Category Archives: Turkey

Embassy Disappearances: Jamal Khashoggi and the Foreign Policy Web

Do this outside. You will put me into trouble.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?

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

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

*****

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

Human Rights Concerns?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cartoon by Carlos Latuff

Human Rights and (the highest stage of) capitalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

• First published in Investig’Action

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

Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• First published at strategic-culture.org

Syria and the S-300s: Re-Centering the People in the Global Struggles for Power

The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world [….] No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity, much less dissent.
— Gore Vidal, A View from the Diner’s Club, 1991

One of the most amusing elements of the current anti-Russian hysteria produced by U.S. state/corporate propagandists is the notion that Russia is this bold, aggressive challenger to “U.S. and Western interests” when the reality has always been the opposite. In the tumultuous period after the Soviet Union disintegrated, the Russian Federation emerged as the dominate power under the leadership of the clownish Boris Yeltsin.

The Russian capitalist oligarchy that developed during that period and expanded under the leadership of Vladimir Putin has always just wanted to be part of the global capitalist game. They had demonstrated on more than one occasion their willingness to cooperate with the agenda of Western powers.  However, they wanted to be respected with their regional interests recognized.

But as result of greed, hubris and just plain incompetence, U.S. policy-makers, especially the amateurs running foreign policy during the Obama years, pushed the Russians out of their preferred zone of caution in international affairs, with Syria being exhibit A. Forcing the Russians hand in Syria was followed by the Ukraine when the U.S. sparked a coup in that nation as the second front against Russian “intervention” in Syria.

So it was quite comical to see how the announcement that Russia will deliver the S-300 air defense system to the Syrian government was met with feigned horror by U.S. and NATO forces. This decision was taken after the U.S. allowed or didn’t stop the Israeli Air Force from playing games that resulted in a Russia cargo plane being shot out of the air by Syrian ground defenses who mistook the Russia plane for an Israeli aircraft.

Without an adequate air defense system capable of covering the entire nation and strategic territories within Syria, the Israeli Air Force has had almost unimpeded access to Syria air space during the Syrian war to attack military forces associated with the Syrian government, Hezbollah and the Iranian state.

Yet in their zeal to push out anti-Russian propaganda, the state/corporate propagandists in the U.S.  exposed once again Russia’s conservatism and acquiensce to the global colonial U.S./EU/NATO agenda. While the headlines screamed traitor at Turkish President Erdogan for concluding a deal for the Russian S-400, the most advanced system the Russians are selling on the open market, very few seemed to have noticed that those wily, evil Russians that were propping up their partner in Syria hadn’t even delivered on the S-300 sale to the Syrian state that had been concluded five years ago!

The Russians said that they failed to deliver the system that the Syrians purchased due to a request from the Israeli government in 2013. This decision took place a year after the debacle of Geneva I, the United Nations sponsored conference to resolve the Syrian War, where the Russians appeared ready to abandon Assad as long as the Syrian state was maintained, and their interests protected.  Getting rid of Assad but maintaining the Syrian state was also U.S. policy at the time.

However, instead of a negotiated settlement in which the Russians would play a role, the Obama administration rejected Geneva I believing that it could topple the government in Syria through its jihadist proxies. The U.S. knew that those elements were never going to be allowed to govern the entire nation but that was the point. The Syrian state was slated to be balkanized with its territory divided and a permanent presence by the U.S. directly on the ground. Those forces in Syria would be bolstered by the thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq that had been reintroduced as a result of the U.S. reinvasion supposedly to fight ISIS – that it helped to create.

Although the Russian position on Assad came out just a year after the Chinese and Russians gave the green light to the U.S. and NATO to launch a vicious war on Libya is old news, it points out how in the global game of power relations the peoples of the former colonial world continue to lose. The Russians, like the Chinese, have demonstrated repeatedly their willingness to collaborate with the U.S. and the “Western colonialist alliance,” even as successive U.S. administrations have singled them out, along with Iran and Venezuela, as geostrategic threats to U.S. global hegemony.

This observation is not meant to be another Russia and China bashing that plays into the hands of the reactionaries driving U.S. policies who see military conflict with those two nations as inevitable. Instead what is being argued here is the absolute necessity for African/Black people and oppressed peoples and nations to be clear about the international correlation and balance of forces and competing interests at play so that “we” the people are not confused regarding our objective interests.

