World policeman? World terrorist!

The USA “can no longer be a world policeman,” said Donald Trump. “We no longer want to be exploited by countries that use us and our incredible military to protect themselves… We are spread all over the world. We are in countries of which most people have not even heard. Honestly, it’s ridiculous.”

What a blessing for humanity it would be if Trump would end the role of the USA as “world police”. But the empire will not allow that. Whether Trump understood it or not, the US has orbited 800 to 1000 military stations around the globe, aircraft carriers on the oceans and Russia and China to secure its world domination. They wage trade wars, covert wars, drone wars and bomb wars over raw materials and markets. After the Second World War, the USA left a trail of blood all around the globe with an estimated 20 to 30 million dead and are the “world terrorist”.

It is therefore only crying if the Western community of states fears that terrorism will increase again if the USA withdraws its troops from Syria. Conversely, it becomes a shoe. Terrorism will only be defeated if the “Western community of values” stops colonizing other countries, exploiting them and covering them with wars. The prerequisite is that the USA and the Western states understand that the wars they are waging with millions of deaths are the terrorism under which humanity suffers. And that the late actor Peter Ustinov was right: “Terrorism is the war of the poor and war is the terrorism of the rich”.

The “world police” can only be the UN, which, as it was intended when it was founded, would have police forces that could be deployed worldwide. Even if the USA comes up with the idea of attacking a country. One recognizes: Worldwide disarmament, above all of the superpowers, is the condition of the establishment of a “world police”.

by Oskar Lafontaine

Translated from German by Alfonso

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It´s official. We lost the Cold War.

By Dana Milbank in the Washington Post.

Perhaps the timing of George H.W. Bush´s death last month was merciful. This way he didn´t have to see America lose the Cold War.

Bush presided over the Soviet Union´s collapse in 1991. But the triumph he and others earned with American blood and treasure over 71 years, defeating the Soviet Union and keeping its successor in check, has been squandered by President Trump in just two.

Trump unraveling of the post-war order accelerated this week when he announced a willy-nilly pullout from Syria, leaving in the lurch scores of allies who participated in the campaign against the Islamic Stat, throwing our Kurdish partners to the wolves, isolating Israel, and given Russia and Iran free rein in the Middle East. Then word emerged that Trump is ordering another hasty withdrawal, from Afghanistan. Trump´s defense secretary, retired Gen. Jim Matti’s, resigned in protest of the president´s estrangement of allies and emboldening of Russia and China.

The TV series “The man in the High Castle” imagines a world in which Nazis won World War II. But we don´t need an alternative-history show to imagine a Soviet victory in the Cold War. We have Trump.

Mattis, in his memorable resignation letter (a bookend to George Kennan´s “long telegram” of 1946 wrote: “We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances. Because you have the right to have a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.”

Mattis spelled out the views of his that are apparently not “aligned” with Trump´s: “treating allies with respect”, believing in the 29 NATO democracies (Trump has repeatedly raised questions about NATO´s utility); respecting the 74-nation “defeat-ISIS coalition” (now to be abandoned in Syria); and recognizing threats from China and Russia, which “want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model ….at the expense of neighbors, America and our allies.

Republicans now profess to be alarmed. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has enabled Trump at every step, says he´s “particularly distressed.” Sem. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) sees “chaos.” But that is too little, too late. Turkey says it will postpone an invasion of Syria as U.S. forces leave – the better to “bury” our Kurdish allies. And Russian President Vladimir Putin exults: “American troops should not be in Syria and have been there illegally.

Indeed, a Soviet leader hardly could have outlined a better scenario than Trump has created for Putin: A rift between the United States and NATO allies over the future of the alliance.

A U.S. demand that Russia be returning to the Group of Seven, as Russia continues provocations in Ukraine.

A U.S. threat to pull out of the World Trade Organization, and a round of U.S.-imposed tariffs that severely weakened it.

A U.S. president abandoning human rights, accepting Saudi Arabia´s murder of a U.S.-based journalist and embracing repressive leaders around the globe.

A U.S. president creating a rift with Europe over Iran (the nuclear agreement) and climate change (the Paris accord).

A U.S. president embracing as “very honorable” North Korea´s brutal dictator without any tangible concessions on nuclear weapons.

A U.S.- launched trade war that, the Federal Reserve said this week, is partially responsible for cooling worldwide growth.

Lost confidence among Americas in elections, the Justice Department, the FBI, the courts and the free press.

And the loss of a bipartisan consensus against the Russian threat. Forty percent of Republicans called Russia an ally or friend in a Gallup poll, up from 22 percent in 2014.

Way has Trump squandered so much for so little? Maybe it´s because, during the 2016 campaign, Russia was privately negotiating a business deal in Moscow with him and releasing stolen documents that hurt his Democratic opponent. (Meanwhile, Trump was praising Putin and his campaign was softening the GOP platform on Russia.) Whether special counsel Robert Mueller III concludes there was a quid pro quo, Putin clearly has benefited from Trump´s presidency.

In Helsinki, in front of the world, Trump accepted Putin´s word over that of U.S. intelligence agencies. Trump has chafed at aide’s insistence on Russia sanctions, and the few who could resist Trump´s pro-Putin instincts are gone: H.R. McMaster, Rex Tillerson, John Kelly and now Mattis.

Generations of Americans paid any price and bore burden, from Berlin to Saigon to Havana. Now, 29 years after the wall fell, Trump is handing Moscow the Cold War victory it could never win.

Comment on the journalist´s work:

This article shows how different the US is looking at itself. It wants to be the indispensable nation, which means that the only country on this earth is the United States of America. All other counties can go to hell, only we, the U.S. can do the right thing. This article shows the mainstream media, in the U.S. is so far out of thatch, that it will be almost impossible to go back to journalistic reporting, which means that you investigate before you make your conclusions.

by Alfonso

 

 

Putin has little understanding for Gorbachev’s decision in 1987 to sign the INF treaty

When Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan signed the INF Treaty in 1987, this led to the unilateral disarmament of the Soviet Union. This opinion was expressed on Tuesday by Russian President Vladimir Putin. In his own words, Putin does not quite understand what this was done for.

“Only God knows why the leadership of the USSR agreed to this unilateral disarmament, but that was done,” Putin said.

The Russian President recalled that the Soviet Union at that time had only ground-based medium and short-range missiles, while the US had also had sea- and airborne missiles of this kind. While the Soviet Union was disarming, the U.S. had continued to develop its systems not covered by the INF Treaty.

With a view to the planned withdrawal of the USA from the treaty, the Russian head of state warned against the “collapse of the entire security architecture”. At the same time, he allowed other countries to be included in the agreement.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had declared at the beginning of December that Russia had two months to “return to compliance with the INF Treaty”. If this does not happen, Washington will suspend its obligations under the INF Treaty, Pompeo said. US Deputy Secretary of State Andrea Thompson, for her part, said the US would call on Russia to abandon the 9M729 (SSC-8) missile or modify this system so that its range would not violate the provisions of the INF Treaty.

Moscow and Washington have repeatedly accused each other in recent years of violating the INF Treaty. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov remarked, Moscow has serious questions to the US regarding American compliance with the INF Treaty.

Moscow points out, among other things, that the US is deploying Tomahawk offensive cruise missiles in Romania and Poland, which the treaty prohibits. The Russian side also points out that the USA has developed attack drones and financed the research work for the construction of a land-based cruise missile.
Translatet from German to English by aöfonso

Pompeo’s arrogance apparent in intervention to press China to release two Canadians

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said two Canadian citizens being kept in custody by China are unlawfully detained and they should be returned. Pompeo made the accusation on Friday during a joint press conference after the US-Canada 2+2 ministerial meeting.

Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland also defended the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, as a decision made according to law not politics.

Earlier this week US President Donald Trump said he might step in if it is good for his country, implying that Meng’s case could be leveraged as a bargaining chip, which turns out to be an embarrassment for the Canadian government.

Canada is clamoring about how “unacceptable” it is for China to keep its people in custody, and still insisted that Meng’s arrest under US request was based on law. Ottawa is seeking support from the US, and also hopes other allies will join and step up the pressure on Beijing.

China’s judiciary is different from the US and Canada, so how could both countries be so sure that China’s detention of the two Canadians is illegal? Jurisdiction is an essential component of a country’s sovereignty. All foreign citizens in China, instead of holding the illusion that they can be protected by the laws of their home countries, must abide by the laws of China. Canadian and US foreign ministers must be fully aware of the basic principle.

The most important principle for communication between countries of different systems is mutual respect, without which there won’t be effective conversations. The US has been relentlessly employing long-arm jurisdiction, and Canada is willing to be its accomplice. Ottawa should reflect on its decision instead of blaming Beijing.

The world order is not an expansion of the legal systems and values embraced by the US and Canada. Different systems should be integrated in an inclusive environment. Insolence and arrogance, represented by the US and Canada through their blatant accusation of China, is the worst detriment to the world order.

The US and Canada have strong capability of using laws as weapons against other countries. Their propaganda machines and the Western media networks have the power to distort anything in their field. However, facts and principles are more powerful than any headline or frontpage story. China, a mega country, must make sure its national interests and security are strongly defended against any external forces.

