White Helmets Phenom
Unknown to most people, the White Helmets brand was conceived and directed by a marketing company named “The Syria Campaign” based in New York. They have managed to fool millions of people. Walt Disney might have made a great movie about this: unarmed volunteers fearlessly rescuing survivors in the midst of war without regard to religion or politics. Like most other “true life” Disney movies, it is 10% reality, 90% fiction.
Due to its success, Western countries are dedicating ever larger amounts of funding. The White Helmets were the 17 October TIME magazine cover story. Nikolas Kristof at the NY Times has gushed over them for years. They recently won a 2016 Right Livelihood Award. Netflix has recently released a special ‘documentary’ movie about the White Helmets. With impeccable timing, the mainstream media acclaim reached a crescendo with both the UK Guardian and The Independent calling on the Nobel Committee to award this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to the White Helmets.
It’s not just establishment that has gushed over the White Helmets. CODEPINK recommended the Netflix movie and DemocracyNow! ran a puff piece interview with the infomercial directors. The Intercept published an uncritical promotion of the White Helmets and their dubious leader. (CODEPINK received a lot of criticism and later issued a correction.)
The Reality Behind the White Helmet Image
In contrast with the uncritical promotion of the White Helmets, there have been some investigations of their reality during the past 1.5 years. This timeline shows the early investigations. In April 2015 Dissident Voice published an expose of their actual creation and purpose. Since then there have been an increasing number of articles and videos revealing what is behind the ‘feel good’ veneer. Vanessa Beeley has produced numerous articles including documentation of the REAL Syrian Civil Defense which was founded six decades ago. She initiated an online Change.org petition which gathered 3.3 thousand signatures to NOT GIVE THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE to the WHITE HELMETS. That was twice as many signatures as the petition to GIVE the Nobel Prize to them. Apparently that fact upset someone influential because Change.org removed the petition without explanation. Did it violate “community standards”? You can judge for yourself because the petition is shown here.
Another online petition, also at CHANGE.ORG, is still up and running. It calls on the Right Livelihood Foundation to RETRACT their award to the White Helmets. The petition includes ten reasons they do not deserve the prize and are not what they are presented to be. They stole the name Syria Civil Defense from the real Syrian organization. They appropriated the name “White Helmets” from the Argentinian rescue organization Cascos Blancos/White Helmets. They are not independent; they are funded by governments. They are not apolitical; they actively campaign for a No Fly Zone. They do not work across Syria; they ONLY work in areas controlled by the armed opposition, mostly Nusa/Al Qaeda. They are not unarmed; they sometimes do carry weapons and they also celebrate terrorist victories. They assist in terrorist executions.
In recent weeks, information about the true nature of the White Helmets has been spreading. Max Blumenthal has a two part expose at Alternet: “How the White Helmets became International Heroes while Pushing US Intervention and Regime Change in Syria” and “Inside the Shadowy PR Firm that’s Lobbying for Regime Change in Syria” Scott Ritter has written an article which critically looks at the White Helmets’ “lionization”. Internationally, the Israeli TV station I24 ran a special report with the title “White Helmets: Heroes or Hoax?”, giving equal coverage to supporters and critics. Even The National out of United Arab Emirates has documented the controversy around the White Helmets.
Franklin Lamb Lashes Out at White Helmet Critics
Some supporters of the White Helmets have lashed back. The British military contractor who initially set up the organization has accused his critics of being ‘proxies’ for the Syrian and Russian governments. And in recent days, Franklin Lamb leaped to the defense of the White Helmets with an article titled “Political Defamation Campaign targets Rescue Workers in Syria.”
Lamb’s critique is almost as misleading as the group he defends. It appears he has not read many of the serious criticisms and exposes of the White Helmets. He does not provide references or sources so that a reader can compare his description with what critics actually said.
Lamb accuses critics of waging a “malicious campaign” against the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and International Committee of the Red Cross as well as the White Helmets. That is false. Here is what has been actually said: “Unlike a legitimate rescue organization such as the Red Cross or Red Crescent, the “White Helmets” only work in areas controlled by the armed opposition.” The online petition to RETRACT the Right Livelihood Award says “The NATO White Helmets actually undermine and detract from the work of authentic organizations such as the REAL Syria Civil Defense and Syrian Arab Red Crescent.”
Lamb echoes White Helmet propaganda by repeatedly referring to them as volunteers. But they are not. They are all paid — with the White Helmet media managers in Brooklyn New York, Gaziantep Turkey and Beirut Lebanon making sizable salaries. As to the on-the-ground ‘White Helmets’ based Nusra territory in Aleppo and Idlib, they are paid much more than full time Syrian soldiers for their part time real and staged rescue operations.
Lamb laments the fact that MSF (Medicins Sans Frontiers/Doctors without Borders) has been criticized. However, MSF has shown itself to be politically biased. The organization has no staff inside Syria yet continues to issue statements as if they had clear compelling evidence when it seems they do not. Recently MSF claimed that four hospitals in terrorist controlled sectors of East Aleppo had been bombed and two doctors injured. They do not identify the names or locations of the hospitals or the names of the doctors. The report is apparently based on hearsay.
Perhaps MSF does not identify the name or location of the hospitals because when they did report names and locations, such as with Al Quds Hospital in April 2016, it was found that their report was inconsistent and full of contradictions. MSF claimed “According to hospital staff on the ground, the hospital was destroyed by at least one airstrike which directly hit the building, reducing it to rubble.” Photographs from before and after the event showed this assertion to be untrue. The so called “Al Quds Hospital” was an unidentified largely vacant apartment building with sandbags at the ground floors. MSF’s bias is also shown by the fact they refuse to provide any services or support to the 90% of the Syrian population which is in government controlled areas. MSF has not responded to a previous open letter questioning their bias. Nor have they responded to invitations to visit government controlled Aleppo to evaluate the reality versus the claims of their allies in Nusra/Al Qaeda territory.
Lamb says “The White Helmets are being attacked with all sorts of unfounded accusations and conspiracy theories.” On the contrary, the evidence is overwhelming. White Helmets are funded by Western governments which want ‘regime change’. White Helmets pick up bodies after execution. White Helmets carry weapons and celebrate jihadi victories. White Helmets ONLY work in areas dominated by Nusra or an ally. White Helmets actively campaign for a No Fly Zone. These are not “conspiracy theories”; they are facts easily proven in the videos and articles about them.
Lamb says, “White Helmet rescuers are much like Syria’s population in general, including most of the 12 million refugees, who have come to abhor politics.” It is true that nearly all Syrians abhor the war that has been imposed on them. However, the vast majority of Syrians also hate the terrorists while most ‘White Helmets’ are allied with them. Lamb is also wrong on the refugee count. There are about 12 million internally displaced persons but the number of refugees is closer to 4 million. Two thirds of the internally displaced persons are living inside Syria in areas under government control.
The White Helmets were “branded” by a marketing company called The Syria Campaign which itself was “incubated” (their term) by a larger marketing company called Purpose. Along with managing the online and social media promotion of the White Helmets, the Syria Campaign has parallel efforts in support of “regime change” in Syria. One of these efforts has been to criticize United Nations and humanitarian relief organizations which supply aid to displaced persons living in areas protected by the Syrian government. This situation is documented in an editorial here where the author says: “The allegations made by the Syria Campaign and others were written by people who know nothing about the UN and how it must work.” Apparently unaware of the facts about The Syria Campaign, the outraged Franklin Lamb calls this “defamatory nonsense!”
Lamb echoes the White Helmet propaganda that they have saved “65,000 Syrian citizens, many being their neighbors, families and friends.” This is extreme exaggeration. The areas controlled by the terrorists have very few civilians living in them. A medical doctor visiting east Aleppo two years ago described it as a ‘ghost town’. When cat videos were popular on social media, the White Helmet video team produced their own fake cat video. It showed White Helmet members playing with stray cats in empty neighborhoods. They say, “The homeowners abandoned this district and its kittens.” Yes, most of the civilians abandoned it because the terrorists invaded it. In short, this number of rescues is an extreme exaggeration. The real number is probably just a few percent of that.
Lamb believes the critics of the White Helmets are ‘defaming” them. It’s almost laughable except it’s bitterly ironic. The REAL Syrian Civil Defense works on a shoestring budget with REAL volunteers without a video team accompanying and promoting them. Most in the West are unaware they even exist. The situation for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, which is a genuinely neutral and independent relief organization, is similar although they at least have a good website.
Lamb complains about “the massive use of pejorative language to smear rescue workers.” The reality, of course, is the precise opposite in the case of the “White Helmets.” There has been a flood of uncritical praise for this three year old organization created by the West and for goals of the West. On the contrary, they have not been sufficiently examined and exposed. Lamb’s heartfelt concern about the poor White Helmets being unfairly criticized is bizarre.
Franklin Lamb claims to have filed his article from Aleppo University Hospital. This is located in government protected Aleppo. Why does he make no reference to the victims of terrorist bombings, sniping and attacks who fill the Aleppo University Hospital? Why does he make no reference to the REAL Syrian Civil Defense which brought to the hospital many injured victims? In his closing, Franklin invites anyone interested to visit the White Helmets with him. Is he serious? Very few journalists or Western ‘observers’ have been in terrorist controlled Aleppo for years. Two of the last batch were James Foley and Stephen Sotloff, subsequently murdered by ISIS. Franklin needs to provide some evidence that he actually was in East Aleppo with the Nusra and the White Helmets. Otherwise one might question whether his conversations with White Helmet ‘volunteers’ were actually in Gaziantep Turkey.
The Controversy Continues
As the Syrian government and allies try to finally crush or expel the terrorists from Aleppo, the White Helmets have become a major tool in the West’s propaganda tool chest. The image of the White Helmets deflects attention from the sectarian violent and unpopular nature of Nusra and other armed opposition groups. This is used in parallel with accusations that Syrian and Russian attacks are primarily hitting civilians. Western media gives an image that there are only civilians and White Helmets under attack in east Aleppo; the terrorists have been whited out of the picture.
White Helmets have gone from being talked about to the ones doing the talking. News stories increasingly use White Helmet witnesses as their theme or source. One day CNN says a White Helmet aid center has been hit. Another day it is claimed that White Helmet individuals are being “hunted.” A White Helmet performs the role of journalist not first responder as he claims to be “eye witness” to Syrian barrel bombs destroying the humanitarian convoy and warehouse on September 19 in Orem al Kubra.
