Category Archives: US Terrorism

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.

Iraq:  Why Doesn’t the US Move Out Despite the Iraqi Parliament’s Decision?

Why doesn’t the U.S. respect the decision made by the Iraqi Parliament and move out of Iraqi territory? The short answer is, because the US doesn’t respect anybody’s – any country’s – decision or sovereignty, as long as it doesn’t meet their objectives.

Now, the US is steadfast and will not leave the region. Already President Assad has requested that the US leave Syrian territory. They didn’t. The stakes are too immense for the US. It has all to do with their move towards world hegemony by territory and by finance – meaning by the US dollar.

The conflict with Iran is not over by any means. We are just experiencing a respite for regrouping and subsequently continuing and escalating the conflict. US bases in Iraq and military presence, at present more than 5,000 troops, are the most convenient means of force against Iran.

Other than controlling the rich and highly strategic territory of the Middle-East as an important step towards world hegemony, the US continuous presence in the region also has to do with profits for the war industry and with the price and control of hydrocarbons, especially gas.

We have seen, soon after the cowardly murder of General Qassem Suleimani, the share values of the war industry jump up, of course, in anticipation of a hot war and huge weapons sales. The war industry profits insanely from killing. Wars and conflicts are increasingly what drives the western economies. Already in the US the war industry and related industries and services make up for about half of the country’s GDP. The US economy without war is unthinkable. Therefore, the Middle-East is a perfect eternal battle ground – a sine qua non for the west. War is addictive. The western economy is already addicted to it. But most people haven’t realized that – yet. Revolving and renewed conflicts and wars is a must. Imagine, if the US were to leave the Middle-East, PEACE might break out. This is not admissible. Soon, your job may depend on war — if you live in the west.

Then there is the Iranian gas. Daily 20% to 25% of all the energy consumed to drive the world’s economy – including wars – transits through the Golf of Hormuz which is controlled by Iran. Immediately after the heinous murder on General Suleimani, the oil and gas prices spiked by about 4%, later declining again. This, in anticipation of a major conflict which could have Iran reduce her gas production, or block the passage of Hormuz. In either case a collapse of the world economy could not be excluded.

As a parenthesis – it is so absolutely necessary that the world frees itself from this nefarious source of energy – hydrocarbons – and converts to other, cheaper, cleaner and FREER sources of power to drive our industries and activities. Like solar energy of which Mother Earth receives every day more than 10,000 times what it needs for all her industrial and creative activities on every Continent.

The US, with a flailing multi-trillion fracking industry which just failed the European market, due Russian gas via Nord Stream2, and just inaugurated Turkstream, would like to control the price of hydrocarbon, so as to revive the highly indebted fracking industry. What better way than to control Iran, and her enormous reserves of gas, shared with Qatar?

Then there is the close alliance between Iran and China — China being Iran’s largest customer of gas. China is perceived by Washington as a deadly competitor, and barring her from the energy that makes China’s economy thrive, is one of those devilish objectives of the United States. They are unable to compete on an even playing field. Cheating, lying and manipulating has become part of their, and the western, life style. It is deeply ingrained in western history and culture.

Of,course, there are other ways of supplying China with the hydrocarbons she needs. Russia, with the world’s largest gas reserves, could easily increase her supplies.

In brief, the US is unlikely to leave the Middle-East, although some generals – and even some high-ranking Pentagon brass – believe this would be the smartest thing to do. They see the light, and the light is not war, but PEACE.

What could Iraq do to get the US out of Iraq and eventually out of the Region? After all, the Iraqi Parliament has taken a majority decision to regain Iraq’s sovereignty and autonomy, without foreign troops. Most countries with troops stationed in Iraq respect that decision. Denmark, Australia, Poland and Germany are preparing to move their troops out of Iraq. Only the UK with her 800 military men and women decided for now to stay alongside the US.

Iraq may want to strengthened her alliance with Russia and China, hereby increasing the pressure on the US to honor Iraq’s sovereign request for the US to leave. How much that would take to materialize, if at all, is a difficult question to answer. Maybe ‘never’. Except, if the US-dollar hegemony over western economies can be broken. And at the moment, a strong down-turn of the dollar’s role in the world economy is showing, as the western world is increasingly seeking ways to de-dollarize her economy and to associate with the East, led by China and Russia, where de-dollarization is advancing rapidly.

When that happens, chances are that the US of A’s dictates over the nations of the world will be mute, will not be listened to anymore, and that Washington will have to rethink its future, and very likely a US presence in the Middle-East will be history.

And We Allow this Madness to Continue

Try as I did, I found it impossible to send New Year’s greetings to friends in Iraq given the unthinkable and shameless actions of Trump and his regime in the last weeks. His decision to assassinate Iranian Major General Qasim Soleimani at the Baghdad airport led to the Iraqi Parliament voting to expel all foreign troops from Iraq. Trump’s quick response to that was “If they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.”

In 1996,Voices in the Wilderness began visiting Iraq in defiance of the economic sanctions. The campaign bore witness to the crippling effect of US sanctions imposed on Iraq after the first Gulf war. Over thirteen years, approximately seventy delegations traveled to Iraq, enabling us to build lasting relationships with Iraqis.

Trump’s threats a few days ago to put sanctions on Iraq, “sanctions that would make Iran sanctions seem tame,” can only be called blasphemous.

This morning I am reading from a communication I wrote on November 8, 2002 from Baghdad :

Together with others in the Iraq Peace Team, I was invited to the home of a Muslim woman (well known to Kathy Kelly) who had gathered some of her friends to meet with us…While apologizing for seeming rude, the hostess asked us pointedly ‘Why are you here and not in your own country speaking to your president, to your own government?….How is it possible that you are allowing them to do this?  What right does your president have to attack us, to ruin our country?’ With tears in her eyes, she asked,‘Where is your Christianity? We loved your Christianity.’

Her impassioned call to us, and that of the other Iraqi guests present, was ‘You need to see to your own house!’ A hard message we all need to hear again and again. God knows, we have attempted to reach the US media and government through demonstrations, vigils, fasts and acts of civil disobedience as well as letters and phone calls…. We can no longer afford to be silent; our silence has now indeed become complicity.  We must find ways to counter this madness.

This was written just a few months before the US-led invasion of Iraq. I was in Baghdad with The Iraq Peace team,  launched by Voices in  the Wilderness as war against Iraq seemed more and more imminent. We intended, in the event of war, to live alongside ordinary Iraqi people, believing that all life is precious and valuable.  Some of us remained in Baghdad throughout  the “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign.

Just two days ago on a bus returning from Philadelphia to New York city (I go weekly to be with my 94-year-old mother), I was finally able to compose a letter to two trusted and long-time friends in Baghdad.

