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 TeasersEric Margolis Blogview

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On my many walking visits to the vast Normandy battlefield in France, I kept recalling the ever so wise dictum of Prussia’s great monarch, Frederick the Great: ‘he who defends everything, defends nothing.’ On this 74th anniversary of the D-Day landings, it’s well worth recalling the old warrior-king.

Adolf Hitler, a veteran of the infantry, should certainly have known better. Defending the European coast from Brittany to Norway was an impossibility given Germany’s military and economic weakness in 1944. But he did not understand this. Having so brilliantly overcome France’s Maginot Line fortifications in 1940, Hitler and his High Command repeated the same strategic and tactical errors as the French only four years later: not having enough reserves to effectively counter-attack enemy breakthrough forces.

Germany’s vaunted Atlantic Wall looked formidable on paper, but it was too long, too thin, lacked defensive depth and was lacking in adequate reserve forces. The linear Maginot Line suffered the same failings. America’s fortifications protecting Manila and Britain’s ‘impregnable’ fortifications at Singapore also proved worthless. The Japanese merely marched into their undefended rears.

In 1940, the German Wehrmacht was modern history’s supreme fighting machine. But only four years later, the Wehrmacht was broken. Most Americans, British and Canadians believe that D-Day was the decisive stroke that ended WWII in Europe. But this is not true.

Germany’s mighty Wehrmacht, which included the Luftwaffe, was destroyed by Stalin’s Soviet Union. The Red Army claims to have destroyed 507 German divisions, 48,000 German tanks, 77,000 German aircraft, and 100 divisions of Axis troops allied to Germany from Italy, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Finland.

Few Americans have ever heard of the Soviet Far East offensive of 1945, a huge operation that extended from Central Asia to Manchuria and the Pacific. At least 450,000 Japanese soldiers were killed, wounded or captured by the Red Army, 32% of Japan’s total wartime military losses. The Soviets were poised to invade Japan when the US struck it with two nuclear weapons.

Of Germany’s 10 million casualties in WWII, 75% were inflicted by the Red Army. The once mighty Luftwaffe was decimated over Russia. Almost all German military production went to supplying the 1,600 km Eastern Front where Germany’s elite forces were ground up in titanic battles like Kursk and Stalingrad that involved millions of soldiers.

Soviet forces lost upwards of 20 million men. Total US losses, including the Pacific, were one million. To Marshal Stalin, D-Day, the North African and Italian campaign were merely diversionary side-shows to tie down Axis forces while the Red Army pushed on to Berlin.

D-Day was without doubt one of the greatest logistical feats of modern military history. Think of General Motors versus the German warrior Siegfried. For every US tank the Germans destroyed, ten more arrived. Each German tank was almost irreplaceable. Transporting over one million men and their heavy equipment across the Channel was a triumph. But who remembers that Germany crossed the heavily defended Rhine River into France in 1940?

By June, 1944, German forces at Normandy and along the entire Channel coast had almost no diesel fuel or gasoline. Their tanks and trucks were immobilized. Allied air power shot up everything that moved, including a staff car carrying Marshal Erwin Rommel strafed by Canada’s own gallant future aviator general, Richard Rohmer. German units in Normandy were below 40% combat effectiveness even without their shortages in fuel.

The Germans in France were also very short of ammunition, supplies and communications. Units could only move by night, and then very slowly. Hitler was reluctant to release armored forces from his reserves. Massive Allied bombing of Normandy alone killed 15,000 to 20,000 French civilians and shattered many cities and towns.

Churchill once said, ‘you will never know war until you fight Germans.’ With no air cover or fuel and heavily outnumbered, German forces in Normandy managed to mount a stout resistance, inflicting 209,000 casualties on US, Canadian, British, Free French and allied forces. German losses were around 200,000.

The most important point of the great invasion is that without it, the Red Army would have reached Paris and the Channel Ports by the end of 1944, making Stalin the master of all Europe except Spain. Of course, the Allies could have reached a peace agreement with Germany in 1944, which Hitler was seeking and Gen. George Patton was rumored to be advocating. But the German-hating Churchill and left-leaning Roosevelt were too bloody-minded to consider a peace that would have kept Stalin out of at least some of Eastern Europe.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Russia, World War II 
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To date, 62 Palestinians have been shot dead in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli army and over 5,500 wounded by gunfire. Their crime: protesting the loss of their ancestral homes in the West Bank.

Here was an example of Gandhi-style passive resistance that failed. Israeli sniper teams just fired at will at the protesters, some of who were throwing rocks or firing sling shots. High concentration tear gas was dumped by drones on the demonstrators. Israel claimed it was killing ‘terrorists.’