Russian intervention in Syria was not as cynical as the U.S. and Western European powers, which knew from the beginning that “progressive” forces in Syria could not win a military conflict. Nevertheless, they encouraged those forces to engage in military opposition while the U.S. and its allies decided to back various Islamist forces – not for democratic change – but to destroy the Syrian state.

Maintaining an independent, critical perspective on the national and global dispensation of social forces means not having any illusions about the world and the national, class and racial politics in play. We need to be clear that supporting Syria’s attempt to assert full sovereignty over its territory was only a secondary concern for the Russians. The back seat given to the Syrian government in the negotiations between Russia, Iran, and Turkey regarding Idlib confirms that. Protecting Russian interests in Syria and the Mid-East was and is the driving force for Russian military and diplomatic activity, nothing else!

The delivery of the S-300 anti-aircraft system to Syria resembles the Russia cooperation with the U.S., Israel and Turkey on the Turkish Afrin operation, which was basically an invasion of Syria by Turkey in order to establish a “buffer zone”.  These are all decisions based on the objective interests of Russia and secondarily the interests of the Syrian government.

It remains to be seen how the deployment of the S-300’s will alter the situation on the ground in Syria. It would not be surprising if the deployment was limited and only covered the territory around Latakia, the site of the Russian air base and close to its warm-water port. It may not be in Russia’s interests to allow the Syria government the means to block Israeli intrusions into Syrian air space. If the Syrian government had the ability to really ensure the security of its national territory from Israeli intrusions, it could mean that Russia would have less leverage over the Syrian government to force a withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syria. Additionally, the land corridor and security of the “Islamic pipeline” between Iran, Iraq and Syria could be secured that may not be necessarily conducive for maintaining Russia’s share of the energy market in Europe.

The U.S. and Israel overplayed their cards and made a strategic blunder by precipitating the shooting down of the Russian cargo plane. Although National Security Adviser John Bolton claims that the decision to supply Syrian forces with the S-300 is a “significant escalation,” the escalation really took place in 2012 when the Obama administration decided to allow U.S. vassal states to significantly increase military support for radical Islamic forces. Michael Flynn revealed this as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency – something the Obama forces never forgot.

Syria has been a difficult object lesson for the left that has had a devastating consequence for the people of that embattled nation. Hundreds of thousands have died, and millions have been displaced primarily because left and progressive forces lacked the organizational, but more importantly, the ideological, political, and moral clarity to mount an opposition to the machinations of their national bourgeoisie in Europe and the U.S.  The very idea that the bourgeois leadership of their respective states might have some benevolent justifications for military intervention in Syria revealed a dangerous nationalist sentimentality that is driving the left version of white supremacist national chauvinism.

Before the dramatic rightist turn of the left in the U.S. and Europe over the last two decades, the left – at least much of the Marxist-Leninist left – opposed Western imperialist intervention out of a theoretical and principled commitment to the national-colonial question in the global South. As citizens in “oppressor nations,” opposing their own bourgeoisie’s interventions into oppressed nations was seen as a responsibility for the left and indeed was a measurement of what was actually an authentic left position.

That stance has virtually disappeared.

The first response by the Western left to plans or actual interventions by their nation’s ruling class is a strange conversation regarding rather or not the intervention is justified or not based on the nature of the government being toppled by the intervention.

For those of us who are members of oppressed peoples and nations, it is quite obvious that without independent organizations and global solidarity structures buttressed by the few progressive states that exist on the planet, we cannot depend on any bourgeois state to really care about our humanity or on the radical or left forces in Northern nations to put a brake on repression and intervention against non-Europe states and peoples.

The bloodletting will continue in Syria. Candidate Trump raised some serious questions about the wisdom of U.S. policies in Syria and indicated that he might be willing to reverse U.S. involvement. But President Trump surrendered to the pressure from the foreign policy establishment and the warmongering corporate press. Instead of extricating the U.S., the administration announced a few weeks ago that the U.S. will essentially engage in an illegal and indefinite occupation in Syria.

There is reasonable doubt that Israel and the U.S. will allow the deployment of the S-300s even if the Russians followed through with the delivery. Which means the possibility of another dangerous escalation in the conflict at any moment. It also means why despite one’s opinion about the nature of any government’s internal situation, it is important to reaffirm and defend the principles of national sovereignty and international law in opposition to the arbitrary and illegal interventions to effect a change in government by any outside forces.

