Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
September 22, 2017

Syria - Crap Hits Fan As U.S. Proxies Kill Russia's Allies - SEE UPDATE

UPDATE - 5:55PM:

The alleged incident did NOT happen. (At least not the way describe below.)

No SAA soldiers were killed by the U.S. proxy force near Deir Ezzor.

I am sorry for the false alarm and any irritation it might have caused.

      - b


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Late afternoon today (local time) U.S. hired, equipped and advised Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters killed nine Syrian Arab Army soldiers. The soldiers were in a boat crossing the Euphrates river near Deir Ezzor city.

Two sources independently reported the incident. There is so far no official confirmation. The following assumes that the above indeed happened.

The killers were from a U.S. hired gang of Arab tribal fighters under one Ahmad Abu Khawla. He is well known as a local criminal who had earlier fought for the Islamic State (ISIS). His gang is nominally under the command of the YPK/PKK which is the main U.S. ally in north-eastern Syria. U.S. special forces are in the area as "advisors" to the various SDF groups.


Map by Weekend Warrior SAA red, SDF yellow, ISIS black - bigger

Abu Khawla is officially the commander of the "Deir Ezzor military council" - a body the U.S. advisors invented as umbrella for its collection of local mercenaries.

The incident happened just a day after sharply worded statements by the Russian defense department, discussed in yesterday's summary, had warned against further escalations.

The Russian defense department accused the U.S. of having incited an al-Qaeda attack in Idleb and Hama province in west-Syria as a diversion and hindrance for the Syrian-Russian campaign in Deir Ezzor in east-Syria. During the AQ attack in north-Hama al-Qaeda attempted to catch or kill 29 Russian military police soldiers who were supervising a deescalation zone in the area. The AQ attack failed under a massive Russian air campaign.

The Russian military had also accused the SDF near Deir Ezzor of firing artillery against Syrian and Russian forces near Deir Ezzor. It had promised to harshly retaliate in response to any further incident.

Some details of today's killing are still unconfirmed. But they may not even matter. The killing of nine Syrian army soldiers, while these were in a defenseless situation, will surely lead to a harsh Syrian army and Russian military reaction. The U.S. supported SDF near Deir Ezzor will be the targets.

Even if the Russian and Syrian generals hold back and refrain from retaliation, their forces on the ground will have their own ideas about having their comrades killed by illegitimate mercenaries under U.S. advice and control.

The U.S. special force "advisors" who accompany the SDF in the area better leave NOW. Otherwise U.S casualties will likely follow. The situation in east-Syria may then escalate into a violent direct conflagration between U.S. and Russian forces.

Posted by b at 04:15 PM | Comments (26)

Open Thread 2017-35

News & views ...

Posted by b at 11:27 AM | Comments (35)

September 21, 2017

Syria - Russia Accusing U.S. Of Attacks, Abduction Attempts, Team-play With Al-Qaeda

The situation in Syria is reaching another critical point. There is an increased possibility of a large scale clash between U.S. and Russian forces. We had warned of such a clash over control of the rich fields east of Deir Ezzor. At least three incidents over the last days point to more significant escalations.

  • On the 17th the U.S. accused Russia of a light air attack on its proxy forces north of Deir Ezzor. Russia denied that it had attacked those forces.
  • On the 18th and 19th large contingents of Russian and Syrian troops crossed the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor in east-Syria. The U.S. Kurdish/Arab proxy force in the area actively tried to hinder that movement.
  • In parallel a large al-Qaeda attack was launched in west-Syria. The Russian forces accuse U.S. intelligence services of having initiated that campaign. (The Syrian-Russian forces defeated the attack.)
  • Today the Russian military accused the U.S. Kurdish proxies near Deir Ezzor of firing artillery on its forces. It threatened massive retaliation.

The most dramatic incident was the al-Qaeda attack in Idleb.

Cont. reading: Syria - Russia Accusing U.S. Of Attacks, Abduction Attempts, Team-play With Al-Qaeda

Posted by b at 08:42 AM | Comments (95)

Samantha Power - Fakes History, Makes False Claims, Warns Of Fake News

While warning of Russian influenced fake news and hacking, Samantha Power, Obama's banshee and ambassador at the UN, spreads fake news about "Russian hacking".

