zaterdag 22 oktober 2016

Tom Engelhardt 207

Tomgram: Nick Turse, The Perpetual Killing Field
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: As you read Nick Turse’s stunning report on his recent visit to the killing fields of South Sudan today, remember that if you support this site with a donation of $100 or more ($125 if you live outside the U.S.), you can get a signed, personalized copy of Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan. It's Turse's dramatic, up-close-and-personal account of the tragedy of the American-“midwifed” newest nation on the planet. Check our donation page for the details. Tom]
Slaughter is all too human. Killing fields or mass burial grounds are in the archeological record from the Neolithic period (6,000 to 7,000 years ago) on. Nonetheless, with the advent of modern weaponry and industrial processes, the killing fields of the world have grown to levels that can stagger the imagination. During World War II, when significant parts of the planet, including many of the globe’s great cities, were effectively reduced to ash, an estimated 60 million people, combatants and civilians alike, died (including six million Jews in the killing fields and ovens of Auschwitz, Belzec, Sobibor, and elsewhere).
America’s wars in our own time have been devastating: perhaps three to four million Koreans, half of them civilians (and 37,000 Americans), as well as possibly a millionChinese troops, died between 1950 and 1953 on a peninsula largely left in rubble. In the Indochina wars of the 1960s and 1970s, the toll was similarly mind-bending.  In Vietnam, 3.8 million civilians and combatants are estimated to have perished (along with 58,000 Americans); in Laos, perhaps one million people died; and in Cambodia, the U.S.-led part of that war resulted in an estimated 600,000-800,000 dead, while the rebel Khmer Rouge murdered another two to three million of their fellow countrymen in the autogenocide that followed. In all, we’re talking about perhaps, by the roughest of estimates, 12 million dead in Indochina in those years. 
And that’s just to begin to explore some of the numbers from World War II to the present. Nick Turse, who spent years retracing the slaughter that was the Vietnam War for his monumental, award-winning book on war crimes there, Kill Anything That Moves, has more recently turned to a set of killing fields that are anything but history. In the last three years, he’s paid three visits to South Sudan, the newest “country” on the planet, the one the U.S. midwifed into existence, producing a dramatic account of the ongoing internecine struggles there in his recent book Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan. It’s a land that has experienced Syrian-level death counts with almost no attention whatsoever from the rest of the world. Recently, he returned to its killing fields and offers a chilling account of a largely forgotten land in which slaughter is the essence of everyday life. Tom
The Worst Place on Earth 
Death and Life in the Lost Town of Leer 
By Nick Turse
LEER, South Sudan -- There it is again. That sickening smell. I’m standing on the threshold of a ghost of a home. Its footprint is all that’s left. In the ruins sits a bulbous little silver teakettle -- metal, softly rounded, charred but otherwise perfect, save for two punctures. Something tore through it and ruined it, just as something tore through this home and ruined it, just as something tore through this town and left it a dusty, wasted ruin. 
This, truth be told, is no longer a town, not even a razed one. It’s a killing field, a place where human remains lie unburied, whose residents have long since fled, while its few remaining inhabitants are mostly refugees from similarly ravaged villages.

The world is awash in killing fields, sites of slaughter where armed men have laid waste to the innocent, the defenseless, the unlucky; locales where women and children, old and young men have been suffocated, had their skulls shattered, been left gut-shot and gasping.  Or sometimes they’re just the unhallowed grounds where the battered and broken bodies of such unfortunates are dumped without ceremony or prayer or even a moment of solemn reflection.  Over the last century, these blood-soaked sites have sprouted across the globe: Cambodia, the Philippines, the Koreas, South Africa, Mexico, Lebanon, Rwanda, Bosnia, Guatemala, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria -- on and on, year after year, country after country. 
Chances are, you once heard something about the 1994 Rwandan genocide that saw up to one million men, women, and children murdered in just 100 days.  You may remember the 1968 massacre of Vietnamese civilians by U.S. troops at My Lai.  And maybe you recall the images of Saddam Hussein’s 1988 chemical weapons attack on Kurds in Halabja.  For years, Sudan contributed to this terrible tally.  You might, for instance, remember the attention paid to the slaughter of civilians in Darfur during the 2000s.  The killings there actually never ended, only the public outcry did.  In the 1980s and 1990s, there were also massacres farther south in or around towns you’ve probably never heard of like Malakal, Bor, and Leer. 
A 2005 peace deal between U.S.-supported rebels in the south of Sudan and the government in the north was supposed to put a stop to such slaughter, but it never quite did.  And in some quarters, worse was predicted for the future.  “Looking ahead over the next five years, a number of countries in Africa and Asia are at significant risk for a new outbreak of mass killing,” said U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair in 2010.  “Among these countries, a new mass killing or genocide is most likely to occur in Southern Sudan.”
In late 2013 and 2014, Malakal, Bor, Leer, and other towns in the world’s newest nation, South Sudan, were indeed littered with bodies.  And the killing in this country -- the result of the third civil war since the 1950s -- has only continued. 
In 2014, I traveled to Malakal to learn what I could about the destruction of that town and the civilians who perished there.  In 2015, I walked among the mass graves of Bor where, a year earlier, a bulldozer had dug huge trenches for hundreds of bodies, some so badly decomposed or mutilated that it was impossible to identify whether they had been men, women, or children.  This spring, I find myself in Leer, another battered enclave, as aid groups struggled to reestablish their presence, as armed men still stalked the night, as human skulls gleamed beneath the blazing midday sun.
The nose-curling odor here told me that somewhere, something was burning.  The scent had been in my nostrils all day.  Sometimes, it was just a faint, if harsh, note carried on the hot breeze, but when the wind shifted it became an acrid, all-encompassing stench -- not the comforting smell of a cooking fire, but something far more malign.  I looked to the sky, searching for a plume of smoke, but there was only the same opaque glare, blinding and ashen.  Wiping my eyes, I muttered a quick curse for this place and moved on to the next ruined shell of a home, and the next, and the next.  The devastated wattle-and-daub tukuls and wrecked animal pens stretched on as far as I could see. 
This is Leer -- or at least what’s left of it.     

