Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
September 03, 2017

The Peanut - North Korea Tests A New Nuke - Continues To Press For Negotiations

Earlier today North Korea published pictures of its leader Kim Jong Un admiring a thermonuclear device or H-bomb. Hours later it tested such a bomb in an underground explosion. The North Korean news agency announced:

Pyongyang, September 3 (KCNA) -- Respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un guided the work for nuclear weaponization on the spot.

He was greeted by senior officials of the Department of Munitions Industry of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) and scientists of the Nuclear Weapons Institute before being briefed on the details of nuclear weaponization.
...
He watched an H-bomb to be loaded into new ICBM.

Saying that he felt the pride of indomitably bolstering up the nuclear forces at a great price while seeing the Juche-oriented thermonuclear weapon with super explosive power made by our own efforts and technology, he expressed great satisfaction over the fact that our scientists do anything without fail if the party is determined to do.
...
The H-bomb, the explosive power of which is adjustable from tens kiloton to hundreds kiloton, is a multi-functional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP attack according to strategic goals.


The Peanut - bigger

The Walter Cronkite of North Korean TV, Ri Chun Hee, showed more pictures from the visit (vid) the visit and later announced the nuclear test.

Some analyst nicknamed the new device the Peanut. The bomb type obviously differs from the implosion type Disco Ball of March 2016. The "Junche orientation" component, which presumably guarantees the ideological conformity of the device, seems to be the round white box on the left :-/.

(More seriously: Juche refers to self-sufficiency - i.e. North Korea made the components and built the device by itself.)

A graphic in one of the pictures shows the peanut within the warhead bay of a Hawsong-14 Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile.

An hour after the above release, earth-quake detection monitors in south Asia went off. A seismic event of 6.1 to 6.3 magnitude on the logarithmic momentum magnitude scale was detected in the area of Punggye-ri. Like earlier North Korean nuclear weapon tests in the same area, the event happened exactly on the half hour mark (at 12:00am local time). The magnitude points to a large device with an explosive power between 100 kilotons and 1 megaton TNT equivalent. (All previous North Korean nuclear tests were in the low kiloton range.) Some detection stations found another seismic event of 4.6 magnitude shortly thereafter. If confirmed it was likely caused by a "cave-in" of the sub-terrain test chamber. It will take some time to assess the data and to come to more precise estimates, but the qualitative different size of this test compared to previous ones is undeniable.

Added: A later statement by the North Korean news agency confirmed a successful test of a two-stage thermonuclear device. It claimed that no radiation was released to the atmosphere.

Cont. reading: The Peanut - North Korea Tests A New Nuke - Continues To Press For Negotiations

Posted by b at 03:11 AM | Comments (156)

September 01, 2017

No "Russian Hacking" In Durham Election - NY Times Report Belies Its Headline

The last piece pointed out that the NYT headline "U.N. Peacekeepers in Lebanon Get Stronger Inspection Powers for Hezbollah Arms" was 100% fake news. The UNIFIL U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon were not getting any stronger inspection powers. The relevant UN Security Resolution 2373, which renewed UNIFIL's mandate, had made no such changes. No further inspection powers were authorized.

Today we find another similarly lying headline in the New York Times.

The piece is about minor technical election trouble in a district irrelevant to the presidential election outcome. Contradicting the headline it notes in paragraph five:

There are plenty of other reasons for such breakdowns — local officials blamed human error and software malfunctions — and no clear-cut evidence of digital sabotage has emerged, much less a Russian role in it.

All of the reported troubles are simple computer hiccups that would not have occurred in a more reasonable election system build on paper and pencil balloting. All the computer troubles have various innocent causes. The officials handling these systems deny that any "Russian hacking" was involved. Moreover, there was no chance that these troubles in one district would have effected the general election. There was thereby no motive for anyone to hack these systems:

Despite the disruptions, a record number of votes were cast in Durham, following a pattern there of overwhelming support for Democratic presidential candidates, this time Hillary Clinton.


Screenshot of NYT report

The NYT headline is an outrageous lie. It promotes as causal fact completely unproven interference and troubles for which, as the article notes, plenty of other reason might exist. It is politically irresponsible. Only two out of ten people read beyond the headlines. Even fewer will read down to paragraph five and recognize that the headline lies. All others will have been willfully misled by the editors of the New York Times.

Cont. reading: No "Russian Hacking" In Durham Election - NY Times Report Belies Its Headline

Posted by b at 11:26 PM | Comments (60)

August 31, 2017

Nikki Haley Fails In Amateurish Attempt To Change UNIFIL Mandate

For today's dose of fakenews we trustfully direct you to this New York Times item:

U.N. Peacekeepers in Lebanon Get Stronger Inspection Powers for Hezbollah Arms

The headline is 100% wrong. The U.N. troops in Lebanon (UNIFIL) did not get one iota of stronger inspection powers.

Yesterday the UN Security Council had to decide about the yearly renewal of the mandate of UNIFIL. The current U.S. bitch at the UNSC, Nikki R. Haley, had order from her overlord Benjamin Netanyahoo to press for more control over Hizbullah's weapons in Lebanon.

Last week Haley already clashed with the commanding general of the UNIFIL forces and with the UN Secretary General:

"What I find totally baffling is the view of the UNIFIL commander General Beary," Haley told reporters, accusing him of ignoring Hezbollah's arms dumps.

"He seems to be the only person in south Lebanon who is blind. That's an embarrassing lack of understanding on what's going on around him," she said.

The UN and the Irish government gave full backing to General Beary. The Irish Independent noted:

Ms Haley said there was no shortage of evidence about the large caches of Hezbollah weapons buried in south Lebanon.

However, neither she nor the Israelis have produced any evidence to back up their claims.
...
General Beary said his troops had not come across any major weapons cache in the UNIFIL-controlled area. He said if there was hard evidence of a cache of weapons, his force would assist the Lebanese armed forces (LAF) in removing them.

UNIFIL's mandate is limited:

It is tasked with ensuring that the area between the so-called 'Blue Line' – separating Israel and Lebanon – and the Litani River is free of unauthorized weapons, personnel and assets. It also cooperates with the Lebanese Armed Forces so they can fulfil their security responsibilities.

UNIFIL does not have sovereign or executive rights. It is mostly restricted to reporting and depends on the government of Lebanon for further measures.

Nikki Haley was tasked to change that - and failed:

Cont. reading: Nikki Haley Fails In Amateurish Attempt To Change UNIFIL Mandate

Posted by b at 07:59 AM | Comments (100)

August 30, 2017

After Making Ceasefire Deal With ISIS U.S. Condemns Lebanon For Making Similar One

Last week the Lebanese Army and Hizbullah defeated ISIS in the Lebanese-Syrian border area of Qalamun. A ceasefire was announced and a deal was made. Lebanon received the bodies of its army fighters earlier captured and killed by ISIS. The remaining ISIS fighter and their families would disarm and receive free passage to ISIS held areas in east Syria.

The U.S. has now launched a media campaign against this deal. The Iraqi government has joined in.

As noted in the last Syria Summary here:

In the Qalamun area at the Lebanese border the Lebanese army and Hizbullah attacked the last ISIS enclave along that border. Today the remaining 200 ISIS fighters in the area agreed to lay down arms in exchange for an evacuation towards east-Syria.

The later announced total of evacuees was higher with 308 ISIS fighters and about 500 of their relatives including kids. These are transported in 17 buses and several ambulances across Syria towards the Syrian city of Abu Kamal (Bukamal) at the Iraqi border.

The overall military motive is sound. In the end ISIS will be concentrated and surrounded in the desert along the Syrian-Iraqi border. Removing ISIS outposts throughout the country frees up lots of soldiers for the big fight. Its concentration in one place also allows to concentrate forces to fight it.  Just like al-Qaeda in Idleb governate ISIS will have no way out to leave and can be killed from the air and from the ground.

The U.S. military threatens to bomb the convoy:

Cont. reading: After Making Ceasefire Deal With ISIS U.S. Condemns Lebanon For Making Similar One

Posted by b at 09:55 AM | Comments (60)

August 29, 2017

Houston - Bottling Companies Welcome Flooding

Some rain pours down on south Texas. Media panic ensues. Poor planing and building codes will take their toll.

More severe and more deadly flooding though is happening in Nepal, Bangladesh and India. People in those countries are the most affected by climate change.

But why not make a good business out of events in Houston and elsewhere. Sell the very same stuff that pours down, packed in a material which causes climate change, to the people fleeing its effects.

On offer at Best Buy on Highway 290 in Cypress, TX.

bigger - source

The use, waste and commodification of water is one of the biggest issues "western" societies need to tackle.

Posted by b at 02:44 PM | Comments (120)

August 27, 2017

Syria - Rebel Trained Children Perform "Chemical Attack" (Video)

Here is serious evidence that the so called "Syrian rebels" systematically trained children to play "chemical attack" victims.

The evidence was found by Partisangirl who today tweeted:

Partisangirl 🇸🇾 @Partisangirl 11:20 PM - 27 Aug 2017

DAMNING VIDEO: Terrorists make #Syria-n children rehearse false flag chemical attack. youtu.be/S95bR1s_d0Y

Partisangirl links to a video on her videopage on Youtube. The annotations say:

Published on Aug 27, 2017

The original video was published in September 2013 on this channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_co... . This is a shortened version of that video. It shows children being instructed by terrorists to act like they have been hit with Sarin gas, they convulse, they're eyes blink and they froth at the mouth with fake foam applied to their faces by terrorists. A of children applaud. A man in a Mickey mouse costume tells them it's all fun.

Here is the screenshot of the original Youtube video page of اعلامي ريف دمشق:


bigger

A commentator remarked: "The headline for the video says: 'A children play, the chemical and the world' and that it was part of a children carnival organized by a group of volunteers."

(I have downloaded and saved the original full length (6:23m) video as well as the various screenshots below.)

Cont. reading: Syria - Rebel Trained Children Perform "Chemical Attack" (Video)

Posted by b at 10:24 PM | Comments (106)

Syria Summary - Towards The End Of The Caliphate

This map from the last Syria summary shows the forming of two cauldrons north and north-west of Palmyra. ISIS forces there were enclosed by the Syrian army progressing eastwards on several axes.


Map by Weekend Warrior - bigger

Ten days later the most eastward of those cauldrons has been eliminated.


Map by Islamic World News - bigger

The Syrian army progresses further east and continues to move onto Deir Ezzor on three axes.

ISIS attempted counterattacks towards the supply line to Aleppo and along the Euphrates southeast of Raqqa. Both were defeated within a day or two and the attacking ISIS forces were eliminated. There is clearly a change in the pattern of ISIS deployment. It is now lacking manpower and is giving up in outlining areas. Its counterattacks use swarming tactics and lack the command and force of monolithic military units. In Iraq the army and the popular militia units took just 10 days to liberate the ISIS held city of Tal Afar. Of the estimated 2,000 ISIS forces there only some 200 non-locals had remained. 1,800 had been evacuated towards east-Syria, In the Qalamun area at the Lebanese border the Lebanese army and Hizbullah attacked the last ISIS enclave along that border. Today the remaining 200 ISIS fighters in the area agreed to lay down arms in exchange for an evacuation towards east-Syria.

Cont. reading: Syria Summary - Towards The End Of The Caliphate

Posted by b at 09:03 AM | Comments (59)

August 26, 2017

Open Thread 2017-33

News & views ...

Posted by b at 12:09 PM | Comments (100)

August 25, 2017

Countdown To War On Venezuela - Step II: Trump Imposes More Sanctions

A month ago we warned of the upcoming war on Venezuela. Such a war could blow up huge in many nations of the region.

The U.S. trained and financed opposition has tried to create violent chaos in the streets but failed to gain traction with the majority of the people. The only support it has inside the country is from the richer bourgeois in the major cities which despises the government's social justice program. Workers and farmers are better off under the social-democratic policies of first Hugo Chavez and now Nicolas Maduro. The coup attempt as step one of a U.S. takeover of Venezuela has failed.

Last month a new constitutional assembly was voted in and it is ready to defend the state. The opposition boycotted the election to the assembly but is now complaining that it has no seats in it. One of the assemblies first moves was to fire the renegade General Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz. She had condemned the government for its resistance to the coup attempts. She now has fled the country together with her husband. The Miami Herald admits that she is on the U.S. payroll:

Ortega, a longtime government insider who became chief prosecutor in 2007, is likely safeguarding some of the administration’s most damning legal secrets. And she’s thought to be working with U.S. law enforcement at a time when Washington is ratcheting up sanctions on Caracas.

Word is that Ortega's husband was blackmailed by the U.S. after he was involved in large illegal transactions.

U.S. President Trump threatened to use military force should the dully elected President Maduro not give up his position. The CIA head Pompeo recently visited countries neighboring Venezuela "trying to help them understand the things they might do". Did he suggest weapon supplies to some proxy forces or an outright invasion?

Today the Trump administration imposed severe sanctions on Venezuela:

The sanctions Trump signed by executive order prohibit financial institutions from providing new money to the government or state oil company PDVSA. It would also restrict PDVSA's U.S. subsidiary, Citgo, from sending dividends back to Venezuela as well as ban trading in two bonds the government recently issued to circumvent its increasing isolation from western financial markets.

Venezuela was prepared for at least some of these sanctions. A few moth ago the Russian oil giant Rosneft acquired a share of PDVSA and at least some oil sales are routed through that company:

Russian oil firm Rosneft has struck deals with several buyers for almost its entire quota of Venezuelan crude for the remainder of the year, traders told Reuters on Wednesday, the first time it has conducted such a large sale of the OPEC member’s oil.
...
Venezuela's oil deliveries to the United States have declined in recent years amid falling production, commercial issues, and sanctions on Venezuelan officials.

The White House statement calls Maduro a "dictator" and his Presidency "illegitimate". Both descriptions are laughable. Maduro was elected in free and fair elections. The former U.S. president Jimmy Carter called the election system in Venezuela the best in the world. The new sanctions will likely increase the support for the current government. 

The White House hinted at further economic measures:

In a call to brief reporters on the measures, the [senior Trump] official said the United States has significant influence over Venezuela's economy but does not want to wield it in an irresponsible manner that could further burden the already-struggling Venezuelan people.

Venezuela will now have some troubling times. But unless the U.S. launches an outright military attack on the country -by proxy of its neighbors, through mercenaries or by itself- the country will easily survive the unjust onslaught.

With 300 billion barrels the proven oil-reserves of Venezuela are the largest of the world. They are the reason why the U.S. wants to subjugate the country. But neither Russia nor China nor anyone else wants to see those reserves under U.S. control.

Posted by b at 02:21 PM | Comments (49)

August 24, 2017

Notes On The Junta, An Unnecessary Land-Corridor And A Regular Russian Maneuver

According to a 1950s political theory The Structure of Power in American Society is mainly build on three elite groups, the high military, the corporation executives and the political directorate. (The "political directorate" can best be described as the bureaucracy, the CIA and their proxies within Congress.)