The people’s movements for social justice and human rights around the world must not allow the people to be drawn into the machinations and contradictory struggles and conflicts between essentially capitalist blocs, which include the Russians and the state-capitalism of China. This is not to suggest a moral or political equalization between the emergence of capitalist Russia and China and the systematic degradation unleashed on the world by the Pan-European colonial/capitalist project that emerged in 1492 with the invasion of the “Americas.” That would be a perversion of history and divert us from the primary global contradiction and target: The Western capitalist alliance and the corporate and finance oligarchy at its center.

In the competition between blocs and the real possibility of global conflict, we must be vigilant not to repeat the tragic mistake made before the first world war when workers enthusiastically signed up as cannon fodder in the clash of capitalist empires. Imperialist war really is a class issue!

Totalitarian capitalist domination is not a figment of our imaginations, it is real. Penetrating the ideological mystifications that divert us away from the matrix of power that distorts consciousness and renders the people as collaborators in their own subjection is the task of the moment.

The global order is changing, the only question is what will emerge. Will the new order be a multipolar one dominated by emerging capitalist states or will a new transitional order develop that is oriented toward an association of states and people’s movements moving toward authentic de-colonization, ecological rationality, and socialist construction?

There is still time for the people to choose.

The Left and Wiggle Room

Jeux!

Patrick Cockburn’s recent article is one example of why I read CounterPunch less often than I used to.  Or, at the least, why I have become more critical of their editorial stance.  With this article, I have the impression I’m reading a Bernie Sanders speech, of being Judas-goated into the camp of what I consider a kind of useless caviar Left.  While maybe not as bad as The Guardian (I prefer OffGuardian), there are too many weasel words, phrases, and statements that reek of Establishment consensus.  That if you’re going to refer to the head-chopping proxies, armed and funded by the US and its good buddies, Saudi Arabia, the UK, and other assorted vassals, as “rebels” rather than the paid lieutenants of the criminal gang in DC, London, Riyadh or Paris, you’re basically saying it’s okay to murder at arm’s length, to somehow plausibly deny any real, true, strong connection to the crime or the perpetrators.  Plausible Deniability being spook-speak for basically lying, when timidly asked, about any crime they’ve just committed.

Here’s one example:

Pundits are predictably sceptical about the agreement reached by Russian president Vladimir Putin and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi on Monday to head off an imminent offensive by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces directed against rebels in Idlib province.

See what I mean?  No qualifications or explanations of who these “rebels” are or why they are there.  If they’re “rebels”, they must be the good guys, right?  We all love a “rebel” when he’s creating mayhem in another country or in some movie theatre.  That statement is also a subliminal reminder that if they’re “rebels”, they must be “rebelling” against something, and that  “something” must be bad, hinting that Assad must be bad, even though words like “brutal dictator” or “thug” weren’t used.  This time.

*****

And speaking of “brutal dictators” or “thugs”, it’s pretty obvious that the US is now, as has been for quite a while, a dictatorship, and a brutal one, at that.  As are most of its allies/vassals in the West and elsewhere to differing degrees.  We’ve even got our own murderous “proxy army” right here in the “Homeland”.  It’s called the Police, who go around murdering with impunity, armed with surplus military gear.  How many homeless, uninsured, hungry, and dubiously incarcerated (modern day slaves, working in private prisons) do we have?  Do you think that minuscule percentage of the people (or their paid hitmen/women in Congress – Oligarch money put them there in the first place) who actually run things give a rat’s ass about any of this?  That’s what they do.  All of them.  They look around the entire planet to find (or create the necessary conditions for creating) the weakest possible “enemies”:  People who just want to be left alone to figure out their own futures, on their own terms, who don’t have imperial aspirations or the military means of carrying them forward even if they wanted to, but, for most part, don’t.  They’d rather spend what means they have on their own populations.  Call that behaviour what you will, but it certainly doesn’t include a blind obedience to the diktats of the Money Men and their military enforcers.

*****

But our “Left” editors at CP have a difficult time of saying that up front.  The term “rebel” also supports the claim/point of view that the conflict in Syria is a “civil” war.  It’s total nonsense, but here it is:

The Syrian civil war long ago ceased to be a struggle fought out by local participants. Syria has become an arena where foreign states confront each other, fight proxy wars and put their strength and influence to the test. 

