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 TeasersEric Margolis Blogview

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‘This is La Main Rouge,’ said the gruff voice on our home telephone in Geneva, Switzerland.. ‘Stop your activities on behalf of the FLN or we will kill you.’ The mysterious caller hung up.

I was petrified. La Main Rouge was killing supporters of free Algeria across Europe.

This was 1959 where I was studying at the International School of Geneva. The war to liberate Algeria from 130 years of French colonial was at its bloodiest and most intense.

As an idealistic student, I was outraged by the brutality of this struggle in which up to 1.5 million Algerians were killed by the French and by fellow Algerians. I organized demonstrations calling for free Algeria, penned articles and carried messages for the Algerian underground (Front de Liberation National, or FLN)’s branch in Paris.

The death threat was the first of many I would receive over my life, along with much other heavy intimidation and offers of bribes to alter my journalistic positions. But the bloody Algerian War of Independence, that ran from 1954-1962, still holds particular resonance for me even though I’ve covered 14 wars since then. The horrors of Algeria’s massacres and torture have stayed with me all these years.

La Main Rouge (Red Hand), we later learned, was a false flag operation mounted by French intelligence (SDECE) to kill or frighten off supporters of the Algerian cause, notably pro-Algerian leftwing intellectuals, and arms suppliers.

That’s why I was elated to see France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, officially admit that France had indeed conducted systemic torture in Algeria that he called ‘a crime against humanity.’ Previous French governments had denied the crimes in Algeria and censored reports and books about it.

Torture, ‘disappearing’ and judicial executions would no longer be sanctioned in France, even in extreme cases. Macron called France’s repression in Algeria ‘a crime against humanity.’

The record of the war is ghastly. Tens of thousands of Algerian suspects were rounded up at night, thrown into prisons, and tortured – many to death – using electric generators attached to their genitals or lips with steel clips. Intense beatings and use of masked informers were common. Many FLN suspects were sent to the guillotine.

The superb film ‘Battle of Algiers’ recounts ferocious efforts by French elite paratroopers and security forces to crush the FLN network. `We far outdid the Nazi SS and Gestapo,’ boasted one particularly sadistic French general.

As a result of the Algerian War, torture spread to France’s metropolitan security services and even regular police. But this is always what happens when torture is used. It spreads like a virus.

Back in 1995, then President Jacques Chirac admitted that French police, not Germans, had rounded up 75,000 French Jews and sent them to German concentration camps. France’s right was outraged.

Now, France’s right is denouncing President Macron for finally telling the truth and opening France’s secret archives

Which raises the question of torture by US occupation forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and of similar crimes by its satraps Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and by Israel. Under President Donald Trump, the US is going in precisely the opposite direction as France. Trump and his cohorts have lauded the use and efficacy of torture and called for its wider and more intense use in America’s modern colonial wars. The CIA’s new chief led one part of the torture program in Southeast Asia.

France is now purging itself of the crimes against humanity committed during the Algerian War. Nations, like people, need to occasionally cleanse their spirit of foul deeds and crimes. But not so the United States where the White House and Congress have become cheerleaders for torture.

It will be hard for Washington to keep holding itself up to be the world champion of human rights when its torturers are hard at work inflicting unspeakable punishments on suspects. Let’s recall that the Bush-Cheney administration massively increased the use of torture to try to prove a fake link between Saddam’s Iraq and 9/11. America disgraced itself and never could manufacture the ‘evidence.’

America and France are sister democracies. President Macron has shown Washington how to deal with the crime of torture. We should listen.

***

Epilogue: Algeria gained independence in 1962 thanks to the wisdom of President Charles De Gaulle. But, as Danton famously stated, ‘the revolution devours its young.’ The FLN’s rival leaders began murdering one another. The once noble struggle for independence turned into a bloodbath. Algeria fell under military rule and suffered worse horrors than even the French inflicted.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy, History • Tags: Battle of Algiers, France, Torture 
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This was hell week in New York City. Traffic was paralyzed from one end of the narrow island to the other as bigwigs and their entourages flocked to the city for the fall opening of the United Nations.

Making matters worse, President Donald Trump chose the occasion to lambaste nations he does not like in a crude display of boorishness not seen since Soviet boss Nikita Khrushchev banged his shoe on his desk at the General Assembly back in 1960.

Trump reserved special venom for his pet bêtes noirs, Iran and China. His jeremiad against Iran was reportedly written by senior aide Stephen Miller, a rabidly anti-Muslim extremist who speaks with the voice of Israel’s expansionist far right.

Trump reiterated his doctrine of American ultra-nationalism. Political and economic nationalism are his credo. The president claimed he had indeed made America great again, whatever that means.

The president’s speech was greeted by derisive laughter from the General Assembly, a first in UN history.

I was reminded of Dr. Samuel Johnson’s famous bon mot, ‘patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.’ Indeed it is.