Power starts off by retelling fiction as historic fact:

Soviet agents were instructed to infiltrate party and campaign staffs in the United States in search of embarrassing information to leak to the press, while Soviet propagandists pushed a set of anti-Reagan story lines to the Western media. Ultimately, they failed to influence the election. President Reagan defeated Walter F. Mondale, winning 49 states. Margaret Thatcher, who was similarly targeted, also won re-election in a landslide.

There is no historic evidence of any such Soviet operation. But, as Mark Ames points out (@0:30m), the Samantha Power tale of a Soviet influence campaign against Reagan is the storyline of a 1980 spy thriller by Arnaud de Borchgrave and Robert Moss. Both authors were corrupt rightwingers and known CIA assets. Their bestselling book about nefarious Soviet influence, The Spike, was political fiction.

Power continues with more fake news:

Cont. reading: Samantha Power - Fakes History, Makes False Claims, Warns Of Fake News

Posted by b at 02:27 AM | Comments (33)

September 20, 2017

"The Vietnam War" - Documentary Or Epic Of Fiction?

Arte TV yesterday showed the first parts of The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. It also runs on PBS.

The first three parts of the ten part "documentary" are a whitewash of the motives of the politicians who sold the war to the public. The CIA's and military "deep state" machinations behind them is not investigated but covered up.

A comment in the first episode declares that it was a "civil war" of Vietnamese against Vietnamese. That is ahistoric nonsense. After the defeat of the (U.S. financed) French colonialists in 1954, the leader of the Viet-minh Ho Chi Min was the undisputed hero of all Vietnam. He would have won any election by huge margins. But the Russian (and Chinese) backers of the liberation war against the French did not want to walk the last mile and insisted on negotiations in Geneva. They allowed the partition of the country. It would have been interesting to learn why.

The "documentary" makes it seem as if the south-Vietnamese ruler Ngo Dinh Diem appeared from heaven instead of being installed by the CIA. It put him into his position. It helped to arrange the "election" that gave him a laughable 98.2% of the votes. It financed him. The episode has arch-imperialist Leslie Gelb, who was part of the deep state that created and ran the war, declaring that "we did what Diem said". That is nonsense. Diem was ruthless dictator but he would not have survived a day without U.S. support and protection.

Part two is a undeserved homage of Kennedy and his "brilliant" staff. McNamara is especially lauded. But his bean-counter mind lacked any capacity to judge human behavior and motives. That had catastrophic consequences. The war is depicted as fight for "liberty" and against "communism". Those were Kennedy's sales points but they had little to do with what happened. Kennedy, like Johnson after him, was mostly driven by domestic policy issues. He wanted to reach certain domestic aims. His Vietnam decisions were just a cover against attacks on him for being "weak".

Part three whitewashes the Gulf of Tonkin lie. It is mealymouthed about what really happened, but then speaks of U.S. 2retaliation". The "unprovoked attack" of Vietnamese forces on U.S. ships was fictitious. The Congress' "Tonkin resolution" which escalated the war was prepared by Johnson's staff two month before the "incident" happened. The "Tonkin" show was set up to push it through. A main motive of the escalation was to get Johnson reelected. Like Kennedy he knew that the war was fought against a national liberation movement and unwinnable. But his "response" to the "incident" made him look strong. He won in a landslide.

Altogether I am disappointed by the series. It is well done cinematography, but it lacks historic depths. There is no investigation of the deeper motives for the political decisions within the U.S. government. Instead we get a repetition of the marketing slogans that were used to sell the decisions. The military and CIA machinations, and the drug business in Vietnam it inherited from the French, are left out. The motives and the strategies of the Viet-minh get too little cover, as does the civil life in Vietnam during the war.

Cont. reading: "The Vietnam War" - Documentary Or Epic Of Fiction?

Posted by b at 08:44 AM | Comments (114)

September 19, 2017

"Sovereign Nations" Is Main Theme Of Trump's UN Speech

Today the President of the United States Donald Trump spoke (rush transcript) to the United Nations General Assembly.

The speech's main theme was sovereignty. The word occurs 18(!) times. It emphasized Westphalian principles.

[W]e do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties, to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.

All leaders of countries should always put their countries first, he said, and "the nation state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition."


