Trump Critics of Syria Withdrawal Fueled Rise of ISIS

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President Donald Trump’s announcement of an imminent withdrawal of US troops from northeastern Syria summoned a predictable paroxysm of outrage from Washington’s foreign policy establishment. Former Secretary of State and self-described “hair icon” Hillary Clinton perfectly distilled the bipartisan freakout into a single tweet, accusing Trump of “isolationism” and “playing into Russia and Iran’s hands.”

Michelle Flournoy, the DC apparatchik who would have been Hillary’s Secretary of Defense, slammed the pull-out as “foreign policy malpractice,” while Hillary’s successor at the State Department, John Kerry, threw bits of red meat to the Russiagate-crazed Democratic base by branding Trump’s decision “a Christmas gift to Putin.” From the halls of Congress to the K Street corridors of Gulf-funded think tanks, a chorus of protest proclaimed that removing US troops from Syria would simultaneously abet Iran and bring ISIS back from the grave.

Yet few of those thundering condemnations of the president’s move seemed able to explain just why a few thousand US troops had been deployed to the Syrian hinterlands in the first place. If the mission was to destroy ISIS, then why did ISIS rise in the first place? And why was the jihadist organization still festering right in the midst of the US military occupation?

Too many critics of withdrawal had played central roles in the Syrian crisis to answer these questions honestly. They had either served as media cheerleaders for intervention, or crafted the policies aimed at collapsing Syria’s government that fueled the rise of ISIS. The Syrian catastrophe was their legacy, and they were out to defend it at any cost.

Birthing ISIS From the Womb of Regime Change

During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, Clinton, Kerry, and the rest of the Beltway blob lined up reflexively behind George W. Bush. The insurgency that followed the violent removal of Iraq’s Ba’athist government set the stage for the declaration of the first Islamic State by Abu Musab Zarqawi in 2006. Five years later, with near-total consent from Congress, Hillary enthusiastically presided over NATO’s assault on Libya, cackling with glee when she learned that the country’s longtime leader, Moammar Gaddafi, had been sodomized with a bayonet and shot to death by Islamist insurgents — “We came, we saw, he died!” It was not long before an Islamist Emirate was established in Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, while 31 flavors of jihadi militias festered in Tripoli and Benghazi. 

While still defending her vote on Iraq, Hillary made the case for arming the anti-Assad opposition in Syria. “In a conflict like this,” she said, “the hard men with the guns are going to be the more likely actors in any political transition than those on the outside just talking.”

In 2012, the CIA initiated a one billion dollar arm-and-equip operation to fund the so-called “moderate rebels” united under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). A classified Defense Intelligence Agency memo distributed across Obama administration channels in August of that year warned that jihadist forces emanating from Iraq aimed to exploit the security vacuum opened up by the US-backed proxy war to establish a “Salafist principality in eastern Syria” — an “Islamic State,” in the exact words of the memo.

Referring to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia’s Syrian affiliate by its name, Jabhat al-Nusra, before Western media ever had, the DIA emphasized the close ties the group had fostered with Syria’s “moderate rebels”: “AQI supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning, both ideologically and through the media. AQI declared its opposition to Assad’s regime from the beginning because it considered it a sectarian regime targeting Sunnis.”

The memo was authored under the watch of then-Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who was convicted this year of failing to register as a foreign agent of Turkey — an extremely ironic development considering Turkey’s role in fueling the Syrian insurgency. Predictably, the document was ignored across the board by the Obama administration. Meanwhile, heavy weapons were flowing out of the US Incirlik air base in Turkey and into the hands of anyone who could grab them across the Syrian border.

As early as February 2013, a United Nations independent inquiry report concluded, “The FSA has remained a brand name only.” The UN further issued a damning assessment of the role of the United States, UK and their Gulf allies in fueling extremism across Syria. “The intervention of external sponsors has contributed to the radicalization of the insurgency as it has favoured Salafi armed groups such as the al-Nusra Front, and even encouraged mainstream insurgents to join them owing to their superior logistical and operational capabilities,” the report stated.

US Arms, ISIS Caliphate

How ISIS overran large swaths of territory in northeastern Syria and established its de facto capital Raqqa is scarcely understood, let alone discussed by Western media. That is partly because the real story is so inconvenient to the established narrative of the Syrian conflict, which blames Assad for every atrocity that has ever occurred in his country, and for some horrors that may not have ever taken place. Echoing the Bush administration’s discredited attempts to link Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda, some neoconservative pundits hatched a conspiracy theory that accused Assad of covertly orchestrating the rise of ISIS in order to curry support from the West. But the documented evidence firmly established the success of ISIS as a byproduct of the semi-covert American program to arm Assad’s supposedly moderate opposition.

Back in March 2013, a coalition of Syrian rebel forces representing the CIA-backed FSA, the Turkish and Qatari proxy, Ahrar al-Sham, and the Al Qaeda affiliate, al-Nusra, overwhelmed the Syrian army in Raqqa. Opposition activists declared the city the “icon of the revolution”and celebrated in Raqqa’s town center, waving the tricolor flags of the FSA alongside the black banners of ISIS and al-Nusra, which set up its headquarters in the city’s town hall.

But disorder quickly spread throughout the city as its residents attempted to order their affairs through local councils. Meanwhile, the US-backed FSA had ceded the city to al-Nusra, taking the fight to the front lines against government forces further afield. The chaos stirred by the insurgents and their foreign backers had created the perfect petri dish for jihadism to fester.

A month after Raqqa was taken, the Iraqi zealot and ISIS commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi revealed that al-Nusra had been a Trojan horse for his organization, referring to its commander, Mohammed Jolani, as “our son.” Jolani, in turn, admitted that he had entered Syria from Iraq as a soldier of the Islamic State, declaring, “We accompanied the jihad in Iraq as military escorts from its beginning until our return [to Syria] after the Syrian revolution.”

By August, Baghdadi completed his coup, announcing control over the city. According to the anti-Assad website, Syria Untold, the US-backed FSA had “balked in the face of ISIS and avoided any military confrontation with it.” Many of its fighters quickly jumped ship to either the Islamic State or al-Nusra.

“The [FSA] battalions are scared to become the weakest link, that they will be swallowed by ISIS,” a media activist named Ahmed al-Asmeh told the journalist Alison Meuse. “A number joined ISIS, and those who were with the people joined Jabhat al-Nusra.”

Backing “Territorial ISIS”

As the insurgency advanced towards Syria’s coast, leaving piles of corpses in its wake and propelling a refugee crisis of unprecedented proportions, the US stepped up its arm-and-equip program. By 2015, the CIA was pouring anti-tank missiles into the ranks of Nourredine Al-Zinki, an extremist militia that eventually forged a coalition with bands of fanatics that made no attempt to disguise their ideology. Among the new opposition umbrella group was one outfit called, “The Bin Laden Front.”

Despite all its war on terror bluster, the US was treating ISIS as an asset in its bid to topple Assad. Then Secretary of State Kerry copped to the strategy in a leaked private meeting with Syrian opposition activists in Sept. 2016: “We were watching,” Kerry revealed. “We saw that Daesh [ISIS] was growing in strength and we thought Assad was threatened. We thought, however, we could probably manage, you know, that Assad might negotiate and instead of negotiating, you got Assad, ah, you got Putin supporting him.”

When Russia directly intervened in Syria in 2015, the Obama administration’s most outspoken interventionists railed against its campaign to roll back the presence of Al Qaeda and its allies,comparing it to the Rwandan genocide. These same officials were curiously quiet, however, when Russia combined forces with the Syrian military to drive ISIS from the city of Palmyra, to save the home of the world’s most treasured antiquities from destruction.

At a March 24, 2016, press briefing, a reporter asked US State Department spokesman Mark Toner, “Do you want to see the [Syrian] regime retake Palmyra, or would you prefer that it stays in Daesh’s [ISIS] hands?”

Toner strung together empty platitudes for a full minute.

“You’re not answering my question,” the reporter protested.

Toner emitted a nervous laugh and conceded, “I know I’m not.”

About a year later, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman openly called for the US to use ISIS as a strategic tool, reiterating the cynical logic for the strategy that was already in place. “We could simply back off fighting territorial ISIS in Syria and make it entirely a problem for Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and Assad,” Friedman proposed. “After all, they’re the ones overextended in Syria, not us. Make them fight a two-front war—the moderate rebels on one side and ISIS on the other.”

Giving ISIS ‘Breathing Space’

When the US finally decided to make a move against ISIS in 2017, it was gripped with anxiety about the Syrian government restoring control over the oil-rich areas ISIS controlled across the northeast.

With help from Russia, and against opposition from the US, Syria had already liberated the city of Deir Ezzor from a years-long siege by the Islamic State. Fearing that ISIS-occupied Raqqa could be next to be returned to government hands, the US unleashed a brutal bombing campaign while its allies in the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (a rebranded offshoot of the People’s Protection Units or YPG) assaulted the city by ground.

The US-led campaign reduced much of Raqqa to rubble. In contrast to Aleppo, where rebuilding was underway and refugees were returning, Raqqa and outlying towns under US control were cut off from basic government services and plunged into darkness.

The US proceeded to occupy the city and its outlying areas, insisting that the Syrian government and its allies were too weak to prevent the resurgence of ISIS on their own. But almost as soon as US boots hit the ground, ISIS began to gather strength. In fact, a report this August by the UN Security Council’s Sanctions Monitoring Team found that in areas under direct American control, ISIS had suddenly found “breathing space to prepare for the next phase of its evolution into a global covert network.”

This October, when Iran launched missile strikes against ISIS, nearly killing the ISIS emir, Baghdadi, the Pentagon complained that the missiles had struck only three kilometers from US positions. The protest raised uncomfortable questions about what the top honchos of the Islamic State were doing in such close proximity to the American military, and why the US was unwilling to do what Iran just had done and attack them. No answers from the Pentagon have arrived so far.

Target: Iran

With the appointment this August of James Jeffrey, a self-described “Never Trumper” from the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy, as Trump’s special representative for Syria engagement, it became clear that the mission to eradicate ISIS was of secondary importance. In testimony before Congress this December, Jeffrey laid out an agenda that focused heavily on what he called “Iran’s malign influence in the region,” “countering Iran in Syria,” and “remov[ing] all Iranian-commanded forces and proxy forces from the entirety of Syria.” In all, Jeffrey made 30 mentions of Iran, all of them hostile, while referring only 23 times to ISIS. It was clear he had regime change in Tehran on the brain.

Trump, for his part, had been mulling a removal of US forces from northern Syria since at least last Spring, when he put forward a vision for an all-Arab military force funded by Saudi Arabia to replace them. But when Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was sawed apart inside his country’s embassy in Istanbul this October, Trump’s plan went to pieces as well. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan exploited the Khashoggi saga to perfection, helping to transform Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman from the darling of America’s elite into persona non grata in Washington. As a result, he arranged a front line position for Turkey in the wake of any US withdrawal.

There are now real reasons to fear that a Turkish advance will ignite a resurgence of ISIS. Turkey was not only a source of aid and oil sales to the jihadist group, it currently oversees a mercenary force of Salafi militiamen that includes droves of former Islamic State fighters. If the Turkish onslaught proves destabilizing, Iran and its allied Shia militias could ramp up their deployment in Syria, which would trigger a harsh reaction from Israel and its Beltway cut-outs.

