Did Al Qaeda Fool the White House Again?

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In Official Washington, words rarely mean what they say. For instance, if a US government official voices “high confidence” in a supposed “intelligence assessment,” that usually means “we don’t have any real evidence, but we figure that if we say ‘high confidence’ enough that no one will dare challenge us.”

It’s also true that after a US President or another senior official jumps to a conclusion that is not supported by evidence, the ranks of government careerists will close around him or her, making any serious or objective investigation almost impossible. Plus, if the dubious allegations are directed at some “enemy” state, then the mainstream media also will suppress skepticism. Prestigious “news” outlets will run “fact checks” filled with words in capital letters: “MISLEADING”; “FALSE”; or maybe “FAKE NEWS.”

Which is where things stand regarding President Trump’s rush to judgment within hours about an apparent chemical weapons incident in Syria’s Idlib province on April 4. Despite the fact that much of the information was coming from Al Qaeda and its propaganda-savvy allies, the mainstream US media rushed emotional images onto what Trump calls “the shows” – upon which he says he bases his foreign policy judgments – and he blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the scores of deaths, including “beautiful little babies,” as Trump declared.

Given the neocon/liberal-interventionist domination of Official Washington’s foreign policy – and the professional Western propaganda shops working for Assad’s overthrow – there was virtually no pushback against the quick formulation of this new groupthink. All the predictable players played their predictable parts, from The New York Times to CNN to the Atlantic Council-related Bellingcat and its “citizen journalists.”

All the Important People who appeared on the TV shows or who were quoted in the mainstream media trusted the images provided by Al Qaeda-related propagandists and ignored documented prior cases in which the Syrian rebels staged chemical weapons incidents to implicate the Assad government.

‘We All Know’

One smug CNN commentator pontificated, “we all know what happened in 2013,” a reference to the enduring conventional wisdom that an Aug. 21, 2013 sarin attack outside Damascus was carried out by the Assad government and that President Obama then failed to enforce his “red line” against chemical weapons use. This beloved groupthink survives even though evidence later showed the operation was carried out by rebels, most likely by Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front with help from Turkish intelligence, as investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported and brave Turkish officials later confirmed.

But Official Washington’s resistance to reality was perhaps best demonstrated one year ago when The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg published a detailed article about Obama’s foreign policy that repeated the groupthink about Obama shrinking from his “red line” but included the disclosure that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had informed the President that US intelligence lacked any “slam dunk” evidence that Assad’s military was guilty.

One might normally think that such a warning from DNI Clapper would have spared Obama from the media’s judgment that he had chickened out, especially given the later evidence pointing the finger of blame at the rebels. After all, why should Obama have attacked the Syrian military and killed large numbers of soldiers and possibly civilians in retaliation for a crime that they had nothing to do with – and indeed an offense for which the Assad government was being framed? But Official Washington’s propaganda bubble is impervious to inconvenient reality.

Nor does anyone seem to know that a United Nations report disclosed testimonies from eyewitnesses about how rebels and their allied “rescue workers” had staged one “chlorine attack” so it would be blamed on the Assad government. Besides these Syrians coming forward to expose the fraud, the evidence that had been advanced to “prove” Assad’s guilt included bizarre claims from the rebels and their friends that they could tell that chlorine was inside a “barrel bomb” because of the special sound that it made while it was descending.

Despite the exposure of that one frame-up, the U.N. investigators – under intense pressure from Western governments to give them something to pin on the Assad regime – accepted rebel claims about two other alleged chlorine attacks, an implausible finding that is now repeatedly cited by the Western media even as it ignores the case of the debunked “chlorine attack.” Again, one might think that proof of two staged chemical weapons attacks – one involving sarin and the other chlorine – would inject some skepticism about the April 4 case, but apparently not.

All that was left was for President Trump to “act presidential” and fire off 59 Tomahawk missiles at some Syrian airbase on April 6, reportedly killing several Syrian soldiers and nine civilians, including four children, collateral damage that the mainstream US media knows not to mention in its hosannas of praise for Trump’s decisiveness.

Home-Free Groupthink

There might be some pockets of resistance to the groupthink among professional analysts at the CIA, but their findings – if they contradict what the President has already done – will be locked away probably for generations if not forever.

In other words, the new Assad-did-it groupthink appeared to be home free, a certainty that The New York Times could now publish without having to add annoying words like “alleged” or “possibly,” simply stating Assad’s guilt as flat-fact.

Thomas L. Friedman, the Times’ star foreign policy columnist, did that and then extrapolated from his certainty to propose that the US should ally itself with the jihadists fighting to overthrow Assad, a position long favored by US “allies,” Saudi Arabia and Israel.

“Why should our goal right now be to defeat the Islamic State in Syria?” Friedman asked before proposing outright support for the jihadists: “We could dramatically increase our military aid to anti-Assad rebels, giving them sufficient anti-tank and antiaircraft missiles to threaten Russian, Iranian, Hezbollah and Syrian helicopters and fighter jets and make them bleed, maybe enough to want to open negotiations. Fine with me.”

So, not only have the mainstream US media stars decided that they know what happen on April 4 in a remote Al Qaeda-controlled section of Idlib province (without seeing any real evidence) but they are now building off their groupthink to propose that the Trump administration hand out antiaircraft missiles to the “anti-Assad rebels” who, in reality, are under the command of Al Qaeda and/or the Islamic State.

In other words, Friedman and other deep thinkers are advocating material support for terrorists who would get sophisticated American ground-to-air missiles that could shoot down Russian planes thus exacerbating already dangerous US-Russian tensions or take down some civilian airliner as Al Qaeda has done in the past. If someone named Abdul had made such a suggestion, he could expect a knock on his door from the FBI.

Expert Skepticism

Yet, before President Trump takes Friedman’s advice – arming up Al Qaeda and entering into a de facto alliance with Islamic State – we might want to make sure that we aren’t being taken in again by a clever Al Qaeda psychological operation, another staged chemical weapons attack.

With the US intelligence community effectively silenced by the fact that the President has already acted, Theodore Postol, a technology and national security expert at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, undertook his own review of the supposed evidence cited by Trump’s White House in issuing a four-page “intelligence assessment” on April 11 asserting with “high confidence” that Assad’s military delivered a bomb filled with sarin on the town of Khan Sheikdoun on the morning of April 4.

Postol, whose analytical work helped debunk Official Washington’s groupthink regarding the 2013 sarin attack outside Damascus, expressed new shock at the shoddiness of the latest White House report (or WHR). Postol produced “a quick turnaround assessment” of the April 11 report that night and went into greater detail in an addendum on April 13, writing:
“This addendum provides data that unambiguously shows that the assumption in the WHR that there was no tampering with the alleged site of the sarin release is not correct. This egregious error raises questions about every other claim in the WHR. … The implication of this observation is clear – the WHR was not reviewed and released by any competent intelligence expert unless they were motivated by factors other than concerns about the accuracy of the report.

“The WHR also makes claims about ‘communications intercepts’ which supposedly provide high confidence that the Syrian government was the source of the attack. There is no reason to believe that the veracity of this claim is any different from the now verified false claim that there was unambiguous evidence of a sarin release at the cited crater. … The evidence that unambiguously shows that the assumption that the sarin release crater was tampered with is contained in six photographs at the end of this document.”
Postol notes that one key photo “shows a man standing in the alleged sarin-release crater. He is wearing a honeycomb facemask that is designed to filter small particles from the air. Other apparel on him is an open necked cloth shirt and what appear to be medical exam gloves. Two other men are standing in front of him (on the left in the photograph) also wearing honeycomb facemask’s and medical exam gloves.

“If there were any sarin present at this location when this photograph was taken everybody in the photograph would have received a lethal or debilitating dose of sarin. The fact that these people were dressed so inadequately either suggests a complete ignorance of the basic measures needed to protect an individual from sarin poisoning, or that they knew that the site was not seriously contaminated.

“This is the crater that is the centerpiece evidence provided in the WHR for a sarin attack delivered by a Syrian aircraft.”

No ‘Competent’ Analyst

After reviewing other discrepancies in photos of the crater, Postol wrote: “It is hard for me to believe that anybody competent could have been involved in producing the WHR report and the implications of such an obviously predetermined result strongly suggests that this report was not motivated by a serious analysis of any kind.