On election day I noted that only the military had supported The Not-Hillary President. The corporate and executive corners of the triangle had pushed for Hillary Clinton and continued to do so even after Trump had won. (Only recently did the "collusion with Russia" nonsense suddenly die down.) I wrote:

The military will demand its due beyond the three generals now in Trump's cabinet.

That turned out to be right. A military junta is now ruling the United States:

Inside the White House, meanwhile, generals manage Trump’s hour-by-hour interactions and whisper in his ear — and those whispers, as with the decision this week to expand U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, often become policy.

At the core of Trump’s circle is a seasoned trio of generals with experience as battlefield commanders: White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster. The three men have carefully cultivated personal relationships with the president and gained his trust.
...
Kelly, Mattis and McMaster are not the only military figures serving at high levels in the Trump administration. CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke each served in various branches of the military, and Trump recently tapped former Army general Mark S. Inch to lead the Federal Bureau of Prisons. [...] the National Security Council [..] counts two other generals on the senior staff.

With the firing of the renegade Flynn and various other Trump advisors, the Junta has already removed all independent voices in the White House. It is now  attaching more control wires to its "salesperson" marionette:

The new system, laid out in two memos co-authored by [General] Kelly and Porter and distributed to Cabinet members and White House staffers in recent days, is designed to ensure that the president won’t see any external policy documents, internal policy memos, agency reports, and even news articles that haven’t been vetted.

Trump has a weakness for the military since he attended a New York military academy during his youth.

But he does not like to be controlled. I expect him to revolt one day. He will then find that it is too late and that he is actually powerless.

---

The Zionist propaganda is claiming that Iran is taking over Syria and that its sole concern is to create a land-corridor between Iran and Lebanon. The AP is now reporting this myth as if it were fact. The argument the AP writers make is illogical and fails:

The land-route would be the biggest prize yet for Iran in its involvement in Syria's six-year-old civil war. [...] It would facilitate movement of Iranian-backed fighters between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon as well as the flow of weapons to Damascus and Lebanon's Hezbollah, Iran's main proxy group.

That landline would facilitate something that, according to further AP "reporting", has already been achieved without it:

The route is largely being carved out by Iran's allies and proxies, a mix of forces including troops of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Hezbollah fighters and Shiite militias on both sides of the border aiming to link up. Iran also has forces of its own Revolutionary Guard directly involved in the campaign on the Syrian side.

So, apparently, Iran needs a land corridor to move weapons and fighters to Syria and Lebanon. To open that currently closed-off land corridor it has moved weapons and fighters to Syria and Lebanon. Somehow that argument is not convincing at all.

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The usual NATO propaganda outlets are retching up fear over an upcoming Russian maneuver:

Russia is preparing to mount what could be one of its biggest military exercises since the cold war, a display of power that will be watched warily by Nato against a backdrop of east-west tensions.

Western officials and analysts estimate up to 100,000 military personnel and logistical support could participate in the Zapad (West) 17 exercise, which will take place next month in Belarus, Kaliningrad and Russia itself.

It follows a lot of speculation and obvious bullshit. In reality Zaphad is a series of smaller maneuvers taking place over some six month. It includes local police and civil defense agencies which lets the numbers look big. Each year such maneuvers take place in one of the four military districts of Russia. The number of soldiers at the core of the exercise will amount to about a division size force of 13,000-15,000 troops. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is unusual with that maneuver but the NATO propaganda attempts to make it look like an imminent Russian invasion of western Europe.

Posted by b at 10:11 AM | Comments (120)

August 22, 2017

The U.S. Can Not Be Trusted - Case XXXIV: Trump Cheats On China Sanction Deal

During the ramp up to new UN sanctions on North Korea the Trump administration threaten to sanction China if it would not commit to further pressure. Trade measures against China were held back while the discussions about the resolution were ongoing:

An opportunity to hit North Korea with new United Nations sanctions has sidelined President Donald Trump’s bid to punish China for its alleged unfair trade practice.
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[O]n Thursday afternoon, senior administration aides postponed the announcement [of trade measures against China] at the urging of United Nations and State Department officials, who are in the sensitive final stages of convincing China to sign on to a U.N. resolution that would impose new sanctions on North Korea. U.N. and State Department officials warned that the trade announcement could kill their chances of winning Beijing’s buy-in, according to the officials.

Trump himself implied that he was willing to go for a quid pro quo:

While past presidents have tried at least ostensibly to keep security and economic issues on separate tracks in their dealings with China, Mr. Trump has explicitly linked the two, suggesting he would back off from a trade war against Beijing if it does more to pressure North Korea. “If China helps us, I feel a lot differently toward trade, a lot differently toward trade,” he told reporters...

A deal was made and the UN Resolution 2371 passed. China immediately implemented the relevant measures:

In an unprecedented move against North Korea, China on Monday issued an order to carry out the United Nations sanctions imposed on the rogue regime earlier this month.

China did its part of the deal. It helped pass the UN resolution against North Korea and it immediately implemented it even while that causes a significant loss for Chinese companies which trade with North Korea.

Now Trump is back at sanctioning Chinese (and Russian) companies:

The Trump administration on Tuesday imposed sanctions on 16 mainly Chinese and Russian companies and people for assisting North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs and helping the North make money to support those programs.
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Among those sanctioned are six Chinese companies, including three coal companies; two Singapore-based companies that sell oil to North Korea and three Russians that work with them; a Russian company that deals in North Korean metals and its Russian director; a construction company based in Namibia; a second Namibia-based company, and its North Korean director, that supplies North Korean workers to build statues overseas to generate income for the North.

These are "secondary sanctions" which block  financial transactions and make it nearly impossible for those companies and people to run an international business. Moreover - China had already banned all coal imports from North Korea. It had sent back North Korean coal ships and instead bought coal from the United States. Now Chinese companies get sanctioned over North Korean coal they no longer buy? Furthermore selling fuel oil to North Korea is explicitly allowed under the new UN sanctions. There is no reason to sanction any company over it.

The Chinese feel cheated:

Reuters World @ReutersWorld - 7:12pm · 22 Aug 2017

JUST IN: China urges U.S. to 'immediately correct its mistake' of sanctioning Chinese firms over North Korea - embassy spokesman

If the Trump administration insist of holding up these sanction China and Russia will obviously become negligent in controlling the sanctions imposed on North Korea. Why should they hold to their side of the deal, at great costs, when the U.S. does not hold up its side?

They will also stop at making any further deals with the Trump administration. It has now proven to be just as lying and cheating as the Obama administration has been. The U.S. can forget about ANY further action or sanctions at the UN.

This as extremely shortsighted and stupid way of handling international relations.

How does the U.S. hope to win anything in the long run when it behaves in such untrustworthy ways?

Posted by b at 02:41 PM | Comments (70)

August 21, 2017

Afghanistan - Trump To Announce Four More One-Year Wars

Updated below
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This evening Trump will announce a new "path forward" in the occupation of Afghanistan. According to the usual leaks it will be very same path the U.S. has taken for 16 years.

Several thousands soldiers from the U.S. and various NATO countries will (in vane) train the Afghan army. Special Forces and CIA goons will raid this or that family compound on someone's say-so. Bombs will be dropped on whatever is considered a target.

Trump will announce that 1,000 or so troops will be added to the current contingent. About 15,000 foreign troops will be in Afghanistan. About three contractors per each soldier will be additionally deployed.

Trump knows that this "path forward" is nonsense that leads nowhere, that the best option for all foreign troops in Afghanistan is to simply leave:

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump - 21 Nov 2013

We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let's get out!

But neither the military nor the CIA nor the local Afghan government will let the U.S. leave. Fear mongering is abound: "What happens if Afghanistan becomes a hotbed for international terrorists?" But few if any international terrorist incident in the "west" were ever organized in Afghanistan. In all recent incidents the culprits were locals.

For the military it is all about optics. The generals do not want to concede that they lost another war. The CIA wants to keep is militarized forces and drones which it justifies through its engagement in Afghanistan. The drug production in Afghanistan, which the U.S. never really tried to suppress, is rumored to finance "black" CIA operations just like it did during the Vietnam war and throughout various South American conflicts. The members of the Afghan government all live off U.S. largess. The war in Afghanistan is a racket paid for with the lives of countless Afghans and U.S. taxpayer money.

Now tightly under control of neo-conservative leaning generals Trump had little chance to make a different decision. He had asked his team for alternatives but none were given to him:

The president told McMaster “to go back to the drawing board,” the official said. “But he just kept coming back with the same thing.”

Trump's former strategic advisor Steve Bannon promoted an idea of Eric Prince, a shady provider of international mercenaries. Afghanistan would be given to a private for-profit entity comparable to the Brutish East-India Company. That company, with its own large army, robbed India of all possible valuables and nearly became a state of its own. But Prince and Bannon forgot to tell the end of that company's story. It came down after a large mutiny in India defeated its armed forces and had to be bailed out by the government. The end state of an East India Company like entity in Afghanistan would the same as it is now.

Then there is the fairy tale of the mineral rich Afghanistan. $1 trillion of iron, copper, rare-metals and other nice stuff could be picked out of the ground. But in reality the costs of picking minerals in Afghanistan is, for various reasons, prohibitive.

The Bannon/Prince plan was lunatic but it was at least somewhat different than the never changing ideas of the military:

The Defense Secretary [Mattis] has been using this line in meetings: "Mr. President, we haven't fought a 16-year war so much as we have fought a one-year war, 16 times."

That line has already been used five years ago to describe the war on Afghanistan. (It originally describes the 10 year war in Vietnam.) Mattis did not explain why or how that repetitive one year rhythm would now change.

A "new" part of the plan is to put pressure on Pakistan to stop the financing and supplying of Taliban groups. That is not in Pakistan's interest and is not going to happen. The Trump administration wants to hold back the yearly cash payment to the Pakistani military. This has been tried before and the Pakistani response was to close down the U.S. supply route to Afghanistan. An alternative supply route through Russia had been developed but has now been shut down over U.S. hostilities towards that country. The U.S. can not sustain a deployment in Afghanistan without a sea-land route into the country.

The Afghan army is, like the government, utterly corrupt and filled with people who do not want to engage in fighting. More "training" will not change that. The U.S. proxy government is limited to a few larger cities. It claims to control many districts but its forces are often constricted to central compounds while the Taliban rule the countryside. In total the Taliban and associated local war lords hold more than half of the country and continue to gain support. The alleged ISIS derivative in Afghanistan was originally formed out of Pakistani Taliban by the Afghan National Directorate of Security which is under the control of the CIA:

In Nangarhar, over a year ago, the vanguard of the movement was a group of Pakistani militants who had lived there for years as ‘guests’ of the Afghan government and local people. While initially avoiding attacks on Afghan forces, they made their new allegiances known by attacking the Taleban and taking their territory.

ISIS in Afghanistan, founded as an anti-Taliban force, is just another form of the usual Afghan warlordism.

During 16 years the U.S. failed to set a realistic strategic aim for the occupation of Afghanistan. It still has none. Without political aim the military is deployed in tactical engagements that make no long lasting differences. Any attempts to negotiate some peace in Afghanistan requires extensive engagement with the Taliban, Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran. No one in Washington is willing to commit to that.

Trump's likely decision means that the story of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan will continue throughout the next years exactly as it happened during the last 16 years. The decision, once made, is unlikely to change until the next presidential election. The 16 one-year-wars in Afghanistan will become 20 one-year-wars for no perceivable gain.

The only conceivable event that could change the situation is an incident with a large number of U.S. military casualties. That could lead to a groundswell of anti-war sentiment which could press Congress into legislating an end of the war. But are the Taliban interested in achieving that?

Update (Aug 22 2017):

Trump announced exactly what we predicted above. The military dictated the plan to him just like it did to Obama. Here is the transcript of Trump's speech. It is no different form the one Obama held in 2009: Undefined aims, undefined troop numbers, undefined time limits - bashing Pakistan (which will bash back) and no new idea at all. As long as the U.S. does not pull out the war will continue without any end in sight:

TOLOnews @TOLOnews - 4:43 AM - 22 Aug 2017

Taliban respond to US President #Trump’s announcement, claim to continue fighting “as long as US troops remain in #Afghanistan".

Posted by b at 01:54 PM | Comments (144)

August 20, 2017

Open Thread 2017-32

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:51 PM | Comments (98)

August 19, 2017

Ship Rudderless After Trump Drops Its Pilot

The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” Bannon said Friday, shortly after confirming his departure. “We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over.”

Bannon was the "Make America Great Again" guy in the White House. The strategist who had the populist ideas that brought the votes for Trump. Jobs, jobs, jobs,  infrastructure investments, immigration limits, taxing globalists were his issue.


Dropping the pilot - Punch 1890

Trump is no young German Emperor and Bannon is no chancellor Bismark. (Both would probably have liked those roles.) But with Bannon leaving, the Trump presidency is losing its chief strategist, the one person which set priorities and could set an alternative course for the ship of state under Trump's command.

The racist Huffington Post headline implies that Bannon prioritized the wrong country.

Cont. reading: Ship Rudderless After Trump Drops Its Pilot

Posted by b at 04:33 AM | Comments (180)

August 18, 2017

Syria Summary - Crossing The Euphrates At Deir Ezzor

The last three weeks in Syria were marked by further consolidation of the Syrian government positions. While this will likely continue, a new front of contention with the U.S. occupation force in north-east Syria is building up over Deir Ezzor city and the oil-rich rural areas east of it.


Map by Weekend Warrior - bigger

Last week the Syrian army liberated Sukhnah east of Palmyra from the Islamic State occupation. The fighting was less severe than anticipated. After nearly surrounding the city and the killing of the local ISIS commander the enemy forces mostly fled towards the Euphrates and Deir Ezzor.

Two large ISIS held pockets are forming in the east-Hama area. The 3,000 square-kilometer western encirclement is by now complete and remaining ISIS forces within the pocket are hunted down by Russian helicopters and Syrian army commandos. This will eliminate any danger for the narrow supply route to Aleppo city. The second pocket will soon close too. Within the next week the Syrian army will have consolidated the whole area. Troops currently concerned with surrounding the pockets will be freed for the push further east towards Deir Ezzor. There will be no more danger of large surprise attacks in the back of advancing forces.

One such attack recently overran a desert outpost and killed 18 fighters from an Iran-supported group on the Syrian government side. These lost units were replaced by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The injection of IRGC units is a new phenomenon. So far IRGC involvement was restricted to commanders of irregular units recruited from Iraq or Afghanistan or as advisors to Syrian army units, While Iran adds forces to the Syrian government side the Lebanese Hizbullah has reportedly reduced its involvement from a peak 20,000 forces to about 5,000. This was possible after several "rebel" held areas in west-Syria and near the Lebanese border were pacified and consolidated. The only area in the western part of Syria with active fighting is now the east-Ghouta enclave to the east of Damascus. A mix of fighters from al-Qaeda (Jabhat al-Nusra) and Salafists of the Faylaq Al-Rahman continued to reject ceasefire offers. After increasing losses over the past weeks and a difficult supply situation Faylaq Al-Rahman today gave up its resistance. It is only a question of time until the al-Qaeda elements will also agree to give up their fight and accept offers for an evacuation to Idleb province.