Without compromising the bottom line, China also needs to make its law enforcement more transparent to the outside.

The US and Canada make an uproar that China’s detention of the two Canadians will jeopardize the country’s business environment. But Meng’s arrest makes a far bigger impact on the global business environment.

Canada should know that having the US’ support won’t make much difference. Fiddling with the Taiwan question is unlikely to put any pressure on Beijing. Ottawa must be aware that China has many cards to play, and going against Beijing is a bad idea. Staying away from the tensions between China and the US should be what it seeks.

By Alfonso

70 years of the UN Human Rights Charter

The commitment to basic human rights, for many a great hope after the Second World War, is now instrumentalized for political, economic and military interests. It was 10 December 1948 when the UN Declaration of Human Rights (1) was adopted in Paris. 48 states voted in favour, nobody voted against, 8 states (2) abstained. In 30 points comprehensive rights were established for all people who – according to Article 1 – were all “born free and equal in dignity and rights” and “gifted with reason and conscience”. They “shall meet one another in the spirit of brotherhood”.

70 years later, globalization shook the power structure of the post-war period, in which the USA – after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989 – thought to have asserted itself as “the only world power” (3). Today other powerful poles are present: Russia, China, India and various regional powers oppose the submission to the world order which the USA created with its allies in Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan and others.

A new multipolar world order is called for. The USA does not want to give up its leading role. The previous US partners are looking for a way between national, transatlantic and international positioning – the world is out of joint. The price for the fight for a new world order is paid by the people in whose countries this power struggle is fought. The human rights agreed in 1948 are being disregarded as never before. The UN, its organisations and UN resolutions are openly disregarded, circumvented and defamed by the USA and some of its allies. International law, as adopted in the UN Charter of 26 June 1945 in San Francisco, is broken for its own interests. Those who insist on its observance are declared enemies or “eternally yesterday”. Crises and wars have increased, almost 70 million people are on the run. The concept of “human rights” has – as in the time of the “Cold War” – become a combat concept. In order to put his opponent under pressure, one warns him first to respect the human rights. In the next step one accuses him of violating human rights, whereby international human rights organizations often support this procedure with campaigns, which are taken up and spread by media and politics.

Finally, there are legal criminal proceedings and indictments, including before the International Criminal Court. Since the large global international media companies are almost exclusively in the hands of the USA or its allies – AP in the USA, Reuters in Great Britain, AFP in France, dpa in Germany – such campaigns attract worldwide attention. Since other media such as Al Jazeera in Qatar, RT in Russia, CCTV in China, Press TV in Iran have been able to make themselves heard worldwide in English or Spanish, such campaigns have been questioned or confronted with other representations.

With the so-called “social media” on Facebook, Twitter and others, countless new blogs and portals have emerged that claim to work neutrally and scientifically, or they want to spread “truth”. They claim to “explain history”, “enlighten” or “find facts”, but usually spread interpretations and/or views. This is justified in the context of freedom of the press and freedom of speech, but it does not mean that the representations do justice to the actual history or an event. The USA, EU and NATO have invented a new concept of struggle. “Fake news” is spread by Russian and Iranian media, a reporter from Spiegel-Online recently stated at a panel discussion in Frankfurt/Main. The EU and NATO have set up special task forces to stop such “propaganda”.

An example: The Middle East

The Middle East is the area where the struggle between a unipolar world order à la USA and a multipolar world order rages most fiercely. Here international law is broken systematically and sustainably, human rights are disregarded, states are prevented from their independent development and destabilized. It began at the end of the First World War with the division of the region into French and British interests, according to the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, intensified with the Balfour Declaration of 1917, in which the British government promised the Zionist World Federation support for the establishment of a “national home in Palestine”. It continued with the formation of new states, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon, Iraq, at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919/20, which disregarded the results of the King Crane Commission.

The Commission (4) had received petitions in 1875 in which the local population had expressed their opinion: they did not want a French mandate and they wanted a United Syria, i.e. no division of Syria and Palestine. The “Zionist programme” could “only be implemented by force”, according to the Commission’s report. The League of Nations, forerunner of the United Nations, confirmed the division of the region against the will of the people living there. The injustice continued after the Second World War on 29 November 1947 with a partition plan between Israel and Palestine adopted by the UN General Assembly, which was disregarded by the violent establishment of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948 and led to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland (Nakba) (5).

One day after the adoption of the UN Charter of Human Rights, on 11 December 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 194, Article 11 of which recognises the right of the Palestinians to return and/or compensation (6). The decision is based on the UN Declaration of Human Rights. It says, among other things:

Article 13.2: Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 17.2: No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her property.

In December 1949, the UN Organisation for the Support of Palestinian Refugees, UNWRA, was founded. When it began its work in May 1950, 914,221 Palestinian refugees were registered. Palestinian refugees were and are “persons whose place of residence was in Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 and 15 May 1945 and who lost both their home and livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict”. This status also applies to the descendants of male Palestinian refugees, including adopted children (7). No UN resolution in favour of Palestinian or other Arab refugees, which has lost health, homeland, work, relatives in crises and wars with Israel since the foundation of the State of Israel, has ever been observed by Israel. This applies to Lebanese, whose land was occupied again and again by Israel, as well as to Syrians, who lost everything during the occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights in 1967 and their annexation by Israel in 1981 in violation of international law. 70 years after the adoption of the UN Charter of Human Rights, Israel’s neighbours have nothing to celebrate. Some of the Palestinian refugees have been expelled several times by Israel, and many live as refugees in their own country, the Gaza Strip. For 11 years, the coastal strip of Israel has been sealed off from land, sea and air and repeatedly attacked militarily. Since 30 March, the 70th anniversary of their expulsion in 1948, the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip have organised the “March of Return”, in which thousands of people, young and old, take part every Friday. They march along the fences set up by Israel, which prevent the Palestinians from reaching other parts of Palestine or Israel.

Amnesty International (8) reports that more than 150 people were killed in these marches by Israeli soldiers beyond the fences. At least 10,000 were injured, including 1849 children, 424 women, 115 nurses with clear identification and 115 journalists, also marked as press. 5814 of the injured were therefore hit by live ammunition. One Israeli soldier was injured, another soldier was killed.

A short video clip by Amnesty International (9) allows Palestinians – women and men – from the Gaza Strip to speak. They say they have been deprived of their rights. The right to education, freedom of movement and travel, social, economic and political security. There is no electricity, no clean water, says one woman. There is a lack of secure health care, of work, of income. A man reports that he was shot three times because he protested against the siege. His wife says she was injured in the leg. Now she is wearing a cast and hopes to be able to walk again one day. “Come visit us,” says one man. “See for yourself how we have to live here. Beautiful words are not enough, something has to be done. The Israeli blockade was imposed in 2007 on the land, water and air routes. Gaza airport, which was built with EU money, has been bombed. Ships trying to approach Gaza from the sea are upset, boarded and confiscated by the Israeli navy. Fishermen who go further than 3 nautical miles out to sea are fired at. The border crossings to land are closed again and again. To date, hardly any material for reconstruction has reached the Gaza Strip. People are denied access to medical treatment, to universities or to leave the country.

The catastrophic human rights situation for the Palestinians is the result of the failure of international politics. Israel acts as an occupying power without complying with its obligations under international law. Israel builds on Palestinian soil, destroys Palestinian houses and schools (10), expels, arrests, insults the Palestinians in their own country, where they remain to this day. In the occupied territories of the West Bank, Israel has developed an apartheid system with places, schools, streets for settlers where Palestinians are not allowed to move. The attempt to annex the whole of Palestine, to expel the Palestinians across the Jordan to Jordan and into the desert of the Sinai Peninsula is supported by the White House in Washington as a “century deal”. Not only is the Palestinians’ right to return to their homeland not respected 70 years after the adoption of the UN Charter of Human Rights and the corresponding UN resolutions, but Israel is mocking it. And with the Palestinians, the UN organization that was founded in 1949 to help the Palestinian refugees is mocked and defamed.

“UNRWA Circus”, Avivel Schneider, editor-in-chief of “Israel Today”, recently commented in a commentary that the Palestinian refugees could inherit “their refugee status to their children”. This is not granted to “any other refugee in the world,” Schneider said. The Palestinians “maintain their refugee status” (11). He was pleased with US President Donald Trump’s decision to cut UNRWA funding. It is “absolute nonsense” to maintain a refugee organisation “exclusively for the Palestinians”. At a meeting with 50 foreign ambassadors and diplomats (12), Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely declared that UNRWA was “a problem, not the solution”. The aim of Israeli policy is to “close UNRWA”, Hotovely continued. The assembled diplomats should also work towards this goal with their governments. The internet portal “Mena Watch”, which presents itself as an independent think tank, is scandalously agitating against people and organisations that point to the rights of the Palestinians and their disregard by the Israeli occupying power. Authors of the Internet portal speak at events about the “myth Nakba” or publish books about the fact that the United Nations wanted to deny all rights to the “Jewish state” (13).