“This finding is disturbing. It indicates that the WHR was probably a report purely aimed at justifying actions that were not supported by any legitimate intelligence. This is not a unique situation. President George W. Bush has argued that he was misinformed about unambiguous evidence that Iraq was hiding a substantial amount of weapons of mass destruction. This false intelligence led to a US attack on Iraq that started a process that ultimately led to a political disintegration in the Middle East, which through a series of unpredicted events then led to the rise of the Islamic State.”

Postol continued:
“On August 30, 2013, the White House [under President Obama] produced a similarly false report about the nerve agent attack on August 21, 2013 in Damascus. This report also contained numerous intelligence claims that could not be true. An interview with President Obama published in The Atlantic in April 2016 indicates that Obama was initially told that there was solid intelligence that the Syrian government was responsible for the nerve agent attack of August 21, 2013 in Ghouta, Syria. Obama reported that he was later told that the intelligence was not solid by the then Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.

“Equally serious questions are raised about the abuse of intelligence findings by the incident in 2013. Questions that have not been answered about that incident is how the White House produced a false intelligence report with false claims that could obviously be identified by experts outside the White House and without access to classified information. There also needs to be an explanation of why this 2013 false report was not corrected. …

“It is now obvious that a second incident similar to what happened in the Obama administration has now occurred in the Trump administration. In this case, the president, supported by his staff, made a decision to launch 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian air base. This action was accompanied by serious risks of creating a confrontation with Russia, and also undermining cooperative efforts to win the war against the Islamic State. …

“I therefore conclude that there needs to be a comprehensive investigation of these events that have either misled people in the White House, or worse yet, been perpetrated by people seeking to force decisions that were not justified by the cited intelligence. This is a serious matter and should not be allowed to continue.”
While Postol’s appeal for urgent attention to this pattern of the White House making false intelligence claims – now implicating three successive administrations – makes sense, the likelihood of such an undertaking is virtually nil. The embarrassment and loss of “credibility” for not only the US political leadership but the major US news outlets would be so severe, especially in the wake of the WMD fiasco in Iraq, that no establishment figure or organization would undertake such a review.

Instead, Official Washington’s propaganda bubble will stay firmly in place allowing its inhabitants to go happily about their business believing that they are the caretakers of “truth.”

Reprinted with permission from ConsortiumNews.com.

Trump’s Middle East Policy: Shifting ‘America First’ to ‘America Omnipresent’

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President Trump says he has no plans to enter Syria, despite ordering airstrikes on a Syrian military base last week. "We’re not going into Syria", Trump told Maria Bartiromo during an exclusive interview on FOX Business. "But when I see people using horrible, horrible chemical weapons… and see these beautiful kids that are dead in their father's arms, or you see kids gasping for life… when you see that, I immediately called General Mattis."

So, the attack against Syria was an impulsive decision and there is no strategy (not yet) and no longstanding plans! At least, that what we are told. Sounds plausible but there is each and every reason to take this affirmation with a grain of salt. Here is why.

The United States has already entered Syria. Its military is there right now. The US Air Force has recently expanded an air base in northern Syria. The base is near Kobani, which is about 90 miles north of Raqqa, the last urban stronghold for the Islamic State (IS).

It’s not Syria only. After initially reinforcing the residual forces remaining in-country, America’s military presence (Operation Inherent Resolve) was restored in Iraq in the summer of 2014, commencing a campaign, dominated by air and special operations, allegedly targeting the Islamic State (IS) group. In 2016, US military established the Kobani airfield in Syria and also set up an airfield at Qayarrah West in northern Iraq. The Kobani airstrip has been modified to support C-17s, the largest cargo aircraft which need hardened runway to support their weight, and other planes. In March alone, the airfield was used for at least 50 landings by C-17s and more than 100 landings by C-130 military cargo planes.

The United States is assessing another airstrip near the newly retaken Tabqa Dam, north of Raqqa that was taken by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces on March 26. The capture of Tabqa airfield about 110 kilometers north of Raqqa would be used in the same way as Qayyarah Airfield West in Iraq is being used for operations to retake Mosul. When finished, Tabka airfield will enable the US to deploy twice as many warplanes and helicopters in Syria as the Russians currently maintain. It is already dubbed "Incirlik 2" or "Qayyarah-2."

The new base is designed to accommodate the 2,500 US military personnel housed at Incirlik, Turkey. The administration is on the way to pull US air force units out of Turkey, to the five new and expanded air bases in Syria. In 2003, Ankara refused to let the US and its allies use its airspace when the invasion of Iraq started. The decision on airspace was reversed later but the Turkish parliament voted against the use of military bases on Turkish soil. As a result, the US operations in Iraq were significantly hindered. Now the US will not depend on Turkey anymore if Syria’s airspace is open for American flights. This is part of broader plans.

Tabqa is being rebuilt as the US-led coalition has been quietly increasing its aerial capability in northern Syria to include more landing areas and bases. According to the VOA, those bases add to three others already controlled by US allies in the region all situated in the Syrian borderland with Iraq: Syrian Kurds built an airbase last year on farmland known as Abu Hajar airport in the Rmelan area and nearly doubled the length of the runaway to initially allow for delivery of cargo. Two other airfields in the region, one formerly used for agricultural purposes and the other a former Syrian military base, have also been expanded by pro-US Kurdish forces.

Construction of airbases is costly; it’s always done as part of strategy in pursuit of geopolitical goals. Five air bases is a big infrastructure already in place with few mainstream media reports devoted to the issue which is largely kept it out of public light.

Approximately at the time of launching Inherent Resolve, the US added surveillance missions over Syria to clandestine support for specific opposition forces. US military personnel on the ground in Syria became directly involved in hostilities. Since then, the operations of Special Operations Forces (SOF) have intensified and widened in scope. In 2016, the US deployed its special forces in at least seven bases in Northern Syria which are located in Qamishli, Ain Issa, Kobane, Hasaka and Tal Abyadh regions.

The US is preparing for establishment of "safe zones" (zones of stability) or quasi states under its control to be used as springboards for military operations in the Middle East region.

Escalation is considered elsewhere. Another 2,500 paratroopers have been placed at a staging base in Kuwait. The military leaders have petitioned Congress and the White House for more troops, and the White House is considering loosening the rules of engagement in Afghanistan and Somalia. Add to this the reported plans to escalate US military involvement in Yemen.

All told, there is a reason to view the April 7 attack as a new phase in the ongoing war preparations. It does not matter for the US if President Assad holds the reins in Syria or not. The Assads – father and son – have been in power since 1970. The US and the Syria ruled by the Assad family are always at odds. Why is it so important to get rid of the regime now? Alleged chemical attacks and other things are obviously used as a pretext to justify large-scale military presence in the entire region.

The war in Syria has not been provoked by the recent events. It began long before Donald Trump took office. The incumbent president has not done anything new. He just decided to continue what his predecessor started. In general, the US administration is taking over where George W. Bush, Jr, left off. The president, who called for keeping away from foreign conflicts during the election campaign, has shifted his stance from "America First" to "America Omnipresent."

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

Several serious errors in the CIA Report on the Khan Shaykhun incident

In a report published on 13 April 2016, Professor Theodore Postol, an expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), observes that the Intelligence Agencies report, published by the White House, contains several gross errors. For example: The CIA considers that the chemical incident at Khan Shaykhun was caused by the dispersion of sarin gas. However, photographs published by the CIA's unique source, the White Helmets, shows people taking samples from the deposits in a crater (...)

Meyssan’s latest book: “Right before our eyes” Read it in Turkish for free

Thierry Meyssan's new book, Right before our eyes. From 9/11 to Donald Trump (Sous nos yeux. Du 11-Septembre à Donald Trump), has just been published in Turkish. This book is notable for shining a spotlight on the matrix in which key events have unfolded. So for example, it exposes that Recep Tayyip Erdogan supported the jihadists in Chechnya, while he was fighting in the Milli Goru. It also reveals Erdogan's current commitment to supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and Daesh. In his book, (...)

US airstrike on Daesh Poison Gas Depot leaves Many Civilians Dead

Reports coming out of Syria suggest that hundreds of people, including civilians, have lost their lives after an airstrike by the US-led coalition hit poison gas supplies belonging to Daesh terrorists.

The General Command of the Syrian Army and Armed Forces, in a statement released on Thursday, announced that the airstrike had taken place in the eastern village of Hatla, near the city of Dayr al-Zawr, at around 5:30 p.m. local time (1530 GMT) the previous day.

