The West violates international law by plunging the world into chaos, Russia’s onetime envoy to Rome wrote in an article carried by an Italian magazine.
“Those who accuse Russia of annexing Crimea are destroying the rules of peaceful coexistence countries stuck to even during the Cold War era,” Felix Stanevsky wrote in his think piece, titled “Who breaks international law? Russia and wars of the West”, that appeared in the July 2, 2015 issue of Limes magazine.
Stanevsky mentioned the wars in Yugoslavia and Iraq and the breakup of Libya as examples of Washington’s aggressive policy.
By meddling in the internal affairs of Syria, European and North American countries also resorted to the use of force instead of trying to seek diplomatic solutions to regional problems as called for by international law, thus making war part of everyday Western reality, Stanevsky noted.
The United States has used military force ten times over the past 25 years, and it does not look like this practice is going to end anytime soon, the ex-envoy wrote, adding that examples of Western noncompliance with internationally-recognized norms of peaceful coexistence are too many to ignore.
“Given all these breaches of international law that have been going on for so long, who can really believe all these Western accusations against Russia regarding Crimea and Donbass?”
Stanevsky continued by saying that it is the West which is “waging war after war, killing and destroying, plunging whole regions into chaos and destroying international law.”
Europeans are losing faith in their governments’ declared adherence to peace, demonization of Vladimir Putin and accusations being brought against Russia, Felix Stanevsky wrote in conclusion.
See if you can spot the mistake in this activist email I received recently:
“In 2001, the Clinton Administration handed George Bush peace, prosperity, and record budget surpluses. Eight years later, Bush handed Barack Obama two disastrous wars and a global economic crash that destroyed over 8 million American jobs. Now that President Obama has finally brought those jobs back – in the face of vicious GOP opposition – Bush’s brother Jeb is now blaming American workers for not working hard enough. If you’re as outraged as we are, please click here to sign Hillary Clinton’s petition telling Jeb Bush that Americans need a raise, not a lecture.”
OK, it was a trick; there’s more than one mistake. Let’s list a few:
Here are things Bill Clinton is now apologizing for: mass incarceration, Wall Street deregulation, the drug war, and corporate trade agreements. Here are a few of the things he should also be apologizing for: destroying welfare, creating media monopolies, expanding NATO toward Russia, creating a precedent for illegal NATO wars without Congressional or UN authorizations, and 500,000 children killed by sanctions in Iraq.
Here are a few little-known facts about President Barack Obama: the war on Afghanistan is more his than Bush’s by any measure, he had regularly voted to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a senator, he broke his promised schedule for ending the war on Iraq and never fully ended it and soon revived it, he’s supported coups in Honduras and Egypt and Ukraine, he’s claimed the power to murder anyone anywhere by drone, he’s expanded the military into numerous nations laying the groundwork for future hostilities, and his war on Libya followed the Clinton model of blatant illegality rather than the Bush Jr. approach of at least bothering to lie to Congress and the United Nations.
Another activist group sent me an email this week reading, in part: “The truth is, Republicans don’t want diplomacy to work. They want another costly war like the one they started in Iraq in 2003.” In reality, a Republican House and a Democratic Senate voted for the war on Iraq in 2002. The same parties hold the same branches now. There’s a wise saying that goes something like this: those who convince themselves of a bullshit version of history may be condemned to repeat what actually happened.
Those who study what actually happened may be less shocked to discover how grotesquely corrupt Hillary Clinton is, how murderous, how fervently she promoted that war on Iraq, how very long she has been so disastrous, how she out-hawks almost any hawk, how awful she is for feminism, how brutal she can be, how close she is to Wall Street Republicans and oil barons and Henry Kissinger, how hard it would be to actually elect her, how she used the State Department to market weapons and fracking and pushed weapons on governments she called soft on terrorism while waiving restrictions on sales to brutal governments that donated to her foundation, how she backs mass surveillance, how she believes in representing banks, and how greedy she is.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and his Greek counterpart Panos Kammenos have signed a security cooperation agreement between the two countries.
This came during a meeting on Sunday between the two ministers, according to Israel Radio.
Ya’alon praised the present military and security cooperation between Israel and Greece, which he says is expressed in the joint military exercises conducted by the armies of the two countries.
The Israeli air force held joint military exercises with its Greek counterpart last April that took place in Greek airspace and lasted for several days.
Paris – On July 12, Greece surrendered abjectly and totally. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who had promised to combat the austerity measures that are driving the Greek people to ruin, poverty and suicide, betrayed all his promises, denied the will of the people expressed in the July 5 referendum, and led the Greek parliament to accept an agreement with the nation’s creditors even worse than all those that had already caused the economy to shrink and which further abandoned the last scraps of national sovereignty.
Yes, Greece surrendered unconditionally, as has been thoroughly and eloquently expressed here on CounterPunch and elsewhere. But one crucial question appears not to have been adequately answered. To whom, exactly, did Greece surrender?
A common answer to that question is: Germany. The poor Greeks surrendered to the arrogant Germans. This theme has served to revive anti-German feelings left over from World War II. Frau Merkel is portrayed as the heartless villain. One thing is sure: the animosity between Greece and Germany aroused by this debt catastrophe is proof that the “European dream” of transforming the historic nations of Western Europe into one single brotherly federation, on the model of the United States of America, is a total flop. The sense of belonging to a single nation, with all for one and one for all, simply does not exist between peoples whose languages, traditions and customs are as diverse as those between Finns and Greeks. Adopting a common currency, far from bringing them together, has driven them farther apart.
But was this disaster actually dictated by the wicked Germans?
In reality, very many Germans, from the right-wing Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaüble all the way to the former leader of the left party “Die Linke” Oskar Lafontaine would have preferred a very different solution: Greece’s exit from the Eurozone. Schaüble was thinking of German finances, while Lafontaine was thinking of what would be best for the people of Greece – and of Europe as a whole.
Between those two extremes, a German compromise could have averted the abject surrender of July 12, by organizing Greece’s return to its national currency, the drachma.
Indeed, by the time of the Greek referendum, a majority of European Union creditor governments would have preferred to see Greece leave the Eurozone.
The one government that crowed with victory over the Greek surrender was the French government of François Hollande. In last minute negotiations, France took the position that Greece absolutely must be kept in the Eurozone, in order to “save Europe”. French commentators are jubilant that Hollande “stood up to Merkel” and saved both the sacrosanct “Franco-German couple” and the European Union itself by insisting that Greece stick to the hard currency that is killing it.
So can we conclude that Greece surrendered to France?
Let’s not be ridiculous. The French debt rivals that of Greece, with the difference, of course, that France has a real economy. France owns the largest share of Greek debt after Germany. But nevertheless, France is also eventually threatened by the Eurozone rules that are imposing debt servitude on southern European member states. France is in no position to dictate economic policy to Germany.
And that observation brings us around to the factor that has been overlooked in the case of Greece: the relationship of forces within the “trans-Atlantic community” and its military branch, NATO.