Then again, the Kurdish YPG is in high level negotiations with Damascus and may team up with the Syrian military to fill the void. From an anti-ISIS standpoint, this is clearly the best option. It is therefore the least popular one in Washington.

Whatever happens in Syria, those who presided over US policy towards the country over the past seven years are in no position to criticize. They set the stage for the entire crisis, propelling the rise of ISIS in a bid to decapitate another insufficiently pliant state. And though they may never face the accountability they deserve, the impending withdrawal of American troops is a long overdue and richly satisfying rebuke.

Reprinted with author's permission from ConsortiumNews.

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Rough Times Ahead, But Liberty Can Still Win

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While Congress and the president fight over funding a border wall, they continue to ignore the coming economic tsunami caused by the approximately 22 trillion dollars (and rapidly increasing) federal debt. President Trump may not be troubled by the debt’s effect on the economy because he believes he will be out of office before it becomes a major problem. However, the crisis may come sooner than he, or most people in DC, expects.

The constituency for limited government, while growing, is still far outnumbered by those wanting government to provide economic and personal security. From lower-income Americans who rely on food stamps, public housing, and other government programs, to middle-class Americans who live in homes they could not afford without assistance from federal agencies like Fannies Mae and Freddie Mac, to college students reliant on government-subsidized student loans, to senior citizens reliant on Social Security and Medicare, to billionaire CEOs whose companies rely on bailouts, subsidies, laws and regulations written to benefit politically-powerful businesses, and government contracts, most Americans are reliant on at least one federal program. Many programs are designed to force individuals to accept government aid. For example, it is almost impossible for a senior citizen to obtain health insurance outside of Medicare.

The welfare state is fueled by the Federal Reserve’s easy money policies, which are also responsible for the boom-and-bust cycle that plagues our economy. The Federal Reserve’s policies do not just distort our economy, they also distort our values, as the Fed’s dollar depreciation causes individuals to forgo savings and hard work in favor of immediate gratification. This has helped create an explosion of business and individual debt. There has been a proliferation of bubbles, including in credit card debt, auto loans, and student loans. There is even a new housing bubble.

An economy built on fiat currency and public and private debt is unsustainable. Eventually the bubbles will burst. The most likely outcome will be the rejection of the dollar’s world reserve currency status due to government debt and the Federal Reserve’s monetization of debt. When the bubbles pop, the result will be an economic crisis that will likely dwarf the Great Depression.

The fall of the dollar and the accompanying economic downturn will make it impossible for the government to continue running up huge debts to finance a massive welfare-warfare state. Thus, Congress will be forced to raise taxes and cut benefits. Cowardly politicians will likely outsource the job of raising taxes and cutting benefits to the Federal Reserve. This will cause a dramatic increase in the most insidious of taxes: the inflation tax.

As the Federal Reserve erodes the value of the dollar, thus reducing the value of both earned paychecks and government-provided welfare benefits, a large number of Americans who believe they are entitled to economic security will react by engaging in acts of violence. Politicians will use this violence to further crack down on civil liberties. The resulting economic and civil unrest will further the growth of authoritarian political movements.

Fortunately, the liberty movement confuses to grow. This movement counters the authoritarian lies with the truths of Austrian economics and the non-aggression principle. While the years ahead may be tough, if those of us who know the truth work hard to educate others, the cause of liberty can prevail.

The Plight of Children in a Neoliberal World

The New York Times wrote Christmas Day that an 8-year old Guatemalan boy died in US Border Control custody. The circumstances are not clear, or are simply not reported. A month earlier, a 7-year old girl, also from Guatemala, died also in US Border Control custody. Here too, the circumstances are not revealed. How many more children, not mentioned by any media, or any statistics have already perished, trying to make their way to a better future?  A better future, because their real and beloved future in their own countries has been miserably destroyed by the US empire’s imposed corporate abuse and fascist-like dictatorships. But who cares? They are just children of illegal immigrants; children separated from their parents to dissuade parents to migrate to the US of A.  Welcome to paradise of hell!

Currently a large portion of the US Government is shut down, due to a budget dispute between President Trump and the ultra-right wing of the Republican Party breathing down his neck and the Democrats. At stake are US$5 billion for a Border Wall Trump requests as part of the general budget, and the Democrats refuse to sign-off on it. The Border Wall would have countless nefarious and more serious killer effects. More kids in border custody, some dehydrated, some simply exhausted from the long journey, some sick, all separated from their parents, maybe for good, and neglected by US Authorities, and most of them just simply left to their plight which, in many cases, may be death.

Welcome to the Land of the Free, the land of exemplary democracy!

Are Trump and his handlers murderers? Yes, they are. There is absolutely no doubt. Not just for the abject, inhuman abuse of migrants and migrant children, but for killing children and adults in the ever-increasing number of wars and conflicts around the globe, waged and initiated by the US, NATO, and the European puppets’ armies. He,Trump, could stop them at once. He may risk his life, but somebody who aspires to such high office must take risks. Besides, his life may be at stake for many more reasons. Enemies abound. A life is just a life, highly precious, though, to be saved by all means, but killing wantonly millions of children – the future of civilization – what is that if not a crime of the very, very highest degree, a crime of unfathomable dimensions, a crime that should be punishable by – well, let’s just call it by a war crimes court à la Nuremberg.

If someone would tell Trump that he is a murderer, would he grasp it? Would his conscience kick in and make him realize what he
is doing, he the all-powerful, who could stop it all? Or would he simply call his secret service to arrest you and put you behind bars for insulting him, albeit, telling him the truth?  We may never know. I have asked a similar question about Obama. How can they sleep at night? Do they take a pill that eradicates their conscience, their human brain power?  I truly wonder. It’s been known forever that power intoxicates. But to that extent? No repenting, not even after the four- or eight-year’s tour of duty?  No. Rather collect astronomical talking fees, cash-in on the power of indiscriminate killing.

Trump’s predecessors for hundred-plus years back belong to the same clan of criminals. Their crimes have become the new normal. The west watches over their killings on TV with media reports that banalize war and war death as normal, because war is war where it belongs to. And it’s so profitable. It’s the industry of killing – killing babies and their mothers, adolescents, starving them to death, destroying their systems of minimal hygiene – Yemen – a case in point; Syria is in the same league, Afghanistan, Iraq — the list is endless. Hundreds of thousands of children were killed and are still being killed in the world’s longest war, seventeen years and counting in Afghanistan. Nobody seems to care. Afghanistan, one of the resource richest countries on earth, has no future; not as long as it is dominated by greedy, murderous western powers, ahead of all – the corporate and military US of A.

Killing is the name of the game. And mind you, this killing spree is driven by a blood-thirsty elite of bankers, pharma-kings, weapon industrialists, GMO-agri-businesses, hydrocarbon kingpins – a dark deep-state elite that feeds on the idea that the world is over-populated and must be reduced by factors of thousands, so that this small elite may survive much longer on the ever-diminishing resources of Mother Earth.

This is no joke. Infamous top war criminal, Henry Kissinger, propagated this idea already in the 1960s as a prominent member of the Rockefeller clan, called “Bilderberg Society”. The Bilderbergers’ objective Numero Uno is just that – reducing the world population by any means. War is one of them. And who to target best?  Children, of course. They are the gene-bearers of future generations. If gone, there are no off-springs, nobody to lead the world into a better future, a future of peace – yes, a future of peace, because these children have known war and would most likely opt for a different set of life values.

And imagine the suffering of these children until they eventually succumb to death?  Many without parents, without shelter, food, health care, let alone minimal education, being exposed to the abuses of humanity – unpaid hard labor, rape, diseases. The west not just watches on, but helps their plight along by supplying weapons, bullets, bombs to those who do the killing.

The western public takes it as, well, the new normal. We can’t imagine a world without war, a world in peace. That’s the extent to which we have been indoctrinated. And as we live in comfort what is easier to believe than what we are told by the presstitute? No worries, our leaders (sic) do the right thing; we are safe. And just in case there is any doubt, the governments concerned ‘launch’ a ‘false flag’ terror attack, justifying more severe crack-downs on the population to, indeed, keep them safe by militarization of society, all the while continuing killing children with their mothers and relatives, children alone, children on the move as refugees, children as slaves, children uncounted by any statistics.

Trump, yes, he is a murderer. And the Border Wall is a murder weapon. Assassins are also Trump’s predecessors, not least Obama, who knowingly killed thousands of children through his extra-judiciary drone attacks – and let’s stress this – of which he boasted to personally approve each and every one of these drone killings. Clinton killed Haitians by the thousands, many of them children, through his forced “free” trade agreements, giving US corporations access to child labor, miserably paid child labor, which was and is nothing more than legalized enslavement, often leading to impoverishment, famine, disease and death.

When will justice be done? Or, are we talking about justice ‘after death’? Are we talking about a collective Karma that will eventually pull our entire civilization down the drain into an inescapable abyss, giving room to a new beginning?

• First published at New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

Labour and anti-Semitism in 2018: The Truth Behind the Relentless Smear Campaign Against Corbyn

End-of-year polls are always popular as a way to gauge significant social and political trends over the past year and predict where things are heading in the next.

But a recent poll of European Jews – the largest such survey in the world – is being used to paint a deeply misleading picture of British society and an apparent problem of a new, left wing form of anti-semitism.

The survey was conducted by the European Union’s agency on fundamental rights and was given great prominence in the liberal-left British daily the Guardian.

The newspaper highlighted one area of life in which Britain scored worse with Jews than any of the other 12 member states surveyed. Some 84 per cent of Jews in the UK believe there is a major problem with anti-semitism in British politics.

As a result, nearly a third say they have considered emigrating – presumably most of them to Israel, where the Law of Return offers an open-door policy to all Jews in the world.

Britain scored only slightly better on indices other than politics. Some 75 per cent said they thought anti-semitism was generally a problem in the UK, up from 48 per cent in 2012. The average score in the 12 EU states with significant Jewish populations was 70 per cent.

‘Playing with fire’

Jeremy Corbyn, head of the UK’s opposition Labour party, has faced a barrage of criticism since he was elected leader more than three years ago for presiding over a supposedly endemic anti-semitism problem in his party.

The Guardian has been at the forefront of framing Corbyn as either indifferent to, or actively assisting in, the supposed rise of anti-semitism in Labour. Now the paper has a senior European politician echoing its claims.

Relating to the poll, Vera Jourova, the EU’s commissioner for justice, helpfully clarified what Britain’s terrible results in the political sphere signified.

The paper quoted her on Corbyn: “I always use the phrase ‘Let’s not play with fire’, let’s be aware of what happened in the past. And let’s not make the same mistake of tolerating it. It is not enough just to be silent … I hope he [Corbyn] will pay attention to this survey.”

Labour party problem?

However, both Jourova’s warnings and an apparent perception among British Jews of an anti-semitism problem fuelled by Corbyn fly in the face of real-world evidence.

Other surveys show that, when measured by objective criteria, the Labour party scores relatively well: the percentage of members holding anti-semitic views is substantially lower than in the ruling Conservative party and much the same as in Britain’s third party, the Liberal Democrats.

For example, twice as many Conservatives as Labour party members believe typically anti-semitic stereotypes, such as that Jews chase money or that Jews are less loyal to Britain.

