The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>
 Mike Whitney BlogviewTeasers

Is Vladimir Putin the most popular Russian leader of all time?

It certainly looks like it. In a recent survey conducted by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center, Putin’s public approval rating soared to an eye-popping 86 percent, which is twice that of Obama’s when he left office in 2016. And what’s more surprising is that Putin’s popularity has held up through a severe economic slump and nearly two decades in office. Unlike most politicians, whose shelf-life is somewhere between 4 to 8 years, the public’s admiration for Putin has only grown stronger over time.

And the phenom is not limited to Russia either. According to a recent survey by the pollster YouGov, “Putin is the third most admired man in Egypt, the fourth in China, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, and the sixth most admired man in Germany, France and Sweden.” And don’t even mention Syria, where naming babies after the Russian president is all-the-rage.

Putin also won Time magazine’s prestigious Person of the Year award in 2007, and has remained among the top ten on that list for the last decade. The only place that Putin is not popular is in the United States where he is relentlessly demonized in the media as a “KGB thug” or the “new Hitler”. According to a 2017 survey by Gallup, only “22% of Americans hold a favorable opinion of Putin” while “72% hold an unfavorable opinion of him.”

There’s no doubt that the media’s personal attacks on Putin have dramatically impacted his popularity. The question that open-minded people must ask themselves, is whether their opinion of Putin is the result of their own research or if their views have been shaped by a vicious, corporate-owned media that denigrates anyone who stands in the way of Washington’s geopolitical ambitions? My advice to these people is to simply read Putin’s words for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

The western media claims that Putin is responsible for a number of crimes including the killing of well-known journalists and political rivals. But is it true? Is the man, who is so revered by the vast majority of Russians, a common Mafia hitman who snuffs out his enemies without batting an eye?

I can’t answer that, but having followed Putin’s career (and read many of his speeches) since he replaced Boris Yeltsin in December 1999, I think it’s highly unlikely. The more probable explanation is that Russia’s foreign policy has created insurmountable hurtles for Washington in places like Ukraine and Syria, so Washington has directed its propaganda ministry (aka– the media) to smear Putin as an evil tyrant and a thug. At least that’s the way the media has behaved in the past.

The US political class loved Yeltsin, of course, because Yeltsin was a compliant buffoon who eviscerated the state and caved in to all the demands of the western corporations. Not so Putin, who has made great strides in rebuilding the country by nationalizing part of the oil industry, asserting his authority over the oligarchs, and restoring the power of the central government.

More important, Putin has repeatedly condemned Washington’s unilateral war-mongering around the world, in fact, the Russian president has become the de facto leader of a growing resistance movement whose primary goal is to stop Washington’s destabilizing regime change wars and rebuild global security on the bedrock principle of national sovereignty. Here’s how Putin summed it up at Valdai:

“We have no doubt that sovereignty is the central notion of the entire system of international relations. Respect for it and its consolidation will help underwrite peace and stability both at the national and international levels…First of all, there must be equal and indivisible security for all states.” (Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club, ” The Future in Progress: Shaping the World of Tomorrow, From the Office of the President of Russia)

This is a familiar theme with Putin and one that goes back to his famous Munich manifesto in 2007, a speech that anyone with even the slightest interest in foreign affairs should read in full. Here’s an excerpt:

“We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state’s legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes this? Who is happy about this?….”

“I am convinced that we have reached that decisive moment when we must seriously think about the architecture of global security. And we must proceed by searching for a reasonable balance between the interests of all participants in the international dialogue.” (“Wars not diminishing’: Putin’s iconic 2007 Munich speech, you tube)

The Munich speech was delivered a full four years after Washington launched its bloody invasion of Iraq, an invasion that Putin bitterly opposed. The speech shows a maturity of thought on Putin’s part who, unlike other world leaders, isn’t quick to judge or draw hasty conclusions. Instead, he takes his time, analyzes a situation thoroughly, and then acts accordingly. Once he’s made up his mind, he rarely wavers. He’s not a flip flopper.

Putin’s opposition to unipolar world rule, that is, Washington dictating policy and everyone else falling in line, is not a sign of anti-Americanism, but pragmatism. Washington’s 16 year-long rampage across Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, has only intensified crises, fueled instability, bred terrorism, and increased the death and destruction. There have been no victories in the War on Terror, just endless violence and mountains of carnage. On top of that (as Putin says) “No one feels safe.”

This is why Putin has drawn a line in the sand in Syria and Ukraine. The Russian president has now committed troops and military aircraft to stop Washington’s aggressive behavior. Once again, this is not because he hates America or seeks a confrontation, but because Washington’s support for violent extremists requires a firm response. There’s no other way. At the same time, Moscow continues to actively seek a peaceful settlement for both crises. Here’s Putin again:

“Only after ending armed conflicts and ensuring the peaceful development of all countries will we be able to talk about economic progress and the resolution of social, humanitarian and other key problems….

It is essential to provide conditions for creative labour and economic growth at a pace that would put an end to the division of the world into permanent winners and permanent losers. The rules of the game should give the developing economies at least a chance to catch up with those we know as developed economies. We should work to level out the pace of economic development, and brace up backward countries and regions so as to make the fruit of economic growth and technological progress accessible to all. Particularly, this would help to put an end to poverty, one of the worst contemporary problems.”…

Another priority is global healthcare…. All people in the world, not only the elite, should have the right to healthy, long and full lives. This is a noble goal. In short, we should build the foundation for the future world today by investing in all priority areas of human development.” (Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club)

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

The Pentagon’s plan for seizing and occupying territory in east Syria is beginning to take shape. According to a Fox News exclusive:

“The Islamic State has essentially moved its so-called capital in Syria… ISIS is now centered in Deir ez-Zur, roughly 90 miles southeast of Raqqa, the officials said.”
(“ISIS moves its capital in Syria”, FOX News )

The move by ISIS corresponds to the secretive massing of US troops and military equipment on the Syria-Jordan border. It creates the perfect pretext for a ground invasion followed by a long-term military occupation in an area that Washington has sought to control for the last 18 months. Here’s more on the topic from South Front:

“The US military is reportedly concentrating troops and military equipment at the Syrian-Jordanian border. Local sources said that about 20 US Army armoured vehicles (including battle tanks and artillery pieces) carried on trucks were spotted in Al-Mafraq. US troops were allegedly accompanied with the Jordanian Army’s 3rd Division.

The US Special Operation Forces, the UK Special Operation Forces and units from some other countries -have been conducting operations across the Syrian-Jordanian border for a long time. They even had a secret military facility inside Syria where members the so-called New Syrian Army militant group were deployed. However, it was the first time when a notable number of US armoured vehicles was reported there. The US Ro-Ro ship Liberty Passion, loaded with vehicles, had arrived to the Jordanian port of Al-Aqapa few days ago. These moves followed a meeting between the Jordanian King and the US president.