“Long ago”, Patrick?  It was never a “civil” war.  In fact, no wars are “civil”, but that’s kind of beside the point here.  The conflict in Syria was aided and abetted, if not instigated, by the US and its local (and not so local, but closer to the scene, allies; i.e., France and the UK, the FUK of FUKUS) allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, two theocratic states who hate the idea of having a secular, tolerant, independent state in their neighbourhood, especially one friendly to/allied with other independent states like Russia and Iran.

Why can’t you say that?  Why can’t anyone, except for belittled independent journalists (Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett come to mind) let us know what’s really going on?  What really happened?

It’s a sad day when we we are pretty much denied by the MSM the reports of a couple of female journalists who apparently were really “there”, on the ground, as they say, and all the while tout the female #metoo movement.  There’s no coherency in all this.  But, yes, I’m giving too much credit to the #metoo movement, and all the cat fights that ensue.  Still, it takes up too much space in whatever media space you choose.

On to other stuff.

Then we have the term “arena” used as a descriptor for an invasion.  As if we’re sitting in the stands in the Colosseum watching an entertainment or in one of the corporate-sponsored arenas of the NBA.  War has suddenly morphed into spectacle and sport.  This kind of linguistic sleight of hand is clever and maybe downright deliberate.  But maybe he couldn’t come up with a better way of stating it.  Just goes to show how the whole idea of “otherness” and spectacle have come to invade the consciousness of much of the so-called Left.

There is a striking note of imperial self-confidence about the document in which all sides in the Syrian civil war are instructed to come to heel.

“Imperial self-confidence”?   Do you see what I mean?  It’s a ”document”.  Not an invasion.  There’s absolutely nothing “imperial” about it.  It’s an open declaration of what they see as a solution to a problem.  In other words, “Here’s what we’d like to do, given the circumstances.”  It’s an invitation to dialog, not a pre-emptive invasion.

And then, here we go again:

Moscow helped Assad secure his rule after the popular uprising in 2011 and later ensured his ultimate victory by direct military intervention in 2015.

“Popular uprising”?  Right, just like the vicious coup in Ukraine was a “popular uprising”?  The US supposed, I guess, that the Syrians were just as venal as the Ukrainians.  Or, if they had figured out that Syria would be a harder nut to crack, why not just simply create a reason to send money, arms, and the cooperation of its ideological opponents to do the dirty work?  Not the same situation at all.  But Cockburn would have us accept these fairy tales that anyone who hints that they might want to make an independent decision must be categorised as a dictator, a thug, someone who needs to be punished, not by his own people, but by the US.  By proxy, of course.  Can’t forget that.

And then there’s this “direct military intervention”.  As if Russia simply decided, unilaterally, that enough was enough.  Assad asked, invited, if not begged for Russia to help him out.  They are allies, after all.  Again, not quite the same thing.  Cockburn may believe all his nonsense, or he’s being very careful not to upset too many “humanitarian intervention” Lefties who still believe that Assad is a “thug” or whatever, as probably a good many of his readers, and those of CounterPunch do.

  … but politicians and commentators continue to blithely recommend isolating Russia and pretend that it can be safely ignored.

Again, “safely ignored”?  Then what about all the Russophobia constantly hyped by the MSM?  That’s not what I’d call ignoring something.  The architects for total world dominance by the US and its vassals (or should I say Israeli-US dominance?) are probably shaking in their collective boots at the new geo-political reality staring them in the face.  It’s not what I’d call “blithely recommending”, but it might pass for UK diplomatic-speak saying, “How did we get ourselves into this mess?” Or, on the other hand, it could mean, “We have to do something, quickly, anything (does the Skripal case come to mind?), to turn this thing around.  Doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense, if it’s a total fabrication.  We’ll use our tried and true method of simply repeating our version, ‘creating our own reality’ as the Yanks are so fond of doing.”

Plus, Russia doesn’t need to show the world it’s a power player.  It has been since Mr Putin began turning Russia away from, in Matt Taibbi’s words, “the vampire squid”.  Granted, he hasn’t quite succeeded completely, has had his setbacks, but without spending trillions, he has stymied the overthrow of yet another middle eastern nation.  At least for the moment.  Things could get nasty.

If you read the entire article carefully, you’ll find all kinds of these little hidden exits where the author can argue pretty much anything, if you were to put the question to him.  It’s the intent, deliberate or not, that I have a hard time swallowing.  Too much wiggle room.

