Saturday, October 08, 2016

Becoming Death...America As Vishnu

The United States as Destroyer of Nations

by Daniel Kovalik - CounterPunch

October 7, 2016 

In the aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 – an invasion which many Iraqis believe left their country in the worst condition it has been since the Mongol invasion of 1258 — there was much discussion in the media about the Bush Administration’s goal for “nation-building” in that country. Of course, if there ever were such a goal, it was quickly abandoned, and one hardly ever hears the term “nation-building” discussed as a U.S. foreign policy objective anymore.

The stark truth is that the U.S. really has no intentions of helping to build strong states in the Middle East or elsewhere. Rather, as we see time and again – e.g., in Yugoslavia, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Ukraine – the goal of U.S. foreign policy, whether stated or not, is increasingly and more aggressively the destruction and balkanization of independent states.

However, it is important to recognize that this goal is not new.

Indeed, South Korean human rights scholar Dong Choon Kim, writing of the U.S. war in Korea (1950 – 1953) – a war which he opines was at least arguably genocidal – explains that even back then, the nation-building of Third World peoples was viewed as an act of subversion which had to be snuffed out. As he explained, “[t]he American government interpreted the aspiration for building an independent nation as an exclusive ‘communist conspiracy,’ and thus took responsibility for killing innocent people, as in the case of [the] My Lai incident in Vietnam.” [1] Thanks to the U.S. war on Korea, Korea to this day remains a country divided in half, with no prospects for unification anytime soon. Kim explains that the Korean War “was a bridge to connect the old type of massacres under colonialism and the new types of state terrorism and political massacre during the Cold War. . . . And the mass killings committed by US soldiers in the Korean War marked the inception of military interventions by the US in the Third World at the cost of enormous civilian deaths.”

Similarly, the U.S. objective in Vietnam was the destruction of any prospect of an intact, independent state from being created. As Jean-Paul Sartre wrote as part of the International War Crimes Tribunal that he and Bertrand Russell chaired after the war, the U.S. gave the Vietnamese a stark choice: either accept capitulation in which the country would be severed in half, with one half run by a U.S. client, or be subjected to near total annihilation. [2] Sartre wrote that, even in the former case, in which there would be a “cutting in two of a sovereign state . . . [t]he national unit of ‘Vietnam’ would not be physically eliminated, but it would no longer exist economically, politically or culturally.” Of course, in the latter case, Vietnam would suffer physical elimination; bombed “’back to the Stone Age’” as the U.S. threatened. As we know, the Vietnamese did not capitulate, and therefore suffered near-total destruction of their country at the hands of the United States. Meanwhile, for good measure, the U.S. simultaneously bombed both Cambodia and Laos back to the Stone Age as well.

To understand the purpose behind such violent and destructive actions, we need look no farther than the U.S.’s own post-WWII policy statements, as well articulated by George Kennan serving as the State Department’s Director of Policy Planning in 1948:

We must be very careful when we speak of exercising “leadership” in Asia. We are deceiving ourselves and others when we pretend to have answers to the problems, which agitate many of these Asiatic peoples. Furthermore, we have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3 of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships, which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world benefaction…
In the face of this situation we would be better off to dispense now with a number of the concepts which have underlined our thinking with regard to the Far East. We should dispense with the aspiration to ‘be liked’ or to be regarded as the repository of a high-minded international altruism. We should stop putting ourselves in the position of being our brothers’ keeper and refrain from offering moral and ideological advice. We should cease to talk about vague — and for the Far East — unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.

While it would have been impossible for the U.S. to continue to monopolize a full half of the world’s wealth after Europe, Japan, China and the USSR inevitably got up upon their feet after WWII, the U.S. has nonetheless done an amazing job of controlling an unjustifiable and disproportionate amount of the world’s resources.

Thus, currently, the U.S. has about 5% of the world’s population, and consumes about 25% of its resources. An article in Scientific American, citing the Sierra Club’s Dave Tilford, explains that,

“‘[w]ith less than 5 percent of world population, the U.S. uses one-third of the world’s paper, a quarter of the world’s oil, 23 percent of the coal, 27 percent of the aluminum, and 19 percent of the copper . . . . Our per capita use of energy, metals, minerals, forest products, fish, grains, meat, and even fresh water dwarfs that of people living in the developing world.’” [3]

The only way the U.S. has been able to achieve this impressive, though morally reprehensible, feat has been to undermine, many times fatally, the ability of independent states to exist, defend themselves and to protect their own resources from foreign plunder. This is why the U.S. has teamed up with the world’s most deplorable forces in destroying independent states around the globe.

Just to name a few examples, since 1996, the U.S. has supported Rwandan and Ugandan forces in invading the Democratic Republic of Congo, making that country ungovernable and plundering its incredible natural resources. The fact that around 6 million innocents have been murdered in the process is of no matter, and certainly not to the main stream press which rarely mentions the DRC. In Colombia, the U.S. has backed a repressive military and right-wing paramilitaries for decades in destabilizing whole swaths of the Colombian countryside, and in assisting multinational corporations, and especially extractive industries, in displacing around 7 million people from their homes and land, all in order to exploit Colombia’s vast oil, coal and gold reserves. Again, this receives barely a word in the mainstream press.

Of course, in the Middle East, Northern Africa and Afghanistan, the U.S. has been teaming up with Saudi Arabia and radical Islamist forces – forces the U.S. itself has dubbed “terrorist” – in undermining and destroying secular states.

As far back as the 1970’s, the U.S. began supporting the mujahidin in attacking the secular, Marxist state of Afghanistan in order to destroy that state and also to fatally weaken the Soviet state by, in the words of Zbigniew Brzezinski, “drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap . . . [and] giving to the USSR its Vietnam war.” Afghanistan may never recover from the devastation wrought by that fateful decision of the U.S. and its subsequent intervention which is now into its 15th year and counting. As we know full well, the USSR never recovered either, and the U.S. is trying mightily to prevent post-Soviet Russia from becoming a strong rival state again.

Meanwhile, in Libya, the U.S. again partnered with jihadists in 2011 in overthrowing and indeed smashing a state which used its oil wealth to guarantee the best living standards of any country in Africa while assisting independence struggles around the world. In this way, Libya, which under Qaddafi also happened to be one of the staunchest enemies of Al-Qaeda in the world, presented a double threat to U.S. foreign policy aims. Post-intervention Libya is now a failed state with little prospects of being able to secure its oil wealth for its own people again, much less for any other peoples in the Third World. And so, mission accomplished!

In addition, as we learned from Seymour Hersh back in 2007, the U.S. began at that time to try to weaken Iran and Syria by supporting Sunni extremist groups to subvert those countries. [4] As Hersh explained:

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites.

The U.S. continues to intervene in Syria in a way which prevents the Syrian state from achieving a decisive victory against the various militant groups it is fighting – some of which the U.S. itself admits are terrorists – while at the same time targeting some of these same militant groups themselves, thereby preventing either side of the conflict from coming out on top. Indeed, as we have learned, the CIA and the Pentagon have even been backing opposing militant groups that are fighting each other! [5] The result is a drawn-out war which threatens to leave Syria in chaos and ruins for the foreseeable future.

This would seem to be an insane course of action for the U.S. to take, and indeed it is, but there is method to the madness. The U.S. appears to be intentionally spreading chaos throughout strategic portions of the world; leaving virtually no independent state standing to protect their resources, especially oil, from Western exploitation. And, this goal is being achieved with resounding success, while also achieving the subsidiary goal of enriching the behemoth industrial-military complex.

Jose Marti once said, “there are two kinds of people in the world: those who love and create, and those who hate and destroy.” There is no doubt that the U.S. has proven itself to be of the latter kind; indeed, the very nature of U.S. foreign policy is destruction. Given this, it is at best foolish and naïve for people of any political stripe, but particularly self-defined leftists, to put any stock in the notion that the U.S. is acting in the defense of human rights, democracy or any such lofty goals in intervening militarily abroad.

There is only one proper goal, then, of people of good will – to oppose U.S. military intervention with every fiber of our being.






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Daniel Kovalik teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
More articles by:Daniel Kovalik

Why the Nobel for Colombia's Santos?

Does Colombian President Santos Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize?