UN resolutions denouncing the illegal construction of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and the violent actions of the Israeli army against the Palestinians are reinterpreted as “anti-Semitic” and “anti-Israel” propaganda.

In Germany this falls on fertile ground. The civil society Palestinian “boycott, disinvestment and sanctions for Palestine” campaign, BDS, (14) was recently even stigmatized as “clearly anti-Semitic” in the state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia. Public institutions were asked not to give any space to such events (15). Not only in North Rhine-Westphalia, but also in Baden-Württemberg, Israeli politics are subject to discussion bans.

On 6 December 2018, journalist Andreas Zumach was to speak on the topic of “Israel – its true and false friends” (16) at a Protestant adult education event (EEB). The event was cancelled due to the intervention of the Jewish Cultural Community in Karlsruhe. Reason: Andreas Zumach was involved in the “Alliance to End Israeli Occupation, BIB” (17). This was similar to the BDS campaign “anti-Semitic”.

Sources and comments:

 

(1) https://www.amnesty.de/alle-30-artikel-der-allgemeinen-erklaerung-der-menschenrechte

(2) Yugoslavia, Poland, Saudi Arabia, the Soviet Union, South Africa, Czechoslovakia, Ukraine and Belarus.

(3) Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Only World Power: America’s Strategy of Dominance (Fischer Nonfiction).

(4) The King Crane Commission travelled through the Levant from June 10 to July 21, 1919. The report was not discussed at the Paris Peace Conference and later disappeared in the USA. Only in 1963 it was published in Beirut: Harry N. Howard, The King Crane Commission.

(5) Ludwig Watzal, Enemies of Peace, The Endless Conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Aufbau-Taschenbuch-Verlag, 2001

(6) http://www.lib-hilfe.de/mat/ausstellung/Ausstellung_Nakba.pdf

(7) https://www.unrwa.org/who-we-are

(8) https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2018/10/gaza-great-march-of-return/

(9) https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2018/10/gaza-great-march-of-return/

(10) https://www.palestinechronicle.com/israel-demolishes-a-palestinian-school-in-west-bank/

(11) (30.11.2018; Israel Today) http://www.israelheute.com/Nachrichten/Artikel/tabid/179/nid/34572/Default.aspx)

(12) (26.11.2018) https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20181129-israel-urges-countries-to-stop-funding-unrwa/

(13) https://www.amazon.de/Vereinte-Nationen-gegen-Israel-delegitimiert/dp/3955652491

(14) http://bds-kampagne.de/

(15) https://www.landtag.nrw.de/portal/WWW/dokumentenarchiv/Dokument/MMD17-3577.pdf

(16) https://bnn.de/lokales/karlsruhe/shitstorm-nach-absage-thomas-schalla-will-verhaeltnis-zur-juedischen-gemeinde-nicht-belasten

(17) https://www.bib-jetzt.de/

Translated from German

by Alfonso

The demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era

by Mairead Maguire

In examining the future, we must look to the past.

As we watch the media today, we are spoon fed more and more propaganda and fear of the unknown, that we should be afraid of the unknown and have full faith that our govern- ment is keeping us safe from the unknown. But by looking at media today, those of us who are old enough will be reminded of the era of Cold War news articles, the hysteria of how the Russians would invade and how we should duck and cover under tables in our kitchens for the ensuing nuclear war. Under this mass hysteria, all Western governments were convinced that we should join Westernallies to fight the unknown evil that lies tothe east. Later through my travels in Russia during the height of the Cold War with a

peace delegation, we were shocked by the poverty of the country and questioned how we ever were led to believe that Russia was a force to fear. We talked to the Russian stu- dents who were dismayed by their absolute poverty and showed anger against NATO for leading their country into an arms race that they could not win. Many years later, when speaking to young Americans in the U.S., I was in disbelief about the fear the students had of Russia and their talk of invasion. This is a good example of how the unknown can cause a deep-rooted paranoia when manipu- lated by the right powers.

All armies must have an enemy to deem them necessary. An enemy must be created, and the people must be convinced that there is a need for action to safeguard the freedom of their country.

All military is expensive, and we can see in Europe that the countries are reluctant toexpand their military spending and find ithard to justify this to their people. In looking at this scenario, we can ask ourselves what isbeneficial about this hysteria and fear causedon both sides. All armies must have an enemy to deem them necessary. An enemy must be created, and the people convinced that there is a need for action to safeguard the freedom of their country. Right now, wecan see a shifting of financial power fromold Western powers to the rise of the Middle East and Asia. Do we honestly believe that the Western allies are going to give up their power? My suggestion is: not easily. Theold dying empires will fight tooth and nail to protect their financial interests such as the petrol dollar and the many benefits that

come through their power over poverty-stricken countries.

Firstly, I must say, that I believe that Russia is not by any means without faults. But the amount of anti-Russian propaganda in our media today is a throwback to the Cold War era. We must ask the question: Is this leading to more arms, a bigger NATO? Possibly to challenge large powers in the Middle East and Asia, as we see the U.S. approaching the South China seas, and NATO Naval games taking place in the Black Sea. Missile com- pounds are being erected in Romania, Poland, and other ex-Soviet countries, while military games are set up in Scandinavia close to the Rus- sian border to practice for a cold climate war scenario. At the same time, we see the U.S. President arriving in Europe asking for increased military spending. At the same time, the USA has increased its bud- get by $300 billion in one year.

The demonization of Rus- sia is, I believe, one of the most dangerous things that are happening in our world today. The scapegoating of Russia is an inexcusable game that the West is indulging in. It is time for political leaders and each individual to move us back from the brink of catastrophe to begin to build relationships with our Russian brothers and sisters. Too long has theelite financially gained fromwar while millions are moved into poverty and desperation. The people of the world have

been subjected to war propaganda based on lies and misinformation, and we have seen the results of invasions and occupations by NATO disguised as “humanitarian inter- vention” and “right to protect.” NATO has destroyed the lives of millions of people and purposely devastated their lands, causing the exodus of millions of refugees.

The people around the world must not be misled yet again. I believe that the U.S., the UK, and France are the most military minded countries, whose inability to use their imagination and creativity to solveconflict through dialogue and negotiation isastonishing to myself and many people. In a highly militarized, dangerous world it is important we start to humanize each otherand find ways of cooperation and build fra- ternity amongst the nations. The policies of demonization of political leaders as a means of preparing the way for invasions and wars must be stopped immediately, and serious effort put into the building of relationships across the world. The isolation and mar- ginalization of countries will only lead to extremism, fundamentalism, and violence.

During our visit to Moscow, we had the pleasure of attending a celebration of mass at the main Orthodox Cathedral. I was very inspired by the deep spirituality and faith of the people as they sang the entire three- hour mass. I was moved by the culture of the Russian people, and I could feel that their tremendous history of suffering and persecution gave them sensitivity and pas- sion for peace.

Surely it is time that we in Europe refuse to be put in a position where we are forced to choose between our Russian and American brothers and sisters. The enormous problems that we are faced with, such as, due to cli- mate change and wars, mass migration and movement of peoples around the world, need to be tackled as a world community. The lifting of sanctions against Russia and the setting up of programs of cooperation will help build friendships amongst the nations.

I call on all people to encourage their political leaders in the U.S., EU, and Russia to show vision and political leadership and use their skills to build trust and work for peace and nonviolence.

Mairead Corrigan Maguire won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland. She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Reprinted from Common Dreams.

by Alfonso

Behind Ukraine-Russia naval tensions, a more brutal economic war

Trade ties with western Europe haven’t matched Ukraine’s hopes. That gives Russia extra leverage over a neighbor with whom historic bonds run deep, even amid the current situation off the shores of Crimea.

By Fred Weir, Correspondent NOVEMBER 26, 2018

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko attends a meeting at the state-owned gas pipeline operator Ukrtransgaz in Kiev, Ukraine, on March 3. (Mykhailo Markiv/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters)

Moscow Russia’s conflict with Ukraine is back in the headlines after Russia seized three Ukrainian military vessels and their crews near Crimea, triggering a declaration of martial law in Ukraine and a fresh escalation of tensionsbetween the two formerly friendly neighbors.

But very little attention has been paid to the economic slugfest between the two, which has caused far more destruction than Russia’s sanctions war with the West over the past five years, and will leave lasting consequences even if they manage to resolve the present, seemingly intractable, political conflict.

Russia and Ukraine were joined at the hip as part of a single state for more than three centuries. Both countries were hard hit by the rupture of traditional ties when the Soviet Union collapsed almost three decades ago, but that greatly intensified after a pro-Western government came to power in Kiev in early 2014, and Russia responded by annexing Crimea and promoting a separatist war in eastern Ukraine. The fallout from all that, plus repeated waves of bitter mutual sanctions, has caused Russian-Ukrainian trade to collapse by two-thirds in the past five years. Fresh sanctions levied this month by Moscow against leading Ukrainian politicians and companies suggest the rift may be solidifying into permanence.