I explained how wordless I had felt, at the beginning of the New Year. I said I felt horrified by recent US bombings and the assassination of Gen. Soleimani. Trump’s threats (even of imposing crueler sanctions on Iraq) were too shameful to repeat. And, I said, we allow this madness to continue!  I pictured them trying to carry out their daily work and could only pray for their strength, stamina and renewed spirits.

Yesterday one of these friends replied:

Dear Cathy,

Thanks so much for your warm words, happy New year for you and family, may God bless you by keeping your mother longer in good health.

As you said the words failed us, as we are passing very hard threatening time without knowing the reason for being the target of world politics over the last 4 decades with end result of complete collapse on all levels and the most important is moral damage of people with loss of hope, helplessness and frustration.

We need the support of all good will people in the world as we are simply human beings like them.

Adra and her 5-year-old son Atarid in hospital. Atarid suffered from cancer. He died on the 3rd day of the United States Shock and Awe bombing. (Photo credit: Cathy Breen,  March 2003.)

Reckless US Actions Fire Up The Antiwar Movement

The reckless and dangerous act of war committed by Donald Trump and the Pentagon in killing Major General Qasem Soleimani of Iran and the Iraqi leader of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, has brought the conflict in the Middle East (aka West Asia) to a new level. The conflagration of war is growing with the United States making this direct attack on a top Iranian official in violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

As expected, the corporate media and many politicians are spreading lies to justify the murders and further aggression towards Iran. It is important for us to understand the facts so we can respond to this misinformation and avoid being lied into yet another war.

Fortunately, there was a rapid response in the United States with actions in more than 82 cities in 38 states involving tens of thousands of people to protest more war on Iran. [See our message to Iran here.] It is imperative, and the ingredients are in place for it, that the antiwar movement grows exponentially very quickly and becomes a major force in 2020. The combination of opposition to never-ending, always-expanding wars, hatred of Donald Trump, the 2020 election year and pent up frustration over massive military spending can create a movement more dangerous to Trump than the toothless Democratic Party impeachment.

January 4 march in Washington, DC. Shawn Thew/EPA/EFE.

The Assassination of Soleimani was Based on Falsehoods

As expected, corporate media in the US is pushing lies to rationalize the crimes committed by the US. In reality, the justifications used by the US for the assassination were false. The primary claim used to justify the attack is that Soleimani was planning imminent attacks on US forces. In fact, Moon of Alabama reports that Soleimani was not planing any “imminent attacks” on the US or its interests in Iraq. In no way was Soleimani a legitimate target for a US attack.

Moon of Alabama writes:

The Quds force [which Soleimani led] is the external arm of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Soleimani was responsible for all relations between Iran and political and militant movements outside of Iran…. He was the man responsible for, and successful in, defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In 2015, Soleimani traveled to Moscow and convinced Russia to intervene in Syria. His support for the Houthi in Yemen enabled them to withstand the Saudi attackers.

In all these instances, Soleimani was standing up against US imperialism. These actions made him a target of the US military establishment and a hero in Iran and allied nations.

There have been vague claims that Soleimani killed a US contractor, but this is in doubt. As Scott Ritter writes:

There are several problems with this narrative, first and foremost being that the bases bombed were reportedly more than 500 kilometers removed from the military base where the civilian contractor had been killed. The Iraqi units housed at the bombed facilities, including Khaitab Hezbollah, were engaged, reportedly, in active combat operations against ISIS remnants operating in both Iraq and Syria. This calls into question whether they would be involved in an attack against an American target. In fact, given the recent resurgence of ISIS, it is entirely possible that ISIS was responsible for the attack on the U.S. base, creating a scenario where the U.S. served as the de facto air force for ISIS by striking Iraqi forces engaged in anti-ISIS combat operations.

Following the alleged killing of this unnamed US contractor, the US military bombed members of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) killing dozens and wounding about 50 people. In response to this outrageous action – imagine a Chinese contractor being killed in the US and China responds by bombing our domestic military bases – Iraqis stormed the US Embassy in Baghdad. The assassination of Soleimani was apparently in response to the protests at the embassy.

Prior to these events, Iraqis had been protesting their government and were divided over the US and Iran’s involvement in the country. However, now the country is united against the United States and the Parliament voted to expel the US from the country. Before that vote, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi told the Parliament he was scheduled to meet with Soleimani a day after his arrival to receive a letter from Iran in response to a de-escalation offer Saudi Arabia had made. The US assassinated Soleimani shortly after his arrival at the Baghdad civilian airport and before the letter could be delivered.

Iranians march in the southwestern city of Ahvaz to pay homage to top general Qassem Soleimani (Hossein Mersadi/fars news)

The Fallout

The United States has been waging a war of “maximum pressure” on Iran throughout the past year to no avail. Iran has been measured in its responses to the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement, increased illegal unilateral coercive measures (aka sanctions), threats of attack and false accusations against Iran. This assassination is a new level of criminality and recklessness. General Soleimani was loved and revered in Iran and throughout the region. Since his murder, Iranians and Iraqis have poured into the streets to mourn him and al-Muhandis and to call for action.

Iran has promised, “forceful revenge” but Iran is not seeking a war with the US. Unlike the US’ action, which doesn’t seem to be thought through, Iran will be deliberate to achieve strategic objectives. While rapid escalation is possible, more likely is a long-term careful response by Iran. An asymmetrical response, which is the strategy put in place by Soleimani, is the most likely. Iran’s control of the Strait of Hormuz, where one-third of the world’s oil passes, could choke the world’s oil supply resulting in increased prices that risk a recession in the US and globally. Already, oil prices are rising.

Iran can act diplomatically to further isolate the United States. Scott Ritter writes:

The diplomatic missions Suleimani may have been undertaking at the time of his death centered on gaining regional support for pressuring the United States to withdraw from both Syria and Iraq. Of the two, Iraq was, and is, the highest priority, if for no other reason that there can be no sustained US military presence in Syria without the existence of a major US military presence in Iraq.

The 16,000 people working at the massive US embassy in Baghdad could also be forced out of Iraq. Muqtada al-Sadr has already said in a letter that Iraq should go further and shut down the US embassy. The State Department has ordered all US citizens to leave Iraq.

Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan, Iran’s former defense minister and current military adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei, says Iran is not seeking war with the United States and will only target military sites. There are also military targets in the region that could be attacked by Iranian allies including those of the US and its allies such as Israel.  General Gholamali Abuhamzeh, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards, said: “Some 35 US targets in the region, as well as Tel Aviv, are within our reach.”

