zaterdag 19 september 2015

Noam Chomsky 141


Noam Chomsky: Why the Republican 'Radical Insurgency' Is So Panicked About the Iran Nuclear Deal

Chomsky lays out aid the geopolitical and historical context for this important agreement

Professor Chomsky, how would you characterise the Republican Party’s reaction to the Iran nuclear deal?
The Republicans are almost unanimously opposed to the nuclear deal. The current Republican primaries illustrate the proclaimed reasons. Ted Cruz, considered one of the intellectuals of the group, warned that Iran may still be able to produce nuclear weapons, and it could use one to set off an electromagnetic pulse that “would take down the electrical grid of the entire eastern seaboard” of the U.S., killing “tens of millions of Americans”. The two most likely winners of the primary, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, are battling over whether to bomb Iran immediately after being elected or after the first Cabinet meeting. The one candidate with some foreign policy experience, Lindsey Graham, described the deal as “a death sentence for the State of Israel,” which came as a surprise to Israeli intelligence and strategic analysts—and which Graham too knows to be utter nonsense, raising immediate questions about actual motives.
It is important to bear in mind that the Republicans have long abandoned the pretence of functioning as a normal parliamentary party. Rather, they have become a “radical insurgency” that scarcely seeks to participate in normal parliamentary politics, as observed by the respected conservative political commentator Norman Ornstein of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute. Since Ronald Reagan, the leadership has plunged so far into the pockets of the very rich and the corporate sector that they can attract votes only by mobilising sectors of the population that have not previously been an organised political force, among them extremist evangelical Christians, now probably the majority of Republican voters; remnants of the former slave-holding States; nativists who are terrified that “they” are taking our white Christian Anglo-Saxon country away from us; and others who turn the Republican primaries into spectacles remote from the mainstream of modern society—though not the mainstream of the most powerful country in world history.
The Republican suspicion of Iran seems to be shared across sections of the political spectrum, even among those who are for the deal. Could you address that suspicion of Iran?
Across the spectrum, there is general agreement with the “pragmatic” conclusion of General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the Vienna deal “did not prevent the U.S. from striking Iranian facilities if officials decide that it is cheating on the agreement”, even though a unilateral military strike is “far less likely” if Iran behaves. Former Clinton and Obama Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross recommends that “Iran must have no doubt that if we see it moving towards a weapon, that would trigger the use of force” even after the termination of the deal, when Iran is free to do what it wants. In fact, the existence of a termination point 15 years hence is “the greatest single problem with the agreement,” he adds, recommending that the U.S. provide Israel with B-52 bombers to protect itself before that terrifying date arrives.
The underlying assumption here is that Iran is a serious threat, that it would attack Israel with nuclear weapons. How credible is that threat?
To be sure, Israel faces the “existential threat” of Iranian pronouncements: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad famously threatened it with destruction. Except that they didn’t—and if they had, it would be of little moment. They predicted that “Under God’s grace [the Zionist regime] will be wiped off the map.” Another translation suggests that Ahmadinejad actually said that Israel “must vanish from the page of time”. This is a citation of a statement made by Ayatollah Khomeini, during a period when Iran and Israel were tacitly allied. In other words, they hope that regime change will someday take place. They do not say that they will attack Israel either now or later.
Ahmadinejad’s threats fall far short of regular U.S.-Israeli direct calls for regime change in Iran, not to speak of actions to implement regime change going back to the actual “regime change” of 1953, when the U.S. organised a military coup to overthrow the Iranian parliamentary regime and install the dictatorship of the Shah, who proceeded with one of the world’s worst human rights records. These crimes were known to readers of Amnesty International and other human rights organisations, but not to readers of the U.S. press, which has indeed devoted plenty of space to Iranian human rights violations, but only after 1979, when the U.S.-imposed regime was overthrown. The instructive facts are documented carefully in a study by Mansour Farhang and William Dorman.
None of this is a departure from the norm. The U.S., as is well known, holds the world championship in regime change, and Israel is no laggard either. The most destructive of Israel’s invasions of Lebanon, in 1982, was explicitly aimed at regime change, along with securing its hold on the Occupied Territories. The pretexts offered were very thin, and collapsed at once. That too is not unusual and pretty much independent of the nature of the society, from the laments in the Declaration of Independence about the “merciless Indian savages” to Hitler’s defence of Germany from the “wild terror” of the Poles.
No serious analyst believes that Iran would ever use, or even threaten to use, a nuclear weapon if it had one, thus facing instant destruction. There is, however, real concern that a nuclear weapon might fall into jehadi hands—not from Iran, where the threat is minuscule, but from the U.S. ally Pakistan, where it is very real.
In the journal of the (British) Royal Institute of International Affairs, two leading Pakistani nuclear scientists, Pervez Hoodbhoy and Zia Mian, write that increasing fears of “militants seizing nuclear weapons or materials and unleashing nuclear terrorism [have led to] the creation of a dedicated force of over 20,000 troops to guard nuclear facilities [though] there is no reason to assume, however, that this force would be immune to the problems associated with the units guarding regular military facilities,” which have frequently suffered attacks with “insider help”. In brief, the problem is real, but is displaced by fantasies concocted for other reasons.
Professor Chomsky, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, has said that the problem is the “instability that Iran fuels beyond its nuclear programme”. She echoed U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, who went to Israel’s northern border and said, “We will continue to help Israel counter Iran’s malign influence” by supporting Hizbollah. The U.S., he intimated, reserved the right to use military force against Iran. Could you comment on this?
Power’s usage is standard: she defines “stabilisation” according to a peculiar logic. For instance, U.S. policy in Iraq is defined as stabilisation. What does that stabilisation look like? The U.S. invades a country, with hundreds of thousands killed and millions becoming refugees, along with barbarous torture and destruction that Iraqis compare to the Mongol invasions, leaving Iraq the unhappiest country in the world according to WIN/Gallup polls. It also ignited sectarian conflict that is tearing the region to shreds and laying the basis for the ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] monstrosity along with its Saudi ally. That is stabilisation. The standard usage sometimes reaches levels that are almost surreal, as when liberal commentator James Chace, former editor of Foreign Affairs, explains that the U.S. sought to “destabilise a freely elected Marxist government in Chile” because “we were determined to seek stability” [under the Pinochet dictatorship].