Thus, the US-led coalition could prepare a large-scale military operation in southern Syria. The goal of the operation will likely be to get control over the Syrian-Iraqi border and to reach Deir Ezzor. It will involve militants trained in camps in Jordan and the US-led coalition’s forces.” (“US Military Deployment at Syrian-Jordanian Border, Military Escalation”, Global Research)

Deir Ezzor is a strategically-located city along the Euphrates that the Pentagon needs in order to tighten its grip on the eastern quadrant of the country. Once Deir Ezzor is taken, the US can launch its CIA-backed jihadist militias back into Syria at will putting more pressure on Damascus and eventually forcing regime change. That is the plan at least, whether it works or not is anyone’s guess. The deployment of troops on the Jordanian border suggests that Washington’s proxy-army, the mainly-Kurdish militia or SDF, is either unwilling to conduct operations as far south as Deir Ezzor or doesn’t have the military strength to beat ISIS on its own. In any event, the Pentagon needs fresh troops and equipment to succeed. Here’s more from South Front:

“US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis presented a preliminary version of the new plan to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, said on February 28th. ….The plan submitted by Mattis also includes a proposal to increase the size of the US military contingent to ISIS in Syria… (Note–There are already 400 Special Forces operating alongside the SDF) Without significant US presence on the ground, the SDF will hardly be able to retake Raqqah from ISIS without incurring unacceptable losses….

As to Deir Ezzor, the US can try to use militants trained in Jordan to launch an attack on Deir Ezzor from the southern direction. However, the total failure of this US-backed group in 2016 leaves little chance that it’s able to combat ISIS successfully in 2017. So, the US and its allies will be pushed to deploy special forces units or even ground troops to support the advance there.

The Polish Special Forces have already deployed to Jordan where they will operate alongside their French and British counterparts. According to reports, the US-led block created a joint command center to coordinate efforts of all sides, which will support the advance against ISIS in the area.” (“New US Strategy Against ISIS And War In Syria. What To Expect?”, South Front)

Here’s more from Fox News:

“U.S. military drones have watched hundreds of ISIS “bureaucrats,” or administrators, leaving Raqqa in the past two months for the city of al-Mayadin located further down the Euphrates River from Deir el-Zour.”

Let me get this straight: US military drones located hundreds of ISIS terrorists traveling across the open dessert, but did nothing to stop them. Why?

Is it because the Pentagon needs ISIS in Deir Ezzor to justify a ground invasion? That’s certainly the most plausible explanation.

More from Fox: “Questions remain about the hold force necessary to keep the peace after ISIS is uprooted from Raqqa.”

In other words, readers are supposed to believe that the Pentagon doesn’t already have a plan in place for occupying the cities when the siege ends. That’s baloney. Check out this excerpt from an article by Whitney Webb:

“The Syrian city of Raqqa – the “stronghold” of terror group ISIS – will be governed by a “civilian council” with the support of U.S. troops following its “liberation” from terrorists….

On Tuesday, the U.S.-allied militias …announced that they had formed a “civilian council” to govern Raqqa after its capture from Daesh militants. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)… claim to have spent six months setting up the council, with a preparatory committee having met “with the people and important tribal figures of Raqqa city to find out their opinions on how to govern it,” Middle East Eye reported.

SDF spokesman Talal Selo stated that some towns near Raqqa had already been turned over to the council following a successful operation to drive out Daesh forces.

The U.S. military had previously hinted that power would be given to rebel groups following Raqqa’s “liberation”…(“After ‘Liberation,’ U.S. To Give Control Of Raqqa To Rebels, Not Syrian Government”, Information Clearinghouse)

Washington has already chosen a group of puppets who will follow their directives when the fighting finally ends. The leaders will be selected from rebel groups and tribal elders that pledge their allegiance to Washington. The new arrangement will prevent the Syrian government from reclaiming a sizable portion of its sovereign territory or reestablishing control over its borders. A splintered Syria will strengthen US-Israeli regional hegemony and provide the land needed for future US military bases.

But why would Washington opt to occupy another country when previous occupations (like Iraq) have gone so badly?

There’s a two word answer to that question: Nadia Schadlow. President Trump’s National Security Advisor H R McMaster recently hired Schadlow to join his staff as a deputy assistant to the president for national security strategy. Schadlow recently published a book that “examined 15 cases in which the United States Army intervened abroad, and the service’s role in political and economic reconstruction.” According to the Wall Street Journal:

(Schadlow’s) “War and the Art of Governance” consists of a collection of case studies, beginning with the Mexican-American War and ending in Iraq. Each examines how the U.S. attempted…to translate battlefield victory into a lasting and beneficial political outcome.
Ms. Schadlow’s case studies tell an often doleful story of America allowing victories to fall apart, leaving behind a suffering populace that should have been rewarded with a better peace. She asserts convincingly that postconflict governance can only be done well by soldiers….

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

Let’s say you know someone who wears funny blue suits and doesn’t share your views on politics. So you decide to stick this person in a cage and put him on a diet of bread and water until he agrees to change his wardrobe and adjust his thinking. And when he sits quietly on the cage-floor with his hands folded, you ignore him altogether and deal with other matters. But when he stomps his feet in anger or violently shakes the cage, you throw cold water on him or poke him in the back with a sharp stick.

How long do you think it’ll take before your prisoner changes his clothes and comes around to “exceptional” way of seeing things?

It’s never going to happen, is it, because your whole approach is wrong. People don’t respond positively to hectoring, intimidation and cruelty, in fact, they deeply resent it and fight back. And, yet, this is exactly the way Washington has treated North Korea for the last 64 years. Washington’s policy towards the DPRK is not comprised of “carrots and sticks”; it’s sticks and bigger sticks. It’s entirely based on the assumption that you can persuade people to do what you want them to do through humiliation, intimidation and brute force.

But the policy hasn’t worked, has it, because now the North has nuclear weapons, which is precisely the outcome that Washington wanted to avoid. So we don’t even have to make the case that US policy is a flop, because the North’s nuclear arsenal does that for us. Case closed!

So the question is: What do we do now?

Three things:

First, we have to understand that the current policy failed to achieve what it was supposed to achieve. It was the wrong approach and it produced an outcome that we did not want. We could argue that Washington’s belligerence and threats pushed the North to build nukes, but we’ll save that for some other time. The main thing is to acknowledge that the policy was wrong.

Second, we have to understand that situation has changed in a fundamental way. North Korea now has nuclear weapons, which means that North Korea is a nuclear weapons state. US policy-makers need to repeat that to themselves and let it sink in. It changes the calculus entirely. When one realizes that the North now has the power to reduce Osaka, Tokyo or Seoul to smoldering rubble with one flip of the switch, that has to be taken seriously. In practical terms, it means the so called “military option” is off the table, it’s no longer a viable option. The military option will lead to a nuclear exchange which — by the way– is not the outcome we want.

