ACTION ALERT: Nuclear Peace Action Appeal to Obama Jon Rainwater / Peace Action
(August 29, 2016) — We are now in the final months of President Obama’s Administration. This is the time presidents begin to look for actions to that will solidify their legacy. From our sources on the ground, we know that President Obama is deliberating his final actions in this regard on nuclear weapons.
Nuclear weapons remain one of the gravest threats to human security. The president recognized this as much when he stated in his Prague speech “In a strange turn of history the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of nuclear attack has gone up.”
Over the last year, we’ve been building our momentum and pressure on the president to leave a bold and positive nuclear weapons legacy. There still remain some concrete actions the president can take that will dramatically increase our security, and we have a few suggestions to help him live up to that Nobel Peace Prize.
Over the course of the next several months, Peace Action is ramping up its pressure to push President Obama to end his 2nd term with the strongest possible nuclear weapons abolition agenda. It’s going to take a tremendous effort, but I’m confident that with the help of thoughtful individuals like yourself, we can succeed.
I’m confident our campaign can succeed, because Peace Action has been a leader in significant successes over the past couple years. Our supporters mobilized around the country to put the pressure it took on the Senate to ratify the New START treaty, reducing nuclear weapons by 10% between the U.S and Russia.
Last summer, we capped off more than 8 years of work in securing the Iran Nuclear Deal, peacefully preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. Just a few months ago, President Obama became the first sitting president to visit Hiroshima since it was devastated by a nuclear bomb. Peace Action, and our supporters nationwide, led the campaign to pressure the president to make that historic visit.
There are an array of options the president can take. One important step is to take the US nuclear arsenal off of hair-trigger alert. This is a Cold War holdover that allows for launching a rapid nuclear strike within just minutes. In today’s world, it creates too much pressure on nuclear launch decisions, making the possibility of an accidental launch far too possible.
Another critical step would be to institute a no first-use policy. There are simply no scenarios in today’s world that this policy wouldn’t make safer. Former Commander of the US Nuclear Forces John E. Cartwright recently stated that “President Obama has an opportunity to further delegitimize nuclear weapons by adopting no first-use as a core principle of the United States security policy on the grounds that first-use is unnecessary and a threat to national survival and humanity itself.”
Finally, we need to reduce our reliance on nuclear weapons. There are 3 things the president can do in that regard. First, end programs like the Long-Range Stand Off missile (LRSO), seen by much of the world as a new nuclear weapon being added to the US stockpile. Second, set in motion reductions for a planned $1 trillion modernization plan.
Our country can’t afford to spend that much on nuclear weapons, nor do we need to. Third, make reductions to our strategic and reserve warheads. Experts in the Pentagon agree that we can easily reduce to 1,000 — or less — strategic warheads, which then allows for further reductions in reserves.
We only have a few months to ramp up the pressure. In the last year alone, we’ve generated tens of thousands of emails, phone calls and letters to the president calling for his leadership toward the elimination of nuclear weapons. You may even have participated in an action or two.
It’s Peace Action’s unique combination of grassroots pressure from supporters like you, combined with strategic media and close work with issue leaders throughout the country and abroad that can make the difference.
Jon Rainwater is the Executive Director of Peace Action
Forging Legally Binding UN Deal Banning
Nuclear Weapons ‘Unrealistic’: US Official Yonhap News
WASHINGTON (August 29, 2016) — A recent UN panel’s proposal to launch negotiations to ban nuclear weapons is “unrealistic” as it fails to take the international security environment into consideration, a State Department nonproliferation official said Monday.
Earlier this month, the UN panel — the Open Ended Working Group on nuclear disarmament — voted to adopt its final report calling for the UN General Assembly to launch negotiations to forge a legally binding instrument to ban nuclear weapons.
The US and other nuclear states have voted against the report.
“We know that nuclear disarmament can only be achieved through an approach that takes into account the views and the security interests of all states,” Anita E. Friedt, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance, said during a visit to Kazakhstan, according to a transcript provided by the department.
“That is why we reject the final report from the Open Ended Working Group on nuclear disarmament (OEWG), which recently completed its work. The United States calls on all states to reject unrealistic efforts to ban nuclear weapons,” she said.
“The OEWG final report and efforts to institute a legal ban on nuclear weapons fail to take account of the international security environment and will neither lead to the elimination of nuclear weapons nor uphold the principle of undiminished security for all,” she added.
Instead, the US is engaging members of the UN Security Council on a resolution that would emphasize the importance of maintaining a moratorium on nuclear explosive tests while at the same time trying to persuade Congress to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Friedt said.
“Today only one state, North Korea, continues nuclear testing, despite overwhelming international pressure and condemnation,” she said.
Friedt also outlined a series of efforts the US has made under President Barack Obama’s vision for a nuclear-free world, such as reducing its deployed stockpiles and launchers through the New START Treaty, diminishing the role of nuclear weapons in our security strategy and securing the nuclear deal with Iran.
Obama is also reportedly considering renouncing the preemptive nuclear strike option to bolster his legacy as champion of a world without nuclear weapons. The so-called “no first use” policy has unnerved allies depending on US nuclear weapons for their security.
A series of security experts have expressed strong concern about abandoning the nuclear preemptive strike option, saying it would send the wrong signal at a time when Russia is flexing its military muscle, China is building up its nuclear forces and North Korea is bent on developing nuclear missiles.
The no first use policy could erode the confidence allies have in the US nuclear umbrella, they said.
WASHINGTON, DC (August 30, 2016) — An outright ban on nuclear weapons is “unrealistic,” a State Department official said this week.
A United Nations “Open-ended Working Group on nuclear weapons” recently completed a report which “recommended with widespread support for the General Assembly to convene a conference in 2017, open to all States, with the participation and contribution of international organizations and civil society, to negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.”
That report was rejected by the United States.
“The United States calls on all states to reject unrealistic efforts to ban nuclear weapons,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Anita Friedt said in an Aug. 29 speech in Astana, Kazakhstan, adding: “The OEWG final report and efforts to institute a legal ban on nuclear weapons fail to take account of the international security environment and will neither lead to the elimination of nuclear weapons nor uphold the principle of undiminished security for all.
“So, together let us reject division and instead agree that we share a common goal and recommit to the roadmap we are on, one that has proven results,” she continued, adding: “Together we can make true the hope expressed by President Obama in Hiroshima: to refocus ‘the wonders of science on improving life, rather than destroying it.'”
The following is an op-ed that appeared in the conservative Sydney Daily Telegraph and was written by Australian Red Cross IHL Director Dr Phoebe Wynn-Pope.
If We Don’t Ban Nukes, We’re Nuts Phoebe Wynn-Pope /The Daily Telegraph
SYDNEY August 31, 2016) — A ban on nuclear weapons is within our reach. For the world’s safety, we must make it happen now.
We’re at a moment that’s been 71 years in the making — the turning point of a campaign that began as soon as the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were revealed.
At the UN an overwhelming majority of states have just voted to press ahead with trying to rid the world of more than 15,000 nuclear weapons. Most want negotiations for a ban treaty to start next year. We must back this turning point in history.
We have known for some time that nuclear weapons are far more than a threat to a single city or country. Their use would have catastrophic consequences for the whole world.
The “Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima exploded with the energy of 12,000-18,000 tons of TNT. Just one of today’s weapons has the equivalent force of close to one million tons — that’s half the destructive power of all bombs dropped by western allies in Europe during World War II.
If a one-megaton nuclear weapon was dropped on a major city such as New York, at least 2.25 million people would die, one million of them within 11 seconds, according to Boston College Professor Charles Derber.
But a nuclear war would also set off a chain of disasters. The radiation would ravage the environment for decades and, like all other humanitarian agencies, the Red Cross would be powerless to help. Radiation would make areas around the blast site inaccessible and lead to debilitating long- term health problems. Hospitals would be destroyed and no infrastructure would remain.
There are more than 15,000 weapons capable of this kind of damage, of which 1800 are ready to be launched. Some of these are dozens of times bigger than the Hiroshima bomb. These bombs are also increasingly subject to risks, such as accidental or unauthorized detonation caused by cyber-attack, systems and radar or satellite errors.
A nuclear conflict could start with something as simple as one nation misinterpreting a training exercise, a weather phenomenon or technical error as a nuclear attack.
At the UN General Assembly in October we must seek a resolution recommending immediate negotiations to achieve a binding global nuclear weapon ban treaty.
Seventy-one years ago the world faced the terrible reality of nuclear war as two Japanese cities were destroyed.
Nuclear weapons are an unacceptable risk to humanity and belong in a bygone era. It’s time to meet our global responsibility and ensure such atrocities never happen again.
Dr Phoebe-Wynn Pope is Director of International Humanitarian Law and Movement Relations at Australian Red Cross.
It’s disappointing [that], while the states that do not yet understand that nuclear weapons should be abolished are not able of demonstrate the utility of these weapons of mass destruction to life and global human security.
We believe that we must continue the fight by approaching them for their show the risk of nuclear weapons that do not spare them. We need more efforts to have a legal instrument for banning these nuclear weapons.
— Jacques Ntibarikure, Representant legal — President Colonie des Pionniers de Developpement (CPD asbl) B.P. : 3562 Bujumbura, Burundi
At one conference I attended in April, a US representative (she shall remain unnamed) made it clear that there would be serious repercussions if the ban went ahead. She did not say what that meant but only “you wouldn’t like it” in a very threatening tone. The gloves are coming off.
A French representative at the same gig was almost hysterical about the fact that we were challenging (not the NPT) but nuclear deterrence. That is the central problem. He thinks that without deterrence, the Russians will invade Eastern Europe.
Steinmeier gave an interesting interview on German TV last night in which he said that we need to keep talking to Russia — particularly about arms control — and not rely (only) on deterrence for peace. Obviously not going as far as we would like, but miles away from the US position.
— Xanthe Hall, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Nick Turse / TomDispatch & Ann Jones / TomDispatchNick Turse / TomDispatch – 2016-08-31 01:37:37
“I Didn’t Serve, I Was Used” Nick Turse / TomDispatch
(August 25, 2016) — America has been committed to supporting the veterans of its wars since long before it had “United States of” in front of it. “It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire . . . horrible was the stink and scent thereof,” William Bradford wrote after soldiers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony massacred a village of native Pequots.
Later, the Pilgrims gave thanks to their veterans by passing a law to support wounded soldiers of the campaign. The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) traces its spiritual roots to this ur-moment in 1636.
Today, citizens of the United States directly bear the burden of more than 150 years of warfare. As of May 2016, the VA was still paying benefits to one dependent of a Civil War (1861-1865) veteran, 88 dependents of Spanish-American War (1898-1902) veterans, nine dependents of veterans of the military campaign along the Mexican border early in the twentieth century, thousands of dependents of World War I (1917-1918) veterans, hundreds of thousands of World War II (1941-1945) veterans and dependents, hundreds of thousands of Korean War (1950-1953) veterans and dependents, around 1.8 million Vietnam War-era (1964-1975) veterans and dependents, and millions of veterans and dependents of the Gulf War (1990-1991) and of the ongoing War on Terror campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere (2001 to the present).
When President Abraham Lincoln took office in 1861, there were an estimated 80,000 veterans living in the United States. By 1865, the final year of the Civil War, there were so many more veterans in need of assistance that Lincoln called on Congress “to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan.”
Lincoln didn’t live to see the end of that war and probably couldn’t have imagined we’d still be paying the direct costs of his request in 2016. Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t live to see the end of the war he presided over either, but according to VA projections, 13,000 World War II veterans — to say nothing of their dependents — will be receiving benefits as late as 2034.
Given that the US was still paying benefits to a dependent of an American Revolutionary veteran in the 1910s and to a Civil War widow as late as the 2000s, it’s anyone’s guess how long Americans will be paying the price of the dependents of all the veterans whose hearts were touched by fire in post-9/11 wars.
In 150 years, will some writer be tallying up the number of widows and children still collecting on the wars, interventions, attacks, and raids in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere?
Will these conflicts be as dimly remembered as the campaign against Pancho Villa along the Mexican border in the 1910s? Or will they still be fresh in the minds of Americans as a never-ending intergenerational campaign sees grandparents, parents, children, and grandchildren fighting for elusive victories in the greater Middle East?
Today, TomDispatch regular Ann Jones, author of the highly praised They Were Soldiers: How The Wounded Return from America’s Wars — The Untold Story, takes up the questions of what and how we will pay (in every sense of the word) for the veterans of our current wars.
In an adapted version of the keynote address she recently gave to the annual convention of Veterans for Peace, Jones takes aim at schemes seeking to use veterans for corporate interests and dismantle the VA system in the name of privatized profits.
Caring for veterans is a burden whose long-term costs have rarely been considered in the context of America’s penchant for ceaseless warfare, but the costs of not properly caring for them, as Jones makes perfectly clear, may be even more dire.
How Veterans Are Losing the War at Home Making America Pain-Free for Plutocrats and Big Pharma, But Not Vets Ann Jones / TomDispatch
A friend of mine, a Vietnam vet, told me about a veteran of the Iraq War who, when some civilian said, “Thank you for your service,” replied: “I didn’t serve, I was used.” That got me thinking about the many ways today’s veterans are used, conned, and exploited by big gamers right here at home.
Near the end of his invaluable book cataloguing the long, slow disaster of America’s War for the Greater Middle East, historian Andrew Bacevich writes: “Some individuals and institutions actually benefit from an armed conflict that drags on and on. Those benefits are immediate and tangible. They come in the form of profits, jobs, and campaign contributions. For the military-industrial complex and its beneficiaries, perpetual war is not necessarily bad news.”
Bacevich is certainly right about war profiteers, but I believe we haven’t yet fully wrapped our minds around what that truly means. This is what we have yet to take in: today, the US is the most unequal country in the developed world, and the wealth of the plutocrats on top is now so great that, when they invest it in politics, it’s likely that no elected government can stop them or the lucrative wars and “free markets” they exploit.
Among the prime movers in our corporatized politics are undoubtedly the two billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, and their cozy network of secret donors. It’s hard to grasp how rich they really are: they rank fifth (David) and sixth (Charles) on Business Insider‘s list of the 50 richest people in the world, but if you pool their wealth they become by far the single richest “individual” on the planet. And they have pals.
For decades now they’ve hosted top-secret gatherings of their richest collaborators that sometimes also feature dignitaries like Clarence Thomas or the late Antonin Scalia, two of the Supreme Court Justices who gave them the Citizens United decision, suffocating American democracy in plutocratic dollars.
That select donor group had reportedly planned to spend at least $889 million on this year’s elections and related political projects, but recent reports note a scaling back and redirection of resources.
While the contest between Trump and Clinton fills the media, the big money is evidently going to be aimed at selected states and municipalities to aid right-wing governors, Senate candidates, congressional representatives, and in some cities, ominously enough, school board candidates.
The Koch brothers need not openly support the embarrassing Trump, for they’ve already proved that, by controlling Congress, they can significantly control the president, as they have already done in the Obama era.
Yet for all their influence, the Koch name means nothing, pollsters report, to more than half of the US population. In fact, the brothers Koch largely stayed under the radar until recent years when their roles as polluters, campaigners against the environment, and funders of a new politics came into view.
Thanks to Robert Greenwald’s film Koch Brothers Exposed and Jane Mayer’s book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, we now know a lot more about them, but not enough.
