Monday, April 24, 2017

Antarctic Niagara

Giant Waterfall in Antarctica Worries Scientists

by Nation of Change


April 23, 2017




Scientists poring over military and satellite imagery have mapped the unimaginable: a network of rivers, streams, ponds, lakes and even a waterfall, flowing over the ice shelf of a continent with an annual mean temperature of more than -50C.

In 1909 Ernest Shackleton and his fellow explorers on their way to the magnetic South Pole found that they had to cross and recross flowing streams and lakes on the Nansen Ice Shelf.
Antarctic Waterways

Now, U.S. scientists report in the journal Nature that they studied photographs taken by military aircraft from 1947 and satellite images from 1973 to identify almost 700 seasonal networks of ponds, channels and braided streams flowing from all sides of the continent, as close as 600km to the South Pole and at altitudes of 1,300 meters.

And they found that such systems carried water for 120km. A second research team reporting a companion study in the same issue of Nature identified one meltwater system with an ocean outflow that ended in a 130-meter wide waterfall, big enough to drain the entire surface melt in a matter of days.

In a world rapidly warming as humans burn ever more fossil fuels, to add ever more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, researchers expect to observe an increase in the volume of meltwater on the south polar surface. Researchers have predicted the melt rates could double by 2050. What isn’t clear is whether this will make the shelf ice around the continent – and shelf ice slows the flow of glaciers from the polar hinterland – any less stable.

“This is not in the future – this is widespread now, and has been for decades,” said Jonathan Kingslake, a glaciologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who led the research.

“I think most polar scientists have considered water moving across the surface of Antarctica to be extremely rare. But we found a lot of it, over very large areas.”

The big question is: has the level of surface melting increased in the last seven decades? The researchers don’t yet have enough information to make a judgment.

“We have no reason to think they have,” Dr. Kingslake said. “But without further work, we can’t tell. Now, looking forward, it will be really important to work out how these systems will change in response to warming, and how this will affect the ice sheets.”

Many of the flow systems seem to start in the Antarctic mountains, near outcrops of exposed rock, or in places where fierce winds have scoured snow off the ice beneath. Rocks are dark, the exposed ice is a blue color, and during the long days of the Antarctic summer, both would absorb more solar energy than white snow or ice. This would be enough to start the melting process.

The Antarctic is already losing ice, as giant floating shelves suddenly fracture and drift north. There is a theory that meltwater could be part of the fissure mechanism, as it seeps deep into the shelves.
Drainage Theory

But the companion study, led by the polar scientist Robin Bell of the Lamont-Doherty Observatory suggests that drainage on the Nansen Ice Shelf might help to keep the ice intact, perhaps by draining away the meltwater in the dramatic waterfall, the scientists had identified.

“It could develop this way in other places, or things could just devolve into giant slush puddles,” she said. “Ice is dynamic, and complex, and we don’t have the data yet.”

Palestine's Starving Hope

Barghouthi’s Health Deteriorates as He Enters 8th Day on Hunger Strike 

by Palestine Chronicle


Apr 24 2017

Imprisoned Palestinian parliamentarian and Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi, who has been leading a large-scale hunger strike in Israeli prisons, suffered from a serious deterioration of his health today after forgoing food for eight days.

Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs chairman Issa Qaraqe said that Barghouthi was suffering from a severe drop in blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Marwan Barghouthi. (Photo: File)

According to the media committee covering the “Freedom and Dignity strike”, created jointly by the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs and the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society, Barghouthi has refused to take medicine handed to him by Israel Prison Service (IPS) authorities in Al-Jalama prison in northern Israel.

The warden of Al-Jalama asked fellow Palestinian prisoner Nasser Abu Hmeid to convince Barghouthi to take the medicine, the media committee said, but Abu Hmeid refused, reportedly saying that “if Marwan Barghouthi dies, he will die a martyr.”

IPS then punished Abu Hmeid by transferring him to Eshel prison, the media committee added.

More than 1,580 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel are participating in the hunger strike led by Barghouthi which was started on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day marked on 17 April. They are demanding improved detention conditions, family visitation rights and an end to Israel’s widespread use of administrative detention.

Qaraqe added that 25 Palestinians detained in Ramon prison in Israel joined the strike today.


(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Mad Dogs and Other Men: The US Plans for East Syria

Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?

by Mike Whitney - CounterPunch


April 24, 2017 

The Pentagon’s plan for seizing and occupying territory in east Syria is beginning to take shape. According to a Fox News exclusive:

“The Islamic State has essentially moved its so-called capital in Syria… ISIS is now centered in Deir ez-Zur, roughly 90 miles southeast of Raqqa, the officials said.” (“ISIS moves its capital in Syria”, FOX News )

The move by ISIS corresponds to the secretive massing of US troops and military equipment on the Syria-Jordan border. It creates the perfect pretext for a ground invasion followed by a long-term military occupation in an area that Washington has sought to control for the last 18 months. Here’s more on the topic from South Front:

“The US military is reportedly concentrating troops and military equipment at the Syrian-Jordanian border. Local sources said that about 20 US Army armoured vehicles (including battle tanks and artillery pieces) carried on trucks were spotted in Al-Mafraq. US troops were allegedly accompanied with the Jordanian Army’s 3rd Division.

The US Special Operation Forces, the UK Special Operation Forces and units from some other countries -have been conducting operations across the Syrian-Jordanian border for a long time. They even had a secret military facility inside Syria where members the so-called New Syrian Army militant group were deployed. However, it was the first time when a notable number of US armoured vehicles was reported there. The US Ro-Ro ship Liberty Passion, loaded with vehicles, had arrived to the Jordanian port of Al-Aqapa few days ago. These moves followed a meeting between the Jordanian King and the US president.

Thus, the US-led coalition could prepare a large-scale military operation in southern Syria. The goal of the operation will likely be to get control over the Syrian-Iraqi border and to reach Deir Ezzor. It will involve militants trained in camps in Jordan and the US-led coalition’s forces.” (“US Military Deployment at Syrian-Jordanian Border, Military Escalation”, Global Research)

Deir Ezzor is a strategically-located city along the Euphrates that the Pentagon needs in order to tighten its grip on the eastern quadrant of the country. Once Deir Ezzor is taken, the US can launch its CIA-backed jihadist militias back into Syria at will putting more pressure on Damascus and eventually forcing regime change.

That is the plan at least, whether it works or not is anyone’s guess. The deployment of troops on the Jordanian border suggests that Washington’s proxy-army, the mainly-Kurdish militia or SDF, is either unwilling to conduct operations as far south as Deir Ezzor or doesn’t have the military strength to beat ISIS on its own. In any event, the Pentagon needs fresh troops and equipment to succeed. Here’s more from South Front:

“US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis presented a preliminary version of the new plan to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, said on February 28th. ….The plan submitted by Mattis also includes a proposal to increase the size of the US military contingent to ISIS in Syria… (Note–There are already 400 Special Forces operating alongside the SDF) Without significant US presence on the ground, the SDF will hardly be able to retake Raqqah from ISIS without incurring unacceptable losses….

As to Deir Ezzor, the US can try to use militants trained in Jordan to launch an attack on Deir Ezzor from the southern direction. However, the total failure of this US-backed group in 2016 leaves little chance that it’s able to combat ISIS successfully in 2017. So, the US and its allies will be pushed to deploy special forces units or even ground troops to support the advance there.

The Polish Special Forces have already deployed to Jordan where they will operate alongside their French and British counterparts. According to reports, the US-led block created a joint command center to coordinate efforts of all sides, which will support the advance against ISIS in the area.” (“New US Strategy Against ISIS And War In Syria. What To Expect?”, South Front)

Here’s more from Fox News:

“U.S. military drones have watched hundreds of ISIS “bureaucrats,” or administrators, leaving Raqqa in the past two months for the city of al-Mayadin located further down the Euphrates River from Deir el-Zour.”