Third, we need examine the new threats to US national security that have arisen due to our 64 year-long failed policy, and respond accordingly.

What does that mean?

It means that Washington’s idiot policy has put us all at risk because the North is fine-tuning its ballistic missile technology so it can hit targets in the US with nuclear weapons. This didn’t have to happen, but it is happening and we need to deal with it. Fast.

So what do we do?

We do what every civilized country in the world does; we modify our policy, we turbo-charge our diplomatic efforts, we engage the North in constructive dialogue, we agree to provide generous incentives for the North to suspend or abandon its nuclear weapons programs, and we agree to provide the North with written security guarantees including a treaty that formally ends the war, explicitly states that the US will not launch another aggression against the North, and a strict time-frame for the withdrawal of all US occupation forces and weaponry on the Korean peninsula.

That’s what we do. That’s how we put an end to this unfortunate and entirely avoidable geopolitical fiasco.

We sign a treaty that requires both sides to gradually deescalate, meet certain clearly-articulated benchmarks, and peacefully resolve the long-festering situation through focused and results-oriented negotiation.

And what is the Trump administration doing?

The exact opposite. They’ve ratchetted up the incendiary rhetoric, put the troops on high alert, moved a carrier strike-group into Korean waters, and threatened to use the military option. After 64 years of failure, they’ve decided to double-down on the same policy.

Washington is incapable of learning from its mistakes. It keeps stepping on the same rake over and over again.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

Washington has never made any effort to conceal its contempt for North Korea. In the 64 years since the war ended, the US has done everything in its power to punish, humiliate and inflict pain on the Communist country. Washington has subjected the DPRK to starvation, prevented its government from accessing foreign capital and markets, strangled its economy with crippling economic sanctions, and installed lethal missile systems and military bases on their doorstep.

Negotiations aren’t possible because Washington refuses to sit down with a country which it sees as its inferior. Instead, the US has strong-armed China to do its bidding by using their diplomats as interlocutors who are expected to convey Washington’s ultimatums as threateningly as possible. The hope, of course, is that Pyongyang will cave in to Uncle Sam’s bullying and do what they are told.

But the North has never succumbed to US intimidation and there’s no sign that it will. Instead, they have developed a small arsenal of nuclear weapons to defend themselves in the event that the US tries to assert its dominance by launching another war.
There’s no country in the world that needs nuclear weapons more than North Korea. Brainwashed Americans, who get their news from FOX or CNN, may differ on this point, but if a hostile nation deployed carrier strike-groups off the coast of California while conducting massive war games on the Mexican border (with the express intention of scaring the shit of people) then they might see things differently. They might see the value of having a few nuclear weapons to deter that hostile nation from doing something really stupid.

And let’s be honest, the only reason Kim Jong Un hasn’t joined Saddam and Gadhafi in the great hereafter, is because (a)– The North does not sit on an ocean of oil, and (b)– The North has the capacity to reduce Seoul, Okinawa and Tokyo into smoldering debris-fields. Absent Kim’s WMDs, Pyongyang would have faced a preemptive attack long ago and Kim would have faced a fate similar to Gadhafi’s. Nuclear weapons are the only known antidote to US adventurism.

The American people –whose grasp of history does not extend beyond the events of 9-11 — have no idea of the way the US fights its wars or the horrific carnage and destruction it unleashed on the North. Here’s a short refresher that helps clarify why the North is still wary of the US more than 60 years after the armistice was signed. The excerpt is from an article titled “Americans have forgotten what we did to North Korea”, at Vox World:

“In the early 1950s, during the Korean War, the US dropped more bombs on North Korea than it had dropped in the entire Pacific theater during World War II. This carpet bombing, which included 32,000 tons of napalm, often deliberately targeted civilian as well as military targets, devastating the country far beyond what was necessary to fight the war. Whole cities were destroyed, with many thousands of innocent civilians killed and many more left homeless and hungry….

According to US journalist Blaine Harden: “Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population,” Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984. Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later secretary of state, said the United States bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops……

“On January 3 at 10:30 AM an armada of 82 flying fortresses loosed their death-dealing load on the city of Pyongyang …Hundreds of tons of bombs and incendiary compound were simultaneously dropped throughout the city, causing annihilating fires, the transatlantic barbarians bombed the city with delayed-action high-explosive bombs which exploded at intervals for a whole day making it impossible for the people to come out onto the streets. The entire city has now been burning, enveloped in flames, for two days. By the second day, 7,812 civilians houses had been burnt down. The Americans were well aware that there were no military targets left in Pyongyang…

The number of inhabitants of Pyongyang killed by bomb splinters, burnt alive and suffocated by smoke is incalculable…Some 50,000 inhabitants remain in the city which before the war had a population of 500,000.” (“Americans have forgotten what we did to North Korea“, Vox World)

The United States killed over 2 million people in a country that posed no threat to US national security. Like Vietnam, the Korean War was just another muscle-flexing exercise the US periodically engages in whenever it gets bored or needs some far-flung location to try out its new weapons systems. The US had nothing to gain in its aggression on the Korean peninsula, it was mix of imperial overreach and pure unalloyed viciousness the likes of which we’ve seen many times in the past. According to the Asia-Pacific Journal:

“By the fall of 1952, there were no effective targets left for US planes to hit. Every significant town, city and industrial area in North Korea had already been bombed. In the spring of 1953, the Air Force targeted irrigation dams on the Yalu River, both to destroy the North Korean rice crop and to pressure the Chinese, who would have to supply more food aid to the North. Five reservoirs were hit, flooding thousands of acres of farmland, inundating whole towns and laying waste to the essential food source for millions of North Koreans.10 Only emergency assistance from China, the USSR, and other socialist countries prevented widespread famine.” (“The Destruction and Reconstruction of North Korea, 1950 – 1960”, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Japan Focus)

Repeat: “Reservoirs, irrigation dams, rice crops, hydroelectric dams, population centers” all napalmed, all carpet bombed, all razed to the ground. Nothing was spared. If it moved it was shot, if it didn’t move, it was bombed. The US couldn’t win, so they turned the country into an uninhabitable wastelands. “Let them starve. Let them freeze.. Let them eat weeds and roots and rodents to survive. Let them sleep in the ditches and find shelter in the rubble. What do we care? We’re the greatest country on earth. God bless America.”

This is how Washington does business, and it hasn’t changed since the Seventh Cavalry wiped out 150 men, women and children at Wounded Knee more than century ago. The Lakota Sioux at Pine Ridge got the same basic treatment as the North Koreans, or the Vietnamese, or the Nicaraguans, or the Iraqis and on and on and on and on. Anyone else who gets in Uncle Sam’s way, winds up in a world of hurt. End of story.