Let us consider the case of Hizbollah and Hamas. Both emerged in resistance to U.S.-backed Israeli violence and aggression, which vastly exceeds anything attributed to these organisations. Whatever one thinks about them, or other beneficiaries of Iranian support, Iran hardly ranks high in support for terror worldwide, even within the Muslim world. Among Islamic states, Saudi Arabia is far in the lead as a sponsor of Islamic terror, not only by direct funding by wealthy Saudis and others in the Gulf but even more by the missionary zeal with which the Saudis promulgate their extremist Wahhabi-Salafi version of Islam through Quranic schools, mosques, clerics, and other means available to a religious dictatorship with enormous oil wealth. The ISIS is an extremist offshoot of Saudi religious extremism and its fanning of jehadi flames.
In generation of Islamic terror, however, nothing can compare with the U.S. “war on terror”, which has helped to spread the plague from a small tribal area in Afghanistan-Pakistan to a vast region from West Africa to South-East Asia. The invasion of Iraq alone escalated terror attacks by a factor of seven in the first year, well beyond even what had been predicted by intelligence agencies. Drone warfare against marginalised and oppressed tribal societies also elicits demands for revenge, as ample evidence indicates.
The two Iranian clients [Hizbollah and Hamas] also share the crime of winning the popular vote in the only free elections held in the Arab world. Hizbollah is guilty of the even more heinous crime of compelling Israel to withdraw from its occupation of southern Lebanon in violation of [U.N.] Security Council orders dating back decades, an illegal regime of terror punctuated with episodes of extreme violence, murder and destruction.
Iran’s “fuelling instability” is particularly dramatic in Iraq, where, among other crimes, it alone came at once to the aid of Kurds defending themselves from the ISIS invasion and it is building a $2.5 billion power plant to try to bring electrical power back to the level before the U.S. invasion.
The other argument made here is that Iran has a terrible human rights record. How can the U.S. cut a deal with such a state?
Leon Wieseltier, contributing editor of the venerable liberal journal The Atlantic, said that the U.S. should pursue “an American-sponsored alliance between Israel and the Sunni states”. This is in reaction to his and others’ outrage that the U.S. would make a deal with the “contemptible” regime in Iran. Wieseltier can barely conceal his visceral hatred for all things Iranian. With a straight face, this respected liberal intellectual recommends that Saudi Arabia, which makes Iran look like a virtual paradise in comparison, and Israel, with its vicious crimes in Gaza and elsewhere, should ally to teach Iran good behaviour. Perhaps the recommendation is not entirely unreasonable when we consider the human rights records of the regimes the U.S. has imposed and supported throughout the world. The Iranian government is no doubt a threat to its own people, though it regrettably breaks no records in this regard and does not descend to the level of favoured allies [of the U.S.]. But that cannot be the concern of the U.S., and surely not Israel and Saudi Arabia.
It might also be useful to recall —surely Iranians do—that not a day has passed since 1953 when the U.S. was not severely harming Iranians. As soon as Iranians overthrew the hated U.S.-imposed regime of the Shah in 1979, Washington at once turned to supporting Saddam Hussein’s murderous attack on Iran. Ronald Reagan went so far as to deny Saddam’s major crime, his chemical warfare assault on Iraq’s Kurdish population, which Reagan blamed on Iran. When Saddam was tried for crimes under U.S. auspices, this horrendous crime, and others in which the U.S. was complicit, were carefully excluded from the charges, restricted to one of his very minor crimes, the murder of 148 Shias in 1982, a footnote to his gruesome record.
Saddam was such a valued friend of Washington that he was even granted a privilege accorded otherwise only to Israel: to attack a U.S. naval vessel with impunity, killing 37 crewmen—the USS Stark, in 1987. Israel did the same in its 1967 attack on the USS Liberty. Iran pretty much conceded defeat shortly after when the U.S. launched Operation Praying Mantis against Iranian ships and oil platforms in Iranian territorial waters. The Operation culminated in the shooting down of an Iranian civilian airliner in Iranian airspace by USS Vincennes, under no credible threat, with 290 killed, and the subsequent granting of a Legion of Merit award to the Vincennes commander for “exceptionally meritorious conduct” and for maintaining a “calm and professional atmosphere” during the period when the attack on the airliner took place. “We can only stand in awe of such display of American exceptionalism!” Thill Raghu commented.
After the war, the U.S. continued to support Iran’s primary enemy, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. President Bush I, the statesman Bush, even invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to the U.S. for advanced training in weapons production, an extremely serious threat to Iran. Sanctions against Iran were intensified, including against foreign firms dealing with Iran, along with actions to bar Iran from the international financial system.
In recent years, the hostility has extended to sabotage, murder of nuclear scientists [presumably by Israel], and cyberwar, openly proclaimed with pride. The Pentagon regards cyberwar as an act of war, justifying a military response, with the accord of NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organisation], which affirmed in September 2014 that cyberattacks might trigger the collective defence obligations of the NATO powers. When we are the target that is, not the perpetrators.
It is only fair, however, to add that there have been breaks in the pattern. President Bush II provided several major gifts to Iran by destroying its major enemies, Saddam Hussein and the Taliban. He even placed Iran’s Iraqi enemy under Iranian influence after the U.S. defeat, which was so severe that the U.S. had to abandon its officially declared goals of establishing military bases and ensuring privileged access to Iraq’s vast oil resources for U.S. corporations.
There seems to be little evidence that the Iranians would ever use nuclear weapons. In 2005, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei delivered a fatwa (decree) against nuclear weapons. Why is there this belief that the Iranians are eager almost to use their non-existent nuclear weapons?
We can decide for ourselves how credible the denials from Iranian leaders are, but that they had such intentions in the past is beyond question, since it was asserted openly on the highest authority, which informed foreign journalists that Iran would develop nuclear weapons “certainly, and sooner than one thinks”. The father of Iran’s nuclear energy programme and former head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation was confident that the leadership’s plan “was to build a nuclear bomb”. A Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report also had “no doubt” that Iran would develop nuclear weapons if neighbouring countries did [as they have].