They’ve always been ready to profit off America’s wars. Despite their extreme neo-libertarian goal of demonizing and demolishing government, they reportedly didn’t hesitate to pocket about $170 million as contractors for George W. Bush’s wars.
They sold fuel (oil is their principal business) to the Defense Department, and after they bought Georgia Pacific, maker of paper products, they supplied that military essential: toilet paper.
But that was small potatoes compared to what happened when soldiers came home from the wars and fell victim to the profiteering of corporate America. Dig in to the scams exploiting veterans, and once again you’ll run into the Koch brothers.
Pain Relief: With Thanks from Big Pharma
It’s no secret that the VA wasn’t ready for the endless, explosive post-9/11 wars. Its hospitals were already full of old vets from earlier wars when suddenly there arrived young men and women with wounds, both physical and mental, the doctors had never seen before. The VA enlarged its hospitals, recruited new staff, and tried to catch up, but it’s been running behind ever since.
It’s no wonder veterans’ organizations keep after it (as well they should), demanding more funding and better service. But they have to be careful what they focus on. If they leave it at that and overlook what’s really going on — often in plain sight, however disguised in patriotic verbiage — they can wind up being marched down a road they didn’t choose that leads to a place they don’t want to be.
Even before the post-9/11 vets came home, a phalanx of drug-making corporations led by Purdue Pharma had already gone to work on the VA. These Big Pharma corporations (many of which buy equipment from Koch Membrane Systems) had developed new pain medications — opioid narcotics like OxyContin (Purdue), Vicodin, Percocet, Opana (Endo Pharmaceuticals), Duragesic, and Nucynta (Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson) — and they spotted a prospective marketplace.
Early in 2001, Purdue developed a plan to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars targeting the VA. By the end of that year, this country was at war, and Big Pharma was looking at a gold mine.
They recruited doctors, set them up in private “Pain Foundations,” and paid them handsomely to give lectures and interviews, write studies and textbooks, teach classes in medical schools, and testify before Congress on the importance of providing our veterans with powerful painkillers.
In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration considered restricting the use of opioids, fearing they might be addictive. They were talked out of it by experts like Dr. Rollin Gallagher of the American Academy of Pain Medicine and board member of the American Pain Foundation, both largely funded by the drug companies. He spoke against restricting OxyContin.
By 2008, congressional legislation had been written — the Veterans’ Mental Health and Other Care Improvement Act — directing the VA to develop a plan to evaluate all patients for pain. When the VA objected to Congress dictating its medical procedures, Big Pharma launched a “Freedom from Pain” media blitz, enlisting veterans’ organizations to campaign for the bill and get it passed.
Those painkillers were also dispatched to the war zones where our troops were physically breaking down under the weight of the equipment they carried. By 2010, a third of the Army’s soldiers were on prescription medications — and nearly half of them, 76,500, were on prescription opioids — which proved to be highly addictive, despite the assurance of experts like Rollin Gallagher.
In 2007, for instance, “The American Veterans and Service Members Survival Guide,” distributed by the American Pain Foundation and edited by Gallagher, offered this assurance: “[W]hen used for medical purposes and under the guidance of a skilled health-care provider, the risk of addiction from opioid pain medication is very low.”
By that time, here at home, soldiers and vets were dying at astonishing rates from accidental or deliberate overdoses. Civilian doctors as well had been persuaded to overprescribe these drugs, so that by 2011 the CDC announced a national epidemic, affecting more than 12 million Americans.
In May 2012, the Senate Finance Committee finally initiated an investigation into the perhaps “improper relation” between Big Pharma and the pain foundations. That investigation is still “ongoing,” which means that no information about it can yet be revealed to the public.
Meanwhile, opioid addicts, both veterans and civilians, were discovering that heroin was a cheaper and no less effective way to go. Because heroin is often cut with Fentanyl, a more powerful opioid, however, drug deaths rose dramatically.
This epidemic of death is in the news almost every day now as hard-hit cities and states sue the drug makers, but rarely is it traced to its launching pad: the Big Pharma conspiracy to make big bucks off our country’s wounded soldiers.
It took the VA far too long to extricate itself from medical policies marketed by Big Pharma and, in effect, prescribed by Congress. It had made the mistake of turning to the Pharma-funded pain foundations in 2004 to select its Deputy National Program Director of Pain Management: the ubiquitous Dr. Gallagher.
But when the US Drug Enforcement Agency finally laid down new restrictive rules on opioids in 2014, the VA had to comply. That’s been hard on the thousands of opioid-dependent vets it had unwittingly hooked, and it’s becoming harder as Republicans in Congress move to privatize the VA and send vets out with vouchers to find their own health care.
Cute Cards Courtesy of the Koch Brothers
To force the VA to use its drugs, Big Pharma set up dummy foundations and turned to existing veterans’ organizations for support. These days, however, the Big Money people have found a more efficient way to make their weight felt. Now, when they need the political clout of a veterans’ organization, they help finance one of their own.
Consider Concerned Veterans for America (CVA). The group’s stated mission: “to preserve the freedom and prosperity we and our families fought and sacrificed to defend.” What patriotic American wouldn’t want to get behind that?
The problem that concerns the group right now is the “divide” between civilians and soldiers, which exists, its leaders claim, because responsibility for veterans has been “pushed to the highest levels of government.” That has left veterans isolated from their own communities, which should be taking care of them.
Concerned Veterans for America proposes (though not quite in so many words) to close that gap by sacking the VA and giving vets the “freedom” to find their own health care.
The 102-page proposal of CVA’s Task Force on “Fixing Veterans’ Health Care” would let VA hospitals treat veterans with “service-connected health needs” — let them, that is, sweat the hard stuff — while transforming most VA Health Care facilities into an “independent, non-profit corporation” to be “preserved,” if possible, in competition “with private providers.”
All other vets would have the “option to seek private health coverage,” using funds the VA might have spent on their care, had they chosen it. (How that would be calculated remains one of many mysteries.) The venerable VA operates America’s largest health care system, with 168 VA Medical Centers and 1,053 outpatient clinics, providing care to more than 8.9 million vets each year.
Yet under this plan that lame, undernourished but extraordinary and, in a great many ways, remarkably successful version of single-payer lifelong socialized medicine for vets would be a goner, perhaps surviving only in bifurcated form: as an intensive care unit and an insurance office dispensing funds to free and choosy vets.
Such plans should have marked Concerned Veterans for America as a Koch brothers’ creation even before its front man gave the game away and lost his job. Like those pain foundation doctors who became self-anointed opioid experts, veteran Pete Hegseth had made himself an expert on veterans’ affairs, running Concerned Veterans for America and doubling as a talking head on Fox News.
The secretive veterans’ organization now carries on without him, still working to capture — or perhaps buy — the hearts and minds of Congress.
And here’s the scary part: they may succeed. Remember that every US administration, from the Continental Congress on, has regarded the care of veterans as a sacred trust of government. The notion of privatizing veterans’ care — by giving each veteran a voucher, like some underprivileged schoolboy — was first suggested only eight years ago by Arizona Senator John McCain, America’s most famous veteran-cum-politician.
Most veterans’ organizations opposed the idea, citing McCain’s long record of voting against funding the VA. Four years ago, Mitt Romney touted the same idea and got the same response.
That’s about the time that the Koch brothers, and their donor network, changed their strategy. They had invested an estimated $400 million in the 2012 elections and lost the presidency (though not Congress). So they turned their attention to the states and localities.
Somewhere along the way, they quietly promoted Concerned Veterans for America and who knows what other similar organizations and think tanks to peddle their cutthroat capitalist ideology and enshrine it in the law of the land.
Then, in 2014, President Obama signed into law the Veterans’ Access to Care Through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act. That bill singled out certain veterans who lived at least 40 miles from a VA hospital or had to wait 30 days for an appointment and gave them a “choice card,” entitling them to see a private doctor of their own choosing.
Though John McCain had originally designed the bill, it was by then a bipartisan effort, officially introduced by the Democratic senator who chaired the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs: Bernie Sanders.
Sanders said that, while it was not the bill he would have written, he thought it was a step toward cutting wait times. With his sponsorship, the bill passed by a 93-3 vote. And so an idea unthinkable only two years earlier — the partial privatization of veteran’s health care — became law.
How could that have happened? At the VA, there was certainly need for improvement. Its health care system had been consistently underfunded and wait times for appointments were notoriously long. Then, early in 2014, personnel at the Phoenix VA in McCain’s home state of Arizona were caught falsifying records to hide the wait-time problem.
When that scandal hit the news, Concerned Veterans for America was quick to exploit the situation and lead a mass protest. Three weeks later, as heads rolled at the VA, Senator McCain called a town hall meeting to announce his new bill, with its “hallmark Choice Card.” His website notes that it “received praise . . . from veterans’ advocacy organizations such as Concerned Veterans for America.”
That bill also called for a “commission on care” to explore the possibilities of “transforming” veterans’ health care. Most vets still haven’t heard of this commission and its charge to change their lives, but many of those who did learn of it were worried by the terminology. After all, many vets already had a choice through Medicare or private insurance, and most chose the vet-centered treatment of the VA. They complained only that it took too long to get an appointment. They wanted more VA care, not less — and they wanted it faster.
In any case, those choice cards already handed out have reportedly only slowed down the process of getting treatment, while the freedom to search for a private doctor has turned out to be anything but popular. Nevertheless, the commission on care — 15 people chosen by President Obama and the leaders of the House and Senate — worked for 10 months to produce a laundry list of “fixes” for the VA and one controversial recommendation. They called for the VA “across the United States” to establish “high-performing, integrated community health care networks, to be known as the VHA Care System.”
In other words, instead of funding added staff and speeded-up service, the commission recommended the creation of an entirely new, more expensive, and untried system. Then there was the fine print: as in the plan of Concerned Veterans of America, there would be tightened qualifications, out-of-pocket costs, and exclusions.
In other words, the commission was proposing a fragmented, complicated, and iffy system, funded in part on the backs of veterans, and “transformative” in ways ominously different from anything vets had been promised in the past.
Commissioner Michael Blecker, executive director of the San Francisco-based veterans’ service organization Swords to Plowshares, refused to sign off on the report. Although he approved of the VA fixes, he saw in that recommendation for “community networks” the privatizer’s big boot in the door.
Yet while Blecker thought the recommendation would serve the private sector and not the vet, another non-signer took the opposite view. Darin Selnick, senior veterans’ affairs advisor for Concerned Veterans for America and executive director of CVA’s Fixing Veterans Health Care Taskforce, complained that the commission had focused too much on “fixing the existing VA” rather than “boldly transforming” veterans’ health care into a menu of “multiple private-sector choice options.” The lines were clearly drawn.
Then, last April, Senator McCain made an end run around the commission, a dash that could only thrill the leaders of Concerned Veterans for America and their backers. Noting that his choice card legislation was due to expire, McCain, together with seven other Republican senators (including Ted Cruz), introduced new legislation: the Care Veterans Deserve Act of 2016. It’s a bill designed to “enhance choice and flexibility in veterans’ health care” by making the problematic choice card “permanently and universally” available to all disabled and other unspecified veterans.
You can see where the notion came from and where it’s going. By May 2016, when Fox News featured a joint statement by Senator McCain and Pete Hegseth, late of Concerned Veterans for America, trumpeting the VA Choice Card Program as “the most significant VA reform in decades,” you could also see where this might end.
As real veterans’ organizations wise up to what’s going on, they will undoubtedly stand against the false “freedom” of a Koch brothers-style “transformation” of the VA system. The rest of us should stand with them. The plutocrats who corrupted veterans’ health care and now want to shut it down, and the plutocrats who profit from this country’s endless wars are one and the same. And they have bigger plans for us all.
Ann Jones, a TomDispatch regular, is the author most recently of They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars — the Untold Story, a Dispatch Books original. This piece is adapted from the keynote address she recently gave to the annual convention of Veterans for Peace. She is a member of the international advisory board of that organization.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.
Syria Uprising: Mossad, Blackwater And CIA ‘Led Operations In Homs’ Sara C Nelson, Senior Editor / The Huffington Post UK
(July 3, 2012) — CIA, Mossad and Blackwater agents are involved in military violence in the Homs district, an Arab news agency exclusively reports. According to Al-Manar, which is affiliated with Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based militant group and political party, a coordination office with agents from the three branches of intelligence is in operation in nearby Qatar.
Salim Harba, a Syrian expert in strategic affairs, told Al-Manar the office was established: “Under American-Gulf sponsorship. The office includes American, French, and Gulf — specifically from Qatar and Saudi Arabia — intelligence agents, as well as CIA, Mossad, and Blackwater agents and members of the Syrian Transitional Council.”
He added: “Qatar has also made deals with Israeli and American companies to arm the armed groups, and Gulf countries have been financing the agreements.”
The revelations come as the agency reported around 700 Arab and Western gunmen had surrendered in Baba Amr, leaving the region under the control of the Syrian army. Israeli, American and European-made weapons were also seized in the district. According to Harba, the captured gunmen were variously from the Gulf, Iraq, Lebanon, Qatar, Afghanistan, Turkey and France.
The website quoted a source as saying: “Huge and critical surprises will be uncovered in the coming few days. . . such as the kinds of arms seized, as well as the military tactics the armed groups followed, and the sides that supervised operations.”
Harba claims the Syrian security forces have paperwork that could “harm everyone who conspired against Syria.” He added: “The significance of the security operation in Homs is due to the high expectations that regional and international sides had from the armed gangs in Baba Amr . . . they wanted Homs to be turned into a new Benghazi.”
According to state news agency SANA, President Bashar Assad insists he will continue to confront “foreign-backed terrorism.” Since the uprising began last March, he has blamed armed gangs and foreign terrorists for the unrest, not protesters seeking change.
Western powers, however, have categorically denied any military involvement in Syrian internal conflict, Russia Today reported.
The United Nations believes more than 8,000 people have been killed in Syria since the start of anti-government protests in March 2011. Activists put the total closer to 10,000 deaths, 600 of which are believed to be children.
CIA Admits Orchestrating
The Syrian Coup of March 1949
(January 26, 2014) — CIA agent Miles Copeland Jr in an interview with the BBC in 1967 admits that the CIA orchestrated and staged the 1949 Syrian Coup against President Shukri al-Kuwatli.
The CIA orchestrated coup against Syria took place on the 29th March ending democratic rule in the country. The CIA chose Husni al-Za’im, Cheif of Staff of the Army as their man to overthrow President Shukri al-Kuwatli of Syria.
The CIA backed coup destroyed Syria and plunged it into years of political instability and chaos. This coup was subsequently followed by more coup’s that eventually led to a series of events which culminated in the rise of Hafez al-Assad to power in 1971.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
New US Policy: Kill the Kurds Syria: what do you do when you don’t know what to do? William Boardman / Reader Supported News
(August 29, 2016) — The continuing incoherence, insanity, and ultimate inanity of US policy in and around Syria was highlighted brilliantly, albeit perhaps inadvertently, by Vice President Joe Biden on a state visit to Turkey August 24, when he threatened the most effective fighting force against the Islamic State — the Kurdish militias — with American punishment if they didn’t play nice with the Turks, who have spent years supporting the Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL), attacking “bad” Kurds in Turkey and Iraq, and who are now attacking “good” Kurds in Syria.