But it is a remarkable fact that Russia remains Ukraine’s biggest single trading partner by a wide margin, while most individual countries of the European Union – the community aspired to by Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution – remain far down the list. The stubborn persistence of age-old economic ties in the face of harsh new political animosities is a reality that frustrates hardliners in both countries. But those ties also contain shreds of fading hope, amid the mutual acrimony, that differences might be peacefully bridged one day.

Pressure, and wait for change

The latest barrage of Russian sanctions, targeting 322 Ukrainian individuals and 68 companies, appears to be aimed at inducing a pro-Russia outcome in the upcoming Ukrainian parliamentary and presidential elections. Several leading Ukrainian politicians – including outspokenly anti-Russia presidential contender Yulia Tymoshenko and former prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk – are on the list, as are many top Ukrainian businesspeople. Curiously, some powerful eastern Ukrainian oligarchs such as Rinat Akhmetov and Ihor Kolomoisky are not, nor is Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who owns a chocolate factory in the Russian city of Lipetsk. That selectivity is clearly deliberate.

“The Russian strategy is to wait until something changes in Ukraine,” says Sergei Markov, a former Kremlin adviser. “We know that some Ukrainian politicians would like to make a peace deal with Russia, but they are not able to in the present environment. We regard the present Ukrainian government as being under the control of Washington, and it is not able to make a free choice. When American influence fades in Ukraine – and it will – we believe our relations with the friendly Ukrainian people can be restored.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed repeatedly that Mr. Poroshenko’s government is the key obstacle to implementing the European-backed Minsk accords, which would mandate political decentralization in exchange for re-integrating eastern Ukraine’s separatist statelets into the country. Poroshenko’s exclusion from the current sanctions list – although his son is on it – is a signal to the Ukrainian president that Moscow expects him “not to push past any of our red lines,” says Mr. Markov.

For its part Ukraine has sanctioned almost 2,000 Russian individuals and more than 700 companies since 2014, dealing a crippling blow to the operation of Russian banks in Ukraine. Commercial flights between Ukraine and Russia have been banned. Although it is still possible to travel between the two countries by train, the operation of state-owned Russian Railways has been prohibited on Ukrainian territory. The once-extensive cooperation between former-Soviet military industries was stopped in 2014. Ukraine has also moved to curb the penetration of Russian media in the largely Russian-speaking country, blaming it for spreading disinformation about the ongoing conflict.

“If not for the fact that Russia seized Crimea, things might be very different between our countries,” says Alexander Okhrimenko, president of the independent Ukrainian Analytical Center in Kiev. “Maybe we will get over it in several decades, but right now Ukrainians perceive Russia as a hostile state and any Ukrainian politician, like it or not, has to take an anti-Russian stand.”

Passenger planes under construction are seen at the Antonov aircraft plant in Kiev, Ukraine, on July 25. VALENTYN OGIRENKO/REUTERS

Friendly views of people, more or less 

Mr. Okhrimenko is describing political realities. But one of the many counterintuitive peculiarities of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, which politicians in Kiev describe as a war of national defense against Russian aggression, is that substantial numbers of people in both countries continue to hold friendly views of the other. A joint survey conducted in September by Russia’s only independent pollster, the Levada Center, and the Kiev International Institute of Sociology (KIIS), found that Ukrainian views of Russia have slightly improved since the last survey in July, while Russian attitudes toward Ukraine have somewhat worsened.

Asked “how do you regard Ukraine in general,” 55 percent of Russians answered in the negative (up from 49 percent), and 33 percent in the positive (down from 37 percent). Asked the same question about Russia, 48 percent of Ukrainians answered “good” or “mostly good” (up from 45 percent), while 32 percent said “bad” or “mostly bad” (down from 38 percent). The same poll also found that 45 percent of Russians believe that Ukraine and Russia “should be independent, but friendly states, with open borders, without visas and customs,” with 32 percent advocating closed borders. Fully 50 percent of Ukrainians preferred open borders with Russia, while 39 percent favored a closed regime.

“The attitude of many Ukrainians toward Russia is something I always find quite surprising; it’s a kind of unrequited love,” says Vladimir Paniotto, director of KIIS. “But it’s not that simple. When asked about their attitude toward the Russian leadership, only 11 percent of Ukrainians say it’s positive. If you ask about Russian people in general, up to 70 percent say their attitude is good. It seems that Ukrainians do not know, or are prepared to ignore, the fact that around 80 percent of Russians support Putin’s course.”

Unique products made for Russia 

The mutual economic blows of the past few years have done irreparable harm to what was once a largely integrated Russian-Ukrainian economic space. Most of the damage has fallen upon Ukraine, which lost about 15 percent of its industrial potential and most of its once rich coal resources through the destruction of war and separatism in the east Ukraine; it seems increasingly unlikely it will ever be recovered. In addition, most of the great industries of eastern Ukraine have been idled through the loss of Russian markets for their unique products – things like giant turbines, railroad carriages, helicopter engines, tractors, and missile parts.

“You can call it de-industrialization,” says Alexander Kirsch, a liberal deputy of the Ukrainian parliament from the industrial city of Kharkiv. “We also have a huge outflow of labor resources. People are leaving to find work elsewhere. That’s not politics, it’s the consequence of war.”

Ukraine still earns as much as $3 billion annually in fees for transiting Russian gas to Europe through the old Soviet Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline. But that is set to end, or be deeply scaled back, when the current contract expires next year and alternative Russian pipelines like Nord Stream II under the Baltic Sea, and another under the Black Sea to Turkey, come online.

Some 4 million Ukrainians, or 16 percent of the working-age population, have left the country to find work abroad. Ironically, many of them go to Russia, where they now number about 2 million.

One of Ukraine’s most promising industries, the legendary aviation firm Antonov, has virtually ceased working. After 2014 it closed down several joint projects with Russian firms, and ended cooperation with the Russian military to build a powerful new medium-range transport plane, the An-70. New orders for Antonov aircraft, or offers of collaboration, have not materialized from the West, leaving the sprawling Antonov works in Kiev almost empty and reduced to repairing old aircraft to remain in business.

“It should be pointed out that many of those big industries, concentrated in eastern Ukraine, had no future anyway. They were inefficient and wasteful,” says Mr. Okhromenko. “But of course they need to be replaced by smaller, effective industries, and there are still very few of those.”

Russia has suffered too, and is still scrambling to find substitutes for some of the high-quality Ukrainian goods – particularly military components – that it once depended upon.

“A lot of Ukrainians would like to continue doing business with Russia, but it’s impossible now,” says Alexander Paraschiy, an economic expert with Concorde Capital, a Kiev-based brokerage. “We do see some increase in trade turnover with the EU countries, but those markets severely restrict our agricultural goods. We are refocusing on markets in the Middle East and Asia, but it is slow going.”

The failure of the West to significantly help Ukraine as it slugs it out with Russia is the source of some bitterness. And it may be something the Kremlin is counting on as it continues to apply politically-selective sanctions on leading Ukrainians, and waits for next year’s round of Ukrainian elections.

“The West made promises to us, but it seems they understood that in a different way from us,” says Mr. Kirsch, the parliamentarian. “We expected more support from the West, because there is no place in the world where people have sacrificed as much for the sake of a European choice as the people of Ukraine have.”

Thid article was presented in the Christian Science Monitor Nov. 29th.

by Alfonso

 

Why the Arabs don’t want US in Syria

They don’t hate ‘our freedoms.’ They hate that we’ve betrayed our ideals in their own countries — for oil.

ByROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR

In part because my father was murdered by an Arab, I’ve made an effort to understand the impact of U.S. policy in the Mideast and particularly the factors that sometimes motivate bloodthirsty responses from the Islamic world against our country. As we focus on the rise of the Islamic State and search for the source of the savagery that took so many innocent lives in Paris and San Bernardino, we might want to look beyond the convenient explanations of religion and ideology. Instead we should examine the more complex rationales of history and oil — and how they often point the finger of blame back at our own shores.

America’s unsavory record of violent interventions in Syria — little-known to the American people yet well-known to Syrians — sowed fertile ground for the violent Islamic jihadism that now complicates any effective response by our government to address the challenge of ISIL. So long as the American public and policymakers are unaware of this past, further interventions are likely only to compound the crisis. Secretary of State John Kerry this week announced a “provisional” ceasefire in Syria. But since U.S. leverage and prestige within Syria is minimal — and the ceasefire doesn’t include key combatants such as Islamic State and al Nusra — it’s bound to be a shaky truce at best. Similarly President Obama’s stepped-up military intervention in Libya — U.S. airstrikes targeted an Islamic State training camp last week — is likely to strengthen rather than weaken the radicals. As the New York Times reported in a December 8, 2015, front-page story, Islamic State political leaders and strategic planners are working to provoke an American military intervention. They know from experience this will flood their ranks with volunteer fighters, drown the voices of moderation and unify the Islamic world against America.

To understand this dynamic, we need to look at history from the Syrians’ perspective and particularly the seeds of the current conflict. Long before our 2003 occupation of Iraq triggered the Sunni uprising that has now morphed into the Islamic State, the CIA had nurtured violent jihadism as a Cold War weapon and freighted U.S./Syrian relationships with toxic baggage.