The statement, published by Syria’s official news agency, SANA, added that a cloud of thick white smoke covered the area after the strike, before it turned yellow. The assault also caused a fierce blaze, which continued until late in the evening on Wednesday.

According to the Syrian Army statement, hundreds of people, including a large number of local villagers, were killed after inhaling high volumes of toxic fumes spread in the targeted area.

The statement further noted that the attack was evidence to the close coordination that exists between terrorist groups operating inside Syria and their sponsors to level accusations of chemical weapons use against the Syrian government forces, and also proved that the militants were in possession of chemical warfare.

A handout grab image from a video made available by the Russian Defense Ministry’s press service on the official website of the Russian Defense Ministry shows a hangar at the Shayrat air base after it was hit by a US strike on April 8, 2017.

The Syrian Army statement went on to say that terror outfits, particularly Daesh and al-Nusra Front, were able to acquire and transport chemical weapons through the assistance of certain regional powers, emphasizing that the Damascus government had repeatedly warned that terrorist groups would use chemical weapons against civilians and Syrian army forces.

It also highlighted that the Syrian army neither possessed chemical munitions, nor would ever use them, arguing that terrorist groups continued to use chemical weapons against Syrian civilians with impunity.

The development came less than a week after a suspected chemical attack in the town of Khan Shaykhun in Syria’s Homs Province reportedly left over 80 people dead on April 4.

Following the attack, the US Defense Department, Pentagon, said 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles had been fired from two US warships in the Mediterranean Sea at the Shayrat airfield in the same Syrian province on April 7. US officials claimed that the suspected Khan Shaykhun attack had been launched from the military site.

In this image provided by the US Navy, the USS Ross fires a tomahawk land attack missile on Friday, April 7, 2017, from the Mediterranean Sea, aimed at a Syrian air base in Homs Province. (Via AP)

SANA reported that at least nine people had been killed in the early morning strike on the Syrian airfield.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry condemned the US strike as “a flagrant aggression” against the Arab country, saying that Washington’s real objective was to “weaken the strength of the Syrian army in confronting terrorist groups.”

The ministry described the Khan Shaykhun attack as a “premeditated action that aimed to justify the launching of a US attack on the Syrian army.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry also censured the attack as an act of aggression against a sovereign state.

On the Question of Violence and Nonviolence As a Tactic and Strategy Within the Social Protest Movement

(Author’s Note: The essay was first published not so long after the Battle of Seattle as a pamphlet by Black Clover Press, Montpelier VT, 2001. It has not previously been available in other formats.)

Peaceful protesters attacked by police in Seattle, 1999

Introduction

Militancy and direct action are not only necessary tactical tools for the anarchist left, but, when correctly implemented, they are also the facilitators of inspiration and motivation for both those involved with the act in question and those who observe the act in question. It is such activity that helps draw numbers into the movement by creating an outlet for the venting of frustration and alienation. In short, militancy and direct action, by challenging the entrenched power of the wealthy ruling class and state, fosters a sense of empowerment upon those who partake, while also furthering creative aspirations by hinting at what a revolution toward a non-oppressive society might feel like.

Of course, militancy and direct action do not carry the inherent qualification of being violent or nonviolent in and of themselves. The slashing of management’s car tires during a labor dispute, as well as erecting of barricades and subsequent rioting against the forces of the State during a pro-working class demonstration are both clearly militant actions, but so too is a non-violent workers’ factory occupation during a strike as well as occupying major city intersections and shutting down of financial districts during a protest against neoliberalism.

Clearly there are many circumstances in which non-violent tactics are not only advisable, but also the only effective course possible. Furthermore, tactical nonviolence is always the preferred course of action when its outcome can bring about the desired objective and subjective results more effectively or as effectively as a violent act. Such practices should be encouraged and taught throughout the anarchist and leftist movement generally in order to maintain a moral superiority over the forces of capital and the state, who, of course, practices both overt and covert violence with little discrimination on a consistent basis. This commitment to nonviolence is fundamentally based on pragmatism and revolutionary ethics, while finding its material existence through the implementation of tactics. However, nonviolence should, under no circumstances, be understood as a strategy in and of itself. When nonviolence is used as a strategy it transcends its existence as a descriptive term and defines itself as an idea, a noun, as “pacifism”; it becomes an ideology.

When nonviolence is used correctly, as a tactic, it is a most useful tool in the popular struggle. The reason for this is because such a display of resistance is indicative of an underlying threat of violence. For if people are willing to put themselves on the line for the sake of liberty, and if these people are willing to risk bodily harm in such an action, it displays a level of commitment, which, if turned in a violent manner, could manifest itself in the form of a future insurrection; an insurrection where if critical mass is attained could threaten the foundation of state power; that of the ruling class and the underlying anti-culture.

Ironically the victories of the Civil Rights Movement in the South during the 1950’s and ‘60’s owes a lot to the inherent threat of violence. In this case, the southern leadership, embodied in Martin Luther King Jr., expounded upon the need for nonviolence to be utilized as a strategy. However, this movement did not take place in a vacuum. Parallel to the happenings in the South, a movement for black liberation was being launched in the North, and elsewhere, as embodied in the Nation of Islam, later in an autonomous Malcolm X, and then in the Black Panther Party (BPP), and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC, a group which formally rejected strategic nonviolence while under the leadership of Stokely Carmichael. This aspect of the movement displayed signs of extreme militancy and was not pacifistic in rhetoric or in character. To the government this represented the logical alternative to which the movement as a whole would turn if certain terms were not ceded to the pacifistic element in the South. The much trumpeted success of the Southern Civil Rights Movement’s pacifistic strategy has, despite itself, much to thank to the threat of violence

In the following essay, I will elaborate on the above theme. First, I will discuss situations where political violence in not only necessary, but ethically justifiable. Second, I will discuss the natural disjunction between strategic nonviolence and the poor and working classes, and finally, I will discuss the contemporary bourgeois roots of pacifism as an ideology of the status quo.

When Violence is Necessary

The fact is that there are times when the only way to effectively advance a movement is through the use of violence. Sometimes, this necessity is clearly in reaction to particular act of state violence, other times it is due to more general circumstances. Either way, justifiable acts of leftist/working class violence are always fundamentally an act of self-defense insofar as the very institutions of the capitalist state inherently constitute continuing physical and psychological violence against the great mass of its people.

More concretely, violence can be understood as absolutely necessary during certain phases of popular struggle.

This occurs when:

  1. Nonviolent options have been explored yet no ostensible victory has been reached.

In the face of exploitation and oppression, inaction is akin to no action, and hence is tacit acceptance and support of those evils. In addition, the continued implementation of proven ineffectual tactics in the face of these evils must be considered akin to inaction, in that ineffectual tactics translates into the same end result; continued exploitation and oppression of the poor and working class by the hands of the ruling class, bourgeoisie and their lackeys. Thus, it would follow that there may arise circumstances, after the exploration of peaceful options, where the only ethical course available to a movement, or individual, is of a violent kind.

  1. Whenever State oppression becomes violent, to the point where the movement itself or large segments of the population or the premises on which the people subsist are threatened with liquidation.

The physical self-defense of a people, a movement, or the premises upon which they subsist, is a self-evident right, obvious in the natural world. To claim otherwise is to deny the bravery, justness and dignity of Sitting Bull and the Lakota of the 1870’s, the Jews of Warsaw during the Nazi occupation of the 1940’s, the Cuban’s defense at the Bay of Pigs in the early 1960’s, the man who vanquishes the would-be murderer of his child, and the woman who manages to physically fight off a would-be rapist. To allow for otherwise is nothing but a neurotic self-denying tendency and an unnatural will to suicide.

  1. Violence must be understood as a looming fact once the critical mass necessary to seriously challenge a ruling class and state power is domestically reached.

To believe that the state will voluntarily relinquish its power in the face of a moral challenge is as childish and absurd as it is dangerous. History, without exception, has shown that a parent state will react to any legitimate or perceived threat to its domestic power with a ruthless violent suppression of the threat. If that means the murder of large sections of its own population, so be it. Pacifism in the face of such repression translates into no more than the eradication of the insurrectional movement through the means of murder to the sum of absolute death. Once the state finds itself backed into the proverbial corner, it can be expected to act by animalistic instinct; in short, it will fight for its life and will not relinquish until either itself or all of its foes are dead. Let us not forget the 30,000 fallen heroes of the Paris Commune whose blood will forever stain the consciousness of modern France.