I’d like to add that Jonathan Cook has just written, in my view, two excellent analyses of the interplay of media and socio-political consciousness.  Must read.  The articles to which I am referring are here and here.

My problem is, when reading an article like this, I have the impression of submitting to a lecture by someone conveniently “left”, and of a certain stature, who can be trotted out when necessary.  Not a pleasant feeling (and yes, I admit that “feelings” are counter-productive, or not necessarily the best lens through which you can examine any particular phenomenon, in some sense, because marketing depends mostly on emotions) in that I sense a lack of empathy, a certain comfortable distance from what is actually happening.  Some may call it “objective reporting”.  But it affects me as a subtle sort of propaganda.  It reinforces the “us against them” paradigm but in this “imperialistic” manner, if I may say.  I refer to my “spectator” reference above.  We’re invited to see this from afar, as if we were pushing around armies on a map.  Cook’s argument, that we need to step back from the screen in order to see the big picture, does, in no way, contradict what I’m trying to say.

In other words, to use Cook’s analogy of being scrunched up against the IMAX screen so we can’t interpret the entire picture, we have to take the word of whoever is sitting at a comfortable distance as to what’s going on.  What may seem contradictory is the fact that some journalists may actually be present at the scene about which they are reporting.  Compare the reporting of Venessa Beeley or Eva Bartlett to Cockburn’s piece.  That is to say, they are, in a sense, close to the screen.  So do they have necessary perspective to provide us with an accurate view of what is going on?  While we, the readers of the reporting, aren’t even in the theatre.

Cockburn works for a mainstream publication, part of the present power structure.  What are we to make of that?

I’ve no personal beef with Mr Cockburn, nor is this really about him.  He does what he does for his own personal reasons.  I can choose to read his stuff or not, agree with him or not.  That’s not my point.  The only reason I’m writing this is that, given the present circumstances, I tend to carefully parse what I do read.  Call me a nitpicker if you like.  This particular article happened to make me grimace, contained an element of dissonance that made me stop and consider its possible effects.  That, plus the fact that I saw this article on a self-proclaimed, left-leaning, “muckraking” web site.  The writer is of less importance than the message conveyed.  Language is important and, outside of personal intimacy, it’s the only means we have of communicating.

I think we do ourselves an intellectual favour by entering into that contradictory world of being up close and distant at the same time.

• Author’s Note:  All bolds are mine.

Limiting Israel: Russia Deploys the S-300 to Syria

Relations between Russia and Israel have been those of an estranged couple punctuated by occasional breakouts of tense understanding.  As with other such couples, a public row does not necessarily reflect the more placid, if stern, discussion that might happen behind closed doors.

On the public side of things, Russia’s decision to deploy the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Syria has made Israeli officials apoplectic.  That said, Israel’s security establishment were privy to prospects of a possible Russian deployment of the modern, more discriminating air-defence system.  The former head of the Israeli Defence Force’s Strategic Division, Brigadier General Assaf Orion at the Institution for National Security Studies, was reflective.  “However one may keep in mind that for the last twenty years Israel was preparing for this to appear in theatre.”

In April, Amos Yadlin, the country’s retired Military Intelligence chief stuck his head out to issue a warning: should Russia supply Syria with S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, Israel’s air force would retaliate.  Israel Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman also upped the ante, suggesting that Israel would destroy any S-300 targeting Israeli aircraft.  Would Russia call Israel’s bluff?

Any indecision on Russia’s part evaporated in the aftermath of the downing of a Russian Il-20 surveillance plane by Syrian government forces on September 17, leading to the death of 15 personnel.  The Syrian action had been prompted by attacks from Israeli F-16 jets on facilities in the province of Latakia.

In the words of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, “It is a system which is defensive in nature rather than offensive, and is intended for the defence of the Syrian airspace.” Russian Defence  Minister Sergei Shoigu has only praise for the batteries, which are “capable of intercepting aerial attacks at the distance of over 250 kilometres, and simultaneously countering several targets”. Deploying it was a necessary “retaliatory” measure.