This did not happen without controversy at home. In July 1957, following a failed coup in Syria by the CIA, my uncle, Sen. John F. Kennedy, infuriated the Eisenhower White House, the leaders of both political parties and our European allies with a milestone speech endorsing the right of self-governance in the Arab world and an end to America’s imperialist meddling in Arab countries. Throughout my lifetime, and particularly during my frequent travels to the Mideast, countless Arabs have fondly recalled that speech to me as the clearest statement of the idealism they expected from the U.S. Kennedy’s speech was a call for recommitting America to the high values our country had championed in the Atlantic Charter; the formal pledge that all the former European colonies would have the right to self-determination following World War II. Franklin D. Roosevelt had strong-armed Winston Churchill and the other allied leaders to sign the Atlantic Charter in 1941 as a precondition for U.S. support in the European war against fascism.

But thanks in large part to Allen Dulles and the CIA, whose foreign policy intrigues were often directly at odds with the stated policies of our nation, the idealistic path outlined in the Atlantic Charter was the road not taken. In 1957, my grandfather, Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, sat on a secret committee charged with investigating the CIA’s clandestine mischief in the Mideast. The so called “Bruce-Lovett Report,” to which he was a signatory, described CIA coup plots in Jordan, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Egypt, all common knowledge on the Arab street, but virtually unknown to the American people who believed, at face value, their government’s denials. The report blamed the CIA for the rampant anti-Americanism that was then mysteriously taking root “in the many countries in the world today.” The Bruce-Lovett Report pointed out that such interventions were antithetical to American values and had compromised America’s international leadership and moral authority without the knowledge of the American people. The report also said that the CIA never considered how we would treat such interventions if some foreign government were to engineer them in our country.

This is the bloody history that modern interventionists like George W. Bush, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio miss when they recite their narcissistic trope that Mideast nationalists “hate us for our freedoms.” For the most part they don’t; instead they hate us for the way we betrayed those freedoms — our own ideals — within their borders.

For Americans to really understand what’s going on, it’s important to review some details about this sordid but little-remembered history. During the 1950s, President Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers — CIA Director Allen Dulles and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles — rebuffed Soviet treaty proposals to leave the Middle East a neutral zone in the Cold War and let Arabs rule Arabia. Instead, they mounted a clandestine war against Arab nationalism — which Allen Dulles equated with communism — particularly when Arab self-rule threatened oil concessions. They pumped secret American military aid to tyrants in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon favoring puppets with conservative Jihadist ideologies that they regarded as a reliable antidote to Soviet Marxism. At a White House meeting between the CIA’s director of plans, Frank Wisner, and John Foster Dulles, in September 1957, Eisenhower advised the agency, “We should do everything possible to stress the ‘holy war’ aspect,” according to a memo recorded by his staff secretary, Gen. Andrew J. Goodpaster.

The CIA began its active meddling in Syria in 1949 — barely a year after the agency’s creation. Syrian patriots had declared war on the Nazis, expelled their Vichy French colonial rulers and crafted a fragile secularist democracy based on the American model. But in March 1949, Syria’s democratically elected president, Shukri-al-Quwatli, hesitated to approve the Trans-Arabian Pipeline, an American project intended to connect the oil fields of Saudi Arabia to the ports of Lebanon via Syria. In his book, Legacy of Ashes, CIA historian Tim Weiner recounts that in retaliation for Al-Quwatli’s lack of enthusiasm for the U.S. pipeline, the CIA engineered a coup replacing al-Quwatli with the CIA’s handpicked dictator, a convicted swindler named Husni al-Za’im. Al-Za’im barely had time to dissolve parliament and approve the American pipeline before his countrymen deposed him, four and a half months into his regime.

Following several counter-coups in the newly destabilized country, the Syrian people again tried democracy in 1955, re-electing al-Quwatli and his National Party. Al-Quwatli was still a Cold War neutralist, but, stung by American involvement in his ouster, he now leaned toward the Soviet camp. That posture caused CIA Director Dulles to declare that “Syria is ripe for a coup” and send his two coup wizards, Kim Roosevelt and Rocky Stone, to Damascus.

Two years earlier, Roosevelt and Stone had orchestrated a coup in Iran against the democratically elected President Mohammed Mosaddegh, after Mosaddegh tried to renegotiate the terms of Iran’s lopsided contracts with the British oil giant Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP). Mosaddegh was the first elected leader in Iran’s 4,000-year history and a popular champion for democracy across the developing world. Mosaddegh expelled all British diplomats after uncovering a coup attempt by U.K. intelligence officers working in cahoots with BP. Mosaddegh, however, made the fatal mistake of resisting his advisers’ pleas to also expel the CIA, which, they correctly suspected, was complicit in the British plot. Mosaddegh idealized the U.S. as a role model for Iran’s new democracy and incapable of such perfidies. Despite Dulles’ needling, President Harry Truman had forbidden the CIA from actively joining the British caper to topple Mosaddegh. When Eisenhower took office in January 1953, he immediately unleashed Dulles. After ousting Mosaddegh in “Operation Ajax,” Stone and Roosevelt installed Shah Reza Pahlavi, who favored U.S. oil companies but whose two decades of CIA sponsored savagery toward his own people from the Peacock throne would finally ignite the 1979 Islamic revolution that has bedeviled our foreign policy for 35 years.

Flush from his Operation Ajax “success” in Iran, Stone arrived in Damascus in April 1957 with $3 million to arm and incite Islamic militants and to bribe Syrian military officers and politicians to overthrow al-Quwatli’s democratically elected secularist regime, according to Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA, by John Prados. Working with the Muslim Brotherhood and millions of dollars, Rocky Stone schemed to assassinate Syria’s chief of intelligence, the chief of its General Staff and the chief of the Communist Party, and to engineer “national conspiracies and various strong arm” provocations in Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan that could be blamed on the Syrian Ba’athists. Tim Weiner describes in Legacy of Ashes how the CIA’s plan was to destabilize the Syrian government and create a pretext for an invasion by Iraq and Jordan, whose governments were already under CIA control. Kim Roosevelt forecast that the CIA’s newly installed puppet government would “rely first upon repressive measures and arbitrary exercise of power,” according to declassified CIA documents reported in The Guardian newspaper.

But all that CIA money failed to corrupt the Syrian military officers. The soldiers reported the CIA’s bribery attempts to the Ba’athist regime. In response, the Syrian army invaded the American Embassy, taking Stone prisoner. After harsh interrogation, Stone made a televised confession of his roles in the Iranian coup and the CIA’s aborted attempt to overthrow Syria’s legitimate government. The Syrians ejected Stone and two U.S. Embassy staffers—the first time any American State Department diplomat was barred from an Arab country. The Eisenhower White House hollowly dismissed Stone’s confession as “fabrications” and “slanders,” a denial swallowed whole by the American press, led by the New York Times and believed by the American people, who shared Mosaddegh’s idealistic view of their government. Syria purged all politicians sympathetic to the U.S. and executed for treason all military officers associated with the coup. In retaliation, the U.S. moved the Sixth Fleet to the Mediterranean, threatened war and goaded Turkey to invade Syria. The Turks assembled 50,000 troops on Syria’s borders and backed down only in the face of unified opposition from the Arab League whose leaders were furious at the U.S. intervention. Even after its expulsion, the CIA continued its secret efforts to topple Syria’s democratically elected Ba’athist government. The CIA plotted with Britain’s MI6 to form a “Free Syria Committee” and armed the Muslim Brotherhood to assassinate three Syrian government officials, who had helped expose “the American plot,” according to Matthew Jones in “The ‘Preferred Plan’: The Anglo-American Working Group Report on Covert Action in Syria, 1957.” The CIA’s mischief pushed Syria even further away from the U.S. and into prolonged alliances with Russia and Egypt.

Following the second Syrian coup attempt, anti-American riots rocked the Mideast from Lebanon to Algeria. Among the reverberations was the July 14, 1958 coup, led by the new wave of anti-American Army officers who overthrew Iraq’s pro-American monarch, Nuri al-Said. The coup leaders published secret government documents, exposing Nuri al-Said as a highly paid CIA puppet. In response to American treachery, the new Iraqi government invited Soviet diplomats and economic advisers to Iraq and turned its back on the West.