The ruins of Leer, South Sudan. The town was repeatedly attacked by militias allied to the national government during 2015.

The Fire Last Time
If you want to learn more about this town, about what happened to it, Leer isn’t the best place to start.  You’d be better served by traveling down the road several miles to Thonyor, another town in southern Unity State where so much of Leer’s population fled. It was there that I found Mary Nyalony, a 31-year-old mother of five who, only days before, had given birth to a son.
Leer was her hometown and life there had never been easy.  War arrived shortly after fighting broke out in the capital, Juba, in December 2013, a rupture that most here call “the crisis.”  With civil war came men with guns and, in early 2014, Nyalony was forced to run for her life.  For three months, she and her family lived in the bush, before eventually returning to Leer.  The International Committee of the Red Cross was airdropping food there, she tells me.  In her mind, those were the halcyon days.  “There was enough to eat,” she explains.  “Now, we have nothing.”        
The road to nothing, like the road to Thonyor, began for her in the early morning hours of a day in May 2015.  Single gunshots and staccato bursts of gunfire began echoing across Leer, followed by screams and panic.  This has been the story of South Sudan’s civil war: few pitched battles between armies, many attacks on civilians by armed men.  Often, it’s unclear just who is attacking.  Civilians hear gunfire and they begin to run.  If they’re lucky they get away with their lives, and often little else. 
The war here has regularly been portrayed as a contest between the president, Salva Kiir, a member of the country’s largest tribe, the Dinka, and Riek Machar, a member of the second largest ethnic group, the Nuer.  Kiir and Machar do indeed have a long history as both allies and enemies and as president and vice president of their new nation.  Kiir went on to sack Machar.  Months later, the country plunged into civil war.  Kiir claimed the violence stemmed from an abortive coup by Machar, but an investigation by an African Union commission found no evidence of that. It did, however, find that “Dinka soldiers, members of Presidential Guard, and other security forces conducted house-to-house searches, killing Nuer soldiers and civilians in and near their homes” and that it was carried out “in furtherance of a State policy.”  The civil war that ensued “ended” with an August 2015 peace agreement that saw Machar rejoin the government.  But the violence never actually stopped and after a fresh round of killings in the capital in July, he fled the country and has since issued a new call for rebellion. 
In truth, though, the war in South Sudan is far more than a battle between two men, two tribes, two armies -- Kiir’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and Machar’s SPLA-In Opposition (SPLA-IO).  It’s a conflict of shifting alliances involving a plethora of armed actors and ad hoc militias led by a corrupt cast of characters fighting wars within wars.  The complexities are mind-boggling: longstanding bad blood, grievances, and feuds intertwined with ethnic enmities tangled, in turn, with internecine tribal and clan animosities, all aided and abetted by the power of modern weaponry and the way the ancient cultural practice of cattle-raiding has morphed into paramilitary raiding.  Add in a nation in financial free-fall; the accumulation of wealth and power in the hands of a tiny, riven elite; the mass availability of weaponry; and so many actors pursuing so many aims that it’s impossible to keep them all straight. 
Whatever the complexities of this war, however, the playbooks of its actors remain remarkably uniform. Men armed with AK-47s fall upon undefended communities.  They kill, pillage, loot.  Younger women and girls are singled-out for exceptional forms of violence: gang rapes and sexual slavery.  Some have been forced into so-called rape camps, where they become the “wives” of soldiers; others are sexually assaulted and killed in especially sadistic ways.  Along with women, the soldiers often take cattle -- the traditional rural currency, source of wealth, and means of sustenance in the region.  
In Leer and the surrounding villages of Unity State, last year’s government offensive to take back rebel territory followed exactly this pattern, but with a ferocity that was striking even for this war.  More than one expert told me that, at least for a time in 2015, Leer and its surroundings were one of the worst places in the entire world.

Little remains of the town of Leer, South Sudan, after repeated raids by armed men who burned homes, raped women, and drove the population into exile.

