Category Archives: ISIS

Why Shouldn’t the Boston Marathon Bomber Vote? U.S. Politicians Radicalized Him

Last month, 2020 U.S. presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders stirred controversy at a CNN town hall after answering a loaded question about whether his position on extending voting rights to incarcerated felons barred any exceptions such as the Boston Marathon bomber currently on death row. It was impossible for Sanders to respond honestly without being entrapped by the inclusion of Dzhokar Tsarnaev as an example, but the self-professed ‘democratic socialist’ gave a reflective explanation of the complexities of the issue behind his reasoning. The 77-year old Senator from Vermont’s thoughtful answer possibly avoided a campaign fate like that which befell 1988 Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis after he gave a widely perceived clinical reply in the presidential debates to whether he favored the death penalty for a hypothetical rapist and murderer of his own wife. Nevertheless, enough damage was done for a brief media firestorm to ensue following the televised event.

The backlash was entirely predictable across mainstream media, as were the reactions on both sides of the isle exemplifying the all too familiar shallow discourse of U.S. politics. Fox News and Donald Trump did the expected flag-waving, while Democratic Party ‘progressives’ tried to salvage the legitimate issue of voter suppression distorted by the question in what was another coordinated hit by CNN. The network previously exploited its conflicts of interest with the political establishment by colluding with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) against Sanders in 2016 with then-host and party chair Donna Brazile’s slipping of debate questions to his primary opponent, Hillary Clinton. While the Democratic status quo continues to sabotage any remotely progressive candidates in its field, Trump has created a distraction from the GOP’s systematic disenfranchisement campaign that purged ballots of racial minorities and the poor with wild exaggerations of the number of illegal immigrants registered to vote. It is hardly surprising that the world superpower with more than 800 military bases around the globe would also have such a large prison population that enfranchising its inhabitants would swing the outcome of its elections. Meanwhile, the bankrupt Democratic leadership has shown little concern for the voter suppression attacks compared to its ongoing obsession with bogus allegations of Russian meddling.

Sanders’ opponents gave rebuttals including South Bend, Indiana “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg who staunchly opposed such a measure. Buttigieg, who has risen in recent polls, is a former naval intelligence officer and in addition to opposing enfranchising all Americans has even spoken out against former President Barack Obama’s granting of clemency to army intelligence whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Buttigieg is the latest example in what has been an extraordinary amount of ex-military and intelligence operatives from the CIA, Pentagon, National Security Council and U.S. State Department to run for public office as Democratic entrants in the past year, including 11 who were victorious in the 2018 mid-term elections. In fact, the recent inundation of intelligence personnel into positions of government during the Trump era as a whole is without parallel. Buttigieg is joined in the race by Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, a House Armed Services Committee member and affiliate of the Serve America Political Action Committee, an organization which channels corporate donations to political candidates with previous experience in the intelligence community, military branches or D.C. foreign policy blob. This trend illustrates the party’s overall hawkish turn to the right where the military-security complex has taken advantage of the anti-Russia hysteria by implanting a batch of veterans of the U.S. war industry into refashioning the Democratic Party to its liking. Not to say Obama didn’t already expand Bush policies, but the latest ‘blue wave’ has fully congealed the party structure with the intelligence apparatus.

It’s no surprise that Sanders’ center-right rivals with military-intelligence backgrounds would contradict his position on granting political suffrage to all citizens, including the 25-year old Kyrgyzstani-American convicted terrorist of Chechen descent awaiting execution at ADX Florence in Colorado. Completely missing from the subsequent conversation, however, is that the surviving Boston Marathon bomber was radicalized as a result of the military-security complex and its vaguely defined but never-ending ‘War on Terror’ that every candidate, including Sanders himself, supports. More disturbing is that Dzokhar Tsarnaev’s alleged path to extremism under the wing of older brother Tamerlan was not simply in purported retaliation to U.S. wars but was possibly more direct. The Chechen brothers may have become Oswald-like patsies in a FBI and CIA-coordinated sting operation gone wrong as a close look at the evidence surrounding the April 2013 bombings which killed 3 people and injured hundreds of others suggests a high probability the attack was facilitated by the U.S. domestic intelligence services who entrapped the Tsarnaevs for recruitment as assets or informants. They were then likely coaxed into committing a crime they never otherwise would have, if they even committed it at all.

No real understanding of the ‘War on Terror’ can be grasped without first revisiting the history of U.S. foreign policy which precipitated the present crisis the world is in today. A path can be traced from current domestic terrorism back to the catastrophic U.S. foreign policy move during the Carter administration under his National Security Adviser, the vehemently Russophobic Warsaw-native Zbigniew Brzezinski, who directed the Pentagon to provide covert support for the Afghan Mujahedin as part of the CIA’s Operation Cyclone program. This decision was made while the spy agency was still reeling from its discredited reputation after the Church-Pike Committees and Rockefeller Commission exposed its numerous abuses and illicit activities in the decades prior. Thereafter, the use of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) became the CIA’s modus operandi to serve as go-betweens shielding its activities using think factories like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and other innocuously named “soft power” organizations to achieve its foreign objectives.

Support for the mujaheddin proxy army forced the Marxist Afghan government into requesting military assistance from the USSR, which was then framed by the West as a Soviet “invasion.” The U.S. backing of the jihadists was a deliberate effort to siphon Soviet involvement into a Vietnam-esque quagmire at Brzezinski’s own callous admittance. Continuing through the 1980s under the Reagan Doctrine, the CIA followed his blueprint providing arms and funds to the Afghan Islamist insurgency waging a guerrilla campaign against the socialist People’s Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in coordination with the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and Saudi Arabia. As a consequence, U.S. money and weapons ended up in the hands of militants who would later form the nucleus of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

After the Berlin wall fell, the Anglosphere continued its support of jihadists to facilitate the breakup of the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s where U.S. subsidies went to Al-Qaeda elements in the Bosnian mujaheddin and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in their war against Serbia, the Balkan nation with the closest cultural and economic ties to Moscow. Meanwhile, the former Soviet states and Eastern bloc were granted their ‘independence’ with the stumbling block of IMF lending enslavement. However, one area remained a federal subject within the new Russian Federation to the dissatisfaction of Brzezinski and his elite cohorts who coveted a total dismemberment of Eurasia following the reestablishment of free enterprise in Eastern Europe. The Chechen Republic with Western encouragement sought its independence from Russia resulting in a decade of violence and two wars while its close proximity of less than 70 miles from the oil-rich Caspian Sea made it a target for destabilization.

Brezinski had previously formed the Nationalities Working Group (NWG) which had been devoted to undermining the Soviet Union by whipping up ethnic divisions, particularly the many different non-Russian Muslim groups of the Caucausus. Meanwhile, the wellspring of the puritanical Wahhabist strain of Islam, Saudi Arabia, had spread its ultraconservative ideology from the Middle East to Russia’s predominantly Muslim southern border region. Tasked with fomenting secessionist terrorism and instability in the area once the Iron Curtain dissolved was the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya NGO, founded by the neocon cabal Freedom House, as well as The Jamestown Foundation, a Eurasia-centered think tank established during the Cold War by former CIA director William Casey, a man who once famously stated “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.”

Those able to see through the war propaganda in Syria today have been horrified by the West’s rebranding of salafist groups in the Levant as ‘moderate rebels.’ Yet, that is exactly how the same media marketed Islamist terrorists in the Chechen Wars who committed countless deadly attacks including the barbaric seizure of hundreds of innocent schoolchildren, hospital patients and theatre goers as hostages throughout Russia. In a 2009 WikiLeaks cable, Deputy Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Vladimir Nazarov confronted the U.S. Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs on the National Security Council, William Solomon, about the ties between Western NGOs and Chechen “rebels”:

Nazarov complained about U.S. NGOs that ostensibly foster separatist and extremist sentiments in the region and noted that for leaders in the region foreign interference is a sore subject. Nazarov claimed there are documented connections between terrorists in the North Caucasus and groups in Afghanistan and Iraq. Moreover, he claimed Russia has evidence that one of the participants in the 2004 Beslan school massacre met with individuals in London (Nazarov appeared to be pointing to a connection with British special services, but could have also been alluding to Chechen leader in exile Zakayev). Because of this, Nazarov said, the Russian government did not believe the UK government is serious about counter-terrorism cooperation.

In 1977, when Brzezinski was in the Carter White House, the CIA Station Chief in Kabul was an operations officer named Graham Fuller. Under Ronald Reagan, Fuller was promoted to vice-chair of the National Intelligence Council and became infamous for penning the study that influenced the administration’s decision to use a covert route selling arms to Tehran to fund another group of anti-communist “freedom fighters” in Nicaragua which culminated in the Iran-Contra scandal. Pushed into abrupt retirement amid the fallout, Fuller became a political scientist for foreign policy think tanks such as the RAND Corporation in the vein of Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger and Samuel P. Huntington, who even cited Fuller’s work in his highly influential The Clash of Civilizations. Fuller’s orientalist writings mostly focused on geopolitical questions in relation to the Muslim world, and his activities are so extensive he is currently facing an arrest warrant in Turkey for his links to the Islamic cleric Fetullah Gülen whom the Erdogan government believes directed the 2016 coup attempt that has strained relations between Washington and Ankara. In 1999 Fuller wrote of how Islam was useful for Western regime change aspirations:

In the West the words Islamic fundamentalism conjure up images of bearded men with turbans and women covered in black shrouds. And some Islamist movements do indeed contain reactionary and violent elements. But we should not let stereotypes blind us to the fact that there are also powerful modernising forces at work within these movements. Political Islam is about change. In this sense, modern. Islamist movements may be the main vehicle for bringing about change in the Muslim world and the break-up of the old “dinosaur” regimes.

It just so happens that Ruslan Tsarni, one of the uncles of the Tsarnaev brothers, was married to Fuller’s daughter Samantha in the 1990s while he was an employee for the CIA-contracted RAND Corporation. In the aftermath of the bombing in Boston in 2013, interviews with ‘Uncle Ruslan’ by the media were widely circulated where he gave an overdone performance condemning his two nephews while verifying everything in the FBI’s portrayal of them. Are we really supposed to believe this connection is by chance? The media gave virtually no attention to the fact that Tsarni not only worked as a consultant for CIA-fronts like RAND and USAID and as a contractor for Halliburton but even established an entity called the Congress of Chechen International Organizations which supplied Islamic separatist militants in the Caucasus while using his father in-law Fuller’s home address in Maryland as its registered place of residence.

