Category Archives: Saudi Arabia

Embassy Disappearances: Jamal Khashoggi and the Foreign Policy Web

Do this outside. You will put me into trouble.

— Mohammad al-Otaibi, Saudi consul, to Saudi agents, Istanbul, October 2, 2018

It smells, but anything wedged between the putrefaction of Saudi foreign policy, the ambition of Turkish bellicosity, and the US muddling middleman is bound to.  Three powers tussling over image and appearance; all engaged in a wrestle over how best to seem the least hypocritical.  US-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi already seems to have found his name into the books of martyred dissidents, but we have no body, merely an inflicted disappearance suggesting a gruesome murder.

The journalist, a notable critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was last seen on October 2 entering the residence of the Saudi consul-general in Istanbul, ostensibly to obtain a document necessary for his upcoming nuptials.  A senior Turkish official put forth a brutal scenario on Wednesday based on obtained audio recordings.  Saudi operatives, probably numbering 15 from the intelligence services and the Royal Guards, were waiting for Khashoggi’s arrival at 1.15 pm.  Within a matter of minutes, Khashoggi was dead, decapitated, dismembered, his fingers removed.  The entire operation took two hours.

The New York Times pondered how the brutality was inflicted.  “Whether Mr. Khashoggi was killed before his fingers were removed and his body dismembered could not be determined.”  The Saudi consul Mohammad al-Otaibi was revealed to be squeamish and worried, suggesting the agents ply their craft elsewhere.  The reply from one of the company was curt and unequivocal: “If you want to live when you come back to Arabia, shut up.”  A Saudi doctor of forensics, Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy, a worthy addition to the crew, got to work disposing of the body.  His advice to any companions feeling wobbly: listen to music, soothe the savage breast.

A danse macabre has developed between the various power players.  US president Donald Trump has asked his Turkish counterparts for any audio or video evidence that might shed light on the journalist’s fate.  To date, these have been drip fed with tantalising timing, disturbing the White House’s neat and comfortable acceptance of the account put forth by Riyadh.  But Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, an individual never shy to exploit a jingoistic moment, has remained cautiously reticent.

This is where the world of image, supposition, and make-believe, comes into play.  The procuring of evidence is being resisted.  Trump asks, but does not expect any. The Turkish side, thus far, supplies crumbs, finding their way into selected news outlets such as the Daily Yeni Şafak.  Trump, for his part, remains non-committal, even indifferent to what might emerge.  “I’m not sure yet that it exists, probably does, probably does.”

The picture is patchy, gathered from audio surveillance, intercepted communications and a miscellany of sources, but on this point, Ankara remains ginger.  US intelligence officials have so far suggested that circumstantial evidence on the involvement of Crown Prince Mohammed is growing.

Trump’s game with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of hedging and hoping: hedging on the issue of blood-linked complicity, and hoping that the sordid matter will simply evaporate in the ether of the next event.  “I just want to find out what’s happening,” he deflected. “I’m not giving cover at all.” But he has again fallen victim to the characteristic, off colour corker: allegations against the Saudis might be analogously seen with those of sexual assault against now confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.  “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent.  I don’t like that.  We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”  US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also shown a marked reluctance to go near any details, telling the press that any facts on Khashoggi will not be discussed.

Politicians in the United States have been attempting to add tears and remorse to the equation, though these dry quickly.  Rep. Eric Swalwell Jr. from California suggested that the explanations were needless. “If someone was killed in your home, while you were in it, and 15 days later you’re still coming up with an explanation… forget it.  We already know.”  US Rep. Paul Ryan and Senator Orrin Hatch are chewing over the prospect that Khashoggi’s fate might have been occasioned by an “interrogation gone wrong”.

The one person to again blow the cover off any niceties, to destroy the façade of propriety in what is otherwise a grizzly affair is the US president. He has avoided funereal respects and regrets. He has avoided referencing any idyllic notions of a free press.  The all-powerful dollar and arms sales remain paramount.  “You’ve got $100 billion worth of arms sales… we cannot alienate our biggest player in the Middle East.”  And just to show that a love of God and the foetus won’t deter evangelicals from embracing a ghoulish Arab theocracy, Pat Robertson has added his hearty support. “For those who are screaming blood for the Saudis – look, these people are our allies.”

Whatever happens regarding Khashoggi, the relationship between Washington and Riyadh is assured.  Turkey, from first signs, is avoiding open confrontation.  Murder, alleged or otherwise, can take place in certain circumstances, however brazenly executed. The brutality against Khashoggi, should it ever come to be properly aired, is but another footnote in the program of a kingdom indifferent to suffering, from the saw doctor to the jet.  And business remains business.

How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?

Jamal Khashoggi offers remarks during POMED’s “Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia: A Deeper Look.” (Photo: POMED)

Saudi Arabia has dominated the news cycle after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was disappeared in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and, according to Turkish sources, murdered by a 15-strong team of Saudi agents. The public relations backlash might spell trouble for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), while Western governments have scrambled to express “concern” about the case, in what is more about protecting their interests and Western corporate dealings in Saudi Arabia than any genuine concern for human rights.

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It seems that having Khashoggi, a former insider, dish out criticism from the Beltway was too much embarrassment for MBS, who is the most powerful man in the country, to tolerate. The West had let MBS get away with everything until now, as he was their man, the one who would deliver some window dressing reforms to appease Western public opinion while facilitating billionaire dealings for corporations, especially weapons manufacturers. However, this final stunt seems to have backfired, at least for MBS.