Prejudices in decline

Even more significantly, the percentage of Labour party members who hold such prejudices has fallen dramatically across the board since Corbyn became leader.

That suggests that the new members who joined after Corbyn became leader – a massive influx has made his party the largest in Europe – are less likely to be anti-semitic than those who joined under previous Labour leaders.

In other words, the evidence suggests very persuasively that Corbyn has been a force for eradicating, or at least diluting, existing and rather marginal anti-semitic views in the Labour party. More so even than the previous leader, Ed Miliband, who was himself Jewish.

But all of this, yet again, went unremarked by the Guardian and other British media, which have been loudly declaiming a specific “anti-semitism problem” in Labour for three years without a shred of concrete evidence for it.

Resurgent white nationalism

There are good grounds for Jews to feel threatened in much of Europe at the moment, with the return of ugly ethnic nationalisms that many assumed had been purged after the Second World War.

And Brexit – Britain’s planned exit from the European Union – does indeed appear to have unleashed or renewed nativist sentiment among a section of the UK population. But such prejudices dominate on the right, not the left. Certainly Corbyn, a lifelong and very prominent anti-racism activist, has not been stoking nativist attitudes.

The unexplored assumption by the Guardian and the rest of the corporate media, as well as by Jourova, is that the rise in British Jews’ concerns about anti-semitism in politics refers exclusively to Corbyn rather than a very different problem: of a resurgent white nationalism on the right.

But let’s assume that they are correct that the poll solely registers Jewish worries about Corbyn.

A separate finding in the EU survey underscored how Jewish opinion on anti-semitism and Corbyn may be far less straightforward than Jourova’s presentation suggests – and how precisely the wrong conclusions are likely to be drawn from the results.

Buried in the Guardian report was a starkly anomalous finding – from Hungary.

Anti-Jewish sentiment

Hungary is a country in which Jews and other minorities undoubtedly face a very pressing threat to their safety. Its ultra-nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orban, used the general election in April to whip up a frenzy of anti-Jewish sentiment.

He placed the Hungarian-born Jewish billionaire George Soros at the centre of his anti-immigration campaign, suggesting that the philanthropist was secretly pulling the strings of the opposition party to flood the country with “foreigners”.

In the run-up to the election, his government erected giant posters and billboards all over the country showing a chuckling George Soros next to the words: “Don’t let Soros have the last laugh.”

Raiding the larder of virtually every historic anti-semitic trope, Orban declared in an election speech:

We are fighting an enemy that is different from us. Not open, but hiding; not straightforward but crafty; not honest but base; not national but international; does not believe in working but speculates with money; does not have its own homeland but feels it owns the world.

All of this should be seen in the context of Orban’s recent praise for Miklos Horthy, a former Hungarian leader who was an ally of Hitler’s. Orban has called him an “exceptional statesman”.

The Hungary anomaly

So did Hungarian Jews express to EU pollsters heightened fears for their community’s safety? Strangely, they did not. In fact, the percentage who regarded anti-semitism as a problem in Hungary was only slightly above the EU average and far below the concerns expressed by French Jews.

Not only that, but the proportion of Hungarian Jews fearful of anti-semitism has actually dropped over the past six years. Some 77 percent see anti-semitism as a problem today, compared to 89 percent in 2012, when the poll was last conducted.

So, the survey’s results are more than a little confounding.

On the one hand, at least according to the British media and the EU, British Jews are in a heightened state of fear about the UK Labour party, where the evidence suggests an already marginal problem of anti-semitism is actually in decline. And on the other, Hungarian Jews’ fears of anti-semitism are waning, even though the evidence suggests anti-semitism there is on the rise and government-sanctioned.

Array of opponents

There is, however, a way to explain this paradox – and it has nothing to do with anti-semitism.

Corbyn’s socialist-lite agenda faces a devastating array of opponents that include British business; the entire spectrum of the UK corporate media, including its supposedly liberal components; and, significantly in this case, the ultra-nationalist government of Israel, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu.

The British establishment fears Corbyn poses a challenge to the further entrenchment of neoliberal orthodoxy they benefit from.

Meanwhile, Israeli politicians loathe Corbyn because he has made support for the Palestinian people a key part of his platform, becoming the first European leader to prioritise a Palestinian right to justice over Israel’s right to maintain its 51-year belligerent occupation.

Hungary’s Viktor Orban, by contrast, is beloved of big business, as well as the country’s mainstream media, and, again significantly, the Israeli government.

Orban: Israel’s ‘true friend’

Rather than distancing himself from Orban and his Jew-baiting electioneering in Hungary, Netanyahu has actually sanctioned it. He has called Orban a “true friend of Israel”, thanked him for “defending Israel”, and joined the Hungarian leader in denouncing Soros.

Netanyahu, like Orban, intensely dislikes Soros’s liberalism and his support for open borders. Netanyahu shares Orban’s fears that a flood of refugees will disrupt his efforts to make his state as ethnically pure as possible.

Earlier this year, for example, Netanyahu claimed that Soros had funded human rights organisations to help African asylum seekers in Israel avoid a government programme to expel them.

Netanyahu has many practical and ideological reasons to support not only Orban but the new breed of ultra-nationalist leaders emerging in states like Poland, Italy, France and elsewhere.

Hostility to Muslims

Nativism in European states is primarily directed against Muslim and Arab immigrants arriving from the Middle East and north Africa, though domestic Jews could well become collateral damage in any future purge of “foreigners”.

Europe’s ultra-nationalist leaders are therefore more likely to sympathise with Israel and its own “Arab-Muslim problem”, especially since Netanyahu and the Israeli right have proved adept at falsely presenting the Palestinians as immigrants rather than the region’s native population.

Netanyahu would also like to see Europe paralysed by political differences, so it is incapable of lobbying for a two-state solution, as it has been doing ineffectively for many years; it is unable to agree on funding human rights activism designed to protect Palestinian rights; and it is too weak to move towards the adoption of sanctions against Israel.

But most importantly, Netanyahu and the Israeli right can identify with the anti-semitic view of “the Jew” shared by Europe’s hardline nationalists.

Ethnic purity and the Other

These far-right groups see Jews as outsiders, a discrete community that cannot be assimilated or exist peacefully among them, and one that has separate loyalties and should either be encouraged to leave or be sent elsewhere.

Netanyahu agrees. He also believes Jews are different, that they are a distinct and separate people, that their primary loyalties are tribal, to their own kind, and not to other states, and that they can only ever really be at home and properly Jewish in Israel, their true home.

Zsofia Kata Vincze, a professor of ethnology in Budapest, recently referred to the ideological affinity between Netanyahu’s Zionism and Orban’s Hungarian-Christian nativism:

They found a common language very easily. They kept talking about mutual values, which are nationalism, exclusivism … Hungarian purity, Jewish purity … against the Others.

Only ‘partial’ Jews

In fact, Netanyahu’s views are widely shared in Israel. A few years ago the celebrated liberal Israeli author A B Yehoshua outraged American Jews by saying they could only ever be what he called “partial Jews” outside Israel.

Speaking of the divide between them and Israeli Jews, he said: “In no way are we the same thing – we are total and they are partial.” He called the refusal of all Jews to live in Israel and become “complete Jews … a very deep failure of the Jewish people”.

The high levels of racism among Israelis towards non-Jews is highlighted in every poll.

According to one this month, more than half of Israeli Jews – or those willing to admit it – believed that “most Jews are better than most non-Jews because they were born Jews”. Only a fifth rejected the statement outright.

Some 74 per cent were disturbed by hearing Arabic, the mother tongue of the fifth of the country’s population who are Palestinian citizens. And a further 88 per cent did not want their son to befriend an Arab girl.

Anti-immigrant views

A separate poll this month found that, apart from Greeks, Israelis hold the most anti-immigrant views of 27 countries surveyed – more so even than Hungarians.

By immigrants, of course, Israelis mean non-Jews. They do not regard the millions of Jews who have arrived in Israel from Europe and the Americas over the past decades as immigrants. Instead they are viewed as olim, or those who “ascend” to Israel, supposedly returning to their biblically ordained home.

It is this ideological affinity – between a European ultra-nationalism and the kind of Zionist ultra-nationalism dominant in Israel – that explains why the far-right in Europe venerates Israel while despising Jews, and why so many Israelis prefer an Orban to a Soros.

And it also, of course, explains why Netanyahu and most Israelis detest Corbyn.

Legacy of Europe’s racism

Not only does Corbyn offer an inclusive domestic political agenda, unlike the Orbans of Europe, but worse he also refuses to shy away from confronting the legacy of European racism and colonialism.

The chief historic victims of that racism in Europe were Jews. But today that same European racism is channeled both into fervent support for Israel as a supposedly “safe haven” for Jews and into a general indifference – aside from handwringing – towards the Palestinians who for decades have been displaced and oppressed by Israel.

Corbyn represents a huge break with that tradition and is therefore a threat to Israel. That is why behind the scenes Israel has been seeking to redefine anti-semitism in a way that tars anti-racists like Corbyn and his supporters in the Labour party.

The ‘ultimate’ anti-semitism

I have documented before in Middle East Eye Israel’s role in stoking the supposed “anti-semitism crisis” in Labour and in cornering the party into adopting a new, convoluted definition of anti-semitism that for the first time makes criticism of Israel the benchmark of anti-semitic discourse.

Last month Netanyahu made that conflation explicit in a video message to a conference in Vienna. While praising Orban, he averred: “Anti-semitism and anti-Zionism, anti-Israeli polices – the idea that the Jewish people don’t have the right for a state – that’s the ultimate anti-semitism of today.”

But it is not just Netanyahu who is stoking the patently preposterous notion that anti-racists like Corbyn – those whose principles require that they reject Jewish privilege over Palestinians – are really secret Jew-haters.

If that were the case, the criticisms of Corbyn might not have as much traction with British Jews as this month’s EU poll suggests.

Media distortions

The UK media have played a vital role in promoting a false image of Corbyn, as a survey by the Media Reform Coalition found in September when it analysed British coverage of the Labour party.

The coalition, which is led by academics, concluded that there had been systematic “disinformation” from media outlets. Inaccurate and misleading reporting by the supposedly liberal Guardian was especially pronounced.

“Two thirds of the news segments on television contained at least one reporting error or substantive distortion,” its researchers also discovered.

These failures included “marked skews in sourcing, omission of essential context or right of reply, misquotation, and false assertions made either by journalists themselves or sources whose contentious claims were neither challenged nor countered.”

Covert propaganda

The group is reluctant to infer that these consistent media failures indicate an intention to smear Corbyn.

But revelations this month provide reason to believe that powerful interests in the UK are prepared to use dirty tricks to keep the Labour leader out of power.

According to hacked documents, a network of politicians, academics, journalists and military personnel in Britain and elsewhere have been engaged in covert propaganda to shore up pro-western narratives and smear dissidents through an organisation called ‘Integrity Initiative.’

In the UK, these operations have been overseen by an even more shadowy group called the Institute for Statecraft, with a fake address in Scotland. In fact, it is headquartered in London and staffed by former and possibly current military intelligence officers.

The UK government has been forced to admit that the institute has received substantial payments from the foreign office and defence ministry, and from the British army.