Tsarni’s feigned denunciation of his nephews could not have contrasted more with the wholehearted and impassioned pleas by the mother of the two suspects, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, who insisted that her two sons were set-up by the FBI and alleged that the family had contact with agents long before the bombing took place. The FBI was forced to admit they had indeed investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaev two years prior after being warned by the Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia that he was a follower of radical Islam, but this didn’t prevent the Islamophobic legacy media from smearing the grieving mother as a crazed anti-American. The yellow press downplayed the significance of the 2011 tip from the FSB likely because it came after the older Chechen brother had attended workshops in Tblisi, Georgia while traveling abroad that were operated by an organization called the Caucasus Fund of Georgia. According to documents obtained by the Moscow-based Isvestia newspaper from Georgian counter-intelligence, the Caucasus Fund was financed by none other than the Jamestown Foundation. Graham Fuller himself has given keynote speeches at Jamestown events and corporate media could only have purposefully avoided piecing together the glaring ‘coincidences’ surrounding the Tsarnaev brothers and their uncle.

The FBI’s previous contact with Tamerlan Tsarnaev and their inability to prevent the April 2013 attack, as has been the case with so many others like it, increases the likelihood that the brothers could very well have been part of a undercover operation gone awry like their mother believes. Leaving aside the extremely suspicious death of Ibragim Todashev, Tamerlan’s friend, at the hands of agents where he had allegedly confessed in an interview to an earlier triple homicide that implicated his deceased companion, FBI records indicate that the domestic security service has proliferated its use of sting operations in recent years as part of its counterterrorism program. Nearly three quarters of all suspects apprehended in foiled plots who professed allegiance to ISIS have been through undercover deception, raising significant ethical questions about the agency’s practices. The New York Times reported in 2016:

The F.B.I. has significantly increased its use of stings in terrorism cases, employing agents and informants to pose as jihadists, bomb makers, gun dealers or online “friends” in hundreds of investigations into Americans suspected of supporting the Islamic State, records and interviews show.

If nearly two out of every three terror plots is being engineered with the ensnaring of vulnerable individuals whom the FBI believes have sympathies toward extremism, how many would not have attempted such acts had the operations not taken place? It is clear that the War on Terror has a business model and in order to meet its quotas, terrorist attacks that would otherwise happen randomly and infrequently are being manufactured on an industrial scale. If ISIS poses such a serious threat to homeland security, why are such orchestrations by the FBI necessary? Like Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Afghan-born suspect in the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, Omar Mateen, had been surveilled by the FBI for a full year prior to the 2016 Florida massacre in a sting operation, while his father had been a longtime confidential informant. One can’t help but wonder how many of these tragedies are such cases of entrapment with deadly outcomes or if it would explain the increasingly routine nature of domestic terrorism in the U.S.

Samuel Huntington argued in The Clash of Civilizations that in the post-Soviet sphere, Islam would emerge as the primary foe of Western hegemony. It is worth noting that Huntington did not include the Christian Orthodox nations of Serbia, Russia, Belarus or Armenia as part of the West in his nine “core civilizations” but rather as “torn countries” divided between their civilizational heritage and close ties with Asia. His false paradigm became a conceptual justification for the U.S. empire’s unilateral dominion where an amorphous ‘war on Islamic terrorism’ replaced the absence of another superpower or viable threat after the end of the Cold War. That was until the return to the international stage of a competent Moscow and Beijing in today’s multipolar world where the machinations of Brzezinski and his apprentices like Fuller are still useful on the global chessboard in stoking the flames of religious fundamentalism to undercut the East.

It is significant that Brzezinski never considered himself a neocon and saw the post-9/11 management of empire by the Bush administration in the Middle East as the U.S. falling into the same trap he had laid for the Soviets in Afghanistan, despite the Wolfowitz Doctrine being an obvious inevitable outgrowth of the chain of events he set in motion. As for his colleague Huntington, the recent attacks in Sri Lanka and New Zealand against Christians and Muslims alike show the far reach of consequences from his prophesy of civilizational conflict. Like Brzezinski, the neocons carried out Huntington’s international relations thesis into what the author saw as a mutation of his vision. Indeed, 9/11 has been used to murder and displace millions of Muslims in seven nations, none of which ever attacked the U.S. Nevertheless, both Atlanticist manipulators gave birth to a cycle with blowback like the Boston Marathon bombing that will only be repeated if the lessons of our hidden history remain unlearned.

Islamic State Celluloid

Nothing turns on the charlatan class of terrorism expertise than a video from an elusive, unknown destination, adjusted, modified and giving all the speculative trimmings.  In reading, E.B. White suggested the presence of two participants: the author as impregnator; the reader as respondent.  In the terrorism video, the maker consciously penetrates the shallow mind of the recipient, leaving its gurgling DNA to grow and mutate.

When Islamic State began its gruesome foray into the world of terrorist snuff videos, experts resembled overly keen cinephiles seeking the underlying message of a new wave.  The burning of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh in a cage in 2015 caused a certain rapture amongst members of a RAND panel.  Was this, perhaps, a celluloid standoff with rival al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, whose affiliates had just slaughtered the staff of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in their Parisian offices?

Senior Adviser to the RAND President, Brian Michael Jenkins, could not “recall a single incident in modern terrorism where terrorists deliberately killed a hostage with fire.”  There was “no religious basis for it this side of 17th century witch burning.”  Senior political scientist Johan Blank turned to scripture, finding “at least one specific prohibition of death by fire in the ahadith literature” on “the grounds that it resembled hellfire.”  The inspiration had to stem from somewhere, and Blank’s judicious offering was Ibn Taymiyyah, “fountainhead of much current jihadi reinterpretation of longstanding Islamic orthodoxy.”  Andrew Liepman, senior policy analyst, saw the video as a lucid moment of proof. “I wonder how much more evidence we need to confirm that ISIS is acting outside the norms of Islam.” Not modish, it would seem.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State, has begun to resemble, in no small part, previous heads of franchise terrorist groups who have become reproductions and simulacra of themselves.  Terrorism is big business, stage sets and props, all tweeted for good measure; it is bestial theatre that draws out the voyeurs, the google-eyed analysts, and the lunatic converts.  Whether such heads are dead or not is of little consequence past a certain point: Baghdadi had supposedly been dead yet his corpse seems more than capable of putting together a presentation for audiences.  It is also incumbent on those seeking his capture or death to claim his general irrelevance.  Everyone did know one thing: the last time he gave a public performance was the al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul in July 2014.

The video, aired on the Al Furqan network, is filmed in appropriately Spartan surrounds, but that is neither here nor there.  Iraq Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi thinks otherwise linking, erroneously, the making of the film with the current location of the protagonist.  “Regarding the location of Baghdadi, we can’t give intelligence information right now but it’s clear from the video that he’s in a remote area.”  As is the fashion, neither the date nor the authenticity of the recording is verifiable.  All else is a wonder, and even the Middle East Monitor is careful to suggest that the speaker was “a bearded man with Baghdadi’s appearance”.

Baghdadi lacks complexity in his message, never straying from the apocalyptic line.  “Our battle today is a battle of attrition, and we will prolong it for the enemy, and they must know that the jihad will continue until Judgment Day.” He is mindful of the fruitful carnage inflicted by the Easter Sunday bombers in Sri Lanka, and thanks them.  Such acts, he reasons, were retribution for the loss of Baghouz in Syria.

The speculations duly form a queue, and talking heads have been scrambled into studios and Skype portals.  This video may have been a retort, and reassurance, before the potential usurping moves of another ISIS figure of seniority, Abu Mohammed Husseini al-Hashimi.  Hashimi had staked a claim in stirring up discontent against Baghdadi’s more extreme tyrannical methods.  Not that he is averse to the application of hudud punishments (stoning for adultery excites him), and the quaint notion that the ruler of any Islamic State caliphate is bound to be a successor to the prophet Muhammed.  Modesty is a drawback in such line of work.

Colin P. Clarke, senior fellow at the Soufan Centre, aired his views that Baghdadi’s “sudden appearance will very likely serve as both a morale boost for ISIS supporters and remaining militants and as a catalyst for individuals or more groups to act.”  It was a reassurance that he remained the grand poohbah, atop “the command-and-control network of what remains of the group, not only in Iraq and Syria, but more broadly, in its far-flung franchises and affiliates.”

The teasing out and ponderings on minutiae are not far behind.  Resting upon a flowered mattress, and leaning against a cushion with an assault rifle by his side (nice touch for the old fox), it was bound to have an effect. The expansive beard caught the eye: The Washington Post noted that it “has greyed since his only other video appearance”. Previously, the paper noted, it had been “tinted with henna”.  Then there was the AK-74 prop, a rather popular Kalashnikov variant reprised from previous showings in the video work of Abu Musab Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden.

Such superficial renderings, the stuff of terrorism kitsch, lends itself to fundamental fact that Baghdadi might be somewhere, anywhere, or nowhere, a nonsense figure, to a degree, in a nonsense medium.  The modern terrorist franchise is fluid and far-reaching.  Followers need not feel estranged.  They can use social media, cosy-up and wait for eschatological endings.

The pioneer of this terror mania (global yet local) was al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden, a figure who, along with his sparring counterpart US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, formed a perfect symmetry of simulative nonsense, the gobbledygook of post-2011 security.  Each time US forces and their allies sought to target the slippery Saudi, he vanished.  The raid and bombing of the Tora Bora complex in Afghanistan yielded no returns; the man was nowhere to be seen, having escaped, possibly, in female garb. Sightings, and rumoured killings, remained regular till the penultimate slaying in Abbottabad in May 2011.  The man, declared dead on numerous occasions, was Lazarus in reverse.

Rumsfeld, for his part, insisted on those known knowns, known unknowns and “things we do not know we don’t know”. Unwittingly, he had given the age its aptly absurd epitaph, and with that, much work and fare for the witch doctors of terrorism keen to gorge upon the next video offering from their beloved subjects.  Ignorance in this case, not knowledge, is power.

Idlib: Reportage from the Last Front in Syria

For a while, all the guns have fallen silent.

I am near Idlib, the last stronghold of the terrorists in Syria. The area where the deadliest anti-government fighters, most of them injected into Syria from Turkey, with Saudi, Qatari and Western ‘help’, are literally holed up, ready for the final showdown.

Just yesterday, mortars were falling on villages near the invisible frontline, separating government troops and the terrorist forces of Al Nusra Front. The day before yesterday, two explosions rocked the earth, only a couple of meters from where we are now standing.

They call it a ceasefire. But it’s not. It is one-sided. To be more precise: the Syrian army is waiting, patiently. Its cannons are pointing towards the positions of the enemy, but the orders from Damascus are clear: do not fire.

The enemy has no scruples. It provokes, endlessly. It fires and bombs, indiscriminately. It kills. Along the frontline, thousands of houses are already ruined. Nothing gets spared: residential districts, sport gymnasiums, even bakeries. There is an established routine: assaults by the terrorists, rescue operations organized by Syrian armed forces (SAA – Syrian Arab Army) and Syrian National Defense Forces, then immediate rebuilding of the damage.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrian people have lost their lives in this war. Millions had to leave their homeland. Millions have been internally displaced. For many, the conflict became a routine. Rescue operations became routine. Rebuilding tasks became routine, too.