The savagery of America’s war against the North left an indelible mark on the psyche of the people. Whatever the cost, the North cannot allow a similar scenario to take place in the future. Whatever the cost, they must be prepared to defend themselves. If that means nukes, then so be it. Self preservation is the top priority.

Is there a way to end this pointless standoff between Pyongyang and Washington, a way to mend fences and build trust?

Of course there is. The US just needs to start treating the DPRK with respect and follow through on their promises. What promises?

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

“Our U.S. Army contacts in the area have told us this is not what happened. There was no Syrian ‘chemical weapons attack.’ Instead, a Syrian aircraft bombed an al-Qaeda-in-Syria ammunition depot that turned out to be full of noxious chemicals and a strong wind blew the chemical-laden cloud over a nearby village where many consequently died…..This is what the Russians and Syrians have been saying and – more important –what they appear to believe happened.”

— Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, 20 former members of the US Intelligence Community (names below)

You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that the case against Syrian President Bashar al Assad is extremely weak. The chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun, has produced no smoking gun, no damning evidence, in fact, no evidence at all. Similar to the Russia hacking fiasco, (not a shred of evidence so far) the western media and the entire political class has made the case for attacking a sovereign country on the thin gruel of a few videos of an incident that took place in a location that is currently under the control of militant groups connected to al Qaida. That’s pretty shaky grounds for a conviction, don’t you think?

And it’s not up to Assad to prove his innocence either. That’s baloney. The burden of proof rests with the prosecution. If Trump and his lieutenants have evidence that the Syrian President used chemical weapons, then– by all means– let’s see it and be done with it. If not, we have to assume that Assad is innocent, not because we like Assad, but because these are the legal precedents that one follows to establish the truth. And that’s what we want, we want to know what really happened.

Neither Trump nor the media care about the truth, what they care about is regime change, which is the driving force behind Washington’s six year-long war on Syria. The fact that Washington has concealed its support by secretly arming-and-training Sunni militias, does not absolve it from responsibility. The US is totally responsible for the mess in Syria. Without Washington’s support none of this would have happened. 7 million Syrians wouldn’t have fled their homes, 400,000 Syrians wouldn’t have been killed, and the country would not be the anarchic wastelands it is today. The United States is entirely is responsible for the death and destruction of Syria. These are Washington’s killing fields.

As we said earlier, there is no evidence that Assad used chemical weapons against his people nor has there been any investigation to substantiate the claims. The Trump administration launched its Tomahawk missile barrage before consulting with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons which essentially preempted the organization from doing its job. The administration’s rejection of the normal investigative procedures and rush to judgement reinforces the belief that they know they have no case and are just peddling pro-war BS in the mad pursuit of their geopolitical objectives.

Since we don’t have an organization like the OPCW to conduct an investigation, we should at least consider the informed opinions of professionals who have some background in intelligence. This doesn’t provide us with iron-clad proof one way or another, but at least it gives us an idea of some probable scenarios. Here’s a quote from former CIA officer and Director of the Council for the National Interest, Philip Giraldi, who stated last week on the Scott Horton show:

“I am hearing from sources on the ground, in the Middle East, the people who are intimately familiar with the intelligence available are saying that the essential narrative we are all hearing about the Syrian government or the Russians using chemical weapons on innocent civilians is a sham. The intelligence confirms pretty much the account the Russians have been giving since last night which is that they hit a warehouse where al Qaida rebels were storing chemicals of their own and it basically caused an explosion that resulted in the casualties. Apparently the intelligence on this is very clear, and people both in the Agency and in the military who are aware of the intelligence are freaking out about this because essentially Trump completely misrepresented what he should already have known — but maybe didn’t–and they’re afraid this is moving towards a situation that could easily turn into an armed conflict.” (The Impending Clash Between the U.S. and Russia, Counterpunch)

We hear a very similar account from retired Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who was former chief of Staff to General Colin Powell. Here’s what he said in a recent interview on the Real News Network:

“I personally think the provocation was a Tonkin Gulf incident….. Most of my sources are telling me, including members of the team that monitors global chemical weapons –including people in Syria, including people in the US Intelligence Community–that what most likely happened …was that they hit a warehouse that they had intended to hit…and this warehouse was alleged to have to ISIS supplies in it, and… some of those supplies were precursors for chemicals….. conventional bombs hit the warehouse, and due to a strong wind, and the explosive power of the bombs, they dispersed these ingredients and killed some people.” (“Lawrence Wilkerson: Trump Attack on Syria Driven by Domestic Politics“, Real News Network)

Finally, we have the collective judgement of 20 former members of the US Intelligence Community (names below) the so-called Steering Group of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. Here’s what they say:

“Our U.S. Army contacts in the area have told us this is not what happened. There was no Syrian “chemical weapons attack.” Instead, a Syrian aircraft bombed an al-Qaeda-in-Syria ammunition depot that turned out to be full of noxious chemicals and a strong wind blew the chemical-laden cloud over a nearby village where many consequently died…..This is what the Russians and Syrians have been saying and – more important –what they appear to believe happened.”

So, why is the administration so eager to jump to conclusions? Why do they want to use such a sketchy incident to justify an attack on sovereign nation that poses no threat to US national security? What’s really going on here?

To answer tha, we need to review an interview with President Trump’s new National Security Advisor, Lt. General H.R. McMaster, that took on place on Sunday on Fox News. McMaster– you may recall– recently replaced General Michael Flynn at the same position. Flynn’s failing was that he wanted to “normalize” relations with Russia which the behind-the-scenes powerbrokers rejected out-of-hand and worked to have him replaced with far-right wing militarist-neocon McMaster. Now, McMaster is part of the one-two combo that decides US foreign policy around the world. Trump has essentially dumped Syria in the laps of his two favorite generals, McMaster and James “Mad Dog” Mattis who have decided to deepen Washington’s military commitment in Syria and intensify the conflict even if it means a direct confrontation with Russia.

In the Fox interview, McMaster was asked a number of questions about Trump’s missile attack. Here’s part of what he said:

“The objective (of the strikes) was to send a very strong political message to Assad. And this is very significant because…. this is the first time the United States has acted directly against the Assad regime, and that should be a strong message to Assad and to his sponsors….

He added,

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

President Donald Trump’s missile attack on the Shayrat Airfield in Western Syria was a poorly planned display of imperial muscle-flexing that had the exact opposite effect of what was intended. While the attack undoubtedly lifted the morale of the jihadists who have been rampaging across the country for the last six years, it had no military or strategic value at all. The damage to the airfield was very slight and there is no reason to believe it will impact the Syrian Army’s progress on the ground.

