Category Archives: Syria

The World Must End The US’ Illegal Economic War

The United States is relying more heavily on illegal unilateral coercive measures (also known as economic sanctions) in place of war or as part of its build-up to war. In fact, economic sanctions are an act of war that kills tens of thousands of people each year through financial strangulation. An economic blockade places a country under siege.

A recent example is the increase in economic measures being imposed against Iran, which many viewed as more acceptable than a military attack. In response to Iran retaliating for the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani and seven other people, Iran used ballistic missiles to strike two bases in Iraq that house US troops. President Trump responded by saying he would impose more sanctions on Iran. Then he ended his comments by urging peace negotiations with Iran. The United States needs to understand there will be no negotiations with Iran until the US lifts sanctions that seek to destroy the Iranian economy and turn the people against their government.

The sanctions on Iran have been in place since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which made that country independent of the United States. Iran is not the only country being sanctioned by the United States. Samuel Moncada, the Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations, speaking to the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement of 120 nations on October 26, 2019, denounced the imposition of sanctions by the US, as “economic terrorism which affects a third of humanity with more than 8,000 measures in 39 countries.”

It is time to end US economic warfare and repeal these unilateral coercive measures, which violate international law.

Take Action: Join the International Days of Action Against  Sanctions
and Economic WarMarch 13 – 15, 2020

 

Sanctions are war (From havaar.org.)

Sanctions Are A Weapon of War

The United States uses sanctions against countries that resist the US’ agenda. US sanctions are designed to kill by destroying an economy through denial of access to finance, causing hyperinflation and shortages and blocking basic necessities such as food and medicine. For example, sanctions are expected to cause the death of tens of thousands of Iranians by creating a severe shortage of critical medicines and medical equipment everywhere in Iran.

Muhammad Sahimi writes that in a “letter published by The Lancet, the prestigious medical journal, three doctors working in Tehran’s MAHAK Pediatric Cancer Treatment and Research Center warned that, ‘Re-establishment of sanctions, scarcity of drugs due to the reluctance of pharmaceutical companies to deal with Iran, and a tremendous increase in oncology drug prices [due to the plummeting value of the Iranian rial by 50–70%], will inevitably lead to a decrease in survival of children with cancer.’”

Diabetes, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and asthma affect over ten million Iranians who will find essential medicines impossible to get or available only at high prices. The US claims that food and medicines are excluded from sanctions but in practice, they are not because pharmaceutical companies fear sanctions being applied to them over some technical violation and Iran cannot pay for essentials when banks can’t do business with it. European nations failed to persuade the Trump administration to ensure that essential medicine and food were available to Iranians.

In Venezuela, due to the sanctions, 180,000 medical operations have been canceled and 823,000 chronically ill patients are awaiting medicines. The Center for Economic and Policy Research found sanctions have deprived Venezuela of “billions of dollars of foreign exchange needed to pay for essential and life-saving imports,” contributing to 40,000 total deaths in 2017 and 2018. More than 300,000 Venezuelans are at risk due to a lack of access to medicine or treatment. Economists warn US sanctions could cause famine in Venezuela. Sanctions also cause shortages of parts and equipment needed for electricity generation, water systems, and transportation as well as preventing participation in the global financial market. Sanctions, which are illegal under the UN, OAS and US law, have caused mass protests in Venezuela against the US.

Sanctions against Iran and Venezuela could be a prelude to military attack; i.e., the US weakening a nation economically before attacking it. This is what happened in Iraq. Under pressure from the United States, on August 2, 1990, the UN Security Council passed sanctions that required countries to stop trading or carrying out financial transactions with Iraq. President George H.W. Bush said the UN sanctions would not be lifted “as long as Saddam Hussein is in power.” The US continued to pressure the increasingly skeptical Security Council members into compliance even though hundreds of thousands of children were dying. In 1996, then-U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright was asked about the death of as many as 500,000 children due to lack of medicine and malnutrition exacerbated by the sanctions, and she brutally replied, “[The] price is worth it.” Sanctions were also used against Libya and Syria before the US attacked them.

This is consistent with the US ‘way of war’ described by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz in “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States,” which describes frontier counterinsurgency premised on annihilation including the destruction of food, housing, and resources as well as ruthless militarism. The US has waged a long-term economic war against Cuba (sanctions in place since 1960), North Korea (first sanctions in the 1950s, tightened in the 1980s), Zimbabwe (2003) and Iran (1979)

Sanctions hurt civilians, especially the most vulnerable – babies, children, the elderly and chronically ill – not governments. Their intent is to shrink the economy and cause chronic shortages and hyperinflation while ensuring a lack of access to finance to pay for essentials. The US then blames the targeted government claiming that corruption or socialism is the problem in an effort to turn the people against their government. This often backfires as people instead rally around the government, quiet their calls for democracy and work to develop a resistance economy.

Stop Sanctions destroying lives from BrightonAndHoveNews.org.

The Movement to End Sanctions

In recent years, a movement has been building to end the use of illegal economic coercive measures. The movement includes governments coming together in forums like the Non-Aligned Movement, made up of countries that represent 55 percent of the global population, as well as UN member-states calling for international law and the UN Charter to be upheld and social movements organizing to educate about the impact of sanctions and demand an end to their use. This June, the Non-Aligned Movement called for the end of sanctions against Venezuela.

Popular Resistance is working with groups around the world on the Global Appeal for Peace, an initiative to create a worldwide network of people and organizations that will work together to oppose the lawless actions of the United States, and any country that acts similarly. A high priority is opposing the imposition of unilateral coercive economic measures that violate the charter of the United Nations. The UN and its International Court of Justice have been ineffective in holding the US accountable for its actions. No one country or one movement has the power alone to hold the United States accountable, but together we can make a difference. Join this campaign here.

With 39 countries targeted with sanctions, and other countries impacted because they cannot trade with those countries, nations are challenging the US’ dollar domination. Countries are seeking to conduct trade without the dollar and are no longer treating the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency while also avoiding Wall Street. The de-dollarization of the global economy is a boomerang effect that is hastening due to the abuse of sanctions and will seriously weaken the US economy.

Foreign Minister Zarif, who describes sanctions as “economic terrorism,” warned that “the excessive use of economic power by the United States, and the excessive use of the dollar as a weapon in US economic terrorism against other countries, will backfire.”  As the blowback continues to grow, the negative impact on the US economy may force the US to stop using sanctions. The end of dollar domination will add to the demise of the failing US empire.

Take Action: Join the International Days of Action Against  Sanctions
and Economic War
March 13 – 15, 2020

End the Deadly Sanctions banner on the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC. (From the Embassy Defense Collective.)

Time to End the Use of Illegal Economic Sanctions

The combination of countries acting against US sanctions, and people’s movements pressuring the US government has the potential to end the abuse of sanctions. The EU has moved to blunt the impact of the sanctions against Iran by creating an alternative to the US-controlled SWIFT system for trade. This is spurring the end of the dollar as the reserve currency. Some officials in the EU have called for retaliatory sanctions against the US.

Trump left a small opening for potential diplomacy with Iran that could lead to the end of sanctions against that country. Trump bragged about the US being the number one oil and gas producer, taking credit for an Obama climate crime, and therefore no longer needing to spend hundreds of millions a year to have troops in the Middle East. He concluded with a message to the “people and leaders of Iran” that the US was “ready to have peace with all those who seek it.” He said the US wanted Iran to have a “great and prosperous future with other countries of the world.”

That future is only possible if the US moves to end the sanctions against Iran. Iranians have learned the US cannot be trusted. Iran lived up to the requirements of the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but Trump did not when he withdrew from it and re-instated draconian sanctions lifted by Obama. Trump added even move sanctions. This also angered European allies who had negotiated the agreement and were put in the position of being subservient to the US or going against it. To regain Iran’s trust, the US needs to make a good-faith gesture of ending punitive economic measures.

North Korea, which has been sanctioned by the US longer than any other country, had a similar experience after they reached an agreement with the United States in 1994 under the Clinton administration.  The George W. Bush administration wanted to put in place a national missile defense system but the agreement with North Korea blocked that. John Bolton and Dick Cheney falsely accused North Korea of violating the agreement, increased sanctions against it and claimed it was part of the Axis of Evil, along with Iran, and Iraq. North Korea, like Iran, learned they cannot trust the United States. Sanctions are causing thousands of deaths in North Korea. Now, China and Russia are allied with North Korea and are urging relief from the US sanctions. Russia and China have also ignored US sanctions against Venezuela and continue to do business with it.

On December 17, the Senate passed a Sanctions Bill that put in place sanctions against corporations working with Russia to develop gas pipelines to Europe. The action is naked US imperialism seeking to prevent Russia from being the main natural gas exporter to the EU market and to replace it with more expensive US-produced gas, a move to save the financially-underwater US fracking industry. Russia, Germany, and others have defiantly told Washington its weaponizing of economic sanctions will not halt the gas pipeline construction.

The indiscriminate, illegal and immoral use of sanctions is an act of war. Unless they are authorized by the United Nations, unilateral coercive measures are illegal. A critical objective of the peace and justice movement in the United States, working with allies around the world, must be to end this terrorist economic warfare. The US economy currently depends on financial hegemony and war. The slow, steady collapse of the dollarized economy means the 2020s will be the decade US domination comes to an end. The US must learn to be a cooperative member of the global community or risk this isolation and retaliation.

Censorship in Canada? Vanessa Beeley’s Talks on Syria

White Helmets

Vanessa Beeley is a British journalist who was invited to Canada in the fall of 2019 to present talks in seven cities on the conflict in Syria. The sponsors of her speaking tour were several anti-war groups, including the Geopolitical Economy Research Group, the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War, and Peace Alliance in Winnipeg.

Beeley is an independent journalist and photographer who has worked extensively in the Middle East, including dangerous zones in Gaza, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen and Syria. In 2017 she was a finalist for the prestigious Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. In 2018 the British National Council for the Training of Journalists named her as one of the 238 most respected journalists in the UK. In 2019 she was one of the recipients of the Serena Shim Award for uncompromising integrity in journalism.

Over a number of years, at considerable risk to her life, Beeley has travelled to Syria on several occasions to report on the conflict between the Syrian army and a variety of forces, largely foreign mercenaries, who are trying to overthrow the Syrian government. A United Nations report has stated that more than 40,000 foreign fighters from 110 countries may have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join terrorist groups.

In the course of her first-hand research on Syria, Beeley has also obtained information on the operations of the White Helmets, a supposedly “neutral, impartial and humanitarian” force dedicated to saving the lives of Syrian citizens in war zones.

In her various ensuing publications, with extensive documentation and photographic evidence, she has presented a compelling account of what is occurring in Syria. Fortunately, she is not alone in presenting such information. There are several other journalists who have done almost comparable first-hand accounts. These include Canada’s Eva Bartlett, and American journalists Max Blumenthal, Rania Khalek and Anya Parampil.

Because the reports of these few investigative journalists vary dramatically from what is presented by the mainstream media in the United States, Canada and much of Europe, a malicious and concerted campaign has developed to malign and discredit these journalists, largely in the interests of US foreign policy regarding Syria. For so-called “experts” and journalists who provide media cover to Syria’s jihadist insurgency, the three American journalists had crossed a line. The ensuing character assassination campaign against the three American “rogue” journalists has been revealed in reportage by MintPress News.

These three journalists point out that a number of Western reporters have gone to Islamist-held regions in Syria and then presented views that the terrorists are justified in trying to overthrow the Syrian government. Because of this, Anya Parampil states that it is critically important to report on the life of ordinary Syrians not under terrorist control. According to Parampil:

This group of Syrians represents the vast majority of the country, despite the fact that we never hear from them in corporate media. It is my job, as a U.S. journalist with the privilege of working independently, to visit countries and speak to people impacted by the policies of Washington, particularly those who are excluded from the mainstream narrative. Unless we hear from these people, the U.S. public will be more willing to support military and economic war against the Syrian people. That is why CNN and other outlets act as though they’re invisible. The media has been weaponized against the Syrian people.