All of this was under the Shah, the highest authority just quoted. That is, during the period when high U.S. officials—Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Henry Kissinger and others—were urging the Shah to proceed with nuclear programmes, and pressuring universities to accommodate these efforts. As part of these efforts, my own university, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), made a deal with the Shah to admit Iranian students to the nuclear engineering programme in return for grants from the Shah, over the very strong objections of the student body, but with comparably strong faculty support, in a meeting that older faculty will doubtless remember well. Asked later why he supported these programmmes under the Shah but opposed them now, Kissinger responded honestly that Iran was an ally then.
Putting aside absurdities, what is the real threat of Iran that inspires such fear and fury? A natural place to turn for an answer is, again, U.S. intelligence. Recall its analysis that Iran poses no military threat, that its strategic doctrines are defensive, and its nuclear programmmes [with no effort to produce bombs, as far as intelligence can determine] are “a central part of its deterrent strategy”.
Who, then, would be concerned by an Iranian deterrent? The answer is plain: the rogue states that rampage in the region and do not want to tolerate any impediment to their reliance on aggression and violence. Far in the lead in this regard are the U.S. and Israel, with Saudi Arabia trying its best to join the club with its invasion of Bahrain to support the crushing of the reform movement by the dictatorship and now its murderous assault on Yemen, accelerating the humanitarian catastrophe there.
Could you talk a bit more about these “rogue states”? After all, this is not the typical characterisation of rogue states, a term developed in 1994 by U.S. National Security Adviser Anthony Lake to refer to North Korea, Cuba, Iraq, Iran and Libya. Your list does not include these powers. It has the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Fifteen years ago, the Professor of the Science of Government at Harvard, the prominent political analyst Samuel Huntington, warned in the major establishment journal, Foreign Affairs, that for much of the world the U.S. was “becoming the rogue superpower” considered “the single greatest external threat to their societies”. His words were echoed shortly after by the president of the American Political Science Association, Robert Jervis, who observed, “In the eyes of much of the world, in fact, the prime rogue state today is the U.S.”
Global opinion supports this judgment by a substantial margin. According to the leading Western polling agencies (WIN/Gallup), the greatest threat to world peace is the U.S. Far below in second place is Pakistan, its ranking probably inflated by the Indian vote. Iran is ranked below, along with Israel, North Korea and Afghanistan.
The U.S., by its own admission, is the gravest threat to world peace. That is the clear meaning of the insistence of the leadership and the political class, in media and commentary, that the U.S. reserves the right to resort to force if it determines, unilaterally, that Iran is violating some commitment. It is also a long-standing official stand of liberal democrats, for example the Clinton Doctrine, that the U.S. is entitled to resort to “unilateral use of military power” even for such purposes as to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources”, let alone alleged “security” or “humanitarian” concerns. And adherence to the doctrine is well confirmed in practice, as need hardly be discussed among people willing to look at the facts of current history.
Turning to the next obvious question, what in fact is the Iranian threat? Why, for example, are Israel and Saudi Arabia trembling in fear over the threat of Iran? Whatever the threat is, it can hardly be military. U.S. intelligence years ago informed Congress that Iran had very low military expenditures by the standards of the region and that its strategic doctrines are defensive, designed to deter aggression. Intelligence reports further confirmed that there was no evidence that Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapons programme, and that “Iran’s nuclear programme and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy.”
The authoritative Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) review of global armament ranks the U.S., as usual, far in the lead in military expenditures, with China in second place at about one-third of U.S. expenditures. Far below are Russia and Saudi Arabia, well above any Western European state. Iran is scarcely mentioned. Full details are provided in an April study of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which finds “a conclusive case that the Arab Gulf states have … an overwhelming advantage [over] Iran in both military spending and access to modern arms”. Iran’s military spending is a fraction of Saudi Arabia’s, and is far below even the spending of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Altogether, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE—outspend Iran on arms by a factor of eight, an imbalance that goes back decades. The CSIS observes further that “the Arab Gulf states have acquired and are acquiring some of the most advanced and effective weapons in the world [while] Iran has essentially been forced to live in the past, often relying on systems originally delivered at the time of the Shah”, which are virtually obsolete. The imbalance is, of course, even greater with Israel, which, along with the most advanced U.S. weaponry and its role as a virtual offshore military base of the global superpower, has a huge stock of nuclear weapons.
Finally, could you say a little on what you just mentioned—namely, on Israel’s stockpile of nuclear weapons?
Israel, of course, is one of the three nuclear powers, along with India and Pakistan, whose nuclear weapons programmes have been abetted by the U.S. and who refuse to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif welcomed the nuclear deal and said that it was now the turn of the “holdout”, namely Israel. The regular five-year NPT review conference ended in failure this April. One of the main reasons for the failure was that the U.S. once again blocked the efforts to move toward a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East [West Asia]. These efforts have been led by Egypt and other Arab states for 20 years. Two of the leading figures promoting them at the NPT and other U.N. agencies, and at the Pugwash conferences, Jayantha Dhanapala and Sergio Duarte, observe that “the successful adoption in 1995 of the resolution on the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East was the main element of a package that permitted the indefinite extension of the NPT”, the most important arms control treaty, which, were it adhered to, could end the scourge of nuclear weapons. Repeatedly, implementation of the resolution has been blocked by the U.S., most recently by Barack Obama in 2010 and again in 2015. Dhanapala and Duarte comment that the effort was again blocked “on behalf of a state that is not a party to the NPT and is widely believed to be the only one in the region possessing nuclear weapons”, a polite and understated reference to Israel. They “hope that this failure will not be the coup de grâce to the two longstanding NPT objectives of accelerated progress on nuclear disarmament and on establishing a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone”. Their article, in the journal of the Arms Control Association, is entitled: “Is There a Future for the NPT?”
A nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East is a straightforward way to address whatever threat Iran allegedly poses. And a great deal more is at stake in Washington’s continuing sabotage of the effort, protecting its Israeli client. This is not the only case when opportunities to end the alleged Iranian threat have been undermined by Washington, raising further questions about just what is actually at stake.
This interview originally appeared in Frontline (India).