Let me get this straight: US military drones located hundreds of ISIS terrorists traveling across the open dessert, but did nothing to stop them. Why?

Is it because the Pentagon needs ISIS in Deir Ezzor to justify a ground invasion? That’s certainly the most plausible explanation.

More from Fox: “Questions remain about the hold force necessary to keep the peace after ISIS is uprooted from Raqqa.”

In other words, readers are supposed to believe that the Pentagon doesn’t already have a plan in place for occupying the cities when the siege ends. That’s baloney. Check out this excerpt from an article by Whitney Webb:

“The Syrian city of Raqqa – the “stronghold” of terror group ISIS – will be governed by a “civilian council” with the support of U.S. troops following its “liberation” from terrorists….

On Tuesday, the U.S.-allied militias …announced that they had formed a “civilian council” to govern Raqqa after its capture from Daesh militants. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)… claim to have spent six months setting up the council, with a preparatory committee having met “with the people and important tribal figures of Raqqa city to find out their opinions on how to govern it,” Middle East Eye reported.

SDF spokesman Talal Selo stated that some towns near Raqqa had already been turned over to the council following a successful operation to drive out Daesh forces.

The U.S. military had previously hinted that power would be given to rebel groups following Raqqa’s “liberation”…(“After ‘Liberation,’ U.S. To Give Control Of Raqqa To Rebels, Not Syrian Government”, Information Clearinghouse)

Washington has already chosen a group of puppets who will follow their directives when the fighting finally ends. The leaders will be selected from rebel groups and tribal elders that pledge their allegiance to Washington. The new arrangement will prevent the Syrian government from reclaiming a sizable portion of its sovereign territory or reestablishing control over its borders. A splintered Syria will strengthen US-Israeli regional hegemony and provide the land needed for future US military bases.

But why would Washington opt to occupy another country when previous occupations (like Iraq) have gone so badly?

There’s a two word answer to that question: Nadia Schadlow. President Trump’s National Security Advisor H R McMaster recently hired Schadlow to join his staff as a deputy assistant to the president for national security strategy. Schadlow recently published a book that “examined 15 cases in which the United States Army intervened abroad, and the service’s role in political and economic reconstruction.” According to the Wall Street Journal:

(Schadlow’s) “War and the Art of Governance” consists of a collection of case studies, beginning with the Mexican-American War and ending in Iraq. Each examines how the U.S. attempted…to translate battlefield victory into a lasting and beneficial political outcome.
Ms. Schadlow’s case studies tell an often doleful story of America allowing victories to fall apart, leaving behind a suffering populace that should have been rewarded with a better peace. She asserts convincingly that postconflict governance can only be done well by soldiers….

The Army’s Civil Affairs units are the only government entities capable of administering conquered territories, yet Civil Affairs units remain the Army’s neglected stepchildren. … the nation must never go to war again until it can definitively answer Gen. Petraeus’s question about “how this ends.” It ends only when the U.S. Army assumes the mantle of leadership and commits itself to remaining on the field until the lives of the population can be protected, the damage repaired and a political future guaranteed.” (“What Happens After Victory”, Wall Street Journal)

Get it? The woman is an expert on military occupation!

Now answer this one question for me: Why would McMaster hire an expert on military occupation unless he was planning to militarily occupy another country?

The facts speak for themselves.

Notes.
1. http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/04/21/isis-moves-its-capital-in-syria.html

2. http://www.globalresearch.ca/breaking-video-us-military-deployment-at-syrian-jordanian-border-military-escalation/5584435

3. https://southfront.org/new-us-strategy-against-isis-and-war-in-syria-what-to-expect/

4. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46907.htm

5. https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-happens-after-victory-1491520385
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MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.
More articles by: Mike Whitney

The Global March of Science

When Science Strikes Back: March for Science Draws Many Thousands Worldwide 

by TRNN


April 23, 2017

Trump's hostile posturing against environmental protections and promised budget cuts on scientific government agencies stoked the ire of the nation's scientists and science supporters.

Vanishing Point: Where America's Middle Class Disappears

America’s Tale of Two Cities, Redux

by Robert Hunziker - CounterPunch


April 24, 2017

Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, required reading in secondary school, is the second biggest selling single-volume book of all-time at 200 million copies. 21st Century America is that story.

A Tale of Two Cities is historical fiction. Dickens’ richly developed plot of complex relationships amongst Charles Darnay, Lucie Manette, and Sydney Carton, of redemption, rebirth, love, and violence layered over a background of Revolution embodying those same issues, as French peasants fight for freedom from the lingering shackles of feudalism.

Today, America's tale of two cities is depicted in pre-revolutionary France, especially metaphorically, as when Marquis Evrémonde kills a plebian child with his golden carriage.

The Marquis, displaying the typical attitude of aristocracy, shows no signs of regret but instead curses the peasantry and hurries home to his chateau.

That one cogent Dickensian scene says it all vis a vis America today, which is two separate economic and political worlds as exquisitely explained by Peter Temin, Professor Emeritus of Economics at MIT in his new book, The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy.

Temin’s work depicts a dark reality of an America that is not one country any longer; rather, two distinctly separate countries with vastly different resources, contrasting personal expectations, and divergent personal fates. Thereby a frightening sense of doom and gloom overhangs Temin’s central premise. America has a remarkable commonality of socio-economic-political similarities to King Louis XVI’s (beheaded at Place de la Concorde, Paris, Jan. 21, 1793) France.

Lynn Parramore of the Institute for New Economic Thinking reviews Temin’s book in an article under her name: “America is Regressing into a Developing Nation for Most People,” April 20, 2017.

Parramore readily admits the loss of America’s middle class is not news. After all, Bernie preached all about it. But, “what America is becoming” is Temin’s book. He describes two Americas: One America is 20% of the population. These are FTE citizens, meaning finance, technology, and electronics. They enjoy topflight educations, best jobs, social networks that work on their behalf, and plenty of money, lots and lots of money, children tutored, and first class travel. The whole enchilada is at their fingertips, ready to go.

FTE’ers see economic growth all around them and a very bright glowing future. They directly, powerfully influence politics and proudly wear an American flag lapel pin, unless they’re trying too hard to be cool.

Rarely do FTE’ers visit the country where 80% of Americans live, i.e., the low wage sector in and around cities, whether suburb or inner city. This totally different world lives in shrinkage, not growth. Its inhabitants wear an anvil of burdensome debt, work insecurity, sickness without decent medical care and dying younger than parents. This 80% of America is stuck with crumbling public transport whilst indebted to cars and plastic. College means heavy debt and little fanfare upon graduation. They do not see a future because today’s survival is already too much of a burden.

According to Parramore:

“The world in which they reside is very different from the one they were taught to believe in. While members of the first country act, these people are acted upon.”

Along those lines, Temin describes two worlds that have entirely distinct financial systems and distinct residential environments and distinct educational opportunities. And, when they get sick, quite different things happen, the same with law. In fact, the 20% and 80% move entirely different and apart from each another, as if they do not exist on the same landscape.

Not only do they live wholly different life styles, there’s a lid on advancement by the 80% into the 20%, as the Low-Wagers find the path of upward mobility fraught with obstacles, almost impossible to achieve and getting more difficult with time.