The United States has been relatively discrete during this crisis, but Washington’s will is known. Greece must stay tightly within the European Union, for geopolitical reasons. Just look where Greece is, and what it is: an Orthodox Christian country with traditional good relations with Russia, located on the Mediterranean not so far from “Putin’s Russia”. Greece must not be allowed to drift away. Period.
Another question that has been totally overlooked: is it possible for a NATO member country to shift policy in a way contrary to U.S. interests? Is it free to move toward truly friendly relations with Russia? Greece has seen a military putsch in the not so distant past. The command and control of NATO member countries is closely monitored by the United States military.
Since former President Nicolas Sarkozy reversed General de Gaulle’s strategic move to ensure national independence and returned France to the NATO command, France has indeed aligned itself with Washington to an unprecedented extent. With his brief show of “standing up to Madame Merkel”, François Hollande was in fact carrying out the policy of Victoria Nuland.
The European Union (including Germany) will continue to wrestle with its “Greek problem”, while Greece will continue to be strangled by the European Union.
The European surrender to the United States occurred about seventy years ago. It was welcomed as a liberation, of course, but it has turned into lasting domination. It was simply reconfirmed by the July 12, 2015, Greek surrender. And that surrender has been enforced by an increasingly hegemonic ideology of anti-nationalism, particularly strong in the left, that considers “nationalism” to be the source of all evil, and the European Union the source of all good, since it destroys the sovereignty of nations. This ideology is so dominant on the left that very few leftists dare challenge it – and Syriza was leftist in exactly that way, believing in the virtue of “belonging to the European Union”, whatever the pain and suffering it entails. Thus Syriza did not even prepare for leaving the Eurozone, much less for leaving the European Union.
As a result, only “right-wing” parties dare defend national sovereignty. Or rather, anyone who defends national sovereignty will be labeled “right-wing”. It is too easily forgotten that without national sovereignty, there can be no democracy, no people’s choice. As the Greek disaster obliges more and more Europeans to have serious doubts about EU policy, the mounting desire to reassert national sovereignty faces the obstacle of left-right stereotypes. Much of the European left is finding itself increasingly caught in the contradiction between its anti-nationalist “European dream” and the destruction of democracy by the EU’s financial bureaucracy. The Greek drama is the opening act of a long and confused European conflict.
Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book, Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton, will be published by CounterPunch in September 2015. She can be reached at email@example.com
After the death of President Tito in 1980 the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia slid towards chaos. In the 1990s the plunge accelerated into civil war and one of the regions most affected was Kosovo from which Serbia withdrew after a NATO bomb and rocket offensive from 24 March to 11 June 1999. That blitz involved over 1,000 mainly American aircraft conducting some 38,000 airstrikes on Yugoslavia that killed approximately 500 civilians and destroyed much of the economic and social infrastructure of the region.
The destruction and outcome were not quite as tragic and catastrophic as those from NATO’s fatuously-named Operation Unified Protector against Libya in 2011 when its seven month aerial jamboree of 9,658 air strikes caused collapse of governance and gave rise to the present infestation of Islamic savages and a massive refugee problem, but it was still calamitous, as blitzes go.
NATO said its air bombardment of Serbia was essential to halt repression of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and justified the deaths of hundreds of women and children as being necessary to defeat a “great evil.” The air attacks were not authorized by the United Nations Security Council and there is no article in the North Atlantic Treaty that justifies such a war. It resulted, however, in Kosovo declaring independence from Serbia in 2008.
On March 26, 2014 President Barack Obama said in a speech in Brussels that regarding the 1999 war on Yugoslavia, “NATO only intervened after the people of Kosovo were systematically brutalized and killed for years. And Kosovo only left Serbia after a referendum was organized not outside the boundaries of international law, but in careful cooperation with the United Nations and with Kosovo’s neighbours.”
The President of the United States, whose State Department has some 15,000 experts to keep him informed about international affairs, told the world that Kosovo had held an independence referendum “in careful cooperation” with the United Nations Organization. He added that “None of that even came close to happening in Crimea,” which was an intriguing pronouncement.
Because as reported on Fox News, “During his speech in Brussels, President Obama showed a lack of knowledge of the political situation in Kosovo. Kosovo never organized any kind of referendum, but the Assembly of Provisional Institutions of self-government of Kosovo made a unilateral declaration of independence on February 17th 2008.”
Fox News went on to report Doctor James Ker-Lindsay, a Senior Research Fellow on the Politics of South East Europe at the London School of Economics, as saying that “Surely there must have been someone at hand who would have known that there was no UN organised referendum in Kosovo. It really was not that long ago . . . It will be interesting to see if a retraction or correction is issued by the White House.”
And correction came there none.
Although there was no referendum in Kosovo before its declaration of independence from Serbia it is apparent that the majority of Kosovans desired independence and would have voted for separation from Serbia if they had been given the opportunity to do so. And according to Mr Obama there was and remains no reason for their wishes to be denied.
After all, in 2010 the UN International Court’s Advisory Opinion concerning Kosovo indicated that “international law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence,” a clear-cut endorsement of Kosovo’s actions — and of other such decisions around the world.
No doubt Mr Obama approved of the opportunity given to the people of Scotland to vote in an Independence Referendum a few months after his enthusiastic endorsement of a non-existent plebiscite in Kosovo. In the Scottish Referendum I wasn’t allowed to vote, in spite of being Scottish-born and educated, because I live outside Scotland (in France, in which place of residence I have a vote in the UK’s general elections — in a Scottish constituency).
In other blatant attempts to influence voting, the Scottish National Party decided (in the already independent Scottish Parliament which met first in May 1999, coincidentally at the height of the US-NATO blitz on Serbia) to reduce the voting age from 18 to 16 and to forbid Scottish soldiers serving outside Scotland — in Afghanistan, for example — to vote unless they had a residence address in Scotland.
All the attempted manipulation didn’t work, and the majority of Scots voted against independence (much to the vexation of many English people), but justice was seen to be done.
Just as justice was done in the Crimea referendum.
I wrote last year that “some 90% of the inhabitants of Crimea are Russian-speaking, Russian-cultured and Russian-educated, and it would be strange if they did not vote for accession to a country that welcomes their kinship, empathy and loyalty” and that there was not “a single case of bloodshed in the run-up to the plebiscite, the free vote as to whether the population wished to accede to Russia or support the “status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine.” The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was asked by the government of Crimea to send representatives to monitor the referendum but refused to do so.”
It was not surprising that the OSCE rejected the offer to observe the referendum and provide independent assessments of its conduct, because its findings would have been extremely embarrassing for the West and especially for Washington which had no intention of accepting the result of any referendum in which voters would favour Russia. Obama’s assertion that the popular accession of Crimea to Russia was “annexation” is on the same level as his imaginative claim about a non-existent referendum by the citizens of Kosovo.