The United States, Israel’s patron and financier, reveled in the move of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move seen by Bible Belt religious fundamentalists as a key step to the return of the Christian Messiah and Armageddon. The rest of us, Jews included, are fated to be burned alive. The American Republicans, who have become a far-right theocratic party, cheered this good news. The Trump administration, by now an extension of Israel’s hard right Likud Party, was cock-a-hoop.

There was no joy in Gaza. This miserable, squalid human garbage dump is a giant open-air prison packed with 2 million Palestinian refugees driven from the newly created state of Israel in 1948. Israel and its close ally Egypt keep Gaza bottled up on its land and sea borders. Palestinians are only allowed to fish along the shore. Coastal gas and oil reserves have been expropriated by Israel and Egypt.

Gaza’s two million people subsist on the edge of starvation. Israel openly boasts that it allows just enough food into the enclave to prevent outright starvation. Chemicals to treat water are banned. Electricity runs only a few hours daily because the power plant was bombed by Israel’s US-supplied air force. Hospitals have almost no medicines. In short, wartime conditions in the open-air prison. Even the wretched animals in Gaza zoo are starving.

The intensive punishment of Gaza, a crime under international law, began after its people voted in a free election for the Hamas movement over the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) which is more or less run by Israel and the United States. Israel helped found Hamas in 1987, but then sought, with the US, to destroy the organization, branding it ‘terrorist.’

Israel has extensively used US-supplied arms and money to fight Hamas in Gaza, a clear violation of the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 that bars the use of American weapons against civilian populations.

The question remains, where did all the Palestinians come from? Israel long claimed there were no such people, or a made-up nationality. This was a pretty rich claim coming from Israelis, many of whom hailed from Russia, Poland and Eastern Europe and who had assumed biblical identities and asserted a direct link to the Hebrews who had lived two thousand years earlier in the Levant.

When Israel was created by the US and UN (with Soviet support) in 1948, from 750,000 to one million native Palestinians were driven from their ancestral home at gunpoint or panicked to flight by massacres and ethnic cleansing. Their villages were bulldozed.

When Israel conquered and annexed the West Bank and the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967, another 500,000 Palestinians were made refugees. Some 50,000-250,000 Syrians were driven by Israel from the strategic Golan Heights. Bedouins were driven from Israel’s Negev Desert.

By our era, the number of homeless Palestinians has grown to 5 million refugees helped by the UN and at least another million scattered about the Mideast. The actual number could reach as high as 8-9 million thanks to the Palestinian’s high birth rate and strong family values.

Half of Jordan’s people are Palestinian refugees. Kuwait had 400,000 Palestinians until they were expelled in 1990-1991 after their leader, Yasser Arafat, foolishly backed claims by Saddam Hussein that he was occupying Kuwait in order to trade it for a Palestinian state. This was the biggest Palestinian expulsion since 1948. Egypt’s brutal dictator, Gen. al-Sisi, is now the biggest persecutor of Palestinians after Israel, keeping them locked away in the Gaza prison.

The Arab states have done very little for the Palestinians save slogans and hot air. The Saudis are now in cahoots with Israel to repress the Palestinians lest they spread modern secular ideas in the medieval Mideast. Interestingly, some of the most extreme Palestinians, like George Habash, were Arab Christians. Palestinians remain some of the best educated and most commercial of the Mideast’s peoples. For a long while they ran most of the Gulf Emirates until replaced by Indians.