The attack did however kill four Syrian servicemen which means the US troops in Syria can no longer be considered part of an international coalition fighting terrorism. The US is now a hostile force that represents an existential threat to the sovereign government.

Is that the change that Trump wanted?

As of Friday, Russia has frozen all military cooperation with the United States. According to the New York Times:

“In addition to suspending the pact to coordinate air operations over Syria, an accord that was meant to prevent accidental encounters between the two militaries, Russia also said it would bolster Syria’s air defense systems and reportedly planned to send a frigate into the Mediterranean Sea to visit the logistics base at the Syrian port of Tartus….

Dmitri S. Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, said that the cruise missile strikes on Friday represented a “significant blow” to American-Russian ties, and that Mr. Putin considered the attack a breach of international law that had been made under a false pretext. “The Syrian Army has no chemical weapons at its disposal,” Mr. Peskov said.” (New York Times)

The missile attack has ended all talk of “normalizing” relations with Russia. For whatever the reason, Trump has decided that identifying himself and the United States as an enemy of Moscow and Damascus is the way he wants to conduct business. That, of course, is the President’s prerogative, but it would be foolish not to think there will be consequences.

Russia’s Minister of Defense Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov issued a statement saying:

“All the accusations against Damascus that it violated the Chemical Weapons Convention of 2013 given by the USA as reasons for the strike are groundless. The Russian Defence Ministry has repeatedly explained that the Syrian troops had not used chemical weapons….

It is to be stressed that in the years 2013-2016 the Syrian government undertook all measures to eliminate chemical weapons, its delivery systems, production facilities. All chemical weapons stocks have been eliminated. The components for their production have been transported from the Syrian Arab Republic to the enterprises of the United States, Finland, Great Britain, and Germany where they have been destroyed.”

This is a hotly contested issue and one that requires greater clarification. The rational approach would be for the UN to send a team of chemical weapons and forensic experts to the site of the bombing to try to figure out what really happened. Trump decided he couldn’t be bothered with such trivialities as a formal investigation. He was more interested in projecting the image of a strong and decisive leader which is why he decided to shoot first and ask questions later. His action was applauded by leaders around the world including Angela Merkel, François Hollande, Recep Erdogan of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Israel none of who believe that the United States should have to get the nod from the UN Security Council before bombing a sovereign country.

I don’t know who is responsible for the chemical attack at Khan Shaikhoun, but there is an interesting interview on Thursday’s Scott Horton show that suggests that things may not be what they seem. In a 14 minute interview, former CIA officer and Director of the Council for the National Interest, Philip Giraldi, explains what’s happening behind the scenes in the Middle East where “military and intelligence personnel,” “intimately familiar” with the intelligence, say that the narrative that Assad or Russia did it is a “sham.”

I have transcribed a 5 minute segment of the interview here– not because it provides conclusive evidence one way or the other— but because curious readers will find it intriguing. (Any mistakes in the transcript are mine.)

Philip Giraldi– I am hearing from sources on the ground, in the Middle East, the people who are intimately familiar with the intelligence available are saying that the essential narrative we are all hearing about the Syrian government or the Russians using chemical weapons on innocent civilians is a sham. The intelligence confirms pretty much the account the Russians have been giving since last night which is that they hit a warehouse where al Qaida rebels were storing chemicals of their own and it basically caused an explosion that resulted in the casualties. Apparently the intelligence on this is very clear, and people both in the Agency and in the military who are aware of the intelligence are freaking out about this because essentially Trump completely misrepresented what he should already have known — but maybe didn’t–and they’re afraid this is moving towards a situation that could easily turn into an armed conflict.

Scott Horton– Tell me everything you can about your sources or how you are learning about this?

Philip Giraldi– Okay. These are essentially sources that are right on top of the issue right in the Middle East. They’re people who are stationed there with the military and the Intelligence agencies that are aware and have seen the intelligence And, as I say, they are coming back to contacts over here in the US essentially that they astonished at how this is being played by the administration and by the media and in some cases people are considering going public to stop it. They’re that concerned about it, that upset by what’s going on.

Scott Horton– So current CIA officers are thinking about going public right now?

Philip Giraldi– They are, because they’re that concerned about the way this thing is moving. They are military and intelligence personnel who are stationed in the Middle East and are active duty and they are seeing the intelligence the US government has in its hands about what happened in Syria, and the intelligence indicates that it was not an attack by the Syrian government using chemical weapons… There was an attack but it was with conventional weapons–a bomb– and the bomb ignited the chemicals that were already in place that had been put in there by the terrorist group affiliated with al Qaida.

Scott Horton– You say this thing is moving really fast. How fast is this thing moving?

Philip Giraldi– It’s moving really fast. Apparently the concern among the people who are active duty personnel is that the White House is anticipating doing something to take steps against the Syrian government. What that might consist of nobody knows. But Trump was sending a fairly clear signal yesterday and so was our ambassador to the UN. about the heinousness of this act. Trump talked about crossing numerous “red lines” and they are essentially fearful that this is going to escalate . Now bear in mind, Assad had no motive for doing this. If anything, he had a negative motive. The Trump said there was no longer any reason to remove him from office, well, this was a big win for him. To turn around and use chemical weapons 48 hours later, does not fit ant reasonable scenario, although I’ve seen some floated out there, but they are quite ridiculous.” (T he Scott Horton Show)

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

An attack on an ammunition dump that contained chemical weapons has touched off a massive propaganda blitz aimed at drawing the United States deeper into Syria’s six year-long war. The incident which took place in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun, killed an estimated 72 people and left several hundred others severely ill. According to Russia Today:

“The warehouse (that was bombed) was used to both produce and store shells containing toxic gas…The shells were delivered to Iraq and repeatedly used there… Both Iraq and international organizations have confirmed the use of such weapons by militants.” (RT)

Reports in the western media have dismissed the RT account as “nonsense” and placed the blame squarely on Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Leading the charge once again is the New York Times chief propagandist Michael R. Gordon who, readers may recall, co-authored fake news stories with Judith Miller about Saddam’s elusive Weapons of Mass Destruction. Here’s a sample of Gordon’s work from a piece he wrote (with Miller) in 2002. It helps to put Tuesday’s incident into perspective:

“More than a decade after Saddam Hussein agreed to give up weapons of mass destruction, Iraq has stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb, Bush administration officials said today. In the last 14 months, Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium. American officials said….” (New York Times)

Gordon’s article helped pave the way for invasion of Iraq, the killing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and the destruction of one of the world’s oldest civilizations. Now he’s moved on to Syria. Here’s a blurb from his latest piece titled “Worst Chemical Attack in Years in Syria; U.S. Blames Assad”:

“The United States blamed the Syrian government and its patrons, Russia and Iran, on Tuesday for one of the deadliest chemical weapons attacks in years in Syria, one that killed dozens of people in Idlib Province, including children, and sickened scores more.