Armed youth from Nuer clans allied to the government offered no mercy.  Fighting alongside troops from the SPLA and forces loyal to local officials, they carried out a scorched-earth campaign against other ethnic Nuers from spring 2015 though the late fall.  Their pay was whatever they could steal and whomever they could rape. 
“People in southern Unity State have suffered through some of the most harrowing violence that Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has seen in South Sudan -- or in almost any other context where we work,” says Pete Buth, Deputy Director of Operations for the aid group.  “Over the course of the last two years, and particularly from May to November of 2015, women, men and children have been indiscriminately targeted with extreme and brutal violence. We’ve received reports and testimonies of rape, killings, abductions of women and children and the wholesale destruction of villages. The levels of violence have been absolutely staggering.” 
By late last year, almost 600,000 people like Nyalony had been displaced in Unity State alone.
“They came to raid the cattle.  They seemed to be allied to the government,” she tells me.  Given all she’s been through, given the newborn she’s gently palpitating, her eyes are surprisingly bright, her voice strong.  Her recollections, however, are exceptionally grim. Two younger male relatives of hers were shot but survived.  Her father-in-law wasn’t so fortunate.  He was killed in the attack, she tells me, his body consumed in the same flames that destroyed his home.
The Fire This Time

U.S. Establishment Panics

The announcement last week by the United States of the largest military aid package in its history – to Israel – was a win for both sides.Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu could boast that his lobbying had boosted aid from $3.1 billion a year to $3.8bn – a 22 per cent increase – for a decade starting in 2019.
Mr Netanyahu has presented this as a rebuff to those who accuse him of jeopardising Israeli security interests with his government’s repeated affronts to the White House.
In the past weeks alone, defence minister Avigdor Lieberman has compared last year’s nuclear deal between Washington and Iran with the 1938 Munich pact, which bolstered Hitler; and Mr Netanyahu has implied that US opposition to settlement expansion is the same as support for the “ethnic cleansing” of Jews.
American president Barack Obama, meanwhile, hopes to stifle his own critics who insinuate that he is anti-Israel. The deal should serve as a fillip too for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic party’s candidate to succeed Mr Obama in November’s election.
In reality, however, the Obama administration has quietly punished Mr Netanyahu for his misbehaviour. Israeli expectations of a $4.5bn-a-year deal were whittled down after Mr Netanyahu stalled negotiations last year as he sought to recruit Congress to his battle against the Iran deal.
In fact, Israel already receives roughly $3.8bn – if Congress’s assistance on developing missile defence programmes is factored in. Notably, Israel has been forced to promise not to approach Congress for extra funds.
The deal takes into account neither inflation nor the dollar’s depreciation against the shekel.
A bigger blow still is the White House’s demand to phase out a special exemption that allowed Israel to spend nearly 40 per cent of aid locally on weapon and fuel purchases. Israel will soon have to buy all its armaments from the US, ending what amounted to a subsidy to its own arms industry.
Nonetheless, Washington’s renewed military largesse – in the face of almost continual insults – inevitably fuels claims that the Israeli tail is wagging the US dog. Even The New York Times has described the aid package as “too big”.
Since the 1973 war, Israel has received at least $100bn in military aid, with more assistance hidden from view. Back in the 1970s, Washington paid half of Israel’s military budget. Today it still foots a fifth of the bill, despite Israel’s economic success.
But the US expects a return on its massive investment. As the late Israeli politician-general Ariel Sharon once observed, ­Israel has been a US “aircraft carrier” in the Middle East, acting as the regional bully and carrying out operations that benefit Washington.
Almost no one blames the US for Israeli attacks that wiped out Iraq’s and Syria’s nuclear programmes. A nuclear-armed Iraq or Syria would have deterred later US-backed moves at regime overthrow, as well as countering the strategic advantage Israel derives from its own nuclear arsenal.
In addition, Israel’s US-sponsored military prowess is a triple boon to the US weapons industry, the country’s most powerful lobby. Public funds are siphoned off to let Israel buy goodies from American arms makers. That, in turn, serves as a shop window for other customers and spurs an endless and lucrative game of catch-up in the rest of the Middle East.
The first F-35 fighter jets to arrive in Israel in December – their various components produced in 46 US states – will increase the clamour for the cutting-edge warplane.
Israel is also a “front-line laboratory”, as former Israeli army negotiator Eival Gilady admitted at the weekend, that develops and field-tests new technology Washington can later use itself.
The US is planning to buy back the missile interception system Iron Dome – which neutralises battlefield threats of retaliation – it largely paid for. Israel works closely too with the US in developing cyber­warfare, such as the Stuxnet worm that damaged Iran’s civilian nuclear programme.
But the clearest message from Israel’s new aid package is one delivered to the Palestinians: Washington sees no pressing strategic interest in ending the occupation. It stood up to Mr Netanyahu over the Iran deal but will not risk a damaging clash over Palestinian statehood.
Some believe that Mr Obama signed the aid package to win the credibility necessary to overcome his domestic Israel lobby and pull a rabbit from the hat: an initiative, unveiled shortly before he leaves office, that corners Mr Netanyahu into making peace.
Hopes have been raised by an expected meeting at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday. But their first talks in 10 months are planned only to demonstrate unity to confound critics of the aid deal.
If Mr Obama really wanted to pressure Mr Netanyahu, he would have used the aid agreement as leverage. Now Mr Netanyahu need not fear US financial retaliation, even as he intensifies effective annexation of the West Bank.
Mr Netanyahu has drawn the right lesson from the aid deal – he can act against the Palestinians with continuing US impunity.
- See more at:
An Establishment in Panic 