Some would argue that the above claim is proven false by the historical fact of Mahatma Gandhi’s pacifistic movement; a movement which did succeed in liberating India from direct British imperial rule. However, such a line of argument does not apply in this case, as that particular case did not occur inside a primary capitalist nation. Rather it occurred on the edges of a crumbling empire. The response of the British government would have differed radically if the movement had occurred inside one of its perceived, primary domestic provinces, or if it were a general domestic movement against the state apparatus itself. The former of which is born out in the fact that the present situation in Northern Ireland has its contemporary roots in the 1960’s nonviolent Catholic Civil Rights Movement.

Therefore, if the goal of the anarchists and the left generally is not self-eradication through a violent counter reaction and the subsequent consolidation of oppressive forces, it will recognize nonviolence for what it is; a tactic, not a strategy.

Pacifism as Foreign to the Poor and Working Classes

One must also question the ability of a nonviolent movement to generate the critical mass necessary to substantially challenge the entrenched fundamental power structure of the nation/state. Since the death of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, pacifism has failed to attract any significant numbers outside of the upper middle and wealthy classes. The reason for such failure is that pacifism does not commonly attract members of the working and sub-working class because it bears no resemblance to their experience of reality or their values and shared history of struggle.

If one’s goal is to aid in the building of a serious revolutionary movement, one must be sure that movement is inclusive to those classes that inherently possess revolutionary potential. Thus, it is necessary to construct a movement which is empirically relevant to poor and working class reality. This not only means agitation on their behalf, but also utilizing a strategy which is consistent with the developing/potential class consciousness of such a constituency. If a movement fails to do such, it will fail to draw the necessary critical mass from those classes and in turn will fail to achieve its supposed goals. Furthermore, such failures are probably indicative of the co-option of that movement by ideological prejudices imported from the bourgeoisie; most likely in the form of upper-middle class activists present in the left. Nonviolence, as a strategy is a perfect example of such counterproductive prejudices.

I have often heard discussions among upper-middle class activists about the need to stay away from violent confrontations with the state at demonstrations in order to “not turn people off”. The fact is the only people who are likely to be automatically turned off by legitimate acts of self-defense are upper middle class and wealthy types who will most likely never be won over to the side of revolution anyway. On the other hand, it is common that folk from within the poor and working classes are inspired by the direct and unobstructed confrontations with the forces of the status quo. These communities appreciate the honesty, dignity, and bravery that popular self-defense demands. These are the future agents of revolution and they are not as easily turned away by the truth that real struggle entails. Violent self-defense on behalf of, and through a constituency emanating from their class, is a more pure expression of their collective frustrations brought on from alienation and made objective through their continuing poverty or sense of slavery through accumulated debt.

To further illustrate this all one has to do is look at the various strikes, demonstrations, protests, riots, etc., of the past two years to see how those from within the poor and working classes have conducted themselves when confronted with state violence and restraint. Here we can observe the violent uprising of the poor and working class black folk within Cincinnati (April 2001), the anti-capitalist riots of the Quebecois youth A20 (anti-FTAA demo, Quebec City, April 2001), the numerous Black Bloc anti-capitalist actions throughout North America and Europe (Seattle, 1999, through Genoa, 2001) the armed peasant uprisings from Bolivia to Nepal, the massive militant protests of the Argentine working class against the neoliberal policies of the capitalist government (summer, 2001), the violent union strikes within South Korea, as well as countless other examples of poor and working class resistance the world over.

Compare these developing mass movements composed of persons squarely within the more oppressed economic classes to the relatively impotent and groundless protests of strictly nonviolent upper middle class “reformers”. Two decades of liberal dominance within the left, from the late 1970’s through the later 1990’s, resulted in little or no tangible victories, and often resulted in isolating left wing politics from its supposed mass working class base. These liberals, democratic socialists, non-government organizations (NGO’s), etc., failed to deliver a mass movement of an oppressed constituency. All they did manage to deliver was countless boring protests, which rarely even received media coverage of any kind, and Walter Mondale, as the losing alternative to Ronald Reagan in the 1984 U.S. Presidential election.

The basic fact is, the strategy of nonviolence is foreign to the poor and working classes, and any grouping which places such an ideology ahead of the real desires and inclinations of the masses of exploited people will inevitably remain marginalized, isolated, and ineffectual. Here they become no more than the would-be mediators of continuing alienation and oppression, if only with a dash more of welfare programs and workplace safety boards.

Pacifism is foreign to the social reality of the workers. For example, few of us who grew up without the privilege of gross excess capital did so without learning the value of knowing how to fight. Unequivocal nonviolence in grade school would have earned us the same thing it does in the political arena; further bullying, further oppression. An early lesson for many of us was the effectiveness of “standing up to the bully.” Such an act always carried with it the threat of violence, if not the implementation of violence. To take such a stand without such a commitment would have resulted in nothing more than a black eye. It is from this early age that the more oppressed classes learn the value of violence as a tool of liberation.

Historically, violence has proven to be politically relevant through union struggles and neighborhood fights against the exploitation of the poor and working class. The history of the labor struggle is a history of blood, death, and dignity. From the Pinkertons to the scabs, to the police, army, and National Guard; from lynching to fire bombings the U.S. Government, acting as the political ram of the ruling class, more often than not has forced the working class to defend itself through its only proven weapons; class-conscious organization and self-defense, when need be, through violence. This is a historical fact that is apparent in the social underpinnings of working class community, if not always consciously remembered by its inheritors.

In addition, the more advanced elements of the poor and working class has, for 150 years, been exposed to and has autonomously developed ideologies of liberations which not only map the current state of affairs and predict future trends, but also prescribe the justified use of violence as a necessary element of their own liberation. In turn, these ideologies, although often greatly flawed, have been a consistent traveler through the trials and tribulations of these workers since the dawn of the industrial age. When successes were found, these ideologies were also present. Although it is true that much leftist ideology is becoming a dinosaur of the past within primary capitalist nations (i.e. those espousing the various forms of authoritarian communism) it must be recognized that in and of itself it has been responsible for its own transcendence. It is part of the common history of struggle and even with its passing it reserves a place of prestige within the social unconscious of the past and present revolutionary struggle. You tell me how willing the more self-conscious elements of the poor and working classes are to deny this history.

Of course, violence should not be canonized. These same communities implement violence upon themselves in a destructive manner as well. Domestic violence, murder, and armed robbery of members of their own class is a reality in many poor and working class neighborhoods. But, these forms of internal violence can be attributed to alienation as experienced in an oppressive society. Thus, crime rates have historically plummeted in such neighborhoods during times of class autonomy (i.e. Paris 1871, Petrograd 1917-1921, Barcelona 1936-39). Of course, we should condemn such negative forms of violence and work toward their eradication, but we should do so without throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Violence, both of a positive and negative sort, is an element of poor and working class culture. Violence is also a proven tool of liberation in poor and working class ghettos, both in relation to the personal and the political. And finally this reality is further validated by ongoing world events and historical fact.

Nonviolence as a philosophic universal must be understood as the negation of the existence of the poor and working classes. And no, I do not solely mean their existence as an oppressed element; I mean their existence as a class which possesses a self-defined dignity through their ongoing struggle against alienation and exploitation.

Ideological nonviolence is the negation of their shared history of struggle. It denies their dreams of freedom by its sheer absurdity and stifles certain forms of their self-expression through its totalitarian and insanely idealistic demands. In a word, strategic nonviolence is the negation of class consciousness; it is irrelevant at best and slavery at worst. In itself, it represents the conscious and/or unconscious attempt of the more privileged classes to sterilize the revolutionary threat forever posed by a confident, self-conscious, and truly revolutionary working class.

Once again, it is conceivable that some would argue the contrary by pointing to poor and working class involvement in the nonviolent movement in Gandhi’s India and/or Martin Luther King Jr.’s Civil Rights Movement. However, the extent to which non-violence was accepted as a strategy by these classes is born out in the events which followed the initial successes of these respective movements. In India the same elements that partook in nonviolent actions quickly, and regrettably, fractioned off into two camps; the Hindu on the one hand and the Muslim on the other. Not long after, these factions had no qualms about mobilizing to fight successive wars against one another. Let us remember that both these factions today possess nuclear weapons, which are aimed at one another.