There are reasons to be suspicious. For example, in the case of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) convoy that was attacked in Orem al Kubra:
* This is the same town where the documentary “Saving Syria’s Children” was filmed. A detailed investigation has shown that sequences in that BBC movie were largely if not entirely staged.
* This town is controlled by the infamous Nour al Din al Zinki terrorist group which recently filmed itself beheading a young Palestinian Syrian boy.
* It is illogical that Syrian or Russian planes would attack a SARC convoy. They could have stopped the convoy when it was in government held territory. The Syrian government works together with SARC. Why would they attack the convoy?
* The one to ‘benefit’ from the atrocity is the US Coalition and those supporting the regime change project. The attack took attention away from the US killing of 70+ Syrian soldiers on September 17 and facilitated the resumption of accusations against Syria and Russia. More contradictions and inconsistencies regarding the White Helmet witness are pointed out in this incisive analysis.
* The Russian and Syrian governments called for an independent investigation of the attack site but this has not been done, presumably because the terrorists controlling the area have not allowed it.
With massive publicity, there is now greatly increased public awareness of the three year old White Helmets. Ironically SARC, which works with neutrality, have been largely ignored. And the original 60+ year old Syrian Civil Defense continues to work with absolutely no recognition in the West.
Are the White Helmets heroes or a politically motivated hoax? The time to investigate is now. It does little good to uncover falsehoods and manipulations years later. This is especially true because the people who created and uncritically promoted previous hoaxes such as Nayirah and the Kuwaiti incubators, Curveball and the Iraqi WMD have gone without penalty or punishment despite the enormous cost in lives and resources. The White Helmets should be seriously investigated lest they be used to promote more war in Syria.
Rick Sterling is a retired aerospace engineer who now does research/writing on international issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
B’Tselem’s Hard Hitting Testimony Lost in the Telling
Israeli rights advocate Hagai El-Ad spoke eloquently last week before the United Nations Security Council, appealing to the world body for action on the brutal occupation of Palestine, but according to The New York Times little of what this courageous activist said was fit to print: The real news was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s outraged response.
Thus we find a story on the speech appearing two days after the event under the headline “Settlement Debate Flares Again in Israel’s Quarrel With Rights Group.” The article by Isabel Kershner has much to say about Israeli government criticism of the human rights group B’Tselem, which documents and publicizes Israeli abuses in the West Bank and Gaza.
She says as little as possible, however, about El-Ad’s actual comments. Of his 2,000 word speech she quotes no more than two dozen: “Anything short of decisive action will achieve nothing but ushering in the second half of the first century of the occupation… [Living under occupation] mostly means invisible, bureaucratic, daily violence.”
The heart of the address is missing: El-Ad’s devastating deconstruction of the Israeli justice system as “a legal guise for organized state violence,” the daily indignities and suffering under Israeli military rule, the demolitions of homes, theft of land and water and the impunity surrounding trigger happy security forces.
His words become lost in the framing of this story, glossed over in the tit for tat between attackers and defenders of B’Tselem. Other media reports, however—in Israel and the United States—give readers more substantial excerpts from his address, and they also provide links to the actual speech, something the Times conveniently omits.
The Times also fails to say that amidst the turmoil over B’Tselem’s UN appearance, the U.S. State Department declared its gratitude to the organization for providing information on “fundamental issues that occur on the ground.” Times readers, however, are denied these same benefits.
El-Ad was not the only speaker to criticize Israel at a special session titled “The Settlements as the Obstacle to Peace and the Two-State Solution,” but he bore the brunt of the furious denunciations from Netanyahu and other government officials. He and his organization were also the focus of the Times story.
All this attention is a sign that El-Ad’s performance was a direct hit on Israeli efforts to whitewash their occupation. Much of the time B’Tselem’s reports and press releases, well-buttressed with detailed research, receive no mention either in the Times or in government circles. But now that El-Ad has managed to bring the group’s message to the highest international level, the backlash has been swift and harsh.
The Times has become a willing partner in this effort, working to distract readers from El-Ad’s eloquent appeal to the Security Council by framing the story as a two-sided debate between rival points of view.
Discerning readers will take notice, however, and realize that El-Ad’s speech is worth searching out in spite of the Times’ efforts to draw attention away from his actual words. They can find the text and a video of his address at the B’Tselem website—if they haven’t already found his performance posted on social media.
So it comes to this: Times readers need to read between the lines for clues to the reality deemed unfit to print, and then they must use their skills to search elsewhere for the story behind the words. This is not what we should expect from a newspaper like the Times, with pretenses to the highest standards of ethics and performance, but readers beware: Use this journalistic product with care and a hefty dose of skepticism.
Follow @TimesWarp on Twitter
This Sunday’s New York Times (NYT) article by Amy Chozicko, headlined “Issues in Hillary Clinton’s Past Leave Her Muted in Furor Over Donald Trump” (“Clinton Treads Lightly Amid Furor Over Trump” in the print edition) provides a fine example of how the mainstream press covers up Hillary Clinton’s problems, even when they claim to be reporting on them.
The article introduces itself as explaining Hillary’s “virtual silence” regarding the issues of Donald Trump’s piggish treatment of women—issues that she herself raised in this campaign. The article mentions, in the most non-specific way possible, that she’s an “imperfect messenger” for these issues because of her “missteps” in dealing with her own “husband’s history” of piggish behavior. It alludes to her “role in countering the women who accused him of sexual misconduct” as part of a “painful past” that “haunted Mrs. Clinton last Sunday” when Trump brought some of her husband’s accusers to the debate.
The article goes on at length to quote from Michelle Obama’s speech, to elucidate how Hillary slyly changes the subject to cat videos when asked, and to talk about how she struggles to overcome the electorate’s lingering resistance to a woman president. It mentions how, “without mentioning the accusations against Mr. Trump,” she says things like: “This election is incredibly painful. I take absolutely no satisfaction in what is happening on the other side with my opponent.”
What the article does not do is mention a single specific “misstep” or “imperfection” in the way she “countered” her husband’s “accusers” and verified mistresses. In an article of some 1300 words, there is not one that clearly describes any of the things that Hillary Clinton did and said in that regard—the precise things that cause Hillary to “tread lightly” about Donald Trump’s abusiveness, and cause her the discomfort the article purports to explain.
Despite what Ms. Chozicko does take many words to mention, what puts Hillary in a “complicated place” now is not that she “stayed as a devoted wife to her husband through infidelities and humiliation.” As Melinda Henneberger and Dahlia Lithwick remarked back in 2008: “Sure, her husband’s behavior has humiliated her. But she has also helped him humiliate the women he’s been involved with.”
It was Hillary Clinton who called Gennifer Flowers “trailer trash” and a ”failed cabaret singer who doesn’t even have much of a résumé,” and who got on national television with her husband to ridicule Flowers, who was telling the truth. It was Hillary who called Monica Lewinsky, who was telling the truth, a “narcissistic loony toon.” It was Hillary who described Bill’s mistresses as “bimbos.” Carl Bernstein also told how Hillary not only “thr[e]w herself into efforts to discredit Flowers,” she tried to “persuade horrified campaign aides to bring out rumors that Poppy Bush had not always been faithful to Barbara.”
Hillary could have stood by her man, and said nothing about the women Bill was screwing. Instead, she chose to publicly and aggressively slut-shame and ridicule those women in order to actively support her husband’s lies about them. Hillary Clinton did to those women what Clarence Thomas and Alan Simpson did to Anita Hill. To quote Henneberger and Lithwick again: “If her biggest fans knew who she really blamed—other women—they might not still be fans.”
That’s what’s causing Hillary to “tread lightly” now, and that’s what you’d never know from reading this NYT article, even though it’s exactly what the article purports to explain. Furthermore, the NYT and the author know these facts and have deliberately chosen to hide them within vague terms like “imperfections” and, you know, “It’s complicated.” For the Times, what occurred between Hillary and these women has all been so “painful” and “haunting”—for Hillary. That’s a kind of rhetorical protection that the NYT would never offer one of its/the Democratic establishment’s political opponents.
In other words, the NYT article is not a good-faith attempt to inform us about, and analyze, Hillary’s problem. It’s an effort to hide it. Rather than explain Hillary’s avoidance, Ms. Chozicko mimics it.
This whole rigmarole reflects a fundamental problem: Does anybody really contend, in a principled and consistent way, that a candidate’s (man or woman) personal nasty sexual behavior in itself disqualifies that person for the presidency? Or doesn’t everyone actually use that issue only opportunistically—to attack the candidate they don’t like for other political reasons?
Lyndon Johnson used to wave around his dick—which he called Jumbo—and once forced himself on a White House secretary, showing up at her bed and ordering her to ”Move over. This is your president.” Is any Democratic Party liberal going to say we should denounce his presidency solely on that behavior (straight-up rape!), or will they insist on prioritizing things like the Civil Rights Act and Medicare? (For that matter, will his opponents not prioritize things like the Vietnam War?) Will any of them judge Richard Nixon to be a better president or political persona because he was more “correct” in his sexual behavior?
This is not just about how things went in the past, either: If Corey Booker runs against Marco Rubio eight years from now, and someone unearths incidents about Corey like those now being unearthed about Trump, will Chris Hayes, or Rachel, or Michelle say that Booker is then disqualified? Or will they say—as many of the same people attacking Trump today said about Bill Clinton yesterday—that’s “just about sex” and shouldn’t disqualify him to be president? And besides, it’s the most important election ever!
Sure, it’s harder to get away with now, as it should be, but, when making a political judgement, a person’s loutish sexual behavior is always going to be relativized and judged as less decisive than their policy positions—by his or her supporters, at least. Like it or not, people’s sexual and political personae are frequently in contradiction, and there’s no cure. Even those for whom women’s issues are of paramount importance will find it hard not to prefer a personally sexist candidate who supports abortion rights, contraceptive availability, maternity leave, etc., over a personally impeccable candidate who doesn’t. Many did exactly that with Bill Clinton, and will do so again.
Those who did not, do not, and would not reject Johnson or Kennedy or Bill Clinton or the next Democratic iteration thereof, despite his piggish sexism, because other politics outweigh that fault, can’t really look down on supporters of other candidates who make exactly the same kind of calculation. Whether you vote for a piggish genital-grabber because s/he won’t criminalize abortion, or because s/he won’t start WWIII, you’re prioritizing policy over personal behavior. What’s annoying are those who sanctimoniously insist that everyone must reject a candidate because of his/her personal sexual behavior, when it’s obvious that they really don’t believe that at all.