After the total defeat of Ahrar al-Sham Salafist groups Idleb has become the al-Qaeda refuge and stronghold in Syria. Turkey has limited supplies to the area to humanitarian goods and infighting between various local groups and al-Qaeda is causing daily carnage. For now no party - Syria, Turkey or the U.S. and its Kurdish proxies - is interested in the costly venture of liberating the area. It will be left to rot until spring.

Strategically the U.S. has lost the war it waged against Syria. All that is left is to defeat ISIS at Raqqa and to leave. But the imperial U.S. military, the neoconservatives and the liberal interventionists will not be happy with that outcome. They attempt to resist the inevitable.

Cont. reading: Syria Summary - Crossing The Euphrates At Deir Ezzor

Posted by b at 02:45 PM | Comments (39)

August 16, 2017

"Grown-ups" Versus "Ideologues"? The Media Narrative of the White House May Be All Wrong

Updated below (Aug 19 2017)

The Democrats and the media love the Pentagon generals in the White House. They are the "grown ups":

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., had words of praise for Donald Trump's new pick for national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster — calling the respected military officer a "certified, card-carrying grown-up,"

According to the main-stream narrative the "grown ups" are opposed by "ideologues" around Trump's senior advisor Steve Bannon. Bannon is even infectious, according to Jeet Heer, as he is Turning Trump Into an Ethno-Nationalist Ideologue. A recent short interview with Bannon dispels that narrative.

Who is really the sane person on, say, North Korea?

The "grown-up" General McMaster, Trump's National Security Advisor, is not one of them. He claims North Korea is not deterrable from doing something insane.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But your predecessor Susan Rice wrote this week that the U.S. could tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea the same way we tolerated nuclear weapons in the Soviet Union far more during the Cold War. Is she right?

MCMASTER: No, she’s not right. And I think the reason she’s not right is that the classical deterrence theory, how does that apply to a regime like the regime in North Korea? A regime that engages in unspeakable brutality against its own people? A regime that poses a continuous threat to the its neighbors in the region and now may pose a threat, direct threat, to the United States with weapons of mass destruction?

McMaster's was spewing nonsense. The same was said about the Soviet Union and China when they became nuclear weapons states. North Korea just became one. Conventional deterrence of both sides has worked with North Korea for decades. Nuclear deterrence with North Korea will work just as well as it did with the Soviet and Chinese communists. If North Korea were really not deterrable the U.S. should have nuked it yesterday to minimize the overall risk and damage. It is the McMaster position that is ideological and not rational or "grown up" at all.

Compare that to Steve Bannon's take on the issue:

“There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

It was indeed the Democratic People's Republic of Korea which "got" the United States and stopped the U.S. escalation game. It is wrong to think that North Korea "backed off" in the recent upheaval about a missile test targeted next to Guam. It was the U.S. that pulled back from threatening behavior.

Since the end of May the U.S. military trained extensively for decapitation and "preemptive" strikes on North Korea:

Two senior military officials — and two senior retired officers — told NBC News that key to the plan would be a B-1B heavy bomber attack originating from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.
...
Of the 11 B-1 practice runs since the end of May, four have also involved practice bombing at military ranges in South Korea and Australia.

In response to the B-1B flights North Korea published plans to launch a missile salvo next to the U.S. island of Guam from where those planes started. The announcement included a hidden offer to stop the test if the U.S. would refrain from further B-1B flights. A deal was made during secret negotiations. Since then no more B-1B flights took place and North Korea suspended its Guam test plans. McMaster lost and the sane people, including Steve Bannon, won.

But what about Bannon's "ethno-nationalist" ideology? Isn't he responsible for the right-wing nutters of Charlottesville conflict? Isn't he one of them?

He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: “Ethno-nationalism—it's losers. It's a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.”

“These guys are a collection of clowns,” he added.

Bannon sees China as an economic enemy and wants to escalate an economic conflict with it. He is said to be against the nuclear deal with Iran. The generals in Trump's cabinet are all anti-Iran hawks. As Bannon now turns out to be a realist on North Korea, I am not sure what real position on Iran is.

Domestically Bannon is pulling the Democrats into the very trap I had several times warned against:

“The Democrats,” he said, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

This worked well during the presidential election and might continue to work for Trump. As long as the Democrats do not come up with, and fight for, sane economic polices they will continue to lose elections. The people are not interested in LGBT access to this or that bathroom. They are interested in universal healthcare, in personal and economic security. They are unlikely to get such under Bannon and Trump.  But, unlike the Democrats, the current White House crew at least claim to have plans to achieve it.

Update (Aug 19 2017)

UPI reports:

Strategic assets of the U.S. military, including an aircraft carrier and a nuclear-powered submarine, may not be deployed during the upcoming joint exercises on the Korean peninsula.

South Korean television network SBS reported Friday the United States canceled plans to deploy the strategic assets during the drill set to begin next week, and the move is taking place a week after tensions spiked between Washington and Pyongyang.
...
The exercises known as Ulchi Freedom Guardian came under verbal attack from North Korea this week, when Pyongyang warned of a "second Korean War" should Seoul and Washington go ahead with the drills.

After a week of high tensions, Pyongyang also stated leader Kim Jong Un would "monitor" the United States before taking unprecedented measures against Guam, the location of a key U.S. air force base.

The U.S. not only held back the B-1B flights out of Guam but also scaled back on other strategic assets in its yearly training for a war on North Korea. The investment North Korea made with its nuclear and missile weapons is paying off.

Posted by b at 11:51 PM | Comments (115)

Smashing Statues, Seeding Strife

In the aftermath of competing protests in Charlottesville a wave of dismantling of Confederate statues is on the rise. Overnight Baltimore took down four Confederate statues. One of these honored Confederate soldiers and sailors, another one Confederate women. Elsewhere statues were toppled or defiled.

The Charlottesville conflict itself was about the intent to dismantle a statue of General Robert E. Lee, a commander of the Confederate forces during the American Civil War. The activist part of the political right protested against the take down, the activist part of the political left protested against those protests. According to a number of witnesses quoted in the LA Times sub-groups on both sides came prepared for and readily engaged in violence.

In 2003 a U.S. military tank pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein on Firdos Square in Baghdad. Narrowly shot TV picture made it look as if a group of Iraqis were doing this. But they were mere actors within a U.S. propaganda show. Pulling down the statue demonstrated a lack of respect towards those who had fought under, worked for or somewhat supported Saddam Hussein. It helped to incite the resistance against the U.S. occupation.

The right-wing nutters who, under U.S. direction, forcefully toppled the legitimate government of Ukraine pulled down hundreds of the remaining Lenin statues in the country. Veterans who fought under the Soviets in the second world war took this as a sign of disrespect. Others saw this as an attack on their fond memories of better times and protected them. The forceful erasement of history further split the country:

“It’s not like if you go east they want Lenin but if you go west they want to destroy him,” Mr. Gobert said. “These differences don’t only go through geography, they go through generations, through social criteria and economic criteria, through the urban and the rural.”

Statues standing in cities and places are much more than veneration of one person or group. They are symbols, landmarks and fragments of personal memories:

“One guy said he didn’t really care about Lenin, but the statue was at the center of the village and it was the place he kissed his wife for the first time,” Mr. Gobert said. “When the statue went down it was part of his personal history that went away.”

(People had better sex under socialism. Does not Lenin deserves statues if only for helping that along?)

Robert Lee was a brutal man who fought for racism and slavery. But there are few historic figures without fail. Did not George Washington "own" slaves? Did not Lyndon B. Johnson lie about the Gulf of Tonkin incident and launched an unjust huge war against non-white people under false pretense? At least some people will think of that when they see their statues. Should those also be taken down?

As time passes the meaning of a monument changes. While it may have been erected with a certain ideology or concept in mind, the view on it will change over time:

[The Charlottesville statue] was unveiled by Lee’s great-granddaughter at a ceremony in May 1924. As was the custom on these occasions it was accompanied by a parade and speeches. In the dedication address, Lee was celebrated as a hero, who embodied “the moral greatness of the Old South”, and as a proponent of reconciliation between the two sections. The war itself was remembered as a conflict between “interpretations of our Constitution” and between “ideals of democracy.”

The white racists who came to "protect" the statue in Charlottesville will hardly have done so in the name of reconciliation. Nor will those who had come to violently oppose them. Lee was a racist. Those who came to "defend" the statue were mostly "white supremacy" racists. I am all for protesting against them.

But the issue here is bigger. We must not forget that statues have multiple meanings and messages. Lee was also the man who wrote:

What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.

That Lee was a racist does not mean that his statue should be taken down. The park in Charlottesville, in which the statue stands, was recently renamed from Lee Park into Emancipation Park. It makes sense to keep the statue there to reflect on the contrast between it and the new park name. 

Old monuments and statues must not (only) be seen as glorifications within their time. They are reminders of history. With a bit of education they can become valuable occasions of reflection.

George Orwell wrote in his book 1984: “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” People do not want to be destroyed. They will fight against attempts to do so. Taking down monuments or statues without a very wide consent will split a society. A large part of the U.S. people voted for Trump. One gets the impression that the current wave of statue take downs is seen as well deserved "punishment" for those who voted wrongly - i.e. not for Hillary Clinton. While many Trump voters will dislike statues of Robert Lee, they will understand that dislike the campaign to take them down even more. 

That may be the intend of some people behind the current quarrel. The radicalization on opposing sides may have a purpose. The Trump camp can use it to cover up its plans to further disenfranchise they people. The fake Clintonian "resistance" needs these cultural disputes to cover for its lack of political resistance to Trump's plans.

Anyone who wants to stoke the fires with this issue should be careful what they wish for.

Posted by b at 12:16 PM | Comments (226)

August 14, 2017

Hyping North Korea To Relaunch Reagan's Star Wars?

Since Trump issued "fire and fury" threats against North Korea (the DPRK), sanity has taken over among serious people. The talk of preventive strikes on North Korea within the expert community has largely ended. It was never a seriously possibility. North Korea has many options to retaliate to any strike and all would come with catastrophic damage to South Korea and Japan and thereby to U.S. interests in Asia.

North Korea can be successfully deterred in the same way that all other nuclear weapon states are deterred from using their weapons. Unfortunately the National Security Advisor McMaster has not yet received that message:

STEPHANOPOULOS: But your predecessor Susan Rice wrote this week that the U.S. could tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea the same way we tolerated nuclear weapons in the Soviet Union far more during the Cold War. Is she right?

MCMASTER: No, she’s not right. And I think the reason she’s not right is that the classical deterrence theory, how does that apply to a regime like the regime in North Korea? A regime that engages in unspeakable brutality against its own people? A regime that poses a continuous threat to the its neighbors in the region and now may pose a threat, direct threat, to the United States with weapons of mass destruction? A regime that imprisons and murders anyone who seems to oppose that regime, including members of his own family, using sarin nerve gase (sic) -- gas in a public airport?

Classical deterrence worked against the Soviet Union as well as against Mao's China. (Vice versa it also worked against the United States.) Both were arguably, like North Korea, brutal against internal dissidents, threatening to their neighbors and military opponents of the United States. If they could be deterred than North Korea can also be deterred.

To set the Trump crew straight. China re-issued its guarantee for North Korea's security. The Global Times, a party owned but unofficial mouthpiece, wrote in an editorial:

"China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral," [..].

"If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so."

Any unprovoked war against North Korea would thereby escalate into a war with China and no one is seriously interested in that adventure. The only reasonable course is to negotiate some new level of balance between North Korean and U.S. interests.

The U.S. continues to run large scale maneuver together in South Korea and to fly nuclear capable strategic bombers near the North Korean borders. These actions necessitate that North Korea's military stays in expensive high alert against potential surprises. One aim of North Korea's nuclear armament is to lessen the necessity for such conventional preparedness.

North Korea has offered several times to stop all missile and nuclear testing if the U.S. stops its large maneuvers near its borders. The Trump administration rejected that offer but North Korea increased the pressure with its recent tests.

Last week North Korea again offered to decrease its own actions if the U.S. stops some of its provocations. It announced a possible test of four missiles targeted into the vicinity of the U.S. base on Guam. The strategic U.S. bombers flying near North Korea usually take off from Guam. Few noticed that the announcement was conditional and came with an offer:

Cont. reading: Hyping North Korea To Relaunch Reagan's Star Wars?

Posted by b at 01:51 PM | Comments (90)

August 13, 2017

Charlottesville: What You Wish Upon Others, You Wish Upon Yourself

U.S. "liberals" cuddle fascists and right-wing religious extremists in Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela and elsewhere.

But when similar movements appear on their own streets they are outraged.

The person in the center on the above picture drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters in Charlottesville killing one and wounding several.

Politicians and media hail such persons when they appear, often hired by the CIA, to overthrow the government of some foreign country. They condemn the same mindset and actions at home. But glorification of right-wing violence elsewhere hands justification to right-wing groups at home.

Cont. reading: Charlottesville: What You Wish Upon Others, You Wish Upon Yourself

Posted by b at 02:02 PM | Comments (196)

August 12, 2017

Shireen Al-Adeimi - Has The War In Yemen Become A Spectator Sport?

Shireen Al-Adeimi (@shireen818) was born in Aden, south Yemen. She is currently a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The text below was copied from Shireen Al-Adeimi's Twitter thread published on August 11 2017.


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Has the war in Yemen become a spectator sport?

My thread may be long, but I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read it.

The war on Yemen rages, yet, Yemenis' plight is STILL not receiving the attention it deserves - not from the media, nor from politicians. When Yemen's not totally ignored, facts are obscured because confronting our countries' active participation in destroying Yemen is inconvenient. While rich Arab states bombard Yemen with fancy (Western-purchased) weapons and hire mercenaries as ground troops, many are afraid to confront the Saudis and face financial consequences (e.g. the UN) or are themselves implicated and/or profiteering (e.g. the U.S./UK). So United Nations offers "concerns” and UK expresses its desire to "find a political solution" while they fill their pockets at the expense of Yemeni lives. And while citizens are often oblivious to their governments' crimes, many know about #Yemen but are not doing enough with this knowledge.

Has Yemen become a spectator sport? For two and a half years, Yemeni children’s dead or emaciated bodies have been splattered all across our screens. Some shed tears, others donate, few hold politicians accountable, but most just turn away. Is it helplessness or indifference? I can't tell. Yemenis are not knocking on Europe’s door because we are trapped by a land/air/sea blockade. Are we 'out of sight out of mind'? I can’t tell. Someone once told me Yemeni children are not ‘photogenic’ enough to draw emphatic responses. Is racism/discrimination at play? I can’t tell. Or are Yemeni wallets not heavy enough to purchase or at least demand international attention, condemnation, and action? I also can’t tell.