Now, it is clear that the final victory is near. Syria survived the worse. It is still bleeding, but most of its territories are beginning to heal. People are slowly returning home, from Lebanon and Turkey, from Germany and elsewhere. They go through rubble – their former homes. They sit down and cry. Then, they get up and start rebuilding. That’s in other parts of the country: Duma, Homs, Aleppo, Deir ez-Zur.

But in the villages and towns north of Hama and towards Idlib, the war is far from being over.

In the town of Squalbiah, Commander Nabel Al-Abdallah of the National Defense Forces (NDF) explained to me:

SAA could easily use force and win militarily; it could take Idlib. But the SAA operates under command of President Assad, who believes in negotiations. If we take the city now, there would be huge casualties.

*****

The situation is not as simple, as we would like it to be. Victory may be near, but the West is not giving up, nor is Turkey. There are still pockets that are held by the US and French troops, and around Idlib (including Manbij), a large area is still controlled by the terrorists, who were transported here from all corners of Syria, under the Russian-sponsored agreement.

And there is more to it: My sources in Syria shared the latest:

Some 4 months ago, the ’new ISIS’ appeared in the south of Idlib, not far from where we are right now. They were injected into Syria by the Turks. They were wearing brand new uniforms, white long dresses. Before, they were recognizable by black or gray outfits – ‘Afghan-style’. They now call themselves ‘Hurras Aldeen’, or ‘The Guardians of Religion’. Why? In order for the United States, and the West in general, to continue to support them. The ISIS are officially on the list of the terrorist organizations’, but this new ‘brand’ is not.

I ask Commander Nabel Al-Abdallah, what the West really wants? He replies, immediately:

The West wants terrorism to spread to Russia and China. Many terrorists work and fight directly for the interests of the United States.

We need to take care of the innocent civilians. But we also have to find the solution, very quickly. If we fail, terrorism will spread all around the world.

We sit in the Commander’s provisory headquarters, having a quick cup of tea, before moving to the frontline.

He wants to say something. He thinks, how. It is not easy. Nothing is easy under the circumstances, but he tries, and what he utters makes sense:

If we don’t have solution, soon, terrorists will damage the world. Our problems are not just the ISIS, but above all, the ideology that they represent. They use Islam, they say that they fight in the name of Islam, but they are backed by the United States. And here, the SAA, our military and our defense forces, are fighting for the world, not just for Syria.

We embrace and I go. His men drive me in a military vehicle to the outskirts of As Suqaylabiyah (also known as Squalbiah). From there, I photograph a hospital and the positions of Al Nusra Front. They are there, right in front of me, just a couple of hundreds of meters.

Territory held by Al Nusrah Front including their military hospital (Photo: Andre Vltchek)

I am told that I am like a sitting duck, exposed. I work fast. Luckily, today the terrorists are not in the mood for shooting.

Before returning to the vehicle, I try to imagine how life must be there, under Al Nusra Front or the ISIS occupation.

From the hill where I stand, the entire area looks green, fertile and immensely beautiful. But I know, I clearly understand that it is hell on earth for those who live in those houses down below; in the villages and towns controlled by some of the most brutal terrorists on earth.

I also know that these terrorist monsters are here on foreign orders, trying to destroy Syria, simply because its government and people have been refusing to succumb to the Western imperialist dictates.

Here, it is not only about theory. The lives of millions have been already destroyed. Here it is all concrete and practical – it is reality.

We can hear explosions in a distance. The war may be over in Damascus, but not here. Not here, yet.

*****

My friend Yamen is from the city of Salamiyah, some 50 kilometers from Hama. Only recently the area around his home town was liberated from the extremist groups.

Twenty kilometers west from Salamiyah lies the predominantly Ismaili village of Al Kafat, which used to be surrounded by both Al-Nusra Front and the ISIS.

Mr. Abdullah, President of local Ismaili Council, recalls the horrors which his fellow citizens had to endure:

In the past, we had two car bomb explosions here. In January 2014, 19 people were killed, 40 houses totally destroyed and 300 damaged. Fighting was only 200 meters away from here. Both Al-Nusra Front and ISIS surrounded the village, and were cooperating. We are very close to one of the main roads, so for the terrorists, it was an extremely important strategic position. This entire area was finally liberated only in January 2018.

Whom do they blame?

Mr. Abdullah does not hesitate:

Saudis, Turks, the USA, Europe, Qatar…

We walk through the village. Some homes are still lying in ruins, but most of them have at least been partially restored. On the walls and above several shops, I can see the portrait of a beautiful young woman, who was killed during one of the terrorist assaults. 65 villagers were slaughtered, in total. Before the war, the population of the village was 3,500, but traumatized and impoverished by war, many decided to leave and now only 2,500 inhabitants live here, cultivating olive trees, herding sheep and cows.

Before my visit here, I was told that education played an extremely important role in defending this place, and in keeping morale high during the darkest days of combat and crises. Mr. Abdullah readily confirmed it:

The human brain has the capacity to solve problems, and to defuse crises. During a war like this, education is extremely important. Or more precisely, it is mainly about learning, not only about education. Al-Nusra and ISIS – they are synonymous with ignorance. If your brain is strong, it easily defeats ignorance. I think we succeeded here. And look now: this poor village has at this moment 103 students attending universities, all over Syria.

As we drive on, east, large portraits of a brother of my friend Yamen decorate many military posts. He was one of the legendary commanders here, but was killed in 2017.

Then I see a castle: monstrous, more than two millennia old, overlooking the city of Salamiyah. There are green fields all around, so much beauty, in all the corners of Syria.

“Come back and visit all these marvels when the war is over,” someone around me jokes.

I don’t see it as a joke.

“I will,” I think. “I definitely will”. But we have to win, and win very soon, as soon as possible! To make sure that nothing else goes up in flames.

*****

I drop my bag in at a local inn in Salamiyah, and ask my comrades to drive me on, further east. I want to see, to feel how life was under ISIS, and how it is now.

There are ruins, all around us. I saw plenty of terrible urban ruins during my previous visit: all around Homs and the outskirts of Damascus.

Here I see rural ruins, in their own way as horrifying as those scarring all the major cities of Syria.

This entire area had recently been a frontline. Or it was screaming in the hands of the terrorist groups, mainly ISIS.

Now it is a minefield. The road is cleared, but not the fields; not the remains of the villages.

I photograph a tank that used to belong to the ISIS; burned and badly damaged. It is an old Soviet tank, which used to belong to the Syrian army. It was captured by the ISIS, and then destroyed by either the SAA or a Russian airplane. Next to the tank – a chicken farm burned to the ground.

The Lieutenant, who is accompanying me, goes on, monotonously, with his grizzly account:

Today, outside Salamiyeh, 8 people were killed by the landmines.

We leave the vehicle, and walk slowly down the road, which is full of craters.

Suddenly, the Lieutenant stops without any warning:

And here, my cousin was killed by another mine.

*****

We reach Hardaneh Village, but almost no one is left here. There are ruins everywhere. Before – 500 people lived here, now only 30. This is where heavy fighting against the ISIS took place. 13 local people were killed, 21 soldiers ‘martyred’. Other civilians were forced to leave.

Mr. Mohammad Ahmad Jobur is the local administrator (el muchtar), 80 years old:

First, we fought ISIS, but they overwhelmed us. Most of us had to leave. Now some of us returned, but only few…Yes, now we have electricity; at least 3 hours a day, and our children can go to school. The old school was destroyed by the ISIS, so kids are now collected and taken to a bigger town for education. Every villager wants to come back, but most of the families have no money to rebuild their houses and farms. The government made a list of the people whose dwellings were destroyed. They will get help, but help will be distributed gradually, stage by stage.

Naturally: almost the entire country lies in ruins.

Are villagers optimistic about the future?

“Yes, very optimistic,” declares the village chief. “If we get help, if we can rebuild, we will all come back.”

But then, they show me the water wells, destroyed by the ISIS.

It is all smiles through tears. So far only 30 have come back. How many will come home this year?

I asked the chief what the main aim of the ISIS was?

No aim, no logic. ISIS was created by the West. They tried to destroy everything, this village, this area, this entire country. They made no sense… they do not think like us… they only brought destruction.

*****

Soha, a village even further east, a place where men, women and children were forced to live under the ISIS.

These women survived life under ISIS (Photo: Andre Vltchek)

I am invited into a traditional house. People sit in a circle. Several younger women are hiding their faces, not wanting to be photographed. I can only guess why. Others don’t care. What happened here; what horrors took place? Nobody will pronounce it all.

This is a traditional village inhabited by a local tribe; very conservative.

Testimonies begin to flow:

First, they banned us from smoking, and shaving. Women had to cover their faces and feet; they had to wear black… Strict rules were imposed… education was banned. The ISIS created terrible prisons… They were often beating us with rubber hoses, in public. Some people were beheaded. Severed heads were exhibited above the main square.

When ISIS arrived, they brought with them their slaves – kidnapped people from Raqqah. Some women got stoned in public, alive. Other women were thrown to their death from the roofs and from other high places. They were amputating hands… Various women were forced to marry ISIS fighters…

An uncomfortable silence followed, before the topic got changed.

They killed 2 men from this village…

Some say more, many more.

Several youngsters joined the ISIS. 3 or 4… ISIS would pay $200 to each new combatant who subscribed. And, of course, they were promising heaven…

ISIS cage for infidels and sinners (Photo: Andre Vltchek)

In one of the villages, I am shown a big rusty cage for ‘infidels’ and “sinners”. People were locked in there like wild animals, and kept exposed, in the open.

I see the destroyed ‘police’ building of the ISIS. At one point I am offered some papers – documents – which are just scattered all over the floor. I don’t want to take any with me, not even as a ‘souvenir’.

Testimonies continue to flow:

They were beheading people for being in possession of mobile phones… Local villagers were disappearing… they were kidnapped…

At some point, I have to halt this flow of testimonies. I can hardly process all that is being said. People are shouting over each other. One day, someone should take it all down, to record it, to file it. I do what I can, but I realize that it is not enough. It is never enough. The scale of the tragedy is too great.

By now it is getting dark… and then it is dark. I have to return to Salamiyeh, to rest a bit; to sleep for a few hours, and then to return to the frontline, where both the Syrian and Russian soldiers are bravely facing the enemy. Where they are doing all that is humanly possible to prevent those gangsters sponsored by the West and their allies, from returning to the already liberated areas of the country.

She saw decapitations by ISIS (Photo: Andre Vltchek)

But before I fall asleep, I recall; I am haunted by the image of a little girl who survived the occupation of her village by the ISIS. She stood resting her back against the wall. She looked at me for a while, then lifted her hands and moved her fingers quickly across her throat.