Having alienated Iraq and Syria, Kim Roosevelt fled the Mideast to work as an executive for the oil industry that he had served so well during his public service career at the CIA. Roosevelt’s replacement as CIA station chief, James Critchfield, attempted a failed assassination plot against the new Iraqi president using a toxic handkerchief, according to Weiner. Five years later, the CIA finally succeeded in deposing the Iraqi president and installing the Ba’ath Party in power in Iraq. A charismatic young murderer named Saddam Hussein was one of the distinguished leaders of the CIA’s Ba’athist team. The Ba’ath Party’s Secretary, Ali Saleh Sa’adi, who took office alongside Saddam Hussein, would later say, “We came to power on a CIA train,” according to A Brutal Friendship: The West and the Arab Elite, by Said Aburish, a journalist and author. Aburish recounted that the CIA supplied Saddam and his cronies a murder list of people who “had to be eliminated immediately in order to ensure success.” Tim Weiner writes that Critchfield later acknowledged that the CIA had, in essence, “created Saddam Hussein.” During the Reagan years, the CIA supplied Hussein with billions of dollars in training, Special Forces support, weapons and battlefield intelligence, knowing that he was using poisonous mustard and nerve gas and biological weapons — including anthrax obtained from the U.S. government — in his war against Iran. Reagan and his CIA director, Bill Casey, regarded Saddam as a potential friend to the U.S. oil industry and a sturdy barrier against the spread of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Their emissary, Donald Rumsfeld, presented Saddam with golden cowboy spurs and a menu of chemical/biological and conventional weapons on a 1983 trip to Baghdad. At the same time, the CIA was illegally supplying Saddam’s enemy, Iran, with thousands of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to fight Iraq, a crime made famous during the Iran-Contra scandal. Jihadists from both sides later turned many of those CIA-supplied weapons against the American people.

Even as America contemplates yet another violent Mideast intervention, most Americans are unaware of the many ways that “blowback” from previous CIA blunders has helped craft the current crisis. The reverberations from decades of CIA shenanigans continue to echo across the Mideast today in national capitals and from mosques to madras schools over the wrecked landscape of democracy and moderate Islam that the CIA helped obliterate.

A parade of Iranian and Syrian dictators, including Bashar al-Assad and his father, have invoked the history of the CIA’s bloody coups as a pretext for their authoritarian rule, repressive tactics and their need for a strong Russian alliance. These stories are therefore well known to the people of Syria and Iran who naturally interpret talk of U.S. intervention in the context of that history.

While the compliant American press parrots the narrative that our military support for the Syrian insurgency is purely humanitarian, many Arabs see the present crisis as just another proxy war over pipelines and geopolitics. Before rushing deeper into the conflagration, it would be wise for us to consider the abundant facts supporting that perspective.

In their view, our war against Bashar Assad did not begin with the peaceful civil protests of the Arab Spring in 2011. Instead it began in 2000, when Qatar proposed to construct a $10 billion, 1,500 kilometer pipeline through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey. Qatar shares with Iran the South Pars/North Dome gas field, the world’s richest natural gas repository. The international trade embargo until recently prohibited Iran from selling gas abroad. Meanwhile, Qatar’s gas can reach European markets only if it is liquefied and shipped by sea, a route that restricts volume and dramatically raises costs. The proposed pipeline would have linked Qatar directly to European energy markets via distribution terminals in Turkey, which would pocket rich transit fees. The Qatar/Turkey pipeline would give the Sunni kingdoms of the Persian Gulf decisive domination of world natural gas markets and strengthen Qatar, America’s closest ally in the Arab world. Qatar hosts two massive American military bases and the U.S. Central Command’s Mideast headquarters.

The EU, which gets 30 percent of its gas from Russia, was equally hungry for the pipeline, which would have given its members cheap energy and relief from Vladimir Putin’s stifling economic and political leverage. Turkey, Russia’s second largest gas customer, was particularly anxious to end its reliance on its ancient rival and to position itself as the lucrative transect hub for Asian fuels to EU markets. The Qatari pipeline would have benefited Saudi Arabia’s conservative Sunni monarchy by giving it a foothold in Shia-dominated Syria. The Saudis’ geopolitical goal is to contain the economic and political power of the kingdom’s principal rival, Iran, a Shiite state, and close ally of Bashar Assad. The Saudi monarchy viewed the U.S.-sponsored Shiite takeover in Iraq (and, more recently, the termination of the Iran trade embargo) as a demotion to its regional power status and was already engaged in a proxy war against Tehran in Yemen, highlighted by the Saudi genocide against the Iranian backed Houthi tribe.

Of course, the Russians, who sell 70 percent of their gas exports to Europe, viewed the Qatar/Turkey pipeline as an existential threat. In Putin’s view, the Qatar pipeline is a NATO plot to change the status quo, deprive Russia of its only foothold in the Middle East, strangle the Russian economy and end Russian leverage in the European energy market. In 2009, Assad announced that he would refuse to sign the agreement to allow the pipeline to run through Syria “to protect the interests of our Russian ally.”

Assad further enraged the Gulf’s Sunni monarchs by endorsing a Russian-approved “Islamic pipeline” running from Iran’s side of the gas field through Syria and to the ports of Lebanon. The Islamic pipeline would make Shiite Iran, not Sunni Qatar, the principal supplier to the European energy market and dramatically increase Tehran’s influence in the Middke East and the world. Israel also was understandably determined to derail the Islamic pipeline, which would enrich Iran and Syria and presumably strengthen their proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Secret cables and reports by the U.S., Saudi and Israeli intelligence agencies indicate that the moment Assad rejected the Qatari pipeline, military and intelligence planners quickly arrived at the consensus that fomenting a Sunni uprising in Syria to overthrow the uncooperative Bashar Assad was a feasible path to achieving the shared objective of completing the Qatar/Turkey gas link. In 2009, according to WikiLeaks, soon after Bashar Assad rejected the Qatar pipeline, the CIA began funding opposition groups in Syria. It is important to note that this was well before the Arab Spring-engendered uprising against Assad.

Bashar Assad’s family is Alawite, a Muslim sect widely perceived as aligned with the Shiite camp. “Bashar Assad was never supposed to be president,” journalist Seymour Hersh told me in an interview. “His father brought him back from medical school in London when his elder brother, the heir apparent, was killed in a car crash.” Before the war started, according to Hersh, Assad was moving to liberalize the country. “They had internet and newspapers and ATM machines and Assad wanted to move toward the west. After 9/11, he gave thousands of invaluable files to the CIA on jihadist radicals, who he considered a mutual enemy.” Assad’s regime was deliberately secular and Syria was impressively diverse. The Syrian government and military, for example, were 80 percent Sunni. Assad maintained peace among his diverse peoples by a strong, disciplined army loyal to the Assad family, an allegiance secured by a nationally esteemed and highly paid officer corps, a coldly efficient intelligence apparatus and a penchant for brutality that, prior to the war, was rather moderate compared to those of other Mideast leaders, including our current allies. According to Hersh, “He certainly wasn’t beheading people every Wednesday like the Saudis do in Mecca.”

Another veteran journalist, Bob Parry, echoes that assessment. “No one in the region has clean hands, but in the realms of torture, mass killings, [suppressing] civil liberties and supporting terrorism, Assad is much better than the Saudis.” No one believed that the regime was vulnerable to the anarchy that had riven Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia. By the spring of 2011, there were small, peaceful demonstrations in Damascus against repression by Assad’s regime. These were mainly the effluvia of the Arab Spring that spread virally across the Arab League States the previous summer. However, WikiLeaks cables indicate that the CIA was already on the ground in Syria.

But the Sunni kingdoms with vast petrodollars at stake wanted a much deeper involvement from America. On September 4, 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry told a congressional hearing that the Sunni kingdoms had offered to foot the bill for a U.S. invasion of Syria to oust Bashar Assad. “In fact, some of them have said that if the United States is prepared to go do the whole thing, the way we’ve done it previously in other places [Iraq], they’ll carry the cost.” Kerry reiterated the offer to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.): “With respect to Arab countries offering to bear the costs of [an American invasion] to topple Assad, the answer is profoundly yes, they have. The offer is on the table.”

Despite pressure from Republicans, Barack Obama balked at hiring out young Americans to die as mercenaries for a pipeline conglomerate. Obama wisely ignored Republican clamoring to put ground troops in Syria or to funnel more funding to “moderate insurgents.” But by late 2011, Republican pressure and our Sunni allies had pushed the American government into the fray.

 

In 2011, the U.S. joined France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UK to form the Friends of Syria Coalition, which formally demanded the removal of Assad. The CIA provided $6 million to Barada, a British TV channel, to produce pieces entreating Assad’s ouster. Saudi intelligence documents, published by WikiLeaks, show that by 2012, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were arming, training and funding radical jihadist Sunni fighters from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere to overthrow the Assad’s Shiite-allied regime. Qatar, which had the most to gain, invested $3 billion in building the insurgency and invited the Pentagon to train insurgents at U.S. bases in Qatar. According to an April 2014 article by Seymour Hersh, the CIA weapons ratlines were financed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The idea of fomenting a Sunni-Shiite civil war to weaken the Syrian and Iranian regimes in order to maintain control of the region’s petrochemical supplies was not a novel notion in the Pentagon’s lexicon. A damning 2008 Pentagon-funded Rand report proposed a precise blueprint for what was about to happen. That report observes that control of the Persian Gulf oil and gas deposits will remain, for the U.S., “a strategic priority” that “will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war.” Rand recommended using “covert action, information operations, unconventional warfare” to enforce a “divide and rule” strategy. “The United States and its local allies could use the nationalist jihadists to launch a proxy campaign” and “U.S. leaders could also choose to capitalize on the sustained Shia-Sunni conflict trajectory by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world … possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran.”