By Patrick Buchanan

October 21, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - Pressed by moderator Chris Wallace as to whether he would accept defeat should Hillary Clinton win the election, Donald Trump replied, "I will tell you at the time. I'll keep you in suspense."
"That's horrifying," said Clinton, setting off a chain reaction on the post-debate panels with talking heads falling all over one another in purple-faced anger, outrage and disbelief.
"Disqualifying!" was the cry on Clinton cable.
"Trump Won't Say If He Will Accept Election Results," wailed The New York Times. "Trump Won't Vow to Honor Results," ran the banner in The Washington Post.
But what do these chattering classes and establishment bulletin boards think the Donald is going to do if he falls short of 270 electoral votes?
Lead a Coxey's Army on Washington and burn it down as British General Robert Ross did in August 1814, while "Little Jemmy" Madison fled on horseback out the Brookeville Road?
What explains the hysteria of the establishment?
In a word, fear.
The establishment is horrified at the Donald's defiance because, deep within its soul, it fears that the people for whom Trump speaks no longer accept its political legitimacy or moral authority.
It may rule and run the country, and may rig the system through mass immigration and a mammoth welfare state so that Middle America is never again able to elect one of its own. But that establishment, disconnected from the people it rules, senses, rightly, that it is unloved and even detested.
Having fixed the future, the establishment finds half of the country looking upon it with the same sullen contempt that our Founding Fathers came to look upon the overlords Parliament sent to rule them.
Establishment panic is traceable to another fear: Its ideology, its political religion, is seen by growing millions as a golden calf, a 20th-century god that has failed.
Trump is "talking down our democracy," said a shocked Clinton.
After having expunged Christianity from our public life and public square, our establishment installed "democracy" as the new deity, at whose altars we should all worship. And so our schools began to teach.
Half a millennia ago, missionaries and explorers set sail from Spain, England and France to bring Christianity to the New World. 
Today, Clintons, Obamas and Bushes send soldiers and secularist tutors to "establish democracy" among the "lesser breeds without the Law."
Unfortunately, the natives, once democratized, return to their roots and vote for Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, using democratic processes and procedures to re-establish their true God.
And Allah is no democrat.
By suggesting he might not accept the results of a "rigged election" Trump is committing an unpardonable sin. But this new cult, this devotion to a new holy trinity of diversity, democracy and equality, is of recent vintage and has shallow roots.
For none of the three — diversity, equality, democracy — is to be found in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers or the Pledge of Allegiance. In the pledge, we are a republic. 
When Ben Franklin, emerging from the Philadelphia convention, was asked by a woman what kind of government they had created, he answered, "A republic, if you can keep it."
Among many in the silent majority, Clintonian democracy is not an improvement upon the old republic; it is the corruption of it.
Consider: Six months ago, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the Clinton bundler, announced that by executive action he would convert 200,000 convicted felons into eligible voters by November.
If that is democracy, many will say, to hell with it. 
And if felons decide the electoral votes of Virginia, and Virginia decides who is our next U.S. president, are we obligated to honor that election?
In 1824, Gen. Andrew Jackson ran first in popular and electoral votes. But, short of a majority, the matter went to the House.
There, Speaker Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams delivered the presidency to Adams — and Adams made Clay secretary of state, putting him on the path to the presidency that had been taken by Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Adams himself.
Were Jackson's people wrong to regard as a "corrupt bargain" the deal that robbed the general of the presidency? 
The establishment also recoiled in horror from Milwaukee Sheriff Dave Clarke's declaration that it is now "torches and pitchforks time."
Yet, some of us recall another time, when Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote in "Points of Rebellion":
"We must realize that today's Establishment is the new George III. Whether it will continue to adhere to his tactics, we do not know. If it does, the redress, honored in tradition, is also revolution."
Baby-boomer radicals loved it, raising their fists in defiance of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. 
But now that it is the populist-nationalist right that is moving beyond the niceties of liberal democracy to save the America that they love, elitist enthusiasm for "revolution" seems more constrained. 
What goes around comes around.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book "The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority." To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at