*****

The next day, the Commander of the National Defense Forces in Muhradah, Simon Al Wakel, drives me all around the city and the outskirts, Kalashnikov resting next to his seat. It is a quick and matter-of-fact ‘tour’:

This is where the mortars landed two days ago, there is a power plant which was liberated from the terrorists, and this is a huge gymnasium attacked by the terrorists simply because they hate that our girls excel in volleyball and basketball.

We talk to locals. Commander Simon gets stopped in the middle of the streets, embraced by total strangers, kissed on both cheeks.

Driving to the front with Commander Simon (Photo: Andre Vltchek)

“I have been targeted more than 60 times,” he tells me. One of his former cars is rotting at a remote parking lot, after it was hit and burned by the terrorists.

He shrugs his shoulders:

Russians and Turks negotiated the ceasefire, but obviously, terrorists do not respect any agreements.

We return to the frontline. I am shown the Syrian cannons pointing towards the positions of Al Nusra Front. The local headquarters of the terrorists is clearly visible, not too far from the magnificent ruins of the Sheizar Citadel.

First, I see the Syrian soldiers, operating slightly outdated Soviet as well as newer Russian equipment: armed vehicles, tanks, “Katyushas”. Then I spot several Russian boys settling down in two houses with a commanding view of the valley and the enemy territory.

Both the Syrian and Russian armies, shoulder to shoulder, are now facing the last enclave of the terrorists.

I wave at the Russians, and they wave back at me.

Everyone seems to be in a good mood. We are winning. We are ‘almost there’.

We all also know that it is still too early to celebrate. Terrorists from all over the world are hoarded in the area in and around the city of Idlib. The US, UK and French “Special Forces” are operating in several parts of the country. The Turkish military keeps holding big chunk of the Syrian land.

The weather is clear. The green fields are fertile and beautiful. The nearby citadel is imposing. Just a little bit more of determination and endurance, and this wonderful country will be fully liberated.

Our artillery facing Al Nusdrah Front (Photo: Andre Vltchek)

We all realize it, but no one is celebrating, yet. Nobody is smiling. The facial expressions of the Syrian and Russian comrades are serious. Men are looking down towards the valley, weapons ready. They are fully concentrated. Anything may happen; anytime.

I know why there are no smiles; we all know: Soon, we may defeat the enemy. Soon, the war may end. But hundreds of thousands of Syrian people have already died.

• First published at New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion

It’s a messy, though typical picture.  US President Donald Trump wants to pull out forces in Syria.  When announced in December, jaws drooped and sharp intakes of breath were registered through the Washington establishment.  Members of the military industrial complex were none too pleased.  The president had seemingly made his case clear: US blood and treasure will not be further drawn upon to right the conflicts of the Middle East.

His national security advisor, John Bolton, prefers a different message: the US will not leave north-eastern Syria till the militants of Islamic State are defeated and the Kurds protected.  If this was a message of intended confusion, it has worked.  The media vultures are confused as to what carrion to feed upon. The US imperial lobby is finding the whole affair disruptive and disturbing.  Washington’s allies attempt to read the differences between policy-by-tweet and policy by representation.

Trump’s pre-New Year announcement suggested speediness, a rapid removal of US forces supposedly indispensable in Making America Great Again.  Once made, US troops were to leave in a matter of weeks – or so went a certain wisdom.  “They’re all coming back, and they’re coming back now,” ventured the president.  But Bolton suggested otherwise.  US personnel, he suggested, would remain in al-Tanf to counter Iranian influence.  Timetables could be left to the talking heads.

A change of heart also came from the White House, with Trump asserting that, “We won’t be finally pulled out until ISIS is gone.”  To reporters, he adopted a familiar stance in ever shifting sands: promising to do something meant doing something different. “We re pulling back in Syria.  We’re going to be removing our troops.  I never said we’re doing it that quickly.”

On Sunday, Trump delivered another streaky note on Twitter, thereby adding another lace of confusion. “Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions.”  Last Thursday, information on the withdrawal of some US military ground equipment from Syria was noted.  On Friday, Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the US-led coalition in Syria, issued a statement claiming that the coalition had “begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria” leaving little by way of details.  In Trumpland, the scanty detail often prevails over the substantive.

US strategy in the Middle East has tended to revolve around setting up figures for the fall while inflicting the fall of others.  The Kurds have tended to find themselves in that role, encouraged and prompted to take up arms against their various oppressors, only to find themselves left to the slaughter in the subsequent geopolitical dramas of the region.  The promise by Great Britain and France at the conclusion of World War I that a Kurdish state be chalked out of the remains of the Ottoman Empire never materialised.  In the crude machinations of international relations, they have remained, as Joost Hiltermann describes them, the “expendable” ones.

Bolton is keen not to make that same mistake, which is exactly why he risks doing so.  The great enemy of the Kurds on this occasion remains a prickly US ally, Turkey.  “We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with the agreed to by the United States”.

Trump, similarly, suggested in a direct call with the Turkish president that the Turkish economy would be devastated “economically if they hit Kurds.”  In a statement from White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, “The President expressed the desire to work together to address Turkey’s security concerns in northeast Syria while stressing the importance to the United States that Turkey does not mistreat the Kurds and other Syrian Democratic Forces with whom we have fought to defeat ISIS.”

Bolton’s credibility in pursuing that agenda seemed to crumble in Ankara before a notable snubbing by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on January 8.  The national security advisor had to make do with a meeting with Erdoğan’s senior advisor, Ibrahim Kalin. Bolton was not one the Turkish leader particularly wanted to see in light of his comments that Turkey not harm members of the Kurdish Syrian militias in the aftermath of the US withdrawal.  Such views also fly in the face of Turkey’s self-appointed role as an agent of influence in the region.  An absent Washington is simply too good a chance to press home the advantage, and Ankara is bound to capitalise.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not fare much better in his regional whistle-stops in Egypt Jordan, Iraq and the Gulf states.  In Cairo, Pompeo denied that there was any “contradiction whatsoever” about Trump’s position on withdrawal.  “I think everyone understands what the United States is doing.”  If not everyone, then at the very least, “the senior leaders in their governments”.  Very good of them.

The views of American functionaries have not necessarily meant much in the righteous intent of other powers, but Bolton is nonetheless happy to pen his name to this mast.  He wishes for the Kurds to hold firm, avoid the temptation of seeking another sponsor who just might do a better job.  “I think they know,” suggested Bolton, “who their friends are.”  (Bolt is more than nudging here, making sure the Russians or the Assad regime are avoided in any future security arrangements that might supply a shield for the Kurds.)

Daft, can be Bolton, who sees himself as a true appraiser of the international relations system when he is disabled by presumption.  The Turks may, in time, hand Washington another bloody lesson of retribution showing that basic, keen hatreds in historical dramas are far more significant than sophisticated notions of self-interest.  The presence of US troops in Syria will no doubt be reclassified, withdrawal by which any other name would be as confusing.  The Kurds will have to chew over their options with the sort of caution nursed by a history of promise followed by abandonment.  Be wary of the expendable ones.

Israel and the Golan Heights: A Wider Geopolitical Game

In the recent autumn session of the United Nations General Assembly a number of resolutions involving the Syrian Golan Heights occupied by Israel came up for debate and voting. A familiar pattern emerged. The first of the votes to be noted was UNGA Resolution A/C.4/73/L.20. The wording of this resolution was that the general Assembly “reaffirmed that Israel’s settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem are illegal and an obstacle to peace and social development”.

The second resolution, A/C.4/73/L.22 said that the General Assembly “determines that all legislation and administrative measures taken by Israel, the occupying Power, that purport to alter the character and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights are null and void.”  The wording of this resolution echoed the wording of United Nations Security Council resolution 497 of 17 December 1981, which was 37 years previously. That earlier resolution was passed unanimously; i.e. the United States included.

The third resolution, L/73/L.30 expressed the General Assembly’s deep concern “that Israel has not withdrawn from the Syrian Golan, which has been under occupation since 1967” (i.e. 51 years).

The voting on each resolution respectively was 154 in favour (with 6 No votes and 15 abstentions; 149: 2: and 22; and 99: 10: 66.

The United States, which was part of a unanimous Security Council vote in 1981 condemning Israel’s actions in the Golan Heights as “null and void” was one of the two ‘No’ votes in the second resolution referred to above. The other No vote, unsurprisingly, was Israel. The United States and Israel both voted ‘No’ to the other two resolutions as well. Australia abstained in respect of each of the three votes.

This voting pattern and the debate that surrounded them is significant for a number of reasons.

The first reason is that it unequivocally demonstrates that where Israel is concerned there is a different standard applied by the United States (and Australia) where breaches of international law are concerned.

It is indisputable that land occupied by conquest cannot be returning by the occupying power, much less incorporated into the administrative regime of the occupying power. Yet this is precisely what Israel has done, first by maintaining its occupation post the 1967 Six Day War, and then in 1981 purporting to incorporate the Golan Heights into its own administrative territory.

It is not difficult to envisage the rhetoric from the United States if Russia or China had made any similar moves. One has only to recall the incessant barrage of propaganda from the United States and its allies about “Russian aggression” when Crimea was reincorporated into the Russian Federation following an overwhelming popular vote.

The United States is similarly making threats against China after President Xi made a speech recently pointing out that Taiwan was part of China and that reunification was a goal for the near future. The United States accepted that Taiwan was part of China until 1949 when the Nationalists were defeated in the civil war.

As the Americans showed by voting against a resolution that they had previously been part of a unanimous Security Council in accepting, consistency is not their strong suit. The withdrawal from the antiballistic missile treaty in 2001, and from an INF treaty in 2018, and their abandonment of the JCPOA in 2018 are further illustrations of that point.

It also lays bare, yet again, the hypocrisy of western political leaders, notably in the United States and Australia, who forever trumpet their alleged commitment to the “rules based international order”.

There is no clearer example over a sustained period of time of Israel’s total disregard for international law than in their treatment of the Palestinians and the continued illegal occupation of the Golan Heights. Neither of these examples is the subject of public criticism by American or Australian politicians, and judging by their voting behaviour in the United Nations, support for Israel’s actions is either tacit or explicit.

Earlier in January 2019 two United States Republican Senators, Cruz and Cotton, went public in a joint statement that was remarkable for its complete disregard for international law, its equally cavalier disregard for the factual situation in the Middle East, and for its display of what is best described by the Hebrew word “chutzpah” (insolence, cheek or audacity).

Cruz and Cotton’s statement said, in part:

Responding to the threat posed by Iran and its proxies requires ensuring that Israel can defend its territory and its citizens from attack. To support Israel’s right to self defence, Washington should take the long overdue step of affirming Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

This is a frankly bizarre departure from reality and a number of commentators have already pointed this out.1  It came at the same time as National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were making equally absurd statements on their recent foray to Middle Eastern capitals.2

Even if Israel had legitimate self-defence concerns, occupying the territory of a neighbouring state is neither feasible nor legal. There must therefore be an alternative explanation for Israel’s continued disregard for international law, the extraordinary public comments of two senior members of the Trump administration, and the pattern of behaviour of United States in the region, notwithstanding the recent erratic and contradictory behaviour of its leadership.