October 7, 2016

The prize is important because it can help overcome the referendum vote against the peace agreement, says Cristin Espinel of the Colombian Human Rights Committee.

Cristina Espinel is one of the founding members of the Colombia Human Rights Committee, founded in 1981. She is a representative of the Campaign Si A La Paz in Washington DC. 

Friday, October 07, 2016

Are White Helmets Really White Hats?

CrossTalk: ‘White Helmets, Really?’ with Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett & Patrick Henningsen

by 21st Century Wire

October 7, 2016

They were tipped for a Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo today, but despite the multi-million dollar PR campaign run 24/7 through US and UK media outlets over the last month, the western-funded ‘NGO’ known as The White Helmets came up short.

On the eve of the award ceremony in Norway, CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle posed a fundamental question:

“The White Helmets: a heartfelt humanitarian NGO or an elaborate and cynical Western PR stunt promoting illegal regime change in Syria? Does wearing white helmets mean they are the good guys supporting a just cause?”

CrossTalking with host Peter Lavelle are guests Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett, and Patrick Henningsen.

When "No" Might Mean "Yes": A Case for Recounting Colombia's Peace Plebiscite

Do the Numbers Add Up? Did Colombia Really Say No to Peace?

by TeleSur

October 7, 2016
Sunday's shocking “no” vote on the Colombian peace deal may not be all that it seems because of number of potential errors in the counting process.

Colombia currently lies in limbo after the plebiscite for peace with the FARC-EP was rejected by less than half a percent. But a deeper look at the statistics suggest that a “no” vote might not have actually been Sunday’s victor.

The "No" vote won with 50.21 percent to 49.78 percent for the "Yes" vote. The "No" had 6,431,376 votes to 6,377,482 votes for the "Yes."

While there were only two options – yes and no – to respond to the plebiscite question, unmarked and nullified ballots are also extremely important to the overall count. There were 86,243 unmarked ballots and 170,946 nullified ballots, according to analysis published in The Conversation by Royal Holloway University Professor of Economics Michael Spagat and University of Miami Physicist Neil Johns.

While there was no known evidence of fraud during the process, Spagat and Johns say that “declaring a victory for the 'no' camp violates principles of statistical uncertainty, and is therefore a scientifically incorrect statement. Colombians deserve better.”

Colombia used paper to record Sunday’s votes and votes were counted by hand. Given the known research behind counting errors, around 65,000 to 130,000 votes would have been accidentally counted incorrectly, and could have easily pushed the vote to a “yes” result, wrote Spagat and Johns.

The method that the vote counters used to classify and count the surprisingly large number of blank and invalidated votes is unknown, but could have made a significant impact. While the voting papers were printed with clear “yes” and “no” options, many of the unmarked ballots may have been marked very lightly and therefore would not have been registered.

Spagat and Johns state that their analysis revealed up to 400,000 votes that could have potentially been classified incorrectly, adding that there were “270,000 voters whose ballots were rejected as blank or null must have had some voting intention that they somehow failed to express.”

Voter turnout from Sunday was very low, under 40 percent, with only 13 million of 35 million eligible voters making it to the polls, meaning that there was only around 18 percent of all eligible voters who registered a “no” vote.

On Monday the electoral commission of Colombia estimated that at least 4 million people could not cast their vote because of heavy rains caused by Hurricane Matthew.

Before the plebiscite the “yes” vote was in a clear winning position according to polls, even according to right-wing media. Many Colombians in favor of peace may have considered a “yes” result a certainty and decided to stay home as a result.

The areas most affected by the conflict have overwhelmingly voted "Yes" for peace. For example in the heavily affected area of Choco, with 95 percent of the vote counted, 79 percent voted "Yes." The Caribbean provinces have also voted "Yes."

The question posed to the population was:

“Do you support the final accord for the end of the conflict and the construction of stable and lasting peace?”

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Baiting the Bear: Gettin' Their Group Think On

New ‘Group Think’ for War with Syria/Russia

by Robert Parry  - Consortium News

October 5, 2016

Not since the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq has Official Washington’s political/punditry class clamored more single-mindedly – and openly – for the U.S. government to commit a gross violation of international law, now urging a major military assault on the government of Syria while also escalating tensions with nuclear-armed Russia.

New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman

 And, like the frenzied war fever of 2002-2003, today’s lawless consensus is operating on a mix of selective, dubious and false information – while excluding from the public debate voices that might dare challenge the prevailing “group think.” It’s as if nothing was learned from the previous disaster in Iraq.

Most notably, there are two key facts about Syria that Americans are not being told: one, U.S. regional “allies” have been funding and arming radical jihadist groups, including Al Qaeda terrorists, there almost since the conflict began in 2011 and, two, the claim about “moderate” Syrian rebels is a fraud; the “moderates” have served essentially as a P.R. cut-out for the U.S. and its “allies” to supply Al Qaeda and its allies with sophisticated weapons while pretending not to.

For Americans who may find those two points hard to believe, they should remember that the United States and Saudi Arabia went in 50/50 with billions of dollars to finance the jihadist mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s, viewing these religious fanatics as a useful “tip of the spear” to kill Soviet troops who were defending the leftist secular regime then governing in Kabul.

That exercise in U.S.-Saudi realpolitik gave birth to the modern jihadist movement, bringing together a network of foreign jihadists, led by Saudi Arabia’s Osama bin Laden (which morphed into Al Qaeda), with Afghan/Pakistani extremists who evolved into the Taliban.

Though U.S. officials eventually came to fear this Frankenstein monster that they had helped create, Saudi intelligence continued to work with Al Qaeda and its affiliates, using them as a kind of international paramilitary force to punish Saudi enemies, particularly Shiite-dominated governments, from Iran to Syria to now Iraq.

The Saudis also began collaborating with Israel, which shared Riyadh’s view that Iran and the “Shiite crescent” represented a strategic threat. Between Saudi money and Israeli political clout, the two countries could fend off occasional fits of U.S. anger, even to the point of getting the U.S. government to hide a 29-page chapter about Saudi financing for the 9/11 hijackers from the congressional 9/11 report for a dozen years.

For the past five years, the principal target of this powerful coalition has been Syria, with President Obama occasionally joining in – as he did in authorizing “covert” CIA and Pentagon programs to arm “moderate” rebels – and occasionally bowing out – as he did in resisting pressure to bomb the Syrian military after a mysterious sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013.

In summer 2014, when Al Qaeda’s spin-off, the Islamic State, began beheading Western hostages, Obama authorized bombing inside Syria but only against the Islamic State, which also had overrun large sections of Iraq and threatened the Shiite-dominated regime in Baghdad. (Obama’s bombing inside Syria was not authorized by the Syrian government so it was illegal under international law but Syria didn’t press the point as long as the U.S. coalition was attacking forces regarded as terrorists.)

New U.S. Hysteria

This more complex reality is completely missing in the new round of political/press hysteria in the United States. The neocons and their liberal-hawk sidekicks only talk about stopping the “barbarism” of the Syrian government and its Russian allies as they try to finally wipe out Al Qaeda’s jihadists and their “moderate” allies holed up in eastern Aleppo.

Many of these calls for a U.S. military intervention against the Syrian government (and the Russians) are coming from the same advocates for war who created the misguided consensus for invading Iraq in 2002-2003, voices such as Sen. John McCain, Washington Post editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt, and New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman. And, much like the Iraq example, these esteemed opinion-leaders pile up their propaganda arguments in a one-sided fashion designed to silence the few voices that dare raise doubts.

This new “group think” has prevented Americans from looking at the Syrian situation with more nuance and objectivity. Indeed, if you mix in some of the other facts, the on-the-ground reality could be seen as the U.S. and its “allies” stoking the fire in Syria for five years and, now, as the Syrian military and Russian air power take drastic measures to finally get the blaze under some control, the U.S. government may bomb the firefighters and destroy their equipment.

Beyond the illegality of that action, how the U.S. military intervention is supposed to fix things in Syria is never discussed. By strengthening Al Qaeda and its “moderate” front men, the prospects for a longer and bloodier conflict are increased, not decreased.