Max Blumenthal commented:

My ability to convey this reality back to the U.S. public was apparently such a threat to an unusually vocal echo chamber of regime-change fanatics that I was branded a Nazi … Their attacks were part and parcel of the Western campaign to isolate Syrians from the rest of the world, and all because their government held off a multi-billion dollar proxy war that would have transformed their country into an even more harrowing version of Libya if it had succeeded.

As for Beeley, as soon as her Canada speaking tour was announced, Huffington Post was alerted and in short order two highly defamatory articles on her appeared. The Post reporters, Emilie Clavel and Chris York, who have never been to Syria, present the standard mainstream media accusation that President Assad heads “the 21st century’s most murderous regime” and was basically responsible for the war and for the bulk of the casualties. To support their views, they rely on other writers who claim “Beeley was the Syrian conflict’s goddess of propaganda.”

Beeley was scheduled to speak at the University of Montreal; when some criticism was voiced, a University spokesperson stated that “a university is a place of debates and one of its cornerstones is academic freedom.” Yet, after the defamatory reports about Beeley came out, her talk was cancelled. The Post’s Chris York tweeted that “The University of Montreal has cancelled a planned talk by Vanessa Beeley after it was pointed out that she is a conspiracy theorist, not a journalist.” Strange that after a US publication’s blatant propaganda attack on an experienced war correspondent, the University of Montreal now appears not to be a place of “academic freedom.”

After Montreal, Beeley was scheduled to speak in Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Mississauga, Regina and Winnipeg. Despite concerted de-platforming efforts in all these cities, she did manage to present her talks. It was only in Montreal, Hamilton and Winnipeg that it was necessary to secure alternate venues because of the pressure to block her presentations.

Beeley’s speaking tour ended in Winnipeg, and here she was denied a venue, at short notice, not only at the University of Winnipeg but also at the Winnipeg Millennium Library. On investigation, it turns out that the senior administration at the university had not been informed of Beeley’s talk, so the decision to deny a venue was made at some lower level, without proper authorization. As such, it would be unfair to blame the university for this matter.

In the case of the Millennium Library, a senior spokesperson stated that Beeley’s proposed talk “would not comply with [the library’s] guidelines.” When pressed on the matter, the spokesperson said that in his personal opinion the contents of the proposed talk could be construed as “hate speech” and as such Beeley would not be permitted to speak there.

Beeley was finally booked to give her talk on December 12, with practically no public notice, at the Winnipeg Chilean Association on Burrows Avenue.

I find it ironic that people writing in the comfort and safety at their desks in the US, UK and Canada about the war in Syria and the White Helmets are given more credence by officials in some public institutions than journalists such as Beeley and others who actually go to Syria to see the situation first-hand.

I attended Beeley’s highly informative session in Winnipeg and had a discussion with her before and after the talk. Her hour-long presentation was fully documented and supported by appropriate photographs. For anyone to criticize her presentation as “hate speech” is preposterous. It is a profound pity that Canadian university students and a wider section of the public were prevented from hearing her perspective.

I have always had a keen interest in foreign affairs and during my years of teaching at the University of Winnipeg, my courses often involved such matters. Since my retirement, I have had more time to devote to what is going on in the world. As such, during these years I have written and published a wide range of articles on a variety of issues, including matters involving Syria and the White Helmets.

In the case of the White Helmets, I immediately discovered that they operated only in areas held by Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra terrorist forces – and nowhere else in Syria. This being the case, how could they claim to be “neutral, impartial and humanitarian” when they were nowhere to be found in the rest of Syria?

The White Helmets organization was created and funded by US and British efforts back in March of 2013, with an initial input of $23 million by USAID (US Agency for International Development). Since then they’ve received over $100 million, including at least CDN$7.5 million. Max Blumenthal has explored in some detail the various funding resources and relationships that the White Helmets draw on, mostly in the US and Europe. Overall, the CIA has spent over $1 billion on arming and training the so-called Syrian “rebels” who in actuality constitute a variety of Al-Qaeda forces.

A disturbing aspect of the White Helmets is their close association with Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra forces. In several cases their headquarters are in the same building with these terrorist groups. Videos are also available that show their gross disrespect for the dead bodies of Syrian soldiers (several White Helmets were filmed giving the victory sign while standing on a heap of dead Syrian soldiers on the way to being dumped in the trash).

If the White Helmets devoted their activities solely to save the lives of people caught up in war zones, that would be commendable and beyond reproach, but that is not the case. A major part of their activities is devoted to media reports and public relations, and it seems that this is what draws a significant portion of their funding while constituting the primary reason for their creation. In fact, it appears the White Helmets use search and rescue activities as a cover-up to demonize Syrian President Assad and help terrorists overthrow the Syrian government.

As renowned journalist John Pilger put it, the White Helmets are a “propaganda construct,” an Al-Qaeda support group, whose prime purpose is to try to put a veneer of respectability on the vile head-chopping terrorists in Syria.

Given all this, I was astounded to discover that in the late summer of 2016, the federal NDP had recommended to the federal government that Canada should nominate the White Helmets for the Nobel Peace Prize. In response to this I wrote an open letter to the NDP denouncing their ill-considered proposal. Fortunately, Stéphane Dion, our Minister of Foreign Affairs at that time, ignored their request. My open letter was posted by Canadian Dimension and it was later reposted on two other sites.

Then in the summer of 2018 Canada announced that it would take in a sizeable number of White Helmets just before the terrorist area in which they operated was recaptured by the Syrian army. I wrote an article denouncing this questionable course of action.

I discussed how Philip Giraldi, a former counter-terrorism specialist and a former member of the CIA, in a detailed article stated that at the present time there is no bigger fraud than the story of the White Helmets. The story that’s been put forth is that with the Syrian army closing in on the last White Helmet affiliates still fighting in the country, the Israeli government, aided by the US, “staged an emergency humanitarian evacuation” of 800 White Helmet members, including their families, to Israel and then on to Jordan. Pleas were then put forth to resettle them in the US, Britain, Germany and other countries.

Near the end of 2015 I wrote an article that presented the background on the various terrorist groups, going back to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan. I will cite a concluding paragraph:

When ISIS beheaded two American journalists, there was outrage and denunciation throughout the West, but when the same ISIS beheaded hundreds of Syrian soldiers, and meticulously filmed these war crimes, this was hardly reported anywhere. In addition, almost from the very beginning of the Syrian tragedy, al-Qaeda groups have been killing and torturing not only soldiers but police, government workers and officials, journalists, Christian church people, aid workers, women and children, as well as suicide bombings in market places. All this was covered up in the mainstream media, and when the Syrian government correctly denounced this as terrorism, this was ignored or denounced as “Assad’s propaganda.”

Being aware of this background, nothing that Beeley stated in her talk surprised me. What she stated was just an update to what I had already known. What was new to me was her account of the recent death of James Le Mesurier, a former British military officer, who founded the White Helmets in 2014. He was found dead in Istanbul this past November 11 and it is still uncertain if he was murdered or if he committed suicide. Almost immediately afterwards, Beeley wrote a lengthy and well-researched article about his mysterious death. I would like to include a reference to this, especially as an example of the quality of Beeley’s research and writing style. And yet this is the person who is accused of presenting hate speech and not worthy of being heard.

The thought has occurred to me that since my views on Syria and the White Helmets are identical to those of Beeley, suppose I proposed to give a talk at a Canadian university or public library. Would I, as a retired professor and senior scholar, be blocked in the way that Beeley was? Given the precedent of what happened to her, why should I be treated any differently?

Frankly, I can hardly believe what has happened. To me it is outrageous that a person of Beeley’s credibility as an investigative journalist and the author of a wide range of superbly documented articles and books should be barred from presenting a talk on a critically important subject at a Canadian university or a public library. What has happened to our supposed “freedom of speech”?

• First published at Canadian Dimension

How the Pro-War “Left” Fell for the Kurds in Syria

The October decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to withdraw American troops from northeastern Syria did not only precipitate the Turkish offensive, codenamed ‘Operation Peace Spring’, into Kurdish-held territory which followed. It also sparked an outcry of hysteria from much of the so-called “left” that has been deeply divided during the 8-year long conflict over its Kurdish question. Despite the fact that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were objectively a U.S. proxy army before they were “abandoned” by Washington to face an assault by its NATO ally, the ostensibly “progressive” politics of the mostly-Kurdish militants duped many self-identified people on the left into supporting them as the best option between terrorists and a “regime.” Apparently, everyone on earth except for the Kurds and their ‘humanitarian interventionist’ supporters saw this “betrayal” coming, which speaks to the essential naiveté of such amateurish politics. However, there is a historical basis to this political tendency that should be interrogated if a lesson is to be learned by those misguided by it.

Turkey initially went all-in with the West, Israel, and Gulf states in a joint effort to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by stoking the flames of the country’s Arab Spring in 2011 into a full-blown uprising. With Istanbul serving as the base for the opposition, Kurdish nationalists hoping to participate were not at all pleased that the alliance had based its government-in-exile in Turkey and naturally considered Ankara’s role to be detrimental to their own interests in establishing an autonomous ethnonationalist state. Likewise, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did not bargain on the conflict facilitating such a scenario, with the forty year war with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in southeastern Turkey still ongoing. When the PKK-linked People’s Protection Units (YPG) militias took control of northern Syrian towns and established a self-governing territory after boycotting the opposition, it was done only after negotiations between Damascus and Kurdish leaders. The Syrian government willingly and peacefully ceded the territory to them, just as we were told that the Baathists were among their oppressors.

The Rojava front opened up when the Kurds came under attack from the most radical jihadist militants in the opposition, some of which would later merge with the Islamist insurgency in western Iraq to form ISIS. Yet we now know for a fact that the rise of Islamic State was something actually desired by the U.S.-led coalition in the hopes of bringing down Assad, as revealed in a declassified 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report. Shortly after clarifying that the opposition is “backed by the West, Gulf countries and Turkey”, the memo states:

If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).

Meanwhile, it was the Kurds themselves who divulged Ankara’s support for Daesh, frequently retrieving Turkish-issued passports from captured ISIS fighters. Even Emmanuel Macron said as much at the recent NATO summit in London, prompting a row between France and Turkey that took a backseat to the more ‘newsworthy’ Trump tantrum over a hot mic exchange between the French President and his Canadian and British counterparts. Then there was the disclosure that the late Senator John McCain had crossed the border from Turkey into Syria in mid-2013 to meet with leaders of the short-lived Free Syrian Army (FSA), dubbed as “moderate rebels”, which just a short time later would decline after its members joined better armed, more radical groups and the ISIS caliphate was proclaimed. One of the rebel leaders pictured with McCain in his visit is widely suspected to be the eventual chosen leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was allegedly killed in a U.S. raid in Idlib this October. Ironically, many of the Turkish-backed FSA militias are now assisting Ankara in its assault on the Kurds while those who supported arming them feign outrage over the US troop removal.

Henry Kissinger reportedly once remarked, “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.” Given that the U.S. was at the very least still using Daesh as a strategic asset, it seems inexplicable that the Kurdish leadership could trust Washington. The SDF had only a few skirmishes with the Syrian army during the entire war— if they wanted to defeat ISIS, why not partner with Damascus and Moscow? To say nothing of the U.S.’s long history of backing their oppression, from its support of Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s to the arming of Turkey’s brutal crackdown against the PKK which ended with the capture of its cultish leader, Abdullah Öcalan, in 1999. Did they really think after enlisting them for its cosmetic ‘fight’ against ISIS that the U.S. would continue to side with them against Ankara? Even so, Kurdish gains against Daesh would pale in comparison to those by the Syrian army with Russian air support. More perplexing is why anyone on the left would choose to back a group being used as a cat’s paw for imperialism, regardless of whatever ideals they claim to hold.