There were energetic attempts in the West to paint the post-accession treatment of Ukrainian military personnel in Crimea as harsh, but some newspapers refrained from deliberate lies. Even the ultra-right-wing British Daily Telegraph reported that “Like many of the Ukrainian servicemen in Crimea, the 600-strong marine battalion in Feodosia has strong local links. Many of the men are either local recruits or have served here so long they have put down roots. Only about 140 of the 600-strong battalion stationed here are expected to return to Ukraine. The remainder, with local family and friends, have opted to remain in Crimea — the land they call home.”
To President Obama it is irrelevant that the vast majority of Crimean citizens want to belong to Russia. His hatred of Russia and especially of President Putin has tipped any intellectual balance he may have possessed and is now extreme to the point of being malevolently insulting. He is increasingly intent on confrontation and has stated that the decision of the citizens of Crimea to accede to Russia is illegal. The White House announced that “We reject the ‘referendum’ that took place today in the Crimean region of Ukraine,” and Obama declared “I again call on Russia to end its occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea.”
But what is Obama going to do about Crimea? Does he seriously believe that 1.2 million Crimean Russians could accept domination by Ukraine’s Poroshenko? There would be civil insurrection and mayhem if Ukraine took over the country as suggested by Obama.
Mr Obama’s claim that “Kosovo only left Serbia after a referendum was organized not outside the boundaries of international law, but in careful cooperation with the United Nations and with Kosovo’s neighbours,” was bizarrely untruthful — but was clear indication that he approves of UN-supervised independence plebiscites in territories whose citizens indicate that they wish to alter their circumstances of governance.
Given the practicalities of his admirable moral stance it is obvious that in order to clarify matters to his satisfaction he should propose another referendum in Crimea.
NATO’s desire to build up its missile defenses despite Monday’s breakthrough deal with Iran means that the entire idea of the US missile shield in Europe is based on lies, Alexei Pushkov, the head of the State Duma’s foreign affairs committee, said on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Iran and six leading world powers signed a comprehensive plan for ending international sanctions against Iran in exchange for putting restrictions on its nuclear program.
Commenting on the breakthrough agreement clinched in the Austrian capital, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that during a 2009 speech in Prague US President Barack Obama said that if such an agreement were signed the proposed US missile shield in Europe would lose its relevance.
Still, an unnamed NATO representative told the media on Tuesday that despite the agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program the missile threat to NATO remained, adding that the alliance’s missile defense program had in mind “all types of threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic region.”
“The entire strategy of the proposed US missile shield in Europe is based on lies,” Alexei Pushkov said in comments aired by Rossiya-24 TV on Tuesday.
“First, they talked about the missile threat from Iran, even though Tehran had neither missiles nor reasons for such an attack. Then they talked about the imaginary threat posed by North Korea, which is on the other side of the globe. And now they are talking about some 30 countries which are allegedly threatening to fire missiles on Europe. When asked to name at least a dozen such states, they tell us that this is classified information,” Pushkov added.
“NATO officials come out here as plain hypocrites and liars, because their proposed missile shield is actually aimed against Russia’s nuclear deterrence. Hating to admit this, they resort to outright lies,” Alexei Pushkov said in conclusion.
On Tuesday, following months of talks, Iran and the P5+1 group, comprising Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and China, reached a final agreement aimed at guaranteeing the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) acknowledges Iran’s right for peaceful nuclear development on par with any other signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Who shot down MH-17? Somebody knows
Once upon a time CIA Stations overseas received what was referred to as an “Operating Directive” which prioritized intelligence targets for the upcoming year based on their importance vis-à-vis national security. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, penetrating Moscow and preventing the KGB’s repaying the favor in kind loomed large as Russia and its allies represented the only genuine threat that could in fact destroy much of the United States. Today’s Russia retains much of that military capability but somehow the perception that you have to deal with what is important first has been lost on our policymakers, possibly due to a false impression inside the beltway that Moscow no longer matters.
A working relationship with Moscow that seeks to mitigate potential areas of conflict is not just important, it is essential. Russian willingness to cooperate with the west in key areas to include the Middle East is highly desirable in and of itself but the bottom line continues to be Moscow’s capability to go nuclear against Washington if it is backed into a corner. Unfortunately, U.S. administrations since Bill Clinton have done their best to do just that, placing Russia on the defensive by encroaching on its legitimate sphere of influence through the expansion of NATO. Washington’s meddling has also led to interfering in Russia’s domestic politics as part of a misguided policy of “democracy building” as well as second guessing its judiciary and imposing sanctions through the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012. The damage to relations has been aggravated by the ill-advised commentary from American politicians on the make, including Senator John McCain’s dismissal of Russia as “a gas station masquerading as a country.”
One should legitimately be concerned over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inflicting damage on his country’s fledgling democracy through fraud, corruption, media clampdowns and exploitation of a malleable legal system. One might also object to exactly how Russia asserted its interests using force against neighboring states Georgia and Ukraine. But that does not change the bottom line, which continues to be that functional relations between Moscow and Washington are a sine qua non. Russia’s domestic politics are none of our business and the alleged grievances of Georgia and Ukraine are undeniably a lot less purely attributable to Russian actions than the White House and Congress would have us believe, with U.S. interference in both countries clearly a major contributing factor to the resulting instability.
Assuming that one accepts that lessening bilateral tension over the Ukraine is a desirable objective, the White House might soon have a good opportunity to demonstrate that it is willing to deal fairly with the Russian leadership in Moscow. The Dutch Government’s Safety Board will in October make public its long awaited report detailing its assessment of last year’s downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17 over Ukraine. The investigation was conducted with the cooperation of the Ukrainian and Malaysian authorities, but did not include a thorough survey of the crash site, which was and still is considered too dangerous. According to leaks of its conclusions, the report will admit that there is no conclusive evidence regarding who is responsible for the shoot down but it will nevertheless make a circumstantial case that the pro-Russian separatists are the most likely suspects in spite of the fact that there is no hard technical or intelligence related evidence supporting that judgment. Blaming the separatists will, by implication, also blame Moscow.
At this point, the United States, which together with other interested parties has been reviewing a copy of the report in draft, does not intend to present its own findings but will instead go along with the Dutch conclusions. Among former intelligence, military and Foreign Service officers there has been considerable discussion of the significance of Washington’s standing on the sidelines regarding the findings. To be sure, there are a number of rumors and allegations circulating relating to what is actually known or not know about the shoot down.
According to some sources, the U.S. intelligence community disagrees over the likelihood of the alleged Russian role and has suggested as much privately to the Dutch. Some analysts who have looked at all the considerable body of information that has been collected relating to the downing actually believe that the most likely candidate might well be the then governor of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast Ihor Kolomoisky, an oligarch billionaire who is an Israeli-Ukrainian dual national. Kolomoisky is known to employ Israeli mercenaries as advisers and has personally organized and paid for militias fighting the Russian separatists. He would have been strongly motivated to create an incident that could plausibly be blamed on the Russians or their surrogates and he had the means to do so. The government in Kiev acting independently also had the resources and motive to shoot down the plane and blame it on Moscow.