The tone, at this point, has become far more reserved on Israel’s part.  While Moscow “made a move, the playing field is very large,” came an unnamed Israeli official’s view.  Israel was “dealing” with the aftermath of the decision made by President Vladimir Putin, but would “not necessarily” attempt “to prevent the delivery” of the anti-aircraft system.  This stands to reason: the presence of other Russian missile systems in the Syrian conflict – the S-400, for instance – did not deter Israel’s previous strikes; nor did it cause much by way of open remonstration. Symbolism is everything.

Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz, was impressed by Moscow’s move.  Israel’s regional bullying would finally, at least in some fashion, be contained.  “For the first time in years another state is making it clear to Israel that there are restrictions to its power, that it’s not okay for it to do whatever it wants, that it’s not alone in the game, that America can’t always cover for it and there’s a limit to the harm that it can do.”

Like other players, Russia and Israel will continue to be careful in avoiding any undue engagements.  Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu has made various utterances to that effect, though the deployment has put him on notice that the Israeli action in Syria can no longer take place with brazen impunity.

Then comes the issue as to which outfits will be manning the batteries.  Netanyahu, pushing the familiar line that certain weapons systems are only appropriate in the right hands, sees the S-300 finding its way to “irresponsible players”.  Orion fears those “incompetent and reckless” hands fidgeting and firing.  On that score, it is unlikely that the Russians intend giving their Syrian recipients full leverage in using the system.  At this stage of the conflict, it is clear that Moscow is calling many of the shots in the field, having, for instance, restrained Syrian government forces in launching a blood-soaked offensive on rebel forces in Idlib in favour of an accord with Turkey.

Moves such as the S-300 announcement say less about a conflict that has killed with remorseless drive than it does about the pieces of furniture that keep being moved in one of the most atrocious wars in recent memory.  A weapons system is deployed in one place to discourage another “player” from overconfidence and bellicosity; airstrikes are undertaken against the forces of another group or state to nip any growing influence.  Brief agreements are brokered, short-term understandings reached.  Israel gazes wide-eyed upon the influence of Iran and any umbilical cord to Hezbollah; Turkey watches warily the influence of the Kurds and any overly patriotic tendencies. Syrian soil becomes the staging ground for amoral plays of power.

The critics and observers add to this, using sterile terms that give the impression that states are participants in a robust conversation free of blood, a gentlemen’s dispute rather than a murderous fight to the finish.  Syria remains a carcass swarmed over by various enthusiasts, pecking it into cruel oblivion.

Will the real anti-Semites please stand up

Amongst the highly prolific author HG Wells’ many publications is a less well-known book titled A Short History of the World. Given the potential immensity of such a subject, the fact that Wells produced a book of very modest length (my copy is a mere 350 pages or so) no doubt would encourage some to dismiss it as trite and superficial. Obviously it’s superficial, but it might be reasonable to say the same of something twenty or fifty times longer – depending on how well it’s written. But Wells’ book is truly remarkable for its economy of language, with hardly a single unnecessary word used; and it’s also remarkable for its scholarship.

Wells studied biology before he became a writer, and carved a meagre existence for himself as a teacher for almost ten years. Perhaps the early discipline of scientific method, together with the need to communicate new ideas to young minds, influenced much of his later writing style, because what he created with Short History is an amazingly compact and very readable collection of short essays covering a multitude of historical events from the creation of the Earth, through discussions on all the main religions, to the Russian Revolution – which took place a mere five years before he published his book.

Few of the sixty-seven chapters exceed four pages in length, yet each chapter is packed with such a wealth of information that it’s difficult not to be impressed with the depth of Wells’ scholarship, because to write as informatively and concisely as he does in each chapter implies a huge depth of knowledge. Like a few other great thinkers, Wells was an autodidact and acquired most of his knowledge by charting his own course, free of the constraints that hinder many of those restricted to lives of formal education.

Of particular interest in these times where the expression “anti-Semitism” is seldom out of the mainstream fake-news for any length of time, are a couple of chapters Wells devotes to the early history of the Middle East. It’s necessary to repeat the important point that Wells wrote this book in the early 1920s. Israel did not exist at that time, yet the word that Wells seems to use most often when referring to the natives of the massive area stretching roughly from where Iran is today to Tunisia in the West, Egypt in the South, and Turkey in the North, is “Semite”:

We have already noted the appearance of the Semitic people as wanderers and nomads in the region of Syria and Arabia, and how they conquered Sumeria and set up first the Akkadian and then the Babylonian Empire. In the west these same Semitic peoples were taking to the sea. They set up a string of harbour towns along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, of which Tyre and Sidon were the chief; and by the time of Hammurabi in Babylon, they had spread as traders, wanderers and colonizers over the whole Mediterranean basin. These sea Semites were called the Phoenicians.1