What I can tell is that the world is watching. They watch our kids die of curable diseases like cholera because they have no access clean water. They watch our children die of hunger in a time of immense global wealth because their parents can not afford what little food is available. They watch as our children, women and men are killed by U.S.-supported, Saudi airstrikes that target homes, schools, and hospitals alike. When people are asked to engage with elected officials (even by simply signing a petition like: Save Yemen) only a few engage. Even when we ask for our stories to be shared with wider audiences, we're ignored (I was told that readership on Yemen news is in the tens).

I and other Yemenis not only have our families in mind, but millions who ca not access the most basic of needs: safety, shelter, food, and water. I feel totally and utterly helpless. I struggle with sharing stories of dying Yemeni children when I know that no one will come to their rescue. I cry, from the depths of my soul, for a nation that suffers in silence all the while exemplifying the true meaning of faith and resistance. I mourn the children whose little bodies gave up fighting in the time it took you to read this thread. And I pray for Yemen.

---

Earlier Moon of Alabama coverage of Yemen:

Posted by b at 12:13 PM | Comments (50)

August 11, 2017

Open Thread 2017-31

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:54 PM | Comments (115)

August 10, 2017

NYT - Russia Wants Innovation, But It’s Arresting Its Fraudsters

Russia is BAD we are told on a daily base. It is hacking U.S. elections it is claimed, even when the evidence says it did not do so. The public is only mildly convinced by the anti-Russian propaganda campaign.

The attempt of the borg to reignite a cold war and to vilify Russia is hampered by that fact that Russia is no longer an ideological enemy of the "west". Russia is no longer communist and there are no soviets ruling it. Today's Russia is indeed capitalist and even neo-liberal.

The new way to vilify Russia must then proceed on a different route. "Yes, Russia is capitalist, but it is capitalist in a bad way." Thus we get this NYT headline and story: Russia Wants Innovation, but It’s Arresting Its Innovators:

AKADEMGORODOK, Russia — Dmitri Trubitsyn is a young physicist-entrepreneur with a patriotic reputation, seen in this part of Siberia as an exemplar of the talents, dedication and enterprise that President Vladimir V. Putin has hailed as vital for Russia’s future economic health.

Yet Mr. Trubitsyn faces up to eight years in jail after a recent raid on his home and office here in Akademgorodok, a Soviet-era sanctuary of scientific research that was supposed to showcase how Mr. Putin’s Russia can harness its abundance of talent to create a modern economy.

A court last Thursday extended Mr. Trubitsyn’s house arrest until at least October, which bars him from leaving his apartment or communicating with anyone other than his immediate family.

Noticed how bad Putin is? How very authoritarian his government thugs are? They even arrest an "entrepreneur with a patriotic reputation"!

But why is the man in front of a court?

Mr. Trubitsyn, 36, whose company, Tion, manufactures high-tech air-purification systems for homes and hospitals, is accused of risking the lives of hospital patients, and trying to lift profits, by upgrading the purifiers so they would consume less electricity.

Most important, he is accused of doing this without state regulators certifying the changes.

"Upgrading" something so "it consumes less electricity" is of course good. We all know this.

Ten paragraphs follow to further convince us that the guy is really on the good side and that Putin led Russia is bad, bad, bad.

Only then do we learn what Trubitsyn's company really did:

[Chief technical officer] Amelkin said the company was approached by the regulatory agency and said that it had changed its design and removed a supplementary filtering device that laboratory tests had shown was redundant and wasted electricity. The company then amended its registration documents and thought the matter was over, Mr. Amelkin said.

So here is what really happened. The company produces licensed medical filter equipment. It eliminated one stage of the expensive filters and sold the degraded equipment without telling anyone about the change.

Yes, the modified equipment does "consume less electricity". It does so because it filters less than it is supposed to do. The degraded and cheaper produced medical product was sold without a valid license. Finally some of the companies competitors noticed this and informed the regulators about the dangerous fraud. The "Innovator" CEO of the company was arrested for fraud and will have to go to jail.

That all seems very normal to me and the way product regulation should work. When some German car manufacturers cheated with diesel emission tests their U.S. competitors complained and the regulator put some company officials to jail. That was lauded, even in the NYT, as good regulation. But when Russia does the very same it is defamed as stifling innovation.

Propaganda works. The author of the NYT piece managed to convince his readers. Of the current 29 "Reader recommended" comments 28 are negative towards Russia. Only one commentator, from Vancouver, points out that the system worked as it is supposed to work everywhere. That the company was penalized for a fraudulent product and the responsible manager punished.

One wonders how the author of the piece, and his Russia bashing readers, would feel about insufficiently filtered air when they lie in intensive care.

Posted by b at 03:02 PM | Comments (60)

August 09, 2017

Stop The Bluster - North Korea Is A Nuclear Weapon State

The Washington Post headlined today:  Trump threatens ‘fire and fury’ in response to North Korean threats

Just another Trump bluster, I thought. Such are mo longer a reason to read a story. But what are those "North Korean threats" he "responded" to? I had not seen any of those. Diving into the story I found :

President Trump used his harshest language yet to warn North Korea on Tuesday that it will be “met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before,” if it does not stop threatening the United States.
...
It was not immediately clear what Trump was responding to.

The Washington Post needs to fire its headline writer. Why assert that Trump responded to "threats" when there were none? Why assert a reason when you have no fucking clue why he did what he did?

A different shabby site claims that the base for Trump's played-up nonsense was a WaPo piece published the day before:

The president was responding to a report in the Washington Post that, according to a confidential U.S. intelligence assessment presented late last month, the North Korean regime has “successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles.”

That report was again just bluster. The DPRK (North Korea) had announced a miniaturized nuclear device in March 2016. It even published pictures of it.

On July 4th the DPRK launched its first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. A second test was successfully launched on July 29 under realistic operational conditions. The DPRK successfully tested nuclear devices at least five times - including a hydrogen device with potentially megatons of explosive power. It has enough nuclear material for some 40-60 weapons. All DPRK claims about progress in its missile and nuke programs have, sooner or later, been proven as truthful. There was and is no reason to doubt its March 2016 assertion.

North Korea is for all practical purposes a nuclear weapon state with the ability to deliver nukes onto the continental United States.

This is not news. Talk about "fire and fury" or an ultimatum to North Korea or of preemptive strikes is all nonsense. Nothing the U.S. can do to North Korea can prevent a response that would nuke and destroy Washington DC or some other U.S. city.

North Korea has good reasons to want nukes and the U.S. missed all chances to remove those reasons. It is way too late to lament about that.

Posted by b at 02:02 PM | Comments (113)

August 08, 2017

Equality Or Diversity? - An 'Outrageous' Memo Questions Google

A Google engineer, James Damore, recently wrote an internal memo about "Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber - How bias clouds our thinking about diversity and inclusion":

At Google, we’re regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership. Of course, men and women experience bias, tech, and the workplace differently and we should be cognizant of this, but it’s far from the whole story. On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways. These differences aren’t just socially constructed because:
- ...
- ...

Google company policy is in favor of "equal representation" of both genders. As the existing representation in tech jobs is unequal that policy has led to hiring preferences, priority status and special treatment for the underrepresented category, in this case women.

The author says that this policy is based on ideology and not on rationality. It is the wrong way to go, he says. Basic differences, not bias, are (to some extend) responsible for different representations in tech jobs. If the (natural) different representation is "cured" by preferring the underrepresented, the optimal configuration can not be achieved.

The author cites scientific studies which find that men and women (as categories, not as specific persons) are - independent of cultural bias - unequal in several social perspectives. These might be life planning, willingness to work more for a higher status, or social behavior. The differences evolve from the natural biological differences between men and women. A gender preference for specific occupations and positions is to be expected, Cultural bias alone can not explain it. It therefore does not make sense to strive for equal group representation in all occupations.


From James Damore's memo

From there he points to the implementation of Google's policy and concludes:

Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.

Google fired the engineer. Its 'Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance' stated:

We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company. [..] Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.

(Translation: "You are welcome to discuss your alternative policy views - unless we disagree with them.")

The current public discussion of the case evolves around "conservative" versus "progressive", "left" versus "right" categories. That misses the point the author makes: Google's policy is based on unfounded ideology, not on sciences.

The (legal) "principle of equality" does not imply that everyone and everything must be handled equally. It rather means that in proportion with its equality the same shall be treated equally, and in proportion with its inequality the different shall be treated unequally.

The author asks: Are men and women different? Do these differences result in personal occupation preferences? He quotes the relevant science and answers these questions with "yes" and "yes". From that follows a third question: What is the purpose of compelled equal representation in occupations when the inherent (natural gender) differences are not in line with such an outcome?

Several scientist in the relevant fields have stated that the author's scientific reasoning is largely correct. The biological differences between men and women do result in observable social and psychological differences which are independent of culture and its biases. It is to be expected that these difference lead to different preferences of occupations.

Moreover: If men and women are inherently equal (in their tech job capabilities) why does Google need to say that "diversity and inclusion are critical to our success"? Equality and diversity are in this extend contradictory. (Why, by the way, is Google selling advertising-space with "male" and "female" as targeting criteria?)

If women and men are not equal, we should, in line with the principle of equality, differentiate accordingly. We then should not insist on or strive for equal gender representation in all occupations but accept a certain "gender gap" as the expression of natural differences.

It is sad that Google and the general society avoid to discuss the questions that the author of the memo has asked. That Google fires him only confirms his claim that Google's policy is not based on science and rationality but on a non-discussible ideology.

Posted by b at 01:41 PM | Comments (164)

August 06, 2017

New Sanctions Against Russia - A Failure Of U.S. Strategy

Recently the U.S. congress legislated sanctions against the Russian Federation over alleged, but completely unproven, interference in the U.S. presidential elections. The vote was nearly unanimous.

President Trump signed these sanctions into law. This was a huge and stupid mistake. He should have vetoed them, even as a veto would likely be overturned. With his signing of the law Trump gave up the ability to stay on somewhat neutral grounds towards Russia. This for no gain to him at all.

Sanctions by Congress are quasi eternal. The 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment restricted trade with the then "Communist block". It was supposed to press for Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union to Israel. But even after the Soviet Union broke down in the early 1990s, after the "communist block" had disappeared and long after any limits on emigrations had been lifted, the law and its economic sanctions stayed in place. It was only lifted in 2012 and only to be immediately replaced by the ludicrous Magnitsky act which immediately established a new set of sanctions against the Russian Federation and its interests.

The new additional sanctions, like the Jackson-Vanik amendment and the Magnitsky act, were shaped by domestic U.S. policy issues. There is nothing Russia could have done to avoid them and there is nothing it can do to have them lifted.

The new U.S. sanctions are not only directed against Russia but against any company and nation that cooperates with Russia over energy. This a little disguised attempt to press European countries into buying expensive U.S. liquefied natural gas instead of cheap Russian gas delivered by pipelines. The immediate target is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany which passes through the Baltic Sea to avoid potential conflict points in east Europe. The sanctions are a threat to an independent German energy policy. (Additional partners in the pipeline are Austria, France and the Netherlands.)  Consequently 35% of Germans name the U.S. as a "major threat to the country". Russia is seen as such by only 33%. This view is consistent with the global perception.

These sanctions will shape U.S.-Russian relation for the next 30 plus years. On August 2 the Russian Prime Minister Medvedev pointed to the weakness of President Trump as the main reason for these sanctions:

The US President's signing of the package of new sanctions against Russia will have a few consequences. First, it ends hopes for improving our relations with the new US administration. Second, it is a declaration of a full-fledged economic war on Russia. Third, the Trump administration has shown its total weakness by handing over executive power to Congress in the most humiliating way. This changes the power balance in US political circles.

What does it mean for them? The US establishment fully outwitted Trump; the President is not happy about the new sanctions, yet he could not but sign the bill. The issue of new sanctions came about, primarily, as another way to knock Trump down a peg. New steps are to come, and they will ultimately aim to remove him from power. A non-systemic player has to be removed. Meanwhile, the interests of the US business community are all but ignored, with politics chosen over a pragmatic approach. Anti-Russian hysteria has become a key part of both US foreign policy (which has occurred many times) and domestic policy (which is a novelty).
...

Remember that Medvedev as Russian leader was, for a long time, the "hope" of the U.S. establishment. He was perceived as more amenable than the Russian President Putin. Medvedev may well become president again. But no U.S. media except the New York Post took notice of his statement. That in itself is astonishing and frightening. Can no one in the U.S. see where this will lead to? Medvedev predicts:

The sanctions regime has been codified and will remain in effect for decades unless a miracle happens. [...] [R]elations between Russia and the United States are going to be extremely tense regardless of Congress’ makeup and regardless of who is president. Lengthy arguments in international bodies and courts are ahead, as well as rising international tensions and refusal to settle major international issues.

Economically and politically Russia can and will cope with these sanctions, says Medvedev. But can the U.S.?

The supreme global role of the U.S. depends on preventing a Euro-Asian alliance between, mainly, Russia and China. In his latest "grand chessboard" piece Toward a Global Realignment the U.S. strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski - ruthless, amoral and capable - asserts:

[I]t behooves the United States to fashion a policy in which at least one of the two potentially threatening states becomes a partner in the quest for regional and then wider global stability, and thus in containing the least predictable but potentially the most likely rival to overreach. Currently, the more likely to overreach is Russia, but in the longer run it could be China.

The U.S. foreign policy establishment has declared war on Russia. The confrontational position towards China, which was en vogue under Obama, has noticeably changed. The Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama "pivot to Asia" was cancelled. The anti-Chinese Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement has been called off. Military provocations of China in the South Chinese Sea have been reduced and replaced by continuous provocations against Russia in eastern Europe. These steps follow the strategy Brzezinski laid out.

Russia has historically proven to be resourceful in its policies. It is extremely resistant to pressure. With the U.S. in a less hostile position against China, the behemoth will relentlessly press its own advantage. Russia will soon be one of China's main sources of fossil energy and other commodities. There is no major reason for China and Russia to disagree with each other. Under these circumstances the hoped for Russian-Chinese split will not happen. Core European countries will resist pressures that endanger their economies.

The Brzezinski strategy is clouded by a personal hate against Russia. (He is descendant of minor noble Galician-Polish family.) It is flawed as it enables China to establish its primacy. Even under Brzezinski's framework a Russian-European-U.S. alliance against Chinese pursuit of hegemony would have been the more logical way to go.

Hillary Clinton's strategy to blame Russia for her lack of likability and her failure in the election now results in a major failure of U.S. grand strategy. An organized White House policy could have prevented that but there is no such thing (yet) under Trump.

I fail to see how the current strategy, now enshrined by congressional sanctions, could ever end up in an overall advantage for the United States.

Posted by b at 10:25 AM | Comments (137)

August 04, 2017

Michael Brenner - The Linear Mindset In U.S. Foreign Policy

by Michael Brenner

In the reproof of Chance
Lies the true proof of men

William Shakespeare (or David Petraeus)

O to be self-balanced for contingencies,
To confront night, storms, hunger, ridicule, accidents, rebuffs, as the trees and animals do
Walt Whitman (or Barack Obama)

CONTINGENCY is part of the natural order of life. Things happen that we have no control over – or, at least, cannot determine. Things happen that are unexpected – that catch us unawares. It’s one reason why "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley." If your projects are something less than well planned, then you are in even bigger trouble. And if you were flying by the seat of your pants in the first place, then the risks and costs mount. That is what has been occurring to American foreign policy in the Middle East. The phenomenon pre-dates the arrival of the inchoate Trump administration. Barack Obama’s amateurish foreign policy team had its own feckless tendencies. Its Bush predecessor at least knew what they wanted to do but lacked a feasible scheme to reach its dubious goals.