In the southern U.S. many of the same persons who marched with King also adopted a decidedly non-pacifistic strategy in the later days of SNCC, the formation of BPP chapters, and the Black Liberation Army cells throughout the region. In addition, let us not forget the riots which occurred upon the news of King’s assassination, turning the black ghettos across the U.S. into a virtual war zone. In the final analysis, both of these pacifistic movements must be recognized as only being such in the minds of their respected leadership. The masses of poor and working class people, which gave these movements their strength, never internalized nonviolence as a strategy; rather nonviolence was no more than a particular tactic to be used as long as its utility bore itself out.

Psychological Roots of Pacifism as a Bourgeois Ideology

So, if pacifism bears no resemblance to poor and working class reality and has no historical or sound philosophical base, what can its existence, as a strategy, be attributed to? The answer is: the deformed ideology of the progressive element of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie – in other words that of the classes composing the higher and lower levels of the wealthy privileged classes.

It is true that many individuals from these classes have become legitimate and outstanding revolutionaries through the process of becoming radicalized and declassed; Mikhail Bakunin, Karl Marx and Che Guevara to name but a few. And of course, there are many such individuals in our movement today. But, it is also true that many bourgeois elements present in the left still cling to their class privileges and prejudices as if a gilded crutch. They are oddballs in that they are bourgeois yet are driven by a self-loathing as facilitated by class guilt. On the one hand they wish to rectify the ills they feel responsible for, and on the other they are too unimaginative and weak of constitution to cleave themselves from their class privileges and the relative security that entails. Hence, they cling to the only political strategy which can, in their minds, both absolve them from their materials sins and maintain the status quo of their class security; in a word, they become pacifists. In this move they reject the dialectical materialism of both anarchism and communism by subjecting themselves to an idea at the expense of concrete experience.

Pacifism lacks any sound material bases. A quick observation of nature will tell you that the natural world is not without violence and human beings are not outside the natural world. Life is violent. Everything from the eruption of a volcano, to the lion’s killing of her prey, to human ingestion of a vegan meal, possesses a degree of violence. Think of all the weeds that were killed in the production of that tomato, or of all the living microorganisms that our body necessarily destroys through ingestion, or through the very act of breathing; that is violence.

Like the eighteenth century French philosopher Rene Descartes, these charlatans reject the fact of the body for the phantom of the mind. They create the idea of unconditional nonviolence and enslave themselves to it; instinct, lived experience, historical fact, be damned. Through their ideology they become the same beasts of dualism that have tethered the human race from Plato to Catholicism.

Pacifism is fundamentally at odds with anarchism in its view of the state. Pacifism functions by the maxim that the tacit and active perpetrators of oppression (i.e. the state through the ruling class) possess an inherent ability to rectify themselves if the true appalling nature of that oppression is unmasked to them. Hence, it is also assumed that the ruling class possesses the ability to make such an observation and that it will display the desire to make such change. Anarchism contends that the very existence of a state apparatus insures the continuing oppression of the exploited classes. This is due to the inherent tendency of power to corrupt those who possess it; and those who possess power seek to consolidate that power. The state apparatus tends to safeguard itself from such possibilities through the creation of bureaucratic institutions which entail a codified dogma specifically designed to maintain the status quo. With this development class oppression becomes an irreversible fact, within the statist paradigm, even in the unthinkable unlikelihood that large elements of the ruling class were to desire its radical reforming. In this sense the state is a self-propelling evil that is no more capable of eradicating class oppression than it is of eradicating itself; Frankenstein’s monster resurrected. Therefore, pacifism is fundamentally at odds with anarchism. Either the state is potentially a vehicle for liberation, or it is an institution of slavery. Plain and simple.

Bourgeois pacifists become modern ideologues of a confused status quo. They adhere to pseudo-rebellion, and in doing so they serve the function of bolstering the state through the implementation of a strategy that acts as an abstracted semblance of insurrection; a false, non-threatening insurrection squarely within the parameters of the predominant anti-culture. And here they defuse the revolutionary potential of any movement they touch by acting as the unconscious arm of the expanding anti-culture apparatus of false appearances and mundane stability. For as long as their strategy lacks any real potential to fundamentally challenge class bias and status quo; as long as such a strategy is devoid of the true ability to deconstruct the economic and cultural system that allows for the establishment of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie; as long as this strategy takes on a language of righteous and pious revolution, these self-loathing activities of a physical comfort can go to sleep at night both feeling redeemed through their rebellion and secure in knowing their tacitly oppressive luxury will be there for them again, tomorrow.

What further makes these pacifists oddballs, is the fact that through their pseudo-revolutionary activity they incur an alienated relationship with the less analytical elements of their own class, who in their ignorance constitute the class majority. These elements mistakenly view them as class traitors. This is ironic because nothing could be further from the truth. These people stand fundamentally in solidarity with their roots. And, if their activity has any ostensible effect on the larger movement, it is to prolong the day of insurrection, not to expedite it.

If left to their own delusions they would not deserve such discussion, but they, like Christian missionaries, seek to spread their neurotic illusion to new populations; in this case the poor and working classes. And in doing so they have infiltrated the leftists and anarchist movements and even now threaten to rob it of its pressing relevance by divorcing it from its learned experience.

The poor and working classes are naturally not drawn to pacifism. If pacifism becomes the prime mode of operation for leftists and anarchists organizations, these organizations will cease to have any legitimate tie to their natural constituents. Although it would be ignorant to contend that such an ideology will fail to gain a certain degree of reluctant converts among naturally opposing classes. If such irrationalities never occurred in society, Italian and German fascism would never have manifested themselves with the power that they did. In short, aspects of the poor and working classes can be expected to adopt a self-denying ideology if that ideology claims to offer liberation and if that movement in which it is contained appears to be the most prominent in the field. This is not to say that the true movement will be abolished through such a scenario, any more so than it denies the ultimate historical relevance of dialectical materialism, it is only to say that it will prolong the day of reckoning by robbing the oppressed classes of their truly revolutionary organizations.

Conclusion

Perhaps the best way to have repelled Franco’s fascist invasion of Spain in 1936 would have been for the C.N.T. and F.A.I. to hold a peaceful sit-in? Maybe Adolph Hitler would have reversed his genocidal policies and instead made strides towards a free society if enough Jews and gentiles would have peacefully marched in Berlin. If non-violence was the strategy of the Devil, he’d probably be ruling heaven right now… no.

In the end analysis, just as there is a place for tactical nonviolence, there is also a place for violence during certain phases of a popular movement. This can manifest as a tool of self-defense or as the midwife of state disembodiment. On the other hand, pacifism, as an ethical system of action, is nothing but an absurd dilution born out of resentment and fear and projected upon the struggles of the poor and working classes by oddball elements of the bourgeoisie. As long as such a strategy is allowed to occupy a prominent role among the ranks of the left, the left will equal the total sum of the socially inept ruling class.

In summation, nonviolence can be used in many circumstances as an effective tactic, but it is irrelevant, irresponsible, and utterly ridiculous to even consider it as a strategy. So, yes, nonviolence should be utilized as a tactic where pertinent, and in turn pacifism, as an ideology and a strategy, must be purged from our movement.

Tillerson in Moscow: Is World War III Back on Track?

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If anyone is worried whether the prospect of a major war, which many of us considered almost inevitable if Hillary Clinton had attained the White House, is back on track, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Moscow was cold comfort. From his remarks together with his counterpart Sergey Lavrov, there is now little reason to expect any improvement in US-Russia ties anytime soon, if ever, and much reason to expect them to get worse – a lot worse.

There has been a great deal of speculation as to why President Donald Trump, who promised a break with the warmongering policies Hillary would have implemented, and which characterized the administrations of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, would have bombed Syria’s Shayrat airbase in retaliation for a supposed chemical weapons (CW) strike without evidence or authorization from either Congress or the UN Security Council.

(I won’t bore anyone familiar with Balkan affairs with the almost certain origin of the gas attack in Idlib. The odds that it was a false flag by the jihadists far, far outweigh any chance of a CW attack by Syrian government forces. To cite the “Markale market massacres” is enough. Ghouta September 2013 wasn’t the first such deception in Syria, and Idlib April 2017 won’t be the last. American media condemning Assad for the CW attack and demanding justice for the victims never mention that the site is held by al-Qaeda and that they themselves have a CW capability. Nor that the jihadists likely knew when and where Syrian planes would be operating, since the Russians would have notified the US under the deconfliction agreement. This is not to rule out the Russian explanation that the release was due to Syrian bombing of the jihadists’ CW cache but I consider the planned provocation more likely based on the timing. Predictably, an amateurish four-page paper issued by the US intelligence community to justify accusations against Assad contained zero evidence.)  