And of the words of the late British professor, A.P. Thornton: ‘Patriotism is the first platform of fools.’

Patriotism is poison. Dictators, despots, lunatics – and too many democratic politicians – use it to inflame popular passions to enhance their power. There is nothing wrong with loving and respecting one’s homeland. Canadians offer a fine example of quiet national pride without obnoxious flag-waving and bullying.

But everything is wrong with unleashing toxic nationalist emotions to promote empire-building or eradicating whole peoples. Look at the current horrors in Burma and the recent mass crimes in Bosnia.

As a former soldier and war correspondent, I cringe when I see all the faux patriotism of sports events, chants of ‘USA, ‘USA,’ and pro-war propaganda on TV. Having walked many of the battlefields of World War I, on which millions died, I detest the kind of patriotic cant that ended the civilized glories of pre-war, 19th Century Europe. The idiotic cries in 1914 of ‘on to Berlin’ and ‘on to Paris’ haunt us. Their modern version was ‘Get Saddam’ and ‘bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.’

Trump, who sees himself as more an emperor than democratic president, continues to press for war with Iran, egged on by the cabal of pro-Israel advisors that surround him. Billionaire gambling king Sheldon Adelson pulls the strings from just backstage.

Now, in a new eruption of paranoia, President Trump just claimed that China was trying to rig this fall’s elections. How? By placing tariffs on US agricultural exports to China to punish Trump’s many supporters in the farm belt.

Add Trump’s economic war against Turkey which had locked up an American evangelical pastor accused of involvement in the attempted 2016 coup against the elected government. This contrived furor was clearly aimed at pleasing Trump’s core evangelical supporters. No matter that America was spitting in the face of old ally Turkey whose soldiers had saved many American GI’s during the 1950-53 Korean War and allows the US to keep nuclear weapons at its Incirlik air base.

Unfortunately, many Americans who have never known war at home since 1865 are all too eager to follow a path to war provided it’s far away and a turkey shoot. But now, having bombed all the usual Muslims and ravaged the Mideast, our national security state has to face the ominous reality that the US may have to confront real, big-time enemies, Russia and China. This clearly invokes the nightmare threat of a nuclear confrontation.

President Trump, who thundered at North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, ‘my nuclear button is bigger than yours,’ is not the best pilot to guide his nation through dangerous waters. While Trump has some solid advisors – generals Mattis and Kelly – he is also surrounded by a coterie of political fanatics, many plucked from the political gutter. Trump’s unnecessary trade wars and embargoes could easily lead to shooting wars.

We don’t need nationalism, we need wise, cautious leadership.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump 
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Springtime in Korea. Peace and love have erupted all over the mountainous peninsula as the leaders of the two rival nations seek to end the nearly seven decades of hostility between them.

One can’t underestimate the passionate longing felt by most Koreans on both sides of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) for some form of reunification – or at least reattachment – of the two nations. Amazingly, the 1950-53 Korean War has never been ended by a peace treaty so a simmering state of war exists between North and South Korea in spite of past attempts to end it. During the war, 33,686 Americans died and 128,600 were wounded, and the two Koreas suffered over 2 million dead. Chinese casualties were heavy.

The DMZ is probably the most heavily militarized frontier in the world, with hundreds of thousands of tough troops and thousands of tanks and guns confronting one another. I’ve seen few more impressive military sights. Only the Pakistani-India border in Kashmir offers a similar martial display and menace.

Kudos go to the leaders of North and South Korea for de-escalating the tensions between them. Both deserve a Nobel peace prize. Kim Jong-un and Moon Jai-in have made a great leap forward by trying to end the Korean War. Most Koreans – except for hard rightwing anti-Communist Christians in South Korea – are thrilled.

As a very long-time observer and friend of Korea, I too am elated by the Moon-Kim friendly summit and wish it success. But I’m also worried by the role of Washington.
President Donald Trump certainly broke the ice with North Korea and played a key role in setting peace talks into motion. Kudos to him.

But I’m also apprehensive that the so-called de-nuclearization issue may ruin the effort to end the Korean War. Washington demands that North Korea account for and then dismantle its nuclear weapons under US supervision. This is the key American position.

Interestingly, while making these demands, the US is pushing ahead with a new `smaller’ nuclear warhead program, the B61- Model 12, designed as a deep earth penetrator and for use against tactical targets. This $1 trillion program is designed for war-fighting, not deterrence. Critics warn it will make a nuclear war much more likely.

North Korea, which has a small number of long-ranged, nuclear tipped missiles of undetermined reliability, says its will ‘de-nuclearize’ to meet Washington’s demands. But why? North Korea is demanding ‘reciprocity’ from the US. So far, there is no sign of the US agreeing to shut its air bases in South Korea or Japan, remove nuclear weapons from North Asia, or remove some or all of its 28,500 troops in South Korea.