Human Rights Concerns?

It is impossible not to compare the reaction to this episode to the corresponding ones to Saudi war crimes in Yemen. When the Saudis bombed a market, when they launched a double-tap strike1 on a funeral, when they hit a Yemeni school bus, it barely registered. All those episodes made headlines, as does the humanitarian crisis now and then, but there was no outrage to follow in Western ruling circles, almost as if this were a natural disaster with no one to blame.

More than that, Saudi officials were always given ample space in the mainstream media to deny the strikes (even though nobody else flies planes over Yemen), or to defend that the targets hit were “legitimate.” Additionally, there were always trusted figures ready to come out, wave the Iran bogeyman, and shield the Saudis from scrutiny. The Saudi lobby in DC is definitely getting its money’s worth.

So what is the difference now? For one, Khashoggi had friends in DC. These are people who are happy to let these sort of atrocities happen, and go on defending Saudi interests, but they do not expect the proverbial hammer to be dropped on one of them.

Plus, there was the fact that this was done so blatantly in a foreign capital, and that it was not done quietly. MBS had gotten away with everything, but this time he clearly overplayed his hand. Turkish sources have been leaking information to the media, making it impossible for Saudi authorities to spin or deny the accusations. The media frenzy has forced Western leaders to demand an investigation and express (or feign) concern for human rights.

An immediate consequence has been the pulling out of several participants from the high profile investor conference scheduled for later this month, nicknamed “Davos in the Desert.” But one thing should be painfully clear. The killing of market dwellers, mourners, first responders, and even schoolchildren, not to mention the widespread famine caused by the Saudi war, were not an obstacle for the World Bank to take part in the conference, or for the New York Times to cover it, or for Richard Branson to engage in joint ventures with the Saudis, etc.

Even if by some magic trick, or tremendous cynicism, one gave the Saudis a pass for the death and misery unleashed on their southern neighbour, there is still quite a laundry list of human rights abuses in recent times. Activists and regime opponents are still routinely arrested and killed, military operations take place in the restive (and majority Shia) region of Qatif, and even Saad Hariri, former Lebanese PM and pliant ally, was kidnapped from Beirut, held against his will and forced to resign. These are just a few examples.

Somehow none of this seemed a cause for “concern” over Saudi Arabia’s, and MBS’ in particular, regard for human rights. And despite all the publicity, leaders such as Trump and Canada PM Trudeau have made a point of reassuring weapons manufacturers that no billionaire deals are being suspended. It might seem strange at first to be concerned about a regime’s regard for human rights and still sell them precision-guided missiles. Until we remember that these missiles are destined for unworthy victims.

Cartoon by Carlos Latuff

Human Rights and (the highest stage of) capitalism

As to what happens now, there are many possibilities. For the Crown Prince, he who was the subject of the most embarrassingly fawning pieces in western media, the honeymoon seems to have ended. He might retreat to a lower profile for a while or be pushed aside by more senior royals. In the meantime we get to watch Thomas Friedman try and walk back from his sycophantic efforts to praise MBS for single-handedly bringing the Arab Spring to Saudi Arabia.

The outcome of the PR crisis is less certain. Turkey might try to leverage the episode to improve relations with the US or to ease the Saudi-led hostility against its main gulf ally, Qatar. This will influence their handling of the upcoming investigation. The Saudis, unable to deny the undeniable, might try to look for a scapegoat to cast as a rogue agent, jail some people, appear penitent, and pray that their millionaire investments in DC think tanks will be enough to gain control of the narrative.

For Western governments and multinational corporations, make no mistake, this is hitting the lottery, provided everyone can steer clear of bad publicity for now. The “modernising” and pompous Vision 2030 plan, cooked up with consulting giants, will open sectors of the Saudi economy to private capital, because there is nothing more “modern” than privatisations. The crown jewel in this opening is, of course, oil behemoth Aramco, with an IPO that has investors salivating already pushed back to 2019.

The Khashoggi affair means more leverage for Western governments and multinational corporations, deals in more favourable conditions and perhaps, once the dust settles, even more billionaire weapons deals. The Trump administration might also try to use the current crisis to push the Saudis into increasing their oil output (to lower prices), with Secretary of State Pompeo being sent to handle the crisis.

The West’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia is predicated on oil, safeguarding Israel’s interests, projecting imperialist interests in the region, and securing business for corporations. The brazen murder of a journalist is just bad publicity, nothing more. Democracy and human rights have never been a factor in Western dealings in this part of the world, or any part of the world for that matter.

Therefore, expect a hefty dose of grandiloquent human rights discourses in the coming weeks, lest people start wondering if corporations have no concerns but profit, some sabre rattling in return, and then a publicity campaign to restore Saudi image, so that everything can go back to business as usual. In Yemen, unfortunately, the business of death and humanitarian disaster will go on unimpeded. So how many Yemenis is a DC pundit worth? We are at tens of thousands, with millions on the brink of starvation, and still counting.

• First published in Investig’Action

  1. A double-tap strike is the technique of following a missile or air strike with another strike shortly afterwards, to target first responders.

Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos

In the early seventies, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger were torn to distraction by a Greek refugee journalist living in the U.S. named Elias Demetracopoulos. He had been definitively documenting — on an ongoing basis — the ties they had with the corrupt junta ruling the cradle of democracy in unprecedented authoritarian fashion.