The long-held neocon dream of a Syrian “regime change” – even if it could be accomplished – would only open the gates of Damascus to a victory by Al Qaeda and/or its spinoff, the Islamic State. How that would make life better for the Syrian people is another never addressed question. There is simply the pretense that somehow, magically, the “moderate” rebels would prevail, though they are only an auxiliary to Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise.

The “group think” also doesn’t permit in the inconvenient truth that the recent collapse of the U.S.-Russia limited cease-fire was driven by the fact that the “moderate” rebels are so intertwined with Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front – which recently underwent a cosmetic name change to the Levant (or Syria) Conquest Front – that the rebels can’t or won’t separate themselves.

The New York Times, The Washington Post and other mainstream news outlets have sought to bury this reality because it doesn’t fit the preferred narrative of the U.S. fulfilling its commitments under the partial cease-fire agreement and blaming its collapse entirely on the Russians and their dastardly behavior.

One outlier in this propaganda barrage, ironically, has been Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, which published a serious article on this key topic on Sept. 29. It said, “Some of Syria’s largest rebel factions are doubling down on their alliance with an al Qaeda-linked group, despite a U.S. warning to split from the extremists or risk being targeted in airstrikes.

“The rebel gambit is complicating American counterterrorism efforts in the country at a time the U.S. is contemplating cooperation with Russia to fight extremist groups. It comes after a U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire collapsed last week and the Syrian regime and its Russian allies immediately unleashed a devastating offensive against rebel-held parts of Aleppo city that brought harsh international condemnation. …

“The two powers have been considering jointly targeting Islamic State and the Syria Conquest Front — formerly known as the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front — a group that is deeply intermingled with armed opposition groups of all stripes across Syria’s battlefields. The U.S. has also threatened to attack any rebels providing front-line support to the group. …
“Some rebel groups already aligned with Syria Conquest Front responded by renewing their alliance. But others, such as Nour al-Din al-Zinki, a former Central Intelligence Agency-backed group and one of the largest factions in Aleppo, said in recent days that they were joining a broader alliance that is dominated by the Front. A second, smaller rebel group also joined that alliance, which is known as Jaish al-Fateh and includes another major Islamist rebel force, Ahrar al-Sham. …

“In a call with Mr. Kerry on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Syrian rebels ‘refused to follow the U.S.-Russian agreement…but instead merged with [Nusra Front].’”

Misleading the American People

So, isn’t that point relevant to understanding what is occurring in eastern Aleppo, an area essentially under the control of Al Qaeda terrorists? As horrible as war is, there is more than a whiff of hypocrisy when politicians and pundits, who cheered the U.S. Marines’ destruction of Fallujah during the Iraq occupation and who support driving the Islamic State out of the Iraqi city of Mosul, wax indignantly in outrage when the Syrian military seeks to remove Al Qaeda terrorists from one of its own cities.

There is also the issue of why writers who helped mislead the American people and the world into the catastrophe of the Iraq War were never held accountable and are now in position to whip up more war fever over Syria, Ukraine and Russia. Far from being held accountable, the propagandists who justified the criminal invasion of Iraq have been rewarded with plum assignments and golden careers.

For instance, Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, who repeatedly wrote as flat fact that Iraq was hiding WMDs, is still today the editorial page editor of The Washington Post, urging a new U.S. war on Syria. The Times’ Friedman, who was infamously wrong about the Iraq War and pretty much everything else, is still considered a premier American columnist who is courted to make high-profile public appearances.

Now, Friedman wants to escalate tensions with nuclear-armed Russia, apparently with the sloppily thought-through mission of imposing another “regime change,” this time in Moscow. As unnerving as a nuclear showdown with Russia should be, Friedman starts his Wednesday column by fabricating a news item about a leak that supposedly revealed that Putin “owns $30 billion in property, hotels and factories across Russia and Europe, all disguised by front organizations and accounting charades.”

After going on for several paragraphs with his fake “news,” Friedman admits that “I made it up.” Ha-ha, so clever! Then, however, he cites what he claims is real news about Russia, including the dubious prosecutorial “report” blaming the Russians for the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shoot-down on July 17, 2014. That “report” – actually a series of videos – had serious evidentiary gaps, logical problems and obvious bias, since it was driven largely by Ukraine’s notorious SBU intelligence service which the United Nations has accused of covering up torture.

But to Friedman, the allegations blaming Russia for the shoot-down were unassailable. He writes, “a Dutch-led investigation adduced irrefutable video evidence that Putin’s government not only trucked in the missile system used to shoot down a Malaysia Airlines plane flying over Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 civilians onboard, but also returned it to Russia the same night and then engaged in an elaborate cover-up.”

It might be noted that some of that “irrefutable video evidence” came in the form of computer-generated images of an alleged Russian Buk missile battery traveling down darkened Ukrainian roads, very persuasive scenes, much like Secretary of State Colin Powell showing computer-generated images of Iraq’s “mobile chemical weapons labs” in 2003, labs that didn’t exist.

It also might be remembered that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was also accused of mounting “an elaborate cover-up” of his WMD stockpiles, that also didn’t exist. The point being that slick presentations, which rely mostly on assertions and allude to untested evidence, aren’t always accurate. Skepticism is not only a sign of journalistic professionalism but is necessary to avoid horrible misjudgments, especially on questions of war and peace.

Blaming Russia for Everything

But Friedman just plunges ahead, also asserting that on Sept. 19, Russia bombed a U.N. relief convoy heading for Aleppo. In this case, Friedman cites U.S. intelligence officials who say that “almost certainly” Russia did it, although I had been told that some CIA analysts feared the attack was launched by Al Qaeda’s chief Syrian ally, Ahrar al-Sham, using a U.S.-made TOW missile. The United Nations also withdrew its initial assertion that the attack was an airstrike (although Friedman leaves that fact out, too).

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney  
receive an Oval Office briefing from CIA Director George Tenet. 
Also present is Chief of Staff Andy Card (on right). (White House photo)

This is not to say that the Russians are innocent in these terrible incidents. Further evidence might convincingly prove that they are guilty – and, if they are, accountability should be assessed as appropriate. Horrible errors happen in war, such as the U.S. airstrike that killed some 62 Syrian soldiers in eastern Syria on Sept. 17 as they were fighting off an attack by Islamic State militants.

The problem with propagandists like Friedman is that they ignore the illegal actions of the United States, including mounting military attacks on countries without United Nations’ authority or without the justification of self-defense, in other words, outside the realm of international law. It’s also illegal to supply weapons to terrorists, as has been occurring in Syria both directly by Saudi Arabia and other U.S. “allies” and indirectly by U.S. covert operations giving arms to “moderates” who then turn them over to Al Qaeda.

While putting on blinders regarding U.S. violations of international law and their human consequences, such as the Syrian refugee flow, the sanctimonious Friedman bizarrely blames Putin for this human suffering, too.

Friedman cites a scholar named Robert Litwak in claiming that “Putin’s departure from standard great-power competition — encouraging a flood of refugees and attacking the legitimacy of our political system — ‘is leading to shifts in global politics that could have revolutionary consequences, even if Putin is not motivated by revolutionary ideology.’”

Friedman’s solution to this highly questionable if not imaginary problem is to increase the pain on Putin and Russia, saying “it’s now clear that we have underestimated the pressure needed to produce effective engagement, and we’re going to have to step it up. This is not just about the politics of Syria and Ukraine anymore. It’s now also about America, Europe, basic civilized norms and the integrity of our democratic institutions.”

While it’s always tempting to dismiss Friedman as a nitwit, the sad reality is that he is an influential nitwit who helps shape “elite” American public opinion. He is now contributing to a new “group think” that is even more dangerous than the one he helped construct in 2002-2003 regarding the Iraq War.

Today, this new “group think,” which — like the Iraq one — is based on a false or selective reading of the facts, could lead to a nuclear war that could end life on the planet.

[For more on this topic, see’s “Do We Really Want Nuclear War with Russia?” and “Obama Warned to Defuse Tensions with Russia.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

Stop the Press! The New York Times and Russia

The New York Times Suddenly Embraces International Law To Condemn Russia

by Matt Peppe - Just the Facts

October 5, 2016 

As the Syrian Arab Army dug in for a fight against the self-declared Islamic State on September 17, they were struck by an air raid that killed 62 soldiers and injured 100 more. The culprit was a foreign military that has never been attacked by, and has not declared war on, Syria. Two weeks later, that same nation’s military killed 22 soldiers in a strike inside Somalia, another country which it had never been attacked by nor declared war on. The very next day the New York Times published a stinging editorial decrying flagrant violations of international law by an “outlaw nation.”

