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 TeasersEric Margolis Blogview

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The so-called Islamic State organization was primarily a bogeyman encouraged by the western powers. I’ve been saying this for the last four years.

I asserted, as a former soldier and war correspondent, that IS would collapse like a wet paper bag if proper western ground forces attacked their strongholds in Syria and Iraq. This week, the western powers and their local satraps finally took action and stormed the last IS stronghold at Raqqa. To no surprise, IS put up almost no resistance and ran for its miserable life.

The much-dreaded IS was never more than a bunch of young hooligans and religious fanatics who were as militarily effective as the medieval Children’s Crusade.

In the west, IS was blown up by media and governments into a giant monster that was coming to cut the throats of honest folk in the suburbs.

IS did stage some very bloody and grisly attacks – that’s what put it on the map. But none of them posed any mortal threat or really endangered our national security. In fact, the primary target of IS attacks has been Shia Muslims in the Mideast.

Many of the IS attacks in North America and Europe were done by mentally deranged individuals or were initiated by under-cover government provocateurs, such as the 1993 bombing of New York’s World Trade Center. IS was notorious for falsely taking credit for attacks it did not commit.

Other ‘lone wolf’ attacks were made by Mideasterners driven to revenge after watching the destruction by the US and its allies of substantial parts of their region. Think Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, parts of Pakistan, and the murderous brutality of Egypt’s-US backed regime.

IS appears to have been shaped by western intelligence in an effort to duplicate its success with the Afghan mujahidin in the mid 1980’s that helped defeat the Soviet Union. CIA, Pakistani and Saudi intelligence, and Britain’s MI-6 recruited some 100,000 volunteers from across the Muslim world to wage jihad in Afghanistan. I observed this brilliant success first hand from the ranks of the mujahidin.

The western powers, led by the US, sought to emulate this success in Syria by unleashing armies of mercenaries, disaffected, unemployed youth, and religious primitives against the independent-minded regime of President Bashar Assad. The plan nearly worked – at least until Russia, Iran, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement intervened and reversed the tide of battle.

The canard promoted in the west that IS was a dire military threat was always a big joke. I said so on one TV program and was promptly banned from the station. I’m also the miscreant who insisted that Iraq never had weapons of mass destruction and was consequently blacklisted by a major cable TV news network.

The CIA cobbled together two small armies, one of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, and the other of Iraqi mercenaries. Both were directed, armed, equipped and financed by Washington. Shades of the British Empire’s native troops under white officers. The Kurds and Iraqi Arabs are now in a major confrontation over the Kirkuk oil-rich region.

Raqqa and Mosul were so close to western forces that they were merely a taxi ride away. But it took three years and much token bombing of the desert before a decisive move was made against IS. Once the US-led campaign against Damascus failed, the crazies of IS were no longer of any use so they were marked for death.

Like Fallujah in Iraq and Mosul, Raqqa was flattened by US air power, a stark message to those who would defy the American Raj. The ruins of Raqqa, the IS capital, were occupied by US-led forces. This historic déjà vu recalled the dramatic defeat by British Imperial forces at Omdurman in September 1898 of Sudan’s Khalifa and his Islamic dervish army.

The remnants of IS had melted into the Euphrates Valley and the desert. They will now return to being an irksome guerilla group with very little combat power. Anti-western IS supporters still cluster in Europe’s urban ghettos and will cause occasional mayhem. A few high-profile attacks on civilians may be expected to show that IS is still alive. But none of this is likely to influence the course of events. IS’s rival, al-Qaida, is likely to resurface and lead attacks to drive the west out of the Mideast.

The Islamic State bogeyman was very useful for the western powers. It justified deeper military involvement in the Mideast, higher arms budgets, scared people into voting for rightwing parties, and gave police more powers. By contrast, these faux Muslims brought misery, fear and shame on the Islamic world. We are very well rid of them. And it’s about time.

(Republished from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Media, ISIS, Syria 
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President Donald Trump has put the United States on the course for war with Iran. That was clearly his objective last Friday when he refused to certify the international nuclear accord with Iran and proclaimed heavy sanctions against Tehran’s powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Trump’s move was also a clever ploy to deflect blame for abrogating the key 2015 Iran nuclear treaty that the US signed with Iran, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union.

Accusing Iran of ‘terrorism’ and ‘violating the spirit of the accord,’ Trump threw the Iran issue into the hands of the Republican-dominated US Congress. He had to. All of Trump’s senior national security officials and those from the treaty partners and UN reported that Iran had kept its end of the deal.

So Trump trotted out the old song and dance about terrorism – which means anything Uncle Sam does not like. The same United States that supports the murderous Islamic State and its allies in Syria and Iraq.

There won’t be much doubt about how Congress handles this hot potato. The leading senators and congressmen who will deal with the issue, like Bob Corker, Tom Cotton, and Marco Rubio, are all firmly in the pocket of pro-Israel lobbies.

The US vociferous ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, is almost a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Las Vegas gambling mogul and uber Zionist billionaire, Sheldon Adelson – who is also a key financial backer of Trump and Netanyahu.

In fact, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have more influence on Capitol Hill than President Trump. He used to show it off by humiliating former president Barack Obama.

Israel has just scored a major triumph by using Trump to sabotage the Iran nuclear pact. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long been adamant in insisting that the pact be scrapped. Having pushed the US to destroy its old foes, Iraq and Syria, Israel now has its big guns trained on Iran, the last regional power that can challenge Israel’s domination of the Mideast. Iran, we should remember, is also the only important Mideast power backing the Palestinians and calling for a Palestinian state.

