Archive | October 26th, 2016

The Simple Act of “Pushing a Button”. Miscalculation, Mistake or Malice?

NOVANEWS
The Unspoken Aftermath of a Nuclear War
Nuclear-War-Weapons

“Since the appearance of visible life on Earth, 380 million years had to elapse in order for a butterfly to learn how to fly, 180 million years to create a rose with no other commitment than to be beautiful, and four geological eras in order for us human beings to be able to sing better than birds, and to be able to die from love.

It is not honorable for the human talent, in the golden age of science, to have conceived the way for such an ancient and colossal process to return to the nothingness from which it came through the simple act of pushing a button.”

I recently came across this quotation by the great Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude and recipient of the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature. The quotation is from a 1986 speech by Garcia Marquez entitled “The Cataclysm of Damocles.”

In the short quotation, he captures what needs to be said about nuclear weapons succinctly, poetically and beautifully. With a few deft literary brushstrokes, he shows that the journey of life from nothingness to now could be ended with no more than “the simple act of pushing a button.”

The button is a metaphor for setting in motion a nuclear war, which could happen by miscalculation, mistake or malice. Of course, it matters whose finger is on the button, but it matters even more that anyone’s finger is on the button.

There are not good fingers and bad fingers resting on the button. No one is stable enough, rational enough, sane enough, or wise enough to trust with deciding to push the nuclear button. It is madness to leave the door open to the possibility of “a return to nothingness.”

On one side of the ledger is everything natural and extraordinary about life with its long evolution bringing us to the present and poised to carry its processes forward into the future. On the other side of the ledger is “the button,” capable of bringing most life on the planet to a screeching halt. Also on this side of the ledger are those people who remain ignorant or apathetic to the nuclear dangers confronting humanity.

We all need to recognize what is at stake and choose a side.

Put simply, do you stand with life and the processes of nature that have brought such beauty and diversity to our world, or do you stand with the destructive products of science that have brought us to the precipice of annihilation? We must each make a choice.

I fear too many of us are not awakened to the seriousness and risks of the unfolding situation. We are taken in by the techno-talk that amplifies the messages of national security linked to the button.

Nuclear deterrence is no more than a hypothesis about human psychology and behavior. It does not protect people from a nuclear attack. It is unproven and unprovable.

Nuclear deterrence may or may not work, but we know that it cannot provide physical protection against a nuclear attack. Those who believe in it, do so at their own peril and at our common peril.

The possibility of “a return to nothingness” is too great a risk to take. We must put down the nuclear-armed gun. We must dismantle the button and the potential annihilation it represents. We must listen to our hearts and end the nuclear insanity by ending the nuclear weapons era.

If we fail to act with engaged hearts, we will continue to stand at the precipice of annihilation – the precipice of a world without butterflies or beautiful roses, without birds or humans.

The golden age of science will come to an end as a triumph of cataclysmic devastation, which will be humanity’s most enduring failure.

Reading, discussing and understanding the meaning of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short quotation should be required of every schoolchild, every citizen, and every leader of every country.

Posted in Politics, WorldComments Off on The Simple Act of “Pushing a Button”. Miscalculation, Mistake or Malice?

Our Sieges and Theirs. Syria and Iraq vs. US-NATO-Al Qaeda

NOVANEWS
 
afghanistan-us-troops

“In Syria almost everybody is under siege to a greater or lesser degree,” observes the Independent’s Patrick Cockburn. [2] Most people, however, think the only siege in Syria is the one imposed on (East) Aleppo by Syrian and Russian forces.

But siege as a form of warfare is hardly uniquely embraced by the Syrian Arab Army and Russian military. On the contrary, the United States and its allies have been practicing siege warfare in the Levant and beyond for years, and continue to do so. It’s just that US-led siege warfare has been concealed behind anodyne, even heroic, labels, while the siege warfare of countries Washington is hostile to, is abominated by Western state officials crying crocodile tears.

Here’s how the deception works:

Sieges of cities controlled by Islamic State, carried out by US forces and their allies, are called rescue operations, or campaigns to liberate or retake cities—never sieges. Other sieges—the ones carried out by Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly Al Nusra, which, herein, I’ll call Al Qaeda for convenience—are ignored altogether (which might suggest something about the relationship of Al Qaeda’s Syria affiliate to the United States.) And a particularly injurious form of siege—economic sanctions — is presented as a separate category altogether and not siege warfare at all. But sanctions, imposed by rich countries, such as the United States and those of the European Union, on poor countries, such as Syria, are a modern form of siege, and have been called sanctions of mass destruction, in recognition of their devastating character.

In the Levant, the sieges which are identified as such by Western state officials, and in train, by the Western mass media, are sieges of cities controlled by Al Qaeda, carried out by Syrian forces and their allies. These sieges—which cause hunger, kill civilians, and destroy buildings—are denounced in the West as ferocious attacks on innocents which amount to war crimes. “Russia’s bombardment backing the siege of Aleppo by Syrian government forces,” notes the Wall Street Journal, “has created a humanitarian crisis.” [3] A UN Security Council resolution—vetoed by Russia—has called for an end to Russian bombing of Aleppo. British foreign minister Boris Johnson has mused openly about war crimes indictments against Syria and Russia.

Yet US campaigns to drive Islamic State out of Manbij, Kobani, Ramadi, Fallujah, Baiji and Tikrit, and now Mosul, have also caused hunger, killed civilians, and destroyed buildings. Unlike the Syrian military’s siege of East Aleppo, these campaigns have been celebrated as great and necessary military victories, but have, themselves, created vast humanitarian crises.

Cockburn observes that the “recapture” of “cities like Ramadi, Fallujah, Baiji and Tikrit…would scarcely have happened without the coalition air umbrella overhead.” [4] That is, the cities liberated by Iraqi forces and their US patron were bombed into submission, even though civilians were trapped inside. Iraqi ground forces only moved in after these cities were left in ruins by coalition airstrikes and Iraqi artillery bombardment, as mopping up forces.

Rania Khalek, writing in the Intercept, points out that “U.S.-backed ground forces laid siege to Manbij, a city in northern Syria not far from Aleppo that is home to tens of thousands of civilians. U.S. airstrikes pounded the city over the summer, killing up to 125 civilians in a single attack. The U.S. replicated this strategy to drive ISIS out of Kobane, Ramadi, and Fallujah, leaving behind flattened neighborhoods.” [5]

To recover Ramadi from Islamic State, Iraqi forces surrounded and cordoned off the city. [6] In addition, the US led coalition bombarded Ramadi with airstrikes and artillery fire. [7] The bombardment left 70 percent of Ramadi’s buildings in ruins. The city was recovered, but “the great majority of its 400,000 people” were left homeless. [8]

Iraqi forces also besieged the city of Fallujah, preventing most food, medicine and fuel from entering it. [9] Militias “prevented civilians from leaving Islamic State territory while resisting calls to allow humanitarian aid to reach the city.” [10] This was done “to strangle Islamic State” [11] with the result that civilians were also “strangled.” Inside the city, tens of thousands endured famine and sickness due to lack of medicine. [12] Civilians reportedly survived on grass and plants. [13] Many civilians “died under buildings that collapsed under” artillery bombardment and coalition air strikes. [14]

The current campaign to recover Mosul is based on the same siege strategy US forces and their Iraqi client used to liberate Ramadi and Fallujah. US and allied warplanes have been bombarding the city for months. [15] Iraqi forces, aided by US Special Forces, are moving to cordon it off. “Some aid groups estimate that as many as a million people could be displaced by fighting to recapture the city, creating a daunting humanitarian task that the United Nations and other organizations say they are not yet ready to deal with.” [16]

Writer and journalist Jonathan Cook commented on the utter hypocrisy of Westerners who condemn the Syrian/Russian campaign to liberate East Aleppo from Islamist fighters while celebrating the Iraqi/US campaign to do the same in Mosul. Targeting the British newspaper, the Guardian, beloved by progressives, Cook contrasted two reports which appeared in the newspaper to illustrate the Western heart beating for all except those the US Empire drowns in blood.

Report one: The Guardian provides supportive coverage of the beginning of a full-throttle assault by Iraqi forces, backed by the US and UK, on Mosul to win it back from the jihadists of ISIS – an assault that will inevitably lead to massive casualties and humanitarian suffering among the civilian population.

Report two: The Guardian provides supportive coverage of the US and UK for considering increased sanctions against Syria and Russia. On what grounds? Because Syrian forces, backed by Russia, have been waging a full-throttle assault on Aleppo to win it back from the jihadists of ISIS and Al-Qaeda – an assault that has led to massive casualties and humanitarian suffering among the civilian population. [17]

Central to Western propaganda is the elision of the Islamist character of the Al Qaeda militants who tyrannize East Aleppo. This is accomplished by labeling them “rebels,” while the “rebels” who tyrannize the cities the United States and its allies besiege are called “Islamic State,” ISIL” or “ISIS” fighters. The aim is to conjure the impression that US-led sieges are directed at Islamic terrorists, and therefore are justifiable, despite the humanitarian crises they precipitate, while the Syrian-led campaign in East Aleppo is directed at rebels, presumably moderates, or secular democrats, and therefore is illegitimate. This is part of a broader US propaganda campaign to create two classes of Islamist militants—good Islamists, and bad ones.