‘Sand in the eye of the Mideast’ is what I called this oppressed people without a home. Their plight could be greatly eased by the creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank. But this would interfere with plans for Israel’s right-wing government for planned expansion. So, the future for Palestinians is bleak.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Israel, Israel/Palestine 
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It’s got to be either one of the stupidest acts that I can recall or a very wicked plan by Washington neocons to sabotage Korean peace talks.
How else to describe the decision by Big Brother USA and junior sidekick South Korea to stage major air force exercises on North Korea’s border. The prickly North Koreans had a fit, of course, as always when the US flexes its muscles on their borders. Continuing South and North Korean peace talks scheduled this week were cancelled by the furious North Koreans. The much ballyhooed Singapore summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is now threatened with cancellation or delay.
Who can blame the North Koreans for blowing their tops? As Trump administration mouthpieces were gabbing about peace and light, the US Air Force was getting ready to fly B-52 heavy bombers and F-22 Raptor stealth fighters around North Korea’s borders and missile-armed subs lurked at sea.
This provocation was the first of two major spring military exercises planned by the US and its reluctant South Korean satrap. In case North Korea failed to get the message, the second exercise is code-named ‘Maximum Thunder.’
And this right after Trump and his neocon minions reneged on the sensible nuclear treaty with Iran. In a policy one could call ‘eat sand and die,’ Trump demanded that Iran not only give up any and all nuclear capacity (Iran has no nukes), but also junk its non-nuclear armed medium range missiles, stop backing the Palestinians, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen, roll over and be good, don’t do anything to upset Israel, and pull out of Syria. In short, a total surrender policy leading to future regime change. Hardly an encouragement for North Korea.
North Korea was right on target when it accused arch-neocon John Bolton of trying to sabotage the peace deal. In 2005-2006, Bolton served as the Bush administration’s ambassador to the UN. He established a tradition for the post of being anti-Muslim, pro-Israel and anti-Russian, a policy continued to this day by the current US UN rep, loud-mouthed neocon Nikki Haley.
In the 2005-2006 period, after years of negotiations, the US and North Korea were close to a nuclear/peace deal.
Enter John Bolton. He succeeded in sabotaging the US-North Korea deal. Why? Because Bolton, as an arch neocon, was fanatically pro-Israel and feared that North Korea might provide nuclear technology to Israel’s foes. As usual with the neocons, Israel’s interests came before those of the United States. Trump’s newly named Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, is also an ardent neocon.
Last week, Bolton went onto US TV and actually suggested North Korea might follow the course set by Libya, of all places. Libya’s then ruler, Muammar Kadaffi, bought some nuclear equipment from Pakistan so he could hand it over to the US as a gesture of cooperation after the Bush administration invaded Iraq. The handover was done with much fanfare, then the US, France and Britain attacked Libya and overthrew Kadaffi. The hapless Libyan leader was eventually murdered by French agents.
Is this what Bolton has in mind for North Korea? The Northerners certainly seemed to think so. Some wondered if Bolton and perhaps Pompeo were trying to sabotage the North Korea deal. Or were at least being incredibly obtuse and belligerent. Was Trump involved in this intrigue? Hard to tell. But he can’t be happy. His minions and bootlickers are promoting Trump for the Nobel Prize – rather ahead of events.
Or was the US military rattling its sabers and trying to protect its huge investments in North Asia? The Pentagon takes a dim view of the proposed Korean nuclear accords. The burst of sweetness and light coming from Pyongyang just sounds too good to be true.
Veteran Korea observers, this writer included, find it hard to believe Kim Jong-un will give up his nuclear weapons, particularly after seeing Trump’s deceit in dealing with Iran and Kadaffi’s murder.
Speaking of de-nuclearization, why does North Korea not demand that the US get rid of its nuclear weapons based in South Korea, Okinawa, Guam and with the 7th Fleet? Many are targeted on North Korea. US nuclear weapons are based on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Others are secretly based in Japan.
Why not demand the US pull out all its 28,500 troops in South Korea and some 2,000 military technicians at air bases? Conclusively halt those spring and fall military maneuvers that raise the threat of war. End the trade embargo of North Korea that amounts to high level economic warfare. Establish normal diplomatic relations.
Pyongyang has not even begun to raise these issues. Smiles and hugs are premature.
 
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Israel launched waves of air attacks and ground shelling on a score of alleged Iranian military positions in Syria this week. Was this a big step forward in the plan by Israel’s leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his ally Donald Trump to provoke a major war with Iran?

It certainly looks so. The US, Saudi Arabia and Israel all recently suffered a stinging defeat in Syria. Their campaign to overthrow the Assad government in Damascus by using the rag-tag ISIS movement, then Sunni Muslim jihadist wild men, was defeated by the Syrian Army, backed by Russian air power, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and some Iranian militia groups and army advisors.

Israel now claims to have wiped out more than a score of Iranian positions in Syria. As far as we can tell, these were minor logistics or communications facilities, not the backbone of a supposed Iranian offensive against Israel.

In fact, the alleged Iranian rocket barrage was directed at the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights that were illegally annexed and occupied after the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and are still held, legally, as part of Syria. Israel is very nervous about having world attention drawn to its continued occupation of the strategic Golan Heights from which Israeli heavy artillery can reach Damascus.

But now that the Trump administration has fallen fully under the influence of the pro-war neocons, an attempt to overthrow the Iranian government appears highly likely, using both military intervention and intensified economic warfare.

Iran has been under siege by the US since the American/British installed shah was overthrown by a popular revolution in 1979. The CIA and Britain’s MI6 have mounted numerous attempts to oust the Islamic Republic and re-install a client ruler.

Ironically, the ‘democratic’ western powers – the US, Britain and France – rely on medieval monarchs and dictators to control the Mideast while democratic politicians and movements are ignored. Iran, in spite of its many rigidities and failings, remains one of the region’s more democratic states. Ask our Saudi or Kuwaiti allies when was the last time they held a real election?

The failure of western intelligence services to provoke serious uprisings in Iran (or Russia), means that the military option is increasingly tempting. This probably means provoking military clashes with Iran in the Gulf leading to full-scale attacks on its nuclear infrastructure and industry. US warplanes and warships are actively probing Iran’s borders. In addition, US forces are getting ever more deeply involved in the Yemen War.