Much of what the Integrity Initiative is up to is unclear, but from public records – such as its Twitter history – it can be seen that it has repeatedly sought to damage Corbyn and his key advisers by implicating them in supposed Russian “disinformation” campaigns.

‘Fair or foul means’

It is worth recalling that shortly after Corbyn was elected Labour leader in summer 2015 an unnamed British army general was given a platform in the Establishment’s newspaper, the Rupert Murdoch-owned Times, to denounce Corbyn. He warned that the army would use “whatever means possible, fair or foul” to prevent the Labour leader from becoming prime minister and being able to carry out his policies.

Certainly, the fingerprints of the British establishment now look all too visible on some of the recent efforts to malign Corbyn in the media.

Maybe not surprisingly, despite the huge implications of the story for British politics, it has been given only the barest reporting in that same media. At the time of writing, the Guardian had referred to the Integrity Initiative only in the most pro forma fashion – in the context of government denials of wrongdoing.

Is it credible that those covertly trying to paint Corbyn as a “Kremlin stooge” are not also seeking to exploit Israeli covert efforts to vilify the Labour leader as someone who encourages anti-semitism in his own party?

The real remedy

There is a serious, if rarely explored ideological tension between Israeli-style Zionism and a progressive or liberal outlook, just as there is between Orbanism and liberalism.

In a political climate where European nativists are on the rise, the stark choice facing Europe’s Jews is to double-down on their traditional left-liberal worldview or abandon it entirely and throw their hat in with Israel’s own nativists. Corbyn represents the first choice, Netanyahu’s hardline Zionism the second.

Bombarded by disinformation campaigns, it looks like many British Jews are being misled into seeing Corbyn as a threat – of a confected “left wing anti-semitism” – rather than as the best hope of inoculating Britain against the resurgence of a very real menace of right wing anti-semitism.

Jewish emigration to Israel will make matters far worse. It will pander to the prejudices of Europe’s white nationalists, weaken the European left, and bolster an equally ugly Jewish nationalism that requires the oppression of Palestinians.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The New Congress and the Rolling Catastrophe of the US Body Politic

Bathed in the soothing waters of the Blue Wave, such that it was, a new US Congress will be baptized on January 3rd. But what portends when “Mad Dog” Mattis, arch racist Jeff Sessions, and deep state spooks are canonized by self-identified liberals and leftists as bulwarks against fascism? When all mainstream “opposition” politics can be reduced to a single issue: Trump. And when the mid-term elections ignored deepening impoverishment at home, endless wars abroad, and climate calamity – let alone the tax cut for the super-rich – and instead focused on the “threat” posed by (take your pick) immigrants or the Russians.

For the first time ever, the Gallup poll reported that most Democrats favor socialism to capitalism. And for good reason: as the Occupy movement proclaimed, “the system isn’t broken, it’s fixed.” An observer from the UK quipped, if the mid-term elections would have changed anything, they would not have been allowed.

The American body politic is in deep malaise with the current administration. But Trump is the symptom, not the disease, which is neoliberal rule. The conditions that allowed the ascendency of Trump were the result of the neoliberal policies of Obama/Bush and of their predecessors. Trump does not so much represent a break or reversal of Obama era policies. Rather, we are suffering a continuation and intensification of those policies as the body politic lurches to the right.

The Leadup to the New Congress

The good news for US democracy was the largest voter turnout in half a century for the congressional mid-term elections. For the 66% of the US population under 50 years, it was the highest in their lifetime. The more sobering news is that even with this record turnout, the majority of eligible voters didn’t vote. While the pool of eligible voters is diminished by felony disenfranchisement and other laws and practices depending on the state.

Beyond the microcosm of the corporate two-party system, there is a universe out there and even issues that transcend one’s affection or distaste for Trump. What if we had an electoral system like Cuba, where the vast majority of eligible voters are motivated to participate?

A glimpse of the smoldering discontent within the US electorate was seen in the vaguely insurgent candidacies in 2016 of Trump, with his faux populist appeal to those dispossessed by an economy that left them behind, and of Sanders with his critique of income inequality in a rigged system. For now, those grassroots potentials for genuine change have been contained and domesticated within the two-party system, dedicated above all to preserve existing power relationships.

Only 30 of 435 seats (7%) in the House were considered truly contested. Fully 74% of the seats were considered solidly safe for their respective parties; 183 for the Democrats and 137 for the Republicans.

In my one-party state of California, senator-for-life Diane Feinstein ran against a fellow Democrat. Our peculiar institution of placing only the top two winners of the primaries, regardless of party, on the general election ballot barred voters from voting for, or even writing in, a third-party choice let alone a Republican.

So, the majority of eligible voters sat out the mid-term spectacle, simply not bothering with politicians awash in ever more obscene tsunamis of corporate cash.

Nancy Pelosi, representing San Francisco’s congressional district, spent an astronomical $5,111,387 for her virtually uncontested House seat. Her Republican opponent spent a paltry $12,443, barely enough to place a campaign statement on the ballot and pay for the postage to mail it. Had Pelosi sat out the campaign as did her opponent, Pelosi still would have coasted to victory on party and name recognition.

There is a reason why Pelosi, running in an absolutely safe district, outspent her opponent 410 to 1. Pelosi doled out her millions to other candidates running for the House who will then repay the favor by electing her majority leader of the new Congress. In other words, she served as the bag lady for her corporate donors to gain that position, which is not insignificant. Were Trump to become any more puffed up with ego and explode, taking Pence with him, Pelosi would be the next POTUS paid for by Facebook, Amazon, and the American Hospital Association.

Elections as currently constituted are auditions by politicians performing for the big money interests who cast those best at conning the electorate.

Who Are Our Friends – Who Are Our Enemies?

The present oligarch of the Oval Office is not a friend of working people, even if in his erratic behavior he may on occasion stumble to the left as with his flirtation with détente rather than nuclear war with Russia. Cautionary note: Trump is not about to reverse the US imperial project.

What was shocking about Trump’s intention to withdraw US troops from Syria was not the suddenness of the announcement. In fact, this was a campaign promise made when he was candidate Trump and reiterated since. What shocked and indeed infuriated the establishment was that a politician was actually following through on a campaign promise that would draw down a US military invasion and occupation. For now, at least, Trump has broken with the time-honored US electoral tradition (e.g., Obama’s promise to close Guantánamo) of promising the electorate peace and giving them war.

Remember the Democrats’ promise of a “peace dividend” at the end of the old Cold War in the early 1990s? Now they are the war party nipping at Trump’s haunches from the right, goading him into an ever more aggressive new Cold War. Democrats voted 2 to 1 to increase, rather than cut, Trump’s first military budget. Democrats are vehemently against drawing down US troops in the Middle East and positively apoplectic about the threat of peace breaking out in the Korean Peninsula.

It goes without saying that Trump and the Republicans are not an alternative for progressive social change. Unfortunately, traditional liberalism is also a dead end. There has been no major progressive legislation passed since the mid-1970s. According to Noam Chomsky, the last liberal president was Richard Nixon. Liberals, because they no longer even pretend to have a progressive agenda, are relegated to the role of, on one hand, legitimizing those to the right and, on the other, attacking genuine progressives, especially those representing third parties such as the Greens or the Peace and Freedom Party.

In the Hall of Mirrors Called the Democratic Party, the Lesser Evil Becomes the Other Evil

With brand Obama, the Democratic Party had peddled hope to the masses. That advertising appeal no longer passes the red face test. The new marketing strategy by leftish apologists for the Democrats is to be sophisticatedly unapologetic about the deep corruption of the electoral party of their choice.

  • Noam Chomsky laments “a New Democrat leadership that panders to the donor class.”
  • Author Thomas Frank regrets the Democratic Party going from the party of the people to “the party of the rich elites.”
  • Filmmaker Michael Moore bemoans how the Democrats paved the way for Trump.
  • Blogger Paul Street deplores: “Yes, the Democrats are horrible. They make my skin crawl. I’ve documented their record as a pack of ‘lying neoliberal warmongers…’”

And then they all urge us, in the words of Street, “to hold one’s nose and vote ‘for’ the Dems” once again, and again, and again…and forever. Presumably to reward them for bad behavior.

The latest addition to the Democratic Party leadership is party caucus leader Hakeem Jefferies, an African American from New York City. Although a member of the Progressive Caucus, he earned his spurs attacking single-payer healthcare and Bernie Sanders from the right, while being a leading champion of charter schools and the security state. It is difficult to tell left from right in the hall of mirrors called the Democratic Party.

With the realignment of the Democratic Party, it is no longer the “lesser evil” but the “other evil.” Meanwhile, both the economy and the polity have become more concentrated and less democratic with an ever-wealthier elite perched atop of an ever-growing surveillance state, mass incarceration, and censored media on the internet.

Lacking a substantive progressive agenda, Trump is the best thing that could happen to the Democrats whose main platform is the resurrection of the anti-Trump candidate. Will it be Oprah, Hillary, Biden, Beto, or even Bernie? The Democratic Party leadership preferred Trump as the Republican presidential candidate, showing it chose to risk a Trump presidency rather than a Sanders one, which would have been beyond the comfort zone of their corporate funders.

That was the dark secret revealed by DNC emails made public by Wikileaks. Which well explains why the Democrats have been obsessed with promoting Russiagate as a distraction and are so vindictive against Wikileaks editor Julian Assange.

A Political Party of Another Kind

With the Democrats and Republicans feeding from the same corporate trough, how different can the two parties be? The following report on a political party of another kind gives an indication.

Washington Post heiress Lally Weymouth held a swank party in the Hamptons for the ruling elite. In keeping with the virulently anti-Trump/pro-Democrat editorial line of the Post, the guest list included Senator Chuck Schumer, former governor/senator Bob Graham, and other Democratic Party politicians along with billionaire funders of the party such as George Soros, Ronald Lauder, and Carl Icahn.

But, hey, this was a ruling class party. So also attending were Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, a number of Trump’s cabinet secretaries, and fat-cat Republican funder David Koch of the Koch brothers.

As reporter Maureen Callahan observed:

Weymouth’s party is the latest reminder that for all the bruising rhetoric, the constant polls showing a deeply divided America and the most polarizing president in history, our battle isn’t red vs. blue, right vs. left: It’s about the 1% vs. the rest of us. They laugh as we take their political theater for real.

The New Congress and the Rolling Catastrophe of the US Body Politic

Bathed in the soothing waters of the Blue Wave, such that it was, a new US Congress will be baptized on January 3rd. But what portends when “Mad Dog” Mattis, arch racist Jeff Sessions, and deep state spooks are canonized by self-identified liberals and leftists as bulwarks against fascism? When all mainstream “opposition” politics can be reduced to a single issue: Trump. And when the mid-term elections ignored deepening impoverishment at home, endless wars abroad, and climate calamity – let alone the tax cut for the super-rich – and instead focused on the “threat” posed by (take your pick) immigrants or the Russians.

For the first time ever, the Gallup poll reported that most Democrats favor socialism to capitalism. And for good reason: as the Occupy movement proclaimed, “the system isn’t broken, it’s fixed.” An observer from the UK quipped, if the mid-term elections would have changed anything, they would not have been allowed.