The Middle East and the Next Administration

The Middle East and the Next Administration
by Chas W. Freeman, Jr. 
Osama bin Laden surely died happy. He devoted the last third of his life to creating animosity between the West and Islam and to driving a wedge between Saudi Arabia and the United States. Today, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey are all estranged from the United States. And, as an unexpected bonus, so is Israel. The U.S. is making enemies all over the Muslim world. And every day here at home, millions pay homage to the memory of Osama as they remove their shoes to pass through metal detectors and are stripped of their dignity by body-imaging devices at airports. Americans are less secure, less prosperous, and less free than we were as this century began. In life, Osama was transformative. In death, he continues to shape the world he left behind.
Can a new administration change this? Will it?
I have a political confession to make. I do not believe that we are about to elect a president able to govern effectively and end dysfunction in Washington. Whoever we choose as our president seems certain to be regarded as illegitimate and opposed by supporters of her or his rival. These opponents will be just as determined to discredit and oust her or him from office as diehard Republicans have been to thwart and discredit President Obama over the past eight years. This means that indecision born of political gridlock, the sequester, and other illnesses of our body politic will continue. It might even get worse.
After careful analysis of Mr. Trump’s inconstancy on the Middle East and other matters, I have come to suspect that he is actually five guys sharing a single, oversized orange wig. Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton presents herself as the pitiless goddess of air strikes, drone warfare, and dead tyrants. But, at heart, the two candidates faithfully reflect the narratives, prejudices, and conventional policy approaches of the nation they propose to lead. This gives them so much in common that it is more efficient to discuss them together than separately. So, I will refer to Candidates Clinton and Trump as one gender-fluid person: “Candidate Clump.”
Candidate Clump is on the payroll of the Israel Lobby’s major donors, wants to isolate Iran, and loves sanctions and other forms of economic warfare more than trade and investment. Clump was for the invasion of Iraq before heshe was against it. Heshe is more interested in poking at the Middle East than in understanding it. Clump thinks terrorism is a function of theology rather than a violent response by misfits to humiliation and social marginalization. Heshe is convinced that bombing is the best antidote to what heshe imagines is a religious onslaught. Heshe is not fond of Egypt and wishes Saudi Arabia would go away. When elected, President Clump will give Israel whatever is must have to fend off political tantrums by it. In short, the next president will concentrate on keeping the lid on the explosive mess the last few presidents have made of the Middle East and America’s position in it, not on defusing or dismantling the mess.
All this means that the next administration, whoever heads it, is very unlikely to lead an intelligent interagency or national discussion about what must be done to dig ourselves out of the deep, many-sided sinkhole we have fallen into in the Middle East. The only part of our government policy apparatus now capable of planning and with the money and moxie to act on its plans is our armed services. The easiest path for the next president to follow will therefore be to double down on the militaristic policies that have brought our relations with the Middle East to their current deplorable state.
But, in the interest of our discussion here today, I propose that we suspend disbelief in contemporary American politics and politicians and do our best to imagine a return to intelligent and competent government in Washington. Close your eyes! Take a deep breath! . . . Come on! We can imagine that! Yes, we can!
What situations will our next president, Congress, and Supreme Court inherit in the Middle East? What should they do about them? What new challenges will they face?
Well, to begin with. . . . there are at least twelve distinct but overlapping wars going on in Syria. Maybe more. Saudi Arabia is at war with Iran; foreign-backed insurgents with the Asad government; Hezbollah, Iraqi Shiite militias, and Iran with the insurgents, Islamists with secularists; foreign-backed forces with Daesh; Shiites with Sunnis; Kurds with Arabs; Kurds with Kurds; Turks with Kurds; and the United States separately with the Asad government, with Daesh, and with Russia. The United States is directly or indirectly involved in about half of these Syrian wars, aligned with and against Asad, with and against the insurgent forces, sometimes with Turkey and sometimes with the Kurds, but always against Russia. Oh, and Israel continues to bomb Syrians whenever it feels like it. Notwithstanding all the humanitarian crocodile tears, one-sided anti-Asad narratives, and public relations exercises masquerading as diplomacy, the net effect of U.S. policy has been to perpetuate the anarchy and slaughter in Syria by feeding ever more weapons into it.
This is a policy that is congenial to Israel, which openly prefers chaos to competent but hostile government in Syria. It frustrates or horrifies everyone else. Asad remains in power; the Gulf Arabs feel let down; sectarian strife swells; foreign interventions wax and wane; Iran retains a preeminent political role in the Levant; Turkey turns this way and that; Kurdish self-determination looms, then recedes; Turkey and Europe drown in refugees; the U.S. and Russia are ever-closer to war; all sides, including the United States, remorselessly violate both international law and the basic canons of human decency; Daesh revels in its martyrdom; and the slaughter continues. The disgusting effects of lawless outside intervention in Syria (as in Libya) have driven a stake though the heart of the so-called “responsibility-to-protect” principle.
Americans are in denial about the significant role we have played in destabilizing and immiserating Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan. We accept no responsibility for the 450,000 or more Syrian dead or the eleven million displaced from their homes. Our politicians and public oppose taking in refugees from the anarchy we continue to help foster. That is craven, dishonorable, and a reproach to our moral standing and prestige. But let’s leave such quibbles aside. This is, after all, Washington, where both common sense and moral accountability come to die.
Our attempts to oust the government of Syria have produced another backfire for attempted regime change. Syria has also served up a further demonstration of the limited capacity of armed intervention to impose the U.S. government’s will abroad. Bombing and support for insurgents are feel-good actions. They are not substitutes for coherent strategy. We and those who have followed our lead have gained nothing and lost much from our latest, thoughtless lurch into the Levant.
Part of our reason for joining Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the U.A.E. in attempting to overthrow the Asad government was to show solidarity with them. Instead, an erratic U.S. performance has irreparably damaged all these relationships. Complicity in the Syrian catastrophe, in Israel’s assaults on Gaza and Lebanon, and in Saudi Arabia’s brutal attempt to bring Yemen to heel have earned the United States outrage abroad and no plaudits at home. As U.S. influence has receded, Russia has reemerged as a diplomatically skillful great power in the Middle East Meanwhile, there is no silver lining to be seen in the dark cloud of Syria’s agony.
Parallel contradictions are at work in Iraq, which our 2003 invasion and occupation also thrust into anarchy. By marked contrast with Syria, where we are working with Sunni Islamists to oppose Iran and a pro-Iranian, Shiite regime, in Iraq we are working in parallel with Iran to suppress Sunni Islamists and resistance to Shiite exclusion of Sunnis from a role in governing the country. Ironically, given our support of it, Iraq’s government participates in a joint intelligence headquarters with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, Hezbollah, and Russia. As in Syria, our policies appear to align every which way.
Not to worry. There are fewer wars going on in Iraq than in Syria – by my count, only five or six. In various combinations, the Iraqi government, the United States, and Iran are each fighting against Daesh. The Shiite Arab majority is against the Sunni Arab minority and vice versa. Daesh kills secularists, Shiites, and selected Sunni Arabs and Kurds. The Kurds (with American support) stand against Daesh and sometimes against the Iraqi government. The Kurds kill Turkmen and the Turks kill them.