This is not quite as complicated as it is stupid, self-defeating, and ultimately deceitful. Let’s review the bidding:
* The Turks are a NATO ally whose reliability is an on-and-off thing unrelated to Turkey’s actual treaty obligations. The only reason Turkey is part of NATO is because somebody during the Cold War thought it would be a good idea to counter the USSR.
With the USSR gone, Turkey is more like a dagger pointed at the heart of NATO, hence the delicate psycho-diplo-military dance NATO nations have had to follow for years, unwilling to cut Turkey loose from NATO, even now, as the Turkish government devolves toward authoritarianism and tighter ties with Russia.
Putting it in perspective, Turkey’s longstanding, abysmal record on political and human rights is a prime reason that the European Union continues to deny Turkey EU membership. Turkey is not a truly modern state: Turks waged a genocidal campaign against its Armenian citizens a century ago, but it’s still against the law to mention that genocide in Turkey (by comparison, Americans can talk freely about the greater American genocide against native peoples, but the progress toward anything like justice is about the same in both countries).
* The Kurds are for the Turks, metaphorically, the 21st century Armenians. The Turks exhibit all the signs of wanting to wage genocidal war on the Kurds but they are held off by multiple factors, not least the current taboo on genocide upheld by NATO and the EU, at least publicly, most of the time. The Kurds are also more militarized than the Armenians ever were, and the Kurdish home territory is a mountainous region that has resisted invaders for centuries.
Also the Kurdish region is spread over four countries, so any Turkish genocide of the Kurds would work only if it included attacks on Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Each of those countries has also gone through periods of Kurdish repression, so there is always the theoretical possibility of an allied genocide of the Kurds.
Right now, the Kurds in Turkey, having survived an attempted Kurdish genocide in the 1930s, continue their low level conflict with the Turkish military, punctuated by periods like the current high level conflict.
The Kurds long for their own country, a Kurdistan, and no one else wants them to have that for reasons that are obscure and chronically destabilizing. (A similar situation keeps Afghanistan unstable, where the Pashtun are spread across southern Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan, and no one wants them to have their own Pashtunistan, either.)
* The US has no vital interests in any of these places. To be clear, the country of the United States has no vital interests. The empire of the United States is a different, undemocratic, self-directed global power structure that sees vital interests in faraway yurts in the most distant desert. That part is not up for debate.
But the distinction between the US as a country and the US as an empire helps to understand why the country is pushed into doing things that are stupid, self-destructive, and planet-threatening on behalf of the empire.
Everybody pretty much knows, even if they won’t admit it, that with a nod from the US the Turkish genocide of the Kurds could begin tomorrow, if not sooner. That is the context for the creative tension within which the US VP makes his not so veiled threats.
Biden to Kurds: Defend Yourselves
From the Turks and We Will Hurt You
August 24, the day that VP Biden was talking tough in Ankara, was the same day the US and Turkey went to war against Syria, although it mostly wasn’t reported that way. It was advertised as Turkey finally responding to pleas to fight ISIS. Some called it an “escalation” and some called it an “incursion,” echoing official lines in Viet Nam, but it was an invasion.
As invasions go, it was pretty small potatoes, unreported in detail, but involving probably a few hundred troops with heavy artillery support, and maybe dozens of tanks and aircraft. This was not the first Turkish attack on Syria, but it’s the first to seize and hold territory, and to do so with US sanction and air support (even though US special forces are on one of the other sides).
The reality is that Syria is still a sovereign country with a legitimate government still in place. No matter what may be true about the Syrian government or the all-but-uncountable forces arrayed against it and within it, the government remains legitimate, which is why the US and others keep calling for its overthrow.
The Syrian government is fighting a very complicated, five-year-old civil war against combatants both Syrian and foreign, some of whom control significant areas of Syria, over which they’re fighting with the Syrian government and each other.
As civil wars go, this one is particularly messy, not only because Syria was made up all along of different ethnic groups. Since Syrian citizens took up arms against their government, they have enjoyed, if that’s the right word, outside support of various kinds and quantities of fighters and materiel from the US, Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, and probably Jordan (which, with Turkey, has sheltered millions of Syrian refugees).
Even so, when the Turkish military with US air support crosses the border and captures the town of Jarabulus (population around 26,000), that’s a new thing in this war where other countries mostly use proxies to fight for whatever they think they’re fighting for, not their own armed forces.
Russia is an exception, fighting for the Syrian government at the invitation of the Syrian government. Every other combatant is an uninvited guest. When the US-backed Turkish military crossed the border and captured Syrian territory, that was an act of undeclared war (like the US war with the Saudis on Yemen).
So Who Is the Target,
Who Is the Enemy,
And Are They the Same?
Billed as “a significant escalation of Turkey’s role in the fight against the Islamic State” (New York Times), the Turkish attack seems more seriously directed at the Kurdish citizens of Syria who have lived there right along.
The Syrian Kurds have proved the most effective fighting force in Syria opposing ISIS, other than the Syrian government. And the Syrian Kurds enjoy the support of several hundred US Special Forces, who now find themselves facing the prospect of being attacked by a NATO army supported by their own country.
Jarabalus is on the west bank of the Euphrates River, which separates it from the Kurdish-dominated region of northern Syria. In 2013, ISIS forces took control of Jarabalus and have held it until recently, with little objection from Turkey. ISIS used this Turkish-Syrian border town as one of several crossing points for fighters and supplies with little interference from the Turks.
In 2015, Syrian Kurdish forces threatened to attack ISIS in Jarabulus. Turkey’s President Erdogan warned the Kurds that such an attack would be met by the Turkish military, securing ISIS control of the town for another year. Now it’s the US vice president warning the Syrian Kurds not to interfere in their own country.
Referring to the Kurdish desire to control that part of Syria where they live along the Turkish border, Biden said there would be no Kurdish “corridor” (as fragmentarily reported in the Washington Post):
Period. No separate entity on the border. A united Syria. . . . We have made it absolutely clear to . . . the YPG [Kurdish People’s Protection Units in Syria] that . . . they must move back across the river. . . . They cannot, will not, and under no circumstances will get American support if they do not keep that commitment. Period.
The “corridor” referred to by Biden is a hypothetical area that, if controlled by the Kurds, would connect western “Kurdistan” near Aleppo with the rest of “Kurdistan” in northeastern Syria. The Turks are dead set against this, as they consider all Kurds “terrorists.” The US has gone along with the Turks calling the Kurds in Turkey terrorists, but the US considers the Kurds in Syria non-terrorists, mostly because of their success fighting ISIS.
Part of that Kurdish success was working with US Special Forces to take territory south of Jarabulus (Manbij and surrounding towns). According to Biden, that operation was carried out under a Kurdish promise to go back across the Euphrates and leave the area to Syrian rebels (who had been unable to take it on their own).
Turkey has long been shelling Kurdish communities in Syria, killing civilians with indifference, since Turkey’s main objective vis a vis the Kurds is ethnic cleansing. Now, with US blessing, Turkey is using its invasion of Jarabulus to attack Kurdish settlements to the south, killing dozens of civilians in attacks on Jub al-Kousa and al-Amarna. These are not Kurds who should have gone back across the Euphrates, these are Kurds who live in those towns.
There are roughly two million Kurds in Syria and about 30 million in the region. The Kurds have been subjugated and marginalized in all the countries where they live at one time or another.
They have long been restive in Turkey. Then the chaos Americans brought to Iraq gave Iraqi Kurds some independence. In Syria, the Kurds earned greater independence by fighting ISIS more effectively than anyone else.
Having invaded Syria to fight ISIS, Turkey is now joining with Syrian rebels (of some sort) to attack Kurds. This is American policy at work. In effect, VP Biden has said: Hey, you Kurds, you’re subjugated people, you’ve been subjugated people long enough to be used to it, and you’re gonna stay subjugated, OK, so suck it up.
So we leave the Kurds to the mercy of their perennial persecutors, and for what? Some dim hope that Turkey will improve its human rights record and stop torturing prisoners? Or perhaps our wishful thinking is that if we abet the Turks in their darkest whims, maybe they won’t cozy up to the Russians so much?
Whatever the Obama administration is thinking — assuming there is any thinking going on in this secretive government — American policy seems politically incoherent, as if it’s enough to say: This is what the American empire requires, don’t ask questions. But it is more than politically incoherent. American policy toward a people yearning to be free is morally repugnant.
William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Another Pipeline War Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. / EcoWatch
Note the purple line that traces the proposed Qatar-Turkey natural gas pipeline and note that all of the countries highlighted in red are part of a new coalition hastily put together after Turkey finally (in exchange for NATO’s acquiescence on Erdogan’s politically-motivated war with the PKK) agreed to allow the US to fly combat missions against ISIS targets from Incirlik.
Now note which country along the purple line is not highlighted in red. That’s because Bashar al-Assad didn’t support the pipeline and now we’re seeing what happens when you’re a Mid-East strongman and you decide not to support something the US and Saudi Arabia want to get done.
(Map: ZeroHedge.com via MintPress News)
(August 27, 2016) — The fossil fuel industry’s business model is to externalize its costs by clawing in obscene subsidies and tax deductions — causing grave environmental costs, including toxic pollution and global warming. Among the other unassessed prices of the world’s addiction to oil are social chaos, war, terror, the refugee crisis overseas, and the loss of democracy and civil rights abroad and at home.
As we focus on the rise of ISIS and search for the source of the savagery that took so many innocent lives in Paris and San Bernardino, we might want to look beyond the convenient explanations of religion and ideology and focus on the more complex rationales of history and oil, which mostly point the finger of blame for terrorism back at the champions of militarism, imperialism and petroleum here on our own shores.
America’s unsavory record of violent interventions in Syria — obscure to the American people yet well known to Syrians — sowed fertile ground for the violent Islamic Jihadism that now complicates any effective response by our government to address the challenge of ISIS.
So long as the American public and policymakers are unaware of this past, further interventions are likely to only compound the crisis. Moreover, our enemies delight in our ignorance.
As the New York Times reported in a Dec. 8, 2015 front page story, ISIS political leaders and strategic planners are working to provoke an American military intervention which, they know from experience, will flood their ranks with volunteer fighters, drown the voices of moderation and unify the Islamic world against America.
To understand this dynamic, we need to look at history from the Syrians’ perspective and particularly the seeds of the current conflict. Long before our 2003 occupation of Iraq triggered the Sunni uprising that has now morphed into the Islamic State, the CIA had nurtured violent Jihadism as a Cold War weapon and freighted US/Syrian relationships with toxic baggage.
During the 1950’s, President Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers rebuffed Soviet treaty proposals to leave the Middle East a cold war neutral zone and let Arabs rule Arabia. Instead, they mounted a clandestine war against Arab Nationalism — which CIA Director Allan Dulles equated with communism — particularly when Arab self-rule threatened oil concessions.
They pumped secret American military aid to tyrants in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon favoring puppets with conservative Jihadist ideologies which they regarded as a reliable antidote to Soviet Marxism. At a White House meeting between the CIA’s Director of Plans, Frank Wisner, and Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, in September of 1957, Eisenhower advised the agency, “We should do everything possible to stress the ‘holy war’ aspect.”
The CIA began its active meddling in Syria in 1949 — barely a year after the agency’s creation. Syrian patriots had declared war on the Nazis, expelled their Vichy French colonial rulers and crafted a fragile secularist democracy based on the American model.
But in March of 1949, Syria’s democratically elected president, Shukri-al-Kuwaiti, hesitated to approve the Trans Arabian Pipeline, an American project intended to connect the oil fields of Saudi Arabia to the ports of Lebanon via Syria.
In his book, Legacy of Ashes, CIA historian Tim Weiner recounts that in retaliation, the CIA engineered a coup replacing al-Kuwaiti with the CIA’s handpicked dictator, a convicted swindler named Husni al-Za’im. Al-Za’im barely had time to dissolve parliament and approve the American pipeline before his countrymen deposed him, 14 weeks into his regime. [See video.]
Following several counter coups in the newly destabilized country, the Syrian people again tried democracy in 1955, re-electing al-Kuwaiti and his Ba’ath Party. Al-Kuwaiti was still a Cold War neutralist but, stung by American involvement in his ouster, he now leaned toward the Soviet camp. That posture caused Dulles to declare that “Syria is ripe for a coup” and send his two coup wizards, Kim Roosevelt and Rocky Stone to Damascus.
Two years earlier, Roosevelt and Stone had orchestrated a coup in Iran against the democratically elected President Mohammed Mosaddegh — after Mosaddegh tried to renegotiate the terms of Iran’s lopsided contracts with the oil giant, BP.
Mosaddegh was the first elected leader in Iran’s 4,000-year history, and a popular champion for democracy across the developing world. Mosaddegh expelled all British diplomats after uncovering a coup attempt by UK intelligence officers working in cahoots with BP.
Mosaddegh, however, made the fatal mistake of resisting his advisors’ pleas to also expel the CIA, which they correctly suspected, and was complicit in the British plot. Mosaddegh idealized the US as a role model for Iran’s new democracy and incapable of such perfidies. Despite Dulles’ needling, President Truman had forbidden the CIA from actively joining the British caper to topple Mosaddegh.
When Eisenhower took office in January 1953, he immediately unleashed Dulles. After ousting Mosaddegh in “Operation Ajax,” Stone and Roosevelt installed Shah Reza Pahlavi, who favored US oil companies, but whose two decades of CIA sponsored savagery toward his own people from the Peacock throne would finally ignite the 1979 Islamic revolution that has bedeviled our foreign policy for 35 years.
Flush from his Operation Ajax “success” in Iran, Stone arrived in Damascus in April 1956 with $3 million in Syrian pounds to arm and incite Islamic militants and to bribe Syrian military officers and politicians to overthrow al-Kuwaiti’s democratically elected secularist regime.
Working with the Muslim Brotherhood, Stone schemed to assassinate Syria’s Chief of Intelligence, its Chief of the General Staff and the Chief of the Communist Party and to engineer “national conspiracies and various strong arm” provocations in Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan that could be blamed on the Syrian Ba’athists.
The CIA’s plan was to destabilize the Syrian government, and create a pretext for an invasion by Iraq and Jordan, whose governments were already under CIA control. Roosevelt forecasted that the CIA’s newly installed puppet government would “rely first upon repressive measures and arbitrary exercise of power.”
But all that CIA money failed to corrupt the Syrian military officers. The soldiers reported the CIA’s bribery attempts to the Ba’athist regime. In response, the Syrian army invaded the American Embassy taking Stone prisoner. Following harsh interrogation, Stone made a televised confession to his roles in the Iranian coup and the CIA’s aborted attempt to overthrow Syria’s legitimate government.
The Syrian’s ejected Stone and two US Embassy staffers — the first time any American State Department diplomat was barred from an Arab country. The Eisenhower White House hollowly dismissed Stone’s confession as “fabrications and slanders,” a denial swallowed whole by the American press, led by the New York Times and believed by the American people, who shared Mosaddegh’s idealistic view of their government.
Syria purged all politicians sympathetic to the US and executed them for treason. In retaliation, the US moved the Sixth Fleet to the Mediterranean, threatened war and goaded Turkey to invade Syria. The Turks assembled 50,000 troops on Syria’s borders and only backed down in the face of unified opposition from the Arab League whose leaders were furious at the US intervention.
Even after its expulsion, the CIA continued its secret efforts to topple Syria’s democratically elected Ba’athist government. The CIA plotted with Britain’s MI6 to form a “Free Syria Committee” and armed the Muslim Brotherhood to assassinate three Syrian government officials, who had helped expose “the American plot.” (Matthew Jones in The ‘Preferred Plan’: The Anglo-American Working Group Report on Covert Action in Syria, 1957). The CIA’s mischief pushed Syria even further away from the US and into prolonged alliances with Russia and Egypt.