The Trump administration has convinced itself that a one-way deal with North Korea is possible. Its resident hardliners, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, are believed to be hostile to any US concessions. They want North Korea to unconditionally surrender, not negotiate. Both are neocons who fear North Korea’s nukes might find their way to Israel’s mideast enemies. A deal between Washington and Pyongyang under President Bill Clinton was sabotaged by the neocons for this very reason.

North Koreans have been eating grass for a generation to acquire nuclear weapons. Would they give them up just for a slap on the back from Washington? Would China push Pyongyang in this direction? Highly doubtful. The world is only talking to Kim Jong-un because he has and can deliver nuclear weapons.
Even a lot of South Koreans are proud of Kim for making the mighty US back off.

South Korea’s president, Moon, has done bravura work in his new ‘sunshine’ policy.’ He is a courageous and clever man and a welcome change from South Korea’s former rightwing leaders who were totally under the thumb of the US. Koreans will do much better at settling their many differences if they are allowed to work out their problems without heavy-handed interference by outsiders, be they Americans or Chinese.

A good way to begin would be for the US to end its punishing economic warfare against North Korea and permanently halt its provocative military exercises each fall.

Two great powers, the US and Japan, are not eager to see Korea reunified into a powerhouse with 80 million industrious people. They will continue stirring the Korean pot.

 
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Good work Mr. President! You have now managed to lay the groundwork for a grand Chinese-Russian alliance. The objective of intelligent diplomacy is to divide one’s foes, not to unite them.

This epic blunder comes at a time when the US appears to be getting ready for overt military action in Syria against Russian and Syrian forces operating there. The excuse, as before, will be false-flag attacks with chlorine gas, a chemical widely used in the region for water purification. It appears that the fake attacks have already been filmed.

Meanwhile, some 303,000 Russian, Chinese and Mongolian soldiers are engaged in massive maneuvers in eastern Siberia and naval exercises in the Sea of Japan and Sea of Okhotsk. The latter, an isolated region of Arctic water, is the bastion of Russia’s Pacific Fleet of nuclear-armed missile submarines.

Interestingly, President Vladimir Putin, who has attended the war games with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, just offered to end the state of war between Russia and Japan that has continued since 1945. He also offered some sort of deal to resolve the very complex problem of the Russian-occupied Kuril Islands (Northern Territories to Japan) that has bedeviled Moscow–Tokyo relations since the war. The barren Kurils control the exits and entry to the Sea of Okhotsk where Russia’s nuclear missiles shelter.

In the current war games, Russia has deployed 30,000 military vehicles and 1,000 combat aircraft. China contributed 3,200 troops, 30 warplanes and naval units. Most of the equipment deployed in Vostok-18 was state of the art. Russia’s and China’s infantry, artillery and armor appeared impressive and combat ready – or as we in the US Army used to say, ‘STRAC.’

Why were these huge exercises being held in remotest eastern Siberia? First, so China could contribute forces close to its territory. Second, as a possible warning to the United States not to invade North Korea, which is just to the south and abuts on both China and Russia. Third, as a demonstration of the improved effectiveness of Russia and China’s military and as a warning to the US and its NATO satraps not to pick a fight with Russia over Ukraine, Syria or the Black Sea.

On a grander scale, Beijing and Moscow were signaling their new ‘entente cordiale’ designed to counter-balance the reckless military ambitions of the Trump administration, which has been rumbling about a wider war in Syria and intervention in, of all places, Venezuela. The feeling in Russia and China is that the Trump White House is drunk with power and unable to understand the consequences of its military actions, a fact underlined by recent alarming exposés about it.

Russia and China appear – at least for now – to have overcome their historic mutual suspicion and animosity. In the over-heated imagination of many Russians, China often appears to be the modern incarnation of the Mongol hordes of the past that held ancient Rus in feudal thrall. Russians still call China ‘Kitai’, or Cathay.

For the Chinese, Russia is the menacing power that stole large parts of eastern Siberia in the 19th century. Today, Russia frets that China’s 1.4 billion people will one day swamp the Russian Far East which has only 6.2 million inhabitants spread over a vast, largely empty region which is one of the world’s least inhabited.

In the 1960’s, after the Soviet Union and China became ideological antagonists, the two sides frequently clashed along their border rivers, Amur and Ussuri. They almost stumbled into a full-scale war on their 4,000 km border– at a time when the US had invaded Vietnam supposedly to ‘halt Chinese-Soviet aggression.’ The CIA was as ill-informed back then as it is today.

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping attended the grand display, along with their senior military staffs. This week-long martial event, Russia’s largest war games in almost four decades, overshadowed the smaller military exercise being staged by NATO in Ukraine.