The American body politic is in deep malaise with the current administration. But Trump is the symptom, not the disease, which is neoliberal rule. The conditions that allowed the ascendency of Trump were the result of the neoliberal policies of Obama/Bush and of their predecessors. Trump does not so much represent a break or reversal of Obama era policies. Rather, we are suffering a continuation and intensification of those policies as the body politic lurches to the right.

The Leadup to the New Congress

The good news for US democracy was the largest voter turnout in half a century for the congressional mid-term elections. For the 66% of the US population under 50 years, it was the highest in their lifetime. The more sobering news is that even with this record turnout, the majority of eligible voters didn’t vote. While the pool of eligible voters is diminished by felony disenfranchisement and other laws and practices depending on the state.

Beyond the microcosm of the corporate two-party system, there is a universe out there and even issues that transcend one’s affection or distaste for Trump. What if we had an electoral system like Cuba, where the vast majority of eligible voters are motivated to participate?

A glimpse of the smoldering discontent within the US electorate was seen in the vaguely insurgent candidacies in 2016 of Trump, with his faux populist appeal to those dispossessed by an economy that left them behind, and of Sanders with his critique of income inequality in a rigged system. For now, those grassroots potentials for genuine change have been contained and domesticated within the two-party system, dedicated above all to preserve existing power relationships.

Only 30 of 435 seats (7%) in the House were considered truly contested. Fully 74% of the seats were considered solidly safe for their respective parties; 183 for the Democrats and 137 for the Republicans.

In my one-party state of California, senator-for-life Diane Feinstein ran against a fellow Democrat. Our peculiar institution of placing only the top two winners of the primaries, regardless of party, on the general election ballot barred voters from voting for, or even writing in, a third-party choice let alone a Republican.

So, the majority of eligible voters sat out the mid-term spectacle, simply not bothering with politicians awash in ever more obscene tsunamis of corporate cash.

Nancy Pelosi, representing San Francisco’s congressional district, spent an astronomical $5,111,387 for her virtually uncontested House seat. Her Republican opponent spent a paltry $12,443, barely enough to place a campaign statement on the ballot and pay for the postage to mail it. Had Pelosi sat out the campaign as did her opponent, Pelosi still would have coasted to victory on party and name recognition.

There is a reason why Pelosi, running in an absolutely safe district, outspent her opponent 410 to 1. Pelosi doled out her millions to other candidates running for the House who will then repay the favor by electing her majority leader of the new Congress. In other words, she served as the bag lady for her corporate donors to gain that position, which is not insignificant. Were Trump to become any more puffed up with ego and explode, taking Pence with him, Pelosi would be the next POTUS paid for by Facebook, Amazon, and the American Hospital Association.

Elections as currently constituted are auditions by politicians performing for the big money interests who cast those best at conning the electorate.

Who Are Our Friends – Who Are Our Enemies?

The present oligarch of the Oval Office is not a friend of working people, even if in his erratic behavior he may on occasion stumble to the left as with his flirtation with détente rather than nuclear war with Russia. Cautionary note: Trump is not about to reverse the US imperial project.

What was shocking about Trump’s intention to withdraw US troops from Syria was not the suddenness of the announcement. In fact, this was a campaign promise made when he was candidate Trump and reiterated since. What shocked and indeed infuriated the establishment was that a politician was actually following through on a campaign promise that would draw down a US military invasion and occupation. For now, at least, Trump has broken with the time-honored US electoral tradition (e.g., Obama’s promise to close Guantánamo) of promising the electorate peace and giving them war.

Remember the Democrats’ promise of a “peace dividend” at the end of the old Cold War in the early 1990s? Now they are the war party nipping at Trump’s haunches from the right, goading him into an ever more aggressive new Cold War. Democrats voted 2 to 1 to increase, rather than cut, Trump’s first military budget. Democrats are vehemently against drawing down US troops in the Middle East and positively apoplectic about the threat of peace breaking out in the Korean Peninsula.

It goes without saying that Trump and the Republicans are not an alternative for progressive social change. Unfortunately, traditional liberalism is also a dead end. There has been no major progressive legislation passed since the mid-1970s. According to Noam Chomsky, the last liberal president was Richard Nixon. Liberals, because they no longer even pretend to have a progressive agenda, are relegated to the role of, on one hand, legitimizing those to the right and, on the other, attacking genuine progressives, especially those representing third parties such as the Greens or the Peace and Freedom Party.

In the Hall of Mirrors Called the Democratic Party, the Lesser Evil Becomes the Other Evil

With brand Obama, the Democratic Party had peddled hope to the masses. That advertising appeal no longer passes the red face test. The new marketing strategy by leftish apologists for the Democrats is to be sophisticatedly unapologetic about the deep corruption of the electoral party of their choice.

  • Noam Chomsky laments “a New Democrat leadership that panders to the donor class.”
  • Author Thomas Frank regrets the Democratic Party going from the party of the people to “the party of the rich elites.”
  • Filmmaker Michael Moore bemoans how the Democrats paved the way for Trump.
  • Blogger Paul Street deplores: “Yes, the Democrats are horrible. They make my skin crawl. I’ve documented their record as a pack of ‘lying neoliberal warmongers…’”

And then they all urge us, in the words of Street, “to hold one’s nose and vote ‘for’ the Dems” once again, and again, and again…and forever. Presumably to reward them for bad behavior.

The latest addition to the Democratic Party leadership is party caucus leader Hakeem Jefferies, an African American from New York City. Although a member of the Progressive Caucus, he earned his spurs attacking single-payer healthcare and Bernie Sanders from the right, while being a leading champion of charter schools and the security state. It is difficult to tell left from right in the hall of mirrors called the Democratic Party.

With the realignment of the Democratic Party, it is no longer the “lesser evil” but the “other evil.” Meanwhile, both the economy and the polity have become more concentrated and less democratic with an ever-wealthier elite perched atop of an ever-growing surveillance state, mass incarceration, and censored media on the internet.

Lacking a substantive progressive agenda, Trump is the best thing that could happen to the Democrats whose main platform is the resurrection of the anti-Trump candidate. Will it be Oprah, Hillary, Biden, Beto, or even Bernie? The Democratic Party leadership preferred Trump as the Republican presidential candidate, showing it chose to risk a Trump presidency rather than a Sanders one, which would have been beyond the comfort zone of their corporate funders.

That was the dark secret revealed by DNC emails made public by Wikileaks. Which well explains why the Democrats have been obsessed with promoting Russiagate as a distraction and are so vindictive against Wikileaks editor Julian Assange.

A Political Party of Another Kind

With the Democrats and Republicans feeding from the same corporate trough, how different can the two parties be? The following report on a political party of another kind gives an indication.

Washington Post heiress Lally Weymouth held a swank party in the Hamptons for the ruling elite. In keeping with the virulently anti-Trump/pro-Democrat editorial line of the Post, the guest list included Senator Chuck Schumer, former governor/senator Bob Graham, and other Democratic Party politicians along with billionaire funders of the party such as George Soros, Ronald Lauder, and Carl Icahn.

But, hey, this was a ruling class party. So also attending were Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, a number of Trump’s cabinet secretaries, and fat-cat Republican funder David Koch of the Koch brothers.

As reporter Maureen Callahan observed:

Weymouth’s party is the latest reminder that for all the bruising rhetoric, the constant polls showing a deeply divided America and the most polarizing president in history, our battle isn’t red vs. blue, right vs. left: It’s about the 1% vs. the rest of us. They laugh as we take their political theater for real.

Universal Basic Income Is Easier Than It Looks

Calls for a Universal Basic Income have been increasing, most recently as part of the Green New Deal introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and supported in the last month by at least 40 members of Congress. A Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a monthly payment to all adults with no strings attached, similar to Social Security. Critics say the Green New Deal asks too much of the rich and upper-middle-class taxpayers who will have to pay for it, but taxing the rich is not what the resolution proposes. It says funding would primarily come from the federal government, “using a combination of the Federal Reserve, a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks,” and other vehicles.

The Federal Reserve alone could do the job. It could buy “Green” federal bonds with money created on its balance sheet, just as the Fed funded the purchase of $3.7 trillion in bonds in its “quantitative easing” program to save the banks. The Treasury could also do it. The Treasury has the constitutional power to issue coins in any denomination, even trillion dollar coins. What prevents legislators from pursuing those options is the fear of hyperinflation from excess “demand” (spendable income) driving prices up. But, in fact, the consumer economy is chronically short of spendable income, due to the way money enters the consumer economy. We actually need regular injections of money to avoid a “balance sheet recession” and allow for growth, and a UBI is one way to do it.

The pros and cons of a UBI are hotly debated and have been discussed elsewhere. The point here is to show that it could actually be funded year after year without driving up taxes or prices. New money is continually being added to the money supply, but it is added as debt created privately by banks. (How banks rather than the government create most of the money supply today is explained on the Bank of England website here.) A UBI would replace money-created-as-debt with debt-free money – a “debt jubilee” for consumers – while leaving the money supply for the most part unchanged; and to the extent that new money was added, it could help create the demand needed to fill the gap between actual and potential productivity.

The Debt Overhang Crippling Economies

The “bank money” composing most of the money in circulation is created only when someone borrows, and today businesses and consumers are burdened with debts that are higher than ever before. In 2018, credit card debt alone exceeded $1 trillion, student debt exceeded $1.5 trillion, auto loan debt exceeded $1.1 trillion, and non-financial corporate debt hit $5.7 trillion. When businesses and individuals pay down old loans rather than taking out new loans, the money supply shrinks, causing a “balance sheet recession.” In that situation, the central bank, rather than removing money from the economy (as the Fed is doing now), needs to add money to fill the gap between debt and the spendable income available to repay it.

Debt always grows faster than the money available to repay it. One problem is the interest, which is not created along with the principal, so more money is always owed back than was created in the original loan. Beyond that, some of the money created as debt is held off the consumer market by “savers” and investors who place it elsewhere, making it unavailable to companies selling their wares and the wage-earners they employ. The result is a debt bubble that continues to grow until it is not sustainable and the system collapses, in the familiar death spiral euphemistically called the “business cycle.” As economist Michael Hudson shows in his 2018 book And Forgive Them Their Debts, this inevitable debt overhang was corrected historically with periodic “debt jubilees” – debt forgiveness – something he argues we need to do again today.

For governments, a debt jubilee could be effected by allowing the central bank to buy government securities and hold them on its books. For individuals, one way to do it fairly across the board would be with a UBI.

Why a UBI Need Not Be Inflationary

In a 2018 book called The Road to Debt Bondage: How Banks Create Unpayable Debt, political economist Derryl Hermanutz proposes a central-bank-issued UBI of one thousand dollars per month, credited directly to people’s bank accounts. Assuming this payment went to all US residents over 18, or about 241 million people, the outlay would be close to $3 trillion annually. For people with overdue debt, Hermanutz proposes that it automatically go to pay down those debts. Since money is created as loans and extinguished when they are repaid, that portion of a UBI disbursement would be extinguished along with the debt.

People who were current on their debts could choose whether or not to pay them down, but many would also no doubt go for that option. Hermanutz estimates that roughly half of a UBI payout could be extinguished in this way through mandatory and voluntary loan repayments. That money would not increase the money supply or demand. It would just allow debtors to spend on necessities with debt-free money rather than hocking their futures with unrepayable debt.

