Category Archives: Proxy Armies

Black Sun Over Kiev

The conflict in Ukraine has been a war of seemingly endless violence and brutality. This cataclysmic conflict, which has pitted Ukrainian against Ukrainian, marks a restoration of the fighting that took place between Nazi collaborators and partisans during the Second World War. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the coverage from what Paul Craig Roberts is fond of calling “the presstitutes,” has been a deranged combination of liberal schizophrenia, outright lies, and neo-Nazi propaganda.

As noted in The Washington Times, the decision on the part of the Trump administration to give Kiev an additional 200 million dollars in military aid, brings the total amount of US military aid sent to Kiev since the Maidan coup to a billion dollars. This war has pitted the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) and its affiliated paramilitary organizations, against the Armed Forces of Novorossiya which are defending their homes, villages, and cities from a ruthless genocidal onslaught. The former are getting the military assistance. Rest assured, it is for “defensive purposes,” and needed to defend Ukraine from “Russian-backed separatists.”

In an article in The New York Times titled “After Initial Triumph, Ukraine’s Leaders Face Battle For Credibility,” by Steven Erlanger, the author writes of the Maidan coup: “The United States and the European Union have embraced the revolution here as another flowering of democracy, a blow to authoritarianism and kleptocracy in the former Soviet space.” While some of the initial Maidan protests may have been peaceful, the actual change of government – the “flowering of democracy” – was, in fact, a violent coup that brought to power in Kiev the descendants of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and its military wing, The Ukrainian Insurgent Army, ultra-nationalists that collaborated with the Nazis and carried out genocidal massacres of Jews, Poles, and communists during the Second World War.

The author continues: “As Russian forces appear to be establishing their control of Crimea in the name of a seemingly manufactured local cry for aid, Ukraine today is a good example of how deep, domestic, centrifugal forces can be easily manipulated from the outside to keep a new, inexperienced government shaken and destabilized.” That the new regime is “shaken and destabilized” should come as no surprise, as it took power through a Western-backed coup, and in violation of the country’s constitution. It is also important to remember that Moscow permitted the reunification of Germany on the condition that NATO would not expand, and it has been expanding and expanding ever since – even to the point where Nato troops can now march right through downtown Kiev. NATO is at Russia’s doorstep, and while the insouciant West sleeps, Russians are increasingly alarmed.

While there are undoubtedly some Russian volunteers that have gone to the Donbass to defend their brothers from fascism, the idea that “Russia invaded Ukraine” is unmitigated propaganda. If this were, in fact, the case, the Russian air force would have destroyed the Ukrainian units besieging the Donbass in a matter of days, effectively ending the war. The Novorossians would also not have lost strategically important cities such as Slovyansk and Mariupol which are located within the Donetsk Oblast. Moreover, if the Russian military had truly taken control of the Donbass, it is inconceivable that so many key Novorussiyan leaders would have fallen victim to assassination. And lastly, if Russia had invaded Ukraine, why would hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have sought refuge, not in the West, but in Russia?

In an article in The Guardian titled “On the Frontline of Europe’s Forgotten War in Ukraine,” Julian Coman reiterates the mass media’s obsession with blaming all things wrong with the world on Vladimir Putin: “In February it will be four years since Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, annexed Crimea and helped foment a rebellion in Ukraine’s industrial east. Since then about 10,000 people have died, including 3,000 civilians, and more than 1.7 million have been displaced.” Crimea was integrated into Russia by Catherine the Great in 1783. It was, under legally dubious circumstances, gifted to Ukraine in 1954 by Khrushchev. The idea that Crimea is under a Russian military occupation is patently absurd, as the Russian Black Sea Fleet was already based in the city of Sevastopol. In other words, there were Russian soldiers in Crimea prior to the putsch. Following the Maidan coup, the overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted in a referendum to be reunited with Russia. The use of the word “annexation” is designed to draw parallels with the Nazi annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland. Lamentably, this crude propaganda actually works. The Russian invasion of Crimea may have taken place – but only in the deranged fantasyland of the mass media – as Miguel Francis’ humorous reportage in “Crimea for Dummies” offers many examples of.

That Banderites and neo-Nazis seized power in a coup d’état appears to give the author great joy, as he refers to them as “Euromaidan revolutionaries.” And why is this a “forgotten war?” Have the journalists of major Western newspapers such as The Guardian not played a critical role in bringing about this very thing?

The mainstream press regularly attempts to portray civilians as being shelled by “Russian-backed terrorists” and “Russian-backed separatists,” when it is the AFU which indiscriminately shells residential areas in Donetsk and Lugansk. In actuality, we should be talking about the NATO-backed Banderites, as it was the coup that destabilized the country and instigated the civil war. The Stalker Zone article titled “I Would Whack Volker With a Stick For Telling Such a Lie!”, offers a good example of this propaganda. The excellent RT documentaries “Facing The War,” “Ukrainian Refugees,” and “Trauma” also provide countless examples of how ordinary Ukrainians are suffering at the hands of the Banderite junta. The automatons of the mass media seem to think they know a lot about what is going on in the Donbass, but how many foreign correspondents do they have there?

As Stephen Cohen and others have noted, the coup that ousted Viktor Yanukovych was ultimately brought to fruition by sniper fire, which took the lives of police and protesters alike, and it is highly probable that this massacre was carried out by members of the neo-fascist group Right Sector. In an article in RT titled “Kiev Snipers Shooting From Bldg Controlled by Maidan Forces – Ex-Ukraine Security Chief,” the author writes, “Former chief [sic] of Ukraine’s Security Service has confirmed allegations that snipers who killed dozens of people during the violent unrest in Kiev operated from a building controlled by the opposition on Maidan square.” The Odessa massacre on May 2nd, 2014, where anywhere from forty to several hundred anti-Maidan activists lost their lives when they were trapped in Odessa’s House of Trade Unions, which was then pelted with Molotov cocktails by a mob of bloodthirsty Banderites, symbolized the neo-fascist nature of the coup. Pogroms have likewise been carried out against Ukrainians for wearing the ribbon of Saint George, worn to commemorate the victory of the Soviet people over fascism, and more recently, to protest the Banderite regime. Ominously, the Odessa massacre was a harbinger to the brutal military assault on the inhabitants of the Donbass that would follow.

Granted, many in the western part of the country wish to join the EU, while the ethnic Russians in the East prefer to maintain close economic ties to Russia. However, this is also a conflict between Ukrainians that have diametrically opposed views of the Second World War – between a Banderite regime that glorifies and extols the Ukrainians who collaborated with the Nazis – and the descendants of the Ukrainians that triumphed over Nazism, who regard the new regime as illegitimate and deeply repugnant.

The Banderite junta is also implementing draconian changes to Ukraine’s education system, making education in minority languages such as Russian, Hungarian, Romanian and Polish forbidden beyond primary school, and this is dismantling the entire foundation upon which the modern Ukrainian state is based.

The massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia, which began in 1943, and which were perpetrated by the Bandera faction of the OUN and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, resulted in the deaths of approximately 100,000 people, many of whom were also tortured. Under the Poroshenko government Stepan Bandera has been hailed as a national hero. As statues of Lenin are torn down, and monuments commemorating the Soviet victory over fascism are defaced, monuments of Bandera are erected in their stead as the monster of Ukrainian nationalism eviscerates its own heritage. October 14th, the day the Ukrainian Insurgent Army was founded, is now a national holiday. General Vatutin Avenue in Kiev, named after the Red Army commander that liberated Kiev from the Nazis, has been renamed Roman Shukhevych Avenue, after a commander of the Nachtigall Battalion, which was comprised of Ukrainians that fought under the command of Abwehr special operations during the Second World War. On April 28th, marches are now held in honor of the founding of the SS Galicia Division, which was also comprised of Ukrainians that collaborated with the Third Reich.

Contrast this mass hysteria with a day of mourning held in the Donbass on August 31st, where school bells ring out in honor of the children who lost their lives to the “Anti-Terrorist Operation,” and who won’t be able to join their classmates at the start of the school year. And while Donetsk and Lugansk are engaged in a war where their very survival is at stake, the authorities still manage to provide free medical care – not only to their own citizens – but even to captured soldiers of the AFU.

The OUN chant “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!” can be heard once more in areas of the country under the sway of the Banderite junta. The Svoboda Party and other ultra-nationalist groups regularly engage in torchlit rallies that are eerily reminiscent of the torchlit rallies common during Nazi Germany. Indeed, the flag of the Right Sector is almost identical to the flag of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

Fighting with the AFU are various punitive battalions, all of which share a loathing of Russians, and some of which are driven by an unmistakable neo-Nazi ideology. As discussed in Fort Russ News and Global Research, the Azov Battalion has been accused of committing atrocities against those resisting the new regime, such as the rape and torture of prisoners. The insignia of the Azov Battalion includes a black sun and an inverted Wolfsangel. The later was used by a number of Waffen-SS units, notably the Das Reich Division, which participated in the Nazi invasion of the USSR. The black sun remains a cryptic symbol and was likewise popular with the SS. Azov also runs summer camps, where children are taught to embrace militarism, handle weapons, and chant “Glory to the nation! Death to enemies!” and “Ukraine above all!” Vadim Troyan, a deputy commander of the Azov Battalion, went on to become the chief of police for Kiev.

Another punitive battalion, the Aidar Battalion, was accused of war crimes in an Amnesty International report titled “Ukraine: Abuses and war crimes by the Aidar Volunteer Battalion in the north Luhansk region.” In what underscores the fascistic mentality of these battalions, the report quotes an Aidar commander, who told an Amnesty International investigator:

It’s not Europe. It’s a bit different… There is a war here. The law has changed, procedures have been simplified… If I choose to, I can have you arrested right now, put a bag over your head and lock you up in a cellar for 30 days on suspicion of aiding separatists.

Some of these paramilitary formations, such as the Tornado Battalion, resisted efforts to be integrated into the AFU, resulting in the dissolution of the unit and even the arrest of some of their members. When the phones of several Tornado commanders were seized by the authorities, it was revealed that they had raped girls in the Donbass and recorded it on their phones. Punitive battalions that agreed to be integrated into the military chain of command were, like rampaging savages, unleashed on those resisting the regime, and permitted – indeed, even encouraged – to commit atrocities and terrorize the local population at will.

In an article in Fort Russ News titled “Ukraine: Where Rape Is ‘Patriotic’ And Worth 100 Euros,” Svyatoslav Knyazev writes of the new Ukraine:

Ukraine, of course, is Europe. But it is medieval Europe in its worst aspects – executions and incarcerations in dungeons for irreverent criticisms of kings and dukes, the looting and plunder of residential areas by troops, torture for slander, and the right of the “nobility” to kill, maim, and rape “commoners” with impunity.

The insouciance on the part of most Americans regarding this barbarous regime that has murdered thousands of its own people, is tied to our morally bankrupt press and the jettisoning of history from the public schools. Indeed, if the only thing one can say about the Nazis is that they murdered Jews in death camps, it is impossible to understand the current conflict. Nazism is anchored in many repugnant things, anti-Semitism being one of them. A virulent Russophobia, a belief that Slavs are inferior to “Aryans,” a hatred of Gypsies, and a virulent anti-communism are also significant tenets of Nazi ideology.