“The richest large economy in the world, says Temin, is coming to have an economic and political structure more like a developing nation. We have entered a phase of regression, and one of the easiest ways to see it is in our infrastructure; our roads and bridges look more like those in Thailand or Venezuela than the Netherlands or Japan.
But it goes far deeper than that, which is why Temin uses a famous economic model created to understand developing nations to describe how far inequality had progressed in the United States. The model is the work of West Indian economist W. Arthur Lewis, the only person of African descent to win a Nobel Prize in economics. For the first time, this model is applied with systematic precision to the U. S. The result is profoundly disturbing” (Parramore).

Here are the check points for the low-wage sector or the 80% of America found in Lewis’ model of a dual economy: (1) Low Wagers have almost no influence over public policy; (2) High Wagers work at keeping Low Wagers’ wages low; (3) Mass incarceration is used to prevent Low Wagers from challenging policy; (4) High Wagers have a primary goal of low taxes; (5) Social and economic mobility for Low Wagers is almost nonexistent.

Sound familiar?

Meanwhile, High Wagers skew expenditures for quality education by defunding public schools and establishing policies that layers student debt over certificates of achievement, a stranglehold for decades.

High paying jobs come easily for High Wagers via networks of peers and relatives. However, as for women and blacks, social capital and economic capital are challenged by America’s long deeply embedded history of racism and sexism, obstacles to both kinds of capital and an obstacle to advancement.

What’s happened to America? And, why is it similar to Dickens’ tale of two cities? Temins says it all started after the ’67 Summer of Love, which is a likely starting point because worker productivity started separating from wages in the 1970s, or in short, increasing levels of productivity were not followed by commensurate increases in wages. Politicians were increasingly influenced by FTE’ers and turned from advocacy of public-spirited universalism to free-market individualism, thereby inserting a knife deeply to the heart of worker interests. The Investment Theory of Politics, as explained by Temins, accelerated thereafter, wherein the needs and dreams of Low Wagers increasingly suck dust, forever more, as big time money buys public policy, not democracy.

Interestingly, the majority of Low Wagers are white, but politicians learned to talk the talk as if the low-wage sector is mostly black, explained by Temins:

“The desire to preserve the inferior status of blacks has motivated policies against all members of the low-wage sector.”

At the end, Temins discusses the 2016 presidential race, which for the first time publicly exposed anger by Low Wagers because of a glaring imbalance of class welfare in America. Beforehand, low-wage whites were largely invisible in public policy, and indeed remain as such, but Bernie’s and Trump’s campaign messages brought them out of a long slumber, opening their eyes to an America of spectacular wealth in the hands of so few versus everybody else. Ironically, America’s tradition of political stumping for the first time opened new vistas to the 80%, but interestingly and tellingly only in the 2016 election cycle, not in previous election cycles.

Still, as stated by Temins:

“Unfortunately, present trends are not only continuing, but also accelerating their problems, freezing the dual economy into place.”

As a result, a new age in America dawns that is fraught with the unknown amidst credible signs of real serious danger for the first time ever since the American Revolution of 1775-83, which served as the model for the French Revolution of 1789-99.

All of which begs the obvious question of whether history repeats. Metaphorically speaking, is Dickens’ scene of Marquis Evrémonde’s golden carriage running down a plebian child without showing any regret similar to Donald Trump hoodwinking America’s 80%?

Marquis Evrémonde was murdered.


Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at roberthunziker@icloud.com
More articles by:Robert Hunziker

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Changelessness of the Guard: Why Trump's War Rings Familiar

The Honeymoon of the Generals: Or Why Trump’s Wars Should Seem So Familiar

by Tom Engelhardt - TomDispatch 


April 23, 2017 

MOAB sounds more like an incestuous, war-torn biblical kingdom than the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, aka “the mother of all bombs.” Still, give Donald Trump credit. Only the really, really big bombs, whether North Korean nukes or those 21,600 pounds of MOAB, truly get his attention.

He wasn’t even involved in the decision to drop the largest non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal for the first time in war, but his beloved generals -- “we have the best military people on Earth” -- already know the man they work for, and the bigger, flashier, more explosive, and winninger, the better.

It was undoubtedly the awesome look of that first MOAB going off in grainy black and white on Fox News, rather than in Afghanistan, that appealed to the president. Just as he was visibly thrilled by all those picturesque Tomahawk cruise missiles, the equivalent of nearly three MOABS, whooshing from the decks of U.S. destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean and heading, like so many fabulous fireworks, toward a Syrian airfield -- or was it actually an Iraqi one?

“We've just fired 59 missiles,” he said, “all of which hit, by the way, unbelievable, from, you know, hundreds of miles away, all of which hit, amazing... It's so incredible. It's brilliant. It's genius. Our technology, our equipment, is better than anybody by a factor of five.” 

Tomgram: Engelhardt, The Chameleon Presidency

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: The other day, one of my favorite writers, Ariel Dorfman, dropped me a line to tell me that he had just finished Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian John Dower’s new Dispatch Book, The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War Two, and had promptly bought three more copies for family and friends. Here, in fact, is part of what he wrote me: “Last night I finished the book, which is so important, such essential reading... There is much in it that I knew, and quite a bit that I vaguely remembered, and some that I had never assimilated, but to have all that information in one short text, expertly woven and explained, is a devastating indictment of American violence and its imperial hubris. The footnotes alone are more than worth the price (which is very low, especially if we compare it to a Tomahawk missile). It is really like a mini-encyclopedia of American expansionism, but written with the verve of a political thriller, and with the murderer being chased and nailed down step by misstep. I told you many years ago how much I admired his book War Without Mercy when you recommended it to me, and this book simply adds to that admiration, with this additional comment: The Violent American Century has a chance to affect at a massive level our understanding of the world we live in, the one that America has shaped but has been unable to dominate. At a time when the military has taken over the national government -- not to mention the industrialists -- I am grateful to have Dower’s fierce intelligence on our side. Let’s hope it gets the readership it deserves”

Now, honestly, if you can read that and not buy a copy... well, I’m puzzled by you. Remember that you can pick up the book by clicking here or by going to the website of Haymarket Books at this link, where it's available at an exclusive TomDispatch discount of 50% off. In either case, you’ll get an instant classic, short enough to read in a single night, and you’ll lend TD a little extra support in the bargain. Note that, for those of you who want a signed copy of the book, there will be a TD offer (in return for a $100 contribution to the site) in a couple of weeks when I’ll be posting an original piece by Dower. Tom]

The Honeymoon of the Generals: 

Or Why Trump’s Wars Should Seem So Familiar

by Tom Engelhardt

 

Call it thrilling. Call it a blast. Call it escalation. Or just call it the age of Trump. (“If you look at what’s happened over the last eight weeks and compare that really to what’s happened over the past eight years, you’ll see there’s a tremendous difference, tremendous difference,” he commented, adding about MOAB, “This was another very, very successful mission.”)

Anyway, here we are and, as so many of his critics have pointed out, the plaudits have been pouring in from all the usual media and political suspects for a president with big enough... well, hands, to make war impressively. In our world, this is what now passes for "presidential." Consider that praise the media version of so many Tomahawk missiles pointing us toward what the escalation of America’s never-ending wars will mean to Trump’s presidency.

These days, from Syria to Afghanistan, the Koreas to Somalia, Yemen to Iraq, it’s easy enough to see Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump as something new under the sun. (It has a different ring to it when the commander in chief says, “You’re fired!”) That missile strike in Syria was a first (Obama didn’t dare); the MOAB in Afghanistan was a breakthrough; the drone strikes in Yemen soon after he took office were an absolute record! As for those regular Army troops heading for Somalia, that hasn’t happened in 24 years! Civilian casualties in the region: rising impressively!

Call it mission creep on steroids. At the very least, it seems like evidence that the man who, as a presidential candidate, swore he’d “bomb the shit” out of ISIS and let the U.S. military win again is doing just that. (As he also said on the campaign trail with appropriately placed air punches, “You gotta knock the hell out of them! Boom! Boom! Boom!”)

He’s appointed generals to crucial posts in his administration, lifted restraints on how his commanders in the field can act (hence those soaring civilian casualty figures), let them send more military personnel into Iraq, Syria, and the region generally, taken the constraints off the CIA's drone assassination campaigns, and dispatched an aircraft carrier strike group somewhat indirectly to the waters off the Koreas (with a strike force of tweets and threats accompanying it).

And there’s obviously more to come: potentially many more troops, even an army of them, for Syria; a possible mini-surge of troops into Afghanistan (that MOAB strike may have been a canny signal from a U.S. commander “seeking to showcase Afghanistan’s myriad threats” to a president paying no attention); a heightened air campaign in Somalia; and that’s just to start what will surely be a far longer list in a presidency in which, whether or not infrastructure is ever successfully rebuilt in America, the infrastructure of the military-industrial complex will continue to expand.

Institutionalizing War and Its Generals


Above all, President Trump did one thing decisively. He empowered a set of generals or retired generals -- James “Mad Dog” Mattis as secretary of defense, H.R. McMaster as national security adviser, and John Kelly as secretary of homeland security -- men already deeply implicated in America’s failing wars across the Greater Middle East. Not being a details guy himself, he’s then left them to do their damnedest. “What I do is I authorize my military,” he told reporters recently. “We have given them total authorization and that’s what they’re doing and, frankly, that’s why they’ve been so successful lately.”

As the 100-day mark of his presidency approaches, there’s been no serious reassessment of America’s endless wars or how to fight them (no less end them). Instead, there’s been a recommitment to doing more of the familiar, more of what hasn’t worked over the last decade and a half. No one should be surprised by this, given the cast of characters -- men who held command posts in those unsuccessful wars and are clearly incapable of thinking about them in other terms than the ones that have been indelibly engrained in the brains of the U.S. military high command since soon after 9/11.

That new ruling reality of our American world should, in turn, offer a hint about the nature of Donald Trump’s presidency. It should be a reminder that as strange... okay, bizarre... as his statements, tweets, and acts may have been, as chaotic as his all-in-the-family administration is proving to be, as little as he may resemble anyone we’ve ever seen in the White House before, he’s anything but an anomaly of history. Quite the opposite. Like those generals, he’s a logical endpoint to a grim process, whether you’re talking about the growth of inequality in America and the rise of plutocracy -- without which a billionaire president and his billionaire cabinet would have been inconceivable -- or the form that American war-making is taking under him.

When it comes to war and the U.S. military, none of what’s happened would have been conceivable without the two previous presidencies. None of it would have been possible without Congress’s willingness to pump endless piles of money into the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex in the post-9/11 years; without the building up of the national security state and its 17 (yes, 17!) major intelligence outfits into an unofficial fourth branch of government; without the institutionalization of war as a permanent (yet strangely distant) feature of American life and of wars across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa that evidently can’t be won or lost but only carried on into eternity. None of this would have been possible without the growing militarization of this country, including of police forces increasingly equipped with weaponry off America’s distant battlefields and filled with veterans of those same wars; without a media rife with retired generals and other former commanders narrating and commenting on the acts of their successors and protégés; and without a political class of Washington pundits and politicians taught to revere that military.

In other words, however original Donald Trump may look, he’s the curious culmination of old news and a changing country. Given his bravado and braggadocio, it’s easy to forget the kinds of militarized extremity that preceded him.

After all, it wasn’t Donald Trump who had the hubris, in the wake of 9/11, to declare a “Global War on Terror” against 60 countries (the “swamp” of that moment). It wasn’t Donald Trump who manufactured false intelligence on the weapons of mass destruction Iraq’s Saddam Hussein supposedly possessed or produced bogus claims about that autocrat’s connections to al-Qaeda, and then used both to lead the United States into a war on and occupation of that country. It wasn’t Donald Trump who invaded Iraq (whether he was for or against tht invasion at the time). It wasn’t Donald Trump who donned a flight suit and landed on an aircraft carrier off the coast of San Diego to personally declare that hostilities were at an end in Iraq just as they were truly beginning, and to do so under an inane “Mission Accomplished” banner prepared by the White House.

It wasn’t Donald Trump who ordered the CIA to kidnap terror suspects (including totally innocent individuals) off the streets of global cities as well as from the backlands of the planet and transport them to foreign prisons or CIA “black sites” where they could be tortured. It wasn’t Donald Trump who caused one terror suspect to experience the sensation of drowning 83 times in a single month (even if he was inspired by such reports to claim that he would bring torture back as president).

It wasn’t Donald Trump who spent eight years in the Oval Office presiding over a global “kill list,” running “Terror Tuesday” meetings, and personally helping choose individuals around the world for the CIA to assassinate using what, in essence, was the president's own private drone force, while being praised (or criticized) for his “caution.”

It wasn’t Donald Trump who presided over the creation of a secret military of 70,000 elite troops cossetted inside the larger military, special-ops personnel who, in recent years, have been dispatched on missions to a large majority of the countries on the planet without the knowledge, no less the consent, of the American people. Nor was it Donald Trump who managed to lift the Pentagon budget to $600 billion and the overall national security budget to something like a trillion dollars or more, even as America’s civilian infrastructure aged and buckled.

It wasn’t Donald Trump who lost an estimated $60 billion to fraud and waste in the American “reconstruction” of Iraq and Afghanistan, or who decided to build highways to nowhere and a gas station in the middle of nowhere in Afghanistan. It wasn’t Donald Trump who sent in the warrior corporations to squander more in that single country than was spent on the post-World War II Marshall Plan to put all of Western Europe back on its feet. Nor did he instruct the U.S. military to dump at least $25 billion into rebuilding, retraining, and rearming an Iraqi army that would collapse in 2014 in the face of a relatively small number of ISIS militants, or at least $65 billion into an Afghan army that would turn out to be filled with ghost soldiers.

In its history, the United States has engaged in quite a remarkable range of wars and conflicts. Nonetheless, in the last 15 years, forever war has been institutionalized as a feature of everyday life in Washington, which, in turn, has been transformed into a permanent war capital. When Donald Trump won the presidency and inherited those wars and that capital, there was, in a sense, no one left in the remarkably bankrupt political universe of Washington but those generals.

As the chameleon he is, he promptly took on the coloration of the militarized world he had entered and appointed “his” three generals to key security posts. Anything but the norm historically, such a decision may have seemed anomalous and out of the American tradition. That, however, was only because, unlike Donald Trump, most of the rest of us hadn’t caught up with where that “tradition” had actually taken us.

The previous two presidents had played the warrior regularly, donning military outfits -- in his presidential years, George W. Bush often looked like a G.I. Joe doll -- and saluting the troops, while praising them to the skies, as the American people were also trained to do. In the Trump era, however, it’s the warriors (if you’ll excuse the pun) who are playing the president.

It’s hardly news that Donald Trump is a man in love with what works. Hence, Steve Bannon, his dream strategist while on the campaign trail, is now reportedly on the ropes as his White House counselor because nothing he’s done in the first nearly 100 days of the new presidency has worked (except promoting himself).

Think of Trump as a chameleon among presidents and much of this makes more sense. A Republican who had been a Democrat for significant periods of his life, he conceivably could have run for president as a more nativist version of Bernie Sanders on the Democratic ticket had the political cards been dealt just a little differently. He’s a man who has changed himself repeatedly to fit his circumstances and he’s doing so again in the Oval Office.

In the world of the media, it’s stylish to be shocked, shocked that the president who campaigned on one set of issues and came into office still championing them is now supporting quite a different set -- from China to taxes, NATO to the Export-Import Bank. But this isn’t faintly strange. Donald Trump isn’t either a politician or a trendsetter. If anything, he’s a trend-senser. (In a similar fashion, he didn’t create reality TV, nor was he at its origins. He simply perfected a form that was already in development.)

If you want to know just where we are in an America that has been on the march toward a different sort of society and governing system for a long time now, look at him. He’s the originator of nothing, but he tells you all you need to know. On war, too, think of him as a chameleon. Right now, war is working for him domestically, whatever it may be doing in the actual world, so he loves it. For the moment, those generals are indeed “his” and their wars his to embrace.

Honeymoon of the Generals


Normally, on entering the Oval Office, presidents receive what the media calls a “honeymoon” period. Things go well. Praise is forthcoming. Approval ratings are heart-warming.

Donald Trump got none of this. His approval ratings quickly headed for the honeymoon cellar or maybe the honeymoon fallout shelter; the media and he went to war; and one attempt after another to fulfill his promises -- from executive orders on deportation to repealing Obamacare and building his wall -- have come a cropper. His administration seems to be in eternal chaos, the cast of characters changing by the week or tweet, and few key secondary posts being filled.

In only one area has Donald Trump experienced that promised honeymoon. Think of it as the honeymoon of the generals. He gave them that “total authorization,” and the missiles left the ships, the drones flew, and the giant bomb dropped. Even when the results were disappointing, if not disastrous (as in a raid on Yemen in which a U.S. special operator was killed, children slaughtered, and nothing of value recovered), he still somehow stumbled into highly praised "presidential" moments.

So far, in other words, the generals are the only ones who have delivered for him, big-league. As a result, he’s given them yet more authority to do whatever they want, while hugging them tighter yet.

Here’s the problem, though: there’s a predictable element to all of this and it doesn’t work in Donald Trump’s favor. America’s forever wars have now been pursued by these generals and others like them for more than 15 years across a vast swath of the planet -- from Pakistan to Libya (and ever deeper into Africa) -- and the chaos of failing states, growing conflicts, and spreading terror movements has been the result. There’s no reason to believe that further military action will, a decade and a half later, produce more positive results.

What happens, then? What happens when the war honeymoon is over and the generals keep right on fighting their way? The last two presidents put up with permanent failing war, making the best they could of it. That’s unlikely for Donald Trump. When the praise begins to die down, the criticism starts to rise, and questions are asked, watch out.

What then? In a world of plutocrats and generals, what coloration will Donald Trump take on next? Who will be left, except Jared and Ivanka?

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Dower's The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, as well as John Feffer's dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt's Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 Tom Engelhardt

Post-War: The Devastation of Aleppo

ALEPPO: After Devastation, The Rehabilitation (Part One)

by  Patrick Henningsen - 21st Century Wire


April 23, 2017

ALEPPOFor the last five years, everyone has been talking about Aleppo.

I can’t even count how many interviews we’ve conducted, or how many TV news segments I’ve watched and articles read – about the battles and sieges in this crucial theatre which has come to symbolise the long war on Syria.


(Photo: Patrick Henningsen@21WIRE)

With all of this in mind, nothing can really prepare you for the sheer scale of the devastation visible throughout Syria’s second largest city.

Fortunately for us, the journey from Damascus to Aleppo is a lot safer than it was just a few months ago. Back in December 2016 before the liberation of Aleppo, travelers were forced to circle around the city heading northwest before turning south down the infamous Castello Road, down a perilous stretch of highway known as “Sniper Alley,” and even less affectionately as the ‘terrorists rat line’ running from Turkey into northern Syria. For a while, that was the only way in, as Al Nusra Front and its affiliates took control of nearly every major artery heading into the city.

Terrorists still control many of the main roads between Hama and Aleppo and some other roads between Aleppo and the coastal region of Latakia. This means that what would normally be a comfortable three to four hour drive from Damascus, is now an eight hour journey, which at times you might take you as close as 10 km from ISIS-held territory while weaving your way into Aleppo from the city’s eastern countryside.

While visiting the northern city of Aleppo, you quickly come realise that the war is still far from over. What the US and the UK still refer to as “moderate rebels” are still occupying parts of the West Aleppo countryside and are firing Grad Missiles and mortars into neighborhoods located on the outskirts of the city.



From our rooftop in the morning, you could see smoke bellowing 
up in the distance on the outskirts of Aleppo’s city centre 
(Photo: Patrick Henningsen@21WIRE)


Syrian and Russian airforce jets were buzzing over our heads while we were doing a walkthrough of the devastation in East Aleppo. I couldn’t determine whether or not that strike was a terrorist mortar or a retaliatory airstrike by Syrian or Russian forces. It was one of many we could hear and see during our visit.

After a long drive we eventually arrived downtown in the evening in West Aleppo. There, I had the great pleasure of finally meeting with French activist and humanitarian, Pierre Le Corf. I had interviewed him previously for the Sunday Wire radio program to talk about his experiences and his work running his own charity called We Are Superheroes, as well as his work with war-stricken families in the city.

During the height of the fighting in 2016, he was supplying families living on the front line with essential supplies including first aid kits, as well as toys for children. Following the liberation of East Aleppo in December 2016, Pierre has continued delivering assistance to families, and by virtue of listening to them and being there for them, he’s also delivering some much-needed counseling for them. He is literally a one man band, operating in one of the most dangerous conflicts ever. His efforts have been nothing short of heroic.

Even though the immediate terror threat of shelling from the east has subsided, Le Corf made a point of reminding us that the threat of terrorism is still omnipresent in Aleppo. Sitting in a cafe in the bustling Azaziya district, he showed us where terrorist mortar strikes and ‘Hell Canon’ gas canister missile attacks had killed civilians on the side walk, only metres away from where we were sitting.

“I wish you could’ve been here 5 months ago, to see what it was like. One moment you’d be sitting here, drinking coffee and talking with people, and the next second people are dying on the pavement right over there. I can still see it, very clear in my mind. But unfortunately, it happened so often that an hour after the attack, people would just carry on with their daily business. It’s really incredible.”

Danger, Clear and Present


Le Corf explained that although the bombardment of civilians has tailed-off in central Aleppo, other terrorist attacks are still ongoing in the city, including suicide bombs, and daily rocket attacks in other parts of the city.

“Still today, all the entrances to the city are bombed nearly everyday – rockets, gas canisters, mortars.”

Not surprisingly, this daily reality of terror reigning down on the civilian population has been completely blacked-out of all coverage from both Western and Gulf state media outlets – the same countries who continue to support what politicians and pundits still disingenuously refer to as “rebel opposition groups.”

“The people here have suffered a lot. Still, people keep dying from the rockets and bombs – it’s very difficult for the families (in Aleppo) because they still cannot yet escape from the war. They’ve been facing it from the start, and they keep facing it here. When you see kids dying, whether it’s 4 months ago, or just now, it’s the same. It’s exactly the same as before 4 months ago,” said Le Corf.
“Just inside the city centre, maybe they can forget a little bit about the war, but the people are still concerned.”

“The people are more tired. It’s like the war will never finish for them.” 



The last tree standing following severe damage near the front lines in Shaar, 
in East Aleppo (Photo: Patrick Henningsen@21WIRE)

 

Norwegian journalist Tommy Soltvedt talking to 21WIRE’s Vanessa
Beeley amidst the rubble in Shaar, in East Aleppo
(Photo: Patrick Henningsen@21WIRE)


Despite the insistence by most western journalists and military industrial PR men like US Senator John McCain – that somehow The Battle of Aleppo was born out of ‘peaceful opposition’ protests in 2012. Everyone we spoke to -residents, Syrian Army personnel and media professionals all told us the same story: back in the summer of 2012 the city of Aleppo was literally invaded on multiple fronts by militant extremists and mercenaries, operating under various banners, starting with the western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), the al-Tawhid Brigade, who were soon followed by home-grown Arar al Sham, and the Saudi Arabia and Qatari-sponsored Al Nusra Front (al Qaeda in Syria), ISIS, the Levant Front and others.

It wasn’t long before terrorist brigades were embedded throughout east Aleppo and surrounding areas, and throughout the outskirts of the greater Aleppo city limits. Terrorists occupied government buildings, schools, and hospitals, and even the historic 12th century Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo which was tuned into a military command centre by Al Nusra.

From 2013, Al Nusra and ISIS occupied the Eye and Pediatric Hospital in Shaar, East Aleppo, which was quickly converted into a Sharia Court house and an underground prison. The site was run by the ‘Hayaa al-Sharia’ authority, known by extremists the Hayaa.

When I looked at all the ISIS literature all over the ground, and all over the walls, I imagined the suffering of the people in this city, and then I remembered watching CNN’s very own CFR mouthpiece, Fareed Zakaria, only last month, with one of his many ‘Syrian opposition’ guests, a woman who looked into the camera and claimed that Al Nusra and ISIS were never in Aleppo as she waxed on about ‘the revolution.’ Of course, Zakaria had no clue, which seems to be par for the course at the Pentagon’s premier propaganda mill.



A cursory tour of the ruined Eye Hospital turned up endless ISIS 
and Al Nusra paraphernalia 
(Photo: Patrick Henningsen@21WIRE) 


Destroyed vehicles parked outside the Eye hospital 
(Photo: Patrick Henningsen @21WIRE)

Ghost City


The damage we saw in East Aleppo is practically indescribable, outside of comparisons to Stalingrad. For the most part, half the city resembles a dystopic ghost town, although signs of life are beginning to return to many of the devastated areas.

After walking through the neighborhood of Shaar, it’s easy to see where the frontline fighting had spilled into every single side streets and neighborhood. Makeshift barricades were erected by occupying militants on almost every street entrance.



A blocked off alley way in Shaar, piled high with debris 
(Photo: Patrick Henningsen@21WIRE).


East Aleppo barricade
(Photo: Patrick Henningsen@21WIRE)


According to our guide and a number of other residents we spoke to, the vast majority of the damage was inflicted by fighting on the ground – street by street, block by block – and not from the air. This is an important point because western media coverage attributed nearly all of the damage to air strikes by the Syrian Air Force, and from late 2015 by Russian jets. This was the script put forward by western media outlets throughout the conflict – which became the basis of the pretext for ‘rebel’ pleas for western intervention, and endless calls in the west for a ‘No Fly Zone,’ or ‘Safe Zones,’ calls which continue to this day.

In actuality, extensive damage in the heavy fighting areas around Aleppo was the result of artillery, tank ordinances and heavy gun fire from both sides, and from terrorist gas canister ‘Hell Canons’, rockets and bombing. Unlike the terrorist barrages which were fired randomly into civilian areas, Syrian air strikes were targeted, as were later Russian strikes. This fact is fairly self evident after touring the battle zone.



Layramoun district was home to the infamous Brigade 16 of the Free Syrian Army
(Photo: Patrick Henningsen @21WIRE)


Barrel Bombs vs Hell Cannons


In addition to the military front, information warfare is arguably an even bigger and more complex battle ground in this protracted conflict.

Egged-on by the mainstream media, the US and British political establishment figures quickly adopted the ‘Barrel Bomb’ talking point as the idiopathic rallying cry for the removal of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. This elaborate media mythology construct claims that the Syrian Army have been busy dropping barrel bombs from helicopters, intentionally targeting civilians, and especially schools and hospitals, or so the story went. This was repeated ad nauseam by caustic US hawks like Senator John McCain and Lindsey Graham, despite the fact that very few people had actually seen the barrel bombs in action.

Based on the frequency of western barrel bomb reports, you’d think that these would have been filmed and analysed, but instead these reports remain mostly anecdotal. What’s most interesting here, and yet completely ignored by western mainstream media sources, is that the damage inflicted from terrorist Hell Cannon strikes appears to be identical to bromidic tales of the barrel bomb. Both are said to have been used often and indiscriminately, with both featuring a crude metal casing, packed with powerful explosives and shrapnel, designed to inflict maximum damage.

Unlike the illusive barrel bombs, footage of the ‘rebel’ Hell Cannon in action is easy to find. Rebel-terrorists not only fired into government-held West Aleppo but also in contested and ‘rebel-held’ areas throughout the Battle of Aleppo. Knowing this, a responsible journalist might ask the pertinent question: how many of Aleppo’s alleged ‘barrel bomb’ attacks attributed to the ‘regime’ were actually Hell Cannon strikes made by the ‘rebel opposition’?

After 2012, gas canister Hell Cannons became the weapon of choice for terrorists, as they shelled residential areas all over Aleppo in a long-running campaign of terror. In total, upwards of 15,000 Aleppo residents have died since 2012 from terrorist ordinances, bombs and gas canister missiles. All of these victims have been documented by name, with details of their injuries, along with their family details collated by the Aleppo Medical Association.

Contrast this with the fantastic claims by the US and British-funded ‘search and rescue NGO’ called the White Helmets, who claim in their official literature to have saved some 80,000 lives from the regime’s “barrel bomb” and air attacks since they were founded in late 2013.

Unlike the Aleppo medical authorities, the White Helmets have yet provided any actual details of these 80,000 persons, or their injuries. While the incredible claims of the White Helmets continue to garner praise and Oscar awards, the western media seem blind to the 15,000 residents left dead from terrorists strikes, including thousands of dead children. This is a good example of the intricate campaign of disinformation which has been waged against Syria by the west, and continues to this day.

McCain’s Army: Brigade 16


After surveying the Eastern districts, we drove through Kurdish-controlled Sheikh Maqsood area in the city’s northern sector, before heading into the Layramoun district which used to be the textile manufacturing hub of Aleppo. Layramoun became the main base of operations for Brigade 16, who are also credited for inventing the Hell Cannon gas canister bomb delivery system.

It is in Layramoun that the infamous ‘Brigade 16’ set-up a Hell Cannon assembly line in one of the occupied textile factory buildings.

As it happened, Senator John McCain travelled to northern Syria in May 2013 where he met with leaders of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other ‘rebel’ operatives, some of which were later identified as persons with known links to terrorist groups and criminal gangs. One of these was a member of the infamous Brigade 16, commonly known as the “16th Infantry Division” (Arabic: الفرقة 16 مشاة‎‎) of the FSA, known to be responsible for a number of criminal enterprises including robbery, kidnapping, extortion, and the mass looting of factories around Aleppo.

Walking into the factory, you can still see the Brigade 16 emblem prominently displayed on the post to the lefthand side of the building’s entrance.



Brigade 16 commandeered factory in textile district to produce gas canister bombs 
(Photo: Patrick Henningsen @21WIRE)


Driving into the the city from the east, we passed the Jibrin Refugee Centre where thousands of Aleppo displaced residents are still housed, along with newly arrived survivors of last week’s car bomb attack at Rashideen outside of Aleppo, where at least 126 people were killed. The buses were transporting residents who were being evacuated from the towns of Foua and Kefraya, both under terrorist siege for the last two years. The violent event was a stark reminder of just how vicious this war continues to be, and that the ones who suffer the most are not governments, but the poorest of the people.



(Photo: Patrick Henningsen @21WIRE)


Also along the eastern entry highway, coming off the road which connects Aleppo to Raqqa, we also passed the Sheikh Najjar Industrial District. What you see is difficult to comprehend. Every single factory and industrial estate we passed was decimated. This is one of the most profound and yet completely under-reported aspects of the war which also gets no airtime whatsoever by ‘experts’ in the western circles.

Undoubtedly, Aleppo was one of the top manufacturing powerhouses of the Middle East, and the economic heart of Syria. Since 2012, that heart has been torn from the country by a systematic and targeted effort administered by multiple terrorist factions.

What’s more important to note, is how all of the estimated 1,500 that were trashed or converted to terrorist military facilities, had their contents completely looted by armed groups – piece by piece, machine by machine, before being taken north into Turkey.

The obvious object of this exercise, aside from the fencing value of the stolen goods, was to remove Syria’s ability to supply its own markets with product and make it dependent on imports from neighboring countries, including Turkey.



Independent Parliamentarian Fares Shehabi MP from Aleppo 
(Photo: Patrick Henningsen @21WIRE)


The next day we met with Aleppo MP and Chairman of the Aleppo Chamber of Industry, Fares Shehabi. He explained the scale of the disaster left in the wake of the dismantling of Aleppo’s manufacturing sector by western and gulf state-backed terrorist groups, including looting carried out by Brigade 16.

“Brigade 16 of the Free Syrian Army used to occupy the industrial zone. They robbed 1000 factories – completely, they even took the copper from inside the walls. They began this in June 2012 and it was liberated 4 years later. They took everything to Turkey.”

After the liberation of Aleppo’s terrorist-held areas, Shehabi led a delegation to liberated areas in order to survey the damage.

“When we entered the day after liberation, I went with 200 industrialists and they saw their factories in rubble, looted completely. We saw the slogans, we saw a torture prison for pro-government people, we saw the ammunition factories, mortar factories. The guys who used to run this were Brigade 16 – they were the same ones hitting us with the gas canister (missiles), or Hell Cannons,” said Shehabi.
“Myself, I had three factories – a pharmaceutical factory, an olive oil factory, and a clothing factory. The clothing factory is still… for five years now – under Al Nusra control. The olive oil factory, ISIS took it and turned into a command center for two years. When we finally took it back, I turned it into a school for poor children. The pharmaceutical factory is in a hot zone, still.”
“ISIS even issued an official letter from their court to order the confiscation of my factory.” 



‘Official’ ISIS decree to confiscate factory under new Sharia legal domain 
(Photo: Fares Shehabi)

  

Ransacked and looted: one of thousands of factories taken over 
or destroyed by terrorists groups in Aleppo (Photo: Fares Shehabi)

Still, Shehabi is amazed at how western media professionals and politicians are still referring to terrorist factions as the ‘rebel opposition,’ or ‘moderate rebels.’ He then proceeded to show us his collection of photos of numerous radical militant leaders posing with various US officials. One after another, Shehabi delivered a damning indictment of western political leaders and their seemingly open affiliations with radical salafi terrorist commanders.

“Brigade 16 invented the Hell Canon (photo), and Brigade 16 were with John McCain as we can see in the picture. Look, this is (Colonel) Riyad al-Asad – the founder of the FSA, the most ‘moderate’ of them all, sitting here with the Taliban of Syria. Even the Taliban have a branch in Syria.”
“This is the Aleppo (FSA) commander with Robert Ford, and this is the same guy with ISIS.”

Despite the fact that all of these images have been freely available online, these associations still do not register with US media, carefully whitewashed under layers of carefully crafted anti-Syrian propaganda.

Shehabi also knocked back the western misconception about claims of how many actual civilian residents were in East Aleppo during the war, as opposed to imported foreign terrorist mercenaries.

“Remember when they (the western media) used to say, ‘we have 250,000 people living here in East Aleppo and their are no foreigners, they are all from East Aleppo.’ When they (the terrorists) conquered East Aleppo, there used to be 2 million in East Aleppo. This number dropped to 113K, because immediately after the occupation of East Aleppo 1 million people left. They came to this area and we still have half a million of those people living here (in West Aleppo). The other half million went to the Alawite areas, the coastal areas (Latakia and Tartous). They did not say, ‘oh, these are Alawites, or these are Shi’ites.’ They went there immediately, and they are still living there. So the actual number in East Aleppo dropped to about 113,000.”
“During the evacuation that took place in Dec 2016 in the green buses, 20,000 was the total number of people who left East Aleppo to Idlib, from those who left – 15,000 were not from Aleppo – they were a combination of people from Idlib, and many foreigners – Uzbekistan, Chechens, Saudis. Only 5,000 thousand went with them (to Idlib?), the rest are still here (in West Aleppo). Everyone is now involved – this conflict is now internationalized,” said Shehabi.

As the dust begins settling on Aleppo, it’s now widely understood by Syrians that Turkey has played the pivotal role since the conflict began in 2011 by facilitating terrorist forward operating bases inside of Turkey, as well the destruction of the Syrian economy. After Syria’s manufacturing sector had been gutted and taken north into Turkey, it’s safe to say there is no love lost between Syrians and the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

On this, Shehabi remarked, “We call him ‘The Thief of Aleppo’, Erdogan. For the past 6 years he wanted to establish a parliamentary system in Syria. He said the presidential system in Syria is no good and that we need a parliamentary system in Syria. Why? So that the Muslim Brotherhood can reach power. Ok, so you want us the change to a parliamentary system – while you want a presidential dictatorship in Turkey?”

Culture Targeted


Aside from manufacturing and merchant sectors, another area which has disappeared is tourism, estimated to have comprised roughly 14% of Syria’s economy before the war. The country boasts an unrivaled collection of historical sites which predate both Christian and Islamic civilizations. Syria’s Christian and Islamic sites are some of the most highly regarded in the world.

Veteran tour guide Mohammad Al Khousi explained to us how the conflict has affected him personally, as well as his industry, and how this aspect of the crisis cuts much deeper than the issue of tourism.

“As a guide, I was sometimes in Aleppo three days per week, so Aleppo was like a second home for me. Before the war, I was last in Aleppo in 2009. I was back in 2013 briefly, but when I finally returned to Aleppo in 2016 – it was the saddest day of my life. Honestly, I was crying. When I left Aleppo before, I had great memories. They destroyed my business, as well as all of the other guides I know. They (the terrorists) destroyed shops, and all their incomes. They burned the Old Souks, they burned the gold market, they burned the soap market, they burned the textile markets. Look how many people lost their businesses; as a guide, a shopkeeper, all the drivers, the travel agencies – some of them died, some of them handicapped, some lost their parents, or lost their kids. It’s really very sad, it’s a tragedy.”

“I did an interview on Danish TV, it was a 3 hour recorded interview, and I couldn’t hold it anymore, I started crying. I wasn’t crying because I lost my home, I was crying for Palmyra and Aleppo,” said Al Khousi.

Like so many others we spoke to, Al Khousi believes that Syria’s historic sites have been targeted intentionally, and strategically.

“It started in Lebanon, continued to Iraq, continued to Palestine, then to Syria, and also Yemen. Yemen is the source of civilization to Saudi and to the Arab peninsula. Why? It seems that someone wants to destroy our culture – our civilization.” 


After heavy fighting, the Old Citadel remains in tact 
(Photo: Patrick Henningsen @21WIRE) 


A view looking down from the steps of Aleppo’s 13th century Old Citadel, 
at what is left of the site where the Ritz Carlton Hotel once stood 
(Photo: Patrick Henningsen @21WIRE) 


Before the war, the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Aleppo was arguably one of the most impressive boutique hotels in the world with a position and view which was second to none. The stately home turned hotel was part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In May 2014, terrorist fighters tunneled under the hotel, before detonating explosives which completely destroyed the building.


Dr Bouthaina Shaaban (Photo: Patrick Henningsen @21WIRE)

The bombed-out property look on a whole new meaning after a later conversation we had with Dr Bouthaina Shaaban, Syria’s chief political and media adviser to the President, who recalled a harrowing tale of her last encounter with the Turkish leader Erdogan right before the war began in 2011:

“I remember… just before the war on Syria started, when President Erdogan came to Aleppo to visit President Assad, and we were having dinner in what was in the Carlton Hotel but now it’s totally demolished, and it was overlooking the castle (Old Citadel). The view was truly amazing. I was sitting next to Erdogan and he was looking at the castle and said to President Assad, ‘Is there any other place in the world, where you can sit in such a modern place and sit and look at such an so old historic place.’ I remember that, and I remember his tone, but I never imagined he would be so resentful and that he would like to destroy a place he doesn’t have – something he can’t have and can’t claim.”

Any remaining doubt that the takedown of Aleppo, and Syria, was planned well in advance – was long gone by the end of this visit.


STAYED TUNED FOR PART TWO – THE REHABILITATION OF ALEPPO

Patrick Henningsen is a global affairs analyst and founder of the independent news and analysis site 21st Century Wire as well as a regular guest commentator for the UK Column News, RT International, host of the SUNDAY WIRE weekly radio show broadcast globally over the Alternate Current Radio Network (ACR).

READ MORE SYRIA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Syria Files

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Cleaning Up: The Corporate Attempt to Take Thailand's Sidewalk Economy

Thailand: Crushing Localism Threatens National, Regional Stability

by Tony Cartelucci - NEO


April 22, 2017

Street vendors of all kinds are facing a complete ban of their livelihood across Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. While it may appear a minor move falling in line with many other nations within the “developed world,” the significance of it to Bangkok, Thailand, and the rest of Asia in socioeconomic terms is indeed, major.

Just like in the “developed” nations the new ban seeks to emulate, it is driven not by a genuine desire to clear sidewalks, beautify the city, or enhance consumer health and safety.

Cui Bono? Not for Safety or Health


Instead, it is driven by larger corporations both foreign and domestic, and in particular, agricultural giant Charoen Pokphand Group (CP) which is connected to the massive and ever-expanding network of 7-Eleven convenience stores and Lotus retailers dotting every corner and crevice in both Bangkok and beyond.

The ban is in fact another salvo fired by special interests at Thailand’s considerable “informal economy.” Bloomberg in its article, “Thailand’s Unemployment Rate is a Ridiculously Low 0.6%. Here’s Why,” would report that:

The informal sector of the Thai economy, comprising anyone who’s not covered by formal work arrangements, accounted for more than 64 percent of the total workforce in 2013. It includes street vendors and taxi-motorbike drivers, the self-employed and those operating in gray areas of the economy. They are largely counted as employed.

And as technology further empowers the self-employed and is already disrupting economic monopolies in the “developed world,” such trends in a nation like Thailand with a sizable informal economy already stand to transform Bangkok into a regional, even global “grey market capital” and model for economic alternatives, start-ups, and other disruptive economic models springing up elsewhere around the world.

While rational leaders within Thailand’s government have seen this as an immense opportunity, investing in start-ups, small businesses, the leveraging of technology to empower independent entrepreneurs, other interests appear threatened by the prospect of an economy shifting decisively in favor of independent business owners who are increasingly able to compete against established monopolies across multiple industries.

While the actual number of users employing disruptive technology to compete against established business monopolies is small at the moment, as solutions are employed into markets, Thailand’s substantial informal economy is likely to adopt them as well.

CP Group’s Vision for the Future


For CP executives and investors, they envision a monopoly over Thai agriculture, food, beverages, retail, telecom, and other sectors. With the prospect of street vendors being swept from Bangkok’s roads, CP’s network of convenience stores would remain one of the remaining competitors, open 24 hours a day, and providing all the amenities currently provided for by street vendors.

It is a formula of perpetual growth at the expense of all else that has given rise corporations currently populating lists of Wall Street and London’s richest.

However, perpetual growth shares many of the same characteristics of a natural tropism – oblivious to the future, its surroundings, or its impact on either. It simply grows until it depletes its own energy or the resources around it, then dies.

A similar process is currently unfolding on Wall Street and in London, where economies driven by monopolies seeking perpetual expansion have reached both their own internal limits, and the limits of an increasingly multipolar world where not only other nation-states are producing industries competing directly with Western monopolies, but within nation-states, a more equitable balance of power is being struck by improving technology and its ability to provide larger numbers of people with direct access to the wealth of both their respective nations and the world.

For CP Group, then, which has been cultivated by exceptionally ordinary businessmen and investors, it faces a future where the sort of monopoly it seeks to create and expand no longer fits into modern socioeconomic paradigms.

CP Group is a Liability for Thailand, Not an Asset


While self-absorbed consumerism has spread throughout many segments of Thailand’s population, CP Group has already found itself labeled as an undesirable corporation amongst Thailand’s socioeconomic landscape. While it reaps immense economic rewards for its current holdings and wields demonstrably impressive political influence, it does so amid a public who is already increasingly at odds with its business practices and leadership.

Moves to push street vendors off the roads of Bangkok – whether CP Group is the primary interest lobbying for this or not – will be perceived by many as yet another move made for the sake of CP’s growth and at the expense of both the Thai people and the Thai nation.

While a corporate conglomerate like CP would seem like a bastion of economic strength for Thailand, its leadership has managed to turn it into a divisive liability. Its subsidiaries and other corporations operating within Thailand like it may be able to wield influence within both the former and current Thai governments, but these governments would be wise to avoid becoming a buffer between these businesses, their unpopular “plans” and the Thai people.

Those within the government seeking to enhance rather than crush localism and the healthy “grey market” must continue moving forward, and distinguish themselves clearly from those beholden to lobbyists to garner the support of the Thai public who are opposed to plans to sweep street vendors from the roads of Bangkok.

Should Bangkok succeed in crippling its street vendor tradition, those markets dependent on daily vendor purchases will also suffer. Those farmers who have managed to escape large agricultural corporations like CP and deliver directly to vendors or the markets who sell to them on a daily basis will also suffer. This is but one of several domino effects that may unfold if this plan moves forward.

While some Thai salary workers seeking unrealistic and unsustainable consumer lifestyles depicted in advertisements may desire “beautiful sidewalks” on their way to CP’s convenience stores and the shopping malls maintained by mega-real estate developers and the foreign corporations that rent shops within them – the majority of Thai people, including the 64% dependent on the informal economy – will not only not benefit from this latest attack on street vendors – they will become a vector for sociopolitical instability both within Thailand, and perhaps even within the region.

It was manipulative populist Thaksin Shinawatra who exploited destitute rural populations in his bid to divide and destroy Thailand as a sovereign nation-state between 2001-2014. Attacking the life-blood of Thailand’s informal economy, and launching that attack within Bangkok itself, may give people like Shinawatra the disenfranchised urban population he lacked as a weapon in his previous bids to stir up street violence and seize absolute power.

CP and other corporations are blind tropisms driven by perpetual growth and insatiable greed. A rational government would be wise to ignore a blind, hungry force of human greed, and instead rely on the rational human wisdom that has guided and protected Thailand for centuries.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.