He estimates that another third of a UBI disbursement would go to “savers” who did not need the money for expenditures. This money, too, would not be likely to drive up consumer prices, since it would go into investment and savings vehicles rather than circulating in the consumer economy. That leaves only about one-sixth of payouts, or $500 billion, that would actually be competing for goods and services; and that sum could easily be absorbed by the “output gap” between actual and forecasted productivity.

According to a July 2017 paper from the Roosevelt Institute called “What Recovery? The Case for Continued Expansionary Policy at the Fed”:

GDP remains well below both the long-run trend and the level predicted by forecasters a decade ago. In 2016, real per capita GDP was 10% below the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) 2006 forecast, and shows no signs of returning to the predicted level.

The report showed that the most likely explanation for this lackluster growth was inadequate demand. Wages have remained stagnant; and before producers will produce, they need customers knocking on their doors.

In 2017, the US Gross Domestic Product was $19.4 trillion. If the economy is running at 10% below full capacity, $2 trillion could be injected into the economy every year without creating price inflation. It would just generate the demand needed to stimulate an additional $2 trillion in GDP. In fact, a UBI might pay for itself, just as the G.I. Bill produced a sevenfold return from increased productivity after World War II.

The Evidence of China

That new money can be injected year after year without triggering price inflation is evident from a look at China. In the last 20 years, its M2 money supply has grown from just over 10 trillion yuan to 80 trillion yuan ($11.6T), a nearly 800% increase. Yet the inflation rate of its Consumer Price Index (CPI) remains a modest 2.2%.

Why has all that excess money not driven prices up? The answer is that China’s Gross Domestic Product has grown at the same fast clip as its money supply. When supply (GDP) and demand (money) increase together, prices remain stable.

Whether or not the Chinese government would approve of a UBI, it does recognize that to stimulate productivity, the money must get out there first; and since the government owns 80% of China’s banks, it is in a position to borrow money into existence as needed. For “self-funding” loans – those that generate income (fees for rail travel and electricity, rents for real estate) – repayment extinguishes the debt along with the money it created, leaving the net money supply unchanged. When loans are not repaid, the money they created is not extinguished; but if it goes to consumers and businesses that then buy goods and services with it, demand will still stimulate the production of supply, so that supply and demand rise together and prices remain stable.

Without demand, producers will not produce and workers will not get hired, leaving them without the funds to generate supply, in a vicious cycle that leads to recession and depression. And that cycle is what our own central bank is triggering now.

The Fed Tightens the Screws

Rather than stimulating the economy with new demand, the Fed has been engaging in “quantitative tightening.” On December 19, 2018, it raised the fed funds rate for the ninth time in 3 years, despite a “brutal” stock market in which the Dow Jones Industrial Average had already lost 3,000 points in 2-½ months. The Fed is still struggling to reach even its modest 2% inflation target, and GDP growth is trending down, with estimates at only 2-2.7% for 2019. So why did it again raise rates, over the protests of commentators including the president himself?

For its barometer, the Fed looks at whether the economy has hit “full employment,” which it considers to be 4.7% unemployment, taking into account the “natural rate of unemployment” of people between jobs or voluntarily out of work. At full employment, workers are expected to demand more wages, causing prices to rise. But unemployment is now officially at 3.7% – beyond technical full employment – and neither wages nor consumer prices have shot up. There is obviously something wrong with the theory, as is evident from a look at Japan, where prices have long refused to rise despite a serious lack of workers.

The official unemployment figures are actually misleading. Including short-term discouraged workers, the rate of US unemployed or underemployed workers as of May 2018 was 7.6%, double the widely reported rate. When long-term discouraged workers are included, the real unemployment figure was 21.5%. Beyond that large untapped pool of workers, there is the seemingly endless supply of cheap labor from abroad and the expanding labor potential of robots, computers and machines. In fact, the economy’s ability to generate supply in response to demand is far from reaching full capacity today.

Our central bank is driving us into another recession based on bad economic theory. Adding money to the economy for productive, non-speculative purposes will not drive up prices so long as materials and workers (human or mechanical) are available to create the supply necessary to meet demand; and they are available now. There will always be price increases in particular markets when there are shortages, bottlenecks, monopolies or patents limiting competition, but these increases are not due to an economy awash with money. Housing, healthcare, education and gas have all gone up, but it is not because people have too much money to spend. In fact, it is those necessary expenses that are driving people into unrepayable debt, and it is this massive debt overhang that is preventing economic growth.

Without some form of debt jubilee, the debt bubble will continue to grow until it can again no longer be sustained. A UBI can help correct that problem without fear of “overheating” the economy, so long as the new money is limited to filling the gap between real and potential productivity and goes into generating jobs, building infrastructure and providing for the needs of the people, rather than being diverted into the speculative, parasitic economy that feeds off them.

This article was first published on Truthdig.com

The GMO Issue Reaches Boiling Point in India

In a recent article published on the India-based News18 site (CNN), prominent US biologist Nina Federoff was reported as saying it is time for India to grant farmers access to genetically modified (GM) crops. In an interview with the site, she says there is no evidence that GM crops are dangerous when consumed either by people in food or by animals in feed. Federoff says that the commercial release of various GM crops in India has been halted by the Indian government due to opposition from environmental activists.

She adds that we are rapidly moving out of the climate regime in which our primary crops were domesticated, arguing that that they do increasingly worse and will yield less as temperature extremes become common and pest and pathogen populations change. She says GM will become more or less essential in an era of climate change.

In recent weeks, aside from Federoff’s intervention, GM has been a hot topic in India. In late November, a paper appeared in the journal Current Science which argues that India doesn’t need GM crops and that the track record of GM agriculture is highly questionable. The paper is notable not just because of what it says but because of who is saying it: distinguished scientist P.C. Kesavan and M.S. Swaminathan, renowned agricultural scientist and geneticist and widely regarded as the father of the Green Revolution in India.

I recently spoke with prominent campaigner Aruna Rodrigues about developments surrounding the GM issue in India, particularly the views of Federoff. Rodrigues is lead petitioner in a case before India’s Supreme Court that is seeking a moratorium on GM crops and selective bans.

Colin Todhunter: What do you make of Nina Federoff’s recent comments advocating for GM in India?

Aruna Rodrigues: Nina Federoff is a long-time supporter of GMOs. The last time she offered advice to India (in her role as scientific advisor to Hilary Clinton) was when Bt brinjal (eggplant) was being pushed for commercialisation. She advised that Bt brinjal would be good for India!

CT: She is a high-profile scientist. Did government officials take her advice?

AR: Her advice was straightforwardly ignored by the then Minister of the Ministry of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh. He instituted a unique four-month scientific enquiry and public hearings. His decision to reject the commercialisation of Bt brinjal was supported by advice he received from several renowned international scientists. Their collective appraisals demonstrated serious environmental and biosafety concerns, which included issues regarding the toxity of Bt proteins resulting from their mode of action on the human gut system.

CT: What were some of the other reasons they put forward for rejecting Bt brinjal?

AR: Genetic contamination was the outstanding concern. India is a centre of origin of brinjal with the greatest genetic diversity. Contamination was a certainty. In his summing-up of the unsustainability of Bt brinjal and of its implications if introduced, one of the experts involved, Professor Andow, said it posed several unique challenges because the likelihood of resistance evolving quickly is high. He added that without any management of resistance evolution, Bt brinjal is projected to fail in 4-12 years. Jairam Ramesh pronounced a moratorium on Bt brinjal in February 2010 founded on what he called “a cautious, precautionary principle-based approach.” 

CT: So, it is clear that, despite Federoff’s claims, there are valid reasons why GM has not been commercialised in India, aside from cotton, that is. Can you say something about the health safety aspects of GM crops? Federoff says GM crops are safe for human and animal consumption. Is she correct?

AR: She is wrong. There are numerous studies that indicate the possibility of harm. All the major scientific bodies of the world, including the US National Academies, the World Health Organisation and the American Medical Association, agree that the potential for adverse effect is real and that these crops, both existing, but especially any new ones, need to be tested more thoroughly than they have been in the past (for example, for long-term toxicity for cancer). Meanwhile, agroecology that minimises the use of pesticides and uses no GMO has a proven safety and nutritional record and out-yields GMOs at a fraction of the cost.

CT: Federoff makes a blanket claim about safety. But each genetic modification poses unique risks and as a technology, according to molecular geneticist Michael Antoniou, GM is fundamentally scientifically flawed. So, it is impossible to say up front that they are all safe – or, in fact, that the ones on the market have been rigorously tested because they have not. But a food crop isn’t just eaten. There are effects on the environment too.

AR: Federoff fails to address all the ways GM crops can be unsafe. Existing GM crops do not have a history of safe use in the environment. Even a cursory examination of the US cropping system is enough to prove that the legacy of pesticidal GM crops has fuelled the epidemics of herbicide- resistant weeds and emerging insecticide resistant pests. This proves that you cannot rescue scientifically flawed ways to farm by introducing GM technologies that only exacerbate the most damaging farming practices.

CT: Federoff claims that we need GM if we are to mitigate the effects of climate change and produce sufficient food.

AR: This is rubbish. Agroecology has demonstrated far more effectiveness already than even the best hypothetical hopes of GM crops. But more to the point: it is the machine we call industrial agriculture that is a major cause of climate change. Giving that machine more fuel in the form of GM crops is not a solution but a dangerous distraction from what is needed to halt climate change.

CT: The paper by Kesavan and Swaminathan coincided with a mass march by farmers in Delhi at the end of November. Farmers in India have a list of grievances, with the effects of Bt cotton being a prominent one. Surely, given the devastation caused by Bt cotton (which these two authors say “has failed in India”), to introduce more GM crops at this time would cause further hardship for farmers. The paper by these two eminent scientists could be seen as a timely intervention.

AR: It is certainly courageous of Nina Federoff, given the failure of Bt cotton and her earlier unfortunate advice, to indulge in yet another round of misconceived guidance to the Indian government. I must also express disquiet and surprise that a bold charge has been levelled against that paper by Prof Vijay Raghavan (Scientific Advisor to the PM), which he says is “deeply flawed”. It is expected that any such statement is buttressed with sound data and science, especially when addressing scientists of the stature of Swaminathan and Kesavan. Therefore, without substantiation, a specific response to Raghavan is not possible.

However, it is relevant to the context to state that Bt cotton has failed and within a time-scale of less than 12 years. We need only look at the work of Dr. K Kranthi, ex Director of the Central Institute for Cotton Research, and Prof Gutierrez et al in the paper ‘Deconstructing Indian cotton: weather, yields, and suicides’.

CT: It was predicted that Bt brinjal would fail within 4-12 years. It seems that’s precisely what has happened to Bt cotton in India. So, the last thing India needs is another ill thought out GM experiment pushed through without proper independent assessments that consider health and environmental outcomes or the effects on farmers’ livelihoods and rural communities. But isn’t this what is on the horizon? You have for many years been highlighting flawed regulatory mechanisms in India where GM is concerned. I have been following the current case concerning herbicide-tolerant (HT) GM mustard. It is disturbing to say the least to read about deep-rooted conflicts of interest across the entire regulatory framework and what you describe as ‘regulatory delinquency’ as well as scientific malfeasance on such a massive scale.