One possible explanation that fits the known facts, and which incidentally also helps explain the extraordinary lack of criticism by Western nations of Israel’s continued illegal occupation of the Golan Heights, can be found in the activities of an American company called Genie Energy.

This little-known company is headquartered in Newark, New Jersey. Its strategic advisory board includes such luminaries as Dick Cheney (former US vice president under Bush Jr); James Woolsey (former CIA director); Larry Summers (former head of the US Treasury); Rupert Murdoch (chairman of News Corporation among other media interests); and Jacob Rothschild. It would be hard to nominate a better-connected group of people, all of them noted for a strong pro-Israel bias.

Genie Energy, through its subsidiary Afek Oil and Gas, was granted an oil exploration license for the occupied Golan Heights by the Israeli government. Needless to say, the Syrian government was not consulted.

As far back as October 2015 Afek discovered oil reserves in the Golan Heights, with a potential yield estimated at billions of barrels3 Actually developing those vast reserves would require the solidification of Israel’s control over the occupied territory.

It cannot legally do that, although lack of legality has never been a hindrance to Israel since 1948. Its de facto control of the Golan Heights, however, is key to understanding Israel’s moves in the Middle East since 1967. In recent years Israel’s support for terrorist groups fighting the Assad Government in Syria is destined in part to keep the Syrian army and Iranian supported Hezbollah from challenging Israel’s control of the Golan Heights. It is not a coincidence that Israeli territory proper has not suffered a single ISIS inspired attack although prima facie one might have thought that a Jewish state would be anathema to Islamic fundamentalists.

The evidence is now overwhelming that Israel has been one of the main supporters of ISIS because it suited their own wider geopolitical ambitions.4  When a jihadist group occupied some small towns in the Israeli controlled Golan Heights in February 2017, the Israeli army and air force took no steps to oppose them.

Israel’s ambitions for the Golan Heights are matched by the United States in northern Syria where the area it occupies (also illegally) provided 90% of Syria’s pre-war oil production. Both the United States and Israel have long intended to build a pipeline to provide gas to Europe, supplanting Russia as Europe’s principal supplier.

As Robert Kennedy Jr pointed out5 US plans began in 2000 with a $10 billion 1500 km pipeline from Qatar through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey. It was when Syria rejected their proposed role in the plan in 2009 (as it would jeopardise their relationship with Russia) that the CIA began funding terrorist groups in Syria.

Seen in this broader context, the blatant ongoing illegality of Israel’s occupation of the Golan, the US deep state’s strong desire to remain in northern Syria, the sanctions against Russia, the overt threats against German companies involved in Nord Stream 2,6 and the suppression of most of this material in the western mainstream media (in which Murdoch is a dominant figure) all form part of a long-term set of plans hatched in Washington and Tel Aviv that have nothing to do with the rights and freedoms of the Syrian people.

As courageous independent journalists on the ground in Syria such as Vanessa Beeley have amply demonstrated7, the ordinary people of Syria are but pawns in a wider geopolitical game. In the extraordinary chaos and destruction that the illegal western intervention in Syria has caused, Australia has played a small but significant role.

Actually detecting a benefit to Australia in all of this is more than elusive, but as John Menadue recently pointed out8 for all their protestations about the rule of law and shared western values, the reality is that western politicians have always sacrificed principle for geopolitical expediency.

In the rapidly changing geopolitical framework brought about by Russia’s intervention in Syria in 2015 and a consequent shifting of alliances by key players such as Turkey, it remains to be seen whether the untenable ambitions of Israel and the United States can be brought to fruition. 2019 looks to be no less dangerous than the year just past.

  1. Moon of Alabama 10 January 2019.
  2. See, for example, Strategic Culture Foundation 15 January 2019.
  3. The Economist, ‘Black Gold Under the Golan, 7 November 2015.
  4. Haaretz, 8 September 2018.
  5. Ecowatch, 25 February 2016, Another Pipeline War.
  6. DW, 14 January 1019.
  7. 21st Century Wire, 17 October 2018.
  8. John Menadue, 15 January 2019.

Peace for Syria and a New Kurdistan as Regional Stabilizing Factor?

The US will withdraw her troops from Syria. Will they really?  Let’s take Trump at his word, just for argument’s sake. Though in the meantime, RT reports that the withdrawal may be slower than anticipated, to allow Erdogan making his own “strategic arrangements”, while US troops depart. During his flash visit to the US troops in Iraq on Christmas Day, Mr. Trump already indicated that any US intervention – if necessary – would be launched from Iraq. Of course.

The US will not let go of such a strategic country with access to Four Seas, as promoted by President Bashar al-Assad, linking the Mediterranean, the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf into an energy network. Washington had the full dominion of Syria in mind as the pivotal country in the Middle East, already when Washington first attempted to “negotiate” with Bashar’s dad, Háfez al-Ásad, in the late 1990s, and then after his death in 2000, the secret gnomes of Washington continued the process of coercion with Háfez’s son and heir, Bashar. To no avail, as we know.

Therefore, the question, “Will Syria ever Become a “Normal” Country Again?” sounds almost rhetorical. Syria is one of those predestined countries to “fall”, decided by the empire, long before the ascension to the throne by Mr. Trump. Others include and are well outlined in the PNAC (Plan for a New American Century) – Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Sudan, Lebanon and Iran. As we see, the plan is progressing nicely – and letting go of any of the ‘milestones’ within this plan – is simply not in the cards. Deviations are not tolerated. That’s presumably why James “Mad Dog” Mattis resigned as Secretary of Defense upon Trump’s announcement to withdraw from Syria. The Pentagon has its mandate, given by the Military Industrial Complex.

So, war or peace (and war it is) has become full spectrum Pentagon territory, not to be meddled with. It has nothing to do with terrorism, or saving the world from terrorism. It is pure and simple ´calcule’ for profit from the war machine, from stolen and confiscated oil and gas and, ultimately but not lastly, for full power dominance of the world. The Middle East is one of those focal points of the empire that needs to be plunged into eternal chaos. Peace is never an option. Unless empire falls. But until then, the Middle East is a multi-purpose ‘gold mine’, in terms of resources, a test ground for the East-West arms race, a terrain for almost endless destruction – and reconstruction – and a bottomless source of a continuous and destabilizing flow of refugees to Europe. It’s all planned. No human suffering is able to halt this project, and we can but hope that Russia and China see clear on this, that they won’t fall for promises of peace, for make-believe withdrawals, for lies and deceit.

Will Syria ever become a ‘normal’ country again? I opt for yes. But empire must fall. And fall it will. It’s a question of time and maybe strategy? For hundreds of years, the Kurds are an ethnicity of between 25 and 35 million people. They inhabit a mountainous region straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and a tiny bit of Armenia. They make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, but they have never obtained a permanent nation state. Wouldn’t this rearrangement of power in Syria due to the apparent US troop withdrawals be an opportunity to find a solution for the century old Kurdish “problem”?

President Assad might seize the opportunity to accept the Kurds ‘invitation’ to enter the city of Manbij, the current Kurdish stronghold in Syria. And this despite the fact that the Kurds have often fought against the Syrian military, either alongside the US / NATO forces or alongside ISIS. It’s time to rethink geopolitics in the Middle East, beginning with Syria. After all, Manbij is Syrian territory, and Turkey has no legitimate claim on any land within Syria. Except in the case of a possible land swap.

On these grounds Syria might want to initiate negotiations with Turkey, Iraq and Iran to finally establish within the borders of Syria and Iraq (and Iran, as it were), some kind of a Kurdish territory which might over time become a fully autonomous Kurdish Homeland, what today is already called, Kurdistan. Much like Israel was carved out of Palestine, except that Israel was an artificial creation, commanded by outside forces, with the specific purpose already 70 years ago to destabilize the region. Whereas Kurdistan would be a stabilizing factor, a natural process facilitated by the countries within the region.

There are, of course, other players with high stakes in this peace process, like Russia, Turkey and Iraq – and the two rogue nations, paradoxically bound together, Israel and Saudia Arabia. Two nations that have no right whatsoever to even come close to Syria. But they continue having US support, even with the apparent US withdrawal from Syria, or because of it, as they will now play the role of US proxies in fighting Mr. Assad’s legitimate regime.

Russia would most likely prefer no Turkish interference in Syria, for example, the occupation of Manbij, but would rather see Syrian control of Syrian territory with negotiated land swap deals with neighboring countries, especially Turkey and Iraq, to bring eventually the Kurdish question to a solution. That is, of course, just the beginning. The easy part.

The current semi-offical Kurdistan is one of the oil richest territories of the region. At present these oil resources are divided more or less along the border divisions of Kurdistan; i.e., Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. For these countries hydrocarbon is a key factor in their economy. Therefore, the creation of an autonomous region within Syria, Iraq and Iran, called Kurdistan, might require not only an honest process and equitable division of the Black Gold, but also a withdrawal of Trukey from Kurdistan; i.e., through a land swap. The development towards a sovereign Kurdistan – no time frame might at this point be suggested – would require Kurdish concessions. In other words, peace and homeland have a price. However, this price will never even come close to the benefits of independence and peace.

At present, Kurdistan’s oil reserves are estimated at 45 billion gallon, almost a third of Iraq’s total untapped 150 billion gallons of petrol. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), with her capital, Erbil in Iraq (pop. about 900,000), would, of course, prefer becoming an independent state. But that is just not going to happen out of the blue. Therefore, peace in the region and a Kurdish Homeland is worth a negotiated land and petrol concession. And when would be a better moment for such thoughts and negotiations than NOW?

There are other signs that Syria is in the process of becoming a “normal” country again. The re-opening of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) embassy in Syria may be considered a major public step to welcoming Bashar al-Assad back into the fold of the Arab League, from which Syria was banned at the beginning of the 2011 CIA induced war on Mr. Assad’s government. Bahrain has also announced it will shortly reopen diplomatic relations with Damascus. Is this move by the UAE and Bahrain the first step of a new “Arab solidarity”?  In any case, it signals a new recognition of Syria under President Assad.

With Syria becoming a fully autonomous and sovereign country again, where diplomatic missions are being re-established and where refugees return to help rebuild their nation, and where a new Kurdistan, may just be the dot bringing peace and stability to the region. Though that may succeed only without any Atlantist interference being handled only as a regional project.