Following the second Syrian coup attempt, anti-American riots rocked the Mid-East from Lebanon to Algeria. Among the reverberations was the July 14, 1958 coup, led by the new wave of anti-American Army officers who overthrew Iraq’s pro-American monarch, Nuri al-Said.
The coup leaders published secret government documents, exposing Nuri al-Said as a highly paid CIA puppet. In response to American treachery, the new Iraqi government invited Soviet diplomats and economic advisers to Iraq and turned its back on the West.
Having alienated Iraq and Syria, Kim Roosevelt fled the Mid-East to work as an executive for the oil industry that he had served so well during his public service career. Roosevelt’s replacement, as CIA Station Chief, James Critchfield attempted a failed assassination plot against the new Iraqi president using a toxic handkerchief. Five years later the CIA finally succeeded in deposing the Iraqi president and installing the Ba’ath Party to power in Iraq.
A charismatic young murderer named Saddam Hussein was one of the distinguished leaders of the CIA’s Ba’athists team. The Ba’ath Party’s Interior Minister, Said Aburish, who took office alongside Saddam Hussein, would later say, “We came to power on a CIA train.”
Aburish recounted that the CIA supplied Saddam Hussein and his cronies a “murder list” of people who “had to be eliminated immediately in order to ensure success.”
Critchfield later acknowledged that the CIA had, in essence, “created Saddam Hussein.” During the Reagan years, the CIA supplied Hussein with billions of dollars in training, Special Forces support, and weapons and battlefield intelligence knowing that he was using poisonous mustard and nerve gas and biological weapons — including anthrax obtained from the US government — in his war against Iran.
Reagan and his CIA Director, Bill Casey, regarded Saddam Hussein as a potential friend to the US oil industry and a sturdy barrier against the spread of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Their emissary, Donald Rumsfeld, presented Saddam Hussein with a pair of pearl-handled revolvers and a menu of chemical/biological and conventional weapons on a 1983 trip to Bagdad.
At the same time, the CIA was illegally supplying Saddam Hussein’s enemy — Iran — with thousands of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to fight Iraq, a crime made famous during the Iran Contra scandal. Jihadists from both sides later turned many of those CIA supplied weapons against the American people.
Even as America contemplates yet another violent Mid-East intervention, most Americans are unaware of the many ways that “blowback” from previous CIA blunders has helped craft the current crisis.
The reverberations from decades of CIA shenanigans continue to echo across the Mid-East today in national capitals and from mosques to madras schools over the wrecked landscape of democracy and moderate Islam that the CIA helped obliterate.
In July 1956, less than two months after the CIA’s failed Syrian Coup, my uncle, Senator John F. Kennedy, infuriated the Eisenhower White House, the leaders of both political parties and our European allies with a milestone speech endorsing the right of self-governance in the Arab world and an end to America’s imperialist meddling in Arab countries.
Throughout my lifetime, and particularly during my frequent travels to the Mid-East, countless Arabs have fondly recalled that speech to me as the clearest statement of the idealism they expected from the US.
Kennedy’s speech was a call for recommitting America to the high values our country had championed in the Atlantic Charter, the formal pledge that all the former European colonies would have the right to self-determination following World War II. FDR had strong-armed Churchill and the other allied leaders to sign the Atlantic Charter in 1941 as a precondition for US support in the European war against fascism.
Thanks in large part to Allan Dulles and the CIA, whose foreign policy intrigues were often directly at odds with the stated policies of our nation, the idealistic path outlined in the Atlantic Charter was the road not taken. In 1957, my grandfather, Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, sat on a secret committee charged with investigating CIA’s clandestine mischief in the Mid-East.
The so-called “Bruce Lovett Report,” to which he was a signatory, described CIA coup plots in Jordan, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Egypt, all common knowledge on the Arab street, but virtually unknown to the American people who believed, at face value, their government’s denials.
The report blamed the CIA for the rampant anti-Americanism that was then mysteriously taking root “in the many countries in the world today.” The Bruce Lovett Report pointed out that such interventions were antithetical to American values and had compromised America’s international leadership and moral authority without the knowledge of the American people.
The report points out that the CIA never considered how we would treat such interventions if some foreign government engineered them in our country. This is the bloody history that modern interventionists like George W. Bush, Ted Cruz miss when they recite their narcissistic trope that Mid-East nationalists “hate us for our freedoms.”
The Syrian and Iranian coups soiled America’s reputation across the Mid-East and ploughed the fields of Islamic Jihadism, which we have, ironically, purposefully nurtured. A parade of Iranian and Syrian dictators, including Bashar al-Assad and his father, have invoked the history of the CIA’s bloody coups as a pretext for their authoritarian rule, repressive tactics and their need for a strong Russian alliance. These stories are therefore well known to the people of Syria and Iran who naturally interpret talk of US intervention in the context of that history.
While the compliant American press parrots the narrative that our military support for the Syrian insurgency is purely humanitarian, many Syrians see the present crisis as just another proxy war over pipelines and geopolitics. Before rushing deeper into the conflagration, it would be wise for us to consider the abundant facts supporting that perspective.
A Pipeline War
In their view, our war against Bashar Assad did not begin with the peaceful civil protests of the Arab Spring in 2011. Instead it began in 2000 when Qatar proposed to construct a $10 billion, 1,500-km pipeline through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey.
Qatar shares with Iran, the South Pars/North Dome gas field, the world’s richest natural gas repository. The international trade embargo, until recently, prohibited Iran from selling gas abroad and ensured that Qatar’s gas could only reach European markets if it is liquefied and shipped by sea, a route that restricts volume and dramatically raises costs.
The proposed pipeline would have linked Qatar directly to European energy markets via distribution terminals in Turkey, which would pocket rich transit fees. The Qatar/Turkey pipeline would have given the Sunni Kingdoms of the Persian Gulf decisive domination of world natural gas markets and strengthen Qatar, America’s closest ally in the Arab world. Qatar hosts two massive American military bases and the US Central Command’s Mid-East headquarters.
The EU, which gets 30 percent of its gas from Russia, was equally hungry for the pipeline which would have given its members cheap energy and relief from Vladimir Putin’s stifling economic and political leverage.
Turkey, Russia’s second largest gas customer, was particularly anxious to end its reliance on its ancient rival and to position itself as the lucrative transect hub for Asian fuels to EU markets. The Qatari pipeline would have benefited Saudi Arabia’s conservative Sunni Monarchy by giving them a foothold in Shia dominated Syria.
The Saudi’s geopolitical goal is to contain the economic and political power of the Kingdom’s principal rival, Iran, a Shiite state, and close ally of Bashar Assad. The Saudi monarchy viewed the US sponsored Shia takeover in Iraq as a demotion to its regional power and was already engaged in a proxy war against Tehran in Yemen, highlighted by the Saudi genocide against the Iranian backed Houthi tribe.
Of course, the Russians, who sell 70 percent of their gas exports to Europe, viewed the Qatar/Turkey pipeline as an existential threat. In Putin’s view, the Qatar pipeline is a NATO plot to change the status quo, deprive Russia of its only foothold in the Middle East, strangle the Russian economy and end Russian leverage in the European energy market.
In 2009, Assad announced that he would refuse to sign the agreement to allow the pipeline to run through Syria “to protect the interests of our Russian ally.”
Assad further enraged the Gulf’s Sunni monarchs by endorsing a Russian approved “Islamic pipeline” running from Iran’s side of the gas field through Syria and to the ports of Lebanon.
The Islamic pipeline would make Shia Iran instead of Sunni Qatar, the principal supplier to the European energy market and dramatically increase Tehran’s influence in the Mid-East and the world. Israel also was understandably determined to derail the Islamic pipeline, which would enrich Iran and Syria and presumably strengthen their proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas.
Secret cables and reports by the US, Saudi and Israeli intelligence agencies indicate that the moment Assad rejected the Qatari pipeline, military and intelligence planners quickly arrived at the consensus that fomenting a Sunni uprising in Syria to overthrow the uncooperative Bashar Assad was a feasible path to achieving the shared objective of completing the Qatar/Turkey gas link. In 2009, according to WikiLeaks, soon after Bashar Assad rejected the Qatar pipeline, the CIA began funding opposition groups in Syria.
Bashar Assad’s family is Alawite, a Muslim sect widely perceived as aligned with the Shia camp. “Bashar Assad was never supposed to be president,” says journalist Sy Hersh. “His father brought him back from medical school in London when his elder brother, the heir apparent, was killed in a car crash.”
Before the war started, according to Hersh, Assad was moving to liberalize the country — “They had internet and newspapers and ATM machines and Assad wanted to move toward the west. After 9/11, he gave thousands of invaluable files to the CIA on Jihadist radicals, who he considered a mutual enemy.”
Assad’s regime was deliberately secular and Syria was impressively diverse. The Syrian government and military, for example, were 80 percent Sunni. Assad maintained peace among his diverse peoples by a strong disciplined army loyal to the Assad family, an allegiance secured by a nationally esteemed and highly paid officer corps, a coldly efficient intelligence apparatus and a penchant for brutality which, prior to the war, was rather moderate compared to other Mideast leaders, including our current allies.
According to Hersh, “He certainly wasn’t beheading people every Wednesday like the Saudis do in Mecca.” Another veteran journalist, Bob Parry, echoes that assessment. “No one in the region has clean hands but in the realms of torture, mass killings, civil liberties and supporting terrorism, Assad is much better than the Saudis.”
No one believed that the regime was vulnerable to the anarchy that had riven Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia. By the spring of 2011, there were small, peaceful demonstrations in Damascus against repression by Assad’s regime. These were mainly the effluvia of the Arab Spring which spread virally across the Arab League states the previous summer. However, Huffington Post UK reported that in Syria the protests were, at least in part, orchestrated by the CIA. WikiLeaks cables indicate that the CIA was already on the ground in Syria.
But the Sunni Kingdoms wanted a much deeper involvement from America. On Sept. 4, 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry told a congressional hearing that the Sunni kingdoms had offered to foot the bill for a US. invasion of Syria to oust Bashar al-Assad.
“In fact, some of them have said that if the United States is prepared to go do the whole thing, the way we’ve done it previously in other places [Iraq], they’ll carry the cost,” he stated. Kerry reiterated the offer to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL27): “With respect to Arab countries offering to bear the costs of [an American invasion] to topple Assad, the answer is profoundly Yes, they have. The offer is on the table.”
Despite pressure from Republicans, Barrack Obama balked at hiring out young Americans to die as mercenaries for a pipeline conglomerate. Obama wisely ignored Republican clamoring to put ground troops in Syria or to funnel more funding to “moderate insurgents.” But by late 2011, Republican pressure and our Sunni allies had pushed the American government into the fray.
In 2011, the US joined France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and England to form the “Friends of Syria Coalition,” which formally demanded the removal of Assad. The CIA provided $6 million to Barada, a British T.V. channel, to produce pieces entreating Assad’s ouster.
Saudi intelligence documents, published by WikiLeaks, show that by 2012, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were arming, training and funding radical Jihadist Sunni fighters from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere to overthrow the Assad’s Shia allied regime.
Qatar, which had the most to gain, invested $3 billion in building the insurgency and invited the Pentagon to train insurgents at US bases in Qatar. US personnel also provided logistical support and intelligence to the rebels on the ground.
The Times of London reported on Sept. 14, 2012, that the CIA also armed Jihadists with anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles and other weapons from Libyan armories that the agency smuggled by ratlines to Syria via Turkey. According to an April 2014 article by Seymour Hersh, the CIA weapons ratlines were financed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The idea of fomenting a Sunni-Shia civil war to weaken the Syrian and Iranian regimes so as to maintain control of the region’s petro-chemical supplies was not a novel notion in the Pentagon’s lexicon. A damning 2008 Pentagon funded Rand report proposed a precise blueprint for what was about to happen. That report observes that control of the Persian Gulf oil and gas deposits will remain, for the US, “a strategic priority” that “will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war.”
Rand recommends using “covert action, information operations, unconventional warfare” to enforce a “divide and rule” strategy.
“The United States and its local allies could use the nationalist jihadists to launch a proxy campaign” and “US leaders could also choose to capitalize on the sustained Shia-Sunni conflict trajectory by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world . . . possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran.”
WikiLeaks cables from as early as 2006 show the US State Department, at the urging of the Israeli government, proposing to partner with Turkey, Qatar and Egypt to foment Sunni civil war in Syria to weaken Iran. The stated purpose, according to the secret cable, was to incite Assad into a brutal crackdown of Syria’s Sunni population.
As predicted, Assad’s overreaction to the foreign made crisis — dropping barrel bombs onto Sunni strongholds and killing civilians — polarized Syria’s Shia/Sunni divide and allowed US policymakers to sell Americans the idea that the pipeline struggle was a humanitarian war. When Sunni soldiers of the Syrian Army began defecting in 2013, the Western Coalition armed the “Free Syrian Army” to further destabilize Syria.
The press portrait of the Free Syria Army as cohesive battalions of Syrian moderates was delusional. The dissolved units regrouped in hundreds of independent militias most of whom were commanded by or allied with Jihadi militants who were the most committed and effective fighters.
By then, the Sunni armies of Al Qaeda Iraq (AQI) were crossing the border from Iraq into Syria and joining forces with the battalions of deserters from the Free Syria Army, many of them trained and armed by the US
Despite the prevailing media portrait of a moderate Arab uprising against the tyrant Assad, US Intelligence planners knew from the outset that their pipeline proxies were radical jihadists who would probably carve themselves a brand new Islamic caliphate from the Sunni regions of Syria and Iraq.
Two years before ISIS throat-cutters stepped on the world stage, a seven-page Aug. 12, 2012 study by the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), obtained by the right wing group Judicial Watch, warned that thanks to the ongoing support by US/Sunni Coalition for radical Sunni Jihadists, “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI (now ISIS), are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.”
Using US and Gulf State funding, these groups had turned the peaceful protests against Bashar Assad toward “a clear sectarian (Shiite vs Sunni) direction.” The paper notes that the conflict had become a sectarian civil war supported by Sunni “religious and political powers.”
The report paints the Syrian conflict as a global war for control of the region’s resources with “the west, Gulf countries and Turkey supporting [Assad’s] opposition, while Russia, China and Iran support the regime.”
The Pentagon authors of the seven-page report appear to endorse the predicted advent of the ISIS caliphate:
“If the situation continues unravelling, there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor) and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”
The Pentagon report warns that this new principality could move across the Iraqi border to Mosul and Ramadi and “declare an Islamic state through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria.”
Of course, this is precisely what has happened. Not coincidentally, the regions of Syria occupied by ISIS exactly encompass the proposed route of the Qatari pipeline.
But then in 2014, our Sunni proxies horrified the American people by severing heads and driving a million refugees toward Europe. “Strategies based upon the idea that the enemy of my enemy is my friend can be kind of blinding,” says Tim Clemente, who chaired the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force between 2004 and 2008 and served as liaison in Iraq between the FBI, the Iraqi National Police and the US Military.
“We made the same mistake when we trained the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. The moment the Russians left, our supposed friends started smashing antiquities, enslaving women, severing body parts and shooting at us.”