Perhaps the U.S. would not have reneged on its implicit pledge to help with the foundation of a Kurdish state had their “Assad must go” policy been successful, but the U.S. pullout appears to be the final nail in the coffin for both Washington’s regime change plans in Syria and an independent Kurdistan. The YPG’s makeover as the SDF was done at the behest of the U.S. but this did nothing to diminish the objections of Ankara (or many ‘leftists’ from supporting them), who insisted the YPG was already an extension and rebranding of the PKK, a group Washington itself designates as a terrorist organization. Any effort to create a buffer state in the enclave was never going to be tolerated by Turkey but it nonetheless enabled the U.S. to illegally occupy northern Syria and facilitate the ongoing looting of its oil. Unfortunately for Washington, the consequence was that it eventually pushed Ankara closer toward the Kremlin, as Turkey went from shooting down Russian jets one year to purchasing the S-400 weapon system from Moscow the next. After backing a botched coup d’etat attempt against Erdoğan in 2016, any hope of Washington bringing Turkey back into its fold would be to discard the Kurds as soon as their usefulness ran out, if it wasn’t too late to repair the damage already.

Why would the U.S. risk losing its geo-strategic alliance with Turkey? To put it simply, it’s ‘special relationship’ with Israel took greater precedent. Any way you slice it, Washington’s foray into the region has been as much about Zionism as imperialism and its backing of the Kurds is no exception. Despite the blowback, the invasion of Iraq and destruction of Libya took two enormous sources of support for the Palestinian resistance off the chessboard. It may have strengthened Iran in the process, but that is all the more reason for the U.S. to sell a regime change attempt in Tehran in the future. Regrettably for Washington, when it tried to do the same in Syria, Russia intervened and emerged as the new peace broker in the Middle East. It comes as no surprise that following the Turkish invasion of northern Syria amid the U.S. withdrawal, the Kurds have finally struck a deal with Damascus and Moscow, a welcome and inevitable development that should have occurred years ago.

One of the main reasons for the Kurds joining the SDF so willingly has the same explanation as to why Washington was prepared to put its relationship with Ankara in jeopardy by supporting them: Israel. The cozy relationship between the Zionist state and the various Kurdish groups centered at the intersection of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria goes back as far as the 1960s, as Jerusalem has consistently used them to undermine its enemies. It is not by chance that their respective interests overlap to a near tee, between the founding of a Kurdish protectorate and the Zionist plan for a ‘Greater Israel’ in the Middle East which includes a balkanization of Syria. Mossad has openly provided the Kurds with training and they have learned much in the ways of the ethnic cleansing of Arabs from the Jewish state in order to carve out a Syrian Kurdistan. One can certainly have sympathy for the Kurds as the largest ethnic group in the world at 40 million people without a state, but the Israel connection runs much deeper than geopolitical interests to the very ideological basis of their militancy which calls all of their stated ideals into question.

The ties between the YPG and the PKK are undeniable, as both groups follow jailed leader Abdullah Öcalan’s teachings which merge Kurdish nationalism with the theories of ‘democratic confederalism’ from the influential Jewish-American anarchist philosopher, Murray Bookchin. While the PKK may have been initially founded as a ‘Marxist-Leninist’ organization in the early 70s, a widespread misconception is that it still follows that aim when its ideology long-ago shifted to that of a self-professed and contradictory ‘libertarian socialism’ theorized by Bookchin who was actually a zealous anti-communist. Not coincidentally, the Western anarchist icon was also an avowed Zionist who often defended Israel’s war crimes and genocide of Palestinians while demonizing its Arab state opponents as the aggressors, including Syria. Scratch an anarchist and a neo-conservative will bleed, every time.

Many on the pseudo-left who have pledged solidarity with the Kurds have attempted to base their reasoning on a historically inaccurate analogy comparing the Syrian conflict with the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. You would think ISIS would be the obvious first choice for the fascists in the Syrian war, but journalist Robert Mackey of popular “progressive” news site The Intercept even tried to cast the Syrian government as Francisco Franco’s Nationalists in an article comparing the 1937 bombing of Guernica by the Condor Legion to the 2018 chemical attack in Douma which remains in dispute regarding its perpetrator. One wonders if Mackey will retract his absurd comparison now that dozens of inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have dissented in emails published by WikiLeaks showing that the OPCW engaged in a cover-up with the Trump administration to pin blame for the attacks on the Syrian government instead of the opposition, but don’t hold your breath.

In this retelling of the Spanish Civil War, the Kurds are generally seen in the role of the Trotskyite Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) and the anarchist trade union National Confederation of Labour (CNT). In the midst of the conflict between the Nazi-supported Nationalists and Soviet-backed Republicans that was a prelude to World War II, the mobilization effort of all anti-fascist forces into a unified Popular Front was obstructed by the ultra-left and intransigent POUM and CNT who were then expelled from the coalition for their sectarianism. While the government was still fighting the Francoists, the POUM and CNT then attacked the Republicans but were put down in a failed insurrection. Although this revolt did not directly cause the loyalist defeat, it nevertheless sapped the strength from the Popular Front and smoothed the path for the generalissimo’s victory.

In the years since, Trotskyists have attempted to rewrite history by alleging that a primary historical text documenting the POUM’s sabotage of the Republicans — a 1938 pamphlet by journalist Georges Soria, the Spanish correspondent for the French Communist Party newspaper L’Humanite — is a forgery. On the Marxists Internet Archive website, an ‘editor’s note’ is provided as a preface to the text citing a single quote from Soria with the claim he admitted the work in its entirety was “no more than a fabrication”, but his words are selectively cropped to give that impression. While the author did admit accusations that the POUM‘s leadership were literal agents of Franco were a sensationalized exaggeration, the source of the full quote states the following:

On the one hand, the charge that the leaders of POUM, among them Andrés Nin, ‘were agents of the Gestapo and Franco’, was no more than a fabrication because it was impossible to adduce the slightest evidence. On the other hand, although the leaders of POUM were neither agents of Franco or agents of the Gestapo, it is true that their relentless struggle against the Popular Front played the game nolens volens (like it or not/willingly or unwillingly) of the Caudillo (General Franco).

In other words, Soria did not say the whole work was counterfeit like the editor’s note misleadingly suggests and reiterated that the POUM’s subversion helped Franco. (The Marxists Internet Archive does not hide its pro-Trotsky bias in its FAQ section.)  Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm summarized the inherent contradictions of the Spanish Civil War and the role ultra-leftism played in the demise of the Republic in one of his later essays:

Of course, the posthumous polemics about the Spanish war are legitimate, and indeed essential — but only if we separate out debate on real issues from the parti pris of political sectarianism, cold-war propaganda and pure ignorance of a forgotten past. The major question at issue in the Spanish civil war was, and remains, how social revolution and war were related on the republican side. The Spanish civil war was, or began as, both. It was a war born of the resistance of a legitimate government, with the help of a popular mobilisation, against a partially successful military coup; and, in important parts of Spain, the spontaneous transformation of the mobilisation into a social revolution. A serious war conducted by a government requires structure, discipline and a degree of centralisation. What characterises social revolutions like that of 1936 is local initiative, spontaneity, independence of, or even resistance to, higher authority — this was especially so given the unique strength of anarchism in Spain.

Murray Bookchin also wrote at length about the Spanish Civil War but celebrated the decentralized anarchist tactics which incapacitated the Popular Front. The anarcho-syndicalist theorist championed the ‘civil war within the civil war’ as a successful example of his antithetical vision of ‘libertarian socialism’, while his emphasis on the individualist aspects of the former half of his oxymoronic and anti-statist theory often bears a striking resemblance to neoliberal talking points about self-regulating free markets. This would explain why he actually regarded right-wing libertarians to be his natural allies over the the socialist left, whom he considered ‘totalitarian’ as he told the libertarian publication Reason magazine in an interview in 1979. His reactionary demonization of the Soviet Union and dismissal of the accomplishments of all other socialist revolutions was recalled by Michael Parenti in Blackshirts and Reds:

Left anticommunists remained studiously unimpressed by the dramatic gains won by masses of previously impoverished people under communism. Some were even scornful of such accomplishments. I recall how in Burlington Vermont, in 1971, the noted anticommunist anarchist, Murray Bookchin, derisively referred to my concern for “the poor little children who got fed under communism” (his words).

Like the International Brigades consisting of foreign volunteers to assist the Spanish Republic in the 1930s, there is an ‘International Freedom Battalion’ currently fighting with the Kurds in Syria. Unfortunately, its live-action role playing ‘leftist’ mercenaries missed the part about the original International Brigades having been backed by the Comintern, not the U.S. military. Meanwhile, Western media usually hostile to any semblance of radical politics have heavily promoted the Rojava federation as a feminist ‘direct democracy’ utopia, particularly giving excessive attention to the all-female Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) militia while ignoring the female regiments fighting for the secular Syrian government. As a result of the media’s exoticized portrayal of the Kurds and their endorsement by prominent misleaders on the left, from Slavoj Žižek to Noam Chomsky, many have been fooled into supporting them.

If the Spanish Civil War was a dress rehearsal for WWII, it remains to be seen if Syria proves to be a run-through for another global conflict. Then again, what has emerged from its climax is an increasingly multipolar world with the resurgence of Moscow as a deterrent to the mutually assured destruction between the U.S. and China. Leftists today wishing to continue the legacy of those who fought for the Spanish Republic should have thrown their support behind the Syrian patriots bravely defending their country from terrorism and imperialism, not left opportunism. Thankfully, this time the good guys have prevailed while the Kurds have paid the price for betraying their fellow countrymen. Liberals shedding crocodile tears about Rojava should take comfort in the fact that they can always play the latest Call of Duty: Modern Warfare video game featuring the YPG fighting alongside the U.S. military if they need to fulfill their imperial fantasies. Yes, that’s right, the latest installment of the popular first-person shooter franchise features a storyline inspired by the SDF. It’s too bad for them that in real life all of Syria will be returned to where it rightfully belongs under the Syrian Arab Republic.

Syria: the War, the Loss, and the Silence

Child from Eastern Aleppo receiving food in the Jibrin reception camp, December 14, 2016

On December 12, 2012, on the day, 4 years earlier, Western countries and allies – perversely calling themselves Friends of Syria – carried through a regime change by statement and set up a Syrian National Council of people never elected by anyone in Syria and told the world that it was, from now on, the only ‘legitimate representative of the Syrian people!’

During the 4 years, Western, Saudi, Turkish and the Gulf States supported innumerable illegal, destructive and mainly foreign terrorist groups with the goal to undermine the legitimate Syrian government and destabilise the country – as had been recommended by US ambassador William Roebuck1 in Damascus as far back as in 2006 (WikiLeaks documentation here).

December 12, 2016, marked a fundamental turning point.

Aleppo did not “fall to the dictator/butcher/mass murderer” aka President Bashar al-Assad2 – no, it was liberated and the occupation by terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Nusra during 4,5 years ended.

NATO member Turkey had been singularly active in pillaging everything of value in Aleppo and its huge industrial zone, bring it over to Turkey and convert the money to weapons and training facilities for terror groups – a quite peculiar way to contribute to the US Global War on Terror: Like the US itself, Turkey did its utmost to support terrorism in Syria.

Also, Assad’s predicted genocide on his own people there and then – well, just didn’t happen.

I documented this historic moment of change and liberation of Syrians from occupation because I was there, one of the extremely few Westerners, and the only one from Scandinavia. Six series with strong text and documentary photography – now seen by over 170,000 views on the Internet – and lots of articles on The Transnational.

Jibrin reception camp

Regrettably, not one Western media wanted, or dared, publish any of it.