The Ratification of the Treaty of Münster, 15 May 1648 - bigger

Sovereignty was the core message of his speech. It rhymed well with his somewhat isolationist emphasis of "America first" during his campaign.

The second part of the speech the first by threatened the sovereignty of several countries the U.S. ruling class traditionally dislikes.

This year's "axis of evil" included North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Syria and Cuba:

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary."

Many people will criticize that as an outrageous and irresponsible use of words. It is.

But there is nothing new to it. In fact the U.S., acting on behalf of the UN, totally destroyed Korea in the 1950s. The last U.S. president made the same threat Trump made today:

Cont. reading: "Sovereign Nations" Is Main Theme Of Trump's UN Speech

Posted by b at 01:05 PM | Comments (105)

September 18, 2017

How The Military Defeated Trump's Insurgency

Trump was seen as a presidential candidate who would possibly move towards a less interventionist foreign policy. That hope is gone. The insurgency that brought Trump to the top was defeated by a counter-insurgency campaign waged by the U.S. military. (Historically its first successful one). The military has taken control of the White House process and it is now taking control of its policies.

It is schooling Trump on globalism and its "indispensable" role in it. Trump was insufficiently supportive of their desires and thus had to undergo reeducation:

When briefed on the diplomatic, military and intelligence posts, the new president would often cast doubt on the need for all the resources. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson organized the July 20 session to lay out the case for maintaining far-flung outposts — and to present it, using charts and maps, in a way the businessman-turned-politician would appreciate.

Trump was hauled into a Pentagon basement 'tank' and indoctrinated by the glittering four-star generals he admired since he was a kid:

The session was, in effect, American Power 101 and the student was the man working the levers. It was part of the ongoing education of a president who arrived at the White House with no experience in the military or government and brought with him advisers deeply skeptical of what they labeled the “globalist” worldview. In coordinated efforts and quiet conversations, some of Trump’s aides have worked for months to counter that view, hoping the president can be persuaded to maintain — if not expand — the American footprint and influence abroad.

Trump was sold the establishment policies he originally despised. No alternative view was presented to him.

It is indisputable that the generals are now ruling in Washington DC. They came to power over decades by shaping culture through their sponsorship of Hollywood, by manipulating the media through "embedded" reporting and by forming and maintaining the countries infrastructure through the Army Corps of Engineers. The military, through the NSA as well as through its purchasing power, controls the information flow on the internet. Until recently the military establishment only ruled from behind the scene. The other parts of the power triangle, the corporation executives and the political establishment, were more visible and significant. But during the 2016 election the military bet on Trump and is now, after he unexpectedly won, collecting its price.

Trump's success as the "Not-Hillary" candidate was based on an anti-establishment insurgency. Representatives of that insurgency, Flynn, Bannon and the MAGA voters, drove him through his first months in office. An intense media campaign was launched to counter them and the military took control of the White House. The anti-establishment insurgents were fired. Trump is now reduced to public figure head of a stratocracy - a military junta which nominally follows the rule of law.

Stephen Kinzer describes this as America’s slow-motion military coup:

Cont. reading: How The Military Defeated Trump's Insurgency

Posted by b at 11:20 AM | Comments (79)

September 17, 2017

Syria Summary - Eliminating ISIS' Remains

The last Syria Summary was headlined A New Clash Looms in Syria's East. It stated:

Critical oil fields are north and east of Mayadin. The Omar oil field in the east is the biggest one in all Syria. The U.S. wants these under its control to finance its Kurdish and Arab proxies in north-east Syria. The Syrian government needs the oil to rebuild the country. Should the U.S. supported forces try to annex the area we will likely see a direct conflict between them and the Syrian government forces. Would the U.S. and Russia join that fight?


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Yesterday a first clash of forces occurred. Syrian government and Russian special forces (red) have crossed the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor to reconnaissance the area for their next large operation. A crossing in force towards the north of Euphrates and east of Deir Ezzor is expected during the next few days. The Russian military had informed the U.S. of its area of operation. Despite that, formerly ISIS aligned tribal forces, now paid by the U.S. under the label SDF, tried to extend their areas north of Deir Ezzor (blue). A "warning shot" was delivered to them in form of a small air attack. Several "SDF" were wounded, the U.S. special forces accompanying and commanding them were not harmed.