U.S. Finances ISIS

ISIS Leader Admits to Being Funded by the US

In-depth Report: 
  71  7 
In early 2015, Yousaf al Salafi, a man believed to be the Pakistani commander of the Islamic State, confessed during investigations that he has been receiving money through the United States.
A few months after al Salafi revealed the funding he was receiving was routed through the United States, Michael Flynn, former director of Obama’s Defence Intelligence Agency, said he warned the Obama administration three years ago that the groups they were funding in Syria were actually Islamic jihadists. Now, a group of 50 intelligence analysts working out of the U.S. military’s Central Command have complained that their reports on Islamic State and the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda were being incorrectly changed by senior officials.
On January 22, law enforcing agencies in Pakistan claimed they arrested not only al Salafi, but also two other people during a raid in the city of Lahore. A source familiar with the investigation told Daily Express that during the investigation al Salafi admitted he received funding to run the organisation in Pakistan and “recruit young people to fight in Syria.” The Pakistani-Syrian entered Pakistan via Turkey last year, but it was previously reported that he crossed into Turkey from Syria, was caught there but managed to escape and went to Pakistan to establish ISIS in the region.
us dollars
Daily Express cited sources as saying that John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State was familiar with al Salafi’s revelations and so was CENTCOM chief General Lloyd Austin. Al Salafi confessed he was recruiting people with a Pakistani accomplice to send them to Syria and was receiving around US$600 per person.
A recently declassified 2012 document shows that “Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI [Al-Qaeda in Iraq]” were listed as the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.” The document also revealed that “the West, Gulf countries and Turkey support the opposition while Russia, China and Iran support the regime.” According to the declassified document, the Obama administration was warned in 2012 that these Islamic jihadists wanted to create a “Salafist principality in eastern Syria” and that ISI [Islamic State of Iraq] could declare an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of its territory.”
Now, over 50 intelligence analysts have formally claimed their reports on Islamic State and al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria were altered by senior officials, The Daily Beast reported. An investigation into the alleged manipulation of intelligence has been opened.
A couple of months ago, two senior analysts at CENTCOM claimed in a written complaint to the Defence Department inspector general that the reports described the terror groups as weaker than they believe they are. The reports, some of which were briefed to the U.S. president, were altered by CENTCOM senior officials to make sure it adheres to the presidential administration’s public line that the United States is winning the fight against Islamic State and an al-Qaeda branch in Syria named al-Nusra, the analysts told the publication. The written complaint was supported by 50 other intelligence analysts.
In recent months, members of the Obama administration have tried to convince the population that the fight against ISIS may soon be over. “ISIS is losing,” John Allen, retired Marine general charged with coordinating the Islamic State campaign said in July.

Henk Hofland en de Massa 110

The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living.
Both lessons hit home.

Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing.
Franklin Roosevelt. Message to Congress on Curbing Monopolies. April 29, 1938

Op 31 oktober 1936 verklaarde president Franklin Delano Roosevelt in het Amerikaanse Congres over zijn Second New Deal:

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace--business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred…

The American people know from a four-year record that today there is only one entrance to the White House — by the front door. Since March 4, 1933, there has been only one pass-key to the White House. I have carried that key in my pocket. It is there tonight. So long as I am President, it will remain in my pocket.

74 jaar later, op 21 april 2010 berichtten Amerikaanse kranten:

While Goldman Sachs' lawyers negotiated with the Securities and Exchange Commission over potentially explosive civil fraud charges, Goldman's chief executive visited the White House at least four times.

White House logs show that Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein traveled to Washington for at least two events with President Barack Obama, whose 2008 presidential campaign received $994,795 in donations from Goldman's employees and their relatives. He also met twice with Obama's top economic adviser, Larry Summers…

Goldman is retaining former Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig as a member of its legal team. In addition, when he worked as an investment banker in Chicago a decade ago, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel advised one client who also retained Goldman as an adviser on the same $8.2 billion deal.

Goldman's connections to the White House and the Obama administration are raising eyebrows at a time when Washington and Wall Street are dueling over how to overhaul regulation of the financial world.

Lawrence Jacobs, a University of Minnesota political scientist, said that 'almost everything that the White House has done has been haunted by the personnel and the money of Goldman… as well as the suspicion that the White House, particularly early on, was pulling its punches out of deference to Goldman and its war chest.'

Nu in het Westen de financiële en economische elite de macht heeft weten te veroveren, is belangrijk te weten dat

The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. is an American multinational investment banking firm that engages in global investment banking, securities, investment management, and other financial services primarily with institutional clients.

Goldman Sachs was founded in 1869 and is headquartered at 200 West Street in the Lower Manhattan area of New York City, with additional offices in international financial centers. The firm provides mergers and acquisitions advice, underwriting services, asset management, and prime brokerage to its clients, which include corporations, governments and individuals. The firm also engages in market making and private equity deals, and is a primary dealer in the United States Treasury security market. It is recognized as one of the premier investment banks in the world.

Former Goldman executives who moved on to government positions include: Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson who served as United States Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively; Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank; Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of Canada 2008–13 and Governor of the Bank of England from July 2013 and Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia

Involvement in the European sovereign debt crisis

Goldman is being criticized for its involvement in the 2010 European sovereign debt crisis. Goldman Sachs is reported to have systematically helped the Greek government mask the true facts concerning its national debt between the years 1998 and 2009. In September 2009, Goldman Sachs, among others, created a special credit default swap (CDS) index to cover the high risk of Greece's national debt. The interest-rates of Greek national bonds have soared to a very high level, leading the Greek economy very close to bankruptcy in March and May 2010 and again in June 2011. Lucas Papademos, Greece's former prime minister, ran the Central Bank of Greece at the time of the controversial derivatives deals with Goldman Sachs that enabled Greece to hide the size of its debt.[142] Petros Christodoulou, General Manager of the Public Debt Management Agency of Greece is a former employee of Goldman Sachs. Mario Monti, Italy's former prime minister and finance minister, who headed the new government that took over after Berlusconi's resignation, is an international adviser to Goldman Sachs. So is Otmar Issing, former board member of the Bundesbank and the Executive Board of the European Bank. Mario Draghi, the new head of the European Central Bank, is the former managing director of Goldman Sachs International. António Borges, Head of the European Department of the International Monetary Fund in 2010–2011 and responsible for most of enterprise privatizations in Portugal since 2011, is the former Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs International. Carlos Moedas, a former Goldman Sachs employee, is the current Secretary of State to the Prime Minister of Portugal and Director of ESAME, the agency created to monitor and control the implementation of the structural reforms agreed by the government of Portugal and the troika composed of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Peter Sutherland, former Attorney General of Ireland is a non-executive director of Goldman Sachs International. These ties between Goldman Sachs and European leaders are an ongoing source of controversy…

Danish utility sale

Goldman Sachs's purchase of an 18% stake in state-owned Dong EnergyDenmark's largest electric utility—set off a 'political crisis' in Denmark. The sale—approved in January 30, 2014—sparked protest in the form of the resignation of six cabinet ministers and the withdrawal of a party (Socialist People's Party) from Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt's leftist governing coalition. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, 'the role of Goldman in the deal struck a nerve with the Danish public, which is still suffering from the aftereffects of the global financial crisis.' Protesters in Copenhagen gathered around a banner 'with a drawing of a vampire squid—the description of Goldman used by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone in 2009.' Opponents expressed concern that Goldman would have some say in Dong's management, and that Goldman planned to manage its investment through 'subsidiaries in Luxembourg, the Cayman Islands, and Delaware, which made Danes suspicious that the bank would shift earnings to tax havens.'