Towards the end of the Second World War, the Allies began to cultivate relationships with Nazis and Nazi collaborators that could be used against the Soviets in the burgeoning Cold War. Of particular historic significance was Wehrmacht General    Reinhard Gehlen, who was in charge of Foreign Armies East, which oversaw military intelligence operations in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Utilizing his contacts within US Army Intelligence, and later the CIA, Gehlen managed not only to escape prosecution, but went on to found the Gehlen Organization, which would eventually become the precursor to West Germany’s federal intelligence agency, the BND. Gehlen would also go on to become the first president of the BND, where he proceeded to hire many Nazi war criminals that he had formerly worked with. (Today, the BND is one of the most powerful intelligence agencies in the world, and like the CIA, is sometimes referred to as “a state within a state.”) Gehlen possessed a wealth of information regarding fascist collaborators in Eastern Europe, including OUN and Ukrainian Insurgent Army members, some of whom went on to work for the CIA.

In an article in The Nation titled “The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities,” Stephen Cohen writes, “The entire Maidan episode, it will be recalled, had Washington’s enthusiastic political, and perhaps more tangible, support.” Indeed, the Obama administration’s support for the coup was the culmination of an alliance with the OUN that stretches back to the end of the Second World War. Moreover, the decision on the part of Washington to commence with the training of Ukraine’s National Guard on April 20th, 2015, was not lost on Ukrainians. For as neo-Nazis are well aware, this also happens to be Hitler’s birthday.

Throughout the conflict the AFU has repeatedly and deliberately shelled residential areas in the Donbass, thereby committing war crimes. On Kiev’s assault on Donetsk and Lugansk, Cohen writes:

Kiev has repeatedly carried out artillery and air attacks on city centers that have struck residential buildings, shopping malls, parks, schools, kindergartens, hospitals, even orphanages. More and more urban areas, neighboring towns and villages now look and sound like war zones, with telltale rubble, destroyed and pockmarked buildings, mangled vehicles, the dead and wounded in streets [sic], wailing mourners and crying children.

In an article in Foreign Policy titled “Yes, There Are Bad Guys in the Ukrainian Government,” the author, after taking some obligatory shots at Putin, sheepishly acknowledges that, “The uncomfortable truth is that a sizeable portion of Kiev’s current government — and the protesters who brought it to power — are, indeed, fascists.” Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of the Svoboda Party, and a fanatical Banderite and demagogue, rails not only against Russians, Jews, and communists, but also against Poles, Hungarians and Czechs. Enemies help keep the people frightened and compliant, and so the more the merrier. Svoboda Party deputy Iryna Farion, when asked about the people in the Donbass protesting the regime, said they should be shot. Russians still living in Ukraine following the putsch, said that they should be killed with nuclear weapons. Thankfully, these lunatics don’t have any.

These are some of the people for whom John McCain and Victoria Nuland gave their unequivocal support to during the bloody coup, romanticized ad nauseam by the mass media as a grassroots democratic uprising. Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs under Obama, and a driving force behind the coup, openly boasted that over five billion dollars had been invested in helping to bring about a pro-Western government in Kiev, and was caught in a taped conversation plotting the coup with Geoffrey Pyatt, the US ambassador to Ukraine at the time.

Indeed, the Russophobia of Washington and the Russophobia of the Banderites appear to have found common cause. Anne Applebaum, in an article for The New Republic titled “Nationalism Is Exactly What Ukraine Needs,” writes of the ethnic Russians in the Donbass: “For this—Donetsk, Slavyansk, Kramatorsk—is what a land without nationalism actually looks like: corrupt, anarchic, full of rent-a-mobs and mercenaries.” In an article in The Atlantic titled “Russia’s Strength Is Its Weakness,” the author informs us that, “Russia takes advantage of the divisions within the West—and within the United States—by driving wedges between its opponents, using psychological warfare, propaganda, and cyberwar.” Substitute “Russia” with “the Jews,” and this could have been written by Goebbels.

The assassinations of the prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, along with charismatic rebel commanders Givi, Motorola, and socialist Aleksey Mozgovoy failed to break the spirit of those resisting the Banderite regime. Nevertheless, these assassinations did succeed in irrevocably destroying the Minsk Agreements, rendering dialogue and a diplomatic solution impossible for the foreseeable future. The mass media vilifies those resisting the Poroshenko government as separatists and terrorists, but the reality is that these four men are hailed as heroes in the Donbass for protecting the people from fascism and Banderite death squads. You can watch Givi’s funeral here:

Installing a gang of thugs and con artists in Kiev is an echo of the same bloody scenario that has played out with dozens of other countries around the world. Indeed, this has become the time-honored method with which Washington has been able to implement puppet regimes, as neo-Nazis and Banderites could no more win a fair election than ISIS would be able to, just as both would be unable to survive without foreign support.

And while the Western elites have imposed multiculturalism and identity politics at home, they have simultaneously fomented a resurgence of Nazism in Eastern Europe. If these two ideologies are diametrically opposed to one another, how is it that they came to be supported by the exact same people?

Following the initial clashes between the AFU and the self-defense militias, the Ukrainian army was so poorly officered and equipped that the war would have ended in a matter of months, were it not for the military aid provided by Washington and other NATO countries. Should the AFU threaten to overrun Donetsk and Lugansk with its new revamped military, there will be tremendous pressure on Putin to intervene. And as is also the case in Syria, there is a danger that these tensions could spill over into a direct military confrontation between the two nuclear powers.

In a speech given at the Odessa Opera House on October 23rd, 2014, Poroshenko said of the people in the Donbass: “We will have our jobs. They will not. We will have our pensions. They will not…. Our children will go to schools and kindergartens. Theirs will be holed up in basements.” The Ukrainian nationalist dream of an ethnically pure state has, like a resurrected demon, once more set fire to this ancient land, as the black sun of violation spreads its wings over the ravaged earth, enveloping the bestial, the brave and the innocent alike.

500 years is long enough! Human Depravity in the Congo

I would like to tell you something about human depravity and illustrate just how widespread it is among those we often regard as ‘responsible’. I am going to use the Democratic Republic of the Congo as my example.

As I illustrate and explain what has happened to the Congo and its people during the past 500 years, I invite you to consider my essential point: Human depravity has no limit unless people like you (hopefully) and me take some responsibility for ending it. Depravity, barbarity and violent exploitation will not end otherwise because major international organizations (such as the UN), national governments and corporations all benefit from it and are almost invariably led by individuals too cowardly to act on the truth.

The Congo

Prior to 1482, the area of central Africa now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo was part of the Kingdom of the Kongo. It was populated by some of the greatest civilizations in human history.

Slavery

However, in that fateful year of 1482, the mouth of the Congo River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean, became known to Europeans when the Portuguese explorer Diogo Cao claimed he ‘discovered’ it. By the 1530s, more than five thousand slaves a year (many from inland regions of the Kongo) were being transported to distant lands, mostly in the Americas. Hence, as documented by Adam Hochschild in King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa, the Congo was first exploited by Europeans during the Atlantic slave trade.

Despite the horrific depredations of the militarized slave trade and all of its ancillary activities, including Christian priests spreading ‘Christianity’ while raping their captive slave girls, the Kingdoms of the Kongo were able to defend and maintain themselves to a large degree for another 400 years by virtue of their long-standing systems of effective governance. As noted by Chancellor Williams’ in his epic study The Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race from 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D. the Kingdoms of the Congo prior to 1885 – including Kuba under Shyaam the Great and the Matamba Kingdom under Ngola Kambolo – were a cradle of culture, democracy and exceptional achievement with none more effective than the remarkable Queen (of Ndongo and Matamba), warrior and diplomat Nzinga in the 17th century.

But the ruthless military onslaught of the Europeans never abated. In fact, it continually expanded with ever-greater military firepower applied to the task of conquering Africa. In 1884 European powers met in Germany to finally divide ‘this magnificent African cake’, precipitating what is sometimes called ‘the scramble for Africa’ but is more accurately described as ‘the scramble to finally control and exploit Africa and Africans completely’.

Colonization

One outcome of the Berlin Conference was that the great perpetrator of genocide – King Leopold II of Belgium – with the active and critical support of the United States, seized violent control of a vast swathe of central Africa in the Congo Basin and turned it into a Belgian colony. In Leopold’s rapacious pursuit of rubber, gold, diamonds, mahogany and ivory, 10 million African men, women and children had been slaughtered and many Africans mutilated (by limb amputation, for example) by the time he died in 1909. His brutality and savagery have been documented by Adam Hochschild in the book King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa which reveals the magnitude of human suffering that this one man, unopposed in any significant way by his fellow Belgians or anyone else, was responsible for inflicting on Africa.

If you want to spend a few moments in touch with the horror of what some human beings do to other human beings, then I invite you to look at the sample photos of what Leopold did in ‘his’ colony in the Congo. See A Nightmare In Heaven – Why Nobody Is Talking About The Holocaust in Congo.

Now if you were hoping that the situation in the Congo improved with the death of the monster Leopold, your hope is in vain.

The shocking reality is that the unmitigated horror inflicted on the Congolese people has barely improved since Leopold’s time. The Congo remained under Belgian control during World War I during which more than 300,000 Congolese were forced to fight against other Africans from the neighboring German colony of Ruanda-Urundi. During World War II when Nazi Germany captured Belgium, the Congo financed the Belgian government in exile.

Throughout these decades, the Belgian government forced millions of Congolese into mines and fields using a system of ‘mandatory cultivation’ that forced people to grow cash crops for export, even as they starved on their own land.

It was also during the colonial period that the United States acquired a strategic stake in the enormous natural wealth of the Congo without, of course, any benefit to the Congolese people. This included its use of uranium from a Congolese mine (subsequently closed in 1960) to manufacture the first nuclear weapons: those used to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Independence then Dictatorship

By 1960, the Congolese people had risen up to overthrow nearly a century of slavery and Belgian rule. Patrice Lumumba became the first Prime Minister of the new nation and he quickly set about breaking the yoke of Belgian influence and allied the Congo with Russia at the height of the Cold War.

But the victory of the Congolese people over their European and US overlords was shortlived: Patrice Lumumba was assassinated in a United States-sponsored coup in 1961 with the US and other western imperial powers (and a compliant United Nations) repeating a long-standing and ongoing historical pattern of preventing an incredibly wealthy country from determining its own future and using its resources for the benefit of its own people.

So, following a well-worn modus operandi, an agent in the form of (Army Chief of Staff, Colonel) Mobutu Sese Seko was used to overthrow Lumumba’s government. Lumumba himself was captured and tortured for three weeks before being assassinated by firing squad. The new dictator Mobutu, compliant to western interests, then waged all-out war in the country, publicly executing members of the pro-Lumumba revolution in spectacles witnessed by tens of thousands of people. By 1970 nearly all potential threats to his authority had been smashed.

Mobutu would rape the Congo (renamed Zaire for some time) with the blessing of the west  – robbing the nation of around $2billion – from 1965 to 1997. During this period, the Congo got more than $1.5 billion in US economic and military aid in return for which US multinational corporations increased their share of the Congo’s abundant minerals.  Washington justified its hold on the Congo with the pretext of anti-Communism but its real interests were strategic and economic.