The Russia military is asking who, really, those forces are:

“Over the past few days, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, Russian control and reconnaissance facilities have not identified a single combat of Islamic State terrorists with armed representatives of any ‘third force.’ Therefore, only representatives of the international coalition can answer the question as to how ‘opposition members’ or ‘military advisers of the international coalition’ managed to get to the IS-held areas in the eastern part of Deir ez-Zor without striking a blow.”

Our last summary noted that these new U.S. proxies Brett McGurk had hired, the 'third force' in the Russian statement, allegedly progressed some 30 kilometers into ISIS country without firing a shot. These forces are evidently ISIS fighters now under a new banner and with U.S. special forces directing them.

Cont. reading: Syria Summary - Eliminating ISIS' Remains

Posted by b at 07:58 AM | Comments (105)

September 15, 2017

Afghanistan - U.S. Resolved To Repeat Failures

The U.S. military and political leadership is so devoid of learning capability that it does not fight multiyear long wars. Instead it fights one disconnected campaign after the other on the very same battlefield. Each of these campaigns will repeat the mistakes that previous ones made and will have the same outcome.

Thus we have seen several increases in troop numbers in Afghanistan. Each time such a surge happened under Bush, under Obama and now under Trump, the result was an increase in Taliban activity and success.

We have seen the use of local militia forces fail under Obama when these were called Afghan Local Police. The 20,000 men strong ALP was supposedly "trained" to hold land against the Taliban. But the local police groups turned out to be local gangs who, thanks to their "official" status, could rob, rap and kill people without fear of retaliation. The suppressed population then turned to the Taliban for relief.

The idea to create such a local force was so bad that it is time to repeat it:

The American military has turned to the [idea of a local militia] force as a potential model for how to maintain the Afghan government’s waning control — without too high a cost — in difficult parts of Afghanistan at a time when the Taliban are resurgent.
...
The size of the new force is yet to be finalized, but it could number more than 20,000, according to a senior Afghan official
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While the senior Afghan official insisted that only the conceptual framework of the force has been agreed to, and that details were still being sorted out, several Western officials said that preparations were already underway to pilot the new force in southern districts of Nangarhar Province.

We can predict with confidence that a year from now those very same districts of Nangarhar province will again staunchly support the Taliban.

In 2001 the CIA and U.S. special forces kicking out the Taliban with the support of northern alliance war-criminals. Arial bombing based on partisan information continued for years. After their defeat the Taliban had given up on ruling the country. They offered to dissolve in exchange for amnesty and an end of the war. But the bombing, often on direction of some local wannabe strongman, continued. Many people not involved with the Taliban or any resistance were killed and maimed. Their communities called out for help. The Taliban revived and came back to fight the invaders.

For a while the indiscriminate, unaccountable bombing seemed to calm down. But the insurgency, once revived, continued. Time then to repeat and expand the scheme - if only under a different logo and in more countries:

The C.I.A. is pushing for expanded powers to carry out covert drone strikes in Afghanistan and other active war zones, a proposal that the White House appears to favor despite the misgivings of some at the Pentagon, according to current and former intelligence and military officials.

More indiscriminate bombing will obviously lead to more resistance and more war.

An argument can be made that the U.S. military and intelligence complex is willfully and systematically creating new enemies in Afghanistan and elsewhere to justify the continuation of its campaigns.

But that argument presume that there is sufficient intellectual capacity in the Pentagon and CIA to develop and follow such a design. Arrogance, bureaucratic inertia and lack of curiosity are the simpler and maybe more likely explanations.

Posted by b at 10:33 AM | Comments (121)

September 13, 2017

Links On And Of Propaganda

(Some bug caught up with me. I am too incapacitated to compose a decent blog post. A few links around the issue of propaganda shall substitute for it.)

Remember the sensational front page news about "Russian doping" during the Sochi Olympics and beyond? Well, here is the outcome of that "scandal":

World Anti-Doping Agency Clears 95 Russian Athletes

The World Anti-Doping Agency, the regulator of drugs in sports that produced mountainous evidence of Russia’s doping scheme, has agreed to clear 95 of the first 96 athletes whose cases have been reviewed, according to an internal report circulated among the organization’s executives in recent days.

The "mountainous evidence" the NYT regurgitated was evidently of a molehill.