Among the reasons speculated for President Trump’s abrupt reversal of his campaign positions:

·  Trump actually believes Assad was responsible, based on false intelligence fed to him by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and others, or on an emotional appeal from his daughter, Ivanka, based on sensational media coverage.

·  Trump doesn’t believe it but someone gave him The Talk: “Do what you’re told, Mr. President, or you and Barron will end up like Jack Kennedy.”

·  Whether or not he believes Assad is to blame for the CW attack, Trump wants to improve ties with the Russians and work together with them to defeat the jihadists in Syria and end the war, and perhaps cut a “grand bargain” that includes Ukraine, but he can’t because of the domestic pressure from the media, the Deep State, almost all of the Democrats, and a lot of Republicans on the evidence-free charge that Moscow tried to skew the 2016 election. (That seems to be partly working, with many formerly harsh critics now praising him. On the other hand, his own base is now split between those cheer any jingoistic use of force and those who see that another optional war will doom his domestic priority to “Make America Great Again!”) The one piece of evidence that supports this conjecture is the extremely limited pinprick nature of the US strike on Shayrat.

·  Related to the previous point, given the power of the domestic forces conspiring against him, Trump needed to project strength. (My guess is that Moscow, Beijing, and others will conclude just the opposite: he is weak and not even master in his own house.)

·  Trump is impulsive and lacking in substance, so he goes for the quickest and easiest path to what he perceives to be current advantage. The praise of his former detractors – mainly those who have denigrated and derided him – will prove short-lived. At the earliest opportunity those hailing him now as “presidential” will be the first to call for his head.

·  Trump’s real priority was to impress the Chinese on Korea, with a show of force during President Xi Jinping’s summit in the US. Sending an aircraft carrier group to the waters near Korea with a barrage of bellicose rhetoric that the US will resolve the North Korea issue if China doesn’t reinforces this theory, at least in part. Whether Xi was impressed the way Trump might have intended it is another conjecture.  

Whatever the motives, the real question is what comes next. Aside from when another false flag may occur – which Washington in effect invited with threats of a further, more devastating military action against Syria – it matters whether behind closed doors Tillerson’s proposals differed from his public comments. Broadly speaking, there are two possibilities:

1. Tillerson may have said, in effect, that Trump has laid down a marker, neutralized domestic critics, and shown he’s a big dog – now let’s get down to business. All the accusatory language is just for show, so Trump will have greater flexibility of action. In the weeks prior to the Idlib CW attack, Washington and Moscow had seemed to be coordinating on plans for an offensive against Daesh in Raqqa and airstrikes against al-Qaeda in Idlib. The US and Russia together need to find a way to wrap up this war that defeats the enemy Trump campaigned against: radical Islamic terrorism. It’s up to the Syrian people to work out who their leaders should be. If there are security concerns America’s Israeli, Turkish, and Sunni friends have, let’s find a way to address them within that larger context –

or

2. Tillerson’s private comments were consistent with his public statements, amounting to imposing the US Deep State’s agenda on Moscow. That diktat gives priority to blocking some mythical “Shia Crescent” to keep our Sunni “allies” and Israel happy. Assad must go on some specified timetable, though we may grandly allow him so preside over a rump Alawite state in western Syria on a temporary basis; if Assad goes along, we’ll let him retire to Moscow, but if he waits until the next chemical provocation it’s off to The Hague or we’ll kill him ourselves. Syria must be partitioned: we will allow Moscow to participate in a marginal role on the “defeat” of Daesh with a blitzkrieg on Raqqa but then create a “Sunnistan” (or maybe more than one) in eastern Syria, run by some hand-picked jihadi group friendly to the Saudis - basically Daesh with new hats and flag: Islamic State “lite.” To limit Kurdish aspirations Turkey might be awarded a “Turkmen” zone in the new Syria, as well as primacy over a neighboring al-Qaeda-administered area. Also we can anticipate a demand that Russia be prepared to step aside and not oppose an operation for regime change in Tehran.

Even the first message might have been a hard sell given how poisoned the well is and the depth of the abyss of Russian mistrust of the United States. No matter how positive anything Tillerson might have said privately, can anyone in Moscow now believe anything from Washington?

But if the message was the second one, as I believe it was, the Russians would have little choice but to conclude that a major war may be unavoidable and they will plan accordingly. (China would reach the same conclusion.) Plans being made when it was assumed Hillary Clinton was going to win but tentatively mothballed with Trump’s election will be pulled out and updated. Paradoxically, Moscow might still acquiesce to Tillerson’s demands on Syria but only in the spirit of August 1939 – a temporary expedient to buy time and space for what must come.

I of course hope the message was the first but fear it was the second. The white-hot rhetoric coming out of Washington is far in excess of that needed to position US opinion for a reasonable deal with Moscow. Quite to the contrary, it seems calculated to burn any bridges back from anything but regime change and more war. Once again, as has been the case since the Cold War ended in 1991 – but only on the Russian side – US goals look to be geopolitical and ideological, not based on American national interest. The agendas of the Deep State and our regional “allies” will continue to set US policy. Russia must be destroyed as an independent power, right after Syria, Iran, and North Korea but before China. (In a Balkan sideshow, Trump this week signed the NATO accession of Montenegro, effectively completing encirclement of Serbia. At a White House meeting with Jens Stoltenberg, Trump praised NATO.) As was the case in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Libya, and today in Syria, the US is happy to use jihadists as proxies while coldly watching them eliminate centuries-old Christian communities.

In short, the usual. If such a path has been chose by Trump, as appears likely, it may well doom his presidency to failure. But in context, that would be the least of our worries.

I would be very, very glad to be proved wrong. 

Reprinted with permission from the Strategic Culture Foundation.

Trump Walks Into Syria Trap Via Fake ‘Intelligence’

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In the summer of 2013, the international media was aflame with reports that Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad had murdered 1,400 civilians in the town of Ghouta: using deadly sarin gas, children, women, and men had been horribly slaughtered, and Syria’s Islamist opposition, in concert with the Washington foreign policy Establishment, was agitating for US intervention. It was the culmination of a years-long propaganda campaign, which then President Barack Obama had stubbornly resisted – and now, finally, he was about to give in and give the order for US missiles to fly. Yet, at the back of his mind, he still had  unsettling doubts, and these were confirmed shortly before the day of the planned strikes when the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, interrupted his daily presidential briefing, as Jeffrey Goldberg reported in The Atlantic:
Obama was also unsettled by a surprise visit early in the week from James Clapper, his director of national intelligence, who interrupted the President’s Daily Brief, the threat report Obama receives each morning from Clapper’s analysts, to make clear that the intelligence on Syria’s use of sarin gas, while robust, was not a ‘slam dunk.’ He chose the term carefully. Clapper, the chief of an intelligence community traumatized by its failures in the run-up to the Iraq War, was not going to overpromise, in the manner of the onetime CIA director George Tenet, who famously guaranteed George W. Bush a ‘slam dunk’ in Iraq.

While the Pentagon and the White House’s national-security apparatuses were still moving toward war (John Kerry told me he was expecting a strike the day after his speech), the president had come to believe that he was walking into a trap – one laid both by allies and by adversaries, and by conventional expectations of what an American president is supposed to do.
Indeed, the “intelligence” assigning to Assad the responsibility for the sarin gas attack at Ghouta was very far from a slam-dunk: it was, in fact, a lie, a hoax, a false flag operation undertaken by the Islamist rebels and their Turkish allies who were desperate to draw the US into the Syrian civil war. Yes, sarin gas had been released at Ghouta, but, contrary to the “intelligence” provided to the President, it wasn’t the Syrian government that was responsible. As Seymour Hersh showed in a piece published in the London Review of Books, this was proved by “intercepted conversations in the immediate aftermath of the attack.” As one intelligence official told Hersh:
‘Principal evidence came from the Turkish post-attack joy and backslapping in numerous intercepts. Operations are always so super-secret in the planning but that all flies out the window when it comes to crowing afterwards. There is no greater vulnerability than in the perpetrators claiming credit for success.’ Erdoğan’s problems in Syria would soon be over: ‘Off goes the gas and Obama will say red line and America is going to attack Syria, or at least that was the idea. But it did not work out that way.’
While Hersh’s work was derided by the hot-for-war media, Goldberg’s later reporting confirmed it. (And, by the way, the New York Times is quietly backtracking from their earlier assertions). As Hersh told it, the generals went to Obama and told him that the intelligence justifying an attack would fall apart, and the President backed away from the trap that Trump is now walking right into.