There are features of how the United States makes and executes foreign policy that help to explain why Washington is repeatedly thrown into confusion by unforeseen developments. Most significant is a certain linearity of thinking and action. It takes literally the proposition that since the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, the most efficient approach to getting from where we are now to where we want to go is to set our bearings accordingly. What lies between points A and B will yield to American know-how, ingenuity and force of will. That’s how we fought World War II in Europe. It was close to being a lock-step operation – especially after the Battle of the Bulge when Eisenhower ordered that the allied armies should proceed along an even front lest the Germans exploit geographical discontinuities. We tried to follow a linear battle plan in Vietnam (or as close to one as circumstances permitted) and paid the price for it. Even in Gulf War I, Schwarzkopf’s initial plan called for a “bull rush” to Kuwait City.

Our interventions in the Greater Middle East over the past 15 years exhibit similar patterns.

In AFGHANISTAN, we set ourselves the audacious objective of cleansing the country of all Taliban presence or influence. In 2002 that is close to what happened – but not due mainly to what we did. The Taliban simply melted away as members returned to their towns and villages taking with them only such weapons as were considered ordinary household accoutrements. Only a few leaders took refuge across the border harboring vague hopes of doing something or other down the road – as all forlorn exiles always do.

Neither Central Command nor the civilian holy warriors fully appreciated the gift they were being given. It wasn’t recognized, in part, because it did not fit their conventional notion of how you defeat an enemy and the state he is in once defeated. Linear thinking could not grasp the nature of the Taliban or the nature of Afghan society. And they really did not want to. That required too much imagination and intellectual adjustment. Moreover, we wanted vengeance for 9/11 – that was the driving force then and in everything that we’ve done subsequently. So we set about resurrecting the Taliban: by draconian assault on whomever we vaguely suspected of having been the bad guys (most often based on faulty, planted Intelligence we had no means to winnow); a lot of breaking into compounds; the backing of warlords – big and small, old and new – who wormed their way into the good graces of the Americans nominally in charge; by making deals with heroin bosses like Haji Bashar in Kandahar who financed both Afghan sides in the war; and by recasting the mission as one of transforming Afghanistan into the “good society” which never again would spawn violent jihadis who hated America. This last fell within the mental grasp of policy-makers and public alike since it jived with American idealism and our successes 60 years earlier in Japan and Germany.

In an odd sense, Washington needed a revived Taliban and the Taliban leaders needed the Americans.

Cont. reading: Michael Brenner - The Linear Mindset In U.S. Foreign Policy

Posted by b at 10:58 AM | Comments (109)

August 03, 2017

Why Petraeus, Obama And Brennan Should Face 5,000 Years In Prison

California CEO Allegedly Smuggled Rifle Scopes to Syria - Daily Beast, August 1 2017

Rasheed Al Jijakli,[the CEO of a check-cashing business who lives in Walnut,] along with three co-conspirators, allegedly transported day and night vision rifle scopes, laser boresighters used to adjust sights on firearms for accuracy when firing, flashlights, radios, a bulletproof vest, and other tactical equipment to Syrian fighters.
...
If Jijakli is found guilty, he could face 50 years in prison. Jijakli’s case is being prosecuted by counterintelligence and Terrorism and Export Crimes Section attorneys. An FBI investigation, in coordination with other agencies, is ongoing.
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Under Trump, a Hollowed-Out Force in Syria Quickly Lost C.I.A. Backing - NY Times*, August 2, 2017

C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, recommended to President Trump that he shut down a four-year-old effort to arm and train Syrian rebels.
...
Critics in Congress had complained for years about the costs [...] and reports that some of the C.I.A.-supplied weapons had ended up in the hands of a rebel group tied to Al Qaeda
...
In the summer of 2012, David H. Petraeus, who was then C.I.A. director, first proposed a covert program of arming and training rebels
...
[Mr. Obama signed] a presidential finding authorizing the C.I.A. to covertly arm and train small groups of rebels
-...
John O. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s last C.I.A. director, remained a vigorous defender of the program ...

When will the FBI investigate Messrs Petraeus, Obama and Brennan? Where are the counterintelligence and Terrorism and Export Crimes Section attorneys prosecuting them? Those three men engaged in the exactly same trade as Mr. Jijakil did, but on a much larger scale. They should be punished on an equally larger scale.

 

* Note: The NYT story is largely a whitewash. It claims that the CIA paid "moderate" FSA rebels stormed Idleb governate in 2015. In fact al-Qaeda and Ahrar al Sham were leading the assault. It says that costs of the CIA program was "more than $1 billion over the life of the program" when CIA documents show that it was over $1 billion per year and likely much more than $5 billion in total. The story says that the program started in 2013 while the CIA has been providing arms to the Wahhabi rebels since at least fall 2011.

Posted by b at 05:15 AM | Comments (54)

August 01, 2017

Reuters Suggests But Can Not Find "Iran's new route to Yemen"

The Trump administration is filled with people who, for whatever reason, hate Iran. These people are attempting to break the "nuclear deal" with Iran and other powers. Their propaganda accuses Iran of every "evil" in this world. Their position is fully in line with the Israeli-Saudi anti-Iran axis.

Since the U.S., the UK and the Saudis wage war against Yemen they claim that Iran is allied with the Zaydi people of northern Yemen who, together with the Yemeni army, resist the Saudi invasion. Iran is regularly accused of smuggling weapons to them even as no evidence for this has ever been shown.

Reuters jumps into the breach with this fantastic fake-news item: Exclusive: Iran Revolutionary Guards find new route to arm Yemen rebels:

LONDON (Reuters) - Iran's Revolutionary Guards have started using a new route across the Gulf to funnel covert arms shipments to their Houthi allies in Yemen's civil war, sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters.
...
For the last six months the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has begun using waters further up the Gulf between Kuwait and Iran as it looks for new ways to beat an embargo on arms shipments to fellow Shi'ites in the Houthi movement, Western and Iranian sources say.

Using this new route, Iranian ships transfer equipment to smaller vessels at the top of the Gulf, where they face less scrutiny. The transhipments take place in Kuwaiti waters and in nearby international shipping lanes, the sources said.

"Parts of missiles, launchers and drugs are smuggled into Yemen via Kuwaiti waters," said a senior Iranian official. "The route sometimes is used for transferring cash as well."

The writer of that Reuters piece is one Jonathan Saul. Other most recent piece on his Reuters page are: European banks struggle to solve toxic shipping debt problem, Global shipping feels fallout from Maersk cyber attack and Lenders to ramp up pressure on holders of toxic shipping debt - survey. Older stories by Saul have similar headlines. Saul writes from London about the global shipping industry. That surely qualifies him as an expert on Yemen.

But even an expert can err. The Houthi are not Shia in the sense that Iran is predominantly Shia. They are Zaidi and follow the Hanafi school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence. They pray in same mosques as Sunni believers do. Using the term Shia for the Zaidi side of the Yemen conflict is a lazy repeat of unfounded Saudi claims which try to set any local conflict in the Middle East into a "Sunni-Shia" frame even when that is completely inappropriate. As the Carnegie Endowment states:

Claims of Iran’s influence over the Houthis have been overblown. While the Houthis do receive some support from Iran, it is mostly political, with minimal financial and military assistance. However, since the Houthis took control of Sanaa, the group has increasingly been portrayed as “Iran-backed” or “Shia,” often suggesting a sectarian relationship with the Islamic Republic. Yet until after the 2011 upheavals, the term “Shia” was not used in the Yemeni public to refer to any Yemeni groups or individuals.

The Reuters piece comes with this rather unhelpful map.

 

While that map (bigger, original link) is headlined "Iran's new route to Yemen" it shows no route at all.

Cont. reading: Reuters Suggests But Can Not Find "Iran's new route to Yemen"

Posted by b at 02:24 PM | Comments (102)

July 30, 2017

Venezuela Coup "Could Blow Up Huge In Many Nations Of The Region"

by Debs is Dead
lifted from a comment

I see somebody has been blathering about the lack of 'democracy' in Venezuela as if it was the Chavezists who were to blame.

The president was elected by the people in a fair election and Chavezists also won the majority in the parliament/constituent assembly, the moment that happened the elitists financed opposition coups pushed out propaganda that was no more than libelous lies and began a programe of overt subversion.

They have continued this for the last 19 years and the irony is of course that if they hadn't done so and instead conducted themselves democratically they may have had a look in at government or coalition by now, but they chose what they thought was the easy way to gutting Venezuela's economy.

The result of the corporate capitalists activities has been the same as it always is when they push illegal acts of insurrection to try and force a reactive oppression - people lose and get hurt.

It is interesting to note that when the coalitions of street kids angry at everything and the sons and daughters of the once protected bourgeoisie hit the streets in their tiny bands to throw rocks and Molotov cocktails the police are very muted in their response - police in Venezuela don't normally carry sidearms but the riot police carry weapons that can only fire anti riot projectiles that are designed to hurt but not main or kill, they also have plastic shields but their actions have been much less violent than those of say the amerikan police - especially when you consider that more than 20 police have been killed in these riots.

I didn't get this info from RT news or any other oppositional news service I got it from the BBC who were desperate to find a shock horror story. They found a kid who had been arrested for throwing bricks at the police and he said that while he was locked up his interrogators demanded that he tell them the leadership or they would rape him "Did you tell them?" says Mr Beeb, "No" says the kid "so did they rape you?" asks Mr Beeb "NO but one of my cellmates had a black eye!" the kid responds.

Yeah right horrible oppression by those commies eh! The fact the beeb were in there trying on this story and running it on englander TV last night suggests that b may be correct when he says amerika is about to try and kick something off. The shots of protesters were all filmed up close - no wide views lest viewers see how few people were protesting, the entire piece could be regarded as a farce except that there is an undercurrent of amerikan violence.

As for the military - yes Cubans were brought in to train the army at the start of the Bolivaran revolution because the army was recruited from the ordinary people - not the usual younger sons of the bourgeoisie so outsiders were needed to train them. Some Cubans liked it so much they elected to stay on but the vast majority of Venezuelan military are local and if they seriously wanted to stage a coup it would be trivial to round up Cubans in a night and go in hard, but the military don't have any such intention, they are loyal to the head of state they swore an oath to.

I really hope that Trump and co don't decide that Venezuela be the victim of his need to divert attention away from his own travails - the result will be much worse even than the bloodthirsty contras of Nicaragua. The war will be long and bloody and it is highly doubtful that amerika could win without terrible violence. Even though the current governments in Central and South America are more 'sympathetic' to amerikan imperialism than those of a decade ago, it is highly unlikely that many if any will openly assist amerika because their own populations will go ape-shit if they do.

This (amerikan interference) could blow up huge and destroy the fragile agreements in place in many nations of the region.

For what? So that rich arse-holes can get richer?

Posted by b at 06:39 AM | Comments (154)

July 28, 2017

Countdown To War On Venezuela

On Sunday Venezuela will hold an general election of participants of a constitutional assembly. Half of the representatives will be elected from regular electoral districts. The other half will be elected from and by eight special constituencies like "workers", "farmers", "employers", etc. The second part may be unusual but is no less democratic than the U.S. system which gives voters in rural states more weight than city dwellers.

The new assembly will formulate changes to the current constitution. Those changes will be decided on in another general vote. It is likely that the outcome will reinforce the favorite policies of a great majority of the people and of the social-democratic government under President Manduro.

The more wealthy part of the population as well as the foreign lobbies and governments have tried to prevent or sabotage the upcoming election. The U.S. has used various economic pressure points against the Venezuelan government including economic warfare with ever increasing sanctions. The opposition has held violent street rallies, attacked government institutions and supporters and called for general strikes.

But the NYT propaganda pictures of opposition rallies in the capitol Caracas show only small crowds of dozens to a few hundred of often violent youth. The opposition calls for general strikes have had little resonance as even the feverish anti-Maduro Washington Post has to concede:

In the wealthier eastern half of the city, most businesses closed to support the strike called by the opposition, which is boycotting the vote and calling for its cancellation.

The main highways of the capital city were largely closed down in the early morning, and reports surfaced of national police lobbing tear gas at strikers in the center. In the poorer neighborhoods in the west, the strike appeared less pronounced, with more businesses open and more people on the streets.

(Translation of the WaPo propagandese: "Not even the rich opposition neighborhoods of the city closed down completely. Attempts by the opposition to block central roads were prevented by the police. In the poorer parts of the city the opposition call for a strike was simply ignored.") The opposition is only active within the richer strata of the population and only in a few big cities. The poor rural areas have gained under the social-democratic governments and continue to favor it.

In an op-ed in yesterday's New York Times the "regime change" lobby of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) laid out the steps towards an upcoming war in Venezuela:

Since the plebiscite, Venezuela’s opposition has taken steps toward establishing a parallel government. This might remain a symbolic initiative. But if the opposition continues down this road, it will soon be looking for international recognition and funding, and will at least implicitly be asserting the parallel government’s claim to the legitimate monopoly on the use of force. After that it will seek what every government wants: weapons to defend itself. If it succeeds, Venezuela could plunge into a civil war that will make the current conflict seem like high school fisticuffs.

(The WOLA was also involved in Hillary Clinton's coup in Honduras.)

The CIA is quite open about the plans:

In one of the clearest clues yet about Washington’s latest meddling in the politics of Latin America, CIA director Mike Pompeo said he was “hopeful that there can be a transition in Venezuela and we the CIA is doing its best to understand the dynamic there”.

He added: “I was just down in Mexico City and in Bogota a week before last talking about this very issue, trying to help them understand the things they might do so that they can get a better outcome for their part of the world and our part of the world.”

The piece notes:

In Venezuela, [the U.S. government] has sought to weaken the elected governments of both Mr Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez, who was briefly ousted in a 2002 coup. Some of the effort has been in distributing funds to opposition groups through organisations such as the National Endowment for Democracy, while some has been in the form of simple propaganda.

In May 2016 unidentified US officials told reporters in a background briefing that Venezuela was descending into a deepening “crisis” that could end in violence.

We can conclude that the upcoming violence in Venezuela is not a spontaneous action of the opposition but the implementation of a plan that has been around since at least May 2016. It is likely to follow the color revolution by force script the U.S. developed and implemented in several countries over the last decade. Weapon supply and mercenary support for the opposition will come in from and through the neighboring countries the CIA head visited.

The vote to the constitutional assembly will proceed as planned. The opposition will attempt to sabotage it or, if that fails, proceed with violence. Weapons and tactical advice and support have likely already been provided through CIA channels.