As predicted, Assad’s overreaction to the foreign-made crisis — dropping barrel bombs onto Sunni strongholds and killing civilians — polarized Syria’s Shiite/Sunni divide and allowed U.S. policymakers to sell Americans the idea that the pipeline struggle was a humanitarian war. When Sunni soldiers of the Syrian Army began defecting in 2013, the western coalition armed the Free Syrian Army to further destabilize Syria. The press portrait of the Free Syrian Army as cohesive battalions of Syrian moderates was delusional. The dissolved units regrouped in hundreds of independent militias most of which were commanded by, or allied with, jihadi militants who were the most committed and effective fighters. By then, the Sunni armies of Al Qaeda in Iraq were crossing the border from Iraq into Syria and joining forces with the squadrons of deserters from the Free Syrian Army, many of them trained and armed by the U.S.

Despite the prevailing media portrait of a moderate Arab uprising against the tyrant Assad, U.S. intelligence planners knew from the outset that their pipeline proxies were radical jihadists who would probably carve themselves a brand new Islamic caliphate from the Sunni regions of Syria and Iraq. Two years before ISIL throat cutters stepped on the world stage, a seven-page August 12, 2012, study by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, obtained by the right-wing group Judicial Watch, warned that thanks to the ongoing support by U.S./Sunni Coalition for radical Sunni Jihadists, “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI (now ISIS), are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.”

Using U.S. and Gulf state funding, these groups had turned the peaceful protests against Bashar Assad toward “a clear sectarian (Shiite vs. Sunni) direction.” The paper notes that the conflict had become a sectarian civil war supported by Sunni “religious and political powers.” The report paints the Syrian conflict as a global war for control of the region’s resources with “the west, Gulf countries and Turkey supporting [Assad’s] opposition, while Russia, China and Iran support the regime.” The Pentagon authors of the seven-page report appear to endorse the predicted advent of the ISIS caliphate: “If the situation unravels, there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor) and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want in order to isolate the Syrian regime.” The Pentagon report warns that this new principality could move across the Iraqi border to Mosul and Ramadi and “declare an Islamic state through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria.”

Of course, this is precisely what has happened. Not coincidentally, the regions of Syria occupied by the Islamic State exactly encompass the proposed route of the Qatari pipeline.

But then, in 2014, our Sunni proxies horrified the American people by severing heads and driving a million refugees toward Europe. “Strategies based upon the idea that the enemy of my enemy is my friend can be kind of blinding,” says Tim Clemente, who chaired the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force from 2004 to 2008 and served as liaison in Iraq between the FBI, the Iraqi National Police and the U.S. military. “We made the same mistake when we trained the mujahideen in Afghanistan. The moment the Russians left, our supposed friends started smashing antiquities, enslaving women, severing body parts and shooting at us,” Clemente told me in an interview.

When the Islamic State’s “Jihadi John” began murdering prisoners on TV, the White House pivoted, talking less about deposing Assad and more about regional stability. The Obama administration began putting daylight between itself and the insurgency we had funded. The White House pointed accusing fingers at our allies. On October 3, 2014, Vice President Joe Biden told students at the John F. Kennedy Jr. forum at the Institute of Politics at Harvard that “our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria.” He explained that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were “so determined to take down Assad” that they had launched a “proxy Sunni-Shia war” funneling “hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra, and al-Qaeda” — the two groups that merged in 2014 to form the Islamic State. Biden seemed angered that our trusted “friends” could not be trusted to follow the American agenda.
Across the Mideast, Arab leaders routinely accuse the U.S. of having created the Islamic State. To most Americans, such accusations seem insane. However, to many Arabs, the evidence of U.S. involvement is so abundant that they conclude that our role in fostering the Islamic State must have been deliberate.

In fact, many of the Islamic State fighters and their commanders are ideological and organizational successors to the jihadists that the CIA has been nurturing for more than 30 years from Syria and Egypt to Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

Prior to the American invasion, there was no Al Qaeda in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. President George W. Bush destroyed Saddam’s secularist government, and his viceroy, Paul Bremer, in a monumental act of mismanagement, effectively created the Sunni Army, now named the Islamic State. Bremer elevated the Shiites to power and banned Saddam’s ruling Ba’ath Party, laying off some 700,000 mostly Sunni, government and party officials from ministers to schoolteachers. He then disbanded the 380,000-man army, which was 80 percent Sunni. Bremer’s actions stripped a million of Iraq’s Sunnis of rank, property, wealth and power; leaving a desperate underclass of angry, educated, capable, trained and heavily armed Sunnis with little left to lose. The Sunni insurgency named itself Al Qaeda in Iraq. Beginning in 2011, our allies funded the invasion by AQI fighters into Syria. In April 2013, having entered Syria, AQI changed its name to ISIL. According to Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker, “ISIS is run by a council of former Iraqi generals. … Many are members of Saddam Hussein’s secular Ba’ath Party who converted to radical Islam in American prisons.” The $500 million in U.S. military aid that Obama did send to Syria almost certainly ended up benefiting these militant jihadists. Tim Clemente, the former chairman of the FBI’s joint task force, told me that the difference between the Iraq and Syria conflicts is the millions of military-aged men who are fleeing the battlefield for Europe rather than staying to fight for their communities. The obvious explanation is that the nation’s moderates are fleeing a war that is not their war. They simply want to escape being crushed between the anvil of Assad’s Russian-backed tyranny and the vicious jihadist Sunni hammer that we had a hand in wielding in a global battle over competing pipelines. You can’t blame the Syrian people for not widely embracing a blueprint for their nation minted in either Washington or Moscow. The superpowers have left no options for an idealistic future that moderate Syrians might consider fighting for. And no one wants to die for a pipeline.

 

What is the answer? If our objective is long-term peace in the Mideast, self-government by the Arab nations and national security at home, we must undertake any new intervention in the region with an eye on history and an intense desire to learn its lessons. Only when we Americans understand the historical and political context of this conflict will we apply appropriate scrutiny to the decisions of our leaders. Using the same imagery and language that supported our 2003 war against Saddam Hussein, our political leaders led Americans to believe that our Syrian intervention is an idealistic war against tyranny, terrorism and religious fanaticism. We tend to dismiss as mere cynicism the views of those Arabs who see the current crisis as a rerun of the same old plots about pipelines and geopolitics. But, if we are to have an effective foreign policy, we must recognize the Syrian conflict is a war over control of resources indistinguishable from the myriad clandestine and undeclared oil wars we have been fighting in the Mideast for 65 years. And only when we see this conflict as a proxy war over a pipeline do events become comprehensible. It’s the only paradigm that explains why the GOP on Capitol Hill and the Obama administration are still fixated on regime change rather than regional stability, why the Obama administration can find no Syrian moderates to fight the war, why ISIL blew up a Russian passenger plane, why the Saudis just executed a powerful Shiite cleric only to have their embassy burned in Tehran, why Russia is bombing non-ISIL fighters and why Turkey went out of its way to shoot down a Russian jet. The million refugees now flooding into Europe are refugees of a pipeline war and CIA blundering.

Clemente compares ISIL to Colombia’s FARC — a drug cartel with a revolutionary ideology to inspire its footsoldiers. “You have to think of ISIS as an oil cartel,” Clemente said. “In the end, money is the governing rationale. The religious ideology is a tool that inspires its soldiers to give their lives for an oil cartel.”

Once we strip this conflict of its humanitarian patina and recognize the Syrian conflict as an oil war, our foreign policy strategy becomes clear. Like the Syrians fleeing for Europe, no American wants to send their child to die for a pipeline. Instead, our first priority should be the one no one ever mentions — we need to kick our Mideast oil jones, an increasingly feasible objective, as the U.S. becomes more energy independent. Next, we need to dramatically reduce our military profile in the Middle East and let the Arabs run Arabia. Other than humanitarian assistance and guaranteeing the security of Israel’s borders, the U.S. has no legitimate role in this conflict. While the facts prove that we played a role in creating the crisis, history shows that we have little power to resolve it.

As we contemplate history, it’s breathtaking to consider the astonishing consistency with which virtually every violent intervention in the Middle East since World War II by our country has resulted in miserable failure and horrendously costly blowback. A 1997 U.S. Department of Defense report found that “the data show a strong correlation between U.S. involvement abroad and an increase in terrorist attacks against the U.S.” Let’s face it; what we call the “war on terror” is really just another oil war. We’ve squandered $6 trillion on three wars abroad and on constructing a national security warfare state at home since oilman Dick Cheney declared the “Long War” in 2001. The only winners have been the military contractors and oil companies that have pocketed historic profits, the intelligence agencies that have grown exponentially in power and influence to the detriment of our freedoms and the jihadists who invariably used our interventions as their most effective recruiting tool. We have compromised our values, butchered our own youth, killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, subverted our idealism and squandered our national treasures in fruitless and costly adventures abroad. In the process, we have helped our worst enemies and turned America, once the world’s beacon of freedom, into a national security surveillance state and an international moral pariah.