The media narrative that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad defied logic, military necessity, and common sense, and dropped a load of sarin on civilians near the town of Khan Shaykun, in Idlib province, is already falling apart. Theodore Postol, Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has analyzed the rather thin “evidence” provided by the US government in a letter to former CIA analyst Larry C. Johnson:
I have reviewed the document carefully, and I believe it can be shown, without doubt, that the document does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the US government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria at roughly 6 to 7 a.m. on April 4, 2017.

In fact, a main piece of evidence that is cited in the document points to an attack that was executed by individuals on the ground, not from an aircraft, on the morning of April 4.

This conclusion is based on an assumption made by the White House when it cited the source of the sarin release and the photographs of that source. My own assessment, is that the source was very likely tampered with or staged, so no serious conclusion could be made from the photographs cited by the White House.
The essence of the US government’s “evidence” pointing to Assad’s forces as the perpetrators of the sarin gas attack is that the device – shown in photographs published in the report – was dropped by fixed wing aircraft, which only the Syrian government possesses. Yet Postol shows that “the most plausible conclusion is that the sarin was dispensed by an improvised dispersal device made from a 122 mm section of rocket tube filled with sarin and capped on both sides.” The report “contains absolutely no evidence that this attack was the result of a munition being dropped from an aircraft. In fact, the report contains absolutely no evidence that would indicate who was the perpetrator of this atrocity.”

Postol examines the alleged source of the attack: a crater on the road to the north of Khan Shaykun. He locates this crater, via Google Earth, and analyzes the photograph touted as the smoking gun.
Assuming that there was no tampering of evidence at the crater, one can see what the White House is claiming as a dispenser of the nerve agent.

The dispenser looks like a 122 mm pipe like that used in the manufacture of artillery rockets.

As shown in the close-up of the pipe in the crater … the pipe looks like it was originally sealed at the front end and the back end. Also of note is that the pipe is flattened into the crater, and also has a fractured seam that was created by the brittle failure of the metal skin when the pipe was suddenly crushed inward from above.
Instead of being dropped from a plane, the dispenser was simply placed on the ground and detonated by an explosive device, which then released the sarin gas on a day when weather conditions would ensure maximum lethality. As Postol explains:
The explosive acted on the pipe as a blunt crushing mallet. It drove the pipe into the ground while at the same time creating the crater. Since the pipe was filled with sarin, which is an incompressible fluid, as the pipe was flattened the sarin acted on the walls and ends of the pipe causing a crack along the length of the pipe and also the failure of the cap on the back end. This mechanism of dispersal is essentially the same as hitting a toothpaste tube with a large mallet, which then results in the tube failing and the toothpaste being blown in many directions depending on the exact way the toothpaste skin ruptures.

If this is in fact the mechanism used to disperse the sarin, this indicates that the sarin tube was placed on the ground by individuals on the ground and not dropped from an airplane.
Postol goes on to note that the same sort of obvious errors appeared in the 2013 US government report that claimed the Syrian government had bombed Ghouta with sarin gas. The rocket canisters that supposedly delivered the sarin gas to their target in Ghouta were far out of range of any Syrian government positions. The claim that we could have detected the rockets as they were launched and landed via satellite observation was also false, since there was no explosion when the rockets reached their target. “These errors,” says Postol, “were clear indicators that the White House intelligence report had in part been fabricated and had not been vetted by competent intelligence experts.”

Obama didn’t walk into the trap: however, Trump appears to have fallen for this fake intelligence hook, line, and sinker. As Postol puts it:
This same situation appears to be the case with the current White House intelligence report. No competent analyst would assume that the crater cited as the source of the sarin attack was unambiguously an indication that the munition came from an aircraft. No competent analyst would assume that the photograph of the carcass of the sarin canister was in fact a sarin canister. Any competent analyst would have had questions about whether the debris in the crater was staged or real. No competent analyst would miss the fact that the alleged sarin canister was forcefully crushed from above, rather than exploded by a munition within it. All of these highly amateurish mistakes indicate that this White House report, like the earlier Obama White House Report, was not properly vetted by the intelligence community as claimed.
The same intelligence community that has been at war with Trump since before he took office, and has been trying to smear him as a tool of the Kremlin, has succeeded in pulling the wool over his eyes. And his previous extreme reluctance to involve the US in an effort to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria has been one of the chief motivating factors in their war on Trump. Having worked for years with the Syrian Islamist opposition, in close coordination with the Saudis and the Gulf emirates, the CIA was appalled when candidate Trump abjured “regime change” and declared that he would focus his efforts on eliminating ISIS in cooperation with the Russians. With the launching of those 59 missiles at Assad, however, and Trump’s radical turnabout on the Russian question, the regime-changers at Langley can chalk up a victory.

Trump has walked right into a trap – and it’s unlikely he’ll ever get out. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s trip to Russia, where he proclaimed that “Assad must go,” was a dramatic demonstration of the trap snapping shut.

The silver lining in this dark cloud is that Trump’s most vocal supporters are now thoroughly alienated from him, as he abandons his domestic agenda and is sucked into yet another useless war in the Middle East. Here’s the lovely Ann Coulter railing against the “Strangelovian generals” who surround the formerly “awesome” Trump – and it’s music to my ears. Here’s Ryan James Girdusky of Red Alert Politics, a popular pro-Trump site, denouncing the Syria strike on Fox Business News. Here’s Laura Ingraham citing Iraq war veterans’ warning against entanglement in Syria. And the verdict from Lou Dobbs and Trump’s many fans in the world of talk radio is a resounding no.

Trump, we are told by gloating NeverTrumpers, has no principles. But so what? His followers do, and they are now an army of dovish “deplorables” whom we are happy to welcome into the anti-interventionist movement. Many are now readers of – and contributors to – this site, and with the War Party on the march, we expect many more to follow in their wake.

The antiwar movement is no longer the preserve of coastal elites, Chomskyite professors, and obnoxious “social justice warriors,” who kept it marginalized, brain-dead, and impotent. The Trump phenomenon, and the subsequent betrayal by a President who was elected on the strength of his resolve to avoid the mistakes of the past, has introduced some much needed ideological diversity into the ranks of anti-interventionists. As my mentor Murray Rothbard proclaimed way back in the early 1990s, “The Old Right is back!

We may have lost the White House – but we’re about to take Flyover Country! And that is a cause for celebration.

Reprinted with permission from Antiwar.com.

If You’re Wondering Why Trump Can Just Bomb Countries, Ask Obama, Bush, and Clinton

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If you read closely between the warped headlines of the establishment media, you will eventually find the truth about Trump’s decision to strike the Syrian government: it was illegal.

Yet most mainstream media outlets clearly supported the strike. Many US allies also supported the strike, including so-called peaceful countries such as New Zealand, which stated the strikes were a“proportional response to a specific incident – the chemical weapons atrocity.” New Zealand also said they would consider sending troops to Syria if the American government requested them.

Why isn’t the legality of Trump’s reckless move even on the table for discussion?

Is it because this is, yet again, no exception to the rule that — as history has shown us — the United States president has the ultimate right and authority to lead his country into war without congressional approval or approval from the United Nations?

How did this happen?

Following the wars in Vietnam and Korea, the War Powers Resolution was passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate in 1973 as a means of curbing the ways by which the US government could enter a war. Under the act, congressional approval must be obtained before the American president can commit the country to war. However, the fact that the president still has the power to launch a war for a 60-day period, following notification to Congress of the decision to commit US armed forces to military action, still raises some questions regarding its effective application.

In 1999, under the presidency of Bill Clinton, the United States participated in NATO’s air war, which we were told was necessary in order to stop the Serbian ethnic cleansing campaign in Kosovo. (It is also worth mentioning that the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia exonerated former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic last year.) This operation did not have a resolution from the United Nations Security Council – one of two ways in which a country can go to war with another country (the other is self-defense).

Bill Clinton, a man who is often widely confused as some sort of humanitarian, also bombed a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant in response to bomb blasts at American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Clinton’s decision to strike a vital facility that produced medicine for a struggling Sudanese economy killed thousands between the death toll from the strike and the subsequent number of people who could no longer receive medical treatment). The reason we don’t know the full horror of this atrocity is because the US vetoed a proposed investigation into the crime.