When ISIS’ “Jihadi John” began murdering prisoners on TV, the White House pivoted, talking less about deposing Assad and more about regional stability. The Obama Administration began putting daylight between itself and the insurgency we had funded. The White House pointed accusing fingers at our allies.
On Oct. 3, 2014, Vice President Joe Biden told students at the John F. Kennedy, Jr. forum at the Institute of Politics at Harvard that: “Our allies in the region are our biggest problem in Syria.”
He explained that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were “so determined to take down Assad” that they had launched a “proxy Sunni-Shia war” funneling “hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons to Jihadists of the al-Nusra front and al-Qaeda” — the two groups that merged in 2014 to form ISIS.
Biden seemed angered that our trusted “friends” could not be trusted to follow the American agenda. “ISI[S] is a direct outgrowth of al-Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion,” declared Obama, disassociating himself from the Sunni rebellion, “which is an example of unintended consequences which is why we should generally aim before we shoot.”
As if to demonstrate their contempt for America’s new found restraint, our putative allies, the Turks responded to the US rebukes by shooting down a plane belonging to our other putative ally, the Russians — probably to spoil a potential deal between Russia and the US that would leave Assad in power.
Across the Mid-East, Arab leaders routinely accuse the US of having created ISIS. To most Americans immersed in US media perspective, such accusations seem insane. However, to many Arabs, the evidence of US involvement is so abundant that they conclude that our role in fostering ISIS must have been deliberate.
On Sept. 22, 2014, according to the New York Times, Iraqi leader, Shiite Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, told Baghdad demonstrators that “the CIA created ISIS.” Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bahaa Al-Araji, echoed al-Sadr’s accusation.
“We know who made Daesh,” Iraq’s Treasury Secretary, Haidar al-Assadi, told the Digital News Aggregate, “The Islamic State is a clear creation of the United States, and the United States is trying to intervene again using the excuse of the Islamic State.”
In fact, many of the ISIS fighters and their commanders are ideological and organizational successors to the Jihadists that the CIA has been nurturing for 30 years. The CIA began arming and training the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in 1979 to fight the Soviets. Following the Soviet withdrawal, the CIA’s Afghan Mujahedeen became the Taliban while its foreign fighters, including Osama bin Laden, formed Al-Qaeda.
In 2004, then British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the House of Commons that Al-Qaeda took its name — meaning “database” in Arabic — from the voluminous CIA database of Jihadists — Mujahedeen foreign fighters and arms smugglers trained and equipped by the CIA during the Afghan conflict.
Prior to the American invasion, there was no Al-Qaeda in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Bush destroyed Saddam Hussein’s secularist government and his viceroy, Paul Bremer, in a monumental act of mismanagement, effectively created the Sunni Army, now named ISIS. Bremer elevated the Shiites to power and banned Saddam Hussein’s ruling Ba’ath Party laying off some 700,000, mostly Sunni, government and party officials from ministers to school teachers. He then disbanded the 380,000-man army, which was 80 percent Sunni.
Bremer’s actions stripped a million of Iraq’s Sunnis of rank, property, wealth and power; leaving a desperate underclass of angry, educated, capable, trained and heavily armed Sunnis with little left to lose.
General Petraeus’ decision to import dirty war tactics, including torture and death squads, from the CIA’s El Salvador conflict in order to shock and awe the Sunni resistance, instead ignited a shockingly bloody spiral of sectarian violence that devolved quickly into escalating atrocities topped finally by the Sunni Army signature head cutting. The Sunni insurgency named itself Al-Qaeda Iraq (AQI).
Beginning in 2011, our allies funded the invasion by AQI fighters into Syria. In June 2014 having entered Syria, AQI changed its name to ISIS. According to the New Yorker, “ISIS is run by a council of former Iraqi Generals . . . many are members of Saddam Hussein’s secular Ba’ath Party, who converted to radical Islam in American prisons.”
The $500 million in US military aid that Obama did send to Syria almost certainly ended up benefiting these militant Jihadists. On Sept. 16, 2015, incredulous senators from the Armed Services Committee listened to US General Lloyd Austin, Commander of the US Central Command, explain that the Pentagon had spent $500 million to train and arm “moderate” insurgents in Syria and had only “four or five reliable moderate fighters” to show instead of the promised 5,000. The remainder apparently deserted or defected to ISIS.
Tim Clemente told me that the incomprehensible difference between the Iraq and Syria conflicts are the millions of military aged men who are fleeing the battlefield for Europe rather than staying to fight for their communities.
“You have this formidable fighting force and they are all running away. I don’t understand how you can have millions of military aged men running away from the battlefield. In Iraq, the bravery was heartbreaking — I had friends who refused to leave the country even though they knew they would die. They’d just tell you it’s my country, I need to stay and fight,” Clemente said.
The obvious explanation is that the nation’s moderates are fleeing a war that is not their war. They simply want to escape being crushed between the anvil of Assad’s Russian backed tyranny and the vicious Jihadi Sunni hammer that we had a hand in wielding in a global battle over competing pipelines.
You can’t blame the Syrian people for not widely embracing a blueprint for their nation minted in either Washington or Moscow. The super powers have left no options for an idealistic future that moderate Syrians might consider fighting for. And no one wants to die for a pipeline.
What is the answer? If our objective is long-term peace in the Mid-East, self-government by the Arab nations and national security at home, we must undertake any new intervention in the region with an eye on history and an intense desire to learn its lessons. Only when we Americans understand the historical and political context of this conflict will we apply appropriate scrutiny to the decisions of our leaders.
Using the same imagery and language that supported our 2003 war against Saddam Hussein, our political leaders led Americans to believe that our Syrian intervention is an idealistic war against tyranny, terrorism and religious fanaticism. We tend to dismiss, as mere cynicism, the views of those Arabs who see the current crisis as a rerun of the same old plots about pipelines and geopolitics.
But, if we are to have an effective foreign policy, we must recognize the Syrian conflict is a war over control of resources indistinguishable from the myriad clandestine and undeclared oil wars we have been fighting in the Mid-East for 65 years. And only when we see this conflict as a proxy war over a pipeline do events become comprehensible.
It’s the only paradigm that explains why the GOP on Capitol Hill and the Obama administration are still fixated on regime change rather than regional stability, why the Obama administration can find no Syrian moderates to fight the war, why ISIS blew up a Russian passenger plane, why the Saudi’s just executed a powerful Shia cleric only to have their embassy burned in Tehran, why Russia is bombing non-ISIS fighters and why Turkey went out of its way to down a Russian jet. The million refugees now flooding into Europe are refugees of a pipeline war and CIA blundering.
Clemente compares ISIS to Colombia’s FARC — a drug cartel with a revolutionary ideology to inspire its foot soldiers. “You have to think of ISIS as an oil cartel,” Clemente said. “In the end, money is the governing rationale. The religious ideology is a tool that inspires its soldiers to give their lives for an oil cartel.”
Once we strip this conflict of its humanitarian patina and recognize the Syrian conflict as an oil war, our foreign policy strategy becomes clear. Instead, our first priority should be the one no one ever mentions — we need to kick our Mid-East oil jones, an increasingly feasible objective, as the US becomes more energy independent.
Next, we need to dramatically reduce our military profile in the Middle East and let the Arabs run Arabia. Other than humanitarian assistance and guaranteeing the security of Israel’s borders, the US has no legitimate role in this conflict. While the facts prove that we played a role in creating the crisis, history shows that we have little power to resolve it.
As we contemplate history, it’s breathtaking to consider the astonishing consistency with which virtually every violent intervention in the Middle East since World War II by our country has resulted in miserable failure. The long list of CIA and military adventures has each cost us dearly in national treasure, in liberty at home, in our moral authority abroad and in our national security.
Without any memorable exception, every violent intervention has resulted in a catastrophic blowback far more costly to our country than any problems the authors our meddling intended to solve. Our mischief has neither improved life in the Middle East nor has it made America safer.
A 1997 US Department of Defense report found that “the data show a strong correlation between US involvement abroad and an increase in terrorist attacks against the US” Let’s face it, what we call the “war on terror” is really just another oil war. We’ve squandered $6 trillion on three wars abroad and on constructing a national security warfare state at home since oilman Cheney declared the “Long War” in 2001.
The only winners have been the military contractors and oil companies who have pocketed historic profits. We have compromised our values, butchered our own youth, killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, subverted our idealism and squandered our national treasures in fruitless and costly adventures abroad.
In the process, we have turned America, once the world’s beacon of freedom, into a national security surveillance state and an international moral pariah.
America’s founding fathers warned Americans against standing armies, foreign entanglements and, in John Adams’ words, “going abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” Those wise men understood that imperialism abroad is incompatible with democracy and civil rights at home. They wanted America to be a “city on a hill” — a model of democracy for the rest of the world.
The Atlantic Charter echoed their seminal American ideal that each nation should have the right to self-determination. Over the past seven decades, the Dulles brothers, the Cheney Gang, the neocons and their ilk have hijacked that fundamental principle of American idealism and deployed our military and intelligence apparatus to serve the mercantile interests of large corporations and particularly, the petroleum companies and military contractors who have literally made a killing from these conflicts.
It’s time for Americans to turn America away from this new imperialism and back to the path of idealism and democracy. We should let the Arabs govern Arabia and turn our energies to the great endeavor of nation building at home. We need to begin this process, not by invading Syria, but by ending our ruinous addiction to oil.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s reputation as a resolute defender of the environment stems from a litany of successful legal actions. Kennedy was named one of Time magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet” for his success helping Riverkeeper lead the fight to restore the Hudson River.
NOTE: This article first appeared on EcoWatch on February 25, 2016.
This war is a war of aggression, started by Saudi Arabia in March 2015, with crucial US blessing, participation, personnel, and ordnance. The US has been a willing, guilty partner and enabler in 18 months of military atrocities in a one-sided war that everyone involved knew — or should have known — was a pure war crime based on a paranoid delusion.
American participation in this war of aggression was a war declared by press release from the National Security Council on March 25, 2015, another example of the imperial presidency’s ability to act by fiat without fear of serious objection from the public, the media, or even Congress: President Obama has authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council]-led military operations. [emphasis added]
The fundamental crime in Yemen is waging a war of aggression, which encompasses all the subsequent war crimes including bombing civilians, using cluster bombs, bombing hospitals, bombing food supplies, and trying to starve a population to submission or death.
Yemen, with a population of 26 million people, was the poorest country in the region even before it was attacked. What the US supports and sanctions against Yemen makes any US complaint about Russian actions in Crimea sound like howling hypocrisy.
For all that the Saudis frame their war on Yemen as a defense against a threat from Iran, there has never been any credible evidence of any credible threat to Saudi Arabia from any element of the miniscule Iranian presence in Yemen. Yemen is fighting a civil war, a new version of the same old civil war Yemenis have been fighting for decades, both before and after Yemen was two separate countries.
The Iran “threat” is the paranoid delusion supposedly justifying a merciless war on a civil population already beset by a four-sided civil war. There is no way that those who decided to wage this war of aggression could not have known the reality in Yemen if they had wanted to know it. Presumably they knew it all full well and chose a war of aggression anyway, recklessly, perhaps even thoughtlessly, but criminally all the same.
The Saudi goal was always get rid of a longstanding threat on its southwestern border, where the tribal land of the Houthis lay both in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. When the long-oppressed Houthis, a Shia minority in a Sunni world, drove out the Sunni government of Yemen in 2015, the Saudis, without saying so in so many words, decided on a course of action that could lead to a final solution.
And everyone knew, at the time, and no one objected, according to this account by the highly reliable Andrew Cockburn on Democracy NOW! (whose piece in Harper’s Magazine for September 2016, ironically titled “Acceptable Losses,” provides an excellent exegesis of the war on Yemen, but with a more elegiac tone):
Note: The segment on Yemen begins around minute 14 in the broadcast.
I was told, very early on in the war, Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken went to Riyadh to ask the — this is two weeks — yeah, it was two weeks into the war [mid-April 2015], when they had already been bombing away, using the US bombs, US-supplied bombs, using US weapons, killing already dozens, if not certainly, you know, hundreds of civilians, destroying factories.
And finally, Blinken turns up in Riyadh and asks, “By the way, what are you trying to accomplish here?” And the Saudis effectively said, or at least the Americans understood them to say, “Well, we basically want to wipe out the Houthis.” Well, they termed it as “end all Iranian influence in Yemen.”
So, the Americans — Blinken was a bit shocked by that, so I’m told, and said, “Well, you know, that’s going a bit far. But it’s — you should certainly stop the Houthis taking over the country.” And that, effectively, gave the Saudis carte blanche to continue this kind of mindless carpet bombing . . . .
By 2015, American hands were already bloody with the US drone assassination program that had killed not only innocent civilians, but American citizens, without a trace of due process of law. In effect, already enmeshed in its own nexus of war crimes in Yemen, the US green-lighted the Saudi-led war of aggression that would make American crimes pale by comparison.
Kerry to Consult on Terrorism,
But Not US or Saudi Terrorism
Terror bombing, an example of which is Saudi pilots flying American planes dropping American bombs on defenseless Yemeni civilian targets, is probably not the terrorism Secretary Kerry wants to discuss — ever — with the Saudis and their allies, never mind other weapons suppliers like France and the United Kingdom.
As the official State Department notice put it in deadly opaque prose: Secretary Kerry will travel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for a series of meetings with senior Saudi leaders, his counterparts from the Gulf Cooperation Council, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen. His discussion will focus on the ongoing conflict in Yemen and efforts to restore peace and stability . . . .
Those “efforts to restore peace and stability” notably include the destruction of two schools, another hospital, and a potato chip factory, along with the associated men, women, and children, especially at the schools.
Of course, America the Exceptional does not stand for this betrayal of human decency, and our presidential candidates of all parties have railed ceaselessly against this indiscriminate murder of patients, their families, their doctors and other medical personnel, forcing the White House to take action to bring to an end 17 months of aggressive war and other war crimes and crimes against humanity — no, wait, that’s not happening, is it?
Actually, if any presidential candidate of any political party has expressed the slightest objection to the Saudi-coalition’s genocidal war on Yemen, such evidence is so hard to come by that it may as well not exist.
(In August 2015, Jill Stein of the Green Party mentioned in passing that the Saudis “are committing war crimes right now in Yemen,” and more recently she called for an end to US funding for Saudi Arabia and Israel because of their violations of human rights laws, but she does not tend to make a point of the US support for a war of aggression in Yemen. But she’s better than any other candidate on Yemen.)
At this point, a year and a half into our shared war of aggression, every candidate is complicit in this horrendous, unjustified war promoted and pursued with smug disdain for anything like peace by our peace prize winning President Obama.
The blood drips from all their hands, their feet, their tongues and eyelashes, but most of all from every pore of our Nobel Laureate in the White House. (As the book Double Down reported in 2012: “Turns out I’m really good at killing people,” Obama said quietly, “Didn’t know that was gonna be a strong suit of mine.”)
With the US at War, Congress
Has Nothing To Say about Any of It
The US is at war with Yemen, in support of the Saudi-led coalition that launched its undeclared war of aggression on March 26, 2015. US war-making includes, but is not limited to:
US intelligence services providing intelligence to the aggressor nations;
US military personnel participating in daily target planning and attack assessment;
US tanker aircraft re-fueling aggressor nation aircraft bombing Yemen (46,500 acknowledged sorties in the first 11 months of war);
US drones targeting and attacking under US control;
US military contractors servicing the Saudi F-15s that bomb Yemen;
US personnel training Saudi military;
US military personnel operating in Yemen; and
the US Navy reinforcing the Saudi blockade intent on starving Yemen into submission.