The dominant narrative that is still circulating widely suggests that either a direct or enabling Russian role is a given based on the claimed origin of the Buk missile, technical analysis of the plume and trajectory, and the military units that were known to be in place or moving at the time. And there was also the apparent separatist bragging on communications intercepts about shooting down a transport plane. This was the explanation that surfaced shortly after the downing, that was heavily promoted by the Ukrainian government and the media and that has been much favored by the international punditry ever since.
The third option of how to explain the shoot down is, of course, the Dutch approach: we think it was the Russians but we can’t prove it. That is an easy choice to make as it really says nothing, which is possibly why it is being favored by the White House.
But if it is actually true that there has been considerable dissent on the findings, the tacit acceptance of a possibly unreliable and essentially unsustainable report by the White House will have significant impact on relations with Russia. It constitutes a disturbing rejection of possibly accurate intelligence analysis in favor of a politically safe alternative explanation. It recalls the politicization of intelligence that included Robert Gates’ Soviet assessments of the 1980s, John McLaughlin’s tergiversation regarding Iraq, and, most recently, Michael Morell’s over the top hyping of the threat posed by political Islam. It is a return to a Manichean view of the world as “them” and “us” with the implication that intelligence professionals are willing to restrain their dissent on an important issue if it serves to advance the current war of words with Russia.
To be sure, deep sixing intelligence assessments that contradict policies that the White House is intent on pursuing anyway buys congenial access to the President and his advisers but it comes at the cost of diminishing the ability of the intelligence community to provide objective and reliable information in a timely fashion, which is at least in theory why it exists at all. Producing honest intelligence will, on the contrary, strengthen both the reputations and credibility of all involved.
If Russia is indeed to blame for the airplane shoot down it should be held accountable, but it is up to the U.S. government to put its cards on the table and be clear about what it does and does not know. The original claims that Russia was involved were based on snap judgments based on bits of information that had been obtained immediately after the event, little of which has been subsequently corroborated through either satellite imagery or electronic and signal intercepts. Since that time the German BND intelligence service has expressed its doubts that the missile used in the shoot down could have been supplied by Russia and has also claimed that photos provided by the Ukrainian government as part of the investigation had been “doctored.” There have also been reports regarding a Ukrainian fighter plane being in the area of the airliner as well as the nearby presence of Ukrainian ground to air missile units. Reported conversations among separatist claiming credit were eventually determined to be composite fakes produced by the Ukrainian intelligence services. Presumably U.S. intelligence has also taken a long and hard look at all the evidence or lack thereof but it is being quiet regarding what it has determined.
It is important to get this right because the potential damage goes far beyond the role of intelligence or even who might have been responsible for the downing of an airliner one year ago. As the relationship with Russia is of critical importance and should be regarded as the number one national security issue for the United States, it is essential that the Dutch conclusions be aggressively challenged if there is even the slightest possibility that Russia is blameless.
One does not have to be a fan of Vladimir Putin to appreciate that the nearly continuous efforts being promoted within mostly neoconservative circles to both delegitimize and confront him and his regime do not serve any conceivable American national interest. In an Independence Day phone call to President Obama, President Putin called for a working relationship with the United States based on “equality and respect,” which should, under the circumstances, be a given. Americans have been lied into intervention and war more than once over the past fifteen years and it should be clear to all that any contrived crisis based on an erroneous conclusion regarding a shot down airliner that develops into an armed conflict with Russia will have unimaginable consequences. A skeptical American public and international community must demand that any MH-17 report should reflect a full assessment, to include any dissent from its conclusions registered by the United States intelligence community. Any information at variance with the conventional view, particularly anything that suggests that there might be other interested parties who had both the means and compelling interest to shoot down a civilian airliner, must become a part of the discussion.
Russia has blasted remarks by US Air Force Secretary Deborah James who described Moscow as “the biggest threat to US security,” voicing concern over Washington’s attempts to create an “artificial atmosphere of hostility.”
“As far as the statements from Washington are concerned, we have already got used to the fact that the [US] Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Air Force secretary regularly make statements that usually come from politicians,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday.
The top Russian diplomat further expressed serious concern over US attempts to create “an artificial atmosphere of hostility,” adding that such claims have in fact nothing to do with Moscow’s conduct in reality.
On Wednesday, James was cited in press reports as saying that Russia is “the biggest threat to US Security,” calling on Washington’s NATO allies to spend two percent of their gross domestic products (GDP) on military buildup in a bid to counter Russian actions.
The comments came amid continued high tensions between Russia and the US-led Western military alliance of NATO over the crisis in Ukraine. The West accuses Moscow of having a role in the chaos in Ukraine’s east, but Moscow denies the allegation.
Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov criticized as “confrontational” the anti-Russian provisions of the so-called National Military Strategy of the United States released on July 1.
The Russian official vowed that the Kremlin would adopt countermeasures in the country’s respective military doctrine.
Last month, Russian Army General Yury Yakubov, a coordinator from the general inspectors directorate at the Russian Defense Ministry, said potential US military buildup near Russia’s borders may force the Russian military to respond in kind by reinforcing its frontier presence.
Yakubov made the comments after the New York Times reported on June 14 that the Pentagon was ready to store heavy military equipment in East Europe to face a possible “Russian aggression” in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine.
Later this month the outcome is expected of the completely unjust and incompetent show trials held in Libya over the last year or so of around 200 former officials of the Libyan Jamahiriya. If that outcome is reported at all in North American and European media, its real meaning will be completely hidden in self-serving apologetics for NATO’s destruction of Libya in 2011.
The same psy-warfare framework that justified NATO’s campaign of terrorist aggression will falsely present the show trials’ outcome as rough justice dealt out to individuals who deserve no better.
That outcome should put on high alert anyone defending the countries of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas against very similar psychological warfare and terrorist subversion supported by NATO governments of the US and its allies. Not for nothing did Hugo Chávez and Daniel Ortega speak out in defense of Muammar al Gaddhafi and Libya against NATO’s terrorist war. They had already learned long ago the very same lessons to have emerged more recently from the utterly depressing human, moral and political catastrophe of Libya’s destruction.
In 2013, a study by a distinguished Harvard University academic acknowledged that the failure in Libya of the US government’s ostensible avowed policy in Libya and in North and West Africa was based on serial falsehoods. That fact-based, acerbic policy criticism from a source generally supportive of US government foreign policy should give much pause for thought. Along with support for Libya from outstanding revolutionary leaders like Ortega, Chavez and Nelson Mandela it amounts to a categorical indictment of received Western opinion about Libya which, across virtually the entire Western political spectrum, sided either openly or indirectly with NATO’s 2011 war.
No one genuinely concerned to defend progress towards an equitable, peaceful multi-polar world based on mutual respect between sovereign, autonomous nations and peoples should underestimate or forget the horror of what NATO did to Libya. Tens of thousands were killed and wounded in attacks by the bombers and helicopters of many NATO countries. Millions were displaced or forced into exile. Cities like Sirte and Bani Walid were devastated. Schools, universities, hospitals, factories producing food products and other essential civilian infrastructure were targeted and severely damaged or destroyed.