Libya investment losses

In January 2014, the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) filed a lawsuit against Goldman for $1 billion after the firm lost of 98% of the $1.3 billion the LIA invested with Goldman in 2007. Goldman made more than $1 billion in derivatives trades with the LIA funds which lost almost all their value but earned Goldman $350 million in profit. In August 2014 Goldman dropped a bid to end the suit in a London court.

De gerenommeerde Amerikaanse onderzoeksjournalist Matt Taibbi schreef in de Rolling Stone van 5 april 2010 over 's werelds machtigste 'multinationale investeringsbank' het geruchtmakende artikel 'The Great American Bubble Machine,' waarin hij het volgende uiteenzette:

From tech stocks to high gas prices, Goldman Sachs has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression -- and they're about to do it again

The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money. In fact, the history of the recent financial crisis, which doubles as a history of the rapid decline and fall of the suddenly swindled dry American empire, reads like a Who's Who of Goldman Sachs graduates.

By now, most of us know the major players. As George Bush's last Treasury secretary, former Goldman CEO Henry Paulson was the architect of the bailout, a suspiciously self-serving plan to funnel trillions of Your Dollars to a handful of his old friends on Wall Street. Robert Rubin, Bill Clinton's former Treasury secretary, spent 26 years at Goldman before becoming chairman of Citigroup — which in turn got a $300 billion taxpayer bailout from Paulson. There's John Thain, the asshole chief of Merrill Lynch who bought an $87,000 area rug for his office as his company was imploding; a former Goldman banker, Thain enjoyed a multi-billion-dollar handout from Paulson, who used billions in taxpayer funds to help Bank of America rescue Thain's sorry company. And Robert Steel, the former Goldmanite head of Wachovia, scored himself and his fellow executives $225 million in golden-parachute payments as his bank was self-destructing. There's Joshua Bolten, Bush's chief of staff during the bailout, and Mark Patterson, the current Treasury chief of staff, who was a Goldman lobbyist just a year ago, and Ed Liddy, the former Goldman director whom Paulson put in charge of bailed-out insurance giant AIG, which forked over $13 billion to Goldman after Liddy came on board. The heads of the Canadian and Italian national banks are Goldman alums, as is the head of the World Bank, the head of the New York Stock Exchange, the last two heads of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York — which, incidentally, is now in charge of overseeing Goldman — not to mention…

But then, any attempt to construct a narrative around all the former Goldmanites in influential positions quickly becomes an absurd and pointless exercise, like trying to make a list of everything. What you need to know is the big picture: If America is circling the drain, Goldman Sachs has found a way to be that drain — an extremely unfortunate loophole in the system of Western democratic capitalism, which never foresaw that in a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy…

It began in September of last year, when then-Treasury secretary Paulson made a momentous series of decisions. Although he had already engineered a rescue of Bear Stearns a few months before and helped bail out quasi-private lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Paulson elected to let Lehman Brothers — one of Goldman's last real competitors — collapse without intervention. ('Goldman's superhero status was left intact,' says market analyst Eric Salzman, 'and an investment banking competitor, Lehman, goes away.') The very next day, Paulson green-lighted a massive, $85 billion bailout of AIG, which promptly turned around and repaid $13 billion it owed to Goldman. Thanks to the rescue effort, the bank ended up getting paid in full for its bad bets: By contrast, retired auto workers awaiting the Chrysler bailout will be lucky to receive 50 cents for every dollar they are owed.

Immediately after the AIG bailout, Paulson announced his federal bailout for the financial industry, a $700 billion plan called the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and put a heretofore unknown 35-year-old Goldman banker named Neel Kashkari in charge of administering the funds. In order to qualify for bailout monies, Goldman announced that it would convert from an investment bank to a bank holding company, a move that allows it access not only to $10 billion in TARP funds, but to a whole galaxy of less conspicuous, publicly backed funding — most notably, lending from the discount window of the Federal Reserve. By the end of March, the Fed will have lent or guaranteed at least $8.7 trillion under a series of new bailout programs — and thanks to an obscure law allowing the Fed to block most congressional audits, both the amounts and the recipients of the monies remain almost entirely secret.

Converting to a bank-holding company has other benefits as well: Goldman's primary supervisor is now the New York Fed, whose chairman at the time of its announcement was Stephen Friedman, a former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs. Friedman was technically in violation of Federal Reserve policy by remaining on the board of Goldman even as he was supposedly regulating the bank; in order to rectify the problem, he applied for, and got, a conflict of interest waiver from the government. Friedman was also supposed to divest himself of his Goldman stock after Goldman became a bank holding company, but thanks to the waiver, he was allowed to go out and buy 52,000 additional shares in his old bank, leaving him $3 million richer. Friedman stepped down in May, but the man now in charge of supervising Goldman — New York Fed president William Dudley — is yet another former Goldmanite.

The collective message of all this — the AIG bailout, the swift approval for its bank holding conversion, the TARP funds — is that when it comes to Goldman Sachs, there isn't a free market at all. The government might let other players on the market die, but it simply will not allow Goldman to fail under any circumstances. Its edge in the market has suddenly become an open declaration of supreme privilege. 'In the past it was an implicit advantage,' says Simon Johnson, an economics professor at MIT and former official at the International Monetary Fund, who compares the bailout to the crony capitalism he has seen in Third World countries. 'Now it's more of an explicit advantage.'