Now he clearly did not believe that these people were all Jewish, for he refers specifically to them as:

[A] little Semitic people, the Hebrews, in the hills behind the Phoenician and Philistine coasts.2

And then he devotes a whole chapter to “The Early History of the Jews”, whose importance to the history of mankind Wells clearly understands and appreciates, as the chapter opens:

And now we tell of the Hebrews, a Semitic people, not so important in their own time as in their influence upon the later history of the world.3

(He couldn’t begin to know how prophetic those words would become.)

Note that Wells points out that the Hebrews were “a” Semitic people, not “the” Semitic people, and remember once again that he was writing before Israel had been invented. The importance that Wells rightly assigns to the Hebrews:

is due to the fact that they produced a written literature, a world history… which became at last what Christians know as the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible. This literature appears in history in the fourth or fifth century BC.3

Sometime around 600BC the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar ordered the destruction of Jerusalem, which had been the Hebrew capital for at least 400 years, and

The remnant of the people was carried off captive to Babylon [where] they remained until Cyrus took Babylon (538BC). He then collected them together and sent them back to resettle and rebuild the walls and temple of Jerusalem.3

Wells notes that the period of time that the Hebrews spent in Babylon was highly significant, because:

It civilized them and consolidated them. They returned aware of their own literature, an acutely self-conscious and political people.4

And very interestingly,

[Hebrew] accounts of the Creation of the World, of Adam and Eve and of the Flood, with which the Bible begins [and which vast numbers of westerners still believe to this day] run closely parallel with similar Babylonian legends; they seem to have been part of the common beliefs of all the Semitic peoples. So too the stories of Moses and of Samson have Sumerian and Babylonian parallels.4

So it appears that the original Semitic people were very different to what most of the world thinks today:

In the seventh century BC it would have seemed as though the whole civilised world was to be dominated by Semitic rulers. They ruled the great Assyrian empire and they had conquered Egypt; Assyria, Babylon, Syria were all Semitic, speaking languages that were mutually intelligible. The trade of the world was in Semitic hands. Tyre, Sidon, the great mother cities of the Phoenician coast, had thrown out colonies that grew at least to even greater proportion in Spain, Sicily and Africa. Carthage, founded before 800 BC, had risen to a population of more than 1 million.5

Now Wells did not invent the word “Semite”, nor did he invent this interpretation of their history. He simply related what would have been common understanding of history at the time. And this understanding survived for quite a long a time afterwards. Because in my edition of The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (an interesting use of the word “shorter”, as my two-volume copy is nearly 4,000 pages long), the word “Semite” is defined as:

A member of any of the peoples supposedly descended from Shem, son of Noah (Gen. 10:21 – 31) including esp. the Jews, Arabs, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Phoenicians.6

And my edition of this dictionary was published in 1993, over seventy years after Wells wrote his book. So in relatively recent times, the definition of the word “Semite” has been almost totally transformed from what was in common usage for many, many years to a new definition, widely promoted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which is now being used to refer only to Jewish people generally, and Zionists in particular. All of the other hundreds of millions of other people living in Semitic lands, as they’ve done for thousands of years, are simply removed from the new definition.

Now that publication date of 1993 is quite interesting, because it is a date after the First Gulf War, which took place in 1991. This war, which doesn’t deserve to be dignified with the word “war”, as it was more like a mass slaughter of defenceless people, was not only a massive abomination, it was also a massively illegal abomination, for it not only ignored numerous international laws, it also ignored the constitution of the very country that was mostly responsible for the abominations – the United States of America.

Ramsey Clark who, as a former attorney general of the US, knows a little bit about the law. His superb book The Fire This Time: US Crimes in the Gulf relates much of the detail of the monstrous crimes perpetrated by the US and its allies – and provides a comprehensive account of some of the various laws which were contemptuously ignored.

Clark describes just how one-sided this so-called war was:

Before 1991 was over, more than 250,000 Iraqis and thousands of other nationals were dead as a result of the attack. Most were civilian men, women, children, and infants.