The US Congress has never debated, never authorized US participation in a war of aggression against Yemen. The US president has never asked Congress for such authorization of a war of aggression against Yemen. Neither house of Congress has acted on any bill that directly addresses the war of aggression against Yemen.
More than a year after the war started, two Democratic members of Congress (joined by two Republicans) introduced identical bills intended to respond to the war.
California congressman Ted Lieu (joined by Florida congressman Ted Yoho) and Connecticut senator Christopher Murphy (joined by Kentucky senator Rand Paul) asked their colleagues to address the horrors of the war (briefly enumerated in the bill), not by ending the war, but only by temporarily limiting US arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
That’s it. They did not mention US participation in the war. Both their bills were referred to committee. At the time there was a spotty ceasefire in Yemen while peace talks proceeded in Kuwait (the talks were suspended in early August, leading to the Saudi escalation currently killing more civilians).
Incredibly, this non-response response to war crimes in Yemen has gotten Rep. Lieu some recent positive press coverage, in The Intercept of August 22 and elsewhere, even though his bill is designed to have no immediate impact on the carnage.
Rep. Lieu is a colonel in the US Air Force Reserve. When he was on active duty he taught the law of war to other Air Force officers. His interview rhetoric, like most of his public action, is soft-edged even though he knows perfectly well his country is committing war crimes.
He almost said as much in an August 15 statement objecting to the Saudi attack on a school in Haydan, Yemen, that killed 10 children:
The indiscriminate civilian killings by Saudi Arabia look like war crimes to me. In this case, children as young as 8 were killed by Saudi Arabian air strikes. By assisting Saudi Arabia, the United States is aiding and abetting what appears to be war crimes in Yemen. The Administration must stop enabling this madness now. [emphasis in the original]
Rep. Lieu and others have also objected to the State Department’s certification of another arms sale to Saudi Arabia: this one is $1.15 billion for 153 tanks, hundreds of machine guns, and other war materiel. This is in addition to the record $100 billion in arms sales to the Saudis already made by the Obama administration.
The latest arms deal suggested to Rep. Lieu “that the administration is, at best, callously indifferent to the mass amount of civilians dying as a result of the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing.” He did not openly consider whether 153 Abrams Main Battle Tanks and other weaponry might open the way for the air war of aggression to be matched by an escalation of the ground war of aggression as well.
Twenty of those new US tanks are specifically designated as replacements for tanks lost in combat, some of them in Yemen. On the other hand, the official State Department notice of the Abrams Tank sale assures Congress: “The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”
That’s hardly reassuring in a region where wars of attrition and military quagmires are killing not only thousands of Yemenis, but Palestinians, Israelis, Lebanese, Syrians, Saudis, Turks, Kurds, Iraqis, Afghans, and god knows who else, more often than not with Made-in-USA weapons and munitions.
The proposed US tank sale has drawn the attention of several NGOs (non-governmental organizations) looking to wash American hands of the war on Yemen by blocking the sale, or at least having a debate about it in Congress. Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote a letter to Secretary Kerry August 19, with temperate language of concern about several countries, including Yemen.
HRW asked Secretary Kerry “to emphasize the potential consequences if Saudi Arabia fails to improve its conduct.” But it did not suggest what those consequences might be in light of the reality that the US has coordinated and condones all Saudi conduct to date. CODEPINK is supporting a petition to support the Congressional letter that urges President Obama to postpone the US tank sale to the Saudis.
Even The New York Times is expressing something shy of anguish over “American complicity” and “carnage” and targets that are not “legitimate” under international law as it supports efforts to block the tank sale in Congress. The Times doesn’t mention that this is the same Congress that in June — supporting a White House request — refused to block the sale of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia for fear of “stigmatizing” cluster bombs.
That’s a reflection of the American version of reality, since cluster bombs are already stigmatized by most countries of the world and using them on civilians, as US-Saudi forces do in Yemen, is widely understood to be a war crime. The solution, according to the Times:
Congress should put the arms sales on hold and President Obama should quietly inform Riyadh that the United States will withdraw crucial assistance if the Saudis do not stop targeting civilians and agree to negotiate peace.
That can’t happen in the real world, where the president and the Saudis all know they are war criminals and are, like Macbeth, so steeped in blood “that should I wade no more,/Returning were as tedious as go o’er.”
There is no reason to expect any good to come to Yemen until a whole lot more Americans face the reality of their country’s support for a genocidal war of aggression. When enough Americans recognize that, then they will have to do a lot more about it than stop selling tanks to the aggressors. Until then, the US-sponsored atrocity of ethnic cleansing in a poverty-stricken country that threatens no one will continue unabated.
William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
The Death Toll in Yemen Is So High
The Red Cross Has Started Donating Morgues to Hospitals Alex Emmons / The Intercept
(August 25, 2016) — Almost a year and a half into Saudi Arabia’s US-backed bombing campaign in Yemen, the humanitarian toll has become so extensive that the International Committee of the Red Cross has taken the unusual step of donating entire morgue units to Yemeni hospitals.
“The hospitals were not able to cope,” said Rima Kamal, a Yemen-based spokesperson for the Red Cross. “You could have more than 20 dead people brought into one hospital on one single day. The morgue capacity at a regular hospital is not equipped to handle this influx of dead bodies.”
“At times several dead bodies had to be stored on one shelf to avoid further decomposition,” Kamal continued. “The situation was not sustainable.”
Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen in March 2015, after Houthi rebels took control of the capital and forced Yemen’s Saudi-backed leader, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, into exile. The United Nations has since attributed the majority of the war’s 6,500 deaths to the Saudi coalition, which the US and UK have resupplied with tens of billions of dollars of weapons.
The Red Cross has donated body bags and refrigerated storage machines to three hospitals — two in the capital of Sana’a, and one in Dhamar, in southwestern Yemen. “More are in the pipeline,” said Kamal. Aid workers also train hospital staff in the forensics of identifying bodies.
“It is not that common for the ICRC to donate morgues,” said Kamal. “The fact that we now do is telling of the size of the human tragedy in Yemen.”
Yemen’s hospitals often store bodies for a long period of time before they can be identified. Displaced people often lose contact with their families, who don’t know where to search for missing relatives. After a while, unidentified bodies are buried in anonymous graves.
Shortages of electricity, fuel, and medical supplies also affect hospitals’ ability to provide care. The Red Cross has had to donate generators to help ensure medical facilities and morgue units were provided with power.
Both sides in the conflict are complicit in the hundreds of reported attacks on clinics and hospitals, which have led many to close, leaving more than 14 million Yemenis without access to healthcare.
Last week, for example, Saudi Arabia bombed an MSF-supported hospital, leading the charity to withdraw doctors from six hospitals in northern Yemen. The government-run Saudi Press Agency issued a statement expressing “deep regret” over MSF’s decision. Saudi Arabia had previously bombed MSF medical facilities and personnel three times.
In addition to a relentless bombing campaign, the Saudi-led coalition has maintained a strict naval blockade of the country, which previously imported 90 percent of its food, medicine, and fuel. As a result, the war in Yemen has spawned one of the world’s largest human-made humanitarian disasters.
UNICEF reported in May that more than 21 million people — nearly 90 percent of Yemen’s population — are in need of humanitarian assistance. Fourteen million people lack sufficient food, with more than 320,000 children under 5 years old at risk of severe malnutrition.
The situation has been exacerbated by recent surge of airstrikes. In the days following the collapse of one-sided peace talks last month, the Saudi-led coalition bombed a key bridge to Sana, which Oxfam estimates carried 90 percent of World Food Program aid to the besieged city. Days later, Saudi Arabia announced the closure of the Sana airport, effectively cutting of humanitarian aid to millions of people.
As Yemen descends into chaos, the UN is facing a lack of resources. The current humanitarian response plan for Yemen calls for $1.8 billion, but the international community has only funded 28 percent of it. Ironically, 60 percent of the money comes from countries involved in bombing Yemen or supplying weapons to the coalition.
Under pressure from critics to end the war, Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday, to participate in talks about the situation in Yemen. Kerry’s visit comes as numerous Human Rights groups are calling for a Saudi arms embargo, and as several US congressmen are trying to block arms shipments.
A Congressman Campaigns to “Stop the Madness” of US Support for Saudi Bombing in Yemen
Doctors Without Borders Hospital Bombing in Yemen Earns Rare Saudi Rebuke at State Department
Lopsided Peace Talks Collapse, Saudis Resume Bombing Yemen and US Sells More Weapons
U.N. Chief Admits He Removed Saudi Arabia From Child-Killer List Due to Extortion
U.N. Quickly Removes Saudi-Led Coalition From Its List of Child Killers
John Kerry Gives Saudis a Big Pass on Indiscriminate Bombing of Civilians in Yemen
UN Secretary-General’s Message on
The International Day Against Nuclear Tests Ban Ki-moon / United Nations
UNITED NATIONS (August 29, 2016) — For nearly a decade as United Nations Secretary-General, I have witnessed many of the worst problems in the world as well as our collective ability to respond in ways that at times seemed impossible. Our ambitious new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change have demonstrated the power of political will to break longstanding deadlocks.
On this International Day against Nuclear Tests, I call on the world to summon a sense of solidarity commensurate with the urgent need to end the dangerous impasse on this issue.
Today marks a quarter of a century since the closure of the Semipalatinsk test site in Kazakhstan, ground zero for more than 450 nuclear tests. The victims there are joined by others scattered across Central Asia, North Africa, North America and the South Pacific.
A prohibition on all nuclear testing will end this poisonous legacy. It will boost momentum for other disarmament measures by showing that multilateral cooperation is possible, and it will build confidence for other regional security measures, including a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.
When I visited Semipalatinsk in 2010, I saw the toxic damage — but I also witnessed the resolve of the victims and survivors. I share their determination to strive for a world free of nuclear weapons.
Since its adoption 20 years ago by the General Assembly, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty has yet to enter into force. Given the catastrophic risks posed by nuclear weapons to our collective human and environmental security — even our very existence — we must reject this stalemate.
I urge Member States to act now. Those States whose ratification is required to bring the Treaty into force should not wait for others. Even one ratification can act as a circuit breaker. All States that have not done so should sign and ratify because every ratification strengthens the norm of universality and shines a harsher spotlight on the countries that fail to act.
On this Day, I call on all countries and peoples to work for the CTBT’s entry into force as soon as possible so that we may advance toward a nuclear-weapon-free world.
(August 29, 2016) — Marking the International Day against Nuclear Tests, senior United Nations officials today called for the entry into force of a multilateral treaty that bans all nuclear explosions, for both civilian and military purposes, in all environments.
“Today marks a quarter of a century since the closure of the Semipalatinsk test site in Kazakhstan, ground zero for more than 450 nuclear tests,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day. “The victims there are joined by others scattered across Central Asia, North Africa, North America and the South Pacific.”
“A prohibition on all nuclear testing will end this poisonous legacy,” Mr. Ban added, noting that it will boost momentum for other disarmament measures by showing that multilateral cooperation is possible, and it will build confidence for other regional security measures, including a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.
It also called for increasing awareness and education “about the effects of nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions and the need for their cessation as one of the means of achieving the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.” The resolution’s adoption also commemorated the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in Kazakhstan in 1991.
In his message, Mr. Ban also noted that this year marked the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) by the Assembly.
“Given the catastrophic risks posed by nuclear weapons to our collective human and environmental security — even our very existence — we must reject this stalemate,” said the UN chief.
To date, 183 countries have signed the treaty and 164 have ratified CTBT. For the treaty to enter into force, ratification is required from the so-called Annex 2 States. Of these, China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States, have yet to ratify it.
“Those States whose ratification is required to bring the treaty into force should not wait for others. Even one ratification can act as a circuit breaker,” Mr. Ban said in his message, calling on all countries and peoples to work for CTBT’s prompt entry into force on the path towards a nuclear-weapon-free world.
General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft, in his message for the Day, said that CTBT must also be seen as “an important tool in our endeavour to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons,” adding his voice to the call on those States which have not yet done so to sign and ratify CTBT to enable its entry into force.
Mr. Lykketoft also noted that moratoriums on nuclear testing have had a positive impact on the international security environment, and he recalled the need for continued systematic and sustained efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally and fulfil the ultimate objective of general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.
Mr. Lykketoft noted that to enhance awareness and education about the effects of nuclear test explosions and the need for their cessation, he will convene an informal General Assembly plenary meeting on Wednesday at the UN Headquarters.
Why the International Day Against Nuclear Tests Is Special This Year a 2016 report, more than half of the town does not live to 60.
Now, the United Nations recognizes the International Day Against Nuclear Tests every year on that date to commemorate the decision by Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev to shut the site down.
“Every effort should be made to end nuclear tests in order to avert devastating and harmful effects on the lives and health of people and the environment,” states U.N. Resolution 64/35, which the General Assembly accepted in 2009 to establish the Day Against Nuclear Tests.
Even in 1961, TIME printed an explainer on nuclear damage that explained that fallout “can cause cancer, leukemia, sterility and mutations in future generations.” But underground testing continued at Semipalatinsk until 1989. Eventually an anti-nuclear movement called Nevada Semipalatinsk grew, bringing thousands to it protests against the nuclear site in 1989.
And Semipalatinsk was more than just one site: its closing in 1991 was symbolic, amidst the crumbling of the Soviet Union. When it was announced that the test site would close, TIME noted that it was a good sign for a world concerned about what would happen to the nuclear devices and site in formerly-Soviet regions:
Most experts, though, believe the threat of atomic war was minimal during the coup and will probably remain so even if the Union dissolves. One reason is that virtually all the USSR’s strategic nuclear arms — the missile- and bomber-borne kinds that threaten other nations — are in just four republics: Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia and Kazakhstan. Of the four, Russia holds 80% or more of the strategic nukes . . .
Two other republics with strategic nukes have gone still further toward yielding control. Both Ukraine and Belorussia have proclaimed themselves nuclear-free zones, and Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev decreed the closing of the underground nuclear testing center at Semipalatinsk, though he has not yet agreed to give up the weapons.
The International Day Against Nuclear Tests serves as a reminder of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that the U.N. adopted, but has not yet entered into force. The treaty would ban all nuclear testing or explosions in any setting, yet eight states in the world have not signed or ratified it yet: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States.
Kazakhstan Leader Calls to
Reduce and Fully Ban Nuclear Weapons TASS
ASTANA (August 29, 2016) — Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev has proposed to set up a crisis management system in relations between major powers and assume new obligations on international nuclear safety treaties.
“We need to create a crisis management system in relations between major powers,” he said speaking at an international conference “Building a world without nuclear weapons.” “It is also important to tighten control over the proliferation of conventional weapons and new military technologies.”
Nazarbayev called on all governments to undertake new obligations to further strengthen international treaties and institutions forming the basis of nuclear safety. “I also ask all parliamentarians representing their countries and peoples today to take an active part in this,” he said.
Kazakhstan’s leader pointed to the need to start a new stage in the struggle to reduce and fully ban nuclear weapons. “At the dawn of the nuclear era, prominent scientists, even those who took part in creating nuclear energy, military strategists and politicians proved that winning a war with the use of this weapon is an illusion,” he emphasized.