In the present case, there are a thousand reasons to reject Donald Trump, and his piggishness makes for a nice part of the mix. Still, one might think it’s important to get seriously into those other political issues, to compare positions on things like the economy, war, etc. We’re not so much on that terrain anymore, are we?
The United States just launched a military attack on the poorest country in the Arab world? Obama is considering starting WWIII in defense of al-Qaeda? Hey, let’s interview this woman who sat next to Donald Trump on an airplane thirty years ago. Diversion, anyone?
Barring a deus ex machina, Trump is now effectively toast, having been burned to a crisp over the last two weeks by the issue of his sexual aggressiveness, which was pursued relentlessly by the Clintonites and the press as a disqualifier.
Nothing to regret about that result, but it is to be remarked how, once that issue is stoked, it becomes an unstoppable train that flattens everything else, starting with the candidate it was aimed at. It wasn’t his vicious, racist remarks about Muslims, or about the Central Park Five, that quickly and definitively steamrolled The Donald; it was grabbing pussy. We should be wary of those who are so gleeful about having this train barreling down the track at Trump, and who have, and would again, object to that same dynamic if it were threatening to crush their favored politician.
We should remark, too, how Hillary played and fared in this game. It was she who started this fire, when, at the very end of the first debate, she brought up Trump’s derogatory remarks about women, and his fat-shaming of Alicia Machado. Then there appeared, fortuitously, the Access Hollywood tape, ensuring that the issue would be pursued. As the NYT article says, Hillary then retreated into her cone of “virtual silence” on the subject, leaving the heavy-hitting to Michelle and crew. Hillary can continue to “tread lightly,” insisting that she takes “absolutely no satisfaction” in what is happening to Trump. Absolutely.
Donald provided an easier target than Poppy.
And when Trump, at the next debate, brought in some of the women whom Hillary slut-shamed, the network commentators were aghast at how he was using these confused and troubled women for his political advantage, and dragging the Presidential campaign into the gutter.
The net result is that Hillary did not just go “virtually silent” about Trump, she virtually stopped campaigning at all. She decided to spend most of her time squirreled away in “debate prep,” far from unmanaged questions—letting the media and his own big mouth finish off Trump, confident that her enormous ad buys in the last couple of weeks will seal the deal.
So, Hillary gets to raise the issue, and then hide from it. And the NYT helps her, with an article that pretends to explain why she’s hiding from the issue, but is itself actually hiding the real reasons from its readers. She throws a stink bomb into the campaign, and then runs off to be showered and perfumed by the press, which casts her aggressive slut-shaming as “imperfection.” Catch me if you can.
Certainly well played, and Hillary supporters may delight in the result. But no one should be surprised at how many people—from right to left—see through this hide-and-seek, know right where Hillary and the establishment press stand, and, when not enraged at, are increasingly bored with, how this game is always played.
Note how differently The New York Times prepares the American public for civilian casualties from the new U.S.-backed Iraqi government assault on the city of Mosul to free it from the Islamic State, compared to the unrelenting condemnation of the Russian-backed Syrian government assault on neighborhoods of east Aleppo held by Al Qaeda.
In the case of Mosul, the million-plus residents are not portrayed as likely victims of American airstrikes and Iraqi government ground assaults, though surely many will die during the offensive. Instead, the civilians are said to be eagerly awaiting liberation from the Islamic State terrorists and their head-chopping brutality.
“Mosul’s residents are hoarding food and furtively scrawling resistance slogans on walls,” writes Times’ veteran war correspondent Rod Nordland about this week’s launch of the U.S.-backed government offensive. “Those forces will fight to enter a city where for weeks the harsh authoritarian rule of the Islamic State … has sought to crack down on a population eager to either escape or rebel, according to interviews with roughly three dozen people from Mosul. …
“Just getting out of Mosul had become difficult and dangerous: Those who were caught faced million-dinar fines, unless they were former members of the Iraqi Army or police, in which case the punishment was beheading. … Graffiti and other displays of dissidence against the Islamic State were more common in recent weeks, as were executions when the vandals were caught.”
The Times article continues: “Mosul residents chafed under social codes banning smoking and calling for splashing acid on body tattoos, summary executions of perceived opponents, whippings of those who missed prayers or trimmed their beards, and destroying ‘un-Islamic’ historical monuments.”
So, the message is clear: if the inevitable happens and the U.S.-backed offensive kills a number of Mosul’s civilians, including children, The New York Times’ readers have been hardened to accept this “collateral damage” as necessary to free the city from blood-thirsty extremists. The fight to crush these crazies is worth it, even if there are significant numbers of civilians killed in the “cross-fire.”
And we’ve seen similar mainstream media treatment of other U.S.-organized assaults on urban areas, such as the devastation of the Iraqi city, Fallujah, in 2004 when U.S. Marines routed Iraqi insurgents from the city while leveling or severely damaging most of the city’s buildings and killing hundreds of civilians. But those victims were portrayed in the Western press as “human shields,” shifting the blame for their deaths onto the Iraqi insurgents.
Despite the fact that U.S. forces invaded Iraq in defiance of international law – and thus all the thousands of civilian deaths across Iraq from the “shock and awe” U.S. firepower should be considered war crimes – there was virtually no such analysis allowed into the pages of The New York Times or the other mainstream U.S. media. Such talk was forced to the political fringes, as it continues to be today. War-crimes tribunals are only for the other guys.
Lust to Kill Children
By contrast, the Times routinely portrays the battle for east Aleppo as simply a case of barbaric Russian and Syrian leaders bombing innocent neighborhoods with no regard for the human cost, operating out of an apparent lust to kill children.
Rather than focusing on Al Qaeda’s harsh rule of east Aleppo, the Times told its readers in late September how to perceive the Russian-Syrian offensive to drive out Al Qaeda and its allies. A Sept. 25 article by Anne Barnard and Somini Sengupta, entitled “Syria and Russia Appear Ready to Scorch Aleppo,” began:
“Make life intolerable and death likely. Open an escape route, or offer a deal to those who leave or surrender. Let people trickle out. Kill whoever stays. Repeat until a deserted cityscape is yours. It is a strategy that both the Syrian government and its Russian allies have long embraced to subdue Syrian rebels, largely by crushing the civilian populations that support them.
“But in the past few days, as hopes for a revived cease-fire have disintegrated at the United Nations, the Syrians and Russians seem to be mobilizing to apply this kill-all-who-resist strategy to the most ambitious target yet: the rebel-held sections of the divided metropolis of Aleppo.”
Again, note how the “rebels” are portrayed as local heroes, rather than a collection of jihadists from both inside and outside Syria fighting under the operational command of Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, which recently underwent a name change to the Syria Conquest Front. But the name change and the pretense about “moderate” rebels are just more deceptions.
As journalist/historian Gareth Porter has written:
“Information from a wide range of sources, including some of those the United States has been explicitly supporting, makes it clear that every armed anti-Assad organization unit in those provinces [of Idlib and Aleppo] is engaged in a military structure controlled by Nusra militants. All of these rebel groups fight alongside the Nusra Front and coordinate their military activities with it. …
“At least since 2014 the Obama administration has armed a number of Syrian rebel groups even though it knew the groups were coordinating closely with the Nusra Front, which was simultaneously getting arms from Turkey and Qatar. The strategy called for supplying TOW anti-tank missiles to the ‘Syrian Revolutionaries Front’ (SRF) as the core of a client Syrian army that would be independent of the Nusra Front.
“However, when a combined force of Nusra and non-jihadist brigades including the SRF captured the Syrian army base at Wadi al-Deif in December 2014, the truth began to emerge. The SRF and other groups to which the United States had supplied TOW missiles had fought under Nusra’s command to capture the base.”
Arming Al Qaeda
This reality – the fact that the U.S. government is indirectly supplying sophisticated weaponry to Al Qaeda – is rarely mentioned in the mainstream U.S. news media, though one might think it would make for a newsworthy story. But it would undercut the desired propaganda narrative of “good guy” rebels fighting “bad guy” government backed by “ultra-bad guy” Russians.
What if Americans understood that their tax money and U.S. weaponry were going to aid the terrorist group that perpetrated the 9/11 attacks? What if they understood the larger historical context that Washington helped midwife the modern jihadist movement – and Al Qaeda – through the U.S./Saudi support for the Afghan mujahedeen in the 1980s?
And what if Americans understood that Washington’s supposed regional “allies,” including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Israel, have sided with Al Qaeda in Syria because of their intense hatred of Shiite-ruled Iran, an ally of Syria’s secular government?
These Al Qaeda sympathies have been known for several years but never get reported in the mainstream U.S. press. In September 2013, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, then a close adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored Syria’s Sunni extremists over President Bashar al-Assad.
“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in an interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with Al Qaeda.
And, in June 2014, speaking as a former ambassador at an Aspen Institute conference, Oren expanded on his position, saying Israel would even prefer a victory by the brutal Islamic State over continuation of the Iranian-backed Assad in Syria. “From Israel’s perspective, if there’s got to be an evil that’s got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail,” Oren said.
But such cynical – and dangerous – realpolitik is kept from the American people. Instead, the Syrian conflict is presented as all about the children.
There is also little said about how Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and its allied jihadists keep the civilian population in east Aleppo essentially as “human shields.” When “humanitarian corridors” have been opened to allow civilians to escape, they had been fired on by the jihadists determined to keep as many people under their control as possible.
By forcing the civilians to stay, Al Qaeda and its allies can exploit the injuries and deaths of civilians, especially the children, for propaganda advantages.
Going along with Al Qaeda’s propaganda strategy, the Times and other mainstream U.S. news outlets have kept the focus on the children. A Times dispatch on Sept. 27 begins:
“They cannot play, sleep or attend school. Increasingly, they cannot eat. Injury or illness could be fatal. Many just huddle with their parents in windowless underground shelters — which offer no protection from the powerful bombs that have turned east Aleppo into a kill zone.
“Among the roughly 250,000 people trapped in the insurgent redoubt of the divided northern Syrian city are 100,000 children, the most vulnerable victims of intensified bombings by Syrian forces and their Russian allies. Though the world is jolted periodically by the suffering of children in the Syria conflict — the photographs of Alan Kurdi’s drowned body and Omran Daqneesh’s bloodied face are prime examples — dead and traumatized children are increasingly common.”
This propagandistic narrative has bled into the U.S. presidential campaign with Martha Raddatz, a moderator of the second presidential debate, incorporating much of the evil-Russians theme into a question that went so far as to liken the human suffering in Aleppo to the Holocaust, the Nazi extermination campaign against Jews and other minorities.