When the US last considered a major attack on Iran during the Bush years, the Pentagon (which opposed the idea) estimated it would need 2,800 air strikes against Iran on Day One alone.

Many of the same war party crowd that engineered the 2003 US invasion of Iraq are now running the Trump administration. Their goal is to cripple Iran and leave the Mideast to joint Saudi-Egyptian-Israeli control.

Recall President George W. Bush’s assertion that once he had crushed Iraq the next targets of US military intervention would be Lebanon, Syria, Iran and then Pakistan.

Invading Iran would not be easy. Iran has very little capability to project power beyond its borders. Its air force, artillery and tanks are decrepit. America controls the skies from Morocco to Afghanistan. Iran is vulnerable to raids and small incursions but subjugating this large, mountainous nation of 80 million would be very difficult.

In fact, and Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander once told me, ‘let the Americans invade. They will break their teeth on Iran.’ Over-confidence, of course, but he had a point. Fighting on the defensive in urban areas, Iran could offer fierce resistance.

America’s imperial machine, like its British Imperial predecessor, likes small, easy wars against small, backwards nations. Iran would be very different.

As we have just seen with North Korea, Iran’s best survival strategy, short of security guarantees by Russia and China, would be to race to produce a small number of nuclear weapons to deter attacks by the US and Israel. Europe, which co-sponsored the Iran nuclear act and is now humiliated by Trump reneging on the deal, is too weak and disorganized to guarantee the pact and stand up to Washington. This is too bad. Now would have been a fine time for the EU to assert its independence from US hegemony and begin building its own independent European military forces.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Donald Trump, Iran, Israel, Neocons 
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‘Chutzpah’ is a wonderful Yiddish word that means outrageous nerve, or unmitigated gall.

This week’s Chutzpah Award goes to Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Standing in front of props of data files and cd’s, Netanyahu claimed Israel’s renowned Mossad spy agency had stolen a small mountain of secret Iranian nuclear data from a warehouse in Tehran.

The never-understated Netanyahu claimed that the purloined material proved that Iran was lying about having halted its covert nuclear program and must not be trusted.

Netanyahu’s supposed nuclear bombshell was likely the warm-up act for President Donald Trump to reject Iran’s nuclear freeze deal with the US, Russia, China, Germany, and France, blessed by the UN and the European Union. The only thing Trump apparently hates more than Muslims is his predecessor, former President Barack Obama (whom he accused of being a secret Muslim). The Iran nuclear deal was the most important foreign policy accomplishment of the Obama administration.

Netanyahu repeatedly warned the world about Iran’s alleged nuclear arsenal while making no mention at all of Israel’s own large, secret nuclear arsenal, which is believed to comprise of over 100 warheads, perhaps even several hundred, that can be delivered by aircraft, missiles and submarines. Every Mideast nation can be hit by Israeli nukes as well as Russia, which some experts say is or was on Israel’s target list.

Trump, of course, made no mention of the awkward fact that Israel had stolen much of its nuclear technology and uranium from the United States, sometimes with the connivance of very senior US government officials. France, that paragon of world peace, had the rest.

Listening to Netanyahu accuse Iran of hiding secret nuclear facilities was pure pot calling the kettle black. Israel’s early nuclear program at Dimona in the Negev desert was entirely concealed from US and UN inspectors, including fake walls in the nuclear complex that completely fooled them. When Netanyahu accused Iran of cheating, he knows of what he speaks.

Most of what Netanyahu ‘revealed’ about Iran’s alleged nuclear program was old stuff, dating back to 1999-2003 and readily available in reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency. This respected UN agency now reports that Iran has fulfilled all of its commitments and abandoned its earlier nuclear program that did not produce any weapons before it was ended.

But facts don’t matter in this Trump-produced, made-for-TV drama. The key point is that with the naming of Michael Pompeo as US Secretary of State, and appointment of the rightwing fanatic John Bolton as US national security advisor, Israel’s rightwing government has completed its virtual takeover of US Mideast policy. As I’ve previously written, Trump looks more and more like a Trojan Horse for Netanyahu and his extremist allies.

Besides Pompeo and VP Mike Pence, both ardent Christian Zionists, and Bolton, Trump now has around him the UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, of Indian origin, who is the darling of the US far right and a handmaiden of arch-pro Israel billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, a major bankroller of the Republican Party. Add in Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and, of course, Trump’s daughter and son-in-law. In short, an amen-chorus for Israel’s far right.

This American Israel-first coalition has joined Netanyahu’s Likud alliance in pressing for war against Iran. The first skirmishes have already begun with over 100 Israeli air attacks on Syria, ostensibly against Iranian positions. A great propaganda hue and cry against the purported dangers of Iran is being raised in the US and Europe. According to Israel’s right, Assyrian hordes are about to engulf Israel.