The destruction of Libya marked the categorical abandonment of whatever vestigial moral authority may still have remained to the European Union and its member governments.
It demonstrated in the most humiliating way the impotence and irrelevance of the African Union.
It put hard questions about the anti-imperialism of the Iranian and Syrian governments as well as highlighting the race supremacism of the governments of the Arab League and the already damaged integrity of the Palestinian authorities.
Almost all of them quickly recognized the overtly racist renegade Libyan CNT junta. For their part, the then governments of Russia and China weakly accepted NATO country assurances about the defensive nature of the air exclusion zone.
The only governments to emerge with any real credit from the destruction of Libya were the governments of the ALBA countries and a few African governments like Zimbabwe.
Countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador have all been victims of comprehensive disinformation campaigns of demonization and caricature, although perhaps not so extreme as the final campaign against Libya’s Jamahiriya and Muammar al Gaddhafi.
It is worth considering the basic component of that disinformation war against Libya. What is sometimes called 4th generation warfare is as old as warfare itself. Like Athens versus Sparta, or Rome versus Carthage the fundamental objective of NATO governments and their allies is to make their chosen target seem Other, creating a despised, outcast doppelganger anti-image of the West’s own phony self-image.
So Libya’s Jamahiriya was tagged as undemocratic by hypocritical Western governments, most of whom came to power with around just 20% to 25% of the vote of their electorates, thanks overwhelmingly to elite corporate funding. Libya’s democratic process was one that recognized its society’s contradictions and attempted continual self-renewal.
By contrast, the Western corporate oligarchies offer virtually meaningless periodic elections obfuscated by public relations and organized on a yes-or-yes basis to favor politicians groomed and bankrolled by their countries’ anti-democratic elites. Muammar al Ghaddafi was labeled a dictator even though his policy initiatives were not infrequently rejected within Libya’s system of popular congresses.
In 2009, during a policy conflict between Muammar al Gaddhafi and pro-Western so-called reformers, these could not get their way in Libya’s popular assemblies so they chose staging a violent putsch to achieve the regime change their Western government backers wanted. Venezuela’s experience has been almost identical, although, to date, the country has avoided the kind of coup d’état and subsequent NATO driven war that destroyed Libya Libya was portrayed as a systematic human rights violator.
But Libya’s response to the constant terrorist attacks and subversion it suffered from the very start of its Revolution in 1969 was no different to that of any Western government faced with a similar threat. The British government tortured and murdered alleged subversives all through the Irish war, colluding with sectarian paramilitary death squads. The same pattern of torture and extrajudicial murder also consistently marked the Spanish authorities’ campaign against Basque separatists. Guantanamo’s torture camp symbolizes the brutality and illegality of the US government’s response to terrorist threats.
Libya’s Jamahiriya probably conformed as closely to international human rights norms in relation to fighting terrorism as the three Western governments that led NATO’s war of destruction. Human rights protection in Libya was certainly superior to Western allies like Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar or the other quasi-feudal Gulf State tyrannies.
All the pretexts for the Western assault on Libya’s legitimate government were completely bogus. In any case, as Gerald Perreira points out, the fundamental objective achieved by the destruction of Libya was to shut down the decisive impetus towards African integration led by Muammar al Gaddhafi.
CNT leaders like Mustafa Abdul Jalil were Arab supremacists who fiercely resisted the Pan-African policies advocated by Muammar al Gaddhafi. Arab supremacism, phony neoliberal reformism and the treachery of repressive human rights abusers like Mahmoud Jibril made a lethal reactionary cocktail perfectly suited to ruthless NATO government manipulation. On cue, Western corporate and alternative media presented the corrupt political project of these viciously reactionary elements as a “revolution”, part of the absurdly hyped “Arab Spring”. As if NATO country governments, dedicated to the service of their countries’ corporate elites, have ever promoted genuine democracy or comprehensive human rights around the world.
From Ukraine and Greece, to Yemen and Syria, to Haiti and Honduras, what the Western powers and their allies want is access to natural resources, control of strategically important territories and decisive advantages for their trade and finance. Destroying Libya effectively removed a real threat to Western control and domination in Africa.
Currently, the NATO country elites’ political sales staff, for the moment President Obama, Prime Minister Cameron, President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel, are battering Greece into submission. But those leaders and their allies are using economic and psychological warfare to attack many other targets, not just Greece. They do so against Venezuela and other stubbornly independent countries around the world.
That is why the leaders of Argentina, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela very publicly welcomed the No vote in the Greek referendum. Unlike Libya, in their different regions Syria and Venezuela are part of regional alliances backed at long last by firm leaders in Russia and China, strong enough to face down any likely economic or military threat from the United States and its allies.
But it would be a mistake to forget Libya. Defending the people of Libya represents an important self-defense measure against Western predators in their global psychological warfare assault on the free, anti-imperialist world.
As a leading force in that free world, ALBA country governments should urgently consider challenging the governments of North America and Europe to protect the thousands of political prisoners in Libya who have been tortured and denied due process.
The ALBA country governments and their allies have infinitely more moral and political authority than Western leaders to speak out in defense of fundamental human rights. They should make outspoken use of that authority now to expose the sadism and hypocrisy of Western governments in Libya, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.
In Libya, they may perhaps yet help to save the lives of as many as 200 former officials of the Libyan Jamahiriya at risk from quasi-judicial murder by the West’s corrupt terrorist proxies in a country they have devastated with merciless cynicism.
A multinational NATO military training “Agile Spirit 2015” has officially started in Georgia, uniting military personnel from six countries. It comes amid Russia’s mounting concerns over NATO’s military buildup in the region.
The US, Bulgarian, Romanian, Lithuanian and Latvian military will accompany Georgia’s Battalion 42 in the two-week-long military exercises that officially started on Wednesday, RIA-Novosti reported.
The annual joint training, that first started in 2011, this year involves 220 US Marine Corps servicemen. It is to take place at the Vaziani military base, located some 25 kilometers away from Tbilisi. Vaziani is a former Soviet and Russian air force base until Russian forces withdrew in 2001 under a European conventional arms reduction agreement.
The exercise follows the line of the Wales summit in September 2014, where the alliance agreed upon founding a NATO-Georgia Joint Training and Evaluation Center within the framework of the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package, introduced back then by allied leaders.
In an opening speech on Wednesday, major-General Kapanadze said that “Georgian soldiers took part in many international operations and are continuing to contribute to global peace alongside our partners,” Agenda website reported.
“Our cooperation is more than just a partnership – it is brotherhood of arms,” Kapanadze added.
“These military exercises in Georgia – a country that launched an unprovoked attack on South Ossetia in 2008,which led to the death of 12 Russian peacekeepers and a brief military conflict between Georgia and Russia – are the latest in a series of alarming moves by NATO that underscore the organization’s threatening stance towards Russia,” journalist Robert Bridge told RT.