That prompted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to repeat her call for an expanded U.S. military intervention in Syria, including a “no-fly zone,” which U.S. military commanders say would require a massive operation that would kill many Syrians, both soldiers and civilians, to eliminate Syria’s sophisticated air-defense systems and its air force.
Based on the recent Wikileaks publication of Clinton’s speeches to investment bankers and other special interests, we also know that she recognizes the high human cost from this strategy. In one June 2013 speech, she said, “To have a no-fly zone you have to take out all of the air defense, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we’re not putting our pilots at risk — you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians. So all of a sudden this intervention that people talk about so glibly becomes an American and NATO involvement where you take a lot of civilians.”
Yet, during the campaign, Clinton has spoken glibly about her own proposal to impose a “no-fly zone” over Syria, which has become even more dangerous since 2015 when the Russians agreed to directly assist the Syrian government in fighting Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
Also, left unsaid about such a U.S. intervention is that it could open the way for Al Qaeda and/or its spinoff Islamic State to defeat the Syrian army and gain control of Damascus, creating the potential for even a worse bloodbath against Christians, Shiites, Alawites, secular Sunnis and other “heretics.” Not to mention the fact that a U.S.-imposed “no-fly zone” would be a clear violation of international law.
Over the next few weeks, we are sure hear much about the Islamic State using the people of Mosul as “human shields” and thus excusing U.S. bombs when they strike civilians targets and kill children. It will all be the terrorists’ fault, except that an opposite set of “journalistic” rules will apply to Aleppo.
If the dangers weren’t so great – a possible nuclear war that could exterminate life on the planet – The New York Times over-the-top denunciation of all things Russian would be almost funny, like the recent front-page story finding something uniquely sinister about Russia using inflatable decoys of military weapons to confuse adversaries.
The Oct. 13 article, entitled “Decoys in Service of an Inflated Russian Might,” was described as part of a series called “DARK ARTS … How Russia projects power covertly,” suggesting that the nefarious Russians aren’t to be trusted in anything even in the case of “one of Russia’s lesser-known military threats: a growing arsenal of inflatable tanks, jets and missile launchers.”
The bizarre article by Andrew E. Kramer, one of the most prolific producers of this anti-Russian propaganda, then states: “As Russia under President Vladimir V. Putin has muscled its way back onto the geopolitical stage, the Kremlin has employed a range of stealthy tactics. … One of the newer entries to that list is an updating of the Russian military’s longtime interest in operations of deceit and disguise, a repertoire of lethal tricks known as maskirovka, or masking. It is a psychological warfare doctrine that is becoming an increasingly critical element in the country’s geopolitical ambitions.”
What is particularly curious about Kramer’s article is that it takes actions that are typical of all militaries, going back centuries, and presents them as some special kind of evil attributable to the Russians, such as Special Forces units not dressing in official uniforms and instead blending in with the surroundings while creating deniability for political leaders.
American and European Special Forces, for instance, have been deployed on the ground in Libya and Syria without official confirmation, at least initially. Sometimes, their presence is acknowledged only after exposure because of casualties, such as the death of three French soldiers near Benghazi, Libya, in July.
Indeed, one could argue that the United States has excelled at this practice of stealthily entering other countries, usually in violation of international law, to carry out lethal operations, such as drone assassinations and Special Forces’ strikes. However, rather than condemning U.S. officials for their sneakiness, the Times and other mainstream Western publications often extol the secrecy of these acts and sometimes even agree to delay publication of information about the covert attacks so as not to jeopardize the lives of American soldiers.
U.S. Propaganda Network
The U.S. government also has built extensive propaganda operations around the world that pump out all sorts of half-truths and disinformation to put U.S. adversaries on the defensive, with the American financial hand kept hidden so the public is more likely to trust the claims of supposedly independent voices.
Much of that disinformation is then promoted by the Times, which famously assisted in one major set of lies by publishing a false 2002 front-page story about Iraq reconstituting its nuclear weapons program as a key justification for the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Yet, the Russians are called out for activities far less egregious than what the U.S. government – aided and abetted by the Times – has done.
You could even view the Times’ article citing inflatable weapons as proof of Moscow’s perfidy as itself an example of another U.S. psychological operation along the lines of the Times’ article accusing Iraq of obtaining aluminum tubes for nuclear centrifuges, when the tubes were actually unsuited for that purpose. In this new case, however, the Times is heating up a war fever against Russia rather than Iraq.
Yet, as in 2002, this current psy-op is not primarily aimed at a foreign adversary as much as it is targeting the American people. The primary difference is that in 2002, the Times was helping instigate war against a relatively small and defenseless nation in Iraq. Now, the Times is whipping up an hysteria against nuclear-armed Russia with the prospect that this manufactured outrage could induce politicians into further steps that could lead to nuclear conflagration.
As German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier wrote in a recent opinion piece, the current tensions between Washington and Moscow are “more dangerous” than during the Cold War.
“It’s a fallacy to think that this is like the Cold War,” Steinmeier wrote. “The current times are different and more dangerous” because there were clear “red lines” during the Cold War where the rival nuclear powers knew not to tread.
Though Steinmeier, as a part of the NATO alliance, puts most of the blame on Moscow, the reality is that Washington has been the prime instigator of the recent tensions, including pressing NATO up to Russia’s borders, supporting an anti-Russian putsch in neighboring Ukraine, and helping to arm rebel groups fighting in Syria alongside Al Qaeda’s affiliate and threatening Russia’s allied Syrian government.
‘Regime Change’ in Moscow?
Further feeding Russia’s fears, prominent Americans, including at least one financed by the U.S. government, have called for a “regime change” project in Moscow. Yet all Americans hear about is the unproven allegation that Russia was responsible for hacking into Democratic Party emails and exposing information that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has tried to keep secret, such as the content of her speeches to Wall Street investment banks and other special interests.
Vice President Joe Biden has announced Washington will retaliate with some information-warfare strike against Moscow. But the reality is that the U.S. government, working hand-in-glove with the Times and other mainstream American publications, has been waging such an information war against Russia for at least the past several years, including promotion of dubious charges such as the so-called Magnitsky case which was largely debunked by a courageous documentary that has been virtually blacklisted in the supposedly “free” West.
The Times also has embraced the U.S. government’s version of pretty much every dubious claim lodged against Moscow, systematically excluding evidence that points in a different direction. For instance, regarding the shootdown of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, the Times ignored a published Dutch (i.e. NATO) intelligence report stating that the only powerful anti-aircraft missiles in the area capable of hitting MH-17 were under the control of the Ukrainian military.
While it may be understandable that the Times opts to embrace claims by a Ukrainian-dominated investigation that the Russians were responsible – despite that inquiry’s evidentiary and logical shortcomings – it is not journalistically proper to ignore official evidence, such as the Dutch intelligence report, because it doesn’t go in the preferred direction. If the Times were not acting as a propaganda vehicle, it would at least have cited the Dutch intelligence report as one piece of the puzzle.
The Times’ relentless service as the chief conveyor belt for anti-Russian propaganda has drawn at least some objections from readers, although they are rarely acknowledged by the Times.
For instance, Theodore A. Postol, professor emeritus of science, technology, and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tried to lodge a protest with the Times’ editors about the “inflatable weapons” story.
In the email, a copy of which he forwarded to me, Postol wrote: “This article is a very good example of the misleading foreign policy reporting that has unfortunately become a hallmark of the New York Times.
“The complete lack of sophistication of this article, coupled with the implication that the use of such decoys is somehow an indication of a Russian cultural bias towards deception is exactly the kind of misleading reporting that cannot possibly be explained as a competent attempt to inform Times readers about real and serious national security issues that we are today facing with Russia.”
Postol attached to his email a series of photographs showing decoys that were used by the Allies during the Battle of Britain and the D-Day invasion. He noted, “There is a vast popular literature about this kind of deception in warfare that is available to even the most unsophisticated nonexperts. It is simply unimaginable to me that such an article could be published in the Times, yet alone on the front page, if the oversight mechanisms at the Times were properly functioning.”
Postol, however, assumes that the editorial system of the Times wishes to provide genuine balance and context to such stories, when the pattern has clearly shown that – as with Iraq in 2002-2003 – the Times’ editors see their role as preparing the American people for war.
The events in the Middle East, Syria and Aleppo are the focus of global attention. Rarely has a battle been so decisive to the outcome of a war and the fate of hundreds of millions of people around the world
Hillary Clinton in the last presidential debate repeatedly called for the establishment of a no-fly zone (NFZ) in Syria. The concept, reiterated several times, clashes with the revelation contained in her private emails admitting that the implementation of a NFZ would entail the increased deaths of Syrian civilians. In a recent hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Philip Breedlove was asked what kind of effort would be required for the US armed forces to impose a NFZ over Syrian skies. With obvious embarrassment, the General was forced to admit that such a request would involve hitting Russian and Syrian aircraft and vehicles, opening the door to a direct confrontation between Moscow and Washington, a decision the General was simply not willing to take. The military leadership has always shown a readiness to implement the military option; so this time they must have sniffed the danger of a direct conflict with Moscow.
The Kremlin has publicly admitted to deploying in Syria the S-400 and S-300V4 advanced anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems respectively. The presence of the defense complex was intentionally announced as a factor of deterrence and is a logical strategy. The message to Washington is clear: any unidentified object in Syrian skies will be shot down. The United States bases much of its military strength on the constant need to project power, making its opponents believe that it possesses capabilities that others do not hold. Therefore it is very unlikely that the Pentagon would want to reveal to the world the worth of their stealth systems and their ‘legendary‘ American cruise missiles when faced with the S-300V4 or S-400. The Kosovo War serves to remind us of the F-117 that was shot down by Soviet systems (S-125) dating from the 1960s.
Hillary Clinton’s threats against Moscow were not the only ones. The present policy makers in Washington continue to make aggressive statements demonstrating their total loss of touch with reality. In recent weeks, hysterical reactions were recorded by the Pentagon, the State Department, top military generals, and even representatives of American diplomacy. To emphasize the unhappiness prevalent in some Washington circles, several articles appeared in The Washington Post and The New York Times calling for the imposition of a US no-fly zone in Syria, ignoring the consequences highlighted by Dunford. There are two hypotheses under consideration: hitting the Syrian army air bases with cruise missiles, or the use of stealth planes to bomb Damascus’s A2/AD installations.