The Venezuelan government is supported by a far larger constituency than the U.S. aligned right-wing opposition. The military has shown no sign of disloyalty to the government. Unless there is some unforeseeable event any attempt to overthrow the government will fail.

The U.S. can further hurt Venezuela by closing down oil imports from the country. But this will likely increase U.S. gas prices. It would create a some short term inconvenience for Venezuela, but oil is fungible and other customers will be available.

To overthrow the Venezuelan government has been tried since the first election of a somewhat socialist government in 1999. The U.S. instigated coup in 2002 failed when the people and the military stood up against the blatant interference. The "regime change" methods have since changed with the added support of a militant "democratic opposition" fed from the outside. The use of that tool had negative outcomes in Libya and Ukraine and it failed in Syria. I am confident that the government of Venezuela has analyzed those cases and prepared its own plans to counter a similar attempt.

The U.S. just ordered the relatives of its embassy employees out of the country. Such is only done when imminent action is expected.

Posted by b at 05:52 AM | Comments (136)

July 25, 2017

Open Thread 2017-30

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:21 PM | Comments (203)

July 24, 2017

Yemeni Forces Create Heat Wave In Saudi Arabia

The rich U.S. military has long dreamed of and tried to influence the weather. No practical results have been achieved.

Now the Yemen Armed Forces, under constant bombardment due to the U.S-Saudi war on Yemen and with meager resources, have accomplished the feat. They created a night-time heat wave in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi refinery operations not affected by transformer fire

Reuters, Khobar Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Saudi Aramco Mobile Refinery (SAMREF) at Yanbu is operating normally after a fire hit a power transformer at the gate of the facility on Saturday, a spokesman for a Saudi government body was quoted as saying on the state news agency.
Operations are ongoing and have not been affected by the incident, which happened due to hot weather, Abdulrahman Al-Abdulqader, the spokesman for the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu, which manages and operates industrial cities in Saudi Arabia. The fire broke out at 21:22 local time, according to the spokesman.

Here is (vid) how the Yemeni forces created the "hot weather" .

@BaFana3 - 7:21 PM - 22 Jul 2017

Now by #Yemen armed forces: "New ballistic missile "Burkan 2H" launched. Target : #Saudi Aramco Yanbu oil refinery. Range : ≈1,300km."

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By Ahmed Jahaf - bigger


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@Lee_Saks - 9:00 PM - 22 Jul 2017

#SaudiArabia | transformer fire at Yanbu refinery due to hot weather. [Houthi rebels claimed to hit refinery with ballistic missile]. #OOTT

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The Yemeni weather service predicts that another heat wave will soon reach the United Arab Emirates.

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@BaFana3 - 9:59 PM - 23 Jul 2017

#Yemen army spox: "Ballistic missile Burkan-H2 hit #Saudi oil refinery in Yanbu. This missile has the range to hit Dubai."

Posted by b at 04:02 PM | Comments (50)

July 23, 2017

Syria Summary - Consolidating The West - Marching East

There were no major changes  in the situation in Syria since our last post. Several smaller steps have further consolidated the position of the government of Syria and its allies while the positions of its enemies continue to deteriorate.


Source: Fabrice Balanche/WINEP - bigger (with legend)

In the north-west Idleb governate and the city of Idleb saw new infighting between Ahrar al-Sham and al-Qaeda in Syria under its current moniker Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). Ahrar, historically also an al-Qaeda offspring, was supported by Qatar and Turkey while al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al Nusra aka HTS) was said to have support from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Rudiments of local CIA paid Free Syrian Army gangs are intermixed with these. Their primary task was to collect supplies from the CIA in Turkey and to distribute those to their friends in al-Qaeda and Ahrar al-Sham. Each of these groups received support in the range of at least $1 billion per year. 

The spat between Qatar and Saudi Arabia mostly ended their interest in their proxies in Syria. The Trump administration decided to end the CIA support program for its FSA proxies in the north-west (but not for others elsewhere). This was a significant change of the situation for each group.

Cont. reading: Syria Summary - Consolidating The West - Marching East

Posted by b at 12:28 PM | Comments (103)

July 21, 2017

Murder, Spies And Weapons - Three Fascinating 'Deep State' Stories

350 "diplomatic" flights transporting weapons for terrorists - Trud

Azerbaijan's Silk Way Airlines transported hundreds of tons of weapons under diplomatic cover to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan Congo

  • the weapons and ammunition are usual from east Europe (Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Ukraine ...)
  • the contracts are with U.S. companies themselves hired by the CIA and/or Pentagon as well as with Saudi and Israeli companies
  • offloading during unusual "fueling stops" allowed to disguise the real addressee of the loads

With lots of details from obtained emails.

Ten thousands of tons of weapons and ammunition to al-Qaeda and other Takfiris in Syria also came first from Libya by ship, then on at least 160 big cargo flights via Saudi Arabia and Qatar to Turkey and during the last years by various ships under U.S. contracts from mostly east-European countries.

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With all the Trump-Russia nonsense flowing around one person's involvement in the creation of the issue deserves more scrutiny:

McCain and the Trump-Russia Dossier: What Did He Know, and When? - Reason

A British spy. An Arizona senator. And one inflammatory dossier on Donald Trump. The connection between them is starting to unravel...

  • there are indications that McCain was the one who hired the company which created the infamous Steele dossier.
  • there is evidences that he distributed it to the CIA, FBI and to the media.
  • the issue is now in front of a British court.

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Another Scorpene Submarine Scandal - Asia Sentinel (a bit older but it was new to me)

Document hack could imperil subs in Oz, India, other countries

  • a commercial cyber-crime case but likely with state involvement
  • French submarine sales usually include the payment of various "commissions" with kickbacks to French politicians
  • sometimes people involved in the business end up dead

 

Posted by b at 12:22 PM | Comments (82)

July 20, 2017

Saudi Arabia - Bin Salman's Coup Is A Model For His Own Ouster

Someone wanted the public to know that the new Saudi clown prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MbS) took up his new position by unceremoniously disposing his predecessor Mohammed bin Nayef (MbN) by force. The juicy details, true or not, were briefed to Reuters, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times on the same day:

As next in line to be king of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Nayef was unaccustomed to being told what to do. Then, one night in June, he was summoned to a palace in Mecca, held against his will and pressured for hours to give up his claim to the throne.

By dawn, he had given in, and Saudi Arabia woke to the news that it had a new crown prince: the king’s 31-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman.

Bin Nayef was a darling of the CIA and his disposal was not welcome. It may well be that the author of the tale of his ouster has his office in Langley, Virginia.

We had correctly called the MbN removal a coup and predicted that "the old al-Saud family king [..] will be offed soon." From the current Reuters piece:

Quoting a witness at the palace, one Saudi source said King Salman this month pre-recorded a statement in which he announces the transfer of the throne to his son. The announcement could be broadcast at any time, perhaps as soon as September.

We also wrote that "[m]any Arab peninsula citizens will want to see [the new clown prince's] head on a pike."

The details of how MbS deposed the previous crown prince MbN will enrage additional parts of Saudi Arabia's population. Additional leaks about extensive MbS contacts with Israel will increase the bad feelings against him. This especially as Israeli is further encroaching on the al-Haram a-Sharif and the Al-Aqsa mosque on the (likely falsely) claimed Jewish temple mount.

MbS' attempt to push Qatar around has, as predicted, failed. The four countries that had joined against Qatar could not agree to increase the pressure. The demands made to Qatar have now been retracted. This is a huge loss of face for MbS and his Emirati mentor Mohammad bin Zayed. The Saudi war against Yemen kills many civilians and costs billions of dollars but is militarily lost. The announced big economic reforms have made no progress. The Gulf Cooperation Council is defunct and may fall further apart.

Everything MbS has touched failed. His actions violate traditions and religious commandments. His coup has set an example that can now be used against himself. It would not be astonishing to see a revolt against Mohammed Bin Salman even before he is able to make himself king. The way he shifted MbN to the side broke all traditional rules. The example he set with the ouster of the former crown prince can now be used against himself.

UPDATE: Bin Salman is now consolidating all internal security organizations and functions under himself. The Interior Ministry, traditionally headed by the Nayef family branch, will be stripped of all significant powers. MbS is afraid. He knows that many forces, including the CIA, are now working against him. This attempt to coup-proof his rule is probably coming too late.

Posted by b at 02:53 PM | Comments (41)

July 19, 2017

On Crapified News And Foreign Policy

Significant parts of the Trump administration, Congress and the general Zionist borg would love to start a war between the U.S. and Iran.

A war is unlikely. Iran's geography and strategic position is unassailable. Its global political standing has increased during the last decades. Any war with Iran would be extremely costly yet unwinnable.

But with U.S. pressure again increasing on Iran it is important to learn and understand what happens inside of country. Unfortunately most reporting about politics within Iran is bit of a mess. Considers the piece below from the Washington Post. Written from Turkey by a journalist who (to my best knowledge) does not speaks Farsi nor has any special knowledge of the country: With U.S. scholar’s conviction, power struggle escalates between Iran’s president and hard-liners

ISTANBUL — A high-stakes power struggle between Iran’s moderate president and his hard-line opponents in the judiciary appeared to escalate with the arrest of the president’s brother and the conviction of an American student for espionage this weekend — rulings that seemed timed to embarrass the Iranian leader at home and abroad.

The piece should be classic foreign reporting. But who is speaking here?

  • ... Nader Hashemi, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver, said ...
  • ... Khamenei said in a speech this month, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran, an independent nonprofit based in New York
  • ... said Alex Vatanka, an Iran expert at the Middle East Institute in Washington
  • ... said Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington
  • ... [a]ccording to Suzanne Maloney, a senior fellow and expert on Iran at the Brookings Institution ...

There is certainly no reason to lambast the journalist, Erin Cunningham, for being lazy. Getting five telephone or email interviews and authorized quotes for the piece was surely a day's work. But how come there is no voice from Iran? The only quote from an Iranian person, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, is in translation of a lobby shop in New York which does not reveal its sponsors. Is the quote correct? The other "expert" are all from outlets that are more or less adverse to Iran's system of governance.

The piece makes the recent dispute and judicial action look extraordinary and sensational. It connects it to actions in Washington DC:

The tensions come as Iran and the United States spar over the terms of a nuclear deal struck with world powers to limit Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
...
The Trump administration has taken a much harsher stance on Iran, threatening to abandon the deal, and the Treasury Department on Tuesday announced new sanctions primarily targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program.
...
The arrest and conviction of Wang, a 37-year-old scholar at Princeton, appeared to target Rouhani’s wider foreign policy and engagement with the West. Although Wang was detained in August 2016, the timing of the verdict is suspect, analysts say.

“Why did they keep it a secret as long as they did? Timing is important,” said Alex Vatanka, an Iran expert at the Middle East Institute in Washington.

Conflicts between the executive and the judiciary in Iran are legend and reoccur at least every other year. They are independent of the president being "moderate" or "hard-line" himself. Consider the obvious similarities between the above lede and this one from 2012:

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The head of Iran's judiciary lashed out at the country's president Wednesday, the latest salvo in an escalating political conflict that has undermined much of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's political clout.

The Iranian constitution and political system is build on the principal of Vilayat-e Faqih, the guardianship of the (Islamic) jurists. The undecided question is how absolute the primacy of the jurists is supposed to be. The interpretations vary widely and often depend on the issue at hand. The executive will naturally assert primacy wherever it can, while absolute principalists in the judiciary will always assert that their jurisprudence is prime. The conflict is daily bread in Tehran and it makes no sense to sensationalize it.

The arrest of the president’s brother for corruption may well be justified. It should astonish no one. It could be timed to assert pressure but we have no way to know that. It would be mere speculation to say so. Experience has show that effective coordination within the Iranian state machinery is way less than western authors tend to assume.

The U.S. student/spy had already been imprisoned for eleven months. That he was convicted now is likely not related to any Trump tantrum or epiphany. Washington's capers are less important in Tehran as the U.S. would like them to be.

All together the piece shows the typical pitfalls of U.S. reporting on Iran (and many other countries).

  • Original and relevant voices from the ground are absent. None of the people involved in the issues is questioned. "Expert" quotes from often partisan western think thanks are the sorry substitute.
  • Cultural and historic characteristics are neglected. The current dispute between Rouhani and the judiciary has its background in a century old discussion in Iran about the limits of vilayat-e faqih. (The importance of this is comparable to conflicts about "executive privilege" or "state rights vs. federal rights" in U.S. politics.) With that background the spat between Rouhani and the judiciary is simply the marking of territories for his now beginning second term.
  • Most of the issues happening in a foreign country's politics are NOT related to whatever happens in Washington DC. U.S. writers love to draw such causal connections. But not every hiccup in Moscow is in response to some fart in DC. More often then not there is no connection at all.

One original voice from within Tehran's ruling circuit would have been more valuable to the above piece than the five think tank quotes.  A few more words about the historic role of the judiciary would have helped to set some perspective. Connecting the political theater in Tehran to Trump's zigzags makes it easier to write the lede. But there is no justification for it without evidentiary backing. 

Despite the nitpicking I don't regard the Cunningham piece as bad at all. Each day there are way worse reports in the papers and on cable TV. It is probably the best one can do when the editors demand a fast one on some less familiar issue. Over the last years many experienced foreign correspondents were fired or paid to leave. Main-stream media replaced serious foreign reporting with childish "listicals", high school level "explainers" and cat pictures. 

When a few dailies and news shows drive foreign policy making the lack of in-depth reporting becomes a serious issue. Members of Congress and the administration get much of their foreign policy knowledge from U.S. media reports. It is no wonder that they are clueless when those reports lack insight and details. The crapification of high decision making is probably directly related to the crapification of the news media. Trump taking his clues from Fox News (and others) is bad. Fox News (and others) having no well reported clues at all is even worse.

Posted by b at 11:36 AM | Comments (70)

July 18, 2017

"Zero Day" for Violent Regime Change in Venezuela

The U.S. supports the right-wing opposition in Venezuela against the socialist government of President Maduro.

Since April the opposition tries to dislodge the government by instigating a regime change by force. Its protests and street fights with the police are led by violent, militarized gangs:

Venezuela’s ongoing street protests are increasingly looking like outright warfare. As security forces shoot rubber bullets, tear-gas canisters and sometimes live rounds at the churning crowds, increasingly restive mobs are responding with lethal slingshots, homemade mortars and Molotov cocktails.

This week, seven National Guard members were injured in Caracas when a roadside bomb exploded as they drove by on motorcycles.

Leading the opposition shock-troops are loose-knit groups of young men and women that have names like The Templars, The Warriors and The Arcadias. Collectively, they’re known as the Chamos de la Resistencia or, roughly, the Youth Resistance.

This is not just by chance a similar development as was seen during the U.S. instigated color revolutions by force in Libya, Ukraine and Syria. Para-military forces hiding behind "peaceful protesters" attack police, military and civil government institutions to provoke an escalation towards a civil war. Last week the opposition in Venezuela announced that today is the "zero day" for another violent coup attempt against President Maduro:

The fugitive police pilot who allegedly stole a helicopter and used it to attack Venezuela's Supreme Court has appeared at an opposition rally in the capital, Caracas, attendees tell CNN.