A last thought for those who are shaking their heads in disbelief, because of the political and economic volatility of Kurdistan, due to her exorbitant oil riches which are currently spread among four countries – listen! peak oil is a thing of the past. Hydrocarbons are rather rapidly being replaced as the key energy provider by alternative sources of energy, of which the Middle East also has plenty, but which cannot be stolen – solar energy. The East, foremost China, is rapidly developing new and more efficient ways of transferring sun light into electricity, with the appropriate storage technology that may make it possible to largely phase out hydrocarbons within the next generation.

Hence, the momentum is NOW – US troop withdrawals – to create a stabilizing Kurdistan and make Syria a “normal country again.

Why is the West Keeping Silent About the Chemical Attack in Syria?

Once again, prohibited chemical weapons have been used in Syria — specifically shells filled with chlorine gas. Despite the significant number of casualties, however, the attack was not met with the usual outcry. World leaders remained tight-lighted with only Macron deciding to break the silence. This is easily explained since the West has good reason to keep schtum.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, residential areas of Aleppo were bombarded with 120 mm mortar shells filled with chlorine gas, resulting in more than 100 people seeking medical treatment. Women and children were among those hospitalised and everyone complained of breathing difficulties.

Aleppo is Syria’s largest city and one of the oldest in the world. It was divided in half during the civil conflict and the military operation to liberate the half occupied by militants was one of the most important carried out by government forces and became a major turning point in the war as a whole. At that time, the city was under the international spotlight for several months and the West regularly accused Damascus of allegedly committing numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity in order to gain time for the so-called moderate opposition. The areas under its control were next to those held by outright terrorists.

By December 2016, it was all over. Reports on “Assad’s atrocities” turned out to be false, while some of the militants leaving Aleppo were transferred to Idlib province by agreement with the government. A large number of diverse groups have settled there over the many years of conflict, each of which is now getting on with life.

If there had been reports of a chemical attack back then, when militants still held part of Aleppo, there would have been a huge outcry. The Assad regime would have been blamed immediately and it probably would have been a casus belli – yet another reason for the Western military coalition to attack Syrian forces.

The chemical attack happened now, however, when Aleppo has been under government control for two years. The shells came from the direction of the Idlib “sanctuary”, where the front line is. Nobody is going to believe that government forces are firing chemical weapons at their own rear units, so the Western community, including many human rights organisations, have met the attack on Aleppo with a deathly silence.

The first Western leader to make a statement on the subject was French President Emmanuel Macron. “France condemns any use of chemical weapons,” stated Macron the day after the incident, including in the Syrian city of Aleppo. He added that he would be discussing the situation with his international partners.

Incidentally, Paris was once one of the driving forces behind the West’s intervention in the Syrian civil war on the side of the armed opposition. Another of these driving forces during the battle for Aleppo was Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who accused Assad of carrying out “a genocide against his own people”. Ankara pursued its own interests during the conflict, but after the situation on the front lines was reversed in favour of Damascus, Turkey tempered its appetite and was forced to agree with Russia’s plan for a Syrian settlement.

The so-called “de-escalation zone” in Idlib where the chlorine-filled shells came from is one of Turkey’s areas of responsibility. The most difficult questions regarding the attack should therefore be addressed to Ankara, in other words.

Those behind the chemical attack have already been established. According to Aleppo police chief Essam al-Shali, the attack was carried out by terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra, a local branch of al-Qaeda. This refers to the militant group Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, one of the many rebrandings of al-Nusra.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry is blaming the attack on the West. “This terrorist act comes as [a] result of facilitations provided by some countries to deliver chemicals to armed terrorist groups to use them against Syrian people and to accuse [the] Syrian Government,” stated the foreign ministry’s press office.

Previously, the White Helmets were actively involved in events related to the use of chemical weapons in Syria. This organisation, which diligently disguises itself as a human rights organisation but actually acts in the interests of terrorists, has, for many years, been portrayed as one of the biggest heroes of the Syrian war. Its activities have even been the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary film. Interest in the White Helmets began to wane with the advance of Syrian forces, however, especially after they were caught red-handed falsifying a chemical attack.

Whether all this means that the White Helmets, who are now cornered in Idlib, have moved from staging chemical attacks to organising real ones is an open question. It has been known for a while that Jabhat al-Nusra has its own chemical weapons and so does not need this kind of help from the White Helmets.

If their involvement in the attack on Aleppo is proved, however, and especially if the Syrian Foreign Ministry’s claim regarding the origin of the militants’ chemical arsenal turns out to be true, then the notion of the White Helmets will be completely turned on its head, as will the role of the American-led coalition in the Syrian conflict.

The laws of the information war surrounding Syria are proving to be even more cynical than the laws of the actual war going on in Idlib. In an information war, whoever shouts the loudest wins, but this shout may be far removed from the actual state of affairs on the ground. The successes of the Syrian army have gone some way towards altering the perception of the Syrian conflict, but exposing the “massacre on the streets of Aleppo” as fake and uncovering the sham nature of the White Helmets’ activities has changed absolutely nothing. America’s refusal to finance the latter was nothing to do with the reputational risk associated with such fake activities, but was one of Donald Trump’s direct campaign promises to spend less on supporting the Syrian opposition and prevent members of the Syrian opposition from relocating to the US (immigration to the West was one of the White Helmets’ biggest motivations, many of whom are now in Britain).

It would be far too optimistic to expect that the attack on Aleppo will make Washington and Brussels look at the Syrian war differently. The use of chemical weapons and the description of other war crimes by one side or another are nothing more than a backdrop to international negotiations, the focus of which has nothing to do with humanitarian beliefs, but rather each country’s own narrow interests that even outright thugs with chlorine-filled bombs may serve to advance.

While some kind of benefit can be squeezed out of them, neither chlorine gas, nor genocide, nor mass executions will discredit them. But they can still be destroyed physically.

ISIS to Launch False Flag Chemical Attack on Syrian Kurds: And Russian Military is Watching Closely

FILE PHOTO. Home-made munitions, used by militants in Syria. ©  Sputnik / Ilya Pitalev

Islamic State terrorists are plotting to shell Kurdish-led militia with chemical-filled munitions in Deir ez-Zor, Syria, Russian military said. The terrorists want to frame Damascus for the attack to trigger new US-led airstrikes.

Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) has launched production of toxin-filled mortar shells in the east of the Deir ez-Zor province, Russian military said on Wednesday. The shells are filled with chemicals by a crew of 11 terrorists, who received foreign training and came to Syria specifically to carry out the false-flag attack.

FILE PHOTO. Home-made mortar shells, produced by Islamic State terrorists. © Reuters / Erik De Castro

IS militants are seeking to shell positions held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), framing Damascus for the attack. The terrorists seek to trigger massive airstrikes by the US-led coalition against the government forces, the military said.

Russia will send a nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) warning system to the location, as well as Russian NBC specialists, to monitor IS activities, it added.

FILE PHOTO. Russian NBC protection troops seen during an exercise © Global Look Press / Russian MoD

IS terrorists are currently holding an area in the far east of the country on the left bank of the Euphrates river. The SDF have been battling them for months yet have not managed to eradicate the militants despite receiving heavy air support from the US-led coalition. The strikes have apparently taken a heavy civilian toll, with local media routinely reporting casualties. The coalition has been also accused of using banned munitions in the area, namely white phosphorous bombs to target settlements in the IS-occupied territory.

READ MORE: Syria blames foreign states for Aleppo ‘toxic gas attack’, calls for UN to step in

Moscow’s warning comes shortly after a chemical attack in the city of Aleppo, where anti-government militants apparently shelled the western part of the city with a “poisonous substance,” affecting over 50 people. The attack, however, has not drawn much attention from the international community, let alone resulted in airstrikes against the attackers.

Fact-Checking the Establishment’s “Fact-Checkers”: How the “Fake News” Story is Fake News

It would be an understatement to say that during U.S. President Donald Trump’s term in office, the issue of truth and falsehoods has been a central topic of political discourse. It was a reoccurring issue throughout the 2016 election and has only continued following his unlikely triumph. While naïve liberals who fetishize Trump would have us believe he is the first political figure to ever lie routinely, the real radical departure of the numerous false statements that seemed to propel, rather than hinder, his success was their lack of refinement and unpredictability.

Shortly after Trump took the oath of office, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway infamously used the phrase “alternative facts” while defending Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s dispute of the attendance drop at the inauguration ceremony from predecessor Barack Obama. The low-hanging fruit of Conway’s remarks were widely interpreted as an instance of ‘Orwellian doublespeak’, but the kernel of truth in them was missed by the self-styled ‘respectable’ media of the establishment who hide behind a guise of objectivity and self-appointed expertise while positioning themselves as omniscient arbiters of truth. Spicer’s claim was indeed an obvious lie, yet the general accuracy of Conway’s point was that what one considers ‘factual’ often comes down to worldview.

For the U.S. political establishment, there is only one acceptable worldview. The terrifying significance of Trump’s victory, which defied their so-called expert polling and turned the New York Times forecast needle 180-degrees, is that the propaganda arm of mainstream media has become irrelevant and the American political system is collapsing. Hillary Clinton’s defeat was the culmination of a steady, inevitable process as evening news audiences have been shrinking for years while print media has approached near obsolescence. Simultaneously, more and more people are turning to alternative sources for news and information, albeit some of it unfortunate.

The introduction of the term “fake news” into the political lexicon has been deliberate and is a desperate attempt by the establishment to maintain its grip on the flow of knowledge. It was strategically re-appropriated by Trump himself, who frequently accuses mainstream media of reporting misinformation. Unfortunately, what he deems “fake news” is merely that which undermines him politically or personally, but there is a truth at the core of his crude attacks on the press. Trump’s labeling of mainstream media as “the enemy of the people” was unintentionally accurate only because he was referring to that which undercuts his own power. Nevertheless, it is an appropriate label considering that 90% of mass media — newspapers, magazines, books, radio, television, film studios, and internet news content — is owned by just six conglomerates in General Electric, News Corp, CBS, Disney, Viacom and Time Warner. Some like G.E. are contracted by the Pentagon.

Frankfurt School critical theorists Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno once wrote of ‘the culture industry’, or how the mechanized standardization of popular culture homogenizes everyday life under capitalism. They would likely cringe at the very idea of the “fake news” phenomenon, which implies that what mass media typically produces is “real.” A billionaire reality television star becoming President is itself the perfect apotheosis of a society governed by a deceptive mass media rendering it docile. Unsurprisingly, the fourth estate was only interested in superficially reducing Trump’s attack on their credibility to his propensity to behave like a despot, something which in their counterfeit world only exists in other countries.

Not only does mass media provide the public with what comic George Carlin called an ‘illusion of choice’, but it acts as a dictation machine for the military-industrial complex. Most notably, virtually all the major news outlets parroted the lies of the Bush administration with its fabrication of evidence that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction to sell the U.S. invasion of Baghdad in 2003. Its monumental failure to hold the Bush administration accountable has directly correlated with the rapidly declining public trust in the media ever since. Perhaps the reason the phrase resonated with voters during the election is because it generally acknowledged the enormous gap between the reported world and the actual one they live in. The late Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky wrote the definitive manual on the media’s propaganda function and social engineering in Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.