An escalation of the situation could occur no matter what Iran does because of actions by the United States. Yesterday, President Trump was threatening to bomb 52 targets in Iran, including historic sites. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote in response that “Targeting cultural sites is a WAR CRIME.” Zarif sent letters to both the UN Security Council and the UN to condemn the US’ actions. 

The US announced it is sending 3,500 more troops from the 82nd Airborne Division to Iraq, adding to the 5,000 already there, at the same time that the Iraqi Parliament, Premier, and Prime Minister have called for the US to leave Iraq. The US will either leave voluntarily or it will remain as an illegal occupying force. And Iran just announced that it is leaving the nuclear agreement. Although Iran has not stated an intention of building nuclear weapons, leaving the agreement opens that door.

US Out of Iraq

Iran’s first goal of removing the US from Iraq, Syria and the Middle East was advanced on Sunday when the Iraqi Parliament voted to expel the US military from the country. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi described the murders as “a political assassination” and urged “for the sake of our national sovereignty” that Iraq establish a timetable for the exit of US troops.

Shia PMU groups have already declared they will do whatever they can to evict the US military from Iraqi soil. The US killed their leaders and comrades so they will take action independent of Iran. Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shia cleric who commands millions of followers in Iraq, has given orders to reactivate his military to force the US out. Millions of people in Iraq joined processions remembering Soleimani and al-Muhandis. These Iraqis will be ready to take action to force the US to leave if the US does not abide by the Iraqi government’s request.

An unfortunate outcome of the US’ actions is that not only have very effective leaders in the fight against ISIS been killed, but the Iraqi PMU is now diverting its efforts away from stopping ISIS to focus on US troops. This is one more reason why the US needs to leave Iraq, and ideally the whole Middle East. US foreign policy over the past decades has brought instability to the region and made the world more insecure. It’s time for people in the United States to increase our calls for the US to get out of Iraq and the whole Middle East.

Anti-war activists march in Washington DC on Jan 4 in reaction to Trump’s assassination of General Soleimani and commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes.

Our Next Steps

The mobilizations across the country yesterday were large and energetic. Many youth and new faces showed up. The messages were clear about opposition to more war on Iran and sanctions, demanding the US get out of the Middle East and calling out the bipartisan war machine. The root causes of capitalism and imperialism were also condemned. In 2020, we can build a people’s peace movement that cannot be ignored.

Congress returns to Washington, DC on Tuesday. We need to send a clear message upon their return that there must not be any more aggression on Iran and that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force must be repealed immediately. Click here to call Congress. You can also call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121. We need to pressure all members of Congress and candidates to speak out against the war on Iran.

We will also need to continue educating ourselves and members of our communities to counter the lies being told in the media. All wars are based on lies and we must be able to recognize them when we hear them. Sharing articles on social media, writing letters to the editor and holding teach-ins and public forums in your communities can counter the corporate media claims.

And we will need to continue to protest in the streets. There will be more calls for days of action, but you can also organize your own. Find a highly-trafficked location such as a transit center or a public square and hold regular vigils to show your opposition. Hold a protest at your member of Congress’ office. If you are more ambitious, you can organize disruptive actions. Have a sit-in at your local weapons producer’s office, for example.

These reckless actions by the US military create dangerous and uncertain times, but it is also an opportunity to demand significant changes to US foreign policy. The US is losing imperial power and cannot continue to be a bully that violates international law. It is time to transform from domination to being a cooperative member of the world community. It is time to put in place a peace economy that creates economic security at home and abroad. The US is a young nation that has much to learn from more mature civilizations like Iran if we can only stop misbehaving long enough to listen.

Iran’s Hero has Fallen and Now the World is an Even More Dangerous Place

They say he came from a humble background, and worked himself up the ranks, becoming, as many believe, the second most powerful man in Iran. They say he had the chance to become the next Supreme Leader of the country.

Whenever I visit Iran, I am told how much he is loved by his people. He became the symbol of resistance against the West; the symbol of the strength and dignity of the nation which was attacked, colonized and starved by several Western capitals.

And now, Iran’s Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani is no more. And the U.S. Commander-in-Chief, Donald Trump, is proudly claiming responsibility for his demise.

The statement from the Pentagon came promptly, and it was clear:

At the direction of the president, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani… This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and interests wherever they are around the world.

Defensive action…

Almost immediately, RT and others asked me to analyze.

I could not help but to define what was done at the airport outside Baghdad, Iraq, as a vulgar and brutal extra-judicial killing.

*****

For the last two months, I have been flying all over the world, writing about (and filming) all those horrors that the Empire unleashed against the people with different cultures, living in various parts of the world.

The Middle East, China, Latin America.

It appears that all boundaries have been crossed. Washington and its NATO allies have lost all restraint, shame and decency. They actually never had much of those, but now they have almost none.

Everything appears to be primitive, as in a badly directed mafia film. If the rulers of the West do not like some country? In that case they simply attack it, starve and destroy it. As brutal as that. No U.N. Security Council mediations, no arguments, and no pretending that there should be some legal process.

It has been happening to Hong Kong, to Bolivia, Venezuela and West Papua. It has also been happening to Iran, as well as China and Russia, although those countries have proven to be much tougher to eliminate than Washington’s planners originally thought.

The same applies to individuals: people get murdered without second thought, some quickly, some very slowly and painfully. Julian Assange is one of them, being slowly tortured to death in front of the entire world, despite legal and medical experts protesting and demanding his release.

The killing of Qasem Soleimani and others in Baghdad was quick and totally unexpected.

The facial expressions of U.S. officials were absolutely shocking: as if mafia bosses were caught in a corner of some filthy den by a bunch of amateur journalists. Unapologetically, they grinned at the lenses, suggesting: “So what? What are you going to do now? Challenge us? Us? We’ll break your legs, or something…”

And nobody, absolutely nobody, really dares to challenge them! Not yet. Not at this moment.

It is one tested, bulletproof game. You destroy an entire country, or you kill a person, and then you show your piece; your well-maintained revolver, or two. You expose your guns and ugly row of teeth. You say, or you suggest without pronouncing it: “You have a wife, and two daughters back home, don’t you? You don’t want anything to happen to them, right?”

It is on that level now. It is not any better than that, don’t you see?

If you defend yourself – you die; your family dies. Or your family members get violated. Or both.

You like it? You don’t like it? You absolutely detested it? Who cares! The Empire has guns. It is all it has. The ability to kill and to rape. It has become dumb, degenerate. It produces hardly anything of value. But it has millions of weapons, as well as a monstrous propaganda machine.

*****

Now, seriously: what can Iran do? What can a nation with thousands of years of culture do?

Can it defend itself? Honestly, if you think it can, then say it: how?