In reality, Iran has very little offensive power. Like Iraq before it, Iran is militarily dilapidated with 40-year old equipment, a largely grounded air force, little artillery and poor communications. Tehran has a few inaccurate missiles but no nuclear warheads.

Israel’s powerful air force could easily turn any attacking Iranian forces into chopped falafel. Iran’s only strength is defensive, in urban combat or mountainous terrain. Iran has no capability to seriously threaten Israel except by aiding the Lebanese Hezbollah movement in showering northern Israel with light artillery rockets, a nuisance rather than a mortal danger.

Israel is moving to repeat its triumph in 2003 when the Bush administration, US partisans of Israel, and dishonest US media pushed the nation into a war of pure aggression against Iraq. Israel emerged the victor from this unprovoked war and is trying to repeat its success again with Iran.

Overthrowing Iran’s Islamic Republic would leave Israel the unchallenged power in the Mideast.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Iran, Israel, Neocons 
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France likes to call itself America’s oldest and closest ally. Indeed, the American Revolution might never have succeeded without strong French military support.

However, France bankrupted itself supporting the American Revolution. This, in turn, helped ignite the French Revolution that cost poor King Louis XVI his head. The United States twice intervened in Europe’s wars to rescue France, amply repaying the debt. As US General ‘Blackjack’ Pershing nobly proclaimed on the arrival of US troops in France in World War I, ‘Lafayette, we are here.’

This past week, France’s new, young, president, Emmanuel Macron, came to Washington to give guidance to his American allies who are afflicted by farcical governance and chaos worthy of an unstable banana republic. He was greeted with fanfare by President Trump.

Diplomacy, like spring, is bursting out all over. In addition to Macron’s visit to Washington, mighty forces were at work in Asia. The meeting of Korea’s two leaders to discuss peace issues was a truly historic, even moving event that augers well for peace. Washington even played a positive role in this demarche.

India’s dynamic prime minister, Narendra Modi, met in Wuhan with China’s leader, Xi Jinping, in a very important effort to defuse rising border tensions between the two nuclear-armed giant Asian rivals.

Only the bleeding Mideast was left out of the spring peace offensive.

Europe was hoping that Macron might be able to use French Cartesian logic and traditional French diplomatic skills to talk some sense into the flailing Trump administration.

After delivering kisses and hugs, Macron then went before the US Congress and threw down the gauntlet. He told America’s legislators tough truths they were not used to hearing in the Trump era. Namely: that the right’s political and economic nationalism is stupid and toxic; that Trump must stick to the nuclear treaty with Iran or possibly face a new Mideast war; that it’s essential for the US to join the Paris climate accord; and that the US must resume its role of multilateral world engagement.

Here was Europe – and much of Asia – telling Trump to stop acting like a petulant, amateur monarch and start acting like the president of the United States.

Macron also had other important objectives. His dramatic visit to Washington was designed to stake out his new role as Europe’s political and diplomatic leader, a traditional French conceit.

Macron’s timing was excellent. Britain, historically the counter-balance to French power, is off sulking in pre-Brexit confusion. London’s voice goes almost unheard. Most Europeans expect Britain to end up even more a forward base for US strategic power than it already is.

Europe’s other powerhouse, Germany, is also depressed and introspective. Its leader, Angela Merkel, arrived in Washington right after Monsieur and Madame Macron. The Macrons got a fancy state dinner, Merkel got little better than microwaved leftovers. The air has gone out of the Angel Merkel balloon. She looks tired, confused and demoralized.

Germans are moving to the right because they want new, younger leaders who are not so obviously under Washington’s thumb. They want to end the national guilt complex over WWII and become a normal, independent nation.

Voila! This leaves the youthful, dynamic Macron as Europe’s unchallenged leader. France, to steal a Trump slogan, will be great again. He will also spend more energy reforming France’s ailing economy, which shows signs of renewed vitality in spite of bitter labor strife, and re-ordering France’s post-colonial interests in Syria and Lebanon (the Levant), and the immensity of what was once – and largely still is – French West Africa.

The leaden spirit of what French called ‘la morosité’ that provoked a national depression may be drifting away. French are by nature either up or down. Under former president Francois Holland they were definitely down in the dumps. Macron now offers that prospect of highly intelligent, revitalizing leadership.

That is, at least until the abrasive nature of French politics, labor wars, and financial hanky panky derail his meteoric rise. No one yet understands where Macron came from or who is really behind him. The French Rothschilds, for whom Macron used to work as a banker, are the most obvious suspects. But we don’t really know for sure.

Think of another ‘stupor mundi’ President Barack Obama who, like Macron, emerged out of deep obscurity to amaze Americans and the world. Now, it’s France’s turn for another star, debut performance.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: France 
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Butcher of Damascus. Gasser of children. Baby Killer of Syria. Tool of Moscow. Cruel despot. Monster.