The president warned that “the effect of adjusting to life under the sword of Damocles of a nuclear apocalypse is, unfortunately, beginning to be transmitted genetically from one generation to another.”
“The 25th anniversary of Semipalatinsk nuclear test site closure is a good reason to start a new stage in the struggle to reduce and fully ban Doomsday weapons,” he said. “Throughout several decades prior to this event the world was trying to lower the threshold of a nuclear danger by reducing nuclear weapons and imposing moratoriums on their use. Kazakhstan was the first to cut this Gordian knot by passing a decree on closing the world’s biggest nuclear test site.”
Russian Diplomat Calls for Returning
Nuclear Weapons to Producer Countries TASS
MOSCOW (July 11, 2016) — Return of all nuclear weapons to the territories of countries where they have been produced would be a vital contribution to world security, Russia’s Permanent Representative to NATO Alexander Grushko said in an interview aired by the Rossiya 24 television news channel on Monday.
“It would be a contribution to international security if all nuclear charges were returned to the territories of countries, which possess them. This is exactly what Russia did,” Grushko said commenting the US authorities’ intention to offer Russia to extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) for another five years.
“It is necessary to bear in mind that as major nuclear players, including Russia and the United States, the role of nuclear potentials possessed by other countries will increase. Therefore, the approach will be totally different: it should be an integrated approach,” Grushko said.
According to the Washington Post electronic version, US President Barack Obama plans to use his final six months in office for putting forward a number of nuclear arms control initiatives, including, possibly, to offer Russia to extend the New Start Treaty for another five years. The publication said that the US National Security Council had discussed the topic at its meetings twice over the past two weeks.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
The United National Antiwar Coalition Responds to Terry Burke / In These Times – 2016-08-28 23:30:40
Special to Environmentalist Against War
A response by the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) to the attack on the antiwar movement from Terry Burke published in “In These Times” (See Terry Burke’s full article below)
(August 25, 2016) — In the past 15 years, the US military machine has attacked 17 countries. The many peace and justice organizations and individuals attacked in Terry Burke’s article (1) have a long history of opposition to ALL US wars, interventions, invasions, drone attacks, military coups, blockades, and sanctions on numerous countries around the world.
The military aggression of the United States, the expansion of NATO, the efforts at encirclement of Russia and China with weapons shields, CIA destabilizations in Latin America and the massively destructive US wars in Central Asia, West Asia, Middle East and North Africa, along with the massive arms deals with US allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia, have created terrible destruction and millions of deaths and refugees.
UNAC, a peace and justice coalition with organizations and individuals from different perspectives, seeks to counter the corporate media propaganda and politicians’ justifications for each of these wars and for expanding US militarism.
These wars collectively, and each of them individually, are for US economic and geopolitical domination. None of these wars have resulted in increased security or stability for the countries targeted or for the people of the US.
It is from this perspective that we oppose the US war in Syria. We oppose the US bombing that has ruined so much of the vital infrastructure, and we oppose the US-coordinated arming and financing of numerous armed groups and the devastating sanctions that the US has imposed on the people of Syria.
Terry Burke cites her past work in the Nicaragua Solidarity Committee as the basis of her position on Syria. However, this distorted reasoning would have led Terry and the antiwar movement to support the US backed Contra forces in Nicaragua as “democratic and progressive forces.”
The US role in Central America was to covertly arm contra forces to impose regime change in Nicaragua while funding and arming Salvadoran and Guatemalan death squads. This destructive policy created millions of refugees from Central America in the 1980s, just as US policies of regime change in the past 12 years of war in Iraq, Libya, Syria and elsewhere has created even more refugees.
The US is coordinating Saudi, Israeli, Qatar, Turkish and EU efforts of bombing and of arming opposition groups. The stated goal from the beginning has been regime change in Syria. Regime change, as in Iraq and Libya, means the complete destruction of every secular state institution, including the very structures that provided full access to free education, free health care, electrification, potable water, modern infrastructure, irrigation and communication.
Years of US sanctions against Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya did not succeed in carrying out regime change, although they created great hardships and dislocations in each economy. Up to 1.5 million people died due to US sanctions in Iraq alone.
Syrians in Lebanon line up to vote in Syrian election 2014
FAIR, a media watchdog group, exposed the fact that it was groups supported by the US fighting alongside the al Nusra Front, the al Qaida group in Syria, that actually broke the ceasefire, yet the media blamed the Syrian government and the Russians for the breakdown. Much of what we see in the US media related to the situation in Syria is the same kind of propaganda with the goal of building greater support for war.
Terry Burke claims we are “US-centric” for opposing our government’s attacks on Syria and attempts at regime change in that country. She claims that we have “ignored anti-Assad progressive Syrian voices.”
But who has ignored what? Where in the US corporate media are the voices of Syrians (both pro and anti-Assad) who want an end to the ISIS/Al-Qaida/US/NATO intervention in their country and have rallied to the side of their government to end it?
The US corporate media and some so-called progressives in the US have focused on vilifying Assad rather than the US-led war on Syria, which only leads to strengthening the forces who seek regime change and war. Should we add our voices to that chorus? Is that the best way to end US intervention in Syria, which the overwhelming majority of Syrians oppose? We think not.
The March 13 UNAC protest, “A Day of Peace and Solidarity,” is the basis of Burke’s claims that “a dictator accused of monstrous war crimes is being given tacit support by major organizations in the peace movement.” Why? Because the “anti-war protest in New York City included people carrying the flag of the brutal Assad regime . . . ”
It is true that Syrians came to that demonstration and carried the flag of their country. Do Syrians not have the right to carry their flag? Is it the place of the US anti-war movement to tell people from any country that is under attack by the US that they do not have the right to carry their country’s flag?
That is not the role of our movement; we oppose our government’s illegal and immoral aggression against all countries and do not lecture the people of that country on whom they should support or not support.
Syrians protest in London to end US intervention in their country
If antiwar activists and organizations in the US condemn US bombings and aggression in Syria as our primary concern, rather than denouncing “Assad’s crimes,” we are branded “pro-Assad.” Burke attacks us for having signs like “US Hands Off Syria” and “No US War on Syria.” These she says are “US-centric.” Were similar slogans used during the Vietnam War, Afghan War, and Iraq War also US-centric?
The US is the most militarily aggressive country in the world. It has around 20 times the number of foreign military bases as all other countries in the world combined. We in the US have an obligation to humanity to demand that our government stop the aggression and bring the troops home from Syria and all of the more than 130 countries where there are US troops.
Burke accuses the antiwar movement of ignoring progressive Syrian voices but she is highly selective in identifying the “Syrian perspective” as those who are anti-Assad. We must ask her why she ignores the Syrian voices that seek to end the US/NATO/ISIS/Al-Qaida attacks on their country.
Burke believes that the primary feature of the Syrian conflict is fighting between two camps of Syrians. However, this is not the case. Syria has been invaded by extremists such as ISIS and al Nusra.
Tens of thousands of mercenaries have poured into this small country to overthrow the government, a goal which the US and NATO share. They have been supported by bombings, logistics and harsh sanctions against Syria from the US and NATO.
Though the US has claimed it is there to attack the extremists, there had not been much damage to them until Russia entered the fighting– and then, in a matter of weeks, the tide turned. The oil that ISIS takes from Syria and uses to help fund their operations has been left untouched by the U.S and its allies until Russia started bombing their oil operations.
The antiwar movement can agree on non-intervention and self-determination. Aligning with those anti-Assad Syrians who support US intervention in Syria can only divide and weaken our movement, which needs to be united today, perhaps more than ever.
We urge the antiwar movement to reject the ideas that Terry Burke presents in her article and demand that the US and NATO stop the bombing, stop the sanctions, stop the flow of weapons and stop the funding. This will stop the extremist groups. Then the people of Syria can alone decide their fate.
(1) Organizations and people attacked by Terry Burke in her article in In These Times include:
United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), US Peace Council, Syrian American Forum, Veterans for Peace, Manhattan Green Party, WarIsACrime.org, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Syrian American Will Association, ANSWER Coalition, Anti-War Committee Chicago, Minnesota Anti-War Committee, Women Against Military Madness, Workers World Party, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Mint Press News, AntiWar.com, Consortium News, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity including members William Binney, Coleen Rowley and Ray McGovern; dedicated activists like David Swanson and Kathy Kelly, as well as journalists Seymour Hersh, Robert Fisk, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Kennedy Jr., Gareth Porter and Robert Parry.
The Administrative Committee of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) :
Marilyn Levin — UNAC co-coordinator
Joe Lombardo — UNAC co-coordinator
Margaret Kimberley — Senior columnist, Black Agenda Report
Joe Iosbaker — Chicago Anti-war Committee
Sara Flounders — Co-director, International Action Center
Bernadette Ellorin — Chairperson, BAYAN, USA
Judy Bello — Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars
Abayomi Azikiwe — Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice
Phil Wilayto — Editor, The Virginia Defender
Jeff Mackler — Northern California UNAC
ACTION:If you want to add your name to this statement, please email UNACpeace@gmail.com with your name and the name of your organization. If it is an organizational endorsement of the statement, please note that in your email or simply click here: https://www.unacpeace.org/support-syria-statement.html
Thousands of Syrian women shout pro-government slogans and wave Syrian flags.
US Peace Activists Should Start Listening to Progressive Syrian Voices
A US-centric view of the conflict gives Assad a free pass. Terry Burke / In These Times
(August 15, 2016) — In a recent In These Times article, reporter Eli Massey writes, “Syrian perspectives have been almost entirely absent from conversations about the refugee crisis, ISIS and the fate of the Assad regime.”
While Massey is referring to a failure on the part of journalists, the article — an interview with British Syrians Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al-Shami — is also of relevance to US peace activists.
Much of the peace movement, too, has largely ignored anti-Assad progressive Syrian voices and relied heavily on Western pundits for their analysis of the Syrian conflict. Consequently, many peace activists know little about Syria’s peaceful uprising and how it devolved into armed conflict.
They know little to nothing of the remarkable ongoing successes and organizing efforts of grassroots groups in liberated areas (some discussed in Massey’s interview). Too many activists view the conflict through a US-centric lens, concerned only with the US role and with Washington’s talk that Assad must step down.
Pro-Assad for Peace?
The results have been Orwellian — a dictator accused of monstrous war crimes is being given tacit support by major organizations in the peace movement. The March 13 United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) anti-war protest in New York City included people carrying the flag of the brutal Assad regime, some even wearing T-shirts with Assad’s image.
The pro-Assad Syrian American Forum officially supported this march along with Veterans for Peace, the Manhattan Green Party, David Swanson of WarIsACrime.org, and other leftwing organizations and peace activists.
Speakers included not only longtime peace activists llike Kathy Kelly, a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, but also Khaldoun Makhoul, a Syrian American and member of the pro-Assad Syrian American Will Association who expressed his enthusiastic support for Assad in an interview at the rally. [The original version of this story incorrectly reported that David Swanson was among the speakers at the rally. We regret the mistake. — Editor, In These Times.]
The current Vice President of Veterans for Peace, Gerry Condon, recently returned from a weeklong US Peace Council trip to Syria, where a delegation met directly with Bashar Assad and other regime leaders. Condon wrote on Facebook that he was “honored to represent Veterans for Peace” on the trip.
An article about the trip by Vanessa Beeley, a writer and steering committee member of the Syria Solidarity Movement International, gushed about the meetings and the “fascinating insights that were shared. . . . Our meeting with the Grand Mufti was one of the most profoundly moving and eloquent introductions to the mind of a true man of peace and reconcilitiation [sic].”
A major reason for the support of Assad is that some organizations believe “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” For them it is a simple knee jerk analysis. If the United States opposes Assad, they support him.
Another factor is a deeply ingrained imperialism, an arrogant first world attitude that we know more than the rest of the planet. Orwell’s Big Brother would have approved of today’s “anti-imperialist” leaders subconsciously identifying with the state and behaving like imperialists, imposing their point of view on poorer countries.
One of the basic principles for anti-imperialists should be respect for people from the Global South. But respect for anti-Assad progressive Syrians appears to be lacking in many of today’s “anti-imperialist” leaders.
I was active in the 1980s in the Central American peace movement in Chicago. There was sometimes tension between Central Americans and the North American solidarity activists. We recognized our tendency as US activists to try to take charge of organizing efforts, and we tried to work respectfully with our Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, Honduran and Guatemalan counterparts. With effort, we generally succeeded.
We understood it was their struggle and that they were more knowledgeable about what was happening in Central America. We were aware of the need to try to take our lead from the people whose countries were under attack, whose family and friends were suffering.
That awareness, that sensitivity towards activists from the affected countries is seemingly absent today from major peace organizations regarding the Syrian conflict. Since the beginning of the revolution, “anti-imperialist” leaders of the peace movement have blatantly dismissed progressive Syrian voices.
I’ve been told that Syrians here are like the anti-Castro “gusanos” in Cuba — reactionaries who want to overthrow Assad’s “socialist” government. Never mind that many of the anti-Assad Syrians are strong anti-imperialists: They identify as nonviolent activists, socialists or anarchists, or have other progressive political orientations. Regardless, they are all too often lumped together and dismissed.
If some Syrians have asked the US to bomb Assad’s runways or for US weapons to be delivered to the opposition, one can disagree with them. Such a disagreement is not a justification for disregarding them completely and, in the process, using a broad brush to discount all anti-Assad Syrian voices, many of whom oppose US military intervention.
We can still be in solidarity with the Syrian people’s struggle for freedom and dignity even when we have differing opinions about what should be done to end the war.
Yet the Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria (CISPOS), an organization that has never advocated for US military intervention (and of which I am a member), has been condemned by “anti-imperialists” for hosting “events with expats who support US intervention in their countries.”
Specifically, we hosted Syrian activist and University of Arkansas professor Mohja Kahf, who is accused in Consortium News of having “ties to the early destabilization of Syria” through her ex-husband’s work. But the article ignores Kahf’s own work, as a member of the Syrian Nonviolence Movement. Kahf has presented for us and several human rights, university and church groups on nonviolent resistance.
Twisting the Narrative
International human rights organizations like Amnesty International, the UN Human Rights Council, Physicians for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch have issued numerous reports condemning the Assad regime’s barrel bombs, starvation sieges and torture prisons.
“Clearly the actions of the forces of the government far outweigh the violations” by rebels, said UN human rights chief Navi Pillay. “It’s the government that is mostly responsible for violations.”
In the face of this consensus, “left” media has put an exorbitant amount of energy into discrediting this human rights reporting, producing headlines like “Human Rights Watch Is Not about Human Rights,” “Biased Reporting on Syria in the Service of War” and “Amnesty International, War Propaganda, and Human Rights Terrorism.”
But, while no doubt these human rights organizations are imperfect, the fact that each corroborate the others’ conclusions about the Assad regime should tell us something. And, curiously, the “anti-imperialists” don’t seem to show the same skepticism towards Syria, Russia and Iran’s propaganda campaign — Orwell’s Ministry of Truth would be proud.
These so-called “anti-imperialist” organizations — UNAC, ANSWER Coalition, Anti-War Committee Chicago, Minnesota Anti-War Committee, Veterans for Peace, Women Against Military Madness, Workers World Party, Freedom Road Socialist Organization and others — use some of the same signs at anti-war events: “US Hands Off Syria” and “No US War on Syria.”