Invasion

Eventually, however, Mobutu’s increasingly hostile rhetoric toward his white overlords caused the west to seek another proxy. So, ostensibly in retaliation against Hutu rebels from the Rwandan genocide of 1994 – who fled into eastern Congo after Paul Kagame’s (Tutsi) Rwanda Patriotic Army invaded Rwanda from Uganda to end the genocide – in October 1996 Rwanda’s now-dictator Kagame, ‘who was trained in intelligence at Fort Leavenworth in the United States, invaded the Congo with the help of the Clinton Administration and Uganda. By May 1997 the invading forces had removed Mobutu and installed the new (more compliant) choice for dictator, Laurent Kabila.

Relations between Kabila and Kagame quickly soured, however, and Kabila expelled the Rwandans and Ugandans from the Congo in July 1998. However, the Rwandans and Ugandans reinvaded in August establishing an occupation force in eastern Congo. Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia sent their armies to support Kabila and Burundi joined the Rwandans and Ugandans. Thus began ‘Africa’s First World War‘ involving seven armies and lasting until 2003. It eventually killed six million people – most of them civilians – and further devastated a country crushed by more than a century of Western domination, with Rwanda and Uganda establishing themselves as conduits for illegally taking strategic minerals out of the Congo.

During the periods under Mobutu and Kabila, the Congo became the concentration camp capital of the world and the rape capital as well. ‘No woman in the path of the violence was spared. 7 year olds were raped by government troops in public. Pregnant women were disemboweled. Genital mutilation was commonplace, as was forced incest and cannibalism. The crimes were never punished, and never will be.’

Laurent Kabila maintained the status quo until he was killed by his bodyguard in 2001. Since then, his son and the current dictator Joseph Kabila has held power in violation of the Constitution. ‘He has murdered protesters and opposition party members, and has continued to obey the will of the west while his people endure unspeakable hells.’

Corporate and State Exploitation

While countries such as Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea, Switzerland and the UK are heavily involved one way or another (with other countries, such as Australia, somewhat less so), US corporations make a vast range of hitech products including microchips, cell phones and semiconductors using conflict minerals taken from the Congo . This makes companies like Intel, Apple, HP, and IBM culpable for funding the militias that control the mines.

But many companies are benefitting. For example,a 2002 report by the United Nations listed a ‘sample’ of 34 companies based in Europe and Asia that are importing minerals from the Congo via, in this case, Rwanda. The UN Report commented: ‘Illegal exploitation of the mineral and forest resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is taking place at an alarming rate. Two phases can be distinguished: mass-scale looting and the systematic and systemic exploitation of resources’. The mass-scale looting occurred during the initial phase of the invasion of the Congo by Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi when stockpiles of minerals, coffee, wood, livestock and money in the conquered territory were either taken to the invading countries or exported to international markets by their military forces or nationals. The subsequent systematic and systemic exploitation required planning and organization involving key military commanders, businessmen and government structures; it was clearly illegal.

For some insight into other issues making exploitation of the Congo possible but which are usually paid less attention – such as the roles of mercenaries, weapons dealers, US military training of particular rebel groups and the secret airline flights among key locations in the smuggling operations of conflict minerals – see the research of Keith Harmon Snow and David Barouski.

Has there been any official attempt to rein in this corporate exploitation?

A little. For example, the Obama-era US Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act of 2010 shone a spotlight on supply chains, pressuring companies to determine the origin of minerals used in their products and invest in removing conflict minerals from their supply chain. This resulted in some US corporations, conscious of the public relations implications of being linked to murderous warlords and child labor, complying with the Act. So, a small step in the right direction it seemed.

In 2011, given that legally-binding human rights provisions, if applied, should have offered adequate protections already, the United Nations rather powerlessly formulated the non-bindingGuiding Principles on Business and Human Rights‘.

And in 2015, the European Union also made a half-hearted attempt when it decided that smelters and refiners based in the 28-nation bloc be asked to certify that their imports were conflict-free on a voluntary basis!

However, following the election of Donald Trump as US President, in April 2017 ‘the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission suspended key provisions of its “conflict minerals” rule’. Trump is also seeking to undo the Obama-era financial regulations, once again opening the door to the unimpeded trade in blood minerals by US corporations.

Today

Despite its corrupt exploitation for more than 500 years, the Congo still has vast natural resources (including rainforests) and mineral wealth. Its untapped deposits of minerals are estimated to be worth in excess of $US24 trillion. Yes, that’s right: $US24trillion. With a host of rare strategic minerals – including cobalt, coltan, gold and diamonds – as well as copper, zinc, tin and tungsten critical to the manufacture of hi-tech electronic products ranging from aircraft and vehicles to computers and mobile phones, violent and morally destitute western governments and corporations are not about to let the Congo decide its own future and devote its resources to the people of this African country. This, of course, despite the international community paying lip service to a plethora of ‘human rights’ treaties.

Hence, violent conflict, including ongoing war, over the exploitation of these resources, including the smuggling of ‘conflict minerals’ – such as gold, coltan and cassiterite (the latter two ores of tantalum and tin, respectively), and diamonds – will ensure that the people of the Congo continue to be denied what many of those in western countries take for granted: the right to life benefiting from the exploitation of ‘their’ natural resources.

In essence then, since 1885 European and US governments, together with their corporations and African collaborators, have inflicted phenomenal ongoing atrocities on the peoples of the Congo as they exploit the vast resources of the country for the benefit of non-Congolese people.

But, you might wonder, European colonizers inflicted phenomenal violence on the indigenous peoples in all of their colonies – whether in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, the Caribbean or Oceania – so is their legacy in the Congo any worse?

Well, according to the The Pan-African Alliance, just since colonization in 1885, at least 25 million Congolese men, women and children have been slaughtered by white slave traders, missionaries, colonists, corporations and governments (both the governments of foreign-installed Congolese dictators and imperial powers). ‘Yet barely a mention is made of the holocaust that rages in the heart of Africa.’ Why? Because the economy of the entire world rests on the back of the Congo.

So what is happening now?

In a sentence: The latest manifestation of the violence and exploitation that has been happening since 1482 when that Portuguese explorer ‘discovered’ the mouth of the Congo River. The latest generation of European and American genocidal exploiters, and their latter-day cronies, is busy stealing what they can from the Congo. Of course, as illustrated above, having installed the ruthless dictator of their choosing to ensure that foreign interests are protected, the weapon of choice is the corporation and non-existent legal or other effective controls in the era of ‘free trade’.

The provinces of North and South Kivu in the eastern Congo are filled with mines of cassiterite, wolframite, coltan and gold. Much mining is done by locals eking out a living using Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM); that is, mining by hand, sometimes with rudimentary tools. Some of these miners sell their product via local agents to Congolese military commanders who smuggle it out of the country, usually via Rwanda, Uganda or Burundi, and use the proceeds to enrich themselves.

Another report on South Kivu by Global Witness in 2016 documented evidence of the corrupt links between government authorities, foreign corporations (in this case, Kun Hou Mining of China) and the military, which results in the gold dredged from the Ulindi River in South Kivu being illegally smuggled out of the country, with much of it ending up with Alfa Gold Corp in Dubai. The unconcealed nature of this corruption and the obvious lack of enforcement of weak Congolese law is a powerful disincentive for corporations to engage in ‘due diligence’ when conducting their own mining operations in the Congo.

In contrast, in the south of the Congo in the former province of Katanga, Amnesty International and Afrewatch researchers tracked sacks of cobalt ore that had been mined by artisanal miners in Kolwezi to the local market where the mineral ore is sold. From this point, the material was smelted by one of the large companies in Kolwezi, such as Congo Dongfang Mining International SARL (CDM), which is a smelter and fully-owned subsidiary of Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Company Ltd (Huayou Cobalt) in China, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of cobalt products. Once smelted, the material is typically exported from the Congo to China via a port in South Africa.

In its 2009 report ‘“Faced with a gun, what can you do?” War and the Militarisation of Mining in Eastern Congo’ examining the link between foreign corporate activity in the Congo and the military violence, Global Witness raised questions about the involvement of nearly 240 companies spanning the mineral, metal and technology industries. It specifically identified four main European companies as open buyers in this illegal trade: Thailand Smelting and Refining Corp. (owned by British Amalgamated Metal Corp.), British Afrimex, Belgian Trademet and Traxys. It also questioned the role of other companies further down the manufacturing chain, including prominent electronics companies Hewlett-Packard, Nokia, Dell and Motorola (a list to which Microsoft and Samsung should have been added as well). Even though they may be acting ‘legally’, Global Witness criticized their lack of due diligence and transparency standards at every level of their supply chain.

Of course, as you no doubt expect, some of the world’s largest corporate miners are in the Congo. These include Glencore (Switzerland) and Freeport-McMoRan (USA). But there are another 20 or more mining corporations in the Congo too, including Mawson West Limited (Australia), Forrest Group International (Belgium),  Anvil Mining (Canada), Randgold Resources (UK) and AngloGold Ashanti (South Africa).

Needless to say, despite beautifully worded ‘corporate responsibility statements’ by whatever name, the record rarely goes even remotely close to resembling the rhetoric. Take Glencore’s lovely statement on ‘safety’ in the Congo: ‘Ask Glencore: Democratic Republic of the Congo’. Unfortunately, this didn’t prevent the 2016 accident at a Congolese mine that one newspaper reported in the following terms: ‘Glencore’s efforts to reduce fatalities among its staff have suffered a setback with the announcement that the death toll from an accident at a Congolese mine has risen to seven.’

Or consider the Belgian Forrest Group International’s wonderful ‘Community Services’  program, supposedly developing projects ‘in the areas of education, health, early childhood care, culture, sport, infrastructure and the environment. The Forrest Group has been investing on the African continent since 1922. Its longevity is the fruit of a vision of the role a company should have, namely the duty to be a positive player in the society in which it operates. The investments of the Group share a common core of values which include, as a priority, objectives of stability and long-term prospects.’

Regrettably, the Forrest Group website and public relations documents make no mention of the company’s illegal demolition, without notice, of hundreds of homes of people who lived in the long-standing village of Kawama, inconveniently close to the Forrest Group’s Luiswishi Mine, on 24 and 25 November 2009. People were left homeless and many lost their livelihoods as a direct consequence. Of course, the demolitions constitute forced evictions, which are illegal under international human rights law.

Fortunately, given the obvious oversight of the Forrest Group in failing to mention it, the demolitions have been thoroughly documented by Amnesty International in its report ‘Bulldozed – How a Mining Company Buried the Truth about Forced Evictions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’  and the satellite photographs acquired by the American Academy for the Advancement of Science have been published as well.

Needless to say, it is difficult for Congolese villagers to feel they have any ‘stability and long-term prospects’, as the Forrest Group’s ‘Community Services’ statement puts it, when their homes and livelihoods have been destroyed. Are company chairman George A. Forrest and its CEO Malta David Forrest and their family delusional? Or just so familiar with being violently ruthless in their exploitation of the Congo and its people, that it doesn’t even occur to them that there might be less violent ways of resolving any local conflicts?