No matter what one thinks of Christopher Hitchens in general, prior to his apostasy he wrote a really convincing account (in his The Trial of Henry Kissinger) of how U.S. federal agencies (with the encouragement of Nixon and Kissinger) conspired with the extreme right-wing dictatorship of generals (under psychopath Brigadier Ioannidis) to kidnap and kill Demetracopoulos by luring him to their embassy.

Wow, the more things move along the more they remain the same, yes?

One of the things that has gotten lost in the shuffle with regard to Khashoggi’s “disappearance” is the legal responsibility the CIA has for warning residents of the U.S. when they know that such dynamics have been set in motion; early reports indicated that there was definitely some serious question about whether or not federal agencies knew what was about to come down. Regardless, the fact that none of what was attempted with Demetracopoulos many decades ago would have been considered without “approval” from the highest levels of our government should give everyone pause in responding to the abomination of Khashoggi’s disappearance. For the same is true today, and has always been true… whether it involved the murders of Rene SchneiderSheik Mujibur Rahman or Archbishop Makarios.

Murder is murder, and no amount of arms sales should preclude the prosecution of criminality, especially when war criminality is intimately associated with the kind of horrific act inflicted on an individual; I’m thinking of Yemen’s current crisis, for one.

Trump was lying when he claimed that the Saudis could simply buy weapons elsewhere if we rubbed them the wrong way over Khashoggi’s disappearance; arms supplied by the West for decades have components which make it impossible to turn easily to Russia or China as a supplier. Dealing with all that would take decades. And the impact of losing $100 billion plus for our economy was enormously exaggerated. No matter what, though, we cannot afford to use jobs or anything like that as the bottom line for our moral compass.

Trump’s Alliance with Body-Choppers, Death Squads and Child Killers

In recent weeks the White House has embraced the contemporary version of the world’s most murderous regimes. President Trump has embraced the Saudi Arabian “Prince of Death” Mohammad bin Salman who has graduated from chopping hands and heads in public plazas to dismembering bodies in overseas consulates – the case of Jamal Khashoggi.

The White House warmly greeted the electoral success of Brazilian Presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, ardent champion of torturers, military dictators, death squads and free marketers.

President Trump grovels, grunts and glories before Israel, as his spiritual guide Benjamin Netanyahu celebrates the Sabbath with the weekly murders and maiming of hundreds of unarmed Palestinians, especially youngsters.

These are President Trump’s ‘natural allies’. They share his values and interests while each retains their particular method of disposing of the cadavers of adversaries and dissenters.

We will proceed to discuss the larger political-economic context in which the trio of monsters operate. We will analyze the benefits and advantages which lead President Trump to ignore and even praise, actions which violate America’s democratic values and sensibilities.

In conclusion, we will examine the consequences and risks which result from Trump’s embrace of the trio.

The Context for Trump’s Triple Alliance

President Trump’s intimate ties with the world’s most unsavory regimes flows from several strategic interests. In the case of Saudi Arabia, it includes military bases; the financing of international mercenaries and terrorists; multi-billion-dollar arms sales; oil profits; and covert alliances with Israel against Iran, Syria and Yemen.

In order to secure these Saudi assets, the White House is more than willing to assume certain socio-political costs.

The US eagerly sells weapons and provides advisers to Saudi’s genocidal invasion, murder and starvation of millions of Yeminis. The White House alliance against Yemen has few monetary rewards or political advantages as well as negative propaganda value.

However, with few other client states in the region, Washington makes do with Prince Salman ‘the salami slicer’.

The US ignores Saudi financing of Islamic terrorists against US allies in Asia (the Philippines) and Afghanistan as well as rival thugs in Syria and Libya.

Alas when a pro-US collaborator like Washington Post journalist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated, President Trump was forced to adopt the pretense of an investigation in order to distance from the Riyadh mafia.He subsequently exonerated butcher boy bin Salman: he invented a flagrant lie-blaming ‘rogue elements’ in charge of the interrogation,– read torture.

President Trump celebrated the electoral victory of Brazilian neo-liberal fascist Jair Bolsonaro because he checks all the right boxes: he promises to slash economic regulations and corporate taxes for multi-national corporations. He is an ardent ally of Washington’s economic war against Venezuela and Cuba. He promises to arm right-wing death squads and militarize the police. He pledges to be a loyal follower of US war policies abroad.

However, Bolsonaro cannot support Trump’s trade war especially against China which is the market for almost forty percent of Brazil’s agro-exports. This is especially the case since agro-business bosses are Bolsonaro’s principal economic and congressional supporters.

Given Washington’s limited influence in the rest of Latin America, Brazil’s neo-liberal fascist regime acts as Trump’s principal ally.

Israel is the White House’s mentor and chief of operations in the Middle East, as well as a strategic military ally.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel has seized and colonized most of the West Bank and militarily occupied the rest of Palestine; jailed and tortured tens of thousands of political dissidents; surrounded and starved over a million Gaza residents; imposed ethno-religious conditions for citizenship in Israel, denying basic rights for over 20% of the Arab residents of the self-styled ‘Jewish state’.

Netanyahu has bombed hundreds of Syrian cities, towns, airports and bases in support of ISIS terrorists and Western mercenaries. Israel intervenes in US elections, buys Congressional votes and secures White House recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state.

Zionists in North America and Great Britain act as a ‘fifth column’ securing unanimous favorable mass media coverage of its apartheid policies.