A senior State Department official said the attack appeared to be a war crime and called on Russia and Iran to restrain the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria from carrying out further chemical strikes.

Britain, France and Turkey joined Washington in condemning the attack, which they also attributed to Mr. Assad’s government. The United Nations Security Council was scheduled to be briefed on the attack on Wednesday.” (New York Times)

Does that sound like a justification for war? Gordon seems to think so.

And Gordon is not alone either. He is joined by the entire western media and their blood-thirsty colleagues on Capital Hill. Now it appears that President Donald Trump –who promised an end to Washington’s regime change wars– has joined their ranks. Here’s the statement Trump issued on Tuesday shortly after the attack:

“Today’s chemical attack in Syria against innocent people, including women and children, is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world. These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution. President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing. The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable attack.” President Donald J. Trump, Office of the Press Secretary, April 04, 2017

Repeat: “These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime …cannot be ignored by the civilized world”.

Is Trump planning to lead the U.S. into a war with Syria?

Compare ‘President Trump’s’ comments this week to ‘Candidate Trump’s’ comments in December 2016:

“We will pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past…We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments…. Our goal is stability not chaos, because we want to rebuild our country (the United States) …In our dealings with other countries, we will seek shared interests wherever possible and pursue a new era of peace, understanding, and good will.”

Quite a difference, eh? Now check out these blurbs on Trump’s Twitter account in 2013 when Citizen Trump was trying to persuade Obama that he should “stay the hell out” of the Syrian conflict.

From the Real Donald J. Trump– “We should stay the hell out of Syria, the “rebels” are just as bad as the current regime. WHAT WILL WE GET FOR OUR LIVES AND $ BILLIONS?ZERO”

5:33 PM – 15 Jun 2013

Donald J. Trump– “President Obama, do not attack Syria. There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your “powder” for another (and more important) day!”

6:21 AM – 7 Sep 2013

Donald J. Trump– “What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.”

11:14 AM – 29 Aug 2013

The difference between Citizen Trump and President Trump could not be starker. Citizen Trump was nearly a pacifist while President Trump has deployed more Marines and Special Forces to Iraq and Syria, 2,000 more US combat troops to Kuwait (in anticipation of a broader conflict) and stepped up US operations in Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan and beyond. Even more troubling is the fact that he has loaded his foreign policy team with right-wing militarists like James “Mad Dog” Mattis (who leveled the Iraqi city of Falluja in a vicious fit of rage.) and Lt Gen HR McMaster, who was recently denounced by a retired senior US Military Police officer, Arnaldo Claudio, as a war criminal for “human rights abuses of detainees in Tal Afar, during the Iraq war.” (See: “US Army Investigator Accuses National Security Adviser McMaster of War Crimes in Iraq”, The Libertarian Institute)

What’s so disturbing about the appointments of Mattis and McMaster is that Trump has apparently relinquished control over foreign policy and handed it over to his generals whose political orientation is at the far right-end of the spectrum.. Check out this clip from an article at Antiwar.com by Jason Ditz:

“Trump Expands Pentagon’s War Authority– Trump Giving Commanders Increasing Autonomy to Conduct Operations

While most of the talk about the Pentagon’s proposals for various wars to President Trump has focused on requests for more troops in more countries, a much less publicized effort has also been getting rubber stamped, one giving commanders in those wars increasing autonomy on operations….

While President Trump is eager to make such moves early on to show that he is “listening to the generals,” granting so much autonomy to the military to fight its own wars without political oversight is risky business…. as it further distances America’s direct foreign interventions from politicians, and by extension from the voters, turning the details of major military operations into little more than bureaucratic details for career military brass.

These major changes are happening in almost complete silence, as while there have been mentions of the Pentagon seeking these new authorities, always as an afterthought to getting more troops, there is little to no interest in debating the question.” (antiwar.com)

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 
Interview with Dennis Kucinich

MW: Should FBI Director James Comey be investigated for meddling in the 2016 presidential election?

Dennis Kucinich, Former Congressman: The Director of the FBI is not beyond accountability. President Obama should have demanded Director Comey’s resignation immediately after Comey interfered in the 2016 Presidential election with his October 28, 2016 pronouncement of the discovery of new emails in the Clinton case. Comey breached protocol, bypassed channels, and tilted the outcome away from Clinton and toward Trump.

If Comey refused a presidential demand that he resign, then President Obama should have dismissed him. There is a precedent. President Clinton dismissed FBI Director Session in 1993. Also The FBI Director can also be subject to impeachment by the House and removal by the Senate. Given his role in upending the 2016 President election, it is astonishing that Director Comey is being given a chance to prove it was ‘the Russians what did it.’

MW — In a recent Fox News article, you discussed Director Comey’s “unprecedented intrusion into presidential politics”, (that) “has damaged public confidence in the Bureau.” In an earlier article you mentioned that independent surveys have been conducted that strongly suggest that Comey’s meddling may have changed the outcome of the election.

Here’s is an excerpt from an article about one of those surveys. The article clearly states that “Comey’s letter, 11 days before the election, was the precipitating event behind Clinton’s loss”, and that “it was the single, most indispensable factor in the surprise election result.” Here is the entire except from the article:

“Most decisively, there was a sudden change in the net sentiment results that followed immediately after FBI Director James Comey released his Oct. 28 letter to Congress about a renewed investigation of Clinton emails. Immediately afterwards, there was a 17-point drop in net sentiment for Clinton, and an 11-point rise for Trump, enough for the two candidates to switch places in the rankings, with Clinton in more negative territory than Trump. At a time when opinion polling showed perhaps a 2-point decline in the margin for Clinton, this conversation data suggests a 28-point change in the word of mouth “standings.” The change in word of mouth favorability metric was stunning, and much greater than the traditional opinion polling revealed.

Based on this finding, it is our conclusion that the Comey letter, 11 days before the election, was the precipitating event behind Clinton’s loss, despite the letter being effectively retracted less than a week later. In such a close election, there may have been dozens of factors whose absence would have reversed the outcome, such as the influence campaign of the Russian government as detailed by US intelligence services. But the sudden change in the political conversation after the Comey letter suggest it was the single, most indispensable factor in the surprise election result.” (Comey Letter Swung Election For Trump, Consumer Survey Suggests”, Brad Fay, Huffington Post)

How should Congress deal with this situation?

Dennis Kucinich: Congress could impeach Comey, but that will not happen for two reasons. (1) Democrats want to maintain the fiction that the Russians tipped the election to Trump. (2) Republicans want to maintain the fiction that Trump won because voters preferred Republicans.