The first class, the good Islamists, comprises Al Qaeda and fighters cooperating with it, including US-backed groups, whose operations are limited to fighting secularists in Damascus, and therefore are useful to the US foreign policy goal of overthrowing Syria’s Arab nationalist government. These Islamist fighters are sanitized as “rebels.”

The second class, the bad Islamists, comprises Islamic State. Islamic State has ambitions which make it far less acceptable to Washington as an instrument to be used in pursuit of US foreign policy goals. The organization’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aspires to lead a caliphate which effaces the Sykes-Picot borders, and is therefore a threat, not only to the Arab nationalists in Damascus—an enemy the organization shares in common with Washington— but also to the US client states of Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which Islamic State attacks. The US objective in connection with Islamic State is to push the organization out of Iraq (and out of areas in Syria that can be brought under the control of US-backed fighters) and into the remainder of Syria, where they can wear down Arab nationalist forces.

Syria’s “moderates”—the “rebels”—if there are any in the sense of secular pro-democrats, are few in number. Certainly, their ranks are so limited that arming them, in the view of US president Barack Obama, would make little difference. The US president told New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that his administration had “difficulty finding, training and arming a sufficient cadre of secular Syrian rebels: ‘There’s not as much capacity as you would hope,’” Obama confessed. [18] Obama’s assessment was underscored when “a US general admitted that it had just four such ‘moderate’ fighters in Syria after spending $500 million on training them.” [19] Veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk dismissed the idea of the “moderates” as little more than a fantasy. “I doubt if there are 700 active ‘moderate’ foot soldiers in Syria,” he wrote. And “I am being very generous, for the figure may be nearer 70.” [20]

Elizabeth O’Bagy, who has made numerous trips to Syria to interview insurgent commanders for the Institute for the Study of War, told the New York Times’ Ben Hubbard that my “sense is that there are no seculars.” [21] Anti-government fighters interviewed by the Wall Street Journal found the Western concept of the secular Syrian rebel to be incomprehensible. [22]

To be clear: Syrian and Russian forces are waging a campaign to liberate East Aleppo from Islamists, whose only difference from Islamic State is that they’re not a threat to the US client states, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. It’s “primarily al-Nusra who holds Aleppo,” US Department of Defense spokesperson Colonel Steve Warren said on April 25, referring to Al Qaeda. [23] Other militant Islamist organizations, including US-backed groups, are also in Aleppo, intertwined with, embedded with, sharing weapons with, cooperating with, and acting as auxiliaries of Al-Qaeda.

Author and journalist Stephen Kinzer, writing in the Boston Globe, reminds us that:

For three years, violent militants have run Aleppo. Their rule began with a wave of repression. They posted notices warning residents: “Don’t send your children to school. If you do, we will get the backpack and you will get the coffin.” Then they destroyed factories, hoping that unemployed workers would have no recourse other than to become fighters. They trucked looted machinery to Turkey and sold it. [24]

The Invisible Sieges

While sieges imposed by US-led forces are hidden by not calling them sieges, sieges imposed by Washington’s Al-Qaeda ally are simply ignored.

“Only three years ago,” notes Fisk, the same Islamist fighters who are under siege today in East Aleppo, “were besieging the surrounded Syrian army western enclave of Aleppo and firing shells and mortars into the sector where hundreds of thousands of civilians lived under regime control.” [25] Fisk observes acidly that the “first siege didn’t elicit many tears from the satellite channel lads and lassies” while the “second siege comes with oceans of tears.” [26]

To the ignored Al Qaeda-orchestrated siege of West Aleppo can be added “the untold story of the three-and-a-half-year siege of two small Shia Muslim villages in northern Syria,” Nubl and Zahra. Those sieges, carried out by Al-Qaeda against villages which remained loyal to Syria’s Arab nationalist government, left at least 500 civilians dead, 100 of them children, through famine and artillery bombardment. [27] The “world paid no heed to the suffering of these people,” preferring to remain “largely fixed on those civilians suffering under siege by (Syrian) government forces elsewhere.” [28]

And then there’s the largely untold story of the 13 year-long siege imposed on a whole country, Syria, by the United States and European Union. That siege, initiated by Washington in 2003, with the Syria Accountability Act, and then followed by EU sanctions, blocks Western exports of almost all products to Syria and isolates the country financially. This massive, wide-scale siege plunged Syria’s economy into crisis even before the 2011 eruption of upheavals in the Arab world [29]—demonstrating that Washington’s efforts to force Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to step down began long before the Arab Spring. The roots of US hostility to Assad’s government are found in the danger of its becoming “a focus of Arab nationalistic struggle against an American regional presence and interests” [30] – another way of saying that the Arab nationalist goals of unity, independence and socialism, which guide the Syrian state, are an anathema to the US demand—expressed in the 2015 US National Security Strategy—that all countries fall in behind US global “leadership.”

Under US siege warfare, unemployment shot up, factories closed, food prices skyrocketed and fuel prices doubled. [31] “Syrian officials” were forced “to stop providing education, health care and other essential services in some parts of the country.” [32] Indeed, so comprehensive was the siege, that by 2011 US “officials acknowledged that the country was already under so many sanctions that the United States held little leverage.” [33]

Western siege warfare on Syria has blocked “access to blood safety equipment, medicines, medical devices, food, fuel, water pumps, spare parts for power plants, and more,” [34] leading Patrick Cockburn to compare the regime change campaign to “UN sanctions on Iraq between 1990 and 2003.” [35] The siege of Iraq—at a time when the country was led by secular Arab nationalists who troubled Washington as much, if not more, than the secular Arab nationalists in Syria vex Washington today—led to the deaths, though disease and hunger, of 500,000 children, according to the United Nations. Political scientists John Meuller and Karl Meuller called the siege a campaign of economic warfare amounting to “sanctions of mass destruction,” more devastating than all the weapons of mass destruction used in history. [36] When the West’s siege warfare on Arab nationalist Iraq ended in 2003 it was immediately resumed on Arab nationalist Syria, with the same devastating consequences.

According to a leaked UN internal report, the “US and EU economic sanctions on Syria are causing huge suffering among ordinary Syrians and preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid.” [37] Cockburn notes that “Aid agencies cited in the report say they cannot procure basic medicines or medical equipment for hospitals because sanctions are preventing foreign commercial companies and banks having anything to do with Syria.” [38] “In effect” concludes the veteran British journalists, “the US and EU sanctions are imposing an economic siege on Syria as a whole which may be killing more Syrians than die of illness and malnutrition in the sieges which EU and US leaders have described as war crimes.” [39]

Meanwhile, a U.S. Navy-backed blockade of Yemen’s ports [40]—in other words, a siege— has left much of the country, the poorest in the Arab world, “on the brink of famine.” [41] Last year, a United Nations expert estimated “that 850,000 children in the country of 26 million” faced “acute malnutrition” as a result of the US-backed siege. The blockade amounts to “the deliberate starvation of civilians,” the UN expert said, which constitutes a war crime. [42] “Twenty million Yemenis, nearly 80% of the population, are in urgent need of food, water and medical aid,” wrote British journalist Julian Borger last year. The siege, also backed by Britain, has created “a humanitarian disaster.” [43]

That Washington protests so vehemently about the humanitarian consequences of Syria’s campaign to liberate East Aleppo from Al Qaeda, while US forces and their allies kill civilians through airstrikes, artillery bombardments and siege-related famine and disease in campaigns to capture territory from Islamic State, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, and Syria’s secular Arab nationalists, invites the obvious question: Why the double standard? Why does the Western heart beat for the civilians harmed in the campaign to liberate East Aleppo but not for the civilians harmed by Western campaigns to bring territory under the control of the United States and its proxies?

The answer, in short, is that Al Qaeda is a US asset in Washington’s campaign to overthrow the Arab nationalists in Damascus, and therefore Washington objects to military operations which threaten its ally. On the other hand, Washington sparks one humanitarian crisis after another in pursuit of its foreign policy goal of coercing submission to its global leadership. Jabhat Fatah al-Sham’s value to Washington resides in its implacable opposition to the secularism of Syria’s ruling Arab nationalist Ba’ath Party, and its willingness to accept the Sykes-Picot boundaries drawn up by Britain and France after WWI. Thus, the Syrian al-Qaeda outfit limits its operations to working toward the overthrow of secularists in Damascus. Washington is unwilling to accept radical Islamists seizing control of the Syrian state, but is willing to work with Al-Qaeda to eliminate a common enemy.

Washington plays a similar game with Islamic State, by calibrating its military campaign against the bad Islamists, in order to prevent them from threatening Iraq and Saudi Arabia while at the same time using them as a tool to weaken Syria’s Arab nationalist state. US airstrikes have been concentrated in Iraq, reports the Wall Street Journal. The air war focusses on Islamic State targets in Iraq, explains the newspaper, because “in Syria, U.S. strikes against the Islamic State would inadvertently help the regime of President Bashar al-Assad militarily.” [44] Likewise, France has “refrained from bombing the group in Syria for fear of bolstering” the Syrian government. [45] The British, too, have focused their air war overwhelmingly on Islamic State targets in Iraq, conducting less than 10 percent of their airstrikes on the Islamist organization’s positions in Syria. [46] The New York Times reports that “United States-led airstrikes in Syria … largely (focus) on areas far outside government control, to avoid … aiding a leader whose ouster President Obama has called for.” [47] Hence, US-coalition “airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria” have been so limited as to make them “little more than a symbolic gesture.” [48] Fisk sums up the phony war against Islamic State in Syria with a sarcastic quip: “And so we went to war against Isis in Syria—unless, of course, Isis was attacking Assad’s regime, in which case we did nothing at all.” [49]

Consistent with the US approach of employing Al Qaeda as a cat’s paw against Syria’s secular Arab nationalists, any military operation which sets back Al-Qaeda’s campaign to overthrow the Assad government is a blow against a US foreign policy objective. Those who implore the United States to join Russia in a coalition to destroy Islamist militancy in the Muslim world miss the point. Washington only abhors jihadists when they threaten the United States and its satellites; otherwise, the US state embraces militant Islam as a useful tool to be used against secular governments which refuse to submit to the international dictatorship of the United States.