The Russian Foreign ministry has long been criticizing the military buildup in the neighboring states, which goes “under the false pretext of alleged ‘aggressive behavior’ by our country” and is accompanied by “unfriendly and malicious” rhetoric.
“We are not threatening anyone and we seek to resolve all conflict situations through political means, with respect towards the international law and other nations’ interests,” President Putin said in June, underlying though that Russia needs strong, modern and adequately armed military force to face the challenges “that we cannot ignore”.
Georgia, an active contributor to alliance’s operations, has long planned to join NATO. In 1994, the former Soviet republic joined the Partnership for Peace program. After the “Rose Revolution” in 2003, the bilateral cooperation only “deepened”, according to a NATO statement.
“I don’t think there is any realistic chance of Georgia joining NATO in the coming years. In fact, it is more likely that Georgia will increasingly thaw relations with Moscow, for economic reasons, as the penny drops in Tbilisi that the West was good at false promises, but not delivering actual help,” journalist Bryan MacDonald told RT.
In August 2008, a brief military conflict between Russia and Georgia broke out, after Tbilisi launched a large-scale military offensive against South Ossetia prompting Moscow’s peace enforcement operation. It ended up in Russian official recognition of the two former Georgian autonomous republics as independent states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The specialists from the Russian International Affairs Council headed by the former foreign minister Igor Ivanov described three scenarios for the Donbass: confrontation, freeze, or continuing the peace process. How likely are they?
Life itself forces one to make forecasts. It’s clear that the unrecognized republics with a population of five million won’t be able to exist for long in the current suspended state. On the one hand there is a ceasefire, but the shelling of cities continues. Kiev continues to view Donbass as its territory, but doesn’t transfer money and fences it off with barbed wire. Poroshenko claims to adhere to the Minsk Agreements, but is against the constitutional reforms they require…
The first scenario is confrontation. The Council experts are of the opinion that full-scale combat operations can’t be ruled out. Kiev might decide to launch a new offensive with US support. Then the Donbass would suffer the fate of Serb Krajina which Croatia reconquered by force in 1995. It’s also possible that we’ll see the repetition of the events of August 2008 in South Ossetia. Russia was then forced to intervene militarily and then recognize the territory’s independence.
The second scenario is a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Analysts believe this is the least likely scenario. It would require the removal of anti-Russian sanctions and West’s recognition of Crimea’s unification with Russia.
The most likely is the third scenario–freezing the conflict. Ukraine doesn’t have the necessary resources to score a military victory, while Russia is not ready to acknowledge their independence. World powers will continue to exchange military warnings but there will be no heavy loss of life…
–Donbass’ return to Ukraine is hardly possible. Especially considering how Kiev views its inhabitants. Kiev wants to “integrate” Donbass using artillery–says the Moscow State University Center for Ukrainian and Belorussian Studies Director Bogdan Bezpalko–Donbass integration with Ukraine would only be possible in the event of its military defeat which might occur should the conflict escalate.
In actuality, the fate of Donbass depends mainly on major world players: US, EU, Russia. They can influence Ukraine’s elite and its relationship with Donbass.
The situation may develop in several ways. The majority of them are unfavorable. Both for Donbass, Ukraine, Russia, and even the West. Modeling the situation depends on the nature of relations between Russia and the West. Therefore the scenarios may change from quarter to quarter. Or even more frequently.
Svobodnaya Pressa (SP): Are DPR and LPR viable?
–Yes, but only as long as Russia helps them. They are of limited viability as independent states. Incidentally, they never aspired to an independent geopolitical role. DPR and LPR are states which depend on Russia’s support. Just as South Ossetia and Abkhazia did earlier, whose official recognition by Moscow was of considerable help.
SP: Can the republics share the fate of Serb Krajina?
–It all depends on Russia’s position. If Russia helps LPR/DPR, including through military assistance, that scenario is out of the question. One has to keep in mind Ukraine would have to expend considerable resources to break Donbass resistance. Moreover, Krajina did not enjoy the support by either Serbia or by Republika Srpska, which was the Serb state in Bosnia. Abandoned to its fate, the Krajina became easy prey for the Croat army which was well trained by the US. But if DPR and LPR have Russia’s support, retain control over the border with Russia, it won’t share Krajina’s fate. Moreover, Donbass republics have their own record of success against the UAF. The Ilovaysk and Debaltsevo “cauldrons” showed how effective LPR and DPR armies are.
SP: How justified are the hopes that the Ukrainian state will soon collapse?
–Ukraine is descending into a state of socio-economic collapse. This is what makes it different from Croatia, a country with a small population which received powerful financial support from the West. Ukraine has a population of 40 million which is rapidly aging. Industry is degrading. Ukraine is a country on the brink of an abyss. It simply won’t have the resources for military operations. I’d like to remind that the Croatian operation Storm against Krajina took only a few days, but after a lengthy preparation. Therefore even though the operation was costly, its effects were perceptible. Ukraine, on the other hand, is conducting its ATO, it’s spending a lot of money, it’s in the midst of the sixth wave of mobilization. Donbass, which has nothing left to lose, may soon turn out the winner. If it establishes cooperation with Russia, restores control over the port of Mariupol, it will be able to restore its economy and social well-being. DPR and LPR would turn out to be more successful as states than Ukraine.
I want to note that Ukraine’s problems are not due to a bad starting position in economy, culture, human resources. Ukraine in 1991 had colossal resources which were squandered in the most incompetent fashion, which were stolen after independence. This shows how Ukraine’s leaders view its sovereignty. Ordinary people haven’t gained anything out of independence other than impoverishment, depopulation, and aggressive nationalism.
–The current peace plan, based on Minsk Agreements, is unviable–says Geopolitical Problems Academy Vice President Konstantin Sokolov–The agreements pertain only to the separate parts of LPR and DPR and only regulate the relationship along the frontline. What is more, Kiev is actively torpedoing the agreements. Therefore the conflict can only be resolved through an armed clash. What form will it take? Kiev planned an offensive for May, but it was thwarted. Ukraine today is the center of attention of US, EU, and Russian foreign policy. It’s clear that the offensive would encounter political resistance by BRICS and Shanghai Organization countries.
Right now Ukraine is in a state of unstable balance. There are large groups of foreign mercenaries in the country. But will Kiev decide on a major attack? I think that will become clear by the end of summer.
In my view, the West is coming around to the idea of blaming all the crimes on Poroshenko’s team. It could be replaced by other people.
The state of balance will continue for some time. But ultimately the situation will resolve itself through a social explosion in Ukraine. The country is almost bankrupt and the inconveniences of the war are growing more acute. A group of senior military officers recently defected to the republics. It means that the Kiev regime is losing control even over its means of violence.
SP: But Ukraine is continuing to exist, in spite of the dire forecasts.
–Up to 2004, up to the first “orange revolution”, Ukraine compared well to other post-Soviet republics. Now its living conditions are falling to a level which for some might be below the threshold of survival. If earlier one could have patience, today it’s impossible.