Aleppo was said to fall by the Western press. But what fell in Aleppo in December 2016 was:

a) the regime change policy;
b) the inter-national war on Syria which is still, mostly and falsely, called a basically civil/domestic war, and
c) the constructed Western mainstream media narrative filled with fiction, fake and – not the least, omission – omitted facts, history, complexities and perspectives including that of international law, voices, experts and argument.

That narrative was created on the basis of millions upon millions of dollars of marketing, shocking videos, staged events, etc. and the peculiar phenomenon called the Syrian Civil Defence or White Helmets (who had stolen its first name from Syria’s Civil Defence (about this actor in the conflict, see here and here) which got millions of dollars, particularly from NATO countries), moral support, media coverage (brilliantly staged photos, Hollywood style), Nobel peace prize nominations, documentary film prizes and, well, only God know what more.

Eastern Aleppo, once an amazingly beautiful city on the Silk Road and on UNESCO’s list

I’ve reported and documented in details how Western media – Scandinavian as well as, e.g. The Nation – wanted to frame my texts and photos (which, for a truly free press, would have been a free-of-charge scoop) and ended up declining, across the board, to publish any of it.

Thank God, there is the Internet where broader perspectives, different angles and interpretations can still be posted – and there are genuinely independent think tanks without government and corporate funding like The Transnational Foundation that I am the co-founder and director of.

*****

Every war is two wars: the one on the ground and the one in the media. By now, both have fallen apart for the NATO countries and their regional allies.

And the price for this nice little NATO-Western adventure? For this adventure which shall be added to the sufferings and deaths wrought on, say, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya?

Here is World Vision’s data:

Millions scattered, creating the largest refugee and displacement crisis of our time. About 6.7 million Syrians are now refugees, and another 6.2 million people are displaced within Syria. Half of the people affected are children

… Oct. 17, 2019 update: Since military operations increased in northeast Syria early in October, more than 130 civilians have been killed and more than 160,000 have fled, including at least 70,000 children, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

Eastern Aleppo, December 2016

And how many dead in Syria since 2011?

Well, of course, it is not easy to answer with reliable statistics but here are different sources and the answer seems to be between 370,000 and 570,000.

We are talking about around half a million people killed in a war on a sovereign state’s territory mainly financed and staffed by NATO governments and their friends in the Middle East, i.e., outside it – and with no UN Security Council mandate.

You begin to understand why Western media, politicians and experts have virtually avoided every mention of international law – according to which everything done by the NATO countries and their regional friends, such as Saudi Arabia, was illegal, an act of aggression on sovereign Syria and never had even the faintest mandate of the UN.

Dear reader, you may now argue that – well, but… Assad was a butcher, a nasty dictator. What else could be done with such a devil?

My answer is that even if Assad and the Syrian regime were as cruel and evil as we have been told – even if they were the single reason for everything bad in Syria – that can not excuse or legitimize what the West has done because of its deliberate politico-military attempts to carry out a regime change in that country and thereby cause the (for foreigners unimaginable) human suffering on innocent Syrians as well as the material and cultural costs.

The US and other Western countries had an agenda in Syria. When the violence broke out in spring 2011, these countries could have chosen other policies and strategies if their aim had been to contribute to peace.

Instead – and because of that agenda – they deliberately did everything you shall never do if it is peace and stability and security you want – for the other and for yourself.

… even if Assad and the Syrian regime were as cruel and evil as we have been told – even if they were the single reason for everything bad in Syria – that does not excuse or legitimize what the West has done in terms of politico-military attempts to carry out a regime change in that country and the human and other costs it has incurred on the innocent Syrians.
The US and other Western countries had an agenda in Syria. When the violence broke out in spring 2011, these countries could have chosen other policies and strategies if their aim had been to contribute to peace.3

While the Syrian government, its military forces, president, security services are surely responsible for a proportion of that mass-killing, that has to be seen in relation to at least these three dimensions:

  1. Syria’s right to self-defence against foreign presence on its territory, in accordance with the UN Charter’s Article 51. (And it’s right to invite Iran and Russia to help in that self-defence).
  2. An – admittedly contra-factual and heuristic – consideration: What would have happened if no single NATO and allied countries had poured in money, weapons, trainers, special forces, etc. to support each and every anti-Assad man and woman they could find?
    How much longer did the “civil war” take because these forces were supported from the outside – and how many lives would have been saved and how many fewer refugees would there be today if genuine mediation attempts, such as Kofi Annan’s, had not been systematically undercut by Western/NATO states?
  3. And how much more suffering has the Syrian people had to endure thanks to a media narrative that consistently blamed everything on the Syrian ‘regime’ and Bashar al-Assad, thereby gave legitimacy to every step of the broader deeper foreign interventionism and never-ever asked questions about even the tiniest complicity of the West in this catastrophic war on a people, a country and on a part of humanity’s civilisational cradle?

Even if it is believed that the Syrian president, government, military forces etc. were the most brutal of all – including in the torture prisons – does the West really have not a single reason to reflect on how it decided to deal with Syria long before the way and with the Syrian crisis from 2011 and onwards?

Does no Western/NATO country have a reason to reflect on its own aggression and co-responsibility for half a million dead Syrians? Or how it treated Syrians when they came to Europe as asylum seekers?

Do the Western countries not have a single reason to evaluate whether its “diagnosis” of the Syria conflict formation, its history, culture and modes of operation was correct? Or why it chose to completely ignore even very interesting and precise – but complex – American conflict analyses such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s and William Polk’s?

Is the silence on Syria since 2016 not, rather, an indicator of a peculiar inability of the West – which gladly, permanently and under US leadership criticizes everybody else around the world – to exercise just a bit of self-criticism and, therefore, a sign of weakness?

Or to quote Matthew 7:3 with some relevance to Western Christian values: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

These are, admittedly, rhetorical questions. My answers to them are Yes, of course!

And when these issues have not been taken up even now three years after the Aleppo turning point, Western intellectual and moral capacity is evidently too weak to ever do so.

No lessons will be learned – because no lessons shall be learned. And no lessons can be learned. People – and countries – who see themselves as Number One don’t learn, they always teach.

Is the silence on Syria since 2016 not, rather, an indicator of a peculiar inability of the West – which gladly, permanently and under US leadership criticizes everybody else around the world – to exercise just a bit of self-criticism and, therefore, a sign of weakness?

And, thus, the silence on such a thing as the West’s intervention and warfare in and on Syria – it’s society, people and culture – is an indication of the West’s own decline, moral and otherwise.

It’s kind-of not enough that President Trump tells us that the US so bravely and successfully has defeated ISIS. Which by the way is a lie. And that it will stay in Syria to protect the oil sources – which is not a lie: It was about gas and oil in the sense Kennedy and WikiLeaks tell those who bother to read longer, more complex conflict analyses (which fewer and fewer seem to do in our tendentially post-literate society).

Eastern Aleppo, December 2016. All the destruction was done from the air by Syrian and Russian planes, right?

Truth comes in bits and pieces and the jigsaw puzzle changes into an entirely different picture

And now, late autumn 2019, comes the revelations about the documented changes in the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) report about Douma event in 2018 and we are still waiting for the media – that knew so surely and so exactly what happened back then – to write about these reports and post an apology.

TFF has published about it here with a series of notes and links. TFF Associates Hans von Sponeck and Richard Falk have participated in conveying the important messages about this from OPCW whistleblowers.

And there is Tareq Haddad, the Newsweek man on Syria, who chose to resign because of internal censorship and go public about it. He is the new truthteller whose name you better take note of – and another courageous whistleblower that freedom-loving democracies should be proud of.

But how much have you read in the mainstream Western press about him – or about Max Blumenthal for that matter?

And then there is the interesting “Pentagon Papers” of our generation – the Washington Post’s recent publication of the “Afghanistan Papers” entitled “A secret history of the war. In a cache of previously unpublished interviews and memos, key insiders reveal what went wrong during the longest armed conflict in U.S. history.”

[Inadvertently, that very good publication raises the question why the Washington Post itself has conveyed a militarist perspective so consistently over many years].

Well, the Soviet – under the moral leadership of Gorbachev – had the common sense to get out of that quagmire after 7 years; the U.S. is still there 18 years later. Lessons never to be learned…

So, to cover up its own deep complicity and crimes of warfare, death and destruction, the West has to control and censor – old Pravda style – the media and blame everybody else for whatever happens and for using censorship and propaganda – e.g. Russia’s trolls and Russia Today, China’s “dictatorship” surveillance, etc.

In other words, you destroy what you were once proud of – what was once an essential, defining characteristic of your identity. Such as: Freedom of the press, diversity and decent professional fact-based journalism carried out by knowledgeable and experienced people who check sources, look for more perspectives and power-critical facts, report all conflicting parties’ views and arguments, pose critical questions to power and invite a broad variety of experts comment on and interpret what happens in the world – including independent civilian expertise that does not wear a political, military or intellectual uniform of pro-war political correctness.

War and other violence is a boomerang.

The silence on Syria offers roaring evidence of Western moral decay, media deception and political decline.

You cannot repeatedly do evil things – radical evil things – to countries, peoples, cultures and nature – without, over time, harming and undermining yourself, your own strength, identity and core values.

There were lessons to have been learned since Vietnam. But when you are Number One in a system, you do not learn, you teach. And that, paradoxically, will teach you a lesson or two as time goes by: the pupils have left the lecture hall and Titanic left at dawn…

  • All photos © Jan Oberg
    1. Interestingly, the Wikipedia entry on Roebuck makes no mention of his past in Syria but reports on his continuing, harmful presence in and influence on Syria.
    2. Should you be interested in seeing and hearing how Bashar al-Assad looks upon domestic and international dimensions – something seldom given a fair hearing in Western media, this one was done on December 9, 2019, by an Italian TV channel RAI 24 News:

    And here Bashar al-Assad speaks at length with Charlie Rose. The year was 2006, the year when the US ambassador in Damascus advocated to Washington that the US policy should be to systematically de-stabilize Syria (in English and with a full transcript).

    Here a recent interview by Rafshin Attansi, RT

    Here, finally, NBC’s Bill Neely speaks with President Bashar Al-Assad – a few months before Aleppo was liberated.

  • See my “If you want peace, don’t focus on the violence and the evil guy.”
  • A Beautiful but Deceptive Documentary: “For Sama”

    The documentary movie “For Sama has won a host of awards in Europe and North America. Its producers and protagonists, Syrians Waad Kateab and her husband Dr. Hamza Kateab plus English film-maker Edward Watts,  have received gushing praise. And the awards will probably keep coming.

    Unfortunately, behind a human interest story, the movie “For Sama” is propaganda: biased, misleading, and politically partisan.

    Hiding Basic Facts about Aleppo

    “For Sama” is a full length documentary with a moving personal story. It combines a story of young love and the birth of a child – Sama –  in the midst of war. That makes it compelling and personal. But the movie fundamentally distorts the reality of east Aleppo in the years 2012 – 2016.  While the personal narrative may be true, the context and environment is distorted and hidden. The viewer will have no idea of the reality:

    * Most residents of east Aleppo did not want the militants to take over their neighborhoods.  The short video, Nine Days from my Window,  shows the takeover in one neighborhood. Many civilians fled the east side of Aleppo after the “rebels” took over. Those who stayed on were mostly militants (and families) plus those who had nowhere else to go or thought they could wait it out.

    * The militants who took over east Aleppo became increasingly unpopular. As American journalist James Foley wrote, Aleppo, a city of about 3 million people, was once the financial heart of Syria. As it continues to deteriorate, many civilians here are losing patience with the increasingly violent and unrecognizable opposition — one that is hampered by infighting and a lack of structure, and deeply infiltrated by both foreign fighters and terrorist groups.” Foley’s honest reporting may have contributed to his ultimate death.