These are all names the western media and politicians routinely heap on Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. He has now become the top Mideast villain, the man we love to hate.

As a veteran Mideast watcher, I find all this hard to swallow. Compared to other brutal Mideast leaders, Assad is pretty weak tea. The US/British propaganda effort to paint Assad in blackest colors is having a difficult time.

Mideast leaders who toe the US line and make nice to Israel are invariably called ‘statesmen’ or ‘president’ by the American government and its increasingly tame media. There’s good old President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt, the military dictator who crushed that nation’s only democracy and imposed an iron-fisted rule. But we will never hear from the US media of Egypt’s political murders, disappearances, secret prisons and torture. Or that Egypt has been one of the world’s most draconian police states since the era of Anwar Sadat and successor Hosni Mubarak.

Saudi rulers are reverently treated by the US media and government in spite of leading the world in executions. Last year, 44 people were publicly beheaded. In some years, around 150 people have been beheaded in Saudi Arabia, often a quarter of them Pakistani guest workers. Having been arrested by the Saudi religious police, I can tell you that the kingdom is a police state with sand dunes and camels. Saudi vassal states Bahrain and the Emirates are better, but not much.

Morocco, a key US ally, is notorious for its ghastly prisons and brutal torture. Iraq and Afghanistan, now under US control, are even worse. Israel, the largest recipient of US aid, holds close to 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners, among them 400 children, and is gunning down Palestinian demonstrators on the Gaza border.

Syria has always been a repressive police state. I recall watching ‘spies’ being hanged in front of my hotel. Its various police forces are notorious for brutality and torture. In fact, until recently, the US actually sent captive suspects to Syria to be tortured and jailed.

That was before Washington made the decision to overthrow Syria’s legitimate government (‘regime’ in DC talk) as the first step in attacking Iran.

But Damascus was no worse a human rights abuser than Cairo, Amman, Rabat and Riyadh, all US vassals.

While looking at the current western hate campaigns against Syria and Iran, keep in mind the history of the modern Mideast. We are again seeing the 1914 era lies from London about Belgian babies speared on German bayonets.

Any Arab or Iranian leader who sought an independent policy or refused the tutelage of London and then Washington was delegitimized, excoriated, and demonized. Remember the Iranian leader Mohammed Mossadegh overthrown in a CIA coup? The renowned Egyptian leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, whom the British branded ‘Hitler on the Nile?’ Or the late, murdered Libyan Muammar Khadaffi, called ‘Mad Dog of the Mideast’ by President Ronald Reagan? Imam Khomeini of Iran and President Ahmadinejad, both favored targets of western media invective, and both compared to the much overused Hitler. Saddam Hussein, the ‘Butcher of Baghdad,’ and that modern Dr Fu Manchu, Osama bin Laden, the all-time favorite Muslim arch villain.

Of course, there’s nothing new in this nasty name-calling. During the Victorian Era, Britain’s press demonized arch villains like ‘the Mad Mullah,’ the Mahdi, the Fakir of Ipi, and Nana Sahib of the 1857 Indian uprising against British imperial rule.

Bashar al-Assad was a mild-mannered ophthalmologist living in London with his British-born wife. When his rash elder brother Basil was killed in a car crash, Bashar was compelled to return to Syria and become the nominal political leader after the death of his very tough, ruthless father, Hafez al-Assad. Bashar’s main role was mediating between powerful factions in Damascus and trying to modernize his nation.

In 2011, the US, Britain, Israel and Saudi Arabia ignited an uprising in Syria using often fanatical jihadists. The shy, retiring Bashar was forced to become war leader in a bloody civil conflict as his nation disintegrated.

President Trump, whose B-52 bombers are ravaging the Mideast, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen calls al-Assad a ‘monster.’ Some of his relatives are indeed ruthless. But very many Syrians think of Assad as their nation’s only hope of returning to normalcy.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Media, Syria 
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Behind President Donald Trump’s bluster and threats over Syria, powerful forces are pushing the US towards war with Russia and Syria: the neocons and the military industrial complex.

For a candidate who once proposed a normal relationship with Russia, just peace in the Mideast, and an end to America’s foreign wars Donald Trump is now hurtling towards a full-scale war with Russia and a new disaster in the Mideast. Not since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis has the danger of nuclear war seemed to close.

While Trump fulminates about the alleged use of toxic gas in Syria, US B-1 and B-52 heavy bombers are flattening villages in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

The bloodbath in Syria was ignited in 2011 by the US, Saudi Arabia and their allies in an effort to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who was failing to accept US tutelage and too friendly with Iran. By my count, this was the third attempt by Washington to overthrow a Syrian government since 1948.

