Monday, June 26, 2017

Burying the Messenger: Hersh Syria "Gas Attack" Revelations Deep Sixed

Hersh’s new Syria revelations buried from view 

by Jonathan Cook


26 June 2017

[Updated below]

Veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, the man who exposed the Mai Lai massacre during the Vietnam War and the US military’s abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib in 2004, is probably the most influential journalist of the modern era, with the possible exception of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the pair who exposed Watergate.

For decades, Hersh has drawn on his extensive contacts within the US security establishment to bring us the story behind the official story, and to disclose facts that have often proved deeply discomfiting to those in power and exploded the self-serving, fairy-tale narratives the public were expected to passively accept as news. His stature among journalists was such that, in a sea of corporate media misinformation, he enjoyed a small island of freedom at the elite, and influential, outlet of the New Yorker.

Paradoxically, over the past decade, as social media has created a more democratic platform for information dissemination, the corporate media has grown ever more fearful of a truly independent figure like Hersh. The potential reach of his stories could now be enormously magnified by social media. As a result, he has been increasingly marginalised and his work denigrated. By denying him the credibility of a “respectable” mainstream platform, he can be dismissed for the first time in his career as a crank and charlatan. A purveyor of fake news.

Nonetheless, despite struggling to find an outlet for his recent work, he has continued to scrutinise western foreign policy, this time in relation to Syria. The official western narrative has painted a picture of a psychotic Syrian president, Bashar Assad, who is assumed to be so irrational and self-destructive he intermittently uses chemical weapons against his own people. He does so, not only for no obvious purpose but at moments when such attacks are likely to do his regime untold damage. Notably, two sarin gas attacks have supposedly occurred when Assad was making strong diplomatic or military headway, and when the Islamic extremists of Al-Qaeda and ISIS – his chief opponents – were on the back foot and in desperate need of outside intervention.

Dangerous monsters


Hersh’s investigations have not only undermined evidence-free claims being promoted in the west to destabilise Assad’s goverment but threatened a wider US policy seeking to “remake the Middle East”. His work has challenged a political and corporate media consensus that portrays Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Assad’s main ally against the extremist Islamic forces fighting in Syria, as another dangerous monster the West needs to bring into line.

For all these reasons, Hersh has found himself increasingly friendless. The New Yorker refused to publish his Syria investigations. Instead, he had to cross the Atlantic to find a home at the prestigious but far less prominent London Review of Books.

Back in 2013 his contacts within the security and intelligence establishments revealed that the assumption Assad had ordered the use of sarin gas in Ghouta, outside Damascus, failed to stand up to scrutiny. Even Barack Obama’s national intelligence director, James Clapper, was forced to admit privately that Assad’s guilt was “not a slam dunk”, even as the media widely portrayed it as precisely that. Hersh’s work helped stymie efforts at the time to promote a western military attack to bring down the Syrian government.

His latest investigation questions whether Assad was responsible for another alleged gas attack – this one at Khan Sheikhoun in April. Again a consensual western narrative was quickly constructed after social media showed dozens of Syrians dead, apparently following the dropping of a bomb by Syrian aircraft. For the first time in his presidency, Donald Trump received wall-to-wall praise for launching a military strike on Syria in response, even though, as Hersh documents, he had no evidence on which to base such an attack, one that gravely violated international law.

Hersh’s new investigation was paid for by the London Review of Books, which declined to publish it. This is almost as disturbing as the events in question.

What is emerging is a media blackout so strong that even the London Review of Books is running scared. Instead, Hersh’s story appeared yesterday in a German publication, Welt am Sonntag. Welt is an award-winning newspaper, no less serious than the New Yorker or the LRB. But significantly Hersh is being forced to publish ever further from the centres of power whose misinformation his investigations are challenging.

Imagine how effective Woodward and Bernstein would have been in bringing down Richard Nixon had they been able to publish their Watergate investigations only in the French media. That is the situation we have reached now with Hersh’s efforts to scrutinise the west’s self-serving claims about Syria.

US-Russian cooperation


As for the substance of Hersh’s investigation, he finds that Trump launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base in April “despite having been warned by the US intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon.”

In fact, Hersh reveals that, contrary to the popular narrative, the Syrian strike on a jihadist meeting place in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4 was closely coordinated beforehand between Russian and US intelligence agencies. The US were well apprised of what would happen and tracked the events.

Hersh’s sources in the intelligence establishment point out that these close contacts occurred for two reasons. First, there is a process known as “deconfliction”, designed to avoid collisions or accidental encounters between the US, Syrian and Russian militaries, especially in the case of their supersonic jets. The Russians therefore supplied US intelligence with precise details of that day’s attack beforehand. But in this case, the coordination also occurred because the Russians wanted to warn the US to keep away a CIA asset, who had penetrated the jihadist group, from that day’s meeting.

“This was not a chemical weapons strike,” a senior adviser to the US intelligence community told Hersh.

“That’s a fairy tale. If so, everyone involved in transferring, loading and arming the weapon … would be wearing Hazmat protective clothing in case of a leak. There would be very little chance of survival without such gear.”

According to US intelligence, Hersh reports, the Syrian air force was able to target the site using a large, conventional bomb supplied by the Russians. But if Assad did not use a chemical warhead, why did many people apparently die at Khan Sheikhoun from inhalation of toxic gas?

The US intelligence community, says Hersh, believes the bomb triggered secondary explosions in a storage depot in the building’s basement that included propane gas, fertilisers, insecticides as well as “rockets, weapons and ammunition, … [and] chlorine-based decontaminants for cleansing the bodies of the dead before burial”. These explosions created a toxic cloud that was trapped close to the ground by the dense early morning air.

Medecins Sans Frontieres found patients it treated “smelled of bleach, suggesting that they had been exposed to chlorine.” Sarin is odourless.

Hersh concludes that the:

evidence suggested that there was more than one chemical responsible for the symptoms observed, which would not have been the case if the Syrian Air Force – as opposition activists insisted – had dropped a sarin bomb, which has no percussive or ignition power to trigger secondary explosions. The range of symptoms is, however, consistent with the release of a mixture of chemicals, including chlorine and the organophosphates used in many fertilizers, which can cause neurotoxic effects similar to those of sarin. 

Political suicide


Hersh’s main intelligence source makes an important contextual point you won’t hear anywhere in the corporate media:

What doesn’t occur to most Americans is if there had been a Syrian nerve gas attack authorized by Bashar [Assad], the Russians would be 10 times as upset as anyone in the West. Russia’s strategy against ISIS, which involves getting American cooperation, would have been destroyed and Bashar would be responsible for pissing off Russia, with unknown consequences for him. Bashar would do that? When he’s on the verge of winning the war? Are you kidding me?

When US national security officials planning Trump’s “retaliation” asked the CIA what they knew of events in Khan Sheikhoun, according to Hersh’s source, the CIA told them “there was no residual delivery for sarin at Sheyrat [the airfield from which the Syrian bombers had taken off] and Assad had no motive to commit political suicide.”

The source continues:

No one knew the provenance of the photographs [of the attack’s victims]. We didn’t know who the children were or how they got hurt. Sarin actually is very easy to detect because it penetrates paint, and all one would have to do is get a paint sample. We knew there was a [toxic] cloud and we knew it hurt people. But you cannot jump from there to certainty that Assad had hidden sarin from the UN because he wanted to use it in Khan Sheikhoun.

Trump, under political pressure and highly emotional by nature, ignored the evidence. Hersh’s source says:

The president saw the photographs of poisoned little girls and said it was an Assad atrocity. It’s typical of human nature. You jump to the conclusion you want. Intelligence analysts do not argue with a president. They’re not going to tell the president, ‘if you interpret the data this way, I quit’.

Although Republicans, Democrats and the entire media rallied to Trump’s side for the first time, those speaking to Hersh have apparently done so out of fear of what may happen next time.

The danger with Trump’s “retaliatory” strike, based on zero evidence of a chemical weapons attack, is that it could have killed Russian soldiers and dragged Putin into a highly dangerous confrontation with the US. Also, the intelligence community fears that the media have promoted a false narrative that suggests not only that a sarin attack took place, but paints Russia as a co-conspirator and implies that a UN team did not in fact oversee the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile back in 2013-14. That would allow Assad’s opponents to claim in the future, at a convenient time, yet another unsubstantiated sarin gas attack by the Syrian government.

Hersh concludes with words from his source that should strike fear into us all:

The issue is, what if there’s another false-flag sarin attack credited to hated Syria? Trump has upped the ante and painted himself into a corner with his decision to bomb. And do not think these guys [Islamist groups] are not planning the next faked attack. Trump will have no choice but to bomb again, and harder. He’s incapable of saying he made a mistake.

UPDATE:

As was to be expected, there has been a backlash against Hersh’s investigation. If one thing is clear about the Khan Sheikhoun incident, it is that, in the absence of an independent investigation, there is still no decisive physical evidence to settle yet what happened one way or another. Therefore, our job as observers should be to keep a critical distance and weigh other relevant issues, such as context and probability.

So let us set aside for a moment the specifics of what happened on April 4 and concentrate instead on what Hersh’s critics must concede if they are to argue that Assad used sarin gas against the people of Khan Sheikhoun.

1. That Assad is so crazed and self-destructive – or at the very least so totally incapable of controlling his senior commanders, who must themselves be crazed and self-destructive – that he has on several occasions ordered the use of chemical weapons against civilians. And he has chosen to do it at the worst possible moments for his own and his regime’s survival, and when such attacks were entirely unnecessary.

2. That Putin is equally deranged and so willing to risk an end-of-times conflagration with the US that he has on more than one occasion either sanctioned or turned a blind eye to the use of sarin by Assad’s regime. And he has done nothing to penalise Assad afterwards, when things went wrong.

3. That Hersh has decided to jettison all the investigatory skills he has amassed over many decades as a journalist to accept at face value any unsubstantiated rumours his long-established contacts in the security services have thrown his way. And he has done so without regard to the damage that will do to his reputation and his journalistic legacy.

4. That a significant number of US intelligence officials, those Hersh has known and worked with over a long period of time, have decided recently to spin an elaborate web of lies no one wants to print, either in the hope of damaging Hersh in some collective act of revenge against him, or in the hope of permanently discrediting their own intelligence services.
Critics do not simply have to believe one of these four points. They must maintain the absolute veracity of all four of them.

Alberta's "Golden Ponds": Cost of Tar Sands Tailing Ponds Clean-Up Exceeds All Possible Royalties

New Report Highlights Risks of Continued Expansion of Oil Sands Tailing Ponds

by ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE and NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL


June 26, 2017

New report highlights the risks of continued expansion of oil sands tailings ponds and the rising liability for cleanup that Albertans face

OttawaThe volume of oil sands tailing ponds are now over 1 trillion litres, while the cost of cleanup is now greater than total lifetime royalty revenues collected by Alberta from oil sands companies, according to a new report released today by Canada’s Environmental Defence and the U.S.’s Natural Resources Defense Council.

The report shows that while Alberta’s Tailings Management Framework is supposed to lead to a reduction in the volume of liquid tailings as soon as possible, plans by the oil sands industry indicate that tailings could continue to increase for another 20 years.

“Alberta’s rules managing oil sands tailings should not let companies continue expanding tailings ponds or allow more than half a century for the land to be reclaimed,” said Anthony Swift, Natural Resources Defense Council. 
“Albertans are at risk of being left holding the bag, having to pay for cleaning up the mess after oil sands companies have packed up and gone.”

The two environmental groups and Daniel T’seleie of the K'ahsho Got'ine Dene First Nation are also making a submission to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), the NAFTA environment tribunal, to request an investigation into whether the Canadian government is failing to enforce the Fisheries Act by allowing oil sands tailings ponds to leak into Alberta water bodies.

The environmental groups and Mr. T’seleie argue that there is abundant evidence that oil sands tailings ponds are leaking toxic chemicals into the Athabasca River and surrounding groundwater, that the government and oil sands companies know about the contamination, and that they are failing to address it.

“Research clearly shows that toxic chemicals are leaking from tailings ponds, contaminating rivers and groundwater in Alberta,” said Dale Marshall, Environmental Defence.
“This is a clear violation of the federal Fisheries Act. The tar sands industry needs to be forced to clean up its act and change the way it deals with toxic waste.”

“When the cumulative impacts of climate change and industry pollution limit our ability to hunt, fish, and gather on our lands, it fundamentally impacts our culture, language, spirituality, and identity as Indigenous Peoples,” said Daniel T’seleie.

Download the report on Alberta’s tailings ponds here.


Download the submission to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation here.


View clocks illustrating the growth of tailings ponds and rising cleanup costs here.


About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada's most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all. Environmental Defence has climate change, toxics, land-use and water programs across Canada.

About the NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL (www.nrdc.org): NRDC is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists.

Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing.

-30-

For Immediate Release:
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Allen Braude, Environmental Defence,
abraude@environmentaldefence.ca

Jake Thompson, Natural Resources Defense Council,
jthompson@nrdc.org
 

What's Left: Understanding America's Radically Changing Political Discourse

How Radicals Are Offering Realistic Solutions to Our Spiraling Political Problems

by Robert Jensen


June 25, 2017

Students will sometimes ask me — often hesitantly, out of fear of offending — if it's true what they've heard, that I'm a liberal.

"Don't you ever call me a liberal again!" I tell them, feigning outrage.

"I'm a leftist and a radical feminist." 

Once they realize I'm not angry, I explain the important differences between left and liberal.

A distinction between left and liberal may seem esoteric or self-indulgent given the steady ascendancy of right-wing ideas in U.S. politics. Is now the time for this conversation? Liberals ask leftists to put aside differences toward the goal of resisting the reactionary right, and I'm all for pragmatic politics (coalitions are necessary and potentially creative) to mount challenges to dangerous policies. (Donald Trump, Mike Pence and Paul Ryan pose serious threats on ecological, social and economic fronts.)

But strategies should be based on a clear understanding of shared values. And with a carnival-barker president leading a party so committed to a failed ideology that it's willing to risk ecocide, radical left ideas have never been more compelling. In the face of conservative and liberal failures to deal with our most basic problems, leftists offer reality-based solutions.

Let's start with a general distinction: Liberals typically support existing systems and hope to make them more humane. Leftists focus on the unjust nature of the systems themselves. Two of these key systems are capitalism (an economic system that, to a leftist, celebrates inequality and degrades ecosystems) and imperialism (a global system in which First World countries have long captured a disproportionate share of the world's wealth through violence and coercion).

Liberals don't oppose capitalism or U.S. imperialism, arguing instead for kinder-and-gentler versions. Leftists see the systems as incompatible with basic moral principles of social justice and ecological sustainability.

Things get more complicated with white supremacy (historical and contemporary practices rooted in white or European claims of a right to rule) and patriarchy (men's claim to a natural role over women in systems of institutionalized male dominance). Leftists disagree among themselves about how these systems interact with capitalism and imperialism. Some on the left focus on class inequality and decry "identity politics," which they define as reducing all political questions to race, gender or sexual identity. Others reject putting economic inequality alone at the center of politics and argue for an equal focus on white supremacy or patriarchy.

Complicating things more are leftists who disagree with radical feminist opposition to the sexual-exploitation industries of prostitution, pornography and stripping, arguing that women's participation means the industries can't be challenged and shifting the focus away from why men choose to use women.

What is a leftist?


If this all this is getting a bit bewildering, welcome to left politics. Rather than generalizing about what "real" leftists should believe, I'll summarize my views:

Capitalism is an unjust wealth-concentrating system that is ecologically unsustainable. Either we transcend the pathology of capitalism or dystopian science fiction will become everyday life in the not-so-distant future. There is no credible defense of the obscene inequality or disregard for the larger living world that's inherent in capitalism.

The assertion by the U.S. that it's the world's exemplar and natural leader is a dangerous delusion that must yield to meaningful diplomacy and trade policies based on moral principles. not raw power. There is no hope for global cooperation when the U.S. maintains hundreds of military bases and facilities in other countries, designed not for defense but to assert U.S. dominance.

Liberals and conservatives disagree about how government policy should constrain the sociopathic nature of capitalism, but both embrace capitalist ideology. Liberals and conservatives disagree about how the U.S. should run the world, but neither challenge the country's right to dominate.

What do leftists propose as an alternative to a global capitalist economy undergirded by military might? I'm not a revolutionary utopian, preferring innovative ways to work toward left values. Two examples:

The worker cooperative movement helps people establish worker-owned and worker-managed businesses within capitalism, creating spaces for real democracy in the economy. An example in my hometown of Austin is ATX Coop Taxi, owned and managed by the drivers. The most well-known cooperative enterprise is Mondragón, a Spanish federation of cooperatives with thousands of worker-owners. These businesses offer a model for a transition out of capitalism.

National health insurance, sometimes known as single-payer or Medicare-for-all, would lower health care costs while rejecting the cruel capitalist assertion that people without money are expendable. Most developed countries have adopted this, but U.S. politicians routinely reject it, even though polls show a majority or a plurality of U.S. voters like the idea. This kind of commitment to collective flourishing challenges obsessions with amoral individualism so common among U.S. capitalists.

Untangling white supremacy


Slain teen Jordan Edwards' brother Vidal Allen led his family up the courthouse steps during a protest in Dallas in May. Balch Springs officer Roy Oliver was fired and charged with murder after fatally shooting Jordan, a teenage passenger in a car trying to leave a house. A growing number of law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, either deeply discourage or prohibit shooting at a moving car unless someone inside is shooting back.

The history of white supremacy cannot be untangled from the history of capitalism and imperialism, in Europe or the U.S. Ideologies of racial superiority have been used to justify imperialism abroad (the infamous "white man's burden" to civilize the natives), while at home, racism is a key component of the wealthy's divide-and-conquer strategy to suppress worker organizing across racial lines (offer white workers a sense of racial superiority so that they focus their anger at nonwhite people rather than the bosses).

A critique of patriarchy, the oldest of these domination/subordination systems, is at the heart of any credible left politics, though it is the social system most routinely ignored by leftists. The patriarchal claim that such hierarchy is inevitable is one of the most dangerous myths in human history, long used to justify men's control of women's reproductive power and sexuality.

Defending women's reproductive rights, including abortion, is a core principle, and just as central is challenging men's claim to a right to buy and sell objectified female bodies for sexual pleasure. We must confront men who buy women for sex as we act in feminist solidarity with prostituted women (what liberals call "sex workers"), supporting programs that help women and vulnerable men exit the sexual-exploitation industries.

Men's claims to own or control women's sexuality are also at the heart of the oppression of lesbians (who dare to opt out of male dominance in intimate relationships) and gay men (who are targeted for their perceived threat to patriarchy's rigid sexual norms). Lesbian/gay liberation is inseparable from women's liberation.

Liberals and conservatives are all over the political map on racism and sexism, but consistently fail to face the depth of the depravity of white supremacy and patriarchy, or the degree to which those systems continue to define everyday life. Leftists strive to face these realities.
Realistic solutions

What kind of leftist am I? I don't call myself a Marxist, communist, socialist or anarchist, though all of those traditions offer insights along with lessons from their failures. I don't belong to what are called "left sectarian" organizations, which typically remain committed to 19th- or 20th-century doctrines and political figures (such as Marxist-Leninist or Maoist groups). I call myself an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist leftist rooted in a critique of white supremacy and a radical feminist critique of patriarchy. Not the pithiest label, but accurate.

My left politics also focus on the human species' intensifying assault on the larger living world — multiple, cascading ecological crises that we can't afford to ignore. Modern humans' arrogance puts us all at risk. The naïve assumptions of the high-energy and high-technology industrial world — especially the idea that we can solve all problems with more energy-intensive technology — must be abandoned as we struggle to understand how many people can live sustainably on the planet.

There's not a widely used term for going beyond liberal environmentalism's half measures, but some people call it "ecospherism," the understanding that humans must find our place in the ecosphere rather than try to dominate. Ecospherists reject the idea that humans really "own" the Earth and fight to end the accompanying abuse and exploitation of land, water, air and other creatures.

Liberals and conservatives typically ignore ecological realities, but so does much of the left. The overwhelming nature of the challenge scares many into silence, but problems ignored are not problems solved. For example, research on renewable energy is important, but no combination of so-called clean energy sources (and let's remember that wind turbines and solar panels are industrial products, which can't be manufactured cleanly) can power the affluence of the First World. The solution is dramatically lower levels of consumption in the developed world.

Many people in the U.S. disagree with this kind of left/radical feminist analysis. Many people have told me that these views make me unfit to teach at a state university. I welcome serious challenges, but left political positions are too often dismissed as crazy because that's the one thing both liberals and conservatives agree on.

The U.S. is a dramatically right-wing society when compared with other industrialized countries, illustrated by Bernie Sanders' 2016 campaign. He offered no foundational critique of U.S. systems, opting instead for a traditional social democratic platform to make our institutions more humane. Yet in America, such policy proposals were seen by many as revolutionary and Sanders was often dismissed as a wild-eyed radical.

In a recent call to action, Sanders supported a single-payer plan for health care and stated "our current economic model is a dismal failure," but he did not dare use the term capitalism or even hint at a deeper structural critique. His discussion of the ecological crises stopped with a weak call for renewable energy, and there was no mention of racism, sexism or U.S. foreign policy. I realize politicians shape rhetoric to win votes, but let's not pretend this is a left agenda.

(For the record, I'm not a Democrat, but I'm also not purist in electoral politics; I voted for Sanders in the Democratic primary and Hillary Clinton in the general election.)

Sanders' success suggests more people might support a candidate with an even deeper critique of illegitimate structures of authority. If in the short term the best we can hope for is reform of existing systems, we can pursue those reforms with an eye on more radical long-term goals.

It's hard to imagine a decent human future — perhaps any human future at all — if these radical ideas are not part of the mix. "Radical" is often used as a political insult, suggesting people who focus on violence and destruction. But the word simply means "going to the root," and at the root of our contemporary crises of justice and sustainability are capitalism, imperialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, and the human willingness to destroy the world in pursuit of affluence.

Leftists are told that we have to be realistic, and I agree. But how realistic is it to expect solutions to human injustices and ecological crises to emerge from the systems that have created the problems?

If you want to be realistic, get radical.


Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men, and Plain Radical: Living, Loving, and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully. Email: rjensen@austin.utexas.edu

Rising Tides, Sinking Continents: The IPCC's Worrisome Revised Sea Level Estimates

Estimates of Sea Level Rise by 2100 Have Tripled in the Past Few Years 

by TRNN


June 26, 2017

In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change opined that if greenhouse gas emissions continued on current trends, the likely maximum of sea level rise by 2100 was about one meter.

In May 2016, only three years later, a study in the prestigious scientific journal Nature concluded that if high levels of greenhouse gas emissions continued, oceans could rise by close to two meters by the end of the century.

In less than three years, scientists essentially doubled the IPC's 2013 estimate of maximum sea level rise by 2100. The IPCC estimate relied on the notion that expanding ocean waters and the melting of relatively small glaciers would fuel the majority of sea level rise, rather than the massive ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. It turns out, however, that scientists were underestimating the rate at which the giant ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland were melting. About one month ago, scientists increased their estimates of sea level rise even further. New research, including from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, increased the plausible sea level rise maximum to as much as 2.7 meters. Thus, in the space of a mere five years, the scientific community nearly tripled its estimate of maximum sea level rise under a business-as-usual scenario.

Environmental activist Peter Sinclair examines the growing threat of sea level rise.



Peter Sinclair is a videographer, creator of two video series on climate change, Climate Denial Crock of the Week, and This is Not Cool, which is a regular feature of Yale Climate Connections. He is media director of the Dark Snow Project, an international team of scientists and communicators, which has taken him with scientists to research areas such as the North Cascades Glaciers and the Greenland Ice Sheet. He lives and works in Midland, MI. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Getting with the Nikki Doctrine on Palestine

Israel vs. the United Nations: The Nikki Haley Doctrine

by Ramzy Baroud


June 21, 2017

The United States Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, seems to be championing a single cause: Israel. When Haley speaks about Israel, her language is not merely emotive nor tailored to fit the need of a specific occasion. Rather, her words are resolute, consistent and are matched by a clear plan of action.

Along with Haley, the rightwing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu is moving fast to cultivate the unique opportunity of dismissing the United Nations, thus, any attempt at criticizing the Israeli Occupation.

Unlike previous UN ambassadors who strongly backed Israel, Haley refrains from any coded language or any attempt, however poor, to appear balanced. Last March, she told a crowd of 18,000 supporters at the Israel lobby, AIPAC's annual policy conference, that this is a new era for US-Israel relations.

"I wear heels. It’s not for a fashion statement," she told the crowd that was thrilled by her speech.
"It’s because if I see something wrong, we’re going to kick ’em every single time."

Trump's new sheriff/ambassador, condemned, in retrospect, UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which strongly criticized Israel's illegal settlements. While still in its final days in office, the Obama Administration did not vote for - but did not veto the Resolution, either - thus setting a precedent that has not been witnessed in many years.

The US abstention, according to Haley, was as if the “entire country felt a kick in the gut.”

What made Israel particularly angry over Obama's last act at the UN was the fact that it violated a tradition that has extended for many years, most notably during the term of John Negroponte, US Ambassador to the UN, during the first W. Bush's term in office.

What became known as the 'Negroponte doctrine' was a declared US policy - that Washington will oppose any resolution that criticizes Israel that does not also condemn Palestinians.

But Israel, not the Palestinians, is the occupying power which refuses to honor dozens of UN resolutions and various international treaties and laws. By making that decision, and, indeed, following through to ensure its implementation, the US managed to sideline the UN as an ‘irrelevant’ institution.

Sidelining the UN, then, also meant that the US would have complete control over managing the Middle East, but especially the situation in Palestine.

However, under Trump, even the US-led and self-tailored 'peace process' has become obsolete.

This is the real moral but, also political, crisis of the Haley doctrine, for it goes beyond Negroponte’s silencing any criticism of Israel at the UN, into removing the UN entirely - thus international law - from being a factor in resolving the conflict.

In a talk at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council - which is made up of 47 member countries - Haley declared that her country is 'reviewing its participation' in the Council altogether. She claimed that Israel is the "only country permanently on the body's calendar," an inaccurate statement that is often uttered by Israel with little basis in truth.

If Haley read the report on the 35th session of the Human Rights Council, she would have realized that the Rights body discussed many issues, pertaining to women rights and empowerment, forced marriages and human rights violations in many countries.

But considering that Israel has recently 'celebrated' 50 years of occupying Palestinians, Haley should not be surprised that Israel is also an item on the agenda. In fact, any country that has occupied and oppressed another for so long should also remain an item on international agenda.

Following her speech in which she derided and threatened UN member states in Geneva, she went to Israel to further emphasize her country's insistence to challenge the international community on behalf of Israel.

Along with notorious hasbara expert, Israel's Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, Haley toured the Israeli border with Gaza, showing sympathy with supposedly besieged Israeli communities - while on the other side, nearly 2 million Palestinians in Gaza have been trapped for over a decade in a very small region, behind sealed shut borders.

Speaking in Jerusalem on June 7, Haley took on the UN 'bullies', who have 'bullied' Israel for too long.

She said, "I have never taken kindly to bullies and the UN has bullied Israel for a very long time and we are not going to let that happen anymore,” adding “it is a new day for Israel in the United Nations."

By agreeing to live in Israel's pseudo-reality, where bullies complain of being bullied, the US is moving further and further away from any international consensus on human rights and international law. This becomes more pronounced and dangerous when we consider the Donald Trump Administration’s decision to pull out from the Paris accords on global warming.

Trump argued that the decision was of benefit to American businesses. Even if one agrees with such an unsubstantiated assertion, Haley's new doctrine on Israel and the UN, by contrast, can hardly be of any benefit to the United States in the short or long run. It simply degrades US standing, leadership and even goes below the lowest standards of credibility practiced under previous administrations.

Worse still, inspired and empowered by Haley's blank check, Israeli leaders are now moving forward to physically remove the UN from Israel's occupation of Palestine. Two alarming developments have taken place on that front:

One took place early May when Culture and Sport Minister, Miri Regev, made a formal demand to the Israeli cabinet to shut down the UN headquarter in Jerusalem, to punish UNESCO for restating the international position on the status of Israel's illegal occupation of East Jerusalem.

The second was earlier this month, when Prime Minister Netanyahu called on Haley to shut down UNRWA, the UN body responsible for the welfare of 5 million Palestinian refugees.

According to Netanyahu, UNRWA 'perpetuates’ refugee problems. However, the refugees’ problem is not UNRWA per se, but the fact that Israel refuses to honor UN resolution 194 pertaining to their return and compensation.

These developments, and more, are all outcomes of the Haley doctrine. Her arrival at the UN has ignited a US-Israeli hate fest, not only targeting UN member states, but international law and everything that the United Nations has stood for over the decades.

The US has supported Israel quite blindly at the UN throughout the years. Haley seems to adopt an entirely Israeli position with no regard whatsoever for her country's allies, or the possible repercussions of dismissing the only international body that still serves as a platform for international engagement and conflict resolution.

Haley seems to truly think of herself as the new sheriff in town, who will "kick 'em every single time", before riddling the bullies with bullets and riding into the sunset, along with Netanyahu. However, with a huge leadership vacuum and no law to guide the international community in resolving a 70-year-old conflict, Haley's cowboy tactics are likely to do much harm to an already bleeding region.

Since the Negroponte doctrine of 2002, thousands of Palestinians and hundreds of Israelis were killed in an occupation that seems to know no ends. Further disengagement from international law will likely yield a greater toll and more suffering.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and his latest “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.

Continuing Fight Is Victory in the Endless War

A Wide World of Winless War: Globe-Trotting U.S. Special Ops Forces Already Deployed to 137 Nations in 2017

by Nick Turse - TomDispatch


June 25, 2017

The tabs on their shoulders read “Special Forces,” “Ranger,” “Airborne.” And soon their guidon -- the “colors” of Company B, 3rd Battalion of the U.S. Army’s 7th Special Forces Group -- would be adorned with the “Bandera de Guerra,” a Colombian combat decoration.

“Today we commemorate sixteen years of a permanent fight against drugs in a ceremony where all Colombians can recognize the special counternarcotic brigade’s hard work against drug trafficking,” said Army Colonel Walther Jimenez, the commander of the Colombian military’s Special Anti-Drug Brigade, last December.

Tomgram: Nick Turse, The Commandos of Everywhere

If you want a number, try 194. That’s how many countries there are on planet Earth (give or take one or two). Today, Nick Turse reports a related number that should boggle your mind: at least 137 of those countries, or 70% of them, already have something in common for 2017 and the year’s not even half over. They share the experience of having American Special Operations forces deployed to their territory. Assumedly, those numbers don’t include Russia, China, Iran, Andorra, or Monaco (unless guarding global casinos is a new national priority for our casino capitalist president). Still, they’re evidence of the great bet American casino militarism has made in these years -- that elite special ops troops could do what the rest of the U.S. military couldn’t: actually achieve victory in a conflict or two.

Think of the Special Operations Command (or SOCOM) as having won the lottery in these years. From thousands of elite troops in the 1980s, their numbers have ballooned to about 70,000 at present -- a force larger, that is, than the armies of many nations, with at least 8,000 of them raiding, training, and advising abroad at any given moment. In fact, these days it’s a reasonable bet that if American war is intensifying anywhere, they’re front and center. A year ago in Syria, for instance, there were perhaps 50 special operators helping anti-ISIS forces of various sorts. Now, as the battle for the Islamic State’s “capital,” Raqqa, intensifies, that number has soared to 500 and is evidently still rising. (Something similar is true for Iraq and undoubtedly, after the Pentagon dispatches its latest mini-surge of personnel to Afghanistan in the coming months, that country, too.)

As for money, SOCOM has certainly won the Pentagon’s version of roulette. (Of course, in that version, everybody wins, even if some are more triumphant than others.) Between 2001 and 2014, the special ops budget increased by a not-so-modest 213%, and its budget has continued to grow since.

There’s only one category in which the special ops bet has turned out to be anything but a winning hand and that’s the subject of TomDispatch regular Nick Turse’s latest report on the operations of SOCOM globally. I’m talking about actual victories, not exactly a winner of a category for the U.S. military in the twenty-first century. And by the way, given the astronomical growth and uses of America’s Special Operations Forces and their centrality to the U.S. military story over the last nearly 16 years, aren’t you just a little surprised that the best reportage on the phenomenon can’t be found in the mainstream media, but in Turse’s reports at TomDispatch? Tom 

A Wide World of Winless War: Globe-Trotting U.S. Special Ops Forces Already Deployed to 137 Nations in 2017

by Nick Turse

America’s most elite troops, the Special Operations forces (SOF), have worked with that Colombian unit since its creation in December 2000. Since 2014, four teams of Special Forces soldiers have intensely monitored the brigade. Now, they were being honored for it.

Part of a $10 billion counter-narcotics and counterterrorism program, conceived in the 1990s, special ops efforts in Colombia are a much ballyhooed American success story. A 2015 RAND Corporation study found that the program “represents an enduring SOF partnership effort that managed to help foster a relatively professional and capable special operations force.” And for a time, coca production in that country plummeted. Indeed, this was the ultimate promise of America’s “Plan Colombia” and efforts that followed from it. “Over the longer haul, we can expect to see more effective drug eradication and increased interdiction of illicit drug shipments,” President Bill Clinton predicted in January 2000.

Today, however, more than 460,000 acres of the Colombian countryside are blanketed with coca plants, more than during the 1980s heyday of the infamous cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar. U.S. cocaine overdose deaths are also at a 10-year high and first-time cocaine use among young adults has spiked 61% since 2013. “Recent findings suggest that cocaine use may be reemerging as a public health concern in the United States,” wrote researchers from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in a study published in December 2016 -- just after the Green Berets attended that ceremony in Colombia. Cocaine, the study’s authors write, “may be making a comeback.”

Colombia is hardly an anomaly when it comes to U.S. special ops deployments -- or the results that flow from them. For all their abilities, tactical skills, training prowess, and battlefield accomplishments, the capacity of U.S. Special Operations forces to achieve decisive and enduring successes -- strategic victories that serve U.S. national interests -- have proved to be exceptionally limited, a reality laid bare from Afghanistan to Iraq, Yemen to the Philippines.

The fault for this lies not with the troops themselves, but with a political and military establishment that often appears bereft of strategic vision and hasn’t won a major war since the 1940s. Into this breach, elite U.S. forces are deployed again and again. While special ops commanders may raise concerns about the tempo of operations and strains on the force, they have failed to grapple with larger questions about the raison d'être of SOF, while Washington’s oversight establishment, notably the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, have consistently failed to so much as ask hard questions about the strategic utility of America’s Special Operations forces.

Special Ops at War


“We operate and fight in every corner of the world,” boasts General Raymond Thomas, the chief of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or SOCOM). “On a daily basis, we sustain a deployed or forward stationed force of approximately 8,000 across 80-plus countries. They are conducting the entire range of SOF missions in both combat and non-combat situations.”

Those numbers, however, only hint at the true size and scope of this global special ops effort. Last year, America’s most elite forces conducted missions in 138 countries -- roughly 70% of the nations on the planet, according to figures supplied to TomDispatch by U.S. Special Operations Command. Halfway through 2017, U.S. commandos have already been deployed to an astonishing 137 countries, according to SOCOM spokesman Ken McGraw.

Special Operations Command is tasked with carrying out 12 core missions, ranging from counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare to hostage rescue and countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Counterterrorism -- fighting what the command calls violent extremist organizations (VEOs) -- may, however, be what America’s elite forces have become best known for in the post-9/11 era. “The threat posed by VEOs remains the highest priority for USSOCOM in both focus and effort,” says Thomas.

“Special Operations Forces are the main effort, or major supporting effort for U.S. VEO-focused operations in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, across the Sahel of Africa, the Philippines, and Central/South America -- essentially, everywhere Al Qaeda (AQ) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are to be found...”

More special operators are deployed to the Middle East than to any other region. Significant numbers of them are advising Iraqi government forces and Iraqi Kurdish soldiers as well as Kurdish YPG (Popular Protection Unit) fighters and various ethnic Arab forces in Syria, according to Linda Robinson, a senior international policy analyst with the RAND Corporation who spent seven weeks in Iraq, Syria, and neighboring countries earlier this year.

During a visit to Qayyarah, Iraq -- a staging area for the campaign to free Mosul, formerly Iraq’s second largest city, from the control of Islamic State fighters -- Robinson “saw a recently installed U.S. military medical unit and its ICU set up in tents on the base.” In a type of mission seldom reported on, special ops surgeons, nurses, and other specialists put their skills to work on far-flung battlefields not only to save American lives, but to prop up allied proxy forces that have limited medical capabilities. For example, an Air Force Special Operations Surgical Team recently spent eight weeks deployed at an undisclosed location in the Iraq-Syria theater, treating 750 war-injured patients. Operating out of an abandoned one-story home within earshot of a battlefield, the specially trained airmen worked through a total of 19 mass casualty incidents and more than 400 individual gunshot or blast injuries.

When not saving lives in Iraq and Syria, elite U.S. forces are frequently involved in efforts to take them. “U.S. SOF are... being thrust into a new role of coordinating fire support,” wrote Robinson. “This fire support is even more important to the Syrian Democratic Forces, a far more lightly armed irregular force which constitutes the major ground force fighting ISIS in Syria.” In fact, a video shot earlier this year, analyzed by the Washington Post, shows special operators “acting as an observation element for what appears to be U.S. airstrikes carried out by A-10 ground attack aircraft” to support Syrian Democratic Forces fighting for the town of Shadadi.

Africa now ranks second when it comes to the deployment of special operators thanks to the exponential growth in missions there in recent years. Just 3% of U.S. commandos deployed overseas were sent to Africa in 2010. Now that number stands at more than 17%, according to SOCOM data. Last year, U.S. Special Operations forces were deployed to 32 African nations, about 60% of the countries on the continent. As I recently reported at VICE News, at any given time, Navy SEALs, Green Berets, and other special operators are now conducting nearly 100 missions across 20 African countries.

In May, for instance, Navy SEALs were engaged in an “advise and assist operation” alongside members of Somalia’s army and came under attack. SEAL Kyle Milliken was killed and two other U.S. personnel were injured during a firefight that also, according to AFRICOM spokesperson Robyn Mack, left three al-Shabaab militants dead. U.S. forces are also deployed in Libya to gather intelligence in order to carry out strikes of opportunity against Islamic State forces there. While operations in Central Africa against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a brutal militia that has terrorized the region for decades, wound down recently, a U.S. commando reportedly killed a member of the LRA as recently as April.

Spring Training


What General Thomas calls “building partner nations’ capacity” forms the backbone of the global activities of his command. Day in, day out, America’s most elite troops carry out such training missions to sharpen their skills and those of their allies and of proxy forces across the planet.

This January, for example, Green Berets and Japanese paratroopers carried out airborne training near Chiba, Japan. February saw Green Berets at Sanaa Training Center in northwest Syria advising recruits for the Manbij Military Council, a female fighting force of Kurds, Arabs, Christians, Turkmen, and Yazidis. In March, snowmobiling Green Berets joined local forces for cold-weather military drills in Lapland, Finland. That same month, special operators and more than 3,000 troops from Canada, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom took part in tactical training in Germany.

In the waters off Kuwait, special operators joined elite forces from the Gulf Cooperation Council nations in conducting drills simulating a rapid response to the hijacking of an oil tanker. In April, special ops troops traveled to Serbia to train alongside a local special anti-terrorist unit. In May, members of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Iraq carried out training exercises with Iraqi special operations forces near Baghdad. That same month, 7,200 military personnel, including U.S. Air Force Special Tactics airmen, Italian special operations forces, members of host nation Jordan’s Special Task Force, and troops from more than a dozen other nations took part in Exercise Eager Lion, practicing everything from assaulting compounds to cyber-defense. For their part, a group of SEALs conducted dive training alongside Greek special operations forces in Souda Bay, Greece, while others joined NATO troops in Germany as part of Exercise Saber Junction 17 for training in land operations, including mock “behind enemy lines missions” in a “simulated European village.”

#Winning


"We have been at the forefront of national security operations for the past three decades, to include continuous combat over the past 15-and-a-half years," SOCOM’s Thomas told the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities last month.

“This historic period has been the backdrop for some of our greatest successes, as well as the source of our greatest challenge, which is the sustained readiness of this magnificent force.” 

Yet, for all their magnificence and all those successes, for all the celebratory ceremonies they’ve attended, the wars, interventions, and other actions for which they’ve served as the tip of the American spear have largely foundered, floundered, or failed.

After their initial tactical successes in Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, America’s elite operators became victims of Washington’s failure to declare victory and go home. As a result, for the last 15 years, U.S. commandos have been raiding homes, calling in air strikes, training local forces, and waging a relentless battle against a growing list of terror groups in that country. For all their efforts, as well as those of their conventional military brethren and local Afghan allies, the war is now, according to the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, a “stalemate.” That’s a polite way of saying what a recent report to Congress by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction found: districts that are contested or under “insurgent control or influence” have risen from an already remarkable 28% in 2015 to 40%.

The war in Afghanistan began with efforts to capture or kill al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Having failed in this post-9/11 mission, America’s elite forces spun their wheels for the next decade when it came to his fate. Finally, in 2011, Navy SEALs cornered him in his long-time home in Pakistan and gunned him down. Ever since, special operators who carried out the mission and Washington power-players (not to mention Hollywood) have been touting this single tactical success.

In an Esquire interview, Robert O'Neill, the SEAL who put two bullets in bin Laden’s head, confessed that he joined the Navy due to frustration over an early crush, a puppy-love pique. “That's the reason al-Qaeda has been decimated,” he joked, “because she broke my fucking heart.” But al-Qaeda was not decimated -- far from it according to Ali Soufan, a former F.B.I. special agent and the author of Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of Bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State. As he recently observed, “Whereas on 9/11 al-Qaeda had a few hundred members, almost all of them based in a single country, today it enjoys multiple safe havens across the world.” In fact, he points out, the terror group has gained strength since bin Laden’s death.

Year after year, U.S. special operators find themselves fighting new waves of militants across multiple continents, including entire terror groups that didn’t exist on 9/11. All U.S. forces killed in Afghanistan in 2017 have reportedly died battling an Islamic State franchise, which began operations there just two years ago.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq, to take another example, led to the meteoric rise of an al-Qaeda affiliate which, in turn, led the military's secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) -- the elite of America’s special ops elite -- to create a veritable manhunting machine designed to kill its leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and take down the organization. As with bin Laden, special operators finally did find and eliminate Zarqawi, battering his organization in the process, but it was never wiped out. Left behind were battle-hardened elements that later formed the Islamic State and did what al-Qaeda never could: take and hold huge swaths of territory in two nations. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch grew into a separate force of more than 20,000.

In Yemen, after more than a decade of low-profile special ops engagement, that country teeters on the brink of collapse in the face of a U.S.-backed Saudi war there. Continued U.S. special ops missions in that country, recently on the rise, have seemingly done nothing to alter the situation. Similarly, in Somalia in the Horn of Africa, America’s elite forces remain embroiled in an endless war against militants.

In 2011, President Obama launched Operation Observant Compass, sending Special Operations forces to aid Central African proxies in an effort to capture or kill Joseph Kony and decimate his murderous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), then estimated to number 150 to 300 armed fighters. After the better part of a decade and nearly $800 million spent, 150 U.S. commandos were withdrawn this spring and U.S. officials attended a ceremony to commemorate the end of the mission. Kony was, however, never captured or killed and the LRA is now estimated to number about 150 to 250 fighters, essentially the same size as when the operation began.

This string of futility extends to Asia as well. “U.S. Special Forces have been providing support and assistance in the southern Philippines for many years, at the request of several different Filipino administrations,” Emma Nagy, a spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Manilla, pointed out earlier this month. Indeed, a decade-plus-long special ops effort there has been hailed as a major success. Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines, wrote RAND analyst Linda Robinson late last year in the Pentagon journal Prism, “was aimed at enabling the Philippine security forces to combat transnational terrorist groups in the restive southern region of Mindanao.”

A 2016 RAND report co-authored by Robinson concluded that “the activities of the U.S. SOF enabled the Philippine government to substantially reduce the transnational terrorist threat in the southern Philippines.” This May, however, Islamist militants overran Marawi City, a major urban center on Mindanao. They have been holding on to parts of it for weeks despite a determined assault by Filipino troops backed by U.S. Special Operations forces. In the process, large swaths of the city have been reduced to rubble.

Running on Empty


America’s elite forces, General Thomas told members of Congress last month, “are fully committed to winning the current and future fights.” In reality, though, from war to war, intervention to intervention, from the Anti-Drug Brigade ceremony in Florencia, Colombia, to the end-of-the-Kony-hunt observance in Obo in the Central African Republic, there is remarkably little evidence that even enduring efforts by Special Operations forces result in strategic victories or improved national security outcomes. And yet, despite such boots-on-the-ground realities, America’s special ops forces and their missions only grow.

We are... grateful for the support of Congress for the required resourcing that, in turn, has produced a SOCOM which is relevant to all the current and enduring threats facing the nation,” Thomas told the Senate Armed Services Committee in May. Resourcing has, indeed, been readily available
SOCOM’s annual budget has jumped from $3 billion in 2001 to more than $10 billion today. Oversight, however, has been seriously lacking. Not a single member of the House or Senate Armed Services Committees has questioned why, after more than 15 years of constant warfare, winning the “current fight” has proven so elusive. None of them has suggested that “support” from Congress ought to be reconsidered in the face of setbacks from Afghanistan to Iraq, Colombia to Central Africa, Yemen to the southern Philippines.

In the waning days of George W. Bush’s administration, Special Operations forces were reportedly deployed to about 60 nations around the world. By 2011, under President Barack Obama, that number had swelled to 120. During this first half-year of the Trump administration, U.S. commandos have already been sent to 137 countries, with elite troops now enmeshed in conflicts from Africa to Asia. “Most SOF units are employed to their sustainable limit,” Thomas told members of the House Armed Services Committee last month. In fact, current and former members of the command have, for some time, been sounding the alarm about the level of strain on the force.

These deployment levels and a lack of meaningful strategic results from them have not, however, led Washington to raise fundamental questions about the ways the U.S. employs its elite forces, much less about SOCOM’s raison d'être. “We are a command at war and will remain so for the foreseeable future,” SOCOM’s Thomas explained to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Not one member asked why or to what end.


Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch, a fellow at the Nation Institute, and a contributing writer for the Intercept. His book Tomorrow's Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa received an American Book Award in 2016. His latest book is Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan. His website is NickTurse.com.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Dower's The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, as well as John Feffer's dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt's Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 Nick Turse

Syria Escalation: Getting in Russia's Face

SYRIA: Faced With Massive US Escalation, How Would Russia Respond?

by 21st Century Wire


June 23, 2017

This past week, the situation in Syria has become increasingly dangerous, and thanks to the US and its allies there, the threat of all-out war is accelerating towards us.

US Navy F/A-18 launches from carrier during Operation Inherent Resolve (Photo: Alex King/US Navy. Wikicommons)

Just one week ago, 21WIRE warned that the presence of American and British troops on Syrian territory near al-Tanf was extremely dangerous, and that the actions they were taking against Syrian and pro-Syrian forces – which they laughably call ‘defensive‘ – were highly provocative, including moving in HIMARS rocket systems with a range of up to 300km.

Since then, the situation has taken a very serious turn for the worse. Not only did an American fighter jet shoot down a Syrian plane in Raqqa province – the first time such an event has happened during the conflict – but Iran also made its presence felt by firing missiles into Deir Az Zor province in Syria, in retaliation against ISIS for terrorist attacks carried out in Tehran.

Moreover, Iranian drones are being shot down, Russia is taking less of a diplomatic stance and more of a war footing, and the US is digging in its heels.

It would appear that the US is being deliberately provacative, hoping that the Syrian (or worse, Russian) government will respond and give the Pentagon the excuse it is looking for to escalate the war even further. The cards that Russia and Syria (and Iran) decide to play from here on will be of the utmost importance in deciding how this conflict progresses.

More on this story from The Unz Review…

The Saker

The Unz Review

By now most of you have heard the latest bad news out of Syria: on June 18th a US F/A-18E Super Hornet (1999) used a AIM-120 AMRAAM (1991) to shoot down a Syrian Air Force Su-22 (1970).
US Army officers in Iraq during operations 
against ISIS (Photo: Sgt. 1st Class Robert 
Lemmons. Source: Wikicommons
Two days later, June 20th, a US F-15E Strike Eagle shot down an Iranian IRGC Shahed 129 drone. The excuse used each time was that there was a threat to US and US supported forces. The reality is, of course, that the US are simply trying to stop the advance of the Syrian army. This was thus a typical American “show of force”. Except that, of course, shooting a 47 year old Soviet era Su-22 fighter-bomber is hardly an impressive feat. Neither is shooting a unmanned drone.
There is a pattern here, however, and that pattern is that all US actions so far have been solely for show: the basically failed bombing of the Syria military airbase, the bombing of the Syrian army column, the shooting down of the Syrian fighter-bomber and of the Iranian drone – all these actions have no real military value. They do, however, have a provocative value as each time all the eyes turn to Russia to see if the Russians will respond or not.

Russia did respond this time again, but in a very ambiguous and misunderstood manner. The Russians announced, amongst other measures that from now on “any airborne objects, including aircraft and unmanned vehicles of the [US-led] international coalition, located to the west of the Euphrates River, will be tracked by Russian ground and air defense forces as air targets” which I reported as “Russian MoD declares it will shoot down any aircraft flying west of the Euphrates river”. While I gave the exact Russian quote, I did not explain why I paraphrased the Russian words the way I did. Now is a good time to explain this.

First, here is the exact original Russian text:

«В районах выполнения боевых задач российской авиацией в небе Сирии любые воздушные объекты, включая самолёты и беспилотные аппараты международной коалиции, обнаруженные западнее реки Евфрат, будут приниматься на сопровождение российскими наземными и воздушными средствами противовоздушной обороны в качестве воздушных целей»

A literal translation would be:

“In areas of the combat missions of Russian aviation in the skies of Syria any airborne objects, including aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicle of the international coalition discovered to the West of the Euphrates river, will be tracked by Russian ground based an airborne assets as air targets”

So what does this exactly mean in technical-military terms?

Continue reading this story at The Unz Review

READ MORE SYRIA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire SYRIA Files

Again to New Orleans

New Orleans

by Mazin Qumsiyeh


June 25. 2017

I am in New Orleans where I gave two talks already at the 56th annual general assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association. The first time I came here was in the 1990s for a medical convention where I got to be a typical tourist enjoying sights but having little knowledge of life of common people.

The second trip was in early 2000s on the wheels of justice bus tour where we stayed and worked with common people (the 99%). In early 2005, I came again for an end the occupation conference and networked again with these wonderful people. In August 2005 we were shocked to see Hurricane Katrina devastate this coastal city displacing 160,000 including some of the friends we made.

We all were angered by the government’s poor (non) response, a government that has just been bombing Iraq and supporting the continuing ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

On this trip, I was honored to share the stage with a number of other natives addressing the issue of “Decolonization is climate justice”. We had an informative discussion about the global connectivity of things like Standing Rock (against the North Dakota Access Pipeline) and the militarized US “police” forces (many trained by Israeli apartheid forces) attacking those peaceful protestors and poor black people (Black Lives Matter!).

I was honored to start reading the book “ ‘All the Real Indians Died Off’ and 20 other myths about native Americans” by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and my co-panelist Dina Gilio-Whitaker. We also talked about mental colonization, cultural appropriation (Hummus becoming “Israeli” and khubiz becoming ‘Pita bread’).

On a positive note, like in my last three stops on this tour (so far Denver, Albuquerque, Austin), I also networked with dozens of people here in New Orleans. The beauty of spirit, the energy of the young people, the kindness, and the truths being spoken give us energy to organize.

In June 2010 I wrote on dignity:

Palestine brings the best in people who have dignity and self-respect and brings the worst in others who have tribalism and greed coursing through their veins. There was more dignity in any minute of the short life by Rachel Corrie who stood in front of the Bulldozer in Rafah and lost her life than is represented in lifetimes of kings, by prime ministers, and presidents. …

If humanity survives the next 100 years it will have been because of those who act with dignity/self-respect instead of cowardice and self-interest. Lessons in dignity from those like Rachel, Basem and the freedom flotilla will be required study in the new people's history books, which I am sure will be very different than those we have in schools today. http://qumsiyeh.org/ofcowardicedignityandsolidarity/

If you are interested to meet in the next leg of the tour in the US, please go to: http://qumsiyeh.org/upcomingevents/

If you would like to learn more about the museum and garden which I am now speaking much about (and getting more and more volunteers for), please see this short video: https://youtu.be/BPhFLOsEIM0

To see photos and other news of our activities on a daily basis, visit us on facebook under Palestine Museum of Natural History.

Thank you to all who continue to support us (including those who advised on airport harassment that I am still being subjected to). You mean a lot to me and all the other volunteers.

Finally, our sincerest best wishes for Muslims around the world on Eid Al-Adha. In this holiday, we remember especially our people in Gaza: two million under a medieval siege that resulted in 1.5 million living in abject poverty. May apathy dissipate and freedom rain. May we all get the courage to care to work to save our planet and become better human beings.

Stay Human


Mazin Qumsiyeh
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine
http://qumsiyeh.org
http://palestinenature.org
Join me on facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/mazin.qumsiyeh.9