Tragically, of course, fatal industrial accidents and housing demolition are only two of the many abuses inflicted on mining labourers, including (illegal) child labourers, and families in the Congo where workers are not even provided with the most basic ‘safety equipment’ – work clothes, helmets, gloves, boots and face masks – let alone a safe working environment (including guidance on the safe handling of toxic substances) or a fair wage, reasonable working hours, holidays, sick leave or superannuation.

Even where laws exist, such as the Congo’s Child Protection Code (2009) which provides for ‘free and compulsory primary education for all children’, laws are often simply ignored (without legal consequence). Although, it should also be noted, in the Congo there is no such thing as ‘free education’ despite the law. Consequently, plenty of children do not attend school and work full time, others attend school but work out of school hours. There is no effective system to remove children from child labour (which is well documented). Even for adults, there is no effective labour inspection system. Most artisanal mining takes places in unauthorized mining areas where the government is doing next to nothing to regulate the safety and labour conditions in which the miners work.

In addition, as noted above, given its need for minerals to manufacture the hi-tech products it makes, including those for western corporations, China is deeply engaged in mining strategic minerals in the Congo too.

Based on the Chinese notion of ‘respect’ – which includes the ‘principle’ of noninterference in each other’s internal affairs – the Chinese dictatorship is content to ignore the dictatorship of the Congo and its many corrupt and violent practices, even if its investment often has more beneficial outcomes for ordinary Congolese than does western ‘investment’. Moreover, China is not going to disrupt and destabilize the Congo in the way that the United States and European countries have done for so long.

Having noted the above, however, there is plenty of evidence of corrupt Chinese business practice in the extraction and sale of strategic minerals in the Congo, including that documented in the above-mentioned Global Witness report.

Moreover, Chinese involvement is not limited to its direct engagement in mining such as gold dredging of the Ulindi River. A vital source of the mineral cobalt is that which is mined by artisanal miners. As part of a recent detailed investigation, Amnesty International had researchers follow cobalt mined by artisanal miners from where it was mined to a market at Musompo, where minerals are traded. The report summarised what happens:

Independent traders at Musompo – most of them Chinese – buy the ore, regardless of where it has come from or how it has been mined. In turn, these traders sell the ore on to larger companies in the DRC which process and export it. One of the largest companies at the centre of this trade is Congo Dongfang Mining International (CDM). CDM is a 100% owned subsidiary of China-based Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Company Ltd (Huayou Cobalt), one of the world’s largest manufacturers of cobalt products. Operating in the DRC since 2006, CDM buys cobalt from traders, who buy directly from the miners. CDM then smelts the ore at its plant in the DRC before exporting it to China. There, Huayou Cobalt further smelts and sells the processed cobalt to battery component manufacturers in China and South Korea. In turn, these companies sell to battery manufacturers, which then sell on to well-known consumer brands.

Using public records, including investor documents and statements published on company websites, researchers identified battery component manufacturers who were listed as sourcing processed ore from Huayou Cobalt. They then went on to trace companies who were listed as customers of the battery component manufacturers, in order to establish how the cobalt ends up in consumer products. In seeking to understand how this international supply chain works, as well as to ask questions about each company’s due diligence policy, Amnesty International wrote to Huayou Cobalt and 25 other companies in China, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, UK, and the USA. These companies include some of the world’s largest and best known consumer electronics companies, including Apple Inc., Dell, HP Inc. (formerly Hewlett-Packard Company), Huawei, Lenovo (Motorola), LG, Microsoft Corporation, Samsung, Sony and Vodafone, as well as vehicle manufacturers like Daimler AG, Volkswagen and Chinese firm BYD. Their replies are detailed in the report’s Annex.

As backdrop to the problems mentioned above, it is worth pointing out that keeping the country under military siege is useful to many parties, internal and foreign. Over the past 20 years of violent conflict, control of these valuable mineral resources has been a lucrative way for warring parties to finance their violence – that is, buying the products of western weapons corporations – and to promote the chaotic circumstances that make minimal accountability and maximum profit easiest. The Global Witness report ‘Faced with a gun, what can you do?’ cited above followed the supply chain of these minerals from warring parties to middlemen to international buyers: people happy to profit from the sale of ‘blood minerals’ to corporations which, in turn, are happy to buy them cheaply to manufacture their highly profitable hi-tech products.

Moreover, according to the Global Witness report, although the Congolese army and rebel groups – such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel force opposed to the Rwandan government that has taken refuge in the Congo since the 1994 Rwanda genocide – have been warring on opposite sides for years. They are collaborators in the mining effort, at times providing each other with road and airport access and even sharing their spoils. Researchers say they found evidence that the mineral trade is much more extensive and profitable than previously suspected: one Congolese government official reported that at least 90% of all gold exports from the country were undeclared. And the report charges that the failure of foreign governments to crack down on illicit mining and trade has undercut development endeavors supposedly undertaken by the international community in the war-torn region.

Social and Environmental Costs

Of course, against this background of preoccupation with the militarized exploitation of mineral resources for vast profit, ordinary Congolese people suffer extraordinary ongoing violence. Apart from the abuses mentioned above, four women are raped every five minutes in the Congo, according to a study done in May 2011. ‘These nationwide estimates of the incidence of rape are 26 times higher than the 15,000 conflict-related cases confirmed by the United Nations for the DRC in 2010’. Despite the country having the highest number of UN peacekeeping forces in the world – where the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) has operated since the turn of the century – the level of sexual violence soldiers have perpetrated against women is staggering. Currently, there is still much violence in the region, as well as an overwhelming amount of highly strategic mass rape.

Unsurprisingly, given the international community’s complete indifference, despite rhetoric to the contrary, to the plight of Congolese people, it is not just Congolese soldiers who are responsible for the rapes. UN ‘peacekeepers’ are perpetrators too.

And the Congo is a violently dangerous place for children as well with, for example, Child Soldiers International reporting that with a variety of national and foreign armed groups and forces operating in the country for over 20 years, the majority of fighting forces have recruited and used children, and most still exploit boys and girls today with girls forced to become girl soldiers but to perform a variety of other sexual and ‘domestic’ roles too. Of course, child labour is completely out of control with many impoverished families utterly dependent on it for survival.

In addition, many Congolese also end up as refugees in neighbouring countries or as internally displaced people in their own country.

As you would expect, it is not just human beings who suffer. With rebel soldiers (such as the Rwanda-backed M23), miners and poachers endlessly plundering inadequately protected national parks and other wild places for their resources, illegal mining is rampant, over-fishing a chronic problem, illegal logging (and other destruction such as charcoal burning for cooking) of rain forests is completely out of control in some places, poaching of hippopotamuses, elephants, chimpanzees and okapi for ivory and bushmeat is unrelenting (often despite laws against hunting with guns), and wildlife trafficking of iconic species (including the increasingly rare mountain gorilla) simply beyond the concern of most people.

The Congolese natural environment – including the UNESCO World Heritage sites at Virunga National Park and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, together with their park rangers – and the indigenous peoples such as the Mbuti (‘pygmies’) who live in them, are under siege. In addition to the ongoing mining, smaller corporations that can’t compete with the majors, such as Soco, want to explore and drill for oil. For a taste of the reading on all this, see ‘Virunga National Park Ranger Killed in DRC Ambush‘, ‘The struggle to save the “Congolese unicorn“‘, ‘Meet the First Female Rangers to Guard One of World’s Deadliest Parks‘ and ‘The Battle for Africa’s Oldest National Park‘.

If you would like to watch a video about some of what is happening in the Congo, either of these videos will give you an unpleasant taste: ‘Crisis In The Congo: Uncovering The Truth‘ and ‘Conflict Minerals, Rebels and Child Soldiers in Congo‘.

Resisting the Violence

So what is happening to resist this violence and exploitation? Despite the horror, as always, some incredible people are working to end it.

Some Congolese activists resist the military dictatorship of Joseph Kabila, despite the enormous risks of doing so.

Some visionary Congolese continue devoting their efforts, in phenomenally difficult circumstances including lack of funding, to building a society where ordinary Congolese people have the chance to create a meaningful life for themselves. Two individuals and organizations who particularly inspire me are based in Goma in eastern Congo where the fighting is worst.

The Association de Jeunes Visionnaires pour le Développement du Congo, headed by Leon Simweragi, is a youth peace group that works to rehabilitate child soldiers as well as offer meaningful opportunities for the sustainable involvement of young people in matters that affect their lives and those of their community.

And Christophe Nyambatsi Mutaka is the key figure at the Groupe Martin Luther King that promotes active nonviolence, human rights and peace. Christophe’s group particularly works on reducing sexual and other violence against women.

There are also solidarity groups, based in the West, that work to draw attention to the nightmare happening in the Congo. These include Friends of the Congo that works to inform people and agitate for change and groups like Child Soldiers International mentioned above.

If you would like to better understand the depravity of those individuals in the Congo (starting with the dictator Joseph Kabila but including all those officials, bureaucrats and soldiers) who enable, participate in or ignore the violence and exploitation; the presidents and prime ministers of western governments who ignore exploitation, by their locally-based corporations, of the Congo; the heads of multinational corporations that exploit the Congo – such as Anthony Hayward (Chair of Glencore), Richard Adkerson (CEO of Freeport-McMoRan), George A. Forrest and Malta David Forrest (Chair and CEO respectively of Forrest Group International), Christopher L Coleman (Chair of Randgold Resources) and Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan (CEO of AngloGold Ashanti) – as well as those individuals in international organizations such as the UN (starting with Secretary-General António Guterres) and the EU (headed by Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission), who ignore, provoke, support and/or profit from this violence and exploitation, you will find the document ‘Why Violence?‘ and the website ‘Feelings First‘ instructive.

Whether passively or actively complicit, each of these depraved individuals (along with other individuals within the global elite) does little or nothing to draw attention to, let alone work to profoundly change, the situation in the Congo which denies most Congolese the right to a meaningful life in any enlightened sense of these words.

If you would like to help, you can do so by supporting the efforts of the individual activists and solidarity organizations indicated above or those like them.

You might also like to sign the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘ which references the Congo among many other examples of violence around the world.

And if you would like to support efforts to remove the dictatorship of Joseph Kabila and/or get corrupt foreign governments, corporations and organizations out of the Congo, you can do so by planning and implementing or supporting a nonviolent strategy that is designed to achieve one or more of these objectives.

If you are still reading this article and you feel the way I do about this ongoing atrocity, then I invite you to participate, one way or another, in ending it.

For more than 500 years, the Congo has been brutalized by the extraordinary violence inflicted by those who have treated the country as a resource – for slaves, rubber, timber, wildlife and minerals – to be exploited.

This will only end when enough of us commit ourselves to acting on the basis that 500 years is long enough. Liberate the Congo!

“Chlorine delivered”: Idlib Militants “readying False Flag Attack” in Syrian Village, Russian MoD

File Photo. © Ammar Safarjalani / Global Look Press

Militants in Syria’s Idlib have transported several canisters containing chlorine to the village of Bsanqul, apparently preparing to stage a false flag chemical attack, the Russian Defense Ministry has said.