Trump is surrounded by a coterie of ardently pro-Israel advisors and cronies aligned to that nation’s far right wing. So far to the right, in fact, that their Israeli opponents often call them ‘fascists.’ Trump, with this Mussolini complex, fits right into this mind-set.

In addition, Trump’s virulent hatred of Islam and his deep support from America’s evangelicals fuels his antipathy to Iran. The Israeli lobby and so-called Christian Zionists that make up his electoral base are beating the war drums against Iran.

If the Iran nuclear deal is abrogated, America will have shot itself in the foot and shown the world it has fallen under the control of special interests for whom America’s national interests do not come first. Europe, already disgusted by the Trump carnival in Washington and its religious supporters, will pull further away from the US and closer to Russia and China. Who would trust America’s word after deal-break Trump?

Europe has lately signed billions in new trade accords with Iran, most notably and $18 billion deal with Airbus for the sale of commercial aircraft. Boeing wants to sell 80 aircraft to Iran worth $16 billion. Thus Trump’s jihad against Iran will likely deny high-paid jobs to tens of thousands of American workers. This from the president who was going to create jobs, jobs, jobs.

Iran handed over ten tons of medium-enriched uranium as part of the nuclear deal. Will Tehran get this trove back if Congress scuppers the Iran deal? Doubtful. Iran destroyed many of its uranium centrifuges as part of the deal. Can it sue Washington for breach of contract?

Meanwhile, the US heads towards some sort of military conflict with Iran at a time when it may go to war any day with North Korea. Trump, who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War due to a trivial foot problem, is now clearly thrilled by all his new military toys. Many of Trump’s close advisors fear Trump will trigger a nuclear war. It may be time for his top officials to step in and take away the president’s nuclear launch codes.

Israel is determined to destroy Iran so that it can never pose a military or political challenge to the Jewish state. Call it Iraq II. This means turning Iran’s nuclear industry and its civilian economy to ruins. And maybe even breaking up Iran – as was done with Iraq – into Iranian, Azeri and Kurdish mini-states.

Rome’s famous statesman Cato the Elder used to end every speech with ‘Carthago Delenda Est’ – (Carthage, bitter rival and enemy of Rome, must be destroyed.’) Now, it’s Iran’s turn.

(Republished from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Donald Trump, Iran, Neocons 
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‘Every people has the god-given right to mismanage their own affairs’

Margolis Law #3

 

I’ve always been a rebel, revolutionary, iconoclast and all-around bad boy. Naturally, I have sympathy for most revolutionary movements.

The problem is, many revolutions don’t make political or economic sense, but they do make one feel good – at least for a while. Revolution is the natural habitat of the young.

So the growing revolutionary fervor in Spain’s Catalonia region finds much sympathy, even fascination, with this writer. I’ve been going to Barcelona, capital of Catalonia region, since I was a teenager in the Franco era. My late godfather, Count Ilyas Toptani, a soldier of fortune and noted horseman, married Spain’s eccentric Duchess of Valencia. I used to visit them at their medieval castle in Avila, and then go to Barcelona to recover.

Barcelona, Spain’s industrial powerhouse, has always remained one of my favorite cities along with New York, Paris, Rome, Istanbul and Tokyo. With its glorious Gothic quarter, beach fishing village of Barceloneta, gorgeous girls and wonderful food, Barcelona is unrivaled for fun and culture.

The 7.5 million Catalans have long been one of Spain’s feistiest peoples. With much of Spain’s industry and arts, many Catalans often look down on the rest of Spain, and regard the ultra-proud, snooty Castillians from the national capitol, Madrid, with unlove.

Spain seems from a distance a solid national entity but, in fact, it is a collection of provinces that often lack a sense of national unity and dislike their neighbors. Secessionist movements have flared for decades in the Basque region, other parts of Galicia, Catalonia, Valencia, Andalusia, and even the distant Canary Islands.

Most of these regions have distinct dialects. Catalonia uses both Castilian Spanish and the Catalan tongue which is part of the Provençal/Occitan/Gascon linguistic group. Until 1860, 39% of southern French spoke Occitan. The French rightwing leader Jean-Marie Le Pen told me his parents, simple fisher folk from Brittany, could only speak Breton, not French.

Interestingly, Catalan, which looked to be dying out, has made a lusty revival. I much like it because I can understand and read a lot of Catalan which is not too far from French. I’m ashamed to say I have an easier time with Catalan than formal Castilian Spanish.

I’ve watched for decades as the old languages of southern Europe – Gascon, Occitan, Provençal, Basque, Piedmontese, Romansche – have come again to life. As is often said, Spain, like Italy, is a group of languages in search of a national state.

Speaking of language, Britain’s great writer and guide to sane thought, George Orwell, wrote an entire book, ‘Homage to Catalonia’ about his experiences in the 1930’s with Barcelona’s ultra revolutionary Trotskyita/anarchist/anti-Stalinist/ Marxist party, the POUM.

Having slight anarchist tendencies myself, I’ve always been fascinated by the POUM which heroically battled Stalin’s grip over Spain’s so-called ‘Republicans’ during the bloody civil war. Stalin’s NKVD secret police eventually crushed the POUM but were, in turn, defeated by Gen. Francisco Franco’s rightwing nationalists. Spain was lucky to get Franco instead of Comrade Stalin.