Owing to the harm they inevitably inflict on non-combatants, it is easy to condemn military campaigns to liberate cities occupied by enemy forces. But it is much more difficult to suggest a realistic alternative to using force to extirpate enemies from urban redoubts. Compromise and negotiation? For the United States, compromise means Arab nationalists stepping down and yielding power to US puppets—not compromise, but the fulfillment of US objectives. Washington isn’t interested in compromise. It has declared that it can and will lead the world, which means it is determined to set the rules. But even if there were a willingness in Washington for compromise, why should the United States have a role to play in deciding Syria’s political future? We can’t be true democrats, unless we fight for democracy in international relations. And we can’t have democracy in international relations if the United States and its allies intervene in other countries, enlisting jihadists to carry out their dirty work, in order to have a say in a political transition, once their mujahedeen allies have created a catastrophe.

What’s more, even had Damascus and its Russian ally concluded that the humanitarian consequences of attempting to drive Al Qaeda out of East Aleppo were too daunting to warrant a siege campaign, the day of siege would only be delayed. Were Syria’s secular Arab nationalists to yield power under a US negotiated political settlement, the United States, acting through its new Syrian client, would arrange the siege of the city to crush its former Islamist allies, who could not be allowed to challenge the new US marionette in Damascus. Only this time, the siege would be called a rescue operation, the label “rebel” would be dropped in favor of “radical Islamist terrorist,” the ensuing humanitarian crisis would be duly noted then passed over with little comment, and hosannas would be sung to the US military leaders who slayed the Islamist dragon.

On October 19, a Swiss journalist confronted Assad on civilian deaths in East Aleppo. “But it’s true that innocent civilians are dying in Aleppo,” the journalist said. Assad replied: “The “whole hysteria in the West about Aleppo (is) not because Aleppo is under siege…Aleppo has been under siege for the last four years by terrorists, and we (never) heard a question (from) Western journalists about what’s happening in Aleppo (then) and we (never) heard a single statement by Western officials regarding the children of Aleppo. Now they are asking about Aleppo…because the terrorists are in bad shape.” The Syrian Army is advancing “and the Western countries—mainly, the United States and its allies (the) UK and France” feel “they are losing the last cards of terrorism in Syria.” [50]

My book Washington’s Long War on Syria is forthcoming April 2017.

NOTES

1 Adapted from Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham, 1897. “Our bishops scream to high heaven when the Armenians are violated by the Turks, but say nothing about the much worse crimes committed by their own countrymen. The hypocritical British heart beats for all except those their empire drowns in blood.”

2 Patrick Cockburn, “The silent devastation of Daraya: Capture of suburb is a big step toward Assad winning the battle for Damascus,” The Independent, September 8, 2016

3 Anton Troianovski and Amie Ferris-Rotman, “Germany hosts Putin and Poroshenko for Ukraine summit,” The Wall Street Journal, October 18, 2016.

4 Patrick Cockburn, “Iraq’s ‘ramshackle’ Mosul offensive may see Isis defeated but it will expose deep divisions between the forces involved,” The Independent, October 18, 2016

5 Rania Khalek, “US and EU sanctions are punishing ordinary Syrians and crippling aid work, UN report reveals,” The Intercept, September 28, 2016

6 Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. set to open a climactic battle against ISIS in Mosul, Iraq,” The New York Times, October 7, 2016

7 Patrick Cockburn, “Air strikes on ISIS in Iraq and Syria are reducing their cities to ruins,” The Independent, May 27, 2016

8 Ibid.

9 Matt Bradley, “Iraqi blockade of occupied Fallujah takes toll on civilians,” The Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2016

10 Tim Arango, “In effort to defeat ISIS, US and Iran impede one another,” New York Times, April 25, 2016

11 Matt Bradley, “Iraqi blockade of occupied Fallujah takes toll on civilians,” The Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2016

12 Tim Arango, “Iran-led push to retake Falluja from ISIS worries U.S.” The New York Times, May 28, 2016; Rania Khalek, “US and EU sanctions are punishing ordinary Syrians and crippling aid work, UN report reveals,” The Intercept, September 28, 2016

13 Matt Bradley, “Iraqi blockade of occupied Fallujah takes toll on civilians,” The Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2016

14 Tim Arango, “Iran-led push to retake Falluja from ISIS worries U.S.” The New York Times, May 28, 2016

15 Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. set to open a climactic battle against ISIS in Mosul, Iraq,” The New York Times, October 7, 2016; Missy Ryan, “Mosul offensive poses key test for U.S. strategy against Islamic State,” The Washington Post, October 14, 2016

16 Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. set to open a climactic battle against ISIS in Mosul, Iraq,” The New York Times, October 7, 2016

17 Jonathan Cook, “Guardian front page channels Orwell’s 1984,” Jonathan Cook Blog, October 17, 2016

18 Thomas L. Friedman, Obama on the world,” The New York Times, August 8, 2014

19 Patrick Cockburn, “The West has been in denial over how to tackle the threat of Islamic State,” Evening Standard, November 19, 2015

20 Robert Fisk, “David Cameron, there aren’t 70,000 moderate fighters in Syria—and whosever heard of a moderate with a Kalashnikov anyway?” The Independent, November 29, 2015

21 Ben Hubbard, “Islamist rebels create dilemma on Syria policy”, The New York Times, April 27, 2013

22 Nour Malas, “Islamists gain momentum in Syria”, The Wall Street Journal, February 27, 2013

23 Sam Heller and Avi Asher-Schapiro, “’The regime can’t be trusted’: Inside Syria’s Aleppo as a shaky truce begins,” Vice, May 5, 2016

24 Stephen Kinzer, “The media are misleading the public on Syria,” The Boston Globe, February 18, 2016

25 Robert Fisk, “No, Aleppo is not the new Srebrenica—the West won’t go to war over Syria,” The Independent, August 4, 2016

26 Ibid.

27 Robert Fisk, “Syria civil war: The untold story of the siege of two small Shia villages – and how the world turned a blind eye,” The Independent, February 22, 2016

28 Ibid.

29 Nada Bakri, “Sanctions pose growing threat to Syria’s Assad”, The New York Times, October 10, 2011

30 Moshe Ma’oz, Bruce Cumings, Ervand Abrahamian and Moshe Ma’oz, Inventing the Axis of Evil: The Truth about North Korea, Iran, and Syria, The New Press, 2004, p .207

31 Nour Malas and Siobhan Gorman, “Syrian brass defect, bouying rebels”, The Wall Street Journal, March 9, 2012.

32 Joby Warrick and Alice Fordham, “Syria running out of cash as sanctions take toll, but Assad avoids economic pain”, the Washington Post, April 24, 2012

33 David E. Sanger, “U.S. faces a challenge in trying to punish Syria”, The New York Times, April 25, 2011

34 Rania Khalek, “US and EU sanctions are punishing ordinary Syrians and crippling aid work, UN report reveals,” The Intercept, September 28, 2016

35 Patrick Cockburn, “The silent devastation of Daraya: Capture of suburb is a big step toward Assad winning the battle for Damascus,” The Independent, September 8, 2016

36 John Mueller and Karl Mueller, “Sanctions of mass destruction,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 1999

37 Patrick Cockburn, “US and EU sanctions are ruining ordinary Syrians’ lives, yet Bashar al-Assad hangs on to power,” The Independent, October 7, 2016

38 Ibid.

39 Ibid.

40 Maria Abi-Habin and Adam Entous, “U.S. widens role in Saudi-led campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen,” The Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2015

41 Shuaib Almosawa and Ben Hubbard, “A roar at a funeral, and Yemen’s war is altered,” The New York Times, October 9, 2016

42 Shuaib Almosawa, Kareem Fahim and Somini Sengupta, “Yemeni government faces choice between a truce and fighting on,” The New York Times, Aug 14, 2015

43 Julian Borger, “Saudi-led naval blockade leaves 20m Yemenis facing humanitarian disaster,” The Guardian June 5, 2015

44 Maria Abi-Habib, “Islamic State remains unchallenged from its sanctuary in Syria”, The Wall Street Journal, August 10, 2014

45 Matthew Dalton, “Reports on Islamic state plans in Europe fueled French move to prepare Syria strikes, The Wall Street Journal, September 15, 2015

46 Patrick Cockburn, “Government has no strategy, no plan and only ‘phantom’ allies in Syria, scathing Commons report reveals,” The Independent, September 22, 2016

47 Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad, “ISIS fighters seize control of Syrian city of Palmyra, and ancient ruins, “The New York Times, May 20, 2015

48 Patrick Cockburn, “Chilcot report: Tony Blair, the Iraq war, and the words of mass destruction that continue to deceive,” The Independent, July 4, 2016

49 Robert Fisk, “I read the Chilcot report as I travelled across Syria this week and saw for myself what Blair’s actions caused,” The Independent, July 7, 2016

50 “President al-Assad to Swiss SRF 1 TV channel: Fighting terrorists is the way to protect civilians in Aleppo,” SANA, October 19, 2016

Posted in Iraq, SyriaComments Off on Our Sieges and Theirs. Syria and Iraq vs. US-NATO-Al Qaeda

Aleppo Cancer Kids Denied Medical Aid and Food As Part of US-EU Sanctions Against Assad

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syrian children cancer
No life-saving drugs, necessary equipment, or chance of survival – RT’s Murad Gazdiev visited children in an Aleppo hospital who are suffering from cancer – some treatable – but vital medicine can’t reach them due to EU and US sanctions.

