-Israel advocacy (and history of smearing criticism of Israeli policy as “anti-Semitism”), has vowed a “relentless fight” against the ban.
Some are concerned that Trump’s action will stoke terrorism, rather than defend against it. Many others support the order in the belief it makes them safer from extremist violence. (As mentioned above, the Obama administration undertook a similar, though milder, action for a similar reason.)
I suggest that everyone – both those who deplore the order for humanitarian reasons, and those who defend it out of concern for Americans’ safety – examine the historic context outlined above and the U.S. policies that led to this order.
For decades, Democratic and Republican administrations have enacted largely parallel policies regarding the Middle East and Israel-Palestine. We are seeing the results, and most of us are deeply displeased.
I would submit that both for humanitarian obligations and for security necessities, it is urgent that we find a different way forward.
Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew, president of the Council for the National Interest, and author of Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel.
or why the “oops we accidentally let ISIS get our guns” excuse does not work…
We get a few people here saying some variant on “ISIS, al Qaeda etc are all the unlooked-for by-product of the criminal western policy in the Middle East.” It’s one of the would-be middle-of-the-road positions occupied as much through fear of what lies beyond it than for any inherent value it contains. It’s still possible to be considered relatively mainstream and hold this position. Sensible people like Robert Fisk and Noam Chomsky promote it. There’s only one problem with it really, namely that it is not true. Recent leaks/releases of government documents have put it beyond question that the US, its Gulf allies and NATO at very least willingly got behind the creation of extreme jihadist groups and have been funding such groups in their attempts to overthrow the legitimate Syrian government.
So we thought we’d address that claim very quickly with the help of this graphic originally made by professor Tim Anderson. It makes the point more clearly than many paragraphs of text.
That’s all you need.
Stop making that bogus and unhelpful claim here or anywhere else.