In reality, the phrase “fake news” was inserted into the mass political consciousness by the leading US spy agencies, who clearly favored a Clinton victory, through mass media to stoke fears of ‘domestic disinformation’ being spread on social networks by the Russian government. Just as in the lead-up to the Iraq War, major news outlets have simply repeated, instead of scrutinizing, the intelligence community’s unproven claims that Moscow manipulated voters by spreading ‘disinformation’ to influence the election. As a result, the meaning of the expression has been redefined to discredit any news from a political viewpoint that challenges the status quo. The media’s strings have been pulled by a modern equivalent of the C.I.A.’s Operation Mockingbird influence campaign during the Cold War which appears to have been resurrected for its sequel.

Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, was equally responsible for the idiom’s ubiquitous usage and weaponized it in the same manner — not to identify actual disinformation, but to denote any claims, true or false, which tarnished her image. Clinton dismissed the significance of the WikiLeaks release of transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs and leaked emails which exposed her conspiring with the Democratic National Committee for the party’s nomination against her primary opponent, Bernie Sanders. As a diversion, the genuine leaks were conflated with wild speculation on the right-wing fringe about her health and a debunked conspiracy about a child sex ring at a D.C. pizzeria. However, Clinton and the media never disputed the leak origins and authenticity.

This left the American voter a choice between a far right demagogue speaking to their confused grievances, or a career politician with close ties to a constellation of global financiers who professed to be a champion of women’s rights as she accepted millions from Persian Gulf monarchies that stone women to death for committing adultery. Unfortunately for Hillary, it was easy to tell she would be more comfortable at a Bilderberg Group meeting than at your local feminist bookstore. None of this is to say that Trump isn’t cut from the same cloth, but he expertly cast himself as an outsider up against an elite and they played right into his hand.

The foremost purveyor of truly damaging false news has been liberal flagship, the Washington Post. Owned by the world’s wealthiest man in technocrat Jeff Bezos, whose company Amazon provides the C.I.A. with its cloud infrastructure through a $600 million contract with the Defense Department, it is structurally incompatible for such an asset to ever be critical of the military-industrial complex without working against its financial incentive. Despite that enormous and undisclosed conflict of interest, the Post openly collaborated with the C.I.A. to leak unverified claims by anonymous officials that Russia ‘cyber meddled’ to undermine the democratic process in favor of a Trump victory. In a paradigm of yellow journalism, WaPo published such unreliable hearsay uncritically while keeping the evidence and sources entirely secret. They presented the accusations as if they should be taken at face value based on the intelligence community’s supposed infallibility, as if to wipe clean the collective memory of the Iraq War and the disclosures of the NSA’s global surveillance program.

The Washington Post also promoted PropOrNot, an anonymously written website that labeled dozens of news sites, some of which this author has written for, as “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.” The site alleges that the spreading of articles by the targeted outlets somehow influenced the election, when the overlapping characteristic between the pages smeared was not support for Donald Trump or opposition to Hillary Clinton, but a critical regard for U.S. foreign policy across the political spectrum. PropOrNot also advertises a section entitled ‘related projects’ which mostly lists similar “fact-checking” websites promoted by Google and Facebook. Pseudo-analysis of news has become another weapon of choice for the establishment’s psychological warfare, but unlike grassroots watchdog groups who hold journalism under a critical microscope such as Media Lens and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, “fact-checking” sites mechanically repeat the pre-approved narratives of corporate media without exception.

The referees of truth endorsed by big tech all don the misleading disclaimer that they have no political affiliations or funding from biased organizations. Take, for instance, the highly cited FactCheck.org, owned by the Annenberg Public Policy Center and bankrolled by its endowment, the Annenberg Foundation. The late billionaire publishing tycoon Walter H. Annenberg is perhaps most known for his massive painting collection donated to prominent museums and his financial support for the arts. However, he spent much of his life in philanthropy for the purpose of rehabilitating the family reputation tarnished by his crooked father, Moses “Moe” Annenberg, who was convicted in one of the largest tax fraud cases in U.S. history during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration.

Moe Annenberg started his career working for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst as a distribution manager where he hired mobsters like Lucky Luciano to terrorize their competitors. He later became a media mogul himself using the same illicit tactics until he was indicted for his financial misconduct in 1939. The young Walter Annenberg worked for his father and initially faced similar charges, but they were dropped after the elder Annenberg pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison. While his father took the rap, Walter Annenberg was free to continue to build the family fortune and eventually a media empire, using his riches to carry on the family legacy of tax evasion in the form of charitable donations. The scam of philanthropy is a practice typical of the ultra-wealthy who mask their influence on global affairs under the phony banner of altruism.

Walter Annenberg later became a diplomat as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom under President Richard Nixon and was even knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, whom he frequently hosted at the Annenberg family’s 200-acre estate along with numerous other figures in high society, from Ronald and Nancy Reagan to the deposed Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza. Despite FactCheck.org’s endorsement from Silicon Valley oligarchs as an impartial source, it turns out the Annenberg Foundation also made huge financial donations to the Clinton Foundation over the years and could not be more in the service of the powers that be.

Google also advertises the U.S.-government funded Polygraph.info as a reputable source, a site launched by the C.I.A.’s Radio Free Europe/Free Liberty and Voice of America “news” organizations. RFE/FL is currently based in Prague but was previously headquartered in West Germany during the Cold War where it broadcast its anti-communist propaganda to undermine the Soviet Union. Polygraph.info now serves a similar purpose of information warfare in cyberspace for the revived Cold War 2.0 while presenting itself as a fact-checking source to counter “Russian propaganda” outlets. The C.I.A. openly admitted the true character of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and its origins on its own website:

On June 1, 1949, a group of prominent American businessmen, lawyers, and philanthropists — including Allen Dulles, who would become Director of Central Intelligence in 1953 — launched the National Committee for Free Europe (NCFE) at a press release in New York. Only a handful of people knew that NCFE was actually the public face of an innovative “psychological warfare” project undertaken by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). That operation — which soon gave rise to Radio Free Europe — would become one of the longest running and successful covert action campaigns ever mounted by the United States.

Meanwhile, the most dubious of all the advocated verification sites is the popular domain Snopes.com. Snopes was founded in the mid-90s originally as Urban Legends Reference Pages, a site started by an apparently ordinary California couple, David and Barbara Mikkelson, to ‘debunk’ urban folklore. Its moniker comes from a fictional family in the Snopes trilogy of novels by renowned modernist writer William Faulkner. In the series, the Snopes family consists of disturbed relatives who commit murder, pedophilia, bestiality, pornography, racism, theft, corruption and other misdeeds. Thus, anyone ‘exposed’ by the site making claims it determines to be false are likened to a seedy member of the Snopes family.

Despite its bottom-up outward appearance, the site never breaks from mainstream news accounts of events. For example, Snopes maintains that the well-documented allegations of ties between the volunteer rescue organization Syrian Civil Defense, AKA the White Helmets, and terrorist groups participating in the Syrian Civil War is “false.” It does not address that there are multiple videos of White Helmets members facilitating and participating in executions, celebrating with militants of Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front, and dumping the bodies of Syrian Arab Army soldiers. The issue is clearly still a matter of dispute among the journalism community as many credible figures, from Seymour Hersh to John Pilger, have expressed skepticism about the group, but Snopes per usual made a one-sided determination. It may be able to disprove tabloid fodder or the likes of Breitbart and InfoWars, but it is no authority on matters of geopolitics and should not be irresponsibly promoted as such. Maybe it should stick to its roots debunking popular myths about whether or not earwigs crawl into human ears.

Since the site expanded to include politics and world events, it became extremely popular over time and now averages millions of views. In the meantime, Barbara and David Mikkelson have gone through a bitter divorce and the latter has retained control of the site, hiring a team of assistants allegedly from its message board to replace his ex-wife. Although it claims to have a tiny staff, Snopes somehow manages to produce an extremely prolific amount of investigative articles. Given its scope and body of work, it is difficult to believe it is only receiving its financial support from ad revenue and GoFundMe campaigns alone or is as small an operation as it claims. Until recently it was in an ongoing legal battle with Proper Media, an advertising agency with a 50% stake in its ownership which for a time put its future in jeopardy.

Snopes does admit to accepting $100,000 from Facebook for participating in their fact-checking partnership effort following the 2016 election. Rather than being punished for its mishandling of the private information of tens of millions of profiles, the social media giant is being rewarded for its failure to protect user privacy from data breaching. Earlier this year, Facebook announced it had partnered with the Atlantic Council, an elite Washington think tank funded by the U.S. State Department, NATO, foreign governments like United Arab Emirates, weapons contractor Lockheed Martin, oil giant Chevron, and features Henry Kissinger on its board of directors. In a disturbing corporate-state collaboration, Silicon Valley has been empowered to be the umpire of determining authentic news and given the authority to stifle subversive content with no oversight or legal ramifications. All of this begs the question — who fact-checks the “fact checkers”? Who gets to determine what is or what isn’t “fake news”? The ruling elite, apparently.

In her memoir, Hillary Clinton made it clear what constitutes fake news — the release of her emails and transcripts of speeches revealing her corruption and subservience to Wall Street. WikiLeaks’ reporting was never impugned, however, therefore what constitutes “fake news” is actually real news or anything that threatens those in power. Instead of encouraging media literacy, the working class is regarded with utter disdain by the establishment who have made clear they must control what the public is allowed to see because they can no longer be trusted to make the correct decision; i.e., vote for the candidate favored by the military-intelligence apparatus. The true purpose behind the “fact-checking” PSY-OP is to stigmatize criticism of the neocon political establishment as a whole and liken anyone who does so to those who believe global warming is a hoax or that the earth is flat.

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that Trump, like Barack Obama before him, has only expanded the U.S. war machine as President. Unlikely it may seem to many, however, during the campaign he was the ‘peace candidate’ relative to Hillary Clinton. American voters certainly saw it that way and it may have just tipped the scales of the election. Last year, an academic study was released which made the argument entitled Battlefield Casualties and Ballot Box Defeat: Did the Bush-Obama Wars Cost Clinton the White House? Its summary states:

Increasingly, a divide is emerging between communities whose young people are dying to defend the country, and those communities whose young people are not. In this paper we empirically explore whether this divide — the casualty gap — contributed to Donald Trump’s surprise victory in November 2016. The data analysis presented in this working paper finds that indeed, in the 2016 election Trump was speaking to this forgotten part of America. Even controlling in a statistical model for many other alternative explanations, we find that there is a significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump. Our statistical model suggests that if three states key to Trump’s victory — Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin — had suffered even a modestly lower casualty rate, all three could have flipped from red to blue and sent Hillary Clinton to the White House.