The message from eastern Siberia was clear: Washington’s reckless hostility and bellicosity is causing its foes to band together. A full third of the Russian Army just moved from Europe to the Far East for the war games. The Chinese dragon of which Napoleon warned is awakening.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, China, Donald Trump, Russia 
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As the genocidal horrors in Myanmar unfold, I am kicking myself for having risked my skin to go see then sainted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

This event occurred in Rangoon (now Yangon) in 1996 when Suu Kyi was the revered democratic opposition leader resisting the nation’s brutal military regime. The western media loved her, as it always does third world female politicians fighting dictatorships and thugs. The saintly Suu Kyi was even given a Nobel Prize by Sweden’s always giddy liberals.

To get to Suu Kyi’s compound in suburban Rangoon, I rented a car and a terrific driver named Mr. Alexander, and we wove our way through many police checkpoints, risking arrest at each one. Somehow we managed to get to her compound to hear the famous lady speak. She looked very lovely and fragile.

Like my fellow journalists, I felt great sympathy for her. Unlike them, I wondered how, if she ever came to power, this frail, bird-like creature could hold together wild and crazy Burma, a turbulent nation of 43 million that is a stew of scores of angry ethnic groups and religions – a sort of Asian Yugoslavia. As I feared back then, she was proven unfit for this heavy task.

Once rich Burma was bankrupted and dirt poor after many years of dictatorial rule by eccentric army general Ne Win who terrorized his people and practiced necromancy, other black arts and socialism. Gen. Win used the large Burmese Army to battle the nation’s many ethnic secessionists: Shan, Karen, Mon, Wa, Chinese. He persecuted the Rohingya Muslims of Rakhine state.

Ne Win was finally kicked upstairs by younger army generals. They continued the brutal dictatorship and repression of Rakhine’s Muslims, 4% of the population, who were ethnically linked to the Bengalis of neighboring Bangladesh. In fact, Burma has been oppressing and dispossessing the Rakhine Muslims for decades – it’s just that no one outside Burma paid any attention. Burma’s majority Buddhists, 87% of the population, and their powerful monkish clergy, wanted a state without Muslims.

The western powers imposed heavy economic sanctions on Burma that left it isolated and stuck in a time warp of the 1940’s. Finally, Burma’s ruling military junta wised up and put Suu Kyi in de facto power, backed by then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This was Clinton’s biggest mistake before the murder of Libya’s Col. Khadaffi.

The western critics of Burma fell silent and the punishing western economic boycott ended. Foreign cash flowed in. Nobel Prize winner Suu Kyi made nice speeches and won accolades abroad.

But the military still ruled. Burma’s dour, unsmiling generals remained in charge of everything important, including the lucrative timber and emerald trade, while Suu Kyi was left to make nice speeches about democracy. She, apparently, agreed to this Faustian deal.

Meanwhile, Burma’s army struck the Muslim Rohingya of Rakhine. In a long-planned offensive, their villages were burned to the ground and their women gang raped by Burmese soldiers. Ten thousand Muslims are reported killed, and 710,000 fled into neighboring Bangladesh where they now subsist in primitive camps. UN observers have reported this was ‘a textbook example of ethnic cleansing – the 2017 version.’

Rakhine’s Muslims where among the most wretched people on earth even before ethnic terrorism began. No one had helped them except UN aid agencies. Suu Kyi has done next to nothing to protect them or stop the genocide. She simply can’t admit that she is a powerless figurehead run by the generals. The saintly lady has been revealed to be a sock puppet.

China, which has great strategic interest in Burma as a gateway to the Indian Ocean from its western region, is a long-time backer of the Burmese military junta. It can thwart any action thanks to its seat on the UN Security – the same way the US protects Israel at the UN from censure and war crimes charges.

The nation that could have helped the Rohingyas, Saudi Arabia, self-proclaimed Defender of Islam, was too busy killing Yemeni Muslims and destroying Syria to take any notice. The Koran enjoins Muslims to help their co-religionists in distress or peril, but the obscenely rich Saudis ignored pleas to help the oppressed Rohingyas, just as they shunned pleas of help from the Muslims of Bosnia whose women were being raped and murdered.

China, which is busy trying to crush the life and religion out of its own Uighur Muslims, is encouraging ally Burma. The generals in Rangoon know they have carte blanche to commit more crimes.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Burma, Muslims, Rohingya 
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“If you don’t get my weekly column, it means I am dead,” wrote Israeli writer Uri Avnery to a friend. As I eagerly awaited Uri’s column each week, I feared that each new column might be his last.

And so it finally came to be. The renowned 94-year old writer and peace advocate finally succumbed to old age after a stroke and massive heart attack.

The roar of the last Lion of Judah had been silenced.

I always considered Avnery as the wisest voice in the Mideast, and Israel’s last prophet. His voice was always rich in wisdom, morality and common sense. Few Israelis and even fewer Arabs attained his level of clarity and logic.

Whenever I grew weary writing columns and felt I could no longer go on, I told myself, “if 94-year old Uri can keep writing brilliant columns each week, then you too can keep writing. Back to your keyboard!”