If it retaliates, it could be erased from the face of the earth. If it doesn’t do anything, it will lose face, self-respect, as well as the purpose to continue with its struggle for true independence and its unique form of socialism.

For years and decades, Iran has been a thorn in the eye of the West. Its allies have fought against Western-injected terrorism in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Iranian ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, has been defending the country against Israeli invasions, while providing social support to poor and needy citizens. Iran has been giving jobs and temporary shelter to many Afghan citizens, particularly those from Herat, people who have absolutely nothing left after the horrendous U.S./NATO occupation of the country. I worked in Afghanistan, and I saw tremendous lines in front of the Iranian consulate in Herat. Iran has even been deeply involved in Latin America, helping, building social housing in Venezuela, Evo’s Bolivia, and elsewhere.

And now, recently, it began moving closer and closer to two of Washington’s arch enemies: China and Russia.

Therefore, it has been decided in the annals of Washington and the Pentagon: Iran has to be stopped; destroyed. At any price. Meaning, any price which would have to be paid by the Iranian citizens.

*****

I am convinced that this madness has to be stopped.

For Iran’s sake.

But also, because, if Iran is ruined, destroyed like Iraq, Libya or Afghanistan, someone will be next. First, most likely, Venezuela, and then Cuba. But then, perhaps, most likely, Russia or China, or both.

The Empire will not stop by itself.

If not opposed, it will get more and more emboldened.

It is a tremendous mistake to let it literally ‘get away with a murder’.

Today, a brave Iranian General has been murdered. Washington is smiling provocatively, cynically.

It is sending vibes to all corners of the world: “Stay on your couches in front of television sets. Be petrified. Do nothing. Or else!”

Yes, the world is scared. There are reasons to be scared. But the world simply has to act. These brutal, cowardly acts of degeneracy and fundamentalism/fanaticism committed by the Empire have to be stopped, sooner or later, in the name of our human race. Otherwise, soon, there will be no humanity left!

First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook – a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences, under the same title

Iran vs. US: The Murder of General Qassem Suleimani

Interestingly, after the US attack on Iraqi Militia fighters on 31 December 2020, and the assassination of General Qassem Suleimani, on 2 January, the first thing President Trump could come up with was bragging that it was him who gave the order to murder the popular military leader. General Qassem Suleimani was the commander of the Iranian special Quds Force. The Quds Force was created during the Iran–Iraq War as a special unit from the broader Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It has the mission of liberating Muslim land, especially al-Quds, from which it takes its name – “Jerusalem Force“, in English.

General Suleimani was killed by a US drone. He was not only the most popular and prominent military officer in Iran, but he was also influential and respected throughout the Middle East. He was chief in training Iraqi forces who eventually defeated ISIS in Iraq within less than a year when the US and NATO estimated it would take at least 3 years. General Suleimani, along with Russia, was also instrumental in training the Syrian armed forces with the objective of defeating ISIS / IS / DEASH in Syria, and they succeeded. This US act of impunity, the General Suleimani killing, was unmistakenly targeted with precision and as such a clear declaration of war on Iran.

Trump expected applause from the public at large. Let’s not forget he is entering the year 2020 of his re-election… that’s what he wants. So, he needs increased popularity and approval ratings. To be reelected, he, like others before him, doesn’t shy away from committing murder or entering a new war, killing millions. That’s what American Presidents do to win elections. That’s what Obama has done. He entered the Presidency with two ongoing US wars – Afghanistan and Iraq – when he left office the US was engaged in seven wars around the globe, in Libya, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, as well as Afghanistan and Iraq.

Plus, numerous proxy-conflicts, meaning they are fought by mercenaries and / or US trained, funded and armed terrorists; i.e., ISIS / DAESH, Islamic State (IS) and whatever other names the empire gives its agents of terror to confuse the world. And let’s not forget, the algorithmically manipulated regime-change elections in Latin America and Europe, the steady NATO advances with new military bases encircling Russia and China, including the stationing of more than 50% of the US Naval force in the South China Sea.

Most of the US Presidents are elected on the basis of their aggression, planned or ongoing, on how much they are willing to kill around the world and how well they are representing the interests of the US War Industry — and, of course, the Israeli AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). In other words, Americans who go to the polls are duped into believing they are electing a president, when in reality their president had been pre-selected by a small group of elitists, representing the key US interests, the War Industry, Big Finance, Big Oil, Big Pharma – and who else, of course, the State of Israel.

The unarmed Iraqi protests and attack on 31 December on the US Embassy in Baghdad was a response to a US assault on Militia Iraqi forces on 29 December – leaving at least 25 dead and more than 50 wounded.

The US has absolutely no business in Iraq. Not now, not ever – nor in Syria, nor anywhere else in the Middle East – for that matter, outside the frontiers of the United States of America. It’s as simple as that.

And the world, the UN, the UN Security Council should act accordingly.

The boundless US aggression must be stopped.

The world has become used to it and, for the most part, is just silent. The ABNORMAL has become normal. That must be reversed.

Yes, the Iranian Government warned of retaliation. Understandably. However, that is precisely what Washington and the Pentagon wants; that’s what they were provoking, with this assassination of General Suleimani, and earlier with confiscated oil tankers and tanker attacks in the Gulf. The US hawks are just waiting for Iran to retaliate, so they can attack in full force – or ask Israel to attack in full force with US backing, of course.

Knowing how the US is acting around the world with impunity – and especially in the countries they want to dominate – Iran has to count with the worst. So far, Iran has been acting wisely with a lot of restraint, not to risk MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction, in other words, a World War scenario.

A retaliation must be well-thought out – and foremost not be obvious. It must be strategic with long-term impact not the short-term face-saving military act. In the long-term, non-aggression, non-confrontation – the contrary of what Washington is seeking – may prevail. Let the American war hawks continue shadow boxing.

What the Middle East and world is dealing with is a dying beast. That’s what the US empire has become. The beast, in its last breath, is lashing out round itself no matter how many other countries it pulls with it into the abyss, no matter how many people are killed in the process.

What will be the world’s reaction to this open and flagrant murder?  Do not expect much from the US-submissive West, especially the Europeans.

However, Iran can certainly count on Russia and China and on a number of other allies. And in the UN on the more than 120 non-aligned countries that also stand behind Venezuela and Cuba, and now behind Evo Morales.

This is important. These unaligned countries are now in the majority of the UN body of member states. They have to speak out in the Security Council, as well as in the General Assembly. This case of US impunity should be elevated to world attention. Therefore, Iran may want to call a special UN General Assembly Meeting to discuss the case. It would show where the UN stands and would accordingly provide Iran with more leverage on their reaction.