Here is another slip in the "dangerous Russia" matrix. NATO expansion, we are now told, was not about Russia at all:

Western arms makers lobbied hard for the expansion of NATO into former Soviet satellite countries after the collapse of Communism. They have since lobbied both new and old NATO member states not to stray outside the alliance for weapons purchases that would cut into their business.

But to sell new weapons to eastern Europe one first has to get rid of its old ones. If possible by Making a Killing:

Since the outbreak of war in Syria, weapons from Central and Eastern Europe have flooded the conflict zone through two distinct pipelines – one sponsored by Saudi Arabia and coordinated by the CIA, and the other funded and directed by the Pentagon.

Related: How Western Capital Colonized Eastern Europe

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The current campaign of Saudi financed jihadis in Myanmar is only the appetizer for a larger attack on Chinese (and Indian) interests. More foot soldiers need to be produced for that by infecting more people with radical Wahhabi propaganda:

Bangladesh approved the construction on its territory of 560 mosques on Wednesday, April 26. The project is financed by the Saudi government to the tune of over a billion dollars.
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[T]he Gulf monarchy has reportedly spent more than 70 billion dollars (about 65 billion euros) since 1979 to finance such projects abroad.

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During the election some unidentified dude on Facebook called for an anti-immigrant rally in Twin Falls, Idaho. Four (4) people claimed they came to the event but no rally took place.

Three (3!) Daily Beast "journalists" were tasked to investigate the issue. They produced a sorry whiff of hot air: Exclusive: Russia Used Facebook Events to Organize Anti-Immigrant Rallies on U.S. Soil

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The New Yorker also wants to put crap into your brain:

Pyongyang is a city of simulated perfection, without litter or graffiti—or, for that matter, anyone in a wheelchair. Its population, of 2.9 million, has been chosen for political reliability and physical health.

Surely, the yearly Disability Days in the DPRK, with performances and sport events, never take place. The new school year ceremony at Pyongyang's Rehabilitation Centre for Children with Disability (vid) is just a fantasy.

On wonders how much the North Korean defector who enlightened the New Yorker was paid for that insight. Propaganda is costly. South Korea recently upped the top rate for North Korean opportunists to $860,000 a piece. The more outrageous their claims are, the higher their income.

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The Global Engagement Center ...

.. is an interagency entity, housed at the State Department. ... It was established pursuant to Executive Order 13721, signed on on March 14, 2016, which states that the Center “shall lead the coordination, integration, and synchronization of Government-wide communications activities directed at foreign audiences abroad in order to counter the messaging and diminish the influence of international terrorist organizations,” such as ISIL.

... of "international terrorist organizations" - hmmm -

... allowed the Global Engagement Center to ask the Pentagon for $40 million, bringing its total 2017 spending to about $80 million. About $60 million of that was to be used to counter Russian influence operations; about $19 million was aimed at ISIS.

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Contrasting the above is some real journalism from the Cincinnati Enquirer: Seven Days of Heroin - This is what an epidemic looks like  - recommended!

Posted by b at 12:07 PM | Comments (118)

September 11, 2017

Syria Summary - A New Clash Looms in Syria's East

When the Islamic State siege on Deir Ezzor was broken by the Syrian Arab Army we asked:

Will the SAA cross the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor to retake the valuable oilfields east of it? Or will it stay south of the river and leave those oil fields to the Kurdish U.S. proxies in the north?

To cross the river is clearly desirable but also potentially contentious.

Since then several convoys of military bridging equipment have been seen on the road to Deir Ezzor. It is now obvious that the SAA will bridge the river (all regular bridges have been destroyed by U.S. bombing during earlier fighting) and send significant forces across. New questions now are: When, where and with what aim?

As soon as the government intent became clear the U.S. pushed its local proxy forces to immediately snatch the ISIS held oilfields. In less than two days they deployed over 30 kilometers deep into the ISIS held areas north of the Euphrates. It is obvious that such progress could not have been made if ISIS had defended itself. I find it likely that a deal has been made between those two sides.

The U.S. diplomat tasked with the job, Brett McGurk, recently met with local tribal dignitaries of the area. Pictures of the meeting were published. Several people pointed out that the very same dignitaries were earlier pictured swearing allegiance to the Islamic State.