The Times, of course, was not referring to the perpetrator of both attacks: the United States government. Each act was a clear violation of Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter prohibiting the use of force against another nation and demanding respect for its sovereignty. But the “supreme international crime” of aggression did not merit mention in the Times, who saw something far more sinister than carrying out illegal massacres across countries and continents in the actions of “Vladimir Putin’s Outlaw State.”

Russia, according to the Times’ righteous defenders of international law, is guilty of violating “not only the rules intended to promote peace instead of conflict, but also common human decency.” The editorial board finds not only disregard for the law, but the absence of standard ethics accepted by civilized people and societies. It is a pretentious way of saying that Russia’s leaders are sociopathic, lacking the humanism and benevolence of Americans and their allies.

The cause for the Times’ outrage was the international report released last week that claims Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) was shot down and its 298 passengers and crew members killed by Ukranian rebels fighting the illegitimate government formed in the wake of the U.S.-backed coup in Kiev. The rebels in the Eastern part of Ukraine were resisting bombing and shelling in their towns and cities by fascist and neo-Nazi led militias representing a coup government which had, among other things, rescinded a language law extremely important to the mostly Russian speaking – and ethnically Russian – residents near Donbass.

The investigation claims the Buk surface-to-air missile responsible for blowing up the Malyasian passenger plane was supplied by Russia and subsequently returned to Russia. The headline in the Times was that the report “links” Russia to the deaths. It does not, however, find they participated in the attack or had any advanced knowledge of plans to kill civilians. The Times claims the report “uses strict standards of evidence and meticulously documents not only the deployment of the Russian missile system that caused the disaster but also Moscow’s continuing cover-up.” In reality, this claim could hardly be taken seriously.

RT, a news organization funded by the Russian government, notes that the report depends on unnamed witnesses, anonymous phone calls, and computer simulations. Radar data, perhaps the most reliable source of evidence, was absent from the report’s findings. The report claims U.S.-provided radar data supported its conclusion, but such data was not included as evidence. Russia provided its own data, which purportedly shows that no missile was detected in rebel-held areas.

The Times calls on the United States to pursue the “quest for accountability.” This is noticeably different than the editorial board’s tone in 1988 when the U.S. warship U.S.S. Vincennes stationed in Iranian waters shot down Iran Air Flight 655 inside Iranian airspace and killed 290 passengers and crew. In that case, there was no question the weapon belonged to the United States. Furthermore, there was no question the United States military itself blew the plane out of the sky and killed everyone on board. They admitted it. The Times called the incident a “terrible mistake” and a “blunder” committed amidst the “fog of war.” However, not everyone was so quick to accept the government’s rationalizations at face value and dismiss the incident with a shrug of the shoulders.

Colonel David R. Carlson of the U.S. Navy, who was aboard a different ship near the Vincennes at the time, revealed that he and his colleagues had nicknamed the Vincennes “Robo Cruiser” for its belligerent actions prior to incinerating a plane full of civilians. Carlson suggested that the Vincennes’ crew may have been seeking to battle test the new Aegis Combat System aboard the vessel.

Disputing that an attack on the Vincennes was inevitable, Carlson writes:

“I don’t buy it… My guess was that the crew of the Vincennes felt a need to prove the viability of Aegis in the Persian Gulf, and that they hankered for an opportunity to show their stuff. This, I believe, was the climate that aided in generating the ‘fog.’”

But the Times editorial board assures readers that the American military simply made a tragic, regrettable, mistake. Just like the editorial board nearly 30 years later would explain that the sustained, hour-long destruction of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan was caused by a “torrent of mistakes” due to “gross negligence.” Again, tragic and regrettable mistakes. Presumably no different than the U.S. government’s “mistakes” of kidnapping and torturing people never charged with crimes, hunting and killing political cadres in South Vietnam, organizing and training fascist death squads across Latin America, or killing hundreds of thousands of civilians while carpet bombing Cambodia, Laos, North Korea, Japan and Germany.

For the Times, international law is not an issue if a country has benevolent intentions, which the United States always does, naturally. No matter that the U.S. never obtained U.N. Security Council approval to wage war on Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq or Afghanistan. Or that U.S. warships had no business in participating in a war between Iraq and Iran in 1988. The U.S., due to its status as an exceptional nation, is able to be judged by its own moral criteria in place of the existing legal framework that international treaties (and its own Constitution) obligate the government to follow.

Russia, on the other hand, is a rogue state led by deranged and irrational savages. As a permanent member of the Security Council – obviously a regrettable historical accident – Russia holds a “special responsibility to uphold international law.” One would think from reading this that it was actually Russia, rather than the United States, that has used its veto on the Council far more than any other member during the last 45 years, including 42 vetoes shielding Israel from accountability for its oppression of Palestinians and aggression against neighboring countries.

The other cause for the Times’ wrath against Russia is its behavior in Syria, where “(t)here seems to be no holding Putin to account.”

The United States has no legal right to violate of the sovereignty of Syria, making any and all American military actions inside Syrian territory necessarily illegal.

Russia, on the other hand, is engaging militarily at the behest of the legitimate Syrian government, which is permissible under international law. Russia meets jus ad bellum criteria regarding whether a war is justifiable. Of course, they also have to comply with jus in bello rules regarding conduct during war.

While there is substantial evidence Russia may be in violation of international humanitarian law, absent adjudication in a court of law the evidence is merely one side of the story. The Times accuses Russia (specifically Putin) of “air attacks that have included bunker-busting bombs that can destroy underground hospitals and safety zones where civilians seek shelter” and bombing an aid convoy. Unsurprisingly, there is no substantiation of these claims, or even links provided with such accusations. The Guardian earlier this week quoted a think tank employee stating that “(c)onclusive proof that Russia is using bunker-busters may be hard to find.” The U.S. Air Force does possess such weapons, namely the 37,000 pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator, and it has been pronounced “ready” for use.

The Times also implies that Russia violated a ceasefire negotiated with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. As Gareth Porter has reported, the U.S. itself is actually responsible for sabotaging multiple ceasefires negotiated with Russia. Porter wrote in FAIR that in early April the Al Qaeda franchise in Syria, Al Nusra, along with its embedded U.S.-backed “moderate” rebels, launched an offensive intended to undermine the ceasefire, which it succeeded in accomplishing. When the Syrian government responded by counter-attacking the rebels, major media outlets, including the New York Times, erased the original jihadist attack and implicitly stated that regime bombings were responsible for the end of the ceasefire.

Last week, Porter wrote in Middle East Eye that the Pentagon had destroyed another ceasefire by attacking Syrian troops on September 17, in what the Times would undoubtedly declare another “mistake.” Porter notes that “the final blow apparently came from the Russian-Syrian side,” but this was “provoked” by the U.S. bombing. The Times, though, contends that Russia and Syria have undermined the U.S. in negotiations over an end to hostilities, rejecting reasonable American overtures in order to “continue the slaughter.”

As I have written previously, and Howard Friel and Richard Falk have extensively documented in their book The Record of the Paper, the New York Times consistently ignores international law as a matter of editorial policy in regards to the actions of the United States government. But official enemies like Russia and its president Vladimir Putin are subject to a transparently hypocritical double standard, in which accusations become facts, and international law is suddenly the gold standard by which governments and their officials should be judged.
Matt Peppe writes about politics, U.S. foreign policy and Latin America on his blog. You can follow him on twitter.
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Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, John Helmer, Dan Kovalik, Janine Bandcroft October 5, 2016

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

October 5, 2016

Last week, the Joint Investigation Team, an internationally composed body looking into the downing over Ukraine of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 more than two years ago released some of their findings, enough to implicate, they say, Russia in the crime. The western press immediately repeated the findings, and its accusations fully, while doing little digging of its own into either the rigor of the JIT's methods, or resilience of its facts.