Iran cannot elevate this case high enough on the world stage. So that each and every nation realizes that their own sovereignty is at risk – is every day at risk – of being annihilated by the wannabe World Hegemon, the self-declared Exceptional Nation, US of A.

Only united can this monster be beaten.

Washington is weak, knows no long-term thinking, no long-term strategy – lives off instant gratification. This works for a while, by sheer military force, but not forever.

Russia and China have now far advanced precision weaponry and are allies of Iran.  Short-term thinking may be a suicide mission.

• First published by the New Eastern Outlook – NEO

The “Great Game” is Afoot: Killing Soleimani Reflects US Desperation in the Middle East

By killing top Iranian military commander, Qasem Soleimani, American and Israeli leaders demonstrated the idiom ‘out of the frying pan into the fire.’

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are both politically and legally embattled – the former has just been impeached and the latter is dogged by an Attorney General indictment and investigation into major corruption cases.

Despairing, out of options and united by a common cause, both leaders were on the lookout for a major disruption – that would situate them in a positive light within their countries’ respective media – and they found it.

The assassination of the Iranian major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and commander of its Quds Force, Soleimani, on January 3, along with several Iranian military leaders by a US drone was a testament to the degree of that US and Israeli desperation.

Although there has been no official confirmation or denial of the Israeli role in the US operation, it is only logical to assume indirect or even direct Israeli involvement in the assassination.

Over the last few months, the possibility of a war against Iran has once more gained momentum, topping the agenda of Israel’s foreign policy makers. Politically beleaguered Netanyahu has repeatedly and tirelessly asked his friends in Washington to increase pressure on Teheran.

“Iran is increasing its aggression as we speak,” Netanyahu claimed on December 4, during a meeting with US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. “We are actively engaging in countering that aggression.”

One can only assume what “active engagement” from the overtly militant Israeli point of view can possibly mean in this context.

Moreover, the fingerprints of the Israeli intelligence, the Mossad, are unmistakably present in the assassination. It is plausible that the attack at Soleimani’s convoy near the Baghdad International airport was a joint CIA-Mossad operation.

It is well-known that Israel has more experience in targeted assassinations in the region than all Middle Eastern countries combined. It has killed hundreds of Palestinian and Arab activists this way. The assassination of Hezbollah’s top military leader – the movement’s second in command –  Imad Mughniyah in February 2008, in Syria, was only one of numerous such killings.

It is no secret that Israel is itching for a war against Iran. Yet all of Tel Aviv’s efforts have failed to bring about US-led war similar to the Iraq invasion in 2003. The most that Netanyahu could achieve in terms of US support in that regard was a decision by the Trump administration to renege on the US commitment to the international community by withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Treaty in May 2018.

That coveted Israeli war seemed assured when Iran, after various provocations and the slapping by Washington of yet more sanctions, shot down a US unmanned aerial vehicle that, as Iran maintained, violated the country’s airspace, on June 20, 2019.

Even then, the US response fell short of achieving the all-out war that Netanyahu has been so frantically seeking.

But much has happened since then, including a repeat of  Netanyahu’s failure to win a decisive election, thus securing another term in office, compounding the Israeli Prime Minister’s fully justified fear that he could eventually find himself behind bars for operating a massive racket of bribes and misuse of power.

Trump, too, has his own political woes, thus his own reasons to act erratically and irresponsibly. His official impeachment by the US House of Representatives on December 18 was the last of such bad news. He too needed to up the political ante.

If there is one thing that many Democratic and Republican lawmakers have in common is their desire for more Middle East military interventions and to maintain a stronger military presence in the oil and gas-rich region. This was reflected in the near-celebratory tone that  US officials, generals, and media commentators have used following the assassination of the Iranian commander in Baghdad.

Israeli officials too were visibly excited. Immediately following the killing of General Soleimani, Israeli leaders and officials issued statements and tweets in support of the US action.

For his part, Netanyahu declared that “Israel has the right to defend itself. The US has the same right exactly.” “Soleimani,” he added, “is responsible for the deaths of innocent US citizens and many others. He was planning further attacks.”

The last statement in particular, “he was planning further attacks,” points to the obvious joint intelligence and information sharing between Washington and Tel Aviv.

Benny Gantz, mistakenly celebrated for being a “centrist”, was no less militant in his views. When it comes to matters of national security, “there is no coalition and opposition,” he stated.

“The killing of Soleimani is a message to all the head of global terror: on your own heads be it,” the Israeli general, responsible for the death of thousands of innocent Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere, also added.

Iran will certainly respond, not only against American targets but Israeli targets as well, for Teheran is convinced that Israel has played a major role in the operation. The pressing questions are more about the nature and the timing of the Iranian response: How far will Iran go to send even a stronger message back to Washington and Tel Aviv and could Teheran communicate a decisive message without granting Netanyahu his wish of an all-out war between Iran and the United States?

Recent events in Iraq – the mass protests and attempt by unarmed protesters to storm the US embassy in Baghdad on December 31 – were, to some extent, a game changer. Initially, they were understood as an angry response to US airstrikes on an Iranian-backed militia group on Sunday, but the protests had unintended consequences as well, particularly dangerous from a US military and strategic perspective. For the first time since the phony US ‘withdrawal’ from Iraq under the previous administration of Barack Obama in 2012, a new collective understanding began maturing among ordinary Iraqis and their representatives that the US must leave the country for good.

Acting quickly, the US, with palpable Israeli giddiness, assassinated Soleimani to send a clear message to Iraq and Iran that demanding or expecting an American withdrawal is a red line that cannot be crossed – and to the whole Middle East that the evident US retreat from the region will not be duplicated in Iraq.

Soleimani’s assassination was followed by yet more US airstrikes on Iran’s allies in Iraq, as to also emphasize the level of US seriousness and willingness to seek violent confrontation as a matter of course.

While Iran is now weighing in its responses, it must also be aware of the geostrategic consequences of its decisions. An Iranian move against US-Israeli interests would have to be convincing from the point of view of Iran and its allies, yet, again, without engaging in an all-out war.

Either way, Iran’s next move will define the Iranian-US-Israeli relations in the region for years to come and will further intensify the ongoing regional and international “Great Game”, on full display throughout the Middle East.

Soleimani’s assassination could also be understood as a clear message to both Russia and China as well, that the US is prepared to set the whole region on fire, if necessary, in order to maintain its strategic presence and to serve its economic interests – which mostly lie in Iraqi and Arab oil and gas.

This comes at the heel of a joint Russian, Chinese and Iranian naval drill in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman, starting on December 27. The news of the military exercises must have been particularly alarming to the Pentagon, as Iran, which was meant to be isolated and browbeaten, is increasingly becoming a regional access point to the emergent and resurfacing Chinese and Russian military powers respectively.