Prime Minister Netanyahu secures unconditional US financial and political support and the most advanced weaponry.

In exchange Washington considers itself privileged to serve as foot solders for Israeli targeted wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia … Israel collaborates with the US in defending Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan. Netanyahu and his Zionist allies in the White House succeeded in reversing the nuclear agreement with Iran and imposing new and harsher economic sanctions.

Israel has its own agenda: it defies President Trump’s sanctions policies against Russia and its trade war with China.

Israel eagerly engages in the sales of arms and high-tech innovations to Beijing.

Beyond the Criminal Trio

The Trump regime’s alliance with Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Brazil is not despite but because of their criminal behavior. The three states have a demonstrated record of full compliance and active engagement in every ongoing US war.

Bolsonaro, Netanyahu, and bin Salman serve as role models for other national leaders allied with Washington’s quest for world domination.

The problem is that the trio is insufficient in bolstering Washington’s drive to “Make the Empire Strong”. As pointed earlier, the trio are not completely in compliance with Trump’s trade wars; Saudi works with Russia in fixing oil prices. Israel and Brazil cuts deals with Beijing.

Clearly Washington pursues other allies and clients.

In Asia, the White House targets China by promoting ethnic separatism. It encourages Uighurs to split from China by encouraging Islamic terrorism and linguistic propaganda. President Trump backs Taiwan via military sales and diplomatic agreements. Washington intervenes in Hong Kong by promoting pro-separatist politicians and media propaganda backing ‘independence’.

Washington has launched a strategy of military encirclement and a trade war against China .The White House rounded-up Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and South Korea to provide military bases which target China. Nevertheless, up to the present the US has no allies in its trade war. All of Trump’s so-called Asian ‘allies’ defy his economic sanctions policies.

The countries depend on and pursue trade with and investments from China. While all pay diplomatic lip service and provide military bases, all defer on the crucial issues of joining US military exercises off China’s coast and boycotting Beijing.

US efforts to sanction Russia into submission is offset by ongoing oil and gas agreements between Russia , Germany and other EU countries. US traditional bootlickers like Britain and Poland carry little political weight.

More important US sanctions policy has led to a long-term, large-scale strategic economic and military alliance between Moscow and Beijing.

Moreover Trump’s alliance with the ‘torture trio’ has provoked domestic divisions. Saudi Arabia’s murder of a US resident-journalist has provoked business boycotts and Congressional calls for reprisal. Brazil’s fascism has evoked liberal criticism of Trump’s eulogy of Brazilia’s death squad democracy.

President Trump’s domestic electoral opposition has successfully mobilized the mass media, which could facilitate a congressional majority and an effective mass opposition to his Pluto-populist (populist in rhetoric, plutocrat in practice) version of empire building.

Conclusion

The US empire building project is built on bluster, bombs and trade wars. Moreover, its closest and most criminal allies and clients cannot always be relied upon. Even the stock market fiesta is coming to a close. Moreover, the time of successful sanctions is passing. The wild-eyed UN rants are evoking laughter and embarrassment.

The economy is heading into crises and not only became of rising interest rates. Tax cuts are one shot deals – profits are taken and pocketed.

President Trump in retreat will discover that there are no permanent allies only permanent interests.

Today the White House stands alone without allies who will share and defend his unipolar empire. The mass of humanity requires a break with the policies of wars and sanctions. To rebuild America will require the construction, from the ground-up, of a powerful popular movement not beholden to Wall Street or war industries. A first step is to break with both parties at home and the triple alliance abroad.

U.S. Switching to Ukraine as Location to Start World War III Against Russia

The United States Government is now treating Ukraine as if it were a NATO member, and on September 27th donated to Ukraine two warships for use against Russia. This is the latest indication that the U.S. is switching to Ukraine as the locale to start World War III, and from which the nuclear war is to be sparked against Russia, which borders Ukraine.

Here is why Syria is no longer the U.S. alliance’s preferred choice as a place to start WW III:

On September 4th, U.S. President Donald Trump publicly threatened Syria, Iran and Russia that if they exterminated the jihadists in Syria’s only remaining jihadist-controlled province, Idlib, then the U.S. might launch a full-scale invasion against Syria, Iran and Russia in Syria. Either the U.S. or Russia would then quickly escalate to nuclear war so as not to lose in Syria — that would be the conventional-war start to World War III.

The leaders of Russia, Iran, Turkey, and Syria (Putin, Rouhani, Erdogan, and Assad), agreed in two meetings, one on September 7th and the other on September 17th, to (as I had recommended on September 10th) transfer control of Syria’s only remaining jihadist-controlled province, Idlib, to NATO-member Turkey. This action effectively prevents the U.S. alliance from going to war against Russia if Russia’s alliance (which includes Syria) obliterates all the jihadist groups in the Al-Qaeda-led Syrian province Idlib. For the U.S. to war against Russia there would also be war against fellow-NATO-member Turkey — out of the question.

The U.S. has been using Al Qaeda in Syria to train and lead the jihadist groups which have been trying to overthrow Syria’s Government and to replace it with a government that has been selected by the Saud family who own Saudi Arabia. Ever since 1949 the U.S. Government has been trying to do this (to place the Saud family in charge of Syria). That plan is now being placed on-hold if not blocked altogether, because of the Russia, Turkey, Iran, Syria, agreement. As I reported on September 25th, “Turkey Now Contols Syria’s Jihadists“. The U.S. would no longer be able to save them, but Turkey would, if Erdogan wants to. “Turkey is thus now balanced on a knife’s edge, between the US and its allies (representing the Saud family) on the one side, versus Russia and its allies (representing the anti-Saud alliance) on the other.”