Dozens of young cancer sufferers gathered at Cancer Care Syria, a small organization which helps cancer patients. Since the EU and US imposed sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad, some of these children have almost lost all hope for recovery. The sanctions, which target the Syrian regime and its supporters, have deeply affected the economy, including the health care sector.

The center helps children with forms of cancer that can be easily treated with western medicine. Three-year-old Waffa could have had her eye cancer cured, but the sanctions made the medicine unavailable, and she had to have her eye amputated. On top of that, the only hospital in Aleppo that specialized in cancer was taken by rebels and destroyed in fighting.

Waffa had to live with an empty eye socket for almost a year until Cancer Care Syria managed to collect enough money to buy her a prosthetic eye.

The girl’s mother told RT that this new eye has brought back hope for a normal life “She said, ‘look at me, I have my second eye! Now nobody will stare at me strangely,” the woman said.

Waffa could have had her eye cancer cured © RT

Waffa could have had her eye cancer cured © RT

RT’s Murad Gazdiev also talked to 3-year-old Omar who is not aware how dangerous cancer can be – he just says he’ll battle it.

“I will fight and beat the cancer… because I am strong,” he said.

Omar says he will battle his cancer © RT

Omar says he will battle his cancer © RT

10-year-old Kamar doesn’t even know she has cancer – she was told that she is a bit sick. The girl thinks she comes here to the center to help other children, but in fact, they also help her.

“I like to help them. I have a lot of friends here. I love them – and they love me,” she told RT.

Kamar doesn’t even know she has cancer © RT

Kamar doesn’t even know she has cancer © RT

“Almost all the children who died of cancer did so because of European sanctions. We ask the European Union and humanitarian agencies to lift these sanctions and let cancer medicine in because children are suffering,” Muzzna Al-Ulabi, a head of Cancer Care Syria, told RT.

Cancer Care Syria is struggling to collect money for children. Sometimes it buys or smuggles cancer medicine from neighboring Lebanon.

© RT © RT

“When the war began, we dreamed of opening a specialized children’s cancer hospital – but we don’t have that sort of money. We don’t even have $6,000 dollars a month for medicine for the children,” Al-Ulabi said.

But even if there is vital medication, mothers of cancer-affected children worry that their sons and daughters won’t get enough food to recover.

“The children need enough food, or they won’t survive. It’s what all the mothers think about – having enough food for the children.”

Posted in Health, Human Rights, SyriaComments Off on Aleppo Cancer Kids Denied Medical Aid and Food As Part of US-EU Sanctions Against Assad

“Genocide Denial” in Canada

NOVANEWS
The Rights of First Nations, Canadian Mining Companies in Africa and Latin America
genocide canada

On his return from attempting to stop the terrible slaughter of Rwandans there was no official to welcome home Canada’s General Romeo Dallaire. In his recent memoir, Waiting For First Light: My Ongoing Battle with PTSD,(1) Dallaire reveals that his return also began a pattern of suicide attempts, blamed on ptsd, perhaps survivor’s guilt, but which these years later might be traced more accurately to his reluctance to understand that the people who sent him to Rwanda did not care for humanity.

Dallaire, a protector, continues to affirm Canada’s adherence to a code of genocide prevention, on paper, and as a Senior Fellow contributes to the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies. It is the major Genocide prevention NGO in Canada, but noted for coincidences of policy with those of the U.S. State Department and Canadian foreign service. Any MIGS project concerned with the genocide of U.S. or Canadian Aboriginal peoples, or of Palestinians is hard to find. Our society’s intransigence of not caring, hardens.

Currently it’s not even helpful to discuss a relationship between the U.S. and the Convention on Genocide since U.S. foreign policies lack moral compass. Having withdrawn from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the U.S. avoids charges of genocide as long as it has the military power to do so. With less military power, Canada subscribing to the Court, needs moral and political power to maintain its borders. Of necessity, diplomacy has meaning. Canada ratified the Convention on Genocide in 1952, (2) a generation before the U.S. which waited until 1988.

Several current news items lead to the same point of focus: Canada’s evasion of its responsibility to honour and adhere to the Convention on Genocide. Its unfaithfulness encourages states of emergency to play out through Indigenous communities in Canada. It’s also evident in foreign policies against more distant peoples. As though the Convention on Genocide were not primary law, had no statute of limitations, has no affect beyond the good will and salaried hopes of NGO’s, and no application to first world countries.

Canadian Mining Companies

From Toronto the Justice and Accountability Project has just issued a report on the responsibility of Canadian Mining companies for one level of violence in Latin America. The “Canada Brand”: Violence and Canadian Mining Companies in Latin America,(3) documents 44 deaths and 403 injuries in the years 2000 to 2015, all involving Canadian Companies in Latin America, and declares this is the tip of an iceberg. It classifies the majority of the victims as “targeted.”

While the report includes cases of criminalization it doesn’t include reports of deaths and injuries which aren’t verified by two independent sources and it doesn’t include “death threats, deliberate burning of crops and property destruction, forced displacement, reported assassination attempts without reported injury, illness from environmental contamination, or psychological trauma from any of the violence…”(4) or countries in other regions such as in Canada or Africa. This is 15 years of violence against native protectors of the land without bringing to bear the effects of the mining companies on entire communities and their habitats: to put the two together places the mining companies within a perspective of the U.N . Convention on Genocide. The murder of activist protectors suggests the element of “intention” considered by U.S. interpretation necessary to prosecution of genocide charges.

In Muskrat Falls Labrador, on October 23rd, 150 protesters entered the Crown corporation Nalcor’s construction site to protest the company’s reluctance to thoroughly clear vegetation and some topsoil from the land it’s about to flood. Uncut vegetation as well as topsoil are considered factors in the increase of methylmercury poisoning of the watershed. Nalcor workers are being evacuated from the camp, turning their quarters over to the protesters. The RCMP is blocking roads to discourage reinforcement to the protesters. Pam Palmater, a respected lawyer and Mi’kmaq teaching as an Associate Professor in Toronto, sees the company’s carelessness in risking the environment to poison as part of the ongoing industrial genocide of native peoples.(5) It’s a concern which increasingly covers settlers, immigrants, as both Indigenous and ‘settler’groups are equally deprived of power under law. Mayors of four nearby towns affected by the flooding say Nalcor consistently ignores them and they’ve been excluded from the talks between the company and Indigenous groups.

First Nations

In northern Saskatchewan so far in October four indigenous children – girls of from ten to fourteen years of age, took their own lives. This is part of an ongoing suicide epidemic in first Nations communities of the north where the suicide rate is five times the norm for Canada. The government is responding by increasing the number of mental health care workers available. This misses the point of the children’s final acts. As a group they’re refusing life on the terms that Canada offers. Suicide rates among northern Indigenous people are a result of social engineering by Canada’s dominant culture, either through its lack of concern or by intention. It continues the colonial genocide of subjugation. What could stop the native society’s slide into hopelessness is honouring the society’s basic needs of housing, water, food. This is not beyond the power and convenience of Canadian and Provincial governments. It seems beyond the business game plans of resource corporations and a European mindset of superiority which permeates all areas of Canadian society.

A recent article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal reveals that the children of Nunavut have the highest respiratory infection rates in the world, and accuses the Nunavut government of covering up respiratory disease (respiratory syncytial virus / RSV) infections, which according to statistics from 2009 (why aren’t these statistics current?) hospitalized 40% of the children in Western Nunavut. The dosage of pharmaceuticals for treatment costs about $6500 / patient.(6) And children often have to be flown to hospital. Emergency funds go to pharmaceutical companies and airlines rather than the community and improving the living conditions and poor nutrition which cause the disease rate. The cycle of poverty and relief profits big business, as maintained by government budgeting.

All of these areas converge in a consideration of genocide but to mention the word “genocide” is a snare. While university courses and human rights NGOs raise the issue of genocide again and again as a thorn in the side of Canada’s self-image – the nuts and bolts of legally applying the Convention under Canadian law are so carefully controlled that the term has no meaning except in the service of a European exploitative class.

Application of the U.N.’s Convention on Genocide, which has teeth within Canadian law(7) requires permission of Canada’s Minister of Justice.(8)Canada’s Minister of Justice is a political appointment by the nation’s Prime Minister. Therefore practically, it isn’t likely the Prime Minister would ever be charged with genocide, nor will his political allies, nor the visiting leaders of allied countries, which gives all of them a certain amount of freedom from worry. And under the code of one dominant ruling elite, protection is assured subsequent government administrations and Ministers of Justice, as long as a group remains to subjugate. The same provision of requiring Ministerial approval applies to the prosecution of any crimes against humanity.(9)

Writing about this for some years, I’ve seen no challenge to this facet of Canadian law which obviously protects the establishment’s governance from prosecution for one of the worst crimes known to humankind. My belief is that Canada could survive honest and direct application of the Convention on Genocide to its policies, but won’t be able to if it delays in correcting root causes of disproportionate Aboriginal death and disease.