    * The opposition group which came to dominate east Aleppo was the Syrian version of Al Qaeda, Jabhat al Nusra. “For Sama” ignores their domination, extremism and sectarian policies. There is only one fleeting reference and no video showing who exactly was ruling east Aleppo.

    * In fact, the militants (also known as “rebels”) were incredibly violent and vicious. A few examples are when they threw postal workers off the building roof, when they sent suicide truck bomb into Al Kindi Hospital, when they slaughtered Syrian soldiers defending the hospital and when they video-recorded themselves beheading a boy.

    * 85% of the civilians in Aleppo were living in government controlled west Aleppo. Thousands were killed by “rebel” snipers, mortars and hell cannon missiles launched from east Aleppo.  This short video describes the situation in west Aleppo, completely ignored by For Sama.

    Al Quds Hospital was NOT destroyed

    “Al Quds Hospital” is featured in the documentary “For Sama”. This is where Hamza worked and Sama was born. According to the movie, the hospital was destroyed in February 2016. At the time there was enormous publicity about the hospital and allegations the Russians purposely bombed the hospital. Doctors without Borders (Medecins sans Frontieres) tweeted “We are outraged at the destruction of Al Quds hospital in #Aleppo. These claims are repeated in the documentary. At the time, there were questions and challenges about the authenticity of the account. It turned out “Al Quds Hospital” did not exist before the conflict and was one or two floors of an apartment building. It turned out Doctors Without Borders did not have any staff on site and simply accepted the account told to them. After east Aleppo was liberated, a prominent medical doctor from west Aleppo,  Dr. Nabil Antaki, visited the location to find out the truth. He was a long time doctor but had never heard of Al Quds Hospital. He reported,

    I went Sunday February 12, 2017 visiting the Ansari-Sukari neighborhood in order to see Zarzour and Al Quds Hospitals. My guide was a young man who lived there and knows very well the area.

    My first stop was Zarzour hospital (mentioned in MSF report) and I found out that it was burned. My guide told me that the rebels burned it the day before the evacuation (information confirmed by a high position responsible in the Syrian Red Crescent). On the side walk, I found hundreds of burned new blood bags (for collection of blood donation). A man met there invited me to visit his building just next to the hospital. His building was also burned and on the floors, I found hundreds of IV solution bags.

    Then, we moved to Ain Jalout school. In fact, there are 3 contiguous schools. Two are completely destroyed; one is partially. Behind the schools, there is a mosque called Abbas mosque with its minaret. Answering my surprise to see schools destroyed by air strikes, my guide told me that the mosque was a headquarters of the rebels and one school was an ammunition depot and the other one was a food depot. I noticed the flag of Al Nosra painted on the external wall of the school, and dozens of buildings in the surrounding partially destroyed.

    Then, we moved to see Al Quds Hospital. Obviously, it is the most preserved building of the street. Obviously, it was not hit directly by bombs and probably received some fragments from bombs fallen on other building. I asked my guide if any restoration or repair were done. He said no.

    My feeling is the following: Ain Jalout school was the target of the strikes, the surrounding destroyed buildings were collateral damages and Al Quds hospital was not directly hit by strikes.

    So we have an eye witness account, plus photographs and video, which show that it is untrue “Al Quds Hospital” was destroyed. This means that claims in the movie about the death of a doctor at Al Quds Hospital, supposedly captured by closed caption camera, are also untrue.

    The armed opposition and their western supporters have been faking events to demonize the Syrian government from the start. One example which became public was the Richard Engels Kidnapping Hoax where the militants staged the kidnapping and “rescue” of Engels and team.

    Paid and Promoted by the West

    Waad had an expensive video camera and endless hard drives. She even had a drone to take video from the air. As confirmed by Hillary Clinton in her book “Hard Choices”, the US provided “satellite-linked computers, telephones, cameras, and training for more than a thousand activists, students, and independent journalists.” Waad claims she is a citizen journalist but she has been paid and supplied by governments which have long sought the overthrow of the Syrian government. Even in 2005, CNN host Christiane Amanpour warned Bashar al Assad that “the rhetoric of regime change is headed towards you from the United States. They are actively looking for a new Syrian leader … They’re talking about isolating you diplomatically and, perhaps, a coup d’etat or your regime crumbling.”

    Since 2011, the West, Turkey, Israel and the Gulf monarchies have spent many BILLIONS of dollars trying to overthrow the Syrian government. Just the CIA budget for Syria was near a billion per year. The “soft power” component includes video equipment and training to people like Waad to support the armed insurrection, demonize the Syrian government and persuade the public to continue the war.

    “We all suffered… The difference is that some wanted the war.”

    The medical doctor from west Aleppo. Dr Antaki, does not deny there was suffering in east Aleppo. But he points out the discrepancy in media coverage where all the attention goes to the “rebels”. He also points out that all suffered, but not all were responsible. Some, especially the “revolution” supporters, initiated and continued the conflict. He said:

    There were a lot of stories like ‘For Sama’ in West Aleppo. Unfortunately, nobody had the idea to document them because we were busy trying to protect ourselves from the rockets, to find water to drink, to find bread and essential products which were not available because of the blockade of Aleppo by the armed groups. They cut off electrical power, heating etc.. Yes, people who were in the East neighborhoods suffered from the war as well as those who lived in the West neighborhoods. We, all, suffered. The difference is that some people wanted the war, initiated or supported it and they suffer. The others didn’t support it and suffered.

    Aftermath

    Waad Al Kateab and her husband Hamza are now living in the UK. He is working for a money transfer company and involved with “Al Quds Hospital” in  Idlib. As indicated in the movie, Waad was never proud to be Syrian and she wanted to emigrate to the West. From afar, she claims to be proud of the “revolution” that has led to this destruction and human tragedy.

    Meanwhile people are returning to Aleppo and rebuilding the city. There are even a few tourists. Although there are pockets of snipers in Aleppo, Al  Qaeda extremism is mostly confined to Idlib province.

    Save Idlib?

    The 2019 documentary movie “Of Fathers and Sons” is based on a film-maker who lived with militants in Idlib. Some of what is hidden in “For Sama” is revealed in this documentary. It shows life in Idlib province dominated by Nusra. Women are restricted to the house and must be veiled. Boys as young as ten are sent to sharia school and military training, preparing to join Nusra. They believe in the Taliban, glorify 9-11 and expel or punish any people who do not subscribe to their fundamentalist religion. Youth are indoctrinated with extremist ideology and belief in violence. This is the regime that those who want to “Save Idlib” are protecting.

    For decades the West has supported fanatic extremist organizations to overthrow or undermine  independent secular socialist states. Most people in the West are unaware of this though it is well documented in Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam and the new book The Management of Savagery: How America’s National Security State Fueled the Rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump“.

    The Future

    Unknown in the West, the majority of Syrians support their government, admire their president, and feel the Syrian Army is protecting them. Even those who are critical of the government prefer it to chaos or salafi fundamentalism. Waad and Hamza Al Kateab represent a tiny minority of Syrians. Their voices, and the perspective of Edward Watts, the filmmaker who has never been to Syria, are being widely projected and disseminated through “For Sama” while others are being ignored.

    When Waad and Hamza departed Aleppo with Nusra militants,  the vast majority of Aleppans celebrated. On the surface, “For Sama” is about romance and childbirth. Underneath it is very political, as interviews with the producers confirm. I suspect it is being widely promoted precisely because it gives a distorted picture.  To continue the dirty war on Syria, public misunderstanding is required.

     

    Ain Jalout School (Nusra ammunition and supply depot) that was bombed (photo credit Dr. Nabil Antaki)

     

    “Al Quds Hospital” (ground floor of apartment building on the corner)  (photo credit Dr. Nabil Antaki)

     

    Suicide truck bombing of Al Kindi Hospital, Aleppo.

     

    Postal workers thrown from building

     

    Nusra militants killing Syrian soldiers who tried to defend Al Kindi Hospital

    Zombie NATO Is Obsolete; Militarists Try To Revive It Through Expanded Targets

    NATO leaders’ meeting at The Grove hotel and resort in Watford, north of London, on December 4, 2019 (Al Drago for The New York Times)

    The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) held an abbreviated two-day meeting this week in London on its 70th anniversary. On display was a zombie alliance that is bitterly divided on multiple issues and has lost its purpose for existing. Rather than recognizing it is time to end this obsolete military alliance, they decided to expand their activities, search for a purpose and conduct a study to determine their strategy.

    NATO is a cold war relic, an anti-Soviet tool continuing to exist 40 years after the Soviet Union ended. NATO was created one month after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in September 1945, with 12 members. This was ten years before the formation of the Warsaw Pact, which was founded on May 14, 1955.  NATO was not formed to combat the Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact, although that was the previous excuse used for its existence.

    When President Trump campaigned for office he correctly declared NATO was obsolete, but then he reversed course in April 2017. As president, he has pressured the 29 member-countries to increase their military spending. Between 2016 and 2020, NATO’s budget increased by $130 billion – twice as much as Russia’s total annual military spending. NATO members are expected to contribute two percent of their gross domestic product to the military.  NATO’s total budget is 20 times that of Russia and five times that of China.

    It is time for the US to withdraw from NATO and for the alliance to disband. It serves no useful purpose and is a cause of global conflicts and militarism.

    NATO meeting, President Donald Trump, right, and President Emmanuel Macron on March 3, 2019. (Credit: Al Drago for The New York Times)

    Internal Conflicts: An Alliance That Cannot Agree On The Definition Of Terrorism

    NATO shortened its summit because internal divisions threatened to blow up the meeting.

    On December 3, before the meeting, Trump and French President Emanuel Macron held a testy joint press conference. Macron told The Economist last month that NATO was suffering “brain death” because of the poor US leadership under Trump. Trump called Macron’s comments “very insulting” and “very, very nasty.” Macron and Trump are also at odds over Trump’s handling of the military conflict between Turkey and Syria, what to do with captured foreign Islamic State fighters and a trade dispute.

    A late Tuesday video showed world leaders ridiculing Trump at the summit. Trump abandoned plans for a Wednesday news conference and branded the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, “two-faced.” He cut short his attendance at the summit avoiding the final press conference.

    While combating terrorism is one of NATO’s supposed tasks, Macron said: “I’m sorry to say that we don’t have the same definition of terrorism around the table.” Macron warned that “not all clarifications were obtained and not all ambiguities were resolved”. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to hold up efforts to protect the Baltics against Russia unless the alliance branded the Kurdish militias as “terrorists.” He later backed off and allowed NATO to go forward with increasing battalions on Russia’s borders to “protect Poland and the Baltic region” against fanciful threats from Russia.

    NATO is facing four crisis areas. First, a deep political crisis including quarrels among the leading military members, accusations, and substantial differences of strategy and purpose. There is also a legal crisis as it consistently operates outside – indeed in violation of – its own goals and purposes and in violation of the United Nations Charter. Third, a moral crisis resulting from its wars against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria…all catastrophes that caused unspeakable suffering, death, and destruction to millions. And, finally, an intellectual crisis, as an echo chamber alliance that sings only one tune: There are new threats, we must arm more, we need new and better weapons and we must increase military expenditures.

    NATO protest in Washington, DC, April 2019

    NATO’s Search For A Purpose

    Rather than facing the fact that they are no longer serving a useful purpose, and despite their internal conflicts, NATO leaders did manage to pull together a final declaration.

    Their declaration pointed the way to NATO expanding its military forces on a global scale that will result in creating instability and military conflicts to justify their existence. NATO has a history of brutal military attacks, including the brutal bombing and destruction of the former Yugoslavia and the Balkans in the late 1990s, regime-change wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, where it still has troops. And, the destruction of Libya that has left the country in chaos. NATO also worked with the United States in the violent coup in Ukraine in 2014.