The media's curious incuriousness surrounding the Dutch-led panel's probity, considering the scope of the story and its possible ramifications for international relations between Russia and the west at this most sensitive historical moment, may be the most telling part of the tragic mystery behind flight MH17.

Listen. Hear.

John Helmer is a long-time, Moscow-based journalist, author, and essayist; the only one, his site, Dances with Bears informs “to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties” since 1989. He’s a former political science professor who's served as an advisor to the governments of Greece, the United States, and in Asia who regularly lectures on Russian topics in China, Europe, and the US. His book titles include: ‘Uncovering Russia,’ ‘Urbanman: The Psychology of Urban Survival,’ ‘Bringing the War Home: The American Soldier in Vietnam and After,’ and ‘Drugs and Minority Oppression’ among others.

John Helmer in the first half.

And; there was dancing in the streets last week when a long-sought peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC, (the leftists guerrilla organization engaged in a multi-generational insurgency) was announced, but Sunday the music stopped as it became apparent the national referendum called to ratify the deal failed to pass. Why the vote failed, and what happens next are the questions burning the wires across Colombia now.

Daniel Kovalik teaches international human rights law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and is Senior Associate General Counsel for the United Steel Workers union. Kovalik is just back from Colombia where he witnessed the peace plebiscite. Dan's also a long-time peace and justice activist, specializing in that in Colombia and Central America, where he serves as an attorney for Colombian plaintiffs in cases alleging corporate human rights violations. Kovalik is also co-recipient of a Project Censored Award for chronicling the murder of trade unionists in Colombia.

Dan Kovalik and failing peace in Colombia in the second half.

And; Victoria Street Newz publisher emeritus and CFUV Radio broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will join us at the bottom of the hour to bring us news of some of the good things going on in and around our town in the coming week. But first, John Helmer and MH17, a prejudiced verdict verified and delivered two years after the fact.
Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at:  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:

G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Peace Dove Stalls Over Colombia

Plan Colombia Vindicated: Colombia Rejects Peace

by Roger D. Harris  - CounterPunch

October 3, 2016
Rio Hacha, Colombia.

The mood in this improvised Colombian town on the Caribbean coast is somber tonight. The national peace plebiscite was just defeated by a mere 0.43% or 60,000 votes.

The government of Colombia and the FARC insurgents signed peace accords six days ago to much public jubilation. Today the peace accords were put to a public vote. Polls predicted a landslide approval of 60%.

The public airwaves had been saturated with advertisements for “si” to approve the accords. Practically every wall to I passed here on the coast and earlier this week in the capital of Bogota was plastered with “si” posters.

The “no” side appeared absent except for a fringe represented by former president Uribe and his right-wing cohorts. The Catholic Church, the current Santos government, and the entirety of progressive civil society – unions, Indigenous, Afro-descendants, campesinos – were campaigning for “si.” The outcome seemed preordained.

Yet when the polls opened today, the usual long lines were absent. Turnout was low, allowing an upset victory for “no.”

The right-wing had been threatening activists – many had already been assassinated – to disrupt the peace process. Hence our delegation of North Americans to accompany targeted Colombian activists to provide them some protection by raising their international visibility. The Alliance for Global Justice along with the National Lawyers Guild came to Colombia at the invitation of FENSUAGRO, an agrarian workers federation, Marcha Patriotica, a large progressive coalition, and Lazos de Dignidad, a human rights organization.

The accords would have ended the 52-year civil war – the longest in modern history. The FARC’s position during the intense four years of negotiations in Havana with the Colombian government was there could be no peace without justice. That it makes no sense to end the armed conflict if the conditions that generated that conflict were not addressed. The accords accordingly had provisions for agrarian reform, political participation for the insurgents, transitions from an illicit drug economy, and reparations for victims of the conflict.

Campesino leaders in the rough and rundown frontier town of Maicau on the Venezuelan border, where drug running and sales of contraband are mainstays of the local economy, spoke about the agrarian struggle. The “oligarchs,” they explained, want to “ethically clean” the countryside of small farmers to make way for transnational agribusiness. Yesterday they spoke of the great hope they had for a “si” vote to defeat the oligarchy.

Today Colombia voted against peace and against that hope.

The Obama administration, while giving lip service in support of the peace process, has massively increased lethal aid and transfer of the latest military technology to the Colombian government under the rubric of Plan Colombia. Presumptive president-elect Hillary Clinton has been on the campaign trail stomping for Plan Colombia as the world model for the military subjugation of those who oppose the extension of the US neoliberal empire.

The October 2nd “no” vote on peace in Colombia will have repercussions around the world.

Roger D. Harris is on the State Central Committee of the Peace and Freedom Party, the only ballot-qualified socialist party in California.
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Syria: Giving War All the Chances

Overthrowing the Syrian Government: a Joint Criminal Enterprise

by Diana Johnstone - CounterPunch

October 4, 2016  

Everyone claims to want to end the war in Syria and restore peace to the Middle East. Well, almost everyone.

“This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,” Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York told the New York Times in June 2013.

Photo by Jordi Bernabeu Farrús | CC By 2.0

“Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here.”

Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, stressed the same points in August 2016:

“The West should seek the further weakening of Islamic State, but not its destruction… Allowing bad guys to kill bad guys sounds very cynical, but it is useful and even moral to do so if it keeps the bad guys busy and less able to harm the good guys… Moreover, instability and crises sometimes contain portents of positive change… The American administration does not appear capable of recognizing the fact that IS can be a useful tool in undermining Tehran’s ambitious plan for domination of the Middle East.”

Okay, not exactly everyone.

But surely the humanitarian website Avaaz wants to end the war and restore peace.

Or does it?

Avaaz is currently circulating a petition which has gathered over a million signatures and is aiming at a million and a half. It is likely to get them, with words like this:

“100 children have been killed in Aleppo since last Friday.

“Enough is enough!”

Avaaz goes on to declare: “There is no easy way to end this war, but there’s only one way to prevent this terror from the skies — people everywhere demanding a no-fly zone to protect civilians.”

No-fly zone? Doesn’t that sound familiar? That was the ploy that served to destroy Libya’s air defenses and opened the country to regime change in 2011. It was promoted zealously by Hillary Clinton, who is also on record as favoring the same gambit in Syria.

And when the West says “no-fly”, it means that some can fly and others cannot. With the no-fly zone in Libya, France, Britain and the United States flew all they wanted, killing countless civilians, destroying infrastructure and allowing Islamic rebels to help themselves to part of the country.

The Avaaz petition makes the same distinction. Some should fly and others should not.

“Let’s build a resounding global call to Obama and other leaders to stand up to Putin and Assad’s terror. This might be our last, best chance to help end this mass murder of defenseless children. Add your name.”

So it’s all about mass murder of defenseless children, and to stop it, we should call on the drone king, Obama, to end “terror from the skies”.

Not only Obama, but other “good” leaders, members of NATO:

“To President Obama, President Erdogan, President Hollande, PM May, and other world leaders: As citizens around the globe horrified by the slaughter of innocents in Syria, we call on you to enforce an air-exclusion zone in Northern Syria, including Aleppo, to stop the bombardment of Syria’s civilians and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those most in need.”

The timing of this petition is eloquent. It comes exactly when the Syrian government is pushing to end the war by reconquering the eastern part of Aleppo. It is part of the massive current propaganda campaign to reduce public consciousness of the Syrian war to two factors: child victims and humanitarian aid.

In this view, the rebels disappear. So do all their foreign backers, the Saudi money, the Wahhabi fanatics, the ISIS recruits from all over the world, the U.S. arms and French support. The war is only about the strange whim of a “dictator”, who amuses himself by bombing helpless children and blocking humanitarian aid. This view reduces the five-year war in Syria to the situation as it was portrayed in Libya, to justify the no-fly zone: nothing but a wicked dictator bombing his own people.

For the public that likes to consume world events in fairy tale form, this all fits together. Sign a petition on your computer and save the children.

The Avaaz petition does not aim to end the war and restore peace. It clearly aims to obstruct the Syrian government offensive to retake Aleppo. The Syrian army has undergone heavy losses in five years of war, its potential recruits have in effect been invited to avoid dangerous military service by going to Germany. Syria needs air power to reduce its own casualties. The Avaaz petition calls for crippling the Syrian offensive and thus taking the side of the rebels.