This loophole protecting politicians who further genocide lends impunity to the policies of NATO countries in their assaults on the peoples of Afghanistan, Libya, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria, where militarily applied policies have involved what I think was/is genocide. The U.S., British, French policies find the democratically elected country heads guilty of crimes then bomb the peoples into subservience and fealty to NATO. It is clearly genocide against a national group, again and again.

The media of our NATO countries have formed a reality for our peoples which doesn’t recognize the criminality of NATO country foreign policies. In North America the governments’ impunity in oppressing First Peoples, Blacks and all the poor, while claiming to save them, provides a third rail carrying the power to knock out any resistance to the terrible crimes of foreign policy necessary to corporate resource extraction with high profits.

The impunity is acceded to by a professional class where the judicial system is so expensive, the lawyers so strictly controlled, the laws so favourable to capital, that there is no effective protest of obvious injustices. Where the mental health industry accepts as norm the murder of foreign civilian populations. Where the economic machinery empowered by security and surveillance would refuse existence to those who question, protest, and struggle effectively. Where the security industry believes in the fears created to further its expansion. Where education becomes naked training of skill sets for serving oppressive corporations. Where artists and writers are rewarded for saying nothing.

The situation of all young people gradually becomes near that of a Saskatchewan Indigenous girl. First Peoples precede us. If government maintains its refusal to protect Indigenous peoples with the primary human rights laws, then peoples of settler stock will, when convenient to power, find themselves without as well. We have to affirm and apply the protections of the Genocide Convention, for others, or we lose that protection for ourselves.

Notes

1. “Inside Roméo Dallaire’s brutally revealing new memoir,” Brian Bethune, Oct. 21, 2016, Maclean’s.
2. “Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries: Canada, current, International Committee of the Red Cross ICRC.
3. The “Canada Brand”: Violence and Canadian Mining Companies in Latin America, Justice and Accountability Project, Oct. 24, 2016, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto, Ontario.
4. Ibid.
5. ”Muskrat Falls a ‘modern day form of genocide’: lawyer,” Hans Rollmann, Oct. 21, 2016, the In dependent.ca (Newfoundland & Labrador).
6. « ’Horribly sick kids :’ Arctic regions have highest infant lung infection rates in the world, » The Canadian Press, Oct. 18, 2016, CBC News ; « ’We have not seen it stop’ : Canada’s public health agency review respiratory illness in Nunavut babies, » John Van Dusen, Oct. 25, 2016, CBC News.
7. Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act – S.C.2000, c.24 (Section 4),(Section 6), (SCHEDULE : Provisions of Rome Statute), and (Section 14).
8. Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act – S.C.2000, c.24,“Procedures and Defences” 9. (3, 4).
9. The Canadian law against torture which wasn’t applied to former U.S. President Bush at his most recent visit of May 12th, 2014.

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Where Are The “Disappeared Persons” of Iraq in the Wake of the “Liberation” of Fallujah from ISIS

NOVANEWS
Saqlawiya, Iraq: Urgent Appeal for the 643 persons still disappeared
 
Flag_of_Iraq_(2004-2008).svg

Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) sent an urgent appeal to Mr Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on 11 and 12 October 2016, with regards to the 643 individuals disappeared from Saqlawiya (Al Anbar province, Iraq), on 2-5 June 2016. This occurred in the aftermath of the “liberation campaign” launched against the city of Fallujah in May 2016 allegedly aiming at retaking the city from ISIS.

Our Centre has mentioned this case to the High Commissioner and the Working Group in several instances before, particularly through letters sent on the 8 June, 29 June, 5 August and 9 August 2016. We have also released a detailed report, titled Fallujah: Inside the Genocide, at the time of the military operation to document the grave human rights violations occurred at the hands of the Iraqi security forces-affiliated militias against civilians, which has been sent to both the High Commissioner and the Working Group on 20 June 2016 along with a list of those identified at the time as disappeared.

Now that GICJ has available a fully updated list with the names of each of the 643 individuals who has forcibly disappeared in those unfortunate circumstances, it considered a matter of primary urgency to forward such list to the OHCHR in the hope that immediate action can be taken to investigate into the disappearances.

Context

The military operation launched against Fallujah on 22 May 2016 by the Iraqi security forces, backed by hundreds of militias – trained and armed by Iran- and well supported by a US-led air coalition, predictably proved to have been used as another pretext for sectarian violence in Iraq. In particular, the militia units who took part to the conflict, namely belonging to the umbrella organization known as al-Hashd al-Shaabi, were extensively reported of having committed crimes of all sorts against those who managed to escape the city earlier this year.

GICJ would like to remind that these militias (al-Hashd al-Shaabi) are an independent military formation into Iraq’s military force, linked directly to the Prime Minister, as per Office Order 91 issued on 24th February 2016. This means that while legitimizing the group, the decree also formally reinforces its link with the government, which should therefore ultimately respond of its conduct.

As of the 2ndto 5th June 2016, during the fighting in Saqlawiya, a small city 20 km west of Fallujah, over 1,000 civilians fled the conflicts and sought the assistance and help of al-Hashd al-Shaabi militias, whose role is blatantly and allegedly to assure security in the country, according to the government.

However, instead of being provided with the support and assistance they were looking for, the survivors were arbitrarily detained on the claim of allegedly belonging to ISIS. During their imprisonment, the victims were subjected to heinous practices of torture, including stabbing with knives and other weapons, beating up, as well as verbal and psychological abuse of sectarian connotation. Of this lot, hundreds were executed or died as a consequence of the severe torture practices, while others, and precisely 643 of them, simply disappeared.

These facts were indeed confirmed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in his statement on the 5 July 2016 and by Mr Ján Kubiš, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, in a briefing of the Security Council held on 15 July 2016.

Families have not been informed of their whereabouts or even the reason for their detention, leaving hundreds of wives, mothers and other relatives in absolute despair. GICJ receives daily calls from the family members of the disappeared demanding truth and justice for their loved ones.

Enforced disappearances as an intimidation tool

The list of those disappeared in Saqlawiya contained in our report highlights one important pattern: the victims of the militias’ abductions are mostly members of the same families. This is one striking proof that behind the involuntary disappearances, there is an intentional will to target individuals on the basis of their sect or ethnic origins. Namely, they in fact target the Sunni component of society.

What it is important to truly understand is that the practice of enforced disappearances at the hands of pro-government militias, and in particular those belonging to Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi, are not isolated incidents caused by the misbehaviour of a few individuals vis-à-vis an otherwise impeccable conduct (as the Iraqi authorities claim), but constitute a well-orchestrated strategy of demographical change by the government. Enforced disappearances have in fact become a widespread tool of intimidation in Iraq nowadays, and what happened in Saqlawiya is nor the first or the last case of this.

For what concerns the justice system, Iraq almost completely lacks one. The dysfunctional governance apparatus, combined with the ineffective, corrupted and biased judiciary has translated in a massive lack of accountability for victims of abuses and allowed the great degree of impunity which perpetrators shamelessly enjoy.

GICJ has direct contact with some of the relatives of the victims who have stated they are scared to report the disappearances to the security forces and ask for information on the whereabouts of their loved ones for fear of reprisals. Some of them have reported to have been threatened of losing their places in the refugee and IDP camps if they spoke up. At the same time, any other method of peaceful protest against these abhorrent policies will be met either with violence, as previous cases showcased, or with blatant indifference by the government. Families, in other words, are left in a state of hopelessness and frustration. For these reasons, GICJ called on the OHCHR to help on this matter those who could not be helped otherwise.

What can be done?

The crime of enforced disappearance is a truly despicable one. It breaches international law and it is an appalling violation of human rights, and, if we may add, it is a dark expression of the evil that humanity is capable of.

GICJ therefore has called on the High Commissioner and the Working Group in particular, to take care of this matter with urgency before it is too late. We fear in fact that those who have disappeared might have suffered the same fate as other thousands of people who have fallen at the hands of Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi militias during previous liberation campaigns (Diyala, Ramadi, Tikrit, Amerli, etc…), that is torture, killing and slaughtering.

One responsibility under the mandate of the Working Group is to request Governments to carry out investigations and to inform the Working Group of the results. This can be also pressurised by the High Commissioner to certain extents. In this context, GICJ has urged both of them not to rely on the Iraqi government on this important duty, because large evidence shows without a doubt that the Iraqi authorities have no intention of bringing the perpetrators to justice, and are instead undeniable complicit. The implication of the government is in fact not hidden nor disguised, as we previously explained, nevertheless the authorities have never even acknowledged the disappearance of these hundreds of persons.

In this respect, it is worth noting that although a Committee of Inquiry was established by the Prime Minister back June 2016 to investigate into allegations of crimes committed by militias, this is in fact chaired by the Chairman of Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi himself, Mr Falih Al-Faydh, and, predictably, has led to no outcome whatsoever.

For all above reasons, GICJ has rather demanded the High Commissioner to call on the Human Rights Council to dispatch an independent commission of inquiry to investigate into all allegations of human rights violations at the hands of militias and urged the Working Group to interfere into the investigations with regards to enforced disappearances.