Once the bailouts were in place, Goldman went right back to business as usual, dreaming up impossibly convoluted schemes to pick the American carcass clean of its loose capital. One of its first moves in the post-bailout era was to quietly push forward the calendar it uses to report its earnings, essentially wiping December 2008 — with its $1.3 billion in pretax losses — off the books. At the same time, the bank announced a highly suspicious $1.8 billion profit for the first quarter of 2009 — which apparently included a large chunk of money funneled to it by taxpayers via the AIG bailout. 'They cooked those first quarter results six ways from Sunday,' says one hedge fund manager. 'They hid the losses in the orphan month and called the bailout money profit.'

Two more numbers stand out from that stunning first-quarter turnaround. The bank paid out an astonishing $4.7 billion in bonuses and compensation in the first three months of this year, an 18 percent increase over the first quarter of 2008. It also raised $5 billion by issuing new shares almost immediately after releasing its first quarter results. Taken together, the numbers show that Goldman essentially borrowed a $5 billion salary payout for its executives in the middle of the global economic crisis it helped cause, using half-baked accounting to reel in investors, just months after receiving billions in a taxpayer bailout…

Fast-forward to today. It's early June in Washington, D.C. Barack Obama, a popular young politician whose leading private campaign donor was an investment bank called Goldman Sachs — its employees paid some $981,000 to his campaign — sits in the White House. Having seamlessly navigated the political minefield of the bailout era, Goldman is once again back to its old business, scouting out loopholes in a new government-created market with the aid of a new set of alumni occupying key government jobs.

Gone are Hank Paulson and Neel Kashkari; in their place are Treasury chief of staff Mark Patterson and CFTC chief Gary Gensler, both former Goldmanites. (Gensler was the firm's co-head of finance.) And instead of credit derivatives or oil futures or mortgage-backed CDOs, the new game in town, the next bubble, is in carbon credits — a booming trillion dollar market that barely even exists yet, but will if the Democratic Party that it gave $4,452,585 to in the last election manages to push into existence a groundbreaking new commodities bubble, disguised as an 'environmental plan,' called cap-and-trade.

The new carbon credit market is a virtual repeat of the commodities-market casino that's been kind to Goldman, except it has one delicious new wrinkle: If the plan goes forward as expected, the rise in prices will be government-mandated. Goldman won't even have to rig the game. It will be rigged in advance.

Een geïnformeerde journalist weet dat de economische en financiële elite de westerse democratie dermate heeft uitgehold dat oud-president Jimmy Carter zomer 2015 opmerkte dat de VS niets anders is dan een 'oligarchie with unlimited political bribery.' Daarentegen prijst de journalist Geert Mak in zijn Reizen zonder John. Op zoek naar Amerika (2012) het 'vitale karakter van de Amerikaanse democratie.' De bestsellerauteur moest een jaar later publiekelijk toegeven dat '[er]r machten aan de gang [zijn] boven Europa,' die hij het 'grootkapitaal' betitelde 'die ons totaal ontglipt en waar je niks tegen kunt doen,' en zijn 'gevoel' hem vertelde dat 'iedereen die een beetje bij zinnen is moet nadenken over vormen waarmee je je daartegen kunt verweren.' Weer een jaar later was hij opnieuw van mening veranderd en verspreidde hij de boodschap dat de neoliberale 'EU een markt [is] van bijna een half miljard mensen met de hoogste gemiddelde levensstandaard ter wereld. Alleen al voor Nederland is de Unie goed voor tweederde van onze totale export, eenvijfde van het nationale product. We hebben nu een open toegang tot die markt.' En daarom moesten 'we' de 'deur' naar die 'markt' beslist niet 'dichtgooien.' In de tussentijd had Mak met evenveel stelligheid opgemerkt dat 'de Verlichting is bedacht in Europa, maar Amerika heeft het uitgevoerd, als real life experiment.' Eind juni 2015 liet het orakel van Bartlehiem ditmaal weten dat 'Griekenland niet [kan] meedoen met de toppers,' omdat 'Griekenland in feite een premodern land [is],' en een 

Grexit lijkt me niet alleen onvermijdelijk, maar ook wenselijk, hoe groot en onvoorspelbaar de geopolitieke gevolgen ook kunnen zijn. Griekenland kan domweg niet meedoen met de toppers. De eurozone moet sterk en stabiel zijn.

Weliswaar 'staat een lange periode van ellende te wachten, enorme inflatie bijvoorbeeld. Het Europese project zal ook een stevige dreun krijgen. Maar in elk geval komt er een eind aan de tragedie die nu maar blijft voortduren,' aldus de miljonair Mak in zijn pleidooi om de neoliberale Europese Unie van 'Geen Jorwert zonder Brussel' overeind te houden. Een decennium eerder wist dezelfde Geert Mak in zijn zo geprezen bestseller In Europa (2004) na 1115 pagina's nog te vertellen dat 'Europa als economische eenheid... een eind op weg' was, niet beseffend dat al sinds eind jaren zeventig het neoliberalisme via deregulering, privatisering, allerlei belastingvoordelen voor grote concerns en het speculeren met niet bestaande miljarden een diepe economische crisis onvermijdelijk had gemaakt. Die brak dan ook vier jaar later in volle hevigheid uit. Maar omdat in Nederland de zogeheten 'politiek-literaire elite' en haar poldermodel tot op het bot gecorrumpeerd zijn geraakt ging Mak's nonsens er even onweersproken in als Gods woord in een ouderling. De Volkskrant wist te melden dat Mak's Reizen zonder John ‘een monumentaal boek,’ was, uitgerust ‘met een schat aan informatie’ die ‘qua betrouwbaarheid’ het ‘met gemak [wint]’ van Steinbeck's Travels without Charley (1962), terwijl NRC Handelsblad meende dat 'Mak Steinbeck afschminkt,' want volgens Mak en de 'kwaliteitskrant' was 'Steinbeck vooral aan het jakkeren [was] op amfetamine' waardoor hij 'eerder het contact met Amerika [vermeed] dan dat hij het zocht. Vele ontmoetingen onderweg zijn waarschijnlijk uit zijn dikke schrijversduim gezogen.'