But these slogans reflect a typically US-centric view of the conflict: They rightly condemn the US role while saying nothing on Assad’s crimes or the rampant bombing by Putin’s Russia, which Amnesty International has accused of deliberately targeting civilians and aid workers.
Many alternative Internet media, claiming to be anti-war and anti-imperialist, make a similar mistake. Mint Press News, AntiWar.com, Consortium News and others present a narrative in which the US, its allies, and its regime-change proxies are the primary problem, and Assad is merely protecting his sovereign country — a narrative with little room for anti-Assad civilian activists.
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) is a group of current and former officials of the United States Intelligence Community, including William Binney, Coleen Rowley and Ray McGovern, that has opposed many aspects of US foreign policy. It was initially formed in 2003 to protest the use of faulty intelligence in the lead-up to the Iraq War.
Orwell would have appreciated the irony that the group is now using faulty intelligence to support Assad’s war. In a June 25 statement, the group wrote, “Covert funding and provision of weapons and other material support to opposition groups for strikes against the Syrian Government provoked a military reaction by Assad.” In other words, they claim that US support for the rebels provoked Assad’s military reaction.
That is a distortion. Syrian authors Mohja Kahf, Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al Shami have thoroughly documented the beginnings of the conflict — months of nonviolent protest that were met by brutal repression, snipers, military actions from the Assad regime. VIPS chose their intel from cherry-picked US documents, not from progressive Syrian writers who had interviewed hundreds of Syrians.
Subconscious imperialism, racism, Islamophobia and Americanist chauvinism contribute to the problem. Western activists do not know more than Muslim Arabs about their own country.
Some of us may be better educated, more widely traveled and more informed about the historical record of US imperialism than some Syrians — though the reverse is true as well. However, most Westerners do not know more about the Syrian conflict than Syrians themselves. “Anti-imperialists” cannot completely disregard these anti-Assad Syrians.
For decades, the peace movement was on target in opposing the US position on the wars in Vietnam, Korea, Cuba, Angola, Nicaragua and El Salvador. The analysis that the United States was promoting regime change was correct in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Cuba (1960-2015), Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003).
But Syria is not Iraq. It is not Afghanistan. Syria is Syria. It has its own unique history and culture — and its own Arab Spring of a genuine popular uprising against nearly five decades of the brutal Assad family dictatorship. This revolution is real, and beyond US control.
Undoing the Movement’s Internal Imperialism
The “anti-imperialist” crowd promotes Syrian analyses by Western authors Seymour Hersh, Robert Fisk, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Kennedy Jr., Gareth Porter and Robert Parry. This is analogous to reading mainly white authors to understand Ferguson and the Black Lives Matter movement.
There are plenty of progressive Syrians to read if the “anti-imperialists” were willing to look — Yassin Al-Haj Saleh, Robin Yassin-Kassab, Mohja Kahf, Afra Jalabi, Leila Al Shami, Rime Allaf, Lina Sergie — and myriad videos and photos taken by Syrians to document Assad and Russia’s attacks on civilians.
The media covers the many competing fighting groups, but there are also many civilian voices who are rarely given media attention. There are still Local Coordinating Committees (LCC) in opposition-held areas where civilians organize basic services and political actions. In the first years of the uprising, the LCCs issued daily reports on the regime’s attacks.
Independent media outlets like Syria Direct provide reliable reporting by Syrians about Syria. Syrian civilians have led or featured prominently in campaigns to get the Western peace movement involved in solidarity to stop Assad’s barrel bombs, get aid into starving cities, pressure for ceasefires — but this doesn’t fit into the “anti-imperialists’ ” preferred narrative.
Many anti-Assad Syrians have had their family and friends bombed, killed, imprisoned, tortured, starved, displaced. Many have family members who are refugees spread throughout Europe and the Middle East. Their unrelenting tragedy has been compounded by their treatment by the “anti-imperialist”-led peace movement.
Instead of standing in solidarity with progressive Syrians, they repeat Assad’s narrative of the conflict. The “anti-imperialist” leaders of the peace movement have increased Syrians’ suffering with their direct and de facto support of Assad. It is unconscionable.
One of the rewards of solidarity work is the privilege of working with progressive activists from another country. It is inspiring and heartbreaking to go beyond the media, to work with anti-Assad Syrians and learn more about the beginnings of the uprising, the flowering of culture and civil organizations during the revolution, and the subsequent disastrous war and humanitarian crisis.
Instead of smearing solidarity activists as advocates of US military intervention — which I am not — today’s “anti-imperialists” should consider joining us. Without a split on the Left between pro-Assad and anti-Assad groups, our potential to effectively use nonviolent means to pressure for an end to the conflict would significantly increase.
Solidarity activists in the U.K. and Code Pink in the US garnered thousands of signatures on petitions to “Drop Food, Not Bombs.” My own group, CISPOS, helped organize the International Solidarity Hunger Strike for Syria to pressure the United Nations to allow humanitarian groups to bring food to besieged areas.
Mass demonstrations, teach-ins, boycotts, calls for serious negotiations, solidarity trips to the refugee camps and humanitarian campaigns are all ways to build a worldwide movement in solidarity with the Syrian people, to pressure for an end to the conflict, for peace with justice and for accountability for war crimes.
The unifying leadership that is needed for Syria cannot come from a regime that is deeply despised after forty-six years of despotic rule. The Western peace movement should support Syrian civil society activists in their efforts to reclaim democratic governance in their own country.
It is time for peace activists to reassess their thinking on Syria, to listen to progressive Syrian voices.
Terry Burke is a long-time peace activist. She worked with the Pledge of Resistance and the Nicaragua Solidarity Committee in Chicago. More recently she has been active with the Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria (CISPOS) in Minneapolis.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
“We never bow. We never bend. We never break when confronted with crisis. No, we endure, we overcome and we always, always, always move forward.
“We are America, second to none, and we own the finish line. Don’t forget it.”
— Vice President Joe Biden, July 27, 2016
The Bloody Legacy of American Exceptionalism Vanessa Beeley / American Herald Tribune
(February 9, 2016) — Exceptionalism: the condition of being different from the norm; also: a theory expounding the exceptionalism especially of a nation or region.
There are many theories surrounding the origin of American exceptionalism. The most popular in US folklore, being that it describes America’s unique character as a “free” nation founded on democratic ideals and civil liberties. The Declaration of Independence from British colonial rule is the foundation of this theory and has persevered throughout the often violent history of the US since its birth as a free nation.
Over time, exceptionalism has come to represent superiority in the minds and hearts of Americans. Belief in their economic, military and ideological supremacy is what has motivated successive US governments to invest in shaping the world in their superior image with little or no regard for the destruction left in the wake of their exceptional hegemony.
In considering itself, exceptional, the US has extricated itself from any legal obligation to adhere to either International law or even the common moral laws that should govern Humanity. The US has become exceptionally lawless and authoritarian particularly in its intolerant neo-colonialist foreign policy.
The colonized have become the colonialists, concealing their brutal savagery behind a veneer of missionary zeal that they are converting the world to their form of exceptionalist Utopia.
Such is the media and marketing apparatus that supports this superiority complex, the majority of US congress exist within its echo chamber and are willing victims of its indoctrination. The power of the propaganda vortex pulls them in and then radiates outwards, infecting all in its path.
Self-extraction from this oligarchical perspective is perceived as a revolutionary act that challenges the core of US security so exceptionalism becomes the modus vivendi.
Just as Israel considers itself the chosen people from a religious perspective, the US considers itself the chosen nation to impose its version of Democratic reform and capitalist hegemony the world over. One can see why Israel and the US make such symbiotic bedfellows.
“The fatal war for humanity is the war with Russia and China toward which Washington is driving the US and Washington’s NATO and Asian puppet states. The bigotry of the US power elite is rooted in its self-righteous doctrine that stipulates America as the “indispensable country” — Paul Craig Roberts: Washington Drives the World Towards War.
So why do the American people accept US criminal hegemony, domestic and foreign brutal tyranny & neo-colonialist blood-letting with scant protest? Why do the European vassal states not rise up against this authoritarian regime that flaunts international law and drags its NATO allies down the path to complete lawlessness and diplomatic ignominy?
The psychological term “Gaslighting” comes from a 1944 Hollywood classic movie called Gaslight. Gaslighting describes the abuse employed by a narcissist to instil in their victim’s mind, an extreme anxiety and confusion to the extent where they no longer have faith in their own powers of logic, reason and judgement.
These gaslighting techniques were adopted by central intelligence agencies in the US and Europe as part of their psychological warfare methods, used primarily during torture or interrogation.
Gaslighting as an abuser’s modus operandi, involves, specifically, the withholding of factual information and its replacement with false or fictional information designed to confuse and disorientate.
This subtle and Machiavellian process eventually undermines the mental stability of its victims reducing them to such a depth of insecurity and identity crisis that they become entirely dependent upon their abuser for their sense of reality and even identity.
Gaslighting involves a step-by-step psychological process to manipulate and destabilize its victim. It is built up over time and consists of repetitive information feeds that enter the victim’s subconscious over a period of time, until it is fully registered on the subconscious “hard disk” and cannot be overridden by the conscious floppy disk. Put more simply, it is brainwashing.
“Overall, the main reason for gaslighting is to create a dynamic where the abuser has complete control over their victim so that they are so weak that they are very easy to manipulate.” — Alex Myles
Victims of Gaslighting go through 3 stages, disbelief, defence and depression.
The first stage depends upon trust in the integrity and unimpeachable intentions of the abuser, a state of reliance that has been engendered by the abuser’s artful self-promotion and ingratiating propaganda.
Once this trust is gained, the abuser will begin to subtly undermine it, creating situations and environments where the victim will begin to doubt their own judgement. Eventually the victim will rely entirely upon the abuser to alleviate their uncertainty and to restore their sense of reality which is in fact that of the abuser.
The second stage, defence, is a process by which the abuser isolates the victim, not only from their own sense of identity but from the validation of their peers. They are made to feel that their opinion is worthless, discredited, downright weird. In political circles they would be labelled a conspiracy theorist, a dissident, a terror apologist.
As a consequence, the victim will withdraw from society and cease to express themselves for fear of ridicule, judgement or punishment.
This stage can also be compared to Stockholm Syndrome where a hostage or captive is reduced,by psychological mind games, back to infantile dependency upon their captor. Narcissistic abuse bonds the victim to the aggressor via trauma.
Stockholm Syndrome bonds the victim to the aggressor via regression to an infantile state where the abuser/aggressor becomes the “parent” who will rescue the victim from imminent annihilation. Both methods tap into the victim’s survival mechanisms to gain and maintain control.
The final stage is depression. A life under the tyrannical rule of a narcissist drives the victim into a state of extreme confusion. They are stripped of dignity & self-reliance. They, ultimately exist in an information vacuum which is only filled by that which the abuser deems suitable or relevant.
This can eventually invoke symptoms of PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder]. Flashbacks, constant apprehension, hyper vigilance, mind paralysis, rage and even violence. The process is complete and the victim has been reduced to a willing accomplice in the abusers creation of a very distorted reality.
We are currently seeing the transformation of US exceptionalism into an abusive Narcissism. The gargantuan apparatus of mind bending and controlling is being put into hyper drive by the ruling elite. We are inundated with propaganda that challenges our sense of reality but only after being “tenderized” by the fear factor. Fear of “terror”, fear of war, fear of financial insecurity, fear of gun violence, fear of our own shadow.
Once we are suitably quaking in our boots, in comes the rendition of reality that relieves our anxiety. If we challenge this version of events we are labelled a conspiracy theorist, a threat to security. We are hounded, discredited, slandered and ridiculed. We are isolated and threatened.
Wars are started in the same way. Despite the hindsight that should enable us to see it coming, the process swings into motion with resounding success. The ubiquitous dictator, the oligarch who threatens to destroy all that the US and her allies represent which of course is, freedom, equality & civil liberty all wrapped up in the Democracy shiny paper and tied with the exceptionalist ribbon.
Next the false flag to engender fear, terror and to foment sectarian strife. The support of a “legitimate” organic, indigenous “revolution” conveniently emerging in tandem with US ambitions for imposing their model of governance upon a target nation.
The arming of “freedom fighters”, the securing of mercenary additions to these manufactured proxy forces. All this is sold in the name of freedom and democracy to a public that is already in a state of anxiety and insecurity, lacking in judgement or insight into any other reality but that of their “abuser”.
Then in addition, the Humanitarians are deployed. The forces for “good”, the vanguard of integrity and ethical intervention. The power that offers all lost souls a stake-holding in the salvation of sovereign nations that have lost their way and need rescuing.
A balm for a damaged soul, to know they can leave their doubts and fears in such trustworthy hands as HRW, Amnesty International, they can assuage their deep sense of guilt at the suffering being endured by the people of far flung nations because they can depend upon the NGOs to provide absolution with minimal effort on their part.
They don’t realise that NGOs are an integral part of their abuser’s apparatus, operating on the leash of neo-colonialist financing and influence. NGOs provide the optic through which the abuser will allow the victim to perceive their world and once absorbed into this flawed prism the victim’s own cognitive dissonance will ensure they do not attempt a jailbreak.
In this state of oppressed consciousness the victim accepts what they are told. They accept that the US can sell cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia that obliterate human beings and lay waste to essential civilian infrastructure in Yemen.
They accept that the US financially, ideologically and militarily supports the illegal state of Israel and provides the arsenal of experimental weapons that maim and mutilate children and civilians on a scale that is unimaginable.
They accept that a crippling blockade of the already impoverished and starving nation of Yemen is “necessary” to resolve the issues of sectarian divisions that only exist in the minds of their Congressional abusers.
The majority of Americans accept mass murder under the pretext of the right to protect, because their ability to form rational and reasoned opinions has been engineered out of them.
This is now the definition of US exceptionalism. It is their ability to manipulate the world into accepting their lawlessness and global hegemony agenda. In seeking to impose its own image upon our world the US has drifted so far from its founding principles, one wonders how they will ever return to them.
They have employed a recognised form of torture to ensure capitulation to their mission of world domination, which entails the mental, physical and spiritual torture of target civilian populations.
In conclusion, the US has indeed achieved exceptionalism. The US has become an exceptional global executioner and persecutor of Humanity. Imperialism is a euphemism for the depths of abuse the US is inflicting upon the people of this world.
Our only hope is to break the cycle of abuse with empathy for the victim and with appreciation for the years of brainwashing that precedes their agonizing passive-aggressive apathy towards crimes being committed in “their name”.
This was an email I received recently from one courageous young American girl whose epiphany is testament to the resilience and survival instinct of the human spirit.
“My name is Caroline and I am a 22-year-old US citizen. I only fairly recently discovered the truth about Empire/NATO’s activities in Syria and Libya and so many other countries (thanks to writers like Andre Vltchek, Cory Morningstar, Forrest Palmer).
I am sickened when I remember that I signed some of those Avaaz petitions and I feel horrified at knowing that I have Syrian and Libyan blood on my hands. I want to believe that I’m not “really” guilty because I really thought (as I had been told) that I was not doing something bad at the time, but still, what I did contributed to the suffering of those people and I want to do something to atone in at least some small way, even though I probably can’t “make up” for what I did or erase my crime.
If it’s not too much trouble, could you please tell me what you think I should do, if there is anything?”
She deserves an answerâ€¦
Vanessa Beeley is a photographer, writer, peace activist and volunteer with the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine. She was recently invited to be on the steering committee of the Syria Solidarity Movement.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.