Uri’s story was in good part that of modern Israel. He was born Helmut Osterman to a prosperous German Jewish family near Hanover. When Hitler came to power, they migrated in 1933 to Palestine with the 11-year old Helmut – who changed his name to the Hebrew, Uri Avnery.

In 1948, the young Avnery joined the underground Jewish guerilla force Irgun, fighting British and Palestinians and, later, Arab regular soldiers. Irgun committed numerous notorious terrorist acts and massacres that played a key role in driving the Palestinian population from their ancestral homes. He was seriously wounded and nearly died.

Two years later, he and three friends started a political magazine, “One World.”

Avnery was increasingly political and sided with Israeli expansionists. But he gradually came to see that peace and cooperation was the only solution for Israel. After Israel’s smashing victories over the Arabs in the 1956 and 1967 wars, he formed a leftist pro-peace party and won a seat in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. He helped found the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Council and the renowned Gush Shalom peace movement.

Avnery was one of the first Israelis to call for fair treatment of the Palestinians, over a million who had become refugees in 1948 and 1967. He urged Israel to sign a lasting peace accord with the Palestinians and return to them control of the West Bank, the old city of Jerusalem, Golan and Gaza – all occupied by the Israeli Army and growing waves of Jewish settlers.

Uri became the target of decades of hatred by right-wing Israelis. He was stabbed. He said things that were not said in public. He kept reminding Israelis that their Jewish ethics demanded fair and decent treatment of Palestinians, whom Israeli leaders preferred to call ‘cockroaches’ and ‘wild animals.’

Interestingly, the two men who have best explained the Muslim world to westerners, Uri Avnery and the Austrian-born Leopold Weiss, known as Muhammad Asad, who wrote the great book, “the Road to Mecca,” were both Germanic Jews.

There would never be peace in the region, warned prophet Avnery, until Israel returned at least some land taken from Palestinians, and created a viable Palestinian state with full democratic rights and freedoms. Instead, Uri watched as Israel’s US-backed far right government arrested ever more Palestinians, grabbed more Arab lands, and prepared to create a full-fledged South African-style apartheid state.

Never one to mince words, Uri called Israel’s right, which just enacted a law making Israel an exclusively Jewish state (thus excluding its 21% Muslim and Christian population) ‘semi-fascist Jews.’ Israel’s far right now exercises decisive influence over the Trump White House and the US Congress.

Avnery became fast friends with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The two leaders could have created a viable Jewish-Arab state or federation. Sadly, Arafat was probably murdered and Avnery politically sidelined. In fact, Israel’s entire pro-peace left has dwindled to a fringe movement, isolated by its right-wing governments and Washington. Days after Uri died, Israel’s Likud coalition announced the expropriation of more Arab land on the West Bank to build 1,000 new homes for Jewish settlers.

Like most Jewish prophets, Avnery was loved or hated. He had no equal in the Arab world. Like Gandhi, his message was too logical and too uncomfortable for nationalist fanatics. His icy skepticism and clear thinking was a godsend in the overheated emotional hothouse of the Mideast.

Israel’s last prophet is gone. Rest in peace, Uri.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Israel, Israel/Palestine 
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After 17 bloody years, the longest war in US history continues without relent or purpose in Afghanistan.

There, a valiant, fiercely-independent people, the Pashtun (Pathan) mountain tribes, have battled the full might of the US Empire to a stalemate that has so far cost American taxpayers $4 trillion, and 2,371 dead and 20,320 wounded soldiers. No one knows how many Afghans have died. The number is kept secret.

Pashtun tribesmen in the Taliban alliance and their allies are fighting to oust all foreign troops from Afghanistan and evict the western-imposed and backed puppet regime in Kabul that pretends to be the nation’s legitimate government. Withdraw foreign troops and the Kabul regime would last for only days.

The whole thing smells of the Vietnam War. Lessons so painfully learned by America in that conflict have been completely forgotten and the same mistakes repeated. The lies and happy talk from politicians, generals and media continue apace.

This week, Taliban forces occupied the important strategic city of Ghazni on the road from Peshawar to Kabul. It took three days and massive air attacks by US B-1 heavy bombers, Apache helicopter gun ships, A-10 ground attack aircraft, and massed warplanes from US bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar and the 5th US Fleet to finally drive back the Taliban assault. Taliban also overran key military targets in Kabul and the countryside, killing hundreds of government troops in a sort of Afghan Tet offensive.

Afghan regime police and army units put up feeble resistance or ran away. Parts of Ghazni were left in ruins. It was a huge embarrassment to the US imperial generals and their Afghan satraps who had claimed ‘the corner in Afghanistan has finally been turned.’

Efforts by the Trump administration to bomb Taliban into submission have clearly failed. US commanders fear using American ground troops in battle lest they suffer serious casualties. Meanwhile, the US is running low on bombs.

Roads are now so dangerous for the occupiers that most movement must be by air. Taliban is estimated to permanently control almost 50% of Afghanistan. That number would rise to 100% were it not for omnipresent US air power. Taliban rules the night.