US war casualties, including those who died from U.S. “friendly fire,” totalled 148, we are told. Out of an acknowledged 109,876 air sorties, total U.S. aircraft losses were 38, less than the accident rate during war games without live ammunition…

Iraq had no capacity to either attack or defend… The U.S. did not lose a single B52 in combat, as these planes dropped 27,500 tons of bombs. No Iraqi projectile penetrated a single Abrams tank, while the U.S. claimed to destroy 4,300 Iraqi tanks and 1,856 armored vehicles…7

U.S. forces buried thousands of Iraqi soldiers alive, wounded, dying, and dead. Miles of trenches with Iraqi troops in them were bulldozed over with sand. The United States refused to count, locate, identify or honor the dead. General [Colin] Powell said of the death count that it was “not a number I am terribly interested in.”8

General William G. Pagonis, stating proudly that this was the first war in modern time where every screwdriver and every nail was accounted for, simultaneously defended General Schwarzkopf’s policy against counting enemy dead. The generals knew but never mentioned that the Geneva Convention of 1949 required them not merely to count enemy dead, but to identify and honor them as well.9

Now there’s nothing unusual in the United States ignoring international law whenever it feels so inclined. After all, it’s knowingly been committing war crimes since Korea, and even one of its own Secretaries of State, Henry Kissinger, freely admitted in the 1970s that:

The illegal we do immediately, the unconstitutional takes a little longer.10

But the relevance to this particular discussion is around the question of anti-Semitism. Now I think I’ve established that for many, many years, and up until at least 1993, it was commonly understood that Semites were people with ethnic roots stretching from Iraq to North Africa.

However, in 2001 it was decided at the very highest levels of US government to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.

The catastrophic destruction that had already been wreaked on Iraq – one of the earliest Semitic lands – ten years earlier was not enough. Nowhere near enough Semitic people had suffered enough. Tens of millions of other Semitic people would have to be killed, injured and made homeless. And true enough we have indeed seen the destruction of what was left of Iraq, then Libya. Syria has been made to suffer terribly, and were it not for the intervention of Russia would likely have gone the same way as Iraq and Libya. All Semitic countries.

For much of Jeremy Corbyn’s time in office as leader of Britain’s Labour Party, he has been persistently accused of anti-Semitism. He has been accused of “not doing enough” to purge the party of anti-Semitism, and he has been accused of being an anti-Semite himself, most notably by the senior and highly respected Labour MP Margaret Hodge who allegedly called him a fucking anti-Semite. Yet hard evidence to justify the accusations are very difficult to find – which is quite extraordinary if it’s such a serious problem in the Labour Party generally, and with Jeremy Corbyn in particular. Much media comment was recently made about a remark Corbyn is said to have made – six years ago – about a wall mural depicting a group of bankers and which was, apparently anti-Semitic. This is about the best Jeremy Corbyn’s accusers can do in terms of providing hard evidence of his supposed anti-Semitism. The fact that Corbyn has spent much of his political career fighting for justice for cruelly oppressed Palestinians – a Semitic people – is not only ignored, it’s now considered further evidence of his anti-Semitism, thanks to IHRA’s new definition of the expression.

So the question is what is real anti-Semitism? Is it really a refusal to condemn a wall painting? Is that really the best Corbyn’s enemies can come up with? And even if it is, how does it compare when measured against the illegal murder of millions of Semitic people across the Middle East and North Africa, the destruction of countless thousands of Semitic homes, and forcing millions of semites to become refugees in alien and unwelcoming countries?

  1. A Short History of the World, HG Wells, p. 74.
  2. Ibid, p. 79.
  3. Ibid, p. 92.
  4. Ibid, p. 93.
  5. Ibid, p. 98.
  6. New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, p. 2772.
  7. The Fire This Time, Ramsey Clark, p. 206/7.
  8. Ibid, p. 178.
  9. Ibid, p. 208.
  10. The Wikileaks Files, Verso, 2015 edition, p. 66.

The battle of Idleb is pushed back

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Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-escalation Area

The Republic of Turkey and the Russian Federation, as guarantors of the observance of the ceasefire regime in the Syrian Arab Republic, guided by memorandum on creation of de-escalation areas in the Syrian Arab Republic as of May 4, 2017 and arrangements achieved in the Astana Process in order to stabilize yhe situation in the Idlib de-escalation area as soon as possible, Have agreed on the following : 1. The Idlib de-escalation area will be preserved and Turkish observation posts (...)