In 2001, the US also launched an invasion of Afghanistan in response to the September 11 attacks. This was done without a specific U.N. Security Council resolution at the time because many viewed the act as one of self-defense. Yet no one seems concerned with the fact that the US attacked Afghanistan in response to an attack that involved no Afghans, at least according to the CIA. Yes, al-Qaeda had a significant base in Afghanistan, but it was the US that put them there in the first place.

In 2003, the US launched another invasion, this time in Iraq. This did have U.N. Security Council resolutions in reference to the events preceding the invasion, but not any resolution that authorized force. In fact, many members of the Security Council were very explicit about this fact, including permanent member France (which holds a veto power).

“We will not allow the passage of a planned resolution that would authorise the use of force,” the French foreign minister said at the time.

Knowing they would never get a resolution that would explicitly or implicitly authorize force, the US invaded Iraq anyway. The U.N. Secretary General stated quite unequivocally:
I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN Charter. From our point of view and from the charter point of view it was illegal.
Fast forward a few years to peace prize laureate Barack Obama, who invaded Libya without Congressional approval in 2011. The US war establishment downplayed America’s role in the Libyan war to try to justify its involvement yet conveniently missed the fact that America’s role was so integral it was deemed to be the “backbone” of any NATO offensive in the 2011 conflict.

Obama took these war powers further than any president before him. He waged covert wars and overt wars across so many countries that Bush and Clinton paled in comparison. In a six-year period, he bombed seven majority-Muslim countries. He also compiled a secret “kill list,” personally signing off on murders once a week. The weekly ceremony was aptly named “Terror Tuesdays.” During the tenure of Obama’s drone strike assassination program, he also terminated American citizens without trial.

Most notable, however, is Obama’s push to bomb Syria in 2013, which largely fell through due to mounting public opposition and even a lack of support from some of America’s closest allies. His proposal collapsed completely when Russia intervened diplomatically to provide an alternative solution.

Never one to admit defeat, Obama found backdoor access to bomb Syrian territory a year later when the terror group ISIS made headlines with the ruthless and barbaric havoc they were unleashing throughout Iraq and Syria.

Yet how much of this involved the domestic democratic process? Did Congress approve a bombing campaign in Syria? Did the U.N. approve America’s decision to bomb a sovereign country? Did the host country invite the American air force into Syrian territory?

The answer to all of these questions should be clear to anyone who has been paying attention. None of these actions have any democratic accountability. The only thing the Trump administration learned from this debacle in 2013 was not to give the public or the international community any time to respond and to immediately launch air strikes while eating dessert with Syria’s quasi-ally. In that context, Trump has expanded the war powers even further than Obama, who was at least subject to many domestic and international constraints at the time, whether intentionally or not.

In full preparation of these developments, Anti-Media released an article in December 2016 entitled “The War Powers Trump Is About to Inherit from Obama Are Scary as Hell.”

The warning has apparently fallen on deaf ears. The most terrifying aspect of this horrific reality is that this expansion of the presidential war powers has been manufactured on purpose because Congress has never taken any significant action against the president for violating the rules of war. As noted by journalist Glenn Greenwald:
What happened to Obama as a result of involving the US in a war that Congress had rejected? Absolutely nothing, because Congress, due to political cowardice, wants to abdicate war-making powers to the President. As a country, we have decided we want an all-powerful president – one who can bomb, and spy, and detain, and invade with virtually no limits. That’s the machinery of the imperial presidency that both parties have jointly built and have now handed to President Trump.
Let that sink in: the war powers have been designed to rest with the president. In our present circumstances, a president who orders raids deemed too risky by his warmongering predecessor says he will look Syrian kids in the face and tell them they can’t come to America. That predecessor just killed over 1,000 Iraqis last month in a ramped up operation that even the New York Times admits has “no endgame in sight.”

These war powers have been used, misused, and abused for decades, ultimately paving the way for Trump to do what he did last week: bomb a Russian ally directly without any democratic institutional authority – or authority from the international institution that supposedly governs peace and war – risking an all-out war with a nuclear power.

This isn’t a problem of Obama versus Trump or Bernie Sanders versus Hillary Clinton. The president has too much power, regardless of who sits on the throne.

Anyone who attempts to justify this power could realize how nonsensical and dangerous it is by replacing all references to the United States above to North Korea and seeing how that fits their worldview.

If one country can take these actions unilaterally, then so can others.

Is this the world we want to live in?

Reprinted under Creative Commons license from The Anti-Media.

Pompeo, Power and WikiLeaks

Vested interests deflect from the facts that WikiLeaks publishes by demonizing its brave staff and me.

— Julian Assange, The Washington Post, April 11, 2017.

The Central Intelligence Agency’s current director, Mike Pompeo, has a view of history much like that of any bureaucrat as understood by the great sociologist Max Weber. The essential, fundamental purpose of bureaucracy is a rationale to manufacture and keep secrets. Transparency and accountability are its enemies. Those who challenge that particular order are, by definition, defilers and dangerous contrarians.

On Thursday, April 13, Pompeo was entertained by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, an opportunity of sorts to sound off on a range of points. Pompeo’s theme is unmistakeable, opening up with a discussion about Philip Agee’s “advocacy” as a founding member of CounterSpy, which called in 1973 for the outing of CIA undercover operatives.

Richard Welch, a CIA station chief working in Athens and identified in a September 1974 issue of CounterSpy, was duly deemed a victim of Agee’s stance. “When he got out of his car to open the gate in front of his house, Richard Welch was assassinated by a Greek terrorist cell.”

Agee is then the mint and mould for the current WikiLeaks agenda, deemed by Pompeo to be compromised in “the harm they inflict on the US institutions and personnel”.  What bothers Pompeo is their zeal, their determination, even romance, those self-touted “heroes above the law, saviours of our free and open society.”

Pompeo’s methods are blunt, and shower generous disdain on the notion that free speech protections should extend to such an organisation as WikiLeaks.  “It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is, a non-state hostile intelligence service, often abetted by state actors like Russia.”

This is the language of fear about the fifth columnist, that WikiLeaks is mimicking the CIA, even surpassing it. (Such flattery!)  The organisation “encouraged its followers to find jobs at the CIA in order to obtain intelligence.” Gravely, claims the CIA director, “It directed Chelsea Manning in her theft of specific secret information.” Never mind what that information actually revealed.

For the director’s myopic appraisal of the world, only the select should be in a position to steal.  “We steal secrets from our foreign adversaries, hostile entities and terrorist organizations. And we’re damn proud of it.”

These words are hardly going to fluster Assange, though they have provided the main front man of WikiLeaks food for thought about what individuals like Pompeo really think about democratic virtue, given the continuous insistence by US officials that they keep the sacred flame of liberty alive the world over.  The very defender of the US Republic is willing to ignore a fundamental feature of that Republic’s existence: the need for public debate about the limits of power.

Assange is aware of this, noting how the “American idea”, or the United States as “idea” throbs within his mind and body. It is precisely that idea that needs conservation, even purification.  What Pompeo is really bothered about is how similar the intelligence goal is for an organisation charged with the task of dealing in secrets, be it their theft and exposure, or their protection.

What matters in such information environments, and notably the one so currently crowded by a noisy battle between digital rabblerousers and orthodox followers of the closed society, is where they fit in holding the powerful accountable.  All positions ultimately turn on matters of power and how information is best wielded.

Assange uses his piece in the Washington Post not merely to rubuff the CIA’s position, but to reference the words of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell address: “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

The motives, then, are “identical to that claimed by the New York Times and The Post – to publish newsworthy content. Consistent with the US Constitution, we publish material that we can confirm to be true irrespective of whether sources came by that truth legally or have the right to release it to the media.”

Assange also reminds readers of an old, proposed taxonomy on the issue of how the fourth estate might function in terms of accuracy and content with President Thomas Jefferson’s own proposal.  An editor might wish to “divide his paper into 4 chapters, heading the 1st, ‘Truths.’  2nd, ‘Probabilities.’  3rd, ‘Possibilities.’  4th, ‘Lies.’  The first chapter would be very short, as it would contain little more than authentic papers, and information.”

The modus operandi is significant here: the exposure of truths deemed inconvenient, complicating, disrupting.  Reduced to that dimension, Pompeo’s supposedly patriotic bile seems one of simple objection, an age old struggle between those who wish to know, and those who prefer to keep ignorance central to the argument.  The ever tantalisingly relevant point remains: Who is so entitled?