During the same period in which the U.S. Government was setting Syria up as the place to start WW III, it was also setting up Ukraine as an alternative possibility to do that. U.S. President Obama, in a very bloody February 2014 coup which he had started planning by no later than 2011, overthrew Ukraine’s democratically elected President, and replaced him by a rabidly anti-Russian racist-fascist regime whose Ukrainian tradition went back to ideologically nazi Ukrainian organizations that had supported Hitler during World War II. Though communism is gone from Russia ever since 1991, the U.S. aristocracy never ended its goal of conquering Russia; the Cold War was secretly continued on the U.S.-NATO side. Ukraine’s nazis (meaning its racist-fascists) are now the U.S. and UK aristocracies’ chief hope to achieve this ambition of a U.S.-and-allied global conquest. Here are the recent steps toward WW III regarding the U.S. alliance’s new (since 2014) prize, Ukraine:

On September 28th, John Siciliano at the Washington Examiner bannered “Ryan Zinke: Naval blockade is an option for dealing with Russia” and he reported that Trump’s Interior Secretary Zinke had said “There is the military option, which I would rather not. And there is the economic option. … The economic option on Iran and Russia is, more or less, leveraging and replacing fuels.” He was saying that in order for the U.S. to get its and its allies’ (mainly the Sauds’) oil and gas into Europe replacing some of Russia’s dominant market-share in that — the world’s largest energy-consuming — market (and also shrink Iran’s market-share there), a military blockade against Russia and Iran would be an option. Currently, most of Russia’s oil and gas into Europe goes via pipelines through Ukraine, which the U.S. already controls. Siciliano’s news-break received a follow-up on September 30th from Zero Hedge.

On October 1st, George Eliason, the great investigative journalist who happens to live in Donbass, the southeastern part of Ukraine that broke off from Ukraine when Obama’s coup overthrew the democratically elected Ukrainian President who had received over 90% of the votes in Donbass, reported at The Saker’s site, that Ukraine’s war against Donbass was now returning in full force. Headlining “War Crimes in LNR and DNR [Donbass] —The Unannounced War“, he opened:

On September 28th, Lugansk Peoples Republic (LNR) Deputy Foreign Minister Anna Soroka and Andrey Chernov gave a presentation unveiling a photo album entitled Unannounced war. This collection of 150 images details the war crimes by the Ukrainian government during the war from 2014-2018.

Over the last 4 years, many journalists including myself, reported on the war crimes committed by Ukrainian punisher battalions and sometimes the Ukrainian army. These war crimes are privately funded by Ukrainian Diaspora groups led primarily by US and Canadian citizens.

The Ukrainian punisher battalions and Ukrainian volunteer battalions take pride in the fact there is no need to hide any of Ukraine’s crimes from the West’s prying eyes.

Even now, when there is supposed to be a ceasefire so the children can go to school, Kiev is shelling cities and towns across Donbass. On September 29th, in just 24 hours Ukrainian army units shelled DNR (Donetsk Peoples Republic) over 300 times violating the ceasefire.

The U.S. Government is trying to bully Russia and its allies, and now is overtly threatening to go to a naval blockade against Russia. Those two warships that the U.S. just donated to Ukraine could be helpful in such a blockade. Alternatively, Ukraine’s re-invasion of Donbass might become Trump’s opportunity to ‘aid a NATO ally’ and precipitate WW III from a conventional war in Donbass. Either way would likely produce from Russia a nuclear blitz-attack to eliminate as many of America’s retaliatory weapons as possible, so as to beat the U.S. to the punch. In military terms, the side that suffers the less damage ‘wins’, even if it’s a nuclear war that destroys the planet. The side that would strike first in a nuclear war would almost certainly suffer the less damage, because most of the opponent’s retaliatory weaponry would be destroyed in that attack. Trump is playing nuclear “chicken” against Putin. He is sorely trying Putin’s patience.

If the U.S. regime uses any of these entry-points to a conventional war, Russia would simply be waiting for the U.S. to nuclear blitz-attack Russia, which the U.S. regime has long been intending to do. Regardless which side goes nuclear first, the blockade and/or re-invasion of Donbass (repeating there such things as this and this) will have started WW III. And, clearly, any survivors would likely view the U.S. in the way that most of today’s world views the fascist powers in WW II: as having been the aggressors. Consequently, if the American people cannot first overthrow the U.S. regime and establish an authentic democracy here, then WW III seems likely to result, which would be an outcome far worse, for the entire world, than an overthrow of the government that the entire world considers to be by far the most dangerous on Earth.

• First published at strategic-culture.org

Yemen and Spain: Destruction and Death versus Spanish Unemployment

Spain’s President, socialist Pedro Sanchez, canceled a week ago the sale of 400 laser-guided missiles to the Saudis for humanitarian reasons (value of the missile contract € 9.2 million – US$ 10.7 million). A couple of days ago, he reversed that noble decision, reinstating the sale, because the Saudis threatened cancelling their contract for 5 “Corvette” warships to be built by Navantia over the next few years, for a value of € 1.8 billion (US$ 2.1 billion), providing work for some 6000 shipyard workers in one of the economically worst hit areas of Spain, Cadiz Province of Andalusia.