Behind Washington’s frantic reactions and vehement protests is the probability of military defeat. The US does not have any ability to prevent the liberation of Aleppo by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the Russian Federation. In the last fifteen days, the SAA and Russia have achieved significant progress, and it is this that has led to an escalation of tensions. Some of the most significant episodes reflecting this over the last few days include: jets of the international coalition hitting the SAA, causing 90 deaths; US government officials threatening Russia with the downing of her planes and the bombings of her cities, resulting in Russian civilian deaths; and the blaming of Moscow for an attack on a humanitarian convoy. The climax seemed to have been reached at the United Nations where the US representatives prevented a Russian resolution condemning the terrorist attacks on the Russian embassy in Damascus. It is interesting to note that fifteen years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Washington finds itself defending Al Nusra Front (AKA Al Qaeda) in an official United Nations meeting; something to ponder. But apparently there is no limit to provocations, and a few days after this incredible denouement, the Pentagon was keen to point out that the possibility of a preventive nuclear strike against Russia is still valid.
It therefore seems almost simplistic to emphasize that because of the success of the SAA, Washington, Ankara, Riyadh, Doha and Tel Aviv are showing unprecedented signs of weakness and nervousness. Their commitment to overthrowing the legitimate government of Assad has failed. The combined action of the Syrian and Russian ground, air and sea forces pushed Washington and the corporate media to move from words of condemnation to increasingly open threats.
Last month the situation against the terrorists quickly changed in the north of Syria thanks to the Syrian Arab Army and its allies supported by the West. In Aleppo, the SAA continues to work every day with great success toward the city’s liberation. Neighborhoods and large areas are back under government control. The relentless advances of the troops loyal to Assad are altering the course of the war in Syria in favor of Damascus, eliminating the US attempts to remove the legitimate Syrian government. A victory in Aleppo would mean the near certainty of defeat for the terrorists in the remaining areas of the country. The closing of the border with Turkey would cut the supply lines, with consequences and repercussions throughout Syria. What would still remain open are a few crossing areas in the south of the country near the border with Jordan that have always been a supply source for terrorists. However, it would be very difficult for this supply line alone to sustain the conflict or adequately replace the one closed north of Aleppo. Especially in the north through Turkey, and to the west through the uncontrolled border with Iraq, the terrorists receive continuous supplies. The liberation of Mosul by the Iraqi army, Aleppo by the SAA, and Der Al-Zur in the near future, will pave the way for the strategic recapture of Raqqa, the last bastion of Daesh, thereby defeating even the Plan B to partition the country.
With the failure of the northern front, the terrorists will be faced with the probable prospect of the complete collapse of their operations nationwide. Some will continue to fight, but most will throw down their weapons knowing that they have lost the war. Once this is achieved, the liberation of the rest of Syria should be a matter of a few months. It should be remembered that the recapture of Aleppo would guarantee a crushing defeat for the regional sponsors of international terrorism (Qatar and Saudi Arabia).
Still, it is not only the advance of Aleppo that is cause for concern for enemies of Syria. Obama and his administration are now irrelevant, also because of one of the most controversial presidential elections in recent history. The uncertain future of Washington’s foreign policy has prompted partners such as Riyadh, Doha, Ankara and Tel Aviv not to hesitate in further adding fuel to the Syrian conflagration, worried about any future inactivity from Washington and eager to advance their own military solution to the conflict.
In the case of Ankara, the invasion of Iraq and Syria is a serious danger that risks plunging the region into further chaos and destruction, with the Iraqi prime minister not hesitating to label the Turkish move reckless and warning of the conflict expanding into a regional conflict. Saudi Arabia’s problems are even greater, as it does not have the ability, in terms of men and means, to intervene directly in Syria because of its disastrous involvement in the war in Yemen. The speed with which confidence in Riyadh is crumbling is unprecedented. Her large currency reserves are dwindling, and it seems it is because tens of billions of dollars have been squandered in financing the military action against Yemen. Another example of independent military action concerns Israel. Four years into the Syrian conflict, Israel continues its secret war against Hezbollah and Iranian troops, who are engaged in areas bordering Israel in fighting al-Nusra Front and Daesh. For Tel Aviv, there are still two options desirable to the Syrian crisis, both in line with their strategy, namely, the continuation of chaos and disorder, or a balkanization of Syria. In both cases, the objective is to expand Israel’s sphere of influence far beyond the Golan Heights, which were occupied illegally years ago.
The unsuccessful attempts of Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia to change events in Syria have highlighted the growing strategic misunderstandings between the United States and regional partners, misunderstandings that often oblige Ankara, Riyadh and Tel Aviv to turn to the Russian Federation for confidential dialogue, since Moscow is the only player able to adjust the delicate Middle East equilibrium.
In the near future, it remains evident to Moscow and Damascus that some risks still exist, despite a well-considered overall strategy. The acceleration in the liberation of Aleppo also has an ancillary purpose that aims to minimize maneuverability for the next American administration. In a certain way, it is a race against time: Aleppo must be liberated in order to chart the way towards the end of the conflict before the next US president comes into office in January 2017. It is yet to be seen whether Clinton or Trump plan to go beyond Obama’s empty threats, but understandably Damascus and Moscow have no intention of being caught off guard, especially with a probable Clinton presidency.
After years of negotiations with the schizophrenic diplomacy of the US, Moscow and Damascus have decided to protect themselves against any sudden decisions that may come from the American «deep state». Deploying the most advanced systems existing in air defense, Moscow has called Washington’s bluff as no one has done in years. The red line for Moscow was crossed by the tragic events of September 17 in Der al-zur. The creation by the Russians of a no-fly zone over Syrian skies has been repeatedly suggested. But incredibly, in the hours immediately after the cowardly attack against Syrian troops, the US Department of Defense and the State Department proposed the creation of a no-fly-zone that would serve to ground Russian and Syrian planes. It was a brazen and provocative proposal for Damascus and Moscow if there ever was one.
Sensing the danger in these words, Moscow acted immediately, deploying cutting-edge systems to protect Syrians skies with equipment that can shoot down cruise missiles, stealth aircraft, and even ballistic missiles (S-300 and S-400). To make sure Washington fully understood the message, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) reiterated what was already publicly announced, namely that any unidentified object would be shot down immediately, as there would not be any sufficient time for Russian operators to verify the original launch, trajectory and final target of any objects detected. It is a clear warning to the US and its long-standing strategy that requires the use of large amounts of cruise missiles to destroy anti-aircraft systems in order to pave the way for a no-fly zone as was seen in Libya. The Russian MoD has even specified that American fifth-generation stealth aircraft could be easily targeted, alluding to a radius of operation of the S-200 systems, S-300 and S-400 (and all variants) that would surprise many international observers. This statement also seems to indirectly confirm another theory that remains pure speculation, which is that during the September 17 attack by the US on the SAA in Der Al-Zur seem, some jets from the international coalition were targeted by Russian or Syrian air-defense systems (perhaps S-200s or S-400s), forcing the airplanes to retreat before facing the prospect of being shot down.
Whatever the intentions that are hidden behind Washington’s hysterical threats, Moscow has suggested several asymmetrical scenarios in response to a direct attack on its personnel in Syria. In addition to the S-300 and S-400 systems, the MoD has openly declared its knowledge of the exact locations of US special forces in Syria, a clear reference to the Syrian and Russian ability to strike US soldiers operating alongside terrorists or ‘moderate’ rebels.
All of Major-General Igor Konashenkov’s recent press conferences have clearly shown new systems deployed in Syria for air defense, a more than intentional advertisement. Aside from deterrence continuing to be one preferred instrument adopted by Moscow, the unusually strong, direct and unambiguous words of the Russian MoD easily show how the patience of Moscow and Damascus has been exhausted, especially following the recent sequence of events as well as repeated threats.
In such a scenario, the US can only rely on one weapon: complaints, threats and hysterical crying amplified by the mainstream media, generals and the official spokespeople of dozens of agencies in Washington. Nothing that can actually stop the liberating action of the SAA and its allies.
The United States has no alternatives available to prevent an outcome to the conflict that is undesirable for it. Whichever route it chooses, there is no way to change the events in Syria. Even American generals had to admit that a no-fly zone in Syria is out of the question. It is easy for US State Department spokesperson Admiral Kirby to launch empty threats, but it is more difficult for the military to act on these threats while avoiding a nuclear apocalypse. Whatever the outcome of the upcoming presidential elections, the war in Syria for the United States and its regional partners is irretrievably lost, and the hysteria and provocations of recent weeks is symptomatic of the frustration and nervousness that has not been common for Americans in recent years.
Hillary Clinton has been revealed to have a very cozy relationship with the US media, which has been found to work closely with Clinton’s campaign to present her in a favorable, transparent light – even planting stories, new email leaks suggest.
These facts are laid bare in the latest cache of classified Clinton campaign emails seen by The Intercept, which in turn received them from Guccifer 2.0 – the hacker who’s reportedly behind several high-profile intrusions.
The cache of emails includes campaign strategies aimed at keeping the public perception of Clinton favorable, focusing particularly on her transparency, especially in light of the FBI investigation into her use of a private email server. The strategies sometimes reveal the campaign presiding over stylistic points and emphasizing what is to be described as “on the record.”
Of particular note is one January 2015 document which includes references to Maggie Haberman. Formerly of Politico, Haberman now covers the presidential election for the New York Times. According to the leaked document, she’s a “friendly journalist” who has “never disappointed” in painting a positive picture of Clinton.
Haberman was seemingly put to good use, emerging with two stories which were meant to shed light, among other things, on how Hillary Clinton’s thought process works and how successful her cabinet members were. The New York Times piece entitled ‘Hillary Clinton Begins Process of Vetting — Herself’, talks about how open Clinton is to researching herself and how committed to transparency that makes her. Especially given how her opponents mainly focus on her foundation work, or the millions she’s received in paid speech appearances, as well as her relationship to Wall Street.
Neither Merrill nor Haberman responded to the Intercept’s requests for comment, nor did they deny that the document exists.
One of the documents, entitled ‘The Press and Surrogate Plan’, talked of willing personnel in the media who could always be put to good use, at CNN or elsewhere. Clinton staffers were also careful in distinguishing between “progressive helpers” and those who were potentially friendly, but could be further coerced.
These so-called media surrogates would often include TV pundits whose roles would appear to be neutral, but who were enrolled by the campaign. The metadata for the ‘surrogate’ document traces it back to its author Jennifer Palmieri – the Clinton campaign communications director.