AR: Collective regulatory misadventures with Bt cotton must indict the regulators for ‘connected’ farmer suicides in rain-fed Bt cotton cultivation. They must take responsibility. Despite this history of regulatory adventurism with hybrid Bt cotton and Bt brinjal, this has not deterred our regulators as they attempt to introduce HT GM mustard. It is sobering that documents in the public domain reveal clear cover-up, invalid and even fraudulent field trials, the results of which were nevertheless accepted by the regulators. Perhaps, the greatest regulatory mystery surrounds the fact that the regulators themselves admit that there is no claim made by the government that HT (GMO) hybrid mustard out-performs non-GMO hybrids. Therefore, there is no ‘need’ for this GM Mustard. ‘Need’ must be established as a prior regulatory step in risk assessment.

CT: Nina Federoff says that what is preventing the widespread adoption of GM in India is political disagreement and activists. This is a well-worn tactic: try to cast valid criticisms of GM as ‘unscientific’ and politically motivated. But as you have outlined, there are valid reasons why the introduction of GM food crops is being prevented in India.

AR: It is proven in copious evidence in the Supreme Court in the last 13 years that our regulators are seriously conflicted: they promote GMOs openly, fund them (as with HT mustard and other public sector GMOs) and then regulate them. Truth is a massive casualty. This is not lightly stated. It would also be prudent to recognise that unsustainable HT and Bt crops (Bt maize in industrial systems in the West) and failed hybrid Bt cotton in India serve to put farmers on a pesticide treadmill as increasing levels of pest resistance becomes manifest. In fact, a new paper in the journal Pest Management Science based on research over a seven-year period shows progressive field-evolved resistance of pink bollworm to Bt cotton in India.

We also have a new paper by Prof Andrew Paul Gutierrez in which he concludes that extending implementation of the hybrid GM technology to other crops in India will only mirror the disastrous implementation of Bt cotton in the country, thereby tightening the economic noose on still more subsistence farmers for the sake of profits.

CT: Federoff and others are fond of making claims about what GM has or will achieve. GM crops have been on the market for over two decades. Do you see any validity in these types of claims?

AR: Most GMOs on the market now provide technological fixes to kill weeds or pests. They have no trait for yield. Together, they account for nearly 98% of all GMOs planted worldwide. 25 years of official US data on HT crops show they have led to intractable problems of super weeds, significant increases in herbicide use because of resistant weeds, higher farmer costs and no yield advantage. Claims made for GMOs with various traits, for example, drought or saline resistant or providing yield or nutritional enhancement, are futuristic. The few that have been tested for drought resistance and some other traits are according to prominent scientist Doug Gurian-Sherman out-performed by traditional breeding techniques hands-down.

Good Riddance To General Mattis And The Rest Of Washington’s Mad Dogs Of War

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From the wailing and gnashing of teeth among the mainstream media and officialdom over General Mattis' (welcome) departure, you would think that the Rapture had come and Washington's ruling class was being unjustly left behind to eternal perdition. And if not that, then the Mattis Affair is alleged to be at least its secular equivalent— an unwarranted and unforgivable affront to the good and the brave of the Imperial City.

Then again, exactly what was so existentially harmful to America's security about Trump's decision to get out of Syria—the apparent reason for Mattis' ballyhooed resignation?

The fact is, you can't find a trace of threat to America on the map. Syria is now a tiny, broken country of ruin and rubble with a vastly diminished religiously and ethnically fractured population of 18 million; GDP of barely $60 billion; per capita income of only $3,000; a trickle of oil production (25k barrel/day); and a depleted and battle-ravaged military that cannot possibly operate outside of its own borders and barely controls the lands inside them.

In short, Syria has no economic, strategic or military relevance whatsoever to the safety and security of the American homeland. And that's as in none, nada, nichts and nugatory.

If you are not looking through the distorted lens of Imperial Washington's group think, in fact, the whole brouhaha over getting out of Syria is not even a close call; it's inexplicable.

Except....except for Washington's imperial dictate that Russia and Iran are not allowed to have any role there—even though both have been invited by the country's duly established government in Damascus. Moreover, the derivative postulate from that high-handed writ is even more absurd.

In the first place, neither the pipsqueak nation of Iran with a GDP of $450 billion or the pint-seized nation of Russia with a GDP of $1.5 trillion have ever threatened to attack America. Nor do they have the military means to do so—since their combined defense budgets of $75 billion amount to about one month of Pentagon spending.

Besides, attacking America would be an act of abject national suicide if they tried, which their perfectly rational leaders understand fully well and have no intention of attempting.

So Washington's fulminating and harrumphing chorus never explains how the modest economic and military presence of Russia and Iran in the god-forsaken remnant of Syria would suddenly magnify their already non-existent threat to America's security. The War Party just assumes that any diminution of the Empire—even 2200 US troops in what amounts to the empty desert quarter of Syria's northeast—cannot be tolerated.

In fact, a look at the current "who controls what" map of Syria makes perfectly clear that Trump's withdrawal order has no bearing at all on US national security. Now that Washington's abortive, illegal and counterproductive attempt at "regime change" in Damascus has completely failed and Assad and his allies control most of the territory and overwhelming share of the population and economy, America's military presence in Syria serves only the demented anti-Iranian policy of Bibi Netanyahu and the neocon branch of the War Party.

As shown in the map below, the northeast of Syria is now controlled by the Kurdish YPG (yellow), but most of that territory is desert or consists of impoverished Arab towns and villages east of the Euphrates. The true Kurdish communities occupy far less territory and hug tightly along the Turkish border.

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So the only reason northeast Syria is controlled by the Kurds is that the US military armed, trained and gave massive air-support during the period in which the YPG successfully dislodged ISIS from its occupation of these bedraggled lands. But the YPG's current area of control will drastically shrink and in a heartbeat—once its US military sponsors deport.

So what?

Surely, it is not America's job to promote and defend the detachment of a rump Kurdish state (yellow area) from the existing territory of Syria. And if the American forces leave and the YPG retreats to its own historic corridor along the Turkish border (which it would do of necessity) does that mean that ISIS will recover these territories?

Not at all. With the Syrian state restored and the fighting forces of the Iranians and Russians in support, any attempted revival of the Islamic State would be crushed by Assad and his allies.

Since eliminating the Islamic State was the ostensible reason for Washington's military intervention in Syria in the first place, of course, a follow-on question necessarily recurs. To wit, what's wrong with allowing the sovereign government of Syria and its chosen allies and friends to finish the job and keep the only significant non-government controlled area of Syria ISIS-free?

Needless to say, the skunk in the woodpile is self-evident. The only reason American forces are needed in the yellow area of the map below, and also at the Al-Tanf border crossing in the south (light green area) is to keep the Iranians from having a land-bridge from Iraq across Syria to its allies in the Hezbollah controlled regions of south Lebanon.

In a word, the true mission of the small contingent of US forces in Syria is to contain Iran, not fight ISIS. Like the case of the YPG occupied territory to the north, the light green area around Al-Tanf , which is currently occupied by the CIA recruited, trained and paid for New Syrian Army, would revert to government control immediately upon the US exit.

Again, so what?

It is abundantly clear that the small remaining salient of ISIS controlled territory (black area) east of Palmyra will be expunged by the Syrian government--with no help needed from the New Syrian Army. And when the US military leaves Al-Tanf this uninvited rebel militia will forthwith sell its American weapons for what can be had on the black market, abandon its uniforms and disappear across the border.

Beyond that, the government now controls all of the major population centers including Aleppo (4 million), Damascus (3.8 million), Homs (1.5 million) Hama (1.4 million) and Del Az Zor (1.0 million).

At the same time, the remnant of the Nusra Front/al-Qaeda around Idlib (light green area) is now thoroughly encircled by the alliance of Turkish forces (light blue) and Syrian/Russian/Iranian/Hezbollah forces (darker green). This is per the so-called Astana Group arrangement to stabilize the country and eliminate the last vestiges of rebel control in an orderly manner without the bloodbath feared earlier this year.

Indeed, the Astana Group (Russia, Turkey and Iran) has also just agreed upon a 150- strong committee representing all legitimate Syrian factions to write a new constitution next year, which would then pave the way for UN-supervised elections and a peace and reconciliation process that would encourage millions of refugees to return to their homeland.

From a purely humanitarian prospective, you really couldn't ask for a better scenario than that for the long-suffering people of Syria. After all, the latter are victims of a vicious civil war and a murderous ISIS caliphate—neither of which would have happened save for the billions of arms that the Washington and Riyadh have poured into the country in quest of Regime Change and in contravention of all international law and norms of non-interference.

Yet the dead-end "remainers" of official Washington insist on jeopardizing a return to order and economic recovery in Syria in order to keep the government-invited and ISIS- fighting Iranians and Russians out of the country.

Indeed, we just heard a numbskull host on the once and former "progressive" MSNBC network argue that Washington is properly horrified at Trump's action because it "ceded control" of Syria to the Iranians, Russians and.....wait for it.....the Syrians!

Yet that's how Imperial Washington rolls. Its official group think has become so poisoned by an utterly false demonization of Russia and Iran that it would sacrifice American blood and treasure in order to protect Syria from the Syrians!

Actually, the situation is even more absurd. A quick perusal of the map does remind that Iran doesn't actually border Syria and that Iraq is juxtapositioned in-between. Since Iraq was supposedly liberated by Washington at the expense of massive cost in American blood and treasure, you would think that if the Iranian land bridge to Lebanon needed to be cut-off, then Iraq would be just the place to seal it off tighter than a drum.

Alas, you would be wrong. That's because the Shiite government in Baghdad—allegedly Washington's bought and paid for puppet—won't or can't do it.

Yet does that dispositive fact of life give the Imperial City cause for reflection?

Nope. Just deploy troops next door in Syria where they are unwanted and are bivouacked in violation of both international and domestic law because that's they way the Empire rolls.

And if an untutored outlaw, who was put into the Oval Office by the American people, does not cotton to the prescribed rules of Empire—why then demonize him in outright McCarthyite fashion for allegedly selling out America's security.

Not surprisingly, the straight-forward reality depicted by the map above—which dramatically underscores that the Washington campaign for Regime Change has failed—is being obfuscated by endless red herrings offered up by Washington remainers, and especially the deplorable ranks of ex-Generals who come on cable TV to emit War Party agit prop.

The first of these—that ISIS will stage a comeback and Washington will be forced to come back to Syria—is complete tommyrot. The horrific Islamic State flickered briefly mainly due to the billions of American weapons it captured in Iraq and from the US supported rebels in Syria and from the modest cash flow from the eastern oilfields. But both of those resources have dried up.

The reality now is that the Syrian and Russian air forces control the air space, and the SAA (Syrian Arab Army) and its Iranian and Hezbollah allies are capable of suppressing any residual ISIS resistance on the ground. The only reason the Islamic State even briefly established its benighted caliphate on Syrian soil during 2014-2016 is that Assad was on his backfoot militarily owing to the massive flow of US/Saudi weapons and money to the mainly sectarian Sunni and jihadist opposition.
Likewise, the related canard that ISIS arose because Obama pulled out of Iraq too soon is truly laughable.