The feisty Catalans are at it again. Last week, they staged a referendum on independence from Spain that the conservative government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy foolishly disrupted by sending busloads of national police from Madrid to beat Catalan protestors. This turned a political squabble over autonomy and sharing national payments into a major crisis that enflamed Catalan separatism. Even so, many Catalans are against independence.

Rajoy is an unloved right-winger who has often been accused of financial irregularities. Spain’s new king, Felipe VI, who is supposed to remain apolitical, joined the fray, denouncing the Catalan independence-seekers, thus bringing the wrath of the Catalans on his head. Felipe should have been mediating, not criticizing.

The national government in Madrid now threatens to block any further votes, dissolve the Catalan government, the Generalitat, and lock up many independence leaders. Doing so would be very dangerous. Spaniards are a courageous, hot-headed people who are not to be bullied. No one wants to even think again about the awful 1930’s civil war whose echoes still reverberate today.

I like the idea of an independent Catalonia. But what is it good for? Modern Catalonia is not an oppressed nation though its taxes are too high. Its biggest problem these days is being utterly swamped by armies of littering foreign tourists. It could stand on its own economically but to what benefit?

Catalan independence would surely enflame separatist movements in Canada, Scotland, Wales, France, eastern Europe, even Switzerland.

The French say, ‘the heart has reasons that reason does not understand.’ That’s the story with Catalan independence.

Catalans…cool down. Madrid, stop lording about and acting like an imperial capital. While you’re at it, ban primitive bull fighting (Barcelona did so). Why not move some important government ministries to Barcelona. Let the hot-headed Catalans blow off some steam.

Spain is a wonderful country. Por favor, don’t muck it up.

(Republished from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Catalonia 
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Much of America, including yours truly, has been watching the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) series, ‘Vietnam.’ Instead of clarifying that confusing conflict, the series has ignited fiery controversy and a lot of long-repressed anger by soft-soaping Washington’s motives.

This march to folly in Vietnam is particularly painful for me since I enlisted in the US army at the height of the war. Gripped by youthful patriotism, I strongly supported the war. In fact, the TV series even showed a pro-war march down New York’s Fifth Avenue that I had joined. Talk about déjà vu.

At the time, 1967, the Cold War was at full force. We really believed that if the US did not make a stand in Vietnam the Soviets and Chinese would overrun all of South Asia.

No one in Washington seemed to know that China and the Soviet Union had split and become bitter enemies. As ever, our foreign human intelligence was lousy. We didn’t understand that Vietnam deserved independence after a century of French colonialism. Or that what happened in Vietnam was of little importance to the rest of the world.

Three American presidents blundered into this war or prolonged it, then could not back out lest they lose face and risk humiliation. I don’t for a moment believe that the ‘saintly’ President John Kennedy planned to end the war but was assassinated by dark, rightwing forces, as is claimed. This is a charming legend. Richard Nixon, Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson all feared that a withdrawal from Vietnam would lose them the next election. Republicans were still snarling over ‘who lost China’.

The current 17-year old US war in Afghanistan has uncanny resemblances to the Vietnam War. In Kabul and Saigon, the US installed puppet governments that command no loyalty except from minority groups. They were steeped in drugs and corruption, and kept in power by intensive use of American air power. As in Vietnam, the US military and civilian effort in Afghanistan is led by a toxic mixture of deep ignorance and imperial arrogance.

The US military understands it has long ago lost the Afghan War but cannot bear the humiliation of admitting it was defeated by lightly-armed mountain tribesmen fighting for their independence. In Vietnam, Washington could not admit that young Vietnamese guerillas and regulars had bested the US armed forces thanks to their indomitable courage and intelligent tactics. No one outside Vietnam cared about the 2-3 million civilians killed in the conflict

Unfortunately, the PBS program fails to convey this imperial arrogance and the ignorance that impelled Washington into the war – the same foolhardy behavior that sent US forces into Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq and perhaps may do so in a second Korean War. The imperial spirit still burns hot in Washington among those who don’t know or understand the outside world. The lessons of all these past conflicts have been forgotten: Washington’s collective memory is only three years long.

Vietnam was not a ‘tragedy,’ as the PBS series asserts, but the product of imperial geopolitics. The same holds true for today’s Mideast wars. To paraphrase a famous slogan from Vietnam, we destroyed Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria to make them safe for ‘freedom.’

One of the craziest things about the Vietnam War has rarely been acknowledged: even at peak deployment, the 550,000 US soldiers in Vietnam were outnumbered by North Vietnamese fighting units.

That’s because the huge US military had only about 50,000 real combat troops in the field. The other half million were support troops performing logistical and administrative functions behind the lines: a vast army of typists, cooks, truck drivers, psychologists, and pizza-makers.

Too much tail to teeth, as the army calls it. For Thanksgiving, everyone got turkey dinner with cranberry sauce, choppered into the remotest outposts. But there were simply not enough riflemen to take on the Viet Cong and tough North Vietnamese Army whose Soviet M1954 130mm howitzer with a 27 km range were far superior to the US Army’s outdated WWII artillery.

Poor generalship, mediocre officers, and lack of discipline ensured that the US war effort in Vietnam would become and remain a mess. Stupid, pointless attacks against heavily defended hills inflicted huge casualties on US troops and eroded morale.

The monumentally stupid war mismanagement of Pentagon chief Robert McNamara, a know-it-all who knew nothing, turned the war into a macabre joke. This was the dumbest command decision since Louis XV put his girlfriend Madame de Pompadour in charge of his armies.