Believe very little of what we are told about Syria. Trump threatens to again attack Syria because it is alleged to have used chlorine gas on anti-government defenders and civilians in the Ghouta enclave near Damascus. This may be true – or a fabrication.

Much of our information on Syria comes from ‘false flag’ outfits set up by western intelligence like the ‘White Helmets’ and ‘Syrian Observatory,’ Britain’s once independent BBC, now a major organ for government information warfare, and the majority of US government ‘guided’ mainstream media hankering for a Mideast war.

Interestingly, the reliable Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz just reported that Ronald Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress, donated $1.1 million to a rabid American anti-Muslim group during the 2016 elections.

Lauder was joined by Robert Mercer, another leading far right Muslim-hater and Trump supporter. Such religious/racial hatred will likely blow up in their faces one day when the anti-Muslim far right turns on Jewish Americans.

Israel’s government plans to fragment Syria, just as was done with Iraq. This would eliminate the only remaining credible Arab state opposing Israel’s domination of the region and, equally important, allow Israel to begin expropriating chunks of Syria, notably water sources and pipeline routes.

Britain is trying to show the old lion still has some teeth. France used to be colonial ruler of today’s Syria and wants to reassert its influence there.

The timing for Israel is ideal. Trump may have been a Trojan Horse for US neocons. He has named ardently pro-Israel figures to senior posts: the loathsome Nikki Haley to the UN; the well-known ‘crazy’ from Bush days, John Bolton, as National Security Advisor; the notorious torturer madame, Gina Haspel, as new CIA chief and so on and nominated tea-party Mike Pompeo from darkest Kansas as Secretary of State of all people. The State Dept. has been quietly purged of ‘Arabist’ experts who understood the Mideast. The Christian fundamentalist machine that provided Trump his support base is running white hot promoting modern-day Crusader passions and hatred of Muslims. Nice bedfellows for Ron Lauder.

With this potent neocon amen chorus now singing at high volume, Trump, who evaded military service during the Vietnam War (when this writer was in US uniform), now thinks he can bully Russia into crying uncle and backing down in Syria, leaving it to the US and Israel.

He has misread President Vladimir Putin who is hard as steel but also very clever and deft. Trump is violating the most important rule of US diplomacy: never, ever get into a confrontation with a nuclear-armed power. Russia, which lost 30 million dead in World War II will not be lightly bullied into retreat. The Russians know if they back down over Syria, the US will then proceed to its ultimate objective, dismantling the Russian Federation and turning it into a client state. This almost happened under the drunken Yeltsin and is why Putin came to power.

Let’s hope Gen. Jim Mattis and the US military will deter Trump from more war-mongering. Trump is a child playing with nuclear matches. Putin may even help Trump find a way out of this game of nuclear chicken, as he did with President Obama. That is, provided the neocons clustered around him don’t manage to trigger a war with Russia.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2018

 
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There was something refreshing about watching former French president Nicholas Sarkozy being interrogated in a French jail. Particularly since he may soon be accused of conspiracy in the murder of my old friend, Col. Muammar Khadaffi of Libya.

Sarkozy and his former chief of staff, Claude Guéant, are being investigated for secretly accepting at least fifty million Euros from Khadaffi for his 2007 electoral campaign. Such a payment violated France’s maximum permissible limit for political donation, not to mention a ban on foreign financing of candidates and failure to report the payments. Sarko also faces investigation over secret payments from the Gulf oil states.

French political candidates often have to wade through the sewers to finance their campaigns because spending limits were set relatively low to prevent big money from buying the elections, as in the United States.

These charges against Khadaffi and Guéant have been percolating for years with only a muted response. Sarkozy also got into hot water after he was accused of bilking large sums of cash from a senile heiress to France’s L’Oréal cosmetics company.

But three years ago, a French-Lebanese businessman told the French investigative site Mediapart that he had given suitcases with 5 million Euros (US $6.2 million) to Guéant. The former chief of staff would later claim the cash was payment for a painting he had sold to the shady Lebanese. Of course it was!

In 2007, Sarkozy became president of France. At the time, he and Khadaffi appeared to be best of friends. The Libyan leader made a gala visit to Paris, pitched his Bedouin tent on the grounds of the presidential palace and received the lavish official welcome that the French do so well.

France was interested in Libya’s high quality oil and using Libya as a beachhead for expanding Paris’ former influence in North Africa. France and Libya secretly colluded to fight Islamist rebels in the region who were battling French-installed puppet rulers in West and Central Africa.

But then Sarkozy turned sharply against the Khadaffi regime and joined US and British efforts to overthrow it. This was not the first time. Former French president, François Mitterrand, ordered his intelligence chief, Count de Marenches, to destroy Khadaffi’s personal jet with an altitude-fused bomb. Marenches told me the bomb was secreted aboard the plane, then removed when relations with Tripoli improved.