Oscar Perez, an officer in the country's investigative police force, addressed the gathering, urging the opposition to continue protesting.
...
"A general walkout for July 18, walkout with no return. The zero-hour will start on Tuesday. The referendum we'll do it, with dignity, we'll be in the street defending the people."

The date was confirmed yesterday:

Venezuelan opposition leaders have called for their supporters to escalate street protests and support a 24-hour national strike later this week after more than 7.1 million people rejected a government plan to rewrite the constitution.
...
A coalition of some 20 opposition parties assembled in its headquarters Monday to call for a “zero hour” campaign of civil disobedience in the two weeks leading to the government vote.

On Sunday the opposition held a private poll in which less people attended than the opposition had hoped for. No results but the number of attendees was announced:

The opposition released only turnout numbers Sunday night, not tallies of responses to those questions, although virtually all who voted were believed to have answered “yes” to the central rejection of the constitutional rewrite.

There are some 19 million registered voters in Venezuela. A seven million turnout for a private poll, if real, is significant but neither decisive nor relevant. The hiding of the results lets one assume that the answers to the poll questions were not in favor of the opposition's plan.

It is difficult to ascertain what the real opinion of people in Venezuela is. Polls in the country are traditionally skewed. Maduro's economic polices, restricted by falling oil prices, sabotage by rich im- and exporters and U.S. sanction, was not successful. But the 2015 National Assembly vote won by the opposition was more a protest vote against the economic problems than a vote for the opposition's vague program.

It is obvious that the opposition in Venezuela is heavily supported by the various regime change institutions of the United States. Some of its operatives have deep ties with DEA and the CIA. U.S. media is -as usual- completely on the side of the U.S. regime change program. It has long agitated against the socialist government of Venezuela.

An official Trump statement on Venezuela released yesterday is noticeable for its lack of facts:

Yesterday, the Venezuelan people again made clear that they stand for democracy, freedom, and rule of law. Yet their strong and courageous actions continue to be ignored by a bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator.

The United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles. If the Maduro regime imposes its Constituent Assembly on July 30, the United States will take strong and swift economic actions.

Would Trump write a similar statement about the will of the "American people" if Democrats held a private poll against him with an assured multi-million strong turnout?

The Maduro government has called for a July 30 vote to elect members of an upcoming constitutional assembly. There is nothing "imposed" with that. The opposition will try to sew chaos in the streets up to that date and likely has planned for some culmination point of action.

The government has so far reacted passively to the violent protests. The police protects some government buildings and removes some road blocking barricades. But no arrest wave or more assertiveness for government control has been ordered. One wonders at what point such measures will become inevitable.

Posted by b at 08:10 AM | Comments (125)

July 17, 2017

Can Washington Prevent The Death Of The Gulf States?

U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson is angry that Saudi Arabia and the UAE rejected his efforts to calm down their spat with Qatar. His revenge, and a threat of more serious measures, comes in the form of a WaPo "leak" - UAE orchestrated hacking of Qatari government sites, sparking regional upheaval, according to U.S. intelligence officials:

The United Arab Emirates orchestrated the hacking of Qatari government news and social media sites in order to post incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, in late May that sparked the ongoing upheaval between Qatar and its neighbors, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Officials became aware last week that newly analyzed information gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed that on May 23, senior members of the UAE government discussed the plan and its implementation. The officials said it remains unclear whether the UAE carried out the hacks itself or contracted to have them done.

That the UAE and/or the Saudis were involved in the hack was pretty clear from the get go. They were the only ones who had a clear motive. Qatar already had specific evidence for the source of the hacking. Congressional anti-Russian sources ignored that and accused, as usual, Russia and Putin.

Tillerson's real message is not the hacking accusation. The hacks themselves are not relevant to the spat and to Tillerson's efforts to defuse it. The "leak" sets the UAE and Saudi leadership on notice that the U.S. has sources and methods to learn of their government's innermost discussions. The real threat to them is that other dirt could be released from the same source.

It is doubtful that this threat will change the minds of these rulers. They believe in their own invincibility. Ian Welsh describes the mindset in his prediction of The Death of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states:

This is fairly standard: all dynasties go bad eventually because the kings-to-be grow up in wealth and power and think it’s the natural state of things: that they are brilliant and deserve it all, when it was handed them on a platter. Perhaps they are good at palace intrigue and think that extends beyond the palace.

It doesn’t.

Welsh comes to the same conclusion as I did when the recent GCC infighting broke out:

No matter how the spat with Qatar ends, the GCC unity has (again) been exposed as a sham. It can not be repaired. Saudi "leadership" is shown to be just brutal bullying and will be resisted. U.S. plans for a united GCC under Saudi leadership and U.S. control are in shambles.
...
The Saudi under their new leadership overestimate their capabilities. So did Trump when he raised their role. The Saudi "apes with Macbooks" do not have the capabilities needed for a serious political actor in this world. Their money can paper over that for only so long.

The step Tillerson and some "intelligence officials" now took may be a sign panic. The "leak" revealed "sources and methods". Like every other government the UAE senior officials suspect that the U.S. is trying to listen to their internal deliberations. But they now know for sure. The specific date given in the "leak" will help them to take some countermeasures. Leaking "sources and methods" is not done lightly. That it has to resort to such measures shows that the U.S. administration is not in control of the situation.

During the fall of the Ottoman empire Britain created today's Saudi Arabia. Two world wars exhausted Britain's power. The U.S. took over the management of the  empire including the Gulf states. It needs Saudi Arabia for its fossil energy and the related reserve currency status of the U.S. dollar. Unrest in Saudi Arabia is not in the U.S. interest but such is now in sight. The "leak" is just a tactical measure of an inexperienced administration. It is not enough to defuse or mitigate the conflict and its consequences.

What strategies will Washington develop to counter the foreseeable instability in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states?

Posted by b at 02:33 PM | Comments (64)

July 16, 2017

As Anti-Trump / Anti-Russia Campaign Fails - Yascha Mounk Feeds New Lies

[Updated at the end (Jul 18, 4:00 am Est)]

The U.S. borg is vehemently trying to set up Russia as an enemy of the "west". Their anti-Russian propaganda has become part of the campaign against U.S. President Trump who seeks détente with Russia. It requires intense efforts to denigrate the country, its citizens and its leaders. Here is an example of how such propaganda is fabricated.

Yascha Mounk is:

a Lecturer on Political Theory at Harvard University's Government Department, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Transatlantic Academy of the German Marshall Fund, and a Nonresident Fellow at New America's Political Reform Program.

He is a self declared liberal internationalist who has been published and quoted by lots of international media.

Yesterday Mounk tweeted this:


bigger

The Mounk tweet is a series of lies:

Cont. reading: As Anti-Trump / Anti-Russia Campaign Fails - Yascha Mounk Feeds New Lies

Posted by b at 11:06 AM | Comments (85)

July 14, 2017

Is Killing "Leaders" Useful Or Not - CentCom Can't Make Up Its Mind

A contrasting juxtaposition in my twitter feed:


bigger

First the U.S. Central Command tweet with this statement by the commander of the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, General Nicholson:

GENERAL NICHOLSON STATEMENT ON THE KILLING OF THE THIRD ISIS-K EMIR BY U.S. AND AFGHAN FORCES IN THE LAST 12 MONTHS
...
"This operation is another success in our campaign to defeat ISIS-K in Afghanistan in 2017," said Nicholson. "Abu Sayed is the third ISIS-K emir we have killed in the last year and we will continue until they are annihilated. There is no safe haven for ISIS-K in Afghanistan." [bold added]

Then the Micah Zenko tweet with this interview with the commander of U.S. Central Command, General Votel. Votel is the direct superior of the above Nicholson:

Q: ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi — dead or alive? And does it matter anymore?

Votel: [..] I hope that he is (dead), frankly. [..] That said, we've been doing this long enough to know that leaders are killed and we've killed plenty of them. And that there's always somebody who is going to step up into those positions so we shouldn't think that just killing Baghdadi is the key here. He can be replaced. So in that regard, it may not matter as much. [bold added]

Nicholson says he can win the war against XYZ by killing a bunch of successive XYZ "leaders". Votel rightly says that this is clearly not so. During sixteen years of War of Terror and constant killing of various "emirs" special boilerplate statements were prepared for the typical "victory" announcements. Votel seems to have understood that such killings do not matter. His direct subordinate Nicholson did not. Shouldn't they talk to each other about such issues?

But it may well be that Votel would have sounded very different if his troops had killed Baghdadi and not a Russian(!) air strike.

Posted by b at 05:11 PM | Comments (78)

July 13, 2017

Syria Summary - Will The Trump-Putin Agreement Hold?

The conflict between the U.S. and Russia over Syria seems to have calmed down after the recent G-20 meeting between Putin and Trump. Some kind of agreement was made but neither its scope nor its bindingness is known. One common current aim is the defeat of ISIS.


Source: Fabrice Balanche/WINEP - bigger

At the meeting between the Presidents Trump and Putin in Hamburg a temporary truce was agreed for the south-west area of Syria. The Syrian government (violet) holds the city of Deraa while various foreign sponsored insurgent groups (green), including al-Qaeda and ISIS, occupy the borders towards Israel and Jordan. There had been some serious fighting after recent al-Qaeda attacks on Baath city neat the Golan. During these the Israeli airforce had multiple times supported the al-Qaeda groups with attacks on the Syrian army.

Under the truce agreement the Russian side guarantees that the Syrian government and its allies stop fighting while the U.S. guarantees that Israel, the various FSA groups, al-Qaeda and ISIS stay quiet. The truce has now held for several days. There were no spoilers. The U.S. seems to have strong influence with ALL those entities.

East of the Deraa area in the governate of Sweida the Syrian army has continued operations against U.S. supported Free Syrian Army groups. Within a few days it has taken a lot of ground against little resistance including a deserted U.S. base that was not publicly known. It is possible that a secret part of the Deraa truce agreement allows for the Syrian army to liberate the whole area next to the Jordan border towards the east up to the U.S. held border crossing at al-Tanf.

The U.S. base in Tanf had become nonviable after the Syrian army had taken all ground north of it and Iraqi militia had blocked it from the Iraqi side. The U.S. had trained some Syrian mercenaries at Tanf and had planned to march those north towards Deir Ezzor. As that route is now blocked some of the trained mercenaries were recently transferred by air to Shadadi base in north-east Syria where they will have to fight under Kurdish command. Others have refused to move north. Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawra, previously called the New Syrian Army, is mostly made up of local men who probably do not want to leave their nearby families and do not want to come under Kurdish leadership. The U.S. should send them home and leave the area.

Today a new two-pronged move against the ISIS siege on Deir Ezzor was started. Syrian army forces and its allies moved east from their Palmyra positions and south-east from their positions south of Raqqa. An additional move against Deir Ezzor may come from the Syrian forces further south-east near the Iraqi border. The Iraq air force has recently flown attacks against ISIS position in the Deir Ezzor areas. This was done in agreement with the Syrian government. That may be a sign that Iraqi forces will join the fight to relief the city with an additional move south-west from their positions near Tal Afar. The U.S. military has for now given up its dream of assaulting and occupying Deir Ezzor with its proxy forces.

The west and north west of Syria have been relatively quiet. A rumored imminent Turkish attack on Kurdish held areas has not happened. The mostly al-Qaeda held areas in Idleb governate are still unruly. Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Turkmen, Uighurs, Kurds, local Free Syrian Army gangs all have their little fiefdoms in the area. Assassinations and attacks on each other are daily occurrences. There is no reason for the Syrian government to intervene in that melee.

The agreement between Trump and Putin over Syria might be more wide ranging than is publicly known. For now it seems that the parties have agreed on areas of influences with the U.S. for now; occupying the north-east currently under control of its YPG proxies. It is building more bases there with the total number now being eight or nine. At least three of these have their own airstrips. It is asking Congress to legalize further base building. It is obvious that the U.S. military plans to stay in the area even after ISIS is defeated.

But the Kurds in Syria are only a minority in almost all areas they currently control. They are not united and the YPG, the only U.S. partner, is a radical anarcho-marxist group that has no legitimacy but force. The area is landlocked and all its neighbors are against Kurdish autonomy.

The U.S. effort to impose itself on the area is doomed. The use of the Kurds as a Trojan horse is unlikely to succeed. The Defense Department, it seems, has not yet accepted that fact. It still may try to sabotage whatever Trump and Putin have agreed upon.

Posted by b at 02:09 PM | Comments (108)

July 12, 2017

Open Thread 2017-29

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:56 PM | Comments (84)

July 11, 2017

Which Campaign Truly Colluded With Russia?

Case 1:

A Hillary Clinton campaign cut-out hires the (former?) British intelligence agent Steele to pay money to (former?) Russian intelligence agents and high-level Kremlin employees for dirt about Donald Trump. They deliver some dirty fairy tales. The resulting dossier is peddled far and wide throughout Washington DC with the intent of damaging Trump.

Case 2:

Some lobbyist for Russian business interests contacts the Trump campaign with a promise to deliver some dirt on Hillary Clinton. She meets campaign officials but no dirt on Clinton is offered. Instead the lobbyist uses the time to lobby for the business' cause. There is no follow up.

Question:

Which of the two cases stinks of "collusion with the Russians"?

Posted by b at 01:31 PM | Comments (98)

July 10, 2017

Syria - The Alternet Grayzone Of Smug Turncoats - Blumenthal, Norton, Khalek

Max Blumenthal is a well connected and known author who has done work on the Palestinian cause from a somewhat leftish perspective. He is also an arrogant and ignorant showman.

Blumenthal currently edits the Alternet Grayzone project. In their recent writings he and his co-writers profess to dislike the al-Qaeda led opposition in Syria. Yet it is exactly the same opposition they earlier vehemently supported.

Yesterday the Real News Network interviewed Blumethal on his recent piece about CNN's al-Qaeda promotion. The headline: Max Blumenthal on How the Media Covers Syria. During the interview Blumenthal laments the failure of progressive media on Syria:

In my opinion, they have abrogated their mission, which should be to challenge mainstream narratives and particularly imperial narratives on issues like Syria. I understand there are massive human rights abuses by the Syrian government, but that's not reason enough to not explore what the West's agenda, the Gulf agenda is for that country, what the consequences are, to actually get into the geopolitical issues. Instead, we've seen Democracy Now propagate generally a regime change narrative.

I don't believe they actually have a line on Syria. It's more a fear of actually taking on the official line. I haven't found a single article in the Intercept challenging the regime change line on Syria.

Blumenthal is outraged, OUTRAGED, that "progressive" media peddle the Syria conflict along "the official line".

Yet in 2012 Max Blumenthal resigned as columnist from the Lebanese paper Al Akhbar English because the paper did not write along "the official line". He publicly (also here) smeared and accused his Al Akhbar collegues for taking a cautious or even anti-opposition position on Syria.