We soldiers, both in Vietnam and Stateside, scorned the war and mocked our officers. It didn’t help that much of the US force in ‘Nam’ were often stoned and rebellious.

The January 30, 1968 Tet Offensive put the kibosh on US plans to pursue the war – and even take it into south-west China. Tet was a military victory of sorts for the US (and why not, with thousands of warplanes and B-52 heavy bombers) but a huge political/psychological victory for the Communists in spite of their heavy losses.

I vividly recall standing with a group of GI’s reading a typed report on our company barracks advising that the Special Forces camp in the Central Highlands to which many of our company had been assigned for immediate duty had been overrun at Tet, and all its defenders killed. After that, the US Army’s motto was ‘stay alive, avoid combat, and smoke another reefer.’

The war became aimless and often surreal. We soldiers all knew our senior officers and political leaders were lying. Many soldiers were at the edge of mutiny, like the French Army in 1917. Back in those ancient days, we had expected our political leaders to be men of rectitude who told us the truth. Thanks to Vietnam, the politicians were exposed as liars and heartless cynics with no honor.

This same dark cloud hangs over our political landscape today. We have destroyed large parts of the Mideast, Afghanistan and northern Pakistan without a second thought – yet wonder why peoples from these ravaged nations hate us. Now, North Korea seems next.

Showing defiance to Washington brought B-52 bombers, toxic Agent Orange defoliants and endless storms of napalm and white phosphorus that would burn through one’s body until it hit bone.

In spite of all, our imperial impulse till throbs. The nightmare Vietnam War in which over 58,000 American soldiers died for nothing has been largely forgotten. So we can now repeat the same fatal errors again without shame, remorse or understanding.

(Republished from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: History • Tags: American Media, Vietnam War 
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NEW YORK – Not since Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev banged his fists and waved his shoe at the UN in 1960 has a world leader made such a spectacle of himself as President Donald Trump did this past week at the world organization.

Trump vowed to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea, a nation of 25 million, if it dared threaten the US or its allies. To do so, the US would have to use numerous nuclear weapons.

The president’s Genghis Khan behavior seemed to take no account that a US nuclear strike against North Korea would cause huge destruction to neighboring China, Japan and Russia – and pollute the globe. They could hardly be expected to applaud Trump’s final solution for pesky North Korea.

As leader of the world’s greatest power, President Trump was foolish to get into a schoolyard fracas with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Superpowers shouldn’t engage in such childish behavior. Trump’s claim that North Korea threatens the world is a reheated Bush-era lie used to whip up support for invading Iraq.

In a subsequent speech to African UN delegates, Trump comically referred to the nation of ‘Nambia’ instead of Namibia. Let’s hope Trump does not mix up the Koreas. While passing through Philadelphia last week I was reminded of its former flamboyant, tough-guy police chief Frank Rizzo. He famously welcomed a senior Nigerian official as the leader of ‘Niggeria.’

Interestingly, both ‘axis of evil’ jeremiads originated from two different neocon speech writers, both known to this writer.

Escalating tensions, North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, suggested that his nation might detonate a hydrogen bomb in the atmosphere above the Pacific Ocean.

Amidst all the trumped-up hysteria over North Korea, too few questions were asked about its ballistic missiles that have caused such an uproar.

First, the DPRK’s medium-range missiles, notably the 6,700km-range Hwasong and the 3,500 km-range Musudan are fueled by highly volatile liquid propellants. Fuelling them is often done outdoors for safety reasons. The dangerous, unstable chemical fuels have a tendency to spontaneously explode. Early US ballistic missiles had similar problems. Musudan, based on an elderly Soviet design, is notoriously unreliable and plagued by technical problems.

These missiles are usually kept on wheeled transporters (aka TELs) secreted in caves. The transporters are based on Russian and Chinese designs. An erector device then positions the missile into upright launch position.

This is the most vulnerable time for North Korea’s missiles. The US and South Korea claim they can knock out the DPRK missiles while getting ready for launch.

South Korea has a tactical program known as ‘Kill Chain’ that would use missiles, rocket batteries and air strikes to destroy the pre-launch missiles. But the problem remains: during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, US warplanes and missiles totally failed to knock out Iraq’s mobile missile launchers and stop it firing ineffective Scud missiles at Israel.

For North Korea, launching a major missile barrage is no easy matter. The North’s missile caves, fueling points, and leadership bunkers are photographed even more often than super-model Cindy Crawford. US satellites, high-altitude recon aircraft, sensors and drones keep a 24/7 watch on North Korea’s potential launch sites.

Preparations for refueling and erecting large numbers of missiles would invite a massive nuclear strike by US air and naval forces. But given the technology unreliability of the DPRK’s missiles, it would have to fire a sizeable barrage in order to be sure of scoring a few long-range nuclear hits.

Equally important, North Korea’s ability to fire a nuclear warhead atop a ballistic missile has not yet been demonstrated. A miniaturized warhead that can withstand the g-forces of launch and re-entry, extreme heat and cold and buffeting and detonate as planned after a 6,700-km journey is a tall order. The US and USSR both keep redundant ICBM missiles because of the reliability problem.

North Korea’s submarine-launched prototype KN-08 missile could pose a far greater danger. Though short-medium ranged, the missile if fired from submarines off the US East and West coast is greatly worrying US defense authorities. But, once again, North Korea is only in its infancy when it comes to underwater-launched strategic missiles and submarines.