Furthermore, as described in an April 2015 memo, there would be secret get-togethers involving media big shots and celebrity TV personalities – a notable one would take place in the aftermath of Clinton’s running announcement at the home of one of her strategists on the Upper East Side. The informal cocktail party was completely off-the-record, and intended to coordinate how Clinton’s campaign would be presented to the American public.
The strategies were not specifically formulated for the Clinton campaign, however. According to a March 2015 memo by campaign manager Robby Mook, the tried and tested tactic of constantly feeding the press positive stories in order to take away its ability to react to constant outside accusations was particularly important.
These controversial strategies have also been employed by the Republicans, although this latest cache of documents is the first glimpse into just how coordinated the effort is to use the media to political advantage.
The revelations from the Intercept come just as the second round of debating between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has wrapped up, looking colder than ever, with not so much as a handshake exchanged.
The leak also comes amid the latest official attack on Russia by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. On Friday they released a statement claiming they are ““confident that the Russian government directed” the hacks of emails and documents and their posting on WikiLeaks, DCLeaks, and the blog of the hacker calling himself ‘Guccifer 2.0.’
Russia has been denying all complicity. The United States has still not presented any evidence of an official link to the Russian government.
If anything was made clear during the Vice Presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence it’s that neither man knows much about the Iranian nuclear program. And neither do the fact-checkers tasked with judging the candidates’ own statements about it.
During the course of 90 excruciating minutes, Tim Kaine accused Iran of “racing toward a nuclear weapon” and repeatedly boasted that his running mate Hillary Clinton was responsible for “stopping” that “nuclear weapons program without firing a shot.” Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s veep pick Mike Pence kept insisting that the Iran deal, signed by six world powers and Iran in July 2015, effectively guaranteed that “Iran will someday become a nuclear power because there’s no limitations once the period of time of the treaty comes off.”
None of these claims is even remotely true.
Obviously, claims put forth by both Kaine and Pence rest on a wholly false presumption: that Iran is/was desperately trying to acquire nuclear weapons and has/had an active “nuclear weapons program” to achieve that goal.
As I have written endlessly:
International intelligence assessments have consistently affirmed that Iran has no nuclear weapons program. What Iran does have, however, is a nuclear energy program with uranium enrichment facilities, all of which are under international safeguards, strictly monitored and routinely inspected by the IAEA. No move to divert nuclear material to military or weaponization purposes has ever been detected. This is consistently affirmed by U.S., British, Russian, and even Israeli intelligence, as well as the IAEA. In fact, the IAEA itself has said there is “no concrete proof” Iran’s nuclear program “has ever had” a military component.
Eventually, due to the distinct and consistent lack of evidence for any nuclear weapons program, the United States echo chamber sidelined accusations of an active militarization program in favor of the round-about, jargon-laden claim that Iran was “intending to obtain the capability” to make nukes, rather than actually trying to make nukes. This, conveniently, put Iran in the position of having to prove a negative, despite being under the strictest IAEA inspection regime in history and providing access to its facilities above and beyond what was required by law.
The rhetorical bait-and-switch was plain for all to see when Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta admitted in 2012, “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No.” For good propagandistic measure, however, he added, “But we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability, and that’s what concerns us.”
Around the same time, an unnamed U.S. intelligence official told the Washington Post that no decision had even been made in Iran to pursue nuclear weapons, explaining, “Our belief is that they are reserving judgment on whether to continue with key steps they haven’t taken regarding nuclear weapons.”
Early the following year, Panetta begrudgingly reaffirmed this assessment on Meet The Press. “What I’ve said, and I will say today,” Panetta told Chuck Todd, “is that the intelligence we have is they have not made the decision to proceed with the development of a nuclear weapon. They’re developing and enriching uranium. They continue to do that.” He added, “I think– I think the– it’s a clear indication they say they’re doing it in order to develop their own energy source.” The NPT guarantees signatory states the right to enrich uranium for nuclear energy production. There is nothing illegal or sinister about this and Iran has operated its enrichment program openly and under IAEA safeguards.
Panetta, in response to Todd’s repeated goading, eventually disputed the entire premise so often repeated by politicians and pundits: “I can’t tell you they’re in fact pursuing a weapon because that’s not what intelligence says we– we– we’re– they’re doing right now,” he said.
U.S. intelligence assessments have consistently affirmed this. In 2012, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Congressional committee, “We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.” This finding has been repeated year in and year out.
Even the final report on outstanding allegations made by the United States and Israeli governments by the IAEA, released last December, was sensationalized to the point of absurdity. At most, the agency found, the “Possible Military Dimensions” of its nuclear energy program or the “Alleged Studies” that Iran had long been accused of conducting turned out to be merely “feasibility and scientific studies”(of nuclear and non-nuclear technology that has proven civilian uses), not active procedures or policies directed at making atomic bombs.
Moreover, and more importantly, this supposed research involved absolutely no diversion of nuclear material for non-peaceful uses, and therefore were not violations of either Iran’s commitments under its safeguards agreement with the IAEA or a breach of the NPT itself.
By actually assessing the facts, it is beyond clear that, despite decades of alarmism, hype and hysteria, Iran never violated the NPT, and there has never been any evidence of the existence of an “Iranian nuclear weapons program.”
Beyond this, Tim Kaine’s claims that Hillary Clinton was the driving force behind diplomacy with Iran are absurd. Quite the contrary, the breakthrough for talks – that is, the Obama administration deciding to drop the “zero enrichment” demand that had soured diplomatic efforts since 2005 – occurred despite Clinton’s insistence that Iran be denied their inalienable nuclear rights. This shift in policy was due primarily to the efforts of John Kerry, both as Senate Foreign Relations Chair during Obama’s first term and then as Secretary of State after Clinton left the office.
But Kaine wasn’t alone in his mistakes. Even fact-checkers didn’t get their facts straight.
For instance, in response to Kaine’s claim that Clinton “worked a tough negotiation with nations around the world to eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program without firing a shot,” PBS National Security Correspondent Mary Louise Kelly wrote this:
The deal slowed but does not eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpile of medium enriched uranium, to dramatically cut its stockpile of low enriched uranium, and to allow international inspectors to visit nuclear facilities — in exchange for relief from sanctions.
Again, Iran didn’t have a nuclear weapons program for anyone to eliminate. Furthermore, there is no such thing as “medium enriched uranium,” according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. There’s only low and high – Iran has never, ever, enriched uranium close to weapons-grade levels. Also misleading is Kelly’s assertion that the deal allowed “international inspectors to visit nuclear facilities,” considering that IAEA inspectors already had access to Iran’s nuclear infrastructure long before the deal was struck.
Other fact-checkers – from ABC to the New York Times – were similarly wrong on the facts, as noted by longtime Iran watcher Ali Gharib:
Hillary Clinton didn’t help to eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons program because the talks weren’t about eliminating Iran’s nuclear weapons program because Iran didn’t have a nuclear weapons program at that time to eliminate. Kaine, therefore, did exaggerate Clinton’s role: he credited her with participating in talks that didn’t actually do what he said they did.
Pence’s insistence that the Iran deal failed at its primary mission was also wholly false. “The goal was always that we would only lift the sanctions if Iran permanently renounced their nuclear [ambitions],” said Pence, adding, “They have not renounced their nuclear ambitions. When the deal’s period runs out, there is no limitation on them obtaining weapons.”
Everything about this is wrong. Iran has publicly, repeatedly and consistently renounced any and all interest in acquiring nuclear weapons on legal, strategic and moral grounds for literally decades. Therefore, the phrase “their nuclear ambitions,” which Pence uses as a dog whistle for “pursuit of nuclear weapons,” doesn’t mean what Pence thinks it does.
As Gharib has also pointed out, Iran’s commitment not to obtain nukes goes well beyond the stipulations of the Iran deal. Even after the terms expire (and some of the most important ones never do), “having a nuclear weapons program will still be prohibited not only by Iran’s signature to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but also by express promises the country made as part of the nuclear deal itself. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran deal’s formal name) says, ‘Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.’ It’s plain as day, right there in the first paragraph. And there’s no sunset clause on that pledge; it stays in force forever.”
The facts are plain, and are essential when discussing issues like this. But when it comes to Iran and American politics, there is no depth to which the propaganda won’t sink, with fact-checkers being dragged down with it.
The New York Times’ downward spiral into a neoconservative propaganda sheet continues with another biased lead article, this one on how the Syrian war has heightened U.S.-Russia tensions. The article, bristling with blame for the Russians, leaves out one of the key reasons why the partial ceasefire failed – the U.S. inability to separate its “moderate” rebels from Al Qaeda’s jihadists.
The article, written by Michael R. Gordon and Andrew E. Kramer (two of the paper’s top national security propagandists), lays the fault for the U.S. withdrawal from Syrian peace talks on Russian leaders because of their “mistrust and hostility toward the United States,” citing a comment by former White House official Andrew S. Weiss.
Gordon and Kramer then write that the cessation of hostilities agreement came undone because of the “accidental bombing of Syrian troops by the American-led coalition and then because of what the United States claimed was a deliberate bombing by Russian aircraft and Syrian helicopters of a humanitarian convoy headed to Aleppo.” (The Times doesn’t bother to note that the Russians have questioned how “accidental” the slaughter of 62 or so Syrian troops was and have denied that they or the Syrian government attacked the aid convoy.)
The article continues citing U.S. intelligence officials accusing Russia and Syria of using indiscriminate ordnance in more recent attacks on rebel-held sections of Aleppo. “Unfortunately, Russia failed to live up to its own commitments,” said a State Department statement, according to Gordon and Kramer.
However, left out of the article was the fact that the U.S. government failed to live up to its commitment to separate U.S.-backed supposedly “moderate” rebels from Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, which has recently changed its name to the Levant (or Syria) Conquest Front. By contrast, this key point was cited by Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, which noted:
“Russia has complained that Washington wasn’t upholding its end of the bargain by failing to separate U.S.-backed Syrian rebels from more extremist groups tied to al Qaeda.”
Doubling Down with Al Qaeda
Indeed, The Wall Street Journal has actually done some serious reporting on this crucial topic, publishing an article from Turkey on Sept. 29, saying:
“Some of Syria’s largest rebel factions are doubling down on their alliance with an al Qaeda-linked group, despite a U.S. warning to split from the extremists or risk being targeted in airstrikes.