>So, to save jobs, Sanchez decided to sell the bombs after all, the very bombs that will further decimate the Yemeni population – kill masses of children and increase the untold, unfathomable misery for this poor country, strategically located on the Gulf of Aden.

The war ships Spain is producing for the Saudis are certainly not going to bring peace to the world either; they bring perhaps work to Spanish shipyard workers, but, Dear Mr. Sanchez, where are your ethics?  Where is your sense of Human Rights?

Would it not be more ethical to help Spanish workers find alternative jobs, or while they are looking, pay them unemployment at a decent level? Perhaps exceptional unemployment, because the reason for the unemployment in this case is ‘exceptional’ and ethical to the point that the workers would probably understand — a sense of integrity and conscience they may proudly pass on to their children.

To top it all off, Spain’s Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, pretends that the Saudis have to guarantee that the missiles will not be used against Yemenis. Whom does she think she is fooling? Would the Spanish people be so blind to reality to believe this lie? I don’t think so. The Spaniards, having gone themselves through ten years of foreign imposed economic austerity hardship, an economic warfare of sorts, are more awake than believing dishonesties that serve the capitalist, profit-seeking war industry.

The Spanish bombs may substantially contribute to the killing of tens of thousands of Yemenis and among them countless defenseless children and women. The delivery of these missiles would be a tacit recognition and acceptance that the Saudis, supported by the US, the UK and France, block vital food and medical supplies from entering Yemen, thereby starving literally millions to death. And most likely the Spanish warships are creating in Yemen or elsewhere even worse human suffering.

Instead, Mr. Sanchez, why not show your heart and compassion for these innocent victims of western aggression, override your Minister of Defense, and block the sale of the 400 deadly missiles and the 5 killer Corvettes?

According to Mint Press News (10 September, 2018), the UN estimates that nearly 20 million Yemenis could die from starvation this year. That’s about 70% of the entire population, and that horrific number includes more than 2 million children. Two to three generations wiped out by the world’s most criminal monster nations, the Saudis, supported by the US, UK, France specifically, and more generally, by NATO. About 500,000 of these children already show severe signs of malnutrition, which, if it lasts over an extended period of time, may cause severe brain damage and stunting effects that might even be passed on to future generations.

Since the onset of the war which typically and conveniently is called by the west a ‘civil war’ which it is, of course, not – the US has supported the confrontation with over US$ 200 billion of war planes and weapons, and the UK with missiles and bombs. This war of aggression by the US and western puppet allies, aiming foremost at dominating the country’s geographic and geostrategic location, overlooking the Gulf of Aden and further to the east, the Arabian Sea, leading to the Persian Gulf, has created the worst humanitarian crisis in modern history.

Under international pressure and a UN appeal, the Saudis have offered US$ 300 million worth of humanitarian aid – food and medication – with deadly strings attached. They have weaponizing this humanitarian aid, by closing the main ports of entry, especially the one of Hodeida, so the aid could not reach the population in need. Yemen relies for 80% of her food supply on maritime imports, 90% of which normally enters through the Red Sea port of Hodeida.

The Saudis – always with the explicit support of Washington – targeted on purpose key survival installations, like water supply and sewerage systems, agricultural fields, market places, food storage sites, power generation and electricity grids, hospitals, schools, basic transportation infrastructure,  all to create the most abject scenario for starvation and disease, especially intestinal diseases, dysentery, cholera, from lack of drinking water and sewage pollution. With a currency that loses every day more of its value and skyrocketing food prices, three quarters of the population depends on humanitarian aid, most of which is blocked at the points of entry.

The last remaining lifeline for about 18 million Yemenis is the port of Hodeida. In fact, the assault on the port city of Hodeida is led by another U.S. Gulf coalition ally, the United Arab Emirates. The deadly operation to capture Hodeida is dubbed “Golden Victory”, putting up to a million people into an open prison of sexual torture, rape, starvation and uncountable other war crimes. According to UN estimates, a quarter-million men, women, and children could die from the military assault alone should the US-backed coalition continue its invasion of Hodeida. Saudi warplanes have already bombed school buses with children and buses of refugees fleeing the airstrikes, killing hundreds.

Mr. President Sanchez, you must be aware of this abysmal situation and crime that your 400 guided missiles would worsen – more bloodshed, more suffering, more children killed? Aren’t you?

And if you are, Mr. President, don’t you think that the humanitarian gesture that you first intended, not selling these bombs to the Saudis would by far outweigh the unemployment of 6000 shipyard workers?  An unemployment that your government could easily resolve, if not on a regular, then on an exceptional basis for the exceptional cause of avoiding more killing and more suffering, or what the UN describes as an outright genocide.

But there may be more at stake than meets the eye. Despite some fierce opposition, the US Congress has again voted for unquestioned support for Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen. Foreign Secretary Pompeo has made it clear that he expects allied nations, especially NATO nations, of which Spain is one, to follow the US lead in supporting the Saudi-led hostility against a nation already eviscerated, for all practical purposes.

Was this perhaps understood as a threat of US sanctions, in case you disobey this tacit order, Mr. President?

Dear Mr. Sanchez, you would have a brilliant and simple legal reason for NOT selling these deadly and destructive weapons, missiles and warships, to the Saudis. The Spanish Constitution, like the Constitutions of most European countries, prohibits selling weapons to countries “when there are indications that these weapons could be used against inherent human dignity”. In addition, the common position of the EU recommends and insists that her members refrain from selling arms when there is a risk that they are used to violate Human Rights.