The chlorine-filled canisters were delivered by the Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants of Tahrir al Sham, formerly known as Al-Nusra Front, a spokesman of the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria, Lieutenant General Vladimir Savchenko, said in a statement Saturday. He added that the latest developments showed that the militants are preparing for a false flag attack that would be used to accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against its people.

White Helmets making films of ‘chemical attacks’ with orphans in Idlib – Russian military

The US and its allies have so far dismissed the Russian warnings, but said that the government in Damascus might instead be preparing chemical attacks against civilians. Moscow has suggested that the attack might be prepared with the support of Washington, which wants to justify further air strikes against Syria. Those planned strikes are said to be much larger in scale than those launched against the Syrian military by the US, the UK and France in April.

It comes as Washington has been building up its military presence in the region. In late August, the missile destroyer USS Ross was deployed to the Mediterranean, carrying 28 Tomahawk cruise missiles, while the USS The Sullivans was deployed to the Persian Gulf and a B-1B Lancer strategic bomber was moved to an air base in Qatar.

Most recently, the USS Bulkeley (DDG-84), an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, entered the Mediterranean through the Straits of Gibraltar. Last week, the attack submarine USS Newport News (SSN-750) arrived in the Mediterranean as well.

With the arrival of the Bulkeley, the US forces in the region reportedly have up to 200 Tomahawk cruise missiles available to strike targets in Syria if ordered to do so, Russian media reports.

US Plans to Use Fake Chemical Weapons Attack to Strike Syria: Russian MoD

FILE PHOTO. © Paul Hanna / Reuters

The US may have plans to use a fake chemical attack in Syria to hit government forces with airstrikes, the Russian Defense Ministry has said. Washington is already building up strike capability in the Middle East, it said.

The warning comes a day after the Russian military said it had information about a looming provocation in Syria’s Idlib governorate, which would involve a staged chemical weapons attack. The US earlier warned it would respond to a chemical weapons attack by Syrian government forces with retaliatory strikes, which would be stronger than those conducted by the US, the UK and France in April.

‘Foreign specialists’ may stage chemical attack in Syria in 2 days to frame Assad – Russian MoD

In a statement published on Monday, the Russian MoD said it noted the deployment to the Mediterranean last weekend of the missile destroyer USS Ross carrying 28 Tomahawk cruise missiles on board. It came after a similar move of the USS The Sullivans to the Persian Gulf and the rebasing of a B-1B Lancer strategic bomber to an air base in Qatar. The Russian ministry said the “preparations are the latest evidence of the US intention to use the” expected provocation.

The statement reiterated that the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham militant group, previously known as Al-Nusra Front, was preparing a staged chlorine attack in a city in Idlib. It alleged that a group of jihadists, trained in the handling of chemical weapons by the British private military contractor Olive Group, has already arrived in Jisr al-Shughur. The group will “stage decontamination of victims of a staged chemical weapons attack posing as members of the notorious White Helmets group,” the ministry claimed.

“The implementation of this provocation, which is being conducted with the assistance of the British intelligence services, is meant to serve as the latest pretext for the US, Britain and France to deliver a missile strike against state and economic facilities in Syria,” said General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry.

On August 22, US National Security Advisor John Bolton stated that “if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons, we will respond very strongly and they really ought to think about this a long time.”

In April, a reported chlorine attack in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta neighborhood served as justification for the US, UK, and France to attack what they claimed to be sites involved in a clandestine Syrian chemical weapons program. The missile attacks came just as a team of international inspectors was set to arrive at the scene to collect evidence of the supposed attack.

Later, residents of the area told journalists that the footage of the treatment of the alleged victims of the attack was filmed by the White Helmets group after they orchestrated a panic at a local hospital. The patients there were not poisoned by chlorine, local medics said. The footage was presented by the mainstream media as proof that an attack took place.

Life-giving Light and Those Who Would Snuff it Out

The concluding sentence of Roy Medvedev’s superb account of Russia during the Stalin years reads:

When the cult of Stalin’s personality was exposed [in the XXth and XXIInd Congresses in 1956 and 1961 respectively] a great step was made to recovery.1

It’s a vital point, similar to that made by the incredible truth and reconciliation commission event that followed the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa, and that point is this: before any society can really advance it must recognise and admit to itself the mistakes and crimes perpetrated by its own trusted leaders. Or, as Rosa Luxemburg once put it:

Self-criticism – ruthless, harsh self-criticism, which gets down to the root of things – that is the life-giving light and air of the proletarian movement.2

Yet self-criticism of our own governments is almost impossible. Infinitely more effective than state censorship – which can restrict criticism – is self-censorship, and that’s pretty much what we have: a society which is incapable of seriously challenging those in power, let alone calling them to account for any wrongdoing – not through any state-imposed censorship, but through creating a culture that’s utterly brainwashed into believing the perfection of their constitution and therefore refusing to even imagine its very considerable imperfections. Whilst we do not have the domestic death squads and concentration camps of Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia to enforce domestic obedience, we still have loyal populations that are almost as effectively programmed to believe the perfections of their state leaders and their institutions as many Germans and Russians were during the Hitler and Stalin years.

In Britain, for example, in 2015 when the leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett was provocatively questioned about the Party’s well-known opposition to monarchy she remarked,

I can’t see that the Queen is ever going to be really poor, but I’m sure we can find a council house for her — we’re going to build lots more.

This obviously whimsical comment, although factually reasonable, provoked the following headline in The Independent: ‘We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,’ say Greens

Similar sensationalist headlines led in almost every newspaper and TV news broadcast. Green Party membership, which had been surging until that moment, immediately fell off a cliff. I was a membership secretary for our local Green Party branch at the time and had been signing up new members at the rate of about two a week. New memberships not only stopped completely, but some who had just joined us immediately cancelled their memberships. And this from people who would see themselves as progressives. No need to guess how Tory voters, who comprise most voters, reacted to Bennett’s quip. Such is the level of brainwashing in a supposedly democratic country about the perfection of the British monarchy, and its unchallengeable position as unelected head of state.

But it’s not just Britain that has to endure a majority of brainwashed citizens. I remember seeing a TV documentary about the time of the illegal Iraq War in 2003. The programme was about heroic US marines bravely defending western freedom, by helping to kill defenseless Iraqi civilians. Some of the heroes were interviewed about the hard time they were having, and the one that will forever stick in my mind implied that no amount of personal suffering was too great for him. “I would slit my own throat for my president”, he said. So Iraqi civilians didn’t have much chance.

The marine’s remark reminded me of a quote in Medvedev’s book, showing the similarity between modern US citizens and the brainwashed Russians of Stalin’s day:

Just as [religious] believers attribute everything good to god and everything bad to the devil, so everything good was attributed to Stalin and everything bad to evil forces that Stalin himself was [supposedly] fighting. “Long live Stalin!” some officials shouted as they were taken to be shot.3

When, very occasionally, some of the major crimes of our great trusted leaders are brought to our attention, there is never any clamouring for justice, no national outrage that the public’s trust could be so cheaply squandered. Whilst some newspapers might print a subdued story or two, located somewhere towards the bottom of page thirty nine, and whilst national TV stations may record a few words tucked away deeply buried somewhere on their websites, in the sacred name of “balance”, the real gravity of the misdeeds of our trusted leaders are otherwise routinely ignored, and the revelations are quickly lost in the usual myriad of trivial distractions.

For example, when, after many years and thirteen million pounds of treasure, the Chilcot Report was eventually published, effectively providing sufficient evidence for Tony Blair and other establishment leaders to be indicted for war crimes, no such calls from our trusted leaders were heard – just a deafening silence, followed almost immediately by business as usual.   But those who dare to provide the evidence of our rulers’ misdeeds are quickly and viciously victimized – as any whistleblower could easily confirm; with the better-known of whom, such as Daniel Ellsberg, Mordechai Vanunu, Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Ed Snowden standing as fine examples of the terrible consequences of speaking the truth about power. This is how Rosa Luxemburg’s ruthless self-criticism is rendered impossible in our “free” societies where official censorship doesn’t exist, but where official “news” isn’t worth censoring.

One of the holiest cows of the establishment, the institution which, almost above any other, will not tolerate any form of criticism, are our so-called “defence” forces. The word “hero” has been re-defined to mean absolutely anyone wearing a military uniform. TV commercials encouraging young people to join the armed forces appear almost every night. TV programmes depicting the military as brave heroes resisting overwhelming odds in the sacred name of freedom and democracy appear almost every night. Every year people adorn themselves in little plastic poppies and stand in silence for two minutes on the 11th November, not so much to recall those who were needlessly slaughtered for the supposed “war to end all war”, but to serve as a subliminal recruitment aid. Criticising the armed forces is always strictly off limits.

The Annihilation of Raqqa

Yet a recent report by Amnesty International (AI), who investigated the devastating attack by western coalition forces on the Syrian city of Raqqa, is so damning that anyone who does not criticise those responsible is guilty by association of war crimes.4 They are in a similar position to those who silently stood by as their neighbours were carted-off to Nazi concentration camps. Although AI has a somewhat dubious reputation, earned mainly by its very tepid response to the multitude of horrors perpetrated over many years by the Zionist regime in Occupied Palestine, its latest report on Raqqa has some merit.

Raqqa, Syria, February 2018 (AI Photo)

No one will ever know how many civilians perished in last year’s battle for Raqqa. However, estimates for the numbers of people living in the city prior to the war are given at around 220,000, whilst the number estimated to be living there earlier this year is around 61,000.  Some civilians managed to flee the city, but many did not, as they were prevented from doing so by IS. Amnesty summarised the terrible situation for civilians as follows:

The four-month military operation to oust the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) from Raqqa, the Syrian city which IS had declared its capital, killed hundreds of civilians, injured many more and destroyed much of the city. During the course of the operation, from June to October 2017, homes, private and public buildings and infrastructure were reduced to rubble or damaged beyond repair.

Residents were trapped, as fighting raged in Raqqa’s streets between IS militants and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters, and US-led Coalition’s air and artillery strikes rocked the city. With escape routes mined by IS and the group’s snipers shooting at those trying to flee, civilians fled from place to place within the city, desperately seeking refuge or escape. Some were killed in their homes; some in the very places where they had sought refuge, and others as they tried to flee.5

If Amnesty was referring to North Korea, say, or Iran, Russia, China, or the Syrian government, almost certainly its report would have been leading the western world’s news broadcasts. Outraged politicians and their tame propagandists in the mainstream media would have been demanding that “something should be done”. But those countries were not the subjects of the Amnesty report. It was referring instead to the biggest villains in the world — the US and British governments, joined on this occasion by France. Although other countries were implicated in this particular “coalition of the willing”, their roles were relatively minor. Consequently our politicians and their lackeys in the mainstream media seem hardly to have noticed AI’s report. Once again the truth is available, but has been conveniently self-censored by all the usual tricks of state.

Entire neighbourhoods in Raqqa are damaged beyond repair (AI Photo)

Two investigators from AI spent two weeks in February 2018 visiting the ruins of Raqqa. They went to 42 different locations and interviewed 112 civilian residents. About half of the report focuses mainly on the personal stories of four families whose lives were devastated by the “liberation” of Raqqa from IS occupation by the combined efforts of western firepower, and ground-troops supplied by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – a mainly Kurdish militia.