    NATO is playing its role as a military force that supports the US national security agenda. It continues to target Russia as “a threat to Euro-Atlantic security.” In reality, NATO creates that conflict by expanding eastward and putting weapons, bases, and troops along the Russian border. This violated a promise made by Secretary of State James Baker to the final Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. In a February 1990 meeting, Baker said three times that NATO would not expand, “not one inch eastward.”  NATO’s expansion has been a major provocation in generating the New Cold War with Russia.

    NATO is planning Defender 2020 the third-largest military exercise in Europe since the Cold War ended. Some 37,000 troops from 15 NATO nations will be involved including some 20,000 US troops who will be flown from their bases in the United States. Scott Ritter points out the costs associated with these exercises against Russia are considerable, along with the cost of raising, training, equipping and maintaining forces in the high state of readiness needed for short-notice response to an imagined attack by Russia. This is part of increasing confrontations along Russia’s borders, where a total of 102 NATO exercises were held in 2019.

    Earlier this month, NATO said they’d formally rejected a Russian request to prohibit installing missiles previously banned under the now-defunct Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in Europe. The Russian request was made directly by President Putin, who fears “a new arms race” following both Moscow and Washington pulling out of the landmark 1988 INF treaty. Despite the facts, NATO blames Russia for the demise of the INF treaty. The French president brought out the reality: “Today would everyone around the table define Russia as an enemy? I do not think so.”

    At this year’s summit, the NATO leaders “for the first time” discussed China as a collective security challenge. Prior to the meeting, CNN reported that NATO was falling in line with the anti-China strategy of the United States as NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance needed to start taking into account that China is coming closer to us.’” He pointed to China “‘in the Arctic, … Africa, … investing heavily in European infrastructure and of course investing in cyberspace.”

    Despite Stollenberg’s push to make China a target of NATO, their members could only agree on a  declaration that said: “China’s growing influence and international policies present both opportunities and challenges.” NATO members know that China is a benefit to the economy of their nations and that the Belt and Road Initiative connecting China to Europe through the Middle East and Africa is likely to be the defining source of economic growth this century.

    NATO has also joined President Trump’s call for the militarization of space, declaring “space an operational domain for NATO” in their declaration.  Related to this, they also pledged to increase their “tools to respond to cyber attacks.”

    In April we reported that NATO seeks to expand to Georgia, Macedonia and Ukraine as well as spreading into Latin America with Colombia joining as a partner and Brazil considering participation (not coincidentally, these two nations border Venezuela).

    NATO is also bringing nuclear weapons to the Russian border. The Washington Post reported, “A recently released — and subsequently deleted — document published by a NATO-affiliated body has sparked headlines in Europe with an apparent confirmation of a long-held open secret: some 150 US nuclear weapons are being stored in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.” Raising questions: Under whose control are these weapons held? Are host countries permitted access to US nuclear weapons? Are the host nations informed? Do NATO’s practice deployments involve nuclear bombs and missiles? The Brussels Times reported this summer that  “In the context of NATO, the United States [has deployed] around 150 nuclear weapons in Europe.”

    NATO’s search for a purpose has led to a fundamental strategic review of the alliance’s purpose. Members know their mission is unclear and their purpose is questionable.

    NATO protest in Italy

    70 Years Of Destruction Is Enough, Time To End NATO

    The 70th anniversary of NATO is an opportunity to honestly examine the history of NATO destabilization, wasteful military spending, and destructive military attacks. It is also an opportunity for people to urge the end of NATO. On April 4, 2019, NATO foreign ministers met in Washington, DC to celebrate its 70th anniversary, peace and justice activists held a week of actions in protest, disrupting meetings, shutting down an entrance to the State Department and taking the streets. This past week there was a large anti-NATO protest in London.

    Scott Ritter believes NATO is as good as dead writing “NATO is on life-support, and Europe is being asked to foot the bill to keep breathing life into an increasingly moribund alliance whose brain death is readily recognized, but rarely acknowledged.”

    Ajamu Baraka of Black Alliance for Peace declares: “Today [NATO] is the militarized arm of the declining but still dangerous Pan- European Colonial/capitalist project, a project that has concluded that the stabilization of the world capitalist system and continued dominance of U.S. and Western capital can only be realized through the use of force.”

    It is time to demand an end to this destructive alliance as a step toward ending white supremacy, colonization, the destructive military-industrial complex, and the exploitative capitalist economy.

    Is Netanyahu Ready to Inflame War to Escape his Legal Troubles?

    The decision to indict Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on three separate criminal counts pushes the country’s already unprecedented electoral stalemate into the entirely uncharted territory of a constitutional crisis.

    There is no legal precedent for a sitting prime minister facing a trial – in Netanyahu’s case, for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert was charged with corruption in 2009 but only after he had resigned from office.

    Israeli commentators are already warning of the possibility of civil war if, as seems likely, Netanyahu decides to whip up his far-right supporters into a frenzy of outrage. After a decade in power, he has developed an almost cult-like status among sections of the public.

    He called for mass protests in Tel Aviv by supporters on Tuesday night under the banner “Stop the coup”.

    The honorable thing would be for Netanyahu to step down quickly, given that the two elections he fought this year ended in deadlock. Both were seen primarily as plebiscites on his continuing rule.

    He is now the country’s caretaker prime minister, in place until either a new government can be formed or an unprecedented third election is held.

    His departure would end months of governmental near-paralysis. The path would then be clear for a successor from his Likud party to negotiate a deal on a right-wing unity government with rival Benny Gantz, a former army general.

    Gantz’s Blue and White party has made it a point of principle not to forge an alliance with Netanyahu.

    Previous experience, however, suggests that Netanyahu might prefer to tear the house down rather than go quietly. If he is allowed to press ahead with another election in March, he is likely to stoke new levels of incitement against his supposed enemies.

    Until now, the main target of his venom has been a predictable one.

    During the April and September campaigns, he railed relentlessly against the fifth of Israel’s citizenry who are Palestinian as well as their elected representatives in the Joint List, the third largest faction in the Knesset.

    Shortly before last Thursday’s indictment was announced, Netanyahu was at it again, holding an “emergency conference”. He told supporters that a minority government led by Gantz and propped up from outside by the Joint List would be a “historic national attack on Israel”. The Palestinian minority’s MPs, he said, “want to destroy the country”.

    Such a government, he added, would be an outcome “they will celebrate in Tehran, in Ramallah and in Gaza, as they do after every terror attack”.

    This repeated scaremongering had an obvious goal: rallying the Jewish public to vote for his far-right, now overtly anti-Arab coalition. The hope was that he would win an outright majority and could then force through legislation conferring on him immunity from prosecution.

    Now he appears to have run out of time. After three years of investigations and much foot-dragging, the attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, has finally charged him.

    According to the Israeli media, Netanyahu turned down opportunities for a plea bargain that would have seen him resign in return for avoiding jail time.

    According to the most serious allegation, he is accused of granting media tycoon Shaul Elovich benefits worth $500 million in exchange for favourable coverage.

    Weighed against the crimes he and other Israeli leaders have perpetrated over many decades against the Palestinians in the occupied territories, the offences he is indicted for seem relatively minor.

    Nonetheless, if found guilty, Netanyahu faces a substantial prison sentence of up to 10 years. That makes the stakes high.

    All the signs now are that he will switch his main target from Israel’s Palestinian minority to the legal authorities pursuing him.

    His first response to the indictment was to accuse the police and state prosecutors of an “attempted coup”, claiming they had fabricated the evidence to “frame” him. “The time has come to investigate the investigators,” he urged.

    As one Blue and White official told the veteran Israeli reporter Ben Caspit: “Netanyahu will not hesitate to sic [unleash] his supporters on those institutions of government that represent the rule of law. He has no inhibitions.”

    Technically the law allows a prime minister to continue serving while under indictment and before a trial, which is still many months away. Assuming Netanyahu refuses to resign, the courts will have to rule on whether this privilege extends to a caretaker leader unable to form a new government.

    Netanyahu is therefore likely to focus his attention on intimidating the supreme court, already cowed by a decade of tongue-lashing from the Israeli right. Critics unfairly accuse the court of being a bastion of liberalism.

    But bigger dangers may lie ahead. Netanyahu needs to keep his own Likud party in line. If its members sense he is finished, there could be a rapid collapse of support and moves towards an attempt to overthrow him.

    The first hints of trouble emerged on Saturday when Gideon Saar, Netanyahu’s most likely challenger in Likud, accused him of “creating an atmosphere of chaos” by denigrating the legal authorities. On Tuesday he went further calling on Netanyahu to quit.

    After the failure by both Gantz and Netanyahu to put together a coalition, the task was passed last week to parliament. Its members have just over a fortnight left to see whether one of their number can rally a majority of MPs.

    This brief window could provide an opportunity for Saar to move against Netanyahu. On Sunday he submitted an official request for the Likud party to hold a snap leadership race.

    Observers fear that to allay this danger, Netanyahu might consider not only inflaming his base but also setting the region alight with a conflict to rally the rest of the public to his side and make his removal impossible.

    In fact, the Israeli media reported that shortly before September’s election, he had tried to pull precisely such a stunt, preparing a war on Gaza to justify postponing the ballot.

    He was stopped at the last minute by Mandelblit, who realised that the cabinet had been misled into approving military action. Netanyahu had reportedly concealed from them the fact that the military command was opposed.

    In recent weeks, Netanyahu has stoked severe tensions with Gaza by assassinating Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu Al Atta. Last week he launched airstrikes on Iranian positions in Syria.

    When Olmert was being investigated for corruption in 2008, Netanyahu sagely warned of the dangerous confusion of interests that might result. “He will make decisions based on his own interests of political survivability rather than the national interest,” he said.

    And that is precisely the reason why many in Israel are keen to see the back of Netanyahu – in case his instinct for political survival trumps the interests of stability in the region.

    • A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

    The Secular Democratic Revolution in Rojava

    Building solidarity for social emancipation from the state, capitalism, patriarchy, and theological intolerance across the geographic and ethnic divisions of the MIddle East.

    Here in the US, Rojava is known for decentralization of state and patriarchal power. The adoption of community direct democracy, regional confederation, and the organized women’s movement actively dismantling systems of male domination are perceived as models for social transformation. Dr. Zozan Sami Mistefa is a Kurdish physician in Kobani, Rojava, located in northeastern Syria near the border with Turkey. The Turkish military began the latest attacks on Rojava on October 9th this year. In this context, we explore the ideas and actions taken by the Kurdish social experiments that challenge systems of oppression, including capitalism, the state, and patriarchy.

    Much discussion regarding social change proposes the question of whether or not seizing state power, either through the ballot box or armed insurrection, is an effective strategy. The recent history of seizing state power does not offer confidence in positive outcomes. Coups and ballot box politics has yielded political changes ranging from the replacement of one authoritarian power with another, whereas voting has a history of producing marginal reforms to capitalism.

    Furthermore, the global state system includes a small number of dominant power which do not allow states with formal legal autonomy to function autonomously. State sovereignty is a myth. For example, Canada possesses all the formal trappings of a UN-member state, but in reality it’s it functions as a client state, serving the interests of the US Empire. The planet is ensconced in a global struggle against the tyranny of the corporate state system. State sovereignty without nuclear weapons is a fleeting thing. The truth of the matter may be complex such that under particular political conditions, the general strike may be a tool of particular utility. Whereas, other political contexts might warrant the application of Dual Power resistance in which the social relations are created on a small scale inside the dying shell of the dominant corporate-state system.

    The Rojava movement of northeastern Syria, and the Zapatista autonomous region in southern Mexico are two of the most important political movements within the past 200 years. The Spanish Anarchist revolt of 1936-9, and the Paris Commune of 1871 lasted less time, combined, than the span of eight years in which the Rojava social reorganization was made possible by the collapse of the Assad Syrian government.