Taliban are not and never were ‘terrorists’ as Washington’s war propaganda falsely claimed. I was there at the creation of the movement – a group of Afghan religious students armed by Pakistan whose goal was to stop post-civil war banditry, the mass rape of women, and to fight the Afghan Communists. When Taliban gained power, it eliminated 95% of the rampant Afghanistan opium-heroin trade. After the US invaded, allied to the old Afghan Communists and northern Tajik tribes, opium-heroin production soared to record levels. Today, US-occupied Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, morphine and heroin.

US occupation authorities claim drug production is run by Taliban. This is another big lie. The Afghan warlords who support the regime of President Ashraf Ghani entirely control the production and export of drugs. The army and secret police get a big cut. How else would trucks packed with drugs get across the border into Pakistan and Central Asia?

The United States has inadvertently become one of the world’s leading drug dealers. This is one of the most shameful legacies of the Afghan War. But just one. Watching the world’s greatest power bomb and ravage little Afghanistan, a nation so poor that some of its people can’t afford sandals, is a huge dishonor for Americans.

Even so, the Pashtun defeated the invading armies of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, the Mogul Emperors and the mighty British Raj. The US looks to be next in the Graveyard of Empires.

Nobody in Washington can enunciate a good reason for continuing the colonial war in Afghanistan. One hears talk of minerals, women’s rights and democracy as a pretext for keeping US forces in Afghanistan. All nonsense. A possible real reason is to deny influence over Afghanistan, though the Chinese are too smart to grab this poisoned cup. They have more than enough with their rebellious Uighur Muslims.

Interestingly, the so-called ‘terrorist training camps’ supposedly found in Afghanistan in 2001 were actually guerilla training camps run by Pakistani intelligence to train Kashmiri rebels and CIA-run camps for exiled Uighur fighters from China.

The canard that the US had to invade Afghanistan to get at Osama bin Laden, alleged author of the 9/11 attacks, is untrue. The attacks were made by Saudis and mounted from Hamburg and Madrid, not Afghanistan. I’m not even sure bin Laden was behind the attacks.

My late friend and journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave shared my doubts and insisted that the Taliban leader Mullah Omar offered to turn bin Laden over to a court in a Muslim nation to prove his guilt or innocence.

President George Bush, caught sleeping on guard duty and humiliated, had to find an easy target for revenge – and that was Afghanistan.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Afghanistan, American Military 
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President Trump keeps vowing to create more jobs in America. But his actions often speak differently. The most egregious example was Trump’s cancellation of the multi-national Iran nuclear treaty that had been welcomed by the world as a major step to Mideast denuclearization.

In abrogating the international treaty signed by the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, the US humiliated its allies and rivals who were strongly in favor of the accord. Iran had already handed 97% of its enriched uranium to Russia, shut down reactors and centrifuges, and allowed UN inspectors to run all over its nuclear facilities when Trump tore up the deal that had been under negotiation since 2015.

Iran has been under a harsh US-led trade embargo since its 1979 revolution that was designed to cripple its economy and military and drive the people to rebel against their government. Washington used the same tactics – without success – against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

So intense is the Trump administration’s hatred for Islamic Iran that it decided to scrap the multinational nuclear deal that would have meant opening Iran to western commerce and a bonanza for US and European companies. The key element of the deal was to have been the sale of some 210 commercial jet airliners to Iran by the US and the European Union, a deal worth some $40-50 billion, not counting future sales of spare parts.

The US embargo of Iran since 1979 has made it unable to modernize its commercial airline fleet. Iran was denied modern aircraft, spare parts, engines and instruments, leaving it with decaying aircraft from the 1970’s.

The grim result of the US-imposed embargo has been 17 crashes of Iranian civilian aircraft with 1500 deaths.

Most of Iran’s commercial aircraft – a grab bag of old, mostly 25-year old Boeing, Airbus, Chinese and Soviet aircraft – are flying coffins. Iran’s maintenance, training and air traffic control are substandard. Flying over and around Iran’s lofty mountains is a challenge for the best of pilots, even for a handful of newer ATR turboprop aircraft.

Washington’s denial to Iran of Boeing Aircraft (and Airbus planes because they contain US-made parts), means the loss of tens of thousands of highly-paid jobs in the US and Europe. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, claims he talked Trump into canceling the Iran nuclear deal and the Boeing orders.

It’s hard to validate Netanyahu’s claim but it is clear that America’s ever more powerful Israel lobby and its ally fundamentalist Christian Zionists played a key role in thwarting the Iran nuclear deal and sale of commercial aircraft.

We don’t yet know the full cost of lost American jobs and business to help keep Iran isolated. But one could argue that part of the $20 billion lost should be counted as part of annual US aid to Israel.