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Just like during the "Anbar Awaking" in its war on Iraq the U.S. is bribing the local radicals to temporarily change over to its side. This will help the U.S. to claim that it defeated ISIS. But as soon as the payments stop the very same forces will revert back to their old game.

Originally the U.S. had planned to let ISIS take Deir Ezzor. It had twice attacked Syrian government forces in the area killing more than a hundred of them. This had allowed ISIS to capture large chunks of the government enclave and to disable the airport which was need for resupplies:

Cont. reading: Syria Summary - A New Clash Looms in Syria's East

Posted by b at 12:25 PM | Comments (146)

September 10, 2017

Open Thread 2017-34

News & views ...

Posted by b at 10:55 AM | Comments (165)

September 09, 2017

The Intercept Mistranslates Assad Speech - Smears Syria As Neo-Nazi

There have long been attempts in the anti-Syrian media to claim alignment of the socialist and anti-sectarian Syrian government with western fascist and religious supremacist elements. The latest in this propaganda genre is the just published Intercept piece Why White Nationalists Love Bashar al-Assad.

The Intercept is a rather dubious news outlet founded by Pierre Omidyar, a major owner of the auctioning site eBay and its PayPal banking division. It most recent remarkable moment was its betrayal of a NSA whistle-blower who fatuously had trusted The Intercept to act professionally:

The Intercept published a leaked five page NSA analysis about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. Its reporting outed the leaker of the NSA documents. That person, R.L. Winner, has now been arrested and is likely to be jailed for years if not for the rest of her life.

As we noted back in June when the above incident happened:

The Intercept pieces are usually heavily editorialized and tend to have a mainstream "liberal" to libertarian slant. Some are highly partisan anti-Syrian/pro-regime change propaganda. [...] Some of its later prominent hires (Ken Silverstein, Matt Taibbi) soon left and alleged that the place was run in a chaotic atmosphere and with improper and highly politicized editing.

The new Intercept piece published yesterday insinuates that the Syrian government under President Bashar Assad is liked by white supremacists because it somehow is itself fascist. Here is how the outlet announced the piece:


full tweet

The screed, written by one Mariam Elba, has a rather crude thesis. Its core is solely based on a false translation of a speech Bashar Assad held on August 20:

Cont. reading: The Intercept Mistranslates Assad Speech - Smears Syria As Neo-Nazi

Posted by b at 08:13 AM | Comments (83)

September 08, 2017

Michael Brenner - A Lexicon Of Politics

by Michael Brenner

Every sphere of life has its own vocabulary. Surely that is true of the political world. Certain words and phrases repeat themselves with striking frequency. They serve as a sort of shorthand for the cognoscenti who instinctively understand their connotations. They also are handy verbal shortcuts that spare politicos, pundits and media mannequins overly taxing mental effort.

Here is an annotated explication of a few of the most common words of convenience.

TABLE – as in “All Options Are On The Table”

President Trump repeatedly has said that all options are on the table when it comes to responding to the North Korean “threat.” Before, he had said the same about Iran. So did Barack Obama. The Assad government in Syria prompted a similar statement from both. So did ISIS.

That makes for a pretty heavily loaded table. Let’s imagine it. Nuclear weapons are the centerpiece. Probably small, tactical ones so as better to fit the limited space. Surrounded by Tomahawk missiles, stealth bombers, army units and a few Special Forces. Also on the table are economic sanctions; they are considerably lighter. Perhaps a symbolic bag of Persian pistachios, a bolt of Damask cloth, a bowl of rice, and a tin of Beluga caviar for good measure.

“Talking,” too, have been on the table. They are fluffy and weigh next to nothing. President Trump saw fit to remove them on Monday nonetheless. He vehemently declared that “talking is not the answer!” It was placed back on the table by Secretary of Defense General James “Mad Dog” Mattis. They may be hidden behind the floral display. White House Communications Director Hope Hicks did not return our calls asking as to where “talking” had spent the night before being retrieved.

Let’s visualize the scene. We’re in the Situation Room in the depths of the White House. High-tech electronic displays cover the walls. Dominating the room is an elongated table made of brilliantly polished walnut – a sturdy affair able to handle the load placed on it by all those options (and elbows). Around the table sit Trump, National Security Advisor General HC McMaster to his immediate left, Chief of Staff General John Kelly to his immediate right, Mattis, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchen, Jared Kushner, and the Intelligence chiefs: the CIA’s Mike Pompeo, Admiral Michael Rogers Director of the National Security Agency, and General Vincent Stewart from DIA. Medals flash and ribbons shine. The brass alert to any sign that the Orange One might reach for an ICBM – mistaking it for a cigar – and ready to impale his hand to the table with a steak knife. Rex Tillerson is there, too, seated below the SALT.