Of course, any EU law or regulation is easily overruled by the Masters from Washington. That’s why it takes guts – and more – for a President, a socialist and humanitarian at heart, one who in his first 100 days in office has already done a lot of good at home, by undoing some of the disastrous social laws of his conservative predecessor, who was forced out of office in the midst of modern Spain’s scandal of worst corruption – hence, for you, Mr. President, to resist the pressure from outside as well as from within – would be sending an important message of morals and ethics to the world.

Mr. Sanchez, you would be a hero, not only for Spain and the Spanish shipyard workers, who would most certainly applaud you, but for the entire world. You would demonstrate that your ethics cannot be compromised by money or political pressure. This would, indeed, be a novelty for our neoliberal western world.

And your personal benefit, Mr. Sanchez: You could again sleep at night.

Riyadh purchases an Iron Dome from Israel

The Arab Press has reported that an Israel system of protection against short term grenades and rockets, «the Iron Dome», was sold to Saudi Arabia. The United States probably facilitated the transaction. The “Iron Dome” was conceived by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. It has been operational since 2011 along the Gaza Strip and from 2017 it was installed on several ships at sea. Its cost, normally prohibitive, is being taken care of by the United States. The Israeli lobby in the US Congress (...)

Doctrines of Impunity: John Bolton and the ICC

The Trump administration’s national security advisor John Bolton has never been a fan of international law, a concept he has found, at best, rubbery.  Any institution supposedly guided by its spirit was bound to draw the ire of both his temper and temperament.  Before members of the Federalist Society on Monday, Bolton took to the pulpit with a fury reserved for the unreflective patriot certain that his country, right or wrong, was above such matters.  “The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court.”

The wicked body, in this instance, is the International Criminal Court, established by the Rome Statute to try instances of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, a “court of last resort” backed by 123 nations.

The instigation for such concern on Bolton’s part came from the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who requested that the court investigate the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan from 2003 by forces including elements of the US military and intelligence services.  In doing so, she was moving the frame of reference beyond a continent that has featured all too readily in the court’s prosecutions: Africa.

Bolton was quick off the mark after the announcement in 2017, with a blistering observation in the Wall Street Journal:

The Trump administration should not respond to Ms. Bensouda in any way that acknowledges the ICC’s legitimacy.  Even merely contesting its jurisdiction risks drawing the US deeper into the quicksand.

Bolton has been consistent with such tirades.  In 2000, he contemplated the issue of whether there was such a thing as “law” in the matter of international affairs. His sustained attack in Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems remains salient to a parochial understanding of how such rules work.  For Bolton, the central defining issue was one of liberty: how such “law” might “affect individuals in the exercise of their individual freedom”.  Prior to the Second World War, international law was essentially a matter of nation states rather than individuals and groups.

Bolton wishes it remained there, a courtly, distant matter separate from the populace.  But “the logic of today’s international law proponents drives them toward more pervasive international command-and-control structures that will deeply affect the domestic policies and constitutions of all nations.”  Such law lacked notions of “popular sovereignty or public accountability through reasonably democratic popular controls over creation, interpretation, and enforcement of laws”.  It lacked clear sources and a mechanism to determine its change.  In short, and here, reflective of the sum of all his grievances against international law, such juridical phenomena were not of the US order of things, specifically the “United States Constitution and its system of government, exemplifying the kind of legal system acceptable to a free person.”

His address to the Federalist Society recapitulates his critique: the “supranational” and “unchecked” conspiracy of the ICC advanced by “‘global governance’ advocates” inimical to the Founders’ vision.  “Any day now, the ICC may announce the start of a formal investigation against these American patriots, who voluntarily signed on to go into harm’s way to protect our nation, our homes, and our families in the wake of the 9/11 attacks…. An unfounded, unjustifiable investigation.”

The efforts of the ICC was to be frustrated at every turn.  No assistance would be provided to its functions and its pursuits. “And, certainly, we will not join the ICC.  We will let the ICC die on its own.  After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”

Bolton keeps interesting company in having such views.  The refusal by the US to ratify the ICC’s founding document in 2002 was joined by Israel, Saudi Arabia and China, fearing its “unacceptable consequences for our national sovereignty”.  Bolton subsequently led efforts as Under Secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration to broker some hundred bilateral deals preventing countries from surrendering US nationals to the ICC.  These remain, by his own admission, a proud achievement.

The ICC has had its fair share of bad press.  It groans under a bureaucracy that has led to accusations of justice delayed being justice denied.  It has conspicuously failed to deter the perpetration of atrocities in Syria, Yemen and Myanmar.  Its Africa-focus has also caused more than a flutter of dissent from states on that continent.  Early last year, the African Union passed a non-binding resolution for member states to withdraw from the court, or at the very least seek reforming it.  South Africa confirmed its desire to remove itself from the jurisdictional reach of the ICC, a decision that continues to shadow law makers.

Bolton’s resentment, in short, has fuel to fire.  President Donald Trump sees any international pact untouched by his influence to be deficient and contrary to the values of the imperium.  But the ICC still has legs, however plodding, and such efforts to despoil their function will not necessarily cripple, let alone kill it.