Wait – but does that mean they want the rebels to win? Not exactly. The only rebels conceivably strong enough to win are ISIS. Nobody really wants that.

The plain fact is that to end this war, as to end most wars, one side has to come out on top. When it is clear who is the winning side, then there can be fruitful negotiations for things like amnesty. But this war cannot be “ended by negotiations”. That is an outcome that the United States might support only if Washington could use negotiations to impose its own puppets – pardon, pro-democracy exiles living in the West. But as things stand, they would be rejected as traitors by the majority of Syrians who support the government and as apostates by the rebels. So one side has to win to end this war. The least worst outcome would be that the Assad government defeats the rebels, in order to preserve the state. For that, the Syrian armed forces need to retake the eastern part of Aleppo occupied by rebels.

The job of Avaaz is to get public opinion to oppose this military operation, by portraying it as nothing but a joint Russian-Syrian effort to murder civilians, especially children. For that, they call for a NATO military operation to shoot down (that’s what “no-fly” means) Syrian and Russian planes offering air support to the Syrian army offensive.

Even such drastic measures do not aim to end the war. They mean weakening the winning side to prevent it from winning. To prolong a stalemate. It means – to use the absurd expression popular during the Bosnian war – creating an “even playing field”, as if war were a sports event. It means keeping the war going on and on until nothing is left of Syria, and what is left of the Syrian population fills up refugee camps in Europe.

As the New York Times reported from Jerusalem in September 2013 , “The synergy between the Israeli and American positions, while not explicitly articulated by the leaders of either country, could be a critical source of support as Mr. Obama seeks Congressional approval for surgical strikes in Syria.” It added that “Israel’s national security concerns have broad, bipartisan support in Washington, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the influential pro-Israel lobby in Washington, weighed in Tuesday in support of Mr. Obama’s approach.” (This was when Obama was planning to “punish President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons without seeking to force him from power” – before Obama decided to join Russia in disarming the Syrian chemical arsenal instead, a decision for which he continues to be condemned by the pro-Israel lobby and the War Party.) AIPAC’s statement “said nothing, however, about the preferred outcome of the civil war…”

Indeed. As the 2013 report from Jerusalem continued, “as hopes have dimmed for the emergence of a moderate, secular rebel force that might forge democratic change and even constructive dialogue, with Israel, a third approach has gained traction: Let the bad guys burn themselves out. ‘The perpetuation of the conflict is absolutely serving Israel’s interest,’ said Nathan Thrall, a Jerusalem-based analyst for the International Crisis Group.”

The plain truth is that Syria is the victim of a long-planned Joint Criminal Enterprise to destroy the last independent secular Arab nationalist state in the Middle East, following the destruction of Iraq in 2003. While attributed to government repression of “peaceful protests” in 2011, the armed uprising had been planned for years and was supported by outside powers: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States and France, among others. The French motives remain mysterious, unless linked to those of Israel, which sees the destruction of Syria as a means to weaken its archrival in the region, Iran. Saudi Arabia has similar intentions to weaken Iran, but with religious motives. Turkey, the former imperial power in the region, has territorial and political ambitions of its own. Carving up Syria can satisfy all of them.

This blatant and perfectly open conspiracy to destroy Syria is a major international crime, and the above-mentioned States are co-conspirators. They are joined in this Joint Criminal Enterprise by ostensibly “humanitarian” organizations like Avaaz that spread war propaganda in the guise of protecting children. This works because most Americans just can’t believe that their government would do such things. Because normal ordinary people have good intentions and hate to see children killed, they imagine that their government must be the same. It is hard to overcome this comforting faith. It is more natural to believe that the criminals are wicked people in a country about which they really understand nothing.

There is no chance that this criminal enterprise will ever arouse the attention of the prosecutors at the International Criminal Court, which like most major international organizations is totally under U.S. control. For example, the United Nations Undersecretary General for Political Affairs, who analyses and frames political issue for the Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, is an American diplomat, Jeffrey Feltman, who was a key member of Hillary Clinton’s team when she was carrying out regime change in Libya. And accomplices in this criminal enterprise include all the pro-governmental “non-governmental” organizations such as Avaaz who push hypocrisy to new lengths by exploiting compassion for children in order to justify and perpetuate this major crime against humanity and against peace in the world.
Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. She can be reached at
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Monday, October 03, 2016

End of a Man, But Peres Era Will Grind On for Palestine

Israel’s Nuclear Man: Shimon Peres, A Brand without Substance

by Ramzy Baroud

October 3, 2016

Former Israeli Prime Minister and President, Shimon Peres, was a very successful brand. He was presented to the world as stately, wise, a relentless advocate of peace, and a sane voice amidst a conflict deemed senseless and unending.

Now that he is dead at 93, international media are rife with touching tributes and heartwarming eulogies of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, one of Israel’s most sagacious ‘founding fathers’, who was also seen as a ‘giant among men’.

These attributes were mostly based on sentiment rather than fact, however, full knowledge of the man’s legacy certainly lingers among many Palestinians, Lebanese and advocates of peace and justice in the Middle East.

The truth is, Peres was never truly a peacemaker – he never labored to achieve fair and just political compromises that would preserve the dignity and rights of the Palestinians, along with securing the future of his people. In fact, he was a maximalist, a man who blatantly shoved his ideas forward in order to achieve his goals, no matter what the method or the price.

Nor was he a leader with a specific qualities that allowed him to excel in particular fields of politics. Instead, he was the embodiment of the archetypical Israeli politician who swapped roles, and rebranded himself as the occasion or role required.

“Over seven decades, Peres served as prime minister (twice) and president, though he never actually won a national election outright,” wrote Ben White in Middle East Monitor. “He was a member of 12 cabinets and had stints as defense, foreign and finance minister.”

He was also characterized as a ‘warrior’ at home, and a peace ‘dove’ in global forums. He came across as kind and stately, and Western media often embraced that erroneous image with little questioning.

But for many people, Shimon Peres was a false prophet. Like Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni, Ehud Olmert and others, he was a ‘peacemaker’ by name only, and only by those whose ideals he fulfilled.

Fearing that his reputation as ‘too soft’ to lead Israel – which is often led by battle-hardened generals – would affect his standing among voters, Peres often meted out severe punishment on the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples. His history was rife with brutal war crimes that went unpunished.

Although he is remembered for his ordering of the bombing of a UN shelter in the Lebanese village of Qana in 1996 – which killed and wounded hundreds of innocent people – the list of war crimes associated with his name is as long as his career. He remained, until the very end a staunch supporter of the Israeli right-wing government’s wars on Gaza and the perpetual siege on that impoverished, forsaken region.

Even as a ‘peacemaker’ he failed terribly. He championed the Oslo Accords as a political treaty that would entrench the Israeli occupation and turn the little that remained of historic Palestine into disjointed Bantustans, as was the case, if not to a worse extent, in apartheid South Africa. Yet he certainly never took responsibility, or expressed any remorse for the resultant plight of the Palestinians.

Nevertheless, the brand of Shimon Peres is an old one. It spans over the course of his long career, starting with him joining underground Zionist militias prior to the establishment of Israel on appropriated Palestinian land. His militant group, the Haganah, was entrusted with the implementation of Plan Dalet, which essentially aimed at the ethnic cleaning of the Palestinian population of its historic homeland.

As one of the ‘disciples of David Ben-Gurion’, the first Prime Minister of Israel, Peres “spent his long political career in the public spotlight,” although “his greatest successes were engineered in the shadows,” according to Yaron Ezrahi, a politics professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, as quoted by Jonathan Cook.

One of these ‘successes’ was the nuclear bomb. Although various Middle Eastern countries, most notably Iraq and Iran, are often derided for nuclear weapons they never possessed, Peres was the founding father of weapons of mass destruction in the region.

“Peres, like his mentor, believed an Israeli bomb was the key to guaranteeing Israel's status - both in Washington DC and among the Arab states - as an unassailable Middle East power,” Cook wrote.

Dodging American protests, Peres enlisted the clandestine support of Britain, France, Norway and other countries to realize his ambition.