Although the so-called global coalition:

boasts membership of 71 countries and four inter-governmental organisations; an eclectic alliance including nations as diverse as Panama and Poland, Australia and Afghanistan. Some Coalition members, Chad, for example, or Niger, are likely to have given support in name only. Others, particularly European states, were more deeply involved, although the exact extent of their actions is not always clear.6

Whilst most people are probably aware that US, British and French air forces bombed countless targets in Syria generally, and specifically here, in Raqqa, fewer people know about the involvement of western ground troops. But AI tells us:

[T]he US deployed some 2,000 of its own troops to north-eastern Syria, many of whom were engaged in direct combat operations, notably firing artillery into Raqqa from positions outside the city. In addition, a smaller number of special forces were operating close to front lines alongside SDF members. British and French special forces were also deployed to the area, but in much smaller numbers.

Among the US deployment were Army High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) with GPS-directed 227mm rockets, which could be fired from 300km away, as well as hundreds of Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and the 24th MEU equipped with M777 howitzers, which they used to rain down 155mm artillery fire upon the city from a distance of up to 30km.6

Children riding a bicycle among destroyed buildings in Raqqa. (AI Photo)

AI concludes its summary of the involvement of “coalition” forces as follows:

The Coalition launched tens of thousands of strikes on Raqqa during the military campaign. Of these, more than 4,000 were air strikes, almost all of them carried out by US forces. British forces carried out some 215 air strikes, while the French military was responsible for some 50 air strikes with the overwhelming majority – more than 90% – carried out by US piloted aircraft and drones. No other members of the Coalition are known to have carried out air strikes in Raqqa. At the same time, US Marines launched tens of thousands artillery shells into and around Raqqa…

While Coalition forces operated mostly from positions several kilometres outside the city, a small number of special operation forces from Coalition member states – notably the US, UK and France – operated alongside the SDF close to front line position in/around the city, reportedly mostly in an advisory rather than combat role.

The SDF were partly responsible for locating targets for Coalition air and artillery strikes. It is not clear what percentage of the Coalition air and artillery strikes were carried out based on co-ordinates provided by the SDF – as opposed to strikes on targets identified by Coalition forces themselves through air surveillance or other means – and the extent to which Coalition forces verified targets identified by the SDF prior to launching strikes on those targets.7

Although Kurdish militia were reportedly too lightly-armed to be physically accountable for the destruction of Raqqa, their target identification function was clearly significant.

It has long been routine for the military’s propaganda machine to dismiss concerns about civilian casualties inside war zones, and the carnage wreaked on Raqqa was no exception. Furthermore, the military’s word is always accepted at face value.

[A]t the height of conflict in Raqqa, Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend wrote that ‘… there has never been a more precise air campaign in the history of armed conflict’.8

But the alleged accuracy of the ordnance used by the military is not the point. The point is that no matter how smart the smart bombs are, they’re still killing civilians – and that’s a war crime. An estimated 4,000 bombs were dropped on the defenceless civilians of Raqqa by “coalition” warplanes. Given that many of those are only accurate, on a good day, to within ten metres of their target, it’s very clear to see that these alone must have accounted for considerable civilian casualties. But they may not have been the main problem.

Sergeant Major John Wayne Troxell (senior enlisted adviser to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), suggests that the Coalition operation was far from precise: ‘In five months they fired 35,000 artillery rounds on ISIS targets… They fired more rounds in five months in Raqqa, Syria, than any other Marine artillery battalion, or any Marine or Army battalion, since the Vietnam War.’8

But legitimate ISIS targets must have been almost negligible, as IS had immersed themselves amongst the civilian population. Given also that most artillery shells are considerably less accurate than guided missiles, and can only be expected to strike within a hundred metres of their targets, and given that tens of thousands of these things rained down on the trapped and defenceless civilians of Raqqa, the claims by the military’s propagandists that they tried everything possible to minimise civilian casualties are obviously ludicrous.

There has never been a more precise air campaign in the history of armed conflict [than in Raqqa]
— Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend

The ruins of the destroyed house where 28 members of the Badran family and five neighbours were killed in a Coalition strike on 20 August 2017 in Raqqa (AI Photo)

Isis withdraws, undefeated, from Raqqa

Sometime in October some sort of deal was suddenly worked out which allowed Isis to simply pack up and leave Raqqa, in a convoy of trucks, together with most of their weaponry. According to a BBC report, the deal:

enabled many hundreds of IS fighters to escape from the city. At the time, neither the US and British-led coalition, nor the SDF, which it backs, wanted to admit their part.  Has the pact, which stood as Raqqa’s dirty secret, unleashed a threat to the outside world – one that has enabled militants to spread far and wide across Syria and beyond?

Great pains were taken to hide it from the world. But the BBC has spoken to dozens of people who were either on the convoy, or observed it, and to the men who negotiated the deal…

[T]he convoy was six to seven kilometres long. It included almost 50 trucks, 13 buses and more than 100 of the Islamic State group’s own vehicles. IS fighters, their faces covered, sat defiantly on top of some of the vehicles…

Freed from Raqqa, where they were surrounded, some of the [IS] group’s most-wanted members have now spread far and wide across Syria and beyond.

War crimes

The US-led “coalition” undoubtedly committed a vast number of war crimes in the “liberation” of Raqqa, and the considerably-referenced AI report summarises the particular breaches of law applicable:

(a) The Principle of Distinction

This requires parties to conflict to at all times, ‘distinguish between civilians and combatants’ and to ensure that ‘attacks may only be directed against combatants’ and ‘must not be directed against civilians’. Parties to conflict must also distinguish between ‘civilian objects’ and ‘military objectives’. Anyone who is not a member of the armed forces of a party to the conflict is a civilian, and the civilian population comprises all persons who are not combatants. Civilians are protected against attack unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities. In cases of doubt, individuals should be presumed to be civilians and immune from direct attack. Making the civilian population, or individual civilians not taking a direct part in hostilities, the object of attack (direct attacks on civilians) is a war crime (My emphasis).9

It isn’t clear how hard the “coalition” tried to distinguish combatants from non-combatants, but in the four detailed case studies that Amnesty supplied – which were the tragic stories of just four families from a city of tens of thousands – it would appear they didn’t try very hard at all. One such piece of evidence was supplied by “Ammar”, who

told Amnesty International that on ‘the second or third day of Eid” [26-27 June 2017] an air strike killed 20-25 people, mainly civilians but some IS too, at a communal water point, around the corner from Abu Saif’s house.’10

So, clearly essential water supplies were either deliberately targeted by the “coalition”, or some “legitimate” target was so near that the likely presence of defenceless civilians was simply ignored.

(b)  Proportionality

The principle of proportionality, another fundamental tenet of IHL, also prohibits disproportionate attacks, which are those “which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated”. Intentionally launching a disproportionate attack (that is, knowing that the attack will cause excessive incidental civilian loss, injury or damage) constitutes a war crime. The Commentary on the Additional Protocols makes clear that the fact that the proportionality calculus requires an anticipated “concrete and direct” military advantage indicates that such advantage must be “substantial and relatively close, and that advantages which are hardly perceptible and those which would only appear in the long term should be disregarded (my emphasis).11

Whilst it is undeniable that the head-chopping organ-eating occupiers of Raqqa were about as vile a group of psychopaths as it’s possible to get, and that their removal from Raqqa would no doubt be extremely difficult to accomplish, it’s deeply questionable that the total destruction of a civilian-occupied city could be considered proportional to the reign of terror it was supposed to terminate. The fact that IS were eventually cleared out of Raqqa, very much alive and well, shows that they were not committed kamikaze warriors and suggests that alternative methods for bringing to an end their repulsive occupation may have been possible.

(c) Precautions

In order for parties to an armed conflict to respect the principles of distinction and proportionality they must take precautions in attack. “Constant care must be taken to spare the civilian population, civilians and civilian objects”; “all feasible precautions” must be taken to avoid and minimise incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects. The parties must choose means and methods of warfare with a view to avoiding or at least minimising to the maximum extent possible incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects. As well as verifying the military nature of targets and assessing the proportionality of attacks, the parties must also take all feasible steps to call off attacks which appear wrongly directed or disproportionate. Parties must give effective advance warning of attacks which may affect the civilian population, unless circumstances do not permit. When a choice is possible between several military objectives for obtaining a similar military advantage, the parties must select the target the attack on which would be expected to pose the least danger to civilians and to civilian objects.

The limited information available on the precautions in attack taken by the Coalition suggests that they were not adequate or effective. The cases examined in detail indicate that there were serious shortcomings in verification that targets selected for attack were in fact military, with disastrous results for civilian life. Further, several attacks examined by Amnesty International suggest that the Coalition did not, at least in those instances, select weapons that would minimise harm to civilians. Also, the warnings that were given to civilians were not effective. They did not take into account the reality that civilians were blocked from leaving Raqqa, and did not include specific information (such as warning civilians to stay away from tall buildings).11

Amnesty claim that up to the point of publication of their report repeated approaches to “the coalition” for specific details regarding their attacks on Raqqa were either inadequately answered or had not been answered at all. Therefore questions relating to whether sufficient precautions were taken remain unanswered, and could imply breaches of international law.

(d) Joint and individual responsibility of coalition members

One of the attractions to “coalition” actions is the difficulty in attributing specific responsibility for possible crimes after the event, and Amnesty states:

It is concerned that this lack of clarity may enable individual Coalition members to evade responsibility for their actions. The UK Government, for example, maintained until May 2018 that it had not killed a single civilian in Syria or Iraq, despite carrying out thousands of air strikes across the two countries. On 2 May 2018 it admitted for the first time that one of its drone strikes had caused one civilian casualty in Syria in March 2018.11

However, there is very limited wriggle-room in attempting to evade responsibility by trying to divert attention to others. International Humanitarian Law (IHL):

Requires all states to ‘respect and ensure respect’ for its provisions under Common Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions. This includes both positive and negative obligations on states providing assistance to another state which is then used to commit a violation of international humanitarian law. The negative obligation is not to encourage, aid or assist in violations of IHL by parties to a conflict. The positive obligation includes the prevention of violations where there is a foreseeable risk they will be committed and prevention of further violations where they have already occurred.

The USA, UK, France, and other states involved in military operations as part of Operation Inherent Resolve therefore may be legally responsible for unlawful acts carried out by Coalition members.12

(e) Duty to investigate, prosecute and provide reparation

States have an obligation to investigate allegations of war crimes by their forces or nationals, or committed on their territory and, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, prosecute the suspects. They must also investigate other war crimes over which they have jurisdiction, including through universal jurisdiction, and, if appropriate, prosecute the suspects.12

A young man holding a child staring at the ruins of bombed buildings in Raqqa (AI Photo)

Life-giving light – and those who would snuff it out

The Amnesty International report provides compelling evidence that, at the very least, there are legitimate questions to be answered regarding the attacks on Raqqa by the USA, Britain and France. And it must never be forgotten that the whole IS phenomenon is mostly a creation of the west, that without the deeply cynical plotting of the US, British and possibly French deep states, IS would likely never have come into existence. The words of French foreign minister Roland Dumas should be recalled:

I’m going to tell you something,” Dumas said on French station LCP. “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business [in 2009]. I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria. This was in Britain not in America. Britain was organizing an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer minister for foreign affairs, if I would like to participate. Naturally, I refused, I said I’m French, that doesn’t interest me.