    True democracy and autonomy are not welcomed or supported anywhere on this planet by the capitalist-state system of power. Resistance to the old ways may be most effectively achieved through a struggle to unify across state borders with intent to dismantle the corporate-state from the inside out. The crumbling of Syria is only the beginning, a harbinger of things to come across the globe. The systems of state power are collapsing.

    The Rojava Revolution is far more important than the Bolshevik Russian Revolution of 1917. Rojava and Zapatistas are the most important political events perhaps in the past five thousand years. Far more important than Cuba, Vietnam, China, the former USSR, and the other patriarchal authoritarian state capitalist systems that have carried the false banner of communism.

    Rojava is a model for the planetary human future, if we have a future.

    *****

    Mark Mason: Every social movement has a particular local historical context. Would you describe the major historical events and ideas that lead to the current women’s movement in Rojava?

    Zozan Sami Mistefa: Thank you for trying to communicate the voice of truth to all people and thank you for your efforts in spreading reality.

    Well, Kurdish women throughout history have had a distinguished and respected place in her society. She was a fighter, a leader and a lover. We have a lot of models that we can cite from Ms. Adela Khan to Mrs. Elham Ahmed. Adela Khan ruled the province of Halabja from 1909 to 1924. There is also Ms. Khanda Sultan, who ruled the areas of Hair and Souran in Erbil between 1623 to 1640. There is also Fatima Khanim fighter and leader Hikmat Kahraman Or now known as Marash located southeast of Turkey Also in the Yazidi regions, Mian, also in the modern era, Ms. Humayil Khatun, wife of the late Kurdish leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani, was riding her horse and leading the fighting on the front lines. Also in the nineties of the last century, the activist Laila Zana in Diyarbakir, and more recently in Rojava, Ms. Elham Ahmed, co-chairperson of the Executive Board of the Syrian Democratic Council. Also, fighter Areen Mirkan and Beretan, Barin, who was martyred in the recent war against the Islamic State terrorist organization. The Kurdish women throughout history and to this day had a leading position in her society, was educated and in the leadership, and also a housewife. It is not new for Kurdish society to share women in all spheres of life, as you can now see the results and actions that these women are doing at all levels in our modern history.

    MM: Social movements move by means of organized actions. What actions were taken by women to assert their economic and political rights in the home and the community?

    ZM: For the measures taken to affirm the economic and political rights in society and at home, in all existing institutions there is a joint administration, i.e., the head of the pyramid. There are two people headed by a man and a woman, whether in social health institutions, political and others. In addition to all this, there is a separate institution called the House of Women, which takes care of all issues of women at all levels. Also, the Kurdish man has old qualities that require respect for women and this is something we do not see in Eastern societies. Kurds remain conservative in their culture, Indo European, where there is no violence, marginalization or coercion of women.

    MM: As the largest stateless ethnic and religious group, the Kurdish people have sought to resist the imposition of four state powers: Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. The Kurdish people have been in a political situation which emphasizes daily the problem of the global state system. For the past 300 years, globalization has meant the imposition of the state system currently comprised of about 200 patches of land characterized by violently defended arbitrary borders. Although some modern states claim to be managed democratically, all states are controlled by a centralized, concentrated and hierarchical political power. As we can now envision the coming collapse of the global state system, the people of Rojava have experience and knowledge of managing their affairs through decentralized power. The identity of a people in a particular region may shift from identification with the state to identification with the land, the bioregion, and the local community. Would you help us understand this way of living without allegiance to a state bureaucracy?

    ZM: For the way of coexistence with the forces imposed on the Kurds and divided on four countries, this is not easy to divide your land between four countries with different nationalities. Absolutely, but speaking of Rojava, the Kurds have embraced all the components in the region without discrimination or racism: Kurdish, Arab, Syrian, Assyrian, Muslim, Christian, Yazidi, and others. When dealing with people like the Kurdish people who have been subjected in advance to all kinds of violence, it is impossible to do these inhumane acts towards others, we tasted the pain and we will never let other people test what we [have] already tested. We respected all groups and this was mutual and the democratic experience that got the biggest example of the success of what we were doing. There are many Arabs and Syrians now in QSD (Syrian Defense Forces).

    They are also members of this land and many of them prefer to remain under this wonderful experience.

    MM: A universal feature of the modern state is private property and corporate-capitalism. A truly democratic society would shed itself of the violence, divisions, and ecosystem plunder which are inescapable components of a capitalist economy. What steps have been taken to shift the economy from capitalist to worker and community control?

    ZM: Well, I did not understand what this question exactly, especially today you deal with a people who were deprived of all rights as a citizen by the ruling authorities. They did not allow the Kurds to build factories or setting up a commercial market or even doing a private industry. All was all forbidden. You speak today of an environment that was poor and all that we have reached today was from the people and to the people from workers and to the workers the people have built themselves by themselves. What can you say to people who love music and love freedom?

    MM: The Turkish government launched military attacks against. Kobani in recent days. What can you report to us about the situation?

    ZM: Yes, this is true actually; yes, they attack the center of the town and the village around we have five people they have been killed and more than 34 wounded and all records in our files they shut in Kobani hospital. But there are no injuries thanks God they shut the hospital even though they know that it is for civilian people.

    MM: What, if any, efforts are being made to build support from other resistance movements which oppose tyrannical states? A massive uprising is ongoing in Lebanon, Iraqis are revolting against their government, and the Palestinians continue to be battered by the Israeli government. The Kurdish people span four countries. What are the possibilities of building unity among the Kurdish people themselves? Little support has been offered from Kurds in neighboring Iraq.

    ZM: Well, for us Kurds, of course, we will be with all the people who want their freedom from tyranny and oppression, but in my personal opinion, the situation is different from Rojava and other countries such as Lebanon and Iraq, these countries have sovereignty and they have their independence; there may occur some things that need to be changed, but in the end they live under one flag and one nationality. But the situation in Rojava is completely different. We Kurds were forbidden to speak our language. We were forbidden to celebrate our national holidays such as Eid Nowooz. We were forbidden to call our children Kurdish names. Many of us were not given Syrian nationality, so you can’t go to the universities and can not do anything. We are subjected to great repression and tyranny that is why the Rojava revolution was a comprehensive revolution and we still to this day believe in the political solution to this matter.

    As for the unification of the four parts of Kurdistan, it will be prevented by the four dominant governments; they will do everything to destroy us. So it is a difficult question to answer, even though we, the landowners, have the right to live in dignity, and it is still a distant dream.

    MM: The United Nations is under US and European colonial control through the Security Council, and Kurds seem divided among themselves. What are the possibilities for Kurdish unity? What are the possibilities for a united global anti-capitalist, anti-statist democratic front that would make the United Nations obsolete? The global south is exploding with dissent. Uprisings against the state system are active in Chile, Honduras, Ecuador, Haiti, Iraq, Hong Kong, Catalonia Spain, Iran, India, Gaza, and Kashmir. The existing economic and political systems are crumbling. The global state system and global capitalism are collapsing. Rojava is both a particular local conflict, and also the threshold between the old systems and the new giving birth. Shall we call Rojava the womb of hopeful possibilities?

    ZM: Well, we believe in Kurdish unity. There are a few minor differences, but they can be solved. As everyone sees now, General Mazloum is communicating with the Kurdistan Regional Commander, Nejirvan Berzani so we believe that the best is coming soon.

    MM: What can people outside Rojava do to support the democratic revolution in solidarity with the Kurdish people? What actions in general, and in particular, would benefit the movement? How can people support the urgent medical needs in Rojava?

    ZM: I call on all people to show solidarity with us and to push their governments to act against this terrorist project by [Turkish president Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan and everyone who supports it now they are now attacking us in Rojava, but tomorrow they will be in your country they will kill and destroy everything is a new face of ISIS and we all should stop them not just the Kurdish all over the world.

    And for medicines there are a few organizations coming to help but we need everyone to stand with civilian people at the moment. We have no more drugs and everything gets worse.

    Capitalism’s Suicidal Trajectory can’t be ignored

    If we make it out of the climate emergency, we may come to view the few decades usually described simply as the Cold War that followed the Second World War as halcyon days – at least relative to what we are facing now.

    The Cold War was a power struggle between two economic empires for global domination – between the United States and its vassal states, including Europe, on one side, and Russia and its vassal states lumped together into the Soviet Union, on the other. The fight was between a US-led capitalism and what was styled as a Soviet-led “communism”.

    That struggle led to an all-consuming arms race, the rapid accumulation of vast nuclear arsenals, the permanent threat of mutually assured destruction (MAD), military bases in every corner of the planet, and the demonisation by each side of the other.

    Not much has changed on any of those counts, despite the official ending of the Cold War three decades ago. The world is still on the brink of nuclear annihilation. The arms race is still at full throttle, though it is now dominated by private corporations making profits from “humanitarian interventions” based on “Shock and Awe” bombing campaigns. And the globe is still awash with military bases, though now the vast majority belong to the Americans, not the Russians.

    ‘End of history’

    After the fall of the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s, we moved from a bipolar world to a unipolar one – where the US had no serious military rival, and where there was no longer any balance of forces, even of the MAD variety.

    That was why US empire intellectuals such as Francis Fukuyama could declare boldly and, with so much relief, the “end of history”. The US had won, capitalism had emerged victorious, the west’s ideology had prevailed. Having defeated its rival, the US empire – supposed upholder of democratic values – would now rule the globe unchallenged and benevolently. The dialectics of history had come to an end.

    In a sense, Fukuyama was right. History – if it meant competing narratives, diverging myths, conflictual claims – had come to an end. And little good has resulted.

    It is easy to forget that the start of the Cold War coincided with a time of intense international institution-building, flowering into the United Nations and its various agencies. Nation-states recognised, at least in theory, the universal nature of rights – the principle that all humans have the same basic rights that must be protected. And the rules governing warfare and the protection of civilians, such as the Geneva Conventions, were strengthened.

    In fact, the construction of a new international order at that end of the Second World War was no coincidence. It was built to prevent a third and, in the nuclear age, potentially apocalyptic world war. The two new superpowers had little choice but to recognise that the other side’s power meant neither could have it all. They agreed to constraints, loose and malleable but strong enough to put some limits on their own destructive capabilities.

    Carrot and stick

    But if these two empires were locked in an external, physical struggle with each other, they equally feared an internal, ideological battle. The danger was that the other side might make a more persuasive case for its system with the opposing empire’s citizens.

    In the US, this threat was met with both carrot and stick.

    The stick was provided by intermittent witch hunts. The most notorious, led by Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s, searched for and demonised those who were considered “un-American”. It was no surprise that this reign of terror, exposing “Communists”, focused on the ultimate US myth-making machine, Hollywood, as well as the wider media. Through purges, the creative class were effectively recruited as foot soldiers for US capitalism, spreading the message both at home and abroad that it was the superior political and economic system.

    But given the stakes, a carrot was needed too. And that was why corporate capitalism was tamed for a few decades by Keynesian economics. The “trickle-down” effect wasn’t simply a talking-point, as it is now. It was a way of expanding the circle of wealth just enough to make sure a middle class would stop any boat-rocking that might threaten the wealth-elite running the US empire.

    War of attrition

    The Cold War was a war of attrition the Soviet Union lost. It started to break apart ideologically and economically through the 1980s – initially with the emergence of a trade union-led Solidarity movement in Poland.

    As the Soviet empire weakened and finally collapsed, capitalism’s internal constraints could be lifted, allowing Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan to unleash unregulated neoliberal economics at home. That process intensified over the years, as global capitalism grew ever more confident. Unfettered, capitalism anticipated its ultimate fate in 2008, when the global financial system was brought to its knees. The same will happen again soon enough.

    Nonetheless, Soviet collapse is often cited as proof of two things: not only that capitalism was a better system than the Soviet one, but that it has shown itself to be the best political and economic system human beings are capable of devising.