Hoe 'betrouwbaar' Mak's oordelen zelf zijn, kan worden afgemeten aan zijn opportunisme en conformisme, zijn tegenstrijdige uitspraken, zijn verlangen het establishment te behagen, zijn leugens en zelfbedrog, én, niet te vergeten, aan zijn voorspellingen, die hij bijvoorbeeld uitsprak aan de vooravond van de herverkiezing van Obama in 2012, toen de historicus van het volk plechtig verklaarde: 

het is beter voor Nederland en de internationale gemeenschap dat Obama de verkiezingen wint.

Een opmerkelijke uitspraak voor iemand die volgens eigen zeggen decennia geleden had besloten niet 'meer een potje te gaan preken. Ik ging het oordeel neerleggen bij de lezer.' Desondanks begon mijn oude vriend vervolgens over van alles en nog wat publiekelijk een 'oordeel' uit te spreken. Zijn uitspraken zijn bovendien maar al te vaak in strijd met de werkelijkheid. Zo constateerde de kritische Amerikaanse auteur Tom Engelhardt op 28 mei 2013 het volgende:

At the National Defense University (NDU) last Thursday, President Obama, so media reports and editorials assured us, gave a speech in which he promised to dial back the war on terror as a 'global' operation, curtail U.S. drone operations abroad, and launch another effort to whittle down, if not close, Guantanamo.  But a careful look at the text of his speech indicates that he still accepts the most basic premises of the previous administration: that we are 'at war'; that the country, despite visible evidence to the contrary, is in 'wartime'; and that, when a president decides it’s necessary, this planet will remain a global free-fire zone for drones, special operations forces, or whatever else he choses to throw at it.  He may even, reports Jonathan Landay of McClatchy News, have quietly expanded the categories of human beings that U.S. drones can attack… 

In the meantime, America’s global warring has resulted in a significant destabilization of the Greater Middle East. (The present Syrian disaster would have been unimaginable without the U.S. invasion of Iraq.)  It’s also resulted in the growth of an ever larger secret military cocooned inside the U.S. military, the special operations forces -- 10,000 of whom are now in Afghanistan alone -- and the launching of a series of drone wars and assassination campaigns across a significant swath of the planet.  These, from a White House that has taken on ever more power to do as it pleases in foreign and military policy, the president now claims to be curtailing and bringing under his version of the rule of law, largely because they haven't been working out so terribly well.  Finally, there’s the spread of the al-Qaeda franchise into areas Washington has helped unsettle, which, as the president indicated, ensures that our 'war' cannot end any time soon.  Think of it as a Mobius strip of self-justifying conflict.

Op zijn beurt verklaarde de Amerikaanse hoogleraar Eugene McCarraher tijdens de lezing The Heavenly City of Business in 2012:

President Obama has done nothing to curb the drive for global hegemony – nor does he intend to, for he has always subscribed, in his lissome and idealistic way, to the tenets of covenant economics. When candidate Obama told Fortune in june 2008 ‘I still believe that the business of America is business,’ he was both announcing the ideological foundation of his presidency and proclaiming his faith in the Civilization of Business. No one who bothered to consult the ample record of Obama’s votes, publication, and interviews should have been surprised by his fealty to finance capital, his escalation of the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, or his reassertion of imperial prerogative when he claimed the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo – the latter being the one indisputably audacious act of his career. As a senator, as a candidate, and as chief executive, Obama has never strayed from the central assumptions of empire as a way of being: the right and duty of the United States to control events around the world, and the centrality of corporate capitalism to the promise of American life.

Als mainstream-opiniemaker verdedigt Geert Mak, net als Barack Obama, het gewelddadige neoliberale globalisme. Daarom deugt in zijn ogen Obama en Poetin niet. Waar een held is, moet een schurk zijn. Het simplistisch wereldbeeld van de domineeszoon is gebaseerd op het manicheïsme. Net als voor zijn vader Jezus Christus de Verlosser van het Kwaad was en Judas Iskariot de vlees geworden Duivel, zo vertegenwoordigt voor zoon Geert de VS het Goede en Rusland het Kwaad. Daarentegen zijn opvallend veel spraakmakende  Amerikaanse intellectuelen wel kritisch over hun eigen geschiedenis en de geclaimde nobele motieven van hun politieke en economische elite. Zo beschrijft de Amerikaanse auteur Mark Stein in zijn boek American Panic. A History of Who Scares Us and Why (2014) de oorsprong van de meedogenloze Amerikaanse agressie:

Of all the political panics in American history, none has been more deadly than that which fueled the ethnic cleansing of the people who populated what is now the United States prior to the arrival of European. Far more unarmed Native American women, children, and elderly were killed in the United States all the people killed in the nation's other political panics combined. The treatment of Native Americans provides insight into a fundamental question regarding political panic: When is violence against a group of people an act of panic as opposed to an act of war?

Form the colonial era through the nineteenth century, whites often viewed Native Americans as a threat to the expansion of settlements believed necessary for economic and political security. One of the first such conflicts was the Pequot War (1637-38). In that war, panic clearly surfaced when the colonists surrounded a fortified Pequot encampment and, recognizing the danger of charging into it, opted to burn it and kill anyone who  tried to escape the flames -- including women, children, and the elderly.

Precies hetzelfde gebeurt vandaag de dag nog steeds zodra Amerikaanse vliegtuigen de 'vijand' met bommen en kogels bestookt, en daarbij talloze burgerslachtoffers veroorzaken. De Amerikanen zijn tijdens hun voortdurende oorlogen geenszins terughoudend bij het vernietigen van hun tegenstanders, maar willen eigen doden en verminkten tot een minimum beperken, zoals de bombardementen op Irak, Afghanistan en nu weer op Syria aantonen. 

Met betrekking tot het buitenlands beleid van president Obama stelde de Amerikaanse hoogleraar Jeffrey Nall begin 2010:

When President Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace prize some in the peace movement noted the irony of awarding such a prize to a man overseeing multiple wars and hundreds of military bases around the world. What was most horrifying about Obama being awarded the peace prize was the content of his acceptance speech in which he defended the utility and morality of violence and war. Rather than merely ignoring the legacy of peacemakers before him, Obama used the speech as a full-frontal assault on the very philosophical tenets of nonviolence advocated by Gandhi and Rev. King.