At each place setting a menu inventories all the options available, and a GPS app pinpoints their location relative to each other.

The President personally had taken ‘talking’ off the table the previous night. The next morning it mysteriously had reappeared – in the form of an English-Korean dictionary. Its discovery sent shivers through the White House – and beyond. After a few tense hours, Mattis stepped forward to declare his responsibility. He did deny rumors that he had used Dennis Rodman as his agent – secreting him into the building at the time of the photo-op with the champion Golden State Warriors in anticipation of just such a clandestine mission.

Whether ‘talking’ will hold its current inconspicuous place, come out of hiding, or disappear in the wee hours of the morning is unpredictable. The table definitely will remain sturdily in place to handle all and any options- at least until the fat lady sings.

BUS – as in “thrown under the bus.”

Cont. reading: Michael Brenner - A Lexicon Of Politics

Posted by b at 09:52 AM | Comments (45)

September 07, 2017

Facebook Blames Russia To Deflect From Fraudulent Ad-Sales

A typically political and business strategy to lessen public attention of an evolving scandal is to launch a diversion campaign. A well designed counter campaign makes sensational claims about an unrelated issue. It is intended to take the media attention away from the real issue. Any decent public relation department will have several "canned" campaigns ready to launch on a moment's notice.

Yesterday a new report proved (again) that Facebook cheats with its advertisement reach data. This explains why advertisements booked on Facebook have much less impact than Facebook claims and the paying customers assume.

Only hours later the company launched a diversion campaign. Its purpose is to keep the media off the real scandal. The diversion claim, presented without evidence, is that a "Russian operation" bought influencing advertisements on Facebook aimed at the U.S. public.

Here is the real scandal that Facebook tries to cover up. Facebook advertisement sales are based on systematically falsified data:

Pivotal Research Group senior analyst Brian Wieser pointed out a large discrepancy between U.S. census data and the potential reach that the social network promises advertisers.

On Tuesday, Wieser issued a note pointing out that Facebook's Adverts Manager tool promises a potential reach of 41 million 18-24 year-olds in the U.S., while recent census data said there only 31 million people living in the U.S. within that age range.

Similar false claims are made by Facebook for other countries and categories:

For advertisers trying to target Facebook users in the U.K., the company promises it could potentially reach 5.8 million 20-24 year-olds, 6.4 million 25-29 year-olds, and 5.2 million 30-34 year olds. When the last census was conducted in 2011, the U.K. only had 4.3 million 20-24 year-olds, 4.3 million 25-29 year-olds, and 4.1 million 30-34 year olds.

The Fortune write up of the Pivotal/Wieser report notes other known "discrepancies" in Facebook metrics:

Cont. reading: Facebook Blames Russia To Deflect From Fraudulent Ad-Sales

Posted by b at 06:14 AM | Comments (47)

September 06, 2017

Politically Uncivilized People

The leaflets distributed by U.S. forces in Parwan province, north of Kabul, on Tuesday depicted a lion, representing the U.S.-led coalition, chasing a dog with a section of the Taliban’s banner, containing a passage from the Koran in Arabic superimposed on its side.
WaPo - Sept 6 2017

The "passage from the Koran" on the Taliban banner is the Shahada, the central creed for every Muslim: "There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God." It is hard to believe that trained U.S. psychological warfare elements distribute such blasphemy out of ignorance and without specific intent.

Here is another such inflammatory statement.

Better a million dead North Koreans than a thousand dead Americans. ... [I]n the real world, the greatest immorality in war is not killing the enemy. The greatest immorality would be for our country to lose.
The moral answer to North Korea... - Ralph Peters, NY Post, Sept 5, 2017

That moral mindset is, unfortunately, widely accepted in U.S. opinion writing and politics. It is independent of party affiliation.