Yet throughout his career, Peres never ceased speaking of ‘peace.’ His rhetoric and rehearsed face of ‘sincerity’ suited even his political rivals very well, for the juxtaposition of peace-loving Peres vs, for example, warmongering Ariel Sharon presented Israel as a country with healthy, democratic institutions.

The true mockery though is that the differences between Peres and his rivals, who also included former Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir, were barely even apparent, and only relevant within Israel’s own political and historical contexts.

For example, Shamir, who led the government between 1983–84 and, again between 1986–1992 was a member of the terrorist Zionist paramilitary group, Lehi, also known as the Stern Gang, at the time when Peres was a member of the Haganah. Throughout their militant and political careers, both collaborated on the subject of ethnic cleaning, waged wars, expanded illegal Jewish colonies, and entrenched the military occupation of Palestinian land after 1967.

However, ‘stately’ Peres chose his words carefully, and was indeed a cunning diplomat, while Shamir was a blunt and disagreeable character. As far as practical differences are concerned, however, the end results of their policies were practically identical.

A particularly poignant example of this was the unity government in Israel in 1984 which had a most peculiar leadership arrangement that included both Shamir of the rightwing Likud party and Peres of the Labor party – who was at the time in the early phase of his reinvention as ‘dove.’ (Yitzhak Rabin was appointed to the post of Defense Minister.)

These two individuals who stood at the helm of the Israeli leadership constituted the worst possible combination from the point of view of Palestinians in the occupied territories. While Shamir and Peres served the role of the hard-liner and peace-seeker respectively before the international community, both men and their governments presided over a legacy saturated with violence, illegal annexation of Palestinian land and settlement expansion.

The number of Jewish settlers who moved to the occupied territories between 1984 and1988, rose considerably, contributing to a policy of a slow annexation of Palestinian land and predictably, the ethnic cleansing of more people.

In October 1994, Peres, along with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. While Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish extremist and Arafat died from suspected poisoning, Peres lived to be 93, advocating Israel’s interest at the expense of Palestinians to the very end, justifying Israeli wars, siege and military occupation.

The Israelis and many in mainstream Western media may very well praise Peres as a hero, but for Palestinians, Lebanese and a multitude of others he is another war criminal who escaped any accountability for his countless misdeeds.

- Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of His books include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and his latest “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. His website is

Propaganda Techniques: The Empire Model

Propaganda Techniques of Empire

by James Petras -

Oct. 2, 2016

Introduction: Washington’s quest for perpetual world power is underwritten by systematic and perpetual propaganda wars. Every major and minor war has been preceded, accompanied and followed by unremitting government propaganda designed to secure public approval, exploit victims, slander critics, dehumanize targeted adversaries and justify its allies’ collaboration. 
In this paper we will discuss the most common recent techniques used to support ongoing imperial wars.

Propaganda Techniques of Empire

Role Reversal

A common technique, practiced by the imperial publicists, is to accuse the victims of the same crimes, which had been committed against them. The well documented, deliberate and sustained US-EU aerial bombardment of Syrian government soldiers, engaged in operations against ISIS-terrorist, resulted in the deaths and maiming of almost 200 Syrian troops and allowed ISIS-mercenaries to overrun their camp. In an attempt to deflect the Pentagon’s role in providing air cover for the very terrorists it claims to oppose, the propaganda organs cranked out lurid, but unsubstantiated, stories of an aerial attack on a UN humanitarian aid convoy, first blamed on the Syrian government and then on the Russians. The evidence that the attack was most likely a ground-based rocket attack by ISIS terrorists did not deter the propaganda mills.

This technique would turn US and European attention away from the documented criminal attack by the imperial bombers and present the victimized Syrian troops and pilots as international human rights criminals.

Hysterical Rants

Faced with world opprobrium for its wanton violation of an international ceasefire agreement in Syria, the imperial public spokespeople frequently resort to irrational outbursts at international meetings in order to intimidate wavering allies into silence and shut down any chance for reasonable debate resolving concrete issues among adversaries.

The current ‘US Ranter-in-Chief’ in the United Nations, is Ambassador Samantha Power, who launched a vitriolic diatribe against the Russians in order to sabotage a proposed General Assembly debate on the US deliberate violation (its criminal attack on Syrian troops) of the recent Syrian ceasefire. Instead of a reasonable debate among serious diplomats, the rant served to derail the proceedings.

Identity Politics to Neutralize Anti-Imperialist Movements

Empire is commonly identified with the race, gender, religion and ethnicity of its practioners. Imperial propagandists have frequently resorted to disarming and weakening anti-imperialist movements by co-opting and corrupting black, ethnic minority and women leaders and spokespeople. The use of such ’symbolic’ tokens is based on the assumption that these are ‘representatives’ reflecting the true interests of so-called ‘marginalized minorities’ and can therefore presume to ’speak for the oppressed peoples of the world’. The promotion of such compliant and respectable ‘minority members’ to the elite is then propagandized as a ‘revolutionary’, world liberating historical event - witness the ‘election’ of US President Barack Obama.

The rise of Obama to the presidency in 2008 illustrates how the imperial propagandists have used identity politics to undermine class and anti-imperialist struggles.

Under Obama’s historical black presidency, the US pursued seven wars against ‘people of color’ in South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Over a million men and women of sub-Saharan black origin, whether Libyan citizens or contract workers for neighboring countries, were killed, dispossessed and driven into exile by US allies after the US-EU destroyed the Libyan state - in the name of humanitarian intervention. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs have been bombed in Yemen, Syria and Iraq under President Obama, the so-called ‘historic black’ president. Obama’s ‘predator drones’ have killed hundreds of Afghan and Pakistani villagers. Such is the power of ‘identity politics’ that ignominious Obama was awarded the ‘Nobel Peace Prize’.

Meanwhile, in the United States under Obama, racial inequalities between black and white workers (wages, unemployment, access to housing, health and educational services) have widened. Police violence against blacks intensified with total impunity for ‘killer cops’. Over two million immigrant Latino workers have been expelled - breaking up hundreds of thousands of families– and accompanied by a marked increase of repression compared to earlier administrations. Millions of black and white workers’ home mortgages were foreclosed while all of the corrupt banks were bailed out - at a greater rate than had occurred under white presidents.

This blatant, cynical manipulation of identity politics facilitated the continuation and deepening of imperial wars, class exploitation and racial exclusion. Symbolic representation undermined class struggles for genuine changes.

Past Suffering to Justify Contemporary Exploitation

Imperial propagandists repeatedly evoke the victims and abuses of the past in order to justify their own aggressive imperial interventions and support for the ‘land grabs’ and ethnic cleansing committed by their colonial allies - like Israel, among others. The victims and crimes of the past are presented as a perpetual presence to justify ongoing brutalities against contemporary subject people.

The case of US-Israeli colonization of Palestine clearly illustrates how rabid criminality, pillage, ethnic cleansing and self-enrichment can be justified and glorified through the language of past victimization. Propagandists in the US and Israel have created ‘the cult of the Holocaust’, worshiping a near century-old Nazi crime against Jews (as well as captive Slavs, Gypsies and other minorities) in Europe, to justify the bloody conquest and theft of Arab lands and sovereignty and engage in systematic military assaults against Lebanon and Syria. Millions of Muslim and Christian Palestinians have been driven into perpetual exile.

Elite, wealthy, well-organized and influential zionist Jews, with primary fealty to Israel, have successfully sabotaged every contemporary struggle for peace in the Middle East and have created real barriers for social democracy in the US through their promotion of militarism and empire building. Those claiming to represent victims of the past have become among the most oppressive of contemporary elites. Using the language of ‘defense’, they promote aggressive forms of expansion and pillage. They claim their monopoly on historic ’suffering’ has given them a ’special dispensation’ from the rules of civilized conduct: their cult of the Holocaust allows them to inflict immense pain on others while silencing any criticism with the accusation of ‘anti-Semitism’ and relentlessly punishing critics. Their key role in imperial propaganda warfare is based on their claims of an exclusive franchise on suffering and immunity from the norms of justice.

Entertainment Spectacles on Military Platforms

Entertainment spectacles glorify militarism. Imperial propagandists link the public to unpopular wars promoted by otherwise discredited leaders. Sports events present soldiers dressed up as war heroes with deafening, emotional displays of ‘flag worship’ to celebrate the ongoing overseas wars of aggression. These mind-numbing extravaganzas with crude elements of religiosity demand choreographed expressions of national allegiance from the spectators as a cover for continued war crimes abroad and the destruction of citizens’ economic rights at home.