Another key point. US and South Korean intelligence question how much missile propellant fuel the North has or could produce. Supplies are believed limited; raw material components are under embargo, even from ally China. Information about DPRK fuel supplies is, as always, scanty and unreliable. So is US and South Korean intelligence about North Korea.

Finally, if Washington believed North Korea was about to launch a massive, long-ranged missile strike against North America, it’s likely the US would detonate a nuclear device high above North Korea. The electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from such a detonation would likely fry most of North Korea’s electronic circuits, notably missile guidance systems and communications. Of course, the North Koreans could do the same to the US and allies Japan and South Korea. Pacific Russia and northern China would also be affected.

Behind all the hysteria over North Korea lies the basic question: why would rather small North Korea embark on a nuclear war with the United States? Its leadership, however zany and eccentric, is in no mood to commit suicide. US nuclear weapons would vaporize North Korea before any of the missiles it might fire at North America could detonate.

Having nuclear-armed missiles does not necessarily make one’s nation a public menace that must be destroyed. India has them. So do Pakistan and Israel, China and Russia. Add France and Britain. We don’t keep threatening to invade them and overthrow their governments. That’s why they are not threatening us.

(Republished from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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Few people have ever heard of Myanmar’s Rohingya people. Not many more could find Myanmar on a map – particularly after its name was changed some years ago from Burma to Myanmar.

The exception is Burma’s sainted lady leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who became a worldwide celebrity and Nobel Prize winner. The media loved her, a sort of Burmese Joan of Arc versus its brutal military junta.

But now, tragically, the Rohingya are headline news thanks to Myanmar’s brutal ethnic cleansing of one of the world’s most abused, downtrodden people.

Almost as revolting is the world’s failure to take any action to rescue the Rohingya from murder, rape, arson and ethnic terrorism. In recent weeks, over 270,000 Rakhines have been driven from their homes in Rakhine State in western Myanmar and now cower in makeshift refugee camps just across the border in Bangladesh in the midst of monsoon season.

Rohingya have lived for centuries in Burma/Myanmar. Some of their ancestors may have been brought as coolies or indentured laborers from neighboring East Bengal (today Bangladesh) by the British rulers of the region. Once again, the British Empire was behind yet another world problem.

Burma is a hodgepodge of peoples and ethnicities. The largest, about 60%, are Buddhist Burmans, but there are many other important groups like Karen, Kachin, Chin, Mon and Shan. About two million Burmese are Muslim Rohingya from Arakan state. They have been savagely persecuted, denied education, health care and even food. Rohingya women are routinely raped. Those who fled to wretched Bangladesh – surely the last place on earth one would want to seek refuge – have been starved, herded into camps and fall victim to human traffickers or become stateless boat people.

Myanmar denies that its two million Rohingyas are Burmese citizens. Bangladesh also denies them citizenship. The Rohingyas are the world’s most unwanted people – and through no fault of their own.

Burma wants an ethnically pure state, though its border regions are filled with rebellious Thai and ethnic Chinese minorities.

I covered some of the wars waged by the central government against regional separatists that have flared on and off since 1945. To me, Burma/Myanmar is a sort of Asian Yugoslavia, filled with inimical peoples seeking independence.

What about the sainted Aung San Suu Kyi? She, shamefully, has mutely watched the ethnic cleansing and atrocities. This so-called champion of human rights has not made a peep because she shares power with the powerful Burmese army which is conducting the anti-Muslim pogroms. And she fears losing popularity with majority Burmans.

The official Burmese line is that the current violence was caused by Rohingyas attacking army posts. This is a lie. Burma has been persecuting and trying to expel Rohingyas for decades. Few saw and none cared.

Particularly not the three nations that could provide significant help: China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. China is trying to crush Muslim peoples in its western regions and is thus in no mood to help. Pakistan can’t mount a long-range operation. Saudi Arabia, the self-styled ‘Defender of Islam’ –its claim to legitimacy – is too busy massacring Yemeni civilians with US and British help to give a hoot about the Rohingyas.

The true Koranic meaning of ‘jihad’ means going to the aid of fellow Muslims who are being persecuted because of their faith. We can think of few better examples than the horrors in Myanmar where mobs, led by fanatical anti-Muslim Buddhist priests (in contravention of everything that this marvelous faith holds dear) are murdering Muslims and raping their women.

The Saudis averted their eyes when the Muslims of Bosnia and Kosovo were being savaged by Serb fanatics. Now, the ‘defenders of Islam’ are doing it again. They could provide food, money, shelter, even troops to help protect the Rohingyas. Two important Muslim majority states, Turkey and Malaysia, have spoken out and warned Burma/Myanmar to halt its persecution. Turkey’s mighty armed forces could do much to stop the rapine and murder. President Recep Erdogan of Turkey is clearly out of patience with Burma’s thuggish government.

Suu Kyi should have her Nobel Prize revoked. The world must demand that Burma’s military and police immediately cease their ethnic cleansing of Muslims.

The crimes being committed in Myanmar, a beautiful country to which I am very attached, are an affront to the entire world and a massive crime without any possible justification.

Madame Suu Kyi, I once risked prison in Ragoon to go visit you. I wish I hadn’t. Go hide your head in shame.

(Republished from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Burma, Muslims, Myanmar, Rohingya 
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Old Chinese saying: ‘when elephants battle, ants get crushed.’ Think of the current crisis on the Korean Peninsula in which the government in Seoul has been all but ignored.