The default could be used by the West to change the country’s leadership.
SP: How will the situation unfold?
–The most likely outcome is Ukraine’s break-up into parts. There are forces in the West interested in seeing it happen. In general, the West’s strategy revolves around breaking up countries. We’ve seen it in Yugoslavia, Libya, Syria. But I wouldn’t draw analogies between Donbass and Krajina or South Ossetia. Donbass is a big region, therefore it’s of greater significance. One also mustn’t forget Russia cannot stand aside in this conflict. I believe that ultimately the West’s strategy will suffer a defeat. National forces in Russia and Ukraine always rise up when the situation is on the brink. Ukraine is the trigger that will change the global strategic situation.
–In order to make forecasts, one first need to examine the present–says Novorossia State-Building Committee Chairman Vladimir Rogov–Poroshenko introduced legislation proposing not decentralization, but legalizing the unfolding lawlessness. The president would get the authority to fire elected officials, which he currently doesn’t have.
On the other hand, we see growing conflicts within the ruling Ukrainian elite. The US are preparing Lvov mayor Sadovyy and former SBU head Nalivaichenko as Poroshenko’s replacements. If Sadovyy comes to power, Ukraine will get a “soft”, Baltic, version of nationalism. If Nalivaichenko, Ukraine will become a “euro-ISIS.”
The new head of the SBU is Vasiliy Gritsak who’s devoted to Poroshenko but utterly incompetent. It’s enough to recall his contribution to the Ilovaysk disaster! Poroshenko is trying to place loyal individuals in key positions. And those who have nowhere to run.
Nevertheless, the “main rat” of Ukraine’s politics Yuriy Lutsenko submitted his resignation from the Poroshenko Block chairman in the Rada. We remember that Lutsenko changed his party affiliation more than once. He always left this or that part on the event of its loss of influence.
SP: Can the Donbass wait long enough to see Ukraine collapse?
–We must wait until the Kiev elite falls apart. There is no doubt that Odessa, Kharkov, Zaporozhye, Lvov, will see the founding of their own people’s republics. Donbass simply needs to get stronger, restore its economy, and push the front line far enough so that the UAF can’t shell its big cities. Soon the people in Kiev and Lvov will be able to free their lands from the current authorities.
SP: What influence do world powers have on the situation in the Donbass?
–We are entering the phase of direct interaction between the major international players: Russia and US. But the most important thing is that DPR and LPR model is more attractive than Ukraine. People’s republics have far lower utility rates. People in Ukraine will gradually realize that the Donbass has a more just state than they do.
*Translated from Russian by J.Hawk
U.S. Central Command’s latest figures on its aerial bombardment of Iraq and Syria reveal that this is the heaviest U.S. bombing campaign since President George W. Bush’s “Shock and Awe” campaign against Iraq in 2003. In the campaign’s first ten months from August 2014 to May 2015, the U.S. and its allies conducted 15,245 air strikes, or an average of 51 air strikes per day.
This is only the latest campaign in a 15-year global air war, largely ignored by U.S. media, in which the United States and its allies have conducted at least 118,000 air strikes against other countries since 2000. The 47,000 air strikes conducted in the 6 ½ years since President Barack Obama took office are only a small reduction from the 70,000 in eight years of the Bush administration, and the current campaign will easily make up that deficit if it continues at this intensity until Obama leaves office.
Afghanistan has been the most heavily bombed country, with at least 61,000 air strikes since 2001. That includes 24,000 bombs and missiles in the first year of the war and a relentless bombing campaign that struck Afghanistan with another 29,000 bombs and missiles between 2007 and 2012, a slow motion version of “Shock and Awe.” That was an average of 13 air strikes per day for six full years, two years under Bush and four under Obama. The heaviest bombardment was in October 2010, with 1,043 air strikes that month, but that total is now eclipsed every month by the new campaign in Iraq and Syria.
Iraq had already suffered about 34,000 air strikes since 2000 before the latest campaign began. There were at least 800 air strikes in the “No Fly Zone” bombing campaign to destroy Iraq’s air defenses between 2000 and 2002; 29,200 air strikes in “Shock and Awe” in 2003, a campaign whose planners compared it to a nuclear attack; and another 3,900 during the U.S. occupation, peaking with 400 strikes in January 2008 as remaining centers of armed resistance were obliterated by air strikes, Spectre gunships and heavy artillery in the climax of the “Surge.”
But until the new campaign in Iraq and Syria, the seven-month NATO-Gulf Cooperation Council bombing of Libya was the heaviest bombardment since “Shock and Awe”, with 7,700 air strikes in seven months, or 36 air strikes per day. NATO and its Arab monarchist allies plunged Libya into intractable chaos and violence, exposing “regime change” as a euphemism for “regime destruction.”
NATO’s destruction of Libya spurred Russia to finally draw the line on its 20-year acquiescence to Western aggression and military expansion. Since then, the U.S. and its allies have persisted in their “regime destruction” policy in Syria and Ukraine, threatening strategically important Russian naval bases in Tartus and Sevastopol, what has evolved from an asymmetric war on a series of relatively defenseless countries into full-blown 1950s-era nuclear brinksmanship.
None of these figures include Israeli air strikes against Palestine, the current Saudi-led bombing of Yemen, or French operations in West Africa, as I haven’t found comparable figures for those campaigns, but they must add many thousand more air strikes to the real total.
Keeping the People in the Dark
In a recent article, Gareth Porter reported that the Pentagon is seriously opposed to putting more “boots on the ground” in Iraq or Syria, but that the generals and admirals are prepared to keep bombing them more or less indefinitely as the political path of least resistance for themselves and the White House. This may indeed be the “safe” course for a politically-driven administration and a Pentagon that is always thinking of its public image and its future funding.
But it depends on keeping the public in the dark about several critical aspects of this policy. First, there is little public resistance to this policy mainly because few Americans know that it’s happening, let alone understand the full scale of the bloodshed and devastation perpetrated in our names for the past 15 years.
The second thing the Pentagon doesn’t want you to think about is the deceptive role of “precision” weapons in U.S. propaganda. Considering how accurate these weapons really are in relation to the huge numbers of them raining down on country after country, it is not surprising that they have killed or wounded millions of civilians and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and civilian infrastructure, as we see in photographs and video of the ruins of Fallujah, Sirte or Kobani.
A direct hit with a single 500- or 1,000-pound bomb will cause death, injury and destruction up to hundreds of feet from its point of impact, so even accurate air strikes inevitably kill and maim civilians and destroy their homes. But whatever proportion of these 118,000 bombs and missiles have actually missed their targets have wreaked completely indiscriminate death, injury and destruction.
Rob Hewson, the editor of Jane’s Air Launched Weapons, estimated that 20 to 25 percent of the “precision” weapons used in “Shock and Awe” in 2003 missed their targets. Another one third of the bombs and missiles used in “Shock and Awe” were not “precision” weapons to begin with.
Even the Pentagon has not claimed a quantum leap in its “precision” weapons technology since 2003, so it is likely that at least 15 percent are still missing their targets, adding daily to a massive and mounting toll on innocent civilians.