“The rebel gambit is complicating American counterterrorism efforts in the country at a time the U.S. is contemplating cooperation with Russia to fight extremist groups. It comes after a U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire collapsed last week and the Syrian regime and its Russian allies immediately unleashed a devastating offensive against rebel-held parts of Aleppo city that brought harsh international condemnation. …
“The two powers have been considering jointly targeting Islamic State and the Syria Conquest Front — formerly known as the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front — a group that is deeply intermingled with armed opposition groups of all stripes across Syria’s battlefields. The U.S. has also threatened to attack any rebels providing front-line support to the group. …
“Some rebel groups already aligned with Syria Conquest Front responded by renewing their alliance. But others, such as Nour al-Din al-Zinki, a former Central Intelligence Agency-backed group and one of the largest factions in Aleppo, said in recent days that they were joining a broader alliance that is dominated by the Front. A second, smaller rebel group also joined that alliance, which is known as Jaish al-Fateh and includes another major Islamist rebel force, Ahrar al-Sham. …
“In a call with Mr. Kerry on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Syrian rebels ‘refused to follow the U.S.-Russian agreement…but instead merged with [Nusra Front].’”
So, it should be clear that a major obstacle to the agreement was the failure of the U.S. government to persuade its clients to break off alliances with Al Qaeda’s operatives, a connection that many Americans would find deeply troubling. That public awareness, in turn, would undermine the current neocon P.R. campaign to get the Obama administration to supply these rebels with anti-aircraft missiles and other sophisticated weapons, or to have U.S. warplanes destroy the Syrian air force in order to impose a “no-fly zone.”
Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, the powerful role of Al Qaeda and its spinoff, the Islamic State, has been a hidden or downplayed element of the narrative that has been sold to the American people. That story line holds that the war began when “peaceful” protesters were brutally repressed by Syria’s police and military, but that version deletes the fact that extremists, some linked to Al Qaeda, began killing police and soldiers almost from the outset.
However, since The New York Times is now a full-time neocon propaganda sheet, it does all it can to hide such troublesome realities from its readers, all the better to jazz up the hatred of Syria and Russia.
As the Times and the Journal both made clear in their articles on Tuesday, the neocon agenda now involves providing more American armaments to the rebels either directly through the CIA or indirectly through U.S. regional “allies,” such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.
Though pitched to the American people as “humanitarian” assistance needed to shoot down Syrian and Russian planes, the arming-up of the rebels will likely extend the war and the bloodletting even longer while strengthening Al Qaeda and the Islamic State,.
If the new U.S. weapons prove especially effective, they could even lead to the collapse of the Syrian government and bring about the neocons’ long-desired “regime change” in Damascus. But the ultimate winners would likely be Al Qaeda and/or the Islamic State, which could be expected to follow up with the mass slaughter of Christians, Alawites, Shiites, secular Sunnis and other “heretics.”
More likely, however, the U.S.-supplied weapons would just cause the war to drag on indefinitely with an ever-rising death toll. But don’t worry, the dead will be blamed on Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad.
Although never mentioned in the mainstream U.S. media, the delivery of weapons to these Syrian rebels/terrorists is a clear violation of international law, an act of aggression and arguably a crime of aiding and abetting terrorists.
International law is something that the Times considers sacrosanct when the newspaper is condemning a U.S. adversary for some violation, but that reverence disappears when the U.S. government or a U.S. “ally” is engaged in the same act or worse.
So, it is understandable why Gordon and Kramer would leave out facts from their story that might give Americans pause. After all, if the “moderate” rebels are in cahoots with Al Qaeda, essentially serving as a cut-out for the U.S. and its “allies” to funnel dangerous weapons to the terror organization that carried out the 9/11 attacks, Americans might object.
Similarly, if they were told that the U.S. actions violate international law, they might find that upsetting, too, since many Americans aren’t as coolly hypocritical as Official Washington’s neocons and liberal war hawks.
Beyond the devolution of The New York Times into a neocon propaganda organ, Gordon and Kramer have their own histories as propagandists. Gordon co-wrote the infamous “aluminum tube” story in September 2002, launching President George W. Bush’s ad campaign for selling the Iraq War to the American people. Gordon also has gotten his hands into disinformation campaigns regarding Syria and Ukraine.
For instance, Gordon and Kramer teamed up on a bogus lead story that the State Department fed to them in 2014 about photographs supposedly taken of soldiers in Russia who then turned up in other photos in Ukraine – except that it turned out all the photos were taken in Ukraine, destroying the premise of the story and forcing an embarrassing retraction. [For more on that screw-up, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Another NYT-Michael Gordon Special?”]
For his part, Kramer has been a central figure in the Times’ anti-Russian propaganda regarding Ukraine. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Is Lost in Its Ukraine Propaganda.”]
So, between the Times’ neocon institutional bias – and the apparent personal agendas of key correspondents – one can expect very little in the way of balanced journalism when the topics relate to the Middle East or Russia.
There is a specter haunting the establishment media, the specter of a Trump presidency. This idea is apparently so terrifying that no unethical and hypocritical action is too extreme for “mainstream” journalists to take if it they believe it will damage Trump’s presidential prospects.
Enter the Russian threat. Russian President Vladimir Putin has become this election cycle’s boogeyman with the campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton constantly invoking him as if he is her actual opponent. She invokes Putin, even though Clinton has extensive connections to Putin and his inner circle.
The establishment media, taking its cues from the Clinton campaign, is now peddling any unhinged conspiracy theory if it somehow connects Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. The theories collapse under the slightest of scrutiny, but that seems to make no difference in the rapidity with which they are published.
The latest backfire was a claim that the Twitter hashtag “#TrumpWon” was started in Russia before it trended. This would, in theory, prove Russia was trying to meddle in the U.S. election.
Not long after the story went viral, it became undeniably clear it was hoax. The Washington Post, a major center for unhinged conspiracy theories about Russia, had to concede the claim was “probably false.”
But this admission is unlikely to stop the Washington Post from publishing deranged ramblings from Legatum Institute’s Anne Applebaum, who recently speculated that Putin is engaging in a covert action program to help Trump win the presidential election. (Whether Applebaum believes her own statements is unclear, but they are nonetheless very self-serving.)
That these Manchurian candidate stories keep falling apart, or are exposed as Clinton campaign propaganda, is irrelevant to the establishment media because Trump is such an existential threat so the rules no longer matter.
Recently, a columnist for the New York Times admitted it was not possible to cover Trump objectively, that “you have to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century.”
What this ultimately translates into is doing the bidding of the Clinton campaign, which the establishment media has done with glee. So, as long as the Clinton campaign peddles paranoia about Russia, regardless of how this hearkens back to the Cold War, expect numerous journalists to follow suit.
Photo by Jordi Bernabeu Farrús | CC By 2.0
Everyone claims to want to end the war in Syria and restore peace to the Middle East.
Well, almost everyone.
“This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,” said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York told the New York Times in June 2013. “Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here.”
Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, stressed the same points in August 2016:
“The West should seek the further weakening of Islamic State, but not its destruction… Allowing bad guys to kill bad guys sounds very cynical, but it is useful and even moral to do so if it keeps the bad guys busy and less able to harm the good guys… Moreover, instability and crises sometimes contain portents of positive change… The American administration does not appear capable of recognizing the fact that IS can be a useful tool in undermining Tehran’s ambitious plan for domination of the Middle East.”
Okay, not exactly everyone.
But surely the humanitarian website Avaaz wants to end the war and restore peace.
Or does it?
Avaaz is currently circulating a petition which has gathered over a million signatures and is aiming at a million and a half. It is likely to get them, with words like this:
“100 children have been killed in Aleppo since last Friday.
“Enough is enough!”
Avaaz goes on to declare: “There is no easy way to end this war, but there’s only one way to prevent this terror from the skies — people everywhere demanding a no-fly zone to protect civilians.”
No-fly zone? Doesn’t that sound familiar? That was the ploy that served to destroy Libya’s air defenses and opened the country to regime change in 2011. It was promoted zealously by Hillary Clinton, who is also on record as favoring the same gambit in Syria.
And when the West says “no-fly”, it means that some can fly and others cannot. With the no-fly zone in Libya, France, Britain and the United States flew all they wanted, killing countless civilians, destroying infrastructure and allowing Islamic rebels to help themselves to part of the country.
The Avaaz petition makes the same distinction. Some should fly and others should not.
“Let’s build a resounding global call to Obama and other leaders to stand up to Putin and Assad’s terror. This might be our last, best chance to help end this mass murder of defenseless children. Add your name.”
So it’s all about mass murder of defenseless children, and to stop it, we should call on the drone king, Obama, to end “terror from the skies”.
Not only Obama, but other “good” leaders, members of NATO:
“To President Obama, President Erdogan, President Hollande, PM May, and other world leaders: As citizens around the globe horrified by the slaughter of innocents in Syria, we call on you to enforce an air-exclusion zone in Northern Syria, including Aleppo, to stop the bombardment of Syria’s civilians and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those most in need.”
The timing of this petition is eloquent. It comes exactly when the Syrian government is pushing to end the war by reconquering the eastern part of Aleppo. It is part of the massive current propaganda campaign to reduce public consciousness of the Syrian war to two factors: child victims and humanitarian aid.
In this view, the rebels disappear. So do all their foreign backers, the Saudi money, the Wahhabi fanatics, the ISIS recruits from all over the world, the U.S. arms and French support. The war is only about the strange whim of a “dictator”, who amuses himself by bombing helpless children and blocking humanitarian aid. This view reduces the five-year war in Syria to the situation as it was portrayed in Libya, to justify the no-fly zone: nothing but a wicked dictator bombing his own people.
For the public that likes to consume world events in fairy tale form, this all fits together. Sign a petition on your computer and save the children.
The Avaaz petition does not aim to end the war and restore peace. It clearly aims to obstruct the Syrian government offensive to retake Aleppo. The Syrian army has undergone heavy losses in five years of war, its potential recruits have in effect been invited to avoid dangerous military service by going to Germany. Syria needs air power to reduce its own casualties. The Avaaz petition calls for crippling the Syrian offensive and thus taking the side of the rebels.
Wait – but does that mean they want the rebels to win? Not exactly. The only rebels conceivably strong enough to win are ISIS. Nobody really wants that.
The plain fact is that to end this war, as to end most wars, one side has to come out on top. When it is clear who is the winning side, then there can be fruitful negotiations for things like amnesty. But this war cannot be “ended by negotiations”. That is an outcome that the United States might support only if Washington could use negotiations to impose its own puppets – pardon, pro-democracy exiles living in the West. But as things stand, they would be rejected as traitors by the majority of Syrians who support the government and as apostates by the rebels. So one side has to win to end this war. The least worst outcome would be that the Assad government defeats the rebels, in order to preserve the state. For that, the Syrian armed forces need to retake the eastern part of Aleppo occupied by rebels.