With its urgent appeals, the Centre aims at obtaining information of the whereabouts of the 643 individuals abducted by the Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi militias in Saqlawiya. This will bring a little hope to the victims’ families that perhaps not all is lost in Iraq, and that a glimpse of justice can be found even in the darkest of places.

List of identified disappeared persons from al-Saqlawiya/Fallujah-Iraq, at the hands of the governmental militias on 2-5 June 2016.

Posted in Human Rights, IraqComments Off on Where Are The “Disappeared Persons” of Iraq in the Wake of the “Liberation” of Fallujah from ISIS

Does The Russian Government Have A Reality Disconnect?

NOVANEWS
 
Russia-1

During the decades-long Cold War the belief in America was that the Soviet Union had an ideology of world domination.  Every nationalist movement, such as Vietnam’s effort to throw off French colonialism, was misinterpreted as another domino falling to Soviet world conquest. This mistaken American belief persisted despite Stalin’s purge of the Trotsky elements that preached world revolution.  Stalin declared (1925): “socialism in one country.”

As the Soviets did not have the aim that the US attributed to them, the two governments could cooperate in reducing the dangerous tensions that nuclear weapons presented.

The rise of the American neoconservatives and their doctrine of US world hegemony has given the United States the expansionist ideology formerly attributed to the Soviets.  Only this time the expansionist ideology is real.  Yet, Russia’s foreign minister, Lavrov, said today that:

 “we [the US and Russia] have no ideological differences which make the Cold War inevitable.”

The inability of the Russian government to understand that the neoconservative ideology of US world hegemony is the driving force of US foreign policy leaves Lavrov puzzled at the high level of hostility toward Russia.  As Lavrov believes that there are no ideological differences between the two countries, he doesn’t understand the hostility.  However, he does understand that this hostility toward Russia is a negation of Cold War rules that both countries avoid surprising the other with what could be perceived as a dangerous threat.

There is no sign that the US government understands the danger in Russia’s perception of threat or that Washington cares.

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“Strike Enabled” Armed Drones and UAVs, A Multibillion Dollar Export Business

NOVANEWS
Control Process Must Be Opened To Civil Society Groups And Drone Victims
dronescreens

Details of a US-initiated proposed control agreement on the export and use of armed drones have been announced. The Joint Declaration on the Export and Subsequent Use of Armed or Strike-Enabled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), signed by 48 nations including the UK, sets out very briefly – on less than one side of paper – five broad principles to be adhered to in relation to the export and use of armed drones. According to an accompanying Fact Sheet issued by the US State Department, The “will serve as a basis for discussions on a more detailed set of international standards… which the United States and its partners will convene in spring 2017.”

It is welcome that, on paper at least, the US and the international community now recognise, as the Joint Declaration puts it, the “misuse of armed or strike-enabled UAVs could fuel conflict and instability, and facilitate terrorism and organized crime.”  Despite this however there are real problems with the Declaration.  Not least that while the document talks about the “responsible use” of armed drones, this is not defined in any clear or meaningful way other than by merely stating that drones are subject to international law.

Expanding drone strikes

As has been very clear over the past decade, there are serious disagreements between the US and the international community as well as international law experts as to how aspects of the growing use of armed drones adheres to international law.  As Rachel Stohl of the Stimson Center argues, with such a broad-brush approach, many are worried that the declaration not only provides “a blank check” for future use and export of drones, but that it also serves to effectively legitimize past US drone use.

Stohl also points out that the document has been weakened since the original draft was circulated among potential signatory States. Changes have been made to the text which open up large loopholes such as the addition of the sentence “none of which should be construed to undermine the legitimate interest of any State to indigenously produce, export, or acquire such systems for legitimate purposes.” The need for transparency mechanisms to have “due regard to national security considerations” has also been added to the document.

While some have been criticising the document for being too weak, others such as drone advocate, retired Air Force General David Deptula, have attacked the proposed agreement for treating drones as deserving of particular attention. “The singling out of drones in the State Department declaration does more harm than good by lending undue credibility to adversary propaganda that these aircraft somehow represent “Terminator-like” machines that warrant extra regulation” he wrote this week.

The impetus for the Joint Declaration comes in part from the US drone lobby who say that the current rules such as the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) “hurt industry“. The Defence press reported this week that lobbyists see the agreement as a chance to boost US drone exports, which currently lag behind that of Israel.  It is notable that both Israel and China have not signed the declaration at this stage. State Department officials expressed hope they would take part in the discussion scheduled for next year.

Over the coming year there will no doubt be lots of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes over this new initiative.  It is possible that the agreement will end up as little more than window dressing with no real impact, particularly if a new muscular US administration decides to jettisons the whole process in a post-Obama world. However, if States sign a weak agreement based on the current draft it could help to erode what little control there already are on the proliferation and use of such systems.

So far the whole process has been taken place behind closed doors with seemingly little input from experts and civil society groups. While this is a State level process, there is concern that officials charged with developing the new regime have little understanding of the issues.  Earlier this year I was part of a small delegation that met with Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials to talk about the need to strengthening controls on the export of armed drones.  It quickly became apparent however that the level of knowledge and understanding of the issue among officials was not far off non-existent. Our concern is that as this agreement has been developed in such a rush – partly by the Obama’s administration’s concern to have something in place before he leaves office – officials are only turning only to the drone industry for advice and help.

NGOs, academics and human rights groups have been working on this issue for many years and it should be axiomatic that government officials consult widely among those with expert knowledge of the issue. The voice of the many victims of drone strikes should also be heard  in this process.  In the end, it is vital that public concerns about the growing use of armed drones are fed into this process to ensure that there is a strong and sustainable agreement that ensures proper controls over armed drones.

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What Is The Point Of GM Mustard In India?

NOVANEWS

Lower Yields And Chemical Agro-poisons: What Is The Point Of GM Mustard In India? Money Spinner for Bayer-Monsanto

 
gmo

The decision whether to allow the commercialisation of the first genetically modified (GM) food crop (mustard) in India rumbles on. As I have previously discussed here, the bottom line is government collusion over GM crop technology (that is not wanted and not needed) with transnational agribusiness, which is trying to hide in the background. 

The real story behind GM mustard in India is that it presents the opportunity to make various herbicide tolerant (HT) mustard hybrids using India’s best germ plasm, which would be an irresistible money spinner for the developers and chemical manufacturers (Bayer-Monsanto). GM mustard is both a Trojan horse and based on a hoax.

Various high-level reports (listed here) have advised against introducing GM food crops to India. Allowing for not one but three GMOs (which is what the GM mustard in question constitutes, when we include its two crucial GM parental lines) is according to campaigner Aruna Rodrigues a serious case of regulatory ‘sleight-of-hand’, permissible due to diluted rules to ensure easy compliance.

If allowed to go through, India will be forced to accept a highly toxic and unsustainable technology suited to monocropping. HT GM crops would be particularly unsuitable for its agriculture given the large number of small farms growing a diverse range of crops alongside mustard that contribute towards agricultural biodiversity and, in turn, diverse, healthy diets.

The processes being used to push through GM mustard are, according to this writ by Rodrigues, based on fraud and unremitting regulatory delinquency. She argues that the whole system is in addition being protected by a subterranean process of regulation that has also broken India’s constitutional safeguards by keeping the biosafety data hidden from the nation.

Rodrigues says, “These matters require criminal prosecution.”

New development

The government has now told the Supreme Court (SC) that it won’t release GM mustard without the court’s say so. At the same time, however, it strongly opposes the writ filed by Rodrigues.

In an affidavit response to Aruna Rodrigues’ writ, however, the Union of India revealed something that merited a press release from the civil organisation Navdanya and Aruna Rodrigues (presented in full below this article).

According to the press statement, the government’s response contained an admission by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) itself that no claim had been made in any documents submitted to it that HT Mustard DMH 11 out-performs non-GMO hybrids.

So then, what is the point of GM mustard? And what were all the claims being made in media about GM mustard outperforming non-GMO hybrids by 25-30% in yield?

According to the press statement, that claim was also made by the developers (Dr Pental and his team at Delhi University) and is clearly recorded by the media. It also notes that the claim of superior yield was implied in the Supreme Court (SC) during a ‘hearing’ (24 October) on India’s import bill for edible oil.

The press statement says:

“It is now clear, by the GEAC’s own admission, that DMH 11 does not out-yield India’s best non-GMO cultivars and this includes hybrids against which this mustard was not tested.”

Navdanya and Aruna Rodrigues ask:

“Therefore, what is the Union of India’s point? Is this HT mustard being introduced because of its ability to just make hybrids? Given that it does not outperform our non-GMO hybrids, the argument collapses on its essential lack of science and reasoned thinking.”

They conclude that this HT Mustard DMH 11 is not needed – which is in fact the first step of a risk assessment protocol for GM crops!

HT mustard DMH 11 will make no impact on the domestic production of mustard oil, which was a major reason why it was being pushed in the first place. The argument was that GM mustard would increase productivity and this would help reduce imports of edible oils. Implicit in this was that India’s farmers were unproductive and GM would help overcome this.

While it is clear that India’s imports of edible oils have indeed increased, this is not as a result of an underperforming home-grown sector. India essentially became a dumping ground for palm oil. Until the mid-1990s, India was virtually self-sufficient in edible oils. Then import tariffs were reduced, leading to an influx of cheap (subsidised) edible oil imports that domestic farmers could not compete with.