South Korea’s newly elected president, Moon Jae-in, keeps insisting that the US must not launch war against North Korea without South Korea’s agreement.

President Donald Trump and the US media appear not to have heard Moon’s pleas, or are simply disregarding them.

Amazingly, six decades after the end of the 1950 Korean War, South Korea’s 650,000-man active armed forces and 4.2 million-man reserves remain under the command of a US four-star general. This neo-colonial arrangement was supposed to have ended years ago, but successive conservative South Korean governments maintained their nation’s acceptance of Washington’s Asian Raj. So does Japan.

The most recent South Korean rightist leader, Park Guen-hye, was ousted for alleged corruption and is now in jail awaiting trial. Many of South Korea’s rightists are Protestant Christians – as was the US-backed Korean War leader, strongman Syngman Rhee. South Korea’s Christians are ardently anti-Communist and support war against North Korea. Whatever happened to turn the other cheek?

President Moon, an anti-war moderate leftist, keeps calling for a peaceful solution to the present crisis. Most South Koreans back him. As I’ve found on my many assignments in Korea, most Southerners shrug off the threat from North Korea – or even laugh it off. They certainly don’t want a full-scale war on their front door. The 1950-53 conflict left at least 2.5 million Korean civilians dead and most of the peninsula’s major cities bombed flat by US B-29’s.

North Korea, by contrast, constantly harangues South Koreans that their nation is a US ‘puppet’ and ‘colony’ run by traitors. Pyongyang insists that North Korea is the authentic Korean state while the South is a mere US/Japanese colony. Many young South Koreans absorb such claims; some are even proud of North Korea for standing up to the mighty United States even though South Korea’s economy is 45 times larger than that of threadbare North Korea.

Kim Jong-il’s bombastic challenge to President Trump is emboldening Korean nationalists. Many point to the fact that North Korea developed nuclear weapons and delivery systems on its own while South Korea was stopped from doing so by US pressure in the 1970’s.

At the same time, North Koreans are jumping for joy that their nation just launched a medium-range missile over Japan that panicked and humiliated the much hated Japanese. The missile launch came on the anniversary of Japan’s takeover of Korea as a colony in 1910. Imperial Japan exploited and humiliated the proud Koreans, treating them as sub-humans. Koreans have never forgotten. Many long for revenge.
That’s what Kim Jong-un is doing.

The second North Korean missile to fly over Japan makes painfully clear that Japan must have nuclear weapons to defend itself, something this writer has been urging for years.

Otherwise, the world’s number three economy is utterly naked to its foes, who include North Korea and China. Emphasizing the point, this week air raid sirens wailed in various parts of Japan, giving the population a big scare and undermining respect for its conservative government.

Point defense missiles – Japan’s current response – won’t give it adequate protection. As France’s Maginot Line so dramatically showed, fixed defenses can be overcome by spirited, innovative offensives. To defend itself, Japan – and perhaps South Korea – need massive retaliatory capability. But even then, if there is a north Asian nuclear conflict, it’s likely North Korea will save at least one or two nuclear missiles for revenge against Japan.

China’s Foreign Ministry has proposed the obvious, sensible solution to this trumped-up crisis: the US to cease its provocative annual air, land and naval demonstration around North Korea’s borders in return for the North outing a moratorium on its provocative missile tests. So far, Washington has refused this sensible solution.

Meanwhile, in a little-noticed, menacing statement, China’s Ministry of Defense just warned that China ‘would not allow’ US or South Korea troops to enter North Korea. This is a very serious warning that deserves utmost attention in Washington.

It reminds me of Imperial Russia’s warning Austro-Hungary not to invade Serbia in the fall of 1914 – or else. The ‘or else’ came: World War I. And, of course, Mao’s China warning US Gen. Douglas MacArthur not to cross the Yalu River in 1950 – or else. Soon after, 500,000 Chinese troops invaded Korea.

(Republished from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, China, North Korea 
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President Trump’s ability to trigger a nuclear war is “pretty damn scary” said former US intelligence director James Clapper this week. Remember when Trump vowed to “bomb the shit” out of his enemies?

I don’t have much respect for Clapper, who brazenly lied to Congress and is a ringleader of the deep government’s efforts to overthrow Trump. But this time, Clapper is 100 percent right. He’s scared and I am too.

This week, Trump proclaimed he would continue the pointless, stalemated US colonial war in Afghanistan and might ask India to help there – a sure-fire way to bring nuclear-armed India and Pakistan into a terrifying confrontation.

Meanwhile, Trump has backed himself into a corner over North Korea. His threats and bombast have not made the North’s leader Kim Jong-un stop threatening to launch nuclear-armed missiles at the US island of Guam, Hawaii, Japan and South Korea. That is, if the US and South Korea keep up their highly provocative annual military war games on North Korea’s borders that each year invoke North Korea’s fury.

The Pentagon insists these war games are just a routine military exercise. But that’s not the view in Pyongyang, and, as a long-time Korea military analyst, not mine.

North Korea, which faces the 500,000-man South Korean Army (ROK) most of which is just down the main highway, has good reason to be nervous. I’ve been with the 1st ROK Division up on and under the Demilitarized Zone. The South Koreans are heavily armed with top line equipment and tough as nails. They are backed by massive US/South Korean air and naval power.

North Koreans are well aware that Egypt deceived Israel in the 1973 war by using frequent military exercises to mask its plans to storm the Suez Canal. It worked. Israel was caught flat footed by the surprise Egyptian attack on the canal.