Soleimani was an Iranian commander, but his massive network and military alliances in the region and beyond made his assassination a powerful message sent by Washington and Tel Aviv that they are ready and unafraid to up their game.

The ball is now in the court of Iran and its allies.

Judging by past experiences, it is likely that Washington will regret assassinating the Iranian general for many years to come.

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

An Eyewitness to  the Horrors of the US “Forever Wars” speaks out

Kathy Kelly and Maya Evans walk with children at the Chamin-E-Babrak refugee camp in Kabul, Afghanistan, January 2014. (Abdulhai Darya)

The 2003 “shock and awe” bombing of Iraq had finally stopped. From the balcony of my room in Baghdad’s Al Fanar Hotel, I watched U.S. Marines moving between their jeeps, armored personnel carriers, and Humvees. They had occupied the street immediately in front of the small, family-owned hotel where our Iraq Peace Team had been living for the past six months. Looking upward, a U.S. Marine could see enlarged vinyl photos of beautiful Iraqi children strung across balconies of our fifth-floor rooms. We silently stood on those balconies when the U.S. Marines arrived in Baghdad, holding signs that said “War = Terror” and “Courage for Peace, Not for War.” When she first saw the Marine’s faces, Cynthia Banas commented on how young and tired they seemed. Wearing her “War Is Not the Answer” T-shirt, she headed down the stairs to offer them bottled water.

From my balcony, I saw Cathy Breen, also a member of the Iraq Peace Team, kneeling on a large canvas artwork entrusted to us by friends from South Korea. It depicts people suffering from war. Above the people, like a sinister cloud, is a massive heap of weapons. We unrolled it the day the Marines arrived and began to “occupy” this space. Marines carefully avoided driving vehicles over it. Sometimes they would converse with us. Below, Cathy read from a small booklet of daily Scripture passages. A U.S. Marine approached her, knelt down, and apparently asked to pray with her. He placed his hands in hers.

April Hurley, of our team, is a doctor. She was greatly needed in the emergency room of a nearby hospital during the bombing. Drivers would only take her there if she was accompanied by someone they had known for a long time, and so I generally accompanied her. I’d often sit on a bench outside the emergency room while traumatized civilians rushed in with wounded and maimed survivors of the terrifying U.S. aerial bombings. When possible, Cathy Breen and I would take notes at the bedsides of patients, including children, whose bodies had been ripped apart by U.S. bombs.

The ER scenes were gruesome, bloody and utterly tragic. Yet no less unbearable and incomprehensible were the eerily quiet wards we had visited during trips to Iraq from 1996 to 2003, when Voices in the Wilderness had organized 70 delegations to defy the economic sanctions by bringing medicines and medical relief supplies to hospitals in Iraq. Across the country, Iraqi doctors told us the economic war was far worse than even the 1991 Desert Storm bombing.

In pediatrics wards, we saw infants and toddlers whose bodies were wasted from gastrointestinal diseases, cancers, respiratory infections and starvation. Limp, miserable, sometimes gasping for breath, they lay in the arms of their sorrowful mothers, and seemingly no one could stop the U.S. from punishing them to death. “Why?” mothers murmured. Sanctions forbade Iraq to sell its oil. Without oil revenues, how could they purchase desperately needed goods? Iraq’s infrastructure continued to crumble; hospitals became surreal symbols of cruelty where doctors and nurses, bereft of medicines and supplies, couldn’t heal their patients or ease their agonies.

In 1995, UN officials estimated that economic sanctions had directly contributed to the deaths of at least a half-million Iraqi children, under age 5.

Kathy Kelly with children in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 2016 (Provided photo)

The economic war continued for nearly 13 harsh and horrible years.

Shortly after the Marines arrived outside of our hotel, we began hearing ominous reports of potential humanitarian crises developing in Baghdad and other major Iraqi cities. A woman who had been in charge of food distribution for her neighborhood, under the “Oil for Food” program, showed us her carefully maintained ledger books and angrily asked how all who had depended on the monthly food basket would now feed their families. Along with food shortages, we heard alarming reports about contaminated water and a possible outbreak of cholera in Basra and Hilla. For weeks, there had been no trash removal. Bombed electrical plants and sanitation facilities had yet to be restored. Iraqis who could help restore the broken infrastructure couldn’t make it through multiple check points to reach their offices; with communication centers bombed, they couldn’t contact colleagues. If the U.S. military hadn’t yet devised a plan for emergency relief, why not temporarily entrust projects to U.N. agencies with long experience of organizing food distribution and health care delivery?

Cathy, who is a nurse, Dr. April Hurley, and Ramzi Kysia, also a member of our group, arranged a meeting with the civil and military operations center, located in the Palestine Hotel, across the street from us. An official there dismissed them as people who didn’t belong there. Before telling them to leave, he did accept a list of our concerns, written on Voices in the Wilderness stationery.

The logo for our stationery reappeared a few hours later, at the entrance to the Palestine Hotel. It was taped to the flap of a cardboard box. Surrounding the logo were seven silver bullets. Written in ball-point pen on the cardboard was a message: “Keep Out.”

In response, Ramzi Kysia wrote a press release headlined: “Heavy-handed & Hopeless, The U.S. Military Doesn’t Know What It’s Doing In Iraq.”

Kathy Kelly holds Shoba at the Chamin-E-Babrak refugee camp in Kabul, Afghanistan, in January 2014, a few days after the child had been saved from a burning tent, during a fire that destroyed much of the camp. (Abdulhai Darya)

In 2008, our group, renamed Voices for Creative Nonviolence, was beginning a walk from Chicago to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. We asked Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid to speak at a “send-off” event. He encouraged and blessed our “Witness Against War” walk  but then surprised us by saying he had never heard us mention the war in Afghanistan, even though people there suffered terribly from aerial bombings, drone attacks, targeted assassinations, night raids and imprisonments. Returning from our walk, we began researching drone warfare, and then created an “Afghan Atrocities List,” on our website, carefully updating it each week with verifiable reports of U.S. attacks against Afghan civilians.

The following year, Joshua Brollier and I headed to Pakistan and then Afghanistan. In Kabul, Afghanistan, we were guests of a deeply respected non-governmental organization Emergency, which has a Surgical Centre for War Victims there.

Filippo, a sturdy young nurse from Italy who was close to completing three terms of service with Emergency, welcomed us. As he filled a huge backpack with medicines and supplies, he described how the hospital personnel managed to reach people in remote villages who have no access to clinics or hospitals. The trip was relatively safe since no one had ever attacked a vehicle marked with the Emergency logo. A driver would take him to one of Emergency’s 41 remote first aid clinics. From there, he would hike further up a mountainside and meet villagers awaiting him and the precious medicines he carried. In a previous visit, after he had completed a term in Afghanistan, he said people had walked four hours in the snow to come and say goodbye to him. “Yes,” he said, “I fell in love.”