I believe it is essential to focus on Comey. His interference was a miscarriage of justice, which must still be rectified. Congress must pass a law which requires all FBI officials to refrain from an public or private comment, within four weeks of a primary or general election, on any case involving a candidate for public office, or executing any search warrant, or seeking charges against any candidate for elected office, under penalty of criminal charges.

The FBI must not be permitted to interfere in elections through supposition, rumor or stuffing the ballot box with allegations or indictments. If voters elect someone who is later proven to have committed a crime, there are plenty of legal procedures to force removal.

MW — Here’s a quote by Masha Gessen from an article titled “Russia: The Conspiracy Trap” at the New York Review of Books. Gessen thinks the Democrats are actually hurting themselves by pursuing the Russia hacking story. Here’s what she says:

“Trump is doing nothing less than destroying American democratic institutions and principles by turning the presidency into a profit-making machine for his family, by poisoning political culture with hateful, mendacious, and subliterate rhetoric, by undermining the public sphere with attacks on the press and protesters, and by beginning the real work of dismantling every part of the federal government that exists for any purpose other than waging war. Russiagate is helping him—both by distracting from real, documentable, and documented issues, and by promoting a xenophobic conspiracy theory in the cause of removing a xenophobic conspiracy theorist from office.”

Do you agree with Gessen, is Russiagate actually helping Trump? Do you think the investigation could backfire on the Democrats and hurt them politically?

Dennis Kucinich: “RussiaGate” is not helping Trump, nor is it hurting him. It is hurting the Democratic party as its minions in Congress perform weak imitations of Senator Joe McCarthy. McCarthyism does not sound better spoken out of the left side of the system’s mouth than it did out of the right side. The Democrats are losing valuable time trying to blame the 2016 election results on Moscow. 2020 will be not decided in Moscow, but in Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee and like cities in the US, which is why the party should be promoting an alternative economic vision with jobs for all, health care for all, education for all, retirement security for all, a clean environment, fair trade and an end to war.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Counterpunch Archives, Donald Trump, Russia 

“So far, no single piece of evidence has been made public proving that the Trump campaign joined with Russia to steal the US presidency – nothing….Stop to let that thought reverberate for a moment.”

— Paul Wood, BBC News, Washington, March 30, 2017

Here’s what bugs me about the Russia hacking story: Why would the media, whose credibility is already at its lowest point ever, go after Trump when they had no facts to back them up?

Why?

Do the media bosses really think that if they set their hair on fire and run around yelling, “The Russians did it, the Russians did it”, the American people will sheepishly nod in agreement?

And what do they think the Russians actually did?

Why they meddled in our elections, the media tells us.

Okay, but how?

Russia hackers stole damaging emails from the Democrats at the DNC, they tell us.

Alright, but how did that effect the elections?

Well– according to a report on the BBC–

“the stories based on this hacked information appear on Twitter and Facebook, posted by thousands of automated “bots”, then on Russia’s English-language outlets, RT and Sputnik, then right-wing US “news” sites such as Infowars and Breitbart, then Fox and the mainstream media.

…Russia downloads the online voter rolls. The voter rolls are said to fit into this because of “microtargeting”. Using email, Facebook and Twitter, political advertising can be tailored very precisely: individual messaging for individual voters.

“You are stealing the stuff and pushing it back into the US body politic,” said the former official, “you know where to target that stuff when you’re pushing it back.”

This would take co-operation with the Trump campaign, it is claimed.” (BBC)

So the Russians stole the election by bashing Hillary on Facebook? Is that what you’re telling me?

And they needed the Trump team’s help to carry out this nefarious operation?

Is that the nuttiest explanation you’ve ever heard? And yet some people believe this baloney.

Did you know that the FBI opened this investigation in July 2016? That’s eight months ago.

And what have they got to show for it?

Nothing. Not a damn thing.

So far, there’s not a shred of evidence that Russia hacked the DNC computer system or that anyone on the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to steal the election. They have nothing and they know it. But the farce goes on regardless. It’s all politics.

That’s not to say that their weren’t any connections between the 2016 political campaigns and Russia. There sure were, but the connections were all on Hillary’s side. As Robert Parry reports in his latest piece at Consortium News:

“An irony of the escalating hysteria about the Trump camp’s contacts with Russians is that one presidential campaign in 2016 did exploit political dirt that supposedly came from the Kremlin and other Russian sources. Friends of that political campaign paid for this anonymous hearsay material, shared it with American journalists and urged them to publish it to gain an electoral advantage. But this campaign was not Donald Trump’s; it was Hillary Clinton’s….

Indeed, you have the words of Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, in his opening statement at last week’s public hearing on so-called “Russia-gate.”

Schiff’s seamless 15-minute narrative of the Trump campaign’s alleged collaboration with Russia followed the script prepared by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele who was hired as an opposition researcher last June to dig up derogatory information on Donald Trump.

Steele, who had worked for Britain’s MI-6 in Russia, said he tapped into ex-colleagues and unnamed sources inside Russia, including leadership figures in the Kremlin, to piece together a series of sensational reports that became the basis of the current congressional and FBI investigations into Trump’s alleged ties to Moscow…

Since he was not able to go to Russia himself, Steele based his reports mostly on multiple hearsay from anonymous Russians who claim to have heard some information from their government contacts before passing it on to Steele’s associates who then gave it to Steele who compiled this mix of rumors and alleged inside dope into “raw” intelligence reports….” (“The Sleazy Origins of Russia-gate”, Consortium News)

Get the picture? The whole case against Trump is based on a pile of unverified BS from some ex-MI-6 flunkey trying to make a killing off sexed up rumors of imaginary collusion. (BTW, Steele’s “dodgy dossier” also contained the idiotic claims that Trump hired Russian prostitutes to urinate on him in a swanky hotel in Moscow.)

Parry also adds this revealing comment at the end of his article:

“In the last weeks of the Obama administration, I was told that the outgoing intelligence chiefs had found no evidence to verify Steele’s claims but nevertheless believed them to be true….”

Of course they said they believed it, because they know what side their bread is buttered on. What would you expect them to say; that its all an absurd witchhunt based on nothing but sketchy rumors? The Intel chiefs are no different than anyone else. They’re just trying to placate their paymasters like any good employee.

Check out this comment that FBI Director Comey made during the recent Congressional hearings on alleged Russian meddling. It helps to expose what a political animal the man really is:

“He (Putin) hated Secretary Clinton so much that the flip side of that coin was that he had a clear preference for the person running against the person he hated so much.

They engaged in a multifaceted campaign to undermine our democracy.

They were unusually loud in their intervention. It’s almost as if they didn’t care that we knew, that they wanted us to see what they were doing.

Their number one mission is to undermine the credibility of our entire democracy enterprise of this nation.

They’ll be back. They’ll be back, in 2020. They may be back in 2018.”