This was a deliberate policy that effectively devastated the home-grown edible oils sector and served the interests of palm oil growers and US grain and agriculture commodity company Cargill, which helped write international trade rules to secure access to the Indian market on its terms. It therefore came as little surprise that in 2013 India’s then Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar accused US companies of derailing the nation’s oil seeds production programme.

Supporters of GM twisted this situation to call for the introduction of GM mustard to increase productivity.

Now their arguments on virtually each and every count have been shown to be erroneous and constitute little more than a cynical ruse to facilitate Bayer-Monsanto GM food crops and associated agropoisons entry into India.

PRESS RELEASE

UNION OF INDIA REPLY AFFIDAVIT 20/21 OCT 2016

GEAC STATES: “NO CLAIM MADE THAT DMH 11 OUTPERFORMS NON-GMO HYBRIDS”

“No such claim has been made in any of the submitted documents that DMH 11 out-performs Non-GMO hybrids. The comparison has only been made between hybrid DMH 11, NC (national Check) Varuna and the appropriate zonal checks — MSY of 2670 Kg/ha has been recorded over three years of BRL trials which is 28% and 37% more than the NC & ZC respectively”. (Ref. U of India Reply Pg 55 point 86-88)

Petitioner Comment:

With this statement, the Union of India effectively buries its own ‘raison d’être’ for its HT Mustard DMH 11. The following points may be noted:

(a)   The claim of a 25-30% increase in yield may not have technically been made in the SC. This adherence to a technicality is mischievous to the extreme, but much more moot is that the Regulators by this argument cut the grass from under their own feet.

The above yield is indeed the claim by the Developers, clearly recorded by the Media and strangely in the SC by implication, by bringing in the issue of our import bill for edible oil in the ‘Hearing’ of the 24th. The claim is:

·         That the superior yield of this HT mustard DMH 11, (that despite there being NO TRAIT for YIELD in the Barnase-Barstar system with the Bar gene glufosinate), through its HYBRID-MAKING capability is superior to Non-GMO cultivars in the Country.

(b)   The Petitioners’ have proven without doubt based on RTI data that DMH 11 field trials were fraudulent, and specifically  on the question of DELIBERATELY poor-yielding Comparators used in the field testing of  HT Mustard DMH 11  in the BRL I & II field trials .

NOTE: By this statement the Government concedes the argument that DMH 11 does not out-yield India’s best NON-GMO cultivars and this includes HYBRIDS against which this mustard was not tested in BRL I &II trials (2010-11 onwards).

Therefore, what is the Union-of India’s point? Is this HT mustard being introduced because of its ability to JUST make HYBRIDS? Given that it does not outperform our Non-GMO hybrids, the argument collapses on its essential lack of science and reasoned thinking.

CONCLUSION

·         This HT Mustard DMH 11 is NOT NEEDED (the first step of a risk assessment protocol for GM crops )

AND

·         This HT mustard DMH 11 will make no impact on DOMESTIC production of Mustard Oil leave alone the import oil bill of which mustard and Rape together are less than 2% of the total oil import (of 14.3 million Metric Tonnes in 2015-16)

Aruna Rodrigues: Petitioner GMO PIL Mo: 098263 96033

Indra Shekhar Singh, Media Spokesperson, Navdanya

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The Path To Total Dictatorship: America’s “Shadow Government” And Its Silent Coup

business_government

“Today the path to total dictatorship in the U.S. can be laid by strictly legal means, unseen and unheard by Congress, the President, or the people. Outwardly we have a Constitutional government. We have operating within our government and political system … a well-organized political-action group in this country, determined to destroy our Constitution and establish a one-party state….

The important point to remember about this group is not its ideology but its organization… It operates secretly, silently, continuously to transform our Government…. This group … is answerable neither to the President, the Congress, nor the courts. It is practically irremovable.”—Senator William Jenner, 1954 speech

Unaffected by elections. Unaltered by populist movements. Beyond the reach of the law.

Say hello to America’s shadow government.

A corporatized, militarized, entrenched bureaucracy that is fully operational and staffed by unelected officials who are, in essence, running the country, this shadow government represents the hidden face of a government that has no respect for the freedom of its citizenry.

No matter which candidate wins the presidential election, this shadow government is here to stay. Indeed, as recent documents by the FBI reveal, this shadow government—also referred to as “The 7th Floor Group”—may well have played a part in who will win the White House this year.

To be precise, however, the future president will actually inherit not one but two shadow governments.

The first shadow government, referred to as COG or Continuity of Government, is made up of unelected individuals who have been appointed to run the government in the event of a “catastrophe.” COG is a phantom menace waiting for the right circumstances—a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, an economic meltdown—to bring it out of the shadows, where it operates even now. When and if COG takes over, the police state will transition to martial law.

 

Yet it is the second shadow government—also referred to as the Deep State—that poses the greater threat to freedom right now. Comprised of unelected government bureaucrats, corporations, contractors, paper-pushers, and button-pushers who are actually calling the shots behind the scenes, this government within a government is the real reason “we the people” have no real control over our government.

The Deep State, which “operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power,” makes a mockery of elections and the entire concept of a representative government.

So who or what is the Deep State?

It’s the militarized police, which have joined forces with state and federal law enforcement agencies in order to establish themselves as a standing army. It’s the fusion centers and spy agencies that have created a surveillance state and turned all of us into suspects. It’s the courthouses and prisons that have allowed corporate profits to take precedence over due process and justice.

It’s the military empire with its private contractors and defense industry that is bankrupting the nation. It’s the private sector with its 854,000 contract personnel with top-secret clearances, “a number greater than that of top-secret-cleared civilian employees of the government.” It’s what former congressional staffer Mike Lofgren refers to as a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies: the Department of Defense, the State Department, Homeland Security, the CIA, the Justice Department, the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President via the National Security Council, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a handful of vital federal trial courts, and members of the defense and intelligence committees.

It’s every facet of a government that is no longer friendly to freedom and is working overtime to trample the Constitution underfoot and render the citizenry powerless in the face of the government’s power grabs, corruption and abusive tactics.

These are the key players that drive the shadow government.

This is the hidden face of the American police state that will continue long past Election Day.

Just consider some of the key programs and policies advanced by the shadow government that will continue no matter who occupies the Oval Office.

Domestic surveillance. No matter who wins the presidential popularity contest, the National Security Agency (NSA), with its $10.8 billion black ops annual budget, will continue to spy on every person in the United States who uses a computer or phone. Thus, on any given day, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior. Local police have been outfitted with a litany of surveillance gear, from license plate readers and cell phone tracking devices to biometric data recorders. Technology now makes it possible for the police to scan passersby in order to detect the contents of their pockets, purses, briefcases, etc. Full-body scanners, which perform virtual strip-searches of Americans traveling by plane, have gone mobile, with roving police vans that peer into vehicles and buildings alike—including homes. Coupled with the nation’s growing network of real-time surveillance cameras and facial recognition software, soon there really will be nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

Global spying. The NSA’s massive surveillance network, what the Washington Post refers to as a $500 billion espionage empire,” will continue to span the globe and target every single person on the planet who uses a phone or a computer. The NSA’s Echelon program intercepts and analyzes virtually every phone call, fax and email message sent anywhere in the world. In addition to carrying out domestic surveillance on peaceful political groups such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace and several religious groups, Echelon has also been a keystone in the government’s attempts at political and corporate espionage.

Roving TSA searches. The American taxpayer will continue to get ripped off by government agencies in the dubious name of national security. One of the greatest culprits when it comes to swindling taxpayers has been the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), with its questionable deployment of and complete mismanagement of millions of dollars’ worth of airport full-body X-ray scanners, punitive patdowns by TSA agents and thefts of travelers’ valuables. Considered essential to national security, TSA programs will continue in airports and at transportation hubs around the country.

USA Patriot Act, NDAA. America’s so-called war on terror, which it has relentlessly pursued since 9/11, will continue to chip away at our freedoms, unravel our Constitution and transform our nation into a battlefield, thanks in large part to such subversive legislation as the USA Patriot Act and National Defense Authorization Act. These laws completely circumvent the rule of law and the rights of American citizens. In so doing, they re-orient our legal landscape in such a way as to ensure that martial law, rather than the U.S. Constitution, is the map by which we navigate life in the United States. These laws will continue to be enforced no matter who gets elected.

Militarized police state. Thanks to federal grant programs allowing the Pentagon to transfer surplus military supplies and weapons to local law enforcement agencies without charge, police forces will continue to be transformed from peace officers into heavily armed extensions of the military, complete with jackboots, helmets, shields, batons, pepper-spray, stun guns, assault rifles, body armor, miniature tanks and weaponized drones.

Having been given the green light to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, all with the general blessing of the courts, America’s law enforcement officials, no longer mere servants of the people entrusted with keeping the peace, will continue to keep the masses corralled, controlled, and treated like suspects and enemies rather than citizens.

SWAT team raids. With more than 80,000 SWAT team raids carried out every year on unsuspecting Americans by local police for relatively routine police matters and federal agencies laying claim to their own law enforcement divisions, the incidence of botched raids and related casualties will continue to rise. Nationwide, SWAT teams will continue to be employed to address an astonishingly trivial array of criminal activity or mere community nuisances including angry dogs, domestic disputes, improper paperwork filed by an orchid farmer, and misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Domestic drones. The domestic use of drones will continue unabated. As mandated by Congress, there will be 30,000 drones crisscrossing the skies of America by 2020, all part of an industry that could be worth as much as $30 billion per year. These machines, which will be equipped with weapons, will be able to record all activities, using video feeds, heat sensors and radar. An Inspector General report revealed that the Dept. of Justice has already spent nearly $4 million on drones domestically, largely for use by the FBI, with grants for another $1.26 million so police departments and nonprofits can acquire their own drones.