So Dumas may have said – but the French were involved in the destruction of Raqqa.

Raqqa’s residents surveying the destruction in the city centre (AI Photo)

If similar probable war crimes had been carried out in some other country by Russia, say, or China, or Iran, or any other nation to which the west is routinely hostile, almost certainly outraged voices would be heard caterwauling in Westminster and Washington. Front pages of newspapers, together with TV and radio news programmes would be howling that “something must be done”. Yet in Westminster and Washington the silence is deafening. Not a single word of protest appears on the front pages of our newspapers, and our TV and radio stations appear to be looking the other way. Why? Because our “heroes” are personally involved, and personally responsible for the terror, and that is the terrible truth that cannot be admitted.

The cold hard fact is that far from being heroic, many people in the military are de facto war criminals. From at least as far back as the second world war, when defenceless civilians were bombed to death and incinerated in their homes in the pointless bombing of Hamburg, Dresden and Tokyo, for example, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, through the slaughter of countless defenceless civilians in later wars, in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to the more recent civilian killing fields of Iraq, Libya and now Syria, our so-called heroes have just as much innocents’ blood on their hands as any Nazi war criminal ever had.

With very few exceptions, the military seldom do anything heroic. The very last thing that senior officers want, the generals, admirals, air marshals and so on, is a peaceful world – for the very obvious reason that they would all be out of work, vastly overpaid work requiring very little real and useful effort, work that not only pays these people far more than they’re worth, but also, which is far worse, gives them far too much power in our societies. Consider, for example, the words of an unnamed general in a recent Observer interview that if Jeremy Corbyn – a lifelong pacifist – was to win a general election:

There would be a mutiny in the armed forces… unless he learnt to love NATO and the nuclear bomb.13

The cold hard fact is that these people, those who run our so-called “defence” forces are out of control. They are more interested in protecting their own careers than doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and which so many people mistakenly believe they are doing – protecting us. We are not made safer by the ruthless and illegal destruction of civilian cities such as Raqqa. The people that carry out these war crimes should be brought to account and charged like the common war criminals they really are, which is pretty much the same conclusion reached by Amnesty International:

Where there is admissible evidence that individual members of Coalition forces are responsible for war crimes, ensure they are prosecuted in a fair trial without recourse to the death penalty.14

We need complete, truthful information. And the truth should not depend on whom it is to serve.
— V.I. Ulyanov, (Let History Judge, Roy Medvedev, Preface.))

Self-criticism – ruthless, harsh self-criticism, which gets down to the root of things – that is the life-giving light and air of the proletarian movement.
— Rosa Luxemburg15

Sometimes I think we biologists may find ourselves coming into politics from our own angle. If things go on as they are going – We may have to treat the whole world as a mental hospital. The entire species is going mad; for what is madness but a complete want of mental adaptation to one’s circumstances? Sooner or later, young man, your generation will have to face up to that.…

I have an idea, Father, a half-formed idea,that before we can go on to a sane new order, there has to be a far more extensive clearing up of old institutions… The world needs some sort of scavenging, a burning up of the old infected clothes, before it can get on to a new phase. At present it is enormously encumbered… This is just a shadowy idea in my mind… Something like breaking down condemned, old houses. We can’t begin to get things in order until there has been this scavenging.

— HG Wells, The Holy Terror, Simon and Schuster, 1939.

  1. Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism, Roy Medvedev, p. 566.
  2. Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism, Roy Medvedev, Preface.
  3. Medvedev, p. 363.
  4. Amnesty International Report, p. 9.
  5. AI Report, p. 5.
  6. AI Report, p. 48.
  7. AI Report, p. 49.
  8. AI Report, p. 53.
  9. AI Report, p. 62.
  10. AI Report, p. 44.
  11. AI Report, p. 63.
  12. AI Report, p. 64.
  13. How the Establishment lost control, Chris Nineham, p. 93.
  14. AI Report, p. 67.
  15. Let History Judge, Roy Medvedev, Preface

Dear Salafist Wahhabist Apologists

Your head chopper heros are apparently not what Syrians have in mind when they think of democratic revolution.

Mehdi Hasan (MH) can hardly be blamed for the ignorance that he displays in his Intercept article, “Dear Bashar al-Assad Apologists: Your Hero Is a War Criminal Even If He Didn’t Gas Syrians.”  He has apparently never been to Syria, doesn’t often do research on Syria, and gets his information from proponents of a single point of view, representing a bunch of idealists that want to usher in their idea of a liberal democracy in Syria, without benefit of electoral niceties until their power is already ironclad.  What’s wrong with this picture?

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s start by deconstructing the absurdities and the language in the MH article.

Thankfully, MH has spared us the need to deconstruct the absurd accusation that the Syrian armed forces have used chemical weapons.  He apparently accepts that they don’t need to, that there is no benefit in using them, so why would they? OK, then who did? Cui bono? Easy answer.  The motive of the promoters of destruction in Syria is to create a pretext for the US and its partners to bomb, invade and establish a no-fly zone; i.e., to directly take on the Syrian government and its allies.  These war criminals include the neoconservative cabal in the US, the Zionist and Israeli proponents of using the US to fight Israel’s perceived enemies, and the Saudi and Qatari adventurists backing the Project for a New Salafist Paradise.  These are the same players who brought us Iraq I and II, Libya, Afghanistan forever, Somalia and Yemen.  What more could we wish for?

So let us move on to the MH complaint about barrel bombs. What is the complaint, exactly?  Are they more horrible than other types of bombs? Is it OK to use bombs manufactured in western munitions factories for delivery by jet airplanes but not ones manufactured in Syria and delivered by helicopter?  Never mind.  It’s a great opportunity for MH to use the hyped term “BARREL BOMB” in order to enrage and terrify an undiscerning readership.

But what about all the civilian casualties, and isn’t the Syrian army to blame?  Well, no, ISIS and the pseudonymous al-Qaeda affiliates are quite happy to post videos of their stonings, beheadings, crucifixions and immolations, so we know the army can’t be the only ones.  In fact, given the summary executions of non-Muslims in territories “liberated” from the government, is there any reason to think that the forces fighting the Syrian government are responsible for fewer civilian deaths? I myself met refugees who had fled up to 70 km over the mountains in the dead of winter to Latakia in March, 2013 with no more than the clothes on their back.  No one knows how many children and old people died.

Aircraft? The anti-government fighters don’t have them, do they? No, but they seem to be quite resourceful in eliminating innocent human lives nonetheless.  An example is the at least 10,000 civilians that have lost their lives in Damascus due to mortars and “hell cannons” (which also use “barrel bombs”) since the start of the hostilities.  Other examples include the withering four-year siege of the Shiite towns of Foua and Kafraya near Idlib and the unrelenting bombardment via “hell cannon” of the city of Aleppo from the enclave of East Aleppo until it was finally recovered by government forces in late 2016.

On the other hand, for those (unlike MH and the mainstream media), who consider evidence to be relevant, there is a plethora available to show that the Syrian army has been unusually respectful of civilian life. The claim is that Syria and its Russian allies have obliterated entire neighborhoods, raining bombs on the civilian population.  The facts are somewhat at odds with this description.

First, there are the civilian casualties themselves.  The UN stopped keeping casualty statistics in early 2016, but even the anti-government Syrian Observatory for Human Rights concedes that less that 1/3 of all casualties are civilians.  No other war on record has had such a low ratio. By comparison, 2/3 were civilian casualties in Vietnam, WWII and most other wars.

Second, the Syrian army liberation of Homs, Aleppo and other areas has followed a typical progression that is quite the opposite of “just kill them all”.  First, the army surrounds the area and lays siege. At this point, if the army wants to flatten the area and bring an end to the resistance there, it has the perfect means to do so.  But it does not.  Instead, it positions relief supplies at the perimeter and makes them available without prejudice to the inhabitants.  It also offers sanctuary to all who wish to leave.  Amazingly, this includes even the fighters.  Syrian fighters willing to lay down their arms are offered amnesty.  But many are not initially willing to accept amnesty, and many are not Syrian.  To these, the government offers safe passage to other parts of Syria under opposition control, even permitting the fighters to keep their small arms.

If they refuse, the siege and the fighting continue, often for more than a year, and bombing is often a part of the campaign, especially toward the end, after multiple unilateral ceasefires from the government side, to try to conclude a peaceful end, as in Aleppo.  The bombing is typically in the least inhabited areas, in order to remove cover for fighters, so that the army will incur fewer casualties when it goes in.  The strategy doesn’t always work, but the low ratio of civilian casualties is a testimony to its relative success.

Why does the Syrian government do this?  Wouldn’t it be easier to just level the entire area, civilians and all, and be rid of the fighters once and for all?

Not really.  The government is aware that families are split, with some fighting on one side and some on another. One of the reasons so many Syrians remain loyal to the government is that it is seeking to protect all Syrians on all sides, with the intention of regaining their allegiance.  The government also recognizes that many of the opposition fighters are, in effect, mercenaries, for whom fighting is a way to put food on the table when there are no other sources of income.  Such fighters are not really enemies, just desperate people.  Given an opportunity, they will easily return to the government side.

Then there are the hyped bombing casualty statistics. As I pointed out in 2015, even if we accept the statistics of the highly biased anti-government Human Rights Watch, the number of casualties per bomb is only two, including combatants.  If we apply the ratio of civilian deaths, that is less than one civilian casualty per bomb, a clear indication that the Syrian air force is being far more respectful of civilians than the US was, for example, in its bombing of Raqqah, where twice as many civilians as fighters were killed.

But MH is slamming a position that nobody holds. The number of “leftists” that consider Bashar al-Assad a hero infinitesimal. There may be many Syrians who do, but that is not who MH is referring to.  MH is misinterpreting the actions of some journalists (including “leftists”) to correct distortions and false information as defense of Assad.  Perhaps the distinction is too subtle for him, but an aversion to disinformation and lynch mob mentality is not the same as being pro-Assad.  It’s not very helpful to say, on the one hand, that you oppose intervention in Syria, and then take all your (false) information from pro-intervention sources.  In that case the interventionists will applaud your non-intervention stance.

Those of us whom MH accuses of being pro-Assad are nothing of the sort.  We believe that Syrian sovereignty and territory should be fully respected (as MH also claims to believe), but we think it is important to counter the fake news and propaganda that are being used to justify the invasion of Syria.  MH is in love with fake news.  He prefers not to mention the killing of police in the uprisings that he describes as “peaceful demonstrations”. He prefers to cherry-pick the opinions of Syrian refugees in Germany rather than the views of the vast majority of refugees (displaced persons) who evacuated to government areas without leaving Syria.  He produces the Human Rights Watch report on 50,000 morgue photos but not the deconstruction by investigator Rick Sterling. And he repeats the al-Qaeda claim and false film footage that Madaya was starving and in need when it was, in fact, sitting on a mountain of aid supplies being denied by the fighters themselves to the population.