    In truth, capitalism looks impressive only comparatively – because the Soviet system was appallingly inefficient and brutal. Its authoritarian leaders repressed political dissent. Its rigid bureaucracies stifled wider society. Its paranoid security services surveilled the entire population. And the Soviet command-style economy was inflexible, lacked innovation and regularly led to shortages.

    The weaknesses and atrocities of capitalism have been much less obvious to us only because the culture in which we are so steeped has told us for so long, and so relentlessly, that capitalism is a perfect, peerless system based on our supposedly competitive, acquisitive natures.

    Installing dictators

    History, remember, is written by the victor. And capitalism won. We who live in the capitalist west only hear one side of the story – the one about vanquishing Communism.

    We know almost nothing of our own Cold War history: how the US empire cared not a whit about democracy abroad, only about extracting other people’s resources and creating dependent markets for its goods. It did so by cultivating and installing dictators around the globe, usually on the pretext that they were necessary to stop evil “Communists” – often popular democratic socialists committed to redistributing wealth – from taking over.

    Think of General Augusto Pinochet, who headed a brutal dictatorship in Chile through the 1970s and 1980s. The US helped him launch a military coup against the democratically elected left wing leader, Salvador Allende, in 1973. He created a society of fear, executing and torturing tens of thousands of political opponents, so he could introduce a “Shock Doctrine” free-market system developed by US economists that plunged the country’s economy into free-fall. Wealth in Chile, as elsewhere, was siphoned off to a US elite and its local allies.

    This catastrophic social and economic meddling was replicated across Latin America and far beyond. In the post-war years, Washington was not just responsible for the terrible suffering its war machine inflicted directly to stop the “Communists” in Latin America and south-east Asia. It was equally responsible for the enormous number of casualties inflicted by its clients, whether in Latin America, Africa, Iran or Israel.

    Military-industrial complex

    Perhaps the US empire’s greatest innovation was outsourcing its atrocities to private corporations – the emergence of a military-industrial complex Dwight D Eisenhower, the former US army general, warned about in his farewell address of 1961, as he stood down as president.

    The global corporations at the heart of the US empire – the arms industries, oil companies and tech firms – won the war of attrition not because capitalism was better, fairer, more democratic or more humane. The corporations won because they were more creative, more efficient, less risk-averse, more psychopathic in their hunger for wealth and power than Soviet bureaucracies.

    All those qualities are now unimpeded by the constraints once imposed by a bipolar world, one shared between two superpowers. Global corporations now have absolutely unfettered power to drain the planet of every last resource to fuel a profit-driven, consumption-obsessed system of capitalism.

    The truth of that statement was mostly unspeakable 16 years ago when one was ridiculed as a tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist for pointing out that the US had invented two pretexts – Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction and its equally imaginary ties to al-Qaeda – to grab control of that country’s oil.

    Now Donald Trump, the foolish, brash president of the United States, doesn’t even bother to conceal the fact that his troops are in Syria to control its oilfields.

    Toothless watchdogs

    The unipolar world that resulted from the fall of the Soviet Union has not only removed the last constraints on the US empire’s war-making abilities, the external battle. It has also had terrible repercussions for the internal, ideological battlefront.

    Control of the media has grown ever more concentrated. In the US the flow of information is controlled by a handful of global corporations, often with connections to the very same arms, oil and tech industries so keen to ensure the political climate allows them to continue pillaging the planet unhindered.

    For some time I have been documenting examples of the corporate media’s falsehoods in these columns, as you can read here.

    But US elites have come to dominate too the post-war international institutions that were created to hold the superpowers to account, to serve as watchdogs on global power.

    Now isolated and largely dependent on funding, and their legitimacy, from the US and its European allies, international monitoring agencies have become pale shadows of their former selves, leaving no one to challenge official narratives.

    The combined effect of the capture of international institutions and the concentration of media ownership has been to ensure we live in the ultimate echo chamber. Our media uncritically report self-serving narratives from western officials that are then backed up by international agencies that have simply become loudhailers for the US empire’s goals.

    A coup becomes ‘resignation’

    Anyone who doubts that assessment needs only to examine the reporting of last week’s military coup in Bolivia, which overthrew the democratically elected leader Evo Morales. Corporate media universally described Morales’ ousting and escape to Mexico in terms of him “resigning”. The media were able to use this preposterous framing by citing claims by the highly compromised, US-funded Organisation of American States (OAS) that Morales’ rule was illegitimate.

    Similarly, independent investigative journalist Gareth Porter has shown convincingly how the International Atomic Energy Agency, the body monitoring states’ nuclear activities, has come under the US imperial thumb.

    Its inspectors produced gravely misleading information to help the US make a bogus case justifying Israel’s bombing in 2007 of what was claimed to be a secret nuclear reactor built in Syria.

    The deceptions, it later emerged, included the IAEA violating its own protocols by concealing the results of the samples taken from the site that showed there was no radioactive contamination. Instead the IAEA highlighted one anomalous finding in a changing-room that was almost certainly caused by cross-contamination from an inspector.

    Head-choppers humanised

    Another stark illustration of how international agencies have been captured is the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). It has played a central role in bolstering an unproven US narrative, echoed by the western corporate media, that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has been responsible for a spate of chemical weapons attacks on his own people.

    That narrative has been vital to western efforts at justifying regime change in a key Middle Eastern state resistant to US-Israeli-Saudi hegemony in the region. The narrative has also been useful in “humanising” the head-chopping extremists of Islamic State and al-Qaeda – which were in control of the areas where these alleged attacks took place – making it easier for the west to support them in a proxy war to oust Assad, a battle that has created untold misery for Syrians.

    But the OPCW is no longer the independent, respected expert body it once was. Long ago it fell under effective US control – back in 2003 when its first director-general, Jose Bustani, was forced out by Washington in the run-up to the attack of Iraq. That was when the US needed to manufacture a false pretext for invasion by suggesting that Baghdad had weapons of mass destruction. US official John Bolton even threatened Bustani’s children, so desperate was George W Bush’s administration to cow the agency.

    In Syria, the post-Bustani OPCW has been the lynchpin of the US narrative spin against Assad. Basic investigative protocols have been discarded by the OPCW, such as the requirement of a “chain of custody” to ensure any samples handed to it can be properly attributed. Instead the OPCW has implicated the Syrian government in the alleged chemical attacks based on samples collected by Islamist extremists desperate to justify more western meddling against Assad to bolster their own rule in Syria.

    The first real test of the chemical weapons narrative came last year in Douma, where the Islamists argued that they had again been attacked. That claim led to the US, Britain and France launching missile strikes on Syrian positions in violation of international law.

    Days later the Islamists lost control of the city to Assad’s forces and for the first time OPCW inspectors were able to visit the scene of an alleged attack themselves and collect their own samples.

    Douma findings distorted

    The official report into Douma, published earlier this year, appeared to confirm the US narrative. It hinted strongly that the Syrian air force had dropped two bombs located by the OPCW and that those sites had tested positive for the chemical chlorine.

    But thanks to two separate whistleblowers from the OPCW, one of whom was an investigator in Douma, we now know that the official report was not the one submitted by the investigators and did not reflect the evidence they unearthed or their scientific analyses of the evidence. It was rewritten by the OPCW officials in the Hague to suit Washington’s agenda.

    The official report was, in fact, a complete distortion of the evidence. Investigators found that levels of chlorine at the supposed bomb sites were no higher than background levels, and less than found in drinking water – nowhere near enough to have killed Douma’s victims shown in photos produced by the Islamist groups.

    The investigators’ findings suggested an entirely different narrative: that the Islamists in Douma had placed the bombs at the two sites to make it look like a chemical attack had taken place and thereby provide a pretext for even deeper western interference.

    It was not difficult to understand why officials in the OPCW’s head office had decided to conceal their expert inspectors’ findings and submit to US intimidation.

    The real findings would have:

    • undermined the official narrative unquestioningly attributing the earlier chemical weapons attacks to the Syrian government, in turn making a mockery of western claims to humanitarian concern in aiding and funding years of a devastating proxy war in Syria;
    • revealed the politicisation of the OPCW, and the corporate media’s supine treatment of the Islamists’ claims;
    • intimated at the collusion between western governments and Islamist groups that have been slaughtering non-Sunni populations in the Middle East and launching terror attacks in the west;
    • highlighted that the US-British-French military attack on Syria in response – a violation of Syria’s sovereignty – was not simply a war crime but the “supreme war crime”;
    • and bolstered the case for the Syrian government to be allowed to regain control of its territory.

    Down the memory hole

    The leaks from the OPCW whistleblowers paint a very troubling picture, where our most trusted international institutions can no longer be relied on to seek out the truth. They are there to serve the world’s sole super-power as it seeks to manipulate us in ways that accrete ever more power to it.

    It is quite extraordinary that the mounting evidence that OPCW officials conspired in the falsifying of evidence to help the US empire overthrow another government is not considered news, let alone front-page news. There has been a complete media blackout on these revelations.

    In an unguarded moment back in May when she heard about the first whistleblower, the BBC’s much-admired chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet responded to a Twitter follower that it was “an important story” and that she would “make sure programmes know about it”.

    Six months and another whistleblower later, neither Doucet nor the BBC have uttered so much as a squeak about the discrediting of the OPCW report. This “important story” has been collectively plunged down the memory hole by the corporate media.

    In this confected unipolar reality, we, the public, have been left compass-less, exposed to fake news not only from wayward social media sites or self-interested governments but from the large media “watchdogs” and the very global institutions supposedly set up to act as dispassionate arbiters of truth and justice. We have been returned to a world where might alone makes right.

    Environmental destruction

    Things are bad enough already, but all the evidence suggests they are going to get a lot worse. Capitalism’s problems go beyond its inherent need for violence and war to acquire yet more territory and open up new markets. Its economic logic is premised on endless growth, based on unremitting resource extraction from a finite planet.

    That causes two major problems.

    One is that as the west runs out of resources – most obviously oil – to fuel its endless consumption, resource extraction will become ever more difficult and less profitable. Markets are shrinking and the ramifications can now be felt at home too. Youngsters in the west have no hope of being as successful or wealthy as their parents, or even grandparents.

    In a world of diminishing resources and no serious ideological or economic rival, Keynesian economics – the basis on which western elites won over their publics by enlarging the middle class – has been discarded as an unnecessary indulgence. We are in an era of permanent austerity for the many to subsidise the further enrichment of the already fabulously wealthy few.

    But second, and much worse, capitalism is being exposed as a suicidal ideology. In its compulsion to monetise everything, it is polluting the oceans with plastic and choking the air with particulates. It is rapidly extinguishing insect life, the main barometer of the planet’s health. It is destroying habitats necessary for larger animals and for biodiversity. And it is creating a climate that humans will soon not be able to survive.

    Capitalism isn’t unique in degrading the environment. Soviet economies were quite capable of it too. But as with everything else it touches, capitalism has proved to be uniquely efficient at destroying the planet.

    Sinking boat

    It is no longer just poor people out of sight in far-off lands who are being made victims of capitalism, though for the time being they are still the worst hit.

    They are fleeing the lands we helped to degrade with our weapons, and the crop failures that resulted from the climate change our industries fuelled, and the poverty we increased through our resource grabs and addiction to consumption. But in our continuing arrogance we block their escape with tougher immigration policies and “hostile environment” strategies. We trivialise the plight of those we have displaced through our globe-spanning system of greed as “economic migrants”.

    It is gradually becoming clearer – with the environmental emergency – that we are all ultimately in the same boat. It is only the supremely efficient propaganda machine created by the capitalist elite that still persuades too many of us that there is no way to get off the boat. Or that if we try, we will drown.

    But the stark reality is that we are in a sinking boat – the sinking boat of capitalism. The hole is growing and water rushing in faster by the day. Inaction means certain death. It is time to be brave, open our eyes and search for dry land.