ISIS arose because Washington destroyed the tolerable peace between the Sunni, Shiite and Kurds which Saddam Hussein had established under the banner of Baathist nationalism; and then got itself lethally armed because Washington foolishly turned over billions worth of state of the art American weapons to a non-existent Iraqi national army— weapons which ended-up, instead, in the hands of ISIS when Mosul and Anbar province were abandoned by the Shiite government in Baghdad.
The other big red herring—the claim that Washington can't abandon its YPG/Kurdish allies-- is especially mendacious. Decades of Turkey's civil war against its large Kurdish minority, and the fact that half of the 30 million Kurdish population lives across the Turkish borders in northern Syria, Iraq and Iran, meant that hiring a Kurdish mercenary army to fight ISIS was a known hazard from the get-go.

Erdogan warned vociferously against it, and became nearly apoplectic when the US army backed YPG—which Turkey considers a terrorist organization, rightly or wrongly—nearly established a continuous span of control from Afrin in the northwest (see map above) to the Iraq border in the east.

So by the lights of the perpetual war advocates in Washington, a tactical decision to arm the opportunistic, anti-Turkish Kurds to fight ISIS is supposed to become a permanent obligation to protect them from Turkey to the north and the sovereign government of Syria in Damascus to the south.

Really?

That's Imperial Rome all over again.

Besides, the alleged massacre of the Kurds in the event of Washington's withdrawal is mainly a scary bedtime story circulated within the beltway to smear anyone with the common sense to say Washington should get the hell out of a country it has no business occupying or meddling in.

With ISIS' defeat in Syria and Turkey's pivoting to a friendly relationship with Russia, in fact, the Turks have no need to invade eastern Syria and drive out the Kurds as they did last year in Afrin. Owing to their participation in the Astana Group, and therefore defacto rapprochement with Assad, they are more than well-positioned to get an agreed four-party settlement which ends up with the YPG largely disarmed and its ambitions for a separate state nullified. As Tom Luongo astutely observed,
Turkey was one of the major partners in the mission to destroy Syria. And now they have joined with Russia, Iran and China in negotiating the peace process. They have gone from 'Assad must go!' to 'Assad can stay.' It is an admission that the US plan for balkanization of Syria will eventually fail.....
The truth is, there will be no revival of ISIS or massacre of the Kurds under the Donald's long overdue decision to do in Syria what the dovish GOP statesman from Vermont, Senator George Aiken, advised LBJ to do about Vietnam back in 1968: Namely, to declare victory and bring the troops home—a wise course of action that still rings with truth 50 years later.

And that gets us to General Mattis and his grandstanding resignation. Contrary to the mainstream media narrative, the man was far from the "adult" in the room. He is actually a short guy with a big mouth and an institutionally-instilled affinity for Empire and all its works.

As to the former attribute, his endless series of nasty quotes is hardly reflective of the wise civilian leadership that is supposed to govern our military forces. Instead, it just the smart-mouthed rhetoric of a guy who spent 40-years in a Marine barracks fighting wholly unnecessary wars against crudely armed insurgents who didn't cotton to foreign legions bombing, droning, burning, demolishing and occupying their native towns, villages and farms across the middle east.

'I come in peace. I didn't bring artillery. But I am pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you f*ck with me I'll kill you.'

The only thing you can say about Mattis—notwithstanding his 7,000 book library and ostentatious carrying of the Mediations of Marcus Aurelius to battle—is that he was an unthinking warrior for the Empire who proved to be adept at inflicting the massive technological violence of the American war machine on the inhabitants of Kuwait in Gulf War 1.0, and then the same on the beleaguered lands and populations of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Needless to say, there was nothing especially "adult" about any of that unnecessary mayhem. Instead, it was just dutiful implementation of the wholly misguided and destructive projects of Imperial Washington.

Thank heavens Mattis has now been fired from the Oval Office twice—first by Obama for his virulent antipathy to Iran and then by Trump for his ceaseless resistance to the withdrawal from Syria which the Donald announced way back on March 30.

At Christmas, there could be no better gift to the American people—or to the long- suffering populations of the middle east who have been subjected to Mattis style we'll- kill-you-if-even-look-cross-eyed at our occupation of your lands—than the Donald's tweet of good riddance to Mattis and hopefully more of Washington's Mad Dogs of War to come.


Reprinted with permission from David Stockman's Contra Corner.

Newsweek Gets Russia Experts from the Atlantic Council, the Atlantic Council & the Atlantic Council

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Sources are everything to a journalist. Without them, their stories would be hollow. Imagine there was a ready-made list of experts always willing to bring that crucial air of credibility to any story about...Russia, for example.

Well, it turns out there is — and that list can be found on the website of the Atlantic Council — a think tank well-known for its ceaseless and enormous hostility toward Russia. Wherever there is an opportunity to throw balance and fairness to the wind in a story concerning Russia, an Atlantic Council analyst will always show up to lend a hand.

You see, experts and analysts bring the believability and legitimacy to a story; if the expert said it, that must count for something, is the general theory. These ‘experts’ provide journalists with insight into the issues and places they report on — so a journalist covering, say, Eastern Europe and Russia would make it their business to cultivate a list of people who know a little something about that region’s political, economic, social and cultural landscape who they can then approach for analysis on various stories and topics. Usually, it’s a good idea, too, to take these experts from a broad spectrum of society and political thought, so that readers are given a well-rounded and balanced view of a particular issue.

Or, you could scrap all that and just choose from the same pool of people who think exactly the same way — in this case, the Atlantic Council — over and over again. Much handier...and sure, who’s going to notice, anyway? That seems to be the modus operandi for a number of journalists on the Russia beat. Atlantic Council "analysis" is prevalent across the entire Russia-focused Western media, but Newsweek seems to have a particular problem with over-reliance on the US-government and arms manufacturer-funded think tank.

First, let’s look at a recent story about a top Russian official who claimed “without evidence” that the Ukrainian government supports and is supported by far-right groups — and that the United States has turned a blind eye to neo-Nazism in Ukraine.

The report’s author, Cristina Maza, quoted Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s Security Council and former head of the FSB in an interview with Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, saying that Nazi symbolism, rhetoric of ethnic superiority and Russophobic ideas had become “an integral part of Kiev’s state policy” and accusing Washington of “closing its eyes” to the links between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and far-right groups in the country.

In an effort to debunk those claims, Maza asked two experts — and the experts told her that this is not true; that it is just “misleading” propaganda “in line with the Kremlin’s efforts to spread misinformation.” You won’t be surprised to learn that the experts in question both work for the Atlantic Council.

“Poroshenko gets no benefit from far-right activities in Ukraine, which are minimal,” former US ambassador to Ukraine, John Herbst, who now heads the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, tells Maza. In fact, “right-wing extremism is quite weak in Ukraine,” according to Herbst. Ukrainian writer Maxim Eristavi tells Maza that there is indeed far-right activity in Ukraine, but that Poroshenko himself is the “last person” in the government who would have any links to that kind of thing. What a coincidence, Eristavi is also an Atlantic Council expert — or a ‘nonresident senior fellow’ to be exact. But Newsweek didn’t see fit to inform its readers that both of the experts cited work for the same think tank which is notoriously hostile to Russia.

Unfortunately, many a reader of publications like Newsweek won’t know just how partisan and ideologically-driven this think tank and its esteemed experts actually are. For the general interest reader, if experts providing comment and analysis have authoritative sounding titles like "resident senior fellow" and "distinguished fellow" they will sound sufficiently scholarly and trustworthy on paper.

So, having put to bed any notions that Poroshenko himself might be ignoring or tacitly condoning neo-Nazism in Ukraine, the story quickly pivots to ties between American and Russian far-right groups. The story then wraps up by admitting that in fact yes, far-right groups in Ukraine (the notorious Azov battalion, for example) do receive support from American white supremacist groups and that members of the Ukrainian government do indeed have close links to the far-right.

It’s at this juncture, that it becomes clear that entire point of the story was to cleanse the pro-US Poroshenko personally of any unhelpful ideas about how his government turns a blind eye to dangerous far-right nationalism in the run-up to the country’s presidential election in March. We couldn’t have readers thinking that Washington or one of its so-called European allies was using far-right nationalism and white supremacy to its advantage, now, could we?

Unfortunately for Newsweek, however, the growing problem of untackled neo-Nazism and its links to Ukrainian government figures has been well-known for quite a while. Earlier this year, 50 members of the US Congress wrote to the US Deputy Secretary of State worrying that new Ukrainian legislation “glorifies Nazi collaborators” of World War II and that much of the glorification of Nazis in Ukraine was “government-supported.” Around the same time, the BBC aired a program highlighting the links between far-right militias and the Ukrainian Interior Ministry. Now, last time I checked, Poroshenko was the president, which makes Newsweek’s effort to absolve him of any responsibility quite a bit of a head-scratcher.

This is not just a one-off case of Atlantic-Council-heavy sourcing, however. Curious readers of the Newsweek story might want to learn a bit more about Ukraine and, helpfully, there is a link to another article by the same author included in the text. In that story, readers were told that Russia might be preparing to launch a military attack on Ukraine over the Christmas period.

Here, the Atlantic Council’s Herbst appears again, informing readers that Russia “likes to commit aggression when the world is not paying attention.” The second expert cited in the article is Michael Carpenter, a former US deputy assistant secretary of defense, who offers Newsweek readers a military perspective and explains that Ukraine would not be prepared for a standoff with Russia. Carpenter, you guessed it, also happens to be a "nonresident senior fellow" at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, the same one headed by Herbst. Later in the story, another expert pops in to suggest that during this alleged upcoming offensive, Russia might be aiming to go “all the way to the borders of Moldova.” That expert is Ariel Cohen, a senior fellow at, wait for it...the Atlantic Council. Probably just a coincidence, right?

In September, Maza reported on claims from Moscow that Ukraine's intelligence services had collaborated with Islamic State fighters. Ex-ambassador Herbst was there, as ever, to tell Newsweek that this was all just “Kremlin propaganda.” This time he was joined by Daniel Vajdich, another "nonresident senior fellow" at the Atlantic Council, who said essentially the same thing. If Maza had ventured away from her old reliables at the Atlantic Council, she might have found information on the Ukraine-linked jihadists who later told the UK Times that they trained at Islamic State camps.

In June, Newsweek reported on rising anti-Semitism in Ukraine after the country's chief military prosecutor, Anatolii Matios, said that Jews wanted to drown ethnic Slavs in blood. Sounds bad, right? Well, not to worry, Atlantic Council analyst Adrian Karatnycky, (yet another "nonresident senior fellow" and the only expert cited in the story) was there to assure Maza and her Western audience that while there is a problem of antisemitism and vigilantism in Ukrainian society, “in general, the Ukrainian government acts to defend minorities from physical attack.”

To be clear, the Atlantic Council is essentially a PR offshoot of NATO which has filled its ranks with fanatical anti-Russia hawks from across the US and British political and media landscapes, while masquerading as a neutral source of expertise and analysis. It is funded not only by the US and UK governments, but also a bevy of arms manufacturers including Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman — who clearly benefit from heightened tensions with Russia.

There is nothing even-handed or balanced about the Atlantic Council — and for Newsweek to act, with such regularity, like it is a dispassionate and neutral source of opinion when it comes to Russia and Ukraine, is an insult to its readers’ intelligence.

Reprinted with permission from RT.