How different Filippo’s report was from those compiled in our Afghan Atrocities List. The latter tells about U.S. special operations forces, some of the most highly trained warriors in the world, traveling to remote areas, bursting into homes in the middle of the night, and proceeding to lock the women in one room, handcuff or sometimes hogtie the men, rip apart closets, mattresses and furniture, and then take the men to prisons for interrogation. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch filed chilling reports about torture of Afghan prisoners held by the U.S.

In 2010, two U.S. Veterans for Peace, Ann Wright and Mike Ferner, joined me in Kabul. We visited one of the city’s largest refugee camps. People faced appalling conditions. Over a dozen, including infants, had frozen to death, their families unable to purchase fuel or adequate blankets. When the rain, sleet and snow came, the tents and huts become mired in mud. Earlier, I had met with a young girl there whose arm had been cut off, her uncle told me, by a U.S. drone attack. Her brother, whose spine was injured, huddled under a blanket, inside their tent, visibly shaking.

Opposite the sprawling refugee camp is a huge U.S. military base. Ann and Mike felt outraged over the terrible contrast between the Afghan refugee camp with a soaring population of people displaced by war, and the U.S. base housing military personnel who had ample supplies of food, water, and fuel.

Most of the funds earmarked by the U.S. for reconstruction in Afghanistan have been used to train and equip Afghan Defense and Security forces. My young friends in the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APV) were weary of war and didn’t want military training. Each of them had lost friends and family members because of the war.

In December 2015, I again visited Emergency’s Surgical Centre for War Victims in Kabul, joined by several Afghan Peace Volunteers. We donated blood and then visited with hospital personnel. “Are you still treating any victims of the U.S. bombing in Kunduz?” I asked Luca Radaelli, who coordinates Emergency’s Afghan facilities. He explained how their Kabul hospital was already full when 91 survivors of the U.S. attack on the Kunduz hospital operated by Médecins Sans Frontières were transported for five hours over rough roads to the closest place they could be treated, this surgical center. The Oct. 15 attack had killed at least 42 people, 14 of whom were hospital staff.

Kathy Kelly and Voices in the Wilderness delegation with Afghan Peace Volunteer friends in Bamyan, Afghanistan, in 2010 (Hakim Young)

Even though Kunduz hospital staff had immediately notified the U.S. military, the U.N., and the Afghan government that the U.S. was bombing their hospital, the warplane continued bombing the hospital’s ER and intensive care unit, in 15-minute intervals, for an hour and a half.

Luca introduced our small team to Khalid Ahmed, a former pharmacy student at the Kunduz hospital, who was still recovering. Khalid described the terrible night, his attempt to literally run for his life by sprinting toward the front gate, his agony when he was hit by shrapnel in his spine, and his efforts to reassemble his cell phone — guards had cautioned him to remove the batteries so that he wouldn’t be detected by aerial surveillance — so that he could give a last message to his family, as he began to lose consciousness. Fortunately, his call got through. His father’s relatives raced to the hospital’s front gate and found Khalid in a nearby ditch, unconscious but alive.

Telling his story, Khalid asked the Afghan Peace Volunteers about me. Learning I’m from the U.S., his eyes widened. “Why would your people want to do this to us?” he asks. “We were only trying to help people.”

Images of battered and destroyed hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of hospital personnel trying nevertheless to heal people and save lives, help me retain a basic truth about U.S. wars of choice: We don’t have to be this way.

Admittedly, it’s difficult to uproot entrenched systems, like the military-industrial-congressional-media-Washington, D.C., complex, which involves corporate profits and government jobs. Mainstream media seldom help us recognize ourselves as a menacing, warrior nation. Yet we must look in the mirror held up by historical circumstances if we’re ever to accomplish credible change.

The recently released “Afghanistan Papers” criticize U.S. military and elected officials for misleading the U.S. public by covering up disgraceful military failures in Afghanistan. Pentagon officials were quick to dismiss the critiques, assuring an easily distracted U.S. public that the documents won’t impact U.S. military and foreign policy. Two days later, UNICEF reported that more than 600 Afghan children had died in 2019, because of direct attacks in the war. From 2009 through 2018, almost 6,500 children lost their lives in this war.

Addressing the U.S. Senate and Congress during a visit to Washington, D.C., Pope Francis voiced a simple, conscientious question. “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?” Answering his own question, he said: “the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.”

What are the lessons learned from the rampage, destruction and cruelty of U.S. wars? I believe the most important lessons are summed up in the quote on Cynthia Banas’s T-shirt as she delivered water to Marines in Baghdad, in April, 2003: “War Is Not the Answer”; and in an updated version of the headline Ramzi Kysia wrote that same month: “Heavy-handed & Hopeless, The US. Military Doesn’t Know What It’s Doing” -in Iraq, Afghanistan or any of its “forever wars.”

• Originally published by National Catholic Reporter

A New Year and a New Trump Foreign Policy Blunder in Iraq

It’s a new year, and the U.S. has found a new enemy—an Iraqi militia called Kata’ib Hezbollah. How tragically predictable was that? So who or what is Kata’ib Hezbollah? Why are U.S. forces attacking it? And where will this lead?

Kata’ib Hezbollah is one of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) that were recruited to fight the Islamic State after the Iraqi armed forces collapsed and Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, fell to IS in June 2014. The first six PMUs were formed by five Shiite militias that all received support from Iran, plus Muqtada al-Sadr’s Iraqi nationalist Peace Company, the reincarnation of his anti-occupation Mahdi Army militia, which he had previously disarmed in 2008 under an agreement with the Iraqi government.

Kata’ib Hezbollah was one of those five original Shiite militias and it existed long before the fight against IS. It was a small Shiite group founded before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and was part of the Iraqi Resistance throughout the U.S. occupation. In 2011, it reportedly had 1,000 fighters, who were paid $300 to $500 per month, probably mainly funded by Iran. It fought fiercely until the last U.S. occupation forces were withdrawn in December 2011, and claimed responsibility for a rocket attack that killed 5 U.S. soldiers in Baghdad in June 2011. Since forming a PMU in 2014, its leader, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, has been the overall military commander of the PMUs, reporting directly to the National Security Adviser in the Prime Minister’s office.

In the fight against IS, the PMUs proliferated quickly. Most political parties in Iraq responded to a fatwa by Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani to form and join these units by forming their own. At the peak of the war with IS, the PMUs comprised about 60 brigades with hundreds of thousands of Shia fighters, and even included up to 40,000 Sunni Iraqis.