Russia and China’s aircraft industries will soon be able to deliver modern passenger aircraft to Iran and accept payment in oil. China’s C919 and ARJ21 are now nearing service. Russia’s Sukhoi Superjet 100 will be ready soon. Trump could be cutting off his nose to spite his face.

Trump and his allies are trying to push Iran into a corner and provoke it to lash out at US forces that are poised around it. A navel clash in the Gulf is the obvious pretext for war.

While the US goes after Iran, it has opened a new anti-Muslim front against old ally Turkey by imposing heavy duties on Ankara’s exports to the US and attacking the always vulnerable Turkish lira. This, in turn, has set off a financial crisis across Europe, notably among EU banks that have large, soft loans made to Turkey.

Trump & Co. are trying to force Turkey to bend the knee and support US-Israeli-Saudi policy goals. Turkey and Iran remain the last significant supporters in the region of the Palestinians. Trump and the New York City real estate developers, and the money men who surround him, are determined to show the independent-minded Iranians and Turks who is the big boss.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump, Iran 
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The words ‘hope’ and ‘Pakistan’ do not often appear together. Pakistan, a sprawling nation of 205 million, is hard to govern, even harder to finance, and seething with tribal or religious violence and discord.

But Pakistan, which for me is one of the most interesting and important nations on earth, is by far the leading nation of the Muslim world and a redoubtable military power. Created in 1947 from former British India as a haven for oppressed Muslims, Pakistan has been ruled ever since by military juntas or by slippery and often corrupt civilian politicians.

After decades of dynastic politics under the Bhutto and Sharif families, there is suddenly hope that newly elected cricket star Imran Khan and his Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI) may – just may – tackle Pakistan’s four biggest problems: endemic corruption, military interference, political tribalism, and a half-dead economy.

Former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, appears to be headed for jail over a corruption scandal unless he is allowed to go into exile in London. The exiled former military dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, is hiding out in Dubai awaiting charges of treason.

I spent a good deal of time with Pakistan’s former leaders, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq and his bitter foe, Benazir Bhutto, both of whom were later murdered. Neither Musharraf nor Nawaz measured up to these colorful personalities in political skills, vision, or personality.

Imran Khan is sometimes called ‘Pakistan’s Jack Kennedy’ for his movie-star good looks, charisma and zesty love life. He no longer plays professional cricket though he is still idolized in Pakistan and, interestingly, bitter foe India.

Khan (who is of Pashtun tribal blood) is also a philanthropist and respected thinker. He says he is determined to begin rooting corruption out of Pakistan and to revivify its ailing economy. Pakistan’s GDP is only $1,641 per person compared to India’s $2,134. The illiteracy rate is about 40%, notably among women who are the primary teachers of the young.

As Imran Khan is about to take office, Pakistan’s coffers are almost empty. Islamabad has had to take 12 loans from the International Monetary Fund in the last 40 years, in part to pay for its oil imports.

Now, Islamabad is negotiating yet another loan of $57 billion from its most important ally, China, whose vast belt and road project covering transportation, ports and infrastructure seeks to modernize Pakistan and turn it into a primary conduit to the Arabian Sea.

But Donald Trump’s Washington is angry over China’s dollar diplomacy, formerly a preserve of US foreign policy. US State Secretary Mike Pompeo, who plays bad cop to Trump’s bad cop, lambastes Pakistan for the Chinese loan.

The White House is obviously dismayed by China’s growing influence over Pakistan caused, in large part, by the US decision to cut aid to Pakistan and favor its old enemy, India. President George Bush aided India’s military nuclear program, alarming China and Pakistan. Now, Trump is working to mobilize India against China. So far, India has been too smart to act as an American strategic proxy.

Imran Khan will now have a chance to resolve the Indo-Pakistani dispute over contested Kashmir that has flared since 1947. India keeps one million soldiers and police there to repress the rebellious majority Muslim population that seeks to join Pakistan or create an independent state. The UN mandated a referendum to determine Kashmir’s future but India ignores it.

The new Khan government must also try to find a way to get the US out of the giant hole it has dug in Afghanistan. Imran has been a vocal critic of the stalemated US war in Afghanistan. Soon, he will control the major supply lines to US forces there.

India and Pakistan are important nuclear-armed powers. Their nuclear forces are on a hair-trigger alert of less than 5 minutes. There is frequent fighting on the Kashmir cease-fire line between the two sides. India’s vastly larger forces are poised to invade Pakistan. Islamabad says it must have tactical nuclear weapons to deter such an overwhelming Indian attack.

The Kashmir border is the world’s most dangerous flash point.

Imran Khan may be able to calm tensions over Kashmir and open meaningful talks with India where he is very popular. In the 1980’s, Gen. Zia ul Haq headed off an invasion by India by flying to Delhi on the spur of the moment to attend a cricket match. This writer expects Imran Khan to similarly appear in India for his ultimate diplomatic test match.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: China, Pakistan 
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President Donald Trump and his neocon advisors have been trying to provoke a war with Iran and Syria for many months.