One must ascribe to chaos theory to see the forest through the trees in the Trump era. The significance of his victory is that it has been an enormous ‘shock to the system’ where the permitted political space has been opened to anti-establishment narratives across the spectrum. A similar shakeup came ten years ago in the form of the financial crash and not coincidentally the Occupy Wall St. and the Tea Party emerged. While it has the unfortunate side effect of emboldening the worst elements on the far right, it also has the potential to revitalize a left that was, sans Occupy, largely dormant under Obama. Those in power are well aware and the current wave of censorship is not about preventing a Trump re-election so much as it is about neutralizing the left.

The failures of the left throughout the past century, more specifically that of socialism, can also come from within. Social democrats betrayed the working class and participated in the slaughter of WWI until the Bolsheviks ended it. The left of today must be willing to learn from its mistakes more quickly. For example, many have expressed excitement that Bernie Sanders is partnering with Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis to counter the rise of ultra-nationalism worldwide, as far rightist Jair Bolsanaro was just elected the President of Brazil. Yet the social democracy that Sanders and Varoufakis advocate is only the most modest New Dealism to reform capitalism and make it more humane. However relatively progressive it may seem, it will likely prove no match for either the ruling class or the up-and-coming wave of far right populism. The fact that Sanders uses the Nordic model should be enough to know their limitations. Although he wisely jumped ship, it was Varoufakis’ elected SYRIZA coalition in Greece which completely betrayed its constituency by capitulating to EU austerity and NATO expansion. History indicates that only a real alternative in genuine socialism and a working class willing to become militant will the promise of emancipatory politics ever be fulfilled.

Western Media Attacks Critics of the White Helmets

Introduction

The October 16 issue of NY Review of Books has an article by Janine di Giovani titled “Why Assad and Russia Target the White Helmets“. The article exemplifies how western media promotes the White Helmets uncritically and attacks those who challenge the myth.

Crude and Disingenuous Attack

Giovani’s article attacks several journalists by name. She singles out Vanessa Beeley and echoes the Guardian’s characterization of Beeley as the “high priestess of Syria propaganda”. She does this without challenging a single article or claim by the journalist. She might have acknowledged that Vanessa Beeley has some familiarity with the Middle East; she is the daughter of one of the foremost British Arabists and diplomats including British Ambassador to Egypt. Giovanni might have explored Beeley’s research in Syria that revealed the White Helmets founder (British military contractor James LeMesurier) assigned the name Syria Civil Defence despite the fact there is a real Syrian organization by that name that has existed since the 1950’s. For the past several years, Beeley has done many on-the-ground reports and investigations in Syria. None of these are challenged by Giovanni. Just days ago Beeley published a report on her visit to the White Helmets headquarters in Deraa.

Giovanni similarly dismisses another alternative journalist, Eva Bartlett. Again, Giovanni ignores the fact that Bartlett has substantial Middle East experience including having lived in Gaza for years. Instead of objectively evaluating the journalistic work of these independent journalists, Giovanni smears their work as “disinformation”. Presumably that is because their work is published at alternative sites such as 21st Century Wire and Russian media such as RT and Sputnik. Beeley and Bartlett surely would have been happy to have their reports published at the New York Review of Books, Newsweek or other mainstream outlets. But it’s evident that such reporting is not welcome there. Even Seymour Hersh had to go abroad to have his investigations on Syria published.

The New McCarthyism

Max Blumenthal is another journalist singled out by Giovanni. Blumenthal is the author of three books, including a New York Times bestseller and the highly acclaimed “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel”. Giovanni describes his transition from “anti-Assad” to “pro-Assad” and suggests his change of perspective was due to Russian influence. She says, “Blumenthal went to Moscow on a junket to celebrate RT’s tenth anniversary. We don’t know what happened during that visit, but afterwards, Blumenthal’s views completely flipped.” Instead of examining the facts presented by Blumenthal in articles such as “Inside the Shadowy PR Firm that’s Lobyying for Regime Change in Syria“, Giovanni engages in fact-free McCarthyism. Blumenthal explained the transition in his thinking in a public interview. He also described the threats he experienced when he started to criticize the White Helmets and their public relations firm, but this is ignored by Giovanni.

Contrary to Giovanni’s assumptions, some western journalists and activists were exposing the White Helmets long before the story was publicized on Russian media. In spring 2015 the basic facts about the White Helmets including their origins, funding and role in the information war on Syria were exposed in my article “Seven Steps of Highly Effective Manipulators“. The article showed how the White Helmets were a key component in a campaign pushing for a “No Fly Zone” in Syria. It confirmed that the White Helmets is a political lobby force.

In spring 2016, Vanessa Beeley launched a petition “Do NOT give the Nobel Peace Prize to the White Helmets“. That petition garnered more support than a contrary petition urging the Nobel Prize committee to give the award to the White Helmets. Perhaps because of that, the petition was abruptly removed without explanation from the Change.org website. It was only at this time, with publicity around the heavily promoted nomination of the White Helmets for a Nobel Peace Prize that RT and other Russian media started to publicize and expose the White Helmets. That is one-and-a-half years after they were first exposed in western alternative media.

White Helmets and Chemical Weapons Accusations 

Giovanni ignores the investigations and conclusions of some of the most esteemed American journalists regarding the White Helmets and chemical weapons incidents in Syria.

The late Robert Parry published many articles exposing the White Helmets, for example “The White Helmets Controversy” and “Syria War Propaganda at the Oscars“. Parry wrote and published numerous investigations of the August 2013 chemical weapons attack and concluded the attacks were carried out by an opposition faction with the goal of pressuring the US to intervene militarily. Parry also challenged western conclusions regarding incidents such as April 4, 2017 at Khan Shaykhun. Giovanni breathlessly opens her article with this story while Parry revealed the impossibility of it being as described.

Buried deep inside a new U.N. report is evidence that could exonerate the Syrian government in the April 4 sarin atrocity and make President Trump look like an Al Qaeda dupe.

Legendary American journalist, Seymour Hersh, researched and refuted the assumptions of Giovanni and the media establishment regarding the August 2013 chemical weapons attacks near Damascus. Hersh’s investigation, titled “The Red Line and Rat Line“, provided evidence the atrocity was carried out by an armed opposition group with active support from Turkey. A Turkish member of parliament provided additional evidence. The fact that Hersh had to go across the Atlantic to have his investigation published suggests American not Russian disinformation and censorship.

In addition to ignoring the findings of widely esteemed journalists with proven track records, Giovanni plays loose with the truth. In her article she implies that a UN investigation blamed the Syrian government for the August 2013 attack. On the contrary, the head of the UN investigation team, Ake Sellstrom, said they did not determine who was responsible.

We do not have the evidence to say who did what ….The conflict in Syria is surrounded by a lot of rumors and a lot of propaganda, particularly when comes to the sensitive issue of chemical weapons.

First Responders or Western Funded Propagandists?

Giovanni says, “But the White Helmets’ financial backing is not the real reason why the pro-Assad camp is so bent on defaming them. Since 2015, the year the Russians began fighting in Syria, the White Helmets have been filming attacks on opposition-held areas with GoPro cameras affixed to their helmets.”

In reality, the ‘White Helmets” have a sophisticated media production and distribution operation. They have much more than GoPro cameras. In many of their movie segments one can see numerous people with video and still cameras. Sometimes the same incident will be shown with one segment with an Al Qaeda logo blending into the same scene with a White Helmets logo.

Giovanni claims “The Assad regime and the Russians are trying to neutralize the White Helmets because they are potential witnesses to war crimes.” However, the claims of White Helmet “witnesses” have little credibility. The White Helmet “volunteers” are paid three times as much as Syrian soldiers. They are trained, supplied and promoted by the same western states which have sought to regime change in Syria since 2011. An example of misleading and false claims by a White Helmets leader is exposed in Gareth Porter’s investigation titled “How a Syrian White Helmets Leader Played Western Media” . His conclusion could be directed to Giovanni and the NYReview of Books:

The uncritical reliance on claims by the White Helmets without any effort to investigate their credibility is yet another telling example of journalistic malpractice by media outlets with a long record of skewing coverage of conflicts toward an interventionist narrative.

When the militants (mostly Nusra/al Qaeda) were expelled from East Aleppo, civilians reported that the White Helmets were mostly concerned with saving their own and performing publicity stunts. For example, the photo of the little boy in east Aleppo looking dazed and confused in the back of a brand new White Helmet ambulance was essentially a White Helmet media stunt eagerly promoted in the West. It was later revealed the boy was not injured, he was grabbed without his parent’s consent. Eva Bartlett interviewed and photographed the father and family for her story “Mintpress Meets the Father of Iconic Aleppo Boy and says Media Lied About his Son“.

A Brilliant Marketing Success

The media and political impact of the White Helmets shows what money and marketing can do. An organization that was founded by a military contractor with funding from western governments was awarded the Rights Livelihood Award. The organization was seriously considered to receive the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize just three years after its formation.

The Netflix infomercial “The White Helmets” is an example of the propaganda. The scripted propaganda piece, where the producers did not set foot in Syria, won the Oscar award for best short documentary. It’s clear that lots of money and professional marketing can fool a lot of people. At $30 million per year, the White Helmets budget for one year is more than a decade of funding for the real Syrian Civil Defence which covers all of Syria not just pockets controlled by armed insurgents.

Unsurprisingly, it has been announced that White Helmets will receive the 2019 “Elie Wiesel” award from the heavily politicized and pro-Israel Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. This, plus the recent “rescue” of White Helmets by the Israeli government, is more proof of the true colors of the White Helmets. Vanessa Beeley’s recent interview with a White Helmet leader in Deraa revealed that ISIS and Nusra terrorists were part of the group “rescued” through Israel.

The Collapsing White Helmets Fraud

Giovanni is outraged that some journalists have successfully challenged and put a big dent in the White Helmets aura. She complains, “The damage the bloggers do is immense.”

Giovanni and western propagandists are upset because the myth is deflating. Increasing numbers of people – from a famous rock musician to a former UK Ambassador – see and acknowledge the reality.

As described in Blumenthal’s article, “How the White Helmets Tried to Recruit Roger Waters with Saudi Money“, rock legend Roger Waters says:

If we were to listen to the propaganda of the White Helmets and others, we would encourage our governments to start dropping bombs on people in Syria. This would be a mistake of monumental proportions…

Peter Ford, the former UK Ambassador to Syria, sums it up like this:

The White Helmets are jihadi auxiliaries… They are not, as claimed by themselves and by their supporters… simple rescuers. They are not volunteers. They are paid professionals of disinformation.

Giovanni claims her article is a “forensic take down of the Russian disinformation campaign to distort the truth in Syria.” In reality, Giovanni’s article is an example of western disinformation using subjective attacks on critics and evidence-free assertions aligned with the regime change goals of the West.