Nice, eh?

So among his other talents, Comey also knows how to read minds. He knows that Putin hates Hillary and favors Trump. He knows the Russians “engaged in a multifaceted campaign to undermine our democracy”, even though he hasn’t produced a lick of proof to verify his claims.

And he knows that the Russians “number one mission is to undermine the credibility of our entire democracy”, even though– according to a recent survey– the main reason Hillary lost the election was because undecided voters swarmed to Trump en masse after Comey announced he was reopening the investigation of the Clinton Foundation just 11 days before the election.

I guess Comey forgot to mention that part.

The Russia hacking fairytale is the biggest joke in history. I can’t believe we’re even wasting time on it. Unfortunately, gullible liberals have taken the bait, hook, line and sinker. A recent CBS poll shows that 67% of Democrats think Russia interfered in the election to help Trump, while only 13% of Republicans believe the same. (CBS News)

What does it all mean? Are Democrats more prone to believe uncorroborated politically-motivated rubbish than Republicans or are they just so blinded by their hatred for Trump that they’ll accept any dirt the media dishes up?

I can’t answer that, but it’s never wise to let one’s emotions cloud one’s judgment.

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

Ominous developments in East Syria have drawn the United States and Russia into closer proximity increasing the likelihood of a violent confrontation. The Trump administration has embarked on a dangerous plan to defeat the terrorist militia, ISIS, in Raqqa. But recent comments by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggest that Washington’s long-term strategy may conflict with Moscow’s goal of restoring Syria’s sovereign borders. Something’s got to give. Either Russia ceases its clearing operations in east Syria or Washington agrees to withdraw its US-backed forces when the battle is over. If neither side gives ground, there’s going to be a collision between the two nuclear-armed adversaries.

On Wednesday, the US airlifted hundreds of mainly-Kurdish fighters to an area behind ISIS lines where they were dropped near the town of al-Tabqa. The troops– who are part of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces or SDF– were accompanied by an undisclosed number of US Marines serving as advisors. Ostensibly, the deployment was intended to encircle ISIS positions and retake the area around the strategic Tabqa Dam. But the operation had the added effect of blocking the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) from advancing along the main road towards Raqqa, the so called Capital of ISIS. While the blocking move might have been coincidental, there’s a strong possibility that Washington is in the opening phase of a broader strategy to splinter the war-torn country and prevent the reemergence of a united secular Syria.

According to Almasdar News:

“The Coalition supported the offensive with air movement and logistical support, precision airstrikes, Apache helicopters in close air support, Marine artillery, and special operations advice and assistance to SDF leadership,” the US-led coalition said in a statement.” (AMN News)

In a matter of weeks, Washington’s approach to the war in Syria has changed dramatically. While the US has reportedly ended its support for the Sunni militias that have torn the country apart and killed over 400,000 people, the US has increased its aid to the SDF that is making impressive territorial gains across the eastern corridor. The ultimate goal for the SDF fighters is an autonomous Kurdish homeland carved out of West Iraq and East Syria, while US objectives focus primarily on the breakup of the Syrian state, the removal of the elected government, the control over critical pipelines routes, and the redrawing of national borders to better serve the interests of the US and Israel.

The idea of breaking up Syria is not new. The plan first appeared in an article by Oded Yinon in 1982 titled “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties”. Yinon believed that– for Israel to survive– it must become an imperial regional power that “must effect the division of the whole area into small states by the dissolution of all existing Arab states.” (Israel Shahak)

The most recent adaptation of Yinon’s plan was articulated by Brookings Institute analyst Michael O’ Hanlon in a piece that appeared in the Wall Street Journal titled “A Trump Strategy to End Syria’s Nightmare”. In the article, O’ Hanlon states bluntly:

“To achieve peace, Syria will need self-governance within a number of autonomous zones. One option is a confederal system by which the whole country is divided into such zones. A less desirable but minimally acceptable alternative could be several autonomous zones within an otherwise still-centralized state—similar to how Iraqi Kurdistan has functioned for a quarter-century….

Security in the Sunni Arab and Kurdish autonomous zones would be provided by local police and perhaps paramilitary forces raised, trained and equipped with the direct support of the international community. …(“A Trump Strategy to End Syria’s Nightmare”, Wall Street Journal)

In an earlier piece, O’ Hanlon referred to his scheme as “Deconstructing Syria” a plan that “would produce autonomous zones that would never again have to face the prospect of rule by either Assad or ISIL.”

Many of the details in O’ Hanlon’s piece are identical to those in Trump’s plan which was announced by Secretary of State Tillerson just last week. The Brookings strategy appears to be the script from which the administration is operating.

In his presentation, Tillerson announced that US troops would not leave Iraq after the siege of Mosul was concluded which has led many to speculate that the same policy will be used in Syria. Here’s an excerpt from an article at the WSWS that explains this point:

“US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared Washington’s intention to keep troops deployed more or less indefinitely in the territories now occupied by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in remarks delivered at the beginning of a two-day meeting of the US-organized anti-ISIS coalition in Washington.

“The military power of the coalition will remain where this fraudulent caliphate has existed in order to set the conditions for a full recovery from the tyranny of ISIS,” he told an audience that included Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. He gave no indication of when, if ever, US troops could be withdrawn from a war zone extending across Iraq and Syria, where there has been fighting of greater or lesser intensity throughout the 14 years since the US first invaded Iraq.” (Tillerson pledges long-term US military role in Iraq and Syria, World Socialist web Site)

US Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis reinforced Tillerson’s comments adding that the US plans a indefinite occupation of Iraq (and, possibly, Syria) stating that it was in America’s “national interest.”

“I believe it’s in our national interest that we keep Iraqi security forces in a position to keep our mutual enemies on their back foot,” he said, as quoted by the Military Times. The US “needs to remain decisively engaged in Iraq and in the region.”

In response to Mattis’s comments, Syrian President Bashar al Assad said:

“Any military operation in Syria without the approval of the Syrian government is illegal, and any troops on the Syrian soil, is an invasion, whether to liberate Raqqa or any other place. …The (US-led) coalition has never been serious about fighting ISIS or the terrorists.”

Clearly, Washington is using the fight against ISIS as a pretext for capturing and holding territory in a critical, energy-rich area of the world. The plan to seize parts of East Syria for military bases and pipeline corridors fits neatly within this same basic strategy. But it also throws a wrench in Moscow’s plan to restore the country’s borders and put an end to the six year-long conflict.

And what does Tillerson mean when he talks about “interim zones of stability” a moniker that the Trump administration carefully crafted to avoid the more portentous-sounding “safe zones”. (Readers will recall that Hillary Clinton was the biggest proponent of safe zones in Syria, even though they would require a huge commitment of US troops as well as the costly imposition of a no-fly zone.)

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)