The job of Avaaz is to get public opinion to oppose this military operation, by portraying it as nothing but a joint Russian-Syrian effort to murder civilians, especially children. For that, they call for a NATO military operation to shoot down (that’s what “no-fly” means) Syrian and Russian planes offering air support to the Syrian army offensive.
Even such drastic measures do not aim to end the war. They mean weakening the winning side to prevent it from winning. To prolong a stalemate. It means – to use the absurd expression popular during the Bosnian war – creating an “even playing field”, as if war were a sports event. It means keeping the war going on and on until nothing is left of Syria, and what is left of the Syrian population fills up refugee camps in Europe.
As the New York Times reported from Jerusalem in September 2013, “The synergy between the Israeli and American positions, while not explicitly articulated by the leaders of either country, could be a critical source of support as Mr. Obama seeks Congressional approval for surgical strikes in Syria.” It added that “Israel’s national security concerns have broad, bipartisan support in Washington, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the influential pro-Israel lobby in Washington, weighed in Tuesday in support of Mr. Obama’s approach.” (This was when Obama was planning to “punish President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons without seeking to force him from power” – before Obama decided to join Russia in disarming the Syrian chemical arsenal instead, a decision for which he continues to be condemned by the pro-Israel lobby and the War Party.) AIPAC’s statement “said nothing, however, about the preferred outcome of the civil war…”
Indeed. As the 2013 report from Jerusalem continued, “as hopes have dimmed for the emergence of a moderate, secular rebel force that might forge democratic change and even constructive dialogue, with Israel, a third approach has gained traction: Let the bad guys burn themselves out. ‘The perpetuation of the conflict is absolutely serving Israel’s interest,’ said Nathan Thrall, a Jerusalem-based analyst for the International Crisis Group.”
The plain truth is that Syria is the victim of a long-planned Joint Criminal Enterprise to destroy the last independent secular Arab nationalist state in the Middle East, following the destruction of Iraq in 2003. While attributed to government repression of “peaceful protests” in 2011, the armed uprising had been planned for years and was supported by outside powers: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States and France, among others. The French motives remain mysterious, unless linked to those of Israel, which sees the destruction of Syria as a means to weaken its arch rival in the region, Iran. Saudi Arabia has similar intentions to weaken Iran, but with religious motives. Turkey, the former imperial power in the region, has territorial and political ambitions of its own. Carving up Syria can satisfy all of them.
This blatant and perfectly open conspiracy to destroy Syria is a major international crime, and the above-mentioned States are co-conspirators. They are joined in this Joint Criminal Enterprise by ostensibly “humanitarian” organizations like Avaaz that spread war propaganda in the guise of protecting children. This works because most Americans just can’t believe that their government would do such things. Because normal ordinary people have good intentions and hate to see children killed, they imagine that their government must be the same. It is hard to overcome this comforting faith. It is more natural to believe that the criminals are wicked people in a country about which they really understand nothing.
There is no chance that this criminal enterprise will ever arouse the attention of the prosecutors at the International Criminal Court, which like most major international organizations is totally under U.S. control. For example, the United Nations Undersecretary General for Political Affairs, who analyses and frames political issue for the Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, is an American diplomat, Jeffrey Feltman, who was a key member of Hillary Clinton’s team when she was carrying out regime change in Libya. And accomplices in this criminal enterprise include all the pro-governmental “non-governmental” organizations such as Avaaz who push hypocrisy to new lengths by exploiting compassion for children in order to justify and perpetuate this major crime against humanity and against peace in the world.
Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. She can be reached at email@example.com
A group of ex-U.S. intelligence officials is warning President Obama to defuse growing tensions with Russia over Syria by reining in the demonization of President Putin and asserting White House civilian control over the Pentagon.
ALERT MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
SUBJECT: PREVENTING STILL WORSE IN SYRIA
We write to alert you, as we did President George W. Bush, six weeks before the attack on Iraq, that the consequences of limiting your circle of advisers to a small, relatively inexperienced coterie with a dubious record for wisdom can prove disastrous.* Our concern this time regards Syria.
We are hoping that your President’s Daily Brief tomorrow will give appropriate attention to Saturday’s warning by Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova: “If the US launches a direct aggression against Damascus and the Syrian Army, it would cause a terrible, tectonic shift not only in the country, but in the entire region.”
Speaking on Russian TV, she warned of those whose “logic is ‘why do we need diplomacy’ … when there is power … and methods of resolving a problem by power. We already know this logic; there is nothing new about it. It usually ends with one thing – full-scale war.”
We are also hoping that this is not the first you have heard of this – no doubt officially approved – statement. If on Sundays you rely on the “mainstream” press, you may well have missed it. In the Washington Post, an abridged report of Zakharova’s remarks (nothing about “full-scare war”) was buried in the last paragraph of an 11-paragraph article titled “Hospital in Aleppo is hit again by bombs.” Sunday’s New York Times totally ignored the Foreign Ministry spokesperson’s statements.
In our view, it would be a huge mistake to allow your national security advisers to follow the example of the Post and Times in minimizing the importance of Zakharova’s remarks.
Events over the past several weeks have led Russian officials to distrust Secretary of State John Kerry. Indeed, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who parses his words carefully, has publicly expressed that distrust. Some Russian officials suspect that Kerry has been playing a double game; others believe that, however much he may strive for progress through diplomacy, he cannot deliver on his commitments because the Pentagon undercuts him every time. We believe that this lack of trust is a challenge that must be overcome and that, at this point, only you can accomplish this.
It should not be attributed to paranoia on the Russians’ part that they suspect the Sept. 17 U.S. and Australian air attacks on Syrian army troops that killed 62 and wounded 100 was no “mistake,” but rather a deliberate attempt to scuttle the partial cease-fire Kerry and Lavrov had agreed on – with your approval and that of President Putin – that took effect just five days earlier.
In public remarks bordering on the insubordinate, senior Pentagon officials showed unusually open skepticism regarding key aspects of the Kerry-Lavrov deal. We can assume that what Lavrov has told his boss in private is close to his uncharacteristically blunt words on Russian NTV on Sept. 26:
“My good friend John Kerry … is under fierce criticism from the US military machine. Despite the fact that, as always, [they] made assurances that the US Commander in Chief, President Barack Obama, supported him in his contacts with Russia (he confirmed that during his meeting with President Vladimir Putin), apparently the military does not really listen to the Commander in Chief.”
Lavrov’s words are not mere rhetoric. He also criticized JCS Chairman Joseph Dunford for telling Congress that he opposed sharing intelligence with Russia, “after the agreements concluded on direct orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama stipulated that they would share intelligence. … It is difficult to work with such partners. …”
Policy differences between the White House and the Pentagon are rarely as openly expressed as they are now over policy on Syria. We suggest you get hold of a new book to be released this week titled The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War by master historian H. W. Brands. It includes testimony, earlier redacted, that sheds light on why President Truman dismissed WWII hero Gen. Douglas MacArthur from command of U.N. forces in Korea in April 1951. One early reviewer notes that “Brands’s narrative makes us wonder about challenges of military versus civilian leadership we still face today.” You may find this new book more relevant at this point in time than the Team of Rivals.
The door to further negotiations remains ajar. In recent days, officials of the Russian foreign and defense ministries, as well as President Putin’s spokesman, have carefully avoided shutting that door, and we find it a good sign that Secretary Kerry has been on the phone with Foreign Minister Lavrov. And the Russians have also emphasized Moscow’s continued willingness to honor previous agreements on Syria.
In the Kremlin’s view, Russia has far more skin in the game than the U.S. does. Thousands of Russian dissident terrorists have found their way to Syria, where they obtain weapons, funding, and practical experience in waging violent insurgency. There is understandable worry on Moscow’s part over the threat they will pose when they come back home. In addition, President Putin can be assumed to be under the same kind of pressure you face from the military to order it to try to clean out the mess in Syria “once and for all,” regardless how dim the prospects for a military solution are for either side in Syria.
We are aware that many in Congress and the “mainstream” media are now calling on you to up the ante and respond – overtly or covertly or both – with more violence in Syria. Shades of the “Washington Playbook,” about which you spoke derisively in interviews with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg earlier this year. We take some encouragement in your acknowledgment to Goldberg that the “playbook” can be “a trap that can lead to bad decisions” – not to mention doing “stupid stuff.”
Goldberg wrote that you felt the Pentagon had “jammed” you on the troop surge for Afghanistan seven years ago and that the same thing almost happened three years ago on Syria, before President Putin persuaded Syria to surrender its chemical weapons for destruction. It seems that the kind of approach that worked then should be tried now, as well – particularly if you are starting to feel jammed once again.
Incidentally, it would be helpful toward that end if you had one of your staffers tell the “mainstream” media to tone down it puerile, nasty – and for the most part unjustified and certainly unhelpful – personal vilification of President Putin.
Renewing direct dialogue with President Putin might well offer the best chance to ensure an end, finally, to unwanted “jamming.” We believe John Kerry is correct in emphasizing how frightfully complicated the disarray in Syria is amid the various vying interests and factions. At the same time, he has already done much of the necessary spadework and has found Lavrov for the most part, a helpful partner.
Still, in view of lingering Russian – and not only Russian – skepticism regarding the strength of your support for your secretary of state, we believe that discussions at the highest level would be the best way to prevent hotheads on either side from risking the kind of armed confrontation that nobody should want.
Therefore, we strongly recommend that you invite President Putin to meet with you in a mutually convenient place, in order to try to sort things out and prevent still worse for the people of Syria.
In the wake of the carnage of World War II, Winston Churchill made an observation that is equally applicable to our 21st Century: “To jaw, jaw, jaw, is better than to war, war, war.”
* In a Memorandum to President Bush criticizing Colin Powell’s address to the UN earlier on February 5, 2003, VIPS ended with these words: “After watching Secretary Powell today, we are convinced that you would be well served if you widened the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”
For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)
Fred Costello, Former Russian Linguist, USAF
Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator
Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)
Larry C. Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)
John Kiriakou, former CIA counterterrorism officer and former senior investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Edward Loomis, NSA, Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)
Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)
Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East, CIA (ret.)
Todd Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)
Coleen Rowley, Division Counsel & Special Agent, FBI (ret.)
Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA, (ret.)
Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer
Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat