Saturday, February 27, 2016

[American] War: Who Is It Good For?

War, What Is It Good For? Absolutely Nothing. And No Kidding, That’s the Literal Truth When It Comes to War, American-Style 

by Tom Engelhardt - TomDispatch

Feb. 25, 2016

It may be hard to believe now, but in 1970 the protest song “War,” sung by Edwin Starr, hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. That was at the height of the Vietnam antiwar movement and the song, written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, became something of a sensation. Even so many years later, who could forget its famed chorus? “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.” Not me.

And yet heartfelt as the song was then -- “War, it ain't nothing but a heartbreaker. War, it's got one friend, that's the undertaker...” -- it has little resonance in America today.

But here’s the strange thing: in a way its authors and singer could hardly have imagined, in a way we still can’t quite absorb, that chorus has proven eerily prophetic -- in fact, accurate beyond measure in the most literal possible sense. War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. You could think of American war in the twenty-first century as an ongoing experiment in proving just that point.

Looking back on almost 15 years in which the United States has been engaged in something like permanent war in the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa, one thing couldn’t be clearer: the planet’s sole superpower with a military funded and armed like none other and a “defense” budget larger than the next seven countries combined (three times as large as number two spender, China) has managed to accomplish -- again, quite literally -- absolutely nothing, or perhaps (if a slight rewrite of that classic song were allowed) less than nothing.

Unless, of course, you consider an expanding series of failed states, spreading terror movements, wrecked cities, countries hemorrhaging refugees, and the like as accomplishments. In these years, no goal of Washington -- not a single one -- has been accomplished by war. This has proven true even when, in the first flush of death and destruction, victory or at least success was hailed, as in Afghanistan in 2001 ("You helped Afghanistan liberate itself -- for a second time," Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to U.S. special operations forces), Iraq in 2003 ("Mission accomplished"), or Libya in 2011 ("We came, we saw, he died," Hillary Clinton on the death of autocrat Muammar Gaddafi).

Of all forms of American military might in this period, none may have been more destructive or less effective than air power. U.S. drones, for instance, have killed incessantly in these years, racking up thousands of dead Pakistanis, Afghans, Iraqis, Yemenis, Syrians, and others, including top terror leaders and their lieutenants as well as significant numbers of civilians and even children, and yet the movements they were sent to destroy from the top down have only proliferated. In a region in which those on the ground are quite literally helpless against air power, the U.S. Air Force has been repeatedly loosed, from Afghanistan in 2001 to Syria and Iraq today, without challenge and with utter freedom of the skies. Yet, other than dead civilians and militants and a great deal of rubble, the long-term results have been remarkably pitiful.

From all of this no conclusions ever seem to be drawn. Only last week, the Obama administration and the Pentagon again widened their air war against Islamic State militants (as they had for weeks been suggesting they would), striking a “suspected Islamic State training camp” in Libya and reportedly killing nearly 50 people, including two kidnapped Serbian embassy staff members and possibly “a militant connected to two deadly attacks last year in neighboring Tunisia.” Again, after almost 15 years of this, we know just where such “successes” lead: to even grimmer, more brutal, more effective terror movements. And yet, the military approach remains the American approach du jour on any day of the week, any month of the year, in the twenty-first century.

Put another way, for the country that has, like no other on the planet in these years, unleashed its military again and again thousands of miles from its “homeland” in actions ranging from large-scale invasions and occupations to small-scale raids and drone assassination strikes, absolutely nothing has come up roses. From China’s Central Asian border to north Africa, the region that Washington officials began referring to as an “arc of instability” soon after 9/11 and that they hoped to garrison and dominate forever has only become more unstable, less amenable to American power, and ever more chaotic.

By its very nature, war produces chaos, but in other eras, particularly for great powers, it has also meant influence or dominance and created the basis for reshaping or controlling whole regions. None of this seems in the cards today. It would be reasonable to conclude, however provisionally, from America’s grand military experiment of this century that, no matter the military strength at your command, war no longer translates into power. For Washington, war has somehow been decoupled from its once expected results, no matter what weaponry has been brought to bear or what kind of generalship was exercised.

An Arms Race of One

Given that, sooner or later, the results of any experiment should be taken into account and actions recalibrated accordingly, here’s what’s curious. Just listen to the fervent pledges of the presidential candidates in the Republican debates to “rebuild” the U.S. military and you’ll sense the immense pressure in Washington not to recalibrate anything. If you want the definition of a Trumpian bad deal, consider that all of them are eager to pour further staggering sums into preparing for future military endeavors not so different from the present ones. And don’t just blame the Republicans. Such behavior is now hardwired into Washington’s entire political class.

The essential failure of air power in these years has yielded the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a plane once expected to cost in the $200 billion range whose price tag is now estimated at a trillion dollars or more over the course of its lifetime. It will, that is, be the most expensive weapons system in history. Air power's powerlessness to achieve Washington's ends has also yielded the newly unveiled Long-Range Strike Bomber for which the Pentagon has already made a down payment to Northrop Grumman of $55 billion. (Add in the usual future cost overruns and that sum is expected to crest the $100 billion mark long before the plane is actually built.) Or at the level of planetary destruction, consider the three-decade, trillion-dollar upgrading of the U.S. nuclear arsenal now underway and scheduled to include, among other things, smaller, more accurate “smart” nukes -- that is, first-use weaponry that might indeed be brought to future battlefields.

That none of this fits our world of war today should be -- but isn't -- obvious, at least in Washington. In 2016, not only has military action of just about any sort been decoupled from success of just about any sort, but the unbelievably profitable system of weapons production woven into the fabric of the capital, the political process, and the country has also been detached from the results of war; the worse we do militarily, that is, the more frenetically and expensively we build.

For the conspiratorial-minded (and I get letters like this regularly at TomDispatch), it's easy enough to see the growing chaos and collapse in the Greater Middle East as purposeful, as what the military-industrial complex desires; nothing, in other words, succeeds (for weapons makers) like failure. The more failed states, the more widespread the terror groups, the greater the need to arm ourselves and, as the planet's leading arms dealer, others. This is, however, the thinking of outsiders. For the weapons makers and the rest of that complex, failure or success may increasingly be beside the point.

Count on this: were the U.S. now triumphant in an orderly Greater Middle East, the same Republican candidates would still be calling for a build-up of the U.S. military to maintain our victorious stance globally. If you want proof of this, you need only step into your time machine and travel back a quarter-century to the moment the Soviet Union collapsed. Thought of a certain way, that should have been the finale for a long history of arms races among competing great powers. What seemed like the last arms race of all between the two superpowers of the Cold War, the one that brought the planet to the brink of annihilation, had just ended.

When the Soviet Union imploded and Washington dissolved in a riot of shock and triumphalism, only one imperial force -- “the sole superpower” -- remained. And yet, despite a brief flurry of talk about Americans harvesting a “peace dividend” in a world bereft of major enemies, what continued to be harvested were new weapons systems. An arms race of one rolled right along.

And of course, it goes right on today in an almost unimaginably different world. A quarter century later, militarily speaking, two other nations might be considered great powers. One of them, China, is indeed building up its military and acting in more provocative ways in nearby seas. However, not since its disastrous 1979 border war with Vietnam has it used its military outside its own borders in a conflict of any kind.

The Russians are obviously another matter and they alone at this moment seem to be making an imperial success of warfare -- translating, that is, war making into power, prestige, and dominance. In Syria (and possibly also Ukraine), think of that country as experiencing its version of America’s December 2001 Afghanistan or April 2003 Iraq moments, but don’t for a second imagine that it will last. The Russians in Syria have essentially followed the path Washington pioneered in this century, loosing air power, advisers, and proxy forces on an embattled country. Their bombing campaign and that of the allied Syrian air force have been doing in spades what air power generally does: blow away stuff on the ground, including hospitals, schools, and the like.

Right now, with the Syrian Army and its Iranian and Lebanese helpers advancing around the city of Aleppo and elsewhere, everything looks relatively sunny for the Russians (as long as your view is an airborne one), but give it a year, or two or three. Or just ask yourself, what exactly will such “success” translate into, even if a Bashar al-Assad regime regains significant power in a country that, in most senses, has simply ceased to exist? Its cities, after all, are in varying states of destruction, a startling 11.5% of its people are estimated to have been killed or injured, and a significant portion of the rest transformed into exiles and refugees (with more being produced all the time).

Even if the Islamic State and other rebel and insurgent groups, ranging from those backed by the U.S. to those linked to al-Qaeda, can be “defeated,” what is Russia likely to inherit in the Middle East? What, in far better circumstances, did the U.S. inherit in Afghanistan or Iraq? What horrendous new movements will be born from such a “victory”? It’s a nightmare just to think about.

Keep in mind as well that, unlike the United States, Vladimir Putin’s Russia is no superpower. Despite its superpower-style nuclear arsenal and its great power-ish military, it’s a rickety energy state shaken by bargain-basement oil prices. Economically, it doesn’t have the luxury of waste that the U.S. has when it comes to military experimentation.

Generally speaking, in these last years, war has meant destruction and nothing but destruction. It’s true that, from the point of view of movements like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, the chaos of great power war is a godsend. Even if such groups never win a victory in the traditional sense (as the Islamic State has), they can’t lose, no matter how many of their leaders and followers are wiped out. In the same way, no matter how many immediate successes Washington has in pursuit of its war on terror, it can’t win (and in the end neither, I suspect, can Russia).

Has War Outlived Its Usefulness?

Relatively early in the post-9/11 presidency of George W. Bush, it became apparent that his top officials had confused military power with power itself. They had come to venerate force and its possible uses in a way that only men who had never been to war possibly could. (Secretary of State Colin Powell was the sole exception to this rule of thumb.) On the U.S. military, they were fundamentalists and true believers, convinced that unleashing its uniquely destructive capabilities would open the royal road to control of the Greater Middle East and possibly the planet as well.

About this -- and themselves -- they were supremely confident. As an unnamed “senior adviser” to the president (later identified as Bush confidant Karl Rove) told journalist Ron Suskind, “We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Ever since then, no small thanks to the military-industrial complex, military power has remained the option of choice even when it became clear that it could not produce a minimalist version of what the Bush crew hoped for. Consider it something of an irony, then, that the U.S. may still be the lone superpower on the planet. In a period when military power of the first order doesn’t seem to translate into a thing of value, American economic (and cultural) power still does. The realm of the dollar, not the F-35, still rules the planet.

So here’s a thought for the songwriters among you: Could it be that war has in the most literal sense outlived its usefulness, at least for the United States? Could it be that the nature of war -- possibly any war, but certainly the highly mechanized, high-tech, top-dollar form that the United States fights -- is now all unintended and no intended consequences? Do we need another Edwin Starr singing a new song about what war isn’t good for, but with the same punch line?

In fact, give it a try yourself. Say it with me: Absolutely nothing.

One more time and really hit that “nothing”: Absolutely nothing!

Now, could someone in Washington act accordingly?

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 His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

[Note: Let me offer a deep bow of thanks to TomDispatch Managing Editor Nick Turse for helping, as he so often does, to talk me through this one! Tom]

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2016 Tom Engelhardt

Greeting Ukraine Coup's Fascist Leadership: Who's Justin Playing "Footsie" with Now?

Readers of Canadian daily condemn visit to Ottawa of Ukrainian extremist Andriy Parubiy

by New Cold

Feb 24, 2016

A founder of the present-day fascist movement in Ukraine who also serves presently as the deputy-speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament spent several days in Ottawa this week visiting and discussing with members of Parliament, the Senate and some in mainstream media. According to the Ukrinform news service, in Ottawa on Feb 23, Parubiy met with recently-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Foreign Minister.

He also met with other MPs from the ruling Liberal Party and the opposition Conservative Party, says Ukrinform.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau 
greets Ukrainian paramilitary extremist 
Andriy Parubiy in Ottawa Feb 23, 2016

The visit was given a fawning review in the Globe and Mail national daily on February 23. Referring to Andriy Parubiy as “a leading Ukrainian politician”, the Globe and Mail writer quoted Parubiy’s message of confrontation and war with Russia:

“Putin understands only the language of force in international relations,” the deputy Speaker said.
“The diplomacy of the Western countries – he perceives [this] as a sign of weakness … you will lose time and you will be back where you started from.”

Those with views opposing the right-wing government in Ukraine are barred from the pages of the Globe and Mail and the rest of Canada’s mainstream media. But judging by the more than 200 comments made to this latest Globe and Mail article, most readers of the publication do not share the Globe editors’ enthusiasm for right-wing extremism in Ukraine. Enclosed is a selection of comments by readers to the subscriber-only, online edition of the daily newspaper.

This is not the first time that readers of the Globe have expressed strong opposition to the newspaper’s cozying up to the extreme-right in Ukraine. Controversy erupted in Canada in April 2015 over the decision of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to ban a scheduled performance by the Ukrainian antiwar, classical piano star Valentina Lisitsa. Globe readers reacted very strongly to that decision, as reported here in New Cold : Readers of Globe and Mail slam reporter criticizing pianist Valentina Lisitsa, April 15, 2015.

Read also:
Prestigious academic institute in Toronto hosts lecture by Ukraine extremist Andriy Paruiby, New Cold, Feb 21, 2016

Selection of comments by Globe and Mail readers to article ‘Ukrainian politician warns Ottawa not to resume ties with Russia‘, by Steven Chase, The Globe and Mail, Feb 23, 3016

A Region in Flux: Mideast Alliance Sands Shifting

Mideast Alliances Shift as Balance Alters

by Sharmine Narwani - MidEast Shuffle

In January, I was interviewed by the conservative Iranian publication Javan about the shifting balance of power in the Levant and Persian Gulf. We looked at Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Russia and the many moving parts of US foreign policy.

The interview was published today, one month later, in Farsi here.

I must note that Javan edited my response to one part of the interview, which is why I am publishing the full version in English here (western media edits, in my personal experience, are far more brutal). A big thank you from me to Ali Etemadi for the opportunity to be heard in major Iranian media.

Q: How are regional geopolitical shifts developing in the areas of competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia? What are the arenas in which Iran and Saudi Arabia have a competition?

SN: Nations generally compete in the areas of economy, geopolitical influence, military strength and the ability to project their power. As such, I don’t really see much of an apples-to-apples comparison between Iran and Saudi Arabia – at least, not in terms of real and self-realized capabilities. Both states are rich in energy resources and have used this rentier wealth to advance their national goals, albeit with vastly differing results. Iran’s economy is focused on diversification away from the energy sector, developing self-sufficiencies and becoming a net exporter – Saudi Arabia is import-focused. Iran spends $15 billion per annum on its military – compared to Saudi’s $80 billion – yet has one of the most competent military forces in the region and builds its own hardware. The Iranian political system is constitution-based, diverse, and representative, with loudly competing political blocs that come with their own media and constituencies. The Saudi monarchy is based entirely on the rule of one family, with no meaningful elections or contesting political bodies, and little freedom of expression in the media. In terms of power projection, Iran favors the soft power tools of diplomacy, trade, and alliance-building based on common worldviews/objectives, whereas the Saudis have expanded their influence far and wide by funding the introduction of Wahhabi doctrine in schools, mosques, media and other institutions globally – and by blatantly buying the loyalty of allies.

Today, we can see clearly how Iran and Saudi Arabia’s nation-building approaches have affected the success of their geopolitical strategies. Both states have experienced existential fears and threats in recent years, and their respective alliances have now confronted each other on a few battlefields. Today, Iran is in ascendancy within West Asia whereas even powerful Saudi allies like the United States are questioning the longevity of the Saudi regime and state. Iran has approached the matter of its strategic depth carefully and built alliances with partners that genuinely share the common values of independence, self-determination and resistance against imperialism. The Saudis, on the other hand, have forged their external alliances with hegemony or dominance as the primary objective – irrespective of the divergent interests and values of allies. There really is little contest – one side is going from strength to strength in the region, whilst the other flails about with unreliable alliances, propped up by petrodollars and all the strategic brilliance of a sledgehammer.

Q: Do you think that the last 5 years of developments in Middle East has made a game change in the regional balance of power? If so, which side does it favor?

SN: Absolutely. The so-called ‘Arab Spring’ really hastened the arrival of a seismic shift in the regional balance of power. When they first kicked off, the uprisings were exclusively taking place in Arab states led by western proxy governments. One and all, these were nations where there was little or no connection between populations and their governments. Then suddenly, the uprisings veered toward two unlikely candidates – Libya and Syria. Say what you want about Mummer Gaddhafi and Bashar al-Assad, but they both represented very independent and defiant foreign policy worldviews – ones that resonated heavily with their populations. In that sense, the connection between populace and government was intact – unlike, say, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Jordan, Yemen, where uprisings were well underway or starting to boil in early 2011.

Regime-change in Libya almost happened too quickly for people to understand what was really going on. But in Syria, as months stretched into years, the two geopolitical blocs in the region – let’s call them the neocolonial (US) and post-colonial (Iran) blocs for now – came into direct and prolonged confrontation. Syria became an existential fight for elements of both blocs, which drew in two great powers, Russia and China, that had until now stood on the sidelines of Mideast power struggles. This is when the game changed entirely. Not only did Russia and China put their arms around the Resistance Axis in the region, but that action in itself moved us from a unipolar world into a multilateral one. It broke the hold the United States had enjoyed since the end of the Cold War on the global community, it removed the ability for the US to use the UN Security Council as a rubber stamp for its military adventurism, it created an opening for a new international political and economic order in which middle states could carve out new directions.

Of course the Middle East balance of power shifted alongside these global developments. We are by no means out of the woods yet, and the old order still dominates somewhat, but just a few years ago we could not have imagined that the US would bypass its traditional allies Israel and Saudi Arabia to avidly pursue a nuclear agreement with Iran that would propel the Islamic Republic to the big table, where it is now being relied on as the one rational, stable player in the region that can put out the most dangerous fires. Could you even write that script five years ago?

Q: Some Iranians believe that despite the advantages in the field, Iran doesn’t use all its capacities in the areas of media war and public opinion? What’s your point of view about that?

SN: For all the talk about Iranian ‘propaganda’ in the west, Iran is really dreadful at this. The word ‘propaganda’ has taken on very negative connotations – mostly because governments lie so much – but all it really means is the dissemination of information from a particular viewpoint to shape understanding in order to achieve consensus. Clearly, over the past few decades, Iran has failed to propagate its value propositions successfully, as it has been vilified globally, with little or no understanding of the state’s actual intentions. Iran’s adversaries do the propaganda thing very, very well, and it is a real failing of the Islamic Republic that it does not understand the absolute importance of savvy communications as a cornerstone of its national security strategies. In the west, they not only understand the value of communications, they employ it aggressively in the form of ‘information warfare.’ All their recent military interventions begin first with ‘scene-setting’ that prepares and grooms the public into accepting – and even supporting – whatever battle lies ahead.

I would like to see Iranians and Arabs begin to invest in public diplomacy more proactively, but not just to emulate what the west does. Part of the Iranian problem is that they are active participants in the West’s ‘discourse’ about this region – Iranians are the ‘rejectionists’ in that discourse, and they actually strengthen it by ‘rejecting’ it. The Resistance Axis and its allies need to begin afresh by developing homegrown narratives that reflect their own political, economic and social priorities. Don’t participate in the west’s telling of OUR story – let’s construct our own. The west will immediately reject our goals, our vision, our version of the narrative – for a change, they will become the ‘rejectionists’ in our game. In this region, we need to take control over our own narratives before someone else comes in to fill that void. This needs to be a national security priority – not an afterthought by a communication staff member.

Q: Do you think Saudi Arabia’s aggressive actions against Iran are in coordination with the United States? Or do you think, as some believe, Riyadh is acting on its own without Washington’s consent?

SN: The Saudis and Americans have been in business together for decades because they share an interest in dominating this region – and as different as they are, they have struck a bargain not to get mired in these differences. Riyadh has acted as a convenient regional fig leaf and cheerleader for US objectives throughout the Middle East, and since Afghanistan, has provided the Americans with money and foot soldiers to wage its wars in this region. But we did start seeing some divergences in interests around 2012 in Syria. The quick ‘Libya model’ of intervention in Arab uprisings wasn’t taking hold in Syria, and the Saudis, under the direction of the newly-rehabilitated Prince Bandar bin Sultan, launched an escalation of political violence that threatened to spill well beyond Syria’s borders. The US, which happily used this kind of Saudi-backed violence in Afghanistan and Iraq, suddenly became wary of uncontrolled chaos on Israel’s borders, and so it began looking for an exit of sorts. Which is when the Obama administration secretly reached out to the Ahmadinejad government and waved a series of incentives to jump-start nuclear talks in earnest.

I think the United States is not uniform in its thinking about the Middle East – there are multiple centers of influence in Washington alone. I also think the US – unlike its European counterparts – is far enough away from this region that it can afford to play multiple strategies at once. Yes, the American interests have diverged from the Saudis, but there is still a big field in which the two can and will play. They are at one on the issues of Israel, regional hegemony, containing Iranian influence, trading in weaponry, destroying the Resistance, and so forth. But these are not necessarily existential things for the Americans – while they have become so for the Saudis. So, on Yemen, for instance, let’s imagine for a moment that the Obama administration was not so keen about Riyadh’s military intervention. But on the other hand, this would be an opportunity to sell more weapons, gain another ‘card’ against the Iranians in Syria, heighten Shia-Sunni tensions throughout the region, etc. Washington doesn’t think too hard about the dangers of playing two games at once. They seek advantages and they ‘manage’ conflict – there’s no real urgency to actually resolve the problems as long as they can be ‘contained.’ But now there is too much conflict in too many places and they can see their Saudi ally is over-extended and unable to achieve its goals. They understand too that Riyadh – in it zealousness – could not only blow up the whole region, but could also disintegrate in that heat, which would take out a major US ally and create disastrous consequences for all its proxy monarchies in the region.

I suspect we will continue to see a divergence in interests between the two allies, although we have not really yet seen it become publicly contentious yet. Behind the scenes, I am certain that the Saudis are taking actions which make the Americans uncomfortable. I also suspect that the Americans are wary about drawing too many red lines for Saudi behaviors as this may trigger even worse actions from an increasingly unhinged Riyadh. For sure it is a very delicate time between the two allies right now.

Q: Despite the fact that western officials (Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service) confessed about Saudi Arabia’s destabilizing foreign policy, it seems the west is still deliberately ignoring the fact and supporting Saudi Arabia. To what extent is the West prepared to cover for the Saudis?

SN: It doesn’t really help that the Saudis have become this belligerent at the same time western economies have stagnated. Even if the US – or the UK and France, for the matter – decided to try to rein in Saudi actions, would they do so at the expense of ‘economy?’ The Saudi defense budget is straining toward a robust $100 billion per year – will the west ignore that in favor of ‘principle?’ These countries have demonstrated that they choose interests over values every time, and I don’t think that will change today.

But the expansion of the jihadist and extremist threat has become a huge problem at the same time as the west is facing down multiple crippling issues of economy, refugees, potential EU disintegration, loss of popular legitimacy, etc. I do think they will draw a line on Saudi actions at some point. It may be a sly, calculated line, however. Look at Syria today, for instance – Washington has basically handed the Syrian ‘solution’ over to the Russians and Iranians. The nuclear deal helped with that. It allowed for the US and Iran to operate in the same military theaters (Syria and Iraq) without the danger of being goaded into a direct confrontation by Israel and Saudi Arabia. Look how quiet the US has been about the massive Syrian-Russian-Iranian gains against militants in the past few months. Meanwhile, Washington’s coalition launches only a handful of airstrikes and pretends it is still active in that military theater. This is perhaps how the US will extricate itself from complications in the region without facing any confrontations with their Saudi ally – or losing out on some much-needed petrodollars. They can have their cake and eat it too.

Q: One of the most important developments in Syria is the direct participation of Russia in coordination with Iran. To what extent has the alliance of Tehran and Moscow been able to achieve its objectives? What challenges does this alliance face?

SN: Despite the fact that the Russians and Iranians have both been on the receiving end of US hostilities, it really has been the Syrian crisis that has brought the two countries together in a constructive way. From what we hear, they have been working closely at the highest levels in Syria’s military command centers, and are instrumental in developing the ground strategies there. It is expected that the synergies learned in the field will translate into common objectives elsewhere: the development of a new multipolar order, oil and gas policy, pipelines and economy, defense cooperation, establishment of global institutions under new frameworks, and so forth.

They are clearly able to work efficiently together – Russian airpower has been well-coordinated with the ground efforts of the Syrian army, the Iranians, Hezbollah and other fighting forces to wrest back key territory in the north and west of Syria, now moving into southern fronts too. And all this in just a few short months.

On the political front we are also seeing a growing consensus between Iran and Russia – both countries are in agreement on the inclusion of President Assad in a national unity government, the centrality of elections in determining Syria’s political future, defeating terrorism on the ground, inhibiting the transit of jihadists through the Turkish border, working in tandem with neighboring Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan to stem the extremism, protecting minorities in these areas, halting global financial assistance to terrorists – among other goals. Importantly, during contentious Syria negotiations, Russia and Iran have together managed to hold their ground on these vital issues – in part because they are no longer doing so alone.

A few months ago, these two critical Syrian allies were working on common goals from different corners. Today, we are seeing them work from the same room, in lockstep. I suspect over the course of this year, we are going to see coordination and cooperation improve inside Syria – it will be vital to gain more and more military ground in order to achieve a favorable political settlement, if one is even possible.

- This interview was initially published in Farsi in Javan on February 27, 2016. You may follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

Undoing Democracy in Cowichan: Unelected LNG Proponents at CVRD Take Fight 'In Camera'

CVRD’s Elected Political Representatives No Match For the Cunning CAO Brian Carruthers

by Richard Hughes - Cowichan Conversations

February 26th, 2016  

In the hurly burly world of CVRD politics the senior staff have come out the winners. Their role and influence trumps that of our elected representatives. This is especially true with the $200 thousand plus per year CAO Brian Carruthers, a charming and capable controller who dominates today’s political culture at the CVRD.

Following the Board’s unanimous vote rejecting any new LNG facilities in the entire Cowichan Valley the CAO, General Manager of Planning Ross Blackwell and Chair Jon Lefebure had a meltdown of sorts.


There seems to have been a delayed response that took a couple of days to kick in. But once they had fully grasped the fact that the elected folks had actually initiated and carried out a directive in response to a rumoured Steelhead LNG proposal to establish a floating LNG facility with the Malahat Nation they hatched out a plan to counter the elected officials directive.

Chair Lefebure, Carruthers and Blackwell went to work to undermine our elected officials, casting shadows on the appropriateness and legality of the unanimously supported action opposing LNG facilities locating in the Regional District.

The Directors were warned that the CVRD could be sued.

Steelhead LNG’s CEO had previously discussed their proposal with General Manager of Planning, Ross Blackwell, but an application has yet to have been forwarded and the Directors were never fully advised of exchanges between Steelhead and Blackwell. One wonders.

The motion to oppose LNG facilities was ushered in by Cowichan Bay Director Lori Iannidinardo and seconded by Duncan’s Alternate Director Sharon Jackson.

These two senior politicians then heard about the other Directors concerns generated by this unthinkable project that would receive its gassy payload piped from Washington State through Active pass to the Saanich Inlet. From there it would be processed and then loaded onto ‘Super Tankers’ that make BC Ferries look like rowboats.

Six Directors spoke out publicly of their many valid concerns for any such LNG proposal in what was the highlight of their term so far.

Yet staff took it upon themselves to ignore their unanimous directive and set about scheming to undermine the will of the board. In the end they hope to persuade our elected representatives into flip flopping on one of the valley’s most important political developments.

On Wednesday, February 24th, the unanimously passed anti LNG facility motion was designated by staff to be subjected to another ‘In Camera’ meeting.

The Directors had already been influenced by the CAO, Planning Manager and Chair Lefebure’s pronouncements that there were legal problems that had to be addressed.

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at that questionable get together.

The CVRD CAO then hired a lawyer to get a legal opinion on the motion. The lawyer, Mr. Johnson, was actually present during the secret meeting. No expense is to be spared to prop up the controllers agenda.

Wouldn’t you like to see the questions the CAO asked the lawyer, and then read the citizen funded legal opinion that was used to undermine the democratic decision of the Board?

Was there a lawyer there to represent the unanimous view of opposition expressed at the February 10th meeting?

Of course not! Why not?

Will they be trying to rescind the motion opposing LNG facilities locating in our region? We’ll see.

I will provide readers with lawyer Jack Woodward QC’s response to the CVRD’s legal opinion sometime over the weekend. It is a breath of fresh air.

Clearly CAO Carruthers sees ‘In Camera’ as a three ‘C’ proposition. Comfort, Convenience and Control.

The entire valley is poorly served as a result.

Friday, February 26, 2016

America's Frankenstein Armies: One Sticking Point for Peace in Syria

Sticking point in Syria truce: Washington’s support for Al Qaeda

by Bill Van Auken - WSWS

25 February 2016

Testifying Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State John Kerry faced intensely hostile questioning as he defended a Syrian “cessation of hostilities” reached with Moscow that is supposed to go into effect this weekend.

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California suggested that the agreement might be little more than a “rope-a-dope” deal, while the committee’s Republican chairman, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, warned that Russia would “continue to kill the folks that are our friends and allies.”

Kerry responded by stressing that there was a “significant discussion taking place now about a Plan B,” presumably entailing a major escalation of the US military intervention in Syria and a potential armed confrontation with Russia, should the truce deal fail to further Washington’s aims.

The key sticking point in the US-Russian deal is precisely the status of those to whom Senator Corker referred as “the folks that are our friends and allies.” He, like the Obama administration, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the entire political and media establishment, carefully avoided any precise identification of these “folks.”

The dirty secret they are all doing their best to conceal is that Washington’s most important “friend” and “ally” in the war for regime change in Syria has been, since its inception nearly five years ago, Al Qaeda. It is this criminal relationship that is at the heart of the difficulties in brokering any kind of negotiated halt to the grinding sectarian war that has killed more than a quarter of a million Syrians and turned 11 million more into homeless refugees.

The cessation of hostilities that is supposed to take place on Saturday specifically excludes both the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a split-off from Al Qaeda, and the al-Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s designated Syrian franchise. The High Negotiations Committee, the Syrian “rebel” front cobbled together by the Saudi monarchy for the purpose of UN-sponsored negotiations, has rejected any ceasefire that fails to protect al-Nusra.

US intelligence analysts have warned that al-Nusra and the so-called “moderate” terrorists promoted by Washington are “intermingled.” Brett McGurk, the Obama administration’s envoy to the “coalition” participating in the US-led war in Iraq and Syria, told a White House press briefing Tuesday that the supposed moderates and the Al Qaeda group “are marbled together.”

Behind such awkward formulations, the reality is that Al Qaeda and related groups have long constituted the principal proxy ground forces utilized by US imperialism and its allies in the brutal war to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad. They have served as a mercenary army, which has been massively funded and has received an avalanche of arms from the US and its principal regional allies, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar. What is commonly referred to as the Syrian civil war is nothing less than a massive CIA regime-change operation.

This bloody intervention in Syria exposes as a fraud the entire “war on terror,” which has served as the linchpin for the conduct of war abroad and the buildup of state repression at home for nearly 15 years, under both the Bush and Obama administrations. The US is not involved in some existential struggle against terrorism in general and Al Qaeda in particular. Rather, it is employing Al Qaeda killers to do its dirty work in the struggle to establish US hegemony in the Middle East.

The latest incarnation of this supposed struggle, the campaign against ISIS, has, within the space of less than five months, been exposed as a phony war. Russia’s intervention, with far fewer military resources than can be brought to bear by the Pentagon, has reversed the tide of battle in Syria, cut off routes used by ISIS to receive arms and supplies, and destroyed its lucrative oil business with Turkey. Washington had failed to prosecute any such campaign because ISIS served as an instrument of US policy in the war to overthrow Assad and was therefore effectively protected.

A revealing report in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday quoted senior Obama administration officials who indicated increasing “discord” between the Pentagon, the CIA and the State Department over the course of the Syrian regime-change operation. The CIA, the Journal reported, is “infuriated” because Russian airstrikes “have aggressively targeted relatively moderate rebels [i.e., the al-Nusra Front and its allies] it has backed with military supplies, including antitank missiles.”

The article suggests that there are differences within the US state apparatus over whether to supply these same “rebels” with Manpads, advanced portable antiaircraft weapons, that could bring down Russian jets, potentially triggering a wider war pitting the US against Russia. The CIA, at the same time, is warning that if action isn’t taken to defend the Islamist militias, Saudi Arabia or Turkey could “decide to break ranks with Washington and send large numbers of Manpads into northern Syria to shoot down Russian bombers.” In other words, the incredibly reckless policy pursued by Washington may yet unleash a conflict that could end in a nuclear exchange.

Al Qaeda and related groups constitute a kind of Frankenstein’s monster created and cultivated by Washington as an instrument of imperialist intervention and counterrevolution. As is well known, Al Qaeda itself was born as a creature of the CIA, together with Saudi and Pakistani intelligence, during the US-instigated war against the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan in the 1980s. It served then, as it does now in Syria, as an agency for funneling money, arms and foreign Islamist fighters to prosecute Washington’s proxy wars.

Washington’s promotion of reactionary jihadist currents goes back much further—to the 1950s and the US attempts to utilize these forces as a means of combating Arab nationalism and the influence of socialism, which were both deemed mortal threats to the domination of the Middle East by the American oil corporations.

Ever since, the relations between the American intelligence agencies and Al Qaeda and similar jihadist outfits have remained intimate. This is what explains why, in virtually every terrorist incident, from 9/11 to the Boston Marathon bombing and beyond, the perpetrators were well known to US agencies and allowed to travel freely in and out of the country with no questions asked.

Today, US imperialism is more heavily invested than ever in these forces, and not only in the Middle East, where they have been employed to bring down the government of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and in the attempt to do the same to Assad in Syria.

Among the foreign fighters who poured into Syria, one of the largest contingents is made up of Chechens and other Islamists from Russia’s North Caucasus region. China has reported that significant numbers from its Uighur Muslim minority in the western Xinjiang region have gone there to join ISIS. These forces are being trained in the Syrian bloodbath in preparation for their utilization in far more dangerous imperialist operations aimed at subjugating and dismembering Russia and China.

Having organized, armed and funded such organizations, the US military and intelligence apparatus has no doubt made them various pledges of support, which are now being called into question by a Syrian truce deal that, in the final analysis, has been forced upon Washington by Russia’s intervention. This is what accounts for the explosive anger within both official US circles and the Al Qaeda-dominated Syrian rebel fronts over the deal reached by Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

There is an obvious danger that the Islamist outfits will devise their own “Plan B” involving retribution against their imperialist patrons for what they see as a betrayal. This is a familiar pattern, seen in the evolution of those around Osama bin Laden who were abandoned after the Soviets withdrew their troops from Afghanistan. The ultimate result was the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001.

The criminal and reckless actions Washington is carrying out in Syria and elsewhere pose the imminent threat of spawning an even more deadly blowback operation by the “moderate” terrorists that the CIA has armed and supported.

Israel, the UN and Resisting International Law

Israel Defies UN Efforts to Bring It Into Compliance with Int'l Law: Professor William A. Cook

by TruthNGO

Nearly seven decades after the eruption of what turned out to be one of the longest-running, most violent confrontations of the modern history, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to be on the headlines, and despite the loss of so much political and financial capital, refuses to be resolved in a meaningful and sustainable way.

In a recent op-ed on The New York Times, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his emphasis on the indefensibility of occupation, pointing out that the frustration and grievances of the Palestinian people are growing as no one can deny that “the everyday reality of occupation provokes anger and despair.”

The expansion of settlements, the failure of international community to help more than 5 million Palestinian refugees displaced as a result of the 1948 exodus and depopulation of Palestinian towns and villages, and breakdown of diplomatic efforts to bring the Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table have left the situation in limbo and rendered the future hopeless.

Meanwhile, Tel Aviv finds its relations with some of its close EU allies at stake. Just recently, a spat broke out between Israel and Sweden after the Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom called for an investigation into Israel’s “extrajudicial killing” of the Palestinian civilians since mid-September 2015.

An American university professor who has broadly studied the history of Israeli-Palestinian conflict says the European public at large reacts negatively to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians while “their leaders are obligated economically to overlook morality in favor of personal and state acquiescence” to Israel.

Prof. William A. Cook asserts that Israel has defied every effort made by the United Nations to bring it into compliance with the international law and the UN Charter.

William A. Cook is a Professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California. He served for 13 years as the university’s Vice President for Academic Affairs. Prof. Cook has obtained his Ph.D. from the Lehigh University. He contributes to the CounterPunch, Pacific Free Press, Dissident Voice and Information Clearing House and has worked with the Palestine Chronicle as a contributing editor. He has penned several essays, op-eds and books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In an interview with Truth NGO, Prof. Cook shared with us his viewpoints on the state of Israel-EU relations, the recent controversy with Sweden and the BDS movement gaining momentum in a number of European states.

Q: After the United States, Israel finds its closest allies among the European Union states. A 2014 BBC World Service Poll showed that 64% of the French citizens, 72% of the Britons, 61% of the Spaniards and 67% of the Germans view Israel negatively. What’s the reason for this resentment against Israel in the eyes of the citizens of these major EU countries while their governments usually throw weight behind Israel and support it in different forms?

A: You cite the 2014 BBC World Service Poll results that declare unequivocally the attitude of the Europeans’ negativity toward Israel. That understanding has grown ever more negative since the 2006 invasion of Lebanon, the subsequent Christmas destruction of Gaza, and the recent merciless devastation of Gaza visible to the entire world as it was to the Israelis who witnessed it from hillsides in lounge chairs making graphic the mindset molded by the Zionist government. Yet the governments of their respective countries support Israel’s financial, military and diplomatic needs. That is your answer: Europeans react to the barbarity of the terrorist state of Zionism but their leaders are obligated economically to overlook morality in favor of personal and state acquiescence to the Zionists’ demands. The same is true in the United States although the percent of negativity would be slightly less because Americans are shielded by the Zionist-controlled press and the Zionist-controlled Congress.

Q: The European Union has long advocated the two-state solution as the most viable response to more than six decades of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The election of Benjamin Netanyahu for the fourth consecutive term as the Prime Minister of Israel coupled with the resurgence of far-right Likud Party in the Knesset has partially extinguished hopes that the two-state scheme would be realized in the foreseeable future. What’s your viewpoint on the EU’s efforts to promote the idea of an independent Palestinian state?

Historically since 1947, the two-state solution has existed via a UN General Assembly resolution to endorse it. The UN never formally acted on that proposal because it was never brought before the Security Council. The U.S. through [President Harry] Truman and the Soviet Union following suit endorsed the Israeli state and the UN accepted that nation as a member of the organization in 1949. From that date forward, the state of Israel has defied every effort by the UN to bring it into compliance with international law and the charters of the UN. Indeed two months ago, the UN General Assembly voted 164 to 5 for the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in document A/70/480, including in that action a detailed castigation of the Zionist state’s defiance with references to multiple resolutions passed in prior years. But the action recommended by the General Assembly in 1947, Resolution 181, remains the basis for the two-state solution. Israeli action in stealing Palestinian land since that date makes the two-state solution virtually impossible.

Consequently, in response to your question, my viewpoint on the EU’s efforts to promote an independent Palestinian state, I find it a futile exercise unless it recognizes that Israel must be forced to relinquish more than 25% of the land it now occupies, and demand of the UN that Resolution 181 be the basis for UN-controlled negotiations if two populations are to live in Palestine. If the United Nations remains locked down by the U.S. veto in favor of Israel, no justice can be brought to the people of Palestine. Therefore, the UN and all its member states must force a means by which that veto can be overridden, if it is to act for the purposes which brought the UN into existence in the first place. And in creating the Partition Plan in 1947, the UN General Assembly must bear responsibility for the injustice done to the Palestinian people. As currently structured, the UN is a helpless Lilliputian population attempting futilely to tie down the U.S. Gulliver. If it is to act as the voice of the world, it must have the means to do just that. Only a vociferous and constant aggressive campaign to makeover the UN can break this stalemate.

Perhaps if the world communities were to invest $25 million to counteract the Israeli PR machine justifying its occupation, the United Nations Human Rights Council could offer legislation that would correct the veto power and let the world speak against the injustice.

The people of the world have made it clear that Israel must comply with their demands and work to establish the Palestinian state since Israel occupies all but 22% of all Palestinian land. Israel under its present government has committed itself to never have a Palestinian state west of Jordan. Even now it is stealing more land in the West Bank and laughs at the American President and coddles the Congress of the United States by dangling green backs in front of them.

Q: That said, will the EU-Israel ties deteriorate if the two-state solution is not translated into reality and the occupation persists?

A: Will the Israeli-EU ties deteriorate? No, if the EU bows before the money and capitulates to international coercion, making theft and bribery valid strategies for international negotiations. The Zionist state needs only buy off a few in each major EU country, like Cameron in Britain and Hollande in France to control the vote. They have never demonstrated concern for the European or American people. Since the time of Moshe Dayan in the 40s, they do what they want when they want and mock those who object. “Our American friends offer us money, arms, and advice. We take the money, we take the arms, and we decline the advice” in The Iron Wall, p. 316.

Q: Let’s get to the recent spat between Israel and Sweden. The relationship between the two countries has seen frequent ups and downs in the recent years, and at several junctures, relapsed into bitter diplomatic standoffs. One of these critical junctures was the row that followed the Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom’s statement in January this year when she demanded a probe into Israel’s “extrajudicial killing” of the Palestinians. How do you see the fluctuations of the Sweden-Israel relations, especially given that Sweden has conventionally maintained close and untroubled ties with Israel?

A: It’s clear that Sweden, through its Foreign Minister, has not lost sight of the substantive moral issues that envelop the occupation and oppression of the people of Palestine. Her insistence on probing the charges of extrajudicial executions goes directly to the legal source of the civilized state, since its use would be evidence that Israel is no longer a democratic state run by recognized laws of the United Nations, but by merciless terrorists that kill at will without regard for international justice. Does her advocacy for the imprisoned, those detained without charge for years at a time, some killed in prison, and those caught in the crosshairs of a sniper’s rifle disturb the Zionist politicians? No. But adding Margot Wallstrom’s moral outcry against such barbarity to the Swedish history on behalf of justice for the Jews and the Palestinians enhances the reputation of the Swedish people before the entire world. It was after all Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden who, in 1948, was killed by members of the Jewish underground organization LEHI, even though he had saved thousands of Jews from concentration camps as a UN negotiator. The reality that his assassination was an execution done by Zionists only testifies to the principle issue all your questions raise: is the Israeli state a legitimate state and a constructive member of the UN? The answer is no and only the member states of that organization can take action against it to enforce the moral actions called for in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but consistently flouted by the State of Israel.

Q: Israel’s response to the Swedish FM’s criticism of Tel Aviv’s security apparatus has been extremely stern. The Israeli foreign ministry announced in a statement that Sweden will not have a role in the future diplomatic engagement with the Palestinians anymore. Is the exclusion of Sweden from efforts to find a negotiated solution to the conflict a pragmatic decision?

A: In answer to [this] question, it can only be stated that Israel took advantage of Wallstrom’s demands over its security apparatus by responding aggressively.They used her statement to condemn critics of Israel without disturbing their attempts to convince the EU leaders that it knows best how to deal with terrorists – because it has to defend its people. Those who believe that Israel and its Prime Minister, by excluding Sweden from future peace negotiations, have taken some serious steps that could jeopardize possible peace efforts kid themselves. Israel is not about to participate in peace negotiations; it has never seriously participated in the creation of two states, never.

Q: So, what’s your view on Israel’s settlement constructions in the territories beyond the 1967 borders? President Barack Obama had warned Israel against the consequences of the settlement activities several times and once told Ilana Dayan of the Israeli Channel 2 television that with the persistence of the strategies that Israel has put in place, it would be difficult for the United States to defend its staunch Mideast ally in the long run. On January 18, the European Union also adopted a resolution criticizing the settlement constructions on the Occupied Territories. With the clear opposition coming from Washington and the European capitals, will Israel continue enforcing its controversial settlement policy uninhibited?

A: Kourosh, you know I have researched this issue in depth. “The Plight of the Palestinians” published by Macmillan in 2010 and being reissued in paperback in two months describes in detail the Zionist intent to eradicate every Arab from the land of Palestine as stated in their own words from documents seized by the Mandate Police in the 1940s. The edited volume contains chapters by world-renowned writers who describe in vivid detail that the genocide continues into the first decade of the new century.

What do I think of the settlement construction in the territories beyond the 1967 borders? What about the Zionists’ intent to get rid of the Arabs before the Mandate Government could exit from the land and 418 towns and villages were destroyed, some before the “Declaration of Independence” was announced on May 14, 1948? The state of Israel proclaimed in full-page advertisements that it would abide by the Partition Plan as presented by the UN General Assembly. It never did. The Zionists had no borders in mind before the Partition Plan and declared in these documents that if they needed more land they would take it. In fact the Partition Plan became the vehicle for the expansion that we know today. Israel has no borders, so to talk of 1967 borders is to buy into the lies that have been perpetrated by this state to further their agenda that behind closed doors includes all of Greater Israel, from the Euphrates to the Nile. Your question, will Israel continue enforcing its controversial settlement policy? Yes, unless the U.S. decides to stop funding Israel altogether. That cannot be done because the U.S. Congress is owned by the Zionists and anyone who believes otherwise need only check the votes in the Congress, a deliberative body that votes 100% on virtually any issue brought to it by AIPAC.

Q: The European Union agreed in November last year to issue guidelines for the labeling of products being exported to the member states from the settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. These products account for only about 1% of the entire Israeli trade to the EU, but the consensus to label them has a symbolic importance. Does the move signify that the grassroots BDS movement has paid off and been noticed by the EU leaders?

A: This question is the only hope left to the people of the world short of the dismantling of the UN’s present structure. There is no justification morally for the existence of the state of Israel. The British Mandate did not envision a Jewish State in Palestine – see The Plight of the Palestinians, section 3. The Zionist power is secular; it is not based on the Jewish faith except when it comes to claiming an “historical” right to the land given to it by Yahweh. Unfortunately, there is no historical evidence that such land ever was given to the Jews, nor is there evidence that the forces of Joshua conquered the Canaanites or Hittites or Perizzites et al. The archeological studies as unearthed are not in sync with the stories told in the Bible. Other people settled and lived on that land and they have as much historical right to it as the Jews. There is only one logical and civilized way to determine the owners of the land of Palestine and that is in the United Nations and its charters as agreed upon by 194 nations. Boycotts, divestments and sanctions may be the only route to compel Israel to understand that fact.
The Macmillan Company has decided to issue a paperback edition of Dr. Cook's book, The Plight of the Palestinians: a Long History of Destruction, five years after the initial hard bound publication, because the subject matter of that book warrants attention today as the UN has recognized Palestine through a 164 to 5 vote of the UNGA (A/70.480), the Pope has recognized Palestine and the EU has called for action on a two state solution as has the UN through its Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. In short the word "Genocide" is currently relative to Palestine. The cost of the new edition will be considerably less than the academic hard copy at $87 USD. The new edition has a new Foreword by Dr. Richard Falk, former United Nations Human Rights Rapporteur in the Occupied territories in Palestine.

Drones of War Protesters Arrested for Bread Delivery

Activists Arrested for Entering Drone Base with Loaf of Bread

by Voices for Creative NonViolence

Feb. 26, 2016

Camp Douglas, WI - On February 23rd, two peace activists with Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Brian Terrell and Kathy Kelly, were arrested when they attempted to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to drone operators at Volk Field, an Air National Guard Base in Wisconsin, which trains pilots to operate Shadow Drones over other countries.

Voices activists have lived alongside ordinary people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Gaza. People who can’t flee from drone surveillance and attacks have good reason to fear people from the U.S., but instead they have broken bread with Kelly and Terrell and have welcomed opportunities for deepened mutual understanding.

Kelly and Terrell carried the loaf of bread to signify the worth of relying on words rather than weapons. Before entering the base property, Kathy Kelly said:

“Living alongside ordinary people who can't escape drone surveillance in places like Iraq, Gaza and Afghanistan and knowing that a drone operator could be ordered to assassinate civilians who have nowhere to turn and nowhere to hide affected my conscience. I wanted to ask drone operators in Volk Field whether they had been asked to target any people for possible assassination that day. I want to ask how the base training manual teaches people to distinguish between civilians and armed combatants. If an operator wants to quit, what does the commander of Volk Field do?”

Brian Terrell also noted:

“Wisconsin is where I was born and raised and so I feel that coming to Volk Field is a responsibility that I owe in gratitude to my home state. The premise that drones will limit the parameters of war and make for fewer civilian casualties has proven false. General Stanley McChrystal, who led troops in Afghanistan from June 2009 to June 2010, warned that the drone ‘lowers the threshold for taking operations because it feels easy, there's a danger in that.’ And yet the evolution of drones in the militaries of many countries around the globe has been anything but cautious. Instead there is a reckless proliferation of this deadly technology.”

Terrell and Kelly were arraigned on February 24th, at the Juneau County Justice Center, 200 Oak St., in Mauston, WI. Also, on February 25th, at 9:00 a.m., Mary Beth Schlagheck, was to be tried for having crossed the line at Volk Field in August of 2015.

Hers was the last of seven trials stemming from nonviolent civil resistance actions at Volk Field that were undertaken as the culmination of the “Let It Shine” walk from Madison to Volk Field. The witness of the activists who have protested at Volk Field, and who have testified so eloquently in court, inspired Brian’s and Kathy’s action.

February 25th, 2016 Update: Volk Field, Wisconsin, Action to Protest Drone warfare

On February 24th, two co-coordinators of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Brian Terrell and Kathy Kelly, appeared before Judge Curran from the Juneau County jail via the jail’s video link. The two had been held overnight. They were served documents charging them with trespass at the “dwelling” of Volk Field. Pilots train at Volk Field to operate Shadow Drones over other countries.

Kelly told Judge Curran that she wished to plead no contest and that she would not be able, in conscience to pay a fee and that she preferred not to promise that she’d return to the court since she didn’t believe she had committed a crime in the first place. 

“Oh, I get what’s happening here. You have some people out there who will give you a gold star and a pat on the back for being so courageous,” said Judge Curran.

 He then said he would not impose a cash bond and he set a pre-trial conference date for March 23rd even though Kelly had already indicated that she wished to plead no contest and was not seeking a trial.

Terrell appeared next. He reiterated what Kelly had said, wishing to plead no contest and go directly to sentencing.

“It would save the county, the court and everyone involved time and trouble if the judge would accept the no contest plea,” said Terrell, “and go right to sentencing. I don’t understand why a pre-trial conference was scheduled when we haven’t asked for a trial.”
“It’s not necessary for you to understand the process of this court,” said Judge Curran. "That’s why God made lawyers.”

Kelly and Terrell were released after signing personal recognizance bonds. On February 25th they returned to the court to attend Mary Beth Schlagheck’s trial for a protest at Volk Field last August. Due to an emergency hospitalization of one of the state’s witnesses, her trial was postponed.

Following the hearing, District Attorney, Michael Solovey agreed to an informal conference with Kelly and Terrell. He discussed a motion Terrell had filed that morning to dismiss the criminal charge of trespassing at a dwelling.
Mr. Solovey said he expected the charge to be changed to the less serious forfeiture of trespassing on land. He was ready to accept a plea of no contest when he learned, at the end of the conference that the U.S. Air Force was asking for another criminal charge of disorderly conduct alleging that Kelly and Terrell had disrupted traffic in their protest. Kelly and Terrell told him a video taken by Joy First would verify that Kelly and Terrell did not disrupt traffic.
Kelly and Terrell await word from the DA about whether he will seek an additional charge. 

“We’re building on earlier efforts by Wisconsin activists,” said Terrell, “and we see today’s events as part of a continuum.”

Hands off Revolutionary Philosophy!

Academia: Hands off Revolutionary Philosophy!

by Andre Vltchek - CounterPunch

February 26, 2016

Philosophers have been muzzled by the Western global regime; most of great modern philosophy concealed from the masses. What has been left of it, allowed to float on the surface is toothless, irrelevant and incomprehensible: a foolish outdated theoretical field for those few remaining intellectual snobs.

Philosophy used to be the most precious crown jewel of human intellectual achievement. It stood at the vanguard of almost all fights for a better world. Gramsci was a philosopher, and so were Lenin, Mao Tse-tung, Ho-Chi-Minh, Guevara, Castro, Frantz Fanon, Senghors, Cabral, Nyerere and Lumumba, to name just a few.

To be a thinker, a philosopher, in ancient China, Japan or even in some parts of the West, was the most respected human ‘occupation’.

In all ‘normally’ developing societies, knowledge has been valued much higher than material possessions or naked power.

In ancient Greece and China, people were able to understand the majority of their philosophers. There was nothing “exclusive” in the desire to know and interpret the world. Philosophers spoke to the people, for the people.

Some still do. But that whoring and servile Western academic gang, which has locked philosophy behind the university walls, viciously sidelines such men and women.

Instead of leading people to the barricades, instead of addressing the most urgent issues our world is now facing, official philosophers are fighting amongst themselves for tenures, offering their brains and bodies to the Empire. At best, they are endlessly recycling each other, spoiling millions of pages of paper with footnotes, comparing conclusions made by Derrida and Nietzsche, hopelessly stuck at exhausted ideas of Kant and Hegel.

At worst, they are outrightly evil – making still relevant revolutionary philosophical concepts totally incomprehensible, attacking them, and even disappearing them from the face of the Earth.


Only the official breed, consisting of almost exclusively white/Western ‘thought recyclers’, is now awarded the right to be called ‘philosophers’.

My friends in all corners of the world, some of the brightest people on earth, are never defined as such. The word ‘philosopher’ still carries at least some great theoretical prestige, and god forbid if those who are now fighting against Western terror, for social justice or true freedom of thought, were to be labeled as such!

But they are, of course, all great philosophers! And they don’t recycle – they go forward, advancing brilliant new concepts that can improve life on our Planet. Some have fallen, some are still alive, and some are still relatively young:

Eduardo Galeano – one of the greatest storytellers of all times, and a dedicated fighter against Western imperialism. Noam Chomsky – renowned linguist and relentless fighter against Western fascism. Pramoedya Ananta Toer – former prisoner of conscience in Suharto’s camps and the greatest novelist of Southeast Asia. John Steppling – brilliant American playwright and thinker. Christopher Black – Canadian international lawyer and fighter against illegal neo-colonialist concepts of the Empire. Peter Koenig – renowned economist and thinker. Milan Kohout, thinker and performer, fighter against European racism.

Yes – all these great thinkers; all of them, philosophers! And many more that I know and love – in Africa and Latin America and Asia especially…

For those who insist that in order to be called a philosopher, one has to be equipped with some stamp that shows that the person has passed a test and is allowed to serve the Empire, here is proof to the contrary:

Even according to the Dictionary of Modern American philosophers (online ed.). New York: Oxford University Press:

“The label of “philosopher” has been broadly applied in this Dictionary to intellectuals who have made philosophical contributions regardless of academic career or professional title. The wide scope of philosophical activity across the time-span of this Dictionary would now be classed among the various humanities and social sciences which gradually separated from philosophy over the last one hundred and fifty years. Many figures included were not academic philosophers but did work at philosophical foundations of such fields as pedagogy, rhetoric, the arts, history, politics, economics, sociology, psychology, linguistics, anthropology, religion, and theology.”


In his brilliant upcoming book Aesthetic Resistance and Dis-Interest, my friend John Steppling quotes, Hullot-Kentor:

“If art – when art is art – understands us better than we can intentionally understand ourselves, then a philosophy of art would need to comprehend what understands us. Thinking would need to become critically imminent to that object; subjectivity would become the capacity of its object, not simply its manipulation. That’s the center of Adorno’s aesthetics. It’s an idea of thought that is considerably different from the sense of contemporary “theory”, where everyone feels urged to compare Derrida with Nietzsche, the two of them with Levinas, and all of them now with Badiou, Žižek and Agamben. That kind of thinking is primarily manipulation. It’s the bureaucratic mind unconsciously flexing the form of social control it has internalized and wants to turn on others.”

Western academia is rigidly defining, which lines of thought are acceptable for philosophers to use, as well as what analyses, and what forms.

Those who refuse to comply are ‘not true philosophers’. They are dilettantes, ‘amateurs’.

And those who are not embraced by some ‘reputable’ institution are not to be taken seriously at all (especially if they are carrying Russian, Asian, African, Middle Eastern or Latino names). It is a little bit like with journalism. Unless you have an ‘important’ media outlet behind you (preferably a Western one), unless you can show that the Empire truly trusts you, your press card is worth nothing, and you would not even be allowed to board a UN or a military flight to a war zone.

Your readers, even if numbering millions, may see you as an important philosopher. But let’s be frank: unless the Empire stamps its seal of acceptance on your forehead of backside, in the West you are really nothing more than worthless shit!



After all that I have witnessed and written, I am increasingly convinced that Western imperialism and neo-colonialism are the most urgent and dangerous challenges facing our Planet. Perhaps the only challenges…

I have seen 160 countries in all corners of the Globe. I have witnessed wars, conflicts, imperialist theft and indescribable brutality of white tyrants.

And so, recently, I sensed that it is time to revisit two great thinkers of the 20th Century, two determined fighters against Western imperialist fascism: Frantz Fanon and Jean-Paul Sartre.

The Wretched of the Earth, and Black Skin, White Masks – two essential books by Frantz Omar Fanon, a Martinique-born Afro-Caribbean psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionary, and writer, and a dedicated fighter against Western colonialism. And Colonialism and Neocolonialism, a still greatly relevant book by Jean-Paul Sartre, a prominent French resistance fighter, philosopher, playwright and novelist…

I had all three books in my library and, after many years, it was time to read them again.

But my English edition of Colonialism and Neocolonialism was wrapped in dozens of pages of prefaces and introductions. The ‘intellectual cushioning’ was too thick and at some point I lost interest, leaving the book in Japan. Then in Kerala I picked up another, this time Indian edition.

Again, some 60 pages of prefaces and introductions, pre-chewed intrusive and patronizing explanations of how I am supposed to perceive both Sartre and his interactions with Fanon, Memmi and others. And yes, it all suddenly began moving again into that pre-chewed but still indigestible “Derrida-Nietzsche” swamp.

Instead of evoking outrage and wrath, instead of inspiring me into taking concrete revolutionary action, those prefaces, back covers, introductions and comments were clearly castrating and choking the great messages of both Sartre and Fanon. They were preventing readers and fellow philosophers from getting to the core.

Then finally, when reaching the real text of Sartre, it all becomes clear – why exactly is the regime so determined to “protect” readers from the originals.

It is because the core, the original, is extremely simple and powerful. The words are relevant, and easy to understand. They are describing both old French colonialist barbarities, as the current Western neo-colonialism. God forbid someone puts two and two together!

Philosopher Sartre on China and Western fascist cultural propaganda:

“As a child, I was a victim of the picturesque: everything had been done to make the Chinese intimidating. I was told about rotten eggs… of men sawn between two planks of wood, of piping and discordant music… [The Chinese] were tiny and terrible, slipping between your fingers, attacked from behind, burst out suddenly in a ridiculous din… There was also the Chinese soul, which I was simply told was inscrutable. ‘Orientals, you see…’ The Negroes did not worry me; I had been taught that they were good dogs. With them, we were still among mammals. But the Asians frightened me…”

Sartre on Western colonialism and racism:

“Racism is inscribed in the events themselves, in the institutions, in the nature of the exchange and the production. The political and social statuses reinforce one another: since the natives are sub-human, the Declaration of Human Rights does not apply to them; conversely, since they have no rights, they are abandoned without protection to the inhuman forces of nature, to the ‘iron laws’ of economics…”

And Sartre goes further:

“Western humanism and rights discourse had worked by excluding a majority of the world’s population from the category of humans.”

I address the same issues and so is Chomsky. But the Empire does not want people to know that Sartre, Memmi and Fanon spoke ‘the same language’ as we do, already more than half a century ago!

Albert Memmi:

“Conservatism engenders the selection of mediocre people. How can this elite of usurpers, conscious of their mediocrity, justify their privileges? Only one way: diminish the colonized in order to exult themselves, deny the status of human beings to the natives, and deprive them of basic rights…”

Sartre on Western ignorance:

“It is not cynicism, it is not hatred that is demoralizing us: no, it is only the state of false ignorance in which we are made to live and which we ourselves contribute to maintaining…”

The way the West ‘educates’ the world, Sartre again:

“The European elite set about fabricating a native elite; they selected adolescents, marked on their foreheads, with a branding iron, the principles of Western culture, stuffed into their mouths verbal gags, grand turgid words which stuck to their teeth; after a brief stay in the mother country, they were sent back, interfered with…”


It is actually easy to learn how to recycle the thoughts of others, how to compare them and at the end, how to compile footnotes. It takes time, it is boring, tedious and generally useless, but not really too difficult.

On the other hand, it is difficult to create brand new concepts, to revolutionize the way our societies, and our world are arranged. If our brains recycle too much and try to create too little, they get lazy and sclerotic – chronically sclerotic.

Intellectual servility is a degenerative disease.

Western art has deteriorated to ugly psychedelic beats, to excessively bright colors and infantile geometric drawings, to cartoons and nightmarish and violent films as well as “fiction”. It is all very convenient – with all that noise, one cannot hear anymore the screams of the victims, one cannot understand loneliness, and comprehend emptiness.

In bookstores, all over the world, poetry and philosophy sections are shrinking or outright disappearing.

Now what? Is it going to be Althusser (mostly not even real Althusser, but a recycled and abbreviated one), or Lévi-Strauss or Derrida, each wrapped in endless litanies of academic talk?

No! Comrades, philosophers, not that! Down with the sclerotic, whoring academia and their interpretation of philosophy!

Down with the assassins of Philosophy!

Philosophy is supposed to be the intellectual vanguard. It is synonymous with revolution, humanism, and rebellion.

Those who are thinking about and fighting for a much better world, using their brains as weapons, are true philosophers.

Those who are collecting dust and tenures in some profit-oriented institutions of higher ‘learning’ are definitely not, even if they have hundreds of diplomas and stamps all over their walls and foreheads!

They do not create and do not lead. They do not even teach! They are muzzling knowledge. To quote Fanon: “Everything can be explained to the people, on the single condition that you want them to understand.” But “they” don’t want people to understand; they really don’t…

And one more thing: the great thoughts of Fanon and Sartre, of Gramsci and Mao, Guevara and Galeano should be gently washed, undusted and exhibited again, free of all those choking ‘analyses’ and comparisons compiled by toxic pro-establishment thinkers.

There is nothing to add to the writing of maverick revolutionary philosophers. Hands off their work! Let them speak! Editions without prefaces and introductions, please! The greatest works of philosophy were written with heart, blood and passion! No interpretation is needed. Even a child can understand.
Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His latest books are: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”.Discussion with Noam Chomsky: On Western Terrorism. Point of No Return is his critically acclaimed political novel. Oceania – a book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about Indonesia: “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Press TV. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and the Middle East. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.
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