By refusing a peace to end the 1950-53 Korean War, and by continuing economic and political warfare against North Korea, the US has only itself to blame for North Korea developing nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them. Kim Jong-un saw what happened to Libya’s Khadaffi (thanks to Hillary Clinton) and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.

Trump is now in a serious fix over North Korea. Jong-un has called Trump’s bluff and sneered at the Donald’s fire and brimstone threats. So Trump’s choices are to back away from the Korean crisis he created or else attack North Korea. But the North’s weapons and leadership are very well dispersed and deeply dug into the mountains. A US conventional attack on the North is estimated to cost 250,000 American casualties.

The US can certainly knock out some of Kim’s medium and longer-ranged missiles in a major blitz, but it can’t be certain that a few nuclear tipped N. Korean missiles won’t survive to strike Japan, South Korea, Hawaii, Okinawa or Guam – and maybe even Los Angeles and San Francisco. It is unlikely that South Korea and the US can decapitate North Korea’s leadership by using conventional weapons – starting with Kim Jong-un.

Unless, of course, Trump, who managed to avoid Vietnam era military service because of a bump on his foot, decides to go nuclear. This would mean hitting North Korea with a score or more nuclear weapons, large and small, before the North could riposte. North Korea would be totally destroyed, and its 25 million people left dying, maimed or starving. Japan, the world’s third largest economy, would also be shattered.

Nuclear fallout would shower South Korea, Northern China, and Pacific Russia – and eventually blow east to the US and Canadian west coasts. If the Trump administration decided to use nuclear weapons against North Korea, then why not in Afghanistan? The temptation will be obvious.

President Dwight Eisenhower refused pleas by France to use nuclear weapons to rescue the besieged French garrison at Dien Bien Phu. Trump may not be as cautious. He can’t afford to be seen backing away from the Korean crisis. His aides clearly did not think through the ramification of his bellicose threats against North Korea. Bullies tend to grow lazy.

That’s why I’m as nervous as Lt. Gen. Clapper.

(Republished from The Ron Paul Institute by permission of author or representative)
 
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AMMAN JORDAN – I haven’t seen many miracles in my decades of travel around the globe, particularly not in the strife-torn Mideast.

But last week I participated in a real miracle in Jordan as the splendid Four Paws International group staged a daring rescue of 13 wild animals trapped in the wartime hellhole of Aleppo, Syria. It appeared to be a mission impossible.

Syria has been torn apart for the past six years by a bloody civil war that has killed over 400,000 people and reduced many parts of this beautiful country to ruins. Half the population has become refugees. The ancient northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest, was laid waste.

Just outside Aleppo lies a wrecked 40-acre amusement park cum zoo that once held hundreds of imprisoned wild animals to entertain children. The animals were abandoned in their cages in the midst of constant gunfire and shelling. Many were killed; the rest were left to starve to death or die of thirst. Some starving Syrians shared their meager rations with the animals.

No one else cared about these abandoned creatures that included five lions, two tigers, two Asian black bears, two hyenas and two Husky dogs.

But the Vienna-based Four Paws Charity did, and so did I. Four Paws had rescued a majestic lion named Simba and a charming honey-colored bear named Lula from Iraq’s abandoned Mosul zoo. Both had been starving. I agreed to sponsor much of the rescue operation in Aleppo.

I spent a morning in the New Hope Refuge outside Amman, Jordan, presided over by Jordan’s Princess Alia, the king’s sister. Over lunch, she showed remarkable compassion and understanding for wild animals.

Previously, Four Paws, led by its veterinarian, Dr. Amir Khalil, had rescued numerous starving or sick animals from the ghastly zoo in Gaza, Palestine.

Last week, a security team engaged by Four Paws International finally entered war-ravaged Aleppo which is besieged by feuding jihadist bands supported by competing outside powers that include al-Qaida and even Israel. Throw in Kurds, Turks, the Syrian government, Iranians, Hezbollah and the US for a total madhouse – and a very dangerous one.

Risking their lives, the security team managed to get around the jihadists and then into the Aleppo zoo. Over two trips, the thirteen remaining animals were coaxed into cages, then lifted onto flatbed trucks. Then the convoy headed for the Turkish border. This was the second attempt. A previous one had been held at the border, then forced to turn back.

The daring rescue team had to negotiate with the bands of trigger-happy jihadists surrounding them. A team of well-armed ‘security consultants’ came in to guard the convoy escaping from Aleppo. There was talk that the Israeli army might come to aid the animals, or a Turkish-backed militia. In any event, the little mercy convoy finally got to the Turkish border under the cover of darkness.

But the gate leading into Turkey was locked. Four Paws, with the help of Turkish volunteers, managed to talk the guards into opening it – yet another small miracle.

The animals were then driven for over 24 hours to an animal sanctuary near Bursa, south of Istanbul. There, one of the tigers, an imposing male that I named Sultan, went into cardiac arrest. Another wonderful veterinarian, Dr. Frank Goeritz, got into his cage and managed to bring him back to life, warning his aides ‘leave the gate open in case he wakes up.’ Sultan was saved.

Wheels had to be cut off the cages to fit them into a commercial aircraft. Finding the right tool to do this in the middle of the night in Istanbul was another challenge.

After long delays, the mercy flight finally got to Amman where we met them at 5:30 am. Four Paws director Heli Dungler was waiting with us. Thanks to the patronage of Princess Alia we got the animals through border controls and then onto flat-bed trucks for a two hour journey north to the al-Ma’wa animal refuge near the ancient Roman city of Jerash. Drivers on the road could not believe their eyes as our convoy of big predators rolled by.