Much admired, multi-millionaire musicians and entertainers of all races and orientations, present war to the masses with a humanitarian facade. The entertainers smiling faces serve genocide just as powerfully as the President’s benign and friendly face accompanies his embrace of militarism. The propagandist message for the spectator is that ‘your favorite team or singer is there just for you… because our noble wars and valiant warriors have made you free and now they want you to be entertained.’

The old style of blatant bellicose appeals to the public is obsolete: the new propaganda conflates entertainment with militarism, allowing the ruling elite to secure tacit support for its wars without disturbing the spectators’ experience.


Do the Imperial Techniques of Propaganda Work?

How effective are the modern imperial propaganda techniques? The results seem to be mixed. In recent months, elite black athletes have begun protesting white racism by challenging the requirement for choreographed displays of flag worship. . . opening public controversy into the larger issues of police brutality and sustained marginalization. Identity politics, which led to the election of Obama, may be giving way to issues of class struggle, racial justice, anti-militarism and the impact of continued imperial wars. Hysterical rants may still secure international attention, but repeated performances begin to lose their impact and subject the ‘ranter’ to ridicule.

The cult of victimology has become less a rationale for the multi-billion dollar US-tribute to Israel, than the overwhelming political and economic influence and thuggery of billionaire Zionist fundraisers who demand US politicians’ support for the state of Israel.

Brandishing identify politics may have worked the first few times, but inevitably black, Latino, immigrant and all exploited workers, all underpaid and overworked women and mothers reject the empty symbolic gestures and demand substantive socio-economic changes - and here they find common links with the majority of exploited white workers.

In other words, the existing propaganda techniques are losing their edge - the corporate media news is seen as a sham. Who follows the actor-soldiers and flag-worshipers once the game has begun?

The propagandists of empire are desperate for a new line to grab public attention and obedience. Could the recent domestic terror bombings in New York and New Jersey provoke mass hysteria and more militarization? Could they serve as cover for more wars abroad . . .?

A recent survey, published in Military Times, reported that the vast majority of active US soldiers oppose more imperial wars. They are calling for defense at home and social justice. Soldiers and veterans have even formed groups to support the protesting black athletes who have refused to participate in flag worship while unarmed black men are being killed by police in the streets. Despite the multi-billion dollar electoral propaganda, over sixty percent of the electorate reject both major party candidates. The reality principle has finally started to undermine State propaganda!

James Petras is a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

From Palestine: Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

by Mazin Qumsiyeh - Palestine

October 3, 2016

It has been nearly two weeks since my last message so I have a little more to say here than usual :-). In the political arena, lot of news but little positive change:

- A presidential "debate" in the USA was limited to the corporate and special interest parties' candidates. The third party candidates were not allowed (by rules set by the two corporate parties).

It is thus not surprising that real issues were not discussed. For example the 2 million Americans incarcerated or the role of the Israel lobby in pushing for endless wars.

Shimon Peres 1936, Age 13 

- Shimon Peres, a war criminal with blood of thousands on his hands died and he was eulogized by the Western imperial powers (US and British governments had the highest level delegations) but also by representatives from four "Arab" governments.

I had engaged Peres personally and embarrassed him in front of hundreds in April 2003 in Connecticut.

Peres was born as Shimon Perski in Vishniva, Poland (now  Belarus). He and his parents came as colonizers under the Zionist banner to Palestine in 1934 and he joined the underground Israeli forces, the Haganah, and served as a chief of its manpower division in the 1940s. He is the architect of Israel’s nuclear program. Appointed in 1953 as director general of the ministry of defense, he immediately started exploring the nuclear development. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Israel developed its nuclear program primarily with the help of France while maintaining the Peres doctrine of “ambiguity.” The US and Britain and other countries looked the other way. He was responsible for ethnic cleansing and numerous massacres (including teh infamous attack on a UN compound in Qana killing scores of civilians taking shelter there) He was given (with Rabin and Arafat) the Nobel Peace Prize for their infamous Oslo accords that transformed the PLO from a liberation movement to a subcontractor of the occupation. Nobel committee members signed a letter later regretting their decision as Peres continued his career of crimes.

- Mr. Mahmoud Abbas shunning public sentiments and all common sense decided to go to the spectacle of the Peres funeral, warmly shake hands with another war criminal (Netanyahu) and then listen to speeches glorifying the apartheid colonial state of "Israel". By contrast, Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset had dignity and did not attend the political spectacle.

- The Jordanian signed a gas deal with Israel (as did the regime of Abbas before). Tens of thousands demonstrated against the normalization deals (both economic and political normalization). But the regimes may not care about sentiments of their people (we will wait and see).

- In his speech at the UN and in opening the Bethlehem diaspora conference, Mr Abbas again regurgitated his usual talking points about his hands being stretched always for peace, that he is patient, that he hopes the world community will help bring peace, that they did a conference for Iran and they should do one for Palestine, etc. He failed to set time tables for "waiting" (enriching those around him for 25 years now "waiting" while most Palestinian suffer). He failed to mention that Iran is different since it has dignity and has power and does not grovel. He failed to mention how" waiting" is exactly what Israel wants as the status quo is very lucrative (a profitable occupation to the tune of $12 billion/year plus arms exports tested on Gaza people and $68 billion more from the USA just approved by Obama and security guaranteed by the occupied "Vichy" government).

- People here are still upset from what a high level Palestinian official (Jibrl Rjoub) sarcastically described us native Christians as “the Merry Christmas group” and are still waiting for Mr. Mahmoud Abbas to say something about this. But the latter is disconnected from the reality of life here and shielded by a cabal of advisers telling him what he likes to hear so that they will not lose their lucrative jobs. It remains to be seen
how far down things go.

- We commemorated the 36th anniversary of the massacres of Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon. Horrific massacres by mercenaries of the apartheid state of Israel. Here is my published review of the book "Sabra and Shatila: September 1982" by Bayan Nuwayhed Al-Hout, 2004, Pluto Press, London and Ann Arbor, MI, 462 pp., 36 photographs, 5 maps

And here are reflections on “dark September”

- Jordanian intellectual and activist Nahedh Hattar was gunned down after criticizing the Saudi regime's genocidal war on Yemeni and Syrian people. He had also posted a cartoon on facebook that mocked the "jihadists" (western supported) who are supposed to be in heaven enjoying women and wine after slaughtering innocents. I re-posted the cartoon on my facebook page not because I agree with its contents but because I believe in freedom of speech 100% and believe it critical to not succumb to threats of violence (terrorism).

But there is positive news in the non-political arena:

Our museum continues to progress rapidly. We received good news of further financial and other support (in kind, time). Birzeit student strike is over and we are back in classes. International visitors and volunteers continue coming to Palestine to work with us.

I represented Bethlehem University as I was invited to give a talk on the status of research and education in Palestine at a conference about "Is there a crisis in Palestinian Universities" held at Birzeit University. I presented our example of making correct diagnosis followed by practical therapies including the fact that our new museum with two researchers and few students managed to publish 20 research works in two years. Our research paper on genotoxicity of recycling Israeli computers across the green line in teh Palestinian town of Idhna was accepted for publication. We created an institutional environment that educated thousands ranging from kindergarten children to university students to farmers and community members to international visitors. We travel regularly to marginalized areas to offer help and support. Our botanical garden is much better organized. I teach this semester at Bethlehem University, Bir Zeit University, Dar Al-Kalima College and Bethlehem Bible college.

There is a lot of hope in Palestine and we stay very busy at the museum, in doing clinical work, in teaching, in activism, writing and more. This hectic schedule keeps us hopeful and is the best antidote to being depressed because of the idiocy of politicians (American, Israeli, Saudi, Palestinian etc).

The Empire Files: How Palestine Became Colonized

Download PDF of full "This Week in Palestine" magazine Oct 2016 Issue:
Diaspora Palestinians

Watch: The National Theatre of Norway´s official apology for the cooperation with Habima (Israel)

Come visit us in occupied Palestine

And stay human

Mazin Qumsiyeh
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine
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