British intelligence, MI6, also tried to assassinate Khadaffi by means of a car bomb in Benghazi, Libya, but failed, though many civilians were killed.

Sarkozy eventually heeded demands from Hillary Clinton, then US Secretary of State, to launch a war against ostensible ally, Khadaffi, and seize his oil riches.

Warplanes and special forces from the US, France and Britain joined in a sustained attack on Libya, which was cynically misrepresented as a humanitarian rescue mission. French aircraft strafed Khadaffi’s convoy. French special forces and Libyan mercenaries caught Khadaffi, tortured him with a knife, then shot him dead.

Khadaffi had made the fatal mistake of telling his eldest son, Saif al-Islam, and senior officials about his secret payment to Sarkozy. When word leaked out from Saif, Sarkozy quickly ordered the attack on Libya. Dead men tell no tales. French intelligence is very skilled at rubbing out foes and nuisances.

My surmise is that French justice will find some tenuous link between Sarkozy and Khadaffi’s murder, but no hard proof Sarko was directly involved. If George W. Bush and Dick Cheney could get away Scott free after killing over one million Iraqi civilians in a trumped-up war, why prosecute Sarko for this minor ‘contretemps?’

 
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What damned cheek to murder a Russian defector and his daughter in the sleepy town of Salisbury! Britain, the US, Germany and Canada are all blasting Russia for this dastardly act that was apparently committed using a new nerve agent allegedly made in Russia known to the media as ‘Novichok.’

The victims of the attack, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, are now under intensive care in the hospital and said to be in grave condition. Britain’s embattled Prime Minister, Theresa May, accused Russia of staging an act of war against Britain and vows revenge. Without yet producing any solid proof.

The Salisbury attack has sharply boosted May’s fortunes and her standing with voters. Before the incident, she was sinking in the post-Brexit storm and facing a Tory rebellion.

But moral outrage won’t buy you lunch. Serious observers must begin asking the obvious question, ‘if the wicked Vlad Putin ordered this crime, why?’ A week before Russia’s national elections? At a time when Russia is being badly hurt by US-imposed trade and financial sanctions?

The toxic substance used – if we are to believe the Brits – was reportedly only made in Russia for military use. Russia, by the way, is in the process of destroying its chemical weapons. Why would Russia use an easily-identified, signature weapon instead of bullets, an untraceable lethal spray (ask the CIA about these) or a seeming accident? Why a deadly toxin when a jab in the neck with a needle would do just as well?

To me, a veteran intelligence watcher and the only journalist shown the KGB’s collection of spycraft, I suspect the attack on the Skripals was more likely done by rogue Russian intelligence agents or by an old-boys network of revenge-seeking retired KGB agents. Maybe even to embarrass President Putin on election eve.

Skripal was no innocent lamb. He had secretly worked for British intelligence MI6, betraying fellow Soviet agents, for years across Europe for money. He was given refuge in Britain after the Cold War. There is nothing lower in the intelligence game than an agent who betrays for money – a Judas with his 30 pieces of silver.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, according to the old saying. KGB’s predecessors used to field a special unit called ‘Death to Spies,’ better known as ‘Smersh’ to liquidate traitors and turncoats. Readers of James Bond books will recognize Smersh. Moscow supposedly disbanded this outfit and its poison laboratories at the end of the Cold War. But my information is that it still exists, either officially or under cover.

Former KGB men are in high positions in Moscow. It’s my belief that it was the KGB that overthrew Boris Yeltsin and installed one of its agents, Vladimir Putin, in power. In 1988, I was told this would happen by KGB’s two most senior officials at its Lubyanka headquarters in Moscow.

There are also large numbers of retired ‘hard men’ of the KGB, or ‘siloviki,’ playing chess and missing the good old Soviet days. I have little doubt that an informal group of them could have acquired toxic agents from the old KGB Moscow poison lab, the notorious ‘Kamera’, as may have occurred in the 2006 poisoning in London of Russian defector, FSB intelligence agent Alexander Livinenko. He was also working for British intelligence and a bitter foe of Vladimir Putin.

London has long been a center for foes of Russia’s government. At KGB HQ I saw possessions belonging to ‘Ace of Spies’ Sydney Reilly dating from the 1920’s when British agent Reilly tried to overthrow the new Soviet government. British intelligence and Russia/Soviet Union were the most bitter of enemies. Moscow called London ‘a nest of spies’ – which, of course, it is. But no longer a haven of security for Russian defectors.

Britain’s current moral outrage over the attempted murder should be tempered by its own sinister record of assassinations, extrajudicial killings and skullduggery.

British bombs bought by Saudi Arabia are now blasting Yemen, killing thousands. The full story of Secret Air Service (SAS) lethal operations in Yemen and Oman remain to be told. People who live in glass houses…

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Britain, Russia 
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.


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