In contrast to Bolton’s view is another stream of US legal thought that sees international law and its enforcement as indispensable to peace.  That view is unduly rosy, and held, at times, disingenuously. But for the US Chief Prosecutor Robert H. Jackson, delivering his opening address in November 1945 to the judges of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, such a body, far from being abstract, incoherent and spineless, supplied the animating legitimacy for an international court.

What fouled international law’s decent nest were those wars of imperialism waged during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, leaving the impression “that all wars are to be regarded as legitimate wars.”  Jackson’s point was that no one, not even the leaders of the United States, could always remain unaccountable, anathema to Bolton’s idea of impunity outside the US constitution.

Catholic Support for War: Another Child Abuse Scandal

On August 14, 2018 a report from a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania identified 300 Catholic priests across the state who had sexually abused more than 1,000 children. “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades,” the grand jury wrote in one of the broadest inquiries into church sex abuse in U.S. history. Five days earlier, on August 9, in northern Yemen, a Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit a school bus with a missile made by Lockheed Martin and supplied to the Saudis by the U.S. government, and 44 children were killed. Just as the horror of abuse of children by priests goes beyond the scope of the report from Pennsylvania, the children traumatized and killed by the U.S. military and its proxies globally number far more than those 44. Only one of these events sparked a crisis and soul-searching both in and out of the Catholic Church, but they both should have.

Some Catholic activists for peace and justice have long lived in a state of crisis with our church and have recognized the scandal of “men of God” who bless and cover for the abuse and murder of innocents through war, economic injustice and institutional racism.

“Over and over again in history the Church has become so corrupt it just cries out to heaven for vengeance,” Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement said in a 1970 interview. “The crisis is something terrific,” she said then, before the problem of sexual abuse of the young was well known. This crisis, she said, was “a result of the corruption in the institutional Church, through money and through their acceptance of the lousy, rotten system.”

A radical even before she became a Catholic in 1927 (“I have said, sometimes flippantly, that the mass of bourgeois smug Christians who denied Christ in His poor made me turn to the Communists, and it was the Communists and working with them that made me turn to God…”) Dorothy never had the “honeymoon” of blind love enjoyed by many new converts and was always conscious of the Church’s flaws and failings. “I was just as much against capitalism and imperialism as ever, and here I was going over to the opposition, because of course the Church was lined up with property, with the wealthy, with the state, with capitalism, with all the forces of reaction,” she wrote in her autobiography, The Long Loneliness. “This I had been taught to think and this I still think to a great extent.”

Even as a new convert, Dorothy deplored “the scandal of businesslike priests, of collective wealth, the lack of a sense of responsibility for the poor, the worker, the Negro, the Mexican, the Filipino, and even the oppression of these, and the consenting to the oppression of them by our industrialist-capitalist order – these made me feel often that priests were more like Cain than Abel.  ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ they seemed to say in respect to the social order…  There was plenty of charity but too little justice. ‘The worst enemies would be those of our own household,’ Christ had warned us.”

While the use of the word “scandal” to describe the Catholic Church is new and painful for many contemporary Catholics, it was constituent to Dorothy Day’s vocabulary: “I loved the Church for Christ made visible, not for itself, because it was so often a scandal to me,” she said. More than once she applied Jesus’ caution that our enemies are “of our own household” to priests and bishops. She confessed that it was these “enemies,” not the Viet Cong, not even the industrial war profiteers and generals, that she found the hardest to love and to forgive as Jesus bade her.

In a 1967 column entitled “In Peace Is My Bitterness Most Bitter” Dorothy wrote about Cardinal Spellman and his support for the war in Vietnam: “But what words are those he spoke — going against even the Pope, calling for victory, total victory? Words are as strong and powerful as bombs, as napalm.” “I can sit in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and wrestle for that peace in the bitterness of my soul, a bitterness which many Catholics throughout the world feel, and I can find many things in Scripture to console me, to change my heart from hatred to love of enemy.”

In 2002, after growing awareness of clerical abuse of children and twenty two years after Dorothy Day’s death, the priest/activist Father John Dear decried the scandal of the Church’s support of the war in Afghanistan: “Last November, nearly all the U.S. Catholic bishops voted to bless and support the bombing and mass murder of the people of Afghanistan. We know that some 4000 civilians were killed during the first two months of that U.S. war. Hundreds of children were killed by the United States, and the Catholic bishops condoned their murder.” John Dear stated what should be obvious: “Talk about child abuse! The Church cannot condemn child abuse by pedophiles and yet bless the government’s murder of children in its wars, if it wants to be consistent and faithful to Christ.”

Many Catholics are now struggling with the question, “how can I remain in this abusive Church?” In her meditation on Cardinal Spellman, Dorothy Day asked “as to the Church, where else shall we go, except to the Bride of Christ, one flesh with Christ? Though she is a harlot at times, she is our Mother.” Dorothy often quoted theologian Romano Guardini, who said “the Church is the Cross on which Christ is always crucified. One cannot separate Christ from his bloody, painful Church. One must live in a state of permanent dissatisfaction with the Church.”

Long time peacemaker and resister, Father Daniel Berrigan once said “I don’t know a more irreligious attitude, one more utterly bankrupt of any human content, than one which permits children to be destroyed.” In a situation like the present, satisfaction with the Church and its institutions is unnatural, sinful, even, and to view the suffering of children without scandal is inhuman. For too long, the Church has abetted the abuse, exploitation and murder of children. I pray that the rising outrage in the Church over the exploitation of children, and the resolve to protect them, will encompass also the children who are victims of war.