America’s founding fathers warned Americans against standing armies, foreign entanglements and, in John Quincy Adams’ words, “going abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” Those wise men understood that imperialism abroad is incompatible with democracy and civil rights at home. The Atlantic Charter echoed their seminal American ideal that each nation should have the right to self-determination. Over the past seven decades, the Dulles brothers, the Cheney gang, the neocons and their ilk have hijacked that fundamental principle of American idealism and deployed our military and intelligence apparatus to serve the mercantile interests of large corporations and particularly, the petroleum companies and military contractors that have literally made a killing from these conflicts.

It’s time for Americans to turn America away from this new imperialism and back to the path of idealism and democracy. We should let the Arabs govern Arabia and turn our energies to the great endeavor of nation building at home. We need to begin this process, not by invading Syria, but by ending the ruinous addiction to oil that has warped U.S. foreign policy for half a century.

This article has been updated to identify Robert Kennedy as U.S. Attorney General.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is the president of Waterkeeper Alliance. His newest book is Thimerosal: Let The Science Speak.

by Alfonso

 

The Bankruptcy of the American Empire Is Coming

“No matter what, U.S. troops are coming home. Better it be our decision than the debt collectors’.”

Stein’s Law at first glance might seem like a banal platitude. But we should be fully cognizant of its implications: an unsustainable system must have an end. The American empire is internally flawed, a fact that anti-imperialists both left and right should appreciate.

The United States’ national debt is approaching $22 trillion with a current federal budget deficit of over $800 billion. As Senator Rand Paul often points out, bankruptcy is the Sword of Damocles hanging perilously close to Uncle Sam’s neck. Outside of a handful of libertarian gadflies in Congress such as Paul, there is no serious political movement to curb the country’s wayward spending. It would take some upset of multiple times greater magnitude than Donald Trump’s 2016 victory to alter this course.

The United States holds the most debt of any country in the history of the world. In fairness, when our debt-to-GDP ratio is factored in, there are many countries in far more perilous economic situations than the U.S. But there will come a tipping point. How much debt can the system hold? When will the cracks grow too big to hide? When will the foundation crumble? There’s a great deal of ruin in a nation, said Adam Smith, and our ruin must ultimately come.

Is bankruptcy possible? As some Beltway economists remind us, no. Technically the government has the power to artificially create as many dollars as it needs to pay its debts. But this kind of hyper-inflation would deprive the U.S. dollar of any value and tank the global economy that trades with it. Simple failure to pay back our debt might even be a better scenario that such an inflationary hellscape.

When the world loses confidence in the American government’s ability to pay its debt, or the interest rate on our debt becomes unsustainably high, choices will have to be made. No more kicking the can down the road, no more 10-year projections to balance the budget. Congress, in a state of emergency, will have to take a buzzsaw to appropriations. And the empire will be the first thing to go.

Just like its warfare state, the government’s welfare state has plenty of internal calamities. But while it might be the preference of some megalomaniacal globalists to let the proles starve while preserving overseas holdings, it’s not going to happen. What would transpire if Social Security checks stopped showing up in mailboxes and Medicare benefits got cut off? When presented with that choice, will the average American choose his social safety net or continued funding for far-flung bases in Stuttgart, Okinawa, and Djibouti? Even the most militaristic congressperson will know which way to vote, lest they find a mob waiting outside their D.C. castles.

Neoconservatives constantly harp on the danger of vacuums. Without a U.S. presence, the logic goes, more sinister forces will take over. What happens when American troops must be evacuated from all over the world because we can’t afford to keep them there anymore? There’s no debate, no weighing of options, and no choice. If the money isn’t there, the money isn’t there. Nothing could tie the hands of America’s military more than a debt crisis. And if one happens, it will be in part because those same neoconservative intellectuals preached a multi-trillion-dollar global war to remake humanity in our image. Hubris leads to downfall.

This is the kind of danger that Rand Paul and others warn about. Not only are our undeclared wars illegal, counterintuitive, and destabilizing to foreign regions, they’re financially destabilizing for us as well.

A radical reexamination of America’s overseas assets and obligations must take place. Ideologically motivated wars have led us to the precipice of financial disaster. American foreign policy must adopt a limited, highly strategic view of its national interest and use its remaining wealth sparingly and only when necessary. Realism can stave off national ruin. Close bases in Germany and bring the money home, instead of forcing the troops to evacuate in the dead of night after it’s too late. Enter negotiations with the Taliban and have a planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, lest it end with helicopters fleeing Kabul like they did Saigon. Make the hard choices before circumstances make them for you.

Our leaders ignore Stein’s Law at their own peril. No matter what, U.S. troops are coming home. Better it be our decision than the debt collectors’.

Source: The American Conservative

by Alfonso

 

Nobel Peace Prize 2.0

Rubikon advisory board member Daniele Ganser is awarded the Mind-Award for his character and work.

They still exist, the really great rays of hope, the really good news that stand out from the crowd of bad news: Dr. Daniele Ganser, Swiss historian, peace researcher and member of the RUBIKON advisory board, receives the Mind-Award 2018/19 for his character and work.

Awards of this kind are all the more beautiful if the winner has really earned them. In the case of Barack Obama, the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was a fake prize. The award to the former US President was then a perverse deception of the world population, an attempt to gloss over an aggressive American war policy that brought so much suffering to the world and once again showed us how predatory capitalism is increasingly succeeding in undermining all morals. All the more reason why the MIND Award for Daniele Ganser is an honest “Nobel Peace Prize 2.0”. For hardly any other peace activist in the German-speaking world places his work at the centre of the human family as much as the likeable Swiss, whose research does not shy away from the really explosive, system-critical questions.

Ganser, who seeks the truth with great courage and a straight back, who authentically lives what he speaks to thousands of people in his lectures, more than deserves this award. He told RUBIKON about his nomination: “I am delighted about the award. I hope it is an encouragement for all people to commit themselves to peace despite headwinds and devaluation and, whenever possible, to be mindful of the values of courage, love and truth. For when an honorable scientist like Daniele Ganser is defamed because of system-critical questions and dismissed from the universities, when provocative comments in social networks degrade one’s own person, when others allow and spread judgements that destroy one’s anonymity, it is a great art to react in these situations with calmness and peaceableness.

Daniele Ganser succeeds so convincingly that he becomes a crowd-puller. And even if he doesn’t want to be a bearer of hope for the masses, most people would probably wish for someone like him in a high political office, someone who has the welfare of the world and not of big business in mind. Because from the heart one can only serve one being, capital or love, Ganser clearly stands for love of man, nature and life in general. This is what distinguishes him and makes his MIND Award so valuable. In addition, the father of two – as a role model especially for the young generation – provides impressive proof that it is always worthwhile to consciously explore one’s inner world and draw the strength for one’s own life from the depths of the soul. Even via the screen and the Internet, Ganser succeeds in conveying these important messages undogmatically and thus establishing a true connection to his constantly growing community. Daniele Ganser touches with his words the people in their innermost, in their hearts, instead of only supplying their intellect with new information. The Swiss is a lighthouse, he infects people to do the same, to live attentively and to create peace with consciousness.

And something else distinguishes him: Daniele Ganser can listen. A quality that is increasingly being lost in our burnout-influenced society. Ganser always has an honest interest in his counterpart, he asks the right questions and remains empathetic – even in difficult, uncomfortable situations. In recent years he has repeatedly proven this in numerous interviews and publications. For all these reasons, the MIND Award will be presented to him on 26 March 2019 in the Montabaur City Hall as part of a peace event. A strong signal to further strengthen the peace movement in the coming years. And once again Daniele Ganser: “To be successful, the peace movement must strive for inner and outer peace at the same time. Inner peace can be strengthened by mindfulness, i.e. by observing one’s own thoughts and feelings. Besides, by remaining always objective and friendly in all debates in the tone, all the same whether the interlocutor chooses the left or the AfD, all the same whether he is Muslim or Christian or atheist. The peace movement can become stronger if it focuses on what unites us, on the fact that we all belong to the human family, with the deep conviction that in the 21st century we cannot solve the greatest problems with violence”.

The MIND Award sends a strong signal, at the right time, when it honors Daniele Ganser not only for his work, but also for his character. Because every human being makes an important contribution to the mood in our society and world. May this sign remind many of us that we can achieve much more with our being and our actions than with mere words. The reasons given by the MIND Award jury for the awarding of the prize, for example, are a clear reminder of this. Here is an excerpt: “Regardless of personal disadvantages, Ganser is on his way to enlightenment. It is his particular merit not only to uncover the many lies behind so-called political correctness, but also to stick to the truth when he is personally defamed for it. Thus he acts as a moral authority on the conscience of our society.

Whether he was defamed by the conspired mainstream opinion-makers as a so-called conspiracy theorist or by the hate organisation Wikipedia – he always opposed himself in his calm Swiss manner, underpinned by well-founded knowledge, and makes the background clear. Ganser counteracts his hostilities with personal attitude and action in words that which our world needs most urgently: Hope and Peace”.

Those who do not recognize and acknowledge this cannot do anything good for this planet.

Congratulations, Daniele Ganser!

Translated by Alfonso