Occasionally, presidential candidates hint that they have a plan that diagrams how Americans can end our misadventures in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. But the last box on their plans appears to read: “A MIRACLE HAPPENS HERE.” It’s the Middle East, where miracles are said to have occurred in the past, so presumably anything is possible. But it is hard to consider this much of a probability. The next administration needs to give our Iraq policies a hard scrub. But, with the cult of the warrior ascendant in our culture and few Americans dying, the Washington playbook is likely to prevail. We will continue on autopilot but deploy more firepower. Anti-American terrorism with global reach will continue to grow.
Our counter-terrorism policies need a fundamental overhaul. We are not being assaulted by religious fanatics so much as by young men (and the occasional woman) who fit the murderous profile of misfits like Dylann Roof, Timothy McVeigh, or Ted Kaczynski. Whether homegrown or foreign, our attackers see themselves as humiliated, persecuted, bullied, or otherwise victimized. They’re looking for a cause larger than themselves in which to cloak their criminality. Like the perpetrators of gun massacres from non-Muslim backgrounds, they are boastful and crave attention through spectacular violence. Sometimes they act to get such attention. All too often, we give it to them. We mistake their terrorist doctrine for their motivation. But they are psychotic, not pious. They are gangbangers, not theologians.
Bombing the so-called Islamic State and snuffing Muslims from the air with drones don’t help cure anti-American terrorism with global reach. They feed the paranoid delusions on which it thrives. Eliminating the “Islamic State’s” control of parts of Syria and Iraq will not eliminate the causes of terrorism directed at the West.
It’s time for a different approach. The place to start is Syria.
In Syria, the combatants have all relied on external support. They have not needed to court popular support by avoiding atrocities against civilians. Cutting off overt and covert aid to combatants would help restore their incentive to do so. Syrians, Turks, Saudis, the other Gulf Arabs, Europeans, Iranians, Lebanese, and Russians would all be better off if we and all other external parties agreed to mutual restraint and an end to the supply of weapons and fighters to Syria. Syrians need to sort out their differences among themselves. Curtailing the proxy wars in Syria would remove major obstacles to Syrians doing this. It would also bring the world back into conformity with the principle that one should do no harm, and mark a return to respect for international law, something now rarely mentioned but which we all have a stake in preserving.
Focusing on calling off the proxy wars in Syria could also facilitate exploration of how to dial down the increasingly dangerous geopolitical rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Unless that is done, there can be no return to peace and stability in the region. As part of a search for regional détente, the United States needs to have a serious discussion with the Saudis about a war termination strategy in Yemen. Riyadh traditionally managed Yemen with money, not military operations, an approach in which it enjoyed and continues to enjoy many advantages over Tehran. We need to help the Saudis find a way to replace warfare with less ruinous ways of pursuing their understandable interest in the strategic denial of Yemen to Iran.
Working with Saudi Arabia to reduce armed conflict in its region would also help detoxify the US-Saudi relationship. It has become politically poisonous in both countries, as illustrated by the blossoming of American Islamophobia, Saudi vituperation against America, and the recent override of President Obama’s veto of JASTA – the cynically named “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.” This is actually the Shysters’ Relief Act of 2016. (I mentioned the Supreme Court. This is where it comes in.)
Neither country can afford to make an enemy of the other. The United States needs Saudi Arabia’s cooperation not so much for its oil – which we once again produce in abundance ourselves – but for other compelling reasons. These include Riyadh’s capacity to influence the religious orientation of the world’s Muslims for better or ill, to condone or refute Salafi Jihadism, and to promote or subvert tolerance among the various schools of Islam and between Muslims and the adherents of other religions. The U.S. also has vital interests in the Kingdom’s facilitation of air and sea travel between Asia and Europe, its economic and military support rather than opposition to U.S. policies and interests, and its continued reliance on conventional rather than nuclear weapons for self-defense. Saudi Arabia, for its part, has no alternative to the United States as the ultimate guarantor of its security.
The next administration should strive to restore US-Saudi relations so that they permit exploration of how to advance interests that both countries share with Iran, like the stabilization of Afghanistan and Iraq. To be sure, doing this would not be at all easy. It would require buy-in from the Saudis, the Emiratis, and others in the Gulf as well as cooperation from Iran. It would also demand understanding from Israel, which remains a potent, if declining force in our domestic politics.
Despite decades of efforts by the United States to broker peace between Israel, the Palestinians, and the Arab and Muslim worlds, the so-called “peace process” is now dead and buried. It cannot be exhumed and will not be resurrected. This means that, under the next administration, the United States will have no international political cover at all for its ongoing subsidies to the Israeli settlement enterprise or for its protection of Israel from international condemnation and punishment for gross violations of the rights of captive Arab populations, illegal territorial expansion, and intermittent military assaults on neighbors.
The U.S. relationship with Israel is becoming increasingly unbalanced and costly. Israel has become one of the wealthiest countries on the planet. It dominates its region militarily. Yet U.S. taxpayers will pay – or more likely borrow – $3.8 billion each year for the next ten to subsidize it. This, despite the fact that Israel contemptuously opposes most U.S. policies in its region, goes out of its way to demonstrate its defiance of U.S. and international opinion of its policies, and seems to many to be hell-bent on doing itself in.
Unconditional U.S. support for Israel does grave harm to Israel by enabling it to behave in ways and take risks with its future that it otherwise would not. Of greater importance to Americans, it also greatly reduces the credibility of the United States by causing Arabs, Muslims, and many others to see U.S. attempts to advocate human rights, oppose racism, promote the rule of law, empower women, or support the democratization of government as insincere, hypocritical, or duplicitous. Americans speaking out for our values in the Middle East now persuade no one there. We just remind them of our unflinching complicity in Israeli policies and practices that mock the ideals we claim to champion.
On its way out, the Obama administration has begun speaking more honestly – and therefore harshly – about the extent to which Israeli statements and behavior now trouble Americans (including the great majority of American Jews). But, in the region, this just comes across as: “Who you gonna believe, America, or your lying eyes?” We’re a bit late and $38 billion short. Nobody believes that the United States will curtail its enablement of Israel or that our politicians will put the national interest ahead of their personal security in office.
To sum up, despite the shambles present and previous policies in the Middle East have produced, the next administration is likely to ratchet them up, not change them. They serve too many vested interests and resonate with too many entrenched narratives to be discontinued. But the probable result of doing more of the same is more of the same. That’s really too bad both for us and for everyone in the Middle East.
The region is ripe for new approaches. The opportunities for imaginative statecraft that could secure a long-term place for Israel in the region, share the burden of protecting access to the energy supplies of the Persian Gulf, dial down anti-Western terrorism with global reach, phase out the slaughter in Syria, restabilize Iraq, and channel Saudi-Iranian and US-Russian rivalry away from proxy war are there to be found, if only our leaders have the political courage to look.
Remarks prepared for a Middle East Policy Council Capitol Hill Conference, October 13, 2016.
Chas Freeman served as US ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the war to liberate Kuwait and as Assistant Secretary of Defense from 1993-94. He was the editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica entry on “diplomacy” and is the author of five books, including “America’s Misadventures in the Middle East” and “Interesting Times: China, America, and the Shifting Balance of Prestige.” He is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University.