After a labor of Hercules, the heavy cages were unloaded from the trucks and the 13 new residents were gently introduced into their new enclosures. The animals were of course confused, exhausted and testy, but we were thrilled that our wards were finally safe in their new homes.

We humans were also exhausted, but elated. I had slept no more than a few hours for days and was groggy from jet lag and fatigue. But Four Paws had achieved the impossible and shone a beacon of humanity into the boiling darkness of Syria’s civil war.

As a final sign of good karma, lioness Dana gave birth to a feisty little girl who begins her life in a far better place.

(Republished from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Syria 
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Media reports claim President Donald Trump let loose on his generals behind closed doors, blasting them royally for their startling failures in Afghanistan, America’s longest war.

The president has many faults and is a lousy judge of character. But he was absolutely right to read the riot act to the military brass for daring to ask for a very large troop and budget increase for the stalemated Afghan War that has cost $1 trillion to date.

Of course, the unfortunate generals are not really to blame. They have been forced by the last three presidents to fight a pointless war at the top of the world that lacks any strategy, reason or purpose – and with limited forces. But they can’t admit defeat by lightly-armed Muslim tribesmen.

The truth is, simply, that America blundered into the Afghan War under President George W. Bush who needed a target for revenge after the humiliating 9/11 attacks. Instead of blaming Saudi Arabia, a US protectorate which was clearly involved in the attacks, Bush went after remote but strategic Afghanistan and cooked up the Osama bin Laden bogeyman story.

Sixteen years later, the US is still chasing shadows in the Hindu Kush Mountains, rightly known to history as ‘Graveyard of Empires.’

The US invasion of Afghanistan was based on the unproven claim that anti-communist fighter Osama bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. We have yet to see conclusive proof. What we have seen are phony documents and faked videos put out by bin Laden’s foes, the Afghan communists and their Northern Alliance drug-dealing allies.

As I’ve written in my books on South Asia, the so-called ‘terrorist training camps’ in Afghanistan were mostly bases for training anti-Indian Kashmiri liberation groups run by Pakistani intelligence. Claims by the right-wing US media that Afghanistan would become a jihadist base if the 9,800 US troops there now withdrew are nonsense. The 9/11 attacks were planned and mounted from Germany, Spain and Florida, not Afghanistan. They could have come from anywhere.

After sixteen years, the US military and its Afghan mercenaries troops have failed to defeat the Afghan Pashtun tribal resistance forces, Taliban. In fact, the Taliban alliance now controls at least half of Afghanistan and keeps US and government forces pinned down. The US installed ‘president,’ Ashraf Ghani, barely clings to power.

What keeps the US in control of parts of Afghanistan is the US Air Force and naval air power. US warplanes from Afghanistan, Qatar, and aircraft carriers keep a 24/7 combat air patrol over distant Afghanistan and can reply in minutes to attacks on US or Afghan ground units. No other nation could do this – or afford the immense cost.

Gasoline trucked into Afghanistan over the Khyber Pass from Karachi costs $400 per gallon delivered. The authoritative ‘Aviation Week’ magazine reports that keeping US warplanes on station over Iraq and Syria costs an astounding $600,000 per mission. It’s even more over Afghanistan.

But without 24/7 US airpower, US forces in Afghanistan would be soon isolated, then driven out. This is just what happened to the British and Soviets, dooming their efforts to crush the independence-loving Pashtun, Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group.

Bereft of new ideas, the US keeps repeating its mistakes in Afghanistan: colluding with the worst, most corrupt elements of Afghan society; condoning torture and murder; relying on the big, drug dealing tribal chiefs.
The UN reports that opium (the base for heroin) exports doubled last year. The sputtering Afghan economy runs on opium and hashish.

The United States is now the proud owner of the world’s leading producer of opium and morphine base. If the drug trade is ever cut off, the government in Kabul and its warlords will collapse. Ironically, when Taliban ruled Afghanistan before 9/11, the drug trade was almost wiped out. But you will never read this in the tame US media.

Now America’s imperial generals are asking Trump for 4,000 more troops. A basic law of military science is concentration of force. Penny packets of troops are a fool’s strategy. The main function of US troops in Afghanistan is to protect the strategic Bagram and Kandahar air bases and US installations in Kabul.

Now, hard right Republicans are pushing a daft proposal to contract the Afghan War to a US-paid mercenary army led by an imperial viceroy in Kabul. Shades of Queen Victoria. Break out the pith helmets.

Trump has proposed pressuring Pakistan, India and China to end the war. What an absurd idea. For Pakistan, Afghanistan is its blood brother and strategic hinterland. China plans to turn mineral-rich Afghanistan into a Tibet-style protectorate. India wants to outflank Pakistan by taking over Afghanistan. India and China are in a growing military confrontation in the Himalayas.

Trump had better come up with a better idea. My solution to the 17-year war: emulate the example of the courageous Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. He pronounced his Afghan War unwinnable, told his angry generals to shut up, and ordered the Red Army out of the war in Afghanistan.

(Republished from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Afghanistan, American Military 
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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
Bin Laden is dead, but his strategy still bleeds the United States.
Egyptians revolted against American rule as well as Mubarak’s.
“America’s strategic and economic interests in the Mideast and Muslim world are being threatened by the agony in Palestine, which inevitably invites terrorist attacks against US citizens and property.”
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.