School-to-prison pipeline. The paradigm of abject compliance to the state will continue to be taught by example in the schools, through school lockdowns where police and drug-sniffing dogs enter the classroom, and zero tolerance policies that punish all offenses equally and result in young people being expelled for childish behavior. School districts will continue to team up with law enforcement to create a “schoolhouse to jailhouse track” by imposing a “double dose” of punishment: suspension or expulsion from school, accompanied by an arrest by the police and a trip to juvenile court.

Overcriminalization. The government bureaucracy will continue to churn out laws, statutes, codes and regulations that reinforce its powers and value systems and those of the police state and its corporate allies, rendering the rest of us petty criminals. The average American now unknowingly commits three felonies a day, thanks to this overabundance of vague laws that render otherwise innocent activity illegal. Consequently, small farmers who dare to make unpasteurized goat cheese and share it with members of their community will continue to have their farms raided.

Privatized Prisons. States will continue to outsource prisons to private corporations, resulting in a cash cow whereby mega-corporations imprison Americans in private prisons in order to make a profit. In exchange for corporations buying and managing public prisons across the country at a supposed savings to the states, the states have to agree to maintain a 90% occupancy rate in the privately run prisons for at least 20 years.

Endless wars. America’s expanding military empire will continue to bleed the country dry at a rate of more than $15 billion a month (or $20 million an hour). The Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety. Yet what most Americans fail to recognize is that these ongoing wars have little to do with keeping the country safe and everything to do with enriching the military industrial complex at taxpayer expense.

Are you getting the message yet?

The next president, much like the current president and his predecessors, will be little more than a figurehead, a puppet to entertain and distract the populace from what’s really going on.

As Lofgren reveals, this state within a state, “concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue,” is a “hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose.”

The Deep State not only holds the nation’s capital in thrall, but it also controls Wall Street (“which supplies the cash that keeps the political machine quiescent and operating as a diversionary marionette theater”) and Silicon Valley.

This is fascism in its most covert form, hiding behind public agencies and private companies to carry out its dirty deeds.

It is a marriage between government bureaucrats and corporate fat cats.

As Lofgren concludes:

[T]he Deep State is so heavily entrenched, so well protected by surveillance, firepower, money and its ability to co-opt resistance that it is almost impervious to change If there is anything the Deep State requires it is silent, uninterrupted cash flow and the confidence that things will go on as they have in the past. It is even willing to tolerate a degree of gridlock: Partisan mud wrestling over cultural issues may be a useful distraction from its agenda.

In other words, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, as long as government officials—elected and unelected alike—are allowed to operate beyond the reach of the Constitution, the courts and the citizenry, the threat to our freedoms remains undiminished.

So the next time you find yourselves despondent over the 2016 presidential candidates, remember that it’s just a puppet show intended to distract you from the silent coup being carried out by America’s shadow government.

Posted in USAComments Off on The Path To Total Dictatorship: America’s “Shadow Government” And Its Silent Coup

Civilian Toll Mounts As Mosul Offensive Enters Second Week

Iraq-Mosul-jpg

With the US-led offensive to retake Mosul from the Islamic State (ISIS), there are increasing reports of death and suffering on the part of Iraqi civilians caught up in the fighting and facing retribution from both ISIS and troops and militias loyal to Baghdad.

Abdul-Ghani Asadi, the commander of the Iraqi army’s anti-terrorism contingent, reported Monday that Iraqi artillery has advanced close enough to Mosul to begin systematically shelling the city, which was once Iraq’s second largest metropolis and still has a population of over 1 million. It fell to ISIS in 2014, when a far superior force of US-trained Iraqi government troops fled in the face of the Sunni Islamist fighters.

If the brutal and reactionary Islamist militia has been able to hold the city for so long, it is in no small part because of the overwhelming hostility within Mosul’s population toward the central government in Baghdad, whose Shia-dominated security forces systematically suppressed and abused Sunnis throughout Iraq.

These sectarian fissures, the product of the wholesale destruction of the US war of aggression begun in 2003 and the subsequent divide-and-rule methods of the eight-year American occupation, are now being deepened by the Mosul offensive, with the city’s civilians paying the price.

There are already reports of civilians fleeing Mosul at the risk of being killed by ISIS, only to be imprisoned and brutalized at the hands of Iraqi security forces once they escape.

The Washington Post Tuesday profiled one woman who with her six children fled Mosul to the south and into the oncoming Iraqi security forces.

“… as the woman spoke in a camp for newly displaced people south of Mosul—watched by men with guns, with no electricity or food in her tent and her children playing in dirt—her escape seemed like the prelude to another miserable ordeal.”

In the same camp, a group of shepherds said “they had been beaten by soldiers after they escaped from the Islamic State.”

In another camp to the east of Mosul, the Post reported, “dozens of young men who had fled areas in and around the city were kept behind a padlocked gate, sequestered from families who moved freely in other parts of the camp. Some had been there for 40 days without any indication of when they would be allowed to leave, they said.

‘We fled a prison for another prison,’ said Mohamed Asad, who sat with a group of young men in a tent.”

In earlier offensives to drive ISIS out of the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in Anbar province, hundreds of men were massacred and many faced torture at the hands of Iraqi government troops and Shia militias.

Meanwhile, in Kirkuk, the oil-rich city to the south of Mosul, efforts by the Kurdish Peshmerga militia to defeat ISIS fighters who launched attacks there last week to draw forces away from Mosul have reportedly led to acts of collective punishment against Kirkuk’s large Sunni Arab population.

The New York Times cited UN officials and local residents as reporting that Kurdish officials in Kirkuk “responded by forcing out hundreds of Arab families who had sought safety there.”

“Arab residents of Kirkuk who were interviewed on Tuesday reported that armed Kurdish security agents had removed families from homes and forced them to move to camps,” the Times reported. “They said several homes were also destroyed, in what appeared to be a methodical attempt to force out as many Arabs as possible.”

In Kirkuk, as in Mosul itself, the US-backed offensive is sowing the seeds for subsequent sectarian warfare with the potential of drawing in regional powers, including Turkey and Iran.

Reports have also begun to filter out of Mosul of brutal reprisals by ISIS against those suspected of opposing its rule.

UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a UN meeting Geneva that Iraqi security forces had discovered the bullet-riddled bodies of 70 civilians in the village of Tuloul Naser, near Mosul, on October 20. It was also reported that 50 former police officers being held outside the city had also been killed.

In another incident reported in the village of Safina, 15 civilians were massacred and their bodies were thrown into the river, while six men were tied to a vehicle and dragged through the village in an attempt to terrorize the local population.

Colville also recounted a report that ISIS fighters had shot to death three women and three girls, while wounding four other children, after they lagged behind during a forced relocation.

Given the record of ISIS, these reports are highly credible, as are claims that the Islamist militia intends to use the civilian population as “human shields.” What is striking about the ample reporting of these facts in the Western media is the contrast to their total silence over similar atrocities carried out by the US-backed “rebels,” Al Qaeda-linked militias similar to ISIS, across the border in Syria.

This blatant double standard has a long history. ISIS was not seen as a problem by Washington until it stormed across the border into Iraq and overran a large swathe of Iraqi territory, while exposing the utter rot within the Iraqi state and its US-trained security forces.

With the present offensive against Mosul, there are reports that one aim of the US intervention is to send the ISIS fighters back across the border into Syria to fight another day, rather than destroy them.

CNN cited Sheikh Abdullah Alyawer, a tribal leader in the town of Rabia, on Iraq’s border with Syria, as saying that hundreds of ISIS fighters and their families have been pouring across the border at an ISIS-controlled crossing point at Ba’aaj, south of Sinjar.

The report appeared to confirm earlier charges from both the Syrian government and Moscow that the US and its allies had intentionally left open a corridor to the west of Mosul, a rat line to facilitate the transfer of the Islamist fighters into Syria in order to strengthen the flagging war for “regime change” initiated by Washington over five years ago.

Speaking to a meeting of defense ministers from 13 countries in Paris, French President Francois Hollande warned of the transfer of ISIS fighters from besieged Mosul to Raqqa in Syria. “In these columns of people leaving Mosul will be hiding terrorists who will try to go further, to Raqqa in particular,”  he said.

Russia’s military command issued a statement on Tuesday that it was monitoring the Iraqi-Syrian border and had warplanes prepared to carry out airstrikes against ISIS forces attempting to escape. Such an intervention would cut across US objectives and again heighten the danger of a military confrontation between the two major nuclear powers.

In an editorial on the Mosul offensive, the Wall Street Journal Tuesday pointed to one of the principal objectives Washington is pursuing with its deployment of thousands of US troops in support of the campaign.

“Defeating Islamic State in Mosul is a vital U.S. interest, but the only way the next Administration will be able to prevent an Islamic State resurgence or Iranian domination of the region is a long-term U.S. deployment in Iraq of several thousand troops, both for political leverage with Iraq and other regional players and as a regional rapid-reaction force,”  the editorial states. In other words, the battle for Mosul is only part of the preparations for far wider US wars in the Middle East and beyond.

Posted in USA, IraqComments Off on Civilian Toll Mounts As Mosul Offensive Enters Second Week

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