The Al Akhbar writers challenged the mainstream narratives while Blumenthal, with his resignation and his writing about it, solidly aligned with the imperial project. Back then he himself went along "the official line". Then as now the Real News Network helped him along:

I noticed that it was publishing op-eds by people like Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, who were just openly apologetic of the Assad regime, if not cheerleading Assad as this kind of subaltern freedom fighter leading what she called a front-line resisting state, or Sharmine Narwani, the blogger who was nickel-and-diming civilian casualty counts, [..]
...
This just was really too much for me.
...
My problem was that the opinions at Al-Akhbar's website in support of the Assad regime, which I've identified specifically by Amal Saad-Ghorayeb and Sharmine Narwani and by the editor-in-chief, Ibrahim al-Amin, were not based on any journalistic fieldwork. They're based on poring over YouTube clips, looking at textbooks, or really disturbing citations by Amin of anonymous regime sources, including documents that he cited which he referred to as investigations of people detained for trafficking weapons.

At that time Max Blumenthal was sitting in the U.S. stenographing Syrian opposition propaganda. Yet he accused Sharmine Narwani and other writers living in Lebanon and Syria of lack of journalistic fieldwork and of "poring over YouTube clips". Narwani wasn't amused by his ignorance:

I have made two trips to Syria in the past six months – the first to interview a wide range of domestic opposition figures, most of whom have spent years languishing in Syrian prisons; the second just a week ago, to spend time with the UN Observer team and learn about the changed military landscape throughout the country.

No journalistic fieldwork? How would Max know? He has done none on Syria, yet he presumes to condemn the dogged pursuit of truth by others.

Al Akhbar early on recognized the foreign sponsored insurgency in Syria for what it is. Max Blumenthal took the easy route of joining the anti-Syrian propaganda train. Even worse - he publicly smeared the writers at Al Akhbar who were searching for the least harmful solution for Syria.

Now Max Blumenthal has found an outlet that pays him for writing along the very line he condemned when he resigned from Al Akhbar. Nowhere do I find an explanation by Blumenthal for his change of position. No public apology for smearing his former colleagues has been issued by him.

 

Max Blumenthal's sidekick and often co-author at the Grayzone project is Ben Norton. In his own latest piece Norton blames various pundits and main-stream media for pushing for regime change in Syria. Conveniently he does not mention that he himself wrote along that line.

[NOTE: Norton replied to this piece in an email to me. I have published his statement, and my response to it, in the comments below.]

In January 2015 Norton accused the Syrian government of besieging Palestinian refugees in a suburb of Damascus: ‘No to martyrdom by hunger in Yarmouk camp’: Palestinian refugees protest Assad’s siege. Norton had never set a step inside of Syria. His reporting was solely based on opposition talk and videos.

Others did fieldwork. Three month before Norton published his piece Sharmine Narwani had written about her recent visit to Yarmouk:

Cont. reading: Syria - The Alternet Grayzone Of Smug Turncoats - Blumenthal, Norton, Khalek

Posted by b at 11:16 AM | Comments (166)

July 08, 2017

Mosul Is Liberated! My Congrats To Iraq

The people of Iraq have won the biggest battle in the very bloody fight against the nihilists of the Islamic State:

Elijah J. Magnier‏ @ejmalrai - 11:59 AM - 8 Jul 2017

#Mosul fully liberated and #ISIS is defeated in the city. Well done #Iraq.

My congratulations to the Iraqi men and women who achieved this.

The pest shall come down on those Gulf dictators who financed the growth of the sectarian "Sunni resistance" in Iraq and Syria. The Obama administration, which intentionally let ISIS grow for its own perfidious aims, the Turkish wannabe Sultan who pampered it and the "journalists" and "experts" who hailed ISIS and alike criminals along shall join them in hell.

Islamic State remnants will continue to exits but the organization is now degraded to a mere guerilla that will no longer threaten the existence of any state. It will eventually die out.

Posted by b at 08:54 AM | Comments (72)

July 07, 2017

Open Deescalation Thread

I am off to appreciate the deescalation measures Hamburg police prepared for tonight.


Picture via Der Postillon bigger

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 01:54 PM | Comments (135)

July 06, 2017

The Undeniable Pattern Of Russian Hacking (Updated)

Updated below

A wide review of news sources finds an undeniable patter of international "Russian hacking" claims:

  • Many, if not all such accusation, are based on say-so by some anonymous "official" or self-promoting "expert".
  • Many, if not all such accusation, are rebutted within a few days or weeks.
  • News about any alleged "Russian hacking" is widely distributed and easy to find.
  • News of the debunking of such claims is reported only sparsely (if at all) and more difficult to retrieve.


Source: Jeff Darcy, Cleveland.com - bigger

Examples:

Ukraine

United States

Germany

Cont. reading: The Undeniable Pattern Of Russian Hacking (Updated)

Posted by b at 09:35 AM | Comments (78)

July 05, 2017

The Saudi-Qatar Spat - Qatar And Iran Are Winning - MbZ, MbS Lose Face

The Saudi/UAE campaign against Qatar quickly turned into a mess. Qatar did not fold as had been expected. There was no plan B. The instigators of the plan have now to fear for their head.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar have all build up and pamper extremists groups fighting in other countries. They supply money, weapons and political and media support to various kinds of murderous Takfiris. Unlike the other three, Qatar not only supported arch-conservative Salafists but also groups aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood. The MB do not accept the primacy of the Arab absolute monarchs. They provide an alternative way of governing by adopting some democratic participation of the people. That makes them an imminent danger to the Saudis and other family dictatorships. The military dictator of Egypt, which joined the Saudis on the issue, had led a coup against the elected MB government of his country.

In the view of the Saudis and the other three Qatar had to be reigned in. While its media arm Al-Jazeerah Arabic promotes the sectarian and anti-Iran positions the Saudis support, it also promotes the Muslim Brotherhood. That needed to be stopped.

On June 5 the four countries launched a boycott and blockade of Qatar. Three weeks later they issued a list of demands to Qatar which could be summed up as "surrender your sovereignty or else ...". The "offer" was designed to be refused. It practically demanded total capitulation while threatening more sanctions and even war.

As MoA predicted on June 7, two days after the spat started, Qatar did not fold. It has hundreds of billions in monetary reserves, international support from its liquefied gas customers and allies, and it secured supplies and support from Turkey and Iran. It simply did not response to the "offer" in time for the ultimatum's end.

The Saudis blinked first. On Sunday the ultimatum was prolonged for two days. Yesterday Qatar responded with its own demands which were, like the "offer", designed to be refused. It also announced that it would increase its liquefied gas exports by a third which threatens to take market share and income away from the Saudis. It reminded the UAE that 80% of its electricity supplies depend on natural gas delivered from Qatar.

Today the Saudis, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain met to discuss further consequences and new measures against Qatar. The Gulf media predicted more sanctions.

But the gang of four decided to do ... nothing:

The foreign ministers of four Arab countries, meeting in Cairo, said they regretted Qatar's "negative" response to their list of demands.
...
The Saudi foreign minister said further steps would be taken against Qatar at the appropriate time, and would be in line with international law.
...
The meeting came as the deadline for Qatar to accept the list of demands or face further sanctions expired.

This is a huge embarrassment for the clown princes of the UAE and Saudi Arabia. They, Mohammad bin Zayed and Mohammad bin Salman, are the instigators of the campaign against Qatar. The meeting today had to deliver some penalty against Qatar for not giving in to any demand: some additional significant sanctions , a more intense blockade, some threat of military strikes. But the meeting came up with ... nothing.

The clown princes had shot their wad on the very first day. They could not come up with any new measures that were agreeable. Kuwait and Oman reject to push Qatar out of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the UAE would lose all its international businesses in Dubai should the Qatari gas supplies, and thereby its electricity, shut down. An additional blockade of Qatar is impossible without the agreement of the U.S. Russia and other big states.

Such a huge loss of face will have consequences. When the Saudi clown prince launched the war against Yemen he expected, and announced, that Sanaa would fall within days. Two years later Sanaa has not fallen and the Saudis are losing the war. Qatar was expected to fold within days. But it has enough capital and income to sustain the current situation for many years to come. The war against Yemen and the sanctions against Qatar were indirectly aimed against Iran- the Saudis' cpsen arch-enemy. But without investing even a dime Iran is now the winner from both conflicts. MbS, the Saudi clown prince, has twice proven to be a terrible strategist who endangers his country.

The Saudi King Salman and his son said that neither of them will take part in the upcoming G-20 meeting in Hamburg. Rumors have it that they fear an imminent coup should one of them leave the country.

No one should be surprised if the Salman era finds a bloody end within the next week or month.

Posted by b at 02:40 PM | Comments (67)

July 04, 2017

"... And the rocket's red glare ..." - North Korea Wishes A Happy 4th of July

In recognition of the U.S. Independence Day the Democratic People's Republic of Korea launched some remarkable fireworks.

DPRK State TV confirmed a successful launch and the basic data others had measured (video).

The announcement comes nearly exactly six month after President Donald Trump issued this prediction.

That forecast turned out to be false.

Jonathan McDowell @planet4589 - 7:02 AM - 4 Jul 2017
Recap: North Korea launches Hwasong-14 ICBM at 0040 UTC Jul 4 from Kusong's Panghyon Airport 933 km eastward to Sea of Japan, 2802 km apogee

More official pictures of the launch were published. The North Korean head of state Kim Jong-Un attended.

North Korea fired the missile at a steep trajectory reaching a very high apogee. This limited the range of the test launch. The flight time of 37 minutes was extremely long. Recalculating the data into a more normal trajectory the maximum flight range of the missile is estimated to be 6,700 kilometers with a normal payload. Launched from North Korea it could cover Alaska but not the lower 49 states. With a light warhead, possibly a small nuclear load, the range could be up to 10,000 kilometer and cover at least the north-western states.

Trump will be rightfully blamed for the braggadocious formulation of his tweet. But one can not blame him for not stopping North Korea's missile development. A war on North Korea would also destroy South Korea and have implications far beyond the peninsula. Only the end of U.S. military maneuvering around Korea and the perspective of a full peace agreement could have achieved a stop of North Korea's development. The U.S. Congress would support neither. Trump tried to press China to reign in North Korea, But China has no reasonable way to do that. One could just as easy blame former U.S. presidents - Clinton for breaking his agreements with North Korea, Bush for his general hostility and Obama for his do-nothing excuse of "strategic patience".

North Korea has very good reasons to perceive the U.S. as vicious enemy and to never trust any U.S. statement or agreement. It needs nuclear weapons for its self-defense. As it can not trust any of its neighbors it needs strategic independence. That has now been achieved.

The U.S., and Trump personally, has been just been "shown the finger" by a small underdeveloped state. One wonders how Trump and the official U.S. it will react to that.

Posted by b at 04:25 AM | Comments (97)

July 02, 2017

NYT, WaPo Send Top Reporters To Stenograph Five O'Clock Follies

When the U.S. military takes a bunch of journalists on a press junket to a foreign country it has a certain intention and prepares every detail in advance. There will be witnesses and local people who are briefed for their two minute talk with the journalists to convey exactly what the military wants them to convey. After enjoying local flair, for ten minutes max, some U.S. diplomatic official or a general will treat the journos to some good whiskey and a genuine local steak. The official will speak a few prepared lines on the record that will reinforce the story the locals were tasked to tell.

The outcome is predictable. The stories the journalists will write will be the same.

Michael Gordon in yesterday's New York Times and David Ignatius in yesterday's Washington Post both report of their latest junket, a visit of Tabqa in Syria.

Gordon's piece: In a Desperate Syrian City, a Test of Trump’s Policies

The young man unburdened himself about the dark years of living under the Islamic State as a crowd of curious onlookers gathered in front of a weathered storefront in the town marketplace. The militants, said the man, a 22-year-old named Abdul Qadir Khalil, killed many residents, doled out precious jobs and severely limited travel to and from the city. ...

He ticked off a list of the things Tabqa needs: electricity, water, fuel and a sizable bakery. Then, laughing about his new freedom to openly denounce the militants, he said, “If they ever come back, they will slaughter all of us.”

The Ignatius' piece: As the Islamic State falls in Syria, one city offers a preview of the country’s future

A boisterous group of young Syrian men is gathered outside a tire and vehicle-parts shop across from the warehouse. American military advisers aren’t sure at first that it’s safe to talk with them, but the men press eagerly toward two visiting reporters. Abdul-Qadr Khalil, 22, dressed in a bright blue-nylon jacket, speaks for the group. He complains that there’s not enough food, water, gas or bread, and there are no jobs. But he dismisses the idea that the Islamic State will ever take hold here again.

“No, never!” says Khalil, and the young men around him nod in unison. “It will be impossible to live if they come back. They will kill all of us.”

Gordon:

.. small children greet visitors with a “V” sign for victory.

Ignatius:

Young children flash V-for-victory signs.

Gordon:

“A fundamental problem in our society is that ISIS’ ideology has been implanted in little kids’ brains, which means it will carry on in the future,” said Ahmad al-Ahmad, the co-president of the council.

Ignatius:

Ahmad al-Ahmad, the co-president of the newly formed Tabqa Civil Council, ... Young boys who were indoctrinated at Islamic State training camps are trying to find their balance in a new world where beheadings and the chanting of Islamist slogans are over.

Gordon:

Nearly 50 tons of flour, paid for by the Pentagon, were trucked in from Iraq to an American-funded warehouse on Wednesday.

Ignatius:

At a warehouse near the town center, the first shipment of American food arrived on Wednesday; sacks of flour and rice are stacked on pallets, ready for distribution, ...

Gordon:

We are not going to get beauty; it’s about pragmatism,” said Maj. Gen. Rupert Jones of the British Army, the deputy commander of the coalition force.

Ignatius:

This is not a work of beauty. This is pragmatism,” says Maj. Gen. Rupert Jones, the British deputy commander of coalition forces in Iraq and Syria ..

I agree with the British general. The reporting in the Washington Post and New York Times from this military press junket is not a work of beauty but pragmatism. These highly paid journalists do not want to get their new desert dress dirty. They pragmatically repeat what the well briefed (and bribed) locals say, picture the children that make V-signs (and receive the promised candy) and they stenograph whatever the military or some diplomats say. No real reporting, no thinking and no dirty boots are required for their job.

The military wanted to convey that nearly everything is fine now in Tabqa. The people love the U.S. occupation and all that is needed now are a few billion $$$ for some minor nation building. The journalists ate up the prepared bites and transmit exactly what the military wanted them to say.

The mainstream media want their readers to believe that their narratives from war zones are genuine reporting. The above examples show that they are not. Their journalists are simple recording highly choreographed shows the Pentagon and State Department press advisors made up and the local press officers prepared in advance. A modern version of the Vietnam war's five o'clock follies.

Richard Pyle, Associated Press Saigon bureau chief during the war, described the [military press] briefings as, "the longest-playing tragicomedy in Southeast Asia's theater of the absurd."

Back then most media did not fell for the nonsense. Now they willingly join in.

Posted by b at 03:09 PM | Comments (108)

 
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