The neocons are echoing Cato the Elder’s cry, ‘delenda est Carthago!’. Iran must be destroyed.

So far, Tehran and its ally Damascus have refused to respond to US naval and air incursions or Israel’s growing air attacks in Syria. But the war of words between the US and Iran has now reached a critical phase.

Last week, Trump, who evaded military service during the Vietnam War, made his loudest threats yet against Iran, bringing the danger of war to the boiling point. On 21 May, the hard-line US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a thunderous ultimatum to Iran during an address to the US Heritage Foundation, a rich, influential arm of America’s Israel lobby.

Pompeo made 12 totally unacceptable demands on Iran that were clearly designed to be rejected by Tehran. Not since Austria-Hungary’s ultimatum against Serbia in 1914 have we seen such a clear effort to bring about war. Tehran quickly dismissed Pompeo as ‘a gangster.’

We are by now used to blood and thunder rhetoric between Washington and Tehran. But this time White House policy is clearly being directed by pro-Israel American neocons who want the US military to crush Iran as it did Iraq.

Crushing Iran will leave Israel with unfettered control of the Mideast and its oil – unless Russia or Turkey intervene against Israel, which is most unlikely. Some think Russia and Israel – and the US – have already made a deal to divvy up the central Mideast.

‘Let the Americans come,’ one Iranian militant told me, ‘they will break their teeth on Iran.’ Very colorful but hardly accurate. The US and Israel will surely avoid a massive, costly land campaign again Iran, a vast, mountainous nation that was willing to suffer a million battle casualties in its eight-year war with Iraq that started in 1980 . This gruesome war was instigated by the US, Britain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to overthrow Iran’s new popular Islamic government.

The Pentagon has planned a high-intensity air war against Iran that Israel and the Saudis might very well join. The plan calls for over 2,300 air strikes against Iranian strategic targets: airfields and naval bases, arms and petroleum, oil and lubricant depots, telecommunication nodes, radar, factories, military headquarters, ports, water works, airports, missile bases and units of the Revolutionary Guards.

Iran’s air defenses range from feeble to non-existent. Decades of US-led military and commercial embargos against Iran have left it as decrepit and enfeebled as was Iraq when the US invaded in 2003. The gun barrels of Iran’s 70’s vintage tanks are warped and can’t shoot straight, its old British and Soviet AA missiles are mostly unusable, and its ancient MiG and Chinese fighters ready for the museum, notably its antique US-built F-14 Tomcats, Chinese copies of obsolete MiG-21’s, and a handful of barely working F-4 Phantoms of Vietnam War vintage.

Air combat command is no better. Everything electronic that Iran has will be fried or blown up in the first hours of a US attack. Iran’s little navy will be sunk in the opening attacks. Its oil industry may be destroyed or partially preserved depending on US post-war plans for Iran.

The only way Tehran can riposte is by staging isolated commando attacks on US installations in the Mideast of no decisive value, and, of course, blocking the narrow Strait of Hormuz that carries two thirds of Mideast oil exports. The US Navy, based nearby in Bahrain, has been practicing for decades to combat this threat.

China vows to keep buying Iranian oil in spite of the US blockade to be imposed this fall. This could put the US and China on a collision course.

While Iran may be able to interdict some oil exports from the Arab states, and cause maritime insurance rates to skyrocket, it’s unlikely to be able to block the bulk of oil exports unless it attacks the main oil terminals in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf with ground troops. During the Iran-Iraq war, neither side was able to fully interdict the other’s oil exports.

Direct western intervention in a major ground campaign seems unlikely. But the US and Israeli war plan would aim to totally destroy Iran’s infrastructure, communications and transport (including oil) crippling this important nation of 80 million and taking it back to the pre-revolutionary era. That was the plan for Iraq, the Arab world’s most industrialized nation. Today Iraq still lies in ruins.

One recalls the words of the great Roman historian, Tacitus: ‘they make a desert and call it peace.’

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump, Iran, Neocons 
Eric Margolis
About Eric Margolis

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan, Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other news sites in Asia.

He is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, Lew Rockwell. He appears as an expert on foreign affairs on CNN, BBC, France 2, France 24, Fox News, CTV and CBC.

His internet column www.ericmargolis.com reaches global readers on a daily basis.

As a war correspondent Margolis has covered conflicts in Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Sinai, Afghanistan, Kashmir, India, Pakistan, El Salvador and Nicaragua. He was among the first journalists to ever interview Libya’s Muammar Khadaffi and was among the first to be allowed access to KGB headquarters in Moscow.

A veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East, Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq.

A native New Yorker, he maintains residences in Toronto and New York, with frequent visits to Paris.


Personal Classics
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A menace grows from Bush’s Korean blind spot.
Far from being a model for a “liberated” Iraq, Afghanistan shows how the U.S. can get bogged down Soviet-style.