If MH can’t see the difference between being pro-Assad and not falling for interventionist propaganda, that’s his problem.  What’s astonishing is the number of “leftists” that rail against interventionism but base their views on the drivel purveyed by the interventionists themselves in the mainstream media, and that originates from propaganda mills like the White Helmets, the Aleppo/Ghouta Media Center and other lavishly funded set designers for warmongers. If MH is not an interventionist, he’s nevertheless making their case for them.

Racism, Propaganda And Wars

This week, the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which promoted giving Palestine to the Jewish people, will be celebrated in London. Around the world, there will be protests against it calling for Britain to apologize for the damage it inflicted. Students from the West Bank and Gaza will send letters to the British government describing the negative impacts that the Balfour Declaration, and the Nakba in 1948, continue to have on their lives today.

As Dan Freeman-Maloy describes, the Balfour Declaration is also relevant today because of the propaganda co-existing with it that justified white supremacy, racism and empire. British imperialists believed that democracy only applied to “civilized and conquering peoples,” and that “Africans, Asians, Indigenous peoples the world over – all were … ‘subject races,’ unfit for self-government.” That same racism was directed at Jewish people as well. Lord Balfour preferred to have Jewish people living in Palestine, away from Britain, where they might serve as useful British allies.

In the same time period, Bill Moyers reminds us in his interview with author James Whitman, the  laws in the United States were viewed as “a model for everybody in the early 20th century who was interested in creating a race-based order or race state. America was the leader in a whole variety of realms in racist law in the first part of that century.” This includes immigration laws designed to keep “undesirables” out of the US, laws creating second class citizenship for African-Americans and other people and bans on interracial marriage. Whitman has a new book documenting how Hitler used US laws as a basis for the Nazi state.

Injustice is legal

The US government and its laws continue to perpetuate injustice today. For example, contractors who apply for state funds to repair damage from Hurricane Harvey in Dickinson, Texas, are required to declare that they do not participate in the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS) movement. And Maryland Governor Hogan signed an executive order this week banning any state contractors from participating in the BDS movement, after local activists defeated similar legislation for the past three years.

Participation in boycotts should be protected under the First Amendment, as the right to protest Israeli apartheid should be. But, that right may also be taken away. This week, Kenneth Marcus was made the top civil rights enforcer at the Department of Education. He runs a group called the Brandeis Center for Human Rights, which actually works to attack individuals and groups that organize against Israeli apartheid on campuses. Nora Barrows-Friedman writes that Marcus, who has been filing complaints against pro-Palestinian student groups, will now be in charge of investigating those cases.

Dima Khalidi, the head of Palestinian Legal, which works to protect pro-Palestinian activists, explains that in the United States, “talking about Palestinian rights, and challenging Israel’s actions and narrative, [open] people up to a huge amount of risk, attacks, and harassment – much of it legal in nature, or with legal implications.” These attacks are happening because the BDS movement is having an impact.

This is just one obvious area of injustice. Of course, there are others such as immigration policies and travel bans. And there are racist systems in the United States that are not based in law, but are enshrined in practices such as racially biased policing, slave-wage employment of prisoners and the placement of toxic industries in minority communities. The Marshall Project has a new report on racial bias in plea bargains.

In considering why “the public is quiet” about the United States’ unending wars, the New York Times (10/23/17) fails to examine the failure of leading media outlets to actually oppose these wars.

War propaganda

The media, as it did in the early twentieth century, continues to manipulate public opinion to support military aggression. The NY Times and other mass, corporate media have promoted wars throughout the history of US empire. From the ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ in Iraq to the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam and all the way back to ‘Remember the Maine’ in the Spanish-American War, which began the modern US Empire, the corporate media have always played a large role in leading the US into war.

Adam Johnson of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) writes about a recent New York Times Op Ed: “Corporate media have a long history of lamenting wars they themselves helped sell the American public, but it’s rare so many wars and so much hypocrisy are distilled into one editorial.” Johnson points out that the New York Times never questions whether wars are right or wrong, just whether they have Congressional support or not. And it promotes the “no boots on the ground” view that it is fine to bomb other countries as long as US troops are not harmed.

FAIR also points out the media’s false accusation that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. Meanwhile there is silence about the secret Israeli nuclear weapons program. Iran has been compliant with the International Atomic Energy Agency, while Israel has refused inspections. Eric Margolis raises the critical question of whether the Trump administration put the interests of Israel, which opposes Iran, before the interests of the US when he refused to certify the nuclear agreement with Iran.

North Korea is a country that is heavily propagandized in the US media. Eva Bartlett, a journalist who has traveled to and reported extensively about Syria, recently visited North Korea. She presents a view of the people and photographs that won’t be found in commercial media, which give a more positive perspective on the country.

Sadly, North Korea is considered to be a critical factor in the US effort to prevent China from becoming the dominant world power. Ramzy Baroud writes about the importance of a diplomatic solution to the conflict between the US and North Korea because otherwise it will be a long and bloody war. Baroud states that the US would quickly run out of missiles and then use “crude gravity bombs,” killing millions.

The recent re-election of Shinzo Abe heightens conflict in that region. Abe wants to build up Japan’s small military and alter its current pacifist Constitution so that Japan can attack other countries. No doubt, the Asian Pivot and concerns about tension between the US and other countries are fueling support for Abe and more militarization in Japan.

3206776-1509029172US aggression in Africa

The US military presence in Africa came into the spotlight this week with the death of US soldiers in Niger. Although it was heartless, perhaps we can be grateful that Trump’s gaffe with the newly-widowed Myeshia Johnson at least had the impact of raising national awareness about this secretive mission creep. We can thank outlets such as Black Agenda Report that have been reporting regularly on AFRICOM, the US Africa Command.

It was a surprise to many people, including members of Congress, that the US has 6,000 troops scattered in 53 out of 54 African countries. US involvement in Africa has existed since World War II, largely for oil, gas, minerals, land and labor. When Gaddafi, in Libya, interfered with the US’ ability to dominate African countries by providing oil money to them, thereby freeing them from the need to be indebted to the US, and led the effort to unite African countries, he was murdered and Libya was destroyed. China also plays a role in competing with the US for African investment, doing so through economic investment rather than militarization. No longer able to control Africa economically, the US turned to greater militarization.

AFRICOM was launched under President George W. Bush, who appointed a black general to lead AFRICOM, but it was President Obama who succeeded in growing the US military presence. Under Obama, the drone program grew in Africa. There are more than 60 drone bases that are used for missions in African countries such as Somalia. The US base in Dijbouti is used for bombing missions in Yemen and Syria. US military contractors are also raking in huge profits in Africa.

Nick Turse reports that US military conduct an average of ten operations in Africa daily. He describes how US weapons and military training have upset the balance of power in African countries, leading to coup attempts and the rise of terrorist groups.

In this interview, Abayomi Azikiwe, the editor of the Pan-African News Wire, speaks about the long and brutal US history in Africa. He concludes:

Washington must close down its bases, drone stations, airstrips, joint military operations, consulting projects and training programs with all African Union member-states. None of these efforts have brought peace and stability to the continent. What has happened is quite the opposite. Since the advent of AFRICOM, the situation has been far more unstable in the region.

Building a global peace movement

The insatiable war machine has infiltrated all aspects of our lives. Militarism is a prominent part of US culture. It is a large part of the US economy. It cannot be stopped unless we work together to stop it. And, while we in the US, as the largest empire in the history of the world, have a major responsibility to act against war, we will be most effective if we can connect with people and organizations in other countries to hear their stories, support their work and learn about their visions for a peaceful world.

Fortunately, there are many efforts to revive the anti-war movement in the United States, and many of the groups have international ties. The United National Anti-War Coalition, World Beyond War, the Black Alliance for Peace and the Coalition Against US Foreign Military Bases are groups launched in the past seven years.

There are also opportunities for action. Veterans for Peace is organizing peace actions on November 11, Armistice Day. CODEPINK recently began the Divest From the War Machine Campaign targeting the five top weapons-makers in the US. Listen to our interview with lead organizer Haley Pederson on Clearing the FOG. And there will be a conference on closing foreign military bases this January in Baltimore.

Let’s recognize that just as wars are waged in order to dominate regions for their resources so that a few may profit, they are also rooted in white supremacist and racist ideology that believes only certain people deserve to control their destinies. By linking hands with our brothers and sisters around the planet and working for peace, we can bring about a multi-polar world in which all people have peace, self-determination and live in dignity.

The Six “Secret” Tactics of Empire

The 6 ‘secret’ tactics of empire are strategies of change used by governments, usually covertly, to attain political or military ends through means not normally acceptable to the populace as a whole. The strategies are as follows:

1. False Flag Attacks
2. Coercive Engineered Migration
3. Colour Revolutions
4. Humanitarian Intervention
5. Proxy Armies
6. Fake News

The relationship of the state or a political force to the various strategies depends on the political aim. Sometimes there is a direct and openly admitted relationship to the strategy and sometimes it is fervently denied. The outcome of any such strategy is never guaranteed and, indeed, may even have the opposite effect to that intended. This makes the strategies of change high-risk ventures for the participants as well as those for whom the strategy is hoped to benefit. In some cases these strategies of change seem to be perceived as the only way to change a situation, or at least the most expedient. Their role is to manipulate public opinion on a particular government, state or upcoming political movement to suit the actions, thoughts or desires of another internal or external political force. Like a good magician, the perpetrator of the strategy must make people conscious of the ends but not the means. If the people support a changed environment brought about by strategies of change without realizing or understanding why, then the result can be seen as ‘successful’.

1. False Flag Attacks

​​​False Flag Attack

False flag attacks are actions carried out covertly to look like another group, nation or state were responsible. While in theory false flags are secret, some public individuals have openly called for false flag operations to be implemented to serve as a basis for initiating war against another country perceived to be an enemy. The history of false flags, however, is not secret and information about many past successful and proposed attacks is freely available on the internet.

2. Coercive Engineered Migration

Blue Skies, Blue Seas, Blue Gloves​

Coercive engineered migration is a strategy which acts to overwhelm another country’s capacity to cope with a large influx of refugees or migrants. This pressure can affect competing political interests and thereby change the behavior of the target country.

3. Colour Revolutions

Colour Blind:
Orange Revolution – Ukraine, Green Revolution – Iran, Jeans Revolution – Belarus

Colour revolutions are a form of nonviolent resistance utilizing social media, demonstrations and strikes as a protest against governments especially in changing their geopolitical outlook from one radically different in their past. Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and students have been involved organizing creative non-violent resistance and usually pick a color or a flower as a symbol of their movement.

4. Fake News

​​Green Screen

Fake news is a type of news that often uses disinformation to propagate ideas for political advantage through the broadcast media or social media via the internet. It is used to discredit serious media coverage of an event. For example, video footage of riots in one city were used on the news by one network to portray a city in a completely different country in a negative light.

5. Humanitarian Intervention

Humanitarian Warfare

​​Humanitarian warfare is an ironic term describing military interventions which give human rights reasons such as protecting a population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity as the basis for their actions.

6. Proxy Armies

​Proxy Army

A proxy army is an army funded and armed by a foreign opposing power who cannot for political or social sensitivities at home fight directly with the country at war.