NATO Continues to Prepare for War with Russia

NATO Continues to Prepare for War with Russia

Saturday, October 22, 2016 7:42
NATO Continues to Prepare for War with Russia


NATO uses any pretext to accuse Russia of harboring aggressive intentions. It has raised ballyhoo over the recent deployment of Iskander short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles to the Kaliningrad region.
Time and time again, the alliance reaffirms its bogus Russia narrative. “We see more assertive and stronger Russia that is willing to use force,” concluded NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg speaking at the round table in Passau, Bavaria on October 10.
At the same time, NATO is pushing ahead with its military “Schengen zone” in Europe.
“We are working to ensure that each individual soldier will not require a decision at the political level to cross the border,” said Estonian Defense Minister Hannes Hanso.
The idea is to do away with travel restrictions on the movement of NATO forces troops and equipment across Europe. There will be no need to ask for permissions to move forces across national borders. It will undermine the sovereignty of member states but facilitate the cross-continent operations instead. The Baltic States and Poland are especially active in promoting the plan. The restrictions in place hinder rapid movement of the 5,000 strong “Very High Readiness Joint Task Force”.
Besides being the first response tool, it could be used for preventing Article 4 situations, such as subterfuge, civil unrest or border infractions, from escalating into armed conflict. The troops can move freely in time of war, but introducing a NATO Schengen zone is needed for concentrating forces in forward areas in preparation for an attack across the Russian border. The formation of the much larger 40 thousand strong NATO Response Force (NRF) is on the way.
Meanwhile, the US and Norwegian militaries are discussing the possibility of deploying US troops in Norway – a country which has a 200 km long common border with Russia. The deployment of US servicemen would be part of a rotating arrangement in the country that would fulfil a “long-standing US wish.” Norwegian newspaper Adresseavisen reported on October 10 that 300 combat US Marines could soon be in place at the Værnes military base near Trondheim, about 1,000 kilometres from the Russian-Norwegian frontier.
The air station also serves as part of Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, a program that allows the Corps to store thousands of vehicles and other major pieces of equipment in temperature-controlled caves ready for combat contingency.
Several defence sources told the newspaper that the plans to put US troops at the military base have been underway for some time. According to, the information that the plans are underway was also confirmed by American Maj. Gen. Niel E. Nelson, the commander of Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa.
300 Marines can be easily reinforced. The only purpose for the deployment is preparation for an attack against Russia. After all, the Marines Corps is the first strike force. And it’s not Russian Marines being deployed near US national borders, but US Marines deployed in the proximity of Russian borders. The provocative move is taking place at the time the Russia-NATO relationship is at the lowest ebb.
In February, it was revealed that US Marines were using Cold War era Norwegian caves to store new tanks, artillery and other military equipment to ramp up their presence near the Russia-NATO border.
The military began using the caves to store military equipment in 1981. With the Cold War over, the costs of maintaining the caves were transferred to Norway. The cave complex is back in active use now holding enough equipment to support some 15,000 Marines. 
According to Heather Conley, the director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Europe Program, Northern Europe is now being viewed as a “theatre of operations”. 
These steps are taken against the background of the already highlighted plans to boost NATO’s presence and intensify its military activities in the proximity of Russia’s borders.
The war preparations are taking place at the time Germany – the European economic giant – has announced it wants a more assertive role in European defense and plans to significantly boost its defense expenditure.
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen noted that the German Finance Ministry has accepted to increase defense spending by to a total of 10 billion euros by 2020 for the procurement of equipment and personnel. “Germany is ready to engage … to take more responsibility…This is the right path, but it will require an enormous commitment of time and money”, she stressed addressing a biennial gathering of 200 high-ranking military officials in Berlin on October 17.
The alliance is trying to whip up tensions in Europe to reinforce its relevance in the ever changing world. It needs a fictional enemy to keep it together. Without attracting much public attention, NATO is actively involved in military preparations in the proximity of Russia’s borders. Neither the plans for the military “Schengen zone”, nor the deployment of US Marines in Norway, nor Germany beefing up its combat potential have been on the radar screen of Western media.
One provocation follows another against the endless drumbeat of Western media reports about “Russian aggression”. The war preparations greatly reduce European security and the chances for revival of constructive dialogue between Russia and NATO – something Russia has been calling for so many years. Instead, the bloc is doing its best to provoke an arms race with unpredictable results.