As Hewson told the Associated Press in 2003, “In a war that’s being fought for the benefit of the Iraqi people, you can’t afford to kill any of them. But you can’t drop bombs and not kill people. There’s a real dichotomy in all of this.”
Body Count, a recent report published by Physicians for Social Responsibility, confirmed previous estimates of well over a million people killed in America’s wars since 2000. This and previous studies document the horrific results of what Hewson and other experts understand only too well, that “you can’t drop (100,000) bombs and not kill (hundreds of thousands of) people.”
Another element in the Pentagon’s shaky propaganda house of cards is its effort to obscure what bombs and missiles actually do to their victims. Americans watch the Islamic State beheading videos on TV or YouTube but we never see videos of people decapitated or children dismembered by the bombs our taxes are paying for. But our bombs behead people too.
Apologists claim that U.S. bombing is morally superior to the “terrorism” of America’s enemies, because the U.S. killing and beheading of civilians is “unintentional” rather than “deliberate.” The late Howard Zinn, a former U.S. Air Force bombardier and later a history professor, responded to this claim in a letter to the New York Times in 2007:
“These words are misleading because they assume that an action is either ‘deliberate’ or ‘’unintentional.’ There is something in between, for which the word is ‘inevitable.’ If you engage in an action, like aerial bombing, in which you cannot possibly distinguish between combatants and civilians (as a former Air Force bombardier, I will attest to that), the deaths of civilians are inevitable, even if not ‘intentional.’
“Does that difference exonerate you morally? The terrorism of the suicide bomber and the terrorism of aerial bombardment are indeed morally equivalent. To say otherwise (as either side might) is to give one moral superiority over the other, and thus serve to perpetuate the horrors of our time.”
Millions of ‘Enemies’
In fact, U.S. armed forces are waging war on millions of people for whom becoming combatants in a war would be the last thing they would ever consider if we had not brought our war to their doorsteps. The Center for Civilians in Conflict recently interviewed hundreds of local people who have participated as combatants in conflicts in Bosnia, Libya, Gaza or Somalia. It found that their motivations were almost entirely defensive, to protect themselves, their families, their communities or their countries.
When military forces attack or invade a country, many ordinary people feel compelled to take up arms to defend themselves and their homes. When the forces that put them in this unbearable predicament in the first place treat their efforts to defend themselves as a legal “green light” to target them with force and call them “terrorists,” they are driven to join better organized armed resistance movements that offer them protection in numbers and an effective way to fight back.
The essential first step to breaking the escalating spiral of violence is to force the aggressors, in this case the United States and its allies, to cease their aggression, including their state sponsorship of armed groups or “terrorists” in the affected countries. Then legitimate diplomatic initiatives can begin the difficult work of resolving the complex political and humanitarian problems caused by U.S.-led aggression and beginning to restore peace and security.
In his 1994 masterpiece, Century of War, the late Gabriel Kolko documented that war was the catalyst for all the major political revolutions of the Twentieth Century. While the working people of the world have otherwise failed to “rise up” as Marx predicted, the one thing that has reliably driven them to do so is the horror of war.
The war that the United States is waging today is proving no different. Armed resistance is spreading throughout the affected countries, spawning new ideologies and movements that defy the conceptual frameworks and limited imagination of the U.S. officials whose actions gave birth to them.
U.S. leaders of all stripes, military or civilian, Democrat or Republican, still fail to grasp what Richard Barnet concluded in 1973 as he studied the U.S. defeat in Vietnam, “at the very moment the number one nation has perfected the science of killing, it has become an impractical instrument of political domination.”
The last 15 years of war have served to confirm Barnet’s conclusion. After 118,000 air strikes, millions of casualties, trillions of dollars squandered, and country after country plunged into chaos, the U.S. has failed to gain political control over any of them.
But our complacent leaders and their self-satisfied advisers blunder on, debating who to threaten or attack next: Russia? China? Iran? Which “threat” provides the best pretext for further U.S. military expansion?
As Gabriel Kolko observed, because of “inherent, even unavoidable institutional myopia, … options and decisions that are intrinsically dangerous and irrational become not merely plausible but the only form of reasoning about war and diplomacy that is possible in official circles.”
But U.S. war-making is not just dangerous and irrational. It is also a crime. The judges at Nuremberg defined aggression, attacking or invading other countries, as the “supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” The UN Charter goes one step further and prohibits the threat as well as the use of force.
Benjamin Ferencz, the only surviving member of the prosecution team at Nuremberg, is a fierce critic of illegal U.S. war-making. In response to U.S. war crimes in Vietnam, he dedicated the rest of his life to establishing an International Criminal Court (ICC) that could prosecute senior officials of any government who commit aggression and other war crimes.
Ferencz is hailed as the founding father of the ICC, but his vision of “Law Not War” remains unfulfilled as long as his own country, the United States, refuses to recognize the jurisdiction of either the ICC or the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
By rejecting the jurisdiction of international courts, the U.S. has carved out what Amnesty International has called an “accountability-free zone,” from which it can threaten, attack and invade other countries, torture prisoners, kill civilians and commit other war crimes with impunity.
U.S. government lawyers enjoy the privilege, unique in their profession, of issuing legally indefensible but politically creative legal cover for war crimes, secure in the knowledge that they will never be forced to defend their opinions before an impartial court.
Ben Ferencz very graciously wrote a preface to my book, Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq, and he spoke at an event with me and David Swanson in 2011, just before his 91st birthday. Ben talked about Nuremberg and the ICC, and he compared U.S. justifications for its “preemptive” illegal war-making to the defense offered by SS Gruppenfuhrer Otto Ohlendorf at Nuremberg.
As Ben explained, “That Ohlendorf argument was considered by three American judges at Nuremberg, and they sentenced him and twelve others to death by hanging. So it’s very disappointing to find that my government today is prepared to do something for which we hanged Germans as war criminals.”
If we do not hold American war criminals accountable for their crimes, and accept the jurisdiction of international courts to do so if we do not, how else can we serve notice on those who come after them that they must never do this again?
Argentina, Guatemala and other countries in Latin America are prosecuting and jailing mass murderers like Videla and Rios Montt who once took for granted that they could kill with impunity. America’s masters of war should not assume that we will fail to bring them to justice.
As for the collective responsibility we all share for the crimes committed by our country and our armed forces, we must be prepared to pay substantial war reparations to our millions of victims and the countries we have destroyed. We could start by paying the reparations ordered by the International Court of Justice when it convicted the United States of aggression against Nicaragua in 1986, and the $3.3 billion promised by President Nixon to repair at least some of the U.S. bomb damage in Vietnam.
These would be concrete steps to tell the rest of the world that the United States was finally ready to abandon its failed experiment in “the science of killing,” to be bound by the rule of law, and to start cooperating in good faith with the rest of humanity to solve our common problems.
Nicolas J S Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. He also wrote the chapters on “Obama at War” in Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.