I agree with Vladimir Vladimirovich on this:

As for the American people, America is truly a great nation if the Americans can put up with so many politically uncivilised people.
Vladimir Putin - Sept 5 2017

Posted by b at 02:42 PM | Comments (71)

September 05, 2017

Syria - The Liberation Of Deir Ezzor

The Syrian army just broke the Islamic State siege on the city of Deir Ezzor and its military garrison. The siege had been held up since mid 2014.

In a six month long campaign the SAA moved several hundred kilometers from the outskirts of Aleppo and Palmyra towards Deir Ezzor. Three axes, north, center and south drove the campaign through the semi desert. One axis has now reached the areas held by the besieged troops while the spear tips of the other two are only a few kilometers away.

Syrian TV showed the first joyful contact at the 137 brigades area, 15km from Deir Ezzor city center.


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Only in January the city and its 100,000 inhabitants left was on the verge of falling into the hands of ISIS. A massive U.S. air attack on the most important Syrian military position of Deir Ezzor in September 2016 directly enabled the ISIS move. But surprisingly the garrison, with 4-5,000 soldiers, held out. Supplies were dropped by parachute through a Russian and Syrian air-bridge and the grand operation to liberate the city was planned and prepared.

It has now succeeded. The Syrian government forces were supported by Russian special forces, Iranian contingents, Hizbullah forces and various militia. The Russian air force flew massive interdiction raids in front of the advancing troops. The Russian navy fired cruise missiles against core ISIS hold outs in the area.

Mabruk!

It will take further weeks to eliminate ISIS completely from the parts of the city it holds and areas around it.


Map (August 2017) by Fabrice Balanche - bigger (with legend)

The upcoming question then is how this campaign will proceed. Will the SAA cross the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor to retake the valuable oilfields east of it? Or will it stay south of the river and leave those oil fields to the Kurdish U.S. proxies in the north?

Posted by b at 07:25 AM | Comments (101)

September 04, 2017

The Rohingya Of Myanmar - Pawns In An Anglo-Chinese Proxy War Fought By Saudi Jihadists

[Update Sept 7 - The post below received some criticism which, in my view, missed its major points. See here for a reply. - b]

Media attention is directed to some minor ethnic violence in Myanmar, the former Burma. The story in the "western" press is of Muslim Rohingya unfairly vilified, chased out and killed by  Buddhist mobs and the army in the state of Rakhine near the border to Bangladesh. The "liberal human interventionists" like Human Rights Watch are united with Islamists like Turkey's President Erdogan in loudly lamenting the plight of the Rohingya.

That curious alliance also occurred during the wars on Libya and Syria. It is by now a warning sign. Could there be more behind this than some local conflict in Myanmar? Is someone stocking a fire?

Indeed.

While the ethnic conflict in Rankine state is very old, it has over the last years morphed into an Jihadist guerilla war financed and led from Saudi Arabia. The area is of geo-strategic interest:

Rakhine plays an important part in [the Chinese One Belt One Road Initiative] OBOR, as it is an exit to Indian Ocean and the location of planned billion-dollar Chinese projects—a planned economic zone on Ramree Island, and the Kyaukphyu deep-sea port, which has oil and natural gas pipelines linked with Yunnan Province’s Kunming.

Pipelines from the western coast of Myanmar eastwards to China allow hydrocarbon imports from the Persian Gulf to China while avoiding the bottleneck of the Strait of Malacca and disputed parts of the South China Sea.


via Geostrategic Media - bigger

It is in "Western interest" to hinder China's projects in Myanmar. Inciting Jihad in Rakhine could help to achieve that. There is historic precedence for such a Rohingya - Bamar proxy war in Burma. During World War II British imperial forces incited the Rohingya Muslim in Rakhine to fight the Bamar, the dominant Burmese nationalist Buddhists allied with Japanese imperialists.


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The Rohingya immigrated to the northern parts of Arakan, today's Rakhine state of Myanmar, since the 16th century. A large wave came under British imperial occupation some hundred years ago. Illegal immigration from Bangladesh continued over the last decades. In total about 1.1 million of Muslim Rohingya live in Myanmar. The birthrate of the Rohingya is said to be higher than that of the local Arakanese Buddhists. These feel under pressure in their own land.

Cont. reading: The Rohingya Of Myanmar - Pawns In An Anglo-Chinese Proxy War Fought By Saudi Jihadists

Posted by b at 03:08 PM | Comments (130)

 
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