Vietnam and Yemen War

The Vietnam War and Our War on Yemen Have Something in Common.... Nonexistent Attacks

By Joe Clifford

October 21, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - The missile attack on a US ship off the coast of Yemen was a major news event, but the subsequent follow up story, that it may never have happened, was either ignored by mainstream media or intentionally covered up. The whole thing has the same odor as the Gulf of Tonkin incident that never occurred.
Does history repeat itself?  Sure does seem like it. That is if you compare America’s entry into the Vietnam civil war, with America’s latest entry into the war in Yemen.
Don’t be mistaken, we have been at war with Yemen for a year now. America sided with the most oppressive government in the world, Saudi Arabia, in attacking and pounding Yemeni schools, funeral parlors, and hospitals, for well over a year.  This war could not have happened without a wink and a nod from the US, and the arming of the Saudis’ with US weapons.  In addition to providing the Saudi’s with weapons, we also provide mid-air refueling and have delivered 40 million pounds of jet fuel over the past 18 months, thus enabling the devastating bombings of civilian facilities. The US used a cease fire in Yemen to re-arm the Saudi’s, who were running out of bombs and weapons, we provided the targeting information, ground maintenance of aircraft, and of course the wink and nod to go ahead, which unleashed this humanitarian disaster.  So here we have Saudi Arabia, one of the wealthiest but most oppressive governments’ in the world, a supporter of terrorists in Syria and around the world, attacking one of the poorest nations on earth. According to a leaked Hillary Clinton e-mail, she is fully aware that Saudi Arabia sponsors terrorists in Syria, but still the go ahead wink to the Saudis.  Now that we and the Saudi’s have destroyed everything in Yemen with bombs, we are helping the Saudi’s maintain a blockade, preventing food and medical supplies from reaching the Yemeni people, which by some estimates, have already cost the lives of 10,000 children under the age of 5.
All that however, was not enough for the US.  Now we have actively entered the shooting war, based on yet another possible ruse by our government. The US Navy claimed they were attacked by Houthi missiles from somewhere in Yemen, and promptly launched Tomahawk missiles at a cost of $1.5 million  per missile, in revenge.  Some suggest we took out radar installations with our Tomahawk missiles. But hold the phone, two days later the US military very quietly announced they are not sure if there was a missile attack at all. Yup you got it. Did you hear that story on mainstream media? Of course not. It appears that no one saw the missiles from Yemen, nothing was hit by missiles, and there was no corroboration from other ships in the area. The Houthis’ denied they had anything to do with the alleged attack.  The US very quietly admitted, perhaps it was all about “ghost radar images”, and there never were any missiles.  This story was completely ignored by mainstream media. Supposedly, whether the attack occurred is being investigated by the military, and there will be a report coming, but don’t wait up for the late-night news to hear the results of the pending report.  It might never come, or if it does, would you believe a report where the military is investigating itself?
So what does this have to do with history repeating itself?  Some may remember the Vietnam War, where the US entered a civil war on the other side of the globe, based on an alleged “attack” by North Vietnam on a US navy ship. There was never any sighting of the attacker, there was never any damage by the attack, and we know now, years later, that there was never any such attack. Sound familiar? It all was due to false readings and ghost images on radar screens. The alleged attack took place in the Gulf of Tonkin. Quickly the US Congress, rushed to get involved in Vietnam’s civil war by seeking revenge for an attack that never happened. It passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which authorized the US president to get revenge. America’s entry into the Vietnam civil war lasted 10 years, and cost the lives of approximately 55,000 US soldiers, and about 3 million Southeast Asians. That’s correct 3 million lives! We attacked this past week with no discussion, debate, or consent by Congress. Like the cowards they are, Congress never said a word, but stuck their heads deep in the sand. The President, now has the power to do such things, and the Constitution in that regard is irrelevant.
How many years will the war with Yemen last?  How many will be killed?  Why are we fighting Yemen? Why has Saudi Arabia attacked Yemen?  Will there be blowback from Yemen in the future, or do you feel the innocent Yemeni’s will simply lie down and die quietly? And the last quiz question of the day: Name the countries the US is currently bombing.