In the context of the war against the Islamic State, the U.S. and Iran have both provided  a great deal of military support to the PMU and other Iraqi forces, and the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga have also received support from Iran. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif in New York in September 2014 to discuss the crisis, and U.S. Ambassador Stuart Jones said in December 2014, “Let’s face it, Iran is an important neighbor to Iraq. There has to be cooperation between Iran and Iraq. The Iranians are talking to the Iraqi security forces and we’re talking to Iraqi security forces… We’re relying on them to do the deconfliction.”

U.S. officials and corporate media are falsely painting Kata’ib Hezbollah and the PMUs as independent, renegade Iranian-backed militias in Iraq but they are really an official part of the Iraq security forces. As a statement from the Iraqi prime minister’s office made clear, the U.S. airstrikes were an “American attack on the Iraqi armed forces.”  And these were not just any Iraqi military forces, but forces that have borne the brunt of some of the fiercest fighting against the Islamic State.

Open hostility between U.S. forces and Kata’ib Hezbollah began six months ago, when the U.S. allowed Israel to use U.S. bases in Iraq and/or Syria to launch drone strikes against Kata’ib Hezbollah and other PMU forces in Iraq. There are conflicting reports on exactly where the Israeli drones were launched from, but the U.S. had effective control of Iraqi airspace and was clearly complicit in the drone strikes. This led to a campaign by Shia cleric/politician Muqtada al-Sadr and other anti-occupation parties and politicians in the Iraqi National Assembly to once again call for the expulsion of U.S. forces from Iraq, as they successfully did in 2011, and the U.S. was forced to accept new restrictions on its use of Iraqi airspace.

Then, at the end of October, U.S. bases and the Green Zone in Baghdad came under a new wave of rocket and mortar attacks. While previous attacks were blamed on the Islamic State, the U.S. blamed the new round of attacks on Kata’ib Hezbollah. After a sharp increase in rocket attacks on U.S. bases in December, including one that killed a U.S. military contractor on December 27, the Trump administration launched air strikes on December 29 that killed 25 members of Kata’ib Hezbollah and wounded 55. Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi called the strikes a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and declared three national days of mourning for the Iraqi troops that U.S. forces killed.

The U.S. attacks also led to massive protests that besieged the U.S. Embassy and former U.S. occupation headquarters in the Green Zone in Baghdad. U.S. forces at the embassy reportedly used tear gas and stun grenades against the protesters, leaving 62 militiamen and civilians wounded. After the siege, the Trump administration announced that it would send more troops to the Middle East. Approximately 750 troops are expected to be sent as a result of the embassy attack and another 3,000 could be deployed in the next few days.

The U.S. retaliation was bound to inflame tensions with the Iraqi government and increase popular pressure to close U.S. bases in Iraq. In fact, if Kata’ib Hezbollah is indeed responsible for the rocket and mortar attacks, this is probably exactly the chain of events they intended to provoke. Incensed at the Trump administration’s blatant disregard for Iraqi sovereignty and worried about Iraq being dragged into a U.S. proxy war with Iran that will spiral out of control, a broad swath of Iraqi political leaders are now calling for a withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The U.S. military presence in Iraq was reestablished in 2014 as part of the campaign against the Islamic State, but that campaign has wound down substantially since the near destruction and reoccupation of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in 2017. The number of attacks and terrorist incidents linked to the Islamic State in Iraq has declined steadily since then, from 239 in March 2018 to 51 in November 2019, according to Iraq researcher Joel Wing. Wing’s data makes it clear that IS is a vastly diminished force in Iraq.

The real crisis facing Iraq is not a growing IS but the massive public protests, starting in October, that have exposed the dysfunction of the Iraqi government itself. Months of street protests have forced Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi to submit his resignation–he is now simply acting as a caretaker pending new elections. Severe repression by government forces left over 400 protesters dead, but this has only fuelled even greater public outrage.

These demonstrations are not just directed against individual Iraqi politicians or against Iranian influence in Iraq but against the entire post-2003 political regime established by the U.S. occupation. Protesters blame the government’s  sectarianism, its corruption and the enduring foreign influence of both Iran and the U.S. for the failure to invest Iraq’s oil wealth in rebuilding Iraq and improving the lives of a new generation of young Iraqis.

The recent attack on Kata’ib Hezbollah has actually worked in favor of Iran, turning Iraqi public opinion and Iraqi leaders more solidly against the U.S. military presence. So why has the U.S. jeopardized what influence it still has in Iraq by launching airstrikes against Iraqi forces? And why is the U.S. maintaining a reported 5,200 U.S. troops in Iraq, at Al-Asad airbase in Anbar province and smaller bases across Iraq? It already has nearly 70,000 troops in other countries in the region, not least 13,000 in neighboring Kuwait, its largest permanent foreign base after Germany, Japan and South Korea.

While the Pentagon continues to insist that the U.S. troop presence is solely to help Iraq fight ISIS, Trump himself has defined its mission as “also to watch over Iran.” He told that to U.S. servicemen in Iraq in a December 2018 Christmas visit and reiterated it in a February 2019 CBS interview. Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi has made clear that the U.S. does not have permission to use Iraq as a base from which to confront Iran. Such a mission would be patently illegal under Iraq’s 2005 constitution, drafted with the help of the United States, which forbids using the country’s territory to harm its neighbors.

Under the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement between the U.S. and Iraq, U.S. forces may only remain in Iraq at the “request and invitation” of the Iraqi government. If that invitation is withdrawn, they must leave, as they were forced to do in 2011. The U.S. presence in Iraq is now almost universally unpopular, especially in the wake of U.S. attacks on the very Iraqi armed forces they are supposedly there to support.

Trump’s effort to blame Iran for this crisis is simply a ploy to divert attention from his own bungled policy. In reality, the blame for the present crisis should be placed squarely on the doorstep of the White House itself. The Trump administration’s reckless decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and revert to the U.S. policy of threats and sanctions that never worked before is backfiring as badly as the rest of the world predicted it would, and Trump has only himself to blame for it — and maybe John Bolton.

So will 2020 be the year when Donald Trump is finally forced to fulfill his endless promises to bring U.S. troops home from at least one of its endless wars and military occupations?  Or will Trump’s penchant for doubling down on brutal and counterproductive policies only lead us deeper into his pet quagmire of ever-escalating conflict with Iran, with the U.S.’s beleaguered forces in Iraq as pawns in yet another unwinnable war?

We hope that 2020 will be the year when the American public finally looks at the fateful choice between war and peace with 20/20 vision, and that we will start severely punishing Trump and every other U.S. politician who opts for threats over diplomacy, coercion over cooperation and war over peace.