Standing on the world’s stage, receiving a prize for peace, Obama stared straight into the eyes of Reverend King’s legacy and declared not hostility but rather his loyalty to militarism. Rev. King called for America to 'get on the right side of the world revolution' by undergoing a 'radical revolution of values.' Obama defended the American exceptionalism which has and continues to color U.S. militaristic violence in a divine shade of ineffability. Dismissing the hundreds of thousands left dead from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama described the U.S. as the world’s great savior which never does wrong. 'Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.' As if tearing out pages from reality and replacing them with the most egregious doublespeak Obama stated plainly: 'America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens.'

Gezien Obama's Orwelliaanse 'waarheden' kan het niemand echt verbazen dat de president in 2012 meer dan een miljard dollar van de economische elite ontving voor zijn herverkiezingsfonds, natuurlijk niet om een 'change we can believe in' te verwezenlijken, maar juist om de belangen van de gevestigde orde te beschermen. De kritische Amerikaanse blogger Arthur Silber merkte in dit verband op:

I have been discussing certain of these themes for several years. I point you in particular to an article from May 2009: 'Obama and the Triumph of the American Myth.' The second, major part of that essay, 'Torture and the American Project,' sets forth many of the facts of American history that Obama steadfastly refuses to acknowledge and, as Nall observes, blatantly lies about. Obama announced his dedication to the propaganda of American Exceptionalism on a comprehensive scale in his widely praised speech on race; see 'Obama's Whitewash' for the details. 

Given the fundamentalist fervor with which the U.S. ruling class maintains and burnishes the national mythology, an exercise in which the majority of 'ordinary' Americans join with equal enthusiasm (for such dedication to onanistic joys will forever find many followers), Barack Obama was inevitable. It was dangerous enough when truth was the enemy; truth was to be destroyed, but there remained a barely discernible acknowledgment that the truth still existed. With the ascension of Obama the Marketer, Obama the Fulfiller of Dreams, Obama the Commander of Illusion, the lie occupies the most prominent national space. Once installed, the lie grows daily and hourly. The smallest remaining tatters of truth are pushed always farther to the edges, until they vanish into the growing swamp of pain, suffering and death. To search for the truth in these circumstances is to sentence oneself to ridicule and hatred. To speak the truth is to render oneself irrelevant and invisible.

Dit laatste is de belangrijkste reden waarom een publiek debat over de werkelijkheid in het Westen nooit mogelijk is zolang de commerciële massamedia worden beheerst door gecorrumpeerde opiniemakers als Geert Mak. Voor hem geldt dat de Amerikaanse terreur waarbij merendeels burgerslachtoffers vallen 'beter' is 'voor Nederland en de internationale gemeenschap,' en de rest is slechts 'collateral damage.' Het is allemaal onderdeel van de 'Change We Can Believe in' en 'Hope,' de verkiezingsleuzen waarmee Obama in 2008 aan de macht kwam en waar Mak en de Makkianen niet zonder kunnen. In verband met de lengte stop ik hier. De volgende keer meer.

Een guitig ogende Geert Mak met zijn wantrouwend kijkende Mietsie. Mak: 'Russia is on the move again.'

“The Russians are Coming“

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The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!”  So echoed the cry this week from the Pentagon, the US media and  Republican candidates for president.
How silly.  It seems the Russians have sent six tanks to Syria, some medium artillery and a bunch of military technicians to two bases on Syria’s coast near Latakia.   According to Republican warmongers, the wicked Soviets…ooops, sorry, Russians…are intervening militarily in the five-year old Syrian War and planning new bases in the strategic Mideast nation.
Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.  The United States has about 800 bases and military installations around the globe. Russia has only a handful of small bases near its borders.
The exception is in Syria where Russia has had a small naval supply/repair facility in Tartus and an electronic listening post for almost 50 years.  Moscow has long been Syria’s principal foreign ally and arms supplier.
While the US ruled almost the entire Mideast – what I call the American Raj – Syria was regarded as a limited  Soviet/Russian sphere of influence.   No more.
Washington ignited Syria’s civil war by infiltrating anti-government forces from Lebanon and Jordan.  Over the past five years, the US, along with Israel, France, Britain and Saudi Arabia, has armed, financed and directed Syria’s anti-Assad regime rebels.  The Saudis unleashed their secret weapon against Damascus, the Syrian-Iraqi Islamic State movement.
The West’s objective in Syria was to overthrow its government, because it is closely allied to Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Russia.  President Bashar Assad’s secular government in Damascus is just managing to hold off the rebels and mobs of fanatical jihadists sent by the Saudis and Washington – which pretends to be fighting the Islamic state. In fact, the Islamic State, or IS, is a tacit American ally.
Astoundingly, it appears that few in Washington’s power circles appear to have imagined that US machinations in Syria would eventually provoke a Russian response. 
Republican candidates like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Carly Fiorina appeared to be itching for war with Russia. They are creatures of America’s chief neocon, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.  Most non-Americans must have been horrified to observe such warmongering and pandering to Israel’s far, far right.
One wonders if these amateur strategists could name more than one Syrian city. Or if they understand that Syria is as close to Russia as New York is to Columbus, Ohio? Does anyone remember that in the 19thCentury Russia claimed to be defender of Mideast Christians?  This week, President Vladimir Putin re-asserted this claim, saying he wanted to protect the Levant’s 2 million Christians who are now gravely threatened by IS.
Why can the US have military bases in  places like Djibouti, Okinawa, Diego Garcia, Uganda, Somalia, Qatar, Afghanistan, South Korea, Bulgaria, Japan, Italy, Romania, Pakistan, Iraq and Spain, to name a few, while it’s a big no-no for Russia to dare have a very small base in Syria?
Because the Empire says no.
Russia’s military budget is one tenth that of the United States.  Combined with its rich allies like Europe and Japan, the US accounts for 70% of world military spending.   The only real threat Russia poses to US security will come if Washington’s ham-handed blundering in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine provoke a direct clash with Russia’s military forces.  The West is fortunate to have the cautious, sober Vlad Putin in the Kremlin.  He has already averted a US-Russian war in Syria and is calling again for direct US-Russia talks on the growing crisis.
But did anyone really think that the very tough Putin would do nothing while the US and its allies tore Syria apart?
How stupid and arrogant was this.  Imperial hubris married to arrant ignorance.
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Yeats: The Wheel

The Wheel THROUGH winter-time we call on spring, And through the spring